Sunday, February 25, 2018
Too late to write an intro, but you know the drill.
Some scattered links this week:
Matthew Yglesias: The 4 biggest political stories of the week, explained:
President Trump endorsed some gun reforms -- well, sort of, but he also
endorsed nonsense like arming teachers (at least any who were ex-Marines);
Robert Mueller's investigation heated up -- especially for Paul Manafort;
HHS is undermining the Affordable Care Act ("Insurers will be able to deny
coverage to people with preexisting conditions on these short-term plans,
meaning a better deal for those who don't have any preexisting conditions --
but that will drain the regular market of many customers, leaving those
with significant health care needs facing higher costs"); Pennsylvania
got a new congressional map. Other Yglesias posts this week:
Jill Abramson: Do You Believe Her Now? "It's time to reexamine the
evidence that Clarence Thomas lied to get onto the Supreme Court -- and
to talk seriously about impeachment." "Her" is Anita Hill, and I believed
her then (unlike. e.g., Joe Biden). One thing worth reminding ourselves
of is that a big part of the reason Hill's charges carried so much weight
was that Thomas ran the government office responsible for investigating
and enforcing charges of sexual harassment, so there was some reason
for holding him up to a higher standard. As for impeachment, I've long
thought that the best case against Thomas would be for the longstanding
conflict of interest caused by his wife working for a right-wing lobby
shop. Republicans have long felt like they had a problem with appointees
drifting toward more liberal positions. One solution to that was to pick
more ideological candidates, and another was to keep them on a tight
payroll leash. Thomas fits both bills (as, by the way, did Scalia). Not
going to happen, of course, but worth recalling.
Julia Belluz: Guns are killing high school kids across America at alarming
rates: "Firearms killed more 15 to 19 year olds than cancer, heart
disease, and diabetes combined in 2016." Total 16,111 from 2010-2016,
an average of 2300 per year, "more deaths than the next 12 leading causes
of teen deaths combined." Meanwhile, Donald Trump wants to arm teachers,
claiming that will deter kids from bringing guns to school. His proposal
is so insane I expected it to be laughed away almost instantly, but he's
stuck to it, doubled and tripled down, despite the revelation that there
were armed guards at Parkland High School and they did nothing to stop
the shooter. Some links:
German Lopez: Why the NRA wants you to talk about arming teachers:
"Arming teachers isn't just a ridiculous idea. It's a deliberate
distraction. When something like this consumes attention, the public
and lawmakers don't talk about the real issue."
This is also true about the focus on mental health care. Every time
there's a mass shooting, gun rights activists -- including Republicans
and the NRA -- argue that the real problem behind mass shootings is
the shooter's mental health.
Don't have the link, but I read a column last week by Cal Thomas
arguing that we need to put some serious investment into mental health,
with the focus more on locking up crazies than on helping them. There's
virtually no chance that Thomas would actually back a serious program
on mental health, even one that was overwhelmingly punitive.
Jane Coaston: Donald Trump said an armed teacher "would have shot the hell
outta" the Parkland shooter.
German Lopez: Trump: armed officer at Florida school "was not a credit to
law enforcement, that I can tell you".
"There's never enough training," Coby Briehn, a senior instructor at
Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training, told Klepper. "You
can never get enough."
The FBI's analysis of active shooters between 2000 and 2013 has
another relevant data point: "Law enforcement suffered casualties in
21 (46.7%) of the 45 incidents where they engaged the shooter to end
the threat." These are people trained to do this kind of thing full
time, and nearly half were wounded or killed.
Emily Stewart: Multiple armed officers hung back during Florida school
shooting, reports say.
Rachel Wolfe: Trump: 10 to 20 percent of teachers are "very gun adept."
Reality: not even close.
Matt Martin: I've been shot in combat. And as a veteran, I'm telling you:
allowing teachers to be armed is an asinine idea.
German Lopez: The case against arming teachers.
Juan Cole: Top Ten Signs the US Is the Most Corrupt Nation in the World
(2018 Edn.). Cole dismisses Afghanistan right out of the box, then
makes his case by toting up the money at stake and in play. It's been a
while since I looked at Cole's site -- he was an essential blogger back
in the heyday of the Bush/Iraq War -- but I also noticed his
What Does Netanyahu Corruption Case Tell Us About Trump's Fate? I should
also note that he's been covering energy issues; e.g.,
Despite Coal Lobby, Australia to Double Solar Energy in 2018; and
In Anti-Trump Surge, Renewables Make 18% of US Electricity and Impel Job
Antonio Garcia Martinez: How Trump Conquered Facebook -- Without Russian
Ads: Actually, this does explain how some of the Russian trolls worked,
much like Trump's own social media minions. This includes both efforts to
zero in on possible Trump supporters and to bum out likely Hillary voters,
hopefully suppressing the vote. Among other things, this article shows that
Trump got more bang for the advertising buck by creating more outrageous
ads and aiming them at people more likely to pass them along.
Emily Stewart: Study: Conservatives amplified Russian trolls 30 times more
often than liberals in 2016. I'm rather skeptical of several of these
findings; e.g., "Conservatives approach the situation from the start with
greater reactivity to threat, a greater prior belief of danger in the world."
I think many conservatives would disagree, pointing out how liberals are
the ones who constantly harping on pseudo-threats, everything from guns
to fracking to global warming. On the other hand, I suppose I can accept
that "liberals appear to have more of a need to think critically than
conservatives." But what the basic numbers show is that Russian trolls
were much more aligned with American conservatives, and that they fed
each other in symbiotic ways. They were amplified because they fed into
this alignment, and in many ways they simply amplified conservatives'
own political interests. Why Russia should do this doesn't make a lot
of sense. One theory is that Russia wants to undermine democracy and
general welfare in America, and many conservative policies effectively
do just that. Another is that oligarchs and/or nationalists -- Putin
at various times wears both of those hats -- seem to have some sort of
mutual admiration society, which is the most obvious common denominator
between the foreign leaders Trump most obviously admires.
Recently in my Twitter feed I noticed an image of an article which
proclaims: "Russia 'is a bigger threat to our security than terrorists'."
I eventually tracked this down to a piece published in England, and
while I couldn't read the actual article -- it was behind some sort of
paywall -- I gather that the gist was that Britain should spend more
money on "defense" weaponry, which is the same pitch neocons here in
America have made of anti-Russian alarmism for ages. Still, even if
you agree that the threat of terrorism has been overhyped, isn't the
exaggeration of "Russian threat" more of a provocation than a solution?
Would North Korea, to pick a timely example, be even more of a threat
had we simply ignored them once it was clear that the truce had held,
instead of repeatedly attempting to isolate and cajole them? America's
"enemies" these days are virtually all enemies of convenience: countries
we could have better relations with but we hold old grudges, pick at
festering wounds, and feel the need to project the dual threats of our
military might and our universalist ideology. And all that generates
unnecessary blowback, sometimes acts of terror but more often in the
form of petty resentments, like trolling for Trump.
Some more, generally skeptical, links:
Matthew Avery Sutton: Billy Graham was on the wrong side of history:
Graham, who died last week at 99, was a big deal in the 1950s when I was
a child. My grandmother, especially, loved him. She was the most bigoted
person I knew back then, a model for me to rebel against. And while I
gave the fundamentalist church of my parents a fair try, going so far
as to earn a Boy Scouts God & Country medal, even back then I was
more than a little suspicious of Graham (or for that matter of any of
the evangelists who got their mugs on television). The turning point for
me was the Vietnam War. And while even then I must have recognized that
there were lots of perfectly respectable Christians opposed to the war,
the media savvy that Graham had plied so successfully in making himself
the face of Christian America had much to do with my rejection of both
God and Country. Graham faded, at least from my view, after Nixon, but
I did notice that he was the pastor the Bushes called to get wayward
George W. back on the straight and narrow. Last I noticed was his son
Franklin, picking up the family business, vowing to follow US troops
into Iraq to convert the heathens -- a mission that wasn't so warmly
embraced by the Occupation generals. As Sutton notes, the evangelical
movement Graham did so much to politicize has gotten more narrow-minded
and vindictive over the years, becoming a pillar of a Republican Party
that increasingly makes the Book of Revelations' locusts look benign.
Some others who remember Graham: