Sunday, March 31, 2019
Started late, figuring I'd "just go through the motions," and
I'm giving up with maybe half of my usual sources unexamined.
Anyhow, this should suffice as a sample on what's gone on this
One piece I intended to link to was an article in the Wichita
Eagle a few days ago about sex abuse in the local Catholic diocese,
going back to the 1960s or earlier. My closest neighborhood friend
attended Catholic schools and often talked about how sex-obsessed
the priests were -- not that he was himself abused, but something
I found completely baffling at the time. That was something I often
wondered about When the scandals in Boston and elsewhere were finally
exposed, but until this article appeared I had never seen mention of
Wichita. Can't find the article on the Wichita Eagle website --
although I did find an earlier one,
KBI investigating clergy sex abuse cases in Kansas, asks victims to
come forward, mostly on Kansas City, KS.
Some scattered links this week:
Trump EPA appointees want more air pollution -- that's a very bad idea:
"Fine particulates are, if anything, massively under-regulated. . . . The
question of exactly how much we are under-regulating particulates seems
somewhat open to me, but the sign of the error is very clear."
The emerging 737 MAX scandal, explained: "It's more than bad
Amy Klobuchar's $1 trillion infrastructure plan, explained: "Fulfilling
a pledge Trump infamously left on the cutting room floor." Seems like a nice,
round ballpark figure, but I suspect the need is much more. Also note that
you could triple it and it would still cost less than the Iraq War
Elizabeth Warren's plan to make farming great again, explained: "A
crackdown on agribusiness conglomerates, and more."
The panic over yield curve inversion, explained: "A key financial
indicator says a recession is coming soon (maybe)."
It's time for Congress to do its job and investigate Trump:
It's worth remembering how Mueller's investigation came into existence.
Back in 2017, Trump's relationship with Russia was the only question
that Republicans, who controlled Congress, wanted to investigate.
Even on Inauguration Day, there were plenty of obvious lines of inquiry
into Trump to pursue. There were the credible allegations of sexual assault
(allegations that have only multiplied since then), the campaign contributions
that helped Trump University investigations go away, the fake charity Trump
ran for years, the dubious financing of his real estate ventures, and, of
course, the mystery of his tax returns.
Since he's taken office, the list of questions worthy of investigation
has only grown. There's his family members' weird security clearances,
reporting that a group of Mar-a-Lago club members appear to be running
the Veterans Administration, and the prosecution of Trump's personal
attorney Michael Cohen, which seems to have implicated Trump personally
in a crime.
The problem with all of this has been that Republicans didn't and don't
care. It was not until Nancy Pelosi took over as speaker of the House this
January that there was anything Democrats could do to take on these
questions without Republican help.
Democrats got behind Mueller's investigation because it was the only
game in town, not because it seemed incredibly promising. It was Trump's
abrupt decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, followed by months of
incredibly guilty-sounding tweets and other statements from the White
House, that led many of us to believe Mueller was likely to uncover
How Bowe Bergdahl may end up being the key to peace with the Taliban:
Author of the book American Cipher: Bowe Bergdahl and the US Tragedy
in Afghanistan, which my wife recently read and touts as one of the
best books written on the whole misbegotten Afghanistan fiasco.
Will Rachel Maddow face a reckoning over her Trump-Russia coverage?
I've done my best to avoid her for more than the two years she's been
obsessed with Trump/Russiagate, but I've seen enough to suspect that
she's earned her winning spot in
The Post's Mueller Madness bracket -- she beat Ann Navarro, John
Oliver, John Brennan, and Stephen Colbert along the way. I've watched
Colbert regularly over the period, although he's sometimes stretched my
patience with his jokes on Mueller, Putin, and "treason" (a word that
should never be uttered). Of the other 30 bracket picks, I recognize
about two-thirds of the names, but only follow a couple regularly --
Jimmy Kimmel, Paul Krugman -- with another half-dozen I've read on
occasion. Most of those have a much broader critique of Trump, so I
doubt they'll have problems moving on.
Oliver North showed Republicans the way out: "Belligerence, shamelessness
and partisanship can take you far."
Alexia Fernandez Campbell:
The Mueller investigation is over. QAnon, the conspiracy theory that grew
around it, is not.
The media and the Mueller Report's March surprise.
Trump's order to open Arctic waters to oil drilling was unlawful, federal
David A Farenthold/Jonathan O'Connell:
Mary Fitzgerald/Claire Provost:
Trump-linked US Christian 'fundamentalists' pour millions of 'dark money'
into Europe, boosting the far right.
After the Mueller Report, the dream of a sudden, magic resolution to
the Trump tragedy is dead.
Of course, Donald Trump has not single-handedly destroyed the American
public sphere. It had been in decline for a while, with the horse-race
culture of its political campaigns, the anti-intellectual posture of
many of its politicians, and its media's obsession with entertainment.
But Trump has forced the deterioration to new lows. This is true of
Trumpism in general: its elements -- corruption, xenophobia, isolationism,
disdain for the media, denigration of the government, and lack of
transparency -- are not new phenomena but are, rather, long-standing
trends. But Trump represents a quantum shift, a leap into the abyss.
And much of the descent has gone underdiscussed by public figures and
undercovered by the media, which has been focussed on the investigation
by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, to the exclusion of much else.
The Mueller investigation, as a media story and a conversation topic,
has been irresistible largely because it promised a way to avoid thinking
of Trump as an American development. The Russian-collusion story dangled
the carrot of discovering that Trump was entirely foreign to U.S. politics,
a puppet of a hostile power. It also held the appeal of a secret answer to
our catastrophe, one that would make the unimaginable suddenly explicable.
The truth about Trump has been in plain view all along. The President has
waged an attack on political institutions, the law, and culture, and has
succeeded to an astonishing extent. We are no longer surprised, for example,
that more than a month passes between White House press briefings, or that
the President and his spokespeople lie openly and routinely. The assumption
that the Administration should at least act as though it were accountable
to the public has vanished, and we barely took notice.
The federal government gave up on retirement security: "As companies
shortchange employees with pensions, Treasury and Labor look the other
David A Graham:
The Steele Dossier set the stage for a Mueller letdown.
Did the media botch the Russia story? A conversation with Matt Taibbi.
Also see links to Taibbi's latest pieces, below.
Donald Trump is very committed to taking away your health insurance:
But in office, Trump has attempted to implement an agenda that does the
opposite. He's backed legislation, regulations, and lawsuits that would
make it harder for sick people to get health insurance, allow insurance
companies to discriminate against patients with preexisting conditions,
and kick millions of Americans off the Medicaid program.
This week, his Justice Department filed a legal brief arguing that a
judge should find Obamacare unconstitutional -- a decision that would
turn the insurance markets back into the Wild West and eliminate Medicaid
coverage for millions of Americans. By at least one estimate, a full
repeal could cost 20 million Americans their health care coverage.
Louisiana's disappearing coast: "The state loses a football field's
worth of land every hour and a half. Now engineers are in a race to
prevent it from sinking into oblivion."
The government failed to stop the last recession. It can prevent the next
one. A smorgasbord of ideas, none of which strike me as especially good
(or even appropriate), but perhaps worth thinking about. My impression is
that recessions are mainly caused by asset bubbles and excessive leverage,
and none of these really address those problems. Some do fit under the
rubric of "automatic stabilizers," which don't prevent recessions but do
limit the damage.
Enough collusion talk. It's time to focus on Trump's corruption:
"If there is a silver lining to the confusion and disappointment of
Russiagate, it is that we can now pay attention to the real fleecing."
This piece could have been written two years ago, and would still have
come too late. I always hated the "collusion talk" -- basically, four
reasons: it lazily recirculated cold war prejudices, ignoring the fact
that Russia's motives have fundamentally changed (from left to right,
from inept socialism to the oligarchy of mafia capitalism); it assumed
that a temporary alignment of interests (both Putin and Trump wanted
to bend their governments to better support the rich, and both were
deeply cynical and contemptuous of democracy) amounted to an alliance;
and they saw Trump (even as president) as naive and submissive to the
stronger and more cunning Putin; and finally, it was embraced most
fervently by Hillary Clinton's fans, because it seemed to offer an
explanation for her loss that she couldn't be held responsible for --
by a devious, hostile foreign power dedicated to hurting Americans by
denying us the blessings of her wise and generous rule, which brings
full circle to the lazy thinking of the first point. As Masha Gessen
notes above, Russiagate seemed to have the appeal of a magic bullet,
but it ignored the simpler explanation, which was that Trump was no
more than a "useful idiot" for Putin, the Kochs, the Mercers, and a
cast of others (including Israelis and Saudis and Chinese and less
notorious "foreigners") -- made useful precisely because he was and
is so utterly, shamelessly corrupt. So sure, let's talk about his
corruption now, as many of us have been doing since he selected his
cabinet and started cashing in chits at his hotels. But we should
also acknowledge that a big part of why Clinton lost was that she
was tainted by the same corruption as Trump: in fact, he could even
brag about the favors his campaign dollars bought from her. Still,
I suspect that corruption misses the real crux of the problem with
Trump. There is a deeper problem with Trump, and indeed with nearly
all Republicans these days, and that is worldview: their understanding
of how the world works, and of how people should live and act in the
Trump is the 'world's worst cheat at golf,' new book says. The
book is Rick Reilly's Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump.
Mueller's many loose ends: "What comes next now that the probe is
The Green New Deal aims to get buildings off fossil fuels. These 6 places
have already started.
Georgia passes 6-week 'fetal heartbeat' bill that bans most abortions.
From victory to vengeance: Trump scents blood in 2020 fight:
t felt like a victory lap. At a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan on
Thursday night, surrounded by a sea of red Make America Great Again
hats, a defiant Donald Trump held the podium before a raucous crowd.
"After three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax
is finally dead," the president declared in a 90-minute speech.
Basking after the conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller's
investigation, which clouded the first two years of his presidency,
Trump falsely claimed "total exoneration."
He vowed retaliation against some of his sharpest critics and
suggested consequences for the media were in order. He spoke of doing
away with Barack Obama's healthcare law. And he threatened to shut
down the US-Mexico border as early as next week.
It was a stark reminder of how Trump views his executive authority
and a glimpse of his looming fight for re-election.
On Russiagate and our refusal to face why Trump won:
Trump would already be president-elect before he was taken seriously as
an electoral phenomenon. Right up until the networks called Florida for
him on election night, few major American media figures outside of Michael
Moore -- who incidentally was also right about WMDs and ridiculed for it --
believed a Trump win possible.
The only reason most blue-state media audiences had been given for
Trump's poll numbers all along was racism, which was surely part of the
story but not the whole picture. A lack of any other explanation meant
Democratic audiences, after the shock of election night, were ready to
reach for any other data point that might better explain what just
Russiagate became a convenient replacement explanation absolving an
incompetent political establishment for its complicity in what happened
in 2016, and not just the failure to see it coming. Because of the
immediate arrival of the collusion theory, neither Wolf Blitzer nor
any politician ever had to look into the camera and say, "I guess people
hated us so much they were even willing to vote for Donald Trump."
Post-election, Russiagate made it all worse. People could turn on
their TVs at any hour of the day and see anyone from Rachel Maddow to
Chris Cuomo openly reveling in Trump's troubles. This is what Fox looks
like to liberal audiences.
Worse, the "walls are closing in" theme -- two years old now -- was
just a continuation of the campaign mistake, reporters confusing what
they wanted to happen with what was happening.
As the Mueller probe ends, new Russiagate myths begin.
Poll: Only 29 percent of Americans say Mueller Report clears Trump.
Russia is a threat to American democracy, with or without collusion:
Two subheds: "Russia is still a threat to American elections" and "There
was still a lot of Trump campaign contact with Russia." Both statements
are certainly true, but also taken out of context and blown out of
proportion. The biggest threat to American democracy is the outsized
influence of special interest money, especially its ability to focus
and control media. Putin's Russian state is essentially a protection
racket for international oligarchs. It's no surprise that they would
want to steer other countries' elections and politicians to advance
their interests -- indeed, pretty much everyone with the means tries
to do the same thing (not least, Americans who have interests/allies
all around the world). On the other hand, Russia's budget is trivial
compared to (to pick one of many domestic example) the Koch network,
and due to history they have to lurk in the shadows (in stark contrast
to Israel and Saudi Arabia).
The Joe Biden and Anita Hill controversy: "He just keeps apologizing --
without saying anything new."
New York Times Editorial Board:
The secret death toll of America's drones: "President Trump is making
it harder to know how many civilians the government kills by remote