BOOK REVIEW: The criticism of “Empty Throne” pierces deeper than intended

I’ve said before there’s a seductive idea that some more competent version of American hegemony used to be in effect and is desirable to return to.

Without meaning to, what Ivo H. Daalder and James M. Lindsay book The Empty Throne: America’s Abdication of Global Leadership seems to most persuasively advocate is how bad of an idea it is for the United States to have a throne at all when the person in it is as likely as not to wield that leadership destructively.

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BOOK REVIEW: The adults in the room have always been “Reckless”

In the Mel Brooks parody, “Space Balls”, the villainous character Darth Helmet brags to Lonestarr, the protagonist, that, “Evil will always triumph because good is dumb.”

This trope appears in fiction often, and some writers rely on it almost entirely.

The medievalist historian and culture critic Steven Atwell has observed that one of the central differences between George R.R. Martin’s worldview in the fantasy book series A Song of Ice and Fire and that of showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss in the HBO adaption Game of Thrones is that Martin will stack the cosmic deck against his “good” characters to give them more adversity while D&D treat nobility itself as a handicap, where evil is synonymous with competence, cunning, with a willingness to make the hard and necessary choices.

The early 21st-century genre of “prestige television” with its white male anti-heroes is predicated largely on this worldview, from Vic Mackey in The Shield to Frank Underwood in House of Cards, but it continues today and goes back to Kurtz in Apocalypse Now and beyond.

In contemporary reality, though, we have a president and administration that is an ever-overlapping Venn Diagram of racists, incompetents, and grifters rapidly approaching a perfect circle with every new cabinet departure and replacement.

Recently, that administration announced that Vietnam War refugees who’ve been living in the United States for 40 years or more are now subject to deportation. We can and should condemn that as yet another example of ethnic cleansing that it is. It’s the sort of behavior that’s cartoonishly evil except for that it’s actually happening and hurting real people.

That we are currently ruled by schmucks does not make their sadism less painful.

At the same time, there is a syrupy-sweet voice talking from the corners of New York Times opinion columns and conservative “former Republican luminaries” that suggests that everything could go back to normal if we just had the adults back in charge, that if people were a bit more civil and subtle as they went about pursuing policies that irreparably harmed marginalized people, and if they didn’t tweet rude, misspelt things, we’d all be OK.

Reckless: Henry Kissinger and the Tragedy of Vietnam by Robert K. Brigham is a great corrective on that impulse.

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Until prisons can be guaranteed to be free of cruel and unusual punishment, we must abolish them

HUMAN 1
Yeah, fuck prisons how dare they lock up murderers and rapists. It’s not their fault that they commit crimes. Let them do what they want. Honestly it’s 2018 you should be HONORED if someone steals your wallet out of all the people in the world they chose you.

HUMAN 0
Are we attempting to rehabilitate criminals or punish them? Because punishing people doesn’t seem to be working.

HUMAN 1
Neither as I said just let them do whatever they want clearly they wouldn’t be murdering people if it wasn’t the right thing to do. Human nature is inherently good and therefore no one can do anything wrong. Why punish or rehabilitate people just trying to be themselves?

I’m not convinced we’re locking up many rapists right now, and only some of the murders.

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BOOK REVIEW: In “10 Strikes”, Erik Loomis demonstrates how American labor history is inseparable from American politics

Your short takeaway should be that A History of America in 10 Strikes is a good book in all the ways a history book can be good. You should buy it. You should read it. You should gift it to your friends and family, and stuff extra copies in Tiny Libraries you come across.

The author Erik Loomis is a professor at the University of Rhode Island and regular contributor to the politics and culture blog “Lawyers, Guns, and Money“, and he’s been writing his This Day In Labor History” series for some time. It’s not surprising that he was able to bring the same sort of conversational brevity to this full-length work as he managed on Twitter threads, but it’s impressive he was able to tie almost two centuries of history all together so coherently.

Now, Loomis has a point of view, and he states it outright and upfront: almost everyone in the United States is a worker, and labor unions have been the only force for workers in the past two centuries.

What’s enlightening is his thesis, hammered in time and again, that “the fate of labor unions largely rests on the ability to elect politicians that will allow them to succeed.”

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A few things Washington State Democrats ought to do next

1.CANNABIS CONVICTION REPARATION

Eminently achievable: Retroactive clearance of all marijuana misdemeanors.

Seattle actually already did this through City Attorney Pete Holmes earlier this year.

It may be more difficult for the legislature to do, or they might need to direct the state attorney, but unlike HB 1260 – 2017-18: “Providing for the vacation of misdemeanor marijuana offense convictions“, the focus should be on providing for this automatically instead of requiring often under-informed people to go through a process that necessarily is time-consuming and often costly.

Stretch goal: Extend clearances to felonies

This is a tougher sell because folk with say only “bad guys” got felonies but we know that’s not true, and undoing this harm would have an even bigger impact on housing and jobs.

Whether ounces or pounds, people shouldn’t continue to be punished for something we reward folk for doing now (i.e. Uncle Ike’s vs who used to stand on 23rd and Union)

Ultimate goal: Divert recreational cannabis tax funds to a stipend for people with marijuana convictions

The exact formula would involve some tough math, but it ought to be proportional to their punishments: the most severe the punishment, the larger the ongoing payments.

While this would be helpful to lots of people whose lives were derailed by what we now know to be unjust convictions, it’s going to make a radical difference in the lives of the poorest people. Because the drug war has disproportionately targeted people of color, so will the benefits.

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BOOK REVIEW: It’s a lot easier to kick someone out into the rain than fix your own leaking roof

You’ll often hear, in reference to current events, that the Republican Party has its origins in the anti-slavery movement of the mid-19th century.

This is, strictly speaking, true, but bowdlerized.

The best an abolitionist Liberty Party candidate ever did for president was 2.3 percent of what was then the popular vote in 1844.

The Free Soil Party was anti-slavery but only in so much as it disliked enslaved people. It got 10.1 percent in 1848.

The Know Nothing Party didn’t care for slavery but what really got it going was anti-immigrant nativism, contemporarily aimed at Irish and German Catholics. In 1856, it got 21.5 percent of the vote, still only good for third. By then, the Republican Party was competing on a slogan of “Free soil, free silver, free men.”

Abraham Lincoln won the presidency as a Republican with less than 40 percent of the popular vote four years later.

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White-mansplaining the inherent racism in the Republican Party to women of color (with graphs)

HUMAN 0
Please, my fellow liberals, stop calling all Trump voters “morons.” Stop calling them “racists.” Stop saying they are “too dumb” to realize that they are “voting against their self interests.”

Rural voters, particularly Midwesterners and Southerners who support Trump and his contingency, reside outside of wealthy coastal enclaves like Seattle, New York, Palo Alto, etc. and they know EXACTLY who is responsible for outsourcing their good-paying jobs and where these C-suite executives reside and thrive. They are not nearly as stupid as many of you seem to think. They ARE voting according to their economic self-interest because their regions are not receiving equitable redistribution of infrastructure investment and job opportunities from the wealthy coastal enclaves where the American oligarchic class lives.

Please, for all of our sakes, learn to make common cause with your fellow working-class Americans and do not allow blind partisanship to prevent you from reaching across the aisle. Or else our oligarchic class will one day be as powerful as Russia‘s and stolen elections will be a foregone conclusion here, just as they are there. “Citizens United” is a leap in that direction, and destruction of the public education system with the return of segregation through tiered “charter schools” is another leap.

Fight wisely, fight nobly, persevere, my people, fight back. Please don’t give up on American democracy so easily.

We completely disagree, at least on half.

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