[Sent March 4, 2015]
For a while now I’ve been kicking around the idea of starting a little weekly email newsletter. I figure now is as good a time as any, especially considering my employment status. My initial concept is to have three sections: first, a brief opinion piece on a big topic of the week. I imagine this being mostly political, but we’ll see.
The second bit will be four or five links to what I thought were the most interesting recent articles from around the internet, with a general focus on everything and a more specific focus on U.S. politics, cultural criticism, international relations, music, and history.
Lastly, I’ll link some YouTube videos to sweet live music. This is gonna be mostly folk and blues with the occasional diversion into other genres.
So here’s roughly what it’s gonna look like. If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll keep sending them to you.
It’s currently Wednesday, as you probably know, so we’re not exactly at the end of the week but I’m sitting in a coffeeshop with not much to do so here we go. Maybe the biggest story in Washington is that Bibi Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, came to D.C. yesterday to address Congress, ostensibly to explain why the Iranian nuclear deal (which is of course still in the middle of heated negotiations) is a terrible idea. Jeffrey Goldberg at the Atlantic (typically) and Paul Pillar at the National Interest both have really good rundowns of the politics behind this move, Basically, Bibi is sticking his thumb in Obama’s eye and directly addressing the Republican congress to try to force the administration out of the nuclear negotiations.
My view is that Bibi took a huge risk here, bypassing normal diplomatic channels and driving a final wedge between his administration and Obama’s in order to make himself look good to right-wing Israeli voters (who are headed to the polls on March 17) and, less cynically, to make the point that Israel’s long-term interests lie in keeping Iran a pariah state. Which is fine. The issue is that it is in the United States’ interests to strike a nuclear deal, begin a path to global reintegration, and look for convergence points where the U.S. and Iran can cooperate (like in fighting ISIS, which we are already tacitly cooperating on, and in maintaining a stable Iraq.) The matter of an alternative to the nuclear deal is also important. If the six-nation talks cannot find a deal in which Iran agrees to stop its path to a weapon, Iran is going to kick out all of the international inspectors and start racing towards a bomb, sanctions be damned.
The only alternative to a diplomatic solution is a military one, and the only military solution (i.e. a bombing campaign against Iranian nuclear sites) will involve the United States since Israel doesn’t have the airbases or firepower to do the job. In fact, we might not either (experts disagree), and at the end of the day the only thing war will give us is, at the very best, a year or two of breathing room, a suddenly furious Iranian public (the citizenry, as opposed to the government, is still broadly pro-American), and an immediate destruction of relations with the Europeans, who all seem to remember Iraq better than we do. The fact is that Bibi is trying to manipulate American political partisanship to force the United States into doing something fundamentally against its interests: going to war with Iran.
In other news, Scott Walker continues to prove he’s an asshole (as does America’s second-favorite Rudy), John Boehner is crying again, Ben Carson decides we could all use just a little bit more insanity, everybody’s health insurance might disappear, and it’s really hard to prove that cops are just out there murdering people.
Gary Brecher: Why did Mohammed Emwazi become Jihadi John?: I love Gary Brecher. A fascinating, extremely cynical look at how this rich kid from London transformed into an ISIS executioner.
– Colin Dickey: Tempo Shifts: Very cool article on the history of how we see time.
– Michael Pettis on Greece: A bit long, and a bit technical, but I think Michael Pettis is one of the best explainers of the Greek debt crisis.
– Dara Lind: 35 maps that explain how America is a nation of immigrants: Neat stuff. I like maps.
– Stephen Kotkin on Putin: Good review article on Putin looking at a couple of recent books.
– John Fullbright: Me and the Eagle. One of the best folk songwriters in the country covering one of the other best folk songwriters in the country.
– Shakey Graves and Esme Patterson: Dearly Departed. I love this song.
– Run the Jewels: Early. Change of pace but this is awesome.
Thanks guys. Let me know what you think.