Sunday, February 12, 2017
Running the image again. I doubt I'll really keep that up for four years,
but for now it inspires me to dig up this shit.
Still need to write up something about Matt Taibbi's Insane Clown
President: Dispatches From the 2016 Circus -- recently read, although
it recycles a lot that I had previously read, including a sizable chunk
of Taibbi's 2009 book The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story
of War, Politics, and Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire --
an excavation so profound that Maureen Dowd snarfed up a keyword for her
own regurgitation of campaign columns, The Year of Voting Dangerously:
The Derangement of American Politics (a title which makes me wonder
how she would have faired in Taibbi's 2004 Wimblehack -- see Spanking
the Donkey: Dispatches From the Dumb Season).
Still, I suspect that the weakness of both Taibbi and Dowd books is
their focus on the more obvious story: how ridiculous the Republicans
were (a subject that served Taibbi best in 2008 when he compiled his
brief Smells Like Dead Elephants before taking the time to craft
The Great Deformation). In retrospect, the real story wasn't
how Trump won, but how Hillary Clinton lost. Looking ahead, books by
Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes (Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's
Doomed Campaign, out April 18) and/or Doug Wead (Game of Thorns:
The Inside Story of Hillary Clinton's Failed Campaign and Donald Trump's
Winning Strategy, February 28) promise some insight (or at least
insider dope). Still, I doubt anyone is going to write something that
satisfactorily explains the whole election for some time.
One thing that keeps eating at me about the election is that while
Trump's polls oscillated repeatedly, falling whenever voters got a
chance to compare him side-by-side (as in the debates, or even more
strongly comparing the two conventions), then bouncing back on the
rare weeks when he didn't say something scandalous, Clinton's polls
never came close to topping 50%. She was, in short, always vulnerable,
and all Trump needed to get close was a couple weeks where he seemed
relatively sane (on top of all that Koch money organizing down ballot,
especially in Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, and the Midwest).
I doubt if any other Republican could have beat Clinton: Trump's ace
in the hole was his antithesis to Washington insider-dom, which gave
him credibility she couldn't buy (despite massive evidence that he was
the crooked one). But just as importantly, Trump suckered her into
campaigning on high-minded centrism (including support from nearly
everyone in the permanent defense/foreign affairs eatablishment),
which weakened her support among traditional Democrats. Any other
Republican would have forced her to run as a Democrat, and she would
have been better off for that.
Again, it's not that working people rationally thought they'd be
better off with Trump. It's just that too many didn't feel any affinity
for or solidarity with her. Of course, those who discovered their own
reasons for voting against the Republicans -- which includes the
left, blacks, Latinos, immigrants, single women, and others the
Democrats bank on but don't invest in -- voted for her anyway. But
others needed to be reminded of the differences between the parties,
and Clinton didn't do a good job at that (nor did Obama give her much
to build on, as he almost never blamed Republicans for undermining his
Meanwhile, Trump's net favorability polling is down to -15.
Some links on the Trump world this week:
80,000 March in Raleigh for Voting Rights, Democracy &
Andrew Bacevich: Conservatism After Trump: Still identifying as a
conservative, he hates Trump's populism (even conceding that Bernie
Sanders' would be better). Bacevich is often an astute critic of the
American militarism, but his efforts to map himself onto a left-right
political line are often embarrassing. Also his effort to salvage the
old fascist slogan "America First" -- he argues that Trump "seem[s]
determined to gut the concept" without grasping that the main thing
the concept tries to do is advance an abstract America above and
beyond any actual Americans. Same problem with "Make America Great"
which exalts and projects a hypothetical empire that actually does
nothing for most Americans.
Peter Bergen: Trump's terrorism claim is baloney: Searching a media
database shows that "78 terrorist incidents the White House cited as
under-covered by the media" were the subject of over 80,000 articles.
Ari Berman: House Republicans Just Voted to Eliminate the Only Federal
Agency That Makes Sure Voting Machines Can't Be Hacked
Michelle Chen: Donald Trump's Real Plan for Coal-Mine Workers:
"Safety protections are standing in the way of making coal great
Bryce Covert: Trump's Obsession With Manufacturing Is About Politics,
Not Jobs: "Most of us work in the service sector, but you won't
hear the president talk about that."
James Crabtree: Steve Bannon's War on India's High-Tech Economy. Also,
John Feffer: Steven Bannon's Real Vision Isn't America First. It's
Amy Davidson: The Ninth Circuit Rejects Trumpism
Justin Elliott: Inside Trump's watered-down ethics rules: Now a lobbyist
helps run federal agency he lobbied: Geoff Burr, who used to lobby
"opposing wage standards for federal construction contracts and working
against an effort to limit workers' exposure to dangerous silica dust,"
not works for Trump's Labor Department.
Philip Giraldi: Iran Hawks Take the White House: Specifically,
Michael Flynn ("well known for what his staff referred to as "Flynn
facts," things he would say that were demonstrably untrue"). I'm a
bit surprised that Trump has come out of the gate so belligerent
over Iran. In Syria, for instance, Iran has been allied with Russia
in support of Assad and in opposition to ISIS, and Trump and Flynn
seem to favor a less antagonistic approach to Russia. It would also
make sense for a president who (or so he claims) thought invading
Iraq to be a mistake would like to put a little distance between
the US and Saudi Arabia's military adventurism (with its obsession
Interesting that David Atkins is already complaining,
Why Won't Trump Fire Michael Flynn? Atkins is more worried that
Flynn is soft on Russia than too hard on Iran, but in his own lame
way this sort of highlights how unsuited Flynn is for a position
which has historically required the intellectual flexibility and
moral laxity of a McGeorge Bundy or a Condoleezza Rice. Flynn's only
qualification was his rabidly hysterical antipathy to everything
Obama said or did, so his usefulness to Trump is likely to be very
short-lived. Although most likely Flynn will be pushed out by the
"intelligence community" itself: see
CIA Denies Security Clearance for Top Flynn Aide, and
Cummings: It Would Be 'Appropriate' to Revoke Flynn's Security
Clearance. The New York Times reports further:
Turmoil at the National Security Council, From the Top Down, with
the Editorial Board adding its two cents:
America's So-Called National Security Adviser.
Dino Grandoni: Exxon's Seven-Year Campaign to Kill an Anti-Corruption
Rule Finally Worked
Sean McElwee: Trump's supporters believe a false narrative of white
victimhood -- and the data proves it: that they believe it, not
that it's true:
Trumpism is a movement built around the loss of privilege and perceived
social status and a desire to re-create social hierarchy. It is one that
requires its adherents to live in a state of constant fear and victimization.
This mythology requires extensive ideological work and media filtering to
remain true. Conservatives must create an ideological bubble in which crime
is out of control (instead of hovering near historic lows), the rate of
abortion is rising (instead of falling), refugees are committing terrorist
attacks en masse (they aren't at all) and immigrants are taking jobs (it's
the capitalists), all while the government is funneling money to undeserving
black people (black people receive government support in accordance with
their share of the population, despite making up a disproportionately large
share of the poor). Conservatives, and many in the general public, believe
that Muslims and immigrants (both legal and unauthorized) make up a
dramatically larger share of the population than they actually do.
Bill McKibben: Trump's Pipeline and America's Shame: Trump's decision
to restart the Dakota Access Pipeline seen as a renewal of centuries of
attacks on Native Americans.
Kristin Salaky: Spicer: Nordstrom Dropping Ivanka Trump's Line Is 'Direct
Attack' on Prez: So the White House press secretary, supposedly a
public servant (at least he draws a government paycheck) is working as
a lobbyist for the First Daughter's personal business interests? Pretty
clear that Trump hasn't separated himself from his family's business
interests (as well as that he continues to focus on the petty). Seems
to me like this is just the free market in action, and that Ivanka will
wind up with new, more demographically appropriate partners -- Cabella's,
maybe, or Hobby Lobby?
Paul Woodward: Trump family brand losing its value noted that
Nordstrom's stock closed higher after dumping Ivanka. He also linked
to an article,
Melania Trump Inc. Imperiled, about how Mrs. Trump is suing the
Daily Mail for defamation, claiming that their story undermined her
opportunity to cash in on her newfound fame. As the New York Times
noted, "President Donald Trump and his family have done little to
assuage concerns that they see the White House as a cash cow."
Michelle Goldberg argues that Kellyanne Conway violated the law
by endorsing Ivanka's products on TV, and quotes the relevant section
of law, which is indeed pretty clearly applicable. She winds up
quoting Larry Noble, general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center:
"The system is based on the assumption that people are going to want
to follow the law or enforce it," he says. In 20 days, this administration
has exploded that assumption. "They are stress-testing our democracy,"
says Noble. "What happens if the administration just refuses to follow
the laws and Congress doesn't want to do anything about it?"
Speaking of Spicer, also see
Esme Cribb: Spicer: Questioning Success of Yemen Raid Does 'Disservice'
to KIA Commando: I would have thought that being sent on that
ill-conceived and botched raid was the real disservice to the commando,
but you know, when threatened, terrorists always try to hide behind
Richard Silverstein: As Bibi Readies for Trump Summit, He Dumps Two-States
for "State-Minus": Sounds like a revival of the Bantustan project,
although I doubt it's that benign. Also see
Ayman Odeh: Israel Bulldozes Democracy:
Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Netanyahu used blatant race-baiting tactics to win
his last election, in 2015. Since then, he has made discrimination
against Palestinian citizens of Israel central to his agenda. This
takes many forms; a particularly painful one is his government's
racist, unjust land use and housing policies.
Jacob Sugarman: Officials heate each other: 5 disturbing revelations about
what's happening inside Trump's White House: Not a lot of red meat
here, but it's totally plausible that factions around Reince Priebus,
Steve Bannon, and Jared Kushner have very different agendas and are prone
to sabotaging one another. Also that Trump himself doesn't have a clue.
Matt Taibbi: The End of Facts in the Trump Era:
A primary characteristic of any authoritarian situation, from East Germany
to high school, is the total uselessness of facts and evidence as a defense
against anything. Trump is in the White House because he and his people
understood this from the start. His movement isn't about facts. All that
matters to his followers is that blame stays fixed in the right direction.
Glad he mentioned high school, although most of corporate America is
even worse (i.e., more authoritarian, or we leftists like to call it,
Glenn Thrush/Jennifer Steinhauer: Stephen Miller Is a 'True Believer' Behind
Core Trump Policies: Former aide to former Senator Jeff Sessions,
now a White House aide "at the epicenter of some of the administration's
most provocative moves, from pushing hard for the construction of a wall
along the border with Mexico to threatening decades-long trade deals at
the heart of Republican economic orthodoxy, to rolling out Mr. Trump's
travel ban on seven largely Muslim nations, whose bungled introduction
Zoe Tillman: Gorsuch Would Join the Supreme Court Millionaires' Club if
Jordan Weissmann: The Hot New Corporate PR Strategy? Giving Trump Credit
for Stuff He Didn't Do. Like Intel deciding to build a plant in
Arizona it was going to build there anyway.
Matthew Zeitlin: Republicans Are Moving to Scrap Rules That Limit Overdraft
Also a few links not so directly tied to America's bout of political
TomDispatch this week:
Tom Engelhardt: Crimes of the Trump Era (a Preview);
Raja Menon: Is President Trump Headed for a War with China?.
Menon, by the way, has a book called The Conceit of Humanitarian
Intervention (2016). Regarding China, I'm reminded of a scenario
sketched out by the late Chalmers Johnson: suppose a country launched
a dumptruck-load of gravel into earth orbit (something well within
China's capability); it would in short order destroy every satellite
(including China's, but most are American or owned by corporations).
Without killing any people, the economic effects would be devastating,
and it would cripple America's ability to spy on friend and foe, or
indeed to direct foreign wars. I'd argue that this capability all by
itself makes China too big to attack (Russia, of course, could do the
same, at more cost to itself; moreover, the technology isn't far out
for emerging rocket builders, notably Iran and North Korea). Given
these realities, the US would be well advised to work on cooperation
instead of intimidation. Still, that's not Trump's style, nor is it
China's: "Xi Jinping, like Trump, presents himself as a tough guy,
sure to trounce his enemies at home and abroad. Retaining that image
requirse that he not bend when it comes to defending China's land
and honor." Neocon Robert Kagan has his own alarming scenario:
Backint Into World War III. But then he's arguing to march
forward into conflict, rather than back into it -- which, by the
way, he sees Trump doing in his "further accommodation of Russia"
(as opposed to his "tough" stance against China).
Stan Finger: Police seek answers, reversal as aggravated assaults surge:
Could a 50% increase in aggravated assault cases since the 2013 passage
of Kansas' "open carry" gun law have anything to do with that law? Minds
boggle, especially as the delayed opening up of open gun carry on college
campuses is looming. One complaint is new gun toters haven't been "properly
trained," but wasn't a big part of the 2013 law the elimination of training
Also in the Eagle today:
Dion Lefler/Stan Finger: Race to replace Pompeo in Congress is down to
three candidates: Republicans nominated Brownback crony Ron Estes,
while the Democrats are backing civil rights attorney James Thompson,
who will hopefully turn the election to replace CIA Director Mike Pompeo
into a referendum on the Trump and Brownback administrations. (Salon
has a piece by
Rosana Hegeman on Thompson.) Also:
Dion Lefler: 1,500 Sanders tickets sold so far, leading to move to a
bigger venue, who will be speaking in Topeka on February 25.
Sayed Kashua: Preparing My Kids for the New America: One thing I've
long noted is how much the right-wing, traditionally the last bastion of
anti-semitism, has grown to admire Israel. So as they consolidate their
power, it shouldn't be surprising that they're starting to make America
look more like Israel, or that the first to notice would be Palestinians
who lived in (and fled from) Israel.
John McQuaid: Coastal cities in danger: Florida has seen bad effects
from Trump-like climate gag orders: North Carolina, too. Also,
John Upton: Coastal Cities Could Flood Three Times a Week by 2045.
Daniel Oppenheimer: Not Yet Falling Apart: "Two thinkers on the left
offer a guide to navigating the stormy seas of modernity." Quasi-review of
Mark Lilla's The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction, trying
to contrast it with Corey Robin's The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism
From Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin (due for a new edition, with Trump
eclipsing Palin, as indeed it does get worse, not to mention dumber).
Oppenheimer make much of Lilla reviewing (and panning) Robin's book,
then not including the review in his short collection (like Robin,
the book stakes out the terrain of a broad, systematic study but
falls short by recycling old book reviews -- in this case "thinkers"
such as Franz Rosenzweig, Leo Strauss, Eric Vogelin, and Michel
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