Sunday, April 26, 2020
It's rather staggering how much stuff one can come up with to read
in a week. Also how little of what follows directly concerns the 2020
elections, which should be pivotal -- especially, now that it so clear
to all concerned that the stakes are critical -- yet seems way above
the heads of the party leaders. There are three items below that touch
on Biden: one on his PAC's worrisome China-baiting ad (Bessner); one
on his ambitious stimulus proposal (Grunwald); one on his VP choices
(Hasan). I suppose you might count a fourth (Kilpatrick) on Sanders'
campaign and supporters, but I don't mention Biden there, and I'm
pretty much done with looking at campaign post-mortems. I also saw,
but didn't link to, various articles arguing that Biden needs to veer
left to unify the party and/or to develop a more effective campaign
(I suppose the Warren-for-VP push might count there). Actually, I
don't much care who Biden picks (aside from my getting irritated by
how pushy the Stacey Abrams campaign has become), or whether Biden
starts giving lip service to left arguments. In some ways, the less
of that he does, the less he'll wind up walking back from when/if he
wins. And, quite frankly, Warren and Sanders will be more effective
in Congress, outside of the Biden administration -- not that I don't
wish them luck steering some patronage to people who actually do have
the public interest at heart.
On the other hand, there are tons of Trump pieces below: many of the
Trump is a moron/Trump is insane variety, which is probably the easiest
call to make. Some align with the Trump is an autocrat/fascist meme,
some going so far at to insist that he is bent on the destruction of
democracy. I don't stress pieces in that vein. There's no reason to
think Trump wouldn't be amenable to a right-wing putsch, I see him
mostly as a front man and a diversion. It's other Republicans -- the
serious ones -- who are the real threat, as should be clear from the
more obscure articles below, the ones about corruption, about their
relentless assault in the environment, about their efforts to skew
the electorate in their favor to perpetuate their graft and their
imposition of anti-democratic ideology. Personally, I wouldn't mind
dispensing with the Trump show, but he does do a remarkable job of
illustrating the derangement of his apparatchiki.
Some scattered links this week:
Yasmeen Abutaleb/Josh Dawsey/Ellen Nakashima/Greg Miller:
The US was beset by denial and dysfunction as the coronavirus raged:
"From the Oval Office to the CDC, political and institutional failures
cascaded through the system and opportunities to mitigate the pandemic
The world order is broken. The coronavirus proves it. "Rich countries
have pushed economic policies that set poor countries up to fail."
A disturbing new study suggests Sean Hannity's show helped spread the
The last thing we need is a "new cold war" with China. Looks like
both Trump and Biden are taunting each other for being too close and
friendly to China -- Trump's refers to "Beijing Biden," while
Biden's ad charges "Trump Didn't Hold China Accountable" for
Covid-19. (Trump preferred to hold the WHO responsible for China's
late disclosures, if indeed that's what they were.) Both are playing
a dangerous game, not because China isn't beyond reproach, but it's
more than ever important to move from conflict to cooperation on
the world's many problems. And also it should be admitted that the
US has little if any claim to moral high ground. I also worry that
Biden's efforts to come off as tougher against China and Russia
might give Trump another chance to pass himself off as the anti-war
candidate -- as he did with Commander-in-Chief fetishist Hillary
Philip Bump/Ashley Parker:
13 hours of Trump: The president fills briefings with attacks and boasts,
but little empathy. By "little" I think they mean "zero."
The Trump administration wants to use the coronavirus pandemic to push
for more deregulation.
FreedomWorks is supporting the anti-shutdown protests -- and applying
for government funding.
Calling US Postal Service 'a joke,' Trump demands four-fold price hike
for customers amid Covid-19 pandemic.
What a white-supremacist coup looks like: Wilmington, North Carolina,
Celebrity quarantine posts are inflaming tensions between the haves
and the have-nots. Related: Chuck Collins:
Let's stop pretending billionaires are in the same boat as us during
Senate Republicans snuck $90 billion tax cut for millionaires into
coronavirus relief legislation.
Anthony Faiola/Ana Vanessa Herrero:
A pandemic of corruption: $40 masks, questionable contracts, rice-stealing
bureaucrats mar coronavirus response.
John A Farrell:
Breaking the grip of white grievance: "The 2020 campaign is shaping
up into a referendum on Trumpism."
Susan B Glasser:
Fifty thousand Americans dead from the coronavirus, and a president
who refuses to mourn them. Well, now that you mention it:
Dr. Deborah Birx, the State Department official who has been named
White House coördinator for the pandemic response, often mentions
the human toll of the disease and thanks the medical caregivers
risking their lives. On Wednesday, Vice-President Mike Pence began
his brief remarks with a nod to the "loss of more than forty-seven
thousand of our countrymen." It was just the sort of thing you would
expect Pence to say, and yet notable for how different it sounded
compared with the President. Trump began that very same briefing by
saying, "Our aggressive strategy to battle the virus is working." It
is, he said, "very exciting, even today, watching and seeing what's
happening." What was happening, though, was another day on which more
than two thousand Americans died of the coronavirus, a fact that
Trump did not mention.
Personally, I don't mind having a president who doesn't get choked
up over human tragedy. I don't think we should look to the president
for emotional affirmation or even sympathy. I don't think we need to
be flying flags at half-mast. And I find it hard to imagine anyone
becoming president who doesn't start out with an oversized ego. But
I do think that the only reason for tolerating a president who is a
total jerk is if he (or someday she) at least has a staggering ability
to make sense of the big picture. But Trump is not only self-centered
to an embarrassing degree, he's a total fucking moron. He's insufferable
at the best of times, and this doesn't even rise to the level of bad.
Coronavirus and the price of Trump's delusions. The op-eds pretty
much write themselves:
Strange attractors: On being addicted to Trump and his press conferences.
Compares Trump's daily Covid-19 briefings to the Vietnam War "Five O'Clock
Follies" -- evidently written before Trump declared that he "could see the
light at the end of the tunnel" (a line Robert McNamara famously used to
express his optimism about Vietnam, which speaks volumes about how clueless
I think what provides me (and so many others) with that nightly hit of
dopamine is the sheer brazenness of the president's lies on show for all
to see. Not for him the mealy-mouthed half-truth, the small evasion. No,
his are, like the rest of his persona, grandiose in a way that should be
beyond belief, but remains stubbornly real. . . .
So it's no surprise that he also uses media ratings as the metric by
which he judges the performance of everyone working to slow down the
spread of the coronavirus. For him, governing is nothing but a performance.
Biden wants a new stimulus 'a hell of a lot bigger' than $2 trillion.
Much of that is Green New Deal. Also note: Jon Queally:
As poll show nearly 90% Democratic support, Biden told hostility to
Medicare for All 'no longer tenable position for you'.
Dear Joe Biden, here's why you should pick Elizabeth Warren as your
running mate: Not as persuasive a case as could be made. For one,
thing, I wouldn't start with the actuarial tables. And while I'd like
to see Biden extend a "bridge to the left of the party," his need
there is less to secure voters than to establish a better grasp on
policy ideas. Warren helps him most specifically there: even when
Biden appears befuddled, she can talk about issues with authority,
insight, and compassion. Warren's great weakness as a presidential
candidate was her inability to expand her base beyond college-educated
professionals, but that (plus enthusiasm among young voters) should
help shore up a conspicuous weakness of Biden's. (On the other hand,
Biden already does as well as any Democrat can with white working
class voters, as well as with non-whites.) Another point that should
favor Warren is that she likes to present herself as a fighter, and
could mount a refreshingly aggressive attack on Trump and his corrupt
administration -- among other things, that would offer quite a contrast
to Trump's obsequious "vice-poodle" Pence. Of course, one doubts that
Biden's handlers will risk someone they perceive as a loose cannon.
Even if they did, they'd pressure Warren to become a mere surrogate,
which would squander her unique advantages. When Kerry picked John
Edwards as his 2004 running mate, I hoped that Edwards would add a
dash of Southern populist fervor to the patrician Kerry. Instead, he
instantly transformed into Kerry's lawyer/mouthpiece, adding nothing,
and helped lose. Very easy to see lawyer/prosecutors like Harris and
Klobuchar doing just that. As for the much-touted Stacey Abrams, well,
I hate to sound like Trump, but I like politicians who win. (When I
did a google search for "biden vp picks" all three "top stories"
pictured Abrams, as well as one of three "videos": the other two
were worse: "Podesta on how Biden should pick his V.P." and "Jill
Biden: I'd love for Michelle Obama to be VP pick.") As for names
being bandied about, see Ella Nilsen:
What we know about Joe Biden's possible vice presidential picks.
Jon Henley/Eleanor Ainge Roy:
Are female leaders more successful at managing the coronavirus crisis?
Maia Niguel Hoskin:
The whiteness of anti-lockdown protests.
A new age of destructive austerity after the coronavirus: "The economic
vultures of yesteryear are already scheming about how to head off the
prospect of a better world when the pandemic ends." With Trump as
president, Republicans have been exceptionally eager to prop up the
economy with massive deficit spending, even if they have to cut deals
to route some of that money to ordinary people, but that's not going
to last. You may recall what an emergency it was to prop up the banking
system in 2008, yet once the bankers got theirs (and the presidency
changed from R to D), nobody else mattered enough: we got nothing more
than harrangues about excessive deficits and the need for austerity.
So the pain of recession spread and persisted and festered, and while
profits rebounded spectacularly, all regular people got was underpaid
jobs, diminished benefits, and increased risk. As noted elsewhere,
McConnell has already started to sandbag "stimulus" bills that he
deems overly generous to the wrong people, and with CBO making a
$3.7 trillion deficit projected, the deficit scolds and austerity
prophets will have a field day. Only question is why should we believe
John Hudson/Josh Dawsey/Souad Mekhennet:
Trump expands battle with World Health Organization far beyond aid
Why the government makes it hard for Americans to get unemployment
benefits: "The system is dysfunctional. It was designed that way."
Interview with Pamela Heard, author of Administrative Burdens:
Policymaking by Other Means.
There is no anti-lockdown protest movement: "There are protests,
but this isn't a movement, and it's not the Tea Party 2.0." Interview
with Theda Skocpol, who has a couple books on Tea Party politics:
The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism
(2012, with Vanessa Williamson), and Upending American Politics:
Polarizing Parties, Ideological Elites, and Citizen Activists from
the Tea Party to the Anti-Trump Resistance (2020, ed. with
Millennials are getting screwed by the economy. Again. Interview
with Annie Lowrey, author of Give People Money: How a Universal
Basic Income Would End Poverty, Revolutionize Work, and Remake the
Nobody's buying clothes right now. So stores are filing for bankruptcy.
Why are they so mad at Bernie supporters? "We're stuck with them,
but they're stuck with us, too." Related:
It took a pandemic for cities to finally address homelessness:
"Some cities are housing homeless people in hotels. But a long-term
solution is sorely needed."
Why we can't build: "America's inability to act is killing people."
Credits Francis Fukuyama with the hideous term "vetocracy": a system
designed to inhibit and frustrate change, where many special interests
find themselves able to veto development while few (if any) are able
to overcome other vetos. Klein details three vetocracies: the federal,
the state and local, and the capitalist.
Pentagon plans to dispatch Blue Angels and Thunderbirds in coronavirus
tribute: Well, they mean "tribute to health-care workers and first
responders" rather than to the virus itself, but that doesn't begin
to resolve the cognitive disconnect. This really just shows that in
the gravest national security crisis to hit America in many decades,
the lavishly funded, much vaunted US military has absolutely nothing
to offer or even reassure us.
Mapping corruption: Donald Trump's executive branch.
Ernesto Londońo/Leticia Casado/Manuela Andreoni:
'A perfect storm' in Brazil as troubles multiply for Bolsonaro:
Possibly the world's foremost coronavirus denier -- Brazil is up to
53,000 confirmed cases and 3,670 deaths -- on top of many other
offenses, including resignation of "a star cabinet member," several
criminal investigations, and talk of impeachment -- couldn't happen
to a nastier piece of work. Also note:
Boeing terminates $4.2 billion deal to buy stake in Embraer unit.
Not the sort of monopoly-girding investment a company makes when its
own business is in free fall.
Trump's new bailout program for farmers and ranchers, explained.
America doesn't want another Tea Party: "Don't let Fox News fool
you. 81 percent of Americans do not share the views of anti-quarantine
Justice Alito's jurisprudence of white racial innocence: "Alito gets
very upset if you suggest that racism exists."
America's abandonment of Syria: "Many Syrians thought the U.S.
cared about them. Now they know better." Stupid mistake. I can't even
imagine where they could have gotten that idea. From America's utterly
reflexive support of Israel? From America's long-standing but limited
military alliances with Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia? From
the long siege of Iraq, followed by invasion, occupation, and cynical
orchestration of civil war to divide the opposition. From America's
even longer-running devastation of Afghanistan? From 40+ years of
sanctions and worse in Iran? From overthrowing Ghaddafi in Libya
and leaving the country in chaos? From arming the Saudis for their
assault on Yemen? From all those drones flying hither and yon, taking
potshots as supposed jihadis? Is there anything in US policy toward
the Middle East that even remotely suggests we care about anyone who
lives there? Hell, the US government can barely be bothered to care
about Americans in America.
Trump's executive order to stop issuing green cards temporarily,
Getting unemployment has been a nightmare for millions of people across
Kee B Park/Christine Ahn:
South Korea is a model for combatting Covid-19, it should now take the
lead in diplomacy with North Korea. Not sure that the two points
follow, but Trump (and his hawks) has bungled his opportunity to work
out a deal with Kim Jong Un. And frankly, why should the US be able
to veto whatever deal the Koreans work out?
Coronavirus stimulus money will be wasted on fossil fuels: "Oil and
gas companies were already facing structural problems before Covid-19
and are in long-term decline."
Trump administration ducks and dodges to justify wall spending.
How the Covid-19 pandemic will leave its mark on US health care.
- Some hospitals will probably close. A lot of primary care doctors
could also be in trouble.
- Telemedicine will finally go mainstream.
- We'll invest more in public health preparedness and surveillance.
- We could rethink how drugmakers and the federal government handle
- There will be a push to expand health coverage.
Americans are largely unimpressed with Trump's handling of the coronavirus
pandemic. His approval ratings did get a break early in the crisis, but
he's been sinking for a few weeks, now negative 9% on the generic approval
question, below water on handling the pandemic, with very/somewhat worried
about the economy adding up to 86.5%. Of course, lots of people still have
a blind spot where it comes to him, hence the very cushy "largely
unimpressed" in the title.
Trump's firing of a top infectious-disease expert endangers us all.
Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown's plan to protect consumers from
Taylor Telford/Kimberly Kindy:
As they rushed to maintain US meat supply, big processors saw plants
become covid-19 hot spots, worker illnesses spike. Map doesn't
include any spots in western Kansas, but I noticed a concentration
of cases in Ford County (Dodge City), which has 38% more cases than
Sedgwick (Wichita), despite having only 6.5% of the population.
Finney County (Garden City) has a population similar to Ford, with
about 30% as many cases, which still is a much higher infection
rate than Sedgwick. Ford and Finney counties are probably the two
largest beef feedlot and packing counties in the state.
US airstrikes hit all-time high as coronavirus spreads in Somalia.
Anya van Wagtendonk:
71 percent of jobless Americans did not receive their March unemployment
Trump dismisses his daily coronavirus press briefings as "not worth the
time & effort". I don't think I've ever been moved to quote a
Trump tweet before, but this one is revealing:
What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the
Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses
to report the truth or facts accurately. They get record ratings, &
the American people get nothing but Fake News. Not worth the time &
I get that "Lamestream" is meant as an insult, a catchy play on
"mainstream" that has become reflexively automatic among those so
disposed, but if you think a bit, it's pretty lame as insults go,
especially given that the highest aspiration of mainstream media is
to be so fairly balanced the stories speak for themselves. Singling
out lameness is Trump's way of asserting that should entertain rather
than merely report. So does his point about "record ratings." Given
that Trump is incapable of reporting information or even conveying
reassuring emotion, the only reason for anyone to watch him is that
the briefings are somehow inadvertently entertaining. Maybe that's
where the "hostile questions" come in? I mean, Trump knows better than
most that hostility is entertaining -- isn't that why his campaign
events are so full of hostile rants? Why shouldn't the media put its
inherent lameness aside for an occasion with no other merit and feed
off Trump's hostility? Why not prod him along a bit, and give the
Trump haters as well as the Trump adorers a cheering interest? As
for "Fake News," nowadays that's nothing but Trumpspeak for reports
that are insufficiently flattering. That "Fake News" has grown by
leaps and bounds over the last 3-4 years is the inevitable result
of its only subject appearing as an embarrassing moron in his every
Let's kill the aiding-and-abetting meme once and for all! His
examples are attacks on political figures for aiding, abetting,
giving comfort, or just showing a modicum of respect for foreign
leaders or nations, especially those that Americans have long
been trained to suspect or despise (like Russia and China, Iran
and Syria, Cuba and Venezuela, but anti-Arab prejudice is strong
enough that Saudi Arabia could also work, but never Israel). The
recent rivalry between Biden and Trump to see who is most negative
on China is an example. One example Wright cites is George Packer:
We are living in a failed state, where Packer likens Trump to
French general and Vichy collaboration leader Philippe Pétain: "Like
Pétain, Trump collaborated with the invader and abandoned his country
to a prolonged disaster." I agree that Trump has done (and continues
to do, scarcely losing a step to the pandemic) a lot of things that
spell disaster for most Americans, but none of them even remotely
resemble what Pétain did to France and (much more to the point) for
How the coronavirus is surfacing America's deep-seated anti-Asian
biases. I'm skeptical here, not that Trump isn't riling up the
indiscriminate haters in his fan base, but that the relatively few
who attack and the more who slur Asian-Americans know anything of
the history of anti-Asian racism in America. Granted, it's not so
ancient that I can't remember it in my lifetime (and Trump's older
than I am), but by then the old prejudices had been transformed by
wars which counted at least some Asians as allies.