Sunday, April 12, 2020
I have little to add to the comments below, and frankly am exhausted
and want to put this week behind me. Seems like I could have found more
on Bernie Sanders, the end of his campaign, and the consolidation behind
Joe Biden. Still seems premature for that, not least as Biden continues
to be such an underwhelming front-runner. I watched only a few minutes
of Steven Colbert's interview with the Pod Saves America crew last week.
They're usually sharp guys, but their "ecstasy" over Biden's win seemed
awfully rehearsed and forced. They all previously worked in the Obama
White House, and one couldn't help but think they're lining up for new
jobs under Biden.
Looks like Joe Biden won the
Alaska Democratic primary, 55.31% to 44.69% for Bernie Sanders.
The primary was conducted by mail. No results yet in last week's messy
Wisconsin primary. Biden was averaging about 53% in polls there. We've
voted by mail in Kansas, where the primary is run by the party, not by
the state. Ballots here are due May 4. We voted for Sanders. Ranked
choice was an option here, but in a two-person race, I didn't see any
point in offering a second choice (which could only have been Elizabeth
Warren; with five names on the ballot, had I ranked them all Biden would
have come in fifth).
I've seen some tweets touting Warren as a VP choice, and I wouldn't
object. Indeed, I think she would be very effective in the role. I'm
reminded of a business maxim I associate with David Ogilvy, who passed
it on to his middle management: if we always hire people greater than
ourselves, we will become a company of giants; if we hire people lesser
than ourselves, we will be a company of midgets. Biden would probably
prefer a safe, mediocre pick like Tim Kaine (or Joe Biden), but this
is one chance to rewrite his story (assuming his handlers let him).
Some scattered links this week:
An airline bailout should have more strings attached than a harp:
"The industry was a hot mess before the coronavirus. Cash plus more
deregulation will only make it worse."
Dean Baker (also see
Why do economists have such a hard time imagining open source biomedical
Why Bernie Sanders failed: "The Sanders campaign and his supporters
bet on a theory of class politics that turned out to be wrong." Did it?
Until Super Tuesday, Sanders had made significant gains among white and
Latin working class voters, even while losing most of his professional
class support to Elizabeth Warren. As for blacks, South Carolina isn't a
very representative measure. Sanders had won the first three hard-fought
primaries, and continued to gain support through Super Tuesday. What hurt
him there (and in South Carolina three days earlier) was the blind-sided
convergence of all "moderate" voters behind Biden, on top of $500 million
of saturation advertising by Michael Bloomberg (who entered the campaign
expressly to stop Sanders). Then it became impossible to campaign as the
coronavirus pandemic shut much of everything down (including voting).
I suppose it is true that focus on class has been temporarily suspended
with the entire economy in free fall, but when we assay the damage, I
expect class schisms to bounce back sharper than ever. Not soon enough
for Sanders to ride a wave to the White House, but that doesn't mean his
strategy failed -- more like it was more necessary, and more promising,
than most people realized. Other postmortems and testaments on the
Bernie Sanders's campaign was trying to save American democracy.
It was astonishing to hear the Sanders campaign described, as it
routinely was in the mainstream press, as angry, bellicose, even a
Trumpism for the Left. To be anywhere near the campaign -- to know
any of the people going door to door and making regular small
donations -- was to understand that it was idealistic in spirit,
hopeful in tone, generous in its sense of possibility. It modeled
what you might call patriotism for adults, disillusioned patriotism
without exceptionalist bullshit. . . .
[W]hat stopped Sanders from taking control of the party was voters'
doubt that American democracy could build a bridge to a better world.
For decades, the Right has attacked and denuded the state, while
liberals have fought for half-measures, accepting the premises and
quarreling over specific applications and results. Pundits and party
leaders identify political wisdom as world-weary acceptance that you
don't hope for too much, that politics is all small increments and
It is hard to ask people to vault over everything they've been
old stands between them and the life they would like to believe is
possible. It is especially hard when Donald Trump's destructive
presidency has made #Resistance, rather than transformation, the
essentially defensive posture of the American center and center-left.
Bernie Sanders was right: "Goodbye to an honest man's campaign."
'No one went for a knockout blow': Inside Bernie's campaign nosedive:
"Many of Sanders' aides and top allies are convinced they should have gone
for Biden's jugular."
Sanders -- and the media -- learned the wrong lessons from Trump in
The profound simplicity of Bernie Sanders's vision:
At best, that contention -- that Sanders's vision of a less apocalyptic
future for everyone required to work for a living was so far-fetched that
Democrats shouldn't pursue it -- was a profound failure of imagination
and a cowardly preemptive compromise in a political landscape already
defined by so much senseless inequality and despair. At worst, it was
the logical rejoinder of the same wing of the Democratic Party that
engineered ugly schemes like welfare reform and rushed to deregulate
Wall Street in the 1990s. Though neither of Sanders's bids for the
presidency succeeded, they exposed in their course the smallness and
callousness of that Democratic elite, and broke their chokehold on the
party, even if only for fleeting moments.
Bernie Sanders' political outsider savviness was his strength -- and
Bernie Sanders' political revolution is not over.
Peter Navarro: what Trump's Covid-19 tsar lacks in expertise, he makes
Trump is entering the 2020 general-election season with key demographics
moving away from him. If all these groups are moving against him,
who's moving for him? Nonwhite R+6 (but still more D than any other line),
$50-100,000 R+3 (richer are D+5, poorer D+2 but much more D). White, no
degree is still heavily R, but relative shift is D+17. Age 65+ is D+16,
flipping from R to D. Biggest shift is white, college at D+25, so maybe
presenting yourself as a moron isn't working so well.
'A disastrous situation': mountains of food wasted as coronavirus
scrambles supply chain.
Mike Bloomberg's firm that ran his presidential campaign is bidding to
take over Joe Biden's. So Bloomberg couldn't buy the election from
the voters, but maybe he can control it anyway? Maybe Hawkfish isn't
directly controlled by Bloomberg, although their business relationship
isn't very reassuring -- nor for that matter is their track record. I
thought one of the great strengths of the Warren campaign was their
home-grown organization, free from the corporate angles that plagued
Hillary Clinton's campaign, and that failed Bloomberg so badly. If I
were advising Biden, I'd start by looking at how he could pick up as
much organization support from Warren and Sanders as possible.
To fight Covid-19, cyberattacks worldwide must stop immediately:
Author is UN Under Secretary, and he has a point. I've long thought
we need an international crackdown on cyberwarfare and cybercrime,
but the major players seem to think they're winning, or deterring
enemies, or at least can't get hurt much. On the other hand, one big
thing the pandemic is forcing us to do is to do more work through
networking, and that's likely to continue to increase even if it
becomes possible to relax social distancing rules.
Can a pandemic remake society? A historian explains.: Interview
with Walter Scheidel, author of The Great Leveler: Violence and
the History of Inequality From the Stone Age to the Twenty-First
Kalewold H Kalewold:
Biden's first concessions to the left are pathetic.
Coronavirus is not just a tragedy. It's an opportunity to build a
better world. Interview with Frank Sowden, author of Epidemics
and Society: From the Black Death to the Present, and previous
books on malaria and cholera in Italy.
Michael Lewis explains how the Trump administration puts us all at risk
of catastrophe. Lewis's book The Fifth Risk goes into various
federal government agencies and finds dilligent people there working hard
and smart to manage various kinds of risks -- if you're lucky, you'll
never hear about those people, because they're doing their jobs. But he
waited until Trump got elected to go looking, so it's more like a tour
of endangered species and habitats, as Trump systematically installed
hacks and lobbyists, spreading graft and incompetence everywhere. Lewis
describes Trump as a "destroyer of trust." I never really appreciated
the importance of trust until I read George P Brockway's brilliant
The End of Economic Man: Principles of Any Future Economics,
where the first thing he wrote about was how everything else depends
Activists have been trying to change the electoral college for more
than 200 years.
I've read plans to reopen the economy. They're scary. "There is
no plan to return to normal."
How private-equity firms squeeze hospital patients for profits.
How Viktor Orbán is taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis.
American democracy may be dying: "Authoritarian rule may be just
around the corner."
Yet the scariest news of the past week didn't involve either epidemiology
or economics; it was the
travesty of an election in Wisconsin, where the Supreme Court required
that in-person voting proceed despite the health risks and the fact that
many who requested absentee ballots never got them.
Why was this so scary? Because it shows that America as we know it may
not survive much longer. The pandemic will eventually end; the economy
will eventually recover. But democracy, once lost, may never come back.
And we're much closer to losing our democracy than many people realize.
Krugman offers Hungary as an example, where an elected leader and
party used their power to make it virtually impossible for any other
party to regain power, then used the pandemic as an excuse to award
itself even more extraordinary powers. Republicans have clearly shown
the same contempt for democracy, most obviously in their gerrymanders,
their voter suppression laws, and their court packing. But you have
to also cite the Democrats of the DNC and Congressional leadership,
who have repeatedly nudged the levers of power to get their favored
candidates nominated. Moreover, both parties have refused to lift a
finger to reduce the influence of money in elections. Perhaps the
most flagrant flouting of money ever was Bloomberg's $500 million --
not enough to buy election for one of the most contemptible politicians
in America, but instrumental in prodding the Democratic Party to go
for Biden. Related here:
Will we flunk pandemic economics? "Our government suffers from
Robert Kuttner/Katherine V Stone:
The rise of neo-feudalism: "The private capture of entire legal
systems by corporate America goes far beyond neoliberalism. It evokes
the private fiefdoms of the Middle Ages." Reminds me that Michael Lind
came up with the equation, noting that libertarianism had indeed been
tried, but at the time was called feudalism.
American democracy today is under assault on multiple fronts. The
autocratic incursions of the Trump administration are only the most
urgent and immediate. But the private capture of public regulatory
law is more long-term and more insidious. If we are to get our
democracy back, once we oust Trump we need to begin to reclaim
public law from neo-feudalism.
Lauren Leatherby/David Gelles:
How the virus transformed the way Americans spend their money.
Big bump for groceries around mid-March, as everything else falls
off -- travel, most of all.
Trump's Labor Department fights to protect workers from benefits.
Eric Lipton, et al:
He could have seen what was coming: Behind Trump's failure on the virus:
"An examination reveals the president was warned about the potential for
a pandemic but that internal divisions, lack of planning and his faith
in his own instincts led to a halting response."
Jonathan Martin/Maggie Haberman:
Trump keeps talking. Some Republicans don't like what they're hearing.
"Aides and allies increasingly believe the president's daily briefings
are hurting him more than helping, and are urging him to let his
medical experts take center stage." Related:
In Trump's marathon briefings, the answers and the message are often
contradictory: "The president does not need adversaries to dispute
his statements. He does that all by himself.".
Trump's ridiculous behavior at pandemic briefings baffles a watching
With each briefing, Trump is making us worse people: "He is draining
the last reserves of decency among us at a time when we need it most."
Daily, Trump's opponents are enraged by yet another assault on the truth
and basic human decency. His followers are delighted by yet more vulgar
attacks on the media and the Democrats. And all of us, angry or pleased,
become more like Trump, because just like the president, we end up thinking
about only Trump, instead of our families, our fellow citizens, our
health-care workers, or the future of our country. We are all forced
to take sides every day, and those two sides are always "Trump" and
Call Trump's news conferences what they are: propaganda.
Sometimes, I stare at Deborah Birx during these briefings and I wonder
if she understands that this is the footage historians will be looking
at 100 years from now -- the president rambling on incoherently, vainly,
angrily, deceitfully, while she watches, her face stiff with the
strangled horror of a bride enduring an inappropriate toast.
9 ideas Joe Biden should steal from his Democratic rivals. The
big one is Bernie Sanders' coronavirus plan (which includes a temp
draft of Medicare for All), but casting a wide net comes up with
generally good ideas from all over (like two from Michael Bennett).
Only one I have reservations about is "Cory Booker's plan to ban
factory farms" -- I'm not opposed but not convinced either. But I
should note that a Tyson plan last year to open a chicken factory
near Wichita got killed by public opposition.
How Mitch McConnell became Trump's enabler-in-chief.
Will the coronavirus kill the oil industry? Well, not if Trump
has anything to say about it:
Oil nations, prodded by Trump, reach deal to slash production.
I'm a Bernie volunteer. Here's how Joe Biden can win Bernie voters.
Sohale Andrus Mortazavi:
American politics is broken. Liberalism can't fix it. Review of
Ezra Klein's new book, Why We're Polarized. A friend recommended
that book to me, and I've just cracked it open, so I'll have more to
say on it later.
Welcome to the Trumpocalypse: "Maybe the administration would take
a bit more care with the coronavirus pandemic if it weren't loaded with
folks who are looking forward to the end of the world."
Power to the person: Chuck Shumer, who's almost as big a threat to
democracy as Donald Trump.
When targeted ads feel a little too targeted: "How do you outrun
something that's designed to follow you everywhere?"
Democrats decide, again, not to try anything new.
How generals fueled 1918 flu pandemic to win their World War:
"Just like today, brass and bureaucrats ignored warnings, and sent
troops overseas despite the consequences."
Why Sanders didn't replicate Trump's upset primary victory. Focuses
on minor technical issues, like "Trump won the last early state before
Super Tuesday. Sanders didn't." The real difference was that Sanders
was a threat to the cozy coterie of Party leaders and donors, one that
aimed to change the focus and strategy of the party (while making them
expendable), whereas Trump never threatened elite Republicans. They may
have doubted that his tactics would work, but the more he won, the more
they acquiesced -- and in victory they got the same spoils any other
Republican candidate would have delivered.
Here's what voters told us about voting in Wisconsin's primary.
American billionaires are giving to charity -- but much of it is
Why it's so hard to see into the future of Covid-19.
Under cover of Covid-19, Donald Trump ramps up his war on truth-tellers.
Katharine Q Seelye:
William R Polk, historian and middle east envoy, dies at 91. I read,
and recommend, his 2007 book, Violent Politics: A History of Insurgency,
Terrorism, and Guerrilla War, From the American Revolution to Iraq --
the point he tried to make obvious was that Iraq's revolt against American
occupation wasn't fundamentally different from the American revolt against
Britain in 1776.
Behind Trump's strange 'invisible enemy' rhetoric: "By branding
coronavirus as a hidden menace, he deftly absolves himself of responsibility
for its spread." Some kind of branding campaign? It also builds on a
long tradition of paranoid fantasies, which have often proved useful
for those who would trample rights to privacy and such.
The US has a collective action problem that's larger than the coronavirus
crisis: "Data show one of the strongest predictors of social distancing
behavior is attitudes toward climate change."
Trump administration piles on sanctions as the rest of the world helps
Iran confront COVID-19.
Trump's own military mafia. Notes that both the Secretaries of State
and Defense (Mike Pompeo and Mark Esper) graduated from West Point, class
of 1986, and finds many more of their classmates in positions of power.
Joseph E Stiglitz:
A lasting remedy for the Covid-19 pandemic's economic crisis.
Also of interest in the NY Times Book Review interview with Stiglitz:
The Nobel-winning economist who wants you to read more fiction.
Marina Villeneuve/Lori Hinnant:
NYC death toll eclipses number killed in World Trade Center on 9/11.
3 European countries are about to lift their lockdowns: "Is it too
soon?" The countries are Austria, Czech Republic, and Denmark, and the
"lift" is more of a gradual rollback. There are also political pressures
to open up Spain and Italy, both hit especially hard (Italy had the
world's highest fatality count, until
the US passed it), but the WHO
is strongly advising against relaxing lockdowns.
What is Trump wins? Subject of a special issue of the magazine that
once thought it would be clever to describe themselves as "neoliberals"
-- I'd suggest an alternate title, Thinking About the Unthinkable.
The component pieces follow. Aside from the Clark and Gastris pieces,
all the others are basically saying that Trump and his minions will
continue to do the things he's done (or in some cases tried to do) in
his first term, and that they will be more effective and more damaging
over time -- often referring back to something that deserved its own
piece: Trump's packing of the courts.
Wesley K Clark:
Can the liberal world order survive another four years of Trump?
Here's one I don't worry about, as the old "liberal world order" was
never much more than a racket to allow first American and now world
oligarchs to exploit the far corners of the world, and to eventually
pauperize their own formerly wealthy countries. Trump's only change
here has been to reduce the reliance on cant and cliché, making
America's subservience to naked capitalism even more explicit. It's
telling here that the former NATO commander starts by declaring that
"For more than 70 years the United States has maintained its powerful
grip on western Europe" -- rather than talk about historic alliances
and shared values and the like. Clark's position is that we should
spend more money on the military. It's not clear why he thinks Trump
What would a second Trump term do to the federal bureaucracy?
Ryan LaRochelle/Luisa S Deprez:
How Trump would gut the social safety net with a second term.
How Trump could take away Obamacare with a second term.
How Trump could dismantle workers' rights with another four years.
Gaby Del Valle:
Trump's second term immigration agenda.
Can civil rights and civil liberties survive a second Trump term?
Why a second Trump term will not be a horror movie: a fairly technical
distinction, I'm afraid.
To many people, the Trump presidency has felt like one long horror movie.
To me, it's been more like a thriller: disorienting, appalling, emotionally
wrenching, but not disempowering. Almost every insane or diabolical decision
the president has made has been met with countermoves -- by the courts,
civil servants, voters, Nancy Pelosi -- that have frequently lessened the
impact and fortified my faith that all is not lost.
States resisting stay-at-home orders are playing a dangerous game.
The debate over a post office bailout, explained: "Republicans want
privatization, Trump wants to stick it to Amazon."
Trump administration orders insurers to make Covid-19 immunity tests free
Stimulus measures should be made automatic now, before Republicans
flip-flop on deficits again: "Act now to protect against next
year's austerity mania."
US rocked by 6.6 million more initial unemployment claims last week:
"That's not quite as bas as the record 6.9 million initial claims from
the previous week," but until new jobs open up, these numbers accumulate,
a total of 16.8 million over three weeks.
Joe Biden will have a very hard time winning over the Berniesphere:
"The problem isn't his platform, it's that he's not trusted." Depends
on what you mean by "winning over." Getting the votes shouldn't be hard,
although not everyone who favored Sanders is ideologically aligned on
the left. Getting them to campaign for Biden is harder, although the
pitch I'd recommend is to get them to support the party ticket, which
means focusing on Republicans across the board, not just on Biden vs.
Trump. I'm not going to campaign, because that's something I just don't
do, but I know people who do, and they'll work against the Republicans,
especially Trump. Getting them to like Biden is a bigger ask, and I
don't see that happening until Biden starts understanding the problems
people on the left are most sensitive to, and appreciating that the
left has better solutions than the center or the right. I expect this
to happen somewhat, because it's clear to me that the answers are on
the left. But Biden's track record doesn't offer much reason to hope.
One point I will grant is that he has deeper personal empathy with
the party base than the last few nominees (I'd say since Bill Clinton,
but that's only because he was so practiced as faking it -- something
that was beneath his wife and beyond Obama). On the other hand, no
Reagan-era Democrat has been more willing to compromise the party
base's interests when donors beckon, and there's no evidence that
he's learned from past mistakes [insert long list here]. But another
thing to understand about the left is that it's driven by issues,
not candidates. That much of the left rallied to Sanders is because
he offered a practical way to advance left issues, but win or lose
leftists would find their causes still need their efforts, and that
could well put them in opposition to Democratic leaders (Sanders
Bernie Sanders's campaign is over, but his legacy is winning:
"Sanders ignited a movement that pulled the Democratic Party leftward."
Study: Small increases in air pollution make coronavirus much more
deadly: "Countries with more air pollution see higher Covid-19
The tech sector is finally delivering on its promise: "The
internet has been a productivity bust -- until now, when it's emerged
PS: Right after I posted Weekend Roundup, I noticed a
pretty inflammatory tweets
Reza Aslan @rezaaslan: Breaking news: @DemSocialists endorses
Trump for President.
DSA @DemSocialists: We are not endorsing @JoeBiden.
I'm not a member of or in any way involved with DSA, but I don't see
any problem with them, as an organization, not endorsing Biden, especially
at this time. (Had I been involved, I would have advised them keeping the
door open by adding "at this time.") Assuming Biden is the Democratic Party
nominee against Trump, I wouldn't be surprised if they endorse Biden as the
November election approaches. That would be consistent with what I assume
is their raison d'être, which is to advance socialism within the
Democratic Party and to support the Democratic Party in general
However, non-endorsement now (4-5 months before the convention) doesn't
even remotely imply a preference, let alone an endorsement, for Trump, so
Aslan is just being deliberately, provocatively stupid. Sadly, he's not
alone in this regard, as I've run into a constant stream of presumed
Democrats who are so hepped up on attacking what Howard Dean memorably
called "the democratic wing of the Democratic Party" -- an obsession
that actually does little more than further discredit "centrism" in the
eyes of those who actually care about progressive reforms for real and
pressing problems. It's especially hard to credit that people engaging
in this kind of innuendo or slander think they're actually helping
Biden (or helping defeat Trump -- by the way, I'm not doubting their
sincere loathing of Trump, although they do like to doubt others, as
Aslan does above).
Relevant to but not directly à propos of this, I noticed this tweet
(and later a follow up):
'Weird Alex' Pareene @pareene: I truly thought the fact that no
one really feels personally invested in a Biden presidency would make
the timeline a bit less wild this time but it's actually somehow worse
because they're already preemptively blaming you for him losing
'Weird Alex' Pareene @pareene: (To be clear I do not believe
it's a fait accompli he will lose which makes it even weirder that
we're already on the recriminations stage.)
By the way, good chance I will eventually write an endorsement for
Biden before November's election, much like
the one I wrote for Kerry in 2004. But not until he is definitively
the nominee, and not until it's reasonably close to the election time.
And sure, it's going to focus more on how bad Trump is than on how good
Biden will be, because the former is proven, while the latter is at best
hypothetical, and not strongly grounded in the track records of Biden
and whoever is likely to be involved in his administration.