Sunday, February 17, 2019
Another weekly batch of links and comments. At some point I started
shunting pieces on Trump's "state of emergency" declaration to the end,
but a few are scattered in the main list. Also wound up adding more
"related" links under first-found stories. More time might let me sort
out a better pecking order. But at this point I'm mostly going through
the motions, to establish a record for possible later review. Book
idea is still germinating. Last couple weeks have been especially
trying for me, and this coming one looks likely to be worse.
Some scattered links this week:
The real national emergency is Trump's incompetence.
Today's national emergency declaration from Donald Trump is an obvious
fraud, detectable if nothing else by the reality that various White House
and congressional officials have been teasing it as a possibility for
months. In a real emergency, you act fast.
In a fake emergency, you act when you've decided the political timing
is right as part of a larger ass-covering move because you need to back
down from an ill-advised congressional fight that, itself, followed from
an ill-advised campaign promise. . . .
First the shutdown and now the "emergency" both stem from the basic fact
that Trump will neither admit his whole wall spiel was BS nor decide to
act like someone who genuinely wants a wall and make a deal to get it.
Instead, a lot of people's time and money is now going to be wasted on
litigation while money is taken away from duly authorized programs and
sent instead to a construction project nobody really wants. This is not
the worst thing anyone has ever done in American politics -- it's not
even close to being the worst thing Trump has ever done -- but it's
arguably the most absurd.
And it raises, once again, the fundamental question about Trump. When
you have a president who can't handle relatively banal problems like a
disagreement over a $5 billion appropriation for a pet project, what's
going to happen to us when a real crisis hits?
California high-speed rail and the American infrastructure tragedy,
New York is better off without Amazon's HQ2: "Without significant
reform of land use, an influx of tech jobs would've hurt the city ore
than helped it."
The real stakes in the 2020 primary aren't about legislation:
"Foreign policy, personnel, priorities, regulation, and economic
management matter most."
The case for hiring more police officers.
The controversy over Ilhan Omar and AIPAC money, explained.
Related: Richard Silverstein:
Israel lobby seeks to muzzle Ilhan Omar, sabotage democratic resurgence.
The fight between Ilhan Omar and Elliott Abrams, Trump's Venezuela envoy,
explained: "It revealed the real divides in American foreign policy."
One should add: it was notable because those divides are scarcely ever
talked about in Washington. After reviewing Abrams' criminal history,
and sorting the "divide" into three baskets:
These are obviously stylized differences, with individual advocates in
these debates taking more nuanced views. But which of these three visions
you're closest too, broadly, shapes the way you think about and approach
various questions in American foreign policy. If you think the United
States is typically a force for good in the world, you tend to be more
comfortable with American intervention in foreign conflicts. If you
think America is a meddling imperialist power, not so much.
The debate between Abrams and Omar is, really, a debate about these
visions. But it's also a debate about a very real policy question
currently facing the US: Should the US militarily intervene -- or
intervene at all, in any way, even diplomatically -- in Venezuela?
This isn't quite right. The fact is that the US government has
historically (over more than 100 years), including (but not limited
to) landing troops in the country, and it has always done so in favor
of local elites aligned with American business interests. Indeed, it
is pretty clear that the US has repeatedly attempted to overthrow
the democratically elected Chavez and Maduro governments, always
in support of the same elites. Clearly, US backing for Guaidó is
just one more step in the neverending effort to seize Venezuela's
government and turn it against the Venezuelan people.
One can imagine a left government in America having a very different
foreign policy, one that would break with centuries of past exploits
and stop opposing the aspirations of people around the world to take
democratic power and implement policies that would provide for fair
and equitable distribution of each nation's wealth, regardless of its
impact on American business interests. However, there's little chance
of that happening, even if some relatively left-leaning Democrat were
to win the presidency in 2020. Short of that, the most practicable
foreign policy option is to resist US intervention, even in cases
where one is tempted to argue that intervention would be some kind
of humanitarian venture -- of course, the fact that "humanitarian
intervention" has been cited repeatedly and has accumulated a totally
dismal track record makes it that much easier to dismiss the canard
out of hand. (Not that it isn't a big part of the Trump case for
intervening in Venezuela.)
The Green New Deal is what realistic environmental policy looks like.
Alexia Fernández Campbell:
A record number of US workers went on strike in 2018: "Working-class
Americans haven't been this fed up with their employers since the 1980s."
Not sure how they're qualifying "record": chart looks like since 1986,
but there were higher totals literally every year from 1947-83. Still,
last year towers over every year 2001-17.
Gaby Del Valle:
Amazon scrapped its New York City plans. Some residents are elated -- others
are disappointed. E.g., "Real estate developers who had bet that Amazon's
presence in Long Island City would drive up rents were stunned." Still,
nearly every other city in America is groveling at Amazon's feet, because
it's easy to see the benefits of a new development (even if government
winds up kicking back all of its taxes to the company), and hard to see
the broader effects (as Yglesias does in the article above). Still, there
is another story yet to be told: why does Amazon think they're going to
need all those extra "headquarters" workers? What's the business model
there? You know there must be one, and it must involve capturing a lot
of what's currently other companies' business.
Related: Jeremiah Moss:
A dispatch from the anti-Amazon victory party; Derek Thompson:
Amazon got exactly what it deserved -- and so did New York.
The larger truth is that corporate subsidies, including the $3 billion
package offered to Amazon, are often pernicious and usually pointless.
Studies show that these sorts of measures "have no discernible impact
on firm expansion, measured by job creation." Yet every year, local
governments spend more than $90 billion to move headquarters and
factories between states, a wasteful zero-sum exercise whose cost is
more than the federal government spends on affordable housing, education,
or infrastructure. In the most garish example of corporate-welfare
absurdity, Foxconn, the Taiwanese manufacturing company, solicited up
to $4 billion in subsidies from Wisconsin in exchange for a factory
and tens of thousands of workers. Now it's an open question whether
that facility will ever get built.
But even the less garish examples are galling. New York City doesn't
have an employment problem; it has a housing-affordability problem.
Donald Trump is President and anything is possible: This sounds
a lot like my book outline:
In the resulting atmosphere of crisis and upheaval, a new coalition
can bring a new reconstructive president to power. When that happens,
Skowronek wrote, governing priorities are "durably recast," and a
"corresponding set of legitimating ideas becomes the new common sense."
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a reconstructive president. So was Ronald
Reagan. The assumptions of New Deal liberalism governed American politics
from 1932 to 1980. The assumptions of the conservative movement have
dominated thereafter, though perhaps not for much longer.
Viewed through this schema, Donald Trump's presidency looks more like
the end of a cycle than the end of the Republic. Throughout the 2016
presidential campaign and the early months of the Trump administration,
the constitutional law professors Jack Balkin and Sanford Levinson
exchanged letters arguing about the durability of our system; the
letters will be published this spring as a book, "Democracy and
Dysfunction." Balkin is the more sanguine of the two, in part because
he sees Trump fitting into Skowronek's model.
Trump's presidency, wrote Balkin, could be what Skowronek called
"disjunctive," meaning one "in which a president allied with an aging
political regime promises to restore its dominance and former greatness,
is unable to keep all of the elements of his coalition together, and as
a result presides over the regime's dissolution."
The latter line reminds me of James Buchanan, who remains as Trump's
only serious rival for "worst president ever."
How Trump's swamp works now.
Eugene V Debs and the endurance of Socialism.
4 winners and 4 losers from the funding bill and emergency declaration:
Winners: federal employees; 2020 Democrats; immigration detention;
Congressional oversight. Losers: the "power of the purse"; Mitch McConnell;
"Build the wall"; federal contractors.
Colin Kaepernick's collusion grievance against the NFL, explained.
Related: Jemele Hill:
Kaepernick Won. The NFL Lost.
Alec MacGillis and ProPublica:
The original underclass: "Poor white Americans' current crisis shouldn't
have caught the rest of the country as off guard as it has."
Bill and Melinda Gates and the problem of the "good billionaire":
Of course, nothing here on how Gates got all that money.
Andrew G McCabe:
Every day is a new low in Trump's White House: From the Trump-fired
former deputy director of the FBI, who now has a book, The Threat:
How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump: "The
president steps over bright ethical and moral lines wherever he encounters
them. Everyone in America saw it when he fired my boss. But I saw it
firsthand time and again."
Elizabeth Warren wants to ban the US from using nuclear weapons first.
A California coalition is tackling one of the hardest, unsexiest parts of
climate policy: "Decarbonizing buildings: it's tedious, but oh so
Utah Republicans have officially blocked their state's voter-approved
Israel elections: the vultures are circling Netanyahu: Election is
on April 9. Open question is whether Netanyahu will be indicted before
then, and if so, how toxic that will make him.
What Brett Kavanaugh's dishonest anti-abortion dissent reveals about his
Supreme Court agenda.
The US held a global summit to isolate Iran. America isolated itself
instead. Related: Kathy Gilsinan:
The Trump Administration can't get a united front against Iran;
The Trump Administration looks more isolated and incompetent than ever at
this week's anti-Iran conference;
Warsaw summit was a failure for Trump -- but a win for Netanyahu;
Netanyahu calls on Arab states to join war against Iran.
Some more links on the "emergency" declaration: