N & P: Leonine Woes Edition

Friday, September 18, 2020

I'm having a difficult time masking my disappointment in the 2020 version of the Detroit Lions. Honestly, I figured that with the way this year has been going, it would kind of make sense for an historically inept franchise like the Lions to finally pull through. 

But no--and I should have known. Once again, this team would find ways to lose in some crazy way, as happened again versus Chicago in their season opener. And it seems like these collapses always happens against the Bears. Even the Lions' best player, kicker Matt Prater, had a bad day. 

Before Detroit's loss on Sunday, over the past 15 years NFL teams leading by 17 or more in the fourth quarter had been a combined 779-3

So, nothing has appeared to have changed with this team. But at least the Lions have managed to bring back some consistency--a sense of normalcy, you might even say--to our confused world. 

Bear News

Speaking of lions and bears, wildlife-related headlines from the Bozeman area this week included the following: 


According to the Moscow News, beleaguered Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko has packed his 16 year-old son off to a boarding school in Moscow. 

Nikolai “Kolya” Lukashenko, 16, has become a social media sensation as he has grown from a pudgy kid to an apparent "successor" to the presidency who is frequently seen at his father’s side at public events. 

Elections in Russia

On September 13, a 3-day election period came to an end in Russia for gubernatorial, mayoral, and city council races all over the country. 

On September 13, Russia completed its first three-day elections in races across the country for governors, mayors, and local city council members. Gubernatorial candidates with the authorities’ backing won first-round victories everywhere in record-high numbers, and United Russia racked up majorities in all regional assemblies. Three of the four new party projects that are considered to have the Kremlin’s support got seats in regional parliaments, exempting them from the need to collect signatures to compete in future State Duma elections. The opposition did, however, achieve some success in elections for the city councils in Novosibirsk and Tomsk.   
Bahrain-UAE-Israel Deal

I think Juan Cole did a nice job of characterizing the Bahrain-UAE-Israeli peace deal:
The Middle Eastern parties to the “Abraham Accords,” Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel, did not make peace by signing them. The small Arab Gulf principalities have long had behind-the-scenes relations with Israel and Israeli firms. They weren’t at war with the Israelis. As members of the Arab League, they did in public observe some elements of that organization’s embargo, such that they did not have diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv (that is where their embassies will be). But Egypt is a member of the Arab League (after having been expelled for a few years from 1979) despite having a peace treaty with Israel, and so is Jordan. So adherence to the embargo is not anyway universal or a requirement for membership.
Turkey and September 12

Forty years ago this past Saturday, Kenan Evren & Co. took power in Turkey. 

September 12 Coup Leader
Kenan Evren

The September 12 Coup, as it would come to be known, still plays an outsize role in Turkish politics. First of all, by replacing the constitution of 1961 with a new one (from 1982), the generals paved the way for Turkey's current executive-heavy constitution. Of course, Evren & Co. never thought that someone like Tayyip Erdoğan would become president of Turkey. 

The coup of 1980 continues to pay political dividends for Turkey's political leadership, which has presented itself as the adversaries of "the generals." Another way that Erdoğan and the AK Party have done this is by tying referenda granting their government more power to popular moves demanding accountability from the remaining henchmen from 1980. 

I knew a couple of people in Turkey who opened up to me about things that happened to them in police custody after the coup. Both of them, a man and a woman, had been students in 1980, and were arrested not long after September 12. Each of them suffered abuses that, frankly, they should have been talking about with a therapist, rather than an English teacher. 

How do we best remember 1980? Maybe by keeping in mind the importance of stable democratic institutions. The 1982 Constitution gives the Turkish state considerable leeway to crush people's civil rights. This was the case, moreover, long before Erdoğan. Erdoğan is able to do what he does, to a large extent, because Turkey's constitution allows it. 

When it comes to institutions, the US is at a relative advantage in comparison to places like Turkey, Hungary, and Poland, where weak constitutions have allowed authoritarian-minded political figures to maintain a hold on power for years. Even the strongest of institutions, however, will not endure in the face of consistent, protracted undermining.  
9/11, Redux

Something I noticed in some of the commentary surrounding the September 11 attacks this year: the degree to which post 9/11 "unity" was valorized, presumably in contradistinction to today's polarization. 

Well. Don't get me wrong--I'm not a fan of today's toxic politics. That being said, where did all of the post-9/11 "unity" end up taking us? To Baghdad. 

In and of itself, "unity" isn't sufficient. After 9/11, Americans rallied around the president because they were frightened and confused, and he spent all of that political capital on a disastrous war in Iraq. 

Unity isn't always great
And now, in the same red states which voted, in 2004, to re-elect a "wartime president" preaching sacrifice in the name of American world leadership, people will vote in favor of re-electing an isolationist president whose international worldview constitutes an absolute repudiation of W's foreign policy.

I wonder: had the first of these presidents not spent his political capital in the manner in which he did, would the second have managed to get elected?   


Are you a Turk across empires? Order a copy today, then get another one for your library.

More commentary, photos, and links can be found in the Borderlands Lounge. 

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