Dan Balz of The Washington Post asserts that we’ve only seen a harbinger of the chaos of Republican control of the House.
What has been on display is a perfect storm of misjudgment and anti-institutionalism. The failure of House Republicans to properly assess the political climate (and their own vulnerabilities) in the 2022 midterm elections left them with a narrow majority rather than the “red wave” margin they expected. That empowered the band of rebels, whose sole objective, at least for a handful, appears simply to be to blow up both the party and the Congress for their own gain.
House Republicans so far are incapable of organizing themselves, as the multiple ballots for a new speaker have revealed. Six times over two days the House voted, and six times Kevin McCarthy, the man who has bent himself in every possible direction to win the speakership, has gone down to defeat. In that time, the California Republican gained not a single additional vote, despite trying concessions, indignation, confrontation, plaintiff appeals and occasional brave smiles. […]
An Achilles’ heel of today’s Republican Party has been its inability to govern when in power. Anti-government antagonism, which has grown steadily over the past decade, has often rendered the party incapable of separating bold political claims and aspirations — repealing the Affordable Care Act, for example — from the grittier but less satisfying work of finding compromise. Many of the new members have come to Washington not to legislate but to stop legislation, to “drain the swamp,” as former president Donald Trump has put it. Performative politics have become more appealing (and often more rewarding, in terms of fame and campaign contributions) than working in the trenches to produce results.
Mark Oppenheimer writes for The New York Times explaining why people like George Santos find it tempting to claim Jewish ancestry.
I am reminded of the joke, purportedly told in prewar Germany, about the Jew who likes reading the Nazi newspaper. When asked why, he says that the Jewish papers carry news only about Jews being beaten and ostracized. “But in Der Stürmer, I read that we control the banks, the media, everything!”
That’s what it’s like to read about George Santos lying in a campaign position paper about being a “proud American Jew.” He seems to think being Jewish makes you more popular! Some good news!
Still, why do it? Politicians — by nature, canny operators all — must sense that there is some political advantage in being identified as having Jewish heritage. And in New York, there generally is. Remember that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proudly claimed her Jewish ancestry the month after her election to Congress in 2018, when she told a Queens synagogue that “generations and generations ago” her “family consisted of Sephardic Jews.”
That was mere months after Tablet magazine reported that Julia Salazar, who was running for the New York State Senate as a politically progressive Jew and claimed a mixed Jewish-Catholic background, “appears to have had a Christian upbringing.” She spoke to reporters about going through a conversion to Judaism in college, around the time she became embedded deeply in New York City’s robust left-Jewish community.
Robin Givhan of The Washington Post remains very optimistic that Black women in electoral politics American popular culture will continue to rise in 2023.
After the votes were finally counted in the 2022 Los Angeles mayoral race, Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) made history, becoming the first Black woman elected to run the country’s second most populous city. While Black women were dealt political losses — Val Demings, Stacey Abrams — voters in the nation’s capital reelected Muriel E. Bowser (D) to a third mayoral term and Black women continue to lead San Francisco, New Orleans, St. Louis, Chicago and Charlotte. […]
There’s reason to be optimistic about the trajectory of Black women thanks to the investiture of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. The evidence isn’t simply that she made history, but how it unfolded. A sisterhood of successful Black friends and former classmates — Antoinette Coakley, Lisa Fairfax and Nina Simmons — publicly bore witness to Jackson’s trail of achievement. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), the only Black senator on the Judiciary Committee, lifted Jackson up with his praise and encouragement in the midst of her contentious confirmation hearings. Jackson’s daughter, Leila, gazed at her mother with stirring pride from the visitor’s gallery. And Jackson herself sat before the committee on her own terms, with her hair in braids, her smile wide and her intellect blazing.
Popular culture also offers reasons to feel good about Black women in 2023. Viola Davis not only portrayed the fearless lead character in “The Woman King,” but she was also a producer of the film, which was based on a true story. She recounted her own difficult history in a critically acclaimed memoir, “Finding Me.” In her work, Davis is helping to write a new history of all Black women. The future is also tilled by the record-setting Grammy nominations of Beyoncé, the critical success of designer Grace Wales Bonner, the artistry of Amy Sherald in London and Mickalene Thomas in Paris and Deana Lawson in New York.
Progress isn’t always a straight line. But from 2022 to 2023, optimism is a through line.
Julie Scelfo of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes about a New Jersey law that will implement media literacy education into New Jersey’s public schools
Schools in New Jersey could be changing in ways that would have far-reaching benefits for students there, making kids healthier, more resilient, and better citizens. A little-noticed bipartisan bill, recently approved by the state legislature, would implement media literacy education in New Jersey’s K-12 public schools.
The bill should be signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy — and, if we are wise, all 49 other states should follow suit. […]
Social media companies reap massive profits from keeping all of us unhappy and glued to our phones — but young people, with their brains still developing, are the most defenseless against this onslaught. […]
Here’s a second perspective from Robin Givhan of The Washington Post about the brutality and beauty of football in light of the cardiac arrest suffered by Damar Hamlin during last Monday night’s football game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals.
Hamlin’s accident was grievous and rare. Still, it was a reminder of the punishing ecosystem of football, one that’s unlike any other sport. Violence is such a central organizing factor that except under the most ghastly circumstances, it goes mostly unnoticed. In football, players are helped off the field with damaged knees, bruised skulls and injured shoulders with some regularity. But if they can manage a thumbs up or a wave to the fans, everything is deemed fine. The game will pause for a commercial break and then resume, as if nothing has happened. As if it’s not a big deal that a human being had to be carried away on a stretcher in the middle of a sporting event. As if every football game doesn’t tempt fate in a way that basketball or soccer or hockey doesn’t. […]The players are practically unrecognizable underneath all that protective armor, which society has learned isn’t nearly as protective as it needs to be. It gives the players broader shoulders and more bulging muscles. It gives vulnerable men the appearance of invincible giants. And that’s irresistible because part of the attraction of any sport, after all, is in watching competitors seemingly defy human limitations. Audiences are mesmerized by basketball players who appear to leap beyond the bounds of gravity, gymnasts who can soar through the air as if they have wings, tennis players who can spin, pivot and smash a tiny ball across a net with grace, power and precision. And with football players, there can be a balletic majesty in catching a pass mid-stride — eyes glancing back, forward and seemingly everywhere at once — and hurdling over obstacles and on to victory.
But that ballet is performed against a soundtrack of bones colliding against bone, of air being squeezed out of compressed lungs under the weight of a pile of opposing players. What is so captivating about men plowing into each other? Is there another sport in which violence is so elemental?
Paul B. Stares writes for The Hill previewing U.S. foreign policy concerns for 2023.
So what are the main takeaways for 2023? Three stand out.
First, the risk of a major military confrontation between the U.S. and either Russia or China — and conceivably both simultaneously — has replaced a mass casualty attack on the homeland as the primary concern for American foreign policy experts. For the first time in 15 years, a 9/11-type contingency wasn’t even considered plausible enough to make it into the 2023 survey. A highly disruptive cyberattack targeting U.S. critical infrastructure by a state or nonstate actor is now the top homeland security concern, followed by potential unregulated migration as a result of drug trafficking-related violence and instability in Mexico and Central America.
Second, while the ongoing Ukraine conflict and growing differences over Taiwan represent the most worrisome flashpoints involving nuclear armed powers, they are not the only ones. An additional six contingencies deemed plausible in 2023 could conceivably lead to the use of nuclear weapons — growing political instability in Russia, renewed conflict on the Korean peninsula, a clash between Israel and Iran, war between India and Pakistan, a U.S.-China confrontation in the South China Sea, and further border skirmishes involving China and India. Although none of them were judged to be “very likely” by survey respondents, it is still sobering that several were rated as having an even chance of occurring.
Third, while attention has clearly shifted to the growing risk of major power war and nuclear proliferation, the majority of conflict-related threats around the world continue to be caused by poor governance and state fragility. Increasingly, the effects of climate change and other environmental-related stressors are playing a role, as seen in the Sahel, Somalia, and Central America.
Pippa Crerar of the Guardian describes British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s five-point plan while remaining skeptical about how Sunak can get all of it done before the 2024 general elections.
The prime minister said he would be focusing on halving inflation, growing the economy, reducing debt, cutting NHS waiting lists, and stopping small-boat crossings to the UK. […]
Sunak does not have time on his side, with the next general election expected in autumn 2024 and the public struggling with the cost of living, the state of the NHS and strikes.
So his speech was designed primarily to reassure people that, after a catastrophic year for the Tories, he would be a steady hand on the tiller navigating the country through perilous waters. […]
At first glance, staking his premiership on a five-point plan to fix Britain while the country is in the grip of a series of crises, which show little sign of abating, looks like a bold move.
But while Sunak promised to do away with tricks and ambiguity, his success, or failure, appears to depend on exactly that.
Karolina Jeznach and Han Puhl of Der Spiegel report that Warsaw has become a destination of choice for exiles from countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union.
Within just a few years, Warsaw has become the capital of exile in the East: It’s not only Russian dissidents who have settled here – thousands of Belarusians have also fled dictator Alexander Lukashenko and his henchmen to the Polish capital. There are also Buryats, a Mongolian ethnic minority from Lake Baikal who fled Putin’s oppression, and Chechens, who have escaped the murderous Ramzan Kadyrov.
And in the capital city alone, with its 1.86 million inhabitants, offices had issued social security numbers to some 150,000 Ukrainians by September. The true number of Ukrainians who have found refuge here is probably much higher.
Under the national conservative government of the Law and Justice Party (PiS), Poland hasn’t exactly earned a reputation for welcoming immigrants. In 2017, for example, PiS party leader Jarosław Kaczyński warned that refugees from foreign countries would bring “germs and pathogens” into beautiful Poland. The European Union, PiS argued, should instead help refugees on site, meaning in the conflict regions and the adjacent areas.
But ever since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Poland itself has been one of those adjacent areas, and PiS has promised to help the Ukrainians. Even before the war, Ukrainians were a familiar presence in Poland – as a cheap labor force whose language sounds similar.
On December 11, the remains of 23-year-old Zambian citizen Lemekhani Nyirenda finally made it back home to his family. A month earlier, the Zambian government had released a statement on his death in Ukraine, which raised more questions than answers.
Subsequently, it became clear that Nyirenda, who studied in Russia before being imprisoned on drug charges, had signed up for the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary company, to fight in Ukraine in a bid to get a reduced sentence.
In a November 29 post on the Russian social media platform VKontakte, Wagner founder Evgeny Prigozhin claimed he spoke to Nyirenda, who allegedly told him he had volunteered because: “You, Russian, helped us Africans gain independence. When it was difficult for us, you stretched out a hand to us and continue to do this now. Wagner is saving thousands of Africans; going to war with you is paying back for at least some of our debt to you.”[…]
Nyirenda’s death and how the Russian government handled it speak to the glaring gap between Russian official rhetoric and how it treats Africans in reality. While it insists it has an anti-imperialist approach to Africa, Russia has no qualms about victimising Africans on the continent and within its own borders.
Have a good day, everyone!
Author: Chitown Kev