Sunday, April 1, 2018
I was prepared to skip this weekly exercise completely: I spent most
of the last week preparing for my sister's funeral (or "celebration of
life" as the official title went) and related social gatherings. But
with the last such event ended this afternoon, and with various guests
taking their leave, I found myself wanting to do something "normal."
Not that much of what follows can be considered "normal" in any other
regard. I recently read Allen Frances' Twilight of American Sanity:
A Psychiatrist Analyzes the Age of Trump, which fell rather short
of its titular ambition. Although there are occasional references to
commonplace psychology, he mostly focuses on ubiquity and persistence
of "delusional thinking" -- mostly defined as failure to recognize a
long list of liberal political creeds. I don't have much quarrel with
his platform planks, but I'm more suspicious of economic/class factors
than psychological ones. Where I think insight into psychology might
be helpful is in trying to model human behavior given the complexity
of the world and our various limits in apprehending it. It's certainly
credible that psychological traits that were advantageous in primitive
societies malfunction in our changing world, but how does that work?
And what sort of adjustments would work better?
Some scattered links this week:
Matthew Yglesias: The 4 stories that drove this week in politics:
David Shulkin is out at Veterans Affairs; Oklahoma teachers are going
on strike; Conservative media feuded with Parkland students; Trump
gave a weird speech: "one of the rambling, factually challenged
addresses for which he's famous. . . . Trump will continue to walk
the line between dishonest, uninformed, and inarticulate in a way
that keeps people guessing."
Other Yglesias pieces:
Trump-era politics is a surreal nightmare and we can't wake up:
"Diving back in kind of reminds me of Charlton Heston waking from his
space travel to discover that he's on a planet run by orangutans.
Except instead of orangutans, we have the Republican Party."
Ousted VA secretary blasts privatization in a New York Times op-ed:
The effect, I think, is to frame his firing as a policy dispute. Sure,
there is a major policy divide between an ideological faction that wants
to privatize VA health care and those, including virtually all veterans
groups, who like the current fully socialized system. The privatisers
were able to push Shulkin out not by winning their policy argument, but
by characterizing Shulkin as insufficiently loyal to Trump.
David Shulkin is out as secretary of veterans affairs.
Let's not repeal the 2nd Amendment: Former Supreme Court justice
John Paul Stevens wrote an op-ed:
Repeal the Second Amendment -- not a new idea as Stevens previously
included changes to the second amendment in his 2014 book Six Amendments:
How and Why We Should Change the Constitution. Yglesias argues that
even under the precedent-setting Heller ruling, which Stevens dissented
from and cites as reason for amending the constitution, there is still a
lot of leeway for sensible regulation of guns -- indeed, much more than
there is political will to implement. Moreover, just as Heller reversed
over a hundred years of precedents, Yglesias proposes that new Supreme
Court justices could reverse Heller. As a practical matter, he's probably
John Williams will likely be the next president of the New York Fed:
"He's got a track record of poor forecasting and weak regulation."
Stormy Daniels' 60 Minutes interview raises 2 critical questions she
- How many other sexual partners has Trump paid hush money to?
- How many foreign intelligence services know about one or more of
Dylan Curran: Are you ready? Here is all the data Facebook and Google
have on you.
Barbara Ehrenreich: It Is Expensive to Be Poor.
If anything, the criminalization of poverty has accelerated since the
recession, with growing numbers of states drug testing applicants for
temporary assistance, imposing steep fines for school truancy, and
imprisoning people for debt. Such measures constitute a cruel inversion
of the Johnson-era principle that it is the responsibility of government
to extend a helping hand to the poor. Sadly, this has become the means
by which the wealthiest country in the world manages to remain complacent
in the face of alarmingly high levels of poverty: by continuing to blame
poverty not on the economy or inadequate social supports, but on the poor
Joy Crane/Nick Tabor: 501 Days in Swampland: "A constant drip of
self-dealing. And this is just what we know so far . . ."
Thomas Frank: Dow dreamers show Trump's war on elites is pure fantasy:
On Larry Kudlow and Kevin Hassett.
Ann Hulbert: Today's Rebels Are Model Children: "The young protesters
now on the march are responsible and mature -- and they're asking adults
to grow up."
Stephen Kinzer: Efraín Ríos Montt, Guatemalan Dictator Convicted of
Genocide, Dies at 91.
Jen Kirby: Here are 6 of the most bizarre things Trump said in his
Paul Krugman: Putting the Ex-Con in Conservatism.
Anna North: How Trump helped inspire a wave of strict new abortion laws.
Richard Silverstein: IDF Murders 17 Gazans, Wounds 1,400 in Great Return
March Protest; also
Robert Mackey: Israel Opens Fire on Palestinian Protesters in Gaza;
Trump Envoy Blames "Hostile March"; also
James North: 'NY Times' covers up Israel's killing of nonviolent protesters
along the Gaza border; and
Philip Weiss: A brief, unhappy history of Israeli massacres.
Matt Taibbi: Is the Two-Party System Doomed?: Reflecting on a
comparative politics essay (US, France, UK) by Thomas Piketty called
Brahmin Left vs. Merchant Right. I don't quite get it, but:
But having two parties sponsored by the same donors simply can't work
in the long-term. The situation ends up being what a Colombian politician
once deemed "two horses with the same owner."
From Mitt Romney's idiotic tirade against "the 47%" to Hillary
Clinton's recent remarks about how she won all the "dynamic" parts of
America, our political leaders have consistently showed that they don't
see or understand the levels of resentment out there.
Papers like Piketty's are a warning that if the intellectuals in both
parties don't come up with a real plan for dealing with the income
disparity problem before someone smarter than Donald Trump takes it
on, they're screwed. Forget nativists vs. globalists. Think poor vs.
rich. Think 99 to 1. While Washington waits with bated breath for the
results of the Mueller probe, it's the other mystery -- how do we fix
this seemingly unfixable economic system -- that is keeping the rest
of the country awake at night.
Taibbi notes that Trump at least took advantage of the resentments
of the excluded, even if all he had to offer were lies. It's likely
to be hard to pull that off again given his track record, but worth
recalling that the only thing that made him seem credible in 2016 was
how completely the Clintons had been discredited.
Danny Vinik: How Trump favored Texas over Puerto Rico.