We begin today with David Kurtz of Talking Points Memo saying that while the federal government shutdown was averted with hours to spare (thanks to House Democrats), no government should operate in this way.
This continues to be a maddening and indefensible way of governing. Damage has already been done to government departments and agencies forced to prepare for a shutdown, costing enormous time, resources, and money. Government workers have been needlessly traumatized by the prospect of extended furloughs. Time that could [have] been spent actually negotiating longer-term agreements on funding and policy has been wasted with legislative hostage-taking. I could go on, but you get the point by now.[...]
As for McCarthy, who knows what finally tipped the scale for him to rebuff his right flank. It should be noted that there was nothing on the horizon that suggested a shift in the power dynamics that would break the fever of the House Freedom Caucus. So once House Republicans sent us over the cliff into a shutdown, it wasn’t obvious how it would ever get resolved. There was no plan. Perhaps McCarthy saw that, too. [...]
Needless drama, posturing in place of governing, doing damage to institutions and norms for the sake of it. It’s old hat for Republicans now. It’s been tiresome for the rest of us for a long time.
Michael Scherer of The Washington Post looks at the threat that the government shutdown may have posed to Republican “moderates” (defined here as Republicans who were elected in the midterms in districts won by President Biden in the 2020 election).
The decades-long drivers of deterioration in politics — the unfocused anger of the Republican base and a digital fundraising landscape that rewards gadflies — once again converged. In a closely divided Congress, a small minority of Republicans sought policy and political advantage at the expense of their colleagues, without any apparent path to substantive victory. [...]
As tactics, they are public rejections of the system of compromise mandated by the separation of powers in the U.S. Constitution. Their fatal flaw ultimately lies in the underlying equation. When American leaders take aspects of their own country hostage, a grim reality emerges: Their only leverage is further self-harm.
The government stops slowly at first, then more dramatically. Parks close, air travel snarls, checks stop going out. Proponents inevitably fold, often while claiming an ineffable victory, as former president Trump did in 2019 when he caved after supporting a shutdown over border wall funding that won him nothing. To save face, he declared he would pay for the wall unilaterally, by claiming emergency powers, only to have his efforts eventually blocked by the courts.
Ronald Aronson writes for New Lines magazine wondering how the nation will get over the “political madness” that affects millions of Americans.
The National Institute of Mental Health definition of psychosis speaks of “loss of contact with reality.” That is what is happening. The clinical understanding of these behaviors is less important than their social and political meaning, which should be understood plainly at this fateful historical moment. Masses of people, whether unable or unwilling to recognize reality, are substituting nightmarish fantasies generated within their movements, making these into a political force moving millions. However, as Alex Shephard recently pointed out in The New Republic, while their leaders casually promoted falsehoods and opportunistically sought to benefit from the “post-truth” environment that currently prevails in Republican politics, delusions now take on a life of their own, beyond the control of their original instigators. Millions of Americans have become ensconced — or ensconced themselves — in a self-validating right-wing bubble that seems impervious to contrary evidence, and there is no easy path back.
If they are delusional, it is not because they somehow “lose” contact with reality but because they break it off, intentionally. They have become incapable of recognizing reality because they have made themselves unwilling or unable to do so and choose to organize their reality around something else — loyalty to the leader, the bubble of “us” versus “them.” Factual information doesn’t matter; evidence doesn’t matter. It is a movement of people who are going crazy on purpose.
Timothy Zick of Slate gives an overview of two cases to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding laws in Texas and Florida that challenge content moderation on social media.
Reacting to complaints from the political right that large social media platforms including Facebook and YouTube actively censor conservative views, Texas and Florida enacted laws prohibiting the platforms from removing, deleting, or deplatforming speech or speakers based on viewpoint. The laws differ in some respects, but both create a legal cause of action against social media platforms that engage in any of the laws’ defined methods of “censorship.” They also require that platforms provide an explanation for any posts “censored” and publicly disclose their guidelines for removing speech or speakers from the platforms. [...]
When it comes to newer media, courts and lawyers often struggle to fit contemporary problems into preexisting First Amendment decisions and doctrines. The briefs and arguments in the cases will lean heavily on analogies from prior Supreme Court precedents. For example, the platforms will argue they are like newspapers, which the court has held have an established First Amendment right to engage in editorial judgment when deciding what content to publish. The states will counter that unlike newspapers, the platforms review almost none of what they allow users to post, either before or after publication. The states will argue the platforms are more like large public malls, which the court has held can be required by law to host some expressive activity. The platforms will respond they are like parade organizers, which the court has held have a First Amendment right to determine who marches in their inherently expressive events. Judge Andrew Oldham concluded in his 5th Circuit opinion that the platforms are more like “common carriers,” including electricity providers and trucking companies, which are prohibited from denying service based on the user’s viewpoints.
Tiffany Hsu and Stuart A. Thompson of The New York Times write that worldwide efforts of fact-checking and correcting misinformation and disinformation by news organizations and think tanks is losing momentum.
With a wave of elections expected next year in dozens of countries, the global fact-checking community is taking stock of its efforts over a few intense years — and many don’t love what they see.
The number of fact-checking operations at news organizations and elsewhere has stagnated, and perhaps even fallen, after a booming expansion in response to a rise in unsubstantiated claims about elections and the pandemic. The social networking companies that once trumpeted efforts to combat misinformation are showing signs of waning interest. And those who write about falsehoods around the world are facing worsening harassment and personal threats. [...]
The work continues to draw interest from new parts of the world, and some think tanks and good-government groups have begun offering their own fact-checking services, experts said. Harassment and government repression, however, remain major deterrents. Political polarization has turned fact-checking and other misinformation defenses into a target among right-wing influencers, who claim that debunkers are biased against them.
Hannah Ellis-Petersen of the Guardian looks at the deteriorating political situation in Pakistan following the killing of 60 people by suicide bombers in the city of Mastung.
No one has yet claimed responsibility, but suspicion among officials and analysts was directed towards Islamic State – Khorasan (IS-K), which has recently regrouped and revived its militant activities in Pakistan to devastating effect, and with little sign of being contained. Alongside a recent resurgence of its rival, the Pakistan Taliban, which has been behind dozens of deadly attacks over the past few months, the country’s security situation continues to deteriorate to its worst in years. [...]
As Pakistan gears up for its next general election at the end of January, analysts and politicians fear more bloodshed is on the horizon. Friday’s bombings are unlikely to be directly linked to the election, but there are concerns that as the violent rivalry between the Pakistan Taliban and IS-K continues to escalate and both groups seek to assert and gain influence, attacks will continue and be hard for the military to suppress. [...]
The surge in homegrown terrorist activity, fuelled heavily by the takeover of the Taliban in Afghanistan, comes at a disastrous time for Pakistan. It is already going through one of its worst economic crises on record and is highly politically unstable. A powerless caretaker government is running the country, its most popular political leader, Khan, is behind bars and the date of the general election has continually been pushed back. The anticipated return of the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in October from the UK, where he had been hiding for the past three years – ostensibly for medical treatment but in reality to avoid jail – is only likely to deepen the political turmoil.
Frank Hornig of Der Spiegel wonders if Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has ditched the fascism.
One year ago, on September 25, 2022, Meloni won the parliamentary elections in Italy. It was also a personal triumph for her: In just 10 years, she was able to boost the Fratelli Party, which she helped found, from 1.96 percent to 26 percent.[...]
Meloni aims to transform Fratelli into a national-conservative movement with her as the focus – and free of competition from the right-wing camp. Her struggling coalition partners, Lega head Matteo Salvini and the parliamentarians from Forza Italia, the party of recently deceased ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, are free to join her, or to vanish into insignificance – such is her unexpressed political calculation. And she doesn’t have much to fear from the left: The parties in the opposition are at loggerheads on a number of issues.
Absorb or marginalize: That appears to be Meloni’s strategy, with the ultimate goal of not being swept off the stage after just one or two years, as has been the fate met by so many of her predecessors, and instead staying in power in Italy for several years. Fratelli parliamentarians have already begun gushing about a "Third Republic." The first, according to their calculations, began with the end of the monarchy in 1946, and the second with Berlusconi’s election in 1994. Now, they say, a new era is dawning: The Age of Giorgia Meloni.
Finally today, Betul Dogan Akkas writes for Middle East Eye about the rising tide of racism against Arabs in Turkey.
According to the latest available data provided by the Turkish Presidency of Migration Management (PMM), as of the end of 2022, of the 5.2 million foreign nationals residing in Turkey, 3.5 million of them are Syrians with temporary protection. In addition, close to two million Arabs legally reside in Turkey, immersed in local society, working, studying, and raising their families.
Yet the general public in Turkey has largely not supported the integration of these communities and can hardly differentiate between Arabs from the Gulf, Syria, or North Africa.
In multiple election cycles, politicians have run campaigns built on the demonisation and scapegoating of Arabs or inciting hostility towards Arab refugees and tourists, who are both equally targeted by racist and xenophobic narratives.
As the number of racist incidents against Arabs continues to rise, many are now expressing concern about what has become a noticeable shift in Turkish attitudes towards them.
Have the best possible day everyone!