Sunday, September 17, 2017

Weekend Roundup

This has been another week when I could have spent every waking hour compiling stories and still not covered it all. There is nothing below on Korea, where there have been new missile tests, new even more vicious sanctions, and the usual threats of nuclear annihilation -- one story I was tempted by was on how the new UN sanctions attempt to choke off North Korean exports of clothing (evidently one of their major sources of foreign currency). Nothing on Nikki Haley's bluster, nor on Trump's forthcoming UN speech. Nothing on Burma's attacks on the Rohynga. (Wasn't opening up Burma Hillary Clinton's big coup as Secretary of State?) Nothing on US threats to close the embassy in Cuba. Only the most general comments on Yemen-Syria-Iraq. Nothing on Israel/Palestine, which ever deeper into an abyss of inhumanity, even while Netanyahu and family are in legal trouble. Nothing on the latest ISIS bombing in London, nor on Trump's inane tweets about it. Very little on the big hurricane season, other natural disasters, and how well (or more likely miserably) the feds are dealing with them. Nothing on voter suppression (although Kris Kobach has been busy on that front). Nothing on Jeff Sessions refusal to investigate civil rights abuse in St. Louis, nor on protests against same, nor on Missouri's governor's preference for meeting protests with a show of military force. Nothing on Harvard's failed chemistry experiment, where they tried to mix Mike Pompeo and Chelsea Manning. Nothing on the Russia investigation, where an interesting side-story has developed over Facebook advertising. Very little on so-called tax reform. Nothing on rape on college campuses, although Betsy De Vos seems to be set on making it more difficult to punish. Nothing on DACA, not even Trump's alleged DACA deal with Democrats nor the way Republicans blew up after it was reported. And I'm sure there were dozens of other stories I could have found worthy.

On the other hand, maybe there's too much on Hillary Clinton's campaign memoir, What Happened, and also on the Democrats' intra-party struggles. Perhaps that has something to do with our preoccupation with talk-about-talk. But most other stories just add to the cumulative weight of moral rot in the Trump regime. The new books by Clinton (in her backhanded way) and Sanders (much less reviewed, probably because it's much less gossipy) point forward -- as does Sanders' new "Medicare for All" bill (please stop calling it "Berniecare").

Just before posting, I noticed this piece by Jay Rosen: Normalizing Trump: An incredibly brief explainer. It offers a short list of things "most every journalist who covers Trump knows:

  1. He isn't good at anything a president has to do.
  2. He doesn't know anything about the issues with which he must cope.
  3. He doesn't care to learn.
  4. He has no views about public policy.
  5. Nothing he says can be trusted.
  6. His "model" of leadership is the humiliation of others.

He adds: "If nothing the president says can be trusted, reporting what the president says becomes absurd." That reminded me of a piece I noticed but didn't figure was worth pursuing -- until it became perfectly illustrative: Elliot Hannon: A Ranking of Trump's Sunday Morning Tweets From Least to Most Insane.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Dean Baker: Adults in the Room: The Sordid Tale of Greece's Battle Against Austerity and the Troika: Review of former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis's book, Adults in the Room. The Troika is the European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Greece had run up large debts then fell into a major depression after 2007, losing 25% of its GDP -- all the worse because Greece had joined the Eurozone, leaving it at the mercy of an EU dominated by Germany. To make good on those debts, the Troika was set on forcing Greece into extreme austerity, combined with massive privatization of public assets -- a "solution" that Varoufakis understood not merely to be vicious but untenable. What happened is little short of gruesome.

  • Ross Barkan: Universal healthcare in America? Not a taboo now, thanks to Bernie Sanders: Sanders introduced his "Improved Medicare for All" last week, remarkably co-sponsored by sixteen Democratic Senators.

    Other related links:

  • Ariel Dorfman: A Tale of Two Donalds: Dorfman wrote a seminal essay, a masterpiece of Marxist cultural criticism, back in 1971, How to Read Donald Duck, one I read avidly when it was translated (and, if memory serves, published in Radical America). Here he updates his analysis to encompass that other Donald. I suppose some times history repeats itself, first as farce and then as tragedy. Other recent TomDispatch pieces:

    Here's a sample quote from Sjursen:

    Take a good, hard look at the region and it's obvious that Washington mainly supports the interests of Israel, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Egypt's military dictator, and various Gulf State autocracies. Or consider the actions and statements of the Trump administration and of the two administrations that preceded it and here's what seems obvious: the United States is in many ways little more than an air force, military trainer, and weapons depot for assorted Sunni despots. Now, that's not a point made too often -- not in this context anyway -- because it's neither a comfortable thought for most Americans, nor a particularly convenient reality for establishment policymakers to broadcast, but it's the truth. . . .

    While President Trump enjoyed a traditional sword dance with his Saudi hosts -- no doubt gratifying his martial tastes -- the air forces of the Saudis and their Gulf state allies were bombing and missiling Yemeni civilians into the grimmest of situations, including a massive famine and a spreading cholera epidemic amid the ruins of their impoverished country. So much for the disastrous two-year Saudi war there, which goes by the grimly ironic moniker of Operation Restoring Hope and for which the U.S. military provides midair refueling and advanced munitions, as well as intelligence.

    Engelhardt notes how a president supposedly obsessed with winning has surrendered his administration to three of America's "losingest generals": H.R. McMaster, John Kelly, and "Mad Dog" Mattis. For instance, consider McMaster:

    Then-Colonel H.R. McMaster gained his reputation in 2005 by leading the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment into the Iraqi city of Tal Afar and "liberating" it from Sunni insurgents, while essentially inaugurating the counterinsurgency tactics that would become the heart and soul of General David Petraeus's 2007 "surge" in Iraq.

    Only one small problem: McMaster's much-publicized "victory," like so many other American military successes of this era, didn't last. A year later, Tal Afar was "awash in sectarian violence," wrote Jon Finer, a Washington Post reporter who accompanied McMaster into that city. It would be among the first Iraqi cities taken by Islamic State militants in 2014 and has only recently been "liberated" (yet again) by the Iraqi military in a U.S.-backed campaign that has left it only partially in rubble, unlike so many other fully rubblized cities in the region. In the Obama years, McMaster would be the leader of a task force in Afghanistan that "sought to root out the rampant corruption that had taken hold" in the American-backed government there, an effort that would prove a dismal failure.

    Meanwhile, see if you can discern any hope in these recent reports from Afghanistan: Helene Cooper: US Says It Has 11,000 Troops in Afghanistan, More Than Formerly Disclosed; Rod Nordland: US Expands Kabul Security Zone, Digging in the Next Decade; Mujib Mashal: US Plan for New Afghan Force Revives Fear of Militia Abuses; Max Fisher/Amanda Taub: Why Afghanistan's War Defies Solutions.

  • Thomas Frank: Hillary Clinton's book has a clear message: don't blame me: Clinton's campaign memoir, What Happened, was released last week, generating enough publicity to put her back in the spotlight. Before publication we were treated to various sections where she tried to blame Bernie Sanders and/or his supporters for her loss, which fit in with the general perception that she's not one to take responsibility for her own mistakes. I haven't looked at the book, and have no desire to read it, so I don't know how fair those charges are. But really, one could write a huge book about Hillary and all the ways the world has treated her unfairly -- to her advantage as well as to her detriment. Frank, too, tells us more about his own focus on populism, although this seems likely to be a fair summary:

    She seems to have been almost totally unprepared for the outburst of populist anger that characterized 2016, an outburst that came under half a dozen different guises: trade, outsourcing, immigration, opiates, deindustrialization, and the recent spectacle of Wall Street criminals getting bailed out. It wasn't the issues that mattered so much as the outrage, and Donald Trump put himself in front of it. Clinton couldn't.

    To her credit, and unlike many of her most fervent supporters, Hillary Clinton doesn't deny that this web of class-related problems had some role in her downfall. When she isn't repeating self-help bromides or calumniating the Russians she can be found wondering why so many working-class people have deserted the Democratic party.

    This is an important question, and in dealing with it Clinton writes a few really memorable passages, like her description of a grotesque campaign stop in West Virginia where she was protested by a crowd that included the former CEO of the company that owned the Upper Big Branch mine, where 29 coal miners died in 2010.

    But by and large, Clinton's efforts to understand populism always get short-circuited, probably because taking it seriously might lead one to conclude that working people have a legitimate beef with her and the Democratic party.

    Countless inconvenient items get deleted from her history. She only writes about trade, for example, in the most general terms; Nafta and the TPP never. Her husband's program of bank deregulation is photoshopped out. The names Goldman Sachs and Walmart never come up.

    Besides, to take populism seriously might also mean that Bernie Sanders, who was "outraged about everything," might have had a point, and much of What Happened is dedicated to blasting Sanders for challenging Clinton in the Democratic primaries. Given that he later endorsed her and even campaigned for her, this can only be described as churlish, if not downright dishonest.

    That Clinton might have done well to temper her technocratic style with some populist outrage of her own only dawns on her towards the end of the book, by which point it is too late.

    Not to mention impossible. Hillary Clinton simply cannot escape her satisfied white-collar worldview -- compulsively listing people's academic credentials, hobnobbing with officers from Facebook and Google, and telling readers how she went to Davos in 1998 to announce her philosophy.

    Other posts on Clinton's book:

    • James Fallows: Why Hillary Clinton's Book Is Actually Worth Reading: "It's the rare interesting work by a politician -- and it offers an important critique of the press." Fallows stresses how often Hillary does take responsibility for losing, although when he quotes her, you get this (Fallows' emphasis):

      I don't understand why there's an insatiable demand in many quarters for me to take all the blame for losing the election on my own shoulders and quit talking about Comey, the Russians, fake news, sexism, or anything else. Many in the political media don't want to hear about how those things tipped the election in the final days. They say their beef is that I'm not taking responsibility for my mistakes -- but I have, and I do again throughout this book. Their real problem is that they can't bear to face their own role in helping elect Trump, from providing him free airtime to giving my emails three times more coverage than all the issues affecting people's lives combined.

    • Hadley Freeman: America's vitriol towards Clinton reveals a nation mired in misogyny: But is it really? No doubt there are pockets of misogyny that somehow escaped the women's liberation movement of the 1970s and the growing feminist consciousness which has largely settled into common sense, much as there are pockets of racism left untouched by the 1960s civil rights movement. And clearly, Clinton brings misogynistic slurs to the forefront, if only because those who most hate her lack the imagination to craft anything new -- much as many of those who hated Obama reverted to racist vitriol. On the other hand, had she won -- which she would have if only the constitution's framers put a little more care into how elections work -- we'd be complimenting ourselves for how enlightened we've become (much as we did with Obama's election in 2008). Granted, that Donald Trump, as unreconstructed a racist/sexist as we can imagine these days, sure looks like a setback, but could there be some other reason?

    • Sarah Leonard: What Happened by Hillary Clinton review -- entertainingly mean but essentially wrong-headed: For example:

      It feels tiresome to explain this, but many Americans consider bankers the enemy, and voters wanted her to pick a side. The fact that she couldn't see that reveals a fundamental problem with her politics. And it isn't symbolic -- America's particular form of political corruption is rarely a simple exchange of cash for laws. Instead, as a famous Princeton study has shown, wealthy institutions like banks exercise substantial influence over legislative outcomes through the softer power of lobbying and campaign donations, while average people and their institutions exercise almost none. It is laughable that an American politician would be indignant about her right to accept money from banks. . . .

      She primarily attributes her loss to what she calls "tribal politics" -- a blend of racism, sexism and economic discontent -- and FBI director James Comey's press conference days before the election. She may be right about Comey shifting enough white swing voters to ultimately cost her the race. But Clinton's relationship to populism is more complicated.

      "Tribal" isn't the word I would choose for racism and sexism, but there is something primitive about those traits. However, economic discontent is something quite different, something that only looks quaint and irrational if you're able to make ten years average wages for a single speech to bankers.

    • Sophia A McClennen: The great Hillary Clinton paradox:

      As Clinton blames Sanders for disrupting the party and causing "lasting damage" to her campaign she fails to notice the various advantages she had. From her biased treatment by the DNC to the superdelegates to her $150 million war chest (twice Trump's) to the backing of mega-stars from Bruce Springsteen to Beyoncé to Oprah to her massive list of media endorsements, Clinton had plenty of support. She had more endorsements from newspapers than either Reagan or Obama.

      This brings me back to the paradox. There is no doubt that Trump ran a sexist campaign, but that doesn't mean that the Sanders campaign was sexist too. And there is no doubt that some of those who voted for Trump are sexist, but not all of them are.

      McClennan then cites Emily Ekins: The Five Types of Trump Voters: the type Ekins dubs American Preservationists are closest to the racist/sexist/xenophobic stereotype, but they only number 20% of Trump voters (not that such views don't lap over into other "types"). Still, the "lasting damage" Sanders wrought has an Emperor's New Clothes air: it assumes that no one would have noticed that Hillary wasn't an immaculate progressive if only Sanders hadn't pointed out her shortcomings. There is some truth to this: I, for instance, had early on resigned myself to her inevitability, mostly because I thought that she alone among Democrats could raise the sort of money necessary to compete with the Kochs. Obviously, her fundraising prowess came at a cost, which had been painfully evident over the last four Democratic presidential terms, but it wasn't hard to imagine how much worse any name Republican would be. Sanders changed my calculus, not by telling me anything I didn't already know about Clinton, but simply by offering better policies, and backing them up with a credible history of integrity that Clinton lacked.

      Still, this raises an interesting question: if Clinton actually thought that Sanders had undermined her in the primaries, why didn't she make a more dramatic effort to heal the chasm, specifically by making Sanders her running mate? Granted, she did give up some ground on the platform, but personnel is a more serious predictor of policy than campaign platitudes. It wouldn't have been an unusual move, and Sanders would have been an asset to the campaign (unlike Tim Kaine, who at best helped a little in Virginia). Like Gore in 2000 when he picked Joe Lieberman, and like Bill Clinton in 1992 when he picked Gore, Hillary signaled with her VP pick that she was going to go her own way, paying no heed and owing no debts to the "democratic wing of the Democratic Party." So, again like Gore, she now finds herself blaming the left for her own campaign's shortfall after her bad bet that there were more money and votes to be had by snubbing the left than by embracing it.

      McClennan also wrote: A tale of two leaders of the left: New books by Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton emphasize their differences.

    • Jeff Spross: This Hillary Clinton would've won: Specifically, this hinges on the book's revelation that Hillary considered pushing for a Universal Basic Income (UBI) scheme.

    • David Roberts: Hillary Clinton's "coal gaffe" is a microcosm of her twisted treatment by the media: Even more than her "basket of deplorables" comment, Hillary singles her taken-out-of-context "We're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business" as the one comment she regrets most. Still, had the media put the one line in its actual context (even just its paragraph), and noted that Clinton was proposing a $30 billion plan to help communities hit by the declining coal market rebuild their economies, her comment may not have been interesting, but shouldn't have been crippling. Still, the media, prodded by right-wing agitators, made it so:

      There is one and only one reason to pluck out that sentence and make a story of it: to try to hurt Clinton politically by lying about her meaning and intentions. . . .

      From the media's perspective, "Clinton garbled a sentence" is true but not particularly newsworthy. "Clinton boasted about putting coal miners out of work" is false but definitely newsworthy (and damaging to Clinton) if it were true. In other words, there's no honest reason to make this "gaffe" a story at all. . . .

      Right-wing operatives and media figures watch Clinton intensely. Anything she says or does that can be plausibly (or implausibly) spun to appear maleficent, they spin. A vast echo chamber of blogs, "news" sites, radio stations, cable news shows, and Facebook groups takes each one of these mini faux scandals and amplifies the signal.

      If one of the faux scandals catches on enough and dominates right-wing media long enough, then a kind of alchemy occurs. The question facing mainstream outlets is not, "Why aren't you writing about what Clinton said?" That question is easy to answer: It's a nothingburger. The question becomes, "Why aren't you writing about the scandal over what Clinton said?"

      Reputable mainstream journalists don't have to pretend that Clinton meant the ridiculous thing right-wing media says she meant. They can just report that "some interpreted Clinton to mean [ridiculous thing]," and hey, that's technically true. The fact that a bunch of right-wing political and media hacks feigned outrage becomes the story.

    • Jon Schwarz: Hillary Clinton Doesn't Understand Why the Corporate Media Is So Bad:

      Then there's Clinton's peculiar affection for the New York Times. Yes, she says, it has often viewed her "with hostility and skepticism," but "I've read the Times for more than 40 years and still look forward to it every day. I appreciate much of the paper's terrific non-Clinton reporting." . . .

      Since Clinton has no structural critique of the press, why does she believe she was so badly mauled in 2016? The only explanation she presents is that the rules are different for her personally. . . .

      In the end, Clinton's ideas about the media demonstrate that, more than anything, she badly needed to watch the Noam Chomsky documentary "Manufacturing Consent" or get a subscription to the Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting newsletter. Then she could have approached her campaign with fewer illusions, and with a much greater chance of winning.

      Instead, she's left with the bitter observation that the press "want me to stop talking. If it's all my fault, then the media doesn't need to do any soul searching." But that's the whole point: The corporate media doesn't have a soul. It just has a balance sheet.

    • Jeffrey St. Clair: Hillary Happened: The late Alexander Cockburn's Mini-Me, better known recently for his virulent, supposedly left-wing attacks on Bernie Sanders, manages to save some bile for Hillary and her book, occasionally managing to be witty -- to no small part because Hillary's never looked much good from the left, even against the vile backdrop of attacks from the right. Favorite line: "Clinton was miscast from the beginning as a political candidate for elected office. Her skills and temperament were more suited to the role of political enforcer in the mode of Thomas Cromwell or John Ehrlichman."

    • Rebecca Traister: Hillary Clinton Is Finally Expressing Some Righteous Anger. Why Does That Make Everyone Else So Mad?

      People have been reacting with atavistic censure to Hillary Clinton for decades, and she's been expected to simply absorb it all without returning fire. There are shirts, as she writes in What Happened, that feature an image of Trump holding her bloody severed head aloft; others, which she doesn't mention, read "Hillary Sucks, But Not Like Monica."

      You can disagree with Clinton; you can reasonably acknowledge that some of her pique does sound defensive. But she's not lying; she's not inciting violence. She's not freaking out about crowd size or claiming that antifa protesters are as bad as neo-Nazis or suggesting that protesters be taken away on stretchers.

    • Shea Wong: Let's talk for a second about #ImWithHer . . .: I was steered to this twitter thread by Robert Christgau (via DailyKos), who tweeted:

      Hillary haters owe it to history and their own integrity to read this. She's not perfect. You're totally fucked up.

      I'm not sure Bob would count me among the "Hillary haters" -- I voted against her in two caucuses, but voted for her against Trump, and didn't consider any of those choices to be close calls. To say "she's not perfect" omits volumes of serious detail -- although nothing I couldn't personally overlook compared to Trump. On the other hand, I do know people who swear they'd never vote for her -- not that any of them hated her enough to vote for Trump. Still, I take offense that they, let alone we, are "totally fucked up." They are, for starters, people who can be counted on to oppose senseless, fruitless wars that Hillary has always been eager to support -- and that one might reasonably expect her to start in the future. I don't agree with their voting decision, but I have to respect them: at the end of the day, they're comrades, while Hillary skews somewhere between "lesser evil" and "lesser good." Still, I'm open to reading something that makes a case for her -- indeed, many of the reviews I've cited in this section give her credit. But this thread is something quite different. This isn't "excellent" (as hpg put it), or enlightening, or even coherent, and I have to wonder about sane. Obviously much of problem is twitter, both for chunking and for the nine distracting and irrelevant videos Wong inserted. As best I can discern, Wong's rant boils down to two salient points: Hillary was the victim of a vile and unrelenting torrent of misogynistic smears, and that was mostly the fault of Bernie and the left ("We watched progbros parrot trump talking points, and vice versa, to the point if you covered avatar/bio you couldn't tell the difference"). Wong then concludes: "If she could be torn down that easily. So could any of us." I'm not sure Wong is right even on the first point. By far the most effective attack was the "Crooked Hillary" meme. One might dispute this, especially in comparison to Trump, but it has nothing to do with her gender. The second point is certainly false, running opposite to the very principles that define the left, and continued harping on it by diehard Hillary fans reeks of old-fashioned liberal red baiting.

  • Josh Marshall: More Thoughts on the Intra-Democratic Divide: Meant as a follow-up to his commentary on Ta-Nehisi Coates' The First White President ( Thoughts on the First White President). To oversimplify a bit, Coates argues that racism remains the fundamental dividing line in American politics, one that cannot be erased by cleverly attempting to fashion a class-based appeal to working class Trump supporters. Marshall looks to have it both ways: agreeing that Coates is right on racism, but still stressing the need to recapture some Trump supporters, probably by appealing to them on economic grounds -- but he kind of makes a muddle out of it. Let's try to clear up this confusion:

    1. "Identity politics" will always be with us: it's the default mode of most voters -- not necessarily just "low information" but it's especially prevalent there. Unless you know better, the safe and sensible vote is to follow the people you identify with -- usually people most like yourself. Everyone does it. I know a good deal more about politicians than most folk, but every now and then I find myself choosing between two people I don't know anything substantial about, so I fall back on my prejudices -- the most common identity there is partisan, and while I don't especially identify with Democrats, I've learned that Republicans are dangerous (and often demented).
    2. Of course, it's just as easy to vote against categories you don't identify with, and political parties have found it efficient to focus on that. The Republican Party was founded on the interests of independent farmers and manufacturers ("vote yourself a homestead, vote yourself a tariff") but given its solid Northern protestant homogeneity soon took to rallying against its opponents, deriding the Democrats as the party of "rum, Romanism and rebellion." In the 1970s, Richard Nixon and the architects of The Emerging Republican Majority saw an opportunity to expand the party's base to pick up two major blocks of white Democrats: protestants in the South and catholics (mostly) in the North. They used coded appeals to racism, but wrapped them up with God and guns and sheer avarice into a package that was very flattering to their targets, and repulsive to the groups they rallied against. The latter had little choice but to align with the Democrats, even if it wasn't clear what they were supporting. The key point here is that the Democrats didn't deliberately build their recent coalition: as with their late-nineteenth-century coalition, they got the odds and ends after the Republicans had seized the middle ground.
    3. In both centuries, it appeared as though Republican efforts to rally its chosen people against the margins was destined to run against demographic trends -- mostly driven by immigration. Republican identity politics found its greatest success in the 1920s, with prohibition and a hard turn against immigration. In recent years, some Democratic Party strategists have started to flirt with their own identity politics, calculating that the groups the Republicans have left them with will grow into a new Democratic majority. This idea is attractive to Democratic Party elites because it lets them think they can bank on winning votes without having to offer the voters tangible value.
    4. As usual, the Republicans have been on the leading edge of this dynamic. As Thomas Frank pointed out in What's the Matter With Kansas?, Republican elites had constructed a scam where the base would vote for causes they were passionate about (guns, anti-abortion, anti-immigrant) but all elected Republicans would do is to cater to their donor class. Since Frank wrote, the GOP has seen an upheaval as the base have forced their concerns onto the party agenda. Nowhere has this been more drmatic, much to our detriment, than here in Kansas. As Frank pointed out in Listen, Liberal, the same elite/mass split exists in the Democratic Party -- it's easy to note Democratic governors and majors who are every bit as deep in donor pockets as the most corrupt Republicans (e.g., Andrew Cuomo and Rahm Emmanuel). And indeed, what we saw in 2016 was a rank-and-file revolt against the elites of both parties -- unsuccessful, sure, because Clinton was still able to keep enough Democrats in line, and because Trump was a fraud, but both served notice that the gap between what parties run on and what they try to deliver needs to close.
    5. Republican identity politics never recognized as such because the white protestants (and later catholics) that made up their core were so ubiquitous -- until recently, when they've become minorities in many urban areas, including the nation's most booming economies. This added a sense of fear, urgency, and despair to the Trump vote, and the result was a small but significant shift in the white vote against the Democrats, especially away from the coasts. Democrats are divided on this: some argue that Democrats should focus more on class (economics, inequality) to broaden their base to bring back some of those white voters; others regard the white voters as lost causes, atavisms, who will fade away as the nation becomes ever more urban and globalized. Some of the former have characterized the latter as "engaging in identity politics" -- this strikes me as misguided and self-destructive.
    6. At this point we can dispense with the Republicans, aside from noting that Republican rule invariably ends not from demographic misjudgments but from corruption and disastrous economic crashes that (temporarily anyhow) expose the folly of their pro-business ideology -- on the other hand, Democratic rule usually ends when people get a sense of recovery and stability, and grow reckless and fickle again.
    7. The Democratic Party is divided today, with the emergence of a faction which focuses on reducing inequality and securing real economic gains for the vast majority of the American people, and another which caters to wealthy urban liberals and promises to somehow protect various targets from vicious Republican attacks. The former still lack power in the party, although their grass roots visibility has grown significantly over the past year. The latter still has their rich donor base and a grip on the levers of party power, but they also have a track record of failure -- most embarrassingly to Trump in 2016. It is unlikely that this divide will heal soon, but they do have dangerous enemies in common -- which should help focus the mind.
    8. I am getting to where I have very little patience for the still-prevalent internecine sniping between these camps. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't argue about important matters of policy, like the tendency of the Clinton and Obama admins to undermine unions, to promote job-killing trade deals, to allow financiers to take over our industries and run them to ground, to increase mass incarceration, to allow the national security state to withdraw ever further from the purview of the people they're supposed to serve -- and one should add the global war on anything that affronts American egos, which is an issue that even Bernie Sanders has treated as a sort of "third rail."
    9. Whereas Republicans can at least make short-term gains merely by cranking up the volume of their social polarization, Democrats have to respond rationally and systematically. First thing they (especially the elites) need to do is to shift their program to emphasize a tangible return to the people they expect and hope will vote for them -- even if that means becoming less responsive to their donors. Second, they need to make the donors realize that the viability of the party depends on the party delivering benefits to its base -- and in fact that the country as a whole would gain by forging a more equitable economy and society. And third, those who wish to appeal to the more white workers need to convince them that they cannot prosper without helping everyone -- that Republican demagoguery offers them nothing but ruin, and that only the Democrats are offering them a hand up.
  • Josh Marshall: The Real Problem With Equifax:

    It now seems clear that the massive data breach at Equifax was caused not simply by aggressive hackers but by clear and potentially negligent security errors by Equifax itself. But fundamentally, this isn't a security problem. It's a market failure and a legal and regulatory failure. . . .

    In some cases consumers would rebel. That would solve the problem. But that's actually a key part of the problem: consumers aren't Equifax's customers. They're the product. You're the product. Banks and other lenders like credit agencies because they offer a systematized and standardized way of evaluating risk. The banks are the customers. Credit rating agencies would prefer never to deal with consumers at all. They only do so when forced to or, more recently, as they've developed a secondary business in selling consumers services to help them protect themselves against errors or security breaches by credit rating agencies.

  • Bill McKibben: Stop talking right now about the threat of climate change. It's here; it's happening: Massive hurricanes, record high temperatures and wildfires on the west coast, drought in North Dakota -- and that's just seven days in the US. Other related links:

  • Matthew Yglesias: The 4 most important stories in politics this week: Senate Republicans threw an Obamacare repeal Hail Mary: Senators Cassidy and Graham proposed repealing ACA and replacing it with that old standby: block grants to the states; DREAMer deal: Trump's over-dinner deal with Shumer/Pelosi; Berniecare: kiss-of-death label for Sanders' "Medicare for All" bill; Tax reform is coming soon, maybe. Other Yglesias pieces this week (skipping the ones on Apple's product announcements, which would only be of interest if they explained the predatory nature of Apple hype, which they don't): Berniecare leaves enormous discretion to the executive branch; Trump should actually do what he's pretending he'll do on tax reform; The Trump administration's big new anti-leak memo leaked last night; Medicare-for-all is nothing like "repeal and replace"; Donald Trump is making the single-payer push inevitable. I'm not happy Yglesias keeps referring to "Berniecare," but he does offer a pretty fair description of the Republican alternatives:

    Repeal and replace wasn't just a slogan that covered up some internal disagreements. It was a lie. Repeal and replace was an effort to bridge a fundamentally unbridgeable gap between the American people's complaints about the ACA -- premiums, deductibles, and copayments that were too high -- and the Republican Party donor class's complaints about the ACA: that it levied too much in taxes. This left Republican legislators not just with some difficult trade-offs to grapple with, but with the difficult question of how to break the news to the American people that the outcome of their legislation was going to bear no resemblance whatsoever to what had been promised.

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