An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Sunday, November 22, 2020
Table of contents:
Trump still refuses to concede. I thought he was a national embarrassment before the election, but hadn't even anticipated this. My apologies to all the pundits I made fun of for expecting, and even "war gaming," his intransigence. Jimmy Kimmel has started calling his lame duck period Squattergate.
No serious observer thinks Trump has a chance of stealing back the election at this point, but as best I can figure, continuing to press his case does three things Trump's likely to regard as positives: it keeps his name at the top of the news, thereby keeping Biden and the Democrats from building on their win; it shows his base he's willing to fight for them (well, himself), even when the cause seems lost; and it lays the foundation for a scorched earth resistance against Biden and everything the Democrat-Socialists want to do. The downside, of course, is that it makes him look like a jerk and an asshole who has no concern for any part of the country beyond his following, but let's face it: you already knew that. I know a lot of people who thought they couldn't possibly despise him more than they did on November 3, but most of them now admit they were wrong: he's even more loathsome than they imagined.
David Atkins: Trump is staging a comically incompetent coup.
Dana Bash/Gloria Borger: Trump told ally he's trying to get back at Democrats for questioning legitimacy of his own election. "The President, this source said, 'doesn't see' how bad the aftermath of all of this could be for the country, and for democracy itself. As usual, he's focused on himself."
John Cassidy: Rudy Giuliani is a hot mess.
Christina Cauterucci: Shame the random, unknown government officials aiding Trump's coup attempt.
Kyle Cheney: Trump campaign cuts Sidney Powell from president's legal team. Just when she was upstaging Rudy Giuliani as the biggest laughing stock on retainer. Another take: Walter Einenkel: Trump campaign now says lady who lied with Giuliani for 2 hours at presser not really on legal team.
Chas Danner: Federal judge rebukes Trump's effort to overturn Pennsylvania election results: "In a scathing ruling, the judge said the Trump campaign was trying to 'disenfranchise almost 7 million voters.'" Also on this: Ian Millhiser: A Republican judge just tore into Trump's election lawyers for their incompetence.
Timothy Egan: Donald Trump is leaving behind blueprints to end democracy.
Garrett Epps: In election litigation, an ominous sign.
Edward B Foley: If the losing party won't accept defeat, democracy is dead. This has become a common thread for pundits, especially at the Washington Post:
Matt Ford: The unpardonable sins of Lindsey Graham. Also on Graham:
Masha Gessen: The coup stage of Donald Trump's presidency. Right after the election, I ridiculed efforts to describe Trump's refusal to accept plain results a coup, but he's persisted so steadfastly that there's little doubt that a coup is precisely what he would like to see. What escapes him is how one might work, but as long as he refuses to concede the fort, he has hopes that some kind of force might still come to his rescue. Gessen, on the other hand, has seen plenty of coups (successful and otherwise).
Alex Isenstadt: Trump threatens to wreak havoc on GOP from beyond the White House. Hey, bring it on!
Jen Kirby: A Trump official is still blocking Biden's presidential transition. House Democrats want answers. GSA Administrator Emily Murphy.
Robert Mackey: Defeated Trump campaign tells supporters "The Left HATES YOU" in fundraising emails: The left hates Trump, not Trump supporters. Feels sorry for their mental anguish, and sometimes fears how irrationally they may act out. But the left's programs would actually help most Trump supporters. Just maybe not Trump.
Ian Millhiser: Trump's lawsuits challenging the election have turned into a clown show: "Republican officials aren't just losing. They're embarrassing themselves." Pictured: Rudy Giuliani.
Andrew Prokop: How long can Trump keep disputing the election results?
Anya van Wagtendonk: Trump lashes out at fellow Republicans as his legal challenges to election results fail.
Li Zhou: 73 percent of Republican voters are questioning Biden's victory: Per a Vox poll.
Gabriel Debenedetti: Election night with Biden's data guru.
Fintan O'Toole: Democracy's afterlife: "Trump, the GOP, and the rise of zombie politics."
I would have gone elsewhere with the Gramsci quote. Most Democrats seem to be suffering from PTSD. They've been so traumatized by Trump that they've lost faith in their own basic principles, so they hardly campaign on them. Moreover, they regard Trump as such an anomaly that they fail to recognize that he's part and parcel of the Republican Party. They fret over the Republican base falling for Trump's folly, when it would be more accurate to point out that Trump is the one who fell for the crazed, vicious worldview. On the other hand, there are Democrats who see this clearly, yet they were unable to prevail in the primaries -- mostly due to the tsunami of Bloomberg cash, and the panic of pandemic. I still have faith in the left's clarity and reason, but O'Toole is haunted by darker thoughts:
Michael Tomasky: What did the Democrats win?
Li Zhou: Why Republican women candidates had such a strong year. As I recall, in 2018, when Democrats elected a lot of new women to Congress, the number of Republican women in the House remained constant. This year it's jumping from 22 to 36, while the count of Democratic women is little changed, at 105. How exactly does that justify this headline?
I've been avoiding speculation on Biden cabinet picks, figuring what will be will be, but just noticed this one: Biden chooses Antony Blinken, defender of global alliances, as Secretary of State. You may recall mention of Blinken last week. Robert Wright has been writing a series on Grading Biden's foreign policy team, and I linked to his assessment of Blinken, with its overall grade of C- (teacher's comment: "Tony is bright and studious but needs to do a better job of learning from past mistakes"). Wright followed up with a report card on William Burns, who fared considerably better at A- (B grades for military restraint and international law).
Peter Beinart: The Biden problem. Specifically, about foreign policy: Biden has moved significantly left on domestic policy, but if anything mainstream Democrats (especially those calling themselves "security Democrats" during the impeachment process) have retrenched even deeper into American exceptionalist orthodoxy.
Thomas Geoghegan: An FDR-size executive order for Biden: "With one stroke, the new president could revive the labor movement and help repair the post-pandemic economy."
Dylan Matthews: 10 enormously consequential things Biden can do without the Senate. From the unnumbered subheds (although there are major caveats in the small print, and even so I'm not sure Biden is on board for many of them):
Luke Savage: Joe Biden should take a hard look at what Obama did in 2009 -- and do exactly the opposite. By the way, a pretty good book on Obama's transition and initial choices is Reed Hundt: A Crisis Wasted: Barack Obama's Defining Decisions, especially given that Biden is inheriting the worst recession America has faced since the one Obama inherited (in some ways it's arguably worse, in which case you might want to supplement your reading with Adam Cohen: Nothing to Fear: FDR's Innter Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America). One of the biggest mistakes Obama made was to put off proposing any big infrastructure projects because they weren't "shovel ready" and he thought only short-term stimulus (like tax breaks and cash) would be necessary. (Feel free to blame Larry Summers for that decision. Also note how tightly Summers and Timothy Geithner limited Obama's choice in economic advisers.)
Dylan Scott: What Biden could do to expand health coverage -- without Congress. But: "Undoing Trump's health care actions won't be as easy as it sounds." Some problems are bureaucratic, but most were built into the program, even before Trump and the Republicans started beating on it.
Rob Urie: Democrats and the canard of 'too far left'.
Latest map and case count: 12.3 million+ cases (14 day change +59%), 256,581 deaths (+62%), 83,227 hospitalized (+50%). The mapmaker had to shift the scale to restore some gradation to what had become a vast red blob.
Lavender Ali: How China crushed coronavirus.
Eleanor Cummins: Why we can't comprehend 250,000 Covid deaths. Statistics, sure, but don't underestimate the truth Upton Sinclair discovered: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it."
James Hamblin: How Trump sold failure to 70 million people: "The president convinced many voters that his response to the pandemic was not a disaster. The psychology of medical fraud is simple, timeless, and tragic."
German Lopez: The next Covid-19 superspreading event: Thanksgiving.
Alexis Madrigal/Whet Moser: How many Americans are about to die? "A new analysis shows that the country is on track to pass spring's grimmest record."
Nick Martin: Scott Atlas, star disciple in Trump's Covid death cult: "The task force adviser is there to incite the president's base and facilitate the slow, deadly violence of our failed federal response to the pandemic."
Anna North: Why restaurants are open and schools are closed.
Amy Qin/Vivian Wang/Danny Hakim: How Steve Bannon and a Chinese billionaire created a right-wing coronavirus media sensation: "Increasingly allied, the American far right and members of the Chinese diaspora tapped into social media to give a Hong Kong researcher a vast audience for peddling unsubstantiated pandemic claims."
John Wagner/Colby Itkowitz/Michelle Ye Hee Lee: Donald Trump Jr, the president's eldest son, has tested positive for the coronavirus. Also might as well note: Kate Riga: Rick Scott becomes the 6th member of Congress to test positive this week. Also: Sean Collins: Sen. Kelly Loeffler has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Ed Yong: Hospitals know what's coming: "'We are on an absolutely catastrophic path,' said a COVID-19 doctor at America's best-prepared hospital."
Chas Danner: Lara Trump is considering Senate run in North Carolina: In 2022, for retiring Senator Richard Burr's seat.
Paulina Firozi: Trump administration exits Open Skies treaty. This was announced six months ago, but it's still shocking to see it happening, especially with Trump heading out the door.
Danny Hakim/Mike McIntire/William K Reshbaum/Ben Protess: Trump tax write-offs are ensnared in 2 New York fraud investigations.
David M Halbfinger: For Netanyahu and Israel, Trump's gifts kept on coming: "Allowing the convicted spy Jonathan Pollard the ability to emigrate to Israel was just the latest in a long list of prizes for America's closest ally in the Middle East." I always gag when I see "ally" in this context. Allies are concerned with your welfare. Allies come to your aid. Israel does whatever it wants, and expects Americans to clean up the mess, and pay them billions every year for the trouble. The twenty-year debacle of the Global War on Error isn't all Israel's fault, but it would never have happened without Israel: first, by generating so much bad will, but also by providing the inspiration for the neocon approach, which is to always project power, and suffer the consequences of perpetual war. As for Pollard, good riddance. But the list doesn't end there, and in every other respect we've been ill-served by the Trump administration's slavish prostration to Israeli ego and arrogance. Also on Pollard:
Sean Illing: How TV paved America's road to Trump: Interview with TV critic James Poniewozik, author of what I regard as the single most useful book on Trump, Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America.
Jill Lepore: Will Trump burn the evidence?: "How the President could endanger the official records of one of the most consequential periods in American history."
Jonathan Mahler: Can America restore the rule of law without prosecuting Trump? Long article, covers a lot of possible grounds for prosecution. "No ex-president has ever been indicted before, but no president has ever left office with so much potential criminal liability."
Ben Mathis-Lilley: White nationalist appointed by Trump to Holocaust Commission praised Jeffrey Epstein for not being "a pussy" -- isn't this the ultimate Trump headline?
Philip Rucker/Ashley Parker/Josh Dawsey: Trump privately plots his next act -- including a potential 2024 run: Well, he filed the paperwork to campaign in 2020 the day after inauguration in 2017, so he understands how campaign finance works as a racket, and is not coy about getting in early. In the UK, the opposition party has what they call a "shadow cabinet": an MP designated to respond politically to each cabinet minister. Trump could proclaim himself Shadow President, and demand air time to respond to every Biden appearance. He might find that more fun than he ever had actually being president. On the other hand, he'll lose much of his immunity from prosecution and civil lawsuits when he leaves office (not that being an ex-president and a billionaire won't cut him some slack), so he might be better off toning down his profile. Check out the Mahler article above for an outline of the cases that could (and probably should) be brought against him.
Claudia Sahm: Is Trump trying to take the economy down with him? "His Treasury secretary is shackling the nation's central bank and closing an emergency program for local governments." The New York Times Editorial Board on this: Mnuchin's inglorious endgame.
Richard Silverstein: Trump wanted to attack Iran, they talked him out of it . . . for now. A Trump military attack on Iran has been a great fear for some time now, perhaps as an "October surprise," or as a lame duck parting gift. This gives you an indication of how close he came to doing it. After all, "Trump loves wreckage."
James Webb: Ending 'endless wars' could cement Trump's foreign policy legacy: Well, maybe if had done it three years ago, and secured policy changes with clear directives, redeployments, and personnel changes, he'd have a legacy. Instead, he escalated the wars erratically, gave "allies" a free hand to expand their own wars, repeatedly hired (and had to fire) hawks like John Bolton, subverted possible efforts at diplomacy. A.J. Muste used to say: "There is no way to peace; peace is the way." Just one of many things Trump never came close to understanding. I think it is true that Trump won votes in 2016 because Hillary Clinton tried to out-hawk him (remember her "commander-in-chief test"?). Conservative anti-war pundits invested great hope in Trump as an alternative to the neocon/neoliberal war nexus. Even today, Doug Bandow is writing: Donald Trump isn't gone yet and I already miss him. What he's really saying is that he doesn't trust Biden, and fears that Biden will be worse than Trump, because Biden has always gone along with bipartisan defense and security posturing. Still, he could have just said that, as Beinart and others cited above have done, but he still relishes the idea that conservatives are good guys -- even Trump.
Barack Obama is doing a press tour to promote his memoir, A Promised Land, reportedly the first of two volumes (one for each term). I watched the first half of his interview on Jimmy Kimmel. It was refreshing to see a major political figure with a self-effacing sense of humor, talking about a recognizably normal family life. I turned it off before Kimmel got around to promised questions about the issues and events that constitute his legacy. Four years of Donald Trump helps us remember what his appeal was, slightly different from how twelve years of Obama and Trump have dulled our sense of how awful George W Bush was.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: On Barack Obama's A Promised Land. Flagship New York Times review. Book sounds awful -- not in the same way ghost written books for Bush or Trump would be, but a long, deep, blinkered trawl through a deeply heartfelt worldview that was rarely up to what was needed. Especially troubling is his inability to counter Republicans even a decade after the fact. Then there is this:
All that talent, and the best he could do for American jingoism was make it more poetic?
Ryan Grim: Obama book: Rahm Emanuel cooked up deal to promise Larry Summers Fed Chair. The way I understood the story is that Summers and Tim Geithner were the only candidates for Treasury, and Geithner refused to consider any other position, so Summers had to settle for the Council of Economic Advisers -- a position he used to prevent anyone else from offering advice to Obama. The real question nobody's answered is why anyone wanted to hire either of them, let alone put them in charge of the recovery. Both were, after all, totally in the pocket of the big banks, as they amply proved. Sure, Summers wanted the Fed Chair job even more, but due to staggered terms it wouldn't open up for a year. When it did, Obama reappointed Ben Bernanke -- a big mistake, I always thought, for while he wasn't the worst ever, you'd think Obama would have gone with his own person, given how much power the Fed Chair has to make or break his economy.
Constance Grady: In his new memoir, Obama defends -- and critiques -- his legacy.
John F Harris: Could Obama have been great?
Peter Kafka: Obama: The internet is "the single biggest threat to democracy." I would have said money, and its control over media. There's a lot more money in the Internet now than 4, 8, 20 years ago, and it's taken a toll, but Fox News still bothers me a lot more than Facebook.
Osita Nwanevu: Barack Obama doesn't have the answers: "The former president seems unable to reckon with the failures of his presidency and diagnose the Republican Party's incurable nihilism."
Alex Shephard: Barack Obama, media critic.
Paul Street: The real v. the liberal fantasy Obama presidency: Two excerpts from Hollow Resistance: Obama, Trump, and the Politics of Appeasement: Street's recent book.
Terrence McCoy: Bolsonaro ran against corruption. Now, he'll have to find another slogan. You'd think so, but Trump ran on the same anti-corruption themes he used in 2016. The key is getting people to believe that it's only corruption when someone else does it.
Mitchell Plitnick: Pompeo's attack on BDS is an assault on free speech. That's kind of the lowest common denominator reaction to Pompeo, whose main thrust is less that you can't say you don't like Israel's human rights abuses as that you can't do anything about it. The whole point of BDS is to do something tangible that can lead to real changes but that doesn't incite or condone violence. Israel would rather face violence, which they're used to dealing with, than BDS, which questions their morality. However, free speech does come into play here, because the only way to counter the logic of BDS is to prohibit discussion of it.
Reed Albergotti: Apple is lobbying against a bill aimed at stopping forced labor in China.
Damian Carrington: Renewable energy defies Covid-19 to hit record growth in 2020.
Jonathan V Last: The Republican Party is dead. It's the Trump cult now.
JC Pan: Charles Koch got the free-market dystopia he wanted. Now he'd like your approval. "The same billionaire who refashioned the American political system to suit his needs is now calling for bipartisan cooperation -- on his terms." Also on Koch: Garrison Lovely: The reputation launderers: "Talking with monsters like they're not monsters isn't journalism -- it's cowardice."
Jeremy W Peters:
Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: The gang that couldn't sue straight.