Sunday, November 17, 2019
Once again, no time for introduction.
Some scattered links this week:
Trump just issued multiple war crime pardons. Experts think it's a bad
Trump isn't really trying to end America's wars.
The medium is the mistake: Review of James Poniewozik: Audience
of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America,
and Matt Taibbi: Hate Inc.: Why Today's Media Makes Us Despise One
Another. I got a lot out of the former book, and think it gets
raked unfairly here -- not that I won't give Bromwich a couple of his
points (The Beverly Hillbillies, Playboy). I've seen
some parts of Taibbi's book, but didn't read them closely, and don't
have a clear picture of the whole. Taibbi's first book on campaigning,
Spanking the Donkey, was very sharp, not just on the candidates
but on the press covering them (that's where he wrote up his Wimblehack
brackets). Since then he's developed his own idiosyncratic version of
"fair and balanced" centrism, which sometimes wears my patience thin.
By the way, Bromwich has a recent book I hadn't noticed, but should
take a look at: American Breakdown: The Trump Years and How They
Befell Us. I'm also intrigued by parts of his earlier Moral
Imagination: Essays. Just to pick one almost random quote from
the latter's preface:
We ought to describe as "terrorist" any act of deliberate violence
that compasses the deaths of innocent persons in order to achieve a
political end. State terror, such as Britain practiced in Kenya,
Russia in Chechnya and the U.S. in Iraq -- state terror, as exemplified
by our own state among others -- differs morally in no way from the
terror of the people we are in the habit of calling terrorists. Moral
imagination affirms the kinship in evil of these two sorts of violence.
Laura Bult/Liz Scheltens:
America's wilderness is for sale.
How a Trump administration proposal could worsen public health: "Now,
the Trump administration has proposed a new measure that would limit the
research that the Environmental Protection Agency can use when regulating
public health." Interview with Douglas Dockery.
Jason Del Rey:
The Seattle politician Amazon tried to oust has declared victory:
Against economics: Review of Robert Skidelsky: Money and Government:
The Past and Future of Economics. Skidelsky is best known as Keynes'
biographer, and wrote what was for all intents and purposes Keynes' reply
to the 2008 collapse (Keynes: The Return of the Master), but seems
to venture further here -- which Graeber, an anarchist-anthropologist whose
most famous book was called Debt, applauds. Lots of interesting
points here, including a discussion of money which echoes some points Art
Protin's tried to convince me of last week. Of course, the following
nugget helped convince me they're on solid ground:
Surely there's nothing wrong with creating simplified models. Arguably,
this is how any science of human affairs has to proceed. But an empirical
science then goes on to test those models against what people actually
do, and adjust them accordingly. This is precisely what economists did
not do. Instead, they discovered that, if one encased those models
in mathematical formulae completely impenetrable to the noninitiate, it
would be possible to create a universe in which those premises could
never be refuted. . . .
The problem, as Skidelsky emphasizes, is that if your initial
assumptions are absurd, multiplying them a thousandfold will hardly
make them less so. Or, as he puts it, rather less gently, "lunatic
premises lead to mad conclusions." . . .
Economic theory as it exists increasingly resembles a shed full
of broken tools. This is not to say there are no useful insights
here, but fundamentally the existing discipline is designed to solve
another century's problems. The problem of how to determine the optimal
distribution of work and resources to create high levels of economic
growth is simply not the same problem we are now facing: i.e., how to
deal with increasing technological productivity, decreasing real demand
for labor, and the effective management of care work, without also
destroying the Earth. This demands a different science.
Michael M Grynbaum:
Blloomberg's teamcalls his crude remarks on women 'wrong'.
The foreign policy establishment is hijacking impeachment. Trump has
done hundreds of things that I would be happy to impeach him for, but to
be real, impeachment needs a broad consensus, and the FPE has expanded
that from roughly half of the Democrats in the House to all of them. So
that puts them first in line to level charges, even if they pick a few
that I wouldn't prioritize.
The post-truth prophets: "Postmodernism predicted our post-truth
hellscape. Everyone still hates it." Not his usual interview, although
it's likely he's done interviews in this vein. I stopped paying attention
to social theory around 1975, so I missed Lyotard's 1979 book where he
coined the term postmodernism -- I did read precursors like Baudrillard,
Foucault, and Lacan, but can't say as I ever got much out of them. The
term meant nothing to me for a long time, before I came up with my own
definition, using it to describe a world that had lost all sense of
direction -- the one thing modernism promised -- and therefore let any
damn thing go. I saw this most clearly in architecture, eventually in
other arts, but it always remained something of a grab bag. What it
might possibly mean for politics is especially hard to pin down, maybe
because none of the rival claimants for a modernist politics ever got
close to their intrinsic limits.
Did Trump just commit witness tampering? I asked 7 legal experts.
"Probably not, but here's why it likely doesn't matter anyway."
Why we need a more forgiving legal system: Interview with Martha
Minow, author of When Should Law Forgive?
Louisiana delivers Trump a black eye: "The president lost two of three
gubernatorial elections in conservative Southern states, raising questions
about his standing heading into 2020." Louisiana just re-elected Democrat
John Bel Edwards to a second term as governor.
Why Trump attacked Marie Yovanovitch: "He can't help but go after women,
even when doing so hurts his cause."
Warren proposes two-step plan to implement Medicare for All. I see
this as a fair and reasoned bow to the inevitable, not that I have any
problem with Sanders sticking with his full-blown plan: how to get there
matters, but not as much as knowing where you want to go. I could imagine
even more steps along the way. M4A faces two major challenges: one is
the money that is currently paid to private insurance companies over to
the public program (most of that money is controlled by employers, who
would like to keep it themselves); the other is getting the providers
integrated into the M4A network, preferably on terms that allow M4A to
better manage costs without reducing service. Warren's "head tax" is one
way of dealing with the former (not an ideal solution, but should work
as a bridge gap). Few people talk about the latter, probably because
Medicare already has a large service network, but even there Advantage
plans limit the network, and similar limits are common with private
insurance plans. On the other hand, M4A would be more efficient (which
is to say affordable) if providers dealt exclusively with it. I think
this opens up three ideas that I've never seen really discussed. The
first key is realizing that for well into the future private insurers
will still be able to sell supplemental insurance plans. I'm on Medicare,
but I still buy a "Medigap" private health insurance policy, which picks
up virtually all of the deductibles and miscellaneous charges Medicare
sticks you with. Sanders wants to eliminate all of those charges, but
anything short of his plan will leave the insurance companies a viable
market. Most practical implementations of M4A will leave a role for
supplemental insurance. Doesn't this imply that M4A won't totally end
the need for private insurance, but will simply shift it from primary
to supplemental coverage? This opens up another way to incrementally
shift to M4A: start by insuring everyone for certain conditions, and
expand that list as you build up a general tax base to support it
(part of the tax could be on private insurance premiums, which could
be cost-neutral for the insurance companies). Some obvious candidates
for the initial list: ER trauma, vaccinations, pre-natal care and
deliveries. Another idea would be to start investing more funds into
non-profit provider networks (which could be built around existing
public providers, like the VA). Under M4A Medicaid wouldn't be needed
as a second-class insurer, but could be repurposed to build affordable
and accessible clinics, which would compete effectively with for-profit
providers, and thereby help manage costs.
Bevin concedes after Republicans decline to help him steal the election.
Deval Patrick is officially running for President. Two-term governor
of Massachusetts, a black politician who's open for business, so much so
that after politics he went to work for Mitt Romney's vulture capital firm,
Bain Capital. I recall that Thomas Frank, in Listen, Liberal: Or What
Ever Happened to the Part of the People, looked past the Clintons
to single Patrick out, along with Andrew Cuomo and Rahm Emmanuel, as
prominent Democrats always eager to sell out to business interests.
Patrick's hat in the ring tells us that certain donors are spooked by
Warren and Sanders, are convinced Biden will collapse, realize that
none of the Senators (Booker, Harris, Klobuchar) have attracted enough
interest, and doubt Buttigieg can expand beyond his niche. Those donors
have been pushing several names recently, including Bloomberg (who has
even more negatives), but Patrick is the first to nibble. The problem
is that unless you're looking for financial favors, it's hard to see
any reason for anyone to pick Patrick over anyone else in the middle
of the Democratic Party road. Also on Patrick: Matt Taibbi:
Deval Patrick's candidacy is another chapter in the Democrats' 2020
clown car disaster.
Nikki Haley's skillful and opportunistic MAGA balancing act: "Once
again, Nikki Haley has figured out how to keep herself in the news as
a potential Trump-Pence successor while declaring her Trumpist loyalties."
Is Buttigieg's presidential bid buoyed by male privilege? Amy Klobuchar
seems to think so. I don't doubt that lots of people have lots of prejudices
governing their preferences, but such a claim isn't going to change anything.
Among moderate ("no we can't") candidates, maybe Buttigieg and Biden have
advantages other than sex -- one's an old establishment figure, the other
is a complete outsider not tainted by past failures. Besides, didn't Hillary
break the "glass ceiling" for wimpy moderates (at least in the Democratic
primaries)? You could just as well argue that Cory Booker hasn't taken off
due to white privilege, but Obama didn't seem to have that problem.
The case against Boeing. Specifically, regarding the 737 MAX. One
can make lots of other cases against Boeing, perhaps not all "proving
that the company put profit over safety," but profit is never far from
3 ways the Supreme Court could decide DACA's fate.
Lessons in survival: Review of two books: Elizabeth Rush: Rising:
Dispatches from the New American Shore, and Gilbert M Gaul: The
Geography of Risk: Epic Storms, Rising Seas, and the Cost of America's
Both make the controversial case for managed retreat as our best defense,
given the scale of the problem. This approach calls for withdrawing rather
than rebuilding after disasters, and would include government buyout
programs to finance the resettlement of homeowners from vulnerable areas.
Warren doesn't just frighten billionaires -- she scares the whole
With impeachment, America's epistemic crisis as arrived: "Can the
right-wing machine hold the base in an alternate reality long enough
to get through the next election?"
They [the right] are working with a few key tools and advantages. The
first is a strong tendency, especially among low-information, relatively
disengaged voters (and political reporters), to view consensus as a signal
of legitimacy. It's an easy and appealing heuristic: If something is a
good idea, it would have at least a few people from both sides supporting
it. That's why "bipartisan" has been such a magic word in US politics this
century, even as the reality of bipartisanship has faded.
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell was very canny in recognizing
this tendency and working it it ruthlessly to his advantage. He realized
before Obama ever set foot in office that if he could keep Republicans
unified in opposition, refusing any cooperation on anything, he could make
Obama appear "polarizing." His great insight, as ruthlessly effective as
it was morally bankrupt, was that he could unilaterally deny Obama the
ability to be a uniter, a leader, or a deal maker. Through nothing but
sheer obstinance, he could make politics into an endless, frustrating,
fruitless shitshow, diminishing both parties in voters' eyes.
This is what Republicans need more than anything on impeachment: for
the general public to see it as just another round of partisan squabbling,
another illustration of how "Washington" is broken. They need to prevent
any hint of bipartisan consensus from emerging.
Roberts refers to several previous articles, worth collecting
here, starting with his own:
Boo-hoo billionaires: why America's super-wealthy are afraid for 2020.
Trump's big veterans health care plan has hit a snag. The "big plan"
is to privatize health care services for veterans who don't live close
enough to heavily used VA facilities. Once again, the privateers have
overestimated the competency of the private sector, and underestimated
"ok billionaire": Elizabeth Warren is leaning into her billionaire
Jim Tankersley/Peter Eavis/Ben Casselman:
How FedEx cut its tax bill to $0: "The company, like much of corporate
America, has not made good on its promised investment surge from President
Trump's 2017 tax cuts."
'You're done': Conservative radio host fired mid-show for criticizing
The one big policy change 2020 Democrats want to make for veterans,