Monday, May 22, 2023
Speaking of Which
Let this be done. I'd rather go watch the basketball game -- well,
practically anything -- than keep digging up more articles I have to
comment on. Especially ones that suggest that Biden's is not going
to do the right thing and tell the Republicans where to stuff their
Top story threads:
Trump: He didn't do much new this week, but he's still the
cutting edge of Republican dystopia, so might as well hang onto the
top slot here.
Ed Burmila: [05-21]
How Trump left Washington even swampier: "The battle for power and
influence in the nation's capital is more shameless, desperate, and
embarrassing than ever."
Michael Tomasky: [05-18]
Donald Trump against America: "He loves an America of his twisted
imagination. He hates -- and fears -- the America that actually exists.
And if he gets back to the White House . . . look out." I would have
skipped over the diatribe on Trump's call for "peace without delay" in
Ukraine, and I wouldn't have interpreted "reevaluating NATO's purpose"
as "giving Putin a free hand in what the Russian dictator calls the
'near abroad.'" Trump had similar sentiments when he became president
in 2017, but failed to do anything constructive about them, and would
likely find the State/Defense/CIA blob equally inpenetrable in 2025.
His real threat is elsewhere, as Tomasky goes on to demonstrate: in
2016 he sold a vision that he could "make America great again," and
declared America "great" as soon as he got elected -- not that many
people noticed much change. But like a bad movie sequel, this time
he's out for redemption and revenge. There are people who will relish
just that, but a majority? Even outside of the America he's written
off, the one he's sworn to destroy, that's going to be a tall order.
Michael Tomasky: [05-19]
Did Donald Trump seriously sell pardons? The question is being
raised in a complaint against Rudy Giuliani, along with much more.
For that, see Prem Thakker: [05-16]
Rudy Giuliani is a raging alcoholic and sexual predator, says new
Alexandra Berzon/Rebecca Davis O'Brien: [05-20]
Air DeSantis: The private jets and secret donors flying him
Jamelle Bouie: [05-19]
The four freedoms, according to Republicans: Unlike Roosevelt's
four freedoms, these are more like licenses, which privilege one
group of people at the expense of others:
There is the freedom to control -- to restrict the bodily autonomy of
women and repress the existence of anyone who does not conform to
traditional gender roles.
There is the freedom to exploit -- to allow the owners of business
and capital to weaken labor and take advantage of workers as they see
There is the freedom to censor -- to suppress ideas that challenge
and threaten the ideologies of the ruling class.
And there is the freedom to menace -- to carry weapons wherever you
please, to brandish them in public, to turn the right of self-defense
into a right to threaten other people.
Gillian Brockell: [05-21]
Ron DeSantis's context-free history book vanished online. We got a
copy. The title of the 2011 book is Dreams From Our Founding
Fathers: First Principles in the Age of Obama, which "in title,
cover and content, is essentially a troll of former president Barack
Obama's 1995 memoir Dreams From My Father.
Thomas B Edsall: [04-12]
The Republican strategists who have carefully planned all of this.
Quotes Rachel Kleinfeld: "On the right, support for violence is no
longer a fringe position."
Melissa Gira Grant: [05-19]
Christian nationalism has prevailed in Texas. Trans teens will suffer.
Ellen Ioanes: [05-20]
How Republican states are eroding local democracy: "Republican
leaders in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Texas are targeting Democratic
communities and institutions."
Michael Kruse: [05-19]
The Casey DeSantis problem: 'His greatest asset and his greatest
liability': Fairly long piece, with lots of evidence that she's
the brains and grit behind her rather pathetic husband. Joan Walsh
is skeptical: [05-19]
The case against Casey DeSantis. Really? Or maybe she just dislikes
the insinuations, having heard much the same about Hillary Clinton?
The staggering fine print of Texas and Florida's new anti-trans
DeSantis's feud with Disney is costing Florida -- and possibly his
2024 campaign: Disney is scrapping a "$1 billion investment in
Florida." Normally I'd respect a politician who stands up to big
business interests trying to shake down state and local governments,
but that's not why DeSantis has picked this fight. For a bit more,
see David Kurtz: [05-19]
Stop calling DeSantis v. Disney a feud! "A tinpot governor with
proto-fascist tendencies is trying to bend a multinational corporation
with a footprint in his state to his will, make them compliant and
subservient, and cow not just other corporations but other institutional
power centers, like universities." One more point should be added:
DeSantis is doing these things to build up Florida as an example of
what he wants to do all across America, should he get the chance.
In one sense, he's brilliant, in that he can demonstrate "facts on
the ground" instead of just rhetoric. On the other hand, they are
nearly all malign, and people should be able to see that. This also
gives his presidential campaign a sense of urgency, as he can't
afford to skip this round and let people see how badly Florida is
going to turn out. Good chance that by the end of his term, his
approval rate is going to wind up near 10% -- where Sam Brownback
wound up in Kansas after writing crackpot laws through two terms.
(I'm less clear on the details, but Bobby Jindal and Chris Christie
are probably two more examples of what happens with bad governors
get their way.)
Tori Otten: [05-19]
Nebraska passes double-whammy bill banning abortion and trans kids'
health care. For another view on Nebraska, see Lila Shapiro:
'I want the bloody hands recorded': "Machaela Cavanaugh's
tear-and-rage-filled filibuster of the anti-trans bill she knew
would probably pass anyway."
Rachel Roubein/Caroline Kitchener/Colby Itkowitz: [05-20]
Republicans deploy new playbook for abortion bans, citing political
backlash: "GOP lawmakers in North Carolina and Nebraska are casting
new 12-week bans as 'mainstream.'" That's only because they couldn't
convince enough Republicans to back even stricter bans. Their "playbook"
remains take all they can get.
Li Zhou: [05-18]
Montana just banned TikTok. Will it actually work?
Economy and Debt:
Jen Kirby: [05-19]
What a debt default could mean for America's superpower status:
Interview with Marcus Noland, mostly about the demand for US Treasuries
and dollars abroad. One side effect could be that it becomes harder to
enforce US sanctions against target nations. Given that sanctions rarely
work, that doesn't strike me as much of a problem, but there are people
with a lot of money at stake, and long-term this gives other nations
incentive to cut the US out of their banking systems.
Death, Napoleon and debt: Just the fundamentals. Anyone who claims
that governments should pay off their debts like individual have to is
profoundly stupid, or (more likely) trying to snow you. Individuals age
and die, so their creditors need to get repaid before they lose out.
But governments go on and on, usually with growing economy and taxes,
so all they have to do is service the debt, which is easy (especially
if it is denominated in currency you control).
Will the US economy pull off a 'soft landing'? His definition is
unemployment under 4% and inflation under 3%. Over the last few months
inflation has come down a lot while unemployment has increased little,
so this convergence seems plausible. However, if the Fed holds to its
2% inflation target, and insists on achieving it through high interest
rates and induced recession, this would get bumpier.
How Biden blew it on the debt ceiling. This was written a few days
ago, when Biden and McCarthy were meeting, and signals appeared that
some sort of deal was imminent. As of the moment [05-21] that prospect
appears to have been quashed by the Republicans, who are greedy and/or
Jason Linkins: [05-20]
The Beltway media is spreading debt limit misinformation: "The
political press bears a share of the blame for the fact we are once
again on the precipice of default."
Branko Marcetic: [05-19]
The debt ceiling crisis is laying bare the lies both parties tell
Jeff Stein: [05-14]
7 doomsday scenarios if the US crashes through the debt ceiling:
stocks crash; a sudden recession; federal workers in limbo; Social
Security and Medicare miss payments; US borrowing costs soar; economic
problems spread worldwide; the dollar drops, along with US prestige.
As one commenter puts it: "These outcomes read like a GOP Wish List.
If they can make things bad enough people would welcome a strongman
dictator, particularly a fascist like 45 who will blame it all on
minorities, immigrants, gays, Democrats, nasty Women, etc., etc."
Still, this is one problem that Trump actually could solve in a day,
inasmuch as all it would take is for Republicans in Congress to pass
a bill that raises the debt limit (as they did repeatedly for Trump).
Stein's piece was recycled from
an earlier one. He's been covering this issue with little insight
into either the politics or economics. A recent piece is [05-20]
GOP rejects White House compromise to limit spending as talks stall,
partly because debt-conscious Republicans want even higher defense
Dean Baker: [05-21]
Quick note on the debt burden and the burden of patent and copyright
Ukraine War: Russia claims to have
taken Bakhmut after a
nine-month siege. Ukraine denies this, but are
pushing forces to encircle city. Meanwhile, Ukraine hasn't quite
gotten around to its much-ballyhooed spring offensive, but has started to
test Russian lines on southern front.
Blaise Malley: [05-19]
Diplomacy Watch: African nations plan peace mission. Malley also
National security experts: War in Ukraine is an 'unmitigated disaster':
"Signers say the conflict will be 'our undoing' if we don't 'dedicate
ourselves to forging a diplomatic settlement that stops the killing.'"
Only 14 names on the letter/ad
U.S. Should Be a Force for Peace in the World) -- the best known
is probably Lawrence Wilkerson (second to Bush Secretary of State Colin
Powell), or Jeffrey Sachs (who advised Russia on their disastrous hard
turn to oligarchy in the 1990s); three I recognize from
Astore, Karen Kwiatowski, and Ann Wright), so I'm rather skeptical
that this well-reasoned missive will make an impression on those still
committed to "giving war a chance."
Peter Baker: [05-21]
Russia's latest sanctions on US officials turn to Trump enemies.
This is a silly parlor game, where most of the people listed will
take it as a compliment, and others not listed will feel left out.
Few, if any, will feel anything else. Not many names I recognize,
but Stephen Colbert will certainly be delighted.
James Bamford: [05-05]
The Nord Stream explosions: New revelations about motive, means, and
opportunity: Argues that Ukraine's clandestine services had means
(underwater drones capable of placing 500 kg explosive charges) and
opportunity (including support from Poland) to blow up the Nord Stream
Robert L Borosage: [04-27]
The Left should support ending violence in Ukraine: As should we
all. The war will only end in some kind of negotiated settlement, and
it really must end, even if you would like to see Putin and Russia
defeated more decisively.
Daniel L Davis: [05-21]
F-16s won't fundamentally alter the course of Ukraine War: At
least not this year, which gives more credence to Dave DeCamp:
US preparing for Ukraine War to become a frozen conflict.
Russia says West providing F-16s to Ukraine a 'colossal risk'.
William Hartung: [05-17]
US foreign arms and training programs are out of control: Starts
by referring to Charlie Savage/Eric Schmitt: [05-14]
Rules for Pentagon use of proxy forces shed light on a shadowy war
power, which reminds us that "proxy forces" have their own logic
and agenda, which US Special Forces get drawn into.
Nina Burleigh: [05-16]
Who is Leonard Leo's mysterious dark money king? "America needs
to know who Barre Seid is, what kind of country he wants, and just
how massive an impact his $1.6 billion gift can have on our political
Steve Early/Suzanne Gordon: [05-20]
Corporate politicians are privatizing the VA, the crown jewel of
socialized medicine: Phillip Longman wrote a book back in 2007
touting Best Care Anywhere: Why VA Health Care Is Better Than
Yours. The basic reason was that not just insurance but actual
care was fully socialized (directly run by the government). There
were still a couple obvious problems: one is that while veterans
were numerous and evenly distributed following WWII, the number of
people eligible for VA care has steadily declined; the other is
that care is concentrated in large centers, so for many veterans
isn't easily accessible. Horror stories about access has led to
various efforts for the VA to pay for profit-seeking care, which
in turn jacks up costs while reducing quality. And needless to say,
the privatization lobbies are all over this, and up to no good.
Connor Echols: [05-16]
The War on Terror led to over 4.5 million deaths: That works out
to a bit more than 1,000 revenge deaths for every American killed on
9/11. If you factor in American soldiers lost in those wars, the kill
ratio drops to a bit more than 400-to-1. Occupying powers from the
Romans to the Nazis made a point of threatening kill ratios of 10- or
even 100-to-1 to deter rebellion -- a range that Israel has pretty
consistently maintained. Of course, you can reduce the ratio further
by including contractor deaths (8,000), suicides by veterans (30,000),
and deaths of various allies (both local and foreign), but that hardly
offers any comfort. (Some of these numbers come from Brown University's
Costs of War page.)
Lee Harris: [05-17]
Rahm Emmanuel's gas pipeline: "The Biden administration is promoting
a new liquefied natural gas complex on the Pacific Coast, with expanded
subsidies from the bipartisan infrastructure bill and Inflation Reduction
Act." "West Coast" means Alaska. We counted ourselves lucky that Biden
didn't give Emmanuel a post, but the only real difference is that now
he's explicitly working for the oil and gas industry. Article
quotes Lukas Ross: "Rahm Emmanuel did more than any single individual
to sabotage Barack Obama's climate agenda at a time when there were
Patrick Iber: [05-15]
When Milton Friedman met Pinochet: "Chicago economists had free
rein in Chile. The country is still recovering." Review of Sebastian
Edwards: The Chile Project: The Story of the Chicago Boys and the
Downfall of Neoliberalism.
Umair Irfan: [05-17]
It's not just climate disasters. "Normal" weather is getting weirder,
Whizy Kim: [05-19]
The billionaire's guide to self-help: "It's a phenomenon of our
age that entrepreneurs are celebrities at all."
Eric Levitz: [05-19]
The return of the emerging Democratic majority? The 2002 book of
that name, by John Judis and Ruy Teixeira, fell flat, but new research
suggests that young voters (Gen Z/Millennials) have continued to break
for Democrats, and are becoming more dependable voters.
Mark Paul: [05-16]
Economists hate rent control. Here's why they're wrong. In my
own experience, I've always felt landlords enjoyed a huge power
advantage every time a lease was up, as well as all the rest of
the time. So I've long felt that some sort of countervaling power
was needed. Rent control would help, but as this article admits,
that's only goes so far.
Joshua Raff: [05-20]
John Durham's vacuous report: A fitting end to Bill Barr's ugly
legacy: Barr appointed Durham as an independent counsel to dig
into the origins of the 2016 FBI investigation of allegations that
the Trump campaign was in cahoots with the Russians. After four years,
Durham submitted a report, which Attorney General Merrick Garland
released "unexpurgated, unredacted and without comment or commentary."
As someone who never put any stock into that thing called Russiagate,
and who is whatever the polar opposite of shocked is at the suggestion
that the FBI might have been swayed by politics, I have no interest
in the fine points here (if, indeed, there are any). But I'll add a
couple more links (without elevating it to a section):
Becca Rothfeld: [05-18]
How to be a man? Josh Hawley has the (incoherent) answers. Well,
he has a book called Manhood: The Masculine Virtues America Needs,
which the reviewer notes is "the latest in a long line of guides,"
citing others by Jack Donovan, Jordan Peterson, Robert Bly, and
Harvey Mansfeld. Insights? "Men do not 'blame someone or something
else,' such as 'society,' or 'the system,' but men do, apparently,
blame 'Epicurean liberalism' for almost everything that ails them."
And: "A man is a rugged individualist who figures things out for
himself, but he also relies on how-to guides to teach him how to
Dylan Scott: [05-19]
Hundreds of thousands of Americans are losing Medicaid every month:
"Medicaid's 'Great Unwinding' is even worse than experts expected."
Avi Selk/Herb Scribner: [05-16]
Musk says George Soros 'hates humanity,' compares him to Jewish
supervillain. I know nothing about Magneto, but the admission
that the villain "drew inspiration from Zionist leaders Ze'ev
Jabotinsky and Meir Kahane" is troubling on multiple levels. But
what is clear is that Musk views his political antipathy to Soros
as clearly tied to Soros's identity as a Jew. Why Musk thinks that
Soros "hates humanity" and "wants to erode the very fabric of
civilization" isn't specified.
Also on Musk:
Jeffrey St Clair: [05-19]
Roaming Charges: Living With the Unacceptable: Starts with a classic
Dwight MacDonald quote: "The Ford Foundation is a large body of money
completely surrounded by people who want some." Sure, it's part of a
fund appeal, but it doesn't hit you over the head.
Li Zhou: [05-17]
How Democrats pulled off a big upset in Florida: Jacksonville
("the most populous Republican-led city in the country") elected
Donna Deegan mayor.
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