Sunday, February 10, 2019
No introduction, other than to note that I hadn't planned on including
anything on the Ilhan Omar controversy, mostly because I still haven't
bothered to track down what she said and/or apologized for. I'm pretty
careful to make sure that nothing I say that's critical of Israel can be
misconstrued as anti-semitic, but that canard is used so often (and so
indiscriminately) by Israel's hasbarists that it feels like a waste of
time to even credit the complaints.
One more note is that I expected to find more on the record-setting
2018 trade deficit, but all I came up with was the Paul Krugman post
below, where the main point is that Trump is stupid, specifically on
trade and tariffs but actually on pretty much everything. Krugman's
explanation that trade deficits reflect a savings shortfall doesn't
really tell me much. As best I can understand it, deficits are a means
by which wealth transfers from consumers to the rich -- primarily the
foreign rich, but much of that money comes back to domestic rich for
investments and sales of inflated assets. I remember some years ago
William Greider proposed a blanket, across-the-board tax on imports
aimed at restoring a trade balance -- evidently such a thing is OK
under WTO rules, and it would get around the balloon problem Krugman
refers to -- but I've never heard about it since. Strikes me as a
good idea (although I'm not sure how it would interact with exchange
Also thought a bit about writing an op-ed on Trump and Korea.
Specifically, I wanted to pose a rhetorical question to Trump, to
ask him why he lets people like John Bolton undermine his chances
for forging a signature world peace deal, and securing a legacy
as something other than, well, you know, a demagogue and a crook.
Some scattered links this week:
Erin Banco/Betsy Woodruff:
Team Trump keeps pushing deal to send nuclear tech to Saudis. Related:
The nuclear energy industry goes MAGA to win over Trump.
Wilbur Ross broke law, violated Constitution in census decision, judge
A Clinton-era centrist Democrat explains why it's time to give democratic
socialists a chance. Interview with economist Brad De Long, who worked
in the Clinton (or should I say Rubin?) Treasury Department, and identifies
as a neoliberal. However, De Long has realized something more: not so
much that neoliberalism doesn't work as that there is no political center
for maintaining it in a way that works for the common good.
The core reason, De Long argues, is political. The policies he supports
depend on a responsible center-right partner to succeed. They're premised
on the understanding that at least a faction of the Republican Party would
be willing to support market-friendly ideas like Obamacare or a cap-and-trade
system for climate change. This is no longer the case, if it ever were.
"Barack Obama rolls into office with Mitt Romney's health care policy,
with John McCain's climate policy, with Bill Clinton's tax policy, and
George H.W. Bush's foreign policy," De Long notes. "And did George H.W. Bush,
did Mitt Romney, did John McCain say a single good word about anything Barack
Obama ever did over the course of eight solid years? No, they fucking did
The result, he argues, is the nature of the Democratic Party needs to
shift. Rather than being a center-left coalition dominated by market-friendly
ideas designed to attract conservative support, the energy of the coalition
should come from the left and its broad, sweeping ideas. Market-friendly
neoliberals, rather than pushing their own ideology, should work to improve
ideas on the left. This, he believes, is the most effective and sustainable
basis for Democratic politics and policy for the foreseeable future.
The premises here are the weakest: I doubt that since Reagan's win in
1980 there has ever been even so much as a "responsible center-right" faction
in the Republican Party -- Republicans have only welcomed "bi-partisan"
deals on their own terms, which is that they must (like NAFTA, "welfare
reform," or "no child left behind") hurt the Democratic base and discredit
the Democratic Party leadership in their eyes. More importantly, Democrats
only needed this "responsible center-right" alliance because they didn't
have sufficient votes to pass policy legislation on their own. And that
was basically because they kept undermining their historic base (unions
and the working class) while chasing donors in high-tech and finance. The
result was that the growth they pursued above all else was soaked up by
the rich, leaving their base with nothing to show for their votes. Left
democrats generally accept neoliberal economic ideas, but part ways in
one crucial respect: they understand that what it takes power to ensure
that the economy works for every one, and that sacrificing power (as the
neoliberal democrats repeatedly did) makes nostrums like growth totally
meaningless. The important thing about this piece is that De Long gets
that, and that realization has moved him from opponent to enthusiastic
Our current bunch of leftists are wonderful people, as far as leftists
in the past are concerned. They're social democrats, they're very strong
believers in democracy. They're very strong believers in fair distribution
of wealth. They could use a little more education about what is likely to
work and what is not. But they're people who we're very, very lucky to
have on our side.
That's especially opposed to the people on the other side, who are very,
very strange indeed. You listen to [Never Trump conservatives] like Tom
Nichols or Bruce Bartlett or Bill Kristol or David Frum talk about all the
people they had been with in meetings, biting their tongues over the past
25 years, and your reaction can only be, "Why didn't you run away screaming
into the night long ago?"
: De Long pointed me to this
Neoliberal Shill Bracket, evidently an annual ritual among the breed,
where DeLong was highly seeded but failed to advance to the Elite 8 round.
It's a little hard to follow given that nominees are only identified by
their twitter handles, but the round of 8 gives us: Tyler Cowen, Will
Wilkinson, Scott Linicome, Alex Nowrasteh, Alan Cole, Megan McArdle,
Noah Smith, and Matthew Yglesias. (DeLong lost to Austan Goolsbee, who
in turn was eliminated by Noah Smith -- last year's winner.) The person
who runs this circus defines the core values of neoliberalism
tout their belief in "classical liberal freedoms," "equal rights,"
and "intelligent regulation and redistribution" -- making them more
conventionally liberal than we usually associate with the term --
but those are all secondary to "we believe in free markets, and the
power of markets to alleviate poverty and generate unparalleled
economic growth." Nice theory. Too bad things don't work that way.
The most unrealistic promise Democrats are making is to restore
Donald Trump is laying the groundwork to delegitimize the 2020 election.
I suppose this story is meant to shock, but he already did a bang up job of
delegitimizing the 2016 election, so of course he's sowing the seeds for
denying his future embarrassingly shoddy showing. On the other hand, Hillary
Clinton only hurt herself by trying to prod Trump into agreeing that if he
lost he'd bow out responsibly. He never took the bait, and in the end she
was the one who had to prematurely concede.
The jail health-care crisis: "The opioid epidemic and other public-health
emergencies are being aggravated by failings in the criminal-justice
Netanyahu says Israel 'belongs to Jewish people alone' in attacks on
nation's Arab population/a>. Related:
Wonder Woman takes on Netanyahu with anti-racism post on Instagram:
Not my idea of a big deal, but I like the contrast. Also:
Pompeo: If Bibi wants a Fascist government, fine by us.
The shameful campaign to silence Ilhan Omar. Related:
Wajahat Alli/Rabia Chaudry:
Want to combat hate? Stop the hazing of Ilhan Omar and start listening;
The Ilhan Omar controversy shows how little we care about Palestinian
The Democratic Party attacks on Ilhan Omar are a travesty;
Ilhan Omar's victory for political sanity;
Three 2020 Democrats express concern that attacks against Ilhan Omar
will stifle debate on Israel: "Warren, Sanders, and Harris all come
out in support of Omar;
The Democratic Party needs Ilhan Omar;
Israel lobby and pro-Israel House Democrats tried to excommunicate Ilhlam
Omar, they failed.
Why measles is a quintessential political issue of our time.
The anti-Bernie Sanders campaign being pushed by former Clinton staffers,
explained: "Former Hillary Clinton aides really want Bernie Sanders
to get the Clinton treatment." Presumably that means to be abused as
unfairly as Clinton was, although for Clinton's truest believers the
fact that he challenged her at all, and in the process exposed some (by
no means all) of her faults is something that can never be forgiven.
Of course, the same people were every bit as bitter on losing to Obama
in 2008, even as Obama bent over so far as to turn his administration
into a Clinton rerun -- so much so that Sanders' principled criticism
of Obama was used as a cudgel, helping Clinton to pick up many Obama
votes, especially in the early primaries in states Sanders wasn't well
known in. The quotes here are a mix of stupid and cruel; e.g.: the
Clinton aide accusing Sanders of "saying things that don't resonate
with a lot of people who don't share his privilege as a cis white man
Bernie Sanders's real base is diverse -- and very young.
The pros and cons of impeaching Trump.
Garrett M Graff:
How Giuliani might take down Trump: "The parallels between the Mafia
and the Trump Organization are striking, and Giuliani perfected the
template for prosecuting organized crime."
NYT's exposť on the lies about burning aid trucks in Venezuela shows how
US government and media spread pro-war propaganda.
Trump owns the swamp now, and it's awash in lobbyists:
Most of these people are not as famous (or infamous) as, say, the former
oil industry shill and coal lobbyist who have serially run the Environmental
Protection Agency under Trump. But 350 ex-lobbyists represent a lot of
special interests. And their greatest concentration, the Post notes, is
in the Executive Office of the President, where 47 ex-lobbyists toil to
set policy for the entire federal government.
Tariff Man has become Deficit Man:
Republicans in Congress spent the entire Obama administration inveighing
against budget deficits, warning incessantly that we were going to have
a Greek-style fiscal crisis any day now. Donald Trump, on the other hand,
focused his ire mainly on trade deficits, insisting that "our jobs and
wealth are being given to other countries that have taken advantage of
But over two years of unified G.O.P. control of government, a funny
thing happened: Both deficits surged. The budget deficit has hit a level
unprecedented except during wars and in the immediate aftermath of major
economic crises; the trade deficit in goods has set a record.
Greener childhood associated with happier adulthood. Paul Woodward's
title for this is more explicit: "We need contact with nature for the sake
of our sanity."
Marijuana legalization is winning the 2020 Democratic primaries.
Democrats have united around a plan to dramatically cut child poverty:
"The American Family Act, one of Democrats' biggest policy initiatives of
The making of the Fox News White House: "Fox News has always been
partisan. But has it become propaganda?" Indeed, it has. This article
has gotten a lot of attention for its revelation of how Fox knew about
and killed he story on the Stormy Daniels payoff before the election --
a clear decision to manage the news for Trump's benefit. But the piece
is much, much bigger than that one headline-grabber.
Democrats push to make Washington, DC, the fifty-first state.
Toluse Olorunnipa/Josh Dawsey:
Trump's massive reelection campaign has 2016 themes -- and a 2020
House Democrats launch massive obstruction of justice and corruption probe
aimed at Trump: "They've requested documents from 81 people or entities.
Here's who they are."
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says 'we should be excited about automation':
"Robots aren't the problem, she says -- economics are." Hard to exaggerate
how smart this is, at least compared to the usual blather politicians of
both parties spout about Jobs:
New York congressional representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez believes
that people should welcome robots taking their jobs -- but not the economic
system that can make it financially devastating. During a talk at SXSW, an
audience member asked Ocasio-Cortez about the threat of automated labor.
"We should not be haunted by the specter of being automated out of work,"
she said in response. "We should be excited by that. But the reason we're
not excited by it is because we live in a society where if you don't have
a job, you are left to die. And that is, at its core, our problem."
Also note this pull quote: "Not all creativity needs to be bonded by
The Mar-a-Lago connection to the Cindy Yang affair raises huge security
Chas Danner: Everything to know about the spa founder selling access to
Trump will reportedly ask Congress for another $8.6 billion to guild the
Eric Schmitt/Charlie Savage:
US airstrikes kill hundreds in Somalia as shadowy conflict ramps
Why Sacramento is still protesting Stephon Clark's death, one year
A single-payer advocate answers the big question: How do we pay for
it? Interview with Matt Breunig.
Adam Schiff hires a former prosecutor to lead the Trump investigation.
Facebook's new move isn't about privacy. It's about domination. Related:
Mark Zuckerberg is trying to play you -- again.
Could one man single-handedly ruin the planet? After mentioning Xi
Jinping and Donald Trump, he gets to an even more ominous test case:
Brazil's new president, Jair Bolsonaro.