Sunday, July 5, 2020

Weekend Roundup

The Wichita Eagle doesn't publish a paper edition on Saturdays any more, so I had to scrounge around for something to read with breakfast. Picked up the 4 June 2020 London Review of Books, and started reading Eliot Weinberg's lead article, "The American Virus":

As confirmed American coronavirus deaths pass 67,000, the president declares, in an interview with Fox News held inside the Lincoln Memorial, where events are traditionally banned: "They always said nobody got treated worse than Lincoln. I believe I am treated worse." A Twitter wit writes that, for the massive marble sculpture looming above, "It was the second worst thing Lincoln ever watched."

Internal White House documents predict three thousand American deaths a day by the end off May. The president weeets: "Getting great reviews, finally, for how well we are handling the pandemic." He retweets that the Trump Turnberry golf course has been named by Golf World magazine as the best golf course in the UK and Ireland for 2020. . . .

Republicans continue the fight against voting by mail. (The president has said that if this were universally allowed, "you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again," though he himself mails in his ballot.) In Wisconsin in April, the Republican-majority Supreme Court had demanded that voters appear in person, leading to a spike in infections. In Texas, which permits voting by mail for the ill, the attorney general rules that fear of Covid-19 is an "emotional reaction . . . and does not, by itself, amount to a 'sickness.'"

Signs at the many protests at state capitols against the lockdown, where crowds wave Confederate and "Don't Tread on Me" flags and (legally) carry assault riffles:


In the ten days after the Republican governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, reopens gyms, spas, hair salons, tattoo parlours and other essential services, confirmed coronavirus cases in the state rise by 42 per cent.

Of course, this is one news, but not very old. The death count has nearly doubled since this was written (132,000 on Saturday; the 67,000 figure dates to April 25). The anti-lockdown demonstrations receded as all states followed Georgia in re-opening non-essential businesses, mostly with the same increase in infections. One thing that hasn't changed is Trump's fetish for large statues, once again selecting a large stone Lincoln for his July 4 spectacle. (See: Jordan Muller: Trump seeks to claim the mantle of history in fiery Mount Rushmore address.)

But the Fourth of July celebrations were a side show. The big article this week is Derek Hawkins/Marisa Iati/Jacqueline Dupree: Seven-day average case total in the US sets record for 27th straight day.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Kate Aronoff:

  • David Atkins:

    • Universal basic income continues to gain mainstream support due to COVID-19. By the way, I just finished Rutger Bregman's Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World, which starts with UBI, which pointed out that the idea was widely considered in the early 1970s: he cites Nixon's interest, but my recollection is more McGovern. I recall reading several books on it back then, especially by Robert Theobald (1929-99), best known for Free Men and Free Markets (1963). For a new piece on UBI: Luke Savage: Want to fight poverty? Give poor people money.

    • Why a movement like Trumpism doesn't have a future. The takeaway from the Mt. Rushmore speech:

      It is no accident that the same president who delivered this revanchist, defensive Fourth of July message also could not articulate a single second-term policy priority in front of a friendly interviewer. The gauzy haze of nostalgia that it activates in the conservative mind can be good at whipping up certain kinds of votes, but it cannot serve as the basis for a coherent policy platform. It can encode certain sentiments -- that America should be primarily for white evangelical Christians and run primarily by older white men -- but those sentiments are not only deeply unpopular, they run contrary to the actual words of most of the country's founding documents and the majority of the last century's constitutional jurisprudence.

      Trump has failed on policy at every level because his vision is difficult to translate into legislation, and when articulated almost impossible to enact democratically. As a substitute for literally Making America White Again, building a big wall, enacting travel bans on certain countries or putting migrant children into cages is not only unpopular and villainous, it's also difficult to do legislatively and simply ineffectual in accomplishing the task. That's why these sorts of right-wing populist jabs have historically been culture war red meat designed to keep the bigots distracted while the rich people in charge made off the loot in the form of subsidies and tax cuts. So has it been also with Trump: his base gets to feel like they owned the "libs," but in actuality the only structurally significant outcomes have been tax cuts and giveaways for rich corporate executives and a raft of corporate-friendly judges. Meanwhile, everyone else gets the shaft economically -- including his own downwardly-mobile supporters. . . .

      Trump's vision has no future at all and cannot be negotiated or compromised with. Even if it weren't morally repulsive, it would still be a dead-end for what politics is supposed to be all about: solving problems. During more frivolous times that might not be seem like such a big deal: after all, in 2016 many people voted for Trump out of a sense of "let's see what happens" bored amusement. Many thought that the country essentially ran itself, so why not put a showman in charge? Well, we've now seen what happens.

    • The Trump administration is giving up on fighting the pandemic: The term narrowly considered, meaning the political operatives in and near the White House: the conscious, political direction. But the term is more often used to refer to the whole executive branch, which still harbors countless anonymous bureaucrats who are merely doing their jobs, or trying to (despite political obstacles).

  • Mike Baker/Jennifer Valentino-DeVries/Manny Fernandez/Michael LaForgia: Three words. 70 cases. The tragic history of 'I can't breathe.'

  • Dan Balz: Trump turned July Fourth into a partisan event. The damage could be long-lasting.

  • William J Barber/Phyllis Bennis: The police and the pentagon are bringing our wars home.

  • Medea Benjamin/Nicolas JS Davies: Trump's record on foreign policy: Lost wars, new conflicts, and broken promises.

  • Matt Bruenig: The racial wealth gap is about the upper classes.

  • James Bruno: Netanyahu wants to annex the West Bank. Will Joe Biden stop him? Argues: "The Democratic nominee needs to be clear: the move would come with real consequences if he's elected." I doubt that: annexation will be baked into "the facts on the ground" by the time Biden can take office, and he has never shown any evidence of standing up to (or even questioning) Israel. Moreover, while the US has given lip service to a "two-state solution" for a long time, the US has never really done anything to make it happen. The problem Netanyahu faces most immediately is losing European support to BDS -- that would be a "real consequence." Longer term, Israel risks losing its bedrock Democratic Party base -- not Biden directly, but people Biden will ultimately depend on, and who will eventually follow him. Netanyahu may think annexation will be the great finale of his career, but it will leave his successors in an impossible situation, as a pariah nation with an unassimilable and rebellious underclass. On some level, he must realize that every Black Lives Matter placcard that's appeared all around the world the last few months can easily be repurposed to point a finger at him.

  • Jonathan Chait: Trump blames losing campaign on listening to 'woke Jared': "Trump decides to ignore his son-in-law and focus on voters who fear he isn't racist enough."

  • Jane Coaston: Social conservatives feel betrayed by the Supreme Court -- and the GOP that appointed it.

  • EJ Dionne Jr: A vicious culture war is all Trump has left. Also: Zeeshan Aleem: Trump is going all in on divisive culture wars. That might not work this time.

    In his speeches this weekend, Trump positioned himself as a guardian of American identity, depicting protests against police brutality and racism -- which have slowed significantly in recent weeks, and have been largely peaceful -- in paranoid and cartoonish terms as a "fascist" threat to the republic.

    It should be noted that Trump's claims of the existence of "far-left fascism" are fundamentally incoherent: fascism is a right-wing form of ultranationalism calling for a rebirth of a nation or race, and that has nothing to do with liberal and left-wing calls for an end to police brutality and racism. But that didn't stop Trump from making it the central message of his speeches, which aimed to sensationalize the issue of protests and statue-toppling.

    Speaking at Mount Rushmore, amid peaceful protests led by members of the Sioux Nation meant to underscore the fact the monument was built on stolen and sacred land, Trump promised that the South Dakota monument "will never be desecrated." And he went on to describe the ongoing re-evaluation of public symbols of racism in American life as a threat to civilization.

  • W Ralph Eubanks: The Confederate flag finally falls in Mississippi.

  • M Steven Fish/Neil A Abrams/Laila M Aghaie: Make liberalism great again: "Liberals around the world have let right-wing authoritarians claim patriotism as their own, with disastrous consequences. It's time to take it back." This is a long article, only given a cursory glance, partly because while I'm not unsympathetic to those who would like to present a progressive agenda in the context of America's oft-stated, rarely-realized ideals -- cf. Jill Lepore's This America: The Case for the Nation, backed by her longer These Truths: A History of the United States, or (much better) Ganesh Sitaraman's The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution -- I don't find it very satisfactory to go to all that trouble only to end up with another paean to old-fashioned, left-hating liberalism. But also, deep down, I just don't care much for the idea of patriotism, which has been left to the right to debase as knee-jerk militarist idolatry precisely because both liberals and the left (who are really just liberals who emphasize that universal rights means everyone, not just individuals) feel any real need to limit their horizons to a single nation. Consequently, much of the framing pushed here sounds like bullshit, more or less on the same level as the right-wing's patriotic claims.

  • Nima Gerami: To defeat systemic racism, America must end endless war. Well, America's systemic racism predates "endless war," even the sporadic imperial wars against Mexico (1848) and Cuba/Philippines (1898), which it colored and conditioned -- one can trace it back to the Indian wars of the 17th century. Still, every new war gins up yet another wave of racism, as we've seen clearly in Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East (despite the efforts of Bush et seq. to exempt "our allies" in and around Saudi Arabia). By the way, "endless war" perpetuates much more than racism. Most obviously, there's gun violence. Also see:

  • Amy Goldstein: Voters in deep-red Oklahoma approve Medicaid expansion. I have no doubt this would pass in Kansas if the voters are given the chance. Almost passed in the legislature this year, spoiled only by Senate majority leader Susan Wagle refusing to schedule a vote.

  • Graig Graziosi: Trump ally Herman Cain who attended Tulsa rally hospitalized with coronavirus. Of course, he didn't necessary get the virus there. He also traveled to "a lot of places" that week, including hotspot Arizona. Related?

  • Miranda Green: It will take years to undo the damage from Trump's environmental rollback: "Even if Democrats win back the White House and the Senate, it will be a long struggle to restore the regulations the Republican-controlled EPA has erased."

  • Glenn Greenwald: House Democrats, working with Liz Cheney, restrict Trump's planned withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Germany. Jason Crow (D-CO) co-sponsored the amendment with Cheney. This particular amendment was approved 45-11, opposed by 8 Republicans and 3 Democrats.

  • Ryan Grim: National Review is trying to rewrite its own racist history. One thing I've long been struck by is how virulently racist 1950s conservatives were, especially William F Buckley. (Nancy McLean's Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America has many examples.) Barry Goldwater denied that he was a racist when opposing civil rights laws -- something I could never square with his supposedly principled positions on individual freedom, but which made sense given how inextricably the 1950s conservative project was bound up with the support of segregation and white supremacy.

  • Gabrielle Gurley: This time, it's the Democrats' infrastructure week: "House Democrats steered an ambitious transportation and infrastructure plan through the chamber. Structured more like a wish list, it's dead on arrival in the Senate."

  • Bob Harris/Jon Schwarz: Carl Reiner's life should remind us: If you like laughing, thank FDR and the New Deal. The comedian died at 94 last week. He got his start in a WPA class for would-be actors. The New Deal had a number of programs to support the arts in the 1930s. A similar effort would be a great idea today, but doesn't seem to be on anyone's agenda. It is currently impossible for most musicians to make their usual living performing, but they could be paid to record music and make it freely available over the Internet.

  • Jeet Heer: Trolling Trump, the Lincoln Project also peddles militarism: "The Never Trump super PAC makes entertaining ads that get under the president's skin -- but progressives should take a closer look at their agenda." When asked about the maxim that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," Richard Stallman noted that was, at best, an heuristic. I doubt it's even that useful. It's easy to get seduced by people who hate Trump for totally wrong reasons, like for making conservatives look bad, or for failing to be a monomaniacal hawk like John Bolton.

    Writing in The Atlantic, conservative writer Andrew Ferguson, no fan of the president, criticized the Lincoln Project for fighting Trump with Trumpian means. He described the ads as "personally abusive, overwrought, pointlessly salacious, and trip-wired with non sequiturs."

    This ethical critique has merit, but the real problem with the Lincoln Project is political. To the extent that the ads articulate any political vision, it is a desire to return to the hard-line military aggression of the George W. Bush era.

    On Tuesday, the Lincoln Project released an ad addressing accusations that Trump hasn't protected American troops in Afghanistan from a bounty on their lives supposedly placed by the Russian government. The ad, titled "Betrayed," features Dr. Dan Barkhuff, a physician and former Navy SEAL. "Months ago, Donald Trump learned the Russians were paying a bounty for dead American soldiers in Afghanistan and chose to do nothing about it," Barkhuff said. "Any commander in chief with a spine would be stomping the living shit out of some Russians right now -- diplomatically, economically, or, if necessary, with the sort of asymmetric warfare they're using to send our kids home in body bags." He added, "Mr. Trump, you're either a coward who can't stand up to an ex-KGB goon, or you're complicit. Which is it?"

    The article cites a bunch of liberals who applauded this ad. On some level, I don't care why people decide to oppose Trump, but I do worry about people who encourage Biden to be even more hawkish than Trump, both because it's the wrong stance to take and because I'm convinced that Hillary Clinton's commander-in-chief posturing and long history of applauding belligerence cost her the 2016 election. Biden's record is little better, which is all the more reason to downplay his past mistakes. For some better advise, see: John Nichols: Anti-war groups push Biden and the Democrats to rethink foreign policy.

  • Sean Illing: How Black Lives Matter fits into the long history of American radicalism: Interview with Michael Kazin.

  • Umair Irfan: The "Godzilla" Saharan dust cloud over the US, explained: "The giant dust cloud is part of a system that feeds the ocean, fertilizes the rainforest, and suppresses hurricanes."

  • Mugambi Jouet: The Trump cult is loyal to an ideology, not the man: "A rise in extreme polarization culminated in Trump -- and likely won't be vanquished by Biden." This is an idea that's going around, but it doesn't make much sense to me. Although some of Trump's followers -- someone like Steve Bannon -- could conjure up something that looks like an ideology, Trump couldn't begin to articulate it. He's just a rich guy who likes being in front of the camera, spouting the received prejudices and irritable mental gestures he's picked up watching Fox. His fans share those prejudices, and appreciate that he's able to say what they can't -- they may even think that he's fighting for them, but he's really just stroking his own ego. Once he's gone, others will try to pick up the mantle, but I don't see how anyone else can keep his movement together. On the other hand, I doubt Trump will fade away like GW Bush did. He's going to rule right-wing media until he dies or is incapacitated, so, sure, his cult will be with us for a while. But it won't be an ideology.

  • Jen Kirby:

  • Ezra Klein:

  • Natasha Korecki/Marc Caputo: A Sun Belt time bomb threatens Trump's reelection: "Rising Covid-19 caseloads in Florida, Arizona and Texas raise fresh doubts about the president's reelection prospects." Favorite line here: "Trump's campaign accuses Democrats of exploiting tragedy."

  • Josh Kovensky: Trump admin scales back mandate that health insurers cover Covid tests.

  • Michael Kranish: New York court sides with publisher of explosive book by President Trump's niece. Kranish previously wrote about the book: Mary Trump once stood up to her uncle Donald. Now her book describes a 'nightmare' of family dysfunction.

  • Martin Longman: What if Trump decides not to seek a second term? "It's not as crazy of an idea as it sounds" -- but, really it is. Trump filed for reëlection the day after his inauguration. Running for a second term is the only thing he's actually wanted to do as president. He lets his underlings run everything else, at least until they become too embarrassing, in which case he makes them find more pliable and less competent replacements. So what if he's going to lose? He stayed true to his blindest and dumbest followers, and he certainly knows how to monetize whatever treachery undid him. As for the Republicans, it's too late for them to find a credible replacement. Sure, they could go with Mitt Romney, and piss off his base. Or they could elevate Mike Pence, and bore them to death. In any case, they're stuck with Trump's record, which is arguably worse than the man himself (not that such distinctions matter to most of us). Longman also wrote: What happens when Trump stops believing he can win reelection? Problem there is that the "chaos and malevolence" is coming anyway. Trump can't help himself (not that he would if he could). Related:

    • Robert Kuttner: Trump to Trump: You're fired!. Also not going to happen. Although I did imagine that he might resign after getting reëlected, to get a jump on cashing in. Or maybe after getting trounced, to give Pence a presidential legacy, although he'd really just be running out the clock, like a third-string quarterback.

  • German Lopez: Just 2 states meet these basic criteria to reopen and stay safe: New York and Rhode Island meet 4 (of 5) criteria; 21 states and DC meet 2 or 3; 27 states 0 or 1. Only 2 states and DC have "a sustained two-week drop in coronavirus cases": Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

  • Eric Margolis: The coming ecosystem collapse is already here for coral.

  • Alan MacLeod: In 'Russia bounty' story, evidence-free claims from nameless spies became fact overnight. A story claiming "Russia secret offered Afghan militants bounties to kill U.S. troops" was planted in the New York Times and picked up everywhere, including among liberals who figured they could spin it into their favored story lines: that Trump is a Putin puppet, or (more plausibly) incompetent and indifferent. My initial reaction was that the story was a crock, meant purely to sabotage the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and/or to ratchet up cold war tensions with Russia, and nothing since then -- an investigation that found one soldier who might have been affected, or a "confirmation" from the Taliban -- has changed my mind. There are lots of good reasons for being critical of Russia, but this one makes no sense. For more:

  • Louis Menand: This fourth of July, consider Trump's lobster fib.

    It's not hard to understand Trump. It is hard to understand the people in his Administration who enable the blather and the misinformation, who spin-cycle it to bleach out the most offensive or dangerous implications, and who parrot it dutifully. For the first two years of Trump's Presidency, some of these people were known as "the adults in the room." To an admittedly remote observer, those people looked indistinguishable from opportunists willing to suppress their opinions in the hopes of becoming Presidential puppet masters. They were dreaming. All of them have departed with their reputations scarred.

  • Stephen Miles: It's bad politics for Democrats to be hawkish on foreign policy. Cites Elliot Engel ("one of only two dozen House Democrats out of 1888 who ultimately voted against the Iran deal"), defeated in last week's primary, as a cautionary example, but the point should be made much more generally. Hawkish Democrats are especially suspect, not least because they usually frame their interventionist appeals as acts of humanitarianism, and such crises are numerous and inevitable. Besides, there's nothing many Americans hate more than "helping" unappreciative others. Republicans may be more supportive of funding America's imperial overreach, but they usually withhold actual war until they can gin up a popular desire for spite and revenge -- something Americans do believe in.

  • Ian Millhiser:

  • Jeanne Morefield: 'Never in my country': COVID-19 and American Exceptionalism.

    Senator Bernie Sanders' reasonable suggestion that the U.S., like Denmark, should nationalize its healthcare system is dismissed as the fanciful pipe dream of an aging socialist rather than an obvious solution to a human problem embraced by nearly every other nation in the world. The Seattle healthcare professional who expressed shock that even "Third World countries" are "better equipped" than we are to confront COVID-19 betrays a stunning ignorance of the diversity of healthcare systems within developing countries. Cuba, for instance, has responded to this crisis with an efficiency and humanity that puts the U.S. to shame.

    Indeed, the U.S. is only beginning to feel the full impact of COVID-19's explosive confrontation with our exceptionalism: if the unemployment rate really does reach 32 percent, as has been predicted, millions of people will not only lose their jobs but their health insurance as well. In the middle of a pandemic.

    Over 150 years apart, political commentators Edmund Burke and Aimé Césaire referred to this blindness as the byproduct of imperialism. Both used the exact same language to describe it; as a "gangrene" that "poisons" the colonizing body politic. From their different historical perspectives, Burke and Césaire observed how colonization boomerangs back on colonial society itself, causing irreversible damage to nations that consider themselves humane and enlightened, drawing them deeper into denial and self-delusion.

  • Anna North: Roe v. Wade isn't safe: "The Supreme Court just struck down an anti-abortion law. Here's why access is still at risk."

  • JC Pan: Democrats can't quit their addiction to big-money donors: "The urgency of beating Trump in November has once again set campaign finance reform on the back burner." After 2008 would have been an ideal time for Democrats to clamp down on money in campaigning, but Obama had raised significantly more money than McCain, and was looking forward to repeating his dominance in 2012, and members of Congress in both parties were united in their ability to raise more funds than their opponents. Further complication comes from a Supreme Court firmly committed to protecting corruption in at least two ways: equating money with free speech, and making it virtually impossible to convict anyone of taking bribes.

  • Daniel Politi: Washington NFL team launches review of racist nickname: You mean the Redskins? I remember that name being questioned fifty years ago. On the other hand, the proposed replacements, starting with Warriors, are often worse.

  • John Quiggin: Trumpism after Trump. More notes and conjecture than an argument. Quiggin has also signed up to write a book on The Economic Consequences of the Pandemic. If, as he assumes, Biden will be the next president, with a workable majority in Congress, the real question has less to do with rump Trumpism than his third assumption: whether "mainstream Democrats recognize the need for radical change, and Biden will align with the mainstream position as he always has done." Quiggin's book will presumably argue for "radical change" under those conditions.

  • David Roberts: House Democrats just put out the most detailed climate plan in US political history: "A new select committee report is perfectly in tune with the growing climate policy alignment on the left around standards, investments, and justice."

  • Paul Rosenberg: The secret of his success: Donald Trump's six weird tricks for authoritarian rule: Interview with Jennifer Mercieca, author of: Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump.

  • Daid Rothkopf: 'The most ignorant and unfit': What made America's worst ever leader? Starts with a convenient quote from Michelle Obama: "Being president doesn't change who you are, it reveals who you are." Rothkopf sifts through various historian surveys of the worst presidents ever -- poor lists, if you ask me, prejudiced against the mediocrities of the 19th century while omitting Nixon and the Bushes, whose only saving graces were to be followed by even worse Republicans -- but ultimately settles on a past leader more temperamentally (and cognitively) suited for comparing Trump to: George III.

  • Theodore Schleifer: America has almost 800 billionaires, a record high. Well, 788, up 12% from a year before, or 27% (from 620) in 2016. That's 0.0002409% of the US population (328.2 million). Maybe it would be fairer to divide by US households (128.58 million): 0.00061284%, or 1 in every 163,174 households. That's an unimaginably tiny fraction of the total -- about 2 people in Wichita (who happen to be Charles Koch and Phil Ruffin, something you may know even if you're not from here). But those 788 billionaires control $3.4 trillion in assets, up 14% since the end of 2018.

  • Andrea K Scott: The removal of a Theodore Roosevelt statue is a good first step in rethinking America's monuments.

  • Melody Schreiber: The climate crisis will be just as shockingly abrupt.

  • Dylan Scott:

    • How Trump gave insurance companies free rein to sell bad health plans. "Obamacare wasn't repealed. Trump's deregulation is eroding it anyway." I an think of few things that are more injurious than insurance plans that don't actually protect you from unexpected health care expenses. One thing Obamacare did so was establish minimum standards of coverage -- although they also allowed huge deductibles and co-payments, so a great many people wound up paying more out of pocket, but at least they had some coverage for major expenses. Trump is just a co-conspirator to fraud.

    • Why a Covid-19 drug costs $3,100. This piece doesn't provide a very good explanation -- it mostly muddies the water with insurance variations like deductibles -- and the section "is this a fair price for remdesivir as a Covid-19 therapy?" is mostly nonsense. (For instance, Gilead figures that if their drug reduces hospital stays 3-4 days, their "value proposition" should reap a significant percentage of the saved hospital costs.) Bottom line is that Big Pharma is built on patents and extortion pricing. This is an example, not an exception.

      • David Dayen: Time to seize drug patents.

        The entire pharmaceutical sector has been raising prices during the pandemic: 245 drugs hiked up between January and June according to Patients for Affordable Drugs, including 61 being used for COVID-19 treatment and another 30 in use in clinical trials. . . . Hilariously, Gilead's stock fell in Monday trading because investors thought they should charge more.

        If remdesivir were sold at the cost of production, it would cost $10, not $3,120. The "value" of the drug comes with the reduction in admission length, and the savings to hospitals and patients. But even that value, based on the known science, shouldn't go too far past $400, according to the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review. You could say that Gilead needs to recoup its research and development costs, but of course the U.S. government financed much of that research.

      • Donald Shaw: Biden sides with Big Pharma against affordable coronavirus vaccine plan [Marh 19].

      • David Sirota: The US public paid to develop this COVID-19 drug. It will cost $3,000 a dose. Title seems to have the price wrong ($3,100 for a 5-day course of treatment, not per dose).

        Similarly, bipartisan legislation passed in 1980 created so-called march-in rights that empower the government to authorize another company -- or the government itself -- to produce a lower-priced generic version of a high-priced medicine.

        The problem, of course, is that the government's health care apparatus is controlled by former pharmaceutical industry executive Alex Azar.

  • Robert J Shapiro: Trump's bungled pandemic response is crushing American incomes: "New data shows the costs of the administration's failure to stem the coronavirus outbreak."

    The only force staving off desperate conditions for many households was the one-time checks the government sent most Americans and the temporary expansion of jobless benefits.

    Now with the resurgence of COVID-19 infections, Congress has little choice but to approve another round of checks and extend the generous unemployment benefits. If Congress does approve a lot more help, millions of American households will still face financial peril -- and if Congress fails to step up again, tens of millions of Americans could confront financial ruin.

    As a dose of reality, the new income data show that our current conditions are roughly three times as severe as the Great Recession. All personal income fell 4.2 percent in May and 3.0 percent over the three months from March through May. It took nine months for personal income to fall that much during the Great Recession. Wage and salary income actually increased by 3.3 percent in May, as the payroll grants under the CARES program kicked in and businesses began to reopen. Even so, wage and salary income fell 7.9 percent from March through May, again more than during the entire Great Recession.

    The reason that total personal income fell "only" 3.0 percent over the three months -- the steepest drop on record -- while total wage and salary income fell an astounding 7.9 percent in three months was due almost entirely to those government checks and jobless benefits. After setting aside government transfers, the BEA reports that total personal income fell 7.5 percent in three months.

  • Apa Sherpa (as told to Emily Atkin): I've climbed Everest 21 times. It's not the mountain it used to be.

  • Matt Shuham: "Nothing is normal here": Trump campaign claims its NDA applies to Omarosa's WH work.

  • Jeffrey Toobin: John Roberts distances himself from the Trump-McConnell legal project: But (see Millhiser above) he still strikes me as a team player, casting the deciding vote to uphold Republican voting restrictions. Occasional votes that seem independent could just as well be calculated to retain a shred of integrity for a Court that will increasingly curtail democracy, especially if people don't panic and stop the flow of Federalist Society judges.

  • Nahal Toosi: Human rights groups turn their sights on Trump's America.

  • Sina Toosi: How John Bolton and Mike Pompeo thwarted Trump's plan to get a deal with Iran. More Bolton (not that you need any):

  • Alex Ward: Donald Trump is vulnerable on China. So is Joe Biden. They're both wrong, too, although that's not what they perceive as each other's faults.

  • Liz Essley Whyte: Trump's favorite weapon in the coronavirus fight: Deregulation: Well, his favorite weapon in every fight, regardless of aptness. "Instead of addressing this crisis head-on, the Trump administration appears to be exploiting the chaos of the pandemic by rolling back critics civil rights regulatory protections and environmental safeguards." Appears?

  • Colin Woodard: Woodrow Wilson was even worse than you think.

  • Robin Wright: To the world, we're now America the racist and pitiful.

  • Matthew Yglesias:

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