Sunday, May 31, 2020
Lot of articles below on the police killing of George Floyd in
Minneapolis, the demonstrations that have ensued, and reports of
violence (especially in Minneapolis). I have no idea how extensive
the violence is, let alone who's responsible for what, but I'm
skeptical of reports that the nation is being torn apart, let alone
that urban America is being reduced to rubble. I remember the riots
of the late 1960s, Kerner Commission Report, and the backlash Nixon
so profited from. I doubt this is anything like that, but should
also note that the degree of anger over this particular killing --
as you well know there have been dozens that have risen to cause
célèbre status, and hundreds that remain obscure. There was, for
instance, a completely peaceful demonstration here in Wichita that
drew some 2,000 people -- much more than I would have imagined.
(No link, as The Wichita Eagle won't let me get past the headline,
even with a subscription -- making it pointess to pass the link
along.) What does make the current situation worse than in the 1960s
is malignant lout in the White House, his toxic party, and their
deluded followers. We used to jeer LBJ with "how many kids did you
kill today?" but there's no point taunting Trump like that: not
only doesn't he care, he's likely to take it as a challenge.
Speaking of the dead, the coronavirus death count in the United
100,000 this week. It topped 10,000 on April 17, and 50,000 18 days
later, on April 25. It took 32 days from there to double. The lockdown
in Kansas has pretty much ended, although that makes me even more wary
of going out. I do, however, have a doctor appointment on Monday, and
have been assured they got their protocols together. May make a grocery
run as well, as we're low on pretty much everything.
When I got up this morning, I played Down in the Basement
(a "treasure trove of vintage 78s 1926-1937") and Maria Muldaur's
Garden of Joy. From the former, I was especially struck by the
continuing relevance of
Bessie Brown's "Song from a Cotton Field." The latter ends with
a 2009 remake of the Depression-era "The Panic Is On," with a new
line for Obama. Couldn't find a YouTube link, but here's
Spotify, if that helps. Here's the 1931 original, by
Hezekiah & Dorothy Jenkins; I'm more familiar with a later
version which drops the complaint about Prohibition and adds an
optimistic like about FDR -- on a compilation somewhere, can't find
the link now. I did find more recent ones: by
Loudon Wainwright III (2010);
Daddy Stovepipe (2013); and by
Matt Rivers (2013).
Some scattered links this week:
Did you really think Trump would mourn with us:
The president's indifference to collective mourning is of a piece with
a political movement that denies our collective ties as well as the
obligations we have to each other. If Trump represents a radical political
solipsism, in which his is the only interest that exists, then it makes
all the sense in the world that neither he nor his allies would see or
even understand the need for public and collective mourning -- an activity
that heightens our vulnerability, centers our interconnectedness and
stands as a challenge to the politics of selfishness and domination.
Trump is following in Herbert Hoover's footsteps: "And we know
how that worked out." Well, yes and no. Hoover was smart and disciplined
and he was not without caring, but for some reason didn't believe he had
any options -- maybe because his super-rich Treasury Secretary Andrew
Mellon vetoed them. (Mellon served 12 years, so the old joke was that
three presidents served under him.) Trump has none of Hoover's virtues,
and even more remarkably neither do his principle advisers. Also
Trump just said what Republicans have been trying not to say for years:
"The president revealed his real concern about mail-in voting: He's worried
Republicans will lose more."
Trump's social media executive order, explained: "It won't hold up
in court. That's not the point." Also:
Trump's Twitter tirade is the tantrum of a troll.
Peter Baker/Daisuke Wakabayashi:
Trump's order on social media could harm one person in particular: Donald
Trump: "Without certain liability protections, companies like Twitter
would have to be more aggressive about policing messages that press the
boundaries -- like the president's."
Trump's phony war with Twitter escalates: "If Twitter were to fact-check
all of President Trump's posts, he could significantly hamper his ability
to propagandize effectively." Not to mention, send him into an endless
recursive loop of rage.
Twitter has finally started fact-checking Trump.
Section 230, the internet free speech law Trump wants to change,
Mark Zuckerberg comes to Trump's defense.
Trump is doing all of this for Zuckerberg: "The new executive order
targeting social-media companies isn't really about Twitter."
Trump is unlikely to repeal Section 230 or take any real action to curb
the power of the major social-media companies. Instead, he wants to keep
things just the way they are and make sure that the red-carpet treatment
he has received so far, especially at Facebook, continues without
impediment. He definitely does not want substantial changes going into
the 2020 election. The secondary aim is to rile up his base against yet
another alleged enemy: this time Silicon Valley, because there needs to
be an endless list of targets in the midst of multiple failures. . . .
Playing the refs by browbeating them has long been a key move in the
right-wing playbook against traditional media. The method is simple: It
involves badgering them with accusations of unfairness and bias so that
they bend over backwards to accommodate a "both sides" narrative even
when the sides were behaving very differently, or when one side was not
grounded in fact. Climate-change deniers funded by fossil-fuel companies
effectively used this strategy for decades, relying on journalists'
training and instinct to equate objectivity with representing both
sides of a story. This way of operating persisted even when one of the
sides was mostly bankrolled by the fossil-fuel industry while the other
was a near-unanimous consensus of independent experts and academics.
Well done, Twitter. You've finally figured out how to deal with Trump's
Trump's one constant is a fetish for bloodshed: "Violence is the
last refuge of the incompetent, and the president has bunkered down."
Aside from the notes on bullies and cowards, I note this Trump tweet:
"It makes me feel so good to hit 'sleazebags' back -- much better than
seeing a psychiatrist (which I never have!)." Assuming that seeing a
shrink is supposed to make you feel better only makes sense when you
realize that he has no capacity for self-reflection, in which case
his denial is not just vanity (something he has tons of) but also an
implicit recognition of his emptiness. Makes me wonder how terrifying
it is to know you know nothing of yourself.
Bolivia's post-coup president has unleashed a campaign of terror.
Susan B Glasser:
Trump plays macho man as America burns.
The most mendacious president in US history: "On Trump, his Twitter
lies, and why it's getting worse."
From the start of his Administration, his tweets have been an open-source
intelligence boon, a window directly into the President's needy id, and a
real-time guide to his obsessions and intentions. Misinformation,
disinformation, and outright lies were always central to his politics.
In recent months, however, his tweeting appears to have taken an even
darker, more manic, and more mendacious turn, as Trump struggles to manage
the convergence of a massive public-health crisis and a simultaneous
economic collapse while running for reëlection. He is tweeting more
frequently, and more frantically, as events have closed in on him.
Trailing in the polls and desperate to change the subject from the
coronavirus, mid-pandemic Trump has a Twitter feed that is meaner,
angrier, and more partisan than ever before, as he amplifies conspiracy
theories about the "deep state" and media enemies such as Scarborough
while seeking to exacerbate divisions in an already divided country.
Glasser refers to a piece by former Trump ghost-writer Tony
The psychopath in chief, which she sums up:
[Schwartz] argues that the Presidency has transformed Trump from an
attention-seeking narcissist, who spent decades lying about his golf
trophies, his sex life, and his real-estate properties, into an
ends-justify-the-means ruler who has increasingly and ominously
escalated his lies and extreme behavior. Many of Trump's lies, Schwartz
argues, come from his grandiose misconception of his own knowledge and
powers, including his bragging that he knows more "than anyone" about
ISIS, drones, social media, campaign finance, technology, polls, courts,
lawsuits, politicians, trade, renewable energy, infrastructure,
construction, nuclear weapons, banks, tax laws, the economy, and, during
the pandemic, medicine. "His obsession with domination and power have
prompted Trump to tell lies more promiscuously than ever since he became
President, and to engage in ever more unfounded and aggressive responses
aimed at anyone he perceives stands in his way," Schwartz wrote.
Glasser also reviews a forthcoming book by the Washington Post's Fact
Checker staff, Donald Trump and His Assault on Truth.
Kris Kobach is back, and a Kansas Senate seat may be up for grabs:
From where I sit, it looks to me like Roger Marshall has sewn up the
Senate nomination, although his stunt aping Trump and forcing his whole
family to take hydroxychloroquine makes me question his sanity. Kobach,
having failed to get a Trump admin job (other than the "voter fraud"
commission that he ran into the ground), and having failed to win his
governor race, strikes me as damaged goods (like Roy Moore in Alabama,
who after losing the special election dropped to fourth in the Senate
primary this year). Admittedly, Kobach is bad enough to worry about,
but so is Marshall and the rest of the field. I'm not impressed by
Barbara Bollier, but we'll take whatever we can get.
Erica L Green:
Over veterans' protests, Trump vetoes measure to block student loan
The coming collapse: "It is impossible for any doomed population to
grasp how fragile the decayed financial, social and political system is
on the eve of implosion."
Sheila Kaplan/Matthew Goldstein/Alexandra Stevenson:
Trump's vaccine chief has vast ties to drug industry, posing possible
conflicts: Moncef Slaoui: a venture capitalist, former executive
at GlaxoSmithKline, a board member of Moderna.
The fatal arrest of George Floyd, a black man kneed in the neck by
police, explained. As one section here notes, "the history of
police brutality against the black community is long and repetitive."
This event, following recent killings of
Ahmaud Arbery and
Breonna Taylor, led quickly to protests and more. Also see:
How Western media would cover Minneapolis if it happened in another
country. Later I saw a Tony Karon tweet that suggests the answer to
this question is that they'd dub the demonstration "the American spring."
White people can compartmentalize police brutality. Black people don't
have the luxury.
Trump responded to the protests by lashing out at antifa, the media,
and Democrats. Is there anything Trump doesn't blame on "his
favorite political punching bags"? Trump has gone on to
tweet: "The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA
as a Terrorist Organization." I don't see how he can do that, not
just because the law only applies to foreign organizations, but also
it's not clear that "antifa" is an organization at all. More ominously,
Attorney General William Barr "announced that the federal law enforcement
will activate the 56 regional FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces to apprehend
and charge what he described as 'violent radical agitators.'" Using the
FBI to investigate and harass political "enemies" was common back when
J Edgar Hoover ran the agency, so I can't say his move is unprecedented,
but it is extremely repugnant to the Constitution and democracy. On the
other hand, if you do want to tackle "domestic terrorism," be aware that
virtually all of the threats are on the right.
Police targeted journalists covering the George Floyd protests.
The racist history of Trump's "When the looting starts, the shooting
Paul Butler: Law professor, former federal prosecutor,
author of Chokehold: Policing Black Men:
Trump's plan to end Obama's peaceful police reform succeeded.
The lies we tell about riots: "How America mystifies the wages of
The death of George Floyd, in context.
Police erupt in violence nationwide.
Officials blame outsiders for violence in Minnesota but contradict one
another on who is responsible.
Officer charged in George Floyd's death used fatal force before and had
history of complaints.
Feds flew an unarmed Predator drone over Minneapolis protests to provide
What we're missing when we condemn "violence" at protests.
Which brings us to perhaps the most important thing to understand about
how to watch protests: the context of what kind of protest garners police
response. Over the past three months, the 24-hour cable networks have
extensively covered mostly white armed men and women threatening police
and politicians at state capitols across the nation over coronavirus
How often have you seen police in riot gear? In fact, police seldom
use force or even present in force (protest shields, black helmets, etc.)
when conservative or right-wing groups protest. When is the last time you
saw a group of anti-abortion activists get tear-gassed? Yet left-leaning
groups, and especially groups of minorities, their protests are often met
with shows of force. Right-wing groups spit in the faces of police in
regular gear in Michigan, while SWAT teams show up like Storm Troopers
to chanting teens in Minneapolis.
Violent protests could be a gift to Trump: This is an obvious fear
many of us have, especially those of us who remember how Nixon exploited
the urban "riots" of the late 1960s. It also seems to be much on the
minds of pro-Trump media today, who have come out in force to spread
their take on whatever is happening. Personally, I don't see much to
gain from demonstrating at this point: the key message is getting out
more effectively via social media, and the Minneapolis city government
(if not the police) seems to be responding constructively. On the other
hand, if you must have a villain for the "riots," how about Trump? For
a better take also at TPM, see Josh Marshall:
The gang leader as president.
No more cop unions: I'll file this here because many of the examples
of how police unions have saved their members from responsibility for
acts of violence against the public come from Minneapolis. Of course,
I don't believe that police should not be allowed to join a union. But
there is much evidence of such unions behaving badly, from supporting
Republicans (which proved to be a fatal mistake in Wisconsin) to bending
policy for their own temperament.
Killer Mike delivers emotional speech to Atlanta protestors at Mayor's
press conference. Robert Christgau tweeted a link to this. When I
returned, the top item on my feed was by an Ali Velshi: "I'm hit in the
leg by a rubber bullet but am fine. State Police supported by National
Guard fired unprovoked into an entirely peaceful rally."
In Minneapolis, a police union gone rogue.
Whether the president understands the racist history of "looting and
shooting" is beside the point.
Former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin charged with murder in the death
of George Floyd.
Fox News hosts racist former detective Mark Fuhrman to analyze protests
following George Floyd's killing. Also:
Lou Dobbs blames "black churches," "black teachers and leaders" for
After George Floyd's death, Klobuchar faces scrutiny over record on
police brutality. On the other hand, see Igor Derysh:
Amy Klobuchar denies that she failed to prosecute former officer who
kneeled on George Floyd's neck.
Mark P Nevitt:
Trump cannot legally use "looting" to justify "shooting".
Michele L Norris:
How Amy Cooper and George Floyd represent two versions of racism that
black Americans face every day.
Far-right extremists are hoping to turn the George Floyd protests into
a new civil war.
Maybe we should stop giving the Minneapolis police military equipment.
America's social contract is broken: "The protests across the country
are about more than police violence."
Alice Speri/Alleen Brown/Mara Hvistendahl:
The George Floyd killing in Minneapolis exposes the failures of police
George Floyd's killing has opened the wounds of centuries of American
Alex S Vitale:
The answer to police violence is not 'reform.' It's defunding. Here's
why. "Bias training, body cameras, community dialogues -- Minneapolis
has tried them all." Maybe the 30% of the city budget that the police
suck up isn't the best way to use that money?
The intolerable tensions between American cities and their police forces.
"Directly at us": Louisville law enforcement shoots reporters with pepper
Matt Zapotosky/Isaac Stanley-Becker:
Gripped by disease, unemployment and outrage at the police, America
plunges into crisis.
"We're a country with an open wound": Joe Biden condemns the police killing
of George Floyd.
'Absolute vacuum in leadership': Internet sheds 'coward' Trump for hiding
as 75 cities protest. Assembled from tweets, the least original being
"We don't have a president" and "Hitler hid in a bunker too." My favorite:
Kind of like those FDR Fireside Chats.
You know, without the inspiration, empathy, concern, sacrifice, honesty,
integrity, and 3-syllable words.
Michigan sheriff and police didn't use harsh tactics to control Flint
Township's protest -- they laid down their batons and joined it.
Trump's purge of inspectors general, explained: "In an unprecedented
move, Trump has fired or sidelined at least five watchdogs in recent
The vital missing piece of the Democrats' stimulus bill: "If the
rule House Democrats followed doesn't allow enough spending, what use
is their rule?" What's missing is automatic stabilizers, so in the
future something like a rise in unemployment will automatically be
met with funding for unemployment insurance. The rule that prevents
this is one the Democratic leadership foolishly adopted when they
took over the House in 2019, meant to show that they're responsible
about deficits. However, if we've learned one thing about economics
over the last century, it's that deficit spending is the only way
to reduce the tragedy of economic catastrophe.
David Frum's hold over the center: "The Never Trumpers styled themselves
as critics of the GOP. Instead, they built up power over liberals." Review
of Frum's latest essay collection, Trumpocalypse: Restoring American
Democracy. For another review, see:
David Frum rethinks conservatism. Actually, one thing that I've found
is that Frum remains very entrenched in certain parts of conservatism. For
He proposes a political trade: a severe tightening of immigration
rules in return for the passage of much-needed social and climate
legislation -- a comprehensive national health care system, a carbon
tax (that would include products imported from polluters like China
and India). "If Democrats want to perpetuate their health care reforms,
they must do a better job of solidifying a sense of national belonging.
If Republicans want to safeguard the border, they must offer a better
deal to those living on that border's American side."
I might take such a deal, especially if I could stipulate that the
immigration limits were combined with a program to legitimate all or
most currently undocumented immigrants. But I doubt Republicans would
offer any such deal, because they're more committed to blocking health
care reform and limits on global warming than they really care about
Unemployment insurance is a vital part of economic freedom.
Trump boosts nuclear weapons spending, fueling a new arms race.
GOP vows to kill only thing keeping economy (and Trump) afloat:
Enhanced unemployment benefits: the spectre of workers laid off due to
the pandemic not feeling the pinch of starvation enough to settle for
even lower-wage jobs.
How John Brennan and Mike Pompeo left the US blind to Saudi problems.
How the Taliban outlasted a superpower: tenacity and courage.
The Trump administratio has abandoned worker safety at the worst
The crumbling cult of Jamie Dimon: "Dimon is a serial Noticer That
Things Could Be Better, but he has always remained quite vague on why
those things could be better or what might be required to improve them."
That much, plus being extremely rich, seems to pass for profundity these
days. I once wrote that "Barack Obama is so conservative he cannot even
imagine a world where Jamie Dimon isn't CEO of a major Wall Street bank."
Obama, you may recall, demanded a major shake up at GM as part of the
price for a bailout, but never pushed to change a head on Wall Street.
Heather Digby Parton:
Trump opposes masks because culture war nihilism is his last lie of
Jeremy W Peters:
They predicted 'The Crisis of 2020' . . . in 1991. So how does this end?
Recalls two scholars, William Strauss and Neil Howe, whose 1991 book
Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069, tried
to work out a cyclical view of American history, based on 80-year cycles
broken up into 20-year phases. They later published a somewhat shorter
similar sequel, The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy: What the
Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous With Destiny
(paperback, 1997), which is still in print. The fourth phase of these
cycles is "crisis," which they projected to come to a head in 2020,
right about now. This is not far removed from the "four eras" schema
I've been writing about -- their turning points line up with 1780,
1860, 1940, and 2020, whereas mine are 1800, 1860, 1932, 1980, and
(most likely) 2020.
The sickness in our food supply: Explains, among much else, why
some farmers are dumping milk, eggs, and chickens, even with grocery
store shelves bare. That's just the way the industry is organized,
for maximum profit, until it breaks.
CNN arrest is what actual censorship looks like.
Joe Biden has a chance to make history on climate change: "All he has
to do is embrace the consensus that's waiting for him."
Trump dismisses his own government's guidance about masks as "politically
correct": "Trump's latest unhinged news conference illustrates why
he's no longer doing daily coronavirus briefings."
"Human capital stock": White House adviser Kevin Hassett uses dehumanizing
term for US workers. I'm not a big fan of taking an unfortunate turn
of phrase and blowing it up into a story, but this is pretty egregious,
as well as revealing. He could have said "our workers are ready to get
back to work," and all we'd be questioning is whether that's really true.
He could have said "workforce," and while the abstraction is creepier and
dehumanizing, we'd probably let is pass. It's true that some economists
and businessfolk like to talk about "human capital," but that's usually
to posit a human alternative to other forms of capital, and even there it
suggests that people's skills and "know how" can be owned as an asset --
something that most of us reject. However, "stock" is where this gets
really insulting: a word usually used for animals (e.g. livestock). One
could say "our bovine capital stock is ready to be eaten," but who the
fuck actually talks like that? That's a question I doubt anyone has
asked before, but now we have an answer: Trump economic adviser.
Packing 20,000 people into an arena for the RNC is a bad idea. Trump
wants it to happen anyway.
Robert J Shapiro:
The economic recovery will be a whimper, not a bang: "Many economists,
including some liberals, are predicting a strong comeback by November.
They are using the wrong models."
Graham urges senior judges to step aside before November election so
Republicans can fill vacancies. Always scheming.
Joseph E Stiglitz:
Argentina and the future of finance capitalism.
Famed Democratic pollster: Warren as VP would lead to Biden victory:
That's what Stan Greenberg says.
Andrew Van Dam:
The unluckiest generation in US history: "Millennials have faced the
worst economic odds, and many will never recover." As I recall, it was
baseball mogul Branch Rickey who said, "luck is the residue of design."
What me meant was built strong, deep teams, and luck will break your way.
The converse also applies: the more fundamental weaknesses you have, the
more likely luck will turn against you. The long-term trends of the last
20-40 years have been: the rich have gotten much richer; safety nets have
eroded, so most people are at greater risk should something bad happen;
and bad events have become more frequent due to war, climate change, and
lack of infrastructure investment. Those are trends that are hard to
notice as they're happening, only becoming evident when things break bad.
At first that may look like luck, but deeper down lies design.
In a disturbing rant, Trump says protesters 'would have been greeted
with the most vicious dogs'. What is it with Trump and dogs?
Household income surged in April despite the collapsing labor market.
For once, you should thank the Democrats for that. When the stock market
collapsed, Trump and the Republicans were desperate to inject cash into
the collapsing economy -- especially those $1200 checks with Trump's name
on them. Democrats went along, but only after insisting on funding the
unemployment insurance system, including broader eligibility and a $600
per week supplement, which meant that some laid-off workers actually came
out ahead. That was absolutely the right thing to do, and Republicans went
along with it only because it was bound to their own poorly thought out
plan. It's clear now that the "stimulus" didn't save the economy -- most
of the money went into savings or debt reduction -- but it did help a lot
of people. Thank the Democrats for that. And expect the Republicans to
revert to form as the economy opens up slowly, and actually does need a
shot of stimulus spending.
CNN reporter Omar Jimenez arrested live on air in Minneapolis.
Twitter flags Trump for "glorifying violence" in "looting starts, shooting
Let Hong Kong move to America: "Visas could do more than sanctions
to help Hong Kong and punish China." Contrast this with Jen Kirby:
Trump says he will revoke Hong Kong's special trade status. I don't
see how Trump's threat does anything but force Hong Kong ever deeper
under China's thumb. On the other hand, I'm not wild about Yglesias's
plan either. Reminds me of the special visa class that has allowed
right-wing Cubans to flood the country, warping any chance of ever
normalizing relations with Cuba, while sticking us with right-wing
political operatives like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
The US should prioritize reopening schools, not salons and restaurants.
Joe Biden has a plan for that: "Not a joke, folks: He's running
on a transformative policy agenda." Most of these points have substance
while falling short of what Sanders (or for that matter Warren) proposed.
The weakest area remains health care, where he wants a "public option"
in what's probably a vain hope of reducing public costs by making the
marketplace more competitive.