Thursday, November 30th, 2023


The Bodies Politik

In many ways, Henry Kissinger, who died at 100, acts as a litmus test for the way people, from academics to journalists to politicians, view America and its role in the world. Many leaders lauded Kissinger and invited him to chime in on international matters right up until the end of his life. Others viewed him as a war criminal who held a dignified position in American politics only because something is deeply broken in our system. David E. Sanger in the NYT (Gift Article): Henry Kissinger Is Dead at 100; Shaped the Nation's Cold War History. "Few diplomats have been both celebrated and reviled with such passion as Mr. Kissinger. Considered the most powerful secretary of state in the post-World War II era, he was by turns hailed as an ultrarealist who reshaped diplomacy to reflect American interests and denounced as having abandoned American values, particularly in the arena of human rights, if he thought it served the nation's purposes."

+ "When Kissinger entered government as Richard Nixon's national security adviser, he espoused a narrow perspective of the national interest, known as 'realpolitik,' primarily centered on maximizing the economic and military power of the United States. This power- and transactionalist-oriented approach to foreign policy produced a series of destructive outcomes. They ranged from fomenting coups that put in place murderous dictatorships, as in Chile, to killing unarmed civilians, as in Cambodia, and alienating potential allies, as in India." The Conversation: A tortured and deadly legacy: Kissinger and realpolitik in US foreign policy.

+ Vox: What Henry Kissinger wrought. "One of America's most important statesmen gave the world a series of diplomatic breakthroughs, and hundreds of thousands of bodies."

+ Spencer Ackerman was not a fan. Rolling Stone: Henry Kissinger, War Criminal Beloved by America's Ruling Class, Finally Dies.

+ If you want to go deeper, you can always check out Christopher Hitchens' The Trial of Henry Kissinger.

+ Whatever your view, Kissinger was very powerful for a very long time. And he definitely got around. Henry Kissinger: a life in pictures.


Dictator Tot

I don't feel like covering this topic anymore, and I'm quite sure you don't feel like reading about it. But, the sad fact is that it's the most important story in America, and maybe, by extension, the world. "The magical-thinking phase is ending. Barring some miracle, Trump will soon be the presumptive Republican nominee for president. When that happens, there will be a swift and dramatic shift in the political power dynamic, in his favor." In WaPo (Gift Article), Robert Kagan makes a case that is increasingly hard to argue with. A Trump dictatorship is increasingly inevitable. We should stop pretending."The odds of the United States falling into dictatorship have grown considerably because so many of the obstacles to it have been cleared and only a few are left. If eight years ago it seemed literally inconceivable that a man like Trump could be elected, that obstacle was cleared in 2016. If it then seemed unimaginable that an American president would try to remain in office after losing an election, that obstacle was cleared in 2020. And if no one could believe that Trump, having tried and failed to invalidate the election and stop the counting of electoral college votes, would nevertheless reemerge as the unchallenged leader of the Republican Party and its nominee again in 2024, well, we are about to see that obstacle cleared as well. In just a few years, we have gone from being relatively secure in our democracy to being a few short steps, and a matter of months, away from the possibility of dictatorship."


Lock, Stockholm, and Two Smoking Barrels

"Sweden is in the grip of a rise in gang violence and shootings that has taken citizens and leaders by surprise. In the words of the prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, this year: 'Sweden has never before seen anything like this. No other country in Europe is seeing anything like this.'" The trend is related to poverty, the economic divide, and immigration patterns. You can guess which of those will garner the most political attention. How gang violence took hold of Sweden – in five charts.


Don’t Blame the Messenger?

When she was offered an advertising gig for FTX, Taylor Swift famously asked, "Can you tell me that these are not unregistered securities?" She didn't like the answer, so she passed on the opportunity. Many celebrities didn't ask questions about crypto and took the commercial dough. Can you blame them? Legally, probably not. But that's not stopping a lot of people from trying. What do Cristiano Ronaldo, Gisele Bündchen, and Larry David have in common? Lawsuits for endorsing crypto.


Extra, Extra

Can the Truce Hold? "Some of the hostages were held in sweltering tunnels deep beneath Gaza, while others were squeezed into tight quarters with strangers or confined in isolation. There were children forced to appear in hostage videos, and others forced to watch gruesome footage of Hamas's Oct. 7 terrorist attack. They bore physical and psychological wounds." NYT (Gift Article): Hostages Freed From Gaza Recount Violence, Hunger and Fear. For now, the truce has been extended. One scary thing that might prevent it from holding: Hamas may not be able to find enough hostages to trade. How the truce between Israel and Hamas was extended another day – and why it could end soon. Meanwhile, Blinken is back in the region where he's pushing two messages to Israel: Be much more careful in your operations and you don't have months left to get this done. Here's the latest from CNN, BBC, and Times of Israel.

+ Taking Candy From Babies: "In the blistering heat, CBS News found children in Ghana as young as 5 years old using machetes nearly as big as themselves to harvest the cocoa beans that end up in some of America's most-loved chocolates. Our team traveled across Ghana's remote cocoa belt to visit small subsistence farms that supply the U.S. chocolate giant Mars, which produces candies including M&Ms and Snickers."

+ Scoreboard Watching: "The 2022 rise was mainly due to the waning pandemic, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers said Wednesday. But even with the large increase, U.S. life expectancy is only back to 77 years, 6 months — about what it was two decades ago." At this point, any positive movement is good news. US life expectancy rose last year.

+ Get the Lead Out: "It is the strongest overhaul of lead rules in more than three decades, and will cost billions of dollars. Pulling it off will require overcoming enormous practical and financial obstacles." Biden administration proposes strictest lead pipe rules in more than three decades.

+ The Gag is on Us: "A New York appellate court has reinstated a gag order prohibiting former President Donald Trump and attorneys from making public statements about the courtroom staff in the ongoing $250 million civil fraud trial." It takes multiple courts multiple weeks for a narrow gag order. Gag me with a spoon.

+ Temporary Storage: "Forty miles east of downtown Los Angeles, deep in endless suburban sprawl, is a storage facility that at first glance looks entirely unremarkable. A motorized gate, tall, metal fences and video surveillance cameras protect dozens of padlocked storage units. You'd never guess that the NFL's best rookie lived here for three years when he was in high school. You'd never guess that C.J. Stroud used to open the gate for customers who needed access after-hours. You'd never guess that some of college football's best known coaches passed through the doors of the Strouds' cramped, two-bedroom apartment behind the property manager's office. 'Bet you've never recruited at a storage facility before,' Kimberly Stroud used to tell them, half amused, half embarrassed." C.J. Stroud's path to stardom was anything but smooth.


Bottom of the News

Can a comfort food like Mac and Cheese provide comfort without any cheese at all? Kraft is about to find out. Kraft's newest Mac & Cheese is ditching cheese. This is an important step for vegans who want to right to eat as unhealthily as everyone else.