progress

A Moment from the World Today

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe during a meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma, at the Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria, South Africa, 3 October 2017.  (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe/File)

The headline from Associated Press is itself something of a wonder to behold: “WHO chief now ‘rethinking’ Mugabe ‘goodwill ambassador’ post”. The detail, then, is about what we might expect.

After widespread shock and condemnation, the head of the World Health Organization said Saturday he is “rethinking” his appointment of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe as a “goodwill ambassador.”

In a new tweet, WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus said that “I’m listening. I hear your concerns. Rethinking the approach in light of WHO values. I will issue a statement as soon as possible.”

As condemnation poured in from around the world, well, yes, it would seem the decision needed rethinking. Still, we should remember that there is in fact something of an international custom of reaching out to pariah states by giving them seemingly absurd chairs on important panels and committees in the international discourse. Perhaps the time for this, as with many other nod and wink accommodations of bad behavior, has come to an end. If so, call it progress.

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Image note: Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe during a meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma, at the Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria, South Africa, 3 October 2017. (Themba Hadebe/AP Photo)

Associated Press. “WHO chief now ‘rethinking’ Mugabe ‘goodwill ambassador’ post”. 21 October 2017.

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The Donald Trump Show (American Distress)

Detail of image via Trump campaign.

“Yes, Antonin Scalia’s passing meant the Supreme Court was down one justice, but it doesn’t take a mathematician to know 3 + 1 does not equal 5.”

Steve Benen

The thing about politics right now is that everything is really, really depressing. I’m deathly sick of Donald Trump, yet the question persists: How did this happen?

Nor do I mean that in any context suggesting plaintive puzzlement. We all have a reasonable idea how the abdication of civic leadership in the context of public service struck the Republican Party so low after decades of pandering to ill-educated bigotry.

Donald Trump saying something stupid really shouldn’t be headline news. It shouldn’t be anything unusual. It shouldn’t be anything the rest of us have any reason to give a damn about. Then again, just how the hell did Republicans find themselves with Donald Trump as their presidential nominee apparent?

Oh, right.

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Something About Progress (Something About Pride)

Detail of photo by Carlos Barria/AP Photo

This seems important:

A Russian ship left Iran on Monday carrying almost all of Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium, fulfilling a major step in the nuclear deal struck last summer and, for the first time in nearly a decade, apparently leaving Iran with too little fuel to manufacture a nuclear weapon.

(Sanger and Kramer)

This is what the #GOP47 wanted to prevent.

You know. Just something to keep in mind.

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Image note: P5+1 negotiating partners gathered in the United Nations Office at Vienna, Austria, 14 July 2015. (Detail of photo by Carlos Barria/AP Photo)

Sanger, David E. and Andrew E. Kramer. “Iran Hands Over Stockpile of Enriched Uranium to Russia”. The New York Times. 28 December 2015.

Oklahoma Governance

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R), in May 2015. (image: KFOR)

There are days, you know, when it is really easy to pick on an idea. Take Oklahoma for instance. Last week we learned about the strangeness of Oklahoma virtue, and then a spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin (R) found himself blaming Texas for protests in Durant and Oklahoma City demonstrating support for the Confederacy as President Obama arrived.

Talk about a trifecta; this also happened:

Gov. Mary Fallin (R) and the GOP-led legislature announced they’re prepared to ignore the state Supreme Court, at least for now, while they consider new solutions.​

The Republican governor talked to reporters, saying roughly what you’d expect her to say: she’s “disappointed” with the court’s decision; she thinks they made the wrong call; etc. But as KFOR, the NBC affiliate in Oklahoma City, reported, Fallin added one related thought that wasn’t expected at all:​

Gov. Fallin said she believes the final decision on the monument’s fate should rest with the people.​

“You know, there are three branches of our government. You have the Supreme Court, the legislative branch and the people, the people and their ability to vote. So I’m hoping that we can address this issue in the legislative session and let the people of Oklahoma decide,” she said.​

The KFOR report added, “Despite what the governor said, the three branches of government include the legislative, executive and judicial branches” ....​

.... We can certainly hope that Fallin, a former multi-term member of Congress, knows what the three branches of government are. Indeed, in Oklahoma, she’s the head of one of them – the one she left out this week.​

(Benen)

This is actually one of the big differences. Look, Democrats might well be just as middling, mincing, and incompetent as they seem, but, to the one, to the one, it’s nothing comparable to this, and, to the other, ritual equivocation would only obscure important considerations.

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Hope, Obscure, Refusing to Die

Detail of 'Animal Nuz #228' by Eric Lewis, 6 December 2014, via Daily Kos Comics.Sometimes amid the noise and bluster we might feel an angry impulse toward something that seems almost absurd by comparison. Yet it also seems inevitable that there is a lesson waiting to be learned. Eric Lewis reminds us of something very, very important that happened this week; the United States is moving back toward its very own manned space program.

But no. We can’t possibly pause to celebrate that, can we? Because we’re all too busy giving attention-hungry cops exactly the sort of sycophantic celebrity they’re after.

It is worth noting that controversial professor Leonard Jeffries used to denounce the space program as an effort by white people to spread their filth across the Universe. It’s only about a quarter-century later, and perhaps the most disgraceful thing about that rhetorical temper tantrum is the effort American society has devoted to proving it true.

Space exploration is something to be celebrated; getting the hell off its rock is one of the fundamental purposes of the living endeavor. This arrangement of matter and energy can last as long as the Universe itself allows, unless Life destroys itself first. Yet Lewis makes an important point: When the time comes, can we please leave the racism behind?

Everybody wins that way; the human endeavor can properly advance, and the hatemongers can finally start feeling like they’ve got a place to call home. And when they look around at the wreck of whatever is left, they can celebrate that they finally got what they wanted, the whole trash heap of human existence on planet Earth all to themselves.

Evolution is supposed to coincide with progress. Oh, you romantic American rebels, you.