Wednesday Night #1896

Written by  //  July 11, 2018  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Before addressing all the issues that have clouded our collective horizon, let us celebrate the heroism of the international team that against great odds succeeded in rescuing all 12 Wild Boars and their coach from the Tham Luang Cave. Only once the boys and their coach were safely on their way to the hospital did the three members of the SEAL unit and an army doctor, who had stayed with the boys since they were found, make their way out of the cave. Only then, as the NYT wrote, was The Watery Trap Now Empty. This was a shining example of international cooperation, and one that the world followed with genuine hopes and prayers. The media did a great job, too; respectful of the boundaries set by the authorities, there were no stupid attempts to scoop one another. And as the news came on Tuesday night that the last group had been rescued, media outlets large and small, from Denmark to the United Arab Emirates, celebrated.
Kudos to all involved and thank you for restoring our faith in humanity.

Brexit
Meantime, Boris Johnson has been playing the Brexit villain,  leaving  [Theresa May’s] Brexit plans all but in tatters. Media reaction has been merciless.  “after the resignations of lead Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, the UK’s political system is degenerating into a furious fistfight between advocates of different bad options. It’s ugly, and it’s likely to get worse” (The intellectual dishonesty of the Brexit Taliban is now in full view.) Max Hastings of The Times is particularly unkind The English love a buffoon but the Boris Johnson joke went tragically wrong : “It would be unwise to declare his career in government at an end until it is buried at a crossroads, but some of those who have known him best heaved a profound sigh of gratitude at his departure from the Foreign Office. He seems to deserve every possible success as a journalist and entertainer. Should he ever achieve his towering ambition to become prime minister, however, a signal would go forth to the world that Britain had abandoned any residual aspiration to be viewed as a serious nation.”
One Canadian ex-pat comments: “Maybe Boris has cleared off to avoid meeting again with Trump in London this week, and another round of silly cartoons comparing bleached blonde, unruly hair styles.”

SCOTUS
Monday’s announcement of the selection of Brett Kavanaugh to replace Supreme Court Justice Kennedy has generated the expected flurry of comments and prognostications. The Atlantic summarizes: “Brett Kavanaugh, a judge in the Washington, D.C., Circuit Court of Appeals [has] a notable body of work related to executive power. While Kavanaugh was considered the most conventional candidate on the president’s shortlist, he’ll face an intense confirmation battle,in which Senate Democrats may pressure him to give a specific answer about whether he’d vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. For their part, Republican leaders have welcomed Trump’s choice—suggesting that, as one GOP operative told The Atlantic’s Elaina Plott, “as long as he sticks to safe picks for scotus, he’ll never really lose the support and money of the party.”. New York views the nominee’s statement at the announcement with some scorn:  “Throughout this process, I’ve witnessed firsthand your appreciation for the vital role of the American judiciary,” Kavanaugh declared Monday night, asserting facts not in evidence. With his benefactor looming behind him, he continued with this bit of sycophantic hyperbole: “No president has ever consulted more widely, or talked with more people from more backgrounds, to seek input about a Supreme Court nomination” (In Kavanaugh, Trump Found Another Judge Who Will Kiss the Ring), while the NYT Editorial board underlines the role of the Federalist SocietyMonday’s nomination belongs not to Mr. Trump so much as to the conservative legal activists at the Federalist Society, who have spent nearly four decades building a movement to reshape the federal judiciary and rewrite whole sections of constitutional law. Check out The Secrets of Leonard Leo, the Man Behind Trump’s Supreme Court Pick One final – and highly pertinent note – How Picking Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court Could Benefit Trump Personally highlights that Judge Kavanaugh has argued “we should not burden a sitting president with civil suits, criminal investigations, or criminal prosecutions.” ‘Nuff said.

Trade wars and foreign relations
Having Started Four Trade Wars—and Counting, Trump is turning his attention to other aspects of relations with US allies and this does not bode well Even the Best-Case Scenario for What Trump Does at the NATO Summit Is Pretty Grim.
He is off to Europe to possibly create mayhem at Wednesday’s NATO summit, followed by a working (not state) visit to England, where his reception is not likely to be warm & fuzzy,  and weekend golf holiday in Scotland before heading to his meeting with Putin in Helsinki on Monday, the 16th. Given the volley of criticism of the NATO members’ failure to increase their spending, expectations for the NATO summit are gloomy “NATO leaders will probably be relieved if it is anything other than a disaster. After trade and other divisions dominated last month’s G7 meeting in Canada, many expect the NATO gathering to be worse still. ” (Can Nato survive US President Donald Trump?), especially as he “goes on from this Nato summit to meet his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. This encounter has many Nato allies spooked. What might the president give away? What message will Moscow take from Nato’s difficulties?”
In vivid contrast,  the U.S. Senate voted 97-2 on a motion to re-endorse NATO and support the mission of NATO.
Do see Jeremy Kinsman’s latest commentary on CTV “Back after a week of national holidays, to report how this destructive trend of the President of the US picking fights with historic allies and partners continues. Trump asked today, “Who would have thought that my easiest meeting would be with Vladimir Putin?” Right. And why, exactly, is that?” One answer: Will Trump Be Meeting With His Counterpart — Or His Handler?

Obvious must-reads
Madeleine Albright: ‘The things that are happening are genuinely, seriously bad’
(The Guardian) “The former US secretary of state decries the global rise of authoritarianism in her new book, Fascism: A Warning, and talks about Trump, Putin and the ‘tragedy’ of Brexit
Where we might be going is the chilling theme of Fascism: A Warning. The book is a cry of anguish about the global resurgence of authoritarianism and a lament over the decay of the liberal internationalist politics to which Albright has devoted her career.
“The book is a cry of anguish about the global resurgence of authoritarianism and a lament over the decay of the liberal internationalist politics to which Albright has devoted her career.  She quotes Primo Levi – “Every age has its own fascism” – and makes her case with observations about the autocrats she has dealt with and brisk histories of past dictators and the horrors that they unleashed. A devil’s portrait gallery includes Benito Mussolini, the original fascist, and Adolf Hitler, the most destructive. Then there’s Donald Trump.
Trump is actually really smart – evil smart, is what I think
“She agrees that we ought to be careful not to casually throw around the F-word lest we drain the potency from what should be a powerful term. “I’m not calling Trump a fascist,” she says. Yet she seems to be doing all but that when she puts him in the same company as historical fascists in a book that seeks to sound “an alarm bell” about a fascist revival.
She frequently nudges the reader to make connections between the president of the United States and past dictatorships. She reminds us who first coined the Trumpian phrase “drain the swamp”. It was drenare la palude in the original, Mussolini Italian. She quotes Hitler talking about the secret of his success: “I will tell you what has carried me to the position I have reached. Our political problems appeared complicated. The German people could make nothing of them… I…reduced them to the simplest terms. The masses realised this and followed me.” Sound familiar?”

A Princeton sociologist spent 8 years asking rural Americans why they’re so pissed off
Robert Wuthnow, a sociologist at Princeton University, spent eight years interviewing Americans in small towns across the country. He had one goal: to understand why rural America is so angry with Washington.
Wuthnow’s work resulted in a new book, The Left Behind: Decline and Rage in Rural America. He argues that rural Americans are less concerned about economic issues and more concerned about Washington threatening the social fabric of small towns and causing a “moral decline” in the country as a whole. The problem, though, is that it’s never quite clear what that means or how Washington is responsible for it.

Searching for a less depressing note on which to end, found this nice bit of trivia from Quartz:
Paper clips: Holding it all together
They seem a vestige of an analog age—an artifact of the office stationery closet, alongside staplers, hole punches, and binder clips. But even as the world gets more digital, the paper clip keeps on keeping on. Over the past five years, the stock price of ACCO, the major American producer of paper clips, has rocketed. And as recently as 2011, Americans purchased 11 billion paper clips a year, or about 35 a head.
But maybe it’s not so surprising. Sure, paper clips may not be flashy or glamorous, but they’re very good at the very specific thing that they do. It’s been well over 100 years since a patent was issued to William Middlebrook for a paper-clip-making machine—yet despite a century of innovation, this very early piece of stationery tech has proven virtually unimprovable. (No one’s exactly sure who invented the clip itself, though there are many pretenders to the throne.)
Maybe that’s why the paper clip has come to be so much more than a tool for holding documents together. In 2005, a Canadian blogger started with a single red paper clip, traded it 14 times, and ended up with a house. In the Second World War, Norwegians pinned them to their lapels as a symbol of opposition to Nazism: Nowadays, thousands follow suit, to remember those killed in the Holocaust.

The paper clip seems to suggest resilience, determination, and independence of thought—a surprising amount for a bit of wire, however elegantly looped it may be

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