I read this stuff about Mohammed bin Salman and all I can think about is Nicolas II of Russia. It’s difficult to know if the internal turmoil of Saudi Arabia is as intense as the internal turmoil of Imperial Russia in the mid-1890s because of how closed off it is, but MbS is exactly the same sort of man as old Nicky: pathologically aggressive, both abroad and with domestic forces; spoiled and inexperienced; ignorant and image-obsessed. Neither had any clue of what they were actually about and no objective other than expanding their own power. Not that he’s that good at burnishing his image: he’s making threats to Canada (Canada!) that he can’t even back up, which just makes him look weak. The model here resembles less the lamentable but effective aggressive statecraft of older Russian Tsars or Napoleon (or Hitler, if we want to go there), and more the overcooked obsession with appearing tough that possessed Nicolas to enter his two disastrous wars of choice, one of which nearly killed off his empire and the other that actually did. Admittedly, Nicolas didn’t have access to modern-day influence techniques: there were no American domestic think tanks for him to fund in exchange for lavish profiles from the “foreign policy community” of his time. The community did not then exist (and yet, somehow, the republic survived). Then again, Russia then didn’t want as much from the United States as Saudi Arabia does now.

Perhaps I go too far with the think tank crack. Put it another way. On some level, pretty much everybody in D.C. knows that the Saudi regime is bad. Worst in the Middle East, in the running for worst in the world. But dealing with the Saudis makes a lot of Americans a lot of money, and the people making that money don’t want to see themselves as making a deal with the devil, nor do their friends want to see them that way. Hence, MbS is a moderniser and a stabilizing agent,?ad infinitum. Thing is, that fantasy is going to become harder and harder to accept given that the man is clearly unstable and overreaching. And unlike every other ruler of Saudi Arabia in recent times, MbS is a young man who will presumptively rule for decades. I have a hard time believing that he will–between Yemen, Qatar, Lebanon and the spat with Canada, he doesn’t exactly seem good at this.

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I’m talking threats to any future party fundraising support for any senator who votes aye, I’m talking a full-court press on the Senate floor and in the press, I’m talking an absolute tsunami of pressure on blue state Democrats that doesn’t let up. Perhaps even actually attacking Sue Collins as the party hack that she is and finding a real opponent for her, though perhaps that’s just too much to expect. Surely going easy on her will yield success, as it always has. It’s true enough that politics is all about caution but you can’t keep your powder dry forever. This is where you light it up. If they actually do just sort of shrug then there really is nothing to be done except to absolutely tear down the party structure and start anew. Whether they win or not, this is where you fight like real lives depend upon it, because they do. Taking a pass on Kavanaugh because you feel you can’t win (any certainty with such narrow vote margins is foolish) wouldn’t be pragmatism, it would be stupidity. People are paying attention. What’s bigger than this?

We’ll see how it goes. Who knows if this is accurate but it’s certainly possible. Certainly if you believe you can’t do it then you’ll find out that you’re right. And my regard for the fighting aptitude of Chuck Schumer isn’t all that great. I’d love to be proven wrong.

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It’s 1980. Your favorite band, The Clash, just put out their masterpiece last year,?London Calling. It would be a tremendous achievement alone simply for being a double-album that was free of useless bloat–something The motherfucking Beatles couldn’t even manage to do–but not only that, the songs on it were legendary. The title track, then “Brand New Cadillac.” “Clampdown.” “Lost In The Supermarket.” And, of course, “Train In Vain.” Some of their best work, spanning all sorts of genres, and not a bum track on it. (Well, between you and me, “Revolution Rock” maybe goes on a bit too long, but let’s not quibble.) The excitement is palpable. What would be their next move? You count down the days until it’s out. And then that day is today. And of course you buy it,?Sandinista!, in all its three-LP glory. You play the first song. And…it’s this:

Sandinista! is a legendary fiasco of an album. The truth is, much of it is good. And, admittedly, some parts are not good. Aside from “Version City,” that last side is pretty much useless. Among other things, it’s not terribly well sequenced. And perhaps the strangest choice of all was that “The Magnificent Seven” was the leadoff track. Well, maybe strange, but not mysterious. The Clash were into hip-hop in its earliest stages. They toured with Grandmaster Flash (who got booed at their shows) and decided to go ahead and make a hip-hop track of their own. It’s not entirely a disaster, Strummer’s flow is okay, and the beat works great. It’s the lyrics that confound. For a band that presented itself as a very serious band that very much believed it was making meaningful music with a purpose and a message, this is kind of hard to square:

Gimme Honda, gimme Sony
So cheap and real phony
Hong Kong dollar, Indian cents
English pounds and Eskimo pence

More trenchant statements on capitalism, there have been. But Strummer’s rap persona perhaps doesn’t realize that it’s sending up Strummer’s rock persona. This is kind of like a joke really. So cheap and real phony? I guess the advertising is what makes them phony and their goods are worthless? Maybe? The second bit I don’t even get. Money from all over the world? In inaccurate denominations? Honestly, this would be fine as a Nirvana lyric, but Nirvana always had cynicism that pop songs could really make a difference. Here we are now, entertain us, remember that? As a goof on vainglorious pop it would work. But there is, unfortunately, no joke here. It just goes on like this, getting dumber as it goes, which the song sort of acknowledges with the “Italian mobster shoots a lobster” part. But what’s even the point here? Bugger if I know. Strummer hits a lot of his usual sorts of themes but the effect is self-parodic. It doesn’t exactly welcome you in.

All that said, I kind of love it. It’s easily the dumbest Clash song, but it is energetic. The beat isn’t bad. It’s kind of a lark to me, that time when the greatest punk rock band ever essentially did a MC Hammer song. Perhaps I’m just in the tank for the band.

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Don’t send any money to the DSCC. It might be spent to save this useless hump:

So far, national Democratic Party groups have not contributed to Mr. Menendez’s efforts, though that may change. Mr. Menendez said he might get help from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which he once led. The New Jersey Democratic State Committee is raising funds for Mr. Menendez, a move that underscores that the race is becoming more contested than expected.

Mr. Menendez is also starting to get support from outside groups. Patients for Affordable Drugs Action, a super PAC run by David Mitchell, a cancer patient and communications consultant, is?putting $1.5 million?into a new ad criticizing Mr. Hugin’s former company, Celgene, for raising the price of cancer drugs.

“Making us support Hillary Clinton is blackmail!” actually wasn’t. This, though…

Admittedly, you could make an argument that the fight against Trumpian fascism?necessitates supporting this loathsome man. And it’s not wrong! Having a 95% Trump senator from New Jersey would be really, really bad. But Jesus Christ, the Democratic Party could wind up losing us a senate seat in New Jersey! And all to save an ideologically terrible and obviously corrupt hack. I didn’t have a problem sending Al Franken packing (still don’t!), but I wonder if he’d still be around if he’d headed the DSCC before they found out he was a pervert. Truly I do. If there’s any other reason beside heading the DSCC (wildly incompetently, no less!) that Menendez survived his mistrial none the worse for wear, I don’t know what it is. Admittedly, the Democratic Party is a money machine now and the people who raise the money are the people who command it. That’s how it’s been since Bill Clinton. And it’s still revolting. If Menendez doesn’t lose his job, the people who let him keep it should.

Also, Cory Booker has disqualified himself from my 2020 primary support, less from his neoliberalism and more from his association with this creep.

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Surely this sort of thing is better suited to fucking NextDoor posts than major media publications, right? And yet…

Oh, incidentally, nobody seems to be writing about how Sen. Michael Bennet’s career is totally over. But it’s true. Maybe it gets salvaged if Kavanaugh is somehow stopped. But Bennet voted for Gorsuch, apparently for the sole, stupid reason that they’re from the same state. I am not fucking kidding.?Not all that different from “Brett Kavanaugh is a good babysitter” in the final analysis, though actually it’s worse because at least “I know his character personally” is more relevant than “we grew up in the same square on the map.” What a complete and total idiot. No wonder his brother is the?New York Times doofus who thought that Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss were essential voices to hear. Now, to be sure, voting for Gorsuch or Kavanaugh isn’t going to hurt a Joe Manchin in an ultra-red state like West Virginia. But Bennet represents Colorado. Voting for one of the two Trump SCOTUS picks that savaged?Roe is going to kill him in a Democratic primary, if he even bothers. Unfortunately that’s going to be in 2022, but it doesn’t matter. He’s already finished.

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My suspicion for some time has been that Nicolas Maduro has rigged the entire system in Venezuela because he knows that the only way he leaves the presidency is by his own death. What, would he retire to the countryside after plunging the country into such an abyss, economic ruin and the destruction of civil society? I doubt it. Would he leave? Where would he go? Which country would even take him? Cuba? Much as they might like to troll the Americans, taking him would piss off a lot of other Latin American countries too, like all the ones that booted Venezuela from the Mercosur trade area. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. He’s crossed too many lines for there ever to be a peaceful transition where he becomes a private citizen again, and he probably has no interest in doing so anyway. So this sort of confirms it all for me. I don’t give a rip about Maduro. The unfortunate thing is that what follows him is going to be right-wingers who are going to pledge to reinstate “law and order” and who will be all too happy to follow in his anti-democratic footsteps.

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A lot of people would ask him some variation on Jake Gittes’s?Chinatown question, you know, how much better can you eat, what can you buy that you couldn’t already afford? But it seems pretty clear now that the self-interested ideology wasn’t even half of it. The upshot of this is that Charles Koch wanted not to be the kingmaker of the GOP, he wanted to be its actual king. He wanted to be able to dictate its candidates, its ideas, its strategy, its tactics, and so on. And if we’re being honest, he came pretty close to it for a while there. During the Obama years he managed to control quite a lot of those things. But there was no formal head of the GOP back then, and the idea that he could get ever the kind of control that he seems to have been determined to achieve was just never going to happen. Koch is merely a rich guy, one among many in the Republican Party. He made donations to lots of people and groups and conservatives defended him because he was on their side and liberals attacked him and brother David a lot. But they just knew the name. I bet the percentage of Republicans who could actually identify a photo of him was no more than 30% at his peak. Admittedly the Koch brothers (back before it was just Chuck) shied away from publicity but this is why he was never going to be the king. The only power center that really matters in Republicanland is the media and Trump owns it. He actually can impose candidates and ideas onto the GOP because he owns it. What’s more, he didn’t have to spend hardly anything to do it. He changed parties and then just parachuted in one day and got the crown. Koch can fund all the Randist think tanks he wishes to, which admittedly have had many deleterious effects on our society, but they were never going to get him what he wanted. He was never going to win a contest of wills with Trump and frankly, for all the image of him in?Dark Money as a detached, analytical man, it shows a massive amount of delusion on his part to think that he could try. Did he really not understand his own party? And now FOX News is attacking him. Shame he alienated all his siblings and wasted his life but, you know. Fuck him.

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Being hated by (some) Democratic megadonors is a badge of honor. Gillibrand 2020! It makes me even more inclined to support her, perhaps even to donate a large sum to her campaign should she run to make up for these weasels. I gave a grand total of zero dollars for the 2016 presidential race and focused instead on downballot races, for all the good it did. If Gillibrand does run I’ll give as much as I can, and make what sacrifices I must to make it happen. After all, the most irritating people in the Democratic Party–snooty rich donors and quasi-liberal bros–despise her, which is a good sign. Also, it is pretty amazing just how poorly these people come off, just in their own words. I’m not a socialist (at least not in the dialectical materialist sense–in the Bernie Sanders world where democratic socialism = being a FDR Democrat, then we all are I suppose) but reading stuff like this is very much a reminder that there is a class war that is not the same thing as the partisan divide, and that just being on team D doesn’t necessarily put one on the right side of it. “Welcome to the resistance” is a joke, and this is why.

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