Do authoritarians, in fact, do it better? Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who was in Moscow this week to interview Russian President Vladimir Putin, had very nice things to say about the capital city during a speech in Dubai: “[Moscow] is so much cleaner and safer and prettier, aesthetically. Its architecture, its food, its service, than any … city in the United States. And this is not ideological. How did that happen? How did that happen? And at a certain point, I don’t think the average person cares as much about abstractions as about the concrete reality of his life. And if you can’t use your subway, for example, as many people are afraid to in New York City because it’s too dangerous, isn’t that the ultimate measure of leadership?”
But Carlson, who seems to be going through his foreign-exchange-student-likes-Barcelona-more-than-Paducah phase, misses a few finer details.
If you are a journalist, life in Moscow means constant fear of reprisal; pissing off the state means certain imprisonment. If you enjoy gay bars or other forms of LGBT-oriented nightlife, get ready for police raids. If you’re an evangelical protestant, you will not be permitted to live out your faith. (Over the last decade, more than 500 Jehovah’s Witnesses have been convicted of or charged with extremism, with many serving sentences.) And, if you’re Ukrainian, well, sorry about your family getting brutally slaughtered and your homeland getting desecrated; hope you enjoy the clean subway system nonetheless.
Carlson goes on to say that Singapore, Tokyo, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi “are wonderful places to live.” (And, oddly, that he grew up in a country that had cities like those, which is odd because American cities in the ’70s and ’80s did not look like Abu Dhabi, and were not extraordinarily safe.)
One reason why we don’t have clean streets in New York the way they do in Singapore is because we don’t cane people for minor crimes. We don’t give people the death penalty for manufacturing drugs (200 grams of cannabis resin warrants execution, if you’re not careful), nor do we lock people in jail for a decade for the purported crime of getting high. We don’t crack down on jaywalking, spitting, or cigarette-smoking the way they do. We also don’t tend to use corporal punishment for our children.
Carlson’s point is fine that people care about quality of life issues, that Skid Row in Los Angeles and subway-station junkies in New York City are embarrassments, and that our city officials ought to be able to clean up the streets to improve the lives of taxpaying residents—not just when Xi Jinping comes to town. You might think existing public disorder needs to be curbed, but there are many possible ways of doing so that could still protect civil liberties and wouldn’t turn American cities into authoritarian hellholes. (In fact, we should probably turn to Russian out-migration numbers to see whether residents agree with Carlson’s assessment.)
I simply do not think we need to hand it to authoritarians under any circumstances or speak in flattering terms about Putin’s ability to govern. It’s not that compliments like these ought to be haram; it’s that Carlson is examining only one side of the ledger, and missing all the ways Russian laws rain down brutality on the innocent and undeserving. Just ask some of the tourists who’ve had their stays in Russia involuntarily prolonged, like Brittney Griner.
Senate passes Ukraine aid bill: Early this morning, an aid package for Israel and Ukraine cleared the Senate, as a group of Republicans split from their party and voted with the Democrats. The $95 billion emergency aid bill—$60 billion of which is meant for Ukraine, bringing the total U.S.-footed tab to $170 billion—must now clear the House, which makes its fate uncertain.
On Monday night, a group of 17 Republicans, mostly moderates and national security hawks, joined with Democrats to get the bill across a final procedural hurdle. Then, this morning, five more Republicans joined the dissenters’ ranks. This saga highlights what most Republicans already know to be true: that the party is sorely divided on whether the United States ought to be the world’s police, and—if consensus is shifting away from that role—how the U.S. ought to deal with its allies in the interim.
Scenes from New York: “The Eco–Yogi Slumlords of Brooklyn” over at The Cut has something for everyone (to hate).
Also known as “sleeping” https://t.co/MSz18kXyDZ
— Nancy Rommelmann (@NancyRomm) February 13, 2024
- Rep. Barbara Lee (D–Calif.) said last night in a debate between candidates vying for California’s empty U.S. Senate seat that she would support a $25 minimum wage and, possibly, even a $50 per hour minimum wage in the Bay Area.
- Current Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel is set to step down at the end of the month. Donald Trump has endorsed his daughter-in-law, Lara, as a possible pick to replace McDaniel.
- Hot take but I’m not sure 5-year-olds should be glued to computer screens:
one of my least favorite pandemic things is that tmw instead of a snow day my 5 year will have “remote kindergarten.” REMOTE KINDERGARTEN?!?!? That’s not a thing!!!! all she should be worrying about tomorrow is cartoons & hot chocolate with marshmallows, I WILL DIE ON THIS HILL
— ely kreimendahl (@ElyKreimendahl) February 12, 2024
- “Estonia’s prime minister has been put on a wanted list in Russia because of her efforts to remove Soviet-era World War II monuments in the Baltic nation, officials said Tuesday,” per the Associated Press. “The name of Prime Minister Kaja Kallas appeared on the Russian Interior Ministry’s list of people wanted on unspecified criminal charges, although it was unclear when she was added, according to Mediazona, an independent Russian news outlet. The list includes scores of officials and lawmakers from other Baltic nations.”
- Since we’re taking a little trip through Central and Eastern Europe this morning, you might as well spend some time gnawing on Matt Welch’s 2021 piece, “No Self-Respecting American Should Aspire to Hungarian-Style Nationalism.”
- And now, a little dose of joy and skimpy outfits from the Brazilians, who are celebrating Carnival right now.