I'm strapped for time and can't really think of anything for a snappy intro this week. Perhaps that's because the phrase "horse paste" has been bouncing around my skull like a handful of ball bearings. It's like every insane part of the pandemic compressed into one nutball story – the conspiracy cranks, the shouting grifter maniacs, the conservative radio hosts dropping like flies, the anti-vax, anti-mask activist with three kids and a pregnant wife dying after the paste failed him, and, of course, Glenn Greenwald being a tendentious douche. Perhaps in the end the madness will take us all.
Anyway – housekeeping stuff: you can subscribe to this newsletter here (and feel free to pass it along to friends and family!), and check out my latest podcast episode with historian Nate Holdren about workplace injuries in the early 20th century here. Also, I am working on a little video project about conservatism and Lord of the Rings, stay tuned for that.
On to the articles!
First, on the l'affaire du cheval:
But in terms of politics, the horse paste saga is a perfect window in the conservative mindset that is currently the biggest force fueling the pandemic. The core behavior here is muleheaded, selfish spitefulness, adhered to even at great personal risk. "Freedom" for movement conservatives is entirely one-directional: They get to spray virus fog whenever and wherever they want, and they also get to force you or your kids to not wear a mask.
Second, on the recent Kabul drone strike:
So when former ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq Ryan Crocker writes, "Mr. Biden's decision to withdraw all U.S. forces destroyed an affordable status quo that could have lasted indefinitely at a minimum cost in blood and treasure," he is not only dead wrong — remaining in Afghanistan would have re-started the war and gotten more Americans killed — he is also displaying the monstrously callous selfishness that doomed the occupation to failure in the first place.
To renege on that agreement — by sending in more troops, or re-taking the Bagram air base, as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested — would not only require putting more forces in to re-start the war, it would expose the troops there now protecting the evacuation to immediate attack on all sides, and possibly even cut them off from reinforcement, given how easy it is to prevent flights into the Kabul airport. Indeed, as members of the U.S. government, Graham and Walz's demand exposes American soldiers to a nontrivial risk that the Taliban will take it as a statement of policy and open fire. And then what?
Fourth, the American empire is distracting the nation from much more solvable problems:
Second, while the empire might give D.C. elites and some portion of the population a vicarious sense of power and importance, that "benefit" is wholly insubstantial. Weather disasters of every description are striking with greater and greater power all over the country. Tens of millions of Americans still lack health insurance. One thousand people are still dying every day from COVID-19. Losing a war is actually a lot less humiliating than the abject condition of the American welfare state.
Finally, on the tyranny of the reactionary Supreme Court:
In the early 1930s, there was no separation of powers where three co-equal branches of government checked and balanced each other. Instead the judiciary ruled, dominating both the presidency and Congress. (Judicial review is not in the Constitution at all; it was made up by John Marshall.) From the 1870s through the 1920s, right-wing hack lawyers developed legal Calvinball re-interpretations of the Fourteenth Amendment — mean to protect the civil rights of freed slaves — as instead protecting corporations from regulations that might infringe on the power and profits of the capitalist class. Regulations mandating a 10-hour working day, banning child labor, or setting a minimum wage, and many more, were held to be the "legal equivalents of slavery," as historian Richard White writes.
See you next week!