Sunday, October 11, 2020


Weekend Roundup

Got a late start, by which time I was so annoyed and frustrated that I merely went through the motions. Hoped to get three things done during the week: a new batch of questions and answers, including a ballot exercise for a list of all-time greatest records; a books post (not yet done); and an update to my collection of Trump-era (2017 et seq) blog posts (thought I had it done, then decided to append some earlier Trump references, which I didn't get done (for the .odt file; link will still work when I catch up; beware that it is currently 874,147 words, 2,346 pages; there is a fair amount of redundancy there, but also a lot to be outraged about). I thought the latter might be useful for trying to write an endorsement letter like I did for Kerry vs Bush in 2004. But while I thought it important to try to construct a strong logical case back then, I'm not sure that's worth the effort this year. One could enumerate hundreds or thousands of reasons why Trump should be denied a second term, but the most fundamental one is: aren't you simply embarrassed that this guy has been given any measure of constitutional power in the United States of America? And if you aren't, why? I usually make a serious effort to understand how other people think, but I can't imagine any defense of Trump. If that isn't obvious enough, download the book, and read this week's addition (not yet in the book, but coming soon).

Another possible project would be to edit those 2,346 pages down to something humanly readable. But right now, I'm not sure how much practical benefit that would offer. Or how much work I can possibly put into such a project. Election day is less than a month ago. If Biden wins, Trump will be history, and probably forgotten as quickly as GW Bush was after 2008. And if Trump wins, the future will be bleak indeed, not least because the stabilizing force of democracy will be so thoroughly discredited. Indeed, one of the most bizarre things about this election is how hard Trump is working to make sure that even if he wins, he won't have any legitimacy left to govern, because he's gone so far out of his way to discredit the entire electoral process. If you are a person with a stake in the system, you cannot afford to give him another term.

And two more obvious points: the only real way to vote Trump out is to vote for Biden-Harris -- regardless of what you think of Biden-Harris (and frankly I don't think much of either); and while Trump is loathsome and obnoxious on a personal level far and beyond his party (including his VP Pence), the real harm he has done to this country has been his promotion of mainstream Republicans -- to the judiciary, to run the bureaucracy, to let lobbyists pollute the environment and get away with predatory business practices, to make the world a much more dangerous and hateful place. Hence, you should not only vote Trump out, but take his whole Party down with him. Our future depends on it.

This week's topics are much like last week's topics:


The Covid-19 Pandemic and the White House

Alex Abad-Santos: Even while sick with Covid-19, Trump sees masks as a symbol of weakness.

Eliza Barclay: Trump and his staff's refusal to wear a face mask is a catastrophe.

Julia Belluz: No, the Regeneron drug Trump received is not a Covid-19 "cure". One thing that's disturbing about Trump is how readily he likes to offer himself as a pitchman.

Troy Closson: 80-year-old is killed after asking bar patron to wear a mask.

Jahnavi Curlin: I'm a contact tracer. Trump's advice not to fear Covid-19 is dangerous. "I talk to people with Covid-19 almost every day. Trump's experience of the disease couldn't be more different from theirs."

Chas Danner:

Sheila Kaplan: White House blocked CDC from requiring masks on public transportation.

Eric Lach: Donald Trump's campaign rallies are now confirmed public-health hazards.

German Lopez:

Olivia Nuzzi: The entire presidency is a superspreading event.

Kelsey Piper: Photos of Trump's reckless activities, ranked by their Covid-19 risk.

Kaleigh Rogers: What are the possible side effects of Trump's Covid-19 treatment?

Aaron Rupar: The White house won't say when Trump's last negative coronavirus test was. Here's why it matters.

Melody Schreiber:

Dylan Scott: Trump has been the biggest source of Covid-19 misinformation, study finds.

Joanne Silberner: Why Covid-19 cases are surging in the UK.

Emily Stewart: The Trump-related coronavirus cases we'll never hear about.

Libby Watson:

Jeff Wise: For Trump, the most dangerous Covid phase lies ahead.

The VP Debate

I don't watch debates any more. At their best, you get one (or two) candidates skillfully navigating the conventional wisdom while trying to land a couple of memorable zingers. I remember Reagan-Mondale in 1984, which Mondale totally dominated on points and logic (not that I in any way enjoyed how belligerently anti-Communist he came off), but all the history books remember was Reagan's zinger ("I won't hold my opponent's inexperience against him"), plus Reagan's landslide that November. At worst, you get someone as boorish and ignorant as Donald Trump, and I've seen more than enough of him. Evidently, Pence avoided the worst by not being Trump, yet he had to tread carefully lest he offend his master, so he just tried to spin what he could, and duck the rest. He may not be as flagrantly loathsome as Trump, but his greater deliberation and cunning strike me as even worse traits. One thing the debate has done is to give us pause to reflect on his reign as VP. He has been every bit as consequential as Dick Cheney, for much the same reason: a weak, shallow, needy leader, and the opportunity to stock the upper reaches of government with his extended crony network. If he's underrated, it's because he's done all this with less fanfare than Cheney, and he's repeatedly had to prostrate and humiliate himself before Trump's overweening ego.

Vox [Emily Stewart/German Lopez/Ella Nilsen/Li Zhou/Anna North/Dylan Matthews]: 5 winners and 3 losers from the vice presidential debate: Winners: Kamala Harris; Covid-19, Boringness ("Mike Pence is boring"; "But on Wednesday night, Pence's boringness was a strength"); #KHive; The fly. Losers: Infrastructure week; Ordinary Americans impacted by Covid-19; Susan Page. Possible research subject: Has there ever been a debate where the moderator wasn't a loser?

538/Ipsos (Laura Bronner/Aaron Bycoffe/Elena Mejia/Julia Wolfe): Who won the vice presidential debate? "Harris got higher marks for her performance -- and her policies." Harris led in "popularity contest" metrics, and improved more over the debate (+6 favorability compared to +2 for Pence). Harris led favorable 51-39; unfavorable was Harris 41, Pence 53.

Matthew Cooper: Pence was pretty good. Harris was better.

Susan B Glasser: Mike Pence's Trumpian makeover.

Trump, though, is immune to embarrassment -- his lack of shame has long been one of his political superpowers -- and so it must be for those around him. Among the many questions that Pence refused to answer was one of the week's more obvious, given the large cluster of coronavirus cases in the White House and the President's own illness after months of refusing to wear a mask or observe social distancing: Why should the American people listen when you tell them to abide by public-health guidelines that you yourself refuse to follow? Pence's response was a model of misdirection, which had something to do with the Green New Deal and the coming government takeover of health care under the radical-left Democrats. Harris could only look on in amazement, shaking her head at the brazenness.

Sarah Jones: Trump won't debate unless there's a risk of infecting Biden. "At least the CPD has blocked him from accomplishing the 21st-century equivalent of pitching a plague corpse at an enemy."

Jen Kirby: About that fly in the vice presidential debate. Needless to say, a dozen or more people I know responded by linking to videos of Wire's videos I Am the Fly -- not just because it's the most famous song about flies, but because you could imagine it as Pence's soundtrack: "I shake you down to say please/ As you accept the next dose of disease."

Eric Levitz: No one won the Pence-Harris debate. But Trump lost. "The jarringly normal debate drove home how much worse Trump is at politics than his 'generic Republican' running mate."

Jason Linkins: Kamala Harris and Mike Pence tried to have a normal debate. It didn't quite work.

Martin Longman: Is Trump chickening out of more debates?

Josh Marshall: Not even close.

I wouldn't say Harris wowed. There weren't a lot of zingers. But she hit every last point the campaign could have asked for. Just methodically. Killing the ACA, Charlottesville, the horrific failure of the COVID response. She didn't really care about Mike Pence. She was there to make a case against Donald Trump. And she did.

Nicole Narea: A post-debate focus group of undecided voters suggests that Kamala Harris faces an uphill battle.

Terry Nguyen: Why Mike Pence's pink-looking eye caused so much speculation.

Anna North: What a Pence presidency would look like: "We've already seen a lot of what he might do."

Ella Nilsen: The second debate between Trump and Biden is canceled.

Dylan Scott: Mike Pence tried to blame Kamala Harris for undermining a Covid-19 vaccine. But the public blames Trump.

Amy Davidson Sorkin: Covid-19 at the vice-presidential debate.

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: A fly in the ointment. Weekly column, starts with the debate (almost live-blogging), noting among other things that "in medieval art, a fly was often paintedon a liar and moral hypocrite." More substantively:

Pence put himself in the difficult position of making Harris look like she was weak on crime while, at the same time, being an over-zealous prosecutor. Of course, the kind of crimes Harris was weak on are the very financial crimes committed by the current Secretary of the Treasury, Steve Mnuchin. It was a point Pence couldn't press and Harris couldn't defend.

St Clair eventually moves on to other topics. He offers a table of "new Covid-19 cases in the last 7 days: Vietnam - 5, Taiwan - 9, Yemen - 10, New Zealand - 25, White House - 34." He adds, "The Trump administration hasn't delivered this many positive results since, well, ever."

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos: Out-of-touch, incoherent foreign poicy on display in Harris-Pence showdown.

Benjamin Wallace-Wells: A straightforward vice-presidential debate about a catastrophic presidency.

Matthew Yglesias: Mike Pence played a weak hand well.

Other Aspects of the Campaign and Elections

Katelyn Burns:

John Cassidy: Donald Trump's loopy self-pity tour of conservative media outlets.

Isaac Chotiner: How to make sense of the polls. Interview with Sean Trende, of Real Clear Politics.

Summer Concepcion: Here's how Trumpworld is rallying behind Covid-infected POTUS return to campaign trail. Spots on Larry Kudlow, Eric Trump, Lara Trump, and Ronna McDaniel.

John F Harris/Melanie Zanoma: Republicans are finally ready to diss Don: I think they're grasping at straws here. Trump will be fair game if he loses, especially dragging lots of Republicans down with him, but until then few have the mettle to disrespect him, especially given that his fans are bred to be even more vindictive than the average Republican. That there's any equivocation at all signifies a much broader fear over the election. Conversely, the only reason GOP mandarins flocked to him was when he proved himself as a miracle winner in 2016.

Jen Kirby: The battle over a Texas order limiting ballot drop-off locations, explained.

Nancy LeTourneau: The media is spreading Trump's lies about mail-in voting.

Julia Lurie: Private prisons have spent more on this election than any other in history.

Nick Martin: North Carolina's labyrinthine voting nightmare: "A mix of Trumpian meddling, legal holdups, and a bureaucratic mess is putting Black voters at risk this election.

Aaron Rupar: "They want to take care of certain little tiny fish": Trump's Hannity interview was off the rails.

Paige Williams: Inside the Lincoln Project's war against Trump.

Li Zhou: "Mr Vice President, I'm speaking": Kamala Harris repeatedly shut down Mike Pence's interruptions at the debate.

Still More on Donald Trump

David Atkins: Trump is the most crooked president in American history. That should matter.

Andrea Bernstein: Pattern of deception: From Trump family business to grifter in chief.

Jonathan Chait: Trump's lifelong obsession with his superior DNA is being put to the test.

Fabiola Cineas: Donald Trump is the accelerant: "A comprehensive timeline of Trump encouraging hate groups and political violence." Timeline starts in June, 2015, with details on 42 separate instances.

Steve Coll: Donald Trump's consistent unreliability on Covid, and everything else. "It is painful to reflect on the tens of thousands of lives that might have been saved if a less reality-challenged President had occupied the White House."

Tyler Cullis: The undeniable cruelty of Trump's 'maximum pressure' on Iran.

John F Harris/Daniel Lippman: Amateur hour at the Trump White House: "The coronavirus outbreak at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave is just one facet of a much deeper presidential malaise."

Fred Kaplan:

Kevin Liptak: Trump calls in for rambling and ugly post-hospital interview.

Josh Marshall: Folks, the Executive Branch needs an audit.

Nicole Narea:

Doug Palmer: Why Trump lost his battle against the trade deficit: "The monthly deficit in US goods trade with all other countries set a record high in August at more than $83 billion." Shouldn't this have been the key metric to determine whether Trump's promises on jobs and trade, and his flirtation with tariffs, been judged on? As noted here, Turmp's trade adviser Peter Navarro "predicted in 2016 [the trade gap] could be erased in one or two years." One might counter that today's results are the simple extension of longer-term trends, but you have to admit that Trump did nothing to budge them.

JC Pan:

  • Melania Trump's charmed pandemic life: "The first lady once again gets off light -- thanks to a gullible media and an incredibly low bar set by her husband." Just a thought, but I haven't seen a single report on her illness beyond the initial positive test. Does she really have the disease? Certainly plausible, given how many people in and around the White House have contracted it. On the other hand, how would it look if the president got it and she didn't?

  • A thrilling week inside Trump's flailing masculinity death cult: "The president was sick -- but strong! Actively infections -- but still man enough to debate!"

Alex Shephard:

Supreme Court, and Other Injustices

David Atkins: Republicans have already packed the courts. It's up to Democrats how to rebalance them. Amen.

Dahlia Lithwick: We know exactly how Amy Coney Barrett will unravel Roe.

Ian Millhiser: The bizarre abortion order just handed down by the Supreme Court, briefly explained.

Tom Scocca: Amy Coney Barrett is as cynical as Trump.

Adam Wren: How Amy Coney Barrett's religious group helped shape a city: "The People of Praise isn't well-understood by outsiders, but its influence -- and social conservatism -- run deeply through this Indiana city.".

The Economy With No Stimulus Deal

Josh Barro: Wall Street got what it wanted from Trump and is ready for Biden.

Katelyn Burns: Stimulus talks are at an impasse as Senate Republicans object to White House package.

Jane Coaston: Trump's stimulus obstruction excites fiscal conservatives -- and no one else. I was going to ask why are these fiscal conservatives. The article names Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore, who've never considered the possibility that tax cuts for the rich might increase the deficit.

Ed Kilgore: Erratic Trump is all over the place on stimulus deal.

Paul Krugman:

  • The very strong case for Bidenomics: "The former vice president's tax and spending claims are credible; Trump's aren't."

  • Bidencare would be a big deal: "Don't dismiss it because it isn't Medicare for All. Krugman has long been the most effective proponent of ACA, possibly because he concedes the point that Medicare for All would be better. His pet tactic is to argue that ACA could be made as effective at the key goal of universal coverage -- sure, a bit more expensively, but at a more realistic political cost. But here all he seems to be offering is to throw more money at the problems, without any real hope of limiting the drain. I don't doubt that Biden could reform ACA for the better, but it still looks like a lost cause.

  • Trump is killing the economy out of spite. It's really not just Trump, although he does a remarkably poor job of hiding his intent. But Republicans have been soliciting votes for fear of the sabotage they'd inflict on Democrats if Republicans lost. Deficit spending is OK as long as the Republicans are in power. The government won't be shut down (at least until Trump). Republicans aren't going to brow eat one of their own into starting a war (unless he really wants to). I've long thought that one of the reasons Hillary lost was that the people decided they wanted to spare her the endless string of phony scandals Republicans have long been able to nag her about. I've never understood why people (or the media) would put up with extortion, but somehow Republicans never got blamed for being bastards. Somehow, it was their brand, their charm. So why shouldn't Trump wreck everything on his way out? Who's going to blame him?

    I don't know whether Trump expects to lose the election. But he's already acting like a deeply embittered man, lashing out at people he feels have treated him unfairly, which is basically everyone. And as usual he reserves special rage for smart, tough women; on Thursday he called Kamala Harris a "monster."

    Yet getting a relief deal would have required accepting a compromise with that "nasty" woman Nancy Pelosi. And it seems that he would rather let the economy burn.

    The thing is, if he's behaving like this now, when he still has some chance of winning, how will he act if he loses?

Eric Levitz: The GOP is sabotaging Trump's economy a month before election day. Here's why. "McConnell can afford to walk away from Covid relief because the Senate's partisan skew tightly limits how many seats his party can lose."

Matthew Yglesias:

Gretchen Whitmer's Close Call

Anna North: "The woman in Michigan": How Gretchen Whitmer became a target of right-wing hate.

Cristina Cabrera: Trump attacks Whitmer after Feds foil plot to kidnap her, complains she hasn't thanked him.

Amy Cooter: Lessons from embedding with the Michigan militia -- 5 questions answered about the group allegedly plotting to kidnap a governor.

Fred Kaplan: The face of American insurgency: "The Michigan plot wasn't about Donald Trump. It goes deeper than that." I advise taking the Trump disclaimer with a bit of salt. Two of the six indicted took part in the anti-lockdown armed occupation of the Michigan State House, which may not have been directed by the White House, but was hinted at in statements both before and after the event.

Andrew Prokop: Charges announced in plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan.

Robert Snell/Melissa Nann Burke: Plans to kidnap Whitmer, overthrow government spoiled, officials say.

Miscellaneous

Fabiola Cineas: Tropical depression Delta brings heavy rain and wind to the Gulf Coast. More fair to refer to it as Hurricane Delta. It was a Category 4 in the Caribbean before crossing over the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, and grew back to Category 3 in the Gulf of Mexico, before making landing in Louisiana as a Category 2.

Edward-Isaac Dovere: Hillary Clinton says she was right all along: "The biggest factors she blames for her loss -- disinformation, Vladimir Putin, and America's deep political divide -- will still be problems even if Trump loses, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee warns." I'm occasionally tempted to subscribe to The Atlantic, only to find it a bit rich for my taste. Articles like this make me glad I didn't nibble. At this point, who the fuck even cares what she thinks? Let alone thinks about herself!

Dan Friedman: Elliott Broidy, former top Trump fundraiser, will plead guilty to violating foreign lobbying law.

Umair Irfan: California's largest wildfire on record is now a million-acre "gigafire": "The August Complex Fire in North California has now burned an area larger than Rhode Island."

Eric Levitz: Mike Lee opposes democracy -- but supports rule by 'the people'. I don't want to go too deep here, but one should point out that the objectives Lee touts as more important than democracy -- "liberty, peace, and prosperity" -- haven't actually been secured by the Republican antiversion (or perversion) of democracy. The US jails more of its citizens than any other nation, with right-wing Christians especially aggressive at denying and impeding popular rights (except, of course, gun ownership). The US has been constantly at war since 2001, and spent most of the time after 1945 cycling between hot and cold wars. Widespread prosperity has declined considerably since Reagan won in 1980, and the last two Republican presidents ended their terms with major recessions. It's easy enough to understand why Republicans like Lee don't want to let the people decide their own fates, but a superior grasp of liberty, peace, and prosperity isn't a valid reason.

Ilan Pappe: Israel's Peace Process was always a road to nowhere.

Alex Pareene: Would the GOP use Trump's Covid diagnosis to start a war? "Why hawks are determined to blame a foreign enemy for the president's health woes." I rather doubt the thesis, but since Trump not only recovered but decided getting Covid-19 was a blessing, I think we can put these worries aside. Still, it is often the case that when a crisis strikes, the hawks are first to roost -- recall Alexander ("I'm in charge here") Haig when Reagan was shot.

Vijay Prashad/John Ross: Why America's economic war on China is failing.

ZoŽ Richards: Graham says black people and immigrants can be successful with a caveat: They "just need to be conservative, not liberal." In other words, they need to toil obediently for the rich, eschewing any feelings of solidarity with people like themselves, or the vast majority of Americans. He cited examples, like Sen. Tim Scott and former Gov. Nikki Haley "as people of color who rose to success at least in part due to sharing that state's 'values.'"

Charlie Savage: Nicholson Baker's maddening search for the truth.

Mattathias Schwartz: The FBI team sent to 'exploit' protesters' phones in Portland.

Alex Ward:

Matthew Yglesias: