MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en How Did Police From All Over the Country End Up at Standing Rock? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>When protests at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation began in April, there were only a handful of activists camping out in defiance of the Dakota Access Pipeline project. As their numbers have grown into the thousands, so too has the police presence confronting them. Police departments from 24 counties and 16 cities in 10 different states (including North Dakota) have poured into Standing Rock, according to the <a href="" target="_blank">Morton County Sheriff's Department</a>, the local law enforcement agency.</p> <p>It's rare for police forces to cross state lines to handle problems in neighboring places, much less travel more than 1,500 miles to respond to protests, as the St. Charles Parish (Louisiana) Sheriff's Department has. So why is Standing Rock teeming with cops from across the country? The answer lies in an obscure federal law that's usually deployed to help states deal with environmental disasters.</p> <p>In 1996, then-President Bill Clinton signed the <a href="" target="_blank">Emergency Management Assistance Compact</a> (EMAC). The statute was created in response to Hurricane Andrew, which wrought an estimated $25 billion in damages when it hit Louisiana and Florida in 1992, necessitating large-scale, interstate relief coordination. EMAC, an agreement eventually entered into by all 50 states, allows for states to share resources and coordinate emergency personnel in case of a crisis. The good-neighbor style law<strong> </strong>was invoked for disaster relief for Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and, more recently, Hurricane Matthew in 2016.</p> <p>Governors have almost always employed EMAC in the wake of natural disasters, but the bill contains a stipulation that makes it applicable during other types of emergencies including "community disorders, insurgency, or enemy attack." On <a href="" target="_blank">August 19</a>, when North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple declared a state of emergency at Standing Rock, he relied on this language to issue an EMAC request.</p> <p>Standing Rock is one of the few times that EMAC has been called upon to respond to social activism. In April 2015, during Black Lives Matter protests in Baltimore in the wake of Freddie Gray's death while in police custody, Maryland Governor <a href="" target="_blank">Larry Hogan</a> declared a state of emergency and sent out an EMAC request. About <a href="" target="_blank">three hundred state troopers</a> from Pennsylvania and another <a href="" target="_blank">150 from New Jersey</a> responded. The city racked up an estimated <a href="" target="_blank">$20 million</a> in extra policing costs.</p> <p>Since the state issuing the EMAC request is on hook for the tab, that means North Dakota taxpayers will pay for the out-of-state officers at Standing Rock. This <a href="" target="_blank">will include</a> wages, overtime costs, meals, lodging, and mileage reimbursement. On <a href="" target="_blank">November 2</a>, North Dakota officials agreed to borrow $4 million to cover escalating policing costs and extend the state's line of credit for emergency law enforcement to $10 million. (The state was already staring down a <a href="" target="_blank">$1 billion</a> revenue shortfall in 2016.) Governor Jack Dalrymple said state officials have asked for contributions from the federal government, the pipeline company, "and any entity we can think of," though the federal government has thus far declined to pitch in. North Dakota Emergency Services spokesperson Cecily Fong told the <a href="" target="_blank">Associated Press</a> that total state law enforcement costs for the protests had reached $10.9 million as of November 22, while Morton County had spent an additional $8 million. Meanwhile, local courts and jails have struggled to process around 575 arrests.</p> <p>The increased law enforcement presence at Standing Rock has coincided with mounting concerns over police brutality. The deployment of <a href="" target="_blank">military-grade equipment</a>, including landmine-resistant trucks and armored personnel carriers, as well as the use of pepper spray, rubber bullets, and alleged strip searches led Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman <a href="" target="_blank">Dave Archambault II</a> to ask the Justice Department to investigate civil rights abuses. "Local and state law enforcement have increasingly taken steps to militarize their presence, to intimidate participants who are lawfully expressing their views, and to escalate tensions and promote fear," Archambault wrote in his <a href="" target="_blank">letter</a>.</p> <p>Some of the police details that have arrived in Standing Rock are among the largest recipients of military transfers from the federal government, according to an <em><a href="" target="_blank">In These Times </a></em>investigation. The South Dakota Highway Patrol has received $2 million worth of military equipment since 2006. The Lake County Sheriff's Office in Northwest Indiana obtained $1.5 million worth of military equipment over the same time period. The Pennington County Sheriff's office in South Dakota, the Anoka County Sheriff's office in Minnesota, and the Griffith Indiana Police Department have all received assault rifles through military equipment transfer programs as well.</p> <p>Police departments answer EMAC requests on a voluntary basis. Some forces, like Minnesota's Hennepin County Sheriff's Department, have been deployed to North Dakota amid <a href="" target="_blank">objections</a> from their local communities. Others are withdrawing from the action. A phone-banking and email-writing effort led Montana's Gallatin County Sheriff <a href="" target="_blank">Brian Gootkin</a> to turn his detail around before they even arrived at Standing Rock.&nbsp;Gootkin told <em><a href="" target="_blank">Yes Magazine</a></em> that people who contacted his department expressed concern that EMAC was meant to address natural disasters and catastrophic events, not for protecting a corporation's pipeline construction. <a href=";utm_source=facebook&amp;utm_campaign=user-share" target="_blank">Sheriff Dave Mahoney</a> from Wisconsin's Dane County, who withdrew his force after one week, said he did so after talking with "a wide cross-section of the community who all share the opinion that our deputies should not be involved in this situation," he said. "We have enough priorities here in our community to address."</p></body></html> Environment Civil Liberties Climate Change Economy Guns Human Rights Race and Ethnicity Sun, 04 Dec 2016 11:00:10 +0000 Alexander Sammon 320531 at These 15 Albums Might Actually Make 2016 Tolerable <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Each year, <em>Mother Jones</em>' favorite music critic browses through hundreds of new albums and pulls out maybe a couple hundred for his weekly reviews. But only a few can make the final-final cut. Below, in alphabetical order, are Jon Young's super-quick takes on his 15 top albums for 2016. (Feel free to heartily disagree and share your own faves in the comments.)</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/500x500_0.jpg" style="width: 75px; height: 75px;"></div> <p><strong>1. William Bell, <em>This Is Where I Live</em> (Stax): </strong>The tender, moving return of an underrated soul great.</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%">&nbsp;</div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Blackstar-Album-800x800.jpg" style="width: 75px; height: 75px;"></div> <p><strong>2. David Bowie, <em>Blackstar</em> (Columbia/ISO): </strong>The Thin White Duke's eerie, haunting farewell.</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%">&nbsp;</div> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Gaz-Coombes-Matador.jpg" style="width: 75px; height: 75px;"></div> <p><strong>3. Gaz Coombes, <em>Matador </em>(Hot Fruit Recordings/Kobalt Label Services): </strong>Grand, witty megapop from the former Supergrass leader. (Full review <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.)</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/DYLAN-The-1966-Live-Recordings-300x300.jpeg" style="width: 75px; height: 75px;"></div> <p><strong>4. Bob Dylan, <em>The 1966 Live Recordings </em>(Columbia/Legacy):</strong> A massive compilation of every note from his notorious tour. (Full review <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.)</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/20160724_margaret-glaspy-emotions-and-math_91.jpg" style="height: 75px; width: 75px;"></div> <p><strong>5. Margaret Glaspy, <em>Emotions and Math</em> (ATO):</strong> No-nonsense relationship tales that rock out with insistent verve.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/21b15074.jpg" style="height: 75px; width: 75px;"></div> <p><strong>6. Hinds, <em>Leave Me Alone</em> (Mom + Pop/Lucky Number): </strong>Frayed, rowdy femme-punk straight outta Madrid.</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/index_0.jpg" style="height: 75px; width: 75px;"></div> <p><strong>7. Jennifer O'Connor, <em>Surface Noise </em>(Kiam):</strong> Tuneful, deadpan folk-pop with a cutting edge. (Full review <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.)</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/bindex.jpg" style="width: 75px; height: 75px;"></div> <p><strong>8. Brigid Mae Power, <em>Brigid Mae Power </em>(Tompkins Square):</strong> Hair-raising solo acoustic performances by an Irish chanteuse. (Full review <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.)</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/cindex.jpg" style="width: 75px; height: 75px;"></div> <p><strong>9. Dex Romweber, <em>Carrboro, </em>(Bloodshot):</strong> A colorful Americana kaleidoscope from a master balladeer and rockabilly shouter. (Full review <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.)</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/CAK118_Sad13_Slugger_900_0.jpg" style="width: 75px; height: 75px;"></div> <p><strong>10. Sad13, <em>Slugger </em>(Carpark): </strong>Sadie Dupuis' solo debut, poppier than her band Speedy Ortiz, and exuberantly feminist.</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/the-scientists-a-place-called-bad-1.jpg" style="width: 75px; height: 75px;"></div> <p><strong>11 &amp; 12. The Scientists, <em>A Place Called Bad </em>(Numero Group); and Blonde Redhead, <em>Masculin Feminin</em> (Numero Group): </strong>The great Chicago reissue label scores again with retrospectives devoted to The Scientists, Australian trash-rockers from the '70s and '80s, and Blonde Redhead's '90s shoegaze-noise recordings amid the chaotic New York scene. (Full review <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.)</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/at-cover-extralarge_1460483614390_sq-e189601b6e2b6810b093c6f34e34ba4e99e120b4-s300-c85.jpg" style="width: 75px; height: 75px;"></div> <p><strong>13. Allen Toussaint</strong>, <em>American Tunes (Nonesuch)</em>: The gorgeous final works of the New Orleans R&amp;B genius. (And here's our recent chat with Toussaint collaborator <a href="" target="_blank">Aaron Neville</a>.)</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/A-Tribe-Called-Quest-We-Got-It-From-Here-Thank-You-4-Your-Service-1478899602-640x640.jpg" style="width: 75px; height: 75px;"></div> <p><strong>14. A&nbsp; Tribe Called Quest, <em>We Got It from Here&hellip;Thank You 4 Your Service</em> (Epic):</strong> The long-overdue return, and devastating goodbye, of a hip-hop institution.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/8b2fcb5c.jpg" style="width: 75px; height: 75px;"></div> <p><strong>15. Various Artists, <em>The Microcosm: Visionary Music of Continental Europe, 1970-1986</em> (Light in the Attic):</strong> An eye-opening survey of vintage new age music in all its oddball, unexpected glory.</p></body></html> Media Sun, 04 Dec 2016 11:00:09 +0000 Jon Young 320416 at Trump's Taiwan Call Was No Accident <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>So&mdash;about that call between Donald Trump and the president of Taiwan. <a href="" target="_blank">First we have this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>A phone call between Donald Trump and Taiwan's leader that risks damaging relations between the U.S. and China was pre-arranged,</strong> a top Taiwanese official told NBC News on Saturday...."Maintaining good relations with the United States is as important as maintaining good relations across the Taiwan Strait," Taiwanese presidential spokesman Alex <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/blog_china_flag.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Huang told NBC News. "Both are in line with Taiwan's national interest."</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank">And this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>The call was planned in advance with knowledge of Trump&rsquo;s transition team</strong> and was the right thing to do, said Stephen Yates, a former U.S. national security official who served under President George W. Bush. Yates denied multiple media reports that he arranged the call, while adding that it doesn&rsquo;t make sense for the U.S. to be &ldquo;stuck&rdquo; in a pattern of acquiescing to China over Taiwan.</p> </blockquote> <p>Apparently several sources say that Yates was indeed the guy who helped arrange the call, but Yates denies it. You can decide for yourself who to believe. In any case, both sides claim it was done intentionally.</p> <p>Was it a good idea? In Trump's defense, if you're going to do something like this, the only time to do it is right away. That's especially true if you want to use it as leverage. Who knows? Maybe Trump's team is planning to quietly pass along word that Trump is willing to maintain our status quo policy toward Taiwan (i.e., not formally recognizing the Taiwanese government), but only if China commits to doing something serious about North Korea.</p> <p>Or maybe Trump has no bargain in mind at all, and just wants to change US policy toward China. It would be typically Trump to start out with a slap in the face so they know he means business, and then go from there.</p> <p>Is this wise? I sort of doubt it, but I'm hardly an old China hand. And I have to admit that China hasn't gone ballistic, as many people predicted. Their response so far has been <a href=";action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;clickSource=story-heading&amp;module=a-lede-package-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">distinctly low-key:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>China&rsquo;s first official reaction, from Foreign Minister Wang Yi, was fairly benign &mdash; though it was firm in reiterating the One China policy, under which the United States formally recognized Beijing as China&rsquo;s sole government....A follow-up statement from the Foreign Ministry on Saturday, <strong>noting that the ministry had filed a formal complaint with the United States government,</strong> was similar in tone. It urged &ldquo;relevant parties in the U.S.&rdquo; to &ldquo;deal with the Taiwan issue in a prudent, proper manner.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Whatever you think of all this, I'm pretty sure it was no accident. Whether it's meant just to shake up China; to act as leverage for a future bargain; or as a precursor to a policy change&mdash;well, that's hard to say. But there was something behind it. Stay tuned.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 03 Dec 2016 22:36:47 +0000 Kevin Drum 320621 at Donald Trump Can't Fix Offshoring, But He's Got Bigger Problems Anyway <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Steven Pearlstein suggests that Donald Trump's deal with Carrier is part of a larger strategy aimed at <a href="" target="_blank">changing norms of behavior:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>There was a time in America when there was an unwritten pact in the business world &mdash; workers were loyal to their companies and successful companies returned that loyalty....<strong>Then came the 1980s,</strong> and all that began to change as American industry began to falter because of foreign competition....So the social norm changed....<strong>Although the public never much liked the idea of closing plants and shipping jobs overseas, it no longer was socially unacceptable.</strong></p> <p>Now comes Donald Trump &mdash; in the public mind, a successful businessman &mdash; who as the new president, suddenly declares that the new norm is not longer acceptable, and he intends to do whatever he can to shame and punish companies that abandon their workers....<strong>He knows that he and his new commerce secretary will have to engage in a few more bouts of well-publicized arm twisting before the message finally sinks in in the C-Suite. He may even have to make an example of a runaway company by sending in the tax auditors or the OSHA inspectors or cancelling a big government contract</strong>. It won&rsquo;t matter that, two years later, these highly publicized retaliations are thrown out by a federal judge somewhere. Most companies won&rsquo;t want to risk such threats to their &ldquo;brands.&rdquo; They will find a way to conform to the new norm, somewhat comforted by the fact that their American competitors have been forced to do the same.</p> </blockquote> <p>I mostly disagree with this. I think the "norm" Pearlstein is talking about here is actually just ordinary economic reality. During the postwar economic boom, American companies didn't need to offshore jobs, so they didn't. Nor did they need to lay off workers or downsize their companies frequently. America was the most efficient manufacturer around, and there was plenty of money sloshing around for everybody. So why invite trouble?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_growth_per_capita_real_gdp_1947_2015.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 10px;"></p> <p>When the postwar boom came to an end, businesses changed. We learned that what we thought had been a permanent new norm, was no such thing. It was just a temporary, three-decade blip. Starting in the 80s, as economic growth leveled off, the business community returned to operating the same way businesses had operated ever since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.</p> <p>I suspect Pearlstein is right about what Trump is trying to do. He'll engage in some naming and shaming, and on a few occasions he'll try to set an example by going after companies in semi-legal or outright illegal ways. It might even work a little bit, and it will almost certainly work in a PR sense. But more generally, Trump can't keep the tide from coming in any more than any other president. It's not as if the offshoring phenomenon is peculiar to America, after all.</p> <p>The good news, such as it is, revolves around automation. Within a decade or so, most manufacturing work will be so highly automated that it won't matter much where it's made. We're already starting to see signs of this. That will put an end to large-scale offshoring, but unfortunately, it will be even worse for blue-collar workers. We're on the cusp of an era when tens of millions of workers will be put out of jobs by automation, and we'd better figure out what we're going to do about that. But one thing is certain: whatever the answer is, it's not naming and shaming.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 03 Dec 2016 16:35:52 +0000 Kevin Drum 320616 at Trump Is Right: Our Generals Haven't "Done the Job" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>President-elect Donald Trump's message for the nation's senior military leadership is ambiguously unambiguous. Here is he on <em>60 Minutes</em> just days after the election.</p> <p>Trump: "We have some great generals. We have great generals."</p> <p>Lesley Stahl: "You said you knew more than the generals about ISIS."</p> <p>Trump: "Well, I'll be honest with you, I probably do because look at the job they've done. Okay, look at the job they've done. They haven't done the job."</p> <p>In reality, Trump, the former reality show host, knows next to nothing about ISIS&mdash;one of many gaps in his education that his impending encounter with actual reality is likely to fill. Yet when it comes to America's generals, our president-to-be is onto something. No doubt our three- and four-star officers qualify as "great" in the sense that they mean well, work hard, and are altogether fine men and women. That they have not "done the job," however, is indisputable&mdash;at least if their job is to bring America's wars to a timely and successful conclusion.</p> <p>Trump's unhappy verdict&mdash;that the senior US military leadership doesn't know how to win&mdash;applies in spades to the two principal conflicts of the post-9/11 era: the Afghanistan War (now in its 16th year) and the Iraq War, which was launched in 2003 and (after a brief hiatus) is once more grinding on. Yet the verdict applies equally to lesser theaters of conflict, largely overlooked by the American public, that in recent years have engaged the attention of US forces&mdash;a list that would include conflicts in Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.</p> <p>Granted,<strong> </strong>our generals have demonstrated an impressive aptitude for moving pieces around on a dauntingly complex military chessboard. Brigades, battle groups, and squadrons shuttle in and out of various war zones, responding to the needs of the moment. The sheer immensity of the enterprise across the Greater Middle East and northern Africa&mdash;the <a href="" target="_blank">sorties flown</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">munitions expended</a>, the seamless deployment and redeployment of thousands of troops over thousands of miles, the vast stockpiles of material positioned, expended, and continuously resupplied&mdash;represents a staggering achievement. Measured by these or similar quantifiable outputs, America's military has excelled. No other military establishment in history could have come close to duplicating the logistical feats being performed year in, year out by the armed forces of the United States.</p> <p>Nor should we overlook the resulting body count. Since the autumn of 2001, something like <a href="" target="_blank">370,000</a> combatants and noncombatants have been killed in the various theaters of operations where US forces have been active. Although modest by 20th-century standards, this post-9/11 harvest of death is hardly trivial.</p> <p>Yet in evaluating military operations, it's a mistake to confuse <em>how much</em> with <em>how well</em>. Only rarely do the outcomes of armed conflicts turn on comparative statistics. Ultimately, the one measure of success that really matters involves achieving war's political purposes. By that standard, victory requires not simply the defeat of the enemy, but accomplishing the nation's stated war aims, and not just in part or temporarily but definitively. Anything less constitutes failure, not to mention utter waste for taxpayers, and for those called upon to fight, it constitutes cause for mourning.</p> <p>By that standard, having been "at war" for virtually the entire 21st century, the United States military is still looking for its first win. And however strong the disinclination to concede that Donald Trump could be right about anything, his verdict on American generalship qualifies as apt.<br><br><span class="section-lead">That verdict brings</span> to mind three questions. First, with Trump a rare exception, why have the recurring shortcomings of America's military leadership largely escaped notice? Second, to what degree does faulty generalship suffice to explain why actual victory has proved so elusive? Third, to the extent that deficiencies at the top of the military hierarchy bear directly on the outcome of our wars, how might the generals improve their game?</p> <p>As to the first question, the explanation is quite simple: During protracted wars, traditional standards for measuring generalship lose their salience.&nbsp; Without pertinent standards, there can be no accountability. Absent accountability, failings and weaknesses escape notice. Eventually, what you've become accustomed to seems tolerable. Twenty-first-century Americans inured to wars that never end have long since forgotten that bringing such conflicts to a prompt and successful conclusion once defined the very essence of what generals were expected to do.</p> <p>Senior military officers were presumed to possess unique expertise in designing campaigns and directing engagements. Not found among mere civilians or even among soldiers of lesser rank, this expertise provided the rationale for conferring status and authority on generals.</p> <p>In earlier eras, the very structure of wars provided a relatively straightforward mechanism for testing such claims to expertise. Events on the battlefield rendered harsh judgments, creating or destroying reputations with brutal efficiency. Back then, standards employed in evaluating generalship were clear-cut and uncompromising. Those who won battles earned fame, glory, and the gratitude of their countrymen. Those who lost battles got fired or were put out to pasture.</p> <p>During the Civil War, for example, Abraham Lincoln did not need an advanced degree in strategic studies to conclude that Union generals like John Pope, Ambrose Burnside, and Joseph Hooker didn't have what it took to defeat the Army of Northern Virginia. Humiliating defeats sustained by the Army of the Potomac at the Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville made that obvious enough. Similarly, the victories Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman gained at Shiloh, at Vicksburg, and in the Chattanooga campaign strongly suggested that here was the team to which the president could entrust the task of bringing the Confederacy to its knees.</p> <p>Today, <a href="" target="_blank">public drunkenness</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">petty corruption</a>, or <a href="" target="_blank">sexual shenanigans</a> with a subordinate might land generals in hot water. But as long as they avoid egregious misbehavior, senior officers charged with prosecuting America's wars are largely spared judgments of any sort. Trying hard is enough to get a passing grade.</p> <p>With the country's political leaders and public conditioned to conflicts seemingly destined to drag on for years, if not decades, no one expects the current general in chief in Iraq or Afghanistan to bring things to a successful conclusion. His job is merely to manage the situation until he passes it along to a successor, while duly adding to his collection of personal decorations and perhaps advancing his career.</p> <p>Today, for example, Army General John Nicholson commands US and allied forces in Afghanistan. He's only the latest in a long line of senior officers to preside over that war, beginning with General Tommy Franks in 2001 and continuing with Generals Mikolashek, Barno, Eikenberry, McNeill, McKiernan, McChrystal, Petraeus, Allen, Dunford, and Campbell. The title carried by these officers changed over time. So, too, did the specifics of their "mission" as Operation Enduring Freedom evolved into Operation Freedom's Sentinel. Yet even as expectations slipped lower and lower, none of the commanders rotating through Kabul delivered. Not a single one has, in our president-elect's concise formulation, "done the job." Indeed, it's increasingly difficult to know what that job is, apart from preventing the Taliban from quite literally toppling the government.</p> <p>In Iraq, meanwhile, Army Lt. General Stephen Townsend currently serves as the&mdash;count 'em&mdash;ninth American to command US and coalition forces in that country since the George W. Bush administration ordered the invasion of 2003. The first in that line, (once again) General Tommy Franks, overthrew the Saddam Hussein regime and thereby broke Iraq. The next five, Generals Sanchez, Casey, Petraeus, Odierno, and Austin, labored for eight years to put it back together again.</p> <p>At the end of 2011, President Obama declared that they had done just that and terminated the US military occupation. The Islamic State soon exposed Obama's claim as specious when its militants put a US-trained Iraqi army to flight and annexed <a href="" target="_blank">large swaths</a> of Iraqi territory. Following in the footsteps of his immediate predecessors Generals James Terry and Sean MacFarland, General Townsend now shoulders the task of trying to restore Iraq's status as a more or less genuinely sovereign state. He directs what the Pentagon calls Operation Inherent Resolve, dating from June 2014, the follow-on to Operation New Dawn (September 2010 to December 2011), which was itself the successor to Operation Iraqi Freedom (March 2003 to August 2010).</p> <p>When and how Inherent Resolve will conclude is difficult to forecast. This much we can, however, say with some confidence: With the end nowhere in sight, General Townsend won't be its last commander. Other generals are waiting in the wings with their own careers to polish. As in Kabul, the parade of US military commanders through Baghdad will continue.</p> <p>For some readers, this listing of mostly forgotten names and dates may have a soporific effect. Yet it should also drive home Trump's point. The United States may today have the world's most powerful and capable military&mdash;so, at least, we are constantly told. Yet the record shows that it does not have a corps of senior officers who know how to translate capability into successful outcomes.<br><br><span class="section-lead">That brings us</span> to the second question: Even if Commander in Chief Trump were somehow able to identify modern-day equivalents of Grant and Sherman to implement his war plans, secret or otherwise, would they deliver victory?</p> <p>On that score, we would do well to entertain doubts. Although senior officers charged with running recent American wars have not exactly covered themselves in glory, it doesn't follow that their shortcomings offer the sole or even a principal explanation for why those wars have yielded such disappointing results. The truth is that some wars aren't winnable and shouldn't be fought.</p> <p>So, yes, Trump's critique of American generalship possesses merit, but whether he knows it or not, the question truly demanding his attention as the incoming commander in chief isn't "Who should I hire (or fire) to fight my wars?" Instead, far more urgent is, "Does further war promise to solve any of my problems?"</p> <p>One mark of a successful business executive is knowing when to cut your losses. It's also the mark of a successful statesman. Trump claims to be the former. Whether his putative business savvy will translate into the world of statecraft remains to be seen. Early signs are not promising.</p> <p>As a candidate, Trump <a href="" target="_blank">vowed to</a> "defeat radical Islamic terrorism," destroy ISIS, "decimate Al Qaeda," and "starve funding for Iran-backed Hamas and Hezbollah." Those promises imply a significant escalation of what Americans used to call the "global war on terrorism."</p> <p>Toward that end, the incoming administration may well revive some aspects of the George W. Bush playbook, including<strong> </strong>repopulating the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and "if it's <a href="" target="_blank">so important</a> to the American people," reinstituting torture. The Trump administration will at least consider re-imposing sanctions on countries like Iran. It may aggressively exploit the offensive potential of cyberweapons, betting that America's cyberdefenses will hold.</p> <p>Yet President Trump is also likely to double down on the use of conventional military force. In that regard, <a href="" target="_blank">his promise</a> to "quickly and decisively bomb the hell out of ISIS" offers a hint of what is to come. His appointment of the uber-hawkish Lt. General <a href="" target="_blank">Michael Flynn</a> as his national security adviser and his selection of retired Marine Corps General <a href="" target="_blank">James ("Mad Dog&rdquo;) Mattis</a> as defense secretary suggest that he means what he says.</p> <p>In sum, a Trump administration seems unlikely to reexamine the conviction that the problems roiling the Greater Middle East will someday, somehow yield to a US-imposed military solution. Indeed, in the face of massive evidence to the contrary, that conviction will deepen, with genuinely ironic implications for the Trump presidency.</p> <p>In the immediate wake of 9/11, George W. Bush concocted a fantasy of American soldiers liberating oppressed Afghans and Iraqis and thereby "<a href="" target="_blank">draining the swamp</a>" that served to incubate anti-Western terrorism. The results were beyond disappointing, while the costs exacted in terms of lives and dollars squandered were painful indeed. Incrementally, with the passage of time, many<strong> </strong>Americans concluded that perhaps the swamp most in need of attention was not on the far side of the planet but much closer at hand&mdash;right in the imperial city nestled alongside the Potomac River.</p> <p>To a very considerable extent, Trump defeated Hillary Clinton, the preferred candidate of the establishment, because he advertised himself as just the guy disgruntled Americans could count on to drain that swamp. Yet here's what too few of those Americans appreciate, even today: War created the swamp in the first place. War empowers Washington. It centralizes. It provides a rationale for federal authorities to accumulate and exercise new powers. It makes government bigger and more intrusive. It lubricates the machinery of waste, fraud, and abuse that causes tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to vanish every year. When it comes to sustaining the swamp, nothing works better than war.</p> <p>Were Trump really intent on draining that swamp&mdash;if he genuinely seeks to "Make America Great Again"&mdash; then he would extricate the United States from war. His <a href="" target="_blank">liquidation</a> of Trump University, which was to higher education what Freedom's Sentinel and Inherent Resolve are to modern warfare, provides a potentially instructive precedent for how to proceed.</p> <p>But don't hold your breath. All signs indicate that, in one fashion or another, our combative next president will perpetuate the wars he's inheriting. Trump may fancy that, as a veteran of <em>Celebrity Apprentice</em> (but not of military service), he possesses a special knack for spotting the next Grant or Sherman. But acting on that impulse will merely replenish the swamp in the Greater Middle East, along with the one in Washington. And soon enough, those who elected him with expectations of seeing the much-despised establishment dismantled will realize that they've been had.</p> <p>Which brings us, finally, to that third question: To the extent that deficiencies at the top of the military hierarchy do affect the outcome of wars, what can be done to fix the problem?</p> <p>The most expeditious approach: Purge all currently serving three- and four-star officers. Then, make a precondition for promotion to those ranks confinement in a reeducation camp run by Iraq and Afghanistan war amputees, with a curriculum designed by <a href="" target="_blank">Veterans for Peace</a>. Graduation should require each student to submit an essay reflecting on these words of wisdom from Grant himself: "There never was a time when, in my opinion, some way could not be found to prevent the drawing of the sword.&rdquo;</p> <p>True, such an approach may seem a bit draconian. But this is no time for half measures&mdash;as even Donald Trump may eventually recognize.</p> <p><em>Andrew J. Bacevich </em><em>is professor emeritus of history and international relations at Boston University. His most recent book is </em><a href=";ref_=nosim&amp;tag=tomdispatch-20">America's War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History</a>.</p></body></html> Politics Longreads Donald Trump Military Tom Dispatch Top Stories Sat, 03 Dec 2016 11:00:13 +0000 Andrew Bacevich 320276 at These Are the Books We're Giving Our Friends This Year <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Every year, <em>Mother Jones</em> receives hundreds of worthy books, but there are always a handful that truly stand out, the ones we end up foisting on friends and family. Well, friends and family, here you go, in no particular order. Also, be sure and check out the <a href="" target="_blank">Best Cookbooks</a> post by food and ag writer Tom Philpott, and stay tuned for photo book picks from photo editor Mark Murrmann and the year's best music from critic Jon Young (on Sunday).</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Jenniferclose28007954.jpg" style="width: 117px; height: 175px;"></div> <p><strong><a href="" target="_blank"><em>The Hopefuls</em></a>, by Jennifer Close. </strong>Beth, the twentysomething protagonist of Jennifer Close's wryly observed new novel, is an aspiring journalist loving life in New York City. But when her husband, Matt, gets a job in the Obama administration, Beth reluctantly agrees to follow him to DC. Thanks to Close's eye for detail, <em>The Hopefuls</em> is like a still life of Washington in 2008. She masterfully captures both the contagious enthusiasm and wonky snobbery of DC's rising political stars and their hangers-on. One character is forever telling anecdotes about senior Obama adviser David Axelrod, pretentiously referring to him as "Ax." Another refers to Obama as "the senator"&mdash;a subtle humble brag that he's worked for the president since way back when. Beth is miserable in this dreary social circle&mdash;until she and her husband click with a charismatic couple from Texas. And before she knows it, Beth herself is swept into this world of political strivers. Ultimately, <em>The Hopefuls</em> is as much about friendship as it is about politics&mdash;and about what happens when the two collide.<em> &mdash;Kiera Butler, senior editor</em></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Offutt%2051ux6pFR3YL._SX329_BO1%2C204%2C203%2C200_.jpg" style="width: 116px; height: 175px;"></div> <p><strong><em><a href="" target="_blank">My Father, the Pornographer</a></em>, by Chris Offutt.</strong> This memoir is not a salacious romp, as the cover might suggest, but a slow-burning examination of Chris Offutt's strained relationship with his late dad, a prolific author of smut and sci-fi. Offutt focuses less on the giant pile of kinky material he inherited than how it affected his childhood, his family, and his sense of self. His final plunge into his father's most secret, and shameful, obsessions is worth the wait. <em>&mdash;Dave Gilson, senior editor</em></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Grunt41SNVmSomKL._SX331_BO1%2C204%2C203%2C200_.jpg" style="width: 117px; height: 175px;"></div> <p><strong><em><a href="" target="_blank">Grunt</a>: The Curious Science of Humans at War</em>, by Mary Roach. </strong>This <a href="">latest</a> book from the perpetually curious <a href="" target="_blank">Mary Roach</a> looks at the weird yet deadly serious science of keeping soldiers alive. In a globe-trotting tour of labs, training grounds, and a nuclear sub, Roach explores how fighting men and women sweat, sleep, and poop. "No one wins a medal" for this obscure, often gross, survival research, Roach writes. "And maybe someone should." Like her previous books <a href=""><em>Gulp</em></a> and <em>Stiff</em>, <em>Grunt </em>oozes bodily fluids, flippant footnotes, and weapons-grade wordplay. <em>&mdash;D.G.</em></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/arab2.jpg"></div> <p><strong><em><a href="" target="_blank">The Arab of the Future 2</a>: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1984-1985</em>, by Riad Sattouf &amp; </strong><em><b><a href="" target="_blank">Such a Lovely Little War</a>: Saigon 1961-63</b></em><strong>, by Marcelino Truong.</strong> Two of the most affecting memoirs of the year are graphic novels by French cartoonists who grew up astride two cultures. <em>The Arab of the Future 2</em> picks up where its predecessor left off: Riad Sattouf, the adorable six-year-old son of a Syrian father and a French mother, is adjusting to his new life in his father's village outside Homs in the mid-1980s. Sattouf's bubbly illustrations belie the bleakness of his surroundings, and the violence and misogyny he witnesses.</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/war_1.jpg"></div> <p>Marcelino Truong's beautifully illustrated tale follows him and his two siblings in their move to Saigon as the Vietnam War heats up. While the kids are enthralled by the war and oblivious to its horrors, their French-born mother breaks down as she sees just how quickly things are falling apart. The two authors' artistic and narrative sensibilities differ, but their work is united by common themes: surreal childhoods amid geopolitical conflict (Sattouf and his playmates battle the Israeli Army; Truong and his cousins pretend to fight the Viet Cong) and idealistic fathers (Sattouf's dad is a Qaddafi- and Saddam-admiring pan-Arabist, while Truong's is an official in the US-backed South Vietnamese government) who are blind to the strife afflicting their countries&mdash;and families. Read together or separately, these comics pack a surprising punch. <em>&mdash;D.G.</em></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/writing-to-save-a-life-9781501147289_hr.jpg" style="width: 114px; height: 175px;"></div> <p><strong><em><a href="" target="_blank">Writing to Save a Life</a>: The Louis Till File</em>, by John Edgar Wideman.</strong> In his first book in more than a decade, the acclaimed African American author and Brown University professor John Edgar Wideman explores the saga of Emmett Till's father, who was court-martialed and hanged by the United States military well before the notorious lynching of his son by white racists in Mississippi. Via a Freedom of Information Act request, Wideman obtains records from Louis Till's military trial and interrogates the file from every angle&mdash;filling in the gaps with his own vivid imagination and recollections. Part history, part memoir, part mystery, part fiction, this insightful book reveals as much about the author as it does about his subject. As Wideman put it to me in a recent <a href="">interview</a>, "To write a story about Louis Till puts <em>me</em> on trial." <em>&mdash;Michael Mechanic, senior editor</em></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/the-underground-railroad.jpg"></div> <p><strong><a href="" target="_blank"><em>The Underground Railroad</em></a>, by Colson Whitehead.</strong> You've probably heard plenty about 2016's National Book Award winner for fiction, but I'll pile on anyway. Whitehead's riveting slavery saga reimagines the underground railroad as a literal thing, but he doesn't dwell too heavily on that plot device. The story follows a pair of escapees from a Georgia plantation as they move north along the railroad, pursued by a determined slave catcher. Among other things, they stumble across a bizarre eugenics experiment in South Carolina and a vile campaign of ethnic cleansing in North Carolina. Whitehead's character-driven tale brings into visceral relief the horrors, the cruelty, the stark inhumanity of an economy based on captive black labor. And he reminds us, too, of the grim fate that awaited Southern whites brave enough to oppose the system. <em>&mdash;M.M.</em></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/PHD519OXVLyTtL.jpg" style="width: 117px; height: 175px;"></div> <p><strong><a href="" target="_blank"><em>The Fortunes</em></a>, by Peter Ho Davies.</strong> Given the extraordinary success of Chinese Americans today, it's easy to forget how tough white society made things for their forebears who flocked here during the Gold Rush or who were imported as cheap labor for railroad companies&mdash;only to later be scapegoated and officially excluded by an <a href="" target="_blank">act of Congress</a> that would remain in force until 1943 (just in time for the <a href="" target="_blank">interning</a> of Japanese Americans). Davies' outstanding new novel reminds us how things were (and still are, if the 2016 election is any indication). The experiences of Davies' characters&mdash;a poor laundry boy hired on as a railroad magnate's valet, an ambitious Chinese American starlet&mdash;highlight the tightrope walk of maintaining one's culture while striving for acceptance in a resentful society. <em>The Fortunes</em> feels particularly timely now that we've handed the White House keys to a man who threatens to register and exclude Muslim immigrants, and to deport Americans (for really, what else can we honestly call them?) brought here without papers as toddlers. <em>&mdash;M.M.</em></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/WHile%20they%20city%20slept%20519N79L%2B50L._SX329_BO1%2C204%2C203%2C200_.jpg" style="width: 116px; height: 175px;"></div> <p><em><strong><a href="" target="_blank">While the City Slept</a>: A Love Lost to Violence and a Young Man's Descent Into Madness</strong></em><strong>, by Eli Sanders. </strong>One night in 2009, a disturbed young man named Isaiah Kalebu entered a Seattle home through an open window and raped and stabbed two women, killing one. He was sentenced to life in prison, but local journalist Eli Sanders, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the case, kept digging. <em>While the City Slept</em>, his compassionate examination of the lives that collided that night, relates how a bright but abused boy grew into a violent criminal and, as one psychiatrist put it, "became his illness." The book plays double duty as tribute to those whose lives were upended and a meticulous indictment of the way we fail fellow citizens with serious mental disorders. <em>&mdash;Madison Pauly, assistant editor</em></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Pumpkin-Flowers.jpg" style="width: 114px; height: 175px;"></div> <p><strong><a href="" target="_blank">Pumpkinflowers</a>, by Matti Friedman.</strong> This is a 21st-century war story, with all of the IEDs, propaganda videos, jihadi groups we're accustomed to&mdash;but one told in the restrained, introspective style of the World War I writers Friedman turned to for inspiration. It's partly an engrossing personal story, partly a history of a forgotten chapter in Middle East conflict, and one of the best-written books I've read in years. <em>&mdash;Max J. Rosenthal, reporter</em></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/HomegoingBN-OC968_GYASI__JV_20160520165430.jpg" style="width: 117px; height: 175px;"></div> <p><strong><em><a href="" target="_blank">Homegoing</a>, </em></strong><strong>by Yaa Gyasi.</strong> This ambitious debut novel sparked a bidding war and landed Gyasi a seven-figure contract just one year after she graduated from the Iowa Writer's Workshop. Following seven generations across two continents, Gyasi manages to fit the many stages of slavery's plunder into a relatively slim volume, to dazzling and often devastating effect. Though some of the storylines unravel a bit toward the novel's end, the emphasis on global slavery's ramifications in West Africa, told with rich and lively characters and language that hums, makes this well worth the commitment. &mdash;<em>Maddie Oatman, story editor</em></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Larry5165dR2WvlL.jpg" style="width: 115px; height: 175px;"></div> <p><strong><em><a href=";qid=&amp;sr=" target="_blank">Real Food, Fake Food</a>: Why You Don't Know What You're Eating and What You Can Do About It</em></strong><strong>, by Larry Olmsted</strong>. We've all been told to steer clear of artificial ingredients, but how much do you know about fake&mdash;meaning fraudulent&mdash;food? Turns out, it's everywhere, including in your kitchen right now. <a href="">Olive oil</a>, parmesan cheese, <a href="">fish fillets</a>, red wine; it would seem the more scrumptious the victual, the more likely it is to be a sham. Olmsted gives us the lay of this seedy landscape with momentum and aplomb. He demystifies the process by which fake ingredients end up in your shopping cart, explains why some of these deceitful foods could be a real threat to your health, and sheds a light on the government policies and shortsighted commercialism that landed them there. &mdash;<em>M.O.</em></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Zadie28390369.jpg" style="width: 109px; height: 175px;"></div> <p><strong><em><a href="" target="_blank">Swing Time</a>,</em> by Zadie Smith.</strong> Award-winning author Zadie Smith's fifth novel interweaves two narratives. One involves the unnamed narrator's childhood friendship, wrought by a shared passion for dance. The other one revolves around the narrator's adult travels to Africa in the employ of a pop star as she grapples with her own biracial identity. Penned in Smith's inimitable, winding style, <em>Swing Time</em> looks unflinchingly at race, gender, parenting, love, and friendship. In places, I found the book an unnerving reminder of my own childhood, of parents who seemed invincible and maddeningly certain about the course of their offspring's future. <em>&mdash;Becca Andrews, assistant editor</em></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/March3.jpg" style="width: 122px; height: 175px;"></div> <p><strong><em><a href="">March: Book Three</a></em>, by Rep. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin; illustrated by Nate Powell.</strong> Police brutality, segregation, voting rights: Many of the big issues of the 1960s are alive and well today. The <em>March</em> graphic-history trilogy tells the story of the civil rights movement through the eyes of Rep. John Lewis, onetime chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee&mdash;a group <a href="" target="_blank">at the center</a> of the struggle. In poignant detail, the <em>March</em> books, totally 600 pages, put us at the heart of the battles over desegregation and black suffrage. We meet the movement's leaders and witness the ugly local clashes leading up to the <a href="" target="_blank">March on Washington</a>. In the third installment, which earned a 2016 National Book Award, the beatings and defiance of "Bloody Sunday" stand in sharp contrast to Lewis' pride on President Barack Obama's inauguration day. The book, and the trilogy, offer lessons for modern strivers on how far we've come&mdash;while serving as a reminder of how far we have yet to go. <em>&mdash;Edwin Rios, reporter</em></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Evicted41MXMkzKooL._SX337_BO1%2C204%2C203%2C200_.jpg" style="width: 119px; height: 175px;"></div> <p><strong><em><a href="">Evicted</a></em>: </strong><em><strong>Poverty and Profit in the American City</strong></em><strong>, by Matthew Desmond.</strong> In a tome filled with heartbreak, Desmond, a sociologist who teaches at Harvard, embeds with eight families who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads in the segregated city of Milwaukee. Rich in history and bolstered by engrossing research, <em>Evicted</em> vividly captures with empathy the lives of those caught up in deep poverty as they reel from the consequences of losing their homes. In doing so, it elevates the importance of affordable housing in today's society. "Housing is deeply implicated in causing poverty in America today," Desmond <a href="" target="_blank">told me</a> in March, "and we have to do something." <em>&mdash;E.R.</em></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/ARAGE41urP5QeAmL._SY344_BO1%2C204%2C203%2C200_.jpg" style="width: 117px; height: 175px;"></div> <p><strong><a href="" target="_blank"><em>A Rage for Order</em></a>: <em>The Middle East in turmoil, from Tahrir Square to ISIS</em></strong><strong>, by Robert F. Worth.</strong> This is not your typical Middle East manuscript&mdash;no bird's eye view of battlefield advancements or policy analysis on the region in collapse. Rather, Robert F. Worth, the longtime correspondent for the <em>New York Times,</em> managed to be on the ground seemingly everywhere that mattered during the zenith of the Arab Spring, and takes us a journey inside the lives of those whose hopes rode on the Arab Spring's promise and whose lives changed&mdash;or ended&mdash;forever once the popular uprisings collapsed into insurgencies and civil war. It's a beautifully written, moving account that brings humanity and heart to a region typically only considered in terms of conflict and chaos. <em>&mdash;Bryan Schatz, reporter</em></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Godsaveindex.pperl_.gif" style="width: 126px; height: 175px;"></div> <p><strong><a href="" target="_blank"><em>God Save Sex Pistols</em></a>, by Johan Kugelberg, with Jon Savage and Glenn Terry.</strong> Curator, author, and all-around underground know-it-all Johan Kugelberg released the end-all Sex Pistols ephemera collection earlier this year, and just in time; soon after, Joe Corre, son of punk impressarios Malcolm McClaren and Dame Vivien Westwood, celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Sex Pistol's first single by burning more than $6 million worth of rare, original Sex Pistols and UK punk memorabilia. Though the original artifacts were lost to Corre's piqued sense of anti-nostalgia, <em>God Save Sex Pistols </em>lovingly showcases photos, letters, flyers, records, posters, shirts&mdash;everything related to the band that once terrified parents and politicians. The book also serves as a more focused compendium to Kugelberg &amp; Savages' excellent 2012 book, <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Punk: An Aesthethic</em>.</a> <em>&mdash;Mark Murrmann, photo editor</em></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Icontain51TTCfFSawL._SX329_BO1%2C204%2C203%2C200_.jpg" style="width: 116px; height: 175px;"></div> <p><strong><a href="" target="_blank"><em>I Contain Multitudes</em></a><em>:&nbsp;<span class="a-size-extra-large" id="productTitle">The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life,</span></em> by Ed Yong.</strong> Few writers know how to explain science clearly, and even fewer science writers compose genuinely gorgeous prose. Ed Yong is that unicorn. <em>I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us</em> is the most elegant guide I've seen to our still-primitive understanding of the microbiome&mdash;the gazillions of tiny critters living within us. Like Nietzsche peering into a microscope, Yong urges us to think beyond "good" and "bad" microbes: "These terms belong in children's stories. They are ill-suited for describing the messy, fractious, contextual relationships of the natural world." Context is everything. "The same microbes could be good in the gut, but dangerous in the blood," Yong writes. One of the many functions of mother's milk, one scientist informs him, may be to "provide babies with a starter's pack of symbiotic viruses"&mdash;and that's a good thing. "Every one of us is a zoo in our own right&mdash;a colony enclosed within a single body," he writes. "A multi-species collection. An entire world." <em>&mdash;Tom Philpott, food and ag correspondent</em></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Listen.jpg" style="width: 117px; height: 175px;"></div> <p><strong><em><a href="" target="_blank">Listen, Liberal</a>:&nbsp;<span class="sims-lpo-header-title">Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?</span></em> by Thomas Frank.</strong> His forward-looking autopsy may seem like a contradiction in terms, but Thomas Frank had the dirge of the Democratic Party cued up before primary season. Still, the shock of November 8 catapulted the virtuosic <em>Listen, Liberal</em> from insightful to downright prophetic. Frank meticulously charts the Democrats' suicidal slide from a party of the factory floor to one of late-summer galas on Martha's Vineyard. He hits on all the major missteps&mdash;the decline of middle-class wages, the bank bailouts, the trade deals, the technocracy (oh, the technocracy!)&mdash;all of which were later parceled out by the flabbergasted into grasping post-election think pieces. Frank's book is lacerating and urgent, but also titillating, witty, and downright fun to read. It will no doubt give some establishment Dems the strong urge to throw the book into the ocean&mdash;indeed, their proximity to the coast and ability to conceivably do just that is part of the problem. This, for my money, is the best nonfiction of 2016. <em>&mdash;Alex Sammon, editorial fellow</em></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Ozick51za0wZe4qL.jpg" style="width: 117px; height: 175px;"></div> <p><strong><a href="" target="_blank"><em>Critics, Monsters, Fanatics, and Other Literary Essays</em></a>, by Cynthia Ozick.</strong> Narratives of decline seem to be particularly in, but no one can render this notion quite as beautifully as Ozick. At 88, she's been around the literary block, and she can't help but lament the state of the American traditions of reading and writing. "What's impossible not to notice," as she <a href="" target="_blank">put it to me</a> earlier this year, "is the diminution of American prose." To read Ozick is enriching for her startling vocabulary alone, though her intellectual force is also something to behold. This essay collection stakes out the critical cultural importance of literary criticism, and does so with the linguistic expertise of a poet&mdash;peaking with a vivid disemboweling of the term "Kafkaesque," for all its faux-literary worth. One thing, for Ozick, is certain: The road to cultural aridity is paved with 3.5-star Amazon reviews. <em>&mdash;A.S.</em></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/JD51idSm4KvzL._SY344_BO1%2C204%2C203%2C200_.jpg" style="width: 116px; height: 175px;"></div> <p><strong><a href="" target="_blank"><em>Hillbilly Elegy</em></a>: <em><span class="a-size-large" id="productTitle">A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis</span>,</em> by J.D. Vance.</strong> <strong><em>Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis</em></strong><strong>, by J.D. Vance. </strong>If you want to understand how Donald Trump took over the GOP, and how he won <a href=";;sdata=jik0vDg7hYhHmrrISluMkfOS9IeFSRhOmUsqFRFdh2E%3D&amp;reserved=0">so many Rust Belt counties that voted for Barack Obama</a>, this is a good place to start. Vance uses the story of his childhood in a dying steel town to highlight what he sees as cultural shortcomings and political delusions among the region's white working class. "We talk about the value of hard work," he writes, "but tell ourselves that the reason we're not working is some perceived unfairness: Obama shut down the coal mines, or all the jobs went to the Chinese." There's <a href=";;sdata=PzbeV9eV%2FMSeMxWlGXLEVGHT%2Bbth9c1%2BQq4ySAkOXG4%3D&amp;reserved=0">plenty to disagree with</a> in Vance's analysis&mdash;his insistence on blaming "welfare queens" for their financial problems, for example. Still, for all of us asking, "What just happened to my country?" <em>Hillbilly Elegy </em>provides some invaluable clues. <em>&mdash;Jeremy Schulman, senior project manager, Climate Desk</em></p></body></html> Media Books Top Stories Sat, 03 Dec 2016 11:00:12 +0000 Mother Jones 320171 at What the Heck Is a Placebo Anyway? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Anton Mesmer, an 18th-century German physician, believed a mysterious force he called "animal magnetism" could be used to cure people. <a href="" target="_blank">Mesmer's theory </a>was that there was invisible fluid in the body that could be controlled by magnetized objects and that disease was a result of "obstacles" to those fluids' flow. To fight the disease, Mesmer used hypnotic procedures on his patients. At times, he would give people water he had "mesmerized" in order to cure them.</p> <p>While Mesmer claimed some success with patients, he had critics. One was Benjamin Franklin, who saw Mesmer's healing techniques for what they were: placebos. In modern medicine, a placebo is a fake medical treatment used to test out the results of real medications. The placebo effect is, essentially, the body's response (in some instances, a very real response) to this fake treatment. In other words, Mesmer's medications weren't scientifically sound, but they may have made patients feel better through the power of suggestion.</p> <p>Award-winning science writer Erik Vance has spent a lot of time thinking about the placebo effect. In his book, <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Suggestible You:</em><span class="a-size-large" id="productTitle"> <em>The Curious Science of Your Brain's Ability to Deceive, Transform, and Heal</em></span></a><em>, </em>Vance explores placebos, hypnosis, and how beliefs influence bodily responses to pain. "Placebos and beliefs generally is so much a part of our lives," he tells Kishore Hari on a recent episode of the <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Inquiring Minds </em>podcast</a>. "It has an amazing power to change our bodies."</p> <p>Vance has a unique perspective on the topic: He was raised in a <a href="" target="_blank">Christian Science</a> household and saw a doctor for the first time when he was 18 years old. "Belief was basically my health care," he says.</p> <p><iframe scrolling="no" src="" style="width: 100%; height: 200px; border: 0 none;"></iframe></p> <p>Today, placebos are used by researchers to test whether drugs are actually effective in treating medical conditions&mdash;that is, whether patients who are taking an experimental medication see better results than patients who just <em>think </em>they are taking one. For some conditions&mdash;<a href="http://science-brain-suggestible-you-erik-vance/" target="_blank">Parkinson's disease, for instance</a>&mdash;placebos can actually be an effective treatment.</p> <p>It's hard to figure out what the precise mechanisms of the placebo effect are and how they work. But as Vance explains, we now know that they often involve real chemicals produced by the body&mdash;real drugs from your "internal pharmacy." Some of these chemicals are used by the brain to make sure that your expectation meets reality.<strong> </strong>When expectation doesn't meet reality, the brain steps in and forces it to fit. Parkinson's is <a href="" target="_blank">caused by a lack of dopamine</a>, a chemical that, among other things, is involved in reward processing in our brains. "Expectation drives placebos," <a href="" target="_blank">Vance explained to <em>National Geographic</em></a>. "And dopamine is a chemical that's very responsive to our expectations.<span itemprop="articleBody"> Parkinson's happens to be a deficiency in the very chemical that's very important in placebo effects and rewards.</span>"</p> <p>But while the mind is powerful, it can't do everything. Vance says there are rules at play. Many serious diseases, such as cancer and Alzheimer's, don't respond well to sugar pills&mdash;patients need actual medicine that has been proven more effective than placebos. "There are some places where the role of the mind to affect the body is profound," says Vance, "and other places where it is not."</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Inquiring Minds</a><em> is a podcast hosted by neuroscientist and musician Indre Viskontas and Kishore Hari, the director of the Bay Area Science Festival. To catch future shows right when they are released, subscribe to Inquiring Minds via<a href="" target="_blank"> iTunes </a>or <a href="" target="_blank">RSS</a>. You can follow the show on Twitter at <a href="" target="_blank">@inquiringshow</a> and like us on <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a>.</em></p></body></html> Environment Interview Podcasts Climate Desk Health Top Stories Inquiring Minds Sat, 03 Dec 2016 11:00:11 +0000 Jennifer Velez 320151 at Pissed Off About Something You See on the Web? Call Out the Person, Not the Organization. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Over at <em>National Review</em>, <a href="" target="_blank">David French writes:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>For a &lsquo;Peaceful&rsquo; Group, Black Lives Matter Sure Does Love Cop Killers and Murderous Dictators</strong></p> <p>I don&rsquo;t know how I missed it, but this sickening essay from Black Lives Matter has to be read to believed. Entitled &ldquo;Lessons from Fidel: Black Lives Matter and the Transition of El Comandante,&rdquo; it begins....</p> </blockquote> <p>I'm not especially trying to pick on French here, but this gives me an excuse to gripe about something that I see too often these days.</p> <p>Let's stipulate that the essay in question is horrible. I don't care one way or the other. What I do care about is that French attributes it to "Black Lives Matter." But that's not the case. It was written by a specific person, not by BLM as some kind of official position statement. It represents them no more than I represent <em>Mother Jones</em>.</p> <p>Still, at least MoJo employs me and has some responsibility for what I write. You can't even say that much about the author of the Castro piece. To the extent that there's an "official" BLM organization, <a href="" target="_blank">it's here.</a> This is the organization founded by Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza. But pretty much anyone can set up shop under the BLM name, and the essay French links to comes from a Medium site called <a href="" target="_blank">@BlackLivesMatterNetwork.</a> It has posted a grand total of three pieces in the last two months. I have no idea who wrote them or who the site is associated with.</p> <p>Condemn the piece all you want. But it's not fair to use it to tar "Black Lives Matter." They aren't responsible for everything that's tossed onto the web under the BLM banner.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> It turns out that the official BLM site shared the Castro essay on its <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook page.</a> So it's fair to call them out for promoting it.</p> <p>My general complaint stands, however. If I write something, it means "Kevin Drum says," not "<em>Mother Jones</em> says." If David French writes something, it means "David French says," not "<em>National Review</em> says." Needless to say, this rule is for personal opinion/analysis pieces. News organizations are corporately responsible for editorial opinions and straight news.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 03 Dec 2016 00:03:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 320611 at Donald Trump Decides to Poke the Chinese Dragon <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The <em>Financial Times</em> reports that Donald Trump spoke on the phone today with Tsai Ying-wen, the president of Taiwan. <a href="" target="_blank">This is a very big deal:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The telephone call, confirmed by three people, <strong>is believed to be the first between a US president or president-elect and a leader of Taiwan since diplomatic <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_china_dragon_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">relations between the two were cut in 1979.</strong></p> <p>Although it is not clear if the Trump transition team intended the conversation to signal a broader change in US policy towards Taiwan, the call is likely to infuriate Beijing which regards the island as a renegade province. &ldquo;<strong>The Chinese leadership will see this as a highly provocative action, of historic proportions,</strong>&rdquo; said Evan Medeiros, former Asia director at the White House national security council.</p> </blockquote> <p>Of course, maybe Trump was just <a href="" target="_blank">calling to ask for a business favor:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The mayor of Taoyuan confirmed rumors on Wednesday that US president-elect Donald Trump was considering constructing a series of luxury hotels and resorts in the northwest Taiwanese city. A representative from the Trump Organization paid a visit to Taoyuan in September....Other reports indicate that Eric Trump, the president-elect's second son and executive vice president of the Trump Organization, will be coming to Taoyuan later this year to discuss the potential business opportunity.</p> </blockquote> <p>Who knows? But foreign policy wonks are blowing a gasket over this, and the question of the hour is: Did Trump set off this diplomatic shitstorm accidentally or deliberately? I have to believe it was deliberate. Even Trump's team isn't so pig-ignorant that they're unaware of our policy toward China and Taiwan.</p> <p>But if that's the case, it means that Trump is dead set on pursuing a hostile policy against China from the get-go. Perhaps, thanks to his decades of steely negotiating victories, he believes the Chinese will eventually back down once they realize they can't mess with him. Perhaps. Welcome to Trumpland.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> It's worth noting that Trump has an odd kind of advantage here. For a little while longer, anyway, he can do this kind of stuff just to see what happens&mdash;and then, if it blows up, he can pretend he wasn't up to speed what with all the staffing work etc. etc. Then he calls someone in China and declares that everything is fine, China is a fantastic place, he has nothing but the highest respect for them, blah blah blah.</p> <p>Will this work? I suppose it might. But not for much longer.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 23:17:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 320606 at Mistrial Appears Likely in Murder Trial of South Carolina Cop Who Killed a Fleeing, Unarmed Suspect <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>It appears likely that Judge&nbsp;Clifton Newman will be compelled to declare a mistrial in the racially charged South Carolina murder trial of former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager, who fatally shot an unarmed man who had fled from an April 2015 traffic stop. Late Friday afternoon, a lone juror sent a letter to the judge saying that he or she could not, in good conscience, vote to convict Slager of murder or manslaughter. The judge sent word asking the jurors to clarify whether that meant they were hopelessly deadlocked. The jurors responded that they were, but the prosecutor requested that the jurors receive further instruction, if need be, and the jurors expressed a willingness to deliberate further. In the meantime, the judge has sent jurors home for the weekend.</p> <p>A viral bystander video showed Slager, who is white, shooting 50-year-old Walter Scott, who is black, multiple times from behind. Posted online soon after the incident, the video thrust the Charleston area into the national debate on race and the use of deadly force by police.</p> <p>What the video didn't show is the preceding tussle during which, Slager testified, Scott had defied his orders and tried to grab the Taser he was deploying. After Scott broke free and ran away, Slager took aim and fired. Slager said he was in a state of "total fear" and believed Scott remained a threat to him, even though he was running away.</p> <p>Earlier on Friday, the jurors told Newman they were deadlocked in their attempt to reach a verdict, and the judge&mdash;who had given them the option of a lesser verdict of <a href="" target="_blank">manslaughter</a>&mdash;sent them back to try again. Over two days of deliberations, the jury twice asked the judge for assistance. They asked for transcripts of Slager's courtroom testimony and that of the officer who interviewed Slager after the shooting. They also asked Newman to clarify the legal distinction between "fear" and "passion." The judge responded that they would have to make that determination themselves.</p> <p>Many observers have taken note of the <a href="" target="_blank">racial imbalance</a> of the jury: six white men, five white women, and one black man. No matter which way it goes, the verdict has to be unanimous. A jury foreman's note that accompanied the letter from the holdout juror noted there was only one juror who "had issues" with convicting the officer.</p> <p>A hung jury would probably be good news for Slager and his defense team. The prosecutor, 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson, would have to decide whether to pursue a new trial and on what charge. She announced in court that she would first want to interview jurors to gather insights before making further decisions on resolving the case. It's also possible Slager could head off a second trial by pleading to a lesser charge in exchange for a short prison stint&mdash;a manslaughter sentence in South Carolina ranges from two to thirty years without parole. But involuntary manslaughter, for instance, carries a maximum sentence of five years.</p> <p><em>This post has been updated.</em></p></body></html> Politics Crime and Justice Fri, 02 Dec 2016 21:43:37 +0000 Brandon Ellington Patterson 320576 at