Sunday, October 27, 2019
Been distracted, so chalk this up as another week going through the
motions, keeping open the option of looking back at this presidential
term week-by-week as it unfolded. More time might have given me chance
to group links on the same basic stories, as well as to build a bit
more structure around everything. Started collecting on Saturday,
after which the Baghdadi assassination story broke, John Conyers died,
and Trump was greeted with boos and chants of "lock him up" at the
Some scattered links this week:
Jared Bernstein/Dean Baker:
Blame the economic policies, not the robots.
Trump has officially weaponized the Justice Department to go after his
A top Trump student loan official just resigned, calling for debt
forgiveness. Related: Sarah Jones:
Trump-appointed student loan official resigns: "Stop the insanity."
Alexia Fernández Campbell:
The GM strike has officially ended. Here's what workers won and lost.
Republicans want victimhood without being victimized.
The right saw the outrage at Trump's "lynching" tweet as another example
of liberal hypocrisy.
The final outcome of the multiple Syrian wars is now in sight. By
the way, a letter here notes that:
Jeff Halper, in his 2015 book, suggested that people across the world
exercising their democratic right to challenge their governments'
misrule were becoming "Palestinianised" and the rulers were becoming
For a case in point, the letter included a link to: Nasim Ahmed:
'Palestinanised' Chileans revolt against their "Israelised'
Tulsi Gabbard is right, and Nancy Pelosi wrong. It was US Democrats who
helped cultivate the barbarism of Isis.
Typhoon Hagibis kills dozens and causes "immense damage" in Japan.
Max Fisher/Amanda Taub:
The global protest wave, explained: "It's not your imagination, and
the last few months are not an outlier: Mass protests are on the rise
- Democracy is stalling out
- Social media makes protests likelier to start, likelier to balloon
in size and likelier to fail
- Social polarization is way up
- Authoritarian learning
For more, Fisher and Declan Walsh also wrote:
From Chile to Lebanon, protests flare over wallet issues. Fisher
The US turned Syria's north into a tinderbox. Then Trump lit a match.
More articles on various ongoing protests:
Trump warns US 'may have to get in wars': "The president specifically
threatens to hit Iran 'like they've never been hit before' if the regime
Bernie Sanders vows to revive criminal prosecutions of CEOs for unfair
The problem of political advertising on social media.
President Trump is obsessed with stealing Syria's oil.
Everyone is denouncing the Syrian rebels now slaughtering Kurds. But didn't
the US once support some of them?
Jeff Hauser/Eleanor Eagan:
House Democrats are failing to protect farmers from Trump: "The
administration is letting agribusiness monopolies run amok."
Californians face more blackouts as fire risk remains high.
We can't actually keep Syria's oil, but Lindsey Graham wants Trump to
think we can: More paragraphs than I can quote here explain why
the scheme is "preposterous." Still, it was the one trick that moved
Trump to reverse his withdrawal, which is something Graham believes
in more than reason:
These geopolitical arguments didn't move Trump an inch. So Sen. Lindsey
Graham -- Trump's most loyal political defender but also a fervent
advocate for the Kurds -- shifted tactics to focus on something he
figured the president would understand: finances. According to NBC
News, Graham and Jack Keane -- an influential retired Army general
who, back in 2007, persuaded President George W. Bush to order a "surge"
of troops to Iraq -- brought maps into the Oval Office, showing Trump
the network of oil fields across the region, including in Syria.
The argument about oil was flimflam, and Graham and Keane knew it.
Citing a defense official, NBC noted that "while the emphasis on oil
in Syria is intended to convince the president that the U.S. military
is valuable, securing the oil fields is not a military strategy. U.S.
troops will not actually be guarding the oil fields."
The ruse was reminiscent of the time, early in the administration,
when Trump wanted to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, to the
alarm of several officials. Trump paid no attention to arguments about
counterterrorism or the balance of power, so the officials shifted
tactics. Pentagon officials started talking about "rare-earth metals"
in Afghan soil -- something that had never been in previous briefing
books. Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, then the national security adviser,
showed Trump old photographs of Kabul in the 1970s, in which young
women were seen wearing miniskirts. See, McMaster told the president,
Afghanistan hasn't always been a graveyard of empires; it's been a
"normal" country in the past, and it can be again.
Trump not only reversed his decision to pull out -- he doubled
the number of troops that President Barack Obama, toward the end of
his term, had kept in.
Graham, Keane, and many others wanted to keep some U.S. troops in
Syria. Trump did not. So they made up a phony argument to get him to
change his mind. It worked.
The US has 50 nuclear bombs in Turkey. Why?
Trump's four horsemen: "The president is unleashing autocrats to
create a Middle East apocalypse." Casts the "four horsemen" as Erdogan,
Assad, Khamanei, and Putin, but he missed a few, especially the leaders
of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and let's not forget Israel. Also Trump,
who get criticized for stepping back then overcompensates by plunging
forward, his "withdrawal" from Syria almost instantly reversed by an
invasion to seize Syrian oil fields, while sending more forces to Saudi
Arabia (once again, aimed at oil fields).
Ivan Krastev/Stephen Holmes:
How liberalism became 'the god that failed' in Eastern Europe.
459,000 working-class white male Wisconsinites didn't vote in 2016.
An untapped potential Trump resource in what's currently the key
Recapping impeachment: Bill Taylor returns for one last mission.
Rudy and Hunter Biden both worked for the same Romanian kleptocrat.
USDA watchdog to investigate Department's alleged suppression of climate
How centrist Democrats botched the 2020 primary. I'd put less
emphasis on the names than on bigger problems with the paradigm.
The inescapable fact is that centrist Democrats -- Clinton, Obama,
and their natural followers -- have failed on both fronts: they
haven't been able to deliver real gains to the party rank and file,
and even with their timid programs and compromises they haven't
been able to keep the Republicans out of power. The left offers
tangible answers to both problems: they promote real answers to
the real problems faced by the party base, and they work hard to
convince you that they'll follow through if given the chance.
Also, one more reason: from the 1980s through Hillary Clinton in
2016, successful Democrats (like Republicans) were the ones most
able to raise money from well-heeled donors. In 2016, Bernie
Sanders came up with way to raise money that doesn't depend on
PACs and fat cats, and Warren has followed his path. The whining
you hear from centrists these days is mostly because the left is
no longer dependent on their support. Of course, names do have
some impact. Aside from Hillary and Biden, the two best-known
pro-business centrists are probably Andrew Cuomo and Rahm Emmanuel,
but their failures and scandals have kept them from even running.
Eric Lipton/Jesse Drucker:
Symbol of '80s greed stands to profit from Trump tax break for poor
TPM's deep dive on the conservative deep state: A series of articles
investigating right-wing political organizations, not necessarily within
the state but trying to align state policy with their political interests.
Some articles in this series:
US air pollution deaths increased by 9,700 a year from 2016 to 2018.
Pennsylvania lawmakers want to ban abortion before many people know
The zombie campaign: Joe Biden is the least formidable front-runner
AI could be a disaster for humanity. A top computer scientist thinks
he has the solution: "Stuart Russell wrote the book on AI and is
leading the fight to change how we build it."
The week in impeachment inquiry news, explained.
The Obamanauts: Review of eight books on Obama in the White House,
asking the question: "What was the defining achievement of Barack
Obama?" Jonathan Chait thinks that's
a dumb question, and tries to construct a defense of Obama against
such "left-wing attacks."
Team Trump's efforts to spin Mulvaney's quid pro quo confession are not
Trump's lynching comparison shows there's no bottom to his sense of
victimhood. Still, I take a certain gratification in that Trump
seems to be acknowledging that lynching is a bad thing, although more
likely with him it's more a matter of who's doing what to whom. (Same
with witch hunts.)
Update complete: US nuclear weapons no longer need floppy disks.
You know, I still have a couple of 8-inch floppy disk drives in the
basement. Admittedly, I haven't used them since the 1980s. Also have
the S-100 bus Z-80 computer I bought them for, with 64K of no-wait-state
static RAM, and some orange plastic levers for toggling in binary boot
programs. Also have a 1998-vintage computer with a 3.5-inch not-floppy
removable disk drive. In between, there were 5.25-inch floppy disks. I
have a bunch of those, but no computer I can read them in. Probably
some marginally interesting baseball data on those. Maybe record lists,
occasional scraps of writing.
Trump's press conference announcing the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
is peak deranged Trump.
William Barr, Trump's new Roy Cohn.
Everyone is a Russian asset. Hillary Clinton and her close supporters
have been especially quick to make such charges. Taibbi doesn't talk about
his own experience as a target of such slurs, but I've noticed he gets it
Out with the old, in with the Young.
Anya van Wagtendonk:
James D Walsh:
'The force of Trump's lying has ruptured the space-time continuum':
Steve Schmidt on impeachment: Interview with Schmidt, an ex-GOP
(Never Trump) pundit at MSNBC, who says:
My perspective is that the Republican Party is profoundly corrupted by
Donald Trump and it has been corrupted by a tolerance for all and any
type of amoral and immoral behavior. Tolerance for astounding levels of
corruption and exposure of hypocrisy from the religious far-right leaders
like Falwell, to everybody who screamed and shouted about some perfidious
act that Obama or the Clintons allegedly committed. Trump has remade the
Republican Party into an isolationist, grievance-driven, resentment-driven
On the other hand, he still loathes the Democratic Party, and sees
them as doomed. He notes, I think correctly, "A debate about stupid
things benefits Donald Trump." He's specifically talking about Kamala
Harris' argument that Trump should be banned from Twitter, but I see
a much more pervasive example in the mass media, where every issue is
reduced to stupid.
Sarah Westwood/Caroline Kenney:
Mayor and college officials in city where Trump spoke Friday give changing
numbers of student attendees at speech. Trump spoke in Columbia, SC, at
"historically black" Benedict College, by invitation only to a crowd of 200.
Note that: "only about 10 were actual students from the college." New York
Magazine linked to this under the title, "Man of the white people."
What's good for Putin is not always bad for America: "Syria isn't a
zero-sum game between Russia and the United States, so let's stop talking
about it that way."
It's time to broaden the impeachment inquiry: "The House should be
asking questions about Trump's dealings with Turkey, Russia, Saudi Arabia,
and others." He's not broadening it much, and the three nations mentioned
are easy to demagogue on, because they resonate with recent and/or ancient
popular prejudices. But surely there's as much "smoke" around Israel, but
no one wants to look in that direction (even though they wouldn't have to
look much further than Sheldon Adelson).