I can’t recommend Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland: The Rise of A President and the Fracturing of America enough. Perlstein is a left wing fella, who has set himself the task of documenting the rise of the right in the United States. I have the suspicion that his books get less useful and balanced as he gets closer to the modern day, but the balance in this book between historical detail and rage is perfect. It’s an almost day to day account of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The book was a revelation for me, and set off a long path of reappraisal and research that led in a roundabout way to this video.
We have a certain idea of the 1960s in the US that I refer to in the video. It’s all Woodstock and civil rights and triumphing over Vietnam. What Nixonland helped me to understand was what a godawful shit-show it all was. I hope to get some of that across in this video, and in the process make you feel a bit better about where we are today in the United States.
No, The United States is not headed for a new civil war. But the idea keeps popping up. I’d argue that it is a topic of discussion because of the bias towards the present that most of our pundits have. If you don’t know much about history, everything can seem unprecedented, and it can feel like everything is falling apart in a new and awful way. But all of this really has happened before, and back then it was so much worse. With today’s video, the first of two parts, I lay this all out.
This one has been percolating for quite a while. I think the way we discuss Race, and “Racists” in the United States has some real problems. These issues were thrown into high relief by the events in Charlottesville this month. The Tiki-Torch White Supremacists are of course awful, but they are also a distraction. We LOVE to pick out examples of evil, and point to racists as something evil and different. Everybody can get on board the vilification train. The Alt-Right protesters are very deserving of our contempt, but that’s not always the case with our scapegoats. We get hung up on the evil of individuals, and we ignore our own faults and failings. This is a shame, because it’s the racism we all participate in that is the real problem.
I am very pleased with this one. It manages to throw together George Orwell, Steven Pinker, Jack Kirby and just a sprinkling of Jesus Christ. Good stuff as far as I’m concerned. More than anything else, the thoughts in this video can be credited to Steven Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature, a fantastic book on the civilizing process, the decline of war and about a million other things. You should start reading it today. It’s been at least five years since I read it, so it’s fair to assume the ideas have shifted on the way to this video…
Obama failed Syria, and Trump is going to fail Syria too. This video explains why. Most people will tell you that the US didn’t do enough in Syria. Actually it’s the complete opposite. We are now on our second president who doesn’t want us involved in Syria. Presidents can win elections, but they can’t beat the Military Industrial Complex.
This video is super depressing. But I’m excited that it lets me continue two of my best series, that have lain fallow for a while now. This is the 14th installment of my series on Syria, and it up-dates the story, incorporating some developments, like the disclosure and apparent end of Timber Sycamore, that I have been itching to discuss for weeks. It also returns in a big way to my Military Industrial Complex series. When I started the series over two years ago now, I had an end in mind. Still haven’t gotten there. We’ll see if I can pull it together!
I understand frustration with Donald Trump. But over the past six months, in California and elsewhere, I’ve heard about Calexit. That’s nuts. In this video I lay out the many reasons an attempt at California secession makes no sense at all. Leaving aside the impossibility of getting Washington, DC to let California go, the economic proposition just doesn’t make sense. Let me know what you think of the video!
I’M AN IDIOT EDIT: No Istanbul is not the Capital of Modern Turkey. Sorry. It’s Ankara.
I’m a little sick of hearing about how powerful Russia is. It’s become an obsession in the US. Russia has become the new boogieman, despite having very little in the way of real 21st century global power or accomplishments. Many of my friends are holding desperately to the idea that Putin gave us Donald Trump, when it was clearly the Democrat’s choice of Hillary Clinton as a nominee that did that. Russia’s “victory” in Syria is heralded everywhere, despite the fact that they’ve barely managed to keep one of their only allies together, in the face of a not particularly committed effort on the part of the United States to destroy the country. I’ve made videos about Russian weakness before, but I think there’s a need for more. That’s part of what I accomplish with today’s video.
Today I deal with the fantastical idea that Turkey and Erdogan might find enough common ground to threaten the west. This theory only requires avoiding about 500 years of history between the two countries. It’s just as dumb as imagining that Russia and China might be able to find real common ground. These countries are too threatened by each other to band together. I find analysis that claims otherwise infuriating.
There may be a fundamental mismatch between world-views here. Folks at major US news outlets seem to think that any diversion at all from the Washington, DC party line is a Cold War level threat. This strikes me as ridiculous. Turkey has committed to buying a couple billion dollars worth of air defense systems from Russia. This is pretty clearly intended to piss off Turkey’s NATO allies. But it’s not the end of the Alliance, and it’s not the end of the world. Turkey and Russia signed an agreement for a Nuclear plant in 2010 and they still haven’t broken ground yet, seven years later. These new systems are easier to deploy, but there is no guaranteeing that they will be deployed. And if they are, it’s hard to see how it could conceivably threaten US or European security. A real alliance would require Turkey to want a stronger Russia. They will never want that.
Donald Trump has proved that he is only capable of destruction. That’s not always a bad thing. On his first day he did away with the TPP, a move I supported, and a couple months back he did took the US out of the Paris Climate Change accords, which I did not support. But it’s the prospect of his taking us out of the Iran Nuclear Deal, as he almost did last week, that is the most frightening.
The conventional fox news narrative of the Nuclear Deal does not acknowledge the diplomacy that was necessary to force Iran to the table. To truly break the deal in a way that has any impact on Iran we need all the same international partners on board. If we don’t have that, we risk making the United States look foolish and weak. Foolish is nothing new. Weak is, and it would be a real problem. Today’s video explains the stakes.
My writing process varies. Some things I research rigorously, and some things I just think I know. Usually I’m pretty good at double checking these assumptions, and verifying that what I’m publishing is correct and worth putting out there. Last week I screwed up. For the first time in five years I published something that is flat out incorrect. As I mention in today’s video there are occasionally small errors. I mention some of the recent ones that have been caught by viewers, and there are probably many more that go unnoticed.
Last week though I got something major wrong. I claimed that the Shah of Iran killed “10s of thousands” of his own citizens. If you believe the current government of Iran that’s true, but they are not trustworthy on this topic. The consensus is probably more along the lines of thousands, but it’s impossible to be sure. When I uploaded the video last week the response was immediate. Four or five viewers commented on the statistic. After a week of looking into it, I have to conclude that I was wrong.
One of the most annoying things about US news media is its inability to acknowledge when it has screwed up. A correction might be issued on page 30, but most folks just move on and pretend that they never did anything. I’d like to do better. Today’s video acknowledges the problem, and will be linked directly to the video that needs correcting. I hope I don’t screw up again, but if I do I think this is the right way to deal with it.
Last month I uploaded a video entitled “Why Turkey Will Never Be Saudi Arabia“. Multiple viewers commented in a similar way. “OK, but what about Iran?” The idea that Turkey could go down a similar path and experience an Islamic revolution like Iran was very appealing. Many saw Ataturk, Turkey’s modernizing founder, as somehow similar to the modernizing Shah of Iran, who was deposed in 1979. This doesn’t make any sense at all. With this video I attempt to fully explain why that is.
One of the things I noticed with this video is the way that I seemed to interchange “Westernization” and “Modernization”. This isn’t right. These two things are not the same. The experience of multiple Asian countries, and to some extent Turkey, shows that there are real differences. I clearly haven’t sorted this out in my own head, which is why I confuse the two in this video. I need to give this a lot more thought. I hope it doesn’t interfere with your viewing pleasure.