Monday, October 19, 2020


Weekend Roundup

Posted this on Monday. It got too late to wrap it up on Sunday, and I hadn't finished looking for links in the usual places, let alone writing any sort of introduction. Got a late start on Saturday, after spending much of last week on two book posts: More Trump Books, and Book Roundup. Also upgraded my machine to Xubuntu 20.4, which has resulted in some breakage and emergency repairs (update removed some optional packages I rely on, and installed PHP 7.4, which broke some of my web pages -- if you notice more, please let me know). Music Week will also be delayed a day.

Table of contents:

Before we get too deep in the weeds, here are a few links that are essentially endorsements. I could collect hundreds of mainstream Biden endorsements, but these are specifically addressed to the left:

Endorsements

Laura and I filled out our ballots and mailed them in today. We both voted for Biden and Harris, for Barbara Bollier for Senate, Laura Lombard for the House (KS-4), Mary Ware (KS Senate), John Carmichael (KS House), and James Thompson (District 18 Judge), and other Democrats (in the races any ran for).

Of course, I urge all of you to vote, for Democrats as much as possible. It has never been more obvious that the American people need to rise up and repudiate the Republican Party and all that it stands for. I won't try to sum that up succinctly here. The reasons should be obvious from the rest of this post, and from the four years of weekly posts I've compiled as Trump Days [.odt format -- see note below]. OK, I will try one sentence: Republicans are committed to maintaining and extending the power of business elites, where some people are privileged and protected while others are consigned to relative poverty and injustice, stripped of rights and subject to violence. Donald Trump is merely the most careless and shameless Republican leader, but the conceit and ethic permeates the party, driving it to snatch power and try to lock it in perpetually, which is why democracy itself -- as Lincoln put it, "government of the people, by the people, for the people" -- is at risk this election. I really hate anything that smacks of melodrama, but this time those stakes are real. If you want to preserve the option that people might someday redirect government to establish justice and serve the people, you must vote Trump and as many Republicans as possible out of office now. Whatever faults and inadequacies Democratic Party candidates may have can be dealt with later.

Let me add that I think lots of people who vote Republican are decent and respectable people, and that I have a lot of respect for people who live their lives according to the conservative virtues of hard work and responsibility for their families and communities. I do think they've been cynically manipulated by the Party's vast propaganda network, especially to think that they're fundamentally distinct from and endangered by Democrats, liberals, and/or leftists, who differ mostly in their commitment to extending equal rights and privileges to everyone.

Note: ODT is the file format used by OpenOffice Writer, which is free software you can download and run on almost any computer you might have. The file format is public, so other non-free software like Microsoft Word (since 2007) can also read, display, and edit the files.


Supreme Court Hearings and Other Injustices

The Senate Judiciary Committee held its rubber-stamp hearings on Trump's nomination of Amy Coney Barrett this week, exposing Republican Senators as the hypocrites and opportunists you surely by now recognized them to be.

Kate Aronoff: This Supreme Court was designed to kill climate policies: "Polluters helped build the court's conservative majority. Would Democratic laws stand a chance against it?"

Donald B Ayer/Alan Charles Raul: Naked Republican hypocrisy is destroying trust in Supreme Court: Reagan, Bush lawyers. Not just the Court. Pretty much every institution they touch.

Jamelle Bouie: Which Constitution is Amy Coney Barrett talking about? "Her originalism ignores the significance of the second American Revolution." I've long thought that the charm of "originalism" for judges like Scalia is that it could mean whatever you wanted it to mean.

John Cassidy: The Amy Coney Barrett Supreme Court hearings are an enlightening sham.

Fabiola Cineas: The Breonna Taylor case proves that prosecutors have too much power: "Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron didn't pursue murder charges for the cops who killed Breonna Taylor. Here's how that happened." Interview with Kami Chavis.

Ryan D Doerfler/Samuel Moyn: Making the Supreme Court safe for democracy: "Beyond packing schemes, we need to diminish the high court's power."

Jeannie Suk Gersen: How would Amy Coney Barrett rule as a Supreme Court justice?

Melissa Gira Grant: Amy Coney Barrett's gentle deceptions: "The Supreme Court nominee would have us believe she's just a vessel for the law, but her rise to conservative power tells the real story."

Rebecca Kirszner Katz: Dianne Feinstein made a mess of the Barrett hearings. There is a better way.

Simon Lazarus: The dishonesty of Amy Coney Barrett's "textualist" pose.

Christopher Leonard: Charles Koch's big bet on Barrett: "For almost 50 years, the multibillionaire has been pushing for a court unfriendly to regulation of the market. He may be on the brink of victory."

Nancy LeTourneau: Dark money interests are buying the Supreme Court. People tend to think that the political struggle over the Supreme Court is bound up with culture war, but most law suits are about money, and if you look into the dark money being pumped into promoting nominees like Barrett, you'll wind up seeing a healthy return on investment for right-wing judges.

Whitehouse ended his presentation by addressing what these dark money donors want from the court in return for their investment. While it's true that someone like Barrett was nominated to overturn the Affordable Care Act, Roe v Wade, and Obergefell v Hodges, that is hardly the only agenda. Whitehouse reviewed 80 Supreme Court cases since John Roberts became the Chief Justice that had these things in common:

  1. They were decided 5-4
  2. The 5-4 decision was partisan, with Roberts and the four justices nominated by Republicans in the majority
  3. There was an identifiable Republican donor interest in the case

In every case, the Republican donor interest prevailed. All of those cases were about power, Whitehouse explained, noting that they generally fit into four categories.

  1. Allowed unlimited and dark money in politics
  2. Knocked the civil jury system down
  3. Weakened regulatory agencies
  4. Suppressed the vote

Susannah Luthi: Not just Obamacare: How Supreme Court's conservative majority could remake American health care. Or unmake, or maybe demolish is the better word. Still, there is a reason to be doubtful (or is it hopeful?): ACA was the last-ditch conservative attempt to salvage an industry which had priced itself out of reach from the vast majority of Americans. Shrinking it, ripping off bandaids like Medicaid, hurts the industry's revenues, and further reveals the system to be horribly unfair and unjust. Republicans opposed ACA not because they had a better idea, but because they realized that its inherently flawed design could be exploited for political gain. At present, Biden and the "moderate" wing of the Democratic Party are still committed to making ACA work. If the court kills it, or wrecks it to the point of ineffectiveness, Democrats will have no choice but to adopt a more viable strategy, like Medicare-for-all. And if the Court kills that too, it'll be time to get a better Supreme Court.

Ruth Marcus: Republicans have no standing to complain about court-packing.

Josh Marshall: It's not 'court packing.' Don't be a moron and call it that.

Nick Martin: Mitch McConnell's election dreams are voters' waking nightmares.

Ian Millhiser:

Anna North: Why Republicans keep talking about Amy Coney Barrett's 7 kids. "Republicans are talking about Barrett's kids to make her sound empathetic." "They're also trying to paint liberals as anti-feminist."

Alex Pareene: Supreme Court justices are politicians, too: "And just like Republican politicians, the conservative justices are dedicated to preserving the right's minority rule."

Kate Riga: The long con that culminated with the Amy Coney Barrett nomination.

Aaron Rupar: Amy Coney Barrett refused to say if Trump can delay the election. The correct answer is he can't.

David Sirota/Andrew Perez/Walker Bragman: Amy Coney Barrett is the Supreme Court justice big oil needs. Well, certainly wants. Her father was a long-time attorney for Shell Oil, which has litigation pending before the Court.

Amy Davidson Sorkin: Amy Coney Barrett's silence is an expression of extremism.

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: pray, grin and Barrett. "What I learned watching the Amy Coney Barrett hearings: Any Supreme Court precedent ACB won't discuss is one she's willing, if not eager, to overturn." Lots more here, including an item noting that insulin costs 10 times as much in the US as the OECD average, and that almost 5,000 people have died in prisons over the last 10 years while they were still awaiting trial. Also, this item I wasn't aware of:

In 1989, Reds' great Joe Morgan, who died this week, was racially profiled and falsely arrested at LAX. Then the cops lied about him becoming "violent." Morgan sued and won a $500K judgement against LAPD and $800K from City of LA. Morgan's case, along with Rodney King's beating, which happened shortly afterwards, helped rip the veil off of what was really going on inside the LAPD.

Li Zhou:

  • 5 key moments from day 3 of Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court hearing.

    • Barrett says she hasn't spoken out in support of the Affordable Care Act, though she's criticized past decisions upholding it
    • Barrett wouldn't say whether Griswold v. Connecticut was rightly decided, which other nominees have commented on in the past
    • Barrett wouldn't take a position on climate change
    • Barrett declined to comment on whether Trump could pardon himself
    • Lindsey Graham tried to appeal to Republican women
  • Amy Coney Barrett describes climate change as a "very contentious matter of public debate". For whatever it's worth, I don't think it matters what Barrett thinks about climate change, except inasmuch as it reflects on her intelligence and public morals. What does matter is whether she would use the Court to block legal efforts to address the problem. And that is just one example of many where she seems likely to put political interests above majority opinion. Of course, as long as Congress and the President are unwilling to take action against climate change, the Court has no bearing on the matter.

Campaigns and Elections

Trump pulled out of the second presidential debate, not because he was infected with coronavirus but because he refused to participate in a virtual town hall set up to prevent further infections. In place of the debate, both candidates held separate town halls, on different channels. The effect was widely commented on below. Trump has since been sinking in the polls, while scurrying around to "superspreader" events, his pace feverish, his dementia increasingly obvious. And as Trump has struggled, more Republicans down ballot have also slipped in the polls. Some of those races are touched on below, but I'm not all that interested into turning this column into a handicapping report.

Vox [Ella Nilsen, Zack Beauchamp, Emily Stewart, German Lopez, Dylan Scott, Jane Coaston]: 5 winners and 3 losers from the dueling Trump-Biden town halls: Winners: Joe Biden; Substance; FOMO [fear of missing out]; Savannah Guthrie; QAnon. Losers: Donald Trump; The individual mandate; Trump's purported toughness. A very rare win for a moderator.

Washington Monthly: Live blog: The Biden-Trump town halls.

Jake Bittle: The media's obsession with the mythical Republican swing voter.

Aaron Blake: Democrats' stunning fundraising.

Aaron Calvin: A desperate Trump rallies in Iowa as he cancels ads, loses ground. I don't see the quote here, but remember reading somewhere that Trump said that if he lost in November, he's never coming back to Iowa. I have trouble seeing that threat as reason to vote for him.

If he loses Iowa, it will be seen as a referendum on his national response to the coronavirus. Few states have embodied Trump's mandate to "not be afraid" of Covid-19 like Iowa has. Since the early days of the pandemic's spread through the United States, Iowa's unified Republican state government and particularly its governor have been lockstep with Trump, refusing to institute a statewide mask mandate and keeping masks optional for in-person learning. Iowa surpassed California in cases-per-million in early September and hasn't looked back.

Chas Danner: Trump is still targeting Governor Gretchen Whitmer after foiled kidnapping plot. Also:

David Edwards: Trump Jr says dad's 'next move' is to 'break up' the FBI: 'He has to get rid of these things'. Promises, promises.

Dan Froomkin: A dueling town halls upside: Media finally focuses on the wide gulf between Biden and Trump.

Amy Gardner: 'My people fought for the right to vote': With a surge of emotion, Black Americans rush to the polls.

Stanley B Greenberg: How Trump is losing his base: "Focus groups with working-class and rural voters show the deep health care crisis in America, and trouble for Trump's re-election." In general, Trump has been really awful for those parts of his base, but it's pretty arbitrary how that damage has hit individuals, and even those who have suffered have to be able to imagine an alternative, amid all the Trump lies and scapegoating. Another piece:

Jeff Greenfield: Dueling town halls revealed there's no substitute for tough questions.

Makena Kelly: Oracle founder donated $250,000 to Graham PAC in final days of TikTok deal.

Ezra Klein: Biden always understood what this election is about.

Biden was right about the level of our politics right now. He was right about what Americans were looking to hear. The message of Biden's town hall was simple: Politics can feel like this -- gentle, decent, concerned, I hope I've answered your question -- or it could continue to feel like the circus you found if you flipped over to Trump's town hall on NBC.

Natasha Korecki/Anita Kumar: 'He's getting a bit desperate': Trump tramples government boundaries as election nears.

Andy Kroll: NBC's Trump town hall was pointless and shameful.

Paul Krugman:

  • Mitch McConnell's mission of misery: "Why Senate Republicans won't help Americans in need."

    But even if Trump had any idea what he was doing, he would be paralyzed by the opposition of many, probably most Senate Republicans to any serious deal. They're willing to cover for Trump's unprecedented corruption; they're apparently unbothered by his fondness for foreign dictators. But spending money to help Americans in distress? That's where they draw the line.

  • How the GOP can still wreck America: "Even if Trump loses, his party can do immense damage." Gives several examples, but the most obvious and pressing way Republicans can extend their minority power beyond Trump's term is by packing the Supreme Court.

    In the hearings for Amy Coney Barrett, Democrats have, rightly and understandably, hammered on the possibility that such a court would use transparently spurious arguments to overturn the Affordable Care Act, causing tens of millions of Americans to lose health insurance coverage. Roe v. Wade is also in obvious danger.

    But I'd argue that the biggest threat this court will pose is to environmental policy.

    Put it this way: Charles Koch is reportedly investing millions trying to get Barrett confirmed. That's not because he's passionately opposed to abortion rights, or, probably, even because he wants the A.C.A. overturned. What he's looking for, surely, is a court that will block government regulation of business -- and above all a court that will hamstring a Biden administration's efforts to take action against climate change.

Lisa Lerer: 'Please like me,' Trump begged. For many women, it's way too late. And no, none of them said they wouldn't vote for a woman. More like:

Samantha Kacmarik, a Latina college student in Las Vegas, said that four years ago, she had viewed Hillary Clinton as part of a corrupt political establishment.

Flowers Forever, a Black transgender music producer in Milwaukee, said she had thought Mrs. Clinton wouldn't change anything for the better.

And Thomas Moline, a white retired garbageman in Minneapolis, said he simply hadn't trusted her.

Not clear to me that those are reasons for voting for Biden either, but they are reasons for not voting for Trump ever again.

Lisa Lerer/Reid J Epstein: Why these voters rejected Hillary Clinton but are backing Joe Biden.

Martin Longman: That Ukraine, New York Post story? It's a big nothingburger. More:

Dylan Matthews: Why the Trump campaign is complaining so much about NBC's Savannah Guthrie: "The Trump campaign and allies are now 'working the refs' after the president's brutal town hall."

Rani Molla: The many ways we know 2020 will be a banner year for voting.

Anna North: In 2017, women marched against Trump. Now they're marching to get rid of him. "This time the Women's March is about voting Trump out."

Andrew Prokop: Trump team makes a suspicious effort to swing the election with purported Hunter Biden emails.

Frank Rich: America is tired of the Trump show. I think that will prove to be the bottom line for a critical segment of the electorate, some of whom sat out 2016 and others who figured they had nothing to lose in taking a chance on Trump. EJ Dionne once wrote a book called Why Americans Hate Politics. It wasn't as enlightening as I had hoped, but does clearly describe an impulse that many people feel -- one, quite frankly, I wish I could share. Getting rid of Trump won't make politics boring again, but it will significantly reduce the agita.

Aaron Rupar:

Greg Sargent: How Republicans will try to destroy a Biden presidency. This really just comes down to extortion: elect us or face the consequences, as we'd rather cripple America than let a Democrat succeed.

Dylan Scott:

  • The next presidential debate is the last one. Trump needs to make up a lot of ground.

  • Trump refuses to say the QAnon conspiracy theory is false. I admit to a bit of sympathy with Trump on this question. He starts out saying, "I don't know anything about QAnon." I could have said that. Sure, I've read a bit about it, but nothing sticks because nothing much makes sense. On the other hand, for many people left-of-center, condemning QAnon is a bit of virtue signaling. Granted, it seems like everyone who's into QAnon is also supporting Trump, but isn't the more tangible problem there supporting Trump? In recent venues, Trump has been repeated taunted with invitations to condemn white supremacists. I'd answer that, "Look, I don't want to condemn anyone." Then I'd go on to explain that white supremacy is bad and hurtful, and should be opposed anywhere and everywhere it pops up. But condemning people? No, I'd rather not. Unless you're talking about individuals who not only spout bad and hurtful ideas but have the power to act on them. For such individuals, like, you know, Donald Trump, sure, condemn away. Moreover, it's not like Trump refuses to condemn people on principle. He condemns people all the time, both individually and in sweeping groups.

  • How Joni Ernst went from future Republian star to an incumbent on the ropes in 2020. Not sure what's so surprising here. She played on experience castrating pigs for a genius campaign slogan in 2014: "Make 'em squeal!" On the other hand, do we really want "Keep 'em squealing"? Republicans have often sold their campaigns as some kind of revenge fantasy, but it rarely turns out that the people who get hurt are the ones you were hoping for. Ernst, like Trump, has built up a huge chasm between hopes and returns.

Walter Shapiro: The whiplash of watching two town halls from different planets: "I watched both Joe Biden and Donald Trump on Thursday night. It was like channel surfing between sanity and chaos."

Alex Shephard: NBC did Joe Biden a big favor: "By scheduling a dueling town hall, the former vice president got the perfect contrast with a raving Donald Trump."

Emily Stewart: Savannah Guthrie delivered the Trump interview we've been wanting for years.

Matt Stieb: Trump's latest Biden insult: 'He'll listen to the scientists'.

Matthew Yglesias: The delightful boringness of Joe Biden.

The dirty secret of Donald Trump's often contentious relationship with the American press is that he's been great for business.

Any time you point a camera at Trump, something crazy might happen. He goes on television and insists that his attorney general prosecute his political opponents. Biden, asked about legal accountability for Trump-era misdeeds, said it would be inappropriate for the president to be making that kind of decision. He tries to take contentious flashpoint issues and smother them in reasonableness and a broad sense of public decency. As a journalist whose job involves trying to write articles people want to read, I was, frankly, sad to have been assigned to watch the Biden town hall, which was just not that interesting.

This section picks up stories that don't exactly dovetail into the campaign, but deal with Trump and/or his administration over time.

Jonathan Chait:

Michelle Cottle: The self-dealing administration. Probably the most corrupt administration in American history. Certainly the most shameless about it.

With so much grift and graft and self-enrichment swirling about, it's amusing -- and yet horrifying -- to recall that Mr. Trump ran in 2016 as a tough, independent outsider who would bring in the "best people" to help him clean up political corruption. Today, as election night looms, the president's campaign has reportedly booked the Trump International Hotel in D.C. for a victory party. Rooms sold out months ago.

Forget draining the swamp; the president slapped his name on it and began charging admission.

Igor Derysh:

Spencer S Hsu: Federal judge strikes down Trump plan to slash food stamps for 700,000 unemployed Americans. For background, see:

Mara Hvistendahl/Lee Fang: China's man in Washington: "Move over, Hunter Biden. Meet Eric Branstad, the China Ambassador's son who got rich in Trump's swamp."

Sonali Kolhatkar: In Trump's America, there is death before due process.

Robert Mackey: Trump boasts about federal task force killing anti-fascist wanted for murder in Portland.

Nicole Narea: Trump's obstruction of the 2020 census, explained.

Cameron Peters: Why Trump flip-flopped on California disaster relief.

Robert J Shapiro: Trump's tax wizardry is even more sophisticated than you thought. This is a fascinating explanation of how Trump does business.

Millions of Americans believe that Donald Trump is a business failure who cheats on his taxes. But to borrow one of his favorite insults, the president may not be "the stone-cold loser," many imagine. In some ways, he's a success even considering his businesses generate vast losses, and he personally liable for the hundreds of millions of dollars in bank loans and junk bonds borrowed by those businesses. Instead, think of Trump as practicing an extreme alchemy of the shameless rich: He uses loans from other people to generate millions in annual tax losses as a tax shelter from millions in annual income.

How he does it is the fascinating and, perhaps, illegal part.

Alex Shephard: What did Carlos Lozada learn from reading 150 Trump books? "Not much!" Review of Lozada's book, What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era. I've been looking for, but haven't found, a list of those 150 books. I'm curious how they stack up against my Trump Books and More Trump Books surveys. More on Lozada:

Sheryl Gay Stolberg: White House embraces a declaration from scientists that opposes lockdowns and relies on 'herd immunity.' Document came from a libertarian think tank (American Institute for Economic Research). Article doesn't mention Sweden, where something like this was tried, and failed badly.

Philip Weiss: Trump stumps for Nobel Prize, saying US troops can come home if Israel has peace.

Philip Weiss/James North: Adelsons got a lot from Trump for $75 million -- but media won't tell you what.

The news late yesterday was that Sheldon and Miriam Adelson poured $75 million in September into a new super PAC that supports Donald Trump. Way more money than other donors, on either side.

Around the World

Enough world news pieces this week to merit their own section.

Julia Belluz: The 4 simple reasons Germany is managing Covid-19 better than its neighbors.

Glenn Greenwald: Bolivians return Evo Morales's party to power one year after a US-applauded coup. Election was held on Sunday. Some other links from earlier in the week:

William Hartung: How to stuff the Middle East with weaponry.

Steve Hendrix/Ruth Eglash: Israel ordered a second lockdown in response to coronavirus resurgence. It is not going so well.

Jen Kirby: The EU and the UK still haven't reached a post-Brexit agreement. What's next?

Michael Klare: A game of nuclear chicken with Russia and China.

Anna North: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wins historic reelection.

Cameron Peters: Thailand's protest movement gains momentum amid a government crackdown.

Lili Pike: How the world's biggest emitter could be carbon neutral by 2050: "Xi Jinping wants China to get to net-zero emissions. These researchers have a plan for that."

Alex Ward:

  • North Korea has unveiled new weapons, showing Trump failed to tame its nuclear program.

  • What Trump got right -- and wrong -- with North Korea, explained by a former intel official: Interview with Markus Garlauskas, who comes off as very dumb, especially in his conclusion: "We have to be willing to go back to a 2017 level of confrontation. If Kim senses that the US is more afraid of war than he is, he has the advantage." What difference does "advantage" mean in a nuclear confrontation? Where both sides have the ability to inflict grievous damage upon the other, there can be no such thing as winning. The failure to negotiate an end to the 1950-53 War is the result of several asymmetries. The balance of terror favors the US, but even when it was much greater than it is now, it was never enough to force North Korea into capitulation. Indeed, it's only with the leveling of the balance of vulnerability that the US has shown any interest in any sort of agreement. (Granted, the destruction of North Korea would be more complete, but the US has much more to lose than does one of the poorest and most isolated countries in the world.) But the really dangerous asymmetry is of stakes. Normalizing relations would make all the difference in the world to North Korea, yet until North Korea developed a credible nuclear threat, the Americans were happy to bottle up and ignore North Korea. Trump failed to negotiate a deal because he was unwilling to compromise on sanctions, even after North Korea had backed down from the threats implied by its nuclear and missile testing programs. The net result was that North Korea got nothing tangible for its concessions, so has no reason to continue with them.

  • Russia and China will join the UN Human Rights Council. The US should too. Seems to me like it's a rather moot point until such time as the US actually develops an even-handed concern for human rights, as opposed to the current practice of charging countries it doesn't like while excusing those it considers allies. Should that happen -- at the least it involves defeating Trump, but electing Biden is no guarantee, especially viz Israel -- then I can see plusses trying to work with Russia and China within UNHCR, even though neither has close to a sterling record. The US record leaves much to be desired, too.

And then there's everything else.

Patrick Blanchfield: The town that went feral: "When a group of libertarians set about scrapping their local government, chaos descended. And then the bears moved in." Town and bears are in New Hampshire. Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling wrote a book about it: A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (and Some Bears).

John Cassidy: The great coronavirus divide: Wall Street profits surge as poverty rises.

David Daley: Inside the Republican plot for permanent minority rule: "How the GOP keeps cheating its way into power -- and may get away with it again in 2020." Daley is the author of the book on GOP gerrymandering: Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy, and more recently, Unrigged: How Americans Are Battling Back to Save Democracy.

Steve Fraser: Was American history a conspiracy? Somehow I missed Fraser's book, Mongrel Firebugs and Men of Property: Capitalism and Class Conflict in American History (paperback, 2019, Verso), although I did read Every Man a Speculator: A History of Wall Street in American Life (2006), The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power (2015), and Class Matters: The Strange Career of an American Delusion (2018).

We live in conspiratorial times. The decline of the United States as an uncontestable super-power and its descent into plutocratic indifference to the wellbeing of the commonwealth is the seedbed of such conspiracy-mindedness. Soldiers are sent off to fight interminable wars of vague purpose against elusive "enemies" with no realistic prospect of resolution, much less American-style "victory" whatever that might mean these days. "Dark money" undermines what's left of democratic protocols and ideals. Gross and still growing inequalities in the distribution of wealth and income are accepted year after year as business as usual.

All of this breeds entirely justified resentment and suspicion.

Gabrielle Gurley: Like Southwest Louisiana, FEMA is worn down.

Bob Henson: Iowa derecho in August was ost costly thunderstorm disaster in US history.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs: Refugees who assisted the US military find the door to America slammed shut: "President Trump has reduced the flow of refugees into the country to a trickle, and even Iraqis and Afghans who risked their lives for American service members have been cut off." As someone who opposed those wars from the git-go, this doesn't bother me much, nor am I surprised: I never thought America's commitment to liberating people abroad was sincere or even serious. On the other hand, the historical rule of thumb was that colonizers and imperialists would honor commitments made to people who helped them despite widespread resistance. That is, after all, why the UK and France have substantial minorities who emigrated from their former colonies. Even the US has substantial minorities of Cubans and Vietnamese. (Anti-communist refugees proved to be an advantage for the far right. Even now, see: Will flag-waving Latinos win Florida for Trump?) But the War on Terror was never anything more than a cynical effort to demonstrate America's supposedly awesome power and use it to cower the Muslim World.

German Lopez: 2020's marijuana legalization ballot measures, explained. Full legalization is on ballots in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota. South Dakota also has a medical marijuana referendum, as does Mississippi.

Timothy Noah: The media's both-sides brigade is wrong about a Covid-19 stimulus deal.

ZoŽ Richards: Man arrested in threat to kidnap and kill Wichita Mayor over mask mandate. Mayor Whipple has done a good job of listening to folks bitch about masks while guiding a series of mask mandates through the City Council (always in conflict with the Sedgwick County Commission, which has a 4-1 asshole majority). Evidently Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) has also received threats. Richards also wrote: Northam says white supremacists are taking 'marching orders' from Trump.

Nathan J Robinson/Rob Larson: Big business and its bottomless bootlickers: Review of Tyler Cowen's new book, Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero.

Dylan Scott: America's newest wave of Covid-19 cases, explained. "Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations are up across the country." Trend line is up since mid-September. Kansas as set records 3-4 weeks in a row. We have friends in Massachusetts who just tested positive. There are more famous names in the news.

Brittany Shammas/Lena H Sun: How the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally may have spread coronavirus across the Upper Midwest.

Jennifer Szalai: A undercover trip into the rageful worlds of incels and white supremacists: Review of Talia Lavin: Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy.

But she doesn't leave it at that, and one of the marvels of this furious book is how insolent and funny Lavin is; she refuses to soft-pedal the monstrous views she encounters, and she clearly takes pleasure in cutting them down to size. She is aided in her mission by the fact that the language of extremists tends to occupy the space between risible and profoundly dumb. Contemporary white supremacy is a mishmash of old anti-Semitic tropes, racist pseudoscience and bizarre fantasia -- what Lavin calls a "bigot's pastiche." The people who promulgate it often toggle between cruel, inane jokes and a fastidious humorlessness. "Anything," Lavin writes, "an errant wind, a dumb tweet, a conspiracy theory invented from whole cloth -- can drum up the forces of white grievance."

Libby Watson:

  • The Democrats aren't serious about campaign finance reform: They obviously weren't serious after the 2008 elections, which gave them the Presidency and huge majorities in Congress, probably because the one thing most of those winners had in common was a knack for raising money. This year Democrats are doing even better at fundraising (see Aaron Blake above). On the other hand, aren't you really sick and tired of this system?

  • Ben Sasse is a fraud: "The hard-line Republican senator wants us to believe he's a Never Trumper again, after making peace with the president last year." Nevertheless, he hit a nerve: see Trump fires back as Sasse after town hall criticism.

Matthew Yglesias: The quest to build the most diverse Cabinet in US history, explained. This is all very depressing to think about now, not least because making bad picks -- and let's face it, most of the touted candidates are pretty deeply wedged into the old status quo -- diminishes the idea of an open future. But also because Clinton tried the whole "Cabinet that looks like America" shtick, and while he met his quotas on race and sex (and whatever), he wound up with a lot of rich folk working to make the rich richer, with the "trickle down" mostly shunted off to his foundation and political machine. But even with all due skepticism, one shouldn't get too bent out of shape by these prospects. Even his most compromised picks are as much better than Trump's picks as Biden himself is better than Trump.