Sunday, July 12, 2020
Florida shatters single-day infection record with 15,300 new cases.
I don't generally like linking to video, but
here's Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis bragging about how safe Florida
is (video seems to be from May 20), and how the alarmists have been
Some scattered links this week:
The Goya Foods free speech controversy, explained: "Goya Foods' CEO
says his speech is being suppressed by a boycott. It's not." I don't
care much one way or the other, but when corporate spokespeople make
inflammatory political comments, which is their right if not evidence
of good sense, others have a right to get upset and withhold their
business. For past examples, look at what right-wing pundits had to
say about Nike. While I don't care much, I did include this link
because I wanted to add this tweet from Charles M Blow:
Once more: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS CANCEL CULTURE. There is free
speech. You can say and do as you pls, and others can choose never
to deal this you, your company or your products EVER again. The
rich and powerful are just upset that the masses can now organize
Slavery is not all that America is about: Another right-wing pundit,
can't find much about him but he started appearing in the Wichita Eagle
recently, sandwiched between Cal Thomas and Marc Thiessen. This piece
is especially wretched. It starts:
The New York Times last year came up with a project to debase America,
to say this country is about nothing but slavery, that the institution
has determined everything we are, that it instructs us to this day on
the maltreatment of Black people. The Revolutionary War was fought to
keep it going, and the pretenses of liberty and equality have been just
that, pretenses. Slavery even fashioned a capitalism that maintains its
evils and built our economy, we learn.
Black Americans are the real purveyors of the ideas of liberty and
equality, not racist whites, we are also instructed in the so-called
1619 Project that started with a bunch of essays in The Times Sunday
magazine. . . .
The really scary thing is The Times has so arranged things that a
book of the project's contents will be taught in public high schools.
That will help to further dislodge future generations from any
understanding of how our values fought slavery instead of bowing to
it, that many have understood that slavery and Jim Crow are our vilest
faults without saying we have no virtues.
It is certainly important to recognize our faults but also to
acknowledge, as Black American pundit Thomas Sowell has pointed out,
that Black Americans were making far more progress on their own
initiative before some liberal politicians in the 1960s entered in
to do misconceived things for votes and guilt atonement.
The key word here is "debase": Ambrose thinks the only reason for
writing about slavery is to make America look bad. He further surmises
that if schoolchildren were exposed to this history, they'd -- well,
I'm just guessing here -- grow up with some kind of guilt complex
about being American. And why would that be such a bad thing? Well --
another guess, but less of a leap -- they might doubt their conservative
leaders about how virtuous America has always been. Maybe 1619 Project
tilts a bit too hard the other way, but their view hasn't been given
much airing, and it uncovered a lot of forgotten (or ignored) history.
The last part of the quote is even more scurrilous. It's true that
blacks were making progress before the 1964 Civil Rights Act: that's
why the Act was passed, to secure as well as to advance that progress.
And if some whites voted for it for "guilt atonement," they often did
have much to feel guilty about. But one should also mention that many
felt anger about the extremely public violence segregationists used to
deny Americans rights we supposedly all cherish. The implication that
the Civil Rights Act ended that progress is ludicrous. Progress since
then has been erratic and sometimes glacial, but the obstacles have
always come from conservatives like Ambrose, who feel my guilt and
take no responsibility for their ancestors or, indeed, their racist
Ambrose's one attempt to argue with the 1619 historiography is his
citation of Gordon Wood ("who says there is not a single quote anywhere
to be found of a colonist saying the war could save slavery"). Wood is
my "go to" historian of the Revolution and the early republic (at least
since Richard B. Morris passed), so I respect his criticism of the 1619
Project, but find that he invalidates very little of its historical
An interview with historian Gordon Wood on the New York Times' 1619
Is it impossible to envision a world without patent monopolies?
Elisabeth Rosenthal, at the
New York Times, thinks not.
While her points are all well-taken, the amazing part is that she
never considers the simplest solution, just don't give the companies
patent monopolies in the first place. The story here is the government
is paying for most of the research upfront. While it has to pay for
it a second time by giving the companies patent monopolies.
There is no reason that the government can't simply make it a
condition of the funding that all research findings are fully open
and that any patents will be in the public domain so that any vaccines
will be available as a cheap generic from the day it comes on the
market. Not only does this ensure that a vaccine will be affordable,
it will likely mean more rapid progress since all researchers will
be able to immediately learn from the success or failures of other
I'd go further and add that even when government does not fund
the research, prospective patents are not necessary to encourage
research and development and are often counterproductive. Moreover,
the efficiencies within any given country from publicly funding
research and publishing findings others can freely build upon
would be multiplied many times over if adopted everywhere. One
more point is that ending patents would significantly change the
dynamics of "free trade" pacts, which often are more preoccupied
with forcing adherence to an international tribute system to
owners of "intellectual property," even at the expense of free
What the police really believe: "Inside the distinctive, largely unknown
ideology of American policing -- and how it justifies racist violence."
Maybe this isn't such a good time to prosecute a culture war
Trump's America is slipping away: "He's trying to assemble a winning
coalition with a dwindling number of sympathetic white voters." Nixon,
with Kevin Phillips crunching the numbers, figured that if he could add
Southern whites and Northern ethnics (mostly Catholics) to the Republican
core he'd have a coalition capable of winning for decades. He came up
with the basic pitch in 1972, and Reagan clinched the deal in the 1980s
before, well, they proved basically incompetent at running the government.
Since then they've mastered the mechanics of tilting elections their way,
and they've repeatedly doubled down on the demagoguery, recovering quickly
from the inevitable setbacks when their record came into focus. Trump is
still using the Nixon/Reagan coalition plan. He won in 2016 by hitting it
hard, while facing a uniquely compromised opponent running on a lacklustre
record of indifference to average Americans. And no, he has no new ideas
on coalition-building, even though (as the article points out) the numbers
have shifted significantly away from his favor.
Kate Conger/Jack Healy/Lucy Tompkins:
Churches were eager to reopen. Now they are confronting coronavirus
Just one week to stop a calamity. Technically, two weeks until the
federal "stimulus" payments expire, but the Senate is adjourned for
another week, so no discussion until then.
Fear of a Forever-Trump administration: "There doesn't seem to be
much faith in the peaceful transition of power, if the burgeoning canon
of postelection pulp horror is any guide." I think we've gotten carried
away with projecting Trump's authoritarian tastes and temperament into
a threat to end democracy. While Trump himself may be so inclined, and
while his personality cult gives him some leeway to act out, I don't
see any ideological or institutional support for such a change. What
I do see is a Republican Party dedicated to bending the rules, trying
to tailor the electorate to its taste and scheming to grab pockets of
power that will allow them to survive momentary lapses. I also see
many people who are willing to follow any crackpot who flatters them
and promises them dominance over myriad threats. Least of all is
Trump's personal cult, which while substantial is still a minority
taste, and more generally an embarrassment even to his sponsors. If
fascism does come to America, they'll pick a more agreeable (and more
competent) front man than Trump.
A theme park of Donald Trump's dreams: Trump's executive order to
establish a National Garden of American Heroes. It includes an initial
list of people to be represented in stone. It's a peculiar list, with
a judicious selection of women (Susan B Anthony, Clara Barton, Amelia
Earhart, Dolley Madison, Christa McAuliffe, Betsy Ross, Harriet Beecher
Stowe, Harriet Tubman) and blacks (Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther
King Jr, Jackie Robinson, Tubman, Booker T Washington), without any
Confederate leaders or ideologues, but the only 20th century president
is Ronald Reagan, and the only Supreme Court Justice is Antonin Scalia.
As Gessen notes, the only writer is Stowe, and there are no artists or
scientists. Also, no Indians (but also no Andrew Jackson or George
Armstrong Custer, although Davy Crockett made the list). I'll add that
there are no major business figures, and the only inventors are the
Wright Brothers. Also, one name I had to look up: Joshua Lawrence
Chamberlain (a governor of Maine). Other relative obscurities are
McAuliffe (the much touted teacher-astronaut blown up by NASA) and
Audie Murphy (a WWII soldier who capitalized on his Medal of Honor
to become a minor Hollywood actor). As Gessen sums up: "a skeletal,
heroic history, with a lot of shooting, a lot of flying, and very
One billionaire vs. the mail: "A new report details Charles Koch's
50-year war on the US Postal Service."
David A Graham:
Donald Trump's lost cause.
Stanley B Greenberg:
The Tea Party's last stand. "The right wing's current pathetic
defense of President Trump contrasts sharply with the Tea Party
revolt against the election and re-election of President Barack
Obama." The Tea Party only worked as an attack vehicle. They never
had any program to advance. They simply meant to oppose whatever
it was Democrats wanted, starting with recovery from the recession.
Even today, Trump appeals to them not for any program but because
Trump is the embodiment of their nihilistic worldview. Greenberg
writes: "President Trump is trapped by a pandemic and protests
that only magnify his insecurity and weak hold on his own party --
and by his need to provoke a Tea Party to make its last stand."
But the Tea Party can't save Trump, because they can't turn their
intensity into votes. On the other hand, Trump's demise won't be
their end. They will find even more to hate in the next wave of
Democrats. The open question is whether the media will take them
seriously next time around, allowing them to magnify their impact.
A big part of the reason they were able to pull that off in 2009
was Obama's efforts to "reach across the aisle" and "heal the
divide" -- by their very existence they proved Obama wrong. Better
to dismiss them as the whiny dead-enders they are.
How the House Armed Services Committee, in the middle of a pandemic,
approved a huge military budget and more war in Afghanistan.
How Biden's foreign-policy team got rich: "Strategic consultants
will define Biden's relationship to the world."
Jack Healy/Adam Liptak:
Landmark Supreme Court ruling affirms Native American rights in
Is evangelical support for Trump a contradiction?: "A religious
historian explains why Trump wasn't a trade-off for American evangelicals."
Interview with Kristen Kobes Du Mez, author of Jesus and John Wayne:
How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation.
According to Du Mez, evangelical leaders have spent decades using the
tools of pop culture -- films, music, television, and the internet --
to grow the movement. The result, she says, is a Christianity that
mirrors that culture. Instead of modeling their lives on Christ,
evangelicals have made heroes of people like John Wayne and Mel
Gibson, people who project a more militant and more nationalist
image. In that sense, Trump's strongman shtick is a near-perfect
expression of their values.
That doesn't even sound like values to me, but I've long noted
a division among Christians between those who care for and seek
to help their neighbors and those who wish to consign them to hell.
The prevalence of revenge fantasies in American culture certainly
feeds that tendency.
Why extreme heat is so alarming for the fight against Covid-19.
Interesting that the focus here isn't about global warming, even
though the impetus is a 120F forecast for Phoenix, which would be
a record high (tying the third highest temperature ever in Phoenix,
the highest being 122F). On the other hand, Arizona is the worst
Covid-19 hotspot in the nation, and probably the world. Remember
how Trump was talking about the virus vanishing when it warms up?
Masha Gessen on the frightening fragility of America's political
institutions: Interview, based on Gessen's new book Autocracy:
Rules for Survival.
The real story about Russian bounties on US troops isn't whether Trump
knew about it,
Why the high dudgeon over alleged Russian bounties for Taliban slaying
of US troops: This was my second thought on hearing of the story,
but I've been waiting for someone else to quote: "Paying for scalps
has a venerable tradition in the US. Ask any Native American." My first
thought was that the US did something damn similar when the Russians
occupied Afghanistan. Maybe not bounties per sé, but the CIA certainly
pressed its client mujahideen to focus on inflicting blood losses on
The spiraling downward trend of Donald Trump's political life:
"My best guess is that for the rest of the campaign, every day is
going to be worse for Trump than the last. And that means every
day will technically be the worst day of Trump's political life."
The pandemic proved that cash payments work: "An extra $600 a week
buys freedom from fear."
I've seen a future without cars, and it's amazing. When I was
growing up, cars meant everything. Even now, when our car use as
atrophied to the point I've only filled it up once since March, I
can't imagine doing the things we need to do without one. On the
other hand, when I was growing up, I had an aunt who didn't drive,
and today I have a nephew who doesn't drive, and both managed to
deal with the trade-offs. Before I could drive, I was able to get
around most of Wichita on bike. And I've had a couple of stretches
without a car: two years at college in St. Louis, and three years
living in Manhattan. Manjoo's article actually limits itself to
Manhattan, where the cost/benefit ratio of having a car is higher
than anywhere else in America, and the externalities of others' cars
are even greater. His idea is freshly illustrated, but I'd like to
point out that it isn't new: Paul and Percival Goodman wrote it up
c. 1950, and included it in Paul Goodman's Utopian Essays &
Practical Proposals (1962). Even now, Manjoo concedes: "With
a population that is already quite used to getting along without
cars, the island is just about the only place in the country where
you could even consider calling for the banishment of cars."
Congress's Covid-19 rescue plan was bigger than the New Deal. It's about
They lost the Civil War and fled to Brazil. Their descendants refuse to
take down the Confederate flag. "It's one of history's lesser-known
episodes. After the Civil War, thousands of defeated Southerners came to
Brazil to self-exile in a country that still practiced slavery." Somehow
I missed this story, although I did know about the "loyalists" who left
America for Canada during/after the Revolution, "fundamentalist" Mormons
to settled in Mexico, and Nazis who made their way to Paraguay and other
South American countries. I'd guess some Confederates landed in Cuba as
well, given that Cuba was the last place in the America to abolish
slavery, and that slaveholders in the 1850s were so anxious to annex
it as a slave state.
Mike Davis tried to warn us about a virus-induced apocalypse. He
did so in a book called The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat
of Avian Flu (2005). Now he returns with a "substantially expanded
edition," The Monster Enters: Covid-19, Avian Flu and the Plagues
of Capitalism. By the way, that last bit didn't come from nowhere.
That was the subject of his 2001 book Late Victorian Holocausts:
El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World.
GOP state lawmaker: 'I want to see more people' get coronavirus.
Health official: Trump rally 'likely' source of virus surge.
Trump confirms cyberattack on Russian trolls to deter them during 2018
How Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders joined forces to craft a bold,
Ashley Parker/Philip Rucker/Josh Dawsey:
Trump the victim: President complains in private about the pandemic
Callers on President Trump in recent weeks have come to expect what
several allies and advisers describe as a "woe-is-me" preamble.
The president rants about the deadly coronavirus destroying "the
greatest economy," one he claims to have personally built. He laments
the unfair "fake news" media, which he vents never gives him any credit.
And he bemoans the "sick, twisted" police officers in Minneapolis,
whose killing of an unarmed black man in their custody provoked the
nationwide racial justice protests that have confounded the president.
Gone, say these advisers and confidants, many speaking on the
condition of anonymity to detail private conversations, are the usual
pleasantries and greetings.
Instead, Trump often launches into a monologue placing himself at
the center of the nation's turmoil. The president has cast himself in
the starring role of the blameless victim -- of a deadly pandemic, of
a stalled economy, of deep-seated racial unrest, all of which happened
to him rather than the country.
The past 24 hours in Trump legal issues and controversies, explained:
"Supreme Court decisions, closed-door testimony, and developments for
Michael Flynn and Michael Cohen."
Trump's Mount Rushmore speech was a grim preview of his re-election
Keynes and the good life. Review of two recent books: Zachary D
Carter: The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Life of John
Maynard Keynes, and James Crotty: Keynes Against Capitalism:
His Economic Case for Liberal Socialism.
Covid-19 cases are rising, but deaths are falling. What's going on?
Mary Trump diagnoses the president: "A dark new family history from
Donald Trump's niece may be the most intimate psychological portrait of
him yet." Her book is Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created
the World's Most Dangerous Man. She also happens to be a clinical
psychologist, so sure she goes there. After considering the pathetic
demise of Trump's older brother (Fred Trump Jr., Mary's father):
Donald was the one Trump child who lived up to Fred Sr.'s expectations
(he would also be the only one Fred Sr. would remember when suffering,
late in life, from dementia). While the other Trump children gained
little from their extremely wealthy father for most of his life (Maryanne,
who became a federal judge, at one point was reduced to begging her mother
for spare change), Donald was endlessly rewarded for his mendacity and
aggression in the rough-and-tumble world of New York real estate. Fred
Sr. showered his son with money, allowing him to create the illusion that
he was self-made, a brilliant dealmaker. This phony personal brand would
be the foundation of Donald's successful presidential campaign.
Seems like I've heard that story before: sounds a lot like spree
killer Andrew Cunanan in The Assassination of Gianni Versace,
although Trump's money saved him from taking such a murderous turn.
The review continues:
But Donald, in Mary's telling, was the most wounded of the Trump
children. He was also the most pathetic. He became profoundly needy
as a result of childhood neglect but lacked the means of processing
his emotions. He got stuck in an endless feedback loop of
self-aggrandizement and self-loathing, seeking out sycophants to
assure him that he really was great -- even though, deep down, he knew
he was unloved and incapable of executing even the most basic tasks.
This too is a familiar story: the basis of the recurring Seth
Meyers features of
exclusive access to the tiny voice in the back of Trump's head.
Trump's Labor Secretary is reaching cartoonish levels of supervillainry.
Stop trying to fight racism with corporate diversity consultants:
"Inclusivity seminars and books like White Fragility protect power;
they don't challenge it. We're being hustled."
The study that debunks most anti-abortion arguments.
Why the Mueller investigation failed: "President Trump's obstructions
of justice were broader than those of Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton, and
the special counsel's investigation proved it. How come the report didn't
say so?" This is a substantial article covering the Mueller investigation
and Attorney General William Barr's handling of the report. Presumably
it's related to Toobin's new book, True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The
Investigation of Donald Trump, out August 4.
According to the Administration, Mueller and his team displayed an
unseemly eagerness to uncover crimes that never existed. In fact, the
opposite is true. Mueller had an abundance of legitimate targets to
investigate, and his failures emerged from an excess of caution, not
of zeal. Especially when it came to Trump, Mueller avoided confrontations
that he should have welcomed. He never issued a grand-jury subpoena for
the President's testimony, and even though his office built a compelling
case for Trump's having committed obstruction of justice, Mueller came
up with reasons not to say so in his report. In light of this, Trump
shouldn't be denouncing Mueller -- he should be thanking him.
America is refusing to learn how to fight the coronavirus.
How America exports police violence around the world.
Conor P Williams:
To DeVos, the virus is an excuse to strip public money from public
schools: "The policy is in line with conservative goals of converting
public dollars into private K-12 scholarships." More on DeVos:
Trump's impeachment revenge: Alexander Vindman is bullied into
There's also this:
A letter on justice and open debate. It appeared in Harper's,
and was signed by 152 people, mostly authors, between a third and
a half names I readily recognize. Unfortunately, half of those I
recognize mostly for their support of American (and often Israeli)
military ventures abroad and/or their propensity to attack the left
(often including Sanders supporters within the Democratic Party).
This adds an air of disingenuity to what otherwise appears to be
an innocuous (albeit deliberately vague) defense of free speech.
The middle paragraph could offer some clues if you could map the
unnamed censorious forces seeking to punish the unnamed actors for
their unspecified offenses: although Trump is the only named threat,
I wouldn't be surprised to find many more worried by what the left
might provoke than by what the right actually does, and some may
even fear winding up on the wrong side of justice. Take Yascha
Mounk's tweet, for example:
If the crazy attempts to shame and fire people for signing this
reasonably anodyne letter don't convince you that our current
intellectual atmosphere is deeply unhealthy, then you're more
invested in parroting the propagandistic line of the moment
than in acknowledging the truth.
Tom Scocca replied:
The use of "shame and fire" here is the whole damn game. Treating them
as interchangeable is, in fact, a cynical attack on free discourse.
Osita Nwanevu's piece on "reactionary liberalism" (see above) fits
in here, without actually making the connection. Many of the signatories
fit that mold, and they're the main reason people like myself have taken
exception to the letter. I actually share a wariness about overly harsh
and arbitrary punishments.
Also relevant here is Alex Shephard:
The problem with Yascha Mounk's Persuasion, which does discuss the
Persuasion has the feel of a club of no-longer-coddled elites, banded
together in an attempt to maintain their status in a rapidly changing
world. At this point, it doesn't seem to be about changing minds. It
may be dressed up as a new institution for promoting a free society,
but so far its cause célèbre is the process by which op-eds are
published. Liberalism deserves better.