Thursday, August 11, 2022
HomePoliticsAbbreviated Pundit Roundup: Both sides

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Both sides


Alex Shephard of The New Republic says that Donald Trump and Mike Pence are merely two sides of the same coin.

Trump and Pence do have a rivalry. But that rivalry tells us much less about the present, let alone future, of the Republican Party than these analyses suggest. The rivalry essentially boils down to one thing. Trump wanted Pence to steal the election for him on January 6, 2021; Pence probably couldn’t do this but also didn’t try. Trump not only blamed—and continues to blame—Pence for him “losing” in 2020, but also unleashed a mob of his supporters on him at the Capitol on that day. Pence’s true feelings about Trump’s complicity in that assault aren’t known. They probably won’t be. Pence wants to be president and therefore can only break so far from the most powerful and popular person in the party—his old boss who, again, almost got him killed. That, in essence, is what the “rivalry” between Trump and Pence is about.[…]

Pence, and other Republicans like him, are more than happy for figures like Trump to whip up their base with ridiculous charges—and then turn those ridiculous charges into laws that restrict the right to vote in states across the country. Whether or not Republicans should talk so much about voter fraud is one thing. But they’re in agreement that using the fake furor over a stolen election to pass laws that increase their odds of winning elections is hunky-dory.

Pence may want Republicans to look to the future, but he’s hardly offering a sunny vision for the future. In the spring, Pence released a pamphlet-length policy agenda called the “Freedom Agenda,” largely focused on Trumpish fearmongering about “critical race theory,” socialism, and, above all, rising crime. On Tuesday, he may not have been as voluble or as ominous as his predecessor, but he sounded many of the same notes. He decried the “pernicious woke agenda,” saying it was “designed to control the American people and destroy the American dream.” He lambasted the “radical gender left” and accused Democrats of dumping “toxic waste into the headwaters of our culture.” He attacked Democrats for rising crime and said, “Our borders are under siege.” This isn’t as rhetorically unhinged as what Trump said in his speech. But it more or less offers up the same basic platform and the same analysis of what currently ails America.

On the surface, noted Twitter mega-threadist on Russian matters Kamil Galeev is talking about an unnamed mafia boss in a “medium-sized city” in Russia.

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Or is he simply talking about Russia? 

Anna Gustafson and Susan J. Demas of Michigan Advance writes about Trump’s endorsement of Tudor Dixon for the GOP nomination for governor of Michigan.

Trump giving his blessing to Dixon is likely to be a blow to the other candidates in the primary, political experts told the Advance. That includes Kelley — a die-hard Trump supporter who was arrested by the FBI in June for participating in the Jan. 6 insurrection — something some pundits opined could bolster his chances in the primary.

But beyond the last-minute Dixon endorsement, Trump’s footprint is all over the Republican race for governor in terms of what the candidates have focused on. That includes pushing disinformation about the 2020 election — every candidate but Rinke has said the 2020 election was stolen, but Rinke has said there was “fraud” and released a TV ad with widely debunked claims.

Candidates also have made bigoted remarks about the LGBTQ+ community. Trump and his administration were notoriously anti-LGBTQ+. Just a few weeks after Trump’s inauguration, for example, the administration rescinded the Obama administration’s guidance to schools on transgrender students that required schools to protect transgender students from harassment, accommodate students’ preferred pronouns, and give transgender students access to the locker rooms and bathrooms of their choice. 

And, as has been the case nationwide, the campaign has been overwhelmingly dominated by conservative national talking points.

I don’t think it matters who wins the Michigan GOP nomination for governor.

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Hannah Knowles of The Washington Post reports that GOP insiders are starting to think that the GOP’s “culture war” extremism has now gone too far.

Uncompromising positions and loaded rhetoric on key social issues are escalating concerns within GOP circles that the party is moving too far out of sync with popular opinion, projecting new hostility to gay people and potentially alienating women voters in high-stakes races. The Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade and ending a nationwide right to abortion last month has spawned strict new bans and stirred fears that gay rights and access to contraception could be next — shifting the focus from other culture-war battles where Republicans felt they had a winning message.

“I feel we’re on this sort of seesaw where one party sort of gets the upper hand on social-cultural issues, then they overplay that hand,” said Christine Matthews, a moderate Virginia Republican and longtime strategist for GOP candidates. “Republicans have taken things too far.” […]

But other Republicans call Democrats extreme for opposing restrictions on abortion later in pregnancy, as a fetus nears viability. They also say their opponents are stoking unfounded fears that the Supreme Court’s ruling could pave the way for rollbacks of other rights — a bid to distract from the economic concerns likely to dominate the election.

With COVID-19 persisting and monkeypox having been declared an emergency in places like San Francisco and New York Ciry, Helen Branswell of STATnews reports that it is likely that there is also a “silent spread“ of vaccine-derived polioviruses.

“Further investigations — both genetic and epidemiological — are ongoing to determine possible spread of the virus and potential risk associated with these various isolates detected from different locations around the world,” the program said in a statement.

The analysis indicated the viruses have been circulating for some time, signaling silent spread of vaccine-derived polioviruses over a wide geographic area.

“It basically suggests there’s been substantial transmission, undetected,” Walter Orenstein, a polio expert at Emory University who was not involved in the analysis, told STAT.

The case, an unvaccinated man in his 20s who lives in Rockland County, N.Y., recently developed paralysis that was diagnosed as having been caused by a type 2 polio vaccine virus. Health authorities in Rockland County, which is north of New York City, said the man had not traveled outside the country in the time when he would have been infected. That means someone else had to have brought the viruses into the country.

Matt Murphy of BBC News reports that Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has ordered civilians to evacuate the Donetsk region of Ukraine.

It is not the first time the Ukrainian authorities have told people to leave the area. Between 200,000 and 220,000 civilians still live in the unoccupied area of Donetsk, according to Ukrainian estimates.

An evacuation notice from the government warned the coming winter would make thing worse, especially for children.

“They need to be evacuated, you cannot put them in mortal danger in the winter without heating, light, without the ability to keep them warm,” Kyiv’s Ministry of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories said.
The president’s intervention comes as Russia invited UN and Red Cross officials to investigate the deaths of 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) in another part of Donetsk region held by Russian-backed separatists.
The troops were killed in unclear circumstances during an attack on a prison in Olenivka, with both sides trading blame.
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Abrahm Lustgarden of The New York Times Magazine details the efforts of Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mobley to combat climate change,

Few parts of the planet are as imperiled by the changing climate as the Caribbean’s crescent-shaped string of islands. Every summer, the warm waters off the northwest coast of Africa spin off cyclonic systems that hurtle across the Atlantic, reaching the easternmost stretch of these islands — where Barbados stands sentinel. Quick successions like that of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, the two storms that narrowly missed the island, were supposed to be rare. Now, though, experts believe that global warming could drive a fivefold increase in strong hurricanes, suggesting that hits from Category 4 and 5 storms will become an annual near-certainty.

Droughts, meanwhile, are growing longer and drier, threatening drinking-water supplies and making it difficult to grow food. Barbados, a teardrop-shaped island of 290,000 people, is among the half of Caribbean islands the United Nations already describes as water-scarce, with seawater seeping into its aquifers and rainfall that might drop by as much as 40 percent by the end of the century. The droughts will lead to wildfires, killing more vegetation and crops. When it does rain, it is projected to rain heavily and all at once, causing precipitous landslides, which will wipe out roads, rip up electrical grids and cut off energy supplies. At the same time, rising and warming seas are eroding shorelines and killing off reefs and fisheries. According to the I.M.F., roughly two-thirds of the 511 disasters to hit small countries since 1950 have occurred in the Caribbean, taking more than 250,000 lives.

These islands have another dubious distinction: They carry more debt, relative to the size of their economies, than almost anywhere else on the planet, a fiscal burden that makes it virtually impossible for them to pay for the infrastructure necessary to protect them from the climate disruptions to come. Barbados, which in 2017 had the third-highest debt per capita of any country in the world, was spending 55 percent of its gross domestic product each year just to pay back debts, much of it to foreign banks and investors, while spending less than 5 percent on environmental programs and health care.

Finally today, Nicolas Pelham writes for The Economist’s 1843 magazine ($$$ although if you register, you get one free read) on the past, present, and possible future of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.

Today, thanks to another autocrat, Vladimir Putin, the Saudi prince is back in demand. After Putin invaded Ukraine in February, the price of crude shot up. Boris Johnson was on a plane within weeks. Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, previously a sworn enemy of the crown prince, embraced MBS in Riyadh in April. War even forced America’s president into a humiliating climbdown. On the campaign trail in 2020 Joe Biden had vowed to turn Saudi Arabia into a “pariah”. But on July 15th he went to make his peace with MBS – trying to avoid shaking MBS’s hand, he instead opted for a fist bump that left the two looking all the chummier. Even critics at home acknowledged MBS’s victory. “He made Biden look weak,” said a Saudi columnist in Jeddah. “He stood up to a superpower and won before the world.”

For MBS, this is a moment of triumph. His journey from the fringe of a photograph to the heart of power is almost complete. He will probably be king for decades. During that time, his country’s oil will be needed to sate the world’s enduring demand for energy.

A kingdom where the word of one man counts for so much depends utterly on his character. The hope is that, with his position secure, MBS will forswear the vengefulness and intolerance that produced Khashoggi’s murder. But some, among them his childhood classmates, fear something darker. They are reminded of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, a one-time moderniser who became so addicted to accumulating power that he turned reckless and dangerous. “At first power bestows grandeur,” a former Western intelligence officer told me, of MBS. “But then comes the loneliness, suspicion and fear that others will try to grab what you grabbed.”

 Have a good day everyone!





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