Friday, September 6, 2019
Once again, ran out of time before I could get around to an
introduction. The impeachment story rolls on, and Trump is getting
weirder and freakier than ever. Meanwhile, more bad shit is happening
than I can get a grip on. And what's likely to happen when the new
Supreme Court gets down to business. Once you tote up all the damage
Trump's election directly causes, you need to look up "opportunity
Some scattered links this week:
A second whistleblower on Trump and Ukraine is coming forward.
Trump wants to shoot people in the legs. The United States' closest ally
already does that. It's long been clear to me that a big part of the
love US right-wingers have for Israel is envy: they wish their own country
to become as brutal, as imperious, as militarist as Israel has proven to
Alexia Fernández Campbell:
The US border security industry could be worth $740 billion by 2023.
A shocking number, but it was already worth $305 billion in 2011.
Why Trump, facing impeachment, warns of civil war.
Just how swampy are US-Saudi arms deals?
The post-Saddam Hussein settlement in Iraq is on the brink of collapse.
How to get away with gerrymandering.
Mining the future: Climate change, migration, and militarization in
US test fires ICBM, declares it a 'visible message of national security'
("which flew 4,200 miles from California to the Marshall Islands"):
a non-story compared to North Korea test-firing smaller missiles or
China "showing off arms in a parade," despite being pointed toward
China and North Korea.
Trump's impeachment polling is historically unprecedented.
James K Galbraith:
This 50-year-old economic book helps explain the corporate republic we
live in: On James K Galbraith's The New Industrial State
Donald Trump's 'maximum pressure' campaign against Iran has backfired.
Team Trump's 2020 strategy is Clinton Cash all over again.
But wouldn't the likelihood of it working be dependent on the Democrats
nominating a candidate like Hillary Clinton?
The difference between leaking and whistle-blowing in the Trump White
House. Refers to a new book by Tom Mueller on the history of
whistle-blowing: Crisis of Conscience, and notes:
An effective whistle-blower stays below the radar while methodically
collecting information; staying power and an ability to remain
inconspicuous are key. The person who blew the whistle on Trump and
Ukraine appears to possess both of these qualities, and others: the
complaint is meticulously documented and worded with exquisite care.
By its very existence, the document blows the whistle on the Trumpian
style -- hasty, sloppy, overblown, and unsubstantiated.
Other opponents of Trumpism within the government have leaked rather
than blown the whistle. No sooner was the President inaugurated than
members of the White House staff told reporters that the President
acted like a "clueless child," had no interest in intelligence reports,
spent his time watching TV, and was largely kept out of the decision-making
process. These stories, which began in January of 2017, quickly grew
familiar, and the more bizarre the reality they described, the greater
their normalizing effect.
Tara Golshan/Ella Nilsen:
Elizabeth Warren's new remedy for corruption: a tax on lobbying.
Trump's war on California and the climate.
How the Saudi oil field attack overturned America's apple cart:
"For all their overwhelming firepower, the U.S. and its allies can
cause a lot of misery in the Middle East, but still can't govern
the course of events."
The 2 companies that place all those ads at the bottom of webpages are
combining: "Taboola is buying Outbrain."
Some impeachment-shy Democrats just fear it will backfire, as
do some impeachment-shy "progressive" pundits. One worry is no doubt
Trump campaign to drop bomb on Biden in early voting states:
Trump's reelection effort "will air over $1 million in anti-Biden
commercials in Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire and Nevada" --
probably the most blatant attempt to influence other party primary
voting since Nixon's "dirty tricks" campaign against Edmund Muskie
in 1972. This almost looks like Trump baited the Democrats into
impeaching him, just for the free publicity.
What will Republicans do if Trump goes down? A rather silly
exercise in handicapping the Republican bench. Trump is more likely
to die suddenly or become debilitated than to be convicted by this
Senate, in which case Republicans could scramble but would probably
figure Pence the best shot at saving Trump's legacy. The fact is
that Trump not only owns the public perception of the Party, he's
the only one with proven ability to convince a significant bloc of
far-from-wealthy voters to cut their own throats. Kilgore also
Is there any chance the GOP is about to turn on Trump?
Here we go: Supreme Court accepts first big post-Kavanaugh abortion
Will progressive Democrats 'move to the center' when facing Trump?
Could be, but Sanders and Warren have spelled out their platforms so
extensively that it will be hard for them to run on anything else --
at most, they'll concede that some things they want will be lesser
priorities as long as significant numbers of Democrats aren't on
board. Should they is another question. It looks to me like Trump's
going to try to run to the left of centrist Democrats, presenting
them as corrupt and himself as the champion of working people and as
the defender of Social Security and Medicare. Moreover, he'll make
mincemeat of any Democrat as hawkish as Hillary Clinton. Sure, it
will all be lies, but he's done it before, and it's not clear how
much credibility four years of broken promises has cost him. The
one Democrat he can't feint left of is Sanders, and in that case
he may not try, figuring red-baiting will do the trick. The big
advantage that Sanders has, even over Warren, is that no one doubts
his sincerity or his integrity, and up against Trump those are the
characteristics that matter most. Of course, compared to Trump, any
Democrat should be able to score those points, but moving to the
lame, corrupt, ineffective center won't help them. Only moving to
the left will.
Nixon's defenders claimed he was a victim of a 'coup.' So did Clinton's.
Only a story now because Trump's claiming that too -- started, in fact,
back during the Mueller inquiry.
How oceans rise and die on a warming planet: As Jane Lubchenco, a
former US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration administrator,
puts it: "The ocean today is higher, warmer, more acidic, less productive,
and it holds less oxygen."
As a result, coral reefs are bleaching a ghostly white, and, although
some can recover, others are dying at a rapid rate. Monster storms are
persistent. Marine heat waves -- projected to increase fiftyfold if
current trends continue -- are depleting fisheries. Ocean acidification
is severely harming all sorts of species, which then harms people, too,
since many of these species are critical to local economies. Glaciers
are melting faster with consequences for people in the mountains and
on the coasts alike.
A Trump hotel mystery: Giant reservations followed by empty rooms:
"The House is investigating whether groups tried to curry favor with
Trump by booking rooms at his hotels but never using them."
Snowden in the labyrinth: Review of Edward Snowden's memoir,
Why almost no one is guilty of treason, explained: "Adam Schiff isn't
guilty of treason, nor is Donald Trump, and neither is just about any
other person you can think of." Then why not just expunge the word from
The invention of the conspiracy theory on Biden and Ukraine.
Trump's DOJ just escalated the fight over whether religion is a license
This California highway boondoggle shows why we need more infrastructure
funding: And why "public-private partnerships are a poor replacement
for robust federal investment in infrastructure."
Jeremy Corbyn or no-deal Brexit? The UK might have to choose.
Democrats have subpoenaed the White House in the next phase of their
Warren and Sanders raised significantly more money than Biden in the
third quarter. Biden came in fourth, also trailing Pete Buttigieg.
Or, as ABC put it,
Warren surpasses Biden in latest fundraising haul but falls short of
Sanders. I've seen a meme (probably from the Sanders campaign, but
I can't find a viable link) which lists the "top donors by profession"
for Biden (president of company, managing partner, real estate developer,
lawyer, investor), Warren (psychologist, scientist, editor, librarian,
psychotherapist), and Sanders (teacher, nurse, farmer, truck driver,
waiter/waitress, construction). For a similar breakdown along these
lines, see Karl Evers-Hillstrom:
Sanders or Warren: Why gets more support from working-class donors?
Toluse Olorunnpia/Amy Goldstein:
Trump attacks Democrats' health care plans and pledges to protect Medicare
during political speech to Florida retirees. The big lie is on,
but note that Trump is signaling that he intends to run to the left
of Democrats on health care, even though what he means is something
President Trump blasted his potential Democratic presidential rivals
in a highly political speech here Thursday, telling a group of senior
citizens that "maniac" Democrats would rip away their health care,
decimate their retirement accounts and prioritize undocumented
immigrants over U.S. citizens.
"All of the Democrat plans would devastate our health care system,"
Trump said during a visit to The Villages, where he signed an executive
order designed to expand the private-sector version of Medicare that
Here's what Charles P Pierce wrote about the same Trump speech:
The President* is a blight, but watch what the conservative movement's
up to behind him: "They're coming for Medicare, folks." Pierce
blogs more often than I feel like citing, but some of his best
titles last week:
The real reason Amber Guyger was convicted. An off-duty white
police officer shot and killed an unarmed black man in his apartment
in Texas. Against odds, she was charged and convicted of murder.
Police officers have killed over a thousand people a year in recent
years: Of those killed by police since 2005, less than 100 officers
have been arrested, only 35 officers have been convicted -- and, as
of March, only three of them of murder. Less than 1 percent of all
officers are convicted when their victim is Black -- even though
Black people are three times more likely than white people to be
killed by police.
Packnett credits the verdict to a fully integrated jury. However,
before you start thinking that justice is starting to work in America,
note: Anya van Wagtendonk:
Joshua Brown, a key witness in the murder trial against Amber Guyger,
was fatally shot.
A new book argues that Trump is television in human form: On
James Poniewozik's Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television,
and the Fracturing of America.
Poniewozik almost wants to rate Trump as a great postmodern thinker,
but the problem is that Trump does not think. Nonetheless, Trump is a
great postmodern feeler, who intuits and responds to the stimuli of
electronic media with the dark brilliance of an idiot savant, in the
sure belief that only suckers care about objective truth. Poniewozik
calls Trump's daily performance qua Trump a manifestation of
"lizard-brain postmodernism -- the salesman's intuition that the
cartoon of a thing was more powerful to people than the thing itself."
William Rivers Pitt:
Trump is spreading fear because he fears impeachment: The one thing
about the impeachment inquiry that I find most perplexing is why Trump
has reacted with such crazed panic. Surely he knows that the Republican
Senate will never remove him from office. And given that there is zero
chance of the Republican Party denying him nomination for a second term,
the only contest that really matters is the 2020 election. Yet every day
he squirms, rants, raves, acting out in ways that not only don't offer
any practical defense against the charges but really make most people
question his competency and even sanity.
Rudy Giuliani welcomes you to Eastern Europe: "So much about the
Trump administration seems pulled from the playbook of a post-Soviet
kleptocracy." Other Putin critics, like Masha Gessen, have said much
the same thing, most likely because that's what they're used to seeing.
I doubt Trump is consciously taking Putin as a model (no matter how
sympathetic he is). Rather, cynical oligarchs don't have many options
in how to spin their corruption.
The incredibly damning Ukraine texts from State Department officials,
Richard V Reeves:
Now the rich want your pity, too: "If the wealthy are so stressed
out, whose fault is that?"
"Stupid Watergate" is worse than the original. A game effort to
make the case, anyway, not least by pointing out that both scandals
started as efforts to rig elections and as such were attacks on our
faith in democracy. But even though I don't doubt that a Trump
dictatorship would be even more malign than a Nixon one, the only
dimension where Trump is way ahead of Nixon is stupid, and I don't
see how that makes it worse. What might make it worse is that most
Republicans today are so shameless and so desperate to cling onto
power that they've lost the capacity to understand when their
president breaks bad.
The Earth just had its hottest September on record: For what little
it's worth, Wichita bucked the trend all summer long, but got with the
program for September: possibly not a record, but hottest month we've
had all year, still above 90F on 9/30 (but 49F as I write this).
How disinformation reaches Donald Trump.
Eric Schmitt/Maggie Haberman/Edward Wong:
Trump endorses Turkish military operation in Syria, shifting US
policy: What's the Kurdish word for people who are recruited,
used up, and carelessly discarded? Once "comrades-in-arms," now
more like "losers."
Jeremy Singer-Vine/Kevin Collier:
Political operatives are faking voter outrage with millions of made-up
comments to benefit the rich and powerful. Case in point: 22 million
public comments submitted to FCC on net neutrality regulations.
Impeach all presidents: Sure, it's hard to think of any recent US
president who hasn't committed high crimes along the way, especially
in using the US military to kill people in other countries. Even Nixon's
Watergate crimes paled in comparison to other things he did, like his
coup in Chile and his escalation in Indochina. Some Democrats will tell
you that Trump forced them to impeach, but it's always been a process
that has been selectively used for distinct political purposes. On the
other hand, when you can impeach, why not? The charges brought against
Clinton were bullshit, but at the time I urged convicting him, because
he had done other things that merited removing him from office (e.g.,
his bombing operations in Iraq, which his Republican foes usually
Jeff Stein/Tom Hamburger/Josh Dawsey:
IRS whistleblower said to report Treasury political appointee might have
tried to interfere in audit of Trump or Pence.
Mulvaney predicts post-impeachment landslide. "Mulvaney also
believes that the longer the impeachment process drags on, the better
it is, politically, for Trump." Impeachment also seems to be spurring
small donors, which is not a resource Trump had in 2016. I don't doubt
that Mulvaney's attitude exists, especially among Trump's inner circle
of sycophants, but I think it's more likely that less-committed voters
will get sick and tired of all the noise, especially given how erratic
Trump has been acting.
The 'whistleblower' probably isn't: "It's an insult to real
whistleblowers to use the term with the Ukrainegate protagonist."
Anton Troianovski/Chris Mooney:
Radical warming in Siberia eaves millions on unstable ground.
Anya van Wagtendonk:
Rick Perry's spent a lot of time in Ukraine. Now he's caught up in the
impeachment inquiry. For more on Perry, see: Chas Danner:
What we know about Trump's bizarre attempt to blame Rick Perry for the
Trump's close-call diplomacy with Iran's President.
How I helped hack democracy: An excerpt from the author's book,
Mindf*ck: Cambridge Analytics and the Plot to Break America.
Li Zhou/Hannah Brown:
1999 vs. 2019: Senate Republicans' attitudes on impeachment sure have
changed a lot: Many examples, first two Lindsey Graham and Mitch
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