Bernie Sanders and democracy get screwed in Nevada

There’s no way to lash out in fear that conveys strength


The only reason this stands out is because we thought we got rid of party bosses. Apparently we didn’t, we just thought we did. It’s a quirk of unfinished business.

I get that democracy is dangerous. It leads to all kinds of unfortunate outcomes – Hamas winning in Gaza, or the Muslim Brotherhood winning in Egypt. Of course, bombs and coups can make up the difference in foreign lands. Here, it need not be so violent: pretending to follow rules is as good as following rules so long as you’re in charge.

What’s kind of gross about this is that Hillary is going to win the nomination, with or without superdelegates. This doesn’t need to happen. It did because a threat to power, a belief that control isn’t a given, that the mob may have a voice, are so dangerous that they should be quashed on sight. This is bigger than the count, and the very real fact that Hillary will win on the merit of her popularity among state Democratic nominations. This is the system showing itself out of fear, because it cannot tolerate dissent.

Hillary will win on her own appeal to the people. That’s fine. It’s not how I’d like it to go, but it’s how it is. But this is something different; it’s how the acceptable and unacceptable ideas are filtered by the aristocracy. This is how the deeper game goes, and it’s showing its seams out of fear.

If the GOP could’ve pulled this off, it would’ve. Instead it wrote about #NeverTrump for nine months and then followed up with what will be #AnyoneButHillary. The Democratic machine, too, could’ve learned to deal with a counterinsurgent campaign, but the limited candidate field created conditions for Hillary’s victory. There’s been an active effort in America from the major parties to shut down major constituencies within the parties, and its a telling battle.

Occupy Baghdad is Democracy on Hard Mode

These folks can’t just go back to getting their film theory degrees from Swarthmore when this is over.

Muqtada al-Sadr is a Shi’ite cleric in Baghdad, and a generally popular leader there. He’s been active and saying provocative things for a decade: how post-war looting was okay so long as you tithed to his religious movement, how the US needed to get out of Iraq, and how Iraq needed to run its own business. Oh. I should also mention his massive armed militia and how he’s been in and out of Iran, organizing folks, calling for jihad on the American occupation, getting his militia to call up and stand down as needed in order to massage events within Iraq, and generally being the most important figure in Iraq that doesn’t hold official office.

665003303001_4873386662001_vs-57265a53e4b0bc854365986d-782203293001He had announced he was stepping out of politics in 2014, but recently marched his way into Iraq’s Green Zone in order to call for the end of the existing government structure in Iraq. The Green Zone is basically an old-school imperial structure, a $1B fortress within Baghdad that the coalition forces kept dumping money into until they decided it was safe. It’s now used by the Iraqis and whoever has an embassy out there.

Well, Sadr – here’s another interesting aside, the attendees at Saddam Hussein’s hanging execution chanted “Muqtada! Muqtada! Muqtada!” at Hussein’s death because the guy really is that popular – when he entered the Green Zone, the local Iraqi army general greeted him with a few kisses and a chair. Sadr showed up, gave some speeches about corruption, and everyone decided to camp out and occupy the Green Zone.

They were Occupying because corruption in Iraq (along with most every other Middle Eastern country) is endemic, and the current prime minister Haider Jawad Kadhim Al-Abadi has been totally unsuccessful in de-corrupting the current governmental structure, largely because the only way the US could create a stable government in Iraq was to basically bake in the corruption beforehand by giving every major ethnic group a bounty and telling the co-opted leaders of each group to run that bounty. Now, that really was probably the only way they could’ve done it and “baking in corruption” wasn’t the primary purpose, but it sure as hell was a second-order effect that was necessary. Patronage is a thing and if you don’t have money and titles to dole out then F your democracy is basically how things go out there.

So, Sadr is out there telling the leadership to start listening to Abadi. And if they don’t, well… they’re chanting “Peaceful” from the walls of the Green Zone but I bet those voices don’t carry too far past the blast walls.

And now, they’ve moved into the Parliament building. There are real stakes here, and the country is once again teetering toward collapse. It hasn’t fallen yet, and maybe never will – just going on like a shambling zombie.

Iraq has been torn apart by its ongoing sectarian crisis. The Kurds are ready to bolt. The Shi’ite masses are tired of being pushed around by corrupt officials. The Sunnis are tired of getting shot at and burned out by the Iraqi army and Shi’ite militias’ purposefully over-eager and trigger-happy pursuit of ISIL.

Keep this place in mind the next time someone in Washington tells you that we need to liberate somewhere, because you know what? Iraq is still more functional than Libya.

UPDATE: I beat the Atlantic by a day! Also the author is also a better writer than me. 🙂

Mexico and Echoes of the Past

Mexico’s current troubles are also their old troubles

A recent New York Times article lays out the facts from Mexico’s investigation into the deaths of 43 disappeared students from Sept 2014. It belies a place where law has little meaning: the students hijack multiple buses, and the local police open fire on them. Multiple one-sided gun battles erupt. Innocents are targeted and shot. Survivors are hunted, and shot; in one case, beaten to death. Two years later, a report. I do not expect much to come of any of it.

Student insurgents, 1968

Mexico has long had troubles with their indigenous population and low-level insurgencies, with corruption and local power brokers delegitimizing the state, and with assassinations and oppression. The modern drug gangs are only echoes of this tumultuous past of failed federal governance, the newest iteration of an old problem… and also its most successful and powerful. Whereas previous revolutions might have turned parts of Chiapas into an anarchic collective or persuaded students they could change the world before being smashed and sending everyone else home, the drug gangs have managed to pervade most of Mexico and transform the entire nation at a very high level into a state only in the sense that it can exercise power against the relatively powerless, with every other major entity co-opted along the way.


Zapata’s revolutionary army on the march, sometime between 1910-1920

This very long-running battle within Mexico between government and governing has, for the next decade or more, been finally sundered. Forty-three aggressive activist kids were murdered by police in cahoots with drug gangs with a follow-on coverup that must inevitably go higher than wherever this one investigation is going to end.