Friday, August 10, 2018

Turn this plane around!

I love this: federal judge Emmet G. Sullivan, ordered a plane to turn around and bring back "several Central American women requesting asylum [when] he learned that a woman and her daughter had been ushered from a Texas shelter, driven to an airport and put on a plane to El Salvador." **

The judge, "criticized the government for deporting the pair just as they were seeking justice in court."

Maybe I love this most of all: "In ordering the government to undo the deportation, he threatened to hold government officials, from Attorney General Jeff Sessions on down, in contempt, said a lawyer for the plaintiffs."

At least some of the judiciary is holding firm against the wholesale assault on democratic institutions by Trump.

The plane did not turn around in mid-air, which seemed to be the import of the judge's order, and would have been cinematically ideal. Instead, it landed in El Salvador, but took off again immediately, whisking the "deportees" back to the United States.

**Vivian Yee "Judge Threatens Sessions With Contempt Over Deported Asylum Seekers" (NY Times, 8/9/18)

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Dear Nation Readers

Dear Nation Readers
Dear Nation Readers, here I go again: I too like reading Katha Pollitt, Eric Alterman (when he posts), Calvin Trillin, etc. — I like it when The Nation is at its best, leftish but non doctrinaire —but the magazine owes readers an accounting.

Or does anybody still care enough about The Nation to notice and demand it? Perhaps not.

In any case, publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel, and her husband, Russia scholar Stephen F. Cohen, have repeatedly used the magazine as a platform for their views that any difficulty between the United States and Russia is all the responsibility of the United States.

Putin harbors no grand anti-democratic, anti-Western designs.

There is no Russian  cyber-strategy aimed at the West.

Russia did nothing to encourage Brexit.

Nothing to encourage anti-democratic regimes in Hungary and Poland.

Nothing to help Trump win in 2016.

One could go on.

Perhaps this is a throwback to the Cold War, when some lefties attributed the whole contretemps to the West, the United States in particular.

Perhaps it is a testament to the fact that, whether you are left or right — true I am addressing the left —  learning is hard, when historical circumstances shift strangely and radically.

Katrina vanden Heuvel and Stephen F. Cohen evince no propensity for learning. They are still defending and foolishly upgrading  an ideology that may have made some sense once upon a time, or not.

The Nation owes readers an accounting.

On the other hand, given lack of demand for it, maybe nobody  cares.

Monday, July 23, 2018

War with Iran

Trump threatening war on Iran is terrifying, all the more because of his partner in would-be belligerence, Bibbi Netanyahu.

Netanyahu's military advisors advised against opposing Obama's nuclear treaty with Iran, and against Israeli military action against Iran. No doubt they are advising similarly now. And yet. . .

As for me, I don't understand how Netanyahu skirts the obvious fact that war with Iran would catastrophic for his country, no matter American involvement. Through Hezbollah, comfortably ensconced in Lebanon, Iran has thousand of increasingly advanced missiles targeting Israel, including its population centers.

Does Netanyahu imagine an invasion of Iran would be as simple, in the first place, as the American overthrow of Saddam Hussein, though that too, after the initial, simple, and predictable victory for American arms, redounded with long-term, catastrophic consequences we're still feeling?

Does Trump believe his rhetoric, according to which the Iranian people are just waiting for the American whistle to rise up and dispatch their onerous Islamic regime?

Don't we know that worst kind of demagogues, real or aspiring, are those who believe their own rhetoric?

There's much madness afoot here, both Trump's and Netanyahu's, and more, to my mind, Netanyahu's than Trump's. What, in the short term, does the United States risk in military engagement with Iran? Washington, NYC etc. are beyond the range of Iranian missiles.

Tel Aviv, it's just the perfect solution, the perfect bulls eye.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Speaking of Epistemology

Masha Gessen makes a distinction between how Putin and Trump lied in Helsinki (New Yorker 7/17/18). Trump, he ranted and raved, per usual — fake news, FBI witch hunt, and all the rest. Putin however, as per Gessen, was more circumspect and more, shall we say, strictly epistemological — about it.

“As to the question of who can or can’t be believed and whether anyone can be believed: no one can be believed. Where did you get the idea that President Trump trusts me or that I trust him fully? He protects the interests of the United States of America. I protect the interests of the Russian Federation.” . . . In other words, Putin was saying, both of us will lie strategically. There is no such thing as the truth. Knowability is a delusion."

Thing of it is, Trump has to confront democratic norms, frayed and in serious retreat as they may be, back in the United States.

Putin confronts no such obstacles. A history that devolves around Nicholas II, Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev et al is clear sailing for a twenty-first century tyrant. Putin exults and basks in pure will to power.

Of course Trump has Putin envy.

But will Putin's dictum: "There is no such thing as the truth. Knowability is a delusion" really prevail in the land of Jefferson and Washington, an essentially, foundationally empirical land? Will it really demolish what was, in politics, an Enlightenment experiment and an unquestioned Enlightenment victory?

It occurs to me to ask: What does Steven Pinker say?

Last I heard, he'd written a great and laudatory book about Enlightenment — The Power Of Reason, Science, Empirical Truth. He thinks only the bad mood of the press, and too great an interest in the sour thoughts of Friedrich Nietzsche has kept the true appreciation of the Enlightenment from coming to the fore.

But where has Steven Pinker gone.

Seems he's left and gone away.

Hey hey hey

If I were you the big book I'd read about this stunning and dangerous reversal of Enlightenment values we're seeing at the moment is not Pinker's "Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science"

It would, sad to say, be Timothy Snyder's "The road to Unfreedom : Russia, Europe, America"


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

why this poem sucks

forgive me if this poem sucks, but then again
so too does falling

what does the devil have to say about falling
he fell for a long time lucifer and his whole crappy anti-photonic crew, those dull grey angels

but milton doesn't much discuss the endless
helplessness of falling

he focuses on landing, how satan made out of hell a heaven and all that defiant latinate oratorical shit he famously utters

& how he rallied the demoralized likes of bespoke and beshat demons like beelzebub around him

gathered them up from the frozen outhouse  of hell

told them to man up
get they asses together

(forgive me but lucifer was like jordan peterson except for demons)

and comprised them into a regime

but of falling itself
milton was strangely mute

which is weird
'cause he was fucking blind

so didn't he ever tip over

(on milton's being blind yet not fearing falling many doctorates could be written )

point being
from milton on
falling itself is unexplored

though i am in a plague of falling
people my age
tripping losing their balance landing on their faces their arms their backs

more brittle than they were
coming up busted
fearful of the next time

more of us all the time
arthritic sclerotic neuro-nastily damaged

i blame paradise lost for not being truthful about this

for covering it rhetorically over

and beyond that blame genesis
which sets the stage

so adam and eve had to walk the earth
or maybe that was cain

but nobody actually toppled over
suffered the fact of falling

(footnote: it actually it was christianity that made a big deal of the fall, qua fall.)

i blame all that history
for why this poem needed to be written
which maybe it didn't
including why
i think

it's lacking . . . 

Monday, July 16, 2018

spectacular power

7/16/18: Just to say that Fascism with American Characteristics (FwAC) has taken some historic steps forward.

With the nomination and likely appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court numerous hard fought rights — voting rights, and the right to abortion — are threatened and will be turned back.

In his meeting with Western European leaders, Trump has made it clear he regards them more as foes than as friends. (He feels something of the same enmity for American intelligence services, not to mention the American press.)

For friendship, for ideological kinship, Trump bonds with Putin and through him with all the lesser demon/despots now asserting themselves throughout what looked like a newly democratic European sphere.

How can this be?

It's possible that Putin has the goods on Trump and his family, which is what holds Trump in thrall. This can't be dismissed but seems to me far too simplistic, too — and as it were —reductionist.

Let me propose another way of looking at it: Putin has power, the power of newly minted twenty-first century autocracy, a horror with no settled name yet. It is, to be sure, Stalinism without Stalin, Hitlerism without Hitler. It is the thing itself, aspiring to absolute power and without all the ideological muddlements and justifications of twentieth century dictatorship. It is even minus the baggage of the Tsars. Putin doesn't need pretend to be a Romanov.

He wants to be seen as something more original.

Trump, you kidding, he lusts for some of that.

Some spectacular power.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Least you can do is unsubscribe The Nation

Just to say, Trump's upcoming meeting with Putin may or may not be significant, beyond the fact that it is occurring at all is already significant. That it is occurring at all underscores the fact that Putin is having it all his way. He's got Crimea, and has pretty much dissolved the Ukrainian nation state, pretending all the while it never existed. He's got Brexit and is making progress toward tearing apart the sinews of the EU.

And he's got Trump. Whatever the Mueller investigation turns up about the details, so far as the big picture goes, he's got Trump (not to mention all the little Trumps — Orban,  Le Pen etc.)

As the Emperor intoned in Star Wars: Everything is going exactly according to plan.

And may I, in passing, recommend unsubscribing from The Nation?

Once an organ of literate left-liberal opinion, it has been utterly Putinified, and is now an American house organ of Putin opinion. Yes, there are occasional good pieces by the likes of Eric Alterman and Katha Pollit and the republishing of work by the superb Vivian Gornick, but these are no more than embellishments. The orientation of the Nation now  should be defined by the arguments of Steven Cohen, husband to Katrina vanden Heuvel, publisher.

According to both, all the conflicts between Russia and the West since the Fall of Communism are the fault of the West.

Putin couldn't have said it better himself. For him, Russia, the home of the Rus, that great fount of the peoples of  EurAsia, is eternally and by definition innocent.

The art of Russian propaganda lost none of its potency or zeal or skill with the fall of Communism. It only lost its adherence to a Communist alternative, which was if anything a drag.

Minus fealty to Communism, the arts of disinformation, honed in the Cold War, what with cyber war etc., become ever more sophisticated.

Disinformation and dissolution for their own sake.

Bring down the West.

It's all going exactly according to plan.