Archive for the ‘The Passing Scene’ Category

The sleeping dragon awakens

August 5, 2022

The Chinese government, in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, has scheduled military drills that effectively blockade the island.  The drills are in effect a blockade of the island a demonstration of China’s potential power to impose a blockade; some shipping is being allowed through.  No ship’s captain wants to enter an area where naval forces are firing live ammunition. 

China also cut off sales to Taiwan of construction-grade sand, essential for concrete, and stopped imports of fish and fruit products from Taiwan.

And it announced that the timetable for unification of Taiwan with the mainland will be speeded up.

The Chinese actions are a signal to the authorities on Taiwan that they are at the mercy of the Chinese government, and that China doesn’t have to invade with troops to exert its power.

What is the United States going to do about it?  President Biden said a U.S. naval task force, including the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, will remain in the area longer than planned, but what of it?  Does anybody think he would be reckless enough to order the  U.S. Navy to enter the area where the Chinese are conducting military exercises?

The status quo was acceptable to everyone.  The Chinese government claimed sovereignty over the island, and nobody directly denied it.  At the same time the Chinese on the island enjoyed self-government, without Beijing’s interference.  All that was required for this situation to continue was silence on the part of all concerned.

Now this has changed.  The government in Beijing might have tolerated home rule in Taiwan indefinitely.  It will never accept even the remote possibility of Taiwan becoming a base from which the United States or other foreign power could launch attacks on China, as the Japanese did during World War Two.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think the Chinese reaction was due to Pelosi’s statements alone.  It followed a number of statements and actions by U.S. officials and politicians that ramped up tensions.  Pelosi’s visit was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

There was a time when the United States had such overwhelming military superiority that American leaders could say and do whatever they liked without concern about what leaders of other nations thought or would do.  That time is gone.

Bear in mind that while the U.S. military sought full spectrum dominance everywhere in everything, the Chinese military has been working on the one very specific problem of how to counter U.S. power in the China seas.  (And the Russian military has spent at least 15 years working on the one very specific problem of how to counter U.S. power in Eastern Europe).

President Theodore Roosevelt liked to quote the alleged African proverb, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”  The most dangerous thing that an individual person or a national leader can do is to make idle threats.  That’s what our leaders have fallen into the habit of doing.

LINKS

Endgame Taiwan: US Plans Further China Eyepoking with Planned Military Transit of the Taiwan Strait by Yves Smith for Naked Capitalism.  A good assessment of the overall situation, with important background information.

‘Taiwan lockdown’ drills stun secessionists, external forces as precision strike, area denial capabilities proved by the staff of Global Times.  A Chinese report on Chinese power.

Biden will keep aircraft carrier in the South China Sea, but postpones missile test by Christina Wilkie for MSNBC.

(more…)

How to gird up your loins

May 7, 2022
Source: The Art of Manliness: Men’s Interests and Lifestyle.

Kevin Kelly’s rules for life

May 1, 2022

On his 70th birthday, tech writer Kevin Kelly posted 103 rules for life.  That’s way too many to absorb.  But Jason Kottke picked out a good sample of them.

Cultivate 12 people who love you, because they are worth more than 12 million people who like you.

Anything you say before the word “but” does not count.

When you forgive others, they may not notice, but you will heal.  Forgiveness is not something we do for others; it is a gift to ourselves.

Efficiency is highly overrated.  Goofing off is highly underrated.  Regularly scheduled sabbaths, sabbaticals, vacations, breaks, aimless walks and time off are essential for top performance of any kind.  The best work ethic requires a good rest ethic.

If winning becomes too important in a game, change the rules to make it more fun. Changing rules can become the new game.

The best way to get a correct answer on the internet is to post an obviously wrong answer and wait for someone to correct you.

Don’t wait for the storm to pass; dance in the rain.

We tend to overestimate what we can do in a day, and underestimate what we can achieve in a decade.  Miraculous things can be accomplished if you give it ten years.  A long game will compound small gains to overcome even big mistakes.

A wise man said, “Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates. At the first gate, ask yourself, ‘Is it true?’ At the second gate ask, ‘Is it necessary?’  At the third gate ask, ‘Is it kind?’ ”

To rapidly reveal the true character of a person you just met, move them onto an abysmally slow internet connection.  Observe.

Take note if you find yourself wondering “Where is my good knife? Or, where is my good pen?”  That means you have bad ones.  Get rid of those.

If you loan someone $20 and you never see them again because they are avoiding paying you back, that makes it worth $20.

Copying others is a good way to start.  Copying yourself is a disappointing way to end.

The chief prevention against getting old is to remain astonished.

LINKS

103 Bits of Advice I Wish I Had Known by Kevin Kelly on The Technium.

99 Additional Bits of Unsolicited Advice by Kevin Kelly on The Technium (from 2021)

68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice by Kevin Kelly on The Technium (from 2020)

You don’t have to read them all at once, or expect to agree with all of them. 

Astronaut Chris Hadfield’s Space Oddity song

April 30, 2022

For background, click on Chris Hadfield kottke.org.

Ukraine war collateral damage and food prices

April 28, 2022

I’m stocking up on nonperishable food and other supplies in order to be prepared for scarcity this fall.

Both the fighting war and the sanctions war over Ukraine are disrupting world food supplies, and I think it can only get worse. Ukraine and Russia are important exporters of food, and also of diesel fuel, which is important in making fertilizer.

Food prices are already going up. Reasons for this include drought and floods in food-producing regions, disruption of supply chains due to the coronavirus pandemic and the power of monopoly agribusiness.

What this means is that there is no buffer to escape the disruption caused by war.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I have little to lose by being prepared. It is better to do too much than to learn the hard way I’ve done too little.

I also expect the war’s collateral damage to affect food prices, but there’s little I can do personally about that.

Russians will be affected by rising food and fuel prices, but both the USA and Russia have enough reserves and resources to avoid actual starvation.  The worst impact will be on poor small nations that depend in food imports. 

The price of wheat on world markets

(more…)

What in the world are these?

April 23, 2022

(more…)

Examples of sanity in a mad world

March 18, 2022

Sister Cities of Rochester responds to war in Ukraine by Peter Lovenheim for the Rochester (N.Y.) Beacon.

Russia and Wrath by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative.

Oligarchs, sanctions and money laundering

March 10, 2022

As part of the undeclared war with Russia, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has frozen the assets of Roman Abramovich, owner of the famous Chelsea Football Club, and six other wealthy Russians who thought their wealth would be secure in the United Kingdom.

Britain has long been a safe haven for dirty money, and not just Russian dirty money.  That’s because, on the one hand, the origin of money can be concealed through shell companies and offshore tax havens, and, on the other, they feel their money is safe.    

Real estate prices in London, and also in New York, Miami and other cities, are being bid up by foreign oligarchs.  This is of great benefit to bankers and real estate investors, but not necessarily to the general public.  So Johnson’s action is a good thing—right?

Economic sanctions have almost never achieved their goals.

The League of Nations, created after World War One, hoped to stop military aggression by sanctioning aggressors.  This failed in its first test, the invasion of Ethiopia by Italy in 1935.  The United States, more than any other country, has used economic sanctions as a weapon.  But decades of economic sanctions did not bring about regime change in Iran or Cuba and probably will not change Venezuela.

The result of Johnson’s actions will likely drive other Russian oligarchs to take their wealth back to Russia, which would be to the benefit of Putin’s government.

Arbitrary economic sanctions against individuals are contrary to the rule of law.

Tax havens are a serious problem.  But if a chief of state, based on his own personal judgment, confiscates the wealth of a few individuals or blocks their access to their wealth, he does not solve the problem of tax havens.  He merely makes his own country a more risky place to invest.

The Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution says nobody should be deprived of “life, liberty or property” without due process of law.  Nobody should have their wealth seized unless it can be proven in a court of law that they have violated some pre-existing law or regulation.

Impartial laws and regulations are needed.

We need laws that prevent oligarchs, dictators and crime lords from hiding their wealth and the sources of their wealth.  We need for these laws to be enforced without fear or favor.  Nobody should be above the law and nobody should be below the law’s protection.

Fun fact: Among those who have hidden their wealth in offshore tax havens are Vladimir Putin (through cronies) and Volodymyr Zelensky.

LINKS

Revealed: the $2bn offshore trail that leads to Vladimir Putin by Luke Harding for The Guardian.  [4/3/2016]

Pandora Papers: Russia dismisses leaks implicating Putin by Al Jazeera. [10/4/2021]

Pandora Papers: Ukraine leader seeks to justify offshore accounts by Al Jazeera. [10/4/2021]

Boris Johnson claims the UK is rooting out dirty Russian money | That’s ridiculous by Oliver Bullough for The Guardian.  [2/25/2022]

The oligarch’s guide to getting around the UK’s economic crime bill by Oliver Bullough for The Guardian. [3/9/2022]

Roman Abramovich Sanctioned by U.K. Govt., Assets Frozen by Alex Ritman for The Hollywood Reporter. [3/10/2022]

UK freezes assets of Abramovich, six other Russian oligarchs by Al Jazeera. [3/10/2022]

The American sanctions on Russia’s economy, explained by Ben Walsh for Vox. [3/9/2022]  What sanctions supposedly will do.

How the West undermines its own sanctions by Casey Michel for The Atlantic.  [3/9/2022]. It’s complicated.

War in Ukraine: Links & comments 2022/3/7

March 7, 2022

The American Empire self-destructs by MIchael Hudson.

The economist MIchael Hudson thinks Russia will benefit from the coming economic war..

What it will do is to force Russia to become more Wself-sufficient than it already is and to detach itself from the U.S.-dominated world financial system, and also to make neutral countries more wary.

Any country who gets on the bad side of the United States is subject to having its national assets confiscated, to the degree that they are in banks in the United States, the United Kingdom or other countries subject to U.S. influence.

This happened to Iran, to Venezuela and many other countries, and now it is happening to Russia.  The U.K. also is confiscating savings and investments owned by Russian individuals.

In the long run, he wrote, this will force not only Russia and its allies, but any nation that doesn’t want to be under the thumb of the United States, to find an alternative financial system, which the Chinese will be glad to provide.  London will cease to be the money-laundering capital of the world.

He said it also will force Russia to invest its revenues from oil, gas and other export industries into building up the nation’s industrial strength, instead of going into the pockets of wealthy oligarchs.

History shows that given a choice between destruction and reform, ruling elites do not necessarily choose reform.

Efforts to decimate Russian economy may boomerang by Sylvan Lane for The Hill.

Economic warfare is mutual destruction.  The United States and its NATO allies are in a position greatly damage the Russian economy, despite the Russians’ decade of trying to build up their defenses against economic warfare.

But the United States and its NATO allies also will pay a price.  Russia is an important exporter of food and fossil fuels.  The first result of an embargo will be big increases in the cost of food, gasoline and natural gas.

Russia’s new foreign policy: the Putin doctrine by Prof. Sergei Karaganov, academic supervisor of the School of International Economics and Foreign Affairs in Moscow.

This is a voice of the Russian academic establishment.

Prof. Karaganov said Vladimir Putin’s policies are the result of a long-term plan to break up the present U.S.-dominated geopolitical order and replace it with one in which the Russian nation and culture are safe.  The war in Ukraine is part of this, but only party.

He said Western society is in the process of self-destruction—economically, politically and morally.  It also is eager to start a new Cold War with Russia.

(more…)

A beautiful duet on ice

March 6, 2022

Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres skate to “The Sound of Silence” in the International Skating Union’s 2017 Team Competition in Tokyo.

Border collie herding ducklings

March 6, 2022

This collie dog is an example of how to live.  He is good at his job, he does it well and he obviously enjoys himself.  No doubt he goes to sleep each night with a sense of justified satisfaction.  

Joe Biden is trying to privatize Medicare

February 20, 2022

Branko Marcetic wrote a good article for Jacobin magazine about how President Biden is planning to privatize Medicare.

Over the past year, seniors around the country have been getting letters from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) informing them that they needn’t worry, but their doctor was now part of something called a direct contracting entity (DCE).

“Your Medicare Benefits have not changed,” the letters stress no less than twice. “NO ACTION NEEDED,” they blare.

If you take it from CMS, DCEs are simply a collection of different health care providers “who agree to work together to keep you healthy” — an innovative new payment model to keep health care costs down and raise the quality of care up. For its critics, the initiative is something far less benign.

“What direct contracting does is turn the public side of Medicare into a corporate goldmine,” says Diane Archer, president of Just Care USA.

Under traditional Medicare, when a beneficiary gets care from a doctor, a hospital or any other health care provider, the program reimburses that provider directly at a set rate.

Direct contracting adds a third party into the mix: Medicare makes a monthly payment to a DCE, which then decides what care a beneficiary will get, and uses that money to cover a specified part of their medical expenses — pocketing whatever they don’t spend as profit.

While making cost-saving efficiencies usually means cutting out the middleman, direct contracting adds one in.

In other words, as with health insurance, the less the physicians get paid, the higher the profit for the companies.

Critics like Physicians for a National Health Program warn that the program comes with the same kinds of pitfalls as Medicare Advantage, the program that for the first time carved out a role of private insurers in the public Medicare system, when it was passed as part of a Reagan-era deficit reduction bill forty years ago.

One is “upcoding,” the notorious practice where Medicare Advantage insurers make their patients appear less healthy than they really are, the better to drive up the payments they get from Medicare.

I say: “Keep your hands off my Medicare.”

LINK

Direct Contracting Entities: Wall Street Control of Traditional Medicare by Physicians for a National Health Program.

Joe Biden Is Quietly Pursuing the Creeping Privatization of Medicare by Branko Marcetic for Jacobin.

Warren Warns: Corporate Vultures Are Circling Medicare on Biden’s Watch by Jack Johnson for Common Dreams.  [Hat tip to Bill Harvey]

The Dark History of Medicare Privatization by Barbara Caress for The American Prospect.  [Hat tip to Bill Harvey]

Socrates on the blessing of being refuted

February 20, 2022

Socrates

The following is from Socrates on the Blessing of Being Refuted by Andrew Beer for the on-line journal Antigone.

Socrates says of himself: “[I am one of those people] who would be delighted to be refuted, if I say anything untrue, and who would be delighted to do the refuting, if someone else were to say something untrue.”

“But their delight would be no less,” Socrates continues, “in being refuted than in refuting: for I consider [being refuted] a greater good [than refuting], precisely inasmuch as it is a greater good to be released oneself from the greatest evil than to release another.” 

The greatest evil, Socrates next explains, is false opinion (δόξα ψευδής) concerning the subjects of the present conversation: “I believe there is no evil so great for a human being as false opinion about the things we are discussing right now.”

This is what I hoped for when I started this blog.  I wanted criticism that I could answer (validating what I wrote) or that show me I was wrong (leaving me wiser than before.).  Unfortunately I sometimes responded rudely tp criticism and drove away what might have been my most valuable critics..

The top optical illusions of 2021

February 19, 2022

These are the winners of the Top Optical Illusions of the Year contest for 2021.  

First place.

Second place (which I personally thought was the best).

Third place.

Here is a link to the Top Ten finalists.

What optical illusions prove is that the human mind is not a blank slate.  It is hard-wired to process information in certain ways.

Our visual information is received by light of different wave lengths falling on receptors (“rods” and “cones”) on the back surface of the eye.  But our brains process that information, and we see the world in three dimensions.  Because we do not perceive the world directly, it is possible to fool the brain.

What this means is that there are certain things that we see that our mental programming makes difficult or impossible to see.

Hat tip to kottke.org.

World context of U.S. slavery, in maps

February 11, 2022

African slavery was a shameful part of American history.  The purpose of these maps is not to excuse slavery or deny its importance, but to provide context for understanding it.

At the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, slavery was legal in every transatlantic European colony in the New World from Quebec to Argentina.   Slavery was the most intense in the sugar and coffee plantations of Brazil, the sugar plantations of the West Indies and the tobacco plantations of British North America.

African Slave Trade, 1400-1900.  Source: Wikipedia.

The first abolition of slavery in the Western Hemisphere was by the Republic of Vermont, in 1777.   By 1804, slavery had been abolished throughout the northern United States—New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the territory of the future states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan—and still existed everywhere else.

In some states, though, abolition was gradual and did not take full effect until decades later.  Also, emancipated slaves were seldom granted full civil rights.

(more…)

The radical socialism of George Orwell

January 21, 2022

George Orwell is remembered as an enemy of fascism and Stalinism and for his totalitarian dystopia, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)

But, a friend of mine asked, what was Orwell’s utopia?  What did he advocate?

It’s important to remember that Orwell was not only a hater of tyranny and lies.  He also was a hater of inequality and of social and economic class privilege.

George Orwell

His idea of a good society was a society of equals, which honored the moral values of the working class.

In The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), his book about coal miners and the unemployed in England in the 1930s,  Orwell drew a word portrait of a working class family—dad reading his racing form, mum doing her sewing, children happily amusing themselves and the family dog lying before the fire.  

Provided dad had steady work at good wages, that was probably as good as life got, Orwell wrote.  It was better than typical middle-class life, with its  status seeking, worship of success, fear of poverty and lack of solidarity.

But he said his picture of a working class family sitting around a coal fire after kippers and strong tea was something that could only have existed at this particular moment in time.

He said it would not exist in the imagined utopian future of 200 years hence, with no coal fire, no manual labor, no gambling, no horses or dogs, everything hygienic, sterile and made of steel, glass and rubber.  

But such a home could not have existed in the medieval past.  There would have been no chimney, moldy bread, lice, scurvy, “a yearly childbirth and a yearly death” and “the priest terrifying you with tales of hell.”  (Orwell, by the way, had no use for religion.)

Orwell regarded class distinctions are inescapable, something baked into the nature of British consciousness.  He accepted that he himself was a middle-class person and that he could never make himself think and behave as a working-class person did.  

But he did not agonize over it, as many white liberal Americans nowadays do over their inescapable “whiteness.”  And in other writings, he celebrated middle-class virtues and the widening of the British middle class.

In Homage to Catalonia (1938), his book about his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, he said he experienced for the first time a society truly committed to equality

When he arrived in Barcelona, he said, he was in the midst of a true workers revolution.  Every building had been seized by workers and draped with Communist or anarchist flags.   Every church had been gutted and its images destroyed.  

Every restaurant had a sign saying it had been collectivized.  There were no private automobiles; they had all been collectivized, too.

Nobody called anybody “señor” or “don,” just “comrade.”  Nobody said “buenos Dias,” just “salud.”  Nobody wore suits, just overalls or other work clothes or a militia uniform.  Waiters looked their customers in the eye and took no guff from them..

“I recognized it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for,” Orwell wrote.  Later he served in a Spanish militia, in which officers had to argue with troops to get them to agree to follow orders, but the troops fought bravely.  He admired this, too.

(more…)

Some things I just learned from maps

January 8, 2022

How the Netherlands expanded by reclamation from the sea

.

Annual hours of sunshine in Europe and the USA

.

The wandering North magnetic pole

(more…)

The passing scene: Links & comments 1/7/2022

January 7, 2022

Here are links to some articles I found interesting.

The Cuban Missile War Timeline by “Amerigo Vespucci” for altnernatehistory.com.

I remember the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. I didn’t take the danger of nuclear war seriously at the time because I understood that neither President Kennedy nor Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev were crazy enough to start one. What I didn’t understand was how easily things could get out of control.

A contributor to the alternate history web log wrote an interesting speculation as to what might have happened if a few things had gone otherwise than as they did—a U-2 plane shot down over Cuba, a Soviet submarine commander who thought he was under attack firing his nuclear missile.

The writer is well-informed about U.S. and Soviet capabilities, positioning of armed forces and likely military strategies. He presents a convincing account of what a nuclear war would have been like and what the aftermath would have been.

Yes, the USA could have “won” a nuclear exchange. More of us Americans would have survived than those on the other side. I don’t think the Chinese would have escaped unscathed as the writer assumes. Daniel Ellsberg’s book tells us that the U.S. nuclear strategy, in the event of war, was to obliterate the USSR and China both.

All too many people make light of the risks of going to the brink of nuclear war.  They say it hasn’t happened yet.  Yes, but it only needs to happen once.

Frederick Douglass’s library by Julian Abagond.

When I visit someone for the first time, I always sneak a look at the person’s bookshelf.  It’s one way of getting to know them.

Frederick Douglass, the great African-American freedom fighter, had a library of thousands of books.  A blogger named Julian Abagond listed some of the highlights.  Particular favorites, according to Abagond, included The Colombia Orator, a textbook on public speaking with selections from great speeches, and the Bible, the works of Shakespeare, the poetry of Robert Burns and Charles Dickens’ Bleak House.

Douglass of course owned and read works by and about black people and their history, struggles and achievements, but his interests were wide-ranging and included history, politics, literature and science.  The National Park Service has the complete list.  

He had no formal schooling whatever.  As a slave, he was not supposed to learn to read.  He did it on the sly, by paying a white boy to teach him his ABCs.  He went on from there to educate himself.  He associated on equal terms with some of the leading intellectuals of his time.

Lucille of the Libs by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative.

Rod Dreher, a leading conservative Christian writer, wrote a moving article on the sacrifices required to be a good husband or wife, and a good parent.  He drew on the Kenny Rogers country-and-western song, “Lucille”; the movie, “The Secret Life of Dentists”; and an article by Atlantic senior editor Honor Jones about why she divorced her loving husband and father of her children in order to live for herself.

(more…)

The passing scene: Links 12/27/2021

December 27, 2021

The Claims of Memory by Wilfred M. McCloy for First Things.  Conservatism is necessary for progress.  If you can’t preserve existing good things, it is futile to try to create new good things.  Burning everything down and starting over is one of the worst ideas in history.

Everything Going Great: Bad Faith, Worse News and Julian Assange by Edward Snowden for Continuing Ed.

2021 Year in Review: The Only Way Out Is Through by Alexandra Bradbury for Labor Notes.  The labor movement is reviving, but has a long way to go.  [Hat tip to Bill Harvey]

Smartphones Are a New Tax on the Poor by Julia Ticona for Wired.  Low-wage workers are expected to be connected to the Internet, even though many can’t afford it.  As someone said, it’s expensive to be poor.

Hillary 2024? Given the competition, she may be the Dems’ best hope by Joe Concha for The Hill.

Friendly foul-mouthed crow befriends entire elementary school before state police are called in by Lizzy Acker for The Oregonian.  Something cheerful to end with.

Merry Christmas 2021

December 25, 2021

.

 

.

.

Putin’s ultimatum and the threat of war

December 21, 2021

Destruction Is Still Mutually Assured by Freddie deBoer.

Russia Details Security Demands to U.S. and NATO by Bernhard for Moon of Alabama.

Only the Powerful Issue Ultimatums by Andrei Martyanov (a Russian view).

Russia’s Ultimatum to the West by the Saker (another Russian view)

A surprise Russian ultimatum: new draft treaties to roll back NATO by Gilbert Doctorow.  [Added 12/23/2021]

We’ve Seen the Ultimatum: What Is the ‘Or Else’? by Patrick Armstrong for Russia Observer.  [Added 12/23/2021]  A long list of things Russia could do short of nuclear escalation.

‘Come thou fount of every blessing’

December 12, 2021

Hat tip to Julian Abagond.

The architecture of bubbles

December 11, 2021

Our threatened democracy: Links 12/8/2021

December 8, 2021

Will You Storm the Capitol if the 2024 Election Is Stolen? by Thom Hartmann for The Hartmann Report. 

How Would the Left Treat an Illegitimate Election? by Thomas Neuburger for God’s Spies.

The pro-Trump protesters who gathered in Washington on Jan. 6 sincerely thought that the election had been stolen.  I don’t think the evidence supports this.  But suppose they had been right?  What could or should they have done?

This isn’t an academic question.  The 2024 election could well be rigged, and rigged in favor of Trump or whoever is the Republican presidential candidate.  There could be competing slates of electors from key states—a Democratic slate elected by majority vote and a Republican slate chosen by state legislators.

It’s quite likely the Republicans will regain control of the Senate and the House in 2022.  So the GOP, if it is united, would be able to decide in any dispute.  What, then, could or should Democrats do?

A Failing State by Eeggert for The Soundings.

A roundup of all the ways in which the Republican right is working to undermine democracy.  Hartmann’s and Neuburger’s fears are not imaginary.

The Radical Young Intellectuals Who Want to Take Over the American Right by Sam Adler-Bell for The New Republic.

The intellectual right’s war on America’s institutions by Zach Beauchamp for Vox.

Some conservative intellectuals believe their cause can only prevail if they abandon freedom of speech, separation of church and state and other historic small-l liberal ideals.

American Satyricon by Chris Hedges for Scheerpost.

If the USA was a well-functioning democracy, right-wing authoritarianism would not be a threat.

The Ghislaine Maxwell trial reveals how rotten the ruling elite really is, and this is true across the political spectrum.   Rich and powerful men were given free rein to sexually abuse underage and teenage girls, and for years nothing was done.  Jeffrey Epstein died mysteriously, and Maxwell may or may not go to prison, but it’s a safe bet than none of their clients will face any consequences, even in reputation.

An Empire of Dreams by John Michael Greer for Ecosophia.

The more that established authorities discredit themselves, the more willing the public is to embrace fantastic conspiracy theories.  Consider, for example, the imaginary empire of Tartaria.

The passing scene: Links 12/1/2021

December 1, 2021

The Next European War by John Michael Greer for Ecosophia.  Peace in Europe is not permanent..

The War Nerd: The Tigray-Ethiopia War.  War is hell.

When All the Media Narratives Collapse by Andrew Sullivan for The Weekly Dish.  Big news organizations have forfeited trust.

Ten Million a Year: David Wallace-Wells on polluted air for the London Review of Books.

How Delaware Sold the Greatest, Most Insidious Financial Security Tool the World Has Ever Known by Casey Michel for CrimeReads.

Hayao Miyazaki Prepares to Cast One Last Spell by Ligaya Mishan for the New York Times.  Some good news to end with.