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Weekend Longread Guest Post - Hegemonic Discourse

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.27.19

Mossy Character writes: As Ethiopia briefly transits the news, a piece on the political philosophy of Meles Zenawi. Some bits that are at least interesting:

The EPRDF took Addis Ababa on 28 May 1991 [...] On 31 May, government salaries and pensions were due. They were paid on time. Police were back on the street within days.
[...]
Meles inverted Kissinger's dictum that holding office consumes intellectual capital rather than creating it. He was always learning, reading, debating, and writing, and while he never abandoned the fundamental principles forged in the field, his views evolved greatly. After 1991, he studied for a degree in Business Administration at the Open University (graduating first in his class) and subsequently a Masters in Economics at Erasmus University, Rotterdam, under the supervision of the former Minister of Development Cooperation, Jan Pronk.
[...]
Meles agreed with the neo-liberals that the 'predatory state' of Africa's first post-colonial decades was one dead end, but argued that allowing the market to rule was a second dead end. 'You cannot change a rent-seeking political economy just by reducing the size and role of the state [...]'.
[...]
'If the state guides the private sector, there is a possibility of shifting to value creation - it needs state action to lead the private sector from its preference (rent seeking) to its long-term interest (value creation).
[...]
If Ethiopia could sustain its growth levels - which have been running at close to 10 percent per annum for most of the last decade - it could achieve middle-income status and escape from its trap. [...] Meles liked to give the example of corrupt customs officials in Taiwan, who exacted bribes worth 12 percent of the value of imports of consumer goods, while not demanding bribes on imported capital goods, illustrating how value creation had been internalized in this way - so that even the thieves followed the norm.

Heebie's take: What an interesting guy.


 

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Good for Weiner

Posted by Ben
on 07.25.19

He had the honor of being called out by Leiter.


 

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Impeach

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.25.19

The argument against impeachment in this article is more or less:
1. We'd need 20 Republican defections in the senate, and that is never going to happen
2. Trump would claim victory and get a boost
3. "Impeachment" is a terribly-designed removal technique that falls apart in this situation, and therefore we should rely on elections.

I'm on record here as being in favor of beginning impeachment hearings, but I'll concede (1) and (3), and the first half of (2). My argument for impeachment has been: fuck hand-wringing and tea-leaf-reading and fretting about optics. The president is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, and is a genuine threat to democracy. And I'm not even convinced of his role in Russian meddling - it seems plausible to me that he is a useful idiot, and nothing more.

However: Mitch McConnell is also a threat to democracy. I'd love it if he were impeached, of course, but I don't harbor fantasies that we should begin proceedings. This makes me second-guess my motivation for impeachment proceedings against Trump - is it just that I loathe him and think his reality-TV-star-tweeting tendencies are unfit for office?

The worst parts of Trump:
1. Racism and ICE
2. Implementing Republican tax cuts and regulatory dismantling
3. International relations on par with a roomba running over dog shit

and none of those seem impeachable. So if I want retribution based on those offenses, maybe impeachment is not the moral high ground.

So should we start impeachment hearings? I still say yes. I think the general public has the two following beliefs:
1. Elections are choices between two fit candidates
2. Impeachment is the method of removing unfit candidates

Those aren't legally true, or true to well-informed people, but when it's the public belief, then it carries weight as the lens through which Democratic decisions will be framed.

If we don't begin impeachment proceedings, then we should acknowledge that our decision will be understood by the public as if we are saying Trump is a fit candidate with policy positions on which we can reasonably disagree. That is an intolerable unethical position for us to take.

We need to act as if impeachment is how you remove a candidate who puts concentration camps on the border, because that is really, truly why he is unfit for office. If Mitch McConnell can flatly say that he will never bring Merrick Garland up for a vote because the election is 11 months away, then we can flatly say that Trump should be impeached because he puts children in cages.

Okay, this argument is getting away from me and I'm not sure where I'm going with it anymore. Impeach! Impeach!


 

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Wednesday

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.24.19

I was sort of surprised yesterday to find out that people were looking forward to watching the Mueller testimony today. Since the 2016 election, I have no appetite for watching or listening to anything political. I have concluded that it's because you have more control when you're reading something in terms of managing your emotions - I can click away in the middle of an article when I start to feel angry, and click back when I'm ready to read some more. So avoiding TV and radio is a form of emotional self-regulation, because I can control the pace and quantity of what I'm exposed to more tightly. Anyway, apparently lots of people are looking forward to this testimony, and also watch the debates, and also enter into conversations with MAGA supporters on Facebook. Maybe not "lots".

Also, I bet you all have discussed Boris Johnson over the past week yet? Still? Not? I have missed a lot, being mostly in the car, and then being in the car some more.


 

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Guest Post - The Company You Keep

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.23.19

Mossy Character writes: Short piece on the recent spat at the UN Human Rights Council over Xinjiang.

Then there are the countries that don't appear on either list. The absence of the United States -- which left the UN Human Rights Council last summer in a huff -- is particularly important.
[...]
Noticeable also is the absence of most of Central and Eastern Europe. For example, of the countries in the so-called 16+1 -- a format bringing together in routine dialogue the states of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and China -- only Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania stood up to criticize China.
[...]
Also among those conspicuously absent from either list are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.
[...]
From Asia, the absences of Malaysia, India, and Indonesia are notable, as are the absences of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.
The bad news is, 22 countries came out against genocide, 37 countries for it. The good news I see is:
1. In any forum other than a UN committee, the 22 are vastly more formidable than the 37.
2. Almost without exception, the PRC signatories are not merely small, weak, and poor, but likely to remain so indefinitely.
3. There is no clash of civilizations. It's realpolitik all the way down, and the right incentives can bend the arc of history any way we (ie., actually, you, US voters) choose.

Heebie's take: I am takeless!


 

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The poor dears

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.22.19

With all the horrible, horrible news in the world, maybe a little light hate-reading is in order? Here's a preschool in Brooklyn that is suffering an existential class crisis as leadership turns over:

The main concern, of course, was exmissions. As the director of the school, Morgano had an enormous amount of power over the futures of Grace Church children. A note or a phone call from a director could make or break the future for a 4-year-old. "And she made sure everyone knew it," one parent put it.
Each spring, Grace Church School holds an annual exmissions meeting, where the parents of Threes, soon to be Fours, are invited to learn about the stressful process of applying to kindergarten the following year. The meeting takes place in the basement -- the same room the gala is normally in -- although in this case, no one is having fun. Parents who have been through the terrifying gauntlet are invited to share their experiences, and the director gives an overview. "This is the first time in your life you are not a consumer," was how Morgano liked to open the event. All the control belonged to the elementary schools. For parents accustomed to control in every aspect of their lives, the prospect was terrifying. "You're like, palms sweating, edge of seat," one says.

It must be so stressful.


 

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Detention

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.21.19

We are deeply into human abuse atrocity territory. Here is one account of what happened when the author receives word that her colleague and colleague's husband have been detained by ICE, and tries to go see them and establish contact.

She squared her shoulders. "Can I help you?"
"I'm here about a friend of mine who was picked up this morning."
"Yes?" She replied.
"I would like to register community support. She and her husband are very important members of our community."
"We don't do that here."
"Her name is. ..."
"We don't do that here. We have nothing to write it down on."
"Well, can I write it down and maybe you can put it in her file or tell someone?"
"We don't do that."
I stood back, thinking about next steps. There's almost no signage in the room, but I noticed a photocopy taped to the plexiglass: "Please, please, please ring the bell." I turned around, baffled.

Basically, the front office is a completely blank space - no one will respond to you and there's no way to get information, and it's literally as empty as possible. There is no fig leaf of transparency or due process.


 

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