Sunday, January 26, 2020
Not much on the impeachment trial below. I remember watching Senate
hearings on Watergate, but haven't followed anything in Congress that
closely since -- even the Iraq War votes (note plural), or a series of
Supreme Court votes (starting with Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas) even
though they were much more consequential. The Democrats would like to
see this impeachment as a grave, solemn affair, but it doesn't differ
from the Clinton impeachment enough to sway me. Of course, if given the
chance, I'd vote to convict -- fact of the matter is I would have voted
to convict Clinton as well -- but the 2020 election remains the prize,
and this is just a distraction. If Republicans decide to throw Trump
under the bus, they'd still have the colorless, soulless Mike Pence in
the White House, still have their Senate majority, and still have all
those judges they've confirmed during the last three years. On the
other hand, the 2020 elections offer the hope of starting to reverse
the tragic effects of electing those Republicans in recent years. I
know I've eschewed reporting on horserace political stories, but I'd
much rather be reading
Bernie Sanders surges into lead in new CNN poll and
Polls show Bernie Sanders surging at just the right time and
Getting Bernie over the top than anything on the impeachment
trial travesty or how sad our wretched democracy has become.
Some scattered links this week:
How the gun show became the Trump show.
Why climate-conscious plutocrats still like Trump: "Attendees at the
World Economic Forum in Davos this week say they're worried about global
warming. But they're also looking out for their business models." By the
way, Trump was in Davos last week, trying to look busy during his trial,
sending soundbites back home while contributing nothing there (e.g., see
Trump roars, and Davos shrugs.)
Bernie Sanders's Joe Rogan experience: "Joe Rogan's controversial
endorsement of Bernie Sanders, explained." I can't say as I knew the
first thing about Rogan before reading this. I add that nothing here
makes me want to listen to Rogan's podcasts. On the other hand, any
"leftists" who see this endorsement as rason to attack Bernie have
a death wish, such that you have to wonder whether left politics
has any practical meaning for them.
A SARS-like virus is spreading quickly. Here's what you need to know.
The many bad arguments against Medicare for All.
How Republicans made millions on the tax cuts they pushed through
Congress: "The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is a case study of how
lawmakers make themselves richer with the bills they pass."
The long war against slavery: A review of Vincent Brown's book,
Tacky's Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War, which
starts with a slave revolt in Jamaica and situates it in the context
of the broader debate over slavery.
The only thing stopping us from taxing the rich is political will:
Interview with Gabriel Zucman, "the rock star behind the wealth tax,"
co-author with Emmanuel Saez of The Triumph of Injustice: How the
Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay (a book I read and
recommend). Of course, one should add that political will in the US
is not equally (or even randomly) distributed, but is skewed heavily
toward the rich. It's also technically more difficult to assess a
wealth tax than a progressive income tax that would impact the rich
and raise comparable revenues. The estate tax is an exception here,
in that the government could simply confiscate whatever property is
covered, liquidate the assets, and pay off the untaxed share (if there
still is one) to the heirs in cash (possibly an annuity).
Trump, impeachment, and the short-term thinking of the GOP.
Trump removes pollution controls on streams and wetlands.
Trump's hallmark foreign policy failure? 'Maximum pressure.'
Soros gives $1bn to fund universities 'and stop the drift towards
authoritarianism': That's the thing about the left-right split
among billionaires. Not only are the right-wing types more numerous,
they put their money fairly narrowly into securing even more political
power. Soros does spend money on politicians, but he spends a lot more
on projects that are meant to do direct good, rather than trying to
redirect the corruption of the political class to more noble ends.
Interim Bolivian government taps the same lobby firm hired to sell the
coup in Honduras. Big surprise: the firm is based in Washington,
Adam Schiff is a dangerous warmonger: A track record which makes his
promotion of weapons for Ukraine all the more disturbing.
Educated fools: Why Democratic leaders still misunderstand the politics
of social class.
The Muslim world's question: 'What happened to us?' In an excerpt
from his book, Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year
Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the
Middle East, the author points to three pivotal events from 1979:
the Iranian Revolution, the siege of the Holy Mosque in Mecca by Saudi
zealots, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (which the US, allying
with Islamist-ruled Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, countered by bankrolling
jihad). I'd add the 1979 oil shock, which resulted in Carter declaring
the Persian Gulf a vital interest to the United States, the US-brokered
peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, which split Egypt away from its
previous interest in Arab unity, and Israel's initial invasion into
Lebanon's civil war (which Carter was able to cancel at the time, but
Israel repeated in 1982). Two points stand out here: from 1979 on the
US took a much more direct, much more aggressive role in the Middle
East; but in many ways the US let their "allies" direct operations at
a detailed level, especially those based on politicizing religion,
and that eventually resulted in those "allies" directing US policy
for their own regional purposes, with little or no regard for broader
American interests. So while it's true that much of the Muslim world
is saying "what happened to us?" many in America are left wondering
the very same thing.
Law professor: Trump could also have been impeached for war crimes,
assassinations and corruption: Title reflects interview with
Marjorie Cohn. Such an indictment would be more interesting and
more damning than the one that Pelosi, Schiff, and Nadler chose to
David A Graham:
Here's what Trump has been up to while Americans have been distracted
by impeachment. E.g.:
The administration has announced a series of major steps just in the
past few days, since senators were sworn in for the impeachment trial
on January 16.
On January 17, the Agriculture Department announced that it would
roll back nutritional standards for school lunches that were championed
by former first lady Michelle Obama. (In what the government insisted
was a coincidence, January 17 is her birthday.) . . .
Yesterday, while hobnobbing with the world's wealthiest elites at
the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Trump told CNBC that he would
consider cutting entitlements in a second term. . . .
He also said he'd expand his controversial travel ban to Belarus,
Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania, with
different restrictions on people from different countries. . . .
Meanwhile, the administration also disclosed plans to make it
harder for pregnant women to get visas to travel to the United States,
a move intended to prevent women from giving birth stateside and thus
earning American citizenship for their children. The phenomenon of
"anchor babies" or "birth tourism" has been, like Michelle Obama's
lunch rules, a conservative obsession for years, though it's unclear
how many people actually come to the U.S. to give birth. . . .
Today is still young, but already the administration is set to
announce a drastic reinterpretation of the Clean Water Act that will
exempt a large number of waterways from protection and allow more
All of this is only a few days' worth of changes. Impeachment has
dominated political news for nearly four months now, and the
administration has made plenty of other under-the-radar moves -- cuts
to food stamps, rollbacks to LBGTQ protections, and diverting Pentagon
funds to pay for border-wall construction among them.
Slavery, and American racism, were born in genocide. A little
history refresher, published for MLK Day.
The Neocons strike back: "How a discredited foreign policy ideology
continues to wreak havoc in Washington and around the world."
Is venture capital worth the risk? "The industry shaped the past
decade. It could destroy the next."
Is Trumpism a cult? Interview with Steven Hassan, author of a new
book, The Cult of Trump: A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the
President Uses Mind Control. Hassan's gained his "expertise" on
cults by joining and eventually leaving the "Moonies." That doesn't
strike me as very relevant, nor do I find it easy to credit Trump
with the mental skills to be manipulative. On the other hand, there
clearly are lots of people who want to think of him as the voice of
God, and he's not one to dispel that sort of delusion. Maybe that
dynamic will harden into a cult eventually, and as it does some of
his followers will rebel, as Hassan eventually did. But I can't see
any reason for the rest of us to read their inevitable books.
Steve King is building a dank fascist meme stash.
Forever wars don't end. They just go corporate.
Bloomberg's massive ad campaign hikes TV prices for other candidates.
Why Democrats still have to appeal to the center, but Republicans don't:
The most convincing reason I see here is that most Democrats still depend
on centrist corporate media giants to stay "reality-based," where the
right has Fox, convincing the Republican base that there is no reality,
just their political fears and biases.
Trump's wedding to Melania was 15 years ago. It explains so much about
our cultural moment.
How Trump fused his business empire to the presidency: "critics say
the president has yet to face accountability for blatant conflicts of
interest tied to his private businesses."
Marijuana legalization is about to have a huge year.
Bernie Sanders's path to the 2020 Democratic nomination,
Brazilian conservatives really hate Glenn Greenwald. Other links on
Brazil and/or Greenwald:
Why a question about Ukraine sent Mike Pompeo into a rage. Well, he
does come off as a guy with a lot of pent-up rage. Related:
Kansas's ag-gag law has been ruled unconstitutional: "The 1990 law
banned documenting animal abuse on factory farms."
Libertarians can't save the planet.
Adam K Raymond:
All the problems with the New York Times's televised endorsement
special. Not all of them, of course. But it starts with the softball
candidate interviews, continues with the ignorance and carelessness of
the "judges," and continues through the decision to present the sausage
making as reality TV faux drama, to the surprisingly indecisive finale.
By the way, the actual written endorsement, which at least doesn't bury
the lede, is here:
The Democrats' best choices for president: Elizabeth Warren and Amy
Trump's impeachment puts the Senate on trial.
Facebook and Google spent nearly half a billion on lobbying over the
past decade, new data shows.
The windbag of war: "Trump's boasts and lies about the conflict with
Iran perfectly encapsulate America's petty, TV-addled, and increasingly
The strangest and most enduring misapprehension about Donald Trump is
that he has beliefs. He doesn't, or at least none beyond the lifelong
conviction that Donald Trump really should be on television more often.
Trump has his signature anxieties and appetites, numerous fears and a
few oafish ambitions, and a wide spectrum of ancient and unexamined
biases and bigotries, but he can claim nothing that rises anywhere near
to being an actual belief. The attempt to retroactively graft something
like a belief system onto the howling bottomless suckhole of Trump's
idiocy and need, from both sides of the political spectrum, is a joke
that stopped being funny long before Mark Levin sat in front of a fake
fireplace on Fox News and did his grandiloquent best to describe the
A big tell in Trump's own legal brief exposes McConnell's coverup.
Brexit is finally happening, but the drama is far from over.
Is Apartheid the inevitable outcome of Zionism? I'm always uncomfortable
with arguments about inevitability, but given that it's happened, it's hard
to see how it could have turned out differently. There was a division within
Zionism where Martin Buber, Joseph Magnes, and their circle tried to promote
a less political, more cultural ideal, but they never mad much of a chance
against David Ben-Gurion's socialist and his revisionist opponent-allies.
Maybe earlier on the British could have imposed a power-sharing framework,
but back then the British (as they were everywhere they set foot) were more
concerned with exploiting race and religion to perpetuate their own rule.
Trump, guns, and white fragility: "What do the Senate impeachment
trial and the Virginia gun rally have in common?"
Felicia Sonmez/Elise Viebeck:
Schiff 'has not paid the price' for impeachment, Trump says in what
appears to be a veiled threat.
Even before Mike Pompeo's blowup, State Department insiders were feeling
undermined. Well, Trump's political appointees have been undermining
the professional civil service almost everywhere. Rex Tillerson started
this in the State Department: while he was less ideological than Pompeo,
he was remarkably careless, ignorant, and callous. Michael Lewis wrote
about several cases of this in The Fifth Risk. I have mixed views
on this happening in the State Dept., as what passed for professional
there was a lifelong commitment to anti-communism and neoliberalism --
the view that the sole purpose of US foreign policy is to secure business
opportunities for the globalized rich (especially those in oil, arms, and
finance). I could see doing some housecleaning there.
Martha Nussbaum thinks the so-called retreat of liberalism is an academic
fad. Interview with the philosopher on her latest book, The
Cosmopolitan Tradition: A Noble but Flawed Ideal, starting with
some dumb things that Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo) said.
Hillary Clinton jumps into the 2020 primary by blasting Bernie Sanders.
Explaining her fact-challenged rant against Sanders, Clinton is quoted
as saying, "I thought everyone wanted my authentic, unvarnished views!"
Maybe if they revealed some conscious remorse for her shortcomings, but
just to remind us that deep down she's just another conceited asshole?
Bolton says Trump tied Ukraine aid to Biden investigation in book draft:
One thing that wasn't clear before now was why Bolton, having refused to
testify in the House, now wants to testify in the Senate. Evidently he
now sees it as part of his book promo tour.
Ratings show Americans don't care about the impeachment trial enough to
Trump invites Israel, not Palestine, to discuss peace plan. This
is Jared Kushner's "plan," which nobody likes -- even Israelis don't
see the point, so it shouldn't be surprising that the first step is to
get the US-Israeli side onto the same page. Then they (well, probably
just Kushner) thinks they can ram a settlement they can call "peace"
down everyone's throats. Not that there's any urgency here, but note
the mug shots: one leader's impeached, the other's indicted. Both
could use the distraction.
At Daos, Trump says US is a 'developing nation too'.
Craig Timberg/Isaac Stanley-Becker:
Sanders supporters have weaponized Facebook to spread angry memes about
his Democratic rivals. This is probably meant to throw shade on
Bernie for unsportsmanlike conduct -- "No other Democrat's supporters
are engaged in behavior on a similar scale, which is more characteristic
of the online movement galvanized by Trump" -- although I have to wonder
whether this isn't an essential part of the skill-set necessary to run
against Trump and win. A while back, I was trying to figure out what
Democrats could do with Bloomberg's billion. I think I'd spend most of
it on ground game, and secondly on social media. (Bloomberg is putting
most of it into vanity TV ads, as if he's campaigning in the 1970s.)
Meanwhile, Trump is doubling down. See: John Harris:
Trump's greatest ally in the coming election? Facebook.
The elite media's Amy Klobuchar blind spot: "That so many people in
the pundit class promote a candidate credibly accused of being an abuse
boss says a lot about their regard for ordinary people." That dredges up
a story that made the rounds in the weeks after her announcement, but
hasn't been heard from since.
The Fight explores how the ACLU is navigating the Trump era through
4 key cases: "The documentary shows the hard, exhausting work of fighting
for civil and human rights."
No going back: The power and limits of the anti-monopolist tradition.
Review of Matt Stoller's book, Goliath: The 100-Year War Between
Monopoly Power and Democracy, roughly from the 1870s through the
1960s. With Reagan, anti-monopoly enforcement waned, while financiers
went on a spree buying up, combining, and carving up businesses to
reap more and more monopoly rents. Recently progressive Democrats have
started to talk about monopoly (and monopsony) again, partly because
anti-monopoly politics has always been rooted in a defense of markets
against corrupting power. (E.g., see Thomas Philippon: The Great
Reversal: How America Gave Up on Free Markets.)
Tom Cotton, soldier in Bill Kristol's proxy war against evil.