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Newsletter 7-23-2021

Colin Powers
Colin Powers

Hi everyone. Thanks for subscribing. If you have the means, please consider becoming a paying member. If you have the inclination, please pass this newsletter around to others who might enjoy the read. Now onto this week's edition of No Craic, Mad Craic, and Great Craic.

No Craic

(1) Though of course already devastating in effect in so many different ways, the consequences of global vaccine production and distribution systems have grown even more pronounced due to the emergence and spread of the Delta variant. Even those countries that had hitherto (remarkably) managed to control contagion within their populations through well-measured public policies, like Vietnam, are now finding their defenses wholly compromised.  

The ways the coronavirus has been allowed to exploit inequalities both within and between countries is truly tragic and unforgivable.

(2) Raymond Kluender, Neale Mahoney, and Francis Wong recently published a study on medical debt in the United States. Based on survey data collected in June 2020, they produced the following notable findings:

(i) 17.8% Americans hold medical debts. Poor folks and those in the south of the country are disproportionately likely to count amongst this number.

(ii) States that expanded Medicaid in 2014 experienced a decline in the mean flow of medical debt of 34%.

(iii) Outstanding medical debts are equivalent, at minimum, to $140 billion. (This figure is the sum only of those debts that were being pursued by collection agencies at the time the research was conducted).

(3) As the west of the United States was engulfed in fires, floods ravaged places near and far, and millions continued to struggle to pay for rent and food, Jeff Bezos went to space on a shuttle that looked a great deal like a penis. To mark the occasion, White House Press Secretary/aspiring hype woman Jen Psaki pointed to Blue Origin's achievement as a sign of our collective well-being and vibrancy. She summed up Bezos' time floating up in the heavens like this:

This is a moment of American exceptionalism. That’s how we see it. It will be the ingenuity of all our commercial partners to help us continue advancing to the next stage of our nation’s space exploration. Investments in space create jobs, [they] can improve life here on earth through climate monitoring and medical advancements just to name a few.  

Indeed, the space industry is famously labor intensive, and deficiencies in climate monitoring are surely at the root of the laughably poor responses to our imminent demise that her boss and his predecessors have generated.

(4) The Pegasus Project, the fruit of a collaborative journalistic effort, has revealed the extent to which Israel's NSO Group has equipped vile regime's around the world with harrowing surveillance powers.

The Project has also documented some of the persons that have been targeted by those outfitted by NSO. The list predictably includes domestic dissidents, rival politicians, adversarial journalists and researchers, and even individuals with which regime's appeared to have cordial relations.

Gross as the NSO Group is in and of itself, one ought resist viewing them as some rogue or sinister actor. In reality, they more closely resemble an important though subordinate contractor within a larger division of (imperial) labor. Certainly, NSO has profited from marketing and commercializing particular technologies. That statement ought not imply, however, that those technologies are theirs in a more fundamental sense. After all, the wares they sell are ultimately the windfall of financing sourced from American military aid and labor hours put in by Israeli intelligence units. All parties are aware of this, and they all benefit from NSO's entrepreneurial successes in their own ways.      

Mad Craic

(5) Speaking of Israelis, freshly sworn-in President Isaac Herzog more or less accused Vermont ice cream-manufacturer Ben and Jerry's of conducting ongoing acts of terrorism on Wednesday.

The reason?

Ben and Jerry's has decided to cease selling its product within territories illegally occupied by Israel--namely, the settlements of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Great Craic

(6) Adam Tooze has penned a typically insightful piece on China. Going back through (fairly recent) times, he sketches the social, economic and political changes that have set the country's trajectory from within, as well as the west's persistent inability to reckon with China's place in the world.

Certainly worth a read should you be less familiar with these historical developments or their unambiguous salience to our shared future on this planet.    

(7) Tom Barrack, long-time financier of the Republican Party, chairman of Trump's inaugural committee, and behind-the-scenes-pointman for khaliji meddling inside Washington, has been arrested. The unsealing of the seven-count grand jury indictment on Tuesday revealed that Barrack and two others are, amongst other things, being charged with "acting and conspiring to act as agents of the UAE between April 2016 and 2018" without registering as foreign agents.

If the arrests themselves are somewhat surprising, the discoveries yielded by the Department of Justice's investigations are not. Barrack was a long-time investment partner of the father of the current UAE Ambassador to the United States, Yousef al-Otaiba, and had managed money for one of Abu Dhabi's main sovereign wealth funds, Mubadala, in the recent past. It was well known that he ended up leveraging these relationships in order to serve as the key bridge between Jared Kushner, Donald Trump, and the UAE, and that his back channel actions drifted into legal gray areas.

In the event you have an interest in more broadly understanding the UAE's efforts to influence Washington, I can point you to this report that we over at Noria published a few months back.    

(8) Here's a video of one gorilla giving a second gorilla a purple nurple. It is very good.

Have a great weekend.


Colin Powers

Colin received his PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in 2020. He is a two-time Fulbright Fellow.