Saturday, March 2, 2019
Three fairly major stories dominated the news this past week: Trump
walking away from his summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un without
even making a serious proposal or showing any interest in long-range
peace; Michael Cohen's congressional testimony, where he made a case
that his own crimes were directed by Trump; and Trump's "free-form"
speech at CPAC's annual convention. We'll take these in order, then
conclude with the leftovers, including some stories that are actually
bigger and more ominous than the headline grabbers: a dangerous border
skirmish between nuclear powers India and Pakistan, US escalation
against Venezuela, the impending indictment of Israeli PM Netanyahu,
the usual gamut of Washington scandals, and some hopeful legislation
that Democrats are introducing (and campaigning on).
Some links on Korea and the summit failure:
Love can't buy a nuclear deal: "Trump and Kim failed to reach a
breakthrough in Hanoi. For now, that may be for the best." It bothers
me a lot when otherwise astute observers say things like this. War is
so horrific no one should ever argue that walking back from the peace
table is a good thing. What this really shows is that Kaplan, like so
many American "experts," doesn't see costs and risks to perpetuating
the status quo, especially the cruel sanctions regime. In the lead up
to the summit, I didn't bother citing the many pessimistic forecasts,
like Kaplan's own
Trump's bargaining position with Kim Jong-un is unbelievably weak.
Kaplan is half right about that, in that there is virtually nothing
the US can do to force North Korea to capitulate. On the other hand,
the US has one great asymmetric advantage, in that we know that Kim's
"nuclear threat" is mere bluff, while US sanctions cause real pain
with little or no cost or risk. I could expand on this much more, but
right now don't have the time or stomach. But I will leave you with
two points: one is that Trump is exceptionally capable of negotiating
a realistic deal with Kim because he identifies with strong dictators
and has no inclination to judge them morally (also because he doesn't
have any compelling graft not to deal, as he has with Iran, Yemen, and
Venezuela); the other is that this summit demonstrates a common thread
in Trump's foreign policy, which is his utter contempt and callousness
in all his dealings with the world.
North Korea contradicts Trump on the reason a summit deal fell
Breakdown in Hanoi Summit shows the real danger on the Korean Peninsula:
Donald Trump's America.
Trump is missing his opportunity to press Kim Jong Un on human rights:
On the other hand, Kim missed the opportunity to press Trump on same.
After all the swagger, Trump's talks with North Korea collapse.
Some links on Cohen and this week in the "witchhunt":
Michael Cohen's road map for Democrats.
A legal editor on what we learned from Michael Cohen's Congressional
testimony: Interview with Quinta Jurecic, managing editor of
The sycophant and the sociopath.
Uncontradicted: "Republicans on the House Oversight Committee impugned
the integrity of Trump's former lawyer -- but failed to defend the president
from his key charges."
Michael Cohen: I probably threatened people for Trump hundreds of
What Michael Cohen's testimony means for the Russia investigation.
And some links on Trump and this year's CPAC (Conservative Political
Action Conference) orgy:
Still more scattered links this week:
Bernie Sanders is poised to open up a painful intraparty debate about
Michael A Cohen:
Mitch McConnell, Republican nihilist. Wish I could also share
The King and I, a review of Chris Christie's Let Me Finish
and Cliff Sims' Team of Vipers (locked behind paywall).
Rachel M Cohen:
Labor unions are skeptical of the Green New Deal, and they want activists
to hear them out.
Jair Bolsonaro praised the genocide of indigenous people. Now he's
emboldening attackers of Brazil's Amazonian communities.
It might be time for a "War Dogs" sequel: Report on a Defense
contractor TransDigm Group, which a recent report revealed "'earned
excess profit' on nearly every parts contract it made with the Defense
David A Graham:
Trump aides keep writing memos to protect themselves: "Their urge
to document the president's requests and interactions is justified by
How the Right is using Venezuela to reorder politics: "The
social-democratic wing of the Democratic Party must find a way to put
forth a compelling counter-vision."
Maggie Haberman: et al.:
Trump ordered officials to give Jared Kushner a security clearance:
Not much of a story, but much cited this week. Kushner eventually got
his clearance, and nobody seems to know exactly why it took so long --
in his position, it should have been automatic (not that he ever should
have gotten the job). So the interest now seems to be catching Trump in
another bald-faced lie (video link included).
Trump and Brexit proved this book prophetic -- what calamity will befall
us next?: Interview with Martin Gurri, author of The Revolt of the
Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium (2014). For
a flavor, here are the pull quotes:
"The year 2011 proved to be the moment of phase change, when digital
anger passed over into political action."
"Elites currently seem to be more concerned with re-establishing
their distance from the public than with reforming the system or
restoring their own authority. They equate legitimacy with clinging
to the top of the pyramid."
"When you abolish history, you lose your memory and it's like you've
had a stroke. That condition can lead you to do crazy things."
"If we select the elites, we can un-select them. When it comes to
politics, we can support politicians who fit into the digital age and
are willing to compress the pyramid and dwell closer to the public."
Trump delays more tariffs on China in hopes of a trade deal
Medicare-for-all: Rep. Pramila Jayapal's new bill, explained.
Related: Ryan Grim::
The special interests behind Rep. Pramila Jayapal's Medicare for All
bill are not the usual suspects.
Socialism and the self-made woman: "What Ivanka Trump doesn't know
about social mobility."
O.K., this was world-class lack of self-awareness: It doesn't get much
better than being lectured on self-reliance by an heiress whose business
strategy involves trading on her father's name. But let's go beyond the
personal here. We know a lot about upward mobility in different countries,
and the facts are not what Republicans want to hear. . . .
Look, Ms. Trump is surely right in asserting that most of us want
a country in which there is the potential for upward mobility. But the
things we need to do to ensure that we are that kind of country -- the
policies that are associated with high levels of upward mobility around
the world -- are exactly the things Republicans denounce as socialism.
Running the Democratic primary through 'Trump Country' is the road to
defeat: "Yes, we're looking at you, Bernie Sanders." Basically says
don't waste your breath on the deplorables, or anyone else who lives
in parts where they're statistically significant -- in effect, arguing
that demography is destiny, and going even further than Clinton in
admitting that Democrats have nothing to offer people who aren't part
of their focus groups. Dismisses Sanders as "just the most prominent
white man in the race right now." Adds that: "Both Trump and Sanders
campaigns could be read as promising to put a white man 'back on top,'
where he always thinks he belongs." As if any differences between the
two pale in comparison to checking a couple of boxes on census forms.
Survival of the richest: "All are equal, except those who aren't."
Why has it taken us so long to see Trump's weakness? Robin blames
the "Historovox" (a word I hope never to hear of again):
Perhaps the answer lies in a new genre of journalism that forgoes the
pedestrian task of reporting the news in favor of explaining it through
the lens of academic research. Ensconced at Vox, FiveThirtyEight,
dedicated pages of the Washington Post and the New York
Times, and across Twitter, the explainers place great stock
in the authority of scholarship -- and in journalists who know how
to wield the authority of scholars. This genre first arose under the
roseate glow of Obama, reflecting the White House's warm embrace of
science and smarts. Now, in the age of Trump, it's less a happy
affirmation of wonks and geeks than an anxious cry of the Resistance.
Being smart, honoring research, favoring truth: These are the emblems
of the world Trump wants to destroy and that the explainers wish to
preserve. . . .
Short-term interests and partisan concerns still drive reporting
and commentary. But where the day's news once would have been narrated
as a series of events, the Historovox brings together those events in
a pseudo-academic frame that treats them as symptoms of deeper patterns
and long-term developments. Unconstrained by the protocols of academe
or journalism, but drawing on the authority of the first for the sake
of the second, the Historovox skims histories of the New Deal or rifles
through abstracts of meta-analysis found in JSTOR to push whatever the
latest line happens to be.
It's not hard to think of suspect examples -- indeed, most of the
efforts to sketch Trump into the long histories of fascism or populism
miss more than they discover, much like the efforts to psychoanalyze
Trump as a sociopath -- but everyone brings some framework to their
observations, and it's usually better to have one that's tested and
coherent, rather than just falling for whatever PR slant most tickles
your fancy. I, for one, have found Vox exceptionally useful since Trump
became president. They do a relatively good job of summarizing news and
putting it into a context that is historical and scientific, and their
political slant isn't unpalatable (not that I don't find bones to pick).
On the other hand, I've found The Nation (which should be closer
to my politics) to be nearly useless (except for Tom Engelhardt's
remarkable TomDispatch, and whatever Mike Konczal contributes).
CNN hires Trump official who used same anti-press rhetoric as man who
sent bombs to CNN.
Richard Silverstein: Both of these articles were occasioned
by Netanyahu's decision to bring the ultra-right Kahanist political movement
into his governing coalition:
Putin's one weapon: The 'intelligence state': "Russia's leader has
restored the role its intelligence agencies had in the Soviet era --
keep citizens in check and destabilize foreign adversaries." As noted,
the role of the secret police dates back to the Tsars. It's always been
justified by the presumed weakness of the nation and state, something
it tends to perpetuate.
Sen. Brian Schatz will introduce a new bill to tax stock trades and curb
This battle of billionaires was inevitable: "A surprise decision over
a Pentagon contract seems like the latest volley in a war between President
Trump and Jeff Bezos." Billionaires will always be jealous of one another,
but the main interest here is an open-ended contract to turn management of
the DOD's cloud computing over to a private contractor, under rules that
curiously exclude all competitors other than Amazon.
Police who shot Stephon Clark will not be charged, District Attorney
Trump's other 'national emergency': Sanctions that kill Venezuelans:
"The humanitarian crisis will get rapidly worse if the most recent sanctions
The Senate just confirmed a former coal lobbyist to lead the EPA:
"Three things to know about Andrew Wheeler."