Sunday, August 20, 2017


Weekend Roundup

Tina Fey got flack for this skit on Thursday's Saturday Night Live news special, where she advised people to skip Nazi/White Supremacist counter-protests and express their frustration by eating cake instead. I followed her advice and made a pan of extra-rich brownies, but I had an occasion to honor: Frank Smith was passing through Kansas, returning home after an AFSCME conference in DC, where he also found time for a demonstration outside the White House. I fixed a little vegetarian (not vegan) dinner in his honor: a leek-goat cheese quiche, three Ottolenghi salads -- spinach with dates, onions, toasted pitas and almonds; roast eggplant with tahini sauce; sweet potatoes with maple syrup and pecans -- and the brownies. I was so exhausted afterwards I went to bed early and slept eleven hours. It wasn't so much the work as general world-weariness. I remember a sense of unease back in 2001 when a friend chirped "we survived one George Bush; we can survive another." Well, lots of folks didn't survive that second one, and hardly anyone came out better from the ordeal. And as you get older, you start to wonder whether you're ever going to see a better world. Still, cake tastes good. Brownies with 6 oz. premium unsweetened chocolate even better.

[PS: Also see Tom Carson: The Brilliance of Tina Fey's Cake Satire, Explained.]

Meanwhile, I offer these links and comments because I don't really feel up to working on anything more creative or constructive.


The usual scattered links:

  • Kurt Andersen: How America Lost Its Mind: I can't argue with the conclusion -- clearly, a huge swath of Americans have lost their minds -- but I'd offer a simpler explanation than the '60s and the internet. In fact, I'd argue that the '60s at least opened up a vein of critical thinking in stark contrast to the rampant hypocrisy of the 1950s. That led directly to the most important revolutions of the post-WWII era: civil rights and liberties, women's liberation, rejection of war, the movement for the environment, consumer and worker protections. Also, the internet help break out of the corporate media stranglehold that had consolidated in the 1980s. The problem was the 1980s, when a cabal of conservative businessfolk somehow convinced most people to ignore reality and pretend it's "morning in America again" -- a deception that has become increasingly unhinged as right-wing and/or neoliberal control has proved ever more dysfunctional. Indeed, it's gotten so bad that the naïveté (and relative egalitarianism) of the 1950s has started to look good again, not that anyone seriously wants to go back there. But there's more wrong now than just the notion that reality and truth are subject to political interpretation. It's that the political agenda of the upper crust demands deception, and they have the means to mass-propagate it. All we have to fight back is critical thinking and what's left of the decentralized internet.

  • David Dayen: More Trump Populism: DOJ Shuts Down an Operation That Was Successfully Combatting Consumer Fraud:

    The justice department plans to terminate Operation Choke Point, an Obama-era law enforcement crackdown on scam consumer transactions that conservatives characterized as an attack on gun sellers and legal businesses. It concludes one of the more brazen misinformation efforts in recent political history -- with misinformation triumphing. . . .

    Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress, a consumer rights group, said in a statement: "Ending this program will make it easier for financial predators and other unscrupulous industries to get the resources they need to carry out their deceptive and frequently unlawful business practices."

  • Jason Ditz: Trump: Afghan War Decisions Made: Trump's promising a major speech revealing his Afghanistan strategy on Monday, following a round of meetings at Camp David mostly attended by hawks, including mercenary mogul Erik Prince, and excluding Steve ("skeptic of military escalation") Bannon. I could probably dig up some speculation on this, but we might as well wait for the ball to drop. Then on Tuesday Trump flies to Phoenix for his big rally there, a chance to meet up with his old pal Joe Arpaio and, one assumes, talk about The Wall.

  • Tara Golshan: Anti-racism protesters totally eclipsed Boston's right-wing Free Speech rally: I've seen reports of up to 40,000 anti-racism protesters.

  • Mehdi Hasan: Donald Trump Has Been a Racist All His Life -- and He Isn't Going to Change After Charlottesville:

    Consider the first time the president's name appeared on the front page of the New York Times, more than 40 years ago. "Major Landlord Accused of Antiblack Bias in City," read the headline of the A1 piece on Oct. 16, 1973, which pointed out how Richard Nixon's Department of Justice had sued the Trump family's real estate company in federal court over alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act. . . .

    Over the next four decades, Trump burnished his reputation as a bigot: he was accused of ordering "all the black [employees] off the floor" of his Atlantic City casinos during his visits; claimed "laziness is a trait in blacks" and "not anything they can control"; requested Jews "in yarmulkes" replace his black accountants; told Bryan Gumbel that "a well-educated black has a tremendous advantage over a well-educated white in terms of the job market"; demanded the death penalty for a group of black and Latino teenagers accused of raping a jogger in Central Park (and, despite their later exoneration with the use of DNA evidence, has continued to insist they are guilty); suggested a Native American tribe "don't look like Indians to me"; mocked Chinese and Japanese trade negotiators by doing an impression of them in broken English; described undocumented Mexican immigrants as "rapists"; compared Syrian refugees to "snakes"; defended two supporters who assaulted a homeless Latino man as "very passionate" people "who love this country"; pledged to ban a quarter of humanity from entering the United States; proposed a database to track American Muslims that he himself refused to distinguish from the Nazi registration of German Jews; implied Jewish donors "want to control" politicians and are all sly negotiators; heaped praise on the "amazing reputation" of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who has blamed America's problems on a "Jewish mafia"; referred to a black supporter at a campaign rally as "my African-American"; suggested the grieving Muslim mother of a slain U.S. army officer "maybe . . . wasn't allowed" to speak in public about her son; accused an American-born Hispanic judge of being "a Mexican"; retweeted anti-Semitic and anti-black memes, white supremacists, and even a quote from Benito Mussolini; kept a book of Hitler's collected speeches next to his bed; declined to condemn both David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan; and spent five years leading a "birther" movement that was bent on smearing and delegitimizing the first black president of the United States, who Trump also accused of being the founder of ISIS.

    For another background piece on Trump as racist: Klaus Brinkbäumer: The True Face of Donald Trump.

  • Janine Jackson: "Trump TV": How the Sinclair Merger Would Move Media Further Right: Sinclair is looking to take over Tribune Media.

  • Sarah Jones: Liberals Helped Create Trump's New Bogeyman, the "Alt-Left": Centrists assume that there must be some mirror-image faction on the left for every horror they see on the right, hence an "alt-left" to the white nationalist "alt-right." So when Trump needed to expand on his "many sides" Charlottesville claim, his apologists started looking for words to describe his hypothetical villains, and "alt-left" offered the symmetry they desired, allowing their guarded denials of the right to serve double duty as attacks on the left. By the way, self-proclaimed alt-rightists were more likely to refer to their opponents (a subset of their enemies) as "antifas" (short for anti-fascists). That at least is a label we can live with. However, what rankles most about "alt-left" is that it's primarily used by centrists/liberals trying to score points with conservatives for their willingness to throw their more principled allies under the bus (much like a previous generation's red-baiting).

    Unlike the term "alt-right," which was coined by white supremacists to give their age-old movement a modern edge, the "alt-left" is an insult. As my colleague Clio Chang wrote in March of liberals who choose to use the term: "A graver sin is the adoption of a term that was created by conservatives to smear the left and discredit criticisms of the growing clout of the racist right."

    It should go without saying, but the left does not promote hate crimes or commit them. It does not strive for an ethno-state. It is explicitly anti-racist and feminist. It demands the redistribution of wealth. You may find that terrifying, but it's not actually terrorism. And when a horde of white supremacists overran Charlottesville with their tiki torches and Confederate flags, the left was at the front lines, defending everyone else's right to freedom. A member of the left died for those rights. . . .

    Liberals often use "alt-left" to describe progressives they consider rude or with whom they have Twitter beef; it is personal animus disguised as politics. . . . The function of the term "alt-left" is to collapse the distinction between the activist left and the racist right. That's why reactionaries like Sean Hannity use it. That's why Donald Trump has taken it up. We are likely to hear a lot more about the alt-left in the coming months and years -- and if liberals continue to use it, they will be doing the right-wing's work.

    Shawn McCreesh, in Antifa and the 'Alt-Left', traces out the long history of leftists who specifically focused on opposing Fascist movements, a concern which dates back to the early days of Fascism and Nazism, and which in the late 1930s led some Americans to travel to Spain to aid in the fight against Franco there. I don't know whether there were counter-protests at pro-Nazi rallies in the US (such as the famous one Trump's father attended at Madison Square Garden), but there were certainly many people offended by and opposed to those rallies -- anti-fascism is a stance which many more people agree with than act upon. After Germany declared war on the US (and vice versa), American officials started referring to those individuals as "premature anti-fascists" (I've long thought that would be a good blog title, although the window of opportunity seems to be closing). Ever since WWII it's been pretty much impossible to hold an explicitly Nazi rally in the US (or Europe) without counter-protests. One might construct a similar history of white supremacists, except that the immediate threat of violence (at least in the US, especially in the ex-Confederate states, was always much greater, so there were fewer direct challenges to the KKK and its ilk. (And while the most dependable opponents of lynching in the pre-WWII period were American Communists, I've never heard anyone called a "premature anti-racist.") The thing is, anti-fascism and anti-racism aren't factions of the left -- those are widespread beliefs and sympathies, and to some extend spread even beyond the left.

    As for the "Alt-Left" in Charlottesville, Dahlia Lithwick: Here's What Witnesses Saw.

  • Fred Kaplan: Ugly History Shouldn't Be Beautiful: "What Germany can teach the US about remembering an ugly past without glorifying it."

  • Olga Khazan: The Dark Minds of the 'Alt-Right': Draws on an academic psychology paper surveying "447 self-proclaimed members of the alt-right." The article doesn't refer to the late-1940s work of Adorno and Horkheimer that created the "F-scale" -- a measure of affinity to fascism -- but that's essentially what they reinvented. If you hear about this study, it will probably be to argue that self-identified "alt-right" members don't suffer from economic anxiety -- they're mostly just racists with a persecution complex, and therefore a paranoia about others they see as being unjustly privileged by the system. That may be true, but the alt-right in its various guises is a small and marginal splinter of the public. What Democrats need to worry about is that people who do feel economic anxiety will buy into the alt-right's paranoia instead of more reasonable programs. Of course, it would be a big help there to actually develop some more reasonable programs, and to make them more credible by not sucking up so shamelessly to the very rich.

  • Kevin M Levin: Why I Changed My Mind About Confederate Monuments: This is as good a place as any to start as any. I was ten when the Civil War centennial started and I was very interested in history, so the Civil War made a big impression on me. As a dutiful Kansan, I never doubted the justness of the Union cause, and by then I was beginning to comprehend the evils the South had perpetrated, both in slavery and in the later Jim Crow period. Still, we frequently visited Arkansas and Oklahoma back then -- my mother's grandfather and great-grandfather had fought for the Union but after the war settled in Arkansas, so I had relatives both there and in Oklahoma. And one thing that always puzzled me was why there seemed to be a Southern cannon or other monument in every town square in Oklahoma, which wasn't part of the Confederacy nor even a state until 1908. I knew that monuments were signposts of history, and respected that, but in Oklahoma that history was clearly fake. It took me a while to understand that the monuments were part of a political movement, one that could be called the Counter-Reconstruction but these days is more quaintly known as Jim Crow -- the often-violent restoration of white supremacy in the former slave states (more than just the Confederate states, which is why you see so many Southern markers in border states like Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, and Oklahoma). But the great era of Southern monument-building ebbed long ago, and has been in retreat along with the racist policies it was meant to foster. As Southern racists switched political parties from Goldwater on, their fetishism for the Confederate flag and generals should have waned, but we saw little evidence of that until 2015, when a flag-waver massacred nine in a South Carolina church, and Governor Nikki Haley took the lead on lowering the Confederate flag. Since then there's been a broad push to mop up all sorts of racist trash left over from the Civil War/Jim Crow eras, to the extent that nowadays the last folks defending the stuff are unregenerate racists -- a group that sadly features President Trump.

    I might not have cared either way before, but the crowd that came out to defend Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville convinced me that all such monuments have to come down, and the sooner the better: these are people way beyond deplorable, and they should be denied any hint of victory. [Note that former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says pretty much the same thing: Confederate Statues Are Now 'Rallying Points' for Hate Groups.] As Levin notes: "The national debate over the monuments' future is not unlike what happened in Prague and other cities at the end of the Cold War. And I hope they meet the same fate." He could just as easily have mentioned Saddam Hussein's statues.

    For another example of how monuments and naming are used to shape (pervert really) political space, look at the group that has been working nonstop to institutionalize Ronald Reagan's name in every nook and cranny of the country. Hopefully some day he, too, will be as stripped from the current world as Joseph Stalin. Of course, like Stalin (and Robert E. Lee) he'll never be erased from history -- which, for students, is full of such cautionary tales.

  • Robinson Meyer: What Kind of Monuments Does President Trump Value? Obviously, he likes those Confederate statues -- mementos of a past when most white people were as racist as he still is. But it's more than a little ironic that at the same time he's defending monuments to notorious Americans, he's also "threatening to undo as many as 40 conservation parks" -- aka, National Monuments. Thanks to a law that Teddy Roosevelt signed in 1906, the president can designate any piece of public land as a National Monument. Clinton and Obama used this law a number of times (as did both Roosevelts), but occasionally land so designated is coveted by oil and/or mining companies, and nothing seems to rival profits in Trump's aesthetic sense. By the way, the article includes some gorgeous pictures of endangered National Monuments, plus one picture of a Nathan Bedford Forrest that must count among the world's ugliest (without even factoring its subject in).

  • Justin Miller: Paying for Trump's Tax Cuts Would Devastate the Poor: It's not just who pays less taxes ("90 percent of the taxpayers in the top 1 percent will get a pretty big tax cut") but also who loses out in the inevitable spending cuts needed to offset the tax cuts.

  • Jonathan Ofir: Trump uses Barcelona attacks for incitement to mass murder of Muslims: While Trump struggled with the facts when a white right-wing terrorist struck in Charlottesville, he had no problems at all identifying Muslim terrorists in Barcelona, nor did he make any effort to blame the victims there, as he had in Virginia. Ofir's title is more sensational than the one Yglesias uses below, but it does capture the gist of his tweet.

  • Alex Pareene: Charlottesville Was a Preview of the Future of the Republican Party: Key argument here is that the alt-right is the only group successfully recruiting young people to the Republican Party, so that's where future party leaders will come from. I'm not sure I buy that, given that the rich have never had much trouble hiring help, and they have a nice patronage system even if they can't get you elected.

  • Aja Romano: The President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities resigns, urging resistance against Trump: All 17 members signed the resignation letter. Not a major rebuke, as all were appointed by Obama, so Trump may not have realized that PCAH even existed.

  • Heather Boushey: How the Radical Right Played the Long Game and Won: Book review of Nancy McLean's Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America -- primarily about economist James McGill Buchanan. I've picked up a copy. Hope to get to it soon.

  • Mark Joseph Stern: Joe Arpaio Illegally Tortured Latinos. Of Course Trump Wants to Pardon Him. The former Republican Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona (Phoenix), a long-time grandstanding anti-Latino bigot, was recently convicted of criminal contempt for repeatedly failing to respect civil rights. He was an early Trump supporter, and several reports have Trump granting him a pardon -- perhaps at Trump's planned big rally in Phoenix next week.

    [Arpaio] set up "tent cities" to house overflowing jail population and boasted that they were actual "concentration camps." In the summer, the heat in these facilities reached 145 degrees Fahrenheit; inmates' shoes literally melted. Arpaio told the inmates not to complain, declaring: "It's 120 degrees in Iraq and the soldiers are living in tents and they didn't commit any crimes, so shut your mouths."

    In fact, many of these inmates had not yet been convicted of a crime -- but Arpaio treated all detainees as though they had already been found guilty. He introduced a number of schemes designed to humiliate inmates, including chain gangs for women and juveniles, and a live webcast that broadcast video of jailed pretrial detainees on the internet. One camera captured the toilet in the women's holding cell. The 9th Circuit ultimately blocked these webcasts, but not before millions of people had tuned in.

    Arpaio also worked with former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas to investigate and prosecute their political enemies. Together, Arpaio and Thomas went after judges who ruled against them, attorneys who opposed them in court, and even a journalist who covered them critically for a local paper. The county wound up paying out tens of millions of dollars in settlement money to Arpaio and Thomas' victims, and Thomas was disbarred. Arpaio famously investigated President Barack Obama's birth certificate, as well, and concluded that it was forged.

    A pardon for Arpaio not only condones this sort of behavior, it promises a "get out of jail card" to others who break the law in ways that align with Trump's prejudices.

  • Matt Taibbi: Fire Steve Bannon: This came out on Thursday, a day before Bannon was actually fired. His reasoning is sound, although that doesn't really explain why Bannon was actually fired.

    The list of nitwits in the Trump administration is long. Betsy DeVos, in charge of education issues, seems capable of losing at tic-tac-toe. Ben Carson thought the great pyramids of Egypt were grain warehouses. Rick Perry, merely in charge of the nation's nuclear arsenal, probably has post-it notes all over his office to remind him what things are: telephone, family photo, souvenir atomic-reactor paperweight, etc.

    Lots of dunces, but chief strategist Steve Bannon, sadly, isn't one of them. The intellectual leader of the alt-right movement is no genius -- nobody with his political views could be -- but neither is he an idiot. He's one of the few people in that White House with even a primitive grasp of long-term strategy, . . .

    But Bannon is the one person in that White House who we know for sure both embraces a white supremacist ideology and has a vision for how to implement it. The mere threat of that, that Trump's political energy might somehow be married to a sober strategy, is terrifying and unacceptable. Bannon saved Trump's political career once. He can't be allowed to do it again; he has to go, and finally let Trump drown on his own.

    Taibbi had two stories to report on. One was to review how Bannon helped turn Trump's campaign around, leading it to improbable victory. The other was a report by Robert Kuttner: Steve Bannon, Unrepentant, which is probably what got Bannon fired, not so much for any particular gaffe as because Bannon stuck his neck out just enough to get it chopped off. We started hearing rumors about Bannon being out back on Monday, which seemed odd because Trump's off-the-rails appearance that day seemed like his most Bannon moment ever. Bannon clearly had enemies within the White House: especially the Goldman-Sachs crowd running the NEC and Treasury, and the hawks trying to dig a deeper hole in Afghanistan (and Syria and Korea and so forth). Sure, any of them could also have found Bannon's racism a little too uncircumspect, but those other issues affected business, not just optics -- and frankly they had given up any claim to shame when they signed up to work for Trump.

    Two takeaways from the Kuttner article: first, Bannon's main preoccupation is starting a major trade war with China, and he's willing to rattle sabres against China to get his way (on the other hand, he views military action against North Korea as hopeless and foolish, and he doesn't see China helping there -- he cites a recent Kuttner article, US vs. North Korea: The Winner? China, as the reason for his call; and second, he trashes the Charlottesville alt-right ("it's losers. It's a fringe element. . . . These guys are a collection of clowns"). The latter may make you wonder why he was reportedly elated when Trump came out defending Nazis and white supremacists, but I suspect that's because he thinks that a big part of Trump's appeal is his readiness to say things that piss off the mainstream media -- to his base, that establishes him as honest and forthright, as someone unwilling to read canned bullshit from a teleprompter.

    Some more Steve Bannon links:

    • Ashley Parker et al.: Trump gets rid of Stephen Bannon, a top proponent of his nationalist agenda: Stresses that Kelly got Bannon fired for being divisive, but here are some interesting quotes on divisions:

      [Bannon] became fixated in recent months on trade and immigration issues, and he had a large dry-erase board in his office that served as a checklist for promises in those areas. But some of his ideas -- such as a proposal to raise the top tax rate on the wealthiest Americans -- were easily batted away by other senior advisers in the White House.

      Bannon had been advocating internally against sending additional troops to Afghanistan, putting him at odds with national security adviser H.R. McMaster and others. Yet he was excluded from a South Asia strategy session Trump convened at Camp David on Friday with nearly two dozen senior officials.

      Bannon has told associates in recent days that if he were to leave the White House, the conservative populist movement that lifted Trump in last year's campaign would be at risk. One person close to him said that the coalition would amount to "Democrats, bankers and hawks." Bannon also predicted that Trump would eventually turn back to him and others who share the president's nationalist instincts, especially on trade.

      There's a link here to an important article that came out in March, essential for understanding Bannon and his political vision: Matea Gold: The Mercers and Stephen Bannon: How a populist power base was funded and built. During his campaign, Trump essentially became a vehicle for Mercer and Bannon and had a knack for selling their vision, but he never built any supporting organization, so once he was elected he fell back on whatever the Republicans already had, which idea-wise was a complete betrayal of Bannon's populist promise.

    • Zack Beauchamp: Steve Bannon tried to destroy "globalism." It destroyed him instead.

    • Tara Golshan: With Bannon out, will Breitbart News go to war with the Trump administration? Threats abound, and there will certainly be some kind of push against Bannon's enemies in the White House, who will be blamed as Trump continues to fail to deliver on many of his alt-right campaign promises. Still, my guess is that what happens depends mostly on Bannon's billionaire sugar daddy, Robert Mercer -- no reason to think he won't continue to be influential in the Trump administration as long as he wants to be (or thinks it worthwhile -- it's already beginning to look like a lost cause). [PS: Bannon was welcomed back at Breitbart; see: Bannon Returns to Breitbart Where He Plans to Keep Boosting Trump; also Trump Thanks Steve Bannon, Cheers On His Return to Breitbart News. Key quote there: "Bannon said that he will continue to fight for Trump's agenda from the outside." Of course, Bannon's view of "Trump's agenda" is uniquely his own -- literally -- and the "real" Trump is bound to disappoint him, though he'll have plenty of opportunities to blame the people surrounding Trump. Expect to hear a lot about how it's better to have someone like Bannon "inside the tent pissing out, vs. outside pissing in."]

    • Rosie Gray: Bannon Is 'Going Nuclear'

    • Mehdi Hasan: Steve Bannon Is Gone, but His Bigotry Stays in the White House: Argues that Bannon's fatal flaw wasn't in-fighting and sure wasn't ideological, just an ego clash with "the Narcissist-in-Chief":

      Thanks to relentless leaking from inside the White House, we have known for some time that Trump has been bothered by the rise and rise of Bannon. He was annoyed by the Time magazine cover story that asked whether the chief strategist was now "the second most powerful man in the world." He was irritated by the #PresidentBannon hashtag on Twitter and upset over the SNL sketch showing Bannon running the White House while the president sits at a kid's desk playing with toys. And, in recent days, Trump was angered by the much-discussed new book by Joshua Green, Devil's Bargain, which suggests that it was the former Breitbart boss who paved the way for Trump's shock victory over Hillary Clinton. "That fucking Steve Bannon taking credit for my election," Trump recently told a friend, according to BuzzFeed News.

    • Ryan Lizza: The Rise and Fall of Steve Bannon: Interesting bit of background here, with Bannon in Shanghai in 2008 giving up on a failed business venture:

      Bannon was looking for his next reinvention. "I came back right before the 2008 election and saw this phenomenon called Sarah Palin," he told me last year. The neo-populist movement that Trump eventually rode to victory was being born in the waning days of that campaign. Bannon thought that Republicans, who had become the party of tax cuts and free-market libertarian philosophy, exemplified by people like Paul Ryan, didn't yet have the right vocabulary to speak to its own base. "The Republicans would not talk about anything related to reality," he told me. "There was all this fucking Austrian school of economic theory."

      Bannon started making what are essentially crude propaganda films about people and issues on the new populist right, including ones about Palin, Ronald Reagan, Michele Bachmann, Phyllis Schlafly, and the Tea Party. He became a fixture on the conservative-conference circuit and befriended Andrew Breitbart, a former blogger and then a new-media entrepreneur who was the hidden talent behind the success of both the Drudge Report and the Huffington Post. Bannon helped Breitbart raise money for Breitbart News Network, including a ten-million-dollar investment from the Mercer family, which during this period emerged as a crucial patron for the populist right. When Breitbart died, in March, 2012, Bannon took over editorial control as well. Traffic exploded, from eleven million page views per month to two hundred million. "Frankly that's why, when Breitbart puts its fucking gun sights on you, your life changes," Bannon bragged to me once.

      In 2013, Bannon and Steven Miller were pushing Jeff Sessions to run for president. The piece doesn't explain how the trio settled on Trump. By the way, I'm pretty sure that Mercer's real politics are closer to the Kochs and the Austrians, but that he supports Bannon (and Trump) because he recognizes the need to cater to the Republican base, and because he's sure he can shut his hirelings down before they do any real harm to the rich. I'm reminded here of Robert Paxton's argument in The Anatomy of Fascism: that fascist movements rise in democratic countries by offering a popular base to the aristocratic/antidemocratic right. The rub there is that no matter how subservient they promise to be, fascists have their own agenda, one that can totally wreck nations. Bannon fits this model perfectly -- not least in thinking of Trump and Mercer not as patrons but as tools for his own glory. Lizza has written several other pieces on Bannon: How Steve Bannon Conquered CPAC -- and the Republican Party (Feb. 24), Can Steve Bannon Save Trumpcare? (Mar. 17), and Firing Steve Bannon Won't Change Donald Trump (Aug. 15).

    • Pter Maass: Steve Bannon said he learned to fear Muslime when he visited Pakistan. Except he was probably in Hong Kong.

    • Jeremy W Peters/Michael M Grynbaum: Steve Bannon, Back on the Outside, Prepares His Enemies List: Of course he has an enemies list. He defines his very being by who he hates.

    • Wil S Hylton: Down the Breitbart Hole: Long Sunday Times article, probably seemed like a good idea when it was commissioned but has been more/less overtaken by events, now that Bannon is out of the White House and returning to Breitbart.

    • Asawin Suebsaeng: Seb Gorka's Fate 'Extremely Uncertain' as His Boss Bannon Is Ousted: I'd say it's pretty much inevitable that Gorka, who worked for Bannon at Breitbart, will be axed soon. Some people think Steven Miller has deeper ties to Trump so may last longer. I'd say Miller's more salient trait is his extreme idolatry of Trump and how readily he's able to contort himself to Trump's every whim, but those traits also make him redundant and superfluous.

  • Matthew Yglesias: Donald Trump's tumultuous week, explained. More Yglesias: The real driver of regional inequality in America; Trump calls for the United States to imitate fake war crimes to fight terrorism; The huge problem with Trump comparing Robert E. Lee to George Washington; 7 things Republicans could do to check Trump without ditching conservative policy; The Trump Tango is tiresome and pointless; Rich CEOs are the big winners of Trump's race war; The real "deep state" sabotage is happening at the Fed.

    From the "Rich CEOs" piece:

    Trump embraces a politics of racial conflict because it works for him.

    As Bloomberg's Joshua Green recounts in his new book Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency, candidate Trump shrugged off media and political attention to his dalliances with the unsavory racist elements of the alt-right. "We polled the race stuff and it doesn't matter," Bannon told Green in September; "it doesn't move anyone who isn't already in [Clinton's] camp."

    The fundamental issue is that the United States contains very few committed and vocal white supremacists (turnout for the Virginia rally was dwarfed by counterprotests nationwide). But it does contain an awful lot of white people. To the extent that politics is seen as a crude zero-sum struggle between racial groups, most of them are going to back the side they perceive as supporting the interests of white people.

    Yet the reality is that while Trump is inflicting tangible disproportionate harm to racial minorities across the country, he's not doing anything substantive to advance the interests of his typical white supporter either. He's loudly embraced a brand of toxic racial politics while quietly creating a narrow winner's circle of C-suite executives and inheritors of vast fortunes. And it's the loyalty of the business class, not of neo-Nazi street brawlers, that ultimately ensures Trump's position of power and is in turn receiving its due rewards. . . .

    Trump and congressional Republicans, for example, deployed the Congressional Review Act to roll back many of the Obama administration's 2016 regulatory actions. Thanks to Trump:

    • It's easier for mining companies to dump pollution into streams.
    • It's easier for oil companies to bribe foreign governments.
    • It's easier for broadband internet providers to sell their customers' user data.
    • But it's now harder for state governments to set up low-fee retirement accounts so people could save money without getting ripped off.

    Trump doesn't tweet about it much, but it turns out that making it harder for people to avoid financial rip-offs is something of a passion for the Trump administration. He has, for example, gutted enforcement of an Obama-era rule that would have made it illegal for financial advisers to deliberately rip off their customers.

    None of this, obviously, has anything to do with helping white people any more than the Trump Federal Communications Commission's ongoing efforts to dismantle net neutrality or the Trump Treasury's efforts to reopen corporate tax loopholes are motivated by concern for the welfare of the European-American population. At the behest of the chemical industry, the Trump Environmental Protection Agency has approved the continued sale of a pesticide that poisons children's brains, and at the behest of for-profit colleges, the Trump Education Department is rolling back regulations offering debt relief to students misled by scam schools.

    The winners here are not "anxious" working-class heartlanders, but the owners and managers of big companies who have the government off their backs and barely even need to defend their stances in public with Trump's antics sucking up the bulk of attention.

  • Angelo Young: After more executives flee, Trump's advisory board, White House claims he planned to disband the council anyway. Related: Matthew Sheffield: Trump's big business CEOs are horrified by his Confederate excuses -- but his religious advisers have nothing but praise.


I wrote a bit recently about how my parents voted for George Wallace in 1968 (not a post, probably in the notebook): they had soured on the Vietnam War (after the next-door neighbor kid was killed there, and my brother and I turned hard against the war), intensely distrusted Dick Nixon, and had no particular fondness for Hubert Humphrey. They weren't particularly racist -- my father still resented the South from the Civil War (his grandfather was named Abraham Lincoln Hull, his father Robert Lincoln), and my mother hailed from an all-white Republican stronghold in Arkansas (her grandfather fought for the union before moving from Ohio to the Ozarks) but they weren't very sensitive about race either, and Wallace's "little guy" message appealed to them. I grew up with Republican leanings, but the war pushed me away from conventional politics. In 1968 I was very enthusiastic about Gene McCarthy's primary challenge to LBJ, and continued to support him through the convention. So I was trying to remember who I preferred in the 1968 election -- certainly not Nixon or Wallace, and while I probably wound up hoping Humphrey would win, I never thought of myself as supporting him. The most likely answer to my question died last week: Dick Gregory. I had long enjoyed his stand-up comedy, and when he ventured into politics in 1967-68, I bought and read his book Write Me In. I was too young to vote in 1968, but certainly would have written him in. He would have made a better "first black president" than the one we wound up having. I never noticed him much after 1968, but according to his Wikipedia page he remain active politically. And I'm sure he could still be funny (when he wasn't dead serious, and sometimes when he was). Here's an obituary.

I also see that Jerry Lewis has died. I was a huge fan, starting about as far back as I can remember. By that time Lewis had already split from Dean Martin (who I later loved for other reasons). I can't say as I ever noticed him much after his 1968-69 talk show (aside from The King of Comedy in 1982), but he was the funniest person in the world for the first decade I was conscious of.