Sunday, July 28, 2019
Lots of links below -- probably more than usual, although as always
I feel like I'm leaving a lot of stuff untouched. Some topics I only
decided late in the game to break out (Boris Johnson under Mackey,
impeachment under Reich, Iran under Simon/Stevenson) could have picked
up more links had I acted earlier and more consciously. I meant to write
more on Mueller under Alksne when I first found the piece, but by the
time I got to it I had scattered Mueller links all over the page.
Some scattered links this week:
No knight on a white horse: "House Democrats have spent the last two
years waiting for someone else to solve the Trump conundrum."
The T-Mobile/Sprint merger remedy makes no sense.
Noam Chomsky: Life expectancy in the US is declining for a reason.
Robert Mueller kept his promise:
Democrats can't say Robert Mueller didn't warn them.
For months, the former special counsel told them in every way he could --
in private negotiations, in his sole public statement on his investigation,
through letters from the Justice Department -- that he did not want to
testify before Congress, and that if he did, his appearance would be a
Today, Mueller fully delivered on that promise.
Alexia Fernández Campbell:
Puerto Ricans pushed out a sitting governor for the first time in history:
"The massive protests worked." Related: Zeeshan Aleem:
Puerto Rico's week of massive protests, explained.
Leticia Casado/Ernesto Londono:
Under Brazil's far right leader, Amazon protections slashed and forests
fall. Also: Alexander Zaitchik:
Rainforest on fire: "On the front lines of Bolsonaro's war on the
Amazon, Brazil's forest communities fight against climate catastrophe."
For a comment, see David Wallace-Wells:
Could one man single-handedly ruin the planet?
The economist who would fix the American dream: "No one has done
more to dispel the myth of social mobility than Raj Chetty. But he has
a plan to make equality of opportunity a reality."
How science got trampled in the rush to drill in the Arctic. Related:
The 'drill, baby, drill' crowd wants access to this arctic reserve.
Crystal Marie Fleming:
The composure and civility of "the Squad" against Trump's attacks.
Dan Coats spoke truth to Trump. Now he's out. Oh? Now? Gilsinan
Don't expect Mark Esper to contain Trump (you know, the new Secretary
of Defense), and
The impossible job of speaking truth to Trump. Coats' replacement is
John Ratcliffe, a Texas Congressman in the press last week for
his attacks on Robert Mueller.
Moon fever: On the Apollo 11 moon landing, 50 years ago.
Goodbye to free-thought icon and merry prankster Paul Krassner.
David A Graham:
How Iranian MEK went from US terror list to halls of Congress.
William D Hartung:
Trump's Saudi arms vetoes, deconstructed.
Was the automotive era a terrible mistake?
'Unprecedented': more than 100 Arctic wildfires burn in worst ever season:
"Huge blazes in Greenland, Siberia and Alaska are producing plumes of smoke
that can be seen from space."
108 degrees in Paris: Europe is shattering heat records this week.
An other person has died after rationing insulin. Jones had previously
warned (Jan. 31, 2019):
Rising insulin costs are a life-or-death political crisis.
I've been rather
taken aback by these stories. My first wife had diabetes. I never
remembered any particular problem with insulin expense, but she died
over 30 years ago, so I've been out of touch. Best explanation I've
found for recent insulin pricing is here:
8 reasons why insulin is so outrageously expensive. The big one
here is patents, which is the public's way of saying: rape me, pillage,
take it all. There's no good reason why governments should create or
even allow patents. Take them away, and the problems with biologics
and biosimilars will become purely technical -- real, but much more
manageable. And if private industry cannot find the motivation to
bring the price of insulin back to a reasonable level, governments
could finance non-profit manufacturers aiming at the lowest possible
cost. Moreover, the cost savings go way beyond direct costs. Failure
to properly regulate blood sugar levels leads to all kinds of further
expense -- my wife being an especially dramatic example of what all
can go horribly wrong.
The millennial left is tired of waiting: "Saikat Chakrabarti,
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's chief of staff, is working to build a
Facebook will pay the US government a $5 billion fine for privacy failures --
but it won't have to change the way it does business.
The Trump administration is bringing back federal executions.
Natalie Kitroeff/David Gelles/Jack Nicas:
The root of Boeing's 737 Max crisis: A regulator relaxes its oversight.
The case for a universal basic income, open borders, and a 15-hour
workweek: Interview with Rutger Bregman, author of Utopia for
How "Medicare Extra" gets to universal coverage without single-payer:
Didn't make much sense of this in a quick read. I'm skeptical that you
can actually achieve universal coverage while requiring so much paperwork,
and using a means-tested sliding scale that guarantees pinch points. Or
I suppose you could pitch this as system that defaults to single-payer
but allows people to opt out to select inferior private insurance -- with
the added costs of public subsidies to the private insurance companies
(if not direct, then at least by allowing them to piggyback on universal
negotiated pricing). But then you have to ask yourself: why go through
this charade of pretending that private for-profit insurance companies
can compete meaningfully against a non-profit single-payer service.
Lucas Koerner/Ricardo Vaz:
Western media losing enthusiasm for failing coup in Venezuela.
Trump's secret foreign aid program: "He's giving away billions to
Amanda Cohen Leiter:
Justice John Paul Stevens and the slow evolution of the law.
How an oil theft investigation laid the groundwork for the Koch playbook:
"In the late 1980s, Charles Koch faced a federa probe, rallied all of his
resources to fight it off and came away with lessons that would guide the
Kochs for decades." Leonard has a book coming out Aug. 13: Kochland:
The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America.
'It's a disaster over there': Commerce reaches new heights of dysfunction:
"Under Secretary Wilbur Ross, the department is chaotic and adrift."
Related: Matt Stieb:
Wilbur Ross is falling asleep in Commerce Department meetings.
Donald Trump praises Boris Johnson, who once called him "unfit to hold the
office of President of the United States". Also on Johnson:
Ilhan Omar's anti-semitism is becoming a load-bearing myth for American
How Trump took over America's courts.
Jonathan Martin/Maggie Haberman:
Trump relies on populist language, but he mostly sides with corporate
interests: Trenchant reporting from the New York Times.
The case of Al Franken.
- Middle East Eye:
Israel destroys Palestinian homes in biggest demolition push since
1967. Also: Michelle Nichols:
US blocks UN rebuke of Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes.
Jared Kushner's other real estate empire in Baltimore. Related:
Jared Kushner's family company faces more than 170 Baltimore violations.
From Trump to Johnson, nationalists are on the rise -- backed by billionaire
Al Franken needs to stop comparing his resignation to death.
It is not enough to condemn Trump's racism.
The real reason we need to impeach Trump immediately: Actually, he
offers close to a dozen, but they're just examples of a more fundamental
contempt Trump holds for law and order:
Every child in America is supposed to learn about the Constitution's
basic principles of separation of powers, and checks and balances.
But these days, every child and every adult in America is learning
from Donald Trump that these principles are bunk.
More impeachment talk:
Ohio just passed the worst energy bill of the 21st century: "A corrupt
bailout for dinosaur power plants that screws renewable energy in the
process." Also: Ryan Grim/Akela Lacy:
Ohio Republicans balked at a nuclear bailout, so the industry elected new
Republicans -- and walked away with $1.1 billion.
"Love it or leave it" has a racist history. A lot of America's language
does. I've always heard "love it or leave it" as "be complacent, or
get banished," because you're not entitled to your own opinions, or in
any way to criticize your government, and if you dissent, you're not
entitled to keep living your life where you grew up. Racism is one of
many things that we weren't allowed to question (and the "back to Africa"
movement was largely a concession to this dictate), but there are a great
many more things that triggered this demand -- in my time, most memorably,
America's imperialist war against Vietnam.
David E Sanger/Catie Edmondson:
Russia targeted election systems in all 50 states, report finds:
I don't doubt Russian machinations, nor excuse them with the fact that
the US routinely and methodically attempts to interfere and influence
elections in Russia and damn near everywhere else. But one should bear
in mind that Republicans are much more active underminers of democracy.
And that the common interest that Russia and Republicans share is their
dedication to oligarchy.
The bill for America First is coming due: "Two of America's closest
treaty allies have announced military efforts explicitly designed to
exclude the US." As Trump's foreign policy becomes more arbitrary and
erratic, it's inevitable that other countries will go their own way --
in this case, UK and Australia, reverting to their basest imperialist
roots. Not a good sign, although anything that reduces the American
bootprint on the world's neck can't be all bad. Schake directs a UK
security think tank, IISS, and her recent pieces offer various hints
at how Trump's vacuous foreign policy is perturbing America's former
clients. For example, see:
A Middle East peace plan built in un-American principles, and
Worse than Obama's red-line moment: taunting Trump for not bombing
Iran ("Trump has now shown himself just as willing as President Obama
to make empty threats that damage American credibility").
Eric B Schnurer:
Facebook doesn't just need to be broken up. It needs to be broken into.
"To create real competition, let other social networks operate on the
architecture Mark Zuckerberg built." I haven't digested this yet, but
my general response to proposals to attack web service monopolies is to
provide public funding to stand up open source alternatives. This subject
is worth a much deeper discussion.
Steven Simon/Jonathan Stevenson:
Iran: The case against war. More recent pieces on Iran:
Could Donald Trump end the Afghan War?
Maggie Stevens/Derek Willis:
How conservative operatives steered millions in PAC donations to
Elizabeth Warren sees "serious warning signs" of an economic crash.
The coming economic crash and how to stop it. Another important
End Wall Street's stranglehold on our economy. Yves Smith
writes about this latter piece:
Elizabeth Warren seeks to cut private equity down to size.
The Iowa circus: "Clown Car II: The Democrats. God help us." He wrote
a great campaign book once, but it wasn't his 2016 effort (Insane Clown
President: Dispatches From the 2016 Circus -- it was his 2004-based
Spanking the Donkey: Dispatches From the Dumb Season). But clearly
he's just running on auto-pilot now, not even considering whether to
revamp his circus metaphors -- it's like he's forgotten that there's a
distinction between a sequel and a parody.
Banks sued for LIBOR collusion -- again!.
The myth of Robert Mueller, exploded.
Anya van Wagtendonk:
Katrina vanden Heuvel:
The transpartisan revolt against America's endless wars.
George Will changes his mind -- but stays true to his convictions:
Proving his convictions were always the problem with him. While it's
tempting to admire people who are so consistently dedicated to wrong
principles that they occasionally stand up against more opportunistic
evils, they're ultimately not that useful, and never reliable. This
turns into a puff-piece interview, not unlike Wehner's previous
David Brooks's journey toward faith. Wehner's own mission is to
rescue evangelical Christianity ffrom the shame of association with
Donald Trump. That's a decent and noble endeavor, but misses the
problem in favor of a bogus solution.
MAGA bomber's lawyers blame Trump, Sean Hannity for his radicalization.
Related, from Oct. 27, 2018: Rick Wilson:
Of course Donald Trump inspired Cesar Sayoc's alleged terrorism.
Ilhan Omar's case for foreign influence is more convincing than
New GDP data confirms Trump's tax cuts aren't working. Seems to me
they're doing exactly what they were intended to: help the rich get even
richer, and weaken the government by piling up debt, which they can later
use as a cudgel against spending by a future Democratic government. Sure,
tax cut propagandists trotted out a few macroeconomic rationalizations,
but they were such obvious horseshit at the time that their thorough
debunking here offers no surprise and scant comfort. Or, as
Eric Levitz reviews the same issue:
The Trump tax cuts worked (as a scam):
In the Trump era, Republicans have become masters of rationalizing the
indefensible. But even they couldn't defend running up the deficit (and
clamping down social spending) to boost corporate profits at a time when
such profits were already high. Thus, they insisted that the president's
tax cuts would neither increase the deficit nor benefit the wealthy much
at all. . . .
There was little empirical evidence to support this argument when
Republicans were making it two years ago. There is even less today. In
May, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) found no sign that the
Trump tax cuts made any discernible contribution to growth, wages, or
business investment. Corporations did not plow their windfalls into
exceptionally productive and innovative ventures. Instead, they mostly
threw their handouts onto the giant pile of cash they were already
sitting on, and/or returned it to their (predominantly rich)
shareholders. . . .
If you take Republicans at their word -- and assume that they earnestly
believed they could massively increase business investment by slashing
corporate rates -- then the Trump tax cuts have been a miserable failure.
If, however, you assume that the party's goal was always to prioritize
the bottomless avarice of its megadonors over the pressing needs of the
American people -- without paying a huge political price -- then the
president's signature legislation has worked like a charm.
Democrats should run on the popular progressive ideas, not the unpopular
Mueller's testimony matters even if he doesn't say anything new.
Al Franken did the right thing by resigning.