Sunday, December 16, 2018
Some scattered links this (or the previous) week:
The latest Obamacare ruling is part of a larger conservative attack on
democracy: A federal judge in Texas ruled Friday that the whole of
ACA is unconstitutional, despite a previous ruling by the Supreme Court
that it is constitutional, despite the failure of the Senate to repeal
or significantly rewrite it during the 2017-18 Congress, despite the
elections in 2018 that overturned Republican control of the House and
various states, including Wisconsin -- where this particular case
originated. It's a good example of why Republicans obsess so much
over appointing their political hacks to the courts.
Friday night he [Wisconsin Solicit General Misha Tseytlin] scored his
triumph -- his kooky legal theory is the law of the land, according to
at least one federal judge.
Other judges may disagree and as best I can tell experts in the legal
community are deeply skeptical that this challenge will ultimately prevail,
arguing that it reflects a fringy legal perspective. I'm not a lawyer
myself and more importantly I'm not a psychic so I don't know what John
Roberts wants to do with this issue.
But what strikes me about the case is how utterly mainstream Tseytlin's
theory became in GOP circles very quickly, and how brazenly undemocratic
Republicans have been in pursuit of their goal of depriving people of their
health insurance. . . .
The striking thing about all of this, however, is that it's not just one
oddball judge in Texas -- it's twenty Republican attorneys general. And
it's not just one GOP elected official misleading voters about their stance
on preexisting conditions, it's dozens. And it's not just one embittered
losing gubernatorial candidate pulling an undemocratic fast one during the
lame duck session -- it's the near-unanimous decision of two different state
legislative caucuses. This is, evidently, how the overlapping networks of
donors, operatives, activists, and elected officials who comprise the GOP
think the country should be run.
You've probably heard that Republicans in Wisconsin and Michigan have
scrambled to pass lame-duck legislation to strip powers from incoming
Democratic governors (much as North Carolina Republicans did after losing
the governorship there in 2016). One of those laws prevents the new
Governor and Attorney General from withdrawing from lawsuits like this
one. After decades of increasingly unscrupulous effort to manipulate
the public and manoeuver behind the scenes, Republicans have lost all
respect for democracy. More links on this:
Other Yglesias links:
Top House Democrats join Elizabeth Warren's push to fundamentally change
American capitalism: Support is growing for Warren's Accountable
Capitalism Act, which introduces the idea of "codetermination" to the
structure of US corporations. The idea is practiced in Europe, mostly
in Germany. When you give workers seats on corporate boards, companies
behave better, and not just to their workers but to customers and to
the general public. Germany, for instance, has retained most of its
manufacturing base while maintaining favorable trade balances -- the
exact opposite of what US companies have done under the prevailing
doctrine of doing nothing but increasing shareholder profits. This
sort of reform seemed inconceivable in America before 2010, when
Thomas Geoghegan's book, Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?
How the European Model Can Help You Get a Life, came out. No
one mentions this book, but the growing interest in socialism has
something to do with awareness of successful European models.
Warren's corporate accountability initiatives would have huge economic
implications but zero budgetary cost. At a time of low levels of public
trust in institutions, these proposals don't ask anyone to have faith
that government officials are going to make good use of resources.
What's more, while the co-determination aspect of the proposal does
draw inspiration from Germany, fundamentally, the pitch for the overall
package is a lot closer to "Make America Great Again" than to "make
America like Scandinavia." The basic notion is that the American private
sector used to operate in a better, more inclusive way before the rise
of shareholder supremacy and with a couple of firm regulatory kicks we
can get it to work that way again.
My late grandfather, who was an old-line communist in his day, used
to tell me with mixed admiration and regret that FDR had saved capitalism
by entrenching institutions that guaranteed broadly shared prosperity.
Those institutions, fundamentally, are what was undone in the shareholder
Warren and her new allies are betting is that at a time when the
political right is increasingly not even bothering to pretend to offer
economic solutions anymore, America can pull off the same trick a second
time -- offering the public not a huge new expansion of government programs,
but a revival of the midcentury stakeholder capitalism that once built a
middle class so prosperous that the idea of surging mass interest in
socialism was unthinkable.
Trump keeps complaining about the Fed while appointing people who don't
agree with his complaints. Yglesias adds, 'He's very bad at doing his
job." Still, that ignores the extent the Fed has been captured by the
interests it's supposed to regulate.
It's ridiculous that it's unconstitutional for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
to run for president. No, it isn't. And no, we didn't miss a precious
opportunity by barring Arnold Schwarzenegger from running for president.
There are ridiculous things in the Constitution, but this isn't one of
them. And even if it were, the political climate is so corrupt these days
I'd rather go with what we got than risk a Constitutional Convention.
Still, if we were to change the rules on presidential eligibility, I'd
go more restrictive, not less. In particular, I'd like to see children
and spouses of presidents barred from running. Too bad they didn't write
that into the 22nd Amendment.
Why criticism of Amazon isn't sticking. "Despite an elite backlash,
the public still loves a good deal."
Good riddance to John Kelly:
No person's entire career can be summed up in a single quote. But ousted
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly's defense to the charge that the
Trump administration's child separation policy at the border was cruel
deserves to be etched into his tombstone.
"The children," he said, "will be taken care of -- put into foster care
That is roughly the degree of thoughtfulness and consideration that was
put into the policy. And it properly reflects Kelly's true legacy as chief
More on Kelly and his job:
The Trump-era threat to democracy is the opposite of populism.
Gavin Newsom promised to fix California's housing crisis. Here's a bill
that would do it. "A bold vision for denser construction, this time
with more tenant protections."
Democrats need some 2020 Senate candidates. Points out that the map
is currently very strongly skewed in favor of Republicans (median state
is R+6%), so Democrats will be hard pressed to gain enough seats in 2020
to make a difference (and failing to do so will drastically hurt their
chances of implementing much-needed reforms). I would add that I've long
considered Congress to be much more important than the Presidency. The
first (and almost only, aside from war issues) question I'd ask of any
Democratic presidential candidate is what are you doing to build up the
party down-ballot. (Anyone who starts to answer that with "I" is suspect.)
The ongoing power grabs in Wisconsin and Michigan should remind Democrats
that if the 2020 election leaves Republicans in charge of the Senate, they
will likely use that authority in unprecedented and aggressive ways that
make it completely impossible to govern. And while the presidency is a more
important office than any single Senate seat, the recruitment of quality
candidates probably matters more on the Senate side precisely because the
map is so skewed. It's completely understandable that individual ambitious
politicians are gazing at the White House, but party leaders, operatives,
donors, elder statespeople, etc. have a serious obligation to discourage
this trend and push talented politicians into the Senate races where they
The Weekly Standard's demise is a reminder that there are some idea worse
than Trumpism: "The most principled resistance to Trump comes from
conservatism's most dangerous faction." Regardless of how much snark
William Kristol et al. direct at Trump, you should never forget Kristol's
role in formulating and promoting the neoconservative capture of American
foreign policy, especially their embrace of permanent war, the only state
possible given that any equitable peace must be rejected as a sign of
Yet the demise of the Weekly Standard is not exactly a disastrous blow
to American intellectual life. The independence from Trump's perspective
was welcome, but unfortunately, that doesn't mean its brand of conservatism
was any better than that of the ranting demagogue. In fact, it was arguably
more damaging in terms of its concrete impact on the world.
There's so much on war and empire here that Yglesias doesn't bother with
Kristol's most important directive: that Republicans should never compromise
on health care policy. This dates back to Clinton's 1990s proposal, defeat
of which really put Kristol on the map, and set the standard for Republican
obstruction and rejection of all reforms -- even when Obama had lined up all
of the interested business lobbies to support ACA. Until Trump came around,
Kristol was at the center of virtually every malign direction in American
politics. It's worth noting that Weekly Standard never paid its way. From
day one, it was a subsidized propaganda organ, doing the bidding of wealthy
owners and sponsors. Its failure signals declining utility: evidently, in
the Trump era the right no longer needs clever sophists like Kristol who
can appeal to elites. Going forward, mass delusion will have to suffice.
More links on Weekly Standard:
I also read pieces by
Franklin Foer and
John Judis that try much too hard to show Weekly Standard respect.
Despite congressional pressure, Amtrak can't get its story straight on
The $21 trillion Pentagon accounting error that can't pay for Medicare-for-all,
Ross Barkan: Clean water: the latest casualty in Trump's attack on the
Sharon Lerner: Trump's Attack on the Clean Water Act Will Fuel Destructive
Charles Duhigg: The Real Roots of American Rage: A long piece on "the
untold story of how anger became the dominant emotion in our politics and
personal lives -- and what we can do about it." Starts by showing how anger
can actually facilitate communication and lead to more understanding, but
that isn't what we're seeing in politics today, especially coming from the
right (although the author clearly would like to spread the blame around
all sides of political spectrum).
When we scrutinize the sources of our anger, we should see clearly that
our rage is often being stoked not for our benefit but for someone else's.
If we can stop and see the anger merchants' self-serving motives, we can
perhaps start to loosen their grip on us.
Yet we can't pin the blame entirely on the anger profiteers. At the
heart of much of our discontent is a very real sense that our government
systems are broken. . . . Many of the nation's most contentious issues
are driven by a feeling that our institutions have failed us. Historically,
this feeling has been at the root of some of America's most important
movements for change. Ours, too, could be a moment for progress, if we
can channel our anger to good ends, rather than the vanquishing of our
It may be that anger is pretty broadly distributed in America these
days, but one particularly nasty form of anger is almost exclusively
embodied in Trump's political theater: I don't usually recommend video,
but see Adam Serwer's explication,
Trump and His Supporters Thrive on Cruelty.
Charles Dunst/Krishnadev Calamur: Trump Moves to Deport Vietnam War
Lee Fang: Billionaire Republican Donors Helped Elect Rising Centrist
David A Farenthold/Matt Zapotosky/Seung Min Kim: Mounting legal threats
surround Trump as nearly every organization he has led is under
George T Conway III/Trevor Potter/Neal Katyal: Trump's claim that he didn't
violate campaign finance law is weak -- and dangerous. "The case against
the president would be far stronger than the case against John Edwards was."
Edwards was prosecuted (but acquitted) for paying off a mistress during his
Jen Kirby: What you need to know about accused Russian spy Maria Butina's
Andrew Prokop: What's next for the Trump hush money investigation, and
The Trump inauguration is now being criminally investigated.
Asha Rangappa: Mueller should try to indict Trump. It would guarantee his
report goes public.
James Risen: Is There Anything Trump, Cohen, and Manafort Didn't Lie About?
Aaron Rupar: What's illegal about Trump's hush payments to women, briefly
explained. Not only were the payments effectively political contributions,
they were strategically important, perhaps even decisive, ones. The payments
kept two stories of extramarital affairs out of the media during the last
few weeks of the campaign. Had the stories broke then, they would have been
big deals in the media, especially as they would add credence to the "grab
them by the pussy" bus tape, much as Comey re-opening the investigation of
Hillary Clinton's emails dredged up that whole back story. That, quite
conceivably, could have turned the election, and spared us most of the
last two years. You might be inclined to argue that such stories shouldn't
have mattered, but given media attitudes to sex and scandal, you know it
did matter. Rupar also wrote:
"You can make anything a crime": Republicans shrug at Trump being implicated
Rebecca Solnit: Trump's countless scams are finally catching up to him.
Jeffrey Toobin: Adam Schiff's Plans to Obliterate Trump's Red Line:
"With the Democrats controlling the House, Schiff's congressional
investigation will follow the money."
Umair Irfan: Ryan Zinke to resign as Interior Secretary at the end of
the year. Subheds: "Ryan Zinke racked up a long list of scandals";
"Zinke was an ideologue who served fossil fuel interests"; "Zinke
worked to drastically weaken environmental protections." Until Trump
finds someone worse, he will leave the department to "deputy David
Bernhardt, a former oil executive." Also see:
Robinson Meyer: Ryan Zinke Is the Blue Wave's First Casualty:
Every single one of these initiatives is almost certain to continue under
Bernhardt. What will not continue is Zinke's penchant for publicity. . . .
That hubris made him a terrific target for Democrats. They hoped to use
his personal misdeeds to point to the larger pattern of deregulation and
industry friendliness at his department. . . .
In resigning, Zinke reveals the power of Democrats' new ability to
oversee the Trump administration. Zinke is the first casualty of the 2018
blue wave: the first Cabinet official who stepped down in the face of
subpoenas. He left, in fact, to avoid facing subpoenas. Yet in
resigning, he also shows the limits of that same new power. Democrats
can no longer use Zinke's hubris to get people to pay attention to the
Trump administration's larger set of policies at Interior.
Irfan also wrote:
Countries have forged a climate deal in Poland -- despite Trump:
not sure the article justifies the headline (not that the dig against
Trump isn't warranted). Also see:
Carolyn Kormann: How the US Squandered Its Leadership at the UN Climate
Emily Atkin: Have the Democrats Hit a Tipping Point on Climate Change?
The latter notes that Democrats have talked much more about climate change
since Trump was elected, especially after Trump's denialism became so all
Jen Kirby: The Senate just passed a resolution to end US support for the
Saudi war in Yemen. Also:
Tara Golshan: The bizarre story of Democrats helping Republicans stall
action on Yemen: "Everyone had the same question: Why didn't House
Democratic leadership fight harder?" Also related here:
Samuel Oakford: Washington Sends the Saudis a Long-Overdue Bill.
Also of interest here:
David D Kirkpatrick/Ben Hubbard/Mark Landler/Mark Mazzetti: The Wooing
of Jared Kushner: How the Saudis Got a Friend in the White House.
George Monbiot: How US billionaires are fuelling the hard-right cause
in Britain. You know, it's not like Putin invented the idea of trying
to influence foreign elections.
George Packer: The Corruption of the Republican Party: "The GOP is
best understood as an insurgency that carried the seeds of its own
corruption from the start." He's not the sharpest analyst (nor the
clearest writer) but I'm pretty sure he's not blaming it all on Lincoln --
more like the Goldwater/Reagan conservative ascendancy, which founded a
political vehicle for elite capitalism fueled by cultural resentment,
first and foremost of white racists. Five of the six states Goldwater
carried were the core of the Confederate Slave Power, and they've
remained solid Republican ever since. One mistake Packer makes is in
positing the existence of "conservatives who still believed in democracy."
Conservatives, pretty much by definition, never have believed in any such
thing. At best, they give it a little lip service, but deep down their
great fear is that people will realize that they can use their votes to
create more equality, and thereby limit the power of the rich. Nothing
does more to sow doubt in the masses than to turn government into a vast
cesspool of corruption.
Kim Phillips-Fein: Atlas Weeps: Better title (the link caption): "The
Bad History -- and Bad Politics -- of Alan Greenspan and Adrian Wooldridge's
Capitalism in America." Review of a book you won't want to read but
could use a brief report on.
Nomi Prins: A World That Is the Property of the 1%: "The inequality
gap on a planet growing more extreme."
Ola Salem: Saudi Arabia Declares War on America's Muslim Congresswomen.
Kind of like the way Israel attacks Jewish-American critics while cozying
up to right-wing Americans; see, e.g.,
Katherine Franke: The pro-Israel Push to Purge US Campus Critics.
Li Zhou: Arizona Sen. John Kyl is officially stepping down on December
31: "Arizona will get two new senators in 2019." One elected, one
not. Zhou also wrote:
Republicans' civil war over criminal justice reform, explained.