Sunday, April 28, 2019
Started early and still running late. Having recently read Benjamin
Carter Hett's The Death of Democracy: Hitler's Rise to Power and
the Downfall of the Weimar Republic, I woke up this morning with
the idea of writing something about Trump, Republicans, and Fascism
for today's introduction. Never got close to that. Hett's book is
pretty straight history, but you can find a page here or there where
you could easily gloss in Trump's name for Hitler's. Then you move
onto other pages where Trump fails any comparison, usually by being
too dumb or too lazy. There are also big differences between the
Nazis and the Republicans, although differences on race, foreigners,
unions, and military muscle are insignificant. The biggest one is
that the Nazis actually had their own goon squad that could go out
and physically attack their suspected enemies, whereas Republicans
only wish they could do that. Still, the key point about Germany in
1932 was supposedly sober conservatives were so desperate to squash
the left -- indeed, any trace of popular government, of democracy --
that they were willing to hand power over to a psycho like Hitler
and his vicious gang of followers. Republicans seem happy to do the
same thing here in America, for the same reasons, and with the same
obliviousness to consequences.
I should note somewhere that former Senator
Richard Lugar (R-IN)
died last week. Back in the 1980s he was the model of how a Republican
politician could straddle moderate urban politics (he was mayor of
Indianapolis) and the Reagan reaction, which for a time helped make
the latter seem more innocuous and palatable. He was finally devoured
by the right, purged in a primary by an opponent so extreme that the
Democrats were able to (temporarily) pick up the seat. I never felt
any particular fondness for Lugar, but I could understand why people
respected him. Even his breed of Republican is now a thing of the
Also noted that historian
David Brion Davis has died. His 1967 book The Problem of Slavery
in Western Culture greatly affected the way pretty much everyone
understood the history of slavery in the Americas. I've often thought
I should check out his later books, especially the ones that extended
his study into the 19th century. I learned of his death from a cranky
Corey Robin note, which I decided not to bother with below. Here's
a more useful (and generous)
Anyhow, this is what the week has to show for itself:
To solve climate change and biodiversity loss, we need a Global Deal for
My brain on cable news: "Tuning into TV's battle to the death."
What's actually on cable these days is a bizarre legalistic death battle.
Cohen, Manafort, Flynn, Butina, Mueller, Giuliani, et al. We aren't
debating whether Trump has been responsible for the deaths of innocents,
because everyone knows that he is -- presidents and collateral damage go
hand in hand. If Trump goes to prison, it will not be for child murder,
but for distributing hush money to silence former mistresses and for
taking bribes and for engaging in back channel machinations with Russia.
Whatever it takes, I suppose, but I have to agree with my cable guy:
there's something unseemly about the means employed.
Fox News is addictive and awful: choirboys gone to seed and women's
dresses with weird portholes at the shoulders or at the cleavage. The
anchors jeer smilingly at ideas that any sensible person of generous
mind can see make sense. Quick clips of closed-circuit footage of humans
with darker skin doing bad things are injected into the river of commentary --
mug shots included -- to create little mental firecracker pops of righteous
wrath among the pickup-truck crowd, along with "funny" attacks on progressive
causes by rightist comedians who love steak and country music. Fox &
Friends is a hot mess of clean living and white-right American
self-deception, and I can't watch it for very long without feeling
queasy. But it's an easy mark.
Trump's new defense of his Charlottesville comments is incredibly
false. Related: Allegra Kirkland:
Whitewash: Trump takes new approach to sanitizing Charlottesville
The UAE's seedy influence operations are a footnote to the Mueller
Hedge-fund ownership cost Sears workers their jobs. Now they're fighting
back. Seems like lots (damn near all of ) the companies you read about
in bankruptcy first passed through a phase where private equity operators
first bought the company with its own debt than stripped assets and paid
themselves "management fees." Maybe if they were lucky they'd be able to
sell the carcass off, but current bankruptcy law favors creditors over
employees and customers, finishing the liquidation while leaving the
public worse off. Our think tanks need to think about this situation,
and come up with new bankruptcy laws that allow companies to survive
such malign ownership, preferably under employee ownership, with debt
loads reduced to levels which allow the companies to carry on. Other
regulations could help, but just changing bankruptcy law would shift
the incentives dramatically.
Coalition airstrikes in Raqqa killed at least 1,600 civilians, more than
10 times US tally, report finds.
Tom Engelhardt: Publisher and introduction writer at
The roots of Trumpian agitprop: Hint: article namechecks Leni
Riefenstahl, as well as Susan Sontag writing about Riefenstahl.
Spain election: socialist party PSOE declared winner: live update
blog; PSOE is expected to be able to form a coalition with the further
leftist party Podemos; the far-right party Vox surged, but only wound
up with 24 MPs (6.8%), at the expense of more mainstream conservatives
(PP is down from 137 to 66).
The terrifying potential of the 5G network: "The future of wireless
technology holds the promise of total connectivity. But it will also be
especially susceptible to cyberattacks and surveillance." Guess who else
is selling snooping gear? Richard Silverstein:
Israel and the selling of the surveillance state.
Our enemies are the same people: San Diego synagogue shooter inspired
by New Zealand anti-Muslim massacre.
White identity politics is about more than racism: Interview with
Ashley Jardina, author of White Identity Politics..
Rich guys are most likely to have no idea what they're talking about,
Capitalism in crisis: US billionaires worry about the survival of the
system that made them rich.
The uncanny power of Greta Thunberg's climate-change rhetoric.
The climate-change movement feels powerful today because it is
politicians -- not the people gluing themselves to trucks -- who seem
deluded about reality. Thunberg says that all she wants is for adults
to behave like adults, and to act on the terrifying information that
is all around us.
Related: Stewart Lee:
Why Greta Thunberg is now my go-to girl.
Armpits, white ghettos and contempt: "Who really despises the American
heartland?" Opens with a sidebar on Stephen Moore (Trump's Fed pick),
Moore is an indefensible choice on many grounds. Even if he hadn't
shown himself to be extraordinarily misogynistic and have an ugly
personal history, his track record on economics -- always wrong,
never admitting error or learning from it -- is utterly disqualifying.
Survival of the wrongest: "Evidence has a well-known liberal bias."
Much more on Stephen Moore.
The great Republican abdication: "A party that no longer believes
in American values." Wait! Aren't greed, hubris, and desperate schemes
to rig every contest the ultimate American values? Those are clearly
the hallmarks of the recent Republican Party, and those are traits
one can question and denounce. But calling them un-American misses a
big part of their appeal.
To stop global catastrophe, we must believe in humans again: "We have
the technology to prevent climate crisis. But now we need to unleash mass
resistance too -- because collective action does work." Edited extract
from his new book, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself
Out?. He also pleaded for mass resistance recently in
Glaciers and Arctic ice are vanishing. Time to get radical before it's
Paul Mozur/Jonah M Kessel/Melissa Chan:
Made in China, exported to the world: the surveillance state.
Trump's Fed pick wrote that women should be banned from March Madness:
Well, actually he's written and said a lot of stupid things, not least
on matters more germane to his appointment -- not that whether he's an
asshole is irrelevant. As for Trump's other pick of a political hack for
a Fed seat, see: Li Zhou:
It's official: Herman Cain is not going to be on the Fed. Zhou also
Young voters want more action on climate change -- even if it hurts the
Gabby Orr/Andrew Restuccia:
How Stephen Miller made immigration personal.
Ben Protess/William K Rashbaum/Maggie Haberman:
How Michael Cohen turned against President Trump.
Obama's original sin: "A new insider account reveals how the Obamas
administration's botched bailout deal not only reinforced neoliberal
Clintonism, but also foreshadowed an ongoing failure to fulfill campaign
promises." Review of Reed Hundt: A Crisis Wasted: Barack Obama's
Defining Decisions. Reminds me that perhaps the first of those
decisions was letting Clinton factotum John Podesta run the transition
team, which initially penciled in such pivotal figures as Tim Geithner
and Lawrence Summers.
Most Americans believe Trump lied to them, but think impeachment is a
bad idea. Related: Ella Nilsen:
Democrats' impeachment dilemma, explained.
Unanswered questions in the Mueller report point to a sprawling Russian
Darren Samuelsohn/Andrew Desiderio/Kyle Cheney:
'This is risky': Trump's thirst for Mueller revenge could land him in
trouble. Related: Andrew Restuccia:
Mueller report exposes diminishing power of Trump denials: "The
report has reignited a media debate about how seriously to take the
White House's statements of fact."
Eric Schmitt/David E Sanger/Maggie Haberman:
In push for 2020 election security, top official was warned: don't tell
The trigger presidency: "How shock jock comedy gave way to Donald
Trump's Republican Party.
Trump's high-stakes subpoena battle with House Democrats,
Trump lets loose stunning falsehood that doctors, mothers 'execute'
How the War on Terror is being written: Starts on Guantánamo, ends
with a long list of links to source documents. Midway, Taub notes:
The year after [James] Mitchell published his memoir [Enhanced
Interrogation], it was cited in a lengthy
report by Physicians for Human Rights, which argues that the
interrogation program represented "one of the gravest breaches of
medical ethics" since the Nazi medical experiments during the
Second World War.
These documents -- along with contemporaneous reports and books
by investigative journalists, academics, lawyers, and human-rights
advocates -- make up an evolving draft of post-9/11 history. With
each passing year, more details surface in memoirs, lawsuits, and
military commissions, and the historical record comes into sharper
focus. Millions of pages have come to light, and millions more remain
classified. But, seventeen years into the war on terror, a core,
uncomfortable fact remains: people on the receiving end of classified
security programs -- from drone strikes to renditions and interrogations --
become aware of the outlines of secret U.S. national-security laws and
practices long before American citizens have any clarity or say about
what is being done in their name.
Guantánamo's darkest secret.
Mueller prosecutors: Trump did obstruct justice.
Democrats want to challenge Trump's foreign policy in 2020. They're still
working out how. Surprisingly little here, or maybe not given how
readily Democrats have lined up behind the common consensus policies in
place since shortly after WWII. Consider "the four main pillars of a
progressive foreign policy (so far)":
- Confront climate change
- Democracy promotion and anti-corruption
- Strengthening alliances
- Rebuilding America
I would have started off with negotiated demilitarization: securing
treaties all around the world that resolve conflicts and reduce the
military posture of all nations (especially the US). My second point
would be to expand "democracy promotion and anti-corruption" to lean
left, to support more power for workers and for women, while accepting
that capital rights need to be limited and regulated. On trade, I'd
work to limit (or in many cases eliminate) rents based on intellectual
property. This in turn should lead to greater sharing of best practices
in science and technology, which would help with problems like climate
change, loss of biodiversity, etc. I'd also like to see some sort of
international framework for dealing with migration. Democrats have done
a miserable job of formulating foreign policy due to the old colonial
mentality where they've never seen the rest of the world's peoples as
our equals, and never recognized that our welfare is co-dependent on
the world's. Another piece on trying to change Democratic strategy:
When will Washington end the Forever War?.
Sri Lanka suffered from decades of violence before the Easter Sunday
bombings. Related: Samanth Subramanian:
After the Easter bombings, Sri Lanka grapples with its history of
We're not hearing enough from 2020 candidates about things they could do
Joe Biden is the Hillary Clinton of 2020: "Americans want outsiders,
reformers, and fresh faces, not politicians with decades of baggage."
Pretty much all you need to know about Biden in 2020, but not the only
thing written this week. E.g.:
Anita Hill deserves a real apology. Why couldn't Joe Biden offer
Joe Biden's policies are as troubling as his inappropriate
Joe Biden's long record supporting the war on drugs and mass incarceration,
Joe Biden is the Hillary Clinton of 2020 -- and it won't end well this
What Joe Biden hasn't owned up to about Anita Hill.
The 2020 candidates smell blood: "The reason so many Democrats are
running is they think Biden won't survive."
The field in 2016 was so small not because politicians with national
aspirations didn't exist, but because they thought Clinton -- with her
name recognition, financial resources, party relationships, high early
polling numbers, and general next-in-line aura -- was inevitable. She
cleared the field of most competition because other mainstream candidates
knew she would win (and non-mainstream Bernie figured she would too).
Biden is something more like a 2016 Jeb Bush: a weak establishment
favorite whose time might be past and -- should voters deprioritize his
top perceived strength, electability -- who could soon face the wolves.
Newell also wrote:
Biden has successfullyl goaded Trump, which is exactly what he needs to
do. One thing many Democrats will be looking for in primary season
is the candidate who most effectively articulates their rage over Trump,
and one of the best ways to do that is to get under his thin skin.
How Joe Biden could win the 2020 Democratic Primary: Put a lot of
weight on his initial poll lead, and hope nothing goes wrong.
Is Joe Biden 'electable' or not? Thank God, nobody seems to know.
The Democratic establishment should chill out about Bernie Sanders.
As Sanders continues to rate highly in national polls, many longtime party
stalwarts are palpably agitated over a blend of personal grievances and
overblown political and policy concerns. . . .
As a personal matter, the establishment's response is understandable.
Sanders, an independent Vermont senator, tends to portray the institutional
Democratic Party as corrupt and relentlessly sows suspicion about the
motives and integrity of everyone who disagrees with him. He treats the
catastrophe of the 2016 election as a deserved rebuke to party leaders.
And he brushes aside mountains of practical realities that others have
spent years dealing with.
But blowing up over this makes no sense. The whole point of a party
establishment is to be cynical, detached, practical-minded, and realistic.
If they assess Sanders's actual track record -- rather than his personally
insulting rhetoric -- they'd discover a fairly unremarkable blue-state
liberal who's good at winning elections and has extensive experience with
the disappointing realities of the legislative process.
Relevant here: Peter Daou:
I was Bernie's biggest critic in 2016 -- I've changed my mind: "It
would be an epic act of self-destruction for Democrats to try to hobble
his campaign." Let's see if I can explain this in simple terms. During
the Reagan-to-Trump era, Democrats have been preoccupied with raising
money (cultivating donor support). Some, like Obama and the Clintons,
have even done a good job of this, largely by promising that they'd do
an even better job for business than the Republicans would -- something
the stats clearly support. Meanwhile, the Democrats have let their base
go to hell, and found their support eroding, even as Republicans have
even less to offer. What Sanders is doing is rebuilding the Democratic
Party base, by appealing to the people Democrats have been screwing for
decades now. Attacking Sanders risks driving this base away, if not to
the Republicans then to a third party or nothing. Sanders is doing the
party a huge favor by not running as an independent. The party needs to
reciprocate by welcoming him and his voters. They might even find, like
Daou, that they'll learn something.
Brexit is not just a tragedy for Britain.