Sunday, August 4, 2019
Starting this early (Friday), hoping to avoid the last-minute crunch.
Not really news, but CNN's Democratic presidential debates got a lot of
attention from the punditocracy this week. As usual, I didn't watch in
real time (although my wife did, so I overheard some), but caught the
"highlights" later (among the comics, Colbert was most informative).
Let's group the links here, rather than clutter up the main section:
Elizabeth Warren is running a brilliant campaign.
4 winners and 3 losers from the second night of the July Democratic
debates: With German Lopez, Dylan Matthews, and Andrew Prokop.
Winners: Joe Biden ("Well, this one's complicated"); Elizabeth Warren
and Bernie Sanders ("weren't there, but they loomed large anyway");
Cory Booker; single-payer activists. Losers: Kamala Harris; CNN,
again; the DNC.
3 winners and 4 losers from the first night of the July Democratic
debates: With German Lopez, PR Lockhart, Dylan Matthews, and
Ella Nilsen. Winners: Elizabeth Warren; John Delaney; the Republican
Party ("several of the major issues were framed by the moderators in
terms Republicans would love"). Losers: the policy needs of black
voters; CNN; Beto O'Rourke.
Marianne Williamson isn't funny. She's scary. Picks on her views
on depression and illness, which are not exactly tangential to either
her career as a "self-help guru" or her political aspirations. As for
funny, my take so far (and I know or care nothing about her career)
is that she does a nice job of filling a niche in the Democratic Party
that no one even imagined before: a soft focus on morals and emotions,
like Ben Carson among Republicans. That role is unimagined because
most Democrats try hard to be rational and grounded in reality, but
sometimes she seems to be onto something at a primal, instinctive
leve. Of course, much of what she says is, as Beauchamp puts it,
"extremely vague and hard to parse, but managed to at times banal
and at other times deeply weird."
Jake Tapper and CNN totally botched the health care discussion.
Alexia Fernández Campbell:
What Biden doesn't get about immigration.
Democrats aren't going to win working-class voters this way, says labor
union president: "Democrats have to speak about how they are going
to take the shitty jobs that exist in this economy and make them good
jobs." Isn't that usually just a matter of making them pay better?
When Robert Reich was auditioning to become Clinton's Secretary of
Labor, he came up with the rationalization that it didn't matter if
American factories shut down, because unemployed workers could always
be retrained to become high-paid "symbol manipulators." Ever since
then, the only answer neoliberal Democrats had to declining working
wages and standards was to offer more education (and debt). But no
matter how much money we plow into education (and I don't doubt that
we should spend a lot more than we've been doing), we'll still have
shitty jobs we'll need people to do. But we can decide whether we
respect and value the people who do those jobs enough to accord them
a decent wage and fair and equal rights -- a status we used to call
"middle class." Interview with Mary Kay Henry.
Can Joe Biden sell 'no we can't'? "The triumph of the progressives
on night one of the Detroit debates portends trouble for the former
John F Harris:
Democrats are veering left. It might just work. Cites Stanley
Greenberg, who wrote a book about how Reagan "captured many working
class Democrats who believed their party's liberalism was out of step
with their lives. But now he "believes that the urgency voters feel
for shaking up the status quo means there's less risk for candidates
and the party in going too far than in not going far enough." For a
contrary point, Harris cites Rahm Emanuel, whose fear and loathing
of the left is even greater than his readiness to sell out Democratic
voters. Greenberg has a book coming out in September: R.I.P. G.O.P.:
How the New America is Dooming the Republicans.
2020 Democrats are getting more confrontational with the fossil fuel
The Democrats need to get their act together.
Gravel '20 is done.
Why you can't ignore Marianne Williamson: "Mock her all you want, but
Marianne Williamson speaks to people horrified by Trump who aren't satisfied
with policy papers."
Trump outperformed his popularity in 2016. That might not happen in 2020.
As I mentioned somewhere else here, many voters saw Trump as a solution
to a very tangible problem in Hilary Clinton. Maybe they hated whatever
it was they thought she stood for (and there was grounds for that from
the right and also from the left), or maybe they just didn't want to
subject themselves to four years of pompous clichés, inane backbiting,
and petty pseudo-scandals blown way out of proportion. Maybe they even
recognized the unfairness of the vitriol, but still, the only way to
make it go away was to vote her down. But since 2016, he's dominated
public consciousness, becoming the source of our public embarrassment
to a much grosser extent than she ever was or could be. There will, of
course, be a block of people that loves him no matter what, and another
that despises him, but in between there's a slice that can break one
way or another. If in 2016 they broke for Trump because they wanted
to flip off the status quo and avoid its scandals, those exact same
rationales suggest they'll break against him in 2020. That's probably
not enough to seal his fate. I can imagine at least one other slice
breaking the opposite way: people who support the status quo, even
as it's been warped by Trump's malign rule. Moreover, I expect Trump
will have a lot more money, and a much more professional campaign
behind him this time, in lockstep with a pretty unified Republican
Party. But still, the tables have turned on those last-minute impulse
Pete Buttigieg says he'd withdraw troops from Afghanistan in his first
Here's who won (and lost) the second Democratic debate, night two:
In rank order: Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Tulsi Gabbard,
Andrew Yang, Julian Castro, Michael Bennet, Jay Inslee, Bill de Blasio,
Here's who won (and lost) the second Democratic debate, night one:
In rank order: Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Marianne Williamson,
Pete Buttigieg, Steve Bullock, Amy Klobuchar, John Delaney, Tim Ryan,
Beto O'Rourke, John Hickenlooper.
What Andrew Yang gets wrong (and right) about robots.
Obama looms over the primary in invisible ways.
The presidential debates wasted too much time talking about stuff only
Congress can do: "The president has a lot of power -- so why wouldn't
the candidates talk about it?"
Jay Inslee points to Democrats' real problem: Mitch McConnell:
"Even if the Democrats win the Senate, the filibuster stands in the
way of their big plans."
Joe Biden's 1981 views on child care haven't aged well. Gillibrand called
him out on it.
Charles P Pierce:
Is Andrew Yang the doomer candidate?
The Democratic debates were built to fail.
Winners and losers on night 2 of the second Democratic debates.
Winners: Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Jay Inslee, Andrew Yang.
Losers: Michael Bennet, Bill de Blasio, Tulsi Gabbard. Treading water:
Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Julian Castro.
Winners and losers on night 1 of the second Democratic debates:
Winners: Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Marianne Williamson ("go
ahead, laugh"), Steve Bullock. Losers: John Delaney, Hickenlooper,
Beto O'Rourke, Amy Klobuchar. Treading water: Pete Buttigieg, Tim
"Your question is a Republican talking point": CNN frames debate questions
around right-wing concerns: "Republicans weren't onstage during the
Democratic debate -- but were living rent-free inside moderators' heads."
The messy health care discussion at the second Democratic debate,
At the Democratic debate, Joe Biden defends the party's past.
The 2 veterans on the Democratic debate stage made a big promise about
Afghanistan: That would be Tulsi Gabbard and Pete Buttigieg, who
Lawrence S Wittner:
The Democratic debates need more questions about nuclear war.
The weird controversy over Democrats "criticizing Obama" at this week's
Democrats are skipping the most important health care debate: "should
this even be the priority?"
Personally, I think the Medicare-for-all people are 100 percent correct.
The current American health care system is bad and wasteful, and replacing
it with something like the Canadian system would be a good idea. But the
policy world is full of good ideas, and not every good idea can be your
top priority. Prioritizing health reform has not, in the past, been an
extraordinarily successful strategy for new presidents.
I agree with the first line here, and would add that any presidential
candidate who disagrees is not just wrong (in all their arguments and
rationalizations) but a coward to boot. On the other hand, if I was in
charge and didn't have the votes, I'd write up a good single-payer bill
and hold it in reserve, while trying to pass a bunch of less ambitious
reforms to the ACA framework. If the reforms are thwarted, either by
politics or by the courts, you can always fall back on the single-payer
bill, and that case would become more compelling. Meanwhile, there is
a lot that can be done, and not just by throwing more money at the
blood-sucking insurance companies. The long-term answer is not just
single-payer (cutting the for-profit insurance companies out of the
system) but reducing the profit motive in the provider system. (You'll
never wring all the profit-seeking out of the system, but non-profit
hospitals were a lot more cost-effective than HCA is.) One thing that
could be done would be to build up government-supported non-profits
that could compete against the profit-seeking companies. (The "public
option" under ACA is one example, but non-profit options wouldn't have
to be directly under government bureaucracy.) One might, for instance,
change bankruptcy law to allow failed hospitals and service providers
to be reorganized with public support and employee control. Another
idea I've been kicking around would be to offer a bare-bones universal
insurance (e.g., through the Medicare provider network) that would
cover an initially small set of emergencies and illnesses. This would
make private insurance supplemental (rather than primary), reducing
its cost while allowing it to fit more customized needs. (You can see
how this works with Medicare supplemental plans. Medicare at present
does most of the heavy lifting, but still leaves a lot of deductible
nonsense that makes supplemental insurance attractive. That could
change if Medicare-for-All improved a lot, but that's going to be a
hard battle to fight -- especially all at once.)
3 winners and 4 losers from the Democrats' two-night debate extravaganza:
Winners: Cory Booker (Yglesias thinks "neoliberal shill" is a compliment);
Joe Biden; the Great Winnowing. Losers: knowing what powers the president
has; comprehension of what is in these health care plans; all these housing
plans; policy criticism of Donald Trump.
America deserves a debate between Joe Biden and his main progressive
critics: "Elizabeth Warren versus John Delaney is not the drama we've
Elizabeth Warren's vision for changing America's trade policy, explained.
Lots of non-campaign news this week, but Donald Trump's flagrant
racism caught the most attention, climaxing with two mass shootings
which, despite pro forma denials, appear as the proof in the pudding.
Checked my Facebook feed shortly before filing this, and was rather
surprised to find as many/maybe more pro-gun memes than anti, not
that the former make any sense. One, for instance, links to a piece
titled "Every Mass Shooting Shares 1 Thing in Common, NOT Guns": I
didn't follow, but the picture shows a pile of pills. I doubt that,
but even if lots of mass shooters popped pills, by definition every
single one used a gun. All of those were forwarded by acknowledged
friends. (Of course, I do also have anti-gun friends. They may even
be in the majority, but lose out in this comparison because they tend
to post their own thoughts instead of just propagating someone else's
Some links on this and other stories:
'Mother is not going to like this': The 48 hours that almost brought down
Trump: "The exclusive story of how Trump survived the Access Hollywood
tape." An excerpt from the book, American Carnage: On the Front Lines
of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump. Ends
with this memorable debate exchange:
Donald Trump: If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to
get a special prosecutor to look into your situation. Because there
have never been so many lies, so much deception.
Hilary Clinton: Everything he just said was absolutely false. It's
just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is
not in charge of the law in our country.
Donald Trump: Because you'd be in jail.
Trump later claimed "that debate won me the election." It was a lucky
punch, but it landed because more people wanted to see her fail than so
feared Trump they were willing to live with her constantly in their minds
for the next four (or eight) years. It was not a moment American voters
would be proud of.
Police: Rookie Texas officer shoots at dog, kills woman.
Andrew J Bacevich:
The real reason so many Republicans love Israel? Their own white supremacy.
Related: Jonathan Ofir:
Racism is at the center of Israeli settler-colonialist venture: a
review of Ronit Lentin's book, Traces of Racial Exception: Racializing
Israeli Settler Colonialism. Ofir also wrote this update on changing
alignments in Israeli politics:
Israeli pols merge parties, and the right-wing seems stronger than
What the House anti-BDS resolution reveals about the Palestine solidarity
movement. Related: Omar Barghouti:
Why Americans should support BDS.
We can't fund the progressive agenda by taxing the 1% alone: "The
tricky politics of taxing the 1%, the middle class, and everyone in
between." Basic point here is well taken. To do everything we'd like
to see the government do requires that tax revenues be increased.
While current tax rates leave a lot of leeway for increasing taxes
on the very rich, that's not necessarily enough -- especially moving
forward, especially if we do other things to diminish inequality.
It may also be easier to increase a range of taxes by a small amount
than it would be to increase one tax (income) by a lot. For instance,
the easiest way to fund the sort of basic health insurance I outline
elsewhere here would be to tack it onto the payroll tax that already
funds Medicare, even though that's the most regressive tax we use
these days. It would also be good to implement a small VAT (basically,
a national sales tax), which is also regressive but could be scaled
up to raise significant revenue as needed. One fact worth recalling
is that not every tax has to be progressive -- you can compensate
with more sharply progressive tax rates on incomes and estates,
which is all you really need to bring the 1% back into mainstream
America. Democrats need to be wary of falling for Republican talking
points, which is what they're doing when they deny any tax increases
on the middle class. They need to convince people that the returns
on their taxes will be worthwhile -- which is basically what FDR did
when he designed the payroll tax to fund Social Security.
Behind the guise of adversarial journalism, CNN's Jake Tapper is taking
America to war.
Unqualified UN Ambassador is the perfect weak link: "Don't be
surprised if Kelly Craft's lack of experience is exactly what Bolton
and Pompeo wanted for their war cabinet."
Right-wing troika: "The Republican Party's 50-state strategy."
Review of Alexander Hertel-Fernandez's book, State Capture: How
Conservative Activists, Big Businesses, and Wealthy Donors Reshaped
the American States -- and the Nation.
How Trump's political appointees overruled tougher settlements with big
Don't ask how to pay for climate change. Ask who.
Rep. Will Hurd's retirement reflects GOP's biggest electoral struggle
in the House: Trump.
Trump seems thrilled that someone broke into Elijah Cummings's house.
The next election will require a new kind of vigilance.
The 2020 race has now begun in earnest, with the Democrats having their
first primary debates last month [June]. Lurking in the background is
something that once seemed inconceivable in modern-day America: the
threat of election-related violence.
As the Southern Poverty Law Center said earlier this year in an annual
report, there has been a rise in domestic terrorism, hate crimes, and
street violence. It's no surprise, then, that on June 26, Reddit -- the
fifth-most trafficked website in the U.S. -- announced it was "quarantining"
a popular message board with 750,000 followers because of active discussions
involving violence against political figures. . . .
Perhaps the biggest harbinger of election violence is the proliferation
of disinformation, rumors, and hate speech. All of which are spreading
further and with greater velocity than at arguably any other moment in
What 'abolish ICE' really means: "It's about asking whether we need
an immigration system that terrorizes the least dangerous people in this
country." Related: Emily Ryo:
How ICE enforcement has changed under the Trump administration.
Greenland is melting away before our eyes.
b>Ellen Knickmeyer/Brady McCombs:
Opponent of nation's public lands is picked to oversee them.
Donald Trump's dangerous empathy deficit.
Trump's trade quagmire (wonkish).
Why was Trumponomics a flop? "Neither tax cuts nor tariffs are
But why has Trumponomics failed to deliver much besides trillion-dollar
budget deficits? The answer is that both the tax cuts and the trade war
were based on false views about how the world works.
Republican faith in the magic of tax cuts -- and, correspondingly,
belief that tax increases will doom the economy -- is the ultimate policy
zombie, a view that should have been killed by evidence decades ago but
keeps shambling along, eating G.O.P. brains.
The record is actually awesomely consistent. Bill Clinton's tax hike
didn't cause a depression, George W. Bush's tax cuts didn't deliver a
boom, Jerry Brown's California tax increase wasn't "economic suicide,"
Sam Brownback's Kansas tax-cut "experiment" (his term) was a failure.
A racist stuck in the past: "In Trump's mind, it's still 1989."
Krugman picked 1989 because "that was the year he demanded bringing
back the death penalty in response to the case of the Central Park
Five," but for most of us that was just one year in a long continuum
of viciousness (racist and otherwise).
As deficit explodes, GOP demands emergency tax cut for the rich:
"Twenty senators have urged the Treasury to give the wealthy another
tax cut via executive order."
What Israel's demolition of 70 Palestinian homes was really about.
It's never "too soon" to talk about preventing mass shootings. It's
always too late.
How to campaign when nothing is possible. I suppose if I was a
do-nothing "moderate" I'd take some comfort from this, realizing
that even such a committed and principled radical as Bernie Sanders
would preserve more status quo than another four years of Trump.
If the Republicans maintain their majority in the Senate, the new Democratic
president will not be enacting one iota of their top shelf legislative
agenda. There will be nothing major on health care or college loans or
immigration or climate change. Even judges will be only confirmed in the
most belated and begrudging manner, and only if they've never said anything
on the record that conservatives find irritating. All legislative progress
that can be made will come as the result of leverage over must-pass bills,
and the leverage will only be truly significant so long as the Democrats
retain control of the House of Representatives. But navigating government
shutdowns and threats of national default in order to attach a few things
to appropriations bills is not going to turn many of a candidate's
campaign promises into reality. . . .
Yet, even if the Democrats win the trifecta and eliminate the legislative
filibuster, they'll still have huge problems passing legislation. Even
assuming that Nancy Pelosi can push the president's agenda through her
chamber (and this is doubtful for some of the policies the candidates
are pushing), there are senators (like Michael Bennet of Colorado, for
example) on the record opposing much of the progressive candidates'
agenda. . . .
I absolutely understand that people are hungry for change. People are
sick to death of Congress and want to break this gridlock. But it's a
problem that is beyond the power of any candidate or any rhetoric to fix.
On the other hand, while a left-committed candidate like Sanders or
Warren might not get much more accomplished than mediocrities like Biden,
Klobuchar, or Bennet, they would try, and be seen as trying, and their
frustation and dedication would sustain the Party's slow drift to the
left. And that would generate more creative discussion of real problems --
the solution to which is only to be found further left.
Business leaders flock to Trump for protections against socialism.
Cites his previous piece,
What if big business falls in completely with Trumpism?
The El Paso shooting and the virality of evil.
The national conversation will now turn, as it should, to gun control,
to mental illness, and to the President's practice of exacerbating
racial tensions, which has been one of his avocations for decades and
now appears to be his central reëlection strategy. But there's also a
more specific question: what can be done about the fact that so many
of these terrorists -- in Pittsburgh, in Poway, in Christchurch, in
El Paso -- seem to find inspiration in the same online spaces? Each
killer, in the moment, may have acted alone, but they all appear to
have been zealous converts to the same ideology -- a paranoid snarl
of raw anger, radical nationalism, unhinged nihilism, and fears of
"white genocide" that is still referred to as "fringe," although it's
creeping precariously close to the mainstream.
The progressive case for free trade. Related: Daniel Block:
Free trade for liberals. This piece focuses more on European problems,
and vainly posits that an alliance with American liberals would help
"protect democracy, fight inequality, and save the environment." Lots
of problems here, starting with the fact that US trade policy -- even
under Democratic presidents -- has always been the province of business
interests, and while those interests may like to tout "democracy" as a
propaganda riff, fighting inequality and saving the environment never
really was their thing. Moreover, any "Atlantic Alliance" is at present
bound to reek of those nations' colonial/imperial pasts. On the other
hand, other alliances have always been possible: internationalism was
the hallmark of the labor movement at least since 1848, and could be
again. But it will take some kind of political revolution before the
US and Europe can see trade as a tool for promoting the welfare of all
The movement to decriminalize sex work, explained.
When hate came to El Paso.
Charles P Pierce:
'We're all tired of being called racists'. I'm getting tired of
having to call them racists, too. Maybe they should do a better job
of keeping their racism to themselves?
When Trump calls people "filth," he's laying the groundwork for genocide.
From condemning "white terrorism" to condemning video games: Republican
responses to El Paso shooting.
There is no excuse for supporting this president. Looks like the
Washington Post is piling on; e.g. EJ Dionne Jr:
On guns and white nationalism, one side is right and one is wrong;
Trump is leading our country to destruction. Needless to say,
Trump's holding up his end of the feud. See: Jonathan Chait:
Trump directs government to punish Washington Post
'How do you stop these people?': Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric looms
over El Paso massacre. Also: Ayal Feinberg/Regina Branton/Valerie
Counties that hosted a 2016 Trump rally saw a 226 percent increase in
hate crimes. Coincidence?
White nationalism's deep American roots: "A long-overdue excavation
of the book that Hitler called his "bible," and the man who wrote it."
That would be Madison Grant, author of the 1916 book The Passing of
the Great Race.
The use and abuse of international law in the occupied territories:
Review of Noura Erakat's book, Justice for Some: Law and the Question
Kobach used private border wall's email list to fundraise for Senate
campaign: "This email could run afoul of campaign finance laws."
Trump donor, Elliott Broidy, paid Dennis Ross $10,000 to publish pro-Saudi
op-ed in The Hill.
The bizarre, peaty science of Arctic wildfires.
US troops are back in Saudi Arabia -- this will end badly.
As Trump fans the flames of anti-abortion rhetoric, Kansas offers a
Hospitals squeal over Trump proposal to disclose insurance company
Felicia Sonmez/Paul Kane:
Republicans struggle to respond in wake of El Paso, Dayton shootings.
The rise and fall of superhero Robert Mueller.
Violence has spiked in Africa since the military founded AFRICOM,
Pentagon study finds.
Conservatives are hiding their 'loathing' behind our flag: "The molten
core of right-wing nationalism is the furious denial of America's unalterably
multiracial, multicultural national character."
The rhetoric and reality of Donald Trump's racism.
Today's budget deal proves once again Republicans never cared about the
deficit. Nothing really new here: I still recall when Nixon declared
himself a Keynesian. With their tax giveaways, Reagan, Bush, and Trump
didn't even have to admit as much. They merely understood that the rules
are different when the Republicans are in power or in opposition. That's
only hypocrisy if you pretend there's a general principle involved.
The critical thing, however, is that if not for hypocritical Republican
opposition, we could have been running these higher deficits in 2011,
2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. And if we had done that, the economy could
have recovered faster from the Great Recession, the unemployment rate
could have fallen more rapidly, and hundreds of billions of dollars of
national income that is now irretrievably lost could have been earned.
The Federal Reserve's interest rate cut, explained.
America's dual housing crisis, and what Democrats plan to do about it,
explained: "A crisis of low incomes and a parallel crisis of tight
Trump is approving an anti-competitive merger that will cost you money:
"But he seems to have made money off the deal personally." The merger
of Sprint and T-Mobile, currently the 3rd and 4th largest mobile phone
The new bipartisan Senate bill aimed at making Big Pharma lower drug