Sunday, September 20, 2020
Aside from the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, my main takeaway for
the week is that I'm seeing a lot of articles trying to promote the
election chances of Donald Trump, or at least make you real nervous.
One of the more self-consciously rational ones is Ed Kilgore:
A rational case for Trump winning the election without stealing it.
A bit less rational is Michael Kruse:
Trump is riding high. Can he keep from blowing it?.
I suppose this sort of thing is good for clicks, and may impress upon
Democrats the need for extra vigilance. The "rational" basis seems to
be that Trump's approval ratings are little (if any) worse than they've
ever been, and there's also the Electoral College skew, the well-oiled
Fox propaganda machine, and a lot of "dark money" up to "dirty tricks"
(and I suppose you can throw the omnipotent Russians into the mix).
But there's also a lot of irrational, often downright magical thinking
involved. I cite a few articles in this cluster below, but I'm not in
general interested in speculative paranoia. There are plenty of real
things to fear these days. Nor do I wish to prejudge the malevolence
and malignancy of the American people. If Trump wins, that case will
be proven, and if not, faith in democracy -- even one as compromised
as ours -- will be vindicated.
The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg opens up a seat on the Supreme
Court, which has emerged as the ultimate arbiter of vice and virtue
in the nation today. The fact that at age 87, with a series
of grave illnesses, she clung onto her "appointment for life" shifts
our focus away from her life and accomplishments to the political
import of allowing Donald Trump to appoint her successor, subject
only to the confirmation of Mitch McConnell's Republican Senate.
The politicization of the Court is not new, although it has taken
on a heightened and more desperate tone with recent polarization.
From roughly 1940-80, we were fortunate to have had a Supreme Court
that interpreted the Constitution in ways that expanded personal
freedom and promoted social justice. This was a consequence of
Franklin Roosevelt's long tenure as president and the legacy he
left, which Republican Dwight Eisenhower rarely challenged, and
which John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson extended. The most important
achievement of the New Deal Court was its rulings against Jim Crow
laws, although it's worth noting that their effect was limited
until serious civil rights legislation was passed under Johnson.
This period lasted long enough to let people forget that before
Roosevelt, the Supreme Court had been by far the most reactionary
branch of government. Conservatives railed against the Court, and
Richard Nixon mounted the first significant right-wing attack on
the civil rights and social justice the New Deal Court promoted.
Ever since, the right has mounted an hysterical campaign to take
away the rights granted by the Court -- especially abortion, but
also the constitutional right to privacy free choice is based on --
and to secure ever greater privileges for the rich (as evidenced
most clearly by the Court's recent claim that unlimited campaign
spending is protected "free speech").
In recent years, the Court has been precariously balanced between
Republican-nominated conservatives and Democratic-nominated liberals,
with the former holding a 5-4 majority. The vacancy caused by the
death of Antonin Scalia in February, 2016 should have given Obama the chance
to flip the court 5-4 in favor of the liberals, but Mitch McConnell's
Republicans controlled the Senate and refused to even hold hearings
much less risk a vote on Obama's nominee (Merrick Garland, actually
chosen for his centrist credentials). Their argument then was that
with the election on the horizon, the appointment should be reserved
for the incoming president, not the outgoing "lame duck." Needless
to say, that is an argument you won't be hearing McConnell make this
time, even though the election is much closer now (46 days after
Ginsburg's death, vs. eight months after Scalia's).
All of this (and more) is covered in the following links. Perhaps
the best place to start is Ian Millhiser:
Ruth Bader Ginsburg's legacy, and the future of the Supreme Court,
The reason why Trump might delay replacing Ginsburg: "Keeping
Republicans hungry for a more conservative court is the only guarantee
of earning their support." I don't see any reason why this is true.
From Trump, no respect for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or the rules: "Once
a cheater, always a cheater."
The Glorious RBG: "I learned, while writing about her, that her
precision disguised her warmth."
The Republicans are planning a shameless Supreme Court heist.
The mighty Ruth Bader Ginsburg: "The late justice's legacy is a
towering monument to liberalism's quest for equal rights." Compare
that to the likely obituary of her Trump-appointed replacement:
"Another small cog in the conservative machine's efforts subvert
equal rights, privilege the rich, and make everyone else's lives
nastier, shorter, and more brutish."
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 1933-2020.
Murkowski and Collins: No Supreme Court vote before Election Day.
RBG's death: Latest updates on reaction, political aftermath.
Many things, including this quote from Ronald Brownstein:
If confirmed in 2020, a RBG successor would be third Trump nominee
selected by a president who lost the popular vote and confirmed by
a GOP Senate majority that represents less than half of the public.
George W. Bush initially lost the popular vote and named two justices.
The senators who confirmed Clarence Thomas had less than half of the
popular vote too. Majority rule frays.
There's also a chart here showing that shortest vacancy before
a presidential election where a replacement was nominated and
confirmed was 144 days, in 1916, with the runner up at 228 days.
Scalia died 269 days before the 2016 election. Ginsburg 46 days.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg changed America long before she joined the Supreme
Why Democrats shouldn't panic about RBG's death.
The reality is that Ginsburg's passing actually creates a trap for the
GOP. With court-expansion gaining steam on the progressive left, the
last thing that Republicans need right now is to be confronted with the
rank hypocrisy of their decision to block Merrick Garland's nomination
by Barack Obama in 2016. Four years ago, the GOP unified around an
obviously sham rationale for stonewalling the Garland nomination --
that Supreme Court vacancies shouldn't be filled in an election year.
And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn't even bother clinging
to this fiction for very long.
The consequences of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death for American democracy:
"There's no sugarcoating it: Republicans are going to make the court even
more conservative. But Americans can limit the damage in November."
how the battle to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg's SCOTUS seat could provoke
a Constitutional crisis.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death is a tragedy. The Supreme Court's rules
made it a political crisis.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the great equalizer. Lepore previously wrote
Ruth Bader Ginsburg's unlikely path to the Supreme Court.
What Ruth Bader Ginsburg would want America to do now. I've
seen a bunch of articles on this topic, and expect none of them
to convince anyone.
Mourn Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but don't give in to despair -- it's time
to fight like hell instead.
Harold Meyerson/David Dayen:
Why Ruth Bader Ginsburg won't be replaced . . . until after the
election. Of course, not pushing the vote before the election
leaves two months for a lame duck session to do the deed. If the
Democrats win big, that won't look pretty, but no reason to think
optics will phase McConnell.
The one thing Democrats can do to stop Trump from replacing Justice
Ginsburg: "Court-packing may be the only solution." Title and
subhed are at odds. The Democrats cannot change the number of Supreme
Court justices to stop Trump from nominating and the Senate from
confirming a successor to Justice Ginsburg. To do so would require
legislation, passed by both houses of Congress, and signed by the
president (currently Trump), or overriding a veto with a two-thirds
majority of each Congressional body. The Democrats don't have the
votes to even fantasize about this, and such an act would be
pointless without a Democratic president. Court-packing is an
option the Democrats might have after the 2020 election, but the
only serious effort to use it was Franklin Roosevelt's in 1937,
which failed even with Democrats holding the presidency and
overwhelming majorities in Congress. While tradition and racist
Southern Democrats had something to do with that, the Court helped
save itself by starting to allow some New Deal legislation (this
was "the switch in time that saved nine"). For Democrats to pack
the Court now would require a sustained argument both that Trump's
own packing of the Supreme Court (one-third of the Court in one
term which he won only due to Electoral College malfunction) was
unfair and that the resulting Court is way out of step with public
opinion. The odds of that happening do go up if Trump manages to
appoint Ginsburg's successor, but it's a pretty empty threat at
Trump's shortlist of potential Supreme Court nominees, explained.
Updated post: Trump released this list as a campaign stunt on Sept. 9,
before Ginsburg died, but it obviously looms larger now.
Socialists have long fought to disempower the Supreme Court. That's
more urgent than ever now. Interview by Branko Marcetic. Moyn
is a historian, mostly writes about human rights.
A Ginsburg replacement is 'worth the White House and Senate': Why,
and how, Republicans will push through Trump's Supreme Court nominee.
One note here which confirms my impression but is still rather stark
when expressed in numbers, is that Trump has appointed 216 federal
judges so far, compared to 158 from Obama over two full terms. Those
are the real numbers when it comes to "packing the courts."
Trump tweets that he will fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat "without
What Justice Ginsburg's death means for the future of abortion rights.
William Rivers Pitt:
With the passing of Justice Ginsburg, democracy just got harder,
What we know about a possible Senate vote to replace Justice Ginsburg.
What Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death means for the Supreme Court's Obamacare
Can Senate Democrats run out the clock on Trump's Supreme Court nominee?
This is the real question, and if there's one thing that Senators are
well practiced at it's delaying.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the failure of Democratic politics.
Can Trump and McConnell push through a successor to Ruth Bader Ginsburg?
It shouldn't have come down to her: "Some will try to blame Ruth
Bader Ginsburg for not stepping down sooner. They are missing the
By the way, just read that
Stephen F Cohen (81) died. He's written
extensively on Russia and Putin, consistently arguing against restarting
the Cold War and de-escalating the anti-Russia hysteria among Democrats
since the 2016 election, without being uncritical of Putin. He will be
missed, but if Trump is soundly defeated in November he may not be as
essential as he's been over the last four years.
I'm also saddened to note that
Diane Wahto (80) has died here in Wichita. She was a friend and an
ally, a former chair of the
Wichita Peace group.
Some scattered links this week:
The Biden adviser who gives climate activists nightmares: Ernest
Moniz, Obama's secretary of energy, nuclear physicist, "good friend"
of the fossil fuel industry. Under Moniz, oil companies overcame
Hubbert's Peak to increase US oil and gas production past its 1969
peak. Since then, he's cashed in on the favors he doled out to the
The China conundrum: deterrence as dominance: "Does it really make
sense to begin an arms race with China when there are so many other
areas for competition and collaboration?" Democratic defense apparatchik
Michele Flournoy, oft-touted as Biden's likely Secretary of Defense,
thinks so. She is being provocative, as well as stupid.
Robert Samuelson hangs it up. I said my piece about Samuelson
week. Still, more here worth pointing out.
Samuelson notes the work that Treasury secretaries Henry Paulson and
Timothy Geithner, along with Federal Reserve Board Chair Ben Bernanke
did to combat the Great Recession, and then says "but that doesn't
excuse their failure to anticipate the housing boom and to preempt
the bust." This is absolutely right. . . .
Unfortunately, Samuelson also gives this trio credit for avoiding
a second Great Depression. That's just a fairy tale they tell to
children to justify shoveling hundreds of billions of dollars to the
richest people in the country, to save their banks from their own
incompetence. There is nothing about the situation in 2008-09 that
would have forced us to endure a second Great Depression. We know the
secret of getting out of a depression. It's called "spending money."
Unfortunately, that trio made sure that most of the money went to
bankers, which turned out to be a very inefficient use of stimulus
cash (but nice for bankers, sure).
Trade wars are class wars: Even more than Klein and Pettis say:
A note on the book Trade Wars Are Class Wars, by Matthew Klein
and Michael Pettis.
Moriah Balingit/Laura Meckler:
Trump alleges 'left-wing indoctrination' in schools, says he will create
national commission to push more 'pro-American' history. If anything,
the opposite is the problem: "Yet educators and students say that Trump
is wildly out of touch with what happens in public school classrooms,
where the United States is still held up as a beacon of freedom and
democracy, and a moral leader." That assertion was dubious even when
I was growing up, which was one reason the more I read into US history,
the more critical I became of American foreign (and for that matter
domestic) policy. Trump is calling for more (not less) indoctrination,
because he wants to make sure that Americans blindly follow leaders
like himself. I find this proposal exceptionally horrifying, not
just because it perpetuates a mythology which reinforces problems
and issues we've failed to own up to but more basically it attacks
the very principle that truth matters, and that historians are
responsible for uncovering truth within the context of time past.
It is, in short, a demand that we give up the ability to think
critically and act morally.
Conservative media is setting the stage for delegitimizing a Biden
Medea Benjamin/Leonardo Flores:
The US needs a new 'Good Neighbor' policy toward Latin America:
Reminds me how one of Mexico's 19th century presidents lamented: "Poor
Mexico. So far from God, so close to the United States." For 30 years
after the Spanish-American War, America treated Latin America with
diplomacy" -- repeatedly invading countries and installing puppet
regimes. Franklin Roosevelt tried to turn this around with his Good
Neighbor Policy, and generally did, until the Cold War spread and
gave he US excuses to overthrow a dozen or more countries, starting
with Guatemala in 1953.
The private Georgia immigration-detention facility at the center of a
Aaron Ross Coleman:
Congress's failure to pass stimulus has had a devastating -- and
predictable -- effect on minority groups.
The 2020 hurricane season is officially out of names. Only other
year when they "went Greek" for extra names was 2005, which wound up
with 27 named storms, but took an extra month to get there (three
storms were so large that year their names were retired: Katrina,
Rita, and Wilma). For a full rundown on this year's storms, see
Wikipedia. Since this article,
Tropical Storm Beta was named, and is gathering strength in the
Gulf of Mexico as it heads for Texas and Louisiana.
Hurricane Teddy, a Category 4 (the second largest this year, after
Laura), is still active, but well off the Atlantic coast, threatening
Bermuda, and likely to wind up hitting Nova Scotia. Tropical Storm Vicky petered out after hitting the Cabo Verde Islands, and Tropical Storm Alpha
veered east into Portugal and Spain. Tropical Storm Wilfred is still
active, well out in the Atlantic and slowly heading toward the East
Coast. Because storms are named when they reach tropical storm level
(tropical depressions are just numbered) the names sometimes seem out
of sequence. The Atlantic hurricane season officially ends on November
30, but note that there were already 4 named storms (all tropical
storms with 45-60 mph winds) before the season started, so norms
don't seem to be working this year.
"That's their problem": How Jared Kushner let the markets decide America's
COVID-19 fate. I was referred to this piece by Libby Watson:
Jared Kushner's psychopathic incompetence: "The White House's most
cynical opportunist can't even get amorality right." Eban wrote:
At the end of July, writing for Vanity Fair,
I revealed that Kushner had commissioned a robust federal COVID-19
testing plan, only to abandon it before it could be implemented.
One public health expert in frequent contact with the White House's
official coronavirus task force said a national plan likely fell out
of favor in part because of a disturbingly cynical calculation: "The
political folks believed that because [the virus] was going to be
relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors,
and that would be an effective political strategy."
The story struck a nerve, partly because it painted a picture of
what might have been: The administration could have invested in a
national testing system at a scale that could have greatly limited
the number of cases and deaths. Instead the U.S. is on track to pass
the grim milestone of 200,000 official COVID-19 deaths this month.
With just 4% of the world's population, we now account for 20% of
global deaths from the virus. . . .
Part of the answer almost certainly lies in the deep-seated belief,
held by Kushner, President Trump, and their loyalists, that the federal
government not only should not, but cannot play an effective leading
role in responding to the pandemic, owing to its lumbering bureaucracy
and onerous rules. At almost each step they have ignored the expertise
of career officials and dismissed those with relevant experience as
counterproductive meddlers. Trump famously calls them the Deep State.
Fire and fury like the world has never seen: One thing I've never
been able to fathom is why some people think the "second coming of
Christ" would be a good thing. My grandfather was the first to broach
that subject with me, when he asked me whether I thought the founding
of Israel would harken the day (the only thing I can remember him
ever asking me). I don't recall answering. He came from along line
of farmers whose intellectual interests began and ended with the Book
of Revelations. (My father was the last of that line, and his ideas
were pretty unconventional. My own take was that Revelations was to
the Bible what a punchline was to a joke: if somehow you managed to
swallow the set up, something that would make you finally realize
it has all been a farce.) As it turns out, David Lloyd George thought
just that when he signed the Balfour Declaration in 1917, and British
rule over Palestine seemed designed to further that scenario (to the
extent it seemed designed at all). There are at least a dozen recent
books on how Trump is paving the way for the end times -- and those
are just the ones by his more fanatic supporters. As something of a
born-again atheist, I have no faith in heavenly kingdoms, either on
earth or elsewhere, but I do recognize the impulses of crazed leaders
to burn and leave it all in ruins. Early in his term, Trump famously
threatened "fire and fury" should North Korea defy him. As Engelhardt
And in every way imaginable, Donald Trump delivered as promised. He's
been uniquely fiery and furious. In his own fashion, he's also been a
man of his word. He's already brought "fire and fury" to this country
in so many ways and, if he has anything to say about it, he's just
Don't doubt for a second that, should he be losing on November 3rd
(or beyond, given the mail-in vote to come), he'll declare electoral
fraud and balk at leaving the White House. Don't doubt for a second
that he'd be happy to torch that very building and whatever, at this
point, is left of the American system with it before he saw himself
Since he is, in his own fashion, a parody of everything: a politician,
a Republican, an autocrat, even a human being, he sums up in some extreme
(if eerily satiric) fashion human efforts to destroy our way of life in
these years. In truth, fiery and furiously fueled, he's a historic cloud
of smoke and ash over us all.
Trump's scorched-earth doctrine: "Trump is doing whatever he can
to make it impossible for his successor to resolve some of the world's
most intractable problems." This article could have been 5-10 times
as long (for instance, it never mentions Venezuela or Cuba, Bolivia
or Brazil, or Somalia, where Trump has now bombed more than Bush and
Obama combined). Maybe he's making some progress on disengagement from
Afghanistan and Iraq, although nothing you can bank on. And he does
seem to have dodged the worst case scenario he was headed for with
North Korea, but again he's failed to work out any form of deal.
Feffer has been working up to this piece, as in his
A memo to the next president.
Bill Barr's titanic lack of self-awareness: I don't see why it's so
hard to understand Barr. Subhed says "he claims to be just a public
servant," but Republicans since Margaret Thatcher have repeatedly
argued that there is no public interest, therefore no such thing as
a public servant. All people are simply self-interested, and for
Republicans self-interest means looking at everything purely in terms
of political advantages. In Barr's case, "everything" is law, and
law is simply a tool to be used for advancing his party and himself.
He's smarter about it than Trump is, but that's a pretty low bar.
More on Barr this week:
Susan B Glasser:
"It was all about the election": The ex-White House aide Olivia Troye
on Trump's narcissistic mishandling of Covid-19: "The first staffer
on the coronavirus task force to go public tells The New Yorker that
America's pandemic response was 'derailed by the person at the very
The US-supported coup in Bolivia continues to produce repression and
tyranny, while revealing how US media propaganda works.
Trump administration to ban WeChat and TikTok from app stores beginning
Sunday. Allegedly there is a national security angle here, but it
also seems likely that Trump is doing this just to force the apps to
be sold to "American" companies, in which case it's hard to imagine
that some sort of graft isn't involved. More:
Our most vulnerable election: Review of Lawrence Douglas: Will
He Go?: Trump and the Looming Election Meltdown in 2020.
Back off Venezuela already: "The American campaign against socialist
leader Nichoas Maduro is only hurting the people of the country." And
reminding Venezuelans that the United States has always favored business
interests over the people. [Unfortunately, the Boston Globe makes it
impossible for occasional readers to access articles on their website.]
Are China and Iran meddling in US elections? It's complicated.
I'm sure that nearly every government in the world sees their fate
affected by US elections, but few can do anything about it, and
little of what they do can have any real effect -- in part because
"meddling" usually produces an adverse reaction. Israel is the only
real exception inasmuch as they can appeal for support from two
groups of voters: Israel-minded Jews, and (more significantly and
successfully of late) Apocalypse-minded Christians. But nobody much
talks about Israel's efforts.
There are no good choices: "In shifting so much responsibility to
individual people, America's government has revealed the limits of
Race, policing, and the universal yearning for safety: Interview
with Phillip Atiba Goff, of the Center for Policing Equity.
A progressive vision to make America great: Interview with Klein's
partner at Vox, Matthew Yglesias, about his book: One Billion
Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger. "In it, he argues that
the path to ensure American greatness and preeminence on the world
stage is a combination of mass immigration, pro-family policy, and
overhauling America's housing and transportation systems." Yglesias
is an often astute critic of right-wing political efforts, but he
also won last year's "Neoliberal Shill" award, mostly for the sort of
"policy vision" he presents in the book. I often cite Yglesias, but
haven't rushed out to buy the book. Last week I cited a critical
review: Jacob Bacharach:
The emptiness of Matthew Yglesias's biggest idea. Bacharach's
But what does it mean when a columnist or a pundit writes "a book"?
Swift reads, even when they number in the many hundreds of pages,
volumes like David Brooks's The Second Mountain or Paul Krugman's
Arguing With Zombies or Thomas Friedman"s "flat world" diptych
tend to collect a set of superficially counterintuitive arguments and
insights that upon closer inspection almost always resolve themselves
into the preexisting, commonsense notions that their intended readership
already assumes to be true.
I can see the argument that if America wants to "remain number one,"
it may be helpful to swell the population to a level comparable with
China and India, but I don't get what's so important about "remaining
number one." If America's self-appointed role as global hegemon is
failing (as certainly appears to be the case), maybe the answer isn't
to compete harder but to find a path to cooperation that precludes
the need for anyone to be hegemonic? And while I'm open-minded about
immigration, I don't see a tripling of the current population as
necessarily good for our quality of life. Indeed, I'm inclined to
be skeptical about the real value of growth -- which is, as always,
the main thing "neoliberal shills" have to peddle. Here's another
review of Yglesias' book: Felix Salmon:
Matthew Yglesias thinks there should be 'One Billion Americans'.
The GOP plot to sabotage 2021: In refusing to even negotiate a
new relief/stimulus package, Republicans are signifying two things:
they don't think any new legislation will help them at the polls in
November; and if they lose, their intention is to leave the nation
in the worst possible shape for the Democrats in January. Of course,
if the Republicans retain control of the Senate, they'll do all they
can to make Biden look bad, much as they did to Obama in the recession
he inherited. You'd think this calculation would be obvious -- and
something Democrats could rally voters against. But Republicans were
no less blatant in 2008-09, and somehow managed to ride obstruction
to a major rebound victory in 2010. Even if they lose in November,
they feel invincible, because no one really calls them on their most
malevolent impulses. Even less remarked upon is how this works as
extortion. The basic argument is that if you don't elect Republicans,
they are going to cause so much destruction that you'll regret the
affront. Of course, normal, sane people would never give in to that
sort of bullying. Yet time and again the American voters do -- at
least, enough of them in our severely skewed electoral system to
let them claim victory and use their powers to profit the 1% and
undermine everyone else.
It is not undemocratic to call Trump's presidency 'illegitimate'.
For Mitch McConnell, holding the Senate is the highest priority.
A Rorschach test for establishment liberalism. A note, which serves
as an introduction, to a New York Times feature on the 50th anniversary
of Milton Friedman's essay, "The Social Responsibility of Business Is
to Increase Its Profits":
Greed is good. Except when it's bad.
"They didn't see me as innocent": "Can you remember your first
experience with the police? For these 9 Black and brown people, the
encounters would shape their sense of safety forever." Also see
Amber Ruffin shares a lifetime of traumatic run-ins with police,
a week's worth of memoirs Seth Meyers broadcast the week after George
Floyd was killed.
The ways Democrats could retake the Senate majority, explained. I
rarely link to these horserace pieces, but flipping the Senate (and
ending the filibuster) are essential for Biden and the Democrats to
have any effectiveness at all. Would be especially delicious should
South Carolina and Kentucky retire Graham and McDonnell.
The good life that Keynes promised America got stolen: "A new
study shows in electrifying terms the extent to which 45 years of
income inequality destroyed the prosperity we should all be enjoying."
The ridiculous war-gaming of the 2020 election: "Trump's opponents
are so concerned that he might steal the election that they have
forgotten to worry that he might simply win it."
The cultural permanence of Donald Trump: "Trumpism has become
America's latest civic religion, and it won't be voted out of office
in November." Presumably what he means to say is that even if Trump
is voted out of office in November, Trumpism will survive as a
political legacy and continue to affect elections indefinitely
into the future. I rather doubt that. A big part of Trump's allure
is his reputation as a winner, and losing will wipe that out --
even if his apologists come up with lots of excuses. Also, although
his retail political skills are pretty meager, it is really hard to
think of anyone else who is seriously rich/successful yet with his
slovenly reality TV persona seems approachable and acceptable to the
clods who adore him. Mainstream Republican donors had no interest in
Trump until he won, and will have no interest in him if he turns out
to be a loser. They will carry on, looking for newer, more convincing
cons to carry on their graft.
How the government lost its mind: "Over the past 50 years, America has
given up on the Enlightenment-era ideals of its Founders -- and the
country's coronavirus disaster is the result."
Trump's Nevada rally was an exercise in delegitimizing voting -- and
denying reality: "Trump keeps holding potential superspreader
events in the middle of a pandemic."
What wildfires in Brazil, Siberia, and the US West have in common:
"Climate change and mismanagement are fueling large, uncontrolled
fires around the world." More on fire:
Melania Trump really doesn't care: "A new book by her ex-best friend
shows how the first lady sold her soul." The book is Stephanie Winston
Wolkoff's "tell-not-quite-all" Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of
My Friendship With the First Lady. By the way, article opens with a
picture of Trump and Melania kissing. Reminded me of the cartoon show
Bojack Horseman. Weirdest thing about that show was when different
species (e.g., with horse or dog heads) try to kiss.
Bob Woodward's new book Rage, and the controversies around it,
explained. "What did Trump know about the coronavirus? And what did
Woodward know?" It's occurred to me that Woodward might have been trying
to make Trump look more knowledgeable about coronavirus in February than
he was, although when you listent to the tapes, you quickly realize that
he didn't know much -- the value of the tapes was in contrast to the
even dumber things he later said publicly. It's also possible that
Woodward didn't grasp even what Trump said, and that the import of
the quotes only became evident near publication time when publishers
were searching through the book for tidbits they could market. It's
even possible that Woodward's conclusions about Trump fitness were
suggested by editors after having read the book. More on Rage:
Noted bibliophobe Donald Trump claims he read 466-page Woodward book
in 1 night.
Bob Woodward's bad characters: Evident sources include Robert O'Brien,
James Mattis, and Dan Coats ("Of Woodward's three main characters, Coats's
journey is the most pathos-filled.") The book starts with O'Brien:
We are only two pages in, which is usually about the moment in a Woodward
book when you can guess whether a subject has co÷perated: if he has, he
almost certainly comes out looking well. Three pages later, a week has
passed, and Woodward casually notes that O'Brien, appearing on CBS, has
just said about the virus, "Right now, there's no reason for Americans
to panic. This is something that is a low risk, we think, in the U.S."
Another author might note the dissonance between O'Brien's public and
private statements; Woodward does not even allude to it. But this is
typical of Woodward's White House-centric narratives: inconsistencies
pile up; narrative threads are dropped and then recovered without any
notice of the ways in which they have altered in the interim. In a 1996
review of his books, Joan Didion wrote, "Those who talk to Mr. Woodward,
in other words, can be confident that he will be civil ('I too was growing
tired, and it seemed time to stand up and thank him'), that he will not
feel impelled to make connections between what he is told and what is
already known, that he will treat even the most patently self-serving
account as if untainted by hindsight." . . .
And yet Woodward appears as unequipped to grapple with Trump as the
erstwhile members of his Cabinet were. Whether Woodward and his sources
are aware or disengaged, cynical or na´ve, takes on extra importance
because of the unique challenges and outrages of our era, in which a
willingness to abide Trump has sat side by side with an inability to
understand his malignancy. . . .
One of the issues that marred Woodward's Bush books, despite their
interest, was his willingness to believe less-than-honest people. That
is an even bigger problem in the Trump era, which has outdone the Bush
years in dishonesty and features an outrageous number of people whose
only motive for serving in government seems to be personal glory or
wealth. If this is not enough to make anyone pine for Dick Cheney, the
lying at least makes it even more vital that journalists doubt what
they hear and think carefully about what to weed out or explain. I
somehow have trouble believing that Lindsey Graham is, as Woodward
recounts, worried that the judiciary is becoming "too partisan" or
that much can be gleaned from Jared Kushner's endless monologues on
leadership. The problem goes beyond the details. In one conversation,
Mattis and Tillerson discuss the importance of State and Defense
working together and beefing up the diplomatic corps; a reader who
did not follow the news in 2017 would be surprised to learn that
Tillerson was simultaneously embarking on gutting the State
Department. . . .
Even Woodward's worst books contain an astonishing number of
fascinating details, but those who have lamented the failure of
our institutions to stand up to Trump are unlikely to be surprised
by the mind-set of the people who populated them. Acceptance of
how far we have fallen would have meant not only reappraising the
country many of them loved but also the Party many of them belonged
to. But the alternative explanation for their behavior is no better:
they knew what was coming and -- whether out of a sense of decorum
or partisanship or cowardice -- refused to say so.
Bob Woodward withheld his Trump revelations for months. Was that wrong?
"Book publishing doesn't consider ethical questions to be its business.
Increasingly, that's a problem."
Trump comes off even worse in Woodward's Rage than you've
New Woodward audio is the starkest illustration yet of how Trump misled
4 astonishing signs of coal's declining economic viability: "Coal
is now a loser around the world."
What we know about a deadly shooting in Rochester, New York: "Two
people are dead and 16 injured after a shooting at a party."
"There has to be retribution": Trump's chilling comments about
extrajudicial killings, briefly explained.
Trump's ABC town hall revealed a president disconnected from reality:
"He faced tough questions from voters -- and had few answers." Subheds:
Trump won't even acknowledge that systemic racism is a thing;
Trump has no shame about just making stuff up; This is your
brain on Fox News.
Along similar lines, Trump told a voter who asked him about immigration
that he'll unveil new legislation "in a very short time" -- a talking
point he often uses to buy time when he doesn't really have a plan.
On the topic of law and order -- one that Trump is trying to make a
centerpiece of his campaign -- Stephanopoulos grilled him on a disconnect
between what he said back in 2016 and what he's saying now.
"You promised four years ago at the Republican Convention, 'I'm gonna
restore law and order in this country,'" he pointed out.
Trump's response was that he has -- if you disregard all the large
cities that are run by Democrats (so, most of them).Trump went on to compare the unrest that took place in American cities
over the summer with the fall of Berlin in 1945, seemingly unaware of
how that analogy reflects on his stewardship of the country.
Trump's dark National Archives speech was white resentment run amok:
"It's just nonsense to believe that America isn't racist." Related:
Crowd cheers as the President gloats about this one time the cops shot
a reporter with a rubber ballot for no reason.
Trump prepares to execute Christopher Vialva for a crime he committed
as a teenager: "Vialva is the first Black man to face execution
during Trump's killing spree. He is set to die on September 24."
Vialva has spent more time on death row than he lived before he was
sentenced to die.
Why aren't voters blaming Donald Trump for the bad economy?: "Tens
of millions are unemployed, hungry, and behind on the rent. But the
economy is barely registering as an election issue." Just spitballing
here, but Trump got no credit for the "great" economy because for most
people it wasn't all that great, but has the "bad" economy since the
pandemic broke out really been that bad? The massive first-round of
stimulus spending made up for a lot -- one result being that Americans
did a lot of saving during the lockdown. On the other hand, there's
a tweet here based on an article interviewing construction workers in
Ohio, which is totally deluded. Doesn't say much for the cognitive
skills of the American people.
Barack Obama's memoir is set to be the biggest book of this year.
That's pretty depressing considering that his main claim to fame was
providing us a brief and unhappy respite between two much more disastrous
Why does The Washington Post publish this Never-Trump drivel?
Singles out a recent op-ed by AEI flunky Danielle Pletka, where her
"principles" go into full wobble: "I never considered voting for Trump
in 2016. I may be forced to vote for him this year."
September 14, 2001: The day America became Israel: The date was when
Congress voted, with just one dissent (Rep. Barbara Lee, D-CA) to give
GW Bush a blank check for starting his Global War on Terror. Three days
earlier, planes flew into the World Trade Center in NYC and the Pentagon
near DC, killing close to 3,000 people. I was in Brooklyn at the time,
visiting friends, and we watched a lot of TV that day. One thing I saw
was stock video of Palestinians cheering and burning US flags, released
by Israel shortly after the attacks. Later during the day, I saw the
grinning mugs of Benjamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres bragging about
how good the attacks were for Israel, predicting that now Americans
will see the world the way Israelis do. (Ariel Sharon was PM of Israel
at the time, but his limited English didn't merit prime time, nor did
his perpetual scowl.) 9/11 gave the neocons recently installed in key
government positions by Bush and Cheney the opportunity they've been
waiting for. The neocons may have started as fanatic Cold Warriors,
but in the 1990s they formed an alliance with Israel's right-wing to
scuttle the Oslo Peace Process and confront both the Palestinians and
their Arab neighbors from a stance of absolute, uncompromising power.
With Sharon's accession to power, their relationship to Israel shifted
from support to envy: their most fervent hope was for the US to impose
its absolute power on the world, as Israel was doing in its own little
corner. Whence came mantras like "axis of evil" and "real men go to
Tehran." You can argue about how well that stance has served Israel:
the conflict with the Palestinians will never end until Israel grants
them some semblance of justice, but the costs of dominance are within
politically acceptable bounds, as long as BDS doesn't hamper business,
and the next Intifada is no more efficient than the last. And for now,
Israel has nothing to fear from formerly hostile neighbors. The thrust
of Kushner's (which is to say Israel's) diplomacy has been to form a
united political front between Israel and Arab despots who fear Iran
and their own people and other Arabs and hope they will be more secure
with hoards of sophisticated American and Israeli arms. Speaking of
which, more on the Kushner deal:
John Allen Gay:
How the Israel-UAE deal can enable US military disengagement from the
Middle East. A couple of delusions here. Increasing US arms sales
in the Middle East is the opposite of disengagement. Even if those arms
sales come with strings attached, the US cannot be assured that the
weapons will be used as the US might wish. Israel has always followed
its own security dictates, as when they supported Iran while the US
was arming Saddam Hussein. While the UAE-Saudi war in Yemen presumably
was approved by the US, the UAE went its own way in Syria, supporting
Al-Qaeda-linked militias. Nixon/Kissinger had this idea back in the
1970s of handing security responsibilities off to regional powers,
the track record was pretty abysmal. Their favorites in the Middle
East were Saudi Arabia (who promoted Salafism and Jihadists), Iran
(overthrown by revolution), and Pakistan (who gave us the Taliban).
There is no reason to think that any "client" state in today's
Middle East will prove any more subservient. On the other hand,
Trump is doing us no favors by aligning with the most cruel and
autocratic regimes in the region.
Iran and the Palestinians lose out in the Abraham Accords:
Tries to tally "the winners and losers," imagining that there are
winners without peace.
Trump's new Middle East accord is a big deal. It is not a peace
The latest recognition deal is a win for Israel -- but it could provoke
resistance inside Bahrain.
Paul R Pillar:
The political convergence of Trump and Netanyahu.
Israel, the UAE, & Bahrain didn't sign peace deals, they're military
alliances to counter Iran.
Trump's 'peace' deal doesn't make Mideast conflict any less likely.
Israel triumphant, Israel powerful, Israel soulless. Weiss also
Up to 1 in 4 US Jews sees Zionism as racist, colonialist apartheid
movement! (says rightwing Israeli thinktank).
Jeffrey St Clair:
Roaming charges: Smoke on the water, lies burning in the sky.
Starts with a bunch of photos of what Oregon looks like these days.
Federal officials considered using a 'heat ray' against DC protesters.
What I learned from a list of Trump accomplishments: "Facts are vital.
But they are not sufficient." An introduction and executive summary of
A fact-checked list of Trump accomplishments, where the list itself
"consisted of 123
bullet points posted on the
Conservative Hangout Facebook page in May." The thing I found most
interesting here is that in order to make Trump look good, the listers
most often selected "facts" designed to make Trump look more liberal
than he is. Liberals may be embarrassed about using the word to describe
themselves, but conservatives are shameless in recognizing that liberal
policies are more popular than their own -- hence the need to hide and
lie about them.
Once you strip away the misleading claims from this list of accomplishments,
you are left with what Mr. Trump has delivered: tax cuts for the wealthy
and for corporations -- No. 84. Deregulation for banks and businessmen --
No. 97. Judges for the evangelicals -- No. 109. Tariffs on Chinese steel
for the steelworkers -- No. 113. And after those tariffs sparked a trade
war, bailouts for farmers -- No. 72. He moved the embassy to Jerusalem,
for conservative Jews and evangelicals -- No. 110.
To Mr. Trump's supporters, those are real accomplishments. But are they
worth more than Mr. Trump's failures, during a deadly pandemic? More than
his broken promises? More than what he has destroyed? That's the question
facing voters in November. Maybe this list of his true accomplishments
needs to be weighed against a list of what he has dismantled over these
last four years. Anybody got one? I'd be happy to fact-check it.
The reason Trump isn't trying to save the economy: "He is stuck in
a Pollyannaish fantasy of his own making."
The bogus Steve Bannon-backed study claiming China created the coronavirus,
America needs a democratic revolution: "Fixing systemic inequities in
voting power should be a high priority for Democrats." Sure, the Electoral
College, the extreme rural skew of the Senate, the gerrymandering of House
districts, are all structural defects that skew and deform democracy, but
they are essentially impossible to fix without overhauling the Constitution,
and that's impossible as long as one major party thinks those iniquities
work in its favor, especially a party with no scruples for democratic
process. By all means, feel free to shame the Republicans for attempting
to undermine democracy and turn government into a self-perpetuating grift
and patronage machine, but don't for a moment think Democrats can afford
to wait until the structural problems are fixed before delivering better
policy and service when and wherever they manage to win some power. Also,
note that the biggest inequity in American politics isn't geographical.
It is money, which cut across party lines deeply enough that Democrats
in 2009 made no effort to limit campaign spending or lobbying, even
though they had the presidency and large majorities in Congress. Sure,
it's unfair that the Electoral College is so skewed that a Democrat
might have to win the popular vote by more than 5% to break even, but
presidential elections have swung as much as 22% (61%-39%). There's
no reason Democrats can't formulate a winning campaign, especially
given that Republicans seem to have deliberately chosen policies so
extreme and unpopular they can only win by exploiting structural
inequities. The Democrats' biggest problem has loss of credibility,
caused by failing to deliver on the modest promises of their centrist
leaders. Whining about how the system is stacked against them isn't
a viable excuse. After all, stacked systems are something workers
face every day. They don't need to be told the system is unfair.
They need leaders who can challenge and beat it anyway.
"Reopening" isn't enough to save bars and restaurants -- the US needs