Sunday, July 26, 2020
A good headline to sum up the week comes from Philip Rucker:
Trump's week of retreat: The president reverses course as the
coronavirus surges out of control. Rucker lists various things
that Trump had to backpeddle on -- wearing masks, opening schools,
packing his convention hall in Jacksonville, insisting Congress
cut payroll taxes. You know, things that any reasonable adviser
could have predicted weeks or months ago. Turns out the will
doesn't always triumph over reality. And speaking of reality:
Coronavirus updates: US deaths top 1,000 for fourth consecutive
day. Also: Rebecca Rainey:
New unemployment claims rose last week to 1.4M, ending months of
Here's a meme which pretty succinctly sums up where the President's
head is at these days. No idea where it originated, but Sue Katz
posted it on Facebook, and Laura Tillem forwarded it.
Here's a tweet, attributed to Richard Feynman:
A guy who says offensive things and decides whether he was joking
based on the reaction of people around him.
Or in Trump's case, since he isn't much good at judging reactions
of people around him, based on subsequent polling, or less formally
on how Fox's talking heads decide to spin it.
Some scattered links this week:
Republicans race to head off Kansas Senate nightmare: Conventional
thinking here is that if Kris Kobach wins the Republican primary, he's
likely to lose an otherwise safe Senate seat to a Democrat, just as he
lost a normally safe governorship to Democrat Laura Kelly in 2018.
So now you have Mitch McConnell's PAC and others trying to prop up
Roger Marshall's campaign against Kobach. There's also a report of
"a super PAC with links to Democrats last week began a $3 million,
meddling ad campaign aimed at boosting Kobach and damaging Marshall" --
strikes me as a serious waste of good money, if that's what it is.
It's so easy to attack both that it's hard to be clear on who's doing
what why. I've seen ads about Kobach's ties to "white nationalists,"
and wondered whether the ad might end with "I'm Kris Kobach, and I
approved this message." (It doesn't, but if it did, I doubt it would
hurt his base.) Meanwhile Bob Hamilton's spending $2 million on ads
where he out-Trumps everyone. (Kobach was the first and only KS pol
to endorse Trump before the 2016 primary, and made a widely reported
pilgrimage to Trump to show off his binders, but evidently creeped
Trump out so much all he got was co-chairman of a "voting fraud"
commission, which he then ran into the ground without producing a
report. "Doc" Marshall's Trumpiest idea was to make family take
hydroxychloroquine, which speaks volumes about how far he'll go to
suck up to Trump.) More on Kansas:
Thoughts on Zachary Carter's The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy,
and the Life of John Maynard Keynes:
Carter buys the often-told story that bailing out the banks in the
Great Recession saved us from a Second Great Depression. No biographer
of Keynes should ever say anything like this.
First and foremost, Keynes taught us how to get out of the first
Great Depression. The secret is spending money. If the government had
gone on a huge spending spree in 1930, in response to the initial
crash, instead of waiting to go full Keynesian in response to World
War II, we never would have had the first Great Depression.
If we had let the market work its magic on Citigroup, Goldman, and
the rest, there is no doubt that the initial downturn would have been
worse. But if we responded with a massive public investment program
in clean energy, health care, child care and other areas, we quickly
would have recovered. And, we would have eliminated a massive source
of economic waste in the bloated financial sector. It is also worth
noting that the bloated financial sector is a major generator of
inequality. It is where many of the seven, eight, and even nine figure
paychecks can be found.
We should be clear; the bailout was about saving the very rich and
their institutions. We could have rescued the economy just fine without
This review is also available as
There is nothing natural about "the market". Also see:
Keynes and corporate power: David Dayen in conversation with Zach
Carter. Dayen also has a new book, Monopolized: Life in the
Age of Corporate Power.
The $24 an hour minimum wage: While $15/hour is the current popular
political demand, $24 would be closer to the mark had the minimum wage
from 1968 reflected productivity growth since then.
Portland, polarization, and the crisis of the Republican Party: "We
are witnessing a crisis of democracy that is perfectly acceptable to a
significant portion of the population -- as long as it hurts their
enemies." More links follow, and more still (more generally about DHS)
under Fred Kaplan below:
Spencer Ackerman/Winston Ross:
'It's spooky right now': Inside the creepy Federal crackdown on Portland
Trump is putting o a show in Portland.
The border war in Portland.
Andrew Manuel Crespo:
The federal police in Portland don't even understand what 'arrests'
are: "The government cannot lawfully exercise its power of arrest
if it doesn't realize it is, in fact, arresting people in the first
Before Portland, Trump's shock troops went after border activists.
What you need to know about the battle of Portland.
The president's private army.
Garrett M Graff:
The federal crackdown in Portland is 'legal.' That's the problem with
Quinta Jurecic/Benjamin Wittes:
Nothing can justify the attack on Portland.
The federal response to protests extends far beyond Portland.
"Violent anarchists" are the new "migrant caravans" -- and will flop just
as badly. The second clause is wishful thinking, but the similarity
is that both give Fox News something to talk about when reporting on
reality is too challenging.
Philadelphia's top prosecutor is prepared to arrest federal agents:
I've been wondering about why Portland hasn't attempted to arrest
federal agents, given that every level of state and local government
is opposed to their presence, and that their actions, if performed
by anyone else, would appear to be illegal. For that matter, under
ALEC's "stand your ground" laws, aren't you entitled to shoot armed,
unidentified goons trying to force you into minivans? On the other
hand, see Graff and Jurecic/Wittes above.
Trump directs a campaign ad in Portland.
Sergio Olmos/Rick Rojas/Mike Baker:
From Antifa to mothers in helmets, diverse elements fuel Portland
Trump announces plan to send federal law enforcement to Chicago,
Trump has brought America's dirty wars home: "The authoritarian tactics
we've exported around the world in the name of national security are now
being deployed in Portland."
Judge restrains Feds from targeting Portland journos, legal observers.
Tierney Sneed/Matt Shuham:
Inspectors General announce probes into Feds' use of force in Portland, DC
Trump's deployment of federal agents in Portland is exactly how not to
The unmarked federal agents arresting people in Portland, explained.
Kelly Weill/Winston Ross:
Who actually wants Trump to send in the Feds? Police unions.
There is a 'great silent majority.' But it stands against Trump.
Less punishment, more justice: Review of two books: Alexandra Natapoff:
Punishment Without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the
Innocent and Makes America More Unequal; and Rachel Elise Barkow:
Prisoners of Politics: Breaking the Cycle of Mass Incarceration.
Trump once flirted with white nationalism. Now it's a centerpiece of
his White House.
What we know about the Austin BLM protest shooting.
Why progressives should welcome anti-Trump Republicans: Easy and
sensible to say, but "progressives" are very wary of being sold out
by mainstream Democrats, who have often cloaked their treachery with
claims about how it's necessary to compromise with Republicans. Also,
the only cases in recent history where Republicans courted Democrats
were projects which materially hurt the Democratic base (e.g., "trade
deals"), and therefore damage the credibility of Democratic politicians
with their voters. I think you can break "anti-Trump Republicans" down
into three camps: those who personally can't stand Trump, but have no
qualms with the conservative Republican agenda -- these will vote for
Biden, but not other Democrats; those who realize that the Republican
right-wing project has become dysfunctional -- these may see value in
electing Democrats down the ballot, but worry about left-wingers; and
those who simply want viable solutions, wherever they come from --
these are potentially Democrats, to the extent that Democrats work
to find real solutions to real problems.
David A Fahrenthold/Joshua Partlow/Jonathan O'Connell:
Spin, deride, attack: How Trump's handling of Trump University presaged
Meat industry campaign cash flows to officials seeking to quash Covid-19
David Gelles/Jesse Drucker:
Corporate insiders pocket $1 billion in rush for coronavirus vaccine.
Susan B Glasser:
"Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV": Trump's mental health is a test for
The government is walking blind into the coronavirus housing crisis:
"The 2008 financial crash offered some stark lessons about evictions and
foreclosures, but lawmakers didn't learn a thing."
72 Republicans join Democrats in vote to remove Confederate statues
Don't pick a cold war you can't win: "Trump and Pompeo are ratcheting
up tensions with China, but have no way to back up their threats."
Break up the Department of Homeland Security: "Trump has turned a
Bush-era bureaucratic blunder into his personal goon squad."
The DHS was a sham from the get-go. It was the brainchild of Democratic
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who proposed the new department in late 2001, just
after the 9/11 attacks, as a way of showing that the Republicans in the
White House weren't the only ones trying to tackle terrorism. President
George W. Bush opposed the idea, seeing it as burdening the government
with another bureaucratic layer. But then, the 9/11 Commission hearings
revealed that al-Qaida succeeded in toppling the World Trade Center in
part because the FBI, CIA, and other agencies hadn't shared intelligence
about the hijackers' movements prior to the attack. Coordination and
consolidation were suddenly seen as nostrums to our problems.
So, under pressure, in late 2002, Bush signed Lieberman's idea into
law. DHS wound up subsuming 22 agencies from eight federal departments --
with a combined budget of $40 billion and a payroll of 183,000 employees --
into one hydra-headed behemoth.
One can imagine that Lieberman's intent was to consolidate a national
state police, much like the "interior" departments of other countries
(many dictatorships). But the FBI and CIA managed to escape inclusion
and subordination. In the short term, the worst effect was demoting
FEMA from Cabinet-level, which became especially obvious when Katrina
hit in 2005. Related:
Is it time to defund the Department of Homeland Security?
DHS was a mistake. I regret voting for it. "I never imagined a
president like Trump when I voted to create the Department of Homeland
Security." Sure, but GW Bush was president at the time, and Dick Cheney
was VP, and the CIA was kidnapping suspects and rendering them to dark
sites and Guantanamo, so what happened wasn't all that far fetched.
Homeland Security was destined to become a secret police force.
"Homeland" is an anxious, combative word: it denotes a place under
assault, in need of aggressive defense from shape-shifting dangers. . . .
The nation used to protect itself against other nations and their
hostile military forces, but now it had to fear individuals. This is
the premise on which secret police forces are built. Their stated
purpose is to find danger where normal human activity appears to be
taking place. . . . The logic of the secret police, however, dictates
that it perpetually has to look in new places for threats. . . .
The C.B.P. is the largest law-enforcement agency in the country.
Its leader -- who at the same briefing stated that his troops are
highly trained and experienced in putting down riots -- and his boss,
Chad Wolf, were telling the nation that they are terrified of the
protesters. These men represent a government agency born of fear.
Their tactics are designed to engender an equal amount of fear in
the people they see as their enemies. The secret police is always
a terror-production machine.
David A Graham:
America gets an interior ministry.
Biden must bring an end to the Bush era: "It was W who gave federal
thugs the authority to terrorize Portland. Undoing Trumpism will require
Biden and the Democrats to repeal Bush's signature legislation." He means
the DHS, but I'd point to Obama's failure to break meaningfully with
Bush's Global War on Terror. Obama may not have liked the term, but he
stressed continuity as early as his decision to keep Robert Gates as
Secretary of Defense. "Homeland Security" has always been subordinate
to war abroad, so you couldn't prevent the possibility of abuses at
home without stopping the war abroad. Lots of things reflect that war,
including police brutality, America's obsession with guns, the opioid
crisis, paranoia over immigration, and much more.
The high-finance mogul in charge of our economic recovery: "How
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin became one of the most consequential
policymakers in the world." One of those deep profile pieces. Some
things I didn't know include how Mnuchin made a fortune driving Sears
into bankruptcy, and how many times he made business deals with George
Mark Landler/Lara Jakes/Maggie Haberman:
Trump's request of an ambassador: Get the British Open for me.
The invention of the police: "Why did American policing get so big,
so fast? The answer, mainly, is slavery."
There are nearly seven hundred thousand police officers in the United
States, about two for every thousand people, a rate that is lower than
the European average. The difference is guns. Police in Finland fired
six bullets in all of 2013; in an encounter on a single day in the year
2015, in Pasco, Washington, three policemen fired seventeen bullets when
they shot and killed an unarmed thirty-five-year-old orchard worker from
Mexico. Five years ago, when the Guardian counted police killings,
it reported that, "in the first 24 days of 2015, police in the US fatally
shot more people than police did in England and Wales, combined, over the
past 24 years." American police are armed to the teeth, with more than
seven billion dollars' worth of surplus military equipment off-loaded by
the Pentagon to eight thousand law-enforcement agencies since 1997. At
the same time, they face the most heavily armed civilian population in
the world: one in three Americans owns a gun, typically more than one.
Gun violence undermines civilian life and debases everyone. A study found
that, given the ravages of stress, white male police officers in Buffalo
have a life expectancy twenty-two years shorter than that of the average
American male. The debate about policing also has to do with all the
money that's spent paying heavily armed agents of the state to do things
that they aren't trained to do and that other institutions would do better.
History haunts this debate like a bullet-riddled ghost.
Two kinds of police appeared on mid-century American television. The
good guys solved crime on prime-time police procedurals like "Dragnet,"
starting in 1951, and "Adam-12," beginning in 1968 (both featured the
L.A.P.D.). The bad guys shocked America's conscience on the nightly
news: Arkansas state troopers barring Black students from entering
Little Rock Central High School, in 1957; Birmingham police clubbing
and arresting some seven hundred Black children protesting segregation,
in 1963; and Alabama state troopers beating voting-rights marchers at
Selma, in 1965. These two faces of policing help explain how, in the
nineteen-sixties, the more people protested police brutality, the more
money governments gave to police departments.
That led into Lyndon Johnson's 1965 "war on crime." We now know
that police in the South weren't notably more violent than police in
the North, as evidence in "riots" in Detroit, Watts, and elsewhere.
The big difference was that the civil rights protests framed police
violence clearly, whereas the media never got clear pictures of
police violence against ordinary people in the North. To a large
extent, what's different now is that ubiquitous cell phones let
us see police violence that until recently had been hidden and
covered up. Well, also that fifty years after civil rights had
been secured in law, we're sick and tired (and frankly disgusted)
when we see this shit still happening. Also relevant here:
Get over your Russia obsession, liberals: Vladimir Putin's not
responsible for America's sorry state: "Did Putin turn America
into a delusional nation that couldn't handle a pandemic? Or did he
just watch and laugh?" The former can pretty clearly be traced back
to Reagan, whose "morning in America" slogan signaled his intent
to live in a fantasy world, although Reagan's roots go back to the
beginning of the Cold War -- the decision to champion the powers
of capital over the rights of workers both abroad and at home,
even over traditional American values like democracy and freedom.
As for Putin laughing at us, or more generally plotting to deliver
the government to Trump out of a cynical desire to undermine or
just embarrass American democracy, I've never seen him act that
frivolously. Sure, he may have thought the easily corruptible
Trump would be easier to deal with than Hillary Clinton, and he
may have relished the idea of giving America a dose of its own
election-interfering medicine. The problem I have with obsessive
anti-Putin liberals is that they hardly ever manage to articulate
their misgivings about Putin in anything other than Cold War
clichés, and that risks starting another conflict -- one that
people of neither nation wants, or that anyone other than the
munitions makers might profit from.
Theodoric Meyer/Adam Cancryn:
Chris Christie cashes in on coronavirus lobbying.
Who should say when a workplace is safe? The workers, that's who.
China is systematically detaining Uighurs -- and the world isn't doing
enough about it. Well, the "world" can't do anything about it,
because the five permanent, veto-wielding UN powers have made it
impossible for the UN (or any international institution, like the
ICC or the World Court) to take an effective stand on human rights
issues. While China and Russia have often been on the defensive on
such issues, the real culprit is the US, which uses its veto to
shield Israel, conducts a "war on terror" over most of the Middle
East and North Africa, and has a long history of backing coups to
install dictators in Latin America, Africa, and Asia (as well as
a history of meddling in democratic elections, from Italy to the
Ukraine). The US is certainly quick to condemn human rights abuses
in countries that don't show sufficient deference to it, while
casting a blind eye to its so-called allies -- hence Venezuela
is a violator but Guatemala is just fine. Nor is US culpability
limited to its foreign policy. The US, after all, has more of
its citizens incarcerated than any other nation -- including
China, regardless of whatever evil they've done in Xingiang and
Tibet. The "world" did start to make some progress on apartheid
in South Africa, but that's proven to be a one-shot. Meanwhile,
any time you hear about Uighurs in the American press, you can
suspect that there's an anti-China political agenda behind it,
rather than a pro-human rights one. The only way to change that
would be for the US to respect its own human rights, and to work
to build international institutions that can do so credibly
elsewhere. That's not going to happen under Trump. Not likely
to happen with Biden, either.
How politics, inequity, and complacency undermined Texas's fight against
Child care is broken. Biden has a plan to fix it.
Trump's polling decline is tying the conservative media in knots.
The November election is going to be a mess.
Paul R Pillar:
Human rights get the Pompeo treatment.
Adam K Raymond:
How "Karen" became a symbol of racism: I clicked on this because
the suddenly ubiquitous use of "Karen" as a term of derision never
made any sense to me. Still doesn't, even after I referred to Romano's
Karen: The anti-vaxxer soccer mom with speak-to-the-manager hair,
explained, which points out: "The current use of the 'Karen'
meme is almost always to call out the perceived entitlement and
rude behavior of white women." Sure, I can see a use for that,
but why attach it to a name that has no bearing on it (unlike,
say, Scrooge)? Indeed, why make it easier to lob insults? Isn't
that just a way of forming a clique? Or am I just being too much
of a Tom?
Michael Brooks made the left brighter: I can't say as I was
aware of him, but this is one of many testimonies since Brooks died,
at age 36. He wrote the book, Against the Web: A Cosmopolitan
Answer to the New Right, but was evidently best known for his
podcasts. Savage previously reviewed the book:
The intellectual dark web's "maverick free thinkers" are just defenders
of the status quo. More on Brooks:
Silicon Valley's richest are getting richer just as the pandemic is
getting worse: e.g., Jeff Bezos, whose wealth shot up $13 billion
in one day.
Why America's public health system can't withstand Trump. Refers to
and expands upon:
Michael D Shear/Noah Weiland/Eric Lipton/Maggie Haberman/David
Inside Trump's failure: The rush to abandon leadership role on the
virus. Finds that the critical decision was made in April, when
Trump decided to downplay the crisis in hopes that a show of confidence
would get the economy moving again, and put his reëlection campaign
back on track.
Not until early June did White House officials even begin to recognize
that their assumptions about the course of the pandemic had proved
wrong. Even now there are internal divisions over how far to go in
having officials publicly acknowledge the reality of the situation.
Robert J Shapiro:
Investors are doing great under Trump, but what about the rest of
us? Sometime in the 1990s you started hearing the term "Greenspan
put" -- essentially a guarantee that whenever the stock market took a
dip, the Fed would intervene to prop it up. As the 2008 meltdown
worsened, the Fed intervened massively. This time the Fed was even
faster on the trigger, allowing the stock market, after its March
collapse, to recover much faster than the economy at large.
Today, much like the last time, the extraordinary measures used to
boost the stock and bond markets are unfolding in plain sight. But
since the main mechanisms are the esoteric operations of the Federal
Reserve, it's hard for most people to sort them out. It's actually
pretty straightforward, though. From March through June (our latest
data), the Fed flooded the financial markets with capital by buying
up $2.8 trillion in Treasury and agency mortgage-backed securities
and some corporate bonds. These purchases enabled banks to vastly
expand credit in the form of loans to businesses at easy terms and
large stock and bond purchases by institutional investors. The
official term for this approach is quantitative easing (QE),
operations pioneered by the Fed for the last financial crisis and
used again now -- but now on steroids. . . .
The Fed has gone even further to support bond investors by declaring
its readiness to directly buy the corporate paper. While the Fed's
actual purchases of corporate bonds have been small, its pledge to
support the market for those bonds stopped the normal downward pressures
on their prices, especially for junk bonds. That's why private investors
have dived back into that market and bid up the prices of corporate bonds
to nearly their recent historic highs. And many of the country's biggest
corporations are taking full advantage of this implicit government
guarantee for their debts: The New York Times reports that through
late June "giant U.S. corporations had borrowed roughly $850 billion in
bond markets this year, double the pace from last year." Their shareholders
will accrue most of the benefits.
David K Shipler:
Beware of a cornered Trump: "The closer defeat looms, the more
deranged his administration will become."
The president of what is supposed to be the greatest country in all
of human history cannot tell the difference between image and reality,
or cares more about image than reality, as he orders a halt in reporting
COVID-19 hospitalizations to the CDC and laments the increase in
coronavirus testing because it makes the case numbers go higher. Is
it possible that his mental defect means that he doesn't realize that
the actual incidence of infection is a fact independent of how many
are detected by tests? Or is he just trying to fool his fellow Americans?
And how many will be fooled? Or frightened?
I haven't figured out a way of expressing just how far off the rails
this MAGA idea has gone. Shipler is right that his obsequious lackeys
only confirm his delusions, but so does Fox News.
Isaac Stanley-Becker/Griff Witte:
Why Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp stands alone on masks. I think it was
clear 2-3 weeks ago that the anti-maskers lost their case -- well before
Trump donned one himself. I guess Kemp is still running for dumbest
jackass. More on masks:
Leah C Stokes:
An FBI investigation shows Ohio's abysmal energy law was fueled by
Steve Vladeck/Benjamin Wittes:
DHS authorizes domestic surveillance to protect statues and monuments.
What Alexander Hamilton has to do with the EU's $850 billion coronavirus
stimulus plan. A change from the usual practice of Germany screwing
all the weaker economies.
How pandemics wreak havoc -- and open minds: "The plague marked
the end of the Middle Ages and the start of a great cultural renewal.
Could the coronavirus, for all its destruction, offer a similar
opportunity for radical change?" Another article on same theme:
Can America benefit from Covid? Ask 14th-Century Florence.
Economists say congress should think big on the next economic rescue.
One thing that's clear is that the presumptive trillion-dollar cap on what
can be done, which hobbled Obama's response to the 2008 meltdown, is a
thing of the past. Economists were pretty clear in 2009 that more would
be needed, but politicians (and Larry Summers) didn't dare.
Judy Shelton, Trump's troubling Federal Reserve nominee, explained.
Fact-checking the alternate history and politics of Curtis Sittenfeld's
Rodham. Just my opinion, but I don't think Hillary Rodham would
have had much of a chance of becoming a significant political figure
in her own right. Not impossible, because she's not totally lacking
in political talent, and would have had useful connections on her own,
but not very likely. Bill Clinton didn't have much of an organization
in 1992, but by 1996 he did, and Hillary built her career on taking
it over. The more interesting question is whether she would have done
better after 2000 by divorcing Bill. I could imagine that playing out
several different ways, but she didn't, so we only know that one path.
As for one question discussed here -- whether her preëminence starved
other women of the opportunity to run -- it probably did until she
lost, after which it became an incentive for other women to prove
they could do better.
American exceptionalism was our preexisting condition.
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