Sunday, February 5, 2017
Picked up this image off Twitter. Looks like we've found our Weekend
Roundup motto, for the next four years anyways. More links than usual
because so much shit's been happening. Less commentary than in the
old days because it's all so straightforwardly obvious.
I had meant to write about Matt Taibbi's book Insane Clown President:
Dispatches From the 2016 Circus, but should hold off and do that later.
I will say that the big problems with the book are due to the concept: it
mostly a compilation of previously published pieces, so tends to preserve
the moment's misconceptions in amber rather than taking the time to rethink
the story from its conclusion in a way that might make more sense of it all.
On the other hand, it didn't make sense, and still doesn't make sense, and
as the consequences of the election unfold becomes more and more surreal.
In Taibbi's defense, he probably had a better grasp both of Trump's appeal
and of Clinton's repulsion than any journalist I can think of. Also does
a heroic job of not mincing words, and remains exceptionally conscious of
how presidential campaigns warp the media space around them. Still, he
can't quite believe how it turned out, and neither can I.
A short bit from a New York Times "By the Book" interview with Viet
Tranh Nguyen (wrote a novel, The Sympathizer, which my wife read
I've been reading news and opinion pieces on Facebook and
Twitter. They're utterly terrifying and depressing, since my social
circle basically thinks that a Trump presidency spells the end of the
world. To get out of the echo chamber, I read Donald Trump's Twitter
feed. It's utterly terrifying and depressing, and I run back into the
I take comfort in the children's literature that I read to my
3-year-old son. He will tolerate the tales of Beatrix Potter, which I
find soothing, but mostly he wants to hear about Batman, Superman,
Ghostbusters and Star Wars. The moral clarity is comforting not just
for a 3-year-old, but also for many adults. This is why they are
relevant to our divided age, where most people identify with the
rebels but so many in fact are complicit with the Empire.
The links below, of course, come from the left-liberal echo
chamber (well, plus some anti-war paleo-conservatives). They're
the ones paying attention (in some cases a welcome change after
sleepwalking through the Obama years).
I picked this up off Twitter, but I also saw the video clip (OK, on
Saturday Night Live, but it sure looked authentic. Comes from
Bill O'Reilly interviewing Trump:
O'REILLY: But he's a killer though. Putin's a killer.
TRUMP: There are a lot of killers. We've got a lot of killers.
What do you think -- our country's so innocent?
There are a lot of things one can say about this. For one thing it's
true, which isn't often the case with Trump. But it's hardly a revelation.
It's just something that no politician would say -- least of all someone
like Obama or the Clintons who have personally signed off on execution
orders then gone on to gloat about their killings in public. So you can
chalk Trump's admission up to his anti-PC ethic: his willingness to call
out truths in blunt language. But more specifically, he's denying O'Reilly
resort to a PC cliché. He's saying you can't dismiss working with Putin
out of hand because he's a killer. We're all killers here -- Trump joined
the club last week in ordering a Seal Team 6 assault in Yemen -- so that
hardly disqualifies Putin. The disturbing part is that being a killer is
probably something Trump admires in Putin. Back during the campaign, Trump
not only vowed to kill ostensible enemies like ISIS, he talked on several
occasions about shooting random people on Fifth Avenue, like the ability
to do that and not be held accountable would be the pinnacle of freedom.
Being elected president doesn't quite afford him that latitude, but it
does offer plenty of opportunities to indulge his blood lust. Worse still,
Trump's championing of killers helps establish murder as a political and
social norm. Sure, assassination has been sanctioned as expedient politics
by US presidents at least as far back as Kennedy, but Trump threatens to
make it a uniquely new bragging point.
As this and similar stories play out, all sorts of nonsense is likely
to ensue. I don't know whether to laugh or cry at
Adam Gopnik: Trump's Radical Anti-Americanism. The truth is that
America has a long history of split-personality disorder, at once
touting lofty progressive intentions while having committed a long
series of inexcusable atrocities. So will the real America stand up?
At least with the exceptionalist cant you knew they'd try to put on
a kind and honorable face. But with Trump and his more bloodthirsty
followers, you're liable to get something else: a celebration of the
underside of American history, a legacy that celebrates brutal and
Some scattered links this week:
Zoë Carpenter/George Zornick: Everything Donald Trump Did in His Second
Week as President
Dean Baker: A Trade War Everyone Can Win: Argues a way Mexico can
respond to Trump's tariff threats: "announce that it would no longer
enforce U.S. patents and copyrights on its soil." He gives some examples
where this would save Mexico tons of money, but doesn't go back over
some key history. First, the US refused to recognize foreign patents
while we were developing our own industrial economy. Second, a major
aim of US trade policy for decades now has been our willingness to
sacrifice domestic jobs in exchange for more patent/copyright rents.
Since jobs mostly affect working people and rents accrue to the already
rich, US trade policy has contributed mightily to increasing inequality
in America. Also see Baker's
End Patent and Copyright Requirements in NAFTA.
Stephen Burd: How the GOP Became For-Profit College Abuse Deniers:
As the piece points out, "for-profit" schools have been plagued with
fraud as far back as the GI Bill in the 1950s, despite periodic efforts
at regulation. Republicans hate it when regulation gets in the way of
profit-making, even when profits are fueled mostly by fraud -- cf. many
other examples from many other industries -- and education has become
something many conservatives feel we need less of, so they can hardly
object to it not being done well.
Ira Chernus: Now Who's the Enemy?: "The terror inside Trump's White
Susanne Craig/Eric Lipton: Trust Records Show Trump Is Still Closely Tied
to His Empire
Yasmeen El Khoudary: Israel: An Inspiration for Trump: "Israel has
set a great example of racist bans and walls for Trump to follow." I've
said for some time now neocons suffer from an acute case of Israel Envy:
all they want is to see America flaunt its power as capriciously and
unilaterally as Israel does. The alt-right may be just as envious, but
Israel's apartheid policies will be harder for Americans to swallow --
indeed, it's not something many Israelis like to talk about. Also, see
William Parry: Donald Trump is wrong about Israel's 'security'
James P Rooney: What Trump Doesn't Understand About Immigration From
Jonathan Freedland: First on the White House agenda -- the collapse of the
global order. Next, war? Trying to predict where Trump is going by
following Steve Bannon: "Bannon is not destroying the old, clunky post-1945
order for the sake of a fairer, more equal, more interdependent world. He
seems instead to dream of a bloody, fiery war that will kill millions --
out of which will be forged a new, cleansed and even more dominant America."
Greg Grandin: About That Kissinger Quote Neil Gorsuch Likes . . . :
About Trump's Supreme Court nominee, highly touted as a devotee of Antonin
Scalia's mystical "originalism" doctrine. The Kissinger quote, which
Gorsuch picked to go with his Columbia yearbook photo: "The illegal we
do immediately, the unconstitutional takes a little longer." Also see:
David S Cohen: Meet Trump's Supreme Court Nominee, Neil Gorsuch.
Of course, I've also seen
Neal K Katyal: Why Liberals Should Back Neil Gorsuch: suggests to
me that it could have been worse, but I'm not sure how you square the
nominee's "commitment to judicial independence" with the guy who wrote
the Hobby Lobby decision.
William Hartung: Trump's 5th Bankruptcy: Budget-Busting Trillions to US
Department of War Originally from
TomDispatch, but Juan Cole's title
is more apt. Also:
Nick Turse: Will Trump Really Be Isolationist? Or Will He March Us to
Fred Kaplan: What Happened Behind the Scenes Before the Yemen Raid? I
referred to this assault above.
Anne Kim: The Long-Term Economic Wreckage of Trump's Travel Ban.
Mike Konczal: Trump Picks Wall Street Over Main Street: Trump's first
executive order on finance starts to unravel the Dodd-Frank reforms --
any campaign suggestions that he would be tough on banks to the contrary.
No big surprise, given that he's already handed the Treasury Department
over to Goldman-Sachs. Konczal also wrote:
Trump Is Capitalizing on the Anxiety Caused by the End of Steady
Paul A Kramer: Now Who We Are: "Our xenophobic impulses and loftiest
ideals have been in conflict since the founding." And behind the magic
word, unsurprisingly, is Frank Luntz.
Nancy LeTourneau: How Can We Believe Anything This Administration Says?
Kellyanne Conway, the "Bowling Green massacre," and other "alternative
Daniel Larison: Elliott Abrams Will Be Deputy Secretary of State:
Most of Trump's nominees are merely terrible, but sometimes he manages
to pick the worst person imaginable. This is one of those cases. Also:
Eric Alterman: An Actual American War Criminal May Become Our Second-Ranking
Martin Longman: This Situation Is More Dire Than I Want to Admit and,
a day later, his more detailed
The 12 Early Warning Signs of Fascism. Not sure I'd call it Fascism,
but the sign reads like the GOP platform (not just Trump's agenda).
Simon Maloy: Trump's "amazing" ignorance: The president's Black History
Month celebration was embarrassing.
Jim Newell: The GOP Has No Obamacare Bill. It Does Have a New Buzzword:
"Repeal and replace is out. Repair is in.
Sarah Posner: Leaked Draft of Trump's Religious Freedom Order Reveals
Sweeping Plans to Legalize Discrimination. Also:
Adele Stan: Trump Leads the Religious Right to the Promised Land:
"Evangelicals' alignment with Trump shows their affinity for power over
Bernie Sanders; Trump 'Is a Fraud' Sending Nation in 'Authoritarian
Richard Silverstein: Steve Bannon's Romance with Hollywood Islamophobia,
Steve Bannon, the Church Militant and Global War Against Islam.
Mark Joseph Stern: Why Judge Robart Blocked the Muslim Ban: "There's
no constitutional way to implement an unconstitutional order."
Matt Taibbi: Extreme Vetting, but Not for Banks, as well as
The Anti-Refugee Movement Is America at Its Most Ignorant.
Ben Walsh: A Citigroup Lawyer Helped Trump Pick Bank Regulators, Then
Returned to Work at the Bank: See, it isn't all Goldman-Sachs.
Stephen M Walt: America's New President Is Not a Rational Actor, and
Trump Has Already Blown It. Before inauguration Walt also wrote:
Trump Doesn't Know What He Doesn't Know About Foreign Policy, where
he noted "The president-elect sometimes says the right things, but always
does the wrong ones." On the other hand, Walt's been hard to please, as
is clear from his final word on Trump's predecessor:
Barack Obama Was a Foreign-Policy Failure.
One of the most alarming things Trump has done so far has been
his campaign to impose sanctions on Iran amidst much sabre-rattling.
Phyllis Bennis: The Trump Administration Is Recklessly Escalting Tensions
Juan Cole: Here We Go Again: Trump Admin Threatens Iran;
Dan De Luce/Paul McCleary: Yemen Is the First Battleground in Trump's
Confrontation With Iran;
Ben Norton: Trump and the Saudi king discuss major pact to confront Iran;
Patrick Cockburn: Trump's Comments Toward Iran Could Deepen Conflict in
Trita Parsi: What Flynn Could Learn From Kerry About Iran;
Daniel Larison: The Trump Administration's Lies About Iran;
Muhammad Sahimi: Do Iran's Missile Tests Violate the Nuclear Agreement?
(short answer: no).
Also a few links not so directly tied to America's bout of political
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