Sunday, April 21, 2019
Let's start off with a range of reactions to the release (with
extensive redactions) of the final report of Special Prosecutor Robert
The Mueller report, explained in 500 words: Fair to start with this
executive summary of the report itself, but this falls far short of its
intent ("everything you wanted to know . . . but detailed as briefly as
possible"), mostly by not examining the context or process. One thing
I've long wondered about was to what extent low-level operatives in
Trump's (and his PAC allies') cyber operations were aware of let alone
had contacts with the Russian operatives who worked on Trump's behalf.
Even if they didn't explicitly coordinate, they very likely built on
and reinforced each other's work. Mueller seems to have taken a top-down
approach, looking at a few suspicious meetings, but it's not clear that
he did any investigation of the campaign staff most competent to actually
collude (not just with the Russians but with other foreign or nominally
independent organizations). Mueller may have had narrow legal reasons
for limiting his focus, but it would have been helpful to spell them
out. One big problem with the American political system is that a lot
of what campaigns -- both raising money and spending it -- do may not
technically be illegal but stikes me (and probably most people) as
Scott R Anderson, et al. (long list of contributors at
What Mueller found on Russia and on obstruction: a first analysis.
Why was Trump so afraid of the Mueller investigation? We may never know.
Indeed. Maybe, as the author implies, he had things to hide that Mueller
didn't uncover. Maybe he just couldn't stand the pressure of being picked
apart by investigators whose ambitions and/or biases could result in him
being framed? Trump knows as well as anyone how the system can be rigged.
The only thing you can be sure of is that Trump's word on what happened is
Five critical takeaways from the Mueller report.
Trump will be attacking the 'Crazy Mueller Report' for the rest of his
Alvin Chang/Javier Zarracina:
The Mueller report redactions, explaind in 4 charts: Total redacted
content: 7.25%. Most heavily redacted were Russian "Active Measures"
Social Media Campaign (46%), Russian Hacking (23%), and Prosecution and
Declination Decisions (31%).
Neal Katyal on whether the Mueller report went far enough: Interview
with a law professor who helped "draft the special-counsel regulations"
after Ken Starr's protracted effort to crucify Bill Clinton. Katyal says:
I would say three people's colors have been revealed by this report. We
have learned Mueller's reputation is real. We have learned Trump's
disregard for the truth and the rule of law is real. And we have learned
Barr has become a total Trumpian Attorney General.
The Seth Rich conspiracy theory needs to end now: "The Mueller report
confirms that the late DNC staffer had absolutely nothing to do with leaked
emails later shared by WikiLeaks."
George T Conway III:
Trump is a cancer on the presidency. Congress should remove him.
EJ Dionne Jr:
Mueller's report is the beginning, not the end.
The hustlers and swindlers of the Mueller report.
Susan B Glasser:
The Mueller report won't end Trump's presidency, but it sure makes him
Robert Mueller did not merely reject the Trump-Russia conspiracy theories.
He obliterated them.
9 ways the media blew it in its 'Russiagate' coverage.
Does the Mueller report exonerate Trump? I asked 12 legal experts.
Confused about who's who in the Mueller report? Start here.
The best defense of Trump is still a damning indictment: "The Mueller
report's defense of Trump: exculpatory incompetence, misplaced rage."
The problem with impeachment. Despite the nesting, let's put the
impeachment eggs in this one basket:
I skipped over the stories of various politicians calling for
impeachment (or not). I basically agree with Rubin (and Pelosi): as long
as impeachment is a partisan divide, there's no way to do it, and
trying detracts from other efforts to expose Trump. Still, it doesn't
hurt to rattle that sword now and then, especially as its futility
is really an indictment of the Republicans protecting Trump. In the
long run, people need to think about better ways of limiting abuse
of presidential power. I think it should be possible for Congress
to overturn arbitrary Trump orders like his border emergency and
Yemen War support, to pick two recent examples, without having to
muster enough support to also override his veto -- especially given
that we have an electoral system which lets someone win a 4-year
term with as little support as Trump had in 2016.
7 times the Mueller report caught Sean Spicer and Sarah Sanders lying
The obstruction case against Trump that Barr tried to hide.
In the Mueller report, Erik Prince funds a covert effort to obtain
Clinton's e-mails from a foreign state.
It's official: House Democrats subpoena the full, unredacted Mueller
The Mueller report's biggest mystery: "What did Mueller find out about
Trump associates and email leaks?"
James Risen/Robert Mackey/Trevor Aaronson:
Annotating special counsel Robert Mueller's redacted report.
Five questions that still need to be answered in the Mueller report.
How Barr's excerpts compare to the Mueller report's findings.
Mitt Romney is "sickened" by the Trump administration's "dishonesty" after
reading Mueller report.
Liberals sold their souls to the war machine on Russia.
Don McGahn not listening to Donald Trump doesn't absolve the President
of a crime.
Peter Van Buren:
Mueller's investigation is missing one thing: a crime:
Almost everything Mueller has, the perjury and lying cases, are crimes
he created through the process of investigating. He's Schrodinger's Box:
the infractions only exist when he tries to look at them.
On the other hand, a lot of things that aren't really prosecutable
crimes look and smell bad. Politicians lie about them because they
know this, and are trying to avoid exposing their faults.
I originally figured I'd try to write up my take on this, but at
this point I'm too exhausted (not to mention disgusted).
Some scattered links this week:
Nobody knows anything about 'electability': Article runs with Biden's
picture up top, since pundits would much rather talk about his "electability"
than his policy views or track record, but touches on others, noting that
"they're making lots of dubious assumptions."
All this glib talk about electability has a cost. It leads commentators,
often implicitly, to give "electable" candidates a pass when their policy
views are fuzzy or flat-out wrong. So what should journalists do? It's
simple: Spend less time discussing which candidates can win the presidency
and more time discussing what they'd do if they actually won.
The unlawful ambitions of Donald Trump's immigration policy.
Nearly 100,000 Pentagon whistleblower complaints have been silenced.
Andrew Yang's plan to take on opioids: decriminalize heroin and fentanyl.
America's coup efforts in Venezuela enter a frightening new phase.
Interior Dept. opens ethics investigation of its new chief, David
Bernhardt. That didn't take long, although few things could be
Trump administration announces new measures against Cuba. Especially
clever is the line about Cuba expanding "its malign influence and
ideological imperialism across the region." Another example of the
recent fashion of attacking the left by using the same language the
left has traditionally used about the right. Also: Gregory Weeks:
The US is thinking of invading Venezuela. That's unlikely to lead to
democracy. And: Francisco Toro:
Pompeo reaches the dead end of Trump's Venezuela policy, and
With US military action, Venezuela could become the Libya of the
Related: Alex Horton:
Trump soured relations in Latin America. China and Russia have welcomed
Half of England is owned by less than 1% of the population. Next up:
So 1% of the people own half of England. Inheritance tax reform could fix
The dangerous bullying of Ilhan Omar. Related:
Ilhan Omar's deeply American message.
An art historian explains the tough decisions in rebuilding Notre
David D Kirkpatrick:
Trump endorses an aspiring Libyan strongman, reversing policy. Maybe
when he saw the memo he just misread the name (Khalifa Hifter)?
CBO: over 1 million Americans have become uninsured since 2016.
Bernie Sanders's Fox News town hall wasn't a debate. Bernie won anyway.
Marijuana legalization is very popular.
7 winners from the first big presidential fundraising reports:
After sections on Sanders, Harris, and Buttagieg: "Donald Trump is
set to raise tons of cash while Democrats battle each other." No
self-funding this time around. He's back to cash in.
The false choice between helping Notre Dame and helping poor people.
Republican strategist Karl Rove says Bernie Sanders could beat Trump
in 2020: Much of this is based on Sanders' performance in facing
a Fox-hosted town hall, warning his fellow right-wing activists that
"beating Sanders by attacking his democratic socialist views 'won't
be as easy as Republicans may think.'" Still, he's trying:
However, the Republican strategist wasn't completely glowing in his
analysis of the Democrat, arguing in his Wall Street Journal piece,
"Such platitudes go only so far in masking what drives Mr. Sanders'
philosophy: resentment, grievance, and a desire to take from those
who have and redistribute the wealth, all to expand government. He
may describe socialism in benign terms, but he regularly drops his
guard, opening himself up to devastating counterpunches."
I started to compile a list of recent right-wing books, noticing
a trend of trying to paint Democrats as resentful, embittered, and
vindictive -- traits that sure sound to me like the hate mongering
that has bent the right-wing base so far out of shape and elected
demagogues like Trump. Some examples, to give you a flavor of how
desperate right-wing propagandists have become: Noah Rothman's
Unjust: Social Justice and the Unmaking of America; Derek
Hunter's Outrage, Inc.: How the Liberal Mob Ruined Science,
Journalism, and Hollywood, and Arthur C Brooks' Love Your
Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America From the Culture of
Contempt. Those titles (with minor tweaks) could easily have
been used for books critiquing the right. That right-wingers have
adopted them shows that they recognize that their credibility has
Who are the real terrorists in the Mideast?
American history for Truthdiggers: Vietnam, a US tragedy: Number 29
in the author's series recapping American history, starting in 1607 with
Original sin. I've always found this history interesting, both
for what it tells us about where we came from, and why we keep making
the same mistakes over and over again, but I've never felt like beating
myself up over the sins of my ancestors. On the other hand, having
grown up and lived through Vietnam, I feel no sympathy whatsoever for
anyone who refuses to acknowledge that the American War in Vietnam
was anything less than a colossal mistake. Still:
It is the war that never dies. Vietnam, the very word shrouded with
extraordinary meaning in the American lexicon. For some it represents
failure; for others guilt; for still more, anger that the war could
have and should have been won. Americans are still arguing about this
war, once the nation's longest. For those who lived through it -- the
last war the U.S. fought partly with draftees -- it was almost
impossible not to take sides; to be pro-war or anti-war became a
social and political identity unto itself. This tribal split even
reached into the ranks of military veterans, as some joined antiwar
movements and others remained vociferously sure that the war needed
to be fought through to victory. Indeed, today, even the active-duty
U.S. military officer corps is rent over assessment of the Vietnam
I've been reading recently about how the reaction against Germany's
defeat (most notoriously the "stab-in-the-back" myth) in 1918 fueled
the rise of Nazism in Germany. The same thing has happened with the US
right and Vietnam, leading conservatives (dedicated as ever to keeping
a social order which raises the rich up and beats the poor down) more
often than not to wrap themselves up in militarist myths of past and
future martial glory. Nor is Vietnam the only war that those invested
in "America's war machine" refuse to learn from. See: William J Astore:
America's generals haven't learned anything from Iraq.
We are all complicit in America's war machine.
Who will be the last to die for a lie? The Afghan War drags on.
With friends like these: abusive frenemies and American Mideast policy.
Secrecy, self-dealing, and greed at the NRA.
Joseph E Stiglitz:
Progressive capitalism is not an oxymoron: This is real basic:
Standards of living began to improve in the late 18th century for two
reasons: the development of science (we learned how to learn about
nature and used that knowledge to increase productivity and longevity)
and developments in social organization (as a society, we learned how
to work together, through institutions like the rule of law, and
democracies with checks and balances).
Key to both were systems of assessing and verifying the truth. The
real and long-lasting danger of the Trump presidency is the risk it
poses to these pillars of our economy and society, its attack on the
very idea of knowledge and expertise, and its hostility to institutions
that help us discover and assess the truth.
There is a broader social compact that allows a society to work and
prosper together, and that, too, has been fraying. America created the
first truly middle-class society; now, a middle-class life is increasingly
out of reach for its citizens.
America arrived at this sorry state of affairs because we forgot that
the true source of the wealth of a nation is the creativity and innovation
of its people. One can get rich either by adding to the nation's economic
pie or by grabbing a larger share of the pie by exploiting others --
abusing, for instance, market power or informational advantages. We
confused the hard work of wealth creation with wealth-grabbing (or, as
economists call it, rent-seeking), and too many of our talented young
people followed the siren call of getting rich quickly.
Also see Andrew Ross Sorkin's interview with Stiglitz:
Socialist! Capitalist! Economic systems as weapons in a war of words.
Stiglitz has a new book: People, Power, and Profits: Progressive
Capitalism for an Age of Discontent (WW Norton).
Trump's veto over Yemen is a scandalous abuse of presidential power.
The Israeli-Palestinian peace process is dead. An expert explains why.
Interview with Khaled Elgindy, author of Blind Spot: America and the
Palestinians From Balfour to Trump. Some more links on Israel and
last week's election:
Iran labels all US troops in the Middle East "terrorists": It's
a response to America's similar designation of Iranian troops the
day before." Actually, both designations raise into question the
self-conception (and conceits) of the designator. On the other hand,
US troops have killed a lot more people over the last two decades,
so there's something to the charges. See Danny Sjursen, above, for
This is how Bernie Sanders thinks about foreign policy: "The
senator wants to create a global democratic movement to end oligarchy
and authoritarianism." That would be a major change from US policy
under both parties ever since the start of the cold war, which was
to support and extend capitalist property rights everywhere, while
to undermine labor and anti-colonial political movements, and very
often to support local oligarchs and authoritarians against their
What Pete Buttigieg learned from Donald Trump: "In a crowded field,
it pays off to say 'yes' to everything and get attention."