Monday Reads

  • The Mueller Report delivers the death blow to the reputation of American MSM news media, argues Matt Taibi (who is not known as a partisan of Trumpland):
    • There was never real gray area here. Either Trump is a compromised foreign agent, or he isn’t. If he isn’t, news outlets once again swallowed a massive disinformation campaign, only this error is many orders of magnitude more stupid than any in the recent past, WMD included.

    • We’re at that next devolution: first and wrong. The Russiagate era has so degraded journalism that even once “reputable” outlets are now only about as right as politicians, which is to say barely ever, and then only by accident.

    • As a purely journalistic failure, however, WMD was a pimple compared to Russiagate. The sheer scale of the errors and exaggerations this time around dwarfs the last mess. Worse, it’s led to most journalists accepting a radical change in mission. We’ve become sides-choosers, obliterating the concept of the press as an independent institution whose primary role is sorting fact and fiction.

  • What Donald Trump’s epic cheating on the golf course reveals about the man: “This is a man who famously drives his golf cart on greens. There is video of him doing it at Trump Bedminster. In golf, that’s the unholiest-of-unholies. Driving your cart on the green is like hanging your laundry in the Sistine Chapel.” Extract from Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump by Rick Reilly.
  • Ed Luce on the God that failed the Democrats: “Liberals, on the other hand, are like a child who has discovered Santa Claus does not exist. Enormous faith was invested in Mr Mueller’s report as a magic bullet to solve the Trump problem. By the same token, an outsized role was conferred on Vladimir Putin as the evil genius who robbed Hillary Clinton of the presidency.”
  • Yanis Varoufakis on stagnant capitalism – he may be correct that capitalism has stagnated, but his alternative sounds more vague than convincing: “But capitalism has only one natural tendency: stagnation. Like all tendencies, it is possible to overcome by means of stimuli. One is exuberant financialization, which produces tremendous medium-term growth at the expense of long-term heartache. The other is the more sustainable tonic injected and managed by a surplus-recycling political mechanism, such as during the WWII-era economy or its postwar extension, the Bretton Woods system. But at a time when politics is as broken as financialization, the world has never needed a post-capitalist vision more. Perhaps the greatest contribution of the automation that currently adds to our stagnation woes will be to inspire such a vision.”

Saturday Reads

  • Richard Spencer reviewing the Sana’a, Yemen-based Tim Mackintosh-Smith’s Arabs — A 3,000-Year History of Peoples, Tribes and Empires in The Times (of London): “The word ‘politics’ derives from the Greek ‘polis’, a city, and represents a collective endeavour; siyasah, the standard Arabic translation, derives from a term for the training of camels and horses.”
  • “The glum philosopher star of Danish noir” — James Marriot reviewing Clare Carlisle’s new Søren Kierkegaard biography in The Times (of London).
  • The FT on Big Tech waking up to the market potential of video games and Google’s launch of its cloud gaming platform, Stadia, while Reed Hatings worries about Netflix being disrupted by Fortnite. Does the race to be the “Netflix for gaming” mean the death of the console is finally coming?
  • Solvitur ambulando — always golden nuggets to be found in the FT readers’ letters.
  • Tim Harford on the suicide of economist / happiness expert Alan Krueger. The Economist on Krueger’s research debunking the “myth” that increases in the minimum wage must necessarily lead to lower employment.
  • Wolfgang Schäuble lunching with the FT, reflecting on the assassination attempt he barely survived as Interior Minister a few days after reunification in 1990: “there’s a bang and everything changes” — implicitly drawing a chilling parallel to the 2015 decision to open Germany’s borders; “We failed to prevent [“Wir schaffen das”] being misunderstood throughout the world as a great business opportunity for human traffickers.” 
  • Semi-woke(?) science commentator Anjana Ahuja (is this a trend with the FT’s external reviewers?) not fully convinced by short new book on the Four Horsemen of New Atheism, summarising the quartet’s one and only meeting at Hitchens’ Washington apartment in 2007.
  • Jordan Peterson responding to Cambridge’s rescindment of Visiting Fellowship offer. Cambridge dropout Toby Young in The Spectator on the same.
  • Excerpt from Matt Taibi’s new book Hate Inc. on how most MSM commentators bought and promoted the Iraqi WMD narrative and has since “piled myths atop myths” to evade any responsibility for “selling the lie”.  Perhaps Taibi is a bit on the conspiratorial side, but it is certainly interesting how many of the journos who were so wrong on Iraq, from Tom Friedman and Max Boot to David Frum and Robert Kagan are still considered foreign policy Experts.
  • Buttonwood on the irrelevance of book value.