Sunday, May 6, 2018
Another week, more links:
Matthew Yglesias: The week's 4 big political stories, explained:
Donald Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen for the Stormy payoff (according
to new Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani; funny typo here referring to Trump
layer "Cohn"); Scott Pruitt scandals are metastasizing; Trump finally
got a top-notch lawyer (after Ty Cobb quit, and no, not Giuliani --
someone named Emmet T Flood, whose past employers included Antonin
Scalia, Bill Clinton, GW Bush, Dick Cheney, and Hillary Clinton, none
of whom wound up in jail, despite, well, you know); The economy added
164,000 jobs in April (another typo here, "1640,000").
Other Yglesias posts:
The simplest, most important question the White House can't answer:
"Why did the president fire James Comey?"
All that said, Sanders's statement from the podium today was a reminder
that Trump really is on some level an abnormally rotten, abnormally
dangerous figure to hold such high office.
He fundamentally rejects the notion that the American state exists
to serve the public interest and that he, in his role as president, is
likewise a servant of the public. He instead wants to "run the government
like a business" (as the cliché goes) in the most literal and retrograde
way imaginable -- for his own personal benefit, constrained if at all by
the letter of the law or, more properly, by what he can manage to get
away with under the law.
4 political science lessons from Kanye West's embrace of Donald Trump:
"Normal people are instinct-driven rationalizers motivated by group loyalty
dynamics, not ideologies." Cites a book by Milton Lodge and Charles S. Taber,
The Rationalizing Voter, to argue that West's fondness for Trump is
intuitive rather than rational, and that this isn't uncommon:
When Bill Clinton was president, for example, highly attentive Republicans
were more likely than less attentive Republicans to say the budget deficit
was rising. They knew the falling deficit was a key Clinton talking point
and they knew they didn't like Clinton, so they "knew" he was lying about
West, somewhat similarly, seems to be "learning" a lot of pseudo-facts
about the history of race in America in response to his decision to
affiliate himself with Trump, rather than deciding to affiliate with
Trump after undertaking a revisionist study of race in America.
Trump's Stormy Daniels tweets show how easy he is to blackmail:
"A man who dispenses cash for secrets this easily is a risky man to
have in office."
This is exactly why Sally Yates warned Trump long ago that Michael
Flynn was a security risk, but rather than address the risk, Trump
tried to hush it up.
That's been the story of Trump's whole life -- breaking the rules
and using money he inherited from his father to make problems go away.
It's been a remarkably successful strategy for him, despite considerable
collateral damage to the long list of people he's screwed over -- from
unpaid contractors to defrauded Trump University students -- and now
that he's president, we all get to pay the price for his various cover-ups.
Cities hoping to win Amazon's HQ2 should watch what they wish for.
Yglesias is concerned that "an influx of good-paying jobs" would cause
an increase in rents that would gobble up gains and hurt more people
than the new business would help -- unless, that is, the new site built
enough additional housing to compensate. Many candidate cities are
already burdened by high rents, so don't have that flexibility. Left
unsaid is that landlords, who seem to have more political clout than
renters, would benefit from driving up rents (although they're likely
to get stuck with paying the taxes that Amazon gets to duck).
Ukraine cut off cooperation with Mueller to curry favor with Trump:
And even more troublingly, it's not just Trump and not just Ukraine.
The administration is currently nearing an important decision on Iran
policy, a topic that many Middle Eastern countries have strong feelings
about and interests that do not align perfectly with those of the United
States. Trump has known business dealings with many of these Gulf monarchies,
and we have no idea what secret deals he's making or what cash payments
are being funneled through his clubs.
No previous president would have dared to wallow in such a morass of
conflicts of interest. Then again, no previous president would have led
foreign countries to believe that their receipt of security assistance
was dependent on them seeking to actively obstruct an ongoing criminal
Mike Pence hails Joe Arpaio as a "tireless champion . . . of the rule
of law: "The vice president is all in on Trump's shocking attacks
on basic institutions."
Study: overhyped media narratives about America's fading white majority fuel anxiety
T-Mobile's proposed takeover of Sprint, explained: A fascinating
piece. Among other things, I learned that T-Mobile and Sprint are both
owned by foreign conglomerates (one German, the other Japanese) that
have been reluctant to inject new capital. Meanwhile, the top two
wireless companies, Verizon and AT&T, both descend from Bell
operating companies and have many interlocking investors (the top
three of both are Vanguard, Blackrock, and State Street), so they
tend to be competitors in name only.
Democrats' 2018 impeachment dilemma, explained: "Impeaching Trump
polls poorly, but Democratic candidates can't ignore the elephant in
the room." One point worth making is that Republicans tried pushing a
narrowly partisan impeachment process against Bill Clinton in 1998,
one that never had a prayer of passing the Senate, and it more or less
backfired on them. Without significant Republican support, impeaching
Trump won't succeed either (and replacing him with Mike Pence wouldn't
do anyone any favors either). So at this point, and realistically even
if Democrats win narrow margins in both House and Senate in 2018, the
sensible position would be to wait and see. One thing a Democratic
Congress can do is to investigate Trump and to limit his power, and
there's no reason not to promise to do just that. It's even possible
that Trump might blossom as a constructive dealmaker given Democratic
control of Congress. It's also possible that he could turn even more
paranoid and self-destruct, but you can't predict either before the
Charlotte Alter: The Walls That Hillary Clinton Created: Review of
Amy Chozick's Chasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns,
and One Intact Glass Ceiling, a book I suppose could be interesting
if/when it compares/contrasts Clinton's two presidential campaigns, both
starting out as slam/dunk favorites and winding up in the trash can of
history: what did she learn? and why didn't that work? One problem seems
to be that she never cultivated a working relationship with the press:
People who know Clinton often complain that the press, and therefore
the public, never gets to see how warm and funny she is in person.
Chasing Hillary is the best explanation so far of why that is.
Chozick describes Clinton's press shop (which she calls "The Guys")
as an anonymous gang of manipulative, unresponsive and vaguely menacing
apparatchiks who alternate between denying her interview requests (47
in total, by her count), bullying her in retaliation for perceived
negative coverage ("You've got a target on your back," one of them
tells her) and exploiting her insecurities about keeping up with her
(often male) colleagues. The campaign quarantined the press on a
separate bus and, later, a separate plane, often without even an
accompanying flack to answer basic questions.
As for the petty stuff, there seems to be quite a lot in Chozick's
book, as there is in the one I'm reading now, Katy Tur: Unbelievable:
My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History,
where Tur gets bullied as much as Chozick, only more often by the
candidate directly (she covered Trump, in case that wasn't obvious).
Also in The New York Times Book Review, let me mention
John McCain: By the Book, which is actually pretty reasonable,
not least because he sticks with well-known books (The Great
Gatsby, Huckleberry Finn, For Whom the Bell Tolls;
asked about Vietnam, he offers two Bernard Fall books and Neil
Sheehan's A Bright Shining Lie; and he promises to read
Ron Chernow's Grant next). Good chance his ghostwriter
Mark Salter helped him out.
Jason Ditz: Giuliani: Trump Will Kill Iran Nuclear Deal:
Speaking this weekend at an anti-Iran conference, President Trump's
attorney Rudy Giuliani declared that the president would withdraw
the US from the Iran nuclear deal. He went on to insist this would
lead to regime change in Iran.
Giuliani held up a piece of paper meant to represent the Iran deal,
yelling at the crowd "what do you think is going to happen to that
agreement?" He ripped up the paper and then spat on it. President
Trump has previously set an ultimatum of May 12 for withdrawing from
Given how loudly Trump administration flaks have been announcing
the intent to withdraw from the "worst deal ever," it seems unlikely
not to happen. Peter Van Buren predicts:
US Is Playing With Fire if It Walks Away From the Iran Nuclear Deal
on May 12. My personal opinion is that if the other five signatories
stick with the deal Iran will too, so the only effect that Trump will
have is to keep US businesses from trading with Iran (e.g., halting
a large order for Boeing airliners), and generally make the US look
like a rogue nation with no regard for world peace (something which
may contribute to scuttling prospects for a denuclearizing agreement
with North Korea -- possibly part of the reason the usual suspects
are pressing this issue now). Of course, withdrawing from the deal
could just be a first step toward war with Iran, something Israel
and Saudi Arabia would be keen to cheer on but lack the wherewithal
to undertake themselves (unless Israel wants to be the one starting
a nuclear war). But rather than pushing war as their reason, the
deal's opponents are rekindling fantasies that the Iranian people
will revolt and overthrow the regime. Certainly, if the stated US
goals for the deal were serious, there is no reason to withdrawal.
For instance, see
Fred Kaplan: Bibi's Iran Speech Was a Bust. Trita Parsi had
the same thought:
Did Israel Inadvertently Make Case for Staying in Nuke Agreement?
Mark Townsend/Julian Borger: Trump team hired spy firm for 'dirty ops'
on Iran arms deal, and Borger's solo
Trump's dirty ops attack on Obama legacy shows pure hatred for Iran
deal. For another prediction, see:
Saeed Kamali Dehglan: If Trump destroys the nuclear deal, Iran will
fall to its hardliners.
Thomas Frank: Are Democrats finally read to unfriend Facebook and Silicon
Valley? "Not so long ago, Barack Obama was drinking in Mark Zuckerberg's
psychobabble about bringing the world together." Of course, the real bond
between Silicon Valley and Clinton/Obama Democrats was money. Clinton's
late-1990s boom was largely based on Internet promotion, and Obama tried
to do the same thing with non-fossil energy businesses, and Sillcon Valley's
donations kept the Democrats (Obama and the Clintons, anyway) competitive.
If that's changing, it's because as tech businesses grow, they become more
focused on bottom line, and more predatory, so they seem less and less
like unequivocal innovations. But also, while there's no denying that
Clinton and Obama made them money, there's also a growing suspicion that
average Democratic voters got very little from electing them -- indeed,
an increasing number of voters became so cynical that they figured they
had little to lose by taking a chance on Trump. Also, it turns out that
Trump was able to use "social media" more effectively. Still, I doubt any
Democrats soliciting big money are going to unfriend anyone who pays up.
I'm not even sure they should. But if we've learned anything in the last
year it's that high tech isn't an unambiguous blessing.
Dhar Jamail: Explosions and Crashes: Military Aircraft Are a Threat to
US Civilians: "On April 3, a third military aircraft crashed in just
one 24-hour period." Jamail has too many recent crashes to mention one
of the biggest ones, which happened here
in Wichita in 1965, when a KC-135 tanker with 31,000 gallons of
jet fuel dropped out of the sky to raze an entire city block (killing
30, 23 on the ground).
Mike Konczal: How low can unemployment go? Economists keep getting the
answer wrong. It's down to 3.9% now, according to one measure anyhow.
Back in the 1970s economists came up with something they called "the
natural rate of unemployment," below which inflation ensues. We're way
below what economists thought the number was then, and we're still not
seeing significant inflation. For a prescient critique of the theory
from the late-1990s see the writings of
George P. Brockway. (By the way, Brockway's The End of Economic
Man: Principles of Any Future Economics is the book you should start
with if you want to read one book about economics.) One thing I'd like
to add is that the assumption that increasing wages are the main cause
of inflation is baked into the theory, which is why it's always been a
cudgel against tightening of labor markets. That's not to deny that
increasing unemployment, which is what the theory prescribes to counter
inflation, doesn't reduce inflation, but it does so not by decreasing
the costs of products and services but by reducing the demand for them.
Conversely, most of the price increases we've seen since the theory was
developed have come from monopoly rents and capital demands (and in
some cases, like OPEC or Enron, artificially induced supply shortages).
Meanwhile, the enormous inrease of asset prices we've seen since 1980
isn't counted as inflation at all -- it's merely considered to be the
dividends of wealth.
Don Lefler/Tim Potter: County Commissioner Michael O'Donnell indicted
on bank, wire fraud and money laundering: Local Wichita story, but
file it under "when bad things happen to bad people." The article
describes O'Donnell as "a rising star" in the Republican Party in
Kansas. Indeed, he's won three elections by age 33: Wichita City
Council, Kansas State Senate, and Sedgwick County Commissioner. His
ran for the Senate as part of the right-wing purge of Republican
moderates, defeating popular incumbent Jean Schodorf in the primary
and hanging on for a narrow win. In the legislature, he sponsored
a bill to place draconian limits on welfare recipients, including
prohibition from withdrawing more than $25 at a time from a bank
ATM, as well as a long list of other "luxuries." (At the time, I
wrote that O'Donnell "is a textbook example of how ignorant and
unrealistic a sheltered and pampered young person can be." See my
notebook, under "Cathy
O'Neil: Kansas redistributes money from the poor to the banks.")
The article doesn't mention a scandal that O'Donnell was involved
in involving underage drinking. Lynn Rogers, a popular member of
the Wichita School Board (and a former Republican) decided to run
as a Democrat against O'Donnell, a race that O'Donnell dodged by
running for County Commissioner instead. (Rogers won.) The article
does include critical comments from Richard Ranzau, who has been
feuding with O'Donnell recently. Ranzau is an arch-conservative,
but compared with O'Donnell comes of as principled. I saw another
article where Jim Ward noted that O'Donnell has always "played fast
and loose." Looks like he finally got caught. He's charged with
federal crimes, so maybe Trump will pardon him.
Dara Lind: Trump tells 57,000 Hondurans who've lived in the US for
20 years to get out: "It's yet another move that will turn people
who are in the US legally into unauthorized immigrants." The program
is TPS (Temporary Protected Status), originally a temporary program
but for Honduras was set up in 1998 and only covers people in the US
by then. Each nation is reviewed separately. If the Trump administration
continues to end TPS programs, by 2020 some 400,000 who currently have
legal status in the US will lose their protection and be subject to
Jedediah Purdy: Normcore: A review of "crisis-of-democracy" books,
a booming genre since Trump got elected, specifically: Steven Levitsky
and Daniel Ziblatt: How Democracies Die; Yascha Mounk: The
People Versus Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save
It; David Frum: Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American
Republic; William A. Galston: Antipluralism: The Populist Threat
to Liberal Democracy; and E.J. Dionne Jr, Norman J. Ornstein, and
Thomas E. Mann: One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed,
the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet-Deported. More
books in this vein are available, and beyond that there are numerous
efforts to reëxamine historical fascists in light of Trump, and there
is another stack of books hoping to impeach Trump -- an impossible cry
for a broken system to fix itself.
What is missing from these works, and the commentariat that they represent,
is a genuine reckoning with twenty-first-century questions: whether we have
ever been democratic, and whether the versions of capitalism that have
emerged in the last forty years are compatible with democracy. The
crisis-of-democracy literature largely presumes that these debates have
been settled, so that any doubts about that settlement must be symptoms
of confusion or bad faith. That is why these books do not rise to the
crisis that occasions them. Answering basic questions about the relationship
between democracy and capitalism is the only credible response to the
Purdy locates this bewilderment about capitalism and democracy to what
he calls "the long 1990s" -- the triumphalist conclusion that once the
Soviet Union fell everybody understood that the only viable system was
politically democratic and robustly capitalist. (Of course, nobody takes
China seriously as a counter-example.) Since the early 1990s, both US
political parties have vied with each other to increase inequality --
the main difference that while Republicans focus on zero-sum transfers,
the Democrats favor the sleight-of-hand game they call growth. While
this rivalry has been lucrative for the wealthy, it has left pretty
much everyone else not only poorer but with a diminished sense of power
over their lives and future. The result was that in 2016, politics took
a disturbing detour from the agreed-upon virtues:
The energy in 2016 was entirely elsewhere. Everyone sensed this -- except,
perhaps, the Clinton campaign. Sanders and Trump stood for opposite
principles and visions of the country, but the two candidates shared an
indifference to the standard formula of American politics: constitution +
heroic history = America. This was the equation that made Barack Obama,
John McCain, and Ted Cruz divergent participants in a single political
culture. Sanders talked like what he is, a person of the democratic left,
to whom America is a place to be worked on, not in itself a source of
meaning or identity. Trump departed from Cold-War rhetoric in the opposite
direction. To hear him speak, he might never have heard of the Constitution
(other than the Second Amendment, a euphemistic hook for his favored themes
of violence and racialized fear), the Revolution, or the Civil War -- or
for that matter the civil rights movement, a redemptive touchstone for
Cold-War liberalism. For him, America is not a philosophical problem or a
historical challenge, but a chance to beat down whoever falls on the wrong
side of the border or the loyalty test. "America, fuck yeah!" as Team
America would have it.
The thing that really defined Trump's political language was its nihilism
about politics itself, the appetite it stoked for political bullshit that
doesn't even pretend to hold together, but just staggers from one emotional
trigger to another. Trump essentially short-sold the high-minded political
style of the late Cold War, betting that it would prove weaker than it
looked under pressure -- that people neither expected much from government
nor thought it important enough to be well run; that a lot of voters despised
their political class and the cultural and financial elites around it; and
that recreational cruelty and you-can't-bullshit-a-bullshitter snark would
feel more authentic than any respectably sanctioned appeal to better angels.
We are, he intimated, the barbarians we've been waiting for.
Daniel Denver/Thea Riofrancos: Zombie Liberalism, a review of Mounk's
book. As they point out, Mounk argues that "to fight the far right, liberals
should reclaim a more inclusive nationalism." Problem is, that sounds more
like a plan to fight the left (often the fight centrists prefer to pick).
Despite the appeal to pragmatism, Mounk's political vision is utopian, his
ideal polity a kind of liberal sublime. In a distant place far outside of
history, virtuous trustees of public reason skillfully mobilize the best
of nationalism while fending off its "dangerous excesses." Entranced, Mounk
sees in nationalism a muscular tool for legitimizing the political-economic
order: "Nationalism is like a half-wild beast. As long as it remains under
our control, it can be of tremendous use." Who is the "beast," and who is
the "us" into which Mounk places the reader?
From long ago, the left has held a critique of nationalism: that it is
(mostly) an artificial division of people into groups for the purpose of
furthering conservative hierarchies. This hasn't kept leftists from invoking
nationalism for their own purposes -- especially to organize resistance
against colonial powers. Still, it's never really set well, as it runs
counter to the fundamental that all people should be equal and free. When
Mounk argues for his more enlightened nationalism, he's sacrificing this
very fundamental for political expediency. Of course, as a self-conscious
anti-populist, his pitch is aimed at elites (admittedly, liberal ones) --
necessarily so, as who else would agree to continuing rule by elites?
Corey Robin: Democracy Is Norm Erosion:
Two or three weeks ago, I had an intuition, a glimpse of a thought that
has kept coming back to me since: the discourse of norm erosion isn't
really about Trump. Nor is it about authoritarianism. What it's really
about is "extremism," that old stalking horse of Cold War liberalism.
And while that discourse of norm erosion won't do much to limit Trump
and the GOP, its real contribution will be to mark the outer limits of
left politics, just at a moment when we're seeing the rise of a left
that seems willing to push those limits.
I get what Robin is saying here, but I'm not happy with the term
"extremism" here, mostly because a lot of the things the "norms
defenders" dislike, especially on the left, don't strike me as
extreme at all. In particular, peace and equality aren't extreme
all-or-nothing propositions. They are ideals which should orient
us for everyday decisions. But until recently what passed for
serious, legitimate political discourse excluded left ideals,
and therefore even practical proposals, as "extremist."
For now, I'll merely leave us with this thought: democracy is a
permanent project of norm erosion, forever shattering the norms
of hierarchy and domination and the political forms that aid and
Aziz Rana: The Left's Missing Foreign Policy: Well, not my left,
but you know who he's talking about:
At the outset of the 2003 Iraq War, I caught up after some years with
a friend and professor of mine, who had close links with the Democratic
Party's foreign policy establishment. He was dismayed by the turn of
events, and not only because of the collective insanity that seemed to
grip the Bush White House. Despite the massive global protests, a
surprisingly large number of people within Washington and the Democratic
Party's think tanks and policy circles backed the invasion, sometimes
tacitly, often explicitly. He described the run-up to the war as being
like finding yourself in an Ionesco play, watching your friends turn
into rhinoceroses. . . .
In 2008 Obama distinguished himself from Hillary Clinton as an antiwar
candidate, but once in office his administration and foreign policy team
were staffed by pro-war faces and their protégés, from Clinton herself to
Joe Biden and Samantha Power, along with many of the exact people my
professor lamented all the way back in 2003. And, as has been noted,
Obama's staffing decisions led to policies shaped by the same faulty
logic that produced Iraq -- the most obvious example being the American-led
regime change in Libya, on supposedly humanitarian grounds, that left tens
of thousands dead, with lingering devastation that continues to drive an
enormous exodus of refugees. . . . After eight years of Obama's wars, the
only policy positions in the Democratic Party continue to be those presented
by the same national security establishment that acquiesced to the Iraq
I would have said Afghanistan instead of Iraq, as the 2001 invasion of
Afghanistan was the original sin of the Global War on Terror. Indeed, if
Obama had understood that, he wouldn't have wound up hiring so many Iraq
War accomplices. But Rana is right that the mindset which made the decision
to attack Afghanistan dates back much further, at least to the 1940s. He
goes on to sketch out the rudiments of a new foreign policy, starting:
The first is a global commitment to social democracy rather than free
market capitalism (as embodied in austerity, neoliberal privatization,
and trade agreements built on entrenching corporate property rights). . . .
"Do no harm" would be another key principle.
If you look back to Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" and the founding
documents of the United Nations, you'll find the germ of a policy
promoting social democracy worldwide as the basis for world peace.
The first corruption of that occurred when the US reverted to its
pre-Roosevelt foreign policies of promoting US business interests
abroad, more aggressively than ever before, leading to the CIA
overthrowing democratic government that had offended United Fruit
(Guatemala) and Anglo-Iranian Oil (Iran) and widespread support
for crony dictators from Rhee Syngman (South Korea) to Ngo Dinh
Diem (South Vietnam) to Augusto Pinochet (Chile) to a long list
(continuing) of Saudi kings -- a practice which has demolished
any hope for world good will.
Rana also wrote
Goodbye, Cold War, which (perhaps too) optimistically started:
The 2016 election was the last election of the cold war. The conflict
that molded generations of American elites has ceased to function as
the framing paradigm of American politics. Even decades after the fall
of the Soviet Union, an account of the cold war -- and of cold war
victory -- contained disagreement in Washington and formed a consensus
that linked the center-left to the center-right. This consensus, based
on a set of judgments that coalesced in the aftermath of World War II,
concerned everything from the genius of America's domestic institutions
to the indispensability of its global role. These judgments gave coherence
to the country's national identity -- allowing both Barack Obama and Bill
Kristol to wax poetic about America's special destiny as a global hegemon --
and legitimacy to its economic policy. But with the 2016 election, the
cold-war paradigm finally shattered.
Of course, pockets of Cold War romantics remain in both parties, most
ominously Democrats around Hillary Clinton who see Russia as the invidious
force behind their fall from power. I remain convinced that the main
reason Clinton lost was that people associated her with foreign wars,
a point underscored by her obsession with "the commander-in-chief test."
While Trump was/is scarcely less bellicose, his "America first" stance
puts an end to the "leader of the free world" conceit. Allies, at best,
view him warily, while the empire seems to be running on autopilot,
tugged about by leaders (like Israel and Saudi Arabia) with their own
agendas. This is a situation where the people are well ahead of their
leaders. Hence I expect the latter to struggle to catch up.
Emily Stewart: Michael Cohen freed up $700,000 in potential loans ahead
of the election. Then he paid Stormy Daniels. New Trump lawyer Rudy
Giuliani went on TV last week to push the line that paying blackmail is
something routine that lawyers like Cohen and himself do for their clients,
so there's nothing unusual (or even very interesting) about Cohen paying
$130,000 to Stormy Daniels. Still, the date of the transaction -- October
15, three weeks before the November 8 election -- is suspicious. That's
very close to the date when James Comey announced that the FBI reopened
its investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails (dragging Anthony Wiener's
name into the mix), which is to say the date Clinton started to tank in
the polls. Maybe Trump's hardcore supporters wouldn't have been phased
about the porn star story, but at the very least you have to admit that
the media would have gone apeshit over the story, and that would have
significantly blunted the impact of Comey's leak. I've long thought that
one reason voters turned against Clinton was that they knew that had she
been elected, she would be dogged from day one with an endless series of
pseudo-scandals, enough to keep her from ever really getting down to the
job of being president. Fairly or not, voters wanted to spare themselves
the embarrassment. (Of course, they failed. Trump has similarly been
dogged by scandal, the only difference being that his scandals are more
substantial, and he looks even guiltier.)
The damning fact is that Cohen's payment denied Americans the right
to know before voting something they know now -- this is as significant
as any of the other efforts to tilt the election, just harder to grasp
because it's something that, thanks to Cohen's anticipation, didn't
become public in time to be taken account. In this, it rather resembles
Watergate, which happened before the 1972 election but wasn't investigated
adequately until after Nixon won a second term.
More on Cohen:
William K Rashbaum et al: How Michael Cohen, Trump's Fixer, Built a
Shadowy Business Empire.
Discarded from last week's Weekend Roundup:
Gloria Origgi: Say goodbye to the information age: it's all about
reputation now. Italian philosopher, has a recent book, Reputation:
What It Is and Why It Matters. Thesis:
There is an underappreciated paradox of knowledge that plays a pivotal
role in our advanced hyper-connected liberal democracies: the greater
the amount of information that circulates, the more we rely on so-called
reputational devices to evaluate it. What makes this paradoxical is that
the vastly increased access to information and knowledge we have today
does not empower us or make us more cognitively autonomous. Rather, it
renders us more dependent on other people's judgments and evaluations
of the information with which we are faced.
We are experiencing a fundamental paradigm shift in our relationship
to knowledge. From the 'information age', we are moving towards the
'reputation age', in which information will have value only if it is
already filtered, evaluated and commented upon by others. Seen in this
light, reputation has become a central pillar of collective intelligence
today. It is the gatekeeper to knowledge, and the keys to the gate are
held by others. The way in which the authority of knowledge is now
constructed makes us reliant on what are the inevitably biased
judgments of other people, most of whom we do not know.
This is true as far as it goes, but in my experience reputation is
earned by consistently providing information which makes sense given
one's experience and accumulated understanding of how the world works.
Predictably, anthropogenic climate change is Origgi's next paragraph
example, although she doesn't offer it in value-neutral terms. Sure,
most people are satisfied with whatever political media they prefer,
which may affirm or deny science that is beyond your reach or grasp.
Still, to believe a position it really needs to make sense beyond
your personal preferences. For instance, I might notice that pretty
much all of the deniers have some compromising relationship to the
fossil fuel industries, whereas virtually all independent scientists
conclude that such change is happening, in accordance with principles
which can be articulated separately. Moreover, I can point to my own
experience for examples which correlate with the science.