Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner/Substack:
The Eye of the Storm
Hurricane Ian strikes
Just as the wake of a mass shooting IS the right time to talk about our national gun problems, the wake of a natural disaster IS the right time to talk about our climate crisis and our social divisions. Sadly, Hurricane Ian is not an isolated event. It is a harbinger of a more chaotic future, and we would be wise to learn from its lessons.
Our planet is different from what it once was, and that truth should be factored into how we answer an urgent question: How do we rebuild, and where?
How not to run a country
Liz Truss’s new government may already be dead in the water
But incredibly, only three weeks into the Truss premiership, her growth agenda may already be damaged beyond repair.
One reason for that is economic. The reaction to the budget means that it will hurt growth, not boost it. The weaker pound causes higher imported inflation, eroding real incomes. The Bank of England has resisted pressure for an emergency rate rise, but it has signalled unequivocally that a big increase will come in November. That will add to the government’s own interest payments and harm people with mortgages.
What’s more, growth depends on a framework of policy stability, and this was a wholesale abandonment of long-standing Tory attachment to sound public finances. Huge tax cuts, the centrepiece of Mr Kwarteng’s budget, were never going to pay for themselves. Talk of Caracas-on-Thames is over the top, but instability deters the very investors that the government aims to attract. The fact that the budget dodged independent scrutiny from the Office for Budget Responsibility, a watchdog, was another signal of fiscal recklessness.
The UK’s Crisis of Confidence Was Years in the Making
The UK thought it had the trust of markets — until it didn’t. Now homeowners and businesses will likely have to pay the price.
What happens next will determine just how deep the looming recession proves. Central to that question is whether Liz Truss’s three-week old administration can restore its credibility with investors.
Friday’s mini-budget has become a flashpoint for not just investors’ short-term concerns about unfunded tax cuts at a time when inflation is running close to a four-decade high, or the Bank of England’s failure to contain price growth. It has given sharp focus to their long-held fears about Britain, its current-account deficit, its fractious relationship with its closest trading partner and, above all, a mistrust of what successive politicians promise.
“It’s the latest in a long line of self-imposed economically illiterate decisions,” said Peter Kinsella, global head of FX strategy at Union Bancaire Privee UBP SA in London. “It started with Brexit, and now we’re seeing the latest iteration.”
What difference will mobilisation make to the war?
I have argued for some time (for example here) that although European countries have shown impressive resilience in the face of Russian economic coercion, if the situation appeared stalemated six months from now the western commitment to Ukraine might slacken leading to an interest in any peace feelers from Moscow (assuming that Putin had the nous to offer them). Putin is currently throwing everything into the conflict to panic Europeans into concessions.
The latest gambit appears to be sabotaging the two gas pipelines from Russia to Germany, close to Sweden and Danish water. If Russia is responsible for these mystery explosions, and it is hard to think who else it could be, we can speculate on the intended message: demonstrating that Russian gas might be lost forever; some sort of signal to the Nordic countries to remind them of their vulnerability despite being part of NATO; a specific threat to the new pipeline from Norway to the Baltic or a more general, darker warning about the vulnerability of all underwater pipes and cables should Russia want to inflict more disruption. Signals that leave the intended recipients guessing about their meaning are rarely that effective. All we can note is that Russia has denied responsibility and that no gas has been going through these pipelines at the moment so the damage makes little material difference to the current energy and economic calculations.
The rushed referendums with their unavoidably absurd and uniform 98% majority support for joining Russia, also adds to the sense of desperation in the Kremlin. This effort to legitimize conquest is going to get no international endorsement, undermines further the Russian case for holding on to Crimea, and creates even more problems for the Russian narrative as more territory gets liberated by Ukraine.
So while the Russians might want to play a longer game, hoping to use the new troops to create moderately effective formations as they seek to integrate the occupied territories into Russia, they are struggling to cope with adverse short-term military developments.
Jonathan Chait/New York Magazine:
Republican House Majority Will Try to Melt Down Global Economy
Democrats need to sabotageproof the government while they still can.
It is highly likely that the Republican Party will win control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections. It is also highly likely that they will attempt to melt down the global economy as part of an extortion threat. And it is apparently the case that nobody has yet formulated a plan to avert this catastrophe.
Ukraine aid faces tougher crowd if Republicans take over
Congress is poised to approve more aid, but future deals may be caught up in Republican infighting over federal spending.
“The CR will pass and with full Ukraine aid, I predict,” said Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense expert with the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “But there is no doubt the era of large emergency supplemental spending bills for Ukraine end with this next one for a variety of reasons.
“It would be too simplistic to say it is one issue more than another at this point. But voters are speaking up to conservative members of Congress,” Eaglen added. “This is really driven from the grassroots to Washington and not the other way around.”
Trump had his chance and blew it. His supporters deserve better.
Both parties are so beholden to the extremes of their base that any hint of working with the other side risks fierce retribution. Don’t let President Barack Obama succeed. Don’t let Trump succeed. Don’t let President Biden succeed. It never ends. But instead of ignoring the pettiness and focusing on his agenda, Trump wallowed in self-pity. Instead of trying to expand his base, Trump chose to alienate even more Americans. And worst of all, when most Americans finally decided that Trump was never going to rise to the occasion and rejected him at the ballot box in 2020, he refused to accept the verdict, incited a riot at the Capitol and encouraged endless election challenges in state after state.
I don’t regret giving Trump a chance. I regret that he squandered the golden opportunity he was handed to be a transformative president. Trump is likely on the verge of declaring another White House run, but the millions of Americans who believed in him deserve someone more effective in fighting for the issues he highlighted. Trump had his chance, and he blew it. He should move on, as should his supporters.
Notable because the author is a long time Trump supporter from Ohio. Still excuses Trumpism, but not Trump. It’s a start (see Rusty Bowers’ journey from horrified but would vote for him again to “never!”).
Michael A. Cohen/MSNBC:
Democrats' strategy to boost MAGA Republicans is vindicated
Whatever sane Republicans remain in office, they remain largely enablers of the party's anti-democracy majority.
But some pundits and even some Democratic politicians took the party leadership to task for what, on the surface, might seem like a cynical decision. Democrats “or their political consultants,” wrote Amy Davidson Sorkin in the New Yorker last August, “may have become too enraptured by the idea of their own cleverness or toughness” to recognize they were “immers(ing) themselves deeper in folly” by boosting the candidacies of pro-Trump Republicans. “It’s dishonorable, and it’s dangerous, and it’s just damn wrong,” said Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips, to risk putting people in Congress who would undermine the nation’s democratic guardrails.
Last week, however, congressional Republicans proved that, from a good governance standpoint, Democrats were justified in their political strategy. And the country received another unfortunate reminder that the modern Republican Party cannot be trusted to protect American democracy.
And your palate cleanser (NYT):
Lizzo Plays New Notes on James Madison’s Crystal Flute from 1813
A classically trained flutist, the singer, rapper and songwriter spent more than three hours admiring the flute collection at the Library of Congress. Madison’s instrument was made for the second inauguration by a Parisian craftsman.