Sunday, May 26, 2019
Here in Wichita it's rained every day for a week with more coming
tonight, tomorrow, the day after. We're up to
11.96 inches this month (2nd wettest May ever; annual average is
34 inches). Many rivers in southeastern Kansas have flooded -- my
recent trip to Oklahoma was detoured when the Kansas State Turnpike
went under water. Wichita used to flood regularly, and my home would
surely be under water but for "the big ditch" -- a flood control
project built in 1950-59. (See Beccy Tanner:
'Big Ditch Mitch' saved Wichita many times; also, David Guilliams:
The Big Ditch: The Wichita-Valley Center Flood Control Project [PDF].)
I've been reading up on this, not least because I haven't seen the rivers
this high since 1966, when the Ditch spared Wichita (barely) an epochal
flood that wiped out the Arkansas River dam in Lamar, CO, and flooded
every other town on the river's path into Oklahoma and Arkansas. Reading
Guilliams' history reminds me that we had politicians in the 1940s who
were as short-sighted as the ones we have today, but I'll always be
thankful they got outvoted. That Ditch was the best investment Wichita
ever made. Without it I wouldn't be able to get around to this week's
Some scattered links this week:
Donald Trump's sneak attack on social security.
Foreign aid that costs an arm and a leg -- literally: "The US-funded
Israeli military is shooting so many unarmed Palestinians that the UN is
warning of an amputation crisis in Gaza."
Alexia Fernández Campbell:
How Trump's new immigration plan could hurt the economy.
Gaby Del Valle:
The Harriet Tubman $20 bill was supposed to be unveiled in 2020. Now it
might be delayed by almost a decade.
Russia's election meddling is despicable, but don't forget our own.
John Bolton on the Warpath: One of America's more gullible war reporters,
which lets him take Bolton more seriously than I would, offering a useful,
respectful profile which nonetheless makes him even more disgusting than
you imagined. Of particular interest are the details of how Bolton has made
millions of dollars recently trying to stir up multiple wars.
EPA plans to get thousands of pollution deaths off the books by changing
Trump's cover-up accelerates: "President Trump can only escalate. He
cannot help it."
Trump's position on the Mueller Report is legally ridiculous -- and
David A Graham:
Maggie Haberman/Annie Karni:
A would-be Trump aide's demands: a jet on call, a future cabinet post and
more: Give him lots of perks and Kris Kobach would be willing to serve
Trump as "immigration czar" (for a while).
One of the largest environmental protests ever is underway. It's led by
children. Most famously, Greta Thunberg, but she's not alone. I've
seen sub-teens on Jimmy Kimmel explain the science better than most
Democratic politicians, let alone Republicans (who don't try to explain
anything). In an effort to reassert his relevance, Bill McKibben
It's not entirely up to the school students to save the world.
Indian PM Narendra Modi and his party just swept India's elections.
Some more pieces on India's election:
Impeachment is a refusal to accept the unacceptable.
Does Trump want to be impeached? That very thought has occurred to me.
Bill Clinton actually got a bump in the polls out of being impeached. I
don't recall anything similar with John Tyler, Andrew Johnson, or Richard
Nixon, which is the company Trump will be joining. He may even think that
in the Us-vs-Them world he imagines himself thriving in, that not getting
impeached could be taken as not trying hard enough. Equally important, in
taunting the Democratic House leadership, he may hope to show them up as
weak and ineffective to their voter base. He's been campaigning hard since
inauguration day. It seems to be the only thing he really cares about, so
why not bet the farm? Maybe he even thinks there's a further endgame after
the election. After all, I've also been wondering whether Erdogan wanted
the failed coup that allowed him to purge his enemies in the military and
the courts and consolidate his grip on power. It would be harder to pull
that off in the US, but Trump's already broken numerous so-called "norms"
as he's mocked and degraded our past notions of democracy.
Trump continues drive to protect religious-based discrimination.
Lindsey Graham proposes invading Venezuela to oust Maduro. He's
citing Reagan's 1983 invasion of Grenada as a precedent, now (as then)
citing Cuban influence as a cassus belli. On the other hand, whereas
Grenada "had a population of less than 100,000 . . . Venezuela, on
the other hand, has a population of a little over 28 million people,
is lager than Texas, and has roughly 160,000 troops in its military."
Graham also wants to send more troops to the Middle East, where he's
up in arms against Iran. Warmongers like Graham and Bolton readily
group Iran and Venezuela without ever mentioning the one thing they
obviously have in common: before US sanctions crippled them, both
were major oil exporters. The effect of taking their oil off the
world market is to push prices (and oil company profits) up, or at
least to keep those profits from falling as global demand shifts to
Trump v Pelosi: anatomy of a feud.
Confessions of a presidential candidate: "How the political memoir
Moderate Democrats' delusions of 'prudence' will kill us all. This is
in response to an op-ed by "moderate Democrat" Greg Weiner:
It's not always the end of the world ("political prudence isn't in
vogue, but it should be"). I can see both sides of this debate, but
that's mostly because both are illuminated by the raging wildfires
deliberately set by the Republican far-right. Right now, I think the
balance of evidence favors Levitz, on two counts: the sheer amount of
destruction caused by Republicans in power, and the lack of positive
results from recent efforts by prudent Democrats (e.g., Obama).
The Fed's bad predictions are hurting us.
Robert O'Harrow Jr/Shawn Boburg:
A conservative activist's behind-the-scenes campaign to remake the nation's
courts: "Leonard Leo helped conservative nonprofits raise $250 million
from mostly undisclosed donors in recent years to promote conservative
judges and causes."
Nicole Perlroth/Scott Shane:
In Baltimore and beyond, a stolen NSA tool wreaks havoc. With David
E Sanger, the authors also reported:
How Chinese spies got the NSA's hacking tools, and used them for attacks;
Security breach and spilled secrets have shaken the NSA to its core:
gives them more credit for conscience than they deserve. America's
cyberwarriors aren't the first to fail to appreciate what happens
when other "warriors" learn to do what they do.
How the right to legal abortion changed the arc of all women's lives.
Australia isn't doing its part for the global climate. Sooner or later we'll
have to pay our share. Last week's elections kicked this can further
down the road. Quiggin has a new book out, Economics in Two Lessons,
explaining where markets work, and where they don't.
Trump's wrecking ball assaults American government. Luckily, it is strongly
built. I think a big part of Reagan's popularity came from the fact
that he couldn't do much short-term damage, even though that was plainly
the intent of his program. Democrats controlled Congress most of the time,
and liberals dominated the courts. Reagan indulged many people's prejudices,
saying things that flattered his base and riled them up against supposed
enemies, yet the real consequences of his presidency -- the destruction
of the labor movement, the major shift toward ever-greater inequality,
undermining civil rights while ramping up mass incarceration, the embrace
of militarism and the withdrawal from international cooperation, the end
of equal time and the takeover of politics by big money -- only gradually
became evident (not that they explicit about their goals, but because most
people didn't take the threat seriously). Of course, it became harder to
overlook the cumulative effect of Reagan and later waves of conservative
activism under the Bushes and Trump. Reich is probably right that the US
political system still moderates the extremism of Republican presidents --
although it's been much more effective at neutering reformist impulses by
Democrats -- yet clearly we are losing ground.
Trump's hasty plan to get Americans back on the moon by 2020, explained.
Worth noting that there is more at stake than just Trumpian ego. See Rivka
The race to develop the moon.
Michael S Schmidt/Julian E Barnes:
Trump's targeting of intelligence agencies gains a harder edge.
Trump directed Attorney General William Barr to investigate anyone
who thought that the Trump campaign may have colluded with Russia
in 2016, starting with the FBI and potentially going deeper into
the CIA and the broader "intelligence community," and he's given
Barr authority to declassify any secret documents he finds along
the way (see:
Trump gives Barr power to declassify US secrets in review of Russia
probe). This extraordinary politicization of the Justice Department
is obviously disturbing, but thus far most of the pushback has come
from the intelligence agencies, who prefer to operate in secret,
with little or no oversight -- e.g., Chuck Ross:
Ex-CIA officials fume about declassification order, ignoring previous
leaks of secret sources and methods. Also see: Natasha Bertrand:
Trump puts DOJ on crash course with intelligence agencies.
Congress wants to stop surprise medical bills. But they have one big
problem left to solve.
Mark Joseph Stern:
The Trump administration releases its plan to let health care providers
refuse to treat transgender people: This is getting real petty. Nor
is this all. See: Camille Baker:
The Trump administration wants to make it harder for transgender people to
access homeless shelters.
Does trump have an off-ramp on Iran? i doubt he even wants one,
nor is he likely to show any interest on wright's history lesson.
it looks to me like the conflict with iran is nothing more than a
favor to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE -- all of which know
how to push his buttons and stroke him with gifts. Moreover, he is
incapable of seeing potential downsides, or even risk. Challenging
him, or calling his bluff, would be unthinkable. He might even say
The controversy over WeWork's $47 billion valuation and impending IPO,
Holding Trump accountable is a pocketbook issue: After reviewing
Trump's own history of cheating his contractors, note this:
Trump, as president, is acting in line with his own predilection for
alleged corporate criminals.
- While Obama's Environmental Protection Agency sought a $4.8 million
fine from Syngenta Seeds for poisoning workers with pesticides, Trump's
EPA settled for $150,000.
- Trump's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fined a man $1 for
allegedly swindling veterans out of their pensions -- also extracting
from him a promise not to do it again.
- In February 2018, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission settled
with three major banks that had engaged in illegal market manipulation --
charging them a financial penalty but requiring no admission of wrongdoing
and waiving "bad actor" penalties that would have impaired their ability
to do business in the future.
The specific dynamics of each agency and each industry are, of course,
But the basic pattern is the same -- under lax enforcement, crime
basically pays. You might not get caught, and even if you do get caught,
the monetary penalties will not create a meaningful deterrent to future
misconduct. . . . The overall problem, in other words, is much larger
in scope than Trump. But Trump is part of the problem. Not only is he
emblematic, as a business leader, of the cost of inadequate enforcement,
but he's also someone who clearly favors inadequate enforcement as a
matter of principle and appoints regulators who make the problem worse.
What we know so far about Trump's tax returns, explained.
Men and women have similar views on abortion.
Yglesias also has a piece called
Daenerys was right: King's Landing had to burn, which goes to great
lengths to try to rationalize the indiscriminate fire-bombing of the
capitol of Westeros. I understand the impulse to try to take a contrary
view, especially counter to those who casually impose their contemporary
political prejudices on such a fantasy landscape, but Yglesias overlooks
some pretty obvious clues (like the Daenerys speech to her troops where
she vows to conquer/liberate all of Westeros and Essos -- a speech that
the actress claims she studied Hitler for, but which sounded more to me
like Napoleon), as well as a couple of much more fundamental problems.
What always turned me off in Game of Thrones was its unquestioned
bedrock belief in hereditary aristocracy, and its correlative commitment
to war. Without having read the books, I gather that Martin is completely
opposed to both, but rather than constructing cardboard characters for
us to root for (in the vain hope that good will ultimately triumph over
evil), he exposes the foundations by showing how every character is
corrupted and disgraced by inequality and violence. That Yglesias winds
up rooting for a strong and fearsome ruler shows how much he's willing
Shocked by the rise of the right? Then you weren't paying attention.
Young blames "endemic racism and unfairness" -- I take the latter to
mean inequality and the business practices that increase it.
Poll: Most Americans disapprove of the Alabama abortion ban.