When strategic silence must give way to truth-telling

The editorial pages of the two major newspapers in the US, the New York Times and the Washington Post, have long been unswerving in their support for whatever the Israel government does, issuing at most the mildest of criticisms even as Israel increases it apartheid–like treatment of Palestinians and commits the most horrific crimes such as in Gaza. While the news sections might report some of the atrocities, their stable of regular columnists could be relied upon to paint Israel’s actions in the most favorable light.
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The failure of the Iraq occupation revealed

Somewhat lost in the fuss over Donald Trump petulantly canceling Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Iraq is what these trips reveal about the failure of US policy there. The trip for her and other Congressional members had been planned in great secrecy, just like Trump’s visit the previous month. This continues the practice of top US political leaders sneaking in and out of that country like thieves in the night, revealing their trip only after they are back home.
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This is a great deal maker?

If there is one thing that we have learned, it is that Donald Trump is a lousy dealmaker. Yesterday he announced with great fanfare his offer to open the government. Underwhelming would be too kind a description for what he came up with and it was rejected by the speaker Nancy Polosi in fairly contemptuous terms, designed to show him that what may have worked with other politicians will not work with her, a message that she set in motion when she met with him in the White House on December 11 and warned him publicly not to trigger the ‘Trump shutdown’.

“She’s not only outmanoeuvring him, she’s outraging him,” said Michael Cornfield, associate professor of political management at George Washington University in Washington. “She’s taunting him. She’s the matador, he’s the bull. He has no idea what he’s doing. He’s a genius of the publicity arts, not the political arts. In this he’s an absolute novice.”

It must have come as a shock to a man who has spent the past two years being surrounded by yes men and yes women, the latter including Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Sanders. Cornfield said: “We will look back on 11 December as the day he met his match. She has mastered two political skills he doesn’t even know he’s deficient in.

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Wait, these are supposed to be bad things?

Via Juanita Jean, I saw that someone named Jesse Lee Patterson Peterson posted the same powerful photograph of six new congresswomen that I had posted a couple of weeks earlier, but with annotations.

When I first saw his additions, I thought they were meant to highlight the fact that these women brought even more diverse backgrounds than I had initially been aware of. But apparently Peterson thinks these are derogatory things that should disqualify them from office. (I notice that he writes for the site World Nut Net Daily, a fount of right-wing insanity, which alone discredits him. Actually, I am surprised that the site is still around.)

What a sad man.

Avoiding a war with China

It is a safe rule of thumb that at any given time, the US needs a external threat that requires a heavy military response. That is how the military-industrial complex keeps the gushers of money flowing their way. They can never allow a time when people say to themselves “Hey, I feel safe!” because then they might ask why the country spends vast amounts of money on the military and its adjuncts when so many other pressing needs exist. So we went from the Cold War to the war of drugs to the wars in the Middle East to the war on terrorism and now some are urging that the US is facing a resurgent threat from Russia. There was even a time when Nicaragua and Grenada were portrayed as existential threats. China was initially portrayed as a threat after the Communist revolution and during the Vietnam war, then faded for a while but has recently risen in the charts as a result of its rapid economic growth that will soon make it the world’s largest economy.
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The Brexit crisis is more about the UK and less about Europe

The veteran Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole argues that the Brexit mess is less about Europe and more a reflection of internal problems within the UK, and that Brexit is a symptom of its ills rather than a cause. And the main issue is that its current four-nation composition cannot function within its present structure.

Yet in Theresa May’s humiliation on Tuesday, there were prizes for almost everybody else: a glimpse of opportunity for her rivals in cabinet; a revival of their sadomasochistic no-deal fantasies for the zealots; the hope of a second referendum for remainers; proof of the near-collapse of the Westminster order for nationalists; the hope of a general election for Jeremy Corbyn. But in truth nobody has won anything – it is a losing game all round.

Even if May were a political genius – and let us concede that she is not – Brexit was always going to come down to a choice between two evils: the heroic but catastrophic failure of crashing out; or the unheroic but less damaging failure of swapping first-class for second-class EU membership. These are the real afterlives of a departed reverie.

The visible collapse of the Westminster polity this week may be a result of Brexit, but Brexit itself is the result of the invisible subsidence of the political order over recent decades.
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