Sunday, February 9, 2020
Skipped a week because I was working on
so this week's links go back further than usual, but much of the
previous week was absorbed in speculation about Iowa and Trump's
impeachment trial, which became obsolete the moment the votes were
counted (or are finally counted; see Riley Beggin:
Final Iowa caucuses results expected just before New Hampshire begins
voting). Trump was, of course, not convicted, the vote 48-52, with
Mitt Romney the only Senator to break party ranks. This, and his own
holier-than-thou explanation, occasioned pieces heaping undeserved
praise or wrath on Romney, none of which mentioned the most obvious
point: Trump's following among Republicans is significantly weaker
in Utah than in any other state, probably because Utah is uniquely
insulated from the fears he preys upon.
The Iowa caucuses were a huge embarrassment for the Democratic
Party's professional elites, who came up with novel ways to avoid
reporting unpleasant news (that Sanders won the popular vote), and
reminded us that Republicans aren't the only party willing to use
tricks (in this case "State Delegate Equivalents") to steal an
election (allowing Buttigieg to claim a Trumpian victory, although
even there, with still incomplete results, the margin is a razor
thin 564-562; Sanders led the first-found popular vote 24.75% to
21.29%, followed by Warren 18.44%, Biden 14.95%, Klobuchar 12.73%,
Yang 5.00%, Steyer 1.75%, Gabbard 0.19%, Bloomberg 0.12%, Bennet
0.09%, Patrick 0.03%, Delaney 0.01% [10 votes]). Lots of articles
this week dredging up old standy complaints about Iowa's premier
spot in presidential campaigns, including generic complaints about
caucuses, and even more about Iowa.
New Hampshire will vote on Tuesday. Recent polling: Anya van
Sanders leads in New Hampshire, but half of voters remain uncommitted --
subhed amends that to 30%. Buttigieg seems to be in 2nd place now (21%,
behind 28% for Sanders), followed by Biden (11%), Warren (9%), Gabbard
(6%), Klobuchar (5%), Yang and Steyer (3%), with Bloomberg (not on
ballot) at 2%. The Democrats had another debate last week, resulting
in the usual winners-and-losers pieces, none of which caught my eye
below. (If you really want one, try
Vox, which had Klobuchar a winner and Biden a loser.)
Meanwhile, Trump gave his State of the Union address, on the even
of his "acquittal." It read (link below) more like his campaign stump
speech, at least the one he'd give if he didn't wander off script, and
Republicans in the audience tried to turn the event into a campaign
rally, even at one point chanting "four more years" (but at least I
haven't seen any reports of "lock her up"), and the fact that half of
the audience were Democrats kept the chemistry down (and added a few
boos and a couple of walkouts). Of course, the content got lost in
the dramatics, especially Trump's refusal to shake Nancy Pelosi's
hand on entering, and her ripping up his speech afterwards. It all
led pundits and partisans to offer sermons on civility, but Trump
had been absolutely vicious toward Pelosi ever since she got behind
impeachment. But what the exchange reminded me most of was a story
about Casey Stengel, where he artfully dodged an interview after a
loss by making obscene gestures the media couldn't broadcast. By
ripping up Trump's speech, Pelosi signaled there was nothing but
lies and contempt there, more succinctly than any of the official
party responders could possibly do.
Some Republican flaks claim that last week was one of Trump's
best ever, and they can point to a trivial uptick in Trump's
approval rating (43.8% at
538). It's clear now that the Senate's non-trial
didn't move anyone, but while it was tedious and overwrought as it
happened, it will be remembered differently. Democrats will remember it
as a valiant attempt to do something about a president has repeatedly
abused his office and violated his oath to support the Constitution and
the laws of the land, which was thwarted not by facts or reason but by
cynical partisan solidarity, making clear that the Republican members of
Congress are fully complicit in Trump's crimes. That's something they
can campaign on this fall.
Trump celebrated his "acquittal" with a series of extremely boorish
public appearances (some noted below). I've gotten to where it's hard
for Trump to shock me, but his is the most disgusting performance I've
ever seen by a public figure. I've long maintained that Trump himself
isn't nearly as dangerous or despicable as the orthodox Republicans
he surrounds himself with, but I may have to revise my view. I've long
believed that the swing vote in the 2020 election will turn on those
Americans who don't particularly object to Trump's policies but decide
that his personal behavior is too embarrassing to tolerate further.
This week has provided plenty for them to think about.
The only issue below I tried to group links under was the Kushner
"deal of the century," partly because they separate out easily enough.
Trump issues, Democrat issues, they're all over the place.
Some scattered links this week:
Trump's State of the Union suggests he's worried about Bernie
Robert P Baird:
The prosecution of President Donald Trump.
Obama Russia adviser on cold war liberals: Interview with James
Carden, who previously (2019-12-30) wrote
Meet the cold war liberals, where he suggests FDR's Good Neighbor
Policy as a way out of America's cold war rut.
Impeachment hurt somebody. It wasn't Trump. "In the end, the president
succeeded in doing precisely what he wanted in the first place: tarring a
leading Democratic rival."
9 questions about the coronavirus outbreak, answered.
Democratic candidates aren't happy about new debate rules that seem
to benefit Bloomberg. No "seem" about it. Donors aren't necessarily
a good metric, but dropping it opens the door to billionaire egotists
like Bloomberg to scam polls through massive ad buys, and reaffirms
the DNC's commitment to oligarchy. The DNC may have had an impossible
and thankless job in managing the debates, but once again they've come
out looking hapless and more than a little corrupt.
Now Trump is charging Nancy Pelosi with fake crimes, too.
If you think it looks bad for mainstream Democrats now, just wait.
I realize they're not happy with any of their candidates, but could
that possibly have something to do with: Their positions? Their track
record of promising progressive reform and delivering nothing? Bad as
it seems, I can't imagine any scenario looking worse for them this year
than having their perfect candidate, Hillary Clinton, lose to Trump in
Impeachment exposed President Trump's authoritarian ambitions.
Trump baffled why African-Americans don't want to vote for him: "Maybe
giving Rush Limbaugh another medal will fix it."
Trump speech cites sole triumph: Rebranding Obama's economy as his
Trump attacks John Bolton as desperate loser who nearly destroyed the
planet. A rare occasion of Trump speaking truth, although Bolton
was so stuck in his obsessions for so long you have to wonder about
Trump's command of the vetting process.
Running Bernie Sanders against Trump would be an act of insanity.
Wait! Isn't the stock definition of insanity doing the same thing
over and over again while expecting a different result? Running the
only person in America who ever lost a general election to Trump a
second time would be insane. Wouldn't it be saner to nominate a very
different candidate? Sanders may not be perfectly tailored, but he
has some real strengths that are hard to find in other candidates,
notably principles and integrity. In a Trump vs. Sanders election,
Trump has already made it clear that he's going to practice nonstop
red-baiting: an old song that for most non-Republicans has worn thin
enough to be easily dismissed. Against anyone else, Trump is going
to harp on the supposed corruption and perfidy of the Democrats --
points that still disturb most Americans, and are likely to hurt even
where grossly unfair.
The Iowa Republican caucuses you didn't know where happening, explained.
I have a pretty low opinion of Republicans these days, but I'm still a
bit surprised that no serious candidate emerged to register an anti-Trump
protest vote in the Republican primaries. There are still a few "never
Trump" pundits flopping around, and there are some obvious names who seem
to be biding their time, figuring a Trump debacle in 2020 will give them
a springboard for redeeming the party in 2024 (Kasich, Ryan, Romney, with
Rubio trying to have it both ways). But viability in the Republican Party
almost exclusively depends on the blessing of billionaire donors -- Newt
Gingrich explained his loss to Romney: "he had five billionaires, and
I only had one" -- and clearly none of them came up with a favorable
cost/benefit analysis. That left Bill Weld and Joe Walsh as the only
candidates to solicit votes in Iowa, and all they could do was 1.54% and
1.31% respectively. Hard to know whether the media consciously ignored
them to leave Trump a clear path, or just didn't notice in the first
place. Even this article omitted Trump's actual vote, although you can
figure out it was close to 97%. [PS: Walsh has since dropped out. See
Joe Walsh will not be the next President of the United States.
Trump's Super Bowl interview was 8 minutes of pettiness and empty
The billion-dollar disinformation campaign to reelect the president.
Including quite a bit about Trump's internet czar, Brad Parscale -- now
campaign manager, which tells you something about how and where the
campaign will be fought.
Neta C Crawford:
The Iraq War has cost the US nearly $2 trillion . . . and counting,
on track to exceeding the estimate in the 2008 book by Joseph Stiglitz
and Linda Bilmes, The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of
the Iraq Conflict.
Trump is blowing up a National Monument in Arizona to make way for the
border wall: Organ Pipe Cactus NM.
Eliza Relman/Lauren Frias:
Trump supporters intentionally swarmed the Iowa caucus phone lines to
delay the results: News reports that the Iowa caucus wasn't hacked
were wrong. What this story shows is that Nixon's tricksters are back
in force (even with Roger Stone locked up).
The empire strikes back: "With impeachment behind him, Trump is already
steering his cruel reign in a darker direction." Starts by quoting Bill
Clinton after his impeachment acquittal, saying "I want to say again to
the American people how profoundly sorry I am for what I said and did to
trigger these events and the great burden they have imposed on Congress
and on the American people." Trump, by contrast, makes Clinton look like
the epitome of class and grace:
It's hard to imagine how President Donald Trump could have done things
more differently in his own address on Thursday. Speaking to a motley
crowd of White House aides, Cabinet officials, and congressional allies,
the president bounced between gratitude for his most ardent supporters
and anger toward his perceived enemies. "It was evil, it was corrupt,
it was dirty cops," he seethed, referring to years of investigations
into his misconduct. Now that Trump will no longer face consequences
for his actions, the president and his allies are eager to inflict them
upon everyone else.
Thirteen (well, ten) ways of looking at impeachment and acquittal:
Actually, they all strike me as bullshit:
- Impeachment was, despite it all, essential.
- Yes, but Trump won, and the consequences are terrifying.
- Actually, Trump won, but it's trivial.
- And you know what? Actually, Trump lost.
- Adam Schiff's eloquence will always be remembered.
- And so will Romney's courage.
- There was a truly shocking collapse of conscience.
- It's over, and Trump will win.
- It's not over, and Trump will lose.
- History has its eyes on you.
- History is happening.
The most plausible is 3 -- not so much that Trump won as that his
win was trivial. Trump's big win was that he didn't get charged with
corruption, which is his calling card, or with lying, which he does
nearly every time he opens his mouth. This didn't happen because it
would have involved more work, and it's not something Democrats are
squeaky clean on. Plus, many Democrats still think Russia is the
silver bullet, and those Democrats were the ones that unified the
party on impeachment. Unfortunately, they also unified Republicans
in defense, ensuring defeat. Which brings me back to what I think
of as a fundamental principle: never prosecute someone you have no
chance of convicting. Granted, it's tempting with someone you really
want to make squirm, and it did have the effect of making Trump (and
ultimately the Republican Senate) look bad. Still, it's not something
you want to make a habit of.
Courtney Hagle/John Kerr:
After his acquittal, Fox goes all in on the sycophantic praise of Donald
Trump. Related: Rob Savillo:
Fox & Friends reported on Pelosi ripping up her copy of the State of
the Union 55 times more than actual lies from Trump's speech.
"Flood the zone with shit": How misinformation overwhelmed our
For most of recent history, the goal of propaganda was to reinforce
a consistent narrative. But zone-flooding takes a different approach:
It seeks to disorient audiences with an avalanche of competing stories.
And it produces a certain nihilism in which people are so skeptical
about the possibility of finding the truth that they give up the search.
The fact that 60 percent of Americans say they encounter conflicting
reports about the same event is an example of what I mean. In the face
of such confusion, it's not surprising that less than half the country
trusts what they read in the press.
"We're losing our damn minds": James Carville unloads on the Democratic
Party: Interview with the crusty Clinton strategist, mostly a rant
against the "democratic wing of the Democratic Party," but I'm reading
his complaints about the farthest reaches in their platform as a gripe
about how "moderate" Democrats haven't been able to articulate practical
intermediate steps and show how they'd really be positive steps. I doubt
that's really fair, but the media would rather see Democrats fight than
find fertile common ground, so what gets broadcast are the "Republican
talking points" the centrists seem to embrace. So I don't disagree with
his pull quote: "The fate of the world depends on the Democratic Party
getting its shit together and winning in November."
Tree planting is Trump's politically safe new climate plan.
'No better distillation of Washington': Democrats and GOP join Trump in
standing ovation for failed Venezuelan coup leader Juan Guaidó.
How much did Iowa slow Joe's roll? By the way, I counted 33 Kilgore
posts since last Roundup, and this is the only one I thought worth
mentioning. A lot of them have very short shelf lives; e.g., before
this one, there was: In Iowa, a collision of campaigns before the
caucuses; Two campaigns on the brink in Iowa (Warren and Buttigieg);
How do the Iowa caucuses work?; In Iowa on caucus night: the view
from the ground; The mourning after in Iowa.
Trump's criminal justice record is more complicated than he claims.
John Delaney's been running for president since 2017 -- and it's finally
come to an end. When the first batch of Iowa voting numbers came in,
I was amused to find that Delaney's first-round vote totals were exactly
0. Latest figures I've seen had him up to 10, but you still need a lot
of digits to turn that into a percentage. So, yeah, he's toast, and
should hang it up. The article spends a lot of time on his "simple"
health care plan, and it's not bad -- or wouldn't be if he had only
framed it as a first step toward the sort of comprehensive universal
coverage plan Sanders has proposed. But he didn't campaign like that.
Rather, he spent all his time attacking the left, winding up with no
solutions and no hope. Makes you wonder why he bothered to run in the
Why Trump can't believe his opponents' prayers. So this is what
happened when Trump took his victory tour to the National Prayer
Breakfast in DC. I'm sympathetic to people who regard Trump as a
piss-poor specimen of a Christian, but empirically speaking, I've
noticed that Christians (at least the hard-scrabble Protestants
I grew up with and have known since childhood) easily divide into
two camps: one that loves their neighbors and sincerely tries to
help them through their troubles, and another who only invoke God
to smite down their neighbors and consign them to hell. In his
introductory remarks, Arthur Brooks made a pitch to the former.
Then Trump came on, and replied: "Arthur, I don't know if I agree
with you, and I don't know if Arthur's gonna like what I've got to
say." They he started laying into his enemies (especially the ones
who say, "I pray for you").
Was impeachment a mistake? He says no, but his analysis suggests
we won't know until the Senate is decided in November.
Hundreds of Salvadorans deported by US were killed or abused, report
reveals. Related: William Wheeler:
How the US helped create El Salvador's bloody gang war.
"Women to one side, men to the other": How the Border Patrol's new powers
and old carelessness separated a family.
What are you going to do when Bernie wins the nomination? The
question, of course, is only raised due to the extreme vitriol of
anti-Bernie hysteria among the elite tier of self-proclaimed "moderate
Democrats." The fact is that those who can't "Deal. With. It." will
be worse than "as bad as any Nader voter" (he's trying to hit them
where they hurt). Refusing to support the Democratic nominee if it's
Bernie is an admission that you never cared about progress or justice
in the first place -- that the repeated failures of recent Democratic
regimes were nothing more than bad faith (as opposed to conflicted
interests, fear, stupidity, and ineptness). For examples of vitriol,
see the comments. "I think Bernie is an increasingly bitter old man
who does not play well with others" is relatively mild and laughable.
Even more deranged:
I didn't vote for the fascist and I'm not voting for the Communist
either. Bernie has spent his entire existence undermining Democrats
and will not be rewarded for getting Trump installed. We can vote
down ballot for actual Democrats. There will be no forgiveness for
what the deranged old coot and his bros have done to the working
class. Not to mention, his voting record is fairly despicable. He's
no different than Trump. F him and his ratferking teabagging psychos
In what universe is a person with so much fear and loathing not
already a Trump disciple?
Democrats have good plans to tackle the opioid epidemic. They should talk
Voting to acquit this noxious criminal is the point of no return for the
Republican Party. I think Republicans crossed that point long ago, but
it's hard to pin down one point. One might be the "Hastert rule," by which
the far right could veto any moderate deals the House Republican leadership
might entertain, and McConnell's 2009 decision to use the filibuster to
block all bills by Democrats. On the other hand, Republican solidarity
dates back at least to the fight against Clinton's health care reform,
and further back to the defense of the Clarence Thomas nomination to the
Supreme Court (who, you may recall, was a pretty noxious pick). [Also
see note on Marcotte below.]
How McKinsey destroyed the middle class: "Technocratic management,
no matter how brilliant, cannot unwind structural inequalities."
Buttigieg worked for McKinsey, although to be fair, he was but a
small cog in their vast machinery.
America's fatal flaw: The founders assumed our leaders would have some
basic decency. I'm not sure that's true: otherwise, why would they
have concocted such an elaborate system of checks and balances to make
impossible any real concentration of power? And why would they take
care to proscribe titles, emoluments, bribes, and other high crimes?
On the other hand, decency is a pretty low bar, one that Trump uniquely
seems to have no claim to. More importantly, the founders didn't
anticipate political parties, and they didn't expect the president to
have anywhere near the broad powers of modern presidents. Perhaps they
were naive in authorizing as much power as they did, expecting George
Washington to wield that power responsibly, setting an example others
might emulate. The only thing Trump and Washington have in common is
exceptional wealth, but Washington also had a long record of public
service, and took great pains to avoid any suspicion of corruption.
Trump, well, could hardly be more opposite.
Trump's real base isn't the famous "white working class" -- it's the
How the US became the center of global kleptocracy. "For the world's
warlords, criminals, and autocrats, there's no gift finer than an
anonymous American shell company."
The Senate's decision to acquit Trump is even less democratic than you
think: "The 48 senators who voted to remove Trump represent 53
percent of the nation."
Mitt Romney just did something that literally no senator has ever done
before: "Before this day, no senator has ever voted to remove a
president of the same party from office." Points out that all nine
Democrats in the Senate voted to acquit Andrew Johnson (Johnson was
not technically a Democrat when he was elected vice-president in 1864,
but by impeachment time the few Democrats left in Congress allied with
him against the "Radical Republicans"). I was thinking there had been
some breaks against Clinton
a check shows not. On the other hand, 4 Republicans voted not guilty
on the obstruction of justice charge (John Chafee, Susan Collins, Olympia
Snowe, Arlen Specter), and 5 more on the perjury article (Slade Gorton,
Richard Shelby, Ted Stevens, Fred Thompson, John Warner). The votes to
convict Clinton failed 50-50 and 45-55. Still, not enough of a sample to
make Romney's apostasy stand out. One can argue that the case against
Trump fared better relative to party standing than the strongest charge
against Clinton did (+1 vs. -4), and Romney's vote helped there. On the
other hand, the raw vote (48-52) fell short of the previous 50-50.
The biggest lie in Trump's State of the Union speech: "Trump wants
people who depend on Obamacare to relax. They do so at great peril."
What Trump has done to the courts, explained.
Why your free software is never free: "If you're not paying for the
product, you are the product." He has a point, but it's not about
a category which includes the operating system I'm using (Linux), the
software distribution (Xubuntu), the editor I'm typing into (GNU emacs),
the web server I'm distributing my writing over (Apache), or the browser
I used to view it (Firefox), or the hundreds of other programs that fill
role and do tasks in my digital universe. I paid $0 for all of them, and
expect to pay $0 every time I update them. And while I rarely do so, I
can in nearly every case download the source code to these programs,
fix bugs, add features, and redistribute my changes to the world, who
will also pay $0 for my contributions. (The few exceptions usually have
to do with proprietary hardware or restricted file formats for media
and "digital rights" policing. While these also cost me $0, they aren't
free software, because I can't download, modify, and redistribute the
source code. Sometimes such programs are referred to as freeware, but
most such programs are distributed free in hopes of getting tip income
and/or as demos for pricier product upgrades.) What Molla's talking
about is something else: proprietary software that you don't have to
pay directly for, but which collect data on you that the that the
vendor can monetize, often at you expense. Google has a whole suite
of tools like that, while Facebook offers a one-size-fits-all virtual
world meant to monopolize all your time and run your life. Before
2000, when it ate my job at SCO, free software seemed like the next
big thing, promising a future where software was freed from ulterior
motives of corporate control. (Having worked in the software business
for 20 years, I happened to know a lot about how that worked.) Since
then, these new business models of capture, control, and manipulation
have taken root, to the point where someone like Molla can pretend
no other world was ever possible. But really free software is still
being developed, and is available if you know where to look, and what
to do (although, frankly, it's a lot easier to use now than it was
when I got started).
The Iowa caucus smartphone app disaster, explained.
Trump withholding $823 million for clean energy, Democrats say.
The Iowa caucuses have a big accessibility problem. And therefore,
turnout is low, and possibly skewed. For instance, in 2016, turnout
was just 15.7%, vs. 52% for the New Hampshire primary. [PS: From a
tweet, Iowa Democratic turnout this year was up 5,146 from 2016 (up
3.0%), but way down from 2008 (63,436 votes, 26.5%).
Pelosi's State of the Union response: Rip up Trump's speech.
History will remember Democrats' timidity, too. The main thing I
fault the impeachment effort for is the failure to bring additional
charges, specifically on charges Republicans might find it even more
embarrassing to vote against: Trump's self-dealing corruption; his
many abuses of executive powers to keep his administration from
enforcing the law (e.g., on the environment) or for overstepping
the law (e.g., on refugees), and those policy links to corruption;
his refusal to respect Congressional resolutions limiting his war
powers (again, no doubt linked to corruption).
Trump has never looked more comfortable as a demagogue: "The president's
State of the Union previewed his reelection themes: Socialism and health
care and socialism and xenophobia and socialism."
Democrats embrace the grift: "The decidedly Trumpian nonprofit behind
the Iowa app debacle."
Jake Pearson/Anand Tumurtogoo:
Donald Trump Jr went to Mongolia, got special treatment from the government
and killed an endangered sheep.
Iowa caucus 2020: Inside the Iowa Democratic Party's 'boiler room,' where
'hell' preceded the results catastrophe.
Iowa Democratic caucuses: Live results: Like all similar pages,
their ambitions foiled by the Iowa Democratic Party, but as of Feb.
7, 4:38 am, they claimed to have 99.5% reporting, with Pete Buttigieg
2 State Delegate Equivalents ahead of Bernie Sanders, and Sanders
leading Buttigieg in the Round 1 popular vote 24.75% to 21.29%,
followed by Elizabeth Warren (18.44%), Joe Biden (14.95%), Amy
Klobuchar (12.73%), Andrew Yang (5.00%), and Tom Steyer (1.75%). In
the second round, where "non-viable candidates" (everyone from Biden
down, with Yang hit hardest) faded and "lesser evilism" kicked into
consideration, Buttigieg and Warren gained some ground, but still
trailed Sanders. I also looked at similar pages from
The Washington Post and
The New York Times, which have some additional analysis, but make
it harder to find raw vote numbers. For another weird wrinkle, see
Satellite caucuses give a surprise boost to Sanders in Iowa.
Iowa is just the latest chapter in a rolling Democratic calamity.
With impeachment, America's epistemic crisis has arrived: Originally
published in November 2019, updated here.
New conservative climate plans are neither conservative nor climate
plans: "They are mainly designed to protect fossil fuels." I don't
see any point in today's right-wingers aren't true conservatives, given
that the only consistent aim of "conservatives" has been to defend and
increase the privileges and power of those already rich and powerful.
Of course, prominent among "conservatives" are those heavily invested
in fossil fuels, but you can chalk that up to self-interest, and their
fellow travelers to [upper] class consciousness. And sure, they've most
often tried to advance their efforts through fraud and corruption. It's
not as if an appeal to reason would help them.
Nathan J Robinson:
The failure of Democratic opposition: "The Democratic party establishment
have shown they are incapable of taking on Trump. They are assuring his
reelection." I get the point about Democrats not putting together a story
credible enough to convince low information/interest voters to counter
Trump's. But a big part of that is that the media isn't listening to the
narratives that various candidates have crafted, let alone presenting
them cogently enough to get the attention of said low information/interest
voters. But Democrats are facing a bigger problem: Trump and Republicans
haven't created a big enough, immediate enough crisis to jar those voters
out of their complacent everyday lives. On the other hand, it's not as if
he's actually convinced anyone who didn't vote for him in 2016 to support
Donald Trump will run to the left. Well, depends on what you mean by
"left." Robinson's example: "Do not be surprised when Trump runs as the
candidate of criminal justice reform." That's still a far cry from real
left issues, like promoting unions, or soaking the rich. Moreover, much
will depend on who he winds up running against: it'll be much easier to
outflank Buttigieg on the left than Sanders. Indeed, with Sanders it's
clear that Trump will run so hard against Sanders' "socialism" he won't
have any credibility to move to the left on anything.
The DNC can't steal the election from Bernie Sanders despite the Iowa
A new social network makes an old bet: That we want to hear from rich
people. The startup is called Column, and it's basically an effort
to monetize free speech by dividing the world between those who can
afford to be speakers, and the rest, who can only follow. Still, I
expect they'll be tracking the latter's data, and selling what they
learn off to whoever is willing to pay for it (just like all the
other "social networks").
Democrats gave Obama a free pass. That could hurt us on election
day. "We refuse to talk about how his failure to deliver major
changes may have fed voter disaffection in 2016." For what it's worth,
I've been pretty critical of Obama, both before and after he was
elected, even though I voted for him in the 2008 caucus, and twice
in November. He promised change and, after blowing the Congressional
majority he was initially elected with, delivered nothing more than
a slow recovery from the deep recession he inherited, with all the
profits going to the top 1% -- a legacy so underwhelming Hillary
Clinton blew her pitch for a "third Obama term" who promised little
more than to vent the voters' frustration. Clearly, he wasn't nearly
as bad as his predecessor or his successor, but his legacy is very
thin compared to his promise, and twelve (or should I say twenty?)
years of lost opportunity calls for much bolder leadership -- not
candidates who would like to be his clones, but aren't even that.
Don't think Sanders can win? You don't understand his campaign.
Anya van Wagtendonk:
What is up with that tan line photo of Trump?
Trump just fired Gordon Sondland as EU ambassador: The post-acquittal
6 top 2020 Democrats vow to reverse Trump's new landmine policy.
Trump's Israel-Palestine peace plan: Read the full text of his so-called
"deal of the century." Some key elements of the plan, as noted here:
- The Vision provides for a demilitarized Palestinian state living
peacefully alongside Israel, with Israel retaining security
responsibility west of the Jordan River.
- Over time, the Palestinians will work with United States and
Israel to assume more security responsibility as Israel reduces its
- Neither Palestinians nor Israelis will be uprooted from their
- Israel has agreed to a four-year land freeze to secure the
possibility of a two-state solution.
- Jerusalem will stay united and remain the capital of Israel, while
the capital of the State of Palestine will be Al-Quds and include
areas of East Jerusalem.
- Palestinian refugees will be given a choice to live within the
future State of Palestine, integrate into the countries where they
currently live, or resettle in a third country.
I've spent a lot of time thinking about viable peace plans, so
I've considered many of these ideas, but I haven't read this thing
closely. For now, I'll just collect various links here:
Trump 'solves' the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Palestinians don't need Jared Kushner to civilize them. They need
Kushner as a colonial administrator: Let's talk about the 'Israeli
On Jared Kushner's 25 books of undiluted Zionist propaganda.
Kushner explained his expertise by having read "25 books on it,"
so when I saw this article, I was hoping for a list. (I've read,
well, at least that many, so I can appreciate how one might
consider oneself an expert after that.) Still, not finding one
here, but Middle East Eye has offered its own list:
Jared Kushner, here are 25 more books you should read about
Palestine, Israel relations. Turns out I haven't read any of
these 25 either, although I have read other books by Ilan Pappé
and Raja Shehadeh. I'm afraid my own reading has been strongly
oriented to the Israeli side. A comment added another book I
wasn't aware of: Nur Masalha: Expulsion of the Palestinians:
The Concept of "Transfer" in Zionist Political Thought 1882-1948
(1992). Transfer was supposedly a British idea, introduced in the
1937 Peel Report, but was readily embraced by Ben-Gurion at that
time, as the concept was not foreign to Zionist thinking. Mary
Dockser Marcus discusses and dates it in her Jerusalem 1913:
The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict.
Kushner's "ultimate deal" would strip Palestinians of their human
Marc Owen Jones:
The colonial mindset behind his so-called 'peace plan'.
The erasure of Palestinians from Trump's Mideast "peace plan" has a
Don't call it a peace plan: "Ten ways Trump has launched a relentless
assault on the very idea of Israeli-Palestinian peace."
What's new about Trump's Mideast 'peace' plan? Only the blunt crudity of
The 'Deal of the Century,' an architecture of exclusion.
The Trump-Netanyahu plan to force Arab population transfer.
Trump's 'peace plan' is the death knell of the two-state paradigm.
Understanding the Trump 'Deal of the Century': what it does, and doesn't
Kushner warns Palestinian leaders not to make him read a 26th book
about this crap.
Trump and Balfour compared.
Netanyahu: 'Israeli right turns against Deal of the Century'.
I haven't really tried to digest this yet, but do want to emphasize
several points that are essential for any such deal:
- Israel must effectively be barred from any administrative or
direct security role in any territories given to the Palestinians.
Independent has to mean independent.
- Any Palestinians still resident in Israel after withdrawal
from Palestinian territories must have full citizenship and equal
rights in Israel.
- There needs to be an internationally administered tribunal to
assess claims of violence between the two states, with the power of
exacting monetary damages for acts committed by either government,
or by citizens of either state.
- There needs to be an international bank to fund reconstruction
and development projects, with the power to audit projects in case
of corruption. US aid to Israel should be routed through this bank
(but can be earmarked for Israel). Damage claims can be assessed
against bank funds.
I don't much care what borders are decided. The division could
be as small as Gaza only, or could include parts of the West Bank
(provided connectivity without checkpoints) as Kushner's plan proposes
(although I don't see any reason why a Palestinian enclave in the West
Bank should not extend to the Jordan River). A number of ancillary
issues need to be decided on a fair and generous basis: water, air
space, sanitation, prisoners, etc. I would advise Palestine to have
a bare minimum of armed forces, which may require guarantees against
Israeli attack or invasion beyond 3 above. I would also advise Israel
to reduce its armed forces, but don't see either limit as required.
One might require international supervision of free elections in the
Palestinian state, at least for the reconstruction period. Such
supervision would not be able to limit or exclude candidates or
parties. Given these basic guidelines, Kushner's plan appears to
be unviable. Even given the unreasonable biases of the plan, it's
likely that many Israelis will reject it, as they prefer no limits
on their power to seize land and repress the Palestinian people.
Lis Harris wanted to understand how Israel had gone this way:
Interview, the author of In Jerusalem: Three Generations of an
Israeli Family and a Palestinian Family.
Americans demand a rethinking of the 'Forever War'.
A brief guide to the State of the Union guests. They're all there
to make one point or another.
"He is not who you are": Adam Schiff makes last-ditch plea to Senate
Republicans. I'm not sure whether this pitch is more stupid or
pathetic. Even if some Republicans think of themselves as possessing
noble moral standards, they're not likely to feel any need to impress
Schiff with them. But most, like Trump, see impeachment as a cynical
political ploy. (Indeed, many were around when they did the same
thing to Bill Clinton.) But deep down, Congressional Republicans
aren't that different from Trump. They get their news from the same
partisan wells, they share most of the same prejudices, and their
loathing for Democrats knows few if any bounds.
PS: I've never been much impressed by Amanda Marcotte, but her visceral
rejection of Trump seems to be leading her to deeper truths. She has a
recent book, Troll Nation: How the Right Became Trump-Worshipping
Monsters Set on Ratf*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself, which
is about as pointed a title as the subject deserves. From the blurb:
Trump was the inevitable result of American conservatism's degradation
into an ideology of blind resentment. For years now, the purpose of
right wing media, particularly Fox News, has not been to argue for
traditional conservative ideals, such as small government or even
family values, so much as to stoke bitterness and paranoia in its
audience. . . . Conservative pundits, politicians, and activists have
abandoned any hope of winning the argument through reasoned discourse,
and instead have adopted a series of bad faith claims, conspiracy
theories, and culture war hysterics. Decades of these antics created
a conservative voting base that was ready to elect a mindless bully
like Donald Trump.
I also want to quote an
Amazon comment on the book by a Joseph Caferro, which gives us a
peek into the Trump troll mindset:
Why [really] do Trump and his followers troll? And the answer is
It's a tactic to destabilize the tenuous parasitic leftist
coalitions that are built on a dizzying array of incompatible
grievances against imagined enemy institutions. These enemies of
leftists include most of the most stable, successful institutions that
make civilization possible: religion, capitalism, meritocratic
education and commerce, strong national defense, controlled borders,
and solvent government spending. The incessant attacks on these
institutions by the left are largely encouraged by the DC
establishment and most state and local governments, and the result has
been failure of safety, solvency, competence, and sanity. Leftism
causes parasitic failure across the board. To defend leftist policies
on merit is impossible, so the left decided the primary tactic for
persuasion should be defamation, intimidation, and even criminal
extortion, persecution, and assault. So the right has had enough, and
has decided, symbolized by and led by Trump, to assail the leftist
establishment with criticism, skepticism, insults, and challenges to
their authority and power at all levels. Like in any street fight, you
can't win if you aren't willing to use the tactics your enemy is
willing to use. So the right trolls, because the left smears. As long
as the left smears and commits crimes to further their agenda, the
right will troll and be willing to stop those crimes with equal or
greater force. That is why the right trolls. Not because of your
imagined telepathic detection of deep seated Nazi hatred, but because
your leadership are a bunch of parasitic communist thugs who aspire to
totalitarian tyrannical rule, and deserve trolling.
I quote this because it's a lot more coherent than what you usually
get from this quarter, but still, there's a lot wrong here, starting
with a gross misapprehension of what the left is concerned with, and
more fundamentally with failure to understand that the bedrock of
"stable, successful institutions" is a widely shared sense of justice.
It's true that our notions of justice used to be rooted in religion,
but that splintered long ago. Some of us gave up the religion we were
born into precisely because it no longer seemed to satisfy our sense
of justice, and because we found it manipulated by charlatans for
special interests. Caferro's list of "successful institutions" turns
out to be less coherent than he imagines. Meritocracy sounds good,
but more often than not is just a ruse for rationalizing inequality.
The last three are arbitrarily grafted into the others: the rationale
behind a strong police state is to protect its rulers from the effects
of its misrule. "Leftism causes parasitic failure across the board"
is a crude way of restating Hayek's Road to Serfdom thesis,
which could be used to explain the economic failures of the Soviet
Union, but Hayek and his followers have always expected the same
doom to befall western social democracy, which has never happened.
Where Caferro's argument goes off the rails is his bit about how
"the left are largely encouraged by the DC establishment and most
state and local governments" and his later reference to "the leftist
establishment" -- there is no such thing, as should be clear from
the shit fit old guard Democrats are having over the prospect of
Sanders winning the Democratic Party nomination.
Then there's the question of tactics. Caferro argues that Trump
supporters have to troll because that's the way leftists fight them,
but that's neither supported by fact nor by logic. The left offers
much more substantial arguments than the name-calling Caferro hates,
but it's worth noting that the name-calling would hurt less if it
didn't smack of truth. Trump is a racist, a sexist, a liar, a crook,
and an all-around asshole. One can document those assertions with
hundreds or possibly thousands of pages of examples, but sometimes
the shorthand is all you need. Whether he's also a fascist depends
on some extra historical knowledge that may not be widely agreed on,
but most leftists define fascists as people who want to kill them,
so that's a relevant (if not universal) framework.
But just because your opponent fights one way doesn't mean you
have to fight the same. Strong occupying armies are most often
countered not by equivalent armies but by guerrilla warfare. One
might argue that they are morally equivalent, in that both seek to
kill the other, and that is often the downfall of the guerrillas.
So the other major example is non-violent resistance, such as the
movements led by Gandhi in India and Martin Luther King in the US.
I'd submit that Trump trolls have chosen their tactics not because
the left has but because they're more suited to taste, needs, and
morals (which approve of lies and distortions to sway people, and
violence to suppress them, all in support of an authoritarian
social and economic order which benefits people they identify
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