Sunday, May 17, 2020
No introduction. No time, and none needed.
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Some scattered links this week:
Eileen Appelbaum/Andrew Park/Rosemary Batt:
How private equity firms will profit from Covid-19. Starts with
the recent bankruptcy of PE-owned J. Crew, which is less about how
PE firms will profit and more about how they already have profited --
by looting companies while driving them into the ground. Mentions
some proposed laws unlikely to draw Republican Support: one is the
Stop Wall Street Looting Act; another is the Pandemic Anti-Monopoly
JC Penney also filed for bankruptcy. Although it is publicly
traded, its management had run up debt much like bankrupt private
America is not as resilient as it thinks it is. Well, we survived
Nixon. We survived Reagan. A friend opined that "if we can survive one
George Bush, we can survive another." I know too many who didn't, but
by and large, sure. Chances are most of us will survive Trump too, but
it's getting tougher, and the wear and tear is showing. The fact is that
bad policy often takes decades to wear down and break catastrophically.
Aronoff isn't making this explicit of a political argument here, but
it's easier to visualize infrastructure flaws as the result of partisan
acts aimed at undermining public service. Rather, she starts with the
forecast for this year's Atlantic hurricane season (see
A new model is predicting "one of the most active Atlantic hurricane
seasons on record"), which is likely to strain disaster relief.
She has other examples, like the "silver tsunami" of aging population,
and so forth. Still, all these examples look political to me.
Building an economy that works again.
Lenny Bernstein/Josh Dawsey/Yasmeen Abutaleb:
Growing friction between White House, CDC hobbles pandemic
Elizabeth Warren knows what Joe Biden needs in a Vice President.
I'm not interested enough in the VP stakes to care much one way or
the other, but I can see several advantages to Warren way beyond
making a token gesture to "the left." Some other VP pieces:
Seeking: Big Democratic ideas that make everything better. In
some kind of ideal situation, the political response to the pandemic
and its consequent economic depression would transcend party lines,
as both sides recognized the need for similar, well-established fixes
to common problems, and worked together to move quickly and surely.
To some extent, that happened back in March, when lockdown was the
only available approach to slow the spread, and Republicans in power
were so desperate for economic relief they allowed Democrats to make
the bills fairer and broader than they would have liked. Since then,
the issues have become more polarized, and the November elections
will largely turn on which party offers the most sensible promise
of managing and moving beyond the crisis. This is one of a cluster
of articles as Republicans and Democrats sharpen their political
stances, so I'll collect a few here:
Katelyn Burns/Ian Millhiser:
Sen. Richard Burr and the coronavirus insider trading scandal,
explained. Also note:
The private militias providing "security" for anti-lockdown protests,
Why we need postal democracy: He means voting by mail.
If only we had that $6.4 trillion we wasted on Iraq and Afghanistan
to lift the economy and fight coronavirus.
Biden is planning an FDR-size presidency: "He thinks he'll survive
Tara Reade's accusation. But he knows he can't be an average-Joe Democrat
The betrayal of the American soldier: Author is a former Army
Ranger, has a new book on his experiences, especially in Afghanistan:
Un-American: A Soldier's Reckoning of Our Longest War.
James K Galbraith:
We need a radically different model to tackle the Covid-19 crisis.
Amid the coronavirus crisis, a regimen for reŽntry: "Health-care
workers have been on the job throughout the pandemic. What can they
teach us about the safest way to lift a lockdown?"
Appeals court greenlights emoluments suit against Trump.
Jacob S Hacker:
The progressive pursuit of a bolder Biden. Pull-quote here is
a point I've made before: "Neither FDR nor LBJ looked like progressive
champions when they ran for or ascended to the presidency." They moved
left because that's where they had to in order to be effective, to
solve real pressing problems. However, now that you mention LBJ, one
should also point out that in foreign policy he even more reflexively
into the conventional anti-communist paradigm, leading him deep into
the quagmire of war in Vietnam, ultimately destroying his legacy and
giving Republicans an opening they eventually parlayed into Donald
Trump. Biden's recent "tough talk" on China, Russia, Cuba, and Iran
promises to suck him into a similar trap. As McGeorge Bundy put it,
the difference between JFK and LBJ was that the former wanted to be
smart, while the latter wanted to appear tough. I fear much the same
can be said for Obama and Biden. Hacker, by the way, has a new book
coming out with Paul Pierson: Let Them Eat Tweets: How the Right
Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality.
If the pandemic has had any salutary effects beyond making Trump's
defeat more likely, it is that it has highlighted the bonds that
unite all Americans. These bonds will be tested by Trump and his
allies in the weeks ahead. Already, they have tried to activate
anti-urban sentiment and racism to repeat the polarizing path to
victory of 2016. Yet Biden -- second-in-command under the nation's
first black president and the candidate with the greatest symbolic
affiliation with the white working class -- is better poised than
almost anyone to turn these strategies back on the president. To do
so, he'll need his two greatest assets: an ability to connect and
empathize with Americans from every walk of life, and an understanding
that government isn't a swamp but a source of solidarity and prosperity.
Yet he'll also need something that comes much less naturally: a vision
not just of how to win an election, but of how to remake a broken system.
Eric Trump claims coronavirus is Democratic hoax, will 'magically'
vanish after 2020 election: Is there some sort of contest inside
the Trump family to see who is the dumbest? Or the most self-centered?
Isn't that what you'd call someone who who thinks are so powerful
and ubiquitous and callous to fake 300,000 deaths worldwide just to
make one moron look bad? And, for that matter, if they really are
so powerful and malevolent, what makes you think Donald Trump is the
leader you want to take them on? (Piss them off, maybe.) On the other
hand, Eric has spent his entire life so completely under his father's
thumb he may not realize that there is a world beyond.
Stop trying to shame socialists into voting for Joe Biden. It's not
going to work. Amen. They're just exposing themselves as assholes,
and revealing an anti-left prejudice so profound one doubts they will
ever show the reciprocal support they demand. There are, of course,
good reasons why socialists should vote for Biden, but there's still
plenty of time to make that case before November, and we're likely
to be more receptive once the sting of defeat has dulled. Especially
if Biden actually offers something more substantial than simply being
the not-Trump candidate.
Hannah Knowles/Candace Buckner:
Alaska lawmaker says Hitler was not white supremacist after comparing
coronavirus measures to Nazi rule. Well, just goes to show how
confused conservatives can get when they understand they're supposed
to denounce Nazis are bad, but find for the most part they're just
The GOP is the problem. Is 'human identity politics' the solution?
It's no accident Britain and America are the world's biggest coronavirus
losers: "Even before the pandemic hit, both nations had been stripped
of the people and systems required to respond effectively."
Why we need redundancy in more than the military. Writes about
the effects of Covid-19 on military families. Author is editor, with
Catherine Lutz, of War and Health: The Medical Consequences of
the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Meridith McGraw/Nahal Toosi:
Trump ousts State Department watchdog: After State Department
Inspector General Steve Linick opened up an investigation into Secretary
Mike Pompeo. For more, see: Hannah Knowles:
Top Democrats launch investigation into late-night firing of State
Department inspector general.
Thanks to climate divestment, Big Oil finally runs out of gas.
Why the neoliberals won't let this crisis go to waste: Interview
with the author of a 2013 book: Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to
Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown. I read
his book when it came out, and found it pretty frustrating. My takeaway
was that nothing much changed because the neoliberals were so quick
and effective at preventing any alternative viewpoints. They recognized
that change requires imagination, and if you can squelch that, you can
survive conditions that were objectively disillusioning. This title is
clearer about who's trying to take advantage of the crisis. However,
it may not be so easy this time. Still, when you look at how completely
Mike Bloomberg upended the Democratic primaries, and how Andrew Cuomo
is conspiring to privatize post-pandemic social life under the control
of tech billionaires, it's not just the Koch types one needs to worry
Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are building new, policy-focused task
The police shooting of Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was killed in
her apartment, explained.
Rachel Esplin Odell/Stephen Wertheim:
Can the Democrats avoid Trump's China trap?: "The president wants a
new cold war to deflect attention from his failures."
The "Good War" in Afghanistan was never good.
Brand new Dems? A speculative piece on partisan positioning,
presented mostly as brand management. One example is the recent
ad flurry where both Trump and Biden tried to out-hawk one another
Biden, to the extent that he is visible at all, is terrible at
campaign messaging. He doesn't connect well with his supporters, many
of whom minimize their exposure to him for fear of demoralization.
Nor does he connect well with persuadable independents. With more
than 60,000 American pandemic deaths to date and nearly 30 million
jobs lost or furloughed, Biden could frame the election around the
critical concerns of ordinary Americans. Nope. In April he devoted
two of his biggest ads to defending himself against Trump's accusations
that he is dangerously soft on China and its role in the pandemic.
Republican strategists, terrified of substantive electioneering, have
decided that Trump's best bet is precisely to lure Biden into an
esoteric, anachronistic, and xenophobic fight about who will stand up
to China. Biden has taken the bait. Even by the standards of easily
rattled Democratic politicians, his is a remarkably rapid surrender
of rhetorical ground.
Trump was able to spook Biden in part because of the second kind of
messaging -- party branding. . . . Biden was afraid to look weak on
China because Americans have a built-in view of the GOP as the party
that does a better job of handling national security. This perception --
a six-point advantage in recent polls -- makes a significant difference
when elections are decided by one or two points. It's not only Trump
who will invoke the Yellow Peril. In a messaging memo that recently
came to light, Republican Senate candidates are forcefully advised to
"attack China" in relation to the coronavirus crisis. These candidates,
too, are exploiting a partisan brand advantage on "national security" --
a concept with powerful connotations of strength, patriotism, and fear
of the other.
Ousted whistleblower warns US is heading toward "darkest winter in
What liberals don't get about Trump supporters and pop culture:
"The seemingly bizarre pop culture takes emanating from MAGA world are
just reflections of its core philosophy."
Big banks got the sweetest deal from the Covid-19 bailouts: Well,
don't they always? Interview with Nomi Prins, who was the first to
report that banks raked in much more from the Fed than they did from
their $700 billion TARP bailout.
To fight Covid-19, we need to build worker power and worker safety:
I can see an argument that workers shouldn't always be allowed to strike
over economic demands -- one might come up with a fair arbitration system
to resolve such disputes, although my preferred solution is co-determination,
where workers have seats on boards and management committees. But one case
where workers should absolutely have the right to refuse to work is when
doing so presents a safety problem. Indeed, I think we should guarantee
workers union representation for just such cases, regardless of whether
a worker is part of a regular union. Indeed, while one approach to job
safety would be to strengthen OSHA rules and enforcement, it would be
more flexible and ultimately more effective to let workers enforce their
own safety concerns, through a process which ultimately includes a
guaranteed right to strike.
Germany and South Korea excelled at Covid-19 containment. It still came
Michael D Shear/Maggie Haberman:
White House races to contain virus in its ranks: 'It is scary to go to
Trump is getting trounced among a crucial constituency: The haters:
"In 2016, Donald Trump cleaned up among voters who disliked him and
Hillary Clinton. This year, Biden is winning big among the comparable
group." That's one constituency that's always going to break against
What on Earth is the US doing by bombing Somalia? For more:
US airstrikes hit all-time high as coronavirus spreads in Somalia.
How the right went far-right: Review of Andrew Marantz:
Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking
of American Conservatism.
The American unemployment system is broken by design.
Zephyr Teachout/Pat Garofalo:
Cuomo is letting billionaires plan New York's future. It doesn't have
to be this way. Refers to Naomi Klein's
Screen New Deal piece, on how capitalism profits from disaster.
Jared Kushner is a national disaster.