Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Christmas Eve Edition- The Agains

We begin today with Jan-Werner Müller writing for the Guardian and asking whether barring Trump from being on a ballot— any ballot— is undemocratic.

The Colorado supreme court comprehensively refuted Trump’s claims, especially the ones bordering on the absurd. The justices patiently argued that parties cannot make autonomous, let alone idiosyncratic, decisions about who to put on the ballot – by that logic, they could nominate a 10-year-old for the presidency. They also painstakingly took apart the idea that the now famous section three of the 14th amendment covers every imaginable official expectation of the president. In terms clearly tailored to appeal to justices on the US supreme court, they explain that plain language and the intent of the drafters of the amendment suggest that insurrectionists – including ones at the very top – were not supposed to hold office again, unless Congress voted an amnesty with a two-thirds majority. […]

We know that few Maga supporters will be swayed by the evidence – in fact, the entry ticket to Trump’s personality cult is precisely to deny that very evidence. But it is more disturbing that liberals still think that prudence dictates that Trump should run and just be defeated at the polls. […]

Some liberals…appear to assume that, were Trump to lose in November 2024, their political nightmare would stop. But someone who has not accepted defeat before, doubled down on the “big lie”, and ramped up authoritarian rhetoric is not likely to just concede. Would the logic then still be that, even if the law says differently, Maga supporters must somehow be appeased?

The only question is: …are any measures meant to protect democracy but not somehow involving the people as a whole as such illegitimate? Had Trump been impeached and convicted after January 6, would anyone have made the argument that this was the wrong process and that he just should keep running in elections no matter what?

IIRC (and I’m researching this), Section 3 of the 14th Amendment came about because newly re-admitted Southern states sent some of the same Confederate retreads back to the U.S. Congress in 1865 (including former vice-president of the confederacy Alexander Stephens). The Republicans of that time did not want to seat the retreads because they were “unrepentant”  and even considered the idea that they might try insurrection again.

The people’s elected representatives of that time passed a law at the highest possible “level” that a law can be passed: an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. How is Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment undemocratic?

Or less democratic than people voting for the same retreads?

Not quite the same ol’ song from 1865. Blurred lines, though.

Mike Godwin has an update for his 2015 article at The Washington Post about comparing Trump to Hitler.

First, has the sheer absurdity of so many hyperbolic Nazi comparisons in popular culture made us less vigilant about the possible reemergence of actual fascism in the world? I think it shouldn’t — comparisons to Hitler or to Nazis need to take place when people are beginning to act like Hitler or like Nazis.

Second, is Germany’s specific culture of remembrance — which privileges the idea that the Holocaust is unique — working, as some have said Godwin’s Law has also functioned, to quash appropriate comparisons of today’s horrors to the 1930s and 1940s? I continue to insist that Godwin’s Law should never be read as a conversation-ender or as a prohibition on Hitler comparisons. Instead, I still hope it serves to steer conversations into more thoughtful, historically informed places.

The steady increase in Hitler comparisons during the Trump era is not a sign that my law has been repealed. Quite the opposite. Godwin’s Law is more like a law of thermodynamics than an act of Congress — so, not really repealable. And Trump’s express, self-conscious commitment to a franker form of hate-driven rhetoric probably counts as a special instance of the law: The longer a constitutional republic endures — with strong legal and constitutional limits on governmental power — the probability of a Hitler-like political actor pushing to diminish or erase those limits approaches 100 percent.

Suzy Hansen of The New York Times asks us to remember that most of the students now college campuses now were not born when the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and that it has affected their views on foreign policy.

The young always rebel against the old. But this generation might be unique for one reason. Their whole experience of American foreign policy — as well as American values, reflexes and rhetoric — has been defined by one overarching foreign policy era: the war on terrorism.

In the 20th century, the Cold War era inculcated a Cold War worldview. Many Americans came to see foreign conflicts through the prism of good and evil. They viewed their country’s foreign affairs “mistakes” as a divergence from, as the British writer Anatol Lieven called it, a “state of noble innocence.” The older generation spent most of their lives awash in such myths. Those of us in the middle absorbed them for half of our lives, until Sept. 11, 2001, ushered us into a whole new state of being.

Those on college campuses right now grew up with no memory of the patriotic Cold War or the end-of-history triumph after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Most were born after Sept. 11 itself. That means they don’t have a wellspring of noble innocence, no sense of endings, not even a memory of victimhood. They grew up with only increasingly scary and cascading crises set off by their own government’s actions: Sept. 11 became the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, which became the emergence of ISIS, which became a refugee crisis, which became right-wing nationalism. It all happened faster than the average mind could comprehend.

Thankfully, Ms. Hansen used adjectives like “many” and “most.” 

Sheren Falah Saab of Haaretz provides some of the additional context under which Gazan journalists work during the war.

When it comes to the October 7 massacres in southern Israel, the Gazan journalists are no different from their colleagues elsewhere in the Arab world – they ignore it. Their reporting is one-sided and never places events in the context of Hamas’ attack on Israel. As far as they’re concerned, Israel invaded Gaza for no reason at all. Some of them call the events of October 7 a legitimate form of resistance by Hamas and Islamic Jihad and have posted videos of them. […]

Before the war, foreign journalists had limited access to Gaza because of the blockade on it and the need to coordinate entry with Israeli authorities. The result was that Gazan journalists became the sole source of news from the enclave, an unusual arrangement compared to other countries. The foreign press was given access during the Syrian Civil War and the Iraq War. During the Arab Spring, overseas journalists were able to reach Egypt and Tunisia and report on events.

“Gaza is like one big ghetto, and if the journalists who are in Gaza don’t do it, no one will take their place,” says Orit Perlov, a social media analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies who tracks activity in the Arab world. She is also a former political adviser at the Foreign Ministry. “They’re the only ones reporting, and it’s through them that you can see what the lines look like for fuel, for bread. What does Beit Lahia or Shujaiyeh look like on ‘the day after’?”

Well, I would never think that journalists working under a government run by Hamas are working in an environment conducive a “free press.” 

That doesn’t give Israel the right to haphazardly or intentionally kill those journalists, though.

And because Israel won’t allow the foreign press to cover the war in Gaza, that makes me suspicious of the foreign press…then again, Hamas would not allow the foreign press to cover the war as a “free press” either.

James Landale of BBC News reports that in light of the threats made by Venezuela to Guyana over the Essequibo region, the UK is sending a warship to Guyana

The UK is preparing to send a warship to Guyana in a show of diplomatic and military support for the former British colony, the BBC has learned. […]

HMS Trent – an offshore patrol vessel – had been deployed to the Caribbean to search for drug smugglers but was re-tasked after Venezuela’s government threatened to annex the Essequibo region of Guyana earlier this month.

This raised fears that Venezuela might invade and spark the first interstate war in South America since the Falklands Conflict in 1982.

Venezuela has long claimed ownership of Essequibo, a 61,000 square mile region which comprises about two-thirds of Guyana.

Its hills and jungles are rich in gold, diamonds and bauxite, while huge oil deposits have been found off its coast.

Gonzalo Fanjul writes for El País in English reminds us that anti-immigration problems are worldwide and pretty much the same type of anti-immigration problems.

The irony is that Sunak is a “bleeding heart” compared to his former home ministers, the daughters of immigrants Priti Patel and Suella Braverman. They are at the forefront of a “punk” conservatism that sets the tone for immigration policies across half the planet. In addition to organizing “raves” like the one in Rome, their representatives violently coerce their adversaries, lie through their teeth, and have placed such a fan in front of their ideological garbage that it is already difficult to find a centrist government — right or center-left — that has not been sullied with it. The new accepted truth is that human mobility constitutes an existential threat to our societies. It is a threat in the face of which everything is justified, even that which does not fit into our conception of “flower power” of the rule of law.

If you have lived on planet Earth for the last 20 years, you will already know that this argument is not new, but my feeling is that 2023 will be remembered as the moment in which norms and institutions stopped constraining political slogans and started adapting to them. In regions of the world as different as Europe, North America, Africa, and Latin America, we have witnessed a domino effect whose consequences will be difficult to reverse. The anti-immigration offensive is particularly evident on the borders of the destination regions, where sympathy is criminalized, and an extensive and complex legal industry is making a killing with immigration control measures. Within the countries themselves, the institutional harassment of millions of undocumented workers and their families is accepted with the naturalness typical of a de facto apartheid.

Far from the gaze of voters, the logic of externalizing immigration control has turned the routes into true paths of suffering and has put our governments in the hands of a collection of autocrats and criminal gangs that any other time would only have been invited to The Hague.

Finally today, Joe Davidson of The Washington Post says that we are going to the moon again…but probably not before 2027.

The GAO’s auditors project a launch date in early 2027, if development follows NASA’s usual timeline. Currently, NASA is on “an ambitious schedule … 13 months shorter than the average,” the GAO wrote. “The complexity of human spaceflight suggests that it is unrealistic to expect the program to complete development more than a year faster than the average for NASA major projects, the majority of which are not human spaceflight projects.” While NASA hoped to proceed faster than usual, the GAO said the program is “achieving key events at a slower pace.” […]

In fact, a 2027 launch would be closer to NASA’s original goal of 2028. That was before March 2019, when, under President Donald Trump, “the White House directed NASA to accelerate its plans for a lunar landing” to 2024, according to the audit, “in part to create a sense of urgency in returning American astronauts to the moon.”

In November 2021, NASA pushed the landing back to at least 2025. The space agency says Artemis III will be the first mission to the lunar south pole and “will land the first woman and first person of color on the surface of the Moon,” while noting that their selection will be based on the right crew for the mission. So far, all 12 moon walkers have been White American men.

Have the best possible day and holiday everyone!


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