Nearly everything here was complete late Sunday night, but I was
having trouble framing the comics, and felt the need to write a bit
of introduction, so I decided to sleep on it. Found the Trump tweet
and the Carter quote after I got up. Added a couple links while
wrapping up, but all articles that date from Sunday or earlier.
I managed to find a few pieces on the late David Graeber, but none
Kevin Zeese, a lawyer and (like Graeber) another prominent Occupy
figure, who died suddenly on Sunday. Music Week will probably be
delayed a day this week. These delays weren't planned, but happy
Here are a pair of New Yorker cartoons that go a long ways
toward illustrating and explaining the cognitive disconnect between
Republicans and Democrats these days. The third was posted by Mary
Anne Trump (her caption), and picked up from a friendly Facebook
Having family and friends in the Portland area, I've seen numerous
contrasting pictures like this, which makes the news media fixation
on fires and looting seem all the more anomalous. I wrote a comment
under the latter picture:
What terrifies Republicans isn't chaos, which they think they can
bludgeon into submission, but the prospect of diverse people living
together and enjoying richer and more rewarding lives as a result.
Why they find this threatening has never been clear to me. In my
experience, and I come from a long line of farmers and small town
folk, when given a welcoming opportunity, most actually enjoy
I suppose I may sound condescending or patronizing, but I started
narrow-minded and provincial and made my own way into and around the
cosmopolitan world, often finding open doors and welcoming faces --
a tendency toward kindness which my old world actually prided itself
on. I won't deny that cosmopolitans have their own prejudices, which
may appear as hostile but more often sympathetic. It's as easy to
find liberals who accept the idea that their opposites are clinging
to a way of life threatened by the modern world. I don't think that
is true. At any rate, I don't see the gap as unbridgeable, although
one needs to reject the political incentives that drive us apart.
And while both sides have attempted to make hay by appealing to the
prejudices of their bases, as we see above, it's the Republicans
who have most gravely distorted reality.
One more clause I wish to draw your attention to is "they think
they can bludgeon into submission." It doesn't work like that. The
world we live in is so complex and interconnected that the only way
we can manage it is through massive cooperation, which depends on
good faith and respect, which depends on justice for all. No people
submits forever, but all people can join together in an order which
is universally viewed as fair and just. Might doesn't make right, and
the more brutally and viciously it is employed, the more resistance
it generates, the more harm it winds up doing to all concerned. I
could cite hundreds of examples. I doubt I could find an exception.
Even seemingly complete domination either perpetuates indefinitely
(e.g., Israel over Palestine) or ends with integration (America and
the Indians, albeit imperfectly).
I'll add one more related point to this: there has been much talk
recently about democracy ending in America, but note that such an end
would not ensure that the immediate victors will stay in power and
enjoy their privileges indefinitely. It merely means that change can
only occur through violence, at great collateral cost. As I recall,
Winston Churchill used to say "democracy is the worst possible form
of government, except for all the rest." What he meant was that while
he didn't like having to submit to the will of the people, he preferred
that to losing his head (the pre-democratic method of disposing of
unwanted monarchs). The British people regularly grew tired of Churchill
and voted him out, only to vote him in again as their memories faded.
Democracy in America has worn thin and ragged over recent decades,
with most of the blame due to the influx of money -- something both
parties bear responsibility for, but only the Republicans defend the
practice as a class prerogative, and Republicans have made the most
conspicuous efforts to tilt the table in their favor, exploiting the
unequal representation locked into the Constitution, and using their
legislative clout to further gerrymander districts. And this year,
Trump has created doubts about the integrity of the voting process,
such that neither side is likely to believe the count, no matter
what it is.
One thing you won't see much of below is reports on polls and
other voting irregularities. Partly because there is a lot of
wild-eyed speculation going on, but mostly because I have little
faith that anything we say now will have any predictive significance
for November. One thing that was interesting was that the contested
Massachusetts Democratic primary brought out an unprecedented huge
vote for a primary. That is one data point suggesting that the
November vote won't be significantly suppressed by the pandemic.
Got up this morning and first thing I read was this paragraph
from Zachary D Carter: The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy,
and the Life of John Maynard Keynes, which does a nice job
of framing what I wrote above:
Keynes had crafted an innovative philosophical cocktail. Like Burke,
he feared revolution and social upheaval. Like Karl Marx, he
envisioned a great crisis on the horizons for capitalism. And like
Lenin, he believed that the imperialist world order had reached its
final limits. But alone among these thinkers, Keynes believed all
that was needed to solve the crisis was a little goodwill and
cooperation. The calamity he foresaw in 1919 was not something
inevitable, hardwired into the fundamental logic of economics,
capitalism, or humanity. It was merely a political failure, one that
could be overcome with the right leadership. Whereas Marx had called
for revolution against a broken, irrational capitalist order, Keynes
was content to denounce the leaders at Versailles and called for
treaty revisions. As with Burke, it was revolution itself that Keynes
hoped to avert. But he was optimistic, blaming capitalist instability
and inequality as the fuel for social upheaval rather than
I took a shine to Marxism back in the late 1960s, but gave up on
it by the mid-1970s, not because I changed my mind but because the
insights I had gained there had become second nature, while I lost
anything more than a passing commitment to the political program.
I moved from opposition to one specific war (Vietnam) to a general
pacifism, and I increasingly appreciated the value of incremental
reforms versus sharp breaks. I became more tolerant, which is not
to say uncritical, of liberals, and I found much that I actually
liked in Keynes. (Robert Skidelsky's 2009 book, Keynes: The
Return of the Master, offered a good introduction.) He sought
to resolve conflicts by arguing ideas, and he retained a radical
understanding of the good life which has eluded most economists --
so much so that they refer to their trade as "the dismal science."
The quote above was in the section discussing his book, The
Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919). Reading Keynes on
the arrogant, ignorant, and pompous politicians of the day sheds
comparable light on Trump today. Looking forward to discussion of
Keynes' view of the future of work, which somehow still remains
in our future, assuming we get that far.
Donald Trump is inciting violence. "His audience is tens of millions
of people. Only a tiny percentage need to act to severely disrupt this
Trump eliminates federal antiracism training, calling it "a sickness":
"A White House memo directing an end to the programs said the trainings
are 'anti-American propaganda' and must stop." Trump means to stamp out
"critical race theory," or more generally anything that impugns white
people as ever having been racist, as benefiting from racism, or that
just hurts their feelings. On the other hand:
Trump has said the Black Lives Matter movement is a "symbol of hate"
and has called those protesting police brutality "thugs." He's
threatened to end protests by sending US troops into American cities,
saying ongoing antiracism protests amount to "domestic terror."
Throughout his presidency, Trump has vehemently opposed protesters'
and officials' efforts to take down Confederate statues and has begun
to promote a "law and order" campaign message that has included a
racist dog whistle pledge to protect "suburban housewives" from "inner
And the president has consistently declined to condemn brazenly
racist comments or actions. For instance, when a supporter in a
retirement community was filmed shouting "white power" while driving
a golf cart bedecked with Trump memorabilia in June, he retweeted it.
Trump in a nutshell: Boat Parade is supposed to be a good time for everyone,
but actually the guy who own really big boats come out fine while the
smaller boats -- including the ones owned by die-hard Trump fans --
sink in the wake.
Michael Cohen says Trump personally approved the Stormy Daniels hush
money, saying $130,000 "is a lot less than I would have to pay Melania"
and mused that if it got out, his supporters might "think it's cool
that I slept with a porn star."
What's the worst that could happen? This is rather ridiculous: war
gaming various election scenarios, under the aegis of a group that calls
itself the Transition Integrity Project, hiring "players" like Bill Kristol
and John Podesta to simulate how R and D strategists would react to the
This is the latest in a series of Pentagon reports on what China
"probably" intends, which are all policies which would justify the
various US military programs associated with them. In this case,
the formation of Space Force was done with an eye toward China
threatening US satellites.
Problem is that while Space Force could destroy Chinese satellites,
it is not capable of protecting US ones, and the US has many more,
and depends on them for offensive weapons systems like the "precision
bombs" it employed in Iraq. As Chalmers Johnson noted over a decade
ago, all China (or any other nation) would have to do to wipe out all
US satellite resources would be to "launch a dumptruck full of gravel"
into space. The only "defense" the US has against such threats is not
to provoke the Chinese (or others) into feeling the need to level the
playing field against an obvious US military advantage. For another
US China scare report, see
Pentagon: China could pull ahead of US military by 2049. Hard to
say which is the more ridiculous presupposition: that "pulling ahead"
of the US military is something that has any practical import, or that
with Donald Trump president now we seriously need to worry about things
that might happen as far away as 2049. For another one of these, see
Alex Ward below, on China possibly doubling its nuclear arsenal in ten
The Republicans' absurd quest to turn Biden into Trump: "The president's
reelection campaign is now an obsessive exercise in psychological projection."
Another way to look at this: has there ever in history been a better time
for someone like Trump to run against an incumbent president like Biden?
Only one problem with that scenario.
Hallie Golden/Mike Baker/Adam Goldman:
Suspect in fatal Portland shooting is killed by officers during arrest.
Of course, unlike, Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot three and killed two BLM
protesters in Kenosha, but was taken into custody live. Michael Forest
Reinoehl, "antifa supporter," now unable to testify what happened in the
shooting he is accused of. Article quotes Attorney General William Barr:
"the streets of our cities are safer." Isn't that what they always say
after the police kills a "suspect"?
Elizabeth A Harris/Alexandra Alter:
Trump books keep coming, and readers can't stop buying. Picture
collects 19 book covers. I haven't read any of those, although I have
read a dozen others (see below). The article notes that "in the last
four years, there have been more than 1,200 unique titles about Mr.
Trump, compared to around 500 books about former President Barack
Obama and his administration during Mr. Obama's first term." I tried
to publish a fairly exhaustive list of
on May 16, including a few advance notices on books that were scheduled
up through October, but my list ran out at 294. Some they mentioned
that I missed:
Michael Cohen: Disloyal: (2020, Skyhorse)
Edward Klein: All Out War: The Plot to Destroy Trump
Carlos Lozado: What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History
of the Trump Era (2020, Simon & Schuster)
Lee Smith: The Permanent Coup: How Enemies Foreign and Domestic
Targeted the American President (2020, Center Street)
Mary L Trump: Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created
the World's Most Dangerous Man (2020, Simon & Schuster)
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff: Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall
of My Friendship With the First Lady (2020, Gallery)
Bob Woodward: Rage (2020, Simon & Schuster)
Most of those are recent releases (Woodward's is due Sept. 15, Lozado's
Oct. 6), but Klein's screed simply slipped my net. I should do another
books post. Not sure what more there is to net, but there is: John W
Dean: Authoritarian Nightmare: Trump and His Followers, and (of
course) Donald Trump Jr: Liberal Privilege: Joe Biden and the Democrats'
Defense of the Indefensible. For whatever it's worth, here are a few
did read (on Trump, his
administration, and/or the 2016 election, as well as a few less
Trump-centric but still topical tracts, most recent first):
Thomas Frank: The People, NO: The War on Populism and the
Fight for Democracy (2020, Metropolitan Books)
Jacob S Hacker/Paul Pierson: Let Them Eat Tweets: How the
Right Rules in an Age of Economic Inequality (2020, Liveright)
David Bromwich: American Breakdown: The Trump Years and How
They Befell Us (2019, Verso Books)
Sarah Kendzior: Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of
Donald Trump and the Erosion of America (2020, Flatiron Books)
Joan C Williams: White Working Class: |Overcoming Class
Cluelessness in America (2020, Harvard Business Review Press)
Ezra Klein: Why We're Polarized (2020, Simon &
Stanley B Greenberg: R.I.P. G.O.P.: How the New America Is Dooming
the Republicans (2019, Thomas Dunne Books)
James Poniewozik: Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television,
and the Fracturing of America (2019, Liveright) -- the most
insightful book on Trump per sé.
Tim Alberta: American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the
Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump (2019,
Alexander Nazaryan: The Best People: Trump's Cabinet and the
Siege on Washington (2019, Hachette Books)
Michael Tomasky: If We Can Keep It: How the Republic Collapsed
and How It Might Be Saved (2019, Liveright)
Michael Lewis: The Fifth Risk (2018, WW Norton) --
a brief and understated exposé of what Trump has done to the ability
of government to function.
Ben Fountain: Beautiful Country Burn Again: Democracy, Rebellion,
and Revolution (2018, Harper Collins)
Timothy Snyder: The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe,
America (2018, Tim Duggan Books)
Katy Tur: Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest
Campaign in American History (2017, Dey Street Books)
Allen Frances: Twilight of American Sanity: A Psychiatrist
Analyzes the Age of Trump (2017, William Morrow)
David Frum: Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American
Republic (2018, Harper)
Mark Lilla: The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity
Politics (2017, Harper Collins)
Mark Singer: Trump and Me (2016, Duggan Books)
Matt Taibbi: Insane Clown President: Dispatches From the 2016
Circus (2016, Spiegel & Grau)
More pieces on Trump books:
How has Donald Trump survived? Review of Michael S Schmidt:
Donald Trump V. the United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop
a President, on the Mueller investigation and especially the
events that led up to it.
The Bush rehabilitation trap: "Democrats' insistence on redeeming
pre-Trump Republicans will corrupt the party's agenda and spoil the
chance for real social reform." Another excuse to link to:
Will Ferrell returns to SNL as George W Bush, with a reminder: "I was
really bad." Maybe I'd start cutting Bush some slack if he goes
on air and admits as much. Still, such contrition wouldn't erase his
actual record -- especially the warmongering, which is the one trait of
his presidency he can't fob the blame off on the far-right Republicans
Cheney staffed his administration with. Still, even his efforts to work
with Democrats to solve common problems, like No Child Left Behind and
Medicare D, have proven disastrous. Laura mentioned an article about
Obama's "biggest mistake," and I immediately thought of several, most
importantly his reluctance to repeatedly blame the damaged conditions
he inherited on Bush. Not doing so gave Republicans a pass, allowing
them to paint the fruits of their failed ideology as somehow being
Obama's fault. That doomed Democrats in the 2010 elections, and all
the Republicans had to do from then on was to obstruct -- which he
also failed to clearly pin responsibility for. Obama's second biggest
mistake was proclaiming Afghanistan "the right war," and wasting his
first term trying to get it on track. Third was failing to repeal the
Bush tax cuts in 2009 when he had the votes to do so. He spent the
rest of his terms fighting debt fear and austerity pressures that
would have been greatly relieved if he had restored those taxes. But
the "biggest mistake" the article pointed to was the bombing of Libya --
see Stephen Kinzer:
Obama's 'Biggest Mistake' is still wreaking havoc. The quotes
actually come from Obama, but all he meant was "his failure to anticipate
the after-effects," not the bombing itself. In failing to appreciate
that belligerent acts have logical consequences, Obama proved to be
as ignorant and reckless as his predecessor.
Isabel Wilkerson's world-historical theory of race and caste: Review
of Wilkerson's new book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents,
where a central argument is that India's long-established caste system --
outlawed in the Indian Constitution of 1950 -- provides insights into
racism in America (and, what the hell, Nazi Germany).
On August 27, 2019, President Donald Trump held a 41.3 percent approval
rating and a 54.2 percent disapproval rating, according to FiveThirtyEight's
poll tracker. During the 365 days that followed, Trump became the
third president impeached by the House of Representatives; America
assassinated Iranian general Qassem Soleimani; more than 200,000
Americans died from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus; the
unemployment rate rose from 3.7 percent to 10.2 percent; the US banned
incoming travel from Europe, China, and Brazil; an estimated 12 million
people lost health insurance coverage; Trump pardoned Roger Stone, who
was facing jail time for dirty tricks on the president's behalf; and
George Floyd's murder sparked a nationwide movement protesting for
racial justice -- to which officials responded by tear-gassing
demonstrators in Lafayette Park in Washington, DC, so Trump could
pose for a photograph holding a Bible.
That is, of course, a bitterly incomplete list of a grimly consequential
year in American history. But you'd never know it simply by following
Trump's poll numbers. On August 27, 2020 -- one year later, and the day
Trump used the White House as a backdrop for his convention speech --
FiveThirtyEight had Trump at 42.2 percent approval and 54.3 percent
disapproval. Everything had happened, and politically, nothing had
mattered. Or, at the least, not much had changed.
"It's really remarkable," says Jennifer Victor, a political scientist
at George Mason University. "The stability of Trump's numbers are almost
Trump's approval ratings have ranged a mere 14 points (35-49%),
compared to a range of 27 for Obama (40-67%), 65 for Bush II (25-90%),
36 for Clinton (37-73%), 52 for Bush I (29-81%), 33 for Reagan (35-68%).
The Bush high marks were inflated by war, and deflated by recession.
Reagan, Clinton, and Obama each started in recession, and presided
over sustained recoveries. Trump was the first president not to get
a "good will" bump after taking office, largely because of the way he
campaigned and won. He was, instead, met with unprecedented demonstrations
and vows of resistance, the first "women's march" overshadowing his
poorly-attended inauguration. That may have helped to lock in his
supporters, who viewed his regime as embattled from day one, and have
since stubbornly resisted news of disasters that many of us considered
inevitable consequences of his election.
The Biden do not reappoint list: "A third succession of Wall Street
Democrats would be a disaster. Here are the names to look out for."
Larry Summers, Peter Orszag, Mike Froman, Steve Rattner, Jeff Zients,
Bruce Reed, plus a list of big names like Mike Bloomberg and Jamie
Dimon and another of "lesser names." Since this piece was published,
Zients was added as "co-chair" to Biden's transition team. See:
Biden transition team shapes up with Obama-Biden alum hires.
American Christianity's white-supremacy problem: "History, theology,
and culture all contribute to the racist attitudes embedded in the white
church." There's plenty of this to go around, but Christian churches
were incubators for abolitionism in the 19th century, and committed
clergy and laity have been prominent in every antiwar and civil rights
How fast is the climate changing?: It's a new world, each and every
day: Is McKibben's flair for hyperbole really helping? He has a
knack for taking an isolated insight and blowing it up into a gross
generalization, effectively obliterating his insight. Something a
reasonable person could argue: practically every day we discover
some new incident that helps reveal the greater depths of climate
change. That's not the same as saying the world is changing every
day. For most of us, most of the time, that's simply untrue, or
at least untrue in terms that register with our senses. McKibben
got into this habit with the title of his first book on climate
change, The End of Nature. His argument there was that we
can never know nature because we've changed the climate. In some
sense he was onto something, but that's because humans have used
technology to alter and dominate nature in many ways -- releasing
greenhouse gases to raise air temperature was merely one of many
ways, if anything, one of the least conscious of the many changes.
On the other hand, he totally loses track of one of nature's most
significant characteristics, which is its ability to evolve in
response to changes, ranging from astronomical to human. Of course,
he isn't the only environmentalist to have such anthropocentric
conceits about the world. The very phrase "save the Earth" has
all sorts of hidden assumptions about what kind of Earth it is
one wants to "save." Surely you know that the Earth is almost all
rock, and totally oblivious to changes on its surface. Surely you
realize that life didn't need human beings for nearly four billion
years, and could carry on happily should humans disappear.
Trump's authoritarian "anarchist jurisdictions" memo, explained:
"This is what a president does when he thinks he can do whatever he
wants." Trump is assering that he has the power to cut federal funding
to cities and states that do not do what he wants. He's made threats
like that many times, starting with attacking "sanctuary cities" for
not cooperating with ICE enforcement, and more recently threatened
to withhold education funds from school districts that did not reopen
fast enough. He thinks that if he declares cities to be "anarchist
jurisdictions" he can impose order on them with federal troops. As
Millhiser points out, there is no legal basis for any of this.
Mick Mulvaney's career reached its logical endpoint last week when he
announced he'd started a new hedge fund focused on exploiting deep
knowledge of regulatory trends in the financial services sector. "I
can't think of anyone better to read the tea leaves, if you will, of
what is going to come next from Congress or any one of the slew of
federal regulators out there," said Mulvaney's new business partner
Andrew Wessel, lending high praise to what amounts to official corruption.
There are few public sycophants quite as shameless as Mulvaney when
it comes to doing the bidding of financial loan sharks. Thanks to his
slavish devotion to the cult of personality around a president he once
called "a terrible human being," Mulvaney has gone from being the
payday-loan industry's favorite congressman to Trump's director of the
Office of Management and Budget, the Consumer Financial Protection
Bureau's internal destructor, the acting White House chief of staff,
and finally, the prestigious and rarefied job of Special Envoy for
Yet Mulvaney seems to be leaving public service unsatisfied. You
see, despite his best efforts, financial regulation still, well, exists.
And annoyingly, it seems there are hardworking people who still want it
to, you know, exist.
I would have edited that last line to say "work" instead of repeating
For too long, we've denigrated civil servants as lazy, wasteful, and
parasitic -- terms and frames which are wrongheaded and highly racialized.
The resulting anti-government fervor gave us the catastrophes of the Bush
and Trump presidencies. It's an important point that bears repeating:
People who hate government tend not to be very good at it.
If Biden wants to prove that he won't be like Trump or Mulvaney, if
he wants to prove that his government will indeed restore dignity in
America, there's a simple and powerful step he can take: Trust in
government, and commit to appointing career civil servants to top jobs
running the agencies they understand. If nothing else, it will severely
piss off Mick Mulvaney.
When America's Cold War strategy turned corrupt: Pretty much from
its inception. After all, the point was to defend and promote business
around the world, not least against its foes in labor. Review of Scott
Anderson: The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies at the Dawn of the
Cold War -- a Tragedy in Three Acts. Covers the years 1944-56;
the spies are Michael Burke, Edward Lansdale, Peter Sichel, and Frank
Bill Barr's interview on CNN was a train wreck: "From Black Lives
Matter to election fraud, Barr didn't seem interested in even pretending
he's doing anything other than Trump's bidding." Subheds: Barr's comments
about Jacob Blake and Black Lives Matter revealed how unserious he is
about racial unrest; Barr wouldn't even acknowledge that voting twice
is a crime; The attorney general has been reduced to something akin to
a fixer for the president.
Michael J Sandel:
Disdain for the less educated is the last acceptable prejudice:
He's talking about among Democrats. As Donald Trump and many more
attest, prejudices are rampant within the Republican Party -- maybe
more against the highly educated but against the less educated as
well, even as Republicans occasionally flatter the latter in order
to con them. Sandel wrote The Tyranny of Merit: What's Become of
the Common Good, the latest of a series of books that debunk
the idea that we should be ruled by "the best and the brightest"
(as David Halberstam dubbed the Kennedy meritocrats) -- Chris Hayes'
Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy is the one
I read and recommend, but Daniel Markovits: The Meritocracy Trap:
How America's Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the
Middle Class, and Devours the Elite adds to the critique. One
thing Sandel notes is that Joe Biden "is the first Democratic nominee
in 36 years without a degree from an Ivy League university." Still, he
seems to be confusing education with "credentialism" -- his word, an
interesting choice given how Jane Jacobs took the shift in focus from
education to credentials to be a sure sign of Dark Ages Ahead.
While many Democrats have made the mistake of seeing education as the
key to advancement and therefore a painless answer to inequality --
Robert Reich was a pioneer in this regard -- but what makes that a
mistake is ignoring all other factors. For instance, it's safe to
say that the dearth of blue collar workers in Congress has more to
do with lack of money and connections than prejudice. At least most
Democrats see education as a universal desire and opportunity, and
knowledge and science as general virtues -- unlike many Republicans,
who find free thinking suspiciously dangerous. Also see:
Jeffrey St Clair:
Roaming charges: Sometimes they choke: Usual grabbag of points and
asides, but I was struck by the chart (from 538) which argues that Biden
has to win the popular vote by more than 3 points to reach a 50% chance
of winning the electoral college. Next item shows the gerrymandered map
of a "suburban Houston" House district. Then after some Markey-Kennedy
points, he notes that the Postal Servie paid $14M to XPO Logistics, a
company USPS head Louis DeJoy has a significant stake in, over the last
10 weeks. Also, I wanted to quote this:
MAGA loves America. MAGA hates the government. MAGA loves the man who
runs the government they hate. MAGA loves history. MAGA hates the State.
MAGA loves the statues of the historical figures who built the State
Other notes include that the US trade deficit reached its highest
level in 12 years, and that "peak oil" is back, with US production on
the decline again, after reaching its second peak (the first was in
Did Trump call US war dead "losers" and "suckers"? The controversy,
explained. "It's the word of reporters relaying what unnamed
people are saying against the word of untrustworthy people being
open about where they stand." I'm more bothered by politicians and
pundits who use memory of the war dead as an excuse to perpetuate
wars and promote future ones. Still, I'd be more inclined to call
them "victims." Wars result from bad political decisions, usually
long series. Even when the US was backed into a war -- WWII, the
Civil War, maybe the War of 1812 -- one could look back on a long
series of unwise decisions that paved the path to inescapable
grave consequences. And even when the US could justify going to
war, atrocities inevitably followed. So Trump's riposte that all
war dead are "heroes" troubles me more than his slurs, not least
because it's the kind of blanket generalization no one in the
media would object to. Still, it must be admitted that part of
the reaction to "losers" and "suckers" is that such terms convey
the prejudices and privileges of a class that sees itself above
the fray. It doesn't bother me that Trump uses his privileges
to steer clear of the carnage in Vietnam, but it is typical of
him that he sees those who lacked his advantages as "losers"
and "suckers." That's at least part of this fracas, even if no
one wants to talk about it.
During last week's Republican National Convention, speaker after speaker
insisted that life under a Biden presidency would be dystopian. . . .
"They're not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence into our
communities. They want to abolish the suburbs altogether," a St. Louis
couple who had brandished weapons against demonstrators outside their
home, told viewers. "Make no mistake, no matter where you live, your
family will not be safe in the radical Democrats' America."
One does not have to be a champion of the Democratic Party to know
this chthonic portrait is absurd. But it is also essential, because it
allows Trump and his followers to tolerate and justify pretty much
anything in order to win. And "anything" turns out to be quite a lot.
Donald Trump is the president: "Whose America is it, explained."
After noting that while campaigning in 2016, Trump said: "the crime
and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end.
Beginning on January 20, 2017, safety will be restored." Trump never
explained how he would work his magic, but he didn't. "Murder is on
the rise again after ticking down for a few years, and acts of looting
and vandalism are occurring in cities across the country." Subheds:
Trump is defunding the police
Trump encourages bad policing
Trump leaves no way out
But what does Trump have on tap beyond angry tweets and absurd posturing?
He's been the president for years, and he's flailing even with the issues
he does want to talk about. Vice President Mike Pence ended his speech
last week by asking the American people to let him and Trump "Make America
great again, again." In context, it was essentially a request for a mulligan
on Covid-19, which is absurd. But it's exactly what Trump is pushing on
crime as well -- that we should just ignore the parts of the presidency
where his ideas don't work and his administration fails on its own terms.
Big event of the week was the Republican National Convention.
Once again, I didn't watch any of it live, but caught some high-
or low-lights on Stephen Colbert's "live" recaps, plus I read a
lot. I started collecting links on Tuesday, and I haven't made
the effort to group them, so the following list may seem to run
around in circles. I did try to list them chronologically under
each writer. (Past practice generally listed the latest pieces
first, but the opposite made more sense for day-by-day pieces,
and when I decided that I tried to reorder the others.)
There were other serious stories this week. A Category 4 hurricane
hit Louisiana, inflicting a lot of damage. Police in Kenosha, WS shot
an unarmed black man eight times in the back -- he survived, but is
paralyzed -- and that kicked off another round of Black Lives Matter
protests. Then an armed Trump supporter shot three protesters, killing
two. There was also a shooting in Portland, OR, where the victim was
a Trump-aligned counter-protester (presently unclear who pulled that
Barely mentioned below is a well-attended March on Washington, on
the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous speech there.
One story I've shortchanged is Israel's continuing offensive against
Gaza, extended last week with bombing raids on Lebanon (as opposed
to the more covert destruction of the port of Beirut).
5 winners and 2 losers from the RNC's first night: Winners: The
Fox News cinematic universe; Nikki Haley; Sen. Tim Scott; Recep Tayyip
Erdogan; Covid-19; Losers: Optimism; The GOP beyond Trump. That cut
Haley and Scott a lot of slack, "but the reason they stood out is that
they felt out of step with the rest of the two-and-a-half-hour
convention." In particular, the "story of Trump's triumph over
Covid-19" was so unconvincing they scored that point for the virus,
rather than flagging the story itself as the loser it was.
2 winners and 3 losers from the third night of the Republican National
Convention: Winners: The Republican Party's alliance with law
enforcement; Gov. Kristi Noem (evidently the night's least embarrassing
speaker; their words were "nothing all that extraordinary"; also "She
inaccurately characterized Martin Luther King Jr. as a supporter of
Republican approaches to racial issues"). Losers: Mike Pence's presidential
aspirations; pretaped speeches; whitewashed feminism.
3 winners and 4 losers from the final night of the Republican National
Winners: Donald Trump; Black Republicans; The politicization of sports.
Losers: The Mellon Auditorium; Social distancing; Riots; Bill de Blasio.
This whole "winners/losers" thing has been sorely tested by the RNC. It
worked better following debates, where some candidates did better/worse,
and some issues were touted or ignored. With the RNC, the winners and
losers were still relative, but the bar was so far below normal the
"winning" speeches were merely the less embarrassing ones (remember,
Eric Trump was the lead day two "winner"), and the reasons behind
picking the non-people winners/losers were rarely obvious (e.g.,
Covid-19 was a day one winner, probably because whenever a speaker
mentioned it, the claims made obviously rang false).
Grand old meltdown: "Trump's Republican Party is the very definition
of a cult of personality."
The spectacle is unceasing. One day, it's a former top administration
official going public with Trump's stated unwillingness to extend
humanitarian aid to California because it's politically blue and Puerto
Rico because it's "poor" and "dirty." The next day, it's Trump launching
a boycott of Goodyear, a storied American company that employs 65,000
people, for one store's uneven ban on political apparel in the workplace.
A day later, it's Steve Bannon, the president's former chief strategist,
getting rung up on charges of swindling donors out of money for the
private construction of a border wall, money he allegedly spent on
yachts and luxury living. It was just the latest in a string of arrests
that leave Trump looking eerily similar to the head of a criminal
enterprise. What all of these incidents and so many more have in common
is that not a single American's life has been improved; not a single
little guy has been helped. Just as with the forceful dispersing of
peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park -- done so he could hold up a
prop Bible for flashing cameras -- Trump and his allies continue to
wage symbolic battles whose principal casualties are ordinary people.
Sandmann is the perfect victim: a young conservative man who came to
Washington to protest abortion and was "smeared" by the left as being
an awful racist because he had the temerity to wear one of President
Trump's hats. The fact that he's been fighting the media, and forcing
them to settle lawsuits, is icing on the cake.
In reality, though, Sandmann's appearance is a testament to the
emptiness of this narrative. There's no policy argument connected to
this story; revisiting it does nothing to convince voters that the
Trump administration can make their lives better in any kind of material
way. The RNC to date has been empty in this exact way, an attempt to
gin up anger and fear at the base's enemies rather than sell a positive
vision of America.
The RNC weaponized exhaustion: "The sheer volume of lies and illegal
behavior from Trump and the Republicans is what allowed them to get away
The first night of the RNC featured more false and misleading claims than
all four nights of the DNC put together, according to a CNN fact-check.
The second night starred an anti-abortion activist whose tale about the
horrors of Planned Parenthood had been exposed as a fraud more than 10
years ago. On the third night, Vice President Mike Pence suggested that
the murder of a police officer by a far-right extremist was a crime
committed by left-wing rioters. It was all capped off by President
Trump's Thursday night speech, a farrago of falsehoods that even veteran
Trump fact-checkers found stunning.
"They want to control what you see and think and believe so that they
can control how you live," she said. "They want to enslave you to the
weak dependent liberal victim. They want to destroy this country and
everything that we have fought for and hold dear. They want to steal
your liberty, your freedom."
The only way to stop it, according to Guilfoyle, would be by reelecting
President Donald Trump. She listed several of Trump's accomplishments
since taking office, mentioning tax cuts, taking on ISIS, and renegotiating
"Don't let the Democrats take you for granted," she said. "Don't let
them step on you. Don't let them destroy your families, your lives, and
your future. Don't let them kill future generations because they told you
and brainwashed you and fed you lies that you weren't good enough."
Eric Trump's RNC speech had something rare: Policy substance. Just
because he mentioned (in deceptive spin) a few things -- "tax cuts for
the wealthy, cut regulations, an improved economy and reduced unemployment
(before the pandemic triggered a collapse), and increased military funding,
and the move of the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem" -- that the Trump
administration had done doesn't make him a policy wonk, let alone explain
the thinking behind de facto policies. Moreover, the thrust of his speech
was wholly in line with the Trump campaign spiel:
Using imagery of the Hoover Dam and Mount Rushmore, Trump's speech
painted a picture of an industrious heartland, ignored by the coastal
elites. "Every day my father fights for the American people," he said.
"The forgotten men and women of this country. The ones who embody the
American spirit." . . .
"In the view of the radical Democrats, America is the source of
the world's problems. As a result, they believe the only path forward
is to erase history and forget the past. They want to destroy the
monuments of our forefathers," he said. "They want to disrespect our
national anthem by taking a knee, while our armed forces lay down their
lives every day to protect our freedom. They do not want the Pledge of
Allegiance in our schools. Many do not want one nation under God. The
Democrats want to defund, destroy, and disrespect our law enforcement."
Trump went on to contrast this depiction of Democrats with his father,
who he claimed is a champion for law enforcement, religious people, the
"canceled," coal miners, and farmers. "To every proud American who bleeds
red, white, and blue -- my father will continue to fight for you," Trump
This featured notion that Trump fights for the little guy is possibly
the most grotesque lie in a campaign that is chock full of them.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Pence's bowing and scraping
to Trump is that he seems to revel in it. In an interview with the
Times, his chief of staff, Marc Short, said Pence has studied
previous Vice-Presidencies, and he "exemplifies servant leadership."
Even in these twisted days, when Trump's takeover of the G.O.P. seems
virtually complete, it isn't every elected Republican who would like
to go in the history books as the forty-fifth President's most loyal
and obsequious servant. As he demonstrated on Wednesday night, when
he once again acted as Trump's lickspittle, Pence seems to fill the
In 2016, Trump promised to make America safe again. He failed.
I thought he said he'd "make America great again." He wasn't very
clear on what "great" meant -- wasn't there something about "winning
so much you grow tired of it"? I have my doubts that "great" is even
something worth aiming for, but whatever it was meant to be, this
can't be it.
Trump was supposed to change the GOP. But the GOP changed him.
"How the Republican Party turned Donald Trump into one of their own."
This formulation flips a common argument about Trump refashioning
the Party in his own image. He has done some of that in terms of
look and feel, but Trump's style is something that has been honed
for years by Fox pundits: he's basically a receptacle and incubator
for their rants. But he's stocked his administration with standard
issue Republicans, many straight from lobby shops, and they've
limited his policy options to what they would have any Republican
Once you read the list, I think you'll agree that these are authentic
ideas with meaningful policy consequences, and that they are broadly
shared. The question is not why Republicans lack a coherent platform;
it's why they're so reluctant to publish the one on which they're
The most important mechanism of economic policy -- not the only tool,
but the most important -- is adjusting the burden of taxation on society's
richest citizens. . . .
The coronavirus is a much-overhyped problem. It's not that dangerous
and will soon burn itself out. . . .
Climate change is a much-overhyped problem. It's probably not happening.
If it is happening, it's not worth worrying about. . . . Regulations to
protect the environment unnecessarily impede economic growth.
China has become an economic and geopolitical adversary of the United
States. . . . When China wins, the U.S. loses, and vice versa.
The trade and alliance structures built after World War II are
outdated. . . . If America acts decisively, allies will have to follow
whether they like it or not -- as they will have to follow U.S. policy
Health care is a purchase like any other. Individuals should make
their ow best deals in the insurance market with minimal government
supervision. . . .
Voting is a privilege. States should have wide latitude to regulate
that privilege . . .
Anti-Black racism has ceased to be an important problem in American
life. At this point, the people most likely to be targets of adverse
discrimination are whites, Christians, and Asian university applicants.
Federal civil-rights-enforcement resources should concentrate on
The courts should move gradually and carefully toward eliminating
the mistake made in 1965, when women's sexual privacy was elevated
into a constitutional right.
The post-Watergate ethics reforms overreached. We should welcome
the trend toward unrestricted and secret campaign donations. . . .
Trump's border wall is the right policy to slow illegal immigration;
the task of enforcing immigration rules should not fall on business
operators. . . .
The country is gripped by a surge of crime and lawlessness as a
result of the Black Lives Matter movement and its criticism of
police. . . .
Civility and respect are cherished ideals. But in the face of
the overwhelming and unfair onslaught against President Donald Trump
by the media and the "deep state," his occasional excesses on Twitter
and at his rallies should be understood as pardonable reactions to
much more severe misconduct by others.
So there's the platform, why not publish it? . . . This is a platform
for a party that talks to itself, not to the rest of the country. And
for those purposes, the platform will succeed most to the extent that
it is communicated only implicitly, to those receptive to its message.
To call things what they are, the Republicans adopted a fascist aesthetic
for this year's Convention. It was in the pillars and the flags; the
military-style outfit that Melania Trump wore to deliver her speech, on
the second night; the screaming fervor with which many of the speeches
were delivered; the repeated references to "law and order"; and phrases
like "weakness is provocative," which the Republican senator Tom Cotton
offered on the final evening. The aesthetic -- and the rhetoric -- held
out the carrot of greatness, of what Hannah Arendt, explaining the appeal
of totalitarian movements, called "victory and success as such," the prize
of being on the winning side, whatever that side is. The seduction of
greatness may grow proportionately to anxiety: the more scared one is --
of losing one's job or health insurance, or of the coronavirus, of the
world never going back to normal, among other worries -- the more
reassuring it is to say (better yet, to scream) that one lives in the
greatest country on earth. One looks at people shouting triumphantly --
none of them social distancing, only a few wearing masks -- and one
feels somehow uplifted by the fantasy of being one of them.
The problem, of course, is that America as we know it is currently in
the midst of a mess not of Biden's making but of Trump's. Suffice it
to say that, by the time Trump's speech was over and the red, white,
and blue fireworks spelling out "2020" had been set off over the
National Mall, late Thursday night, more than three thousand seven
hundred Americans had died of the coronavirus since the start of the
Convention -- more than perished on 9/11 -- and a hundred and eighty
thousand Americans total had succumbed to the disease, a disease that
Trump repeatedly denied was even a threat. His botched handling of
the pandemic was the very reason that his Convention was taking place
on the White House lawn in the first place.
Pence warns that America won't be America without Trump: "Even the
president hasn't yet made such a sweeping boast tying himself to the
essence of the nation." But if you consider that the only thing separating
his slogans "make America great again" and "keep America great" was Trump's
election, he did. We just foolishly assumed he meant something more, but
in the mind of a narcissist, what more could there be?
In the era of President Donald Trump, the news develops the quality
"of being shocking without being surprising," wrote Masha Gessen in
Surviving Autocracy. Each week's events are "an assault on the
senses and the mental faculties," and yet, somehow, "just more of the
That's how I felt watching the first night of the Republican National
Convention. It was a night that I couldn't quite believe. It was a night
I could not have imagined going any other way. It was bizarre, unnerving,
and unprecedented. It was banal, predictable, and expected.
"If you really want to drive them crazy, you say '12 more years,'"
Trump said as he opened the convention. The crowd happily chanted "12
more years." It drove me a little crazy, but mostly left me tired. It's
a performance of provocation hiding a convention that had nothing to say,
only enemies to fight, social changes to fear.
What is there to say upon hearing Trump described as "the bodyguard
of Western civilization?" It's not an argument so much as a loyalty
oath, an offering cut from the speaker's dignity and burnt for the
pleasure of the Dear Leader himself. But the outrageousness is the
point. Protest and you're triggered -- just another oversensitive
lib who can't take a joke. Ignore it and you're complicit. To care
is to lose. . . .
Fact-checkers will have a field day with all this, but it's a bit
beside the point. The sort of lie Trump and his supporters tell,
writes Gessen, "is the power lie, or the bully lie. It is the lie of
the bigger kid who took your hat and is wearing it -- while denying
that he took it." That is the sort of lie that suffused Monday night's
proceedings. The point isn't that it's true; it's that they can say it
and no one can stop them.
The core of Trump's agenda has always been untethering American
politics from factual reality, and among Republicans, at least, he's
been startlingly successful. The convention is a loyalty test for
Republicans, and a reality check for the rest of us.
Trump failed on the opioid crisis -- and Democrats are letting him get
away with it. This is the author's reporting turf, but I can't see
it as an issue worth talking about in this election -- the dig against
the Democrats is unfair, although when it does come up, the answer
should point out that this is a public health problem, exacerbated by
the lack of free and universal health care (which would include pain
management and addiction treatment). Republicans fail because they
don't want free and universal health care. Democrats won't succeed
until they do. But since Biden isn't exactly campaigning for that,
probably best not to play up the issue.
The problems in your life aren't real; the real problems are the ones
that nobody, except for everybody on this stage, has the courage to
talk about. The media wants to brainwash you; the Marxists are massing
outside your idyllic suburban lawn; if the enemy gets its way, small
businesses will be decimated, Thomas Jefferson will be cancelled, and
911 will go straight to voice mail. The speakers at the Republican
National Convention keep ringing the same notes: fabricated panic
followed by hoarse, manic Panglossianism. Jobs were lost under past
Democrats, and they would be lost under future Democrats, but with
President Trump there is only milk and honey. Joe Biden is a stultifying
agent of the status quo, too boring to mention by name; he is also an
unprecedented break with tradition, a threat to all that we hold dear.
Climate change, of course, is waved away as mass hysteria; even the
coronavirus pandemic is mentioned rarely and almost always in the past
tense, as if the decision to deliver speeches in a cavernous, empty
auditorium were merely the whim of a quirky location scout. Anyone
watching from quarantine, during a once-in-a-century unemployment
crisis, would not need a fact check to know that this is all a
stretch, to say the least.
Marantz goes on for a few paragraphs like this, then he quotes
Ronald Reagan from the RNC in 1980: "Never before in our history
have Americans been called upon to face three grave threats to our
very existence, any one of which could destroy us. We face a
disintegrating economy, a weakened defense, and an energy policy
based on the sharing of scarcity." As best I recall, one of those
was bogus, and the other two were trivial compared to what we got
after Reagan was elected. Marantz then segues into a review of Rick
Perlstein's new book, Reaganland. One factoid he pulled out
of there is that "84 percent of Reagan voters gave 'time for a change'
as their major reason for choosing him -- not any ideological reason
at all." I can imagine a high percentage of Trump voters saying that
in 2016, but now? Depends on how effectively the R's can portray
Biden as the incumbent, responsible for all the mess Trump rails
The RNC's big Covid-19 lie, refused in one chart. Chart plots
7-day rolling average of new confirmed Covid-19 cases per million
people, comparing US, EU, and six other well-to-do countries.
"There are, in other words, world leader who did take decisive
action to save lives. Donald Trump isn't one of them."
Pence's speech highlighted a single law enforcement officer, strongly
implying that this officer was the victim of left-wing radicals opposed
to police officers and to President Trump: "Dave Patrick Underwood was
an officer of the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Protective
Service, who was shot and killed during the riots in Oakland, California,"
said Pence, before acknowledging Underwood's sister, who was in the
Underwood's death is tragic, but it has nothing to do with left-wing
Underwood was killed just blocks away from anti-police violence protests
in Oakland, but federal authorities say he was killed by Steven Carrillo,
an Air Force staff sergeant and a follower of the "boogaloo boys," a
right-wing extremist movement that, according to the Washington Post's
Katie Shepherd, "has sought to use peaceful protests against police
brutality to spread fringe views and ignite a race war." . . .
And yet, to Mike Pence, Underwood's death was just an opportunity to
pin violence on his political opponents -- regardless of whether the
attack has any real basis in fact.
We need to talk about the GOP's 'black friends': Several pieces
here mention the relatively large number of black speakers at the RNC,
but this article explains it: "The Republican National Convention has
been all about using black people to convince white people it's OK
to vote for a bigot." On the other hand, the ploy implies that the
battle lines have shifted. George Wallace and Ronald Reagan never
needed this sort of cover, but Trump's pollsters obviously felt he
did. On the other hand, if Republicans believed that Trump had any
appeal to black voters, they wouldn't be scrambling to help get Kanye
West's name on battleground state ballots.
Trump's RNC speech was a mess. But the optics of it were powerful.
"For those who care about the rule of law, the White House being used
as a political prop was a disconcerting sight." By the way, for some
reason (well, the billboard picture) I just noticed that the trademark
slogan Trump registered in 2017, "Keep America Great," has given way to
a new one: "Make America Great Again!" Apparently they're acknowledging
that greatness didn't take the first time, so it needs some sort of
Wednesday night, the gravely serious Mike Pence ended his workmanlike
speech at Fort McHenry with a similar frenzy of repetition: "With
President Donald Trump in the White House for four more years and
with God's help, we will make America great again, again."
As presidential campaign slogans go, it isn't "Tippecanoe and
Tyler Too," which helped elect William Henry Harrison in 1840.
Pence's oratory is revealing since he is a disciplined politician
who obediently follows the script and scrupulously avoids crazed
Trumpian improvisations. In short, every line in a Pence speech is
there because White House political strategists thought it represented
shrewd politics -- even Pence rhetorically sticking another scarlet "A"
for "Again" on every MAGA hat. What the vice president is saying is
that, despite Trump's supposed Mount Rushmore greatness, America needs
saving yet again. In Pence's telling, the nation is akin to an innocent
maiden in the silent movies who keeps getting tied to the railroad
Donald Trump, of course, has no responsibility for anything. Not
the pandemic, not the economy, not White House incompetence, not a
white vigilante killing protesters in Kenosha, and not Hurricane
Laura devastating the Gulf Coast. Trump is simply the unluckiest
president since William Henry Harrison died in office just a month
after he was inaugurated in 1841.
Still unclear to me why, if God let Trump down in his first term,
She's going to come to his rescue in a second term.
Trump's spent years touting the stock market. At the RNC, he just . . .
didn't. "Somewhere along the way, did someone decide it might not
be a moment to tout stocks?" As long as Trump stays on script, which
he mostly did at the RNC, everything he says has been pre-cleared and
calculated for effect. What he says is what his handlers think will
do him the most good. They may not be right, but it's not for lack of
polling and testing.
This doesn't seem to be organized as a formal series, but I've noticed
that Vox is running a number of pieces about what a second term with
Donald Trump as president might mean. The articles are all speculative
about the future, but they are also effective indictments about what
the first Trump term did. I thought I'd try to collect them here:
A second Trump term would mean severe and irreversible changes in the
climate. Isn't that already the meaning of the first Trump term?
Or at least part of the meaning. Roberts argues: "Trump's damage to
the climate is not like his damage to the immigration system or the
health care system. It can't be undone. It can't be repaired. Changes
to the climate are, for all intents and purposes, irreversible." He's
exaggerating on both ends. Trump's damage to government won't be so
easy to reverse (especially with his packed courts). On the other
hand, zero carbon emissions would eventually result in a lowering
of the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere. Not soon, but, you
"America First, but on steroids": What Trump's second-term foreign
policy might look like: "Little could stop President Trump from
remaking the world in his image." It's tempting to wax dystopian
when contemplating second terms for presidents who did extraordinary
damage in their first terms -- invariably, they imagine even greater
feats, especially with the popular ratification of their first term --
but the track records are more benign. GW Bush's second term was an
utter disaster for America, but more past-due bills from his first
term than new ambitions. His big push to privatize Social Security
was beaten back, and he never managed to mop you the remainder of
his Axis of Evil (having gotten totally bogged down in Iraq and
Afghanistan). Then his fraudulent housing bubble burst, and the
Great Recession ensued. Reagan's second term was mostly tied up
with scandals. Nixon didn't even manage to finish his second term.
Even Eisenhower did little in his second term. Of course, one thing
that helped in all of these cases is that Democrats won big in the
6th year mid-terms, so Republicans had no chance of doing much
legislatively. Of course, foreign policy could be different, given
how much power Congress has surrendered to the president over the
years (and how much various presidents have snatched). Most of the
topics in Ward's article are alarming, in large part because Trump
is so unprincipled and erratic, but the last ("Trump may just start
withdrawing from everything") might be for the better. A more
sensible approach would be to draw back military forces based on
multilateral treaties that build up international institutions,
and that's clearly over his head. I don't want to cast doubt on
the likelihood of disaster that a second Trump term would pose.
First of all, after seeing what Trump has done, it would reflect
very poorly on the judgment of the voters. Second, we'd have to
bear with four more years of extreme bullshit, while real crises
continue to multiply. Third, although popular opinion (through
Congress) can frustrate his legislative agenda, his administration
mostly works through executive orders and appointments to pack the
courts. Fourth, he is just staggeringly bad at crisis management,
and you should expect a lot of them. Finally, nobody has any idea
how much damage he's caused in the last four years, or how much
effort it's going to take to restore any semblance of normalcy.
The Republican war on government (formerly conceived as "of the
people, by the people, and for the people") sometimse includes
bold proposals like privatizing the Post Office and the TVA, which
can be opposed politically, but it mostly proceeds by entropy: by
thousands of little cuts, not least to the incentive to public
service. Much of what government does is manage risk (cf. Michael
Lewis's book, The Fifth Risk). The thing is, you rarely
notice that you've shortchanged risk management until it breaks,
and disaster ensues.
Trump has mostly worked to change the rules under which business
and government operate, but it takes time before people adapt to
exploit the new rules. For example, the Republicans won Congress
in 1946 and combined with Southern Democrats to override Truman
vetoes on labor and banking legislation. The effects of those
laws didn't really become evident until the 1980s, when Reagan
signaled open war on labor unions, and the savings & loan
industry blew up. Things happen faster now because the brain rot
of the Reagan era has progressed to Trump's zombiedom, because
an era of relatively equal collective affluence has turned into
an orgy of individualist greed. Trump's one claim to greatness
is how thoroughly he personifies America's decline.
The police shooting of Jacob Blake, explained: Black man, unarmed,
shot 7 times in the back, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Protests ensued, and
more shooting: Kyle Rittenhouse, age 17, armed with an AR-15, shot
three protesters, killing two.
Two shot dead in Kenosha amid third night of Jacob Blake protests.
"A 17-year-old from Illinois has been arrested and charged with first-degree
intentional homicide." A friend tweeted that he'd be speaking at the RNC
tonight. A surprising number of people found that credible. After all,
it's only the next logical step beyond the St. Louis couple who pointed
guns at marchers and wound up speaking at the RNC (despite, or maybe
because, they got arrested for menacing with a gun). The only things
that kept this guy from the dais were timing, logistics, and the
courage of his convictions.
Many conservatives who own guns likely wouldn't use them to slaughter
fellow Americans. But their embrace of rhetoric that legitimizes acts
of violence against Black Lives Matter protesters, Democratic opponents,
and other perceived opponents only helps those who might take things to
their logical, bloody conclusion. As the November election grows closer,
the economy struggles, and the nation's political temperature rises,
the risk of further bloodshed may get worse. Kellyanne Conway, one of
Trump's top White House advisers, suggested that the White House has no
interest in trying to lower political tensions any time soon. "The more
chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence, the better it is for the
very clear choice on who's best on public safety, law and order," she
Trump's election theme is that Americans won't be safe in a Biden
presidency. The opposite is true. Americans won't be safe as long
as a white supremacist president is leading a movement of bigots to
incite a civil war, and attempting to ensure that the majority of
Americans with cosmopolitan, egalitarian values remain politically
disenfranchised and under the thumb of those who fear and despise them.
Jessica Flack/Melanie Mitchell:
Uncertain times: "The pandemic is an unprecedented opportunity --
seeing human society as a complex system opens a better future for us
all." Not sure this piece ever gets to where it's going, but I do
believe that increasing social complexity is forcing us to rethink
basic assumptions about how people work.
Those who like government least govern worst: "From the Iraq War
to the coronavirus: why Republicans fail at governance." Mostly about
Robert Draper's book, To Start a War: How the Bush Administration
Took America Into Iraq, although the article title could have brought
up any number of examples. Toward the end, Klein tries to draw a link
between the coronavirus response fiasco and Iraq, and there are some
(like magical thinking), but there are also differences. Republicans
are generally pretty deferential to the military, so it's hard to pin
the failure in Iraq on lack of funding or message discipline or even
resolve -- all of which had an adverse effect on coronavirus response,
and are characteristic of Republicans' general contempt for government.
Yet Iraq was a disaster anyway. Faith in power and disregard for other
people have something to do with it. With both, really.
Vladimir Putin is on the ballot in November: This is really stupid.
I don't doubt that Putin prefers Trump to Biden, and that he has little
reason not to throw some of his cyber resources into tainting the 2020
election, but the net effect in terms of US-Russian relations will be
negligible. The assertion that if Trump wins a second term, "Russia will
be able to wantonly throw its weight around globally" is ridiculous. It
hasn't happened in Trump's first term, and nothing changes for a second.
The main limit on Russian "expansion" is Russia's own weakness and lack
of popularity. Sure, they can on rare occasions play on external schisms
as they have in Georgia and Ukraine, but most of the former Russian sphere
thoroughly hates them, and their only "allies" elsewhere are countries the
US has driven into their arms (like Syria, Venezuela, and Iran). If Biden
decides to "get tough" on them, he'll only alienate and destabilize the
world situation further. I don't doubt that Trump and Putin are sympatico
because of their shared links to oligarchs, their reliance on jingoistic
nationalism, and their general contempt for democracy, but interests are
something else. Where Trump might help Putin most is in promoting the arms
trade -- that being one of Russia's few competitive exports. He also might
blow up the Middle East, which would be good for Russian oil and gas prices.
(He's already taken most Iranian and Venezuelan oil off the market.) I
don't doubt that if Putin were on the ballot, hardly anyone would vote
for him. Except maybe in a Republican primary, where a cunning oligarch
and despot might be preferred over a really stupid one.
Why Hurricane Katrina was not a natural disaster: "Fifteen years
ago, New Orleans was nearly destroyed. A new book suggests that the
cause was decades of bad policy -- and that nothing has changed." The
book is Katrina: A History, 1915-2015, by Andy Horowitz. As I
note under Alex Ward (above), bad policy may take many years to reveal
itself as a disaster, which is the argument here. Louisiana is getting
hit by another big hurricane this week:
How violent protests against police brutality in the '60s and '90s changed
public opinion. It's not unreasonable to worry that acts associated
with protests might lead to a backlash and even a setback. But lots of
things are different now. Police brutality often triggered riots in the
1960s, but it wasn't seen as such, partly because the riots weren't
preceded by protest marches, and partly because there weren't cameras
everywhere back then to document the brutality. Civil rights marches
in the 1960s were much more analogous to the current BLM marches, not
only because they were organized protests but also because they were
met with public police brutality not unlike we see today. Whereas the
riots produced a backlash against "criminality," the marches made the
case for civil rights, and were generally successful (ultimately). I
worry that repeating protests too often will create an escalating
dynamic that could turn counterproductive (which may have happened
in Portland, although I'm not close enough to be sure). I also don't
have any problem with arresting people who destroy property and/or
act violently -- nor would I exempt the police when they do so. But
secondary violence never excuses the violence that triggered the
protests in the first place, nor does it justify further violence by
police, let alone their self-appointed "allies." Police have as much
responsibility to protect protesters as anyone else -- something they
can all too easily forget when they dress up like stormtroopers.
Can Biden's center hold? Long piece, good background including some
things I didn't know, recounting the campaign to date, not much forward
projection, even on the title question. Of course, all you can really
say is that what holds Biden's center together is fear and loathing of
Donald Trump. Take that away and you can pick Biden apart from every
angle. But for now, Biden is managing to straddle two theories that are
normally in opposition: one is the centrist belief that if you can stop
right-wing destruction and restore functioning institutions (not just
government, although that's the big one), America will rebound largely
on its own, and all will be well; the other is the leftist belief that
unless equality and justice are restored, nothing can work right, and
our problems will continue to multiply. Biden is more associated with
the former, but not so dogmatically as to exclude inputs from the left.
Moreover, as long as he's running against Trump, the left-center split
isn't (or shouldn't be) an issue.
All of this is to say that private equity had a heavy (if largely unseen)
hand in weakening a number of crucial industries right before a national
disaster. Not only will it likely face no consequences for indirectly
facilitating a portion of the suffering, but it also now stands to profit
from the wreckage of the economic recession it helped flame. . . .
That very disconnect illuminates the failure of an economy that
encourages disaster profiteering. Though private equity may seem uniquely
villainous, in the end, those firms are only doing what they were created
to do and always explicitly promised to do: generate profit for their
investors above all else. Their predations are made possible by a
government that condones them or is content to simply turn away, as it
has so many times before. That calls not just for a general condemnation
of financial greed -- which most politicians are happy to offer -- but
real measures to end it. As Warren and Fife put it, "Wall Street has
already shown us what it will do if left unchecked."
Since the start of Cuban medical internationalism in 1960, over
400,000 medical workers have worked in more than 40 countries. . . .
Cuban medical workers are risking their health to break the chain of
the COVID-19 infection. Cuban scientists developed drugs -- such as
interferon alpha-2b -- to help fight the disease. Now Cuban scientists
have announced that their vaccine is in trials; this vaccine will not
be treated as private property but will be shared with the peoples of
the world. This is the fidelity of Cuban medical internationalism.
Why we can't stop fighting about cancel culture: Is cancel culture
a mob mentality, or a long overdue way of speaking truth to power?"
No, neither, and not just because it isn't even a thing. Think about
it. Cancel is something that only those in power can do. It's something
they do all the time, usually without fanfare or even notice. They don't
need a "culture" to get them to do it. All they need is the power. I
made a joke above about "cancel culture" causing the cancellation of
an RNC speaker who had suddenly become an embarrassment (although her
usual racist shtick was probably why she got the invite in the first
place). On the other hand, people without the power to actually cancel
an appearance can still ask or demand that it happen, but they have no
direct power to make it happen. It's really just a challenge to power,
and those in power don't like those out of power butting into their
business, so they imagine a "culture" which drives this dynamic on.
The real pandemic gap is between the comfortable and the afflicted:
"Beneath society's plutocratic layer, America is not as united in the
face of crisis as we like to pretend." Who's pretending? The idea that
this is a war, with its now-ancient implication that we're all in it
together, didn't take root. Once the stock market rebounded, Trump and
the Republicans lost interest in bipartisan deals that might help the
non-rich. Still, there is another gap, between Watson's "comfortable"
and those who struggle from paycheck to paycheck. Watson puts that
gap somewhere between $30,000 and $130,000, noting that "Pew reports
18 percent of 'upper income' (above $112,600 in annual income) people
have been laid off or lost their jobs since the pandemic started
(compared with 39 percent of 'lower income' people, who earn less
than $37,500)." I'd define it a bit differently: the "comfortable"
are those who simply added their $1,200 stimulus checks to their
savings, in contrast to the "uncomfortable" many who spent it on
debts and necessities and soon wound up with nothing less. The big
difference there is having an uninterrupted income stream larger
than routine expenses, which has a lot more to do with who saves
than thriftiness ever did.
Biden needs a Sister Souljah moment: I read this op-ed in the
Wichita Eagle this morning, and was appalled and disgusted. Will
is a conservative pundit who doesn't love Trump but also doesn't
like anything his opponents stand for, so he should be irrelevant
at the moment. I might have skipped this, but then I found
Biden needs a Sister Souljah month, which elicited a response from
We don't need another Sister Souljah moment. I didn't recall what
the rapper said to provoke Bill Clinton's wrath, but still recalled the
incident for its gratuitous racism. It was Clinton's way of reminding
white people that he's one of them, and that he can be counted on to
defend them against raging blacks. Biden doesn't need such a moment,
and shouldn't want one, and anyone who prods him in that direction is
aiming to make the racial divide worse. Take Donald Trump: he has a
Sister Souljah moment almost every day, and each one begets the next.
Tracinski's real point is that Biden needs to make sure he's viewed
as anti-riot. I'm against riots too, and I don't care how draconian
he gets in prosecuting rioters -- as long as the same justice applies
to police and to Trump's agitator-thugs. Or I would be, but shouldn't
police be held to a higher standard? As it is, much of what they do
seems designed to provoke riots, not to prevent or pacify them.
PS: Biden did issue a strong statement, included
here. As Steve M notes, "The New York Times covers it by
burying it in the 13th paragraph of a
story about President Trump's overnight Twitter barrage." He also
Why did Hillary Clinton lose in 2016? She lost for many reasons, but
one was the media's willingness to let her opponent Bigfoot his way
to a disproportionate share of press coverage. Trump was seen as great
copy and great television, so the media yielded the floor to him every
time he beat his chest and demanded attention, dismissing most efforts
by Clinton to Change the subject to serious issues. And here we are.
The Democrats had their virtual convention last week. I didn't
watch any of it live. For that matter, neither did my wife, who's
got a much thicker skin for these things -- probably developed from
hate-watching Fox News, although in fairness she mostly does that
to watch them squirm on particularly embarrassing news days. I did
watch Stephen Colbert's nightly post-convention monologues, so I
got a taste of the virtual spectacle -- mostly selected for joke
potential. I've also read (or at least skimmed) the pieces, both
on the convention and on the Biden campaign, linked below:
Joe Biden likes you. On his acceptance speech. The speech itself is
here. Klein does some of his Why We're Polarized stuff, but
his main point is this:
The core of Joe Biden's politics is his talent at fulfilling the simplest
of political and emotional needs: Joe Biden likes you. That was the message
of this convention, and it's the message that has always been at the core
of his politics. Joe Biden likes you if you're a Democrat or a Republican.
He likes you even if you don't like him, because it's his job to like you,
no matter how you vote.
"While I will be a Democratic candidate, I will be an American president,"
Biden said. "I will work as hard for those who didn't support me as I will
for those who did. That's the job of a president. To represent all of us,
not just our base or our party."
If this sounds trite, consider the contrast it offers to the reality
we live in, and the politics President Trump models.
I must say I don't find that very reassuring. I get the contrast to
Trump, and I believe that the most basic lesson of life is how necessary
it is to respect other people (even ones very different from yourself).
Still, putting likability above commitment runs the risk of losing the
principles and allegiances that will get him elected in the first place,
and make him ineffective. Obama didn't just want to make bipartisan deals.
He was willing to make bad ones, just to look good to people who didn't
care. Biden may want to be liked by everyone, but he won't be -- indeed,
the depths of irrational invective and hatred Republicans direct at him
during the campaign should make that point inescapable.
American carnage: "In 2017, Trump promised to end 'this American carnage.'
Four years later, carnage defines his presidency."
Obama's Democratic convention speech gave a clear warning: Democracy is
at stake in 2020: As he's done so often in his career, Obama grasps
at the most anodyne, least objectionable position in a crisis. It is
true that Republicans have no respect for democracy, and if given the
chance will do anything they can to tilt elections in their direction.
Still, it does little good to defend democracy in the abstract when you
don't use of it to do popular things, or even practice the Preamble to
the US Constitution (establish justice, promote the general welfare,
etc.). When Democrats gained control of Congress and the Presidency in
the 2008 elections, they did nothing whatsoever to fight back against
the gross distortions of money in politics. They didn't even get rid
of the anti-democratic filibuster in the structurally un-democratic
US Senate. Don't get me wrong: it's good that Obama values democracy
now. It's just a shame that he didn't make better use of it when he
had the chance.
Joe Biden's Obamacare opportunity. "The 2010 law gave health coverage
to millions but left millions of other uninsured. Biden could finish the
job." But not, as suggested here, by amending Obamacare. Sure, he could
patch up some of the holes, even add a "public option" that could attract
many to replace their private insurance. But the Supreme Court blew open
some more holes, especially by allowing Republican-dominated states to
refuse expansion of Medicare. The fact is that the only way we ever get
to universal coverage is through a single-payer program that establishes
a basic right to health care, like Medicare for All. Until Biden realizes
that, anything else he does will continue to come up short.
Which brings us to the five most significant words of Obama's address.
She did not simply urge her audience to vote for Joe Biden; she urged
them to vote early. She urged voters who must vote absentee to request
their ballots immediately and return them as soon as possible.
And she urged voters to cast their ballots "in person if we can."
David E Sanger:
Top Republican national security officials say they will vote for Biden:
"In a letter released hours before Joe Biden delivered his nomination
acceptance speech, over 70 senior officials called President Trump
'unfit to lead' and outlined their support for his opponent." Every
vote counts, but some endorsements create associations you'd rather
not have. These, in particular, remind us that Biden has faithfully
supported decades of national security blunders and disasters. One
note is that the names most closely associated with Trump, while
sometimes being highly critical of him (e.g., John Bolton), are
still unwilling to break party ranks and commit to Biden.
A month before his inauguration, I wrote that "the question isn't
whether [Trump will] face a deadly outbreak during his presidency,
but when." Based on his actions as a media personality during the
2014 Ebola outbreak and as a candidate in the 2016 election, I
suggested that he would fail at diplomacy, close borders, tweet
rashly, spread conspiracy theories, ignore experts, and exhibit
reckless self-confidence. And so he did.
No one should be shocked that a liar who has made almost 20,000
false or misleading claims during his presidency would lie about
whether the U.S. had the pandemic under control; that a racist who
gave birth to birtherism would do little to stop a virus that was
disproportionately killing Black people; that a xenophobe who presided
over the creation of new immigrant-detention centers would order
meatpacking plants with a substantial immigrant workforce to remain
open; that a cruel man devoid of empathy would fail to calm fearful
citizens; that a narcissist who cannot stand to be upstaged would
refuse to tap the deep well of experts at his disposal; that a scion
of nepotism would hand control of a shadow coronavirus task force to
his unqualified son-in-law; that an armchair polymath would claim to
have a "natural ability" at medicine and display it by wondering out
loud about the curative potential of injecting disinfectant; that an
egotist incapable of admitting failure would try to distract from his
greatest one by blaming China, defunding the WHO, and promoting miracle
drugs; or that a president who has been shielded by his party from any
shred of accountability would say, when asked about the lack of testing,
"I don't take any responsibility at all."
When I scanned the article, I missed those but picked out a few
additional paragraphs, which struck me as germane, albeit less pointed
How did it come to this? A virus a thousand times smaller than a dust
mote has humbled and humiliated the planet's most powerful nation.
America has failed to protect its people, leaving them with illness
and financial ruin. It has lost its status as a global leader. It has
careened between inaction and ineptitude. The breadth and magnitude
of its errors are difficult, in the moment, to truly fathom. . . .
The U.S. has little excuse for its inattention. In recent decades,
epidemics of SARS, MERS, Ebola, H1N1 flu, Zika, and monkeypox showed
the havoc that new and reemergent pathogens could wreak.
Health experts, business leaders, and
even middle schoolers ran simulated exercises to game out the spread
of new diseases. In 2018, I wrote
an article for The Atlantic arguing that the U.S. was not ready
for a pandemic, and sounded warnings about the fragility of the
nation's health-care system and the slow process of creating a vaccine.
But the COVID-19 debacle has also touched -- and implicated -- nearly
every other facet of American society: its shortsighted leadership, its
disregard for expertise, its racial inequities, its social-media culture,
and its fealty to a dangerous strain of individualism. . . .
Despite its epochal effects, COVID-19 is merely a harbinger of worse
plagues to come. The U.S. cannot prepare for these inevitable crises if
it returns to normal, as many of its people ache to do. Normal led to
this. Normal was a world ever more prone to a pandemic but ever less
ready for one. To avert another catastrophe, the U.S. needs to grapple
with all the ways normal failed us. It needs a full accounting of every
recent misstep and foundational sin, every unattended weakness and
unheeded warning, every festering wound and reopened scar. . . .
Compared with the average wealthy nation,
America spends nearly twice as much of its national wealth on health
a quarter of which is wasted on inefficient care, unnecessary
treatments, and administrative chicanery. The U.S. gets
little bang for its exorbitant buck. It has the lowest life-expectancy
rate of comparable countries, the highest rates of chronic disease, and
the fewest doctors per person. This profit-driven system has scant incentive
to invest in spare beds, stockpiled supplies, peacetime drills, and layered
contingency plans -- the essence of pandemic preparedness. America's
hospitals have been pruned and stretched by market forces to run close
to full capacity, with little ability to adapt in a crisis. . . .
At times, Americans have seemed to collectively surrender to COVID-19.
The White House's coronavirus task force wound down. Trump resumed holding
rallies, and called for less testing, so that official numbers would be
rosier. The country behaved like a horror-movie character who believes
the danger is over, even though the monster is still at large.
Joe Biden has found his big idea: "It's not just about defeating
Donald Trump, but providing an off-ramp from this all-consuming political
moment." Still hard to get much of a grip on all this vacuousness. It
doesn't especially bother me if Biden doesn't come up with plans or
anything forward thinking until after the election, but the idea that
everything will be just fine if only we don't have Trump driving us
crazy almost daily seems a little myopic. While acting deliberately
may be too much to ask of a politician these days, shit happens, and
that means the president will have to react -- often, intelligently,
with care and maybe even cunning.
Kara Voght/Rebecca Leber:
Biden's pitch to voters: What America needs now is empathy: After
Trump, a little empathy seems like a good idea. Still, remind me of
the old George Burns quote: "The secret of acting is sincerity. If you
can fake that, you've got it made." Biden's been trading in empathy
his whole career, all the while voting for special interests. What we
really need is someone to show us that government is on the people's
side, doing things that help everyone in tangible ways. Republicans
deny that this is even possible, which gives them an excuse for being
so awful at it. Democrats, including Biden, have often gone along,
touting deregulation and "market solutions" and austerity. But the
thing is, in a world as complex and interconnected as ours has become,
you need institutions committed to the public interest, and you really
need them to work. Empathy may give you motivation to do that, but
there are other motivations available, like survival.
The Republican speakers at the Democratic convention, explained.
Half of this is on the left reaction. Mine may be muted because I
didn't watch it, but this strikes me as a good place to stake out a
big tent vision, and Republicans are useful props for that -- except
Colin Powell is a little shop-worn, and I sure wouldn't have set up
a tribute to John McCain. Where it might turn into a problem is if
late in the campaign Biden sacrifices Democrats down ballot to focus
on his campaign pitch to wavering Republicans. Hillary Clinton tried
that lose-lose strategy in 2016. Biden not only needs to win, he needs
a Democratic Congress to get anything done, and that's going to take
opposing and exposing Republicans for the scourges they are.
The unwarranted controversy over AOC's nomination of Bernie Sanders,
explained. It had been widely reported that her speech was limited
to 1 minute, but not that it was a pro forma nominating speech for
Sanders, so I guess I was confused too. To attack her for not endorsing
Biden in his nomination of Sanders was suggestive of people who want to
use Biden's win as an excuse to purge the left of the party. It would
have been smarter for the DNC to slot her elsewhere in a spot where
she could campaign for Biden, leaving the Sanders nominating speech to
Ban yachts: "They're floating castles of crime, polluting our air and
water." By the way, there's a striking passage in Paul Krugman's The
Conscience of a Liberal, pointing out that during the era of relative
equality in the 1950s/1960s (what he calls, in a phrase that surely will
not stand the test of time, "the great compression") when private yachts
were virtually unheard of -- in stark contrast both to the "roaring '20s"
In 2005, she sponsored and introduced legislation, the Postal Accountability
and Enhancement Act (PAEA), that required the USPS to pre-pay the next
50 years worth of health and retirement benefits for all of its employees --
a rule that no other federal agency must follow. As chair of the Senate
oversight panel at the time, she shepherded the bill's passage, along with
her House GOP counterpart Tom Davis, during a lame-duck session of Congress.
It passed by a voice vote without any objections -- a maneuver that gave
members little time to consider what they were doing.
The Israel-UAE deal puts the "forever" in "forever war": "What binds
Israel and its new Arab allies is not the threat from Iran but the
threat of the US military leaving the Middle East." That strikes me
as a useful insight -- one that should be more obvious given Trump's
vows to remove US troops from the region, and the lack of political
support within the Democratic Party for keeping them there. Reminds
me a bit of the 1970s Nixon-Kissinger scheme to promote Saudi Arabia
and Iran as regional proxies. (N-K wanted to correct the suspicion
that US resolve had been weakened by losing Vietnam, but everyone
understood they were acting from admitted weakness.) Hard to imagine
the US military ever leaving the region, but also seems inevitable.
Still, leaving the most brutal and corrupt regimes in the region to
run amuck in our stead doesn't seem like the best solution.
Donald Trump is losing his tech war with Xi Jinping. Lots of
interesting details here, but the big takeaway is that China has
a national economic plan which invests in world-class high tech
industries and is lifting itself to be a world leader, where the
US has a system (loosely speaking) of crony capitalism, where
privately-owned businesses (and not necessarily American ones)
can buy government favors but also gain much of their profits by
using low-cost labor and suppliers abroad, so their profits do
little (if anything) to help American workers, who (if anything)
get poorer in the bargain. One detail: in 2019, China applied
for more patents than the US. Over the last few decades, the main
thrust of American trade policy has been to force other countries
to pay intellectual property rents (to companies, not really to
America). China is now poised to capture the lion's share of that
income stream. I am very firm in my belief that patents are bad,
so my preference is to ban them everywhere. As the US sinks ever
lower in the patent tribute system, Americans should realize that
the patent system is a losing game. (Americans have long charged
China with cheating at that game, although the US didn't recognize
foreign patents back in the 19th century.)
What MLK and Malcolm X would do today: Interview with Peniel
Joseph, author of The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives
of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., a dual biography.
One of the things I write about Malcolm is that Malcolm is Black America's
prosecuting attorney, but he becomes the statesman. And Dr. King is the
defense attorney who becomes this pillar of fire. He becomes this man on
fire in the last several years of his life, and he's prosecuting and
castigating in a way that we never think about King.
At least 140 Western weather stations notched record highs in the past
10 days as a thermometer in California's Death Valley hit 130 degrees
Fahrenheit, one of the highest temperatures measured on Earth. Eighty
million U.S. residents are under excessive heat advisories. More than
35 wildfires are raging in California, burning 125,000 acres in the
San Francisco Bay area alone, threatening 25,000 businesses and homes
this week. Parts of the country are suffering drought conditions. And
in the Atlantic Ocean, a marine heat wave is fueling what is becoming
an unusually active storm season.
Protesters who camp out on state property, such as the activists who
have demonstrated for months outside the state Capitol against racial
injustice, could now face felony charges punishable by up to six years
in prison. Convicted felons are automatically stripped of their voting
rights in Tennessee.
The tragedy of Hillary Clinton. This piece probably belongs with the
DNC pieces above, as it is based on her speech there, but if I couldn't
banish her from the roster, at least I sequester her here. Even Klein
admits, "nothing ensures ignominy like failure," and Hillary's failure
was a monumental one: she lost to Donald Trump. What Klein doesn't admit
is that she uniquely lost to Trump because her unacknowledged faults
precisely clouded Trump's far greater ones. Take corruption for instance:
Trump could paint her as Crooked Hillary because he had bought favors
from her in the past. Clinton's Foundation underscored her nouveau greed
because Trump had his own Foundation (one that did even less to disguise
its crookedness). Klein dabbles in counterfactuals, suggesting we would
be much better off had Trump lost to Hillary. But while he relishes the
idea of Hillary holding press conferences filled with facts and sound
advice, Hillary would have found herself on top of a broken government
system she couldn't control, likely faced with a hostile Congress --
chances that her Democrats would have won the House in 2018 were close
to nil -- and media, still saddled with scandals she could never explain
away. So she handles coronavirus a bit better -- maybe 110,000 dead now
compared to 170,000 under Trump -- and the economy a bit worse (Congress
wouldn't have given her anything like the CARES Act Democrats gave Trump),
and she'd wind up looking hopeless for reelection. Maybe that's all just
so unfair. Maybe in a true meritocracy her talents could have won out.
But Clinton's big break, which let her win a Senate seat in a state she
didn't live in, parlay that into Secretary of State for the rival who
beat her, and corner the 2016 nomination with no opposition (except for
a Vermont socialist she almost lost to), was as unmerited as picking the
right guy to fuck, and sticking with him while he goes out and fucks so
many others. Their bond was always their addiction to power, and they've
never escaped that scent. It even overpowered Trump's stink, and that's
why she lost in 2016, and became useless to us forevermore.
Why Republicans are failing to govern: "Does Mitch McConnell want
Trump to be a one-term president?" Republicans have proposed as a next
stimulus step a "$1 trillion HEALS Act," but they don't seem to be
serious even about that -- it just gives them some talking room as
they try to blame their failures on the Democrats, who've passed a
$3.5 trillion dollar package in the House. Seems like there should be
a lot of room for compromise there, especially when the alternative
is nothing. Klein posits "four theories for the GOP's governance crisis":
It's Trump's fault.
Conservative thinking has no room for Covid-19.
They're worried about Tea Party 2.0.
They've given up on 2020, and many are looking toward 2024.
That brings me to the explanation for GOP behavior that is almost
unanimous among Senate Democrats I've spoken to. They believe Republicans
are readying themselves to run the strategy against former Vice President
Joe Biden they ran against President Obama: Weaponize the debt -- which
Republicans ran up by trillions during the Trump administration -- as a
cudgel against anything and everything the Democrats want to do. Force
Democrats to take sole ownership of an economic response that's too small
to truly counteract the pain.
If Republicans are behaving like an opposition party that primarily
wants to stop Democrats from doing anything, that's because it's the role
they're most comfortable playing, and one many of them expect to reprise
On Tuesday, the S&P 500 stock index hit a record high. The next day,
Apple became the first U.S. company in history to be valued at more than
$2 trillion. Donald Trump is, of course, touting the stock market as proof
that the economy has recovered from the coronavirus; too bad about those
173,000 dead Americans, but as he says, "It is what it is." . . .
Take the example of Apple, with its $2 trillion valuation. Apple has
a price-earnings ratio -- the ratio of its market valuation to its profits --
of about 33. One way to look at that number is that only around 3 percent
of the value investors place on the company reflects the money they expect
it to make over the course of the next year. As long as they expect Apple
to be profitable years from now, they barely care what will happen to the
U.S. economy over the next few quarters.
Another way to look at that price-earnings ratio is that investors
expect Apple to continue to make monopoly profits every one of the next
33 (or more) years. That's double the length of patents, so they're also
betting capitalism won't be very competitive in the next 33 years, that
the present cartelization will only deepen. There's nothing in history
to justify such expectations. Or another way to look at it is that rich
people today have way too much money, much more than they can invest in
actually producing things, so their only option left is to bid up the
price of assets only they can afford -- which offers the gratification
of making them appear to be even richer. Economists have a term for
that: bubble. Still, they only seem to be able to recognize one when
Trump, the mail and the unbinding of America: "The Postal Service
facilitates citizen inclusion. That's why Trump hates it." I suspect
that credits Trump with more depth than he has. He started railing
against the Post Office when he thought it was helping his arch-rival,
Jeff Bezos, so initially just another tantrum. Of course, he got even
more agitated when he discovered people could vote by mail. But Trump's
deeper problem with the USPS is basic Republican dementia: government =
bad; business = good; ergo hack government up and turn the pieces into
businesses, so they can figure out better ways to rip off customers and
feed the profits to the rich.
Trump's racist, statist suburban dream: "Racial inequality wasn't
an accident. It was an ugly political choice." This refers back to
Richard Rothstein's book, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of
How Our Government Segregated America, which is part of the story --
for more in that vein, see Ira Katznelson: When Affirmative Action
Was White: An Untold Story of Racial Injustice in Twentieth-Century
America -- but nowhere near all of it.
Republicans have politicized almost every aspect of American life.
I think this is true, and that it's had an adverse effect both on
society and on politics. Republicans might counter that Democrats
have been politicizing things too, but looked at case by case you'll
find that's usually in response to Republican polarization. The big
example is climate change, which an increasing number of Republicans
doubt and deny because doing so has become part of their political
identity. That wasn't the case 30 years ago, when the "ozone hole"
was recognized as a common problem needing a technical solution.
Gaza's health sector at risk as Israel's week-long airstrikes continue:
"Israel has been bombing Gaza for eight days straight, all as part of what
Israel says is a response to incendiary balloons sent from Gaza into
Israeli territory." First I've heard about it, which gives you a measure
of how Israel has routinized its arbitrary violence against Palestinians.
No doubt there's more to link to here:
Paul R Pillar:
Trump's schadenfreude foreign policy and its political appeal:
The German word means to take joy in the suffering of others. Aside
from highly touted arms sales, that's about the only return Trump has
managed in foreign policy, and if/when those weapons are used you can
count them too. Trump has dashed any delusions one might have hoped
for based on his campaign. The author of The Art of the Deal
seems consitutionally incapable of making any deals at all. (The only
one so far has been the NAFTA band-aid.) What's the point of sucking
up to Putin, Xi, and Kim except to negotiate deals to reduce conflict
and stabilize relations? All he's managed to do with Russia has been
to dismantle decades worth of arms limits agreements, leading to a
renewed arms race. (Which seems, by the way, to be ok with Russia,
as one of their few viable export industries is arms.) Elsewhere,
he's repeatedly broken things, while encouraging "allies" like UAE,
Saudi Arabia, and Israel to break even more. His withdrawal from
the Paris Accords shows that his Bad Neighbor Policy -- not official
term, but the suggested as the polar opposite of Franklin Roosevelt's
Good Neighbor Policy, an attempt to build some good will that proved
invaluable in WWII -- permeates all levels. Pillar is right to point
out that foreign policy is not a zero-sum game: hurting other people
and countries doesn't help America; it often hurts, and not just in
loss of reputation, trust and prestige. So why does Trump do it?
Pillar tip-toes around several theories, noting that his policies
are more likely rooted in his understanding of domestic politics
than in any concern for the rest of the world, and coming closest
to the mark with "Trump supporters disproportionately exhbit traits
that make them more likely to feel pleasure from someone else's
pain." There's a much shorter word for Trump's syndrome: sadism.
The only thing that restrains us from talking about his "sadistic
foreign policy" is the sheer amount of indifference and ineptness,
which blunts the pleasure sadists obtain from the pain of others.
On the other hand, schadenfreude is a bit too kind, as it implies
a degree of sorrow Trump is simply incapable of.
Steve Bannon charged with fraud over crowdfunding campaign for border
wall: "He and three others were charged with diverting hundreds of
thousands of dollars from the fundraising effort." The others were
Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato, and Timothy Shea, whose group is called
We Build the Wall. Not (yet) indicted is Advisory Board member Kris
Kobach. So is that because he's cooperating with the prosecution? Or
because he's so stupid he went along as a front without understanding
(much less getting a cut of) the real scam?
Kanye West is running for president -- seriously: He's getting on
the ballot in places like Ohio and Wisconsin. From what I've been able
to tell, his sole support comes from Republican operatives who won't
vote for him but hope he'll split some black votes away from Biden.
I seriously doubt he'll find many, or be any sort of a factor, but
he could kind of work as a "fuck it all" alternative to major party
candidates who are widely despised. Who he draws the most votes from
is so irrational it's impossible to predict. More: Ben Jacobs:
Kanye West's presidential campaign is both proceeding and unraveling.
Donald Trump has a serious dilemma. If Joe Biden loses in November,
he can go home and settle in as a party elder stateman, as defeated
nominees have often done. But if Trump loses, he faces years of
intensive investigations by Congress and, assuming he pardons himself,
years of investigations by state prosecutors, likely criminal indictments,
and possible conviction and imprisonment. The investigations also could
expose some of his children to legal peril. And Trump assets -- and
those of the Trump Organization -- will be vulnerable to government
seizure if New York state prosecutors and courts find that his past
actions were part of an organized enterprise engaged in criminal
activity. . . .
In Trump's view, this could be his ultimate deal. He agrees to accept
the election results and retire peacefully, but only if Biden and
Democratic congressional leaders agree to shelve future investigations
and forgo federal prosecutions of him and his family and associates --
and call on state prosecutors and attorneys general to do the same.
If Trump loses non-trivially, I don't see that he has much leverage.
I don't see how he can throw a fit and simply refuse to leave. I don't
know that he can pardon himself, but I have entertained the idea that
he might resign after November in expectation of a President Pence
pardon, following the Ford-Nixon precedent, possibly extending to his
family and company if not to all of his confederates. (I doubt he cares
much about them anyway.) That still leaves possible state prosecution,
and civil complaints. I'm not much impressed with the power of Congress
to investigate Trump, so I don't see much worry there. On the other
hand, Trump does have two pretty strong points in his favor. One is
that although there is a lot he could be indicted for, it's almost
inconceivable that he would ever be convicted by a jury that hadn't
been rigged. The second is that it sets a rather nasty precedent for
a new administration to criminally investigate its predecessor. As
far as I know, that's never been done in the US -- well, until Trump,
who currently has the DOJ investigating "Obamagate." Nixon deserved
jail, but spared that spent the rest of his life out of politics and
relatively harmless. (Not that eulogizing him didn't tarnish Clinton's
reputation.) Obama never prosecuted anyone in the Bush administration,
which effectively turned Bush's many faults into his own -- a huge
favor to the Republicans, and a huge drag on his own ability to make
changes. If Biden wins, he will inherit a mess even more huge than
Obama did, so it's very important that he remind people how much
this has been due to the mistakes and ill intentions of Trump and
his gang. So whatever he does about prosecuting Trump, we need to
make sure that the full extent of his crimes and scandals are aired.
Perhaps this is time for some sort of "truth and reconciliation"
commission? With it you could grant some degree of amnesty for
honest testimony. You should be careful about how this is set up,
but the emphasis should be on getting to the truth, and learning
from it, and not on petty revenge. For a cautionary piece on why
you need to keep people aware of truth, see Ari Rabin-Havt:
We shouldn't have to remind people George W Bush was a terrible
president. But we do.
How the US can fight corruption after Trump: Talking about foreign
policy here, although one reason the US has never done much about
limiting corruption abroad is that we tolerate so much of it at home.
The other reason, which isn't much touched on here, is that buying
off foreign officials is usually good for business (at least in the
short term, which with business is the only term that matters).
Did Putin have his top critic poisoned? "Here's why we may never
know." Alexei Navalny drank some tea, boarded a flight, landed in a
hospital in Omsk in a coma. If so, he wouldn't be the first Putin
critic poisoned (some others have been shot). For more:
How this year's primary season demonstrated the waning influence of
pro-Israel hawks: At least that's true within the Democratic Party,
where AIPAC efforts to purge Representatives critical of Israel have
largely failed. Most Democratic politicians are as obeisant as ever
to the Israel lobby, but rank-and-file voters have been drifting away
for years, partly as they recognize Israel as a racist warmongerer,
and partly as Netanyahu has personally aligned with the Republicans.
Biden was personally able to secure a pro-Israel plank in the Party
platform, but a more representative platform would have been a good
deal more critical.
After what seemed like a very long deliberation, Joe Biden selected
Kamala Harris as his running mate for vice president. The main takeaway
is that he'll listen to whatever the left wing of the party has to say,
but he's going to staff the government with people friendly with and
acceptable to business
interests. The New Democrat vision was to show that business is better
served with Democrats in power. Clinton and Obama worked hard to make
that case -- especially with trade deals like NAFTA and TTP that were
injurious and opposed by critically important traditional union allies.
While they were unable to convince most capitalists, they
did manage to break off enough support to run well-funded campaigns.
Biden fits neatly into their program -- if anything, he anticipated it,
coming from a state which is famed mostly for its lax corporate laws.
Against Donald Trump, he has the potential to raise a lot of big donor
money -- as long as he is seen as a buffer against, rather than as a
tool of, the insurgent left. The strongest VP candidate, based on her
campaign skills, organizational ability, and command of the issues and
policies, was Elizabeth Warren, but she's widely viewed in business
circles as antagonistic to their interests. Harris is not viewed as
hostile -- indeed, she's had tremendous success raising money in
Silicon Valley -- making her the safe (and lucrative) bet.
Reassuring big money donors is one big thing Harris brings to the
campaign. Her chuminess not only helps support Biden, it helps insulate
the campaign from charges of being a vehicle for far-left radicals --
the main charge that Trump's Republicans have been making. In particular,
Harris's reputation as a law-and-order hard case makes it clear that
"defund the police" and "abolish ICE" are not part of the Biden agenda,
quickly reducing a major thrust of Republican campaign fodder to the
hysterical ravings of deranged paranoids.
Biden's primary success was based on a hunch shared by many Democrats,
including some who policy-wise are more sympathetic to the left, that
this year, running against this exceptionally odious president, it is
important to risk as little as possible, to build a broad coalition
around the single essential goal of denying Trump a second term. The
early primary season turned on issues, with Sanders and Warren pulling
the party to the left with their strong command of issues and policy;
Buttigieg and Klobuchar countered as the most articulate candidates
on the right, squeezing out potential compromisers like Harris and
Booker. As Sanders emerged as the leader, the billionaires jumped in,
and Michael Bloomberg spent the better part of a billion dollars to
prove how virulently opposed to Sanders and Warren his class was.
Bloomberg had no personal appeal, but served as a catalyst, aligning
the party rank-and-file's deepest seated fears into a surge of support
for Biden. Had she not dropped out, Harris might have become the
middle-ground candidate that Biden turned into. But having dropped
out, she returns to the campaign largely unscathed.
Biden committed to selecting a woman early on. Thus far, the
only person who has found that decision controversial has been
Donald Trump. There has been a good deal of discussion about race,
which mostly struck me as misguided and/or irrelevant. I admit
that I didn't see any advantage to Biden picking a black running
mate. I figured doing so might cost him more white voters than it
otherwise gained -- mostly because his own history on race and/or
crime issues is rather tawdry, which may have helped him gain
white votes, especially in Southern primaries. On the other hand,
Harris is a brilliant solution to the question: she is the sort
of black that iffy whites would find least stereotypical -- traits
Obama shared, but her even more so -- yet she is black enough to
provoke hideous reactions among more committed racists, who were
solidly pro-Trump anyway. If anything has been made clear from
first reactions, it's that Trump and his ilk are the ones trying
to stir up America's race problem.
One reason Obama won was that he made it possible for many iffy
whites to feel good about themselves for rising above their racist
past. In picking Harris, Biden shows that he's better than that.
In slandering Harris, Trump shows that he's not. That's hardly the
only clear cut distinction between the two, but it sure is one of
Some background, referred or alluded to in the links that follow.
Harris was born in 1964 in Oakland, California. Her parents were
both immigrants, who came to UC Berkeley in 1960-61 as graduate
students, received PhD's, and had distinguished careers. Her
father is Donald J. Harris, from Jamaica, professor of economics
at Stanford, now emeritus (age 81). Her mother was Shyamala Gopalan,
from Tamil Nadu, India, studied endocrinology, and worked on breast
cancer research in various universities and labs, including Lawrence
Berkeley National Laboratory. She died in 2009 (70). They had two
daughters, and divorced in 1971. The daughters lived with their
mother, including several years in Montreal, Canada. Kamala graduated
from high school in Quebec, then attended Howard University in DC,
then UC Hastings College of Law. She was admitted to the Bar in 1990,
working in the Alameda County DA office, then in San Francisco (DA
and Mayor's Office). She was elected San Francisco District Attorney
in 2003 and 2007, California Attorney General 2010 and 2014, and was
elected to the US Senate in 2016.
Is Kamala Harris a hawk? Well, she's not the worst (that would be
Susan Rice), but she's consistently gone along with US foreign policy,
and occasionally "even attacked Trump from the right."
I used to be critical of Kamala Harris. Now I am going to defend her
at every turn. I wouldn't go that far. If you don't criticize her
when she takes a bad position on an issue you care about, how the hell
is she ever going to learn? But I've long had a certain amount of
sympathy for politicians. They have a tough job, one that few people
I know would envy. They are constantly being berated by the ignorant,
and seduced by rich special interests. Their lives are far removed
from most of their constituents, yet many of them at least try to
balance off their influences and the consequences of their actions,
and some on occasion learn from their mistakes. Harris strikes me
as about par for Democrats these days -- and, sure, Biden is a bit
below par -- but neither have parked their brains into the ideological
straitjacket of Republican conservatism, and both have backgrounds
which at least allow them to imagine what other people feel. Granted,
most of the people they interact with are well-heeled elites, and
their instincts are not to rock those boats, so I don't expect they
will do anything very risky, even if that's what is needed. But if
they manage not to do things that are horribly stupid, we'll come
out ahead. And for now, that's about all we can ask of politicians.
Still, we shouldn't be so protective of them we stop seeking better
understanding and better answers. Citizenship doesn't need a fan
club. It needs people to stand up for their rights, even when a
Democrat gets in the way.
In an email on Wednesday night, the campaign sought to fund-raise off
Ms. Harris's selection, calling her "the meanest, most horrible, most
disrespectful, MOST LIBERAL of anyone in the U.S. Senate," saying she
and Mr. Biden wanted to "DESTROY America."
A new ad released by the campaign ran through a list of accusations
against Ms. Harris, several of them false, saying she wanted to "confiscate
your guns by force" and "give cop killers a pass" -- more conventional
Republican attempts to stir passions on public safety and social change.
But that flag was not being waved by the campaign's usual echo chambers.
Instead, there were disparate messages. On Tuesday night, Mr. Carlson said
that there were "time-share salesmen you could trust more" than Ms. Harris
and "payday lenders who are more sincere," alluding to an institution long
accused of exploiting poor communities of color.
On Fox News, Mr. D'Souza said that because Ms. Harris's Jamaican father
had traced his ancestry to a slave owner, her racial identity as a Black
woman was in question.
The Fox News host Sean Hannity, meanwhile, called Ms. Harris a senator
with a "radical extremist record" whose selection "solidifies what's the
most extreme radical far-left out-of-the-mainstream ticket of any major
political party in American history."
I really find this "destroy America" charge galling coming from
Republicans. The America I grew up in was one where a middle-class
standard of living was protected by labor unions, where infrastructure
was either owned by the public or conscientiously regulated to protect
the public interest. It wasn't perfect. Some people were excluded, and
some were treated shabbily, but the country was founded in ideals that
promised something better. That's been destroyed, most enthusiastically
by Republicans (and sure, with help from more than a few Democrats, but
rarely with the same utter lack of concern for consequences). So what
exactly is it that they think Biden-Harris want to destroy? And why?
It's just really hard to figure out what's left, still unscathed by the
depredations of unfettered capitalism, that the Democrats may uniquely
want to diminish. The best I can come up with is a tiny atavistic kernel
of white male ego, but even I can't figure out why that's something to
care about, let alone reason to vote for a party that doesn't seem to
care a whit for the environment, for health and safety, for workers and
their families, for civic and world peace.
Natasha Korecki/Christopher Cadelago/Marc Caputo:
How Kamala Harris outflanked her skeptics to become Biden's VP pick.
This pegs Harris, Susan Rice, and Karen Bass as the final contenders,
with Tammy Duckworth in the running late. One concern about Duckworth
was that she was born in Thailand, where her father was stationed in
the US Army.
Harris's special touch with the ultra-rich has been integral to her
political ascent in San Francisco, where she first served as district
attorney before her statewide wins as attorney general and then US
senator. Harris was a regular presence on the city's cocktail circuit
and has been profiled in society pages ever since her 30s. Her campaigns
were funded by the old-money families that predated the modern tech boom.
When that boom did arrive, Harris capitalized and built an orbit of
new-money fans that she will further bring into the Biden fold. Her
biggest donors over the last two decades read like a who's who list of
tech moguls: Salesforce founder Marc Benioff has told Recode that Harris
is "one of the highest integrity people I have ever met." Early Facebook
president Sean Parker invited Harris to his wedding. Fundraisers for her
presidential bid included billionaire Democratic power brokers like Reid
Hoffman and John Doerr.
Chris Lehane, a longtime adviser to Bay Area donors, recalled Harris
as a "workhorse" when it came to making fundraising calls during her
first run for California attorney general in 2009.
"She'd work the whole list," he said, "and then ask for more names."
One particularly close bond for Harris has been with Democratic mega-donor
Laurene Powell Jobs, the billionaire philanthropist and wife of the late
Steve Jobs. When Powell Jobs was invited to speak at the annual Code
Conference in 2017, she brought Harris along with her.
Jeffrey St Clair:
Roaming charges: It had to be you: In case you want some obscure
facts to go with the snark. Like Trump contributed $6,000 to Harris
campaigns in 2011 and 2013, and Ivanka gave Harris $2,000 in 2014.
Links to Nate Silver's
2020 Presidential forcast, which gives Trump the same 28% chance of
winning he had in 2016 against Hillary Clinton. By the way, I find the
"snake chart" particularly useful here for identifying the marginal
battleground states, as well as providing rank orders on either side.
Right now, the swing state is Pennsylvania, which is much more
reassuring than Florida or Arizona (both shows as leaning Biden,
but not needed to get to 270).
Kamala Harris's foreign policy, explained: "It's more robust than
you might think." Curious choice of word: "robust." It's as utterly
conventional as you might guess, with happy talk about allies, snarling
at Russia and China, routine support for "defense" spending, the usual
pledge of allegiance to Netanyahu, and a token nod acknowledging that
climate change is something to worry about. Her most unorthodox move
was to vote to limit arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Something I just keeping back to over and over is the tremendous
continuity between the last two Republican presidents, both of whom
left the country in ruins, amidst historic catastrophes. The entire
party and movement are rotten to the core and unfit to govern.
And yet Democratic politcians never say this -- mainstream Dems don't
want to insult Republican voters, while progressive Dems are so angry
at mainstream Dems that they lose sight of the sheer godawfulness of
A novel way to fund a green economy: "Instead of bailing out Exxon
and other fossil fuel companies, a National Investment Authority could
democratize finance and help ordinary people and their governments fight
The government has been pretty kind to fossil fuel companies these last
few months. Recent disclosures from the Federal Reserve's secondary
bond-buying program show that it has now bought $17 billion worth of
ExxonMobil debt and $28.5 million from Energy Transfer Partners, the
company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline. Private asset manager Blackrock
oversees this purchasing program, among others.
Blackrock, with friends in both parties, is on the verge of becoming
a fourth branch of government. Despite its pledge in early 2020 to
recalibrate investment practices with climate change in mind, so far
on behalf of the Fed it has seemed to offer up nearly unlimited public
funds to bail out the world's biggest polluters. These investments serve
as a lifeline to a deeply troubled and increasingly unprofitable industry.
Meanwhile, state and local governments -- and the millions of people
who'll soon lose their unemployment insurance -- have found bailouts
much harder to come by. And hopes for a green recovery (which an
increasingly large swathe of the Democratic Party supports to stave
off depression and climate catastrophe) look alarmingly scarce.
The helpless outrage of the anti-Trump book: "The Trump era has birthed
a distinct new genre of political writing: irate, forgettable, and strangely
complacent." Review of Donald W Drezner: The Toddler in Chief: What
Donald Trump Teaches Us About the Modern Presidency, and Jonathan Karl:
Front Row at the Trump Show, with side glances elsewhere. I'm struck
by a quote from long-time ABC White House correspondent Karl (previously
known for his "reputation for pitching softballs to Bush Administration
officials"): "I don't believe there has ever been a more exhausting,
exhilarating, dangerous, maddening, frustrating, downright bizarre,
or more important time to be a White House reporter." I'm sure that
dealing with Trump on a daily basis can seem to be all of those things --
except important: nothing Trump says has any bearing on the stories
journalists should be telling about his administration, and detracts
from their ability to do so.
Could covert war with Iran become overt before November 3rd?.
I doubt it, but the scenario I wouldn't put past Pompeo goes like this:
Trump loses, but is still in office until January, and uses that period
of time to launch various offenses against Iran. Iran, in turn, will be
tempted to hold back until Biden takes office, hoping for restoration
of US support for the nuclear agreement; Iran's failure to retalliate
will be taken by Trump as license to escalate further. Note that some
of the attacks could be facilitated by proxies, like the new UAE-Israel
What is QAnon? A not-so-brief introduction to the conspiracy theory
that's eating America: "Do millions of Americans really believe
Donald Trump is saving children from underground demons? It seems
that way." I admit that I never had any interest in even finding out
what QAnon referred to. Still don't, even after often reading that
Trump's most fervent supporters are psyched on whatever it is. Even
if it weren't nuts, I doubt it would ever have a fraction of the
ill-effects of believing in Atlas Shrugged. Or, for that
matter, The Road to Serfdom. The old mental illnesses are
still the direst.
America's death march: Whoever wins, this election won't save us:
"Neither [Biden nor Trump] will stop hyper-nationalism, crisis cults
and other signs of an empire in terminal decline." I hate coming off
as an optimist, but Hedges has turned into a useless critic of modern
life, like the existentialists around the time I stopped bothering
with them. There are gross malaises that Hedges may still have some
insight into, but there's also a lot of nuts-and-bolts dysfunction
that even Biden can figure out and do something to keep utter chaos
and collapse at bay -- like keeping the Post Office delivering mail.
Halting global warming and unwinding America's worldwide "empire of
bases" may be a bit harder, and Biden doesn't have the best of track
records, but even there the election decision will surely have some
How the GOP became the party of resentment: Review of Rick Perlstein's
book Reaganland, the fourth volume in what promises to be an immense
history of American conservatism from Goldwater on. (I've read the second
volume, Nixonland. Been meaning to get to the others, but I'm daunted
by their length -- over 3,000 pages to date.)
Most candidates run to the center in the general election. Biden is
moving left. Title is misleading, as the only criteria Klein is
using is where the VP picks stands in relation to the Presidential
candidate (Clinton-Kaine, Obama-Biden, Kerry-Edwards, Gore-Lieberman),
and depend on making assumptions that may not be warranted. The first
three VP's came from more centrist states, but if anything came off
as more populist (especially Edwards). Lieberman came from a more
liberal state, and was probably viewed as more liberal than Gore at
the time, but he later discredited himself. Harris is from a more
liberal state than Biden, but isn't all that liberal for California.
On the other hand, the left-right spectrum has shifted this time,
with Trump so extreme on the right it's nonsensical to even try to
split the difference. I don't expect Biden to try to move left, but
some left-aligned policies are so popular there's no reason not to
go with them. If Harris looks to be a bit to his left, I don't see
how that hurts him.
What would Keynes do? Podcast/interview with Zach Carter, author
of The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard
For Keynes, there's always something outside of consumer preferences
that they need to align with. There's always a good life and a good
society that we're trying to guide society towards. He believes there
are objectively good things in the world, that not everything is
relative, that not everybody's preferences are equal. That is a
paternalistic approach, as you note.
The way that his successors who take him seriously as a philosopher
try to resolve this -- and I think [John Kenneth] Galbraith is the most
successful in this -- is to say this is what democracy is for. We don't
want to have big, bad, terrible monarch telling us what to do. But in a
democracy people can express their preferences politically. And using
the market as an alternative to democratic politics is signing us up
for a particularly bad life. . . .
[Keynes] could never really make up his mind about where he was on
the question of socialism, but it was very clear to him by the end of
his life that large sections of the economy had to be socialized if we
were going to realize the type of good life that he wanted realized.
In the States, we think of him as this guy who legitimizes deficit
spending. In the UK, he has a very different legacy: his most significant
policy achievement in the UK is socializing British medicine. He's the
financial architect of the National Health Service.
An inland hurricane tore through Iowa. You probably didn't hear about
it. Gusts of up to 112 mph did considerable damage, leaving a
quarter-million without power. There is some video from Chicago showing
heavy rain, but no other mention of it. I've seen completely dry wind
storms in Kansas, with winds in the vicinity of 80 mph. They are very
rare. I've seen hurricanes from the Gulf of Mexico dump a lot of rain
in Kansas, and I've read that the 1900 Galveston hurricane still
produced hurricane-force winds as far inland as Chicago, but this
wasn't one of those.
The Never Trumpers have already won: "They're not trying to save the
GOP from a demagogue. They're infiltrating the Democratic Party." Review
of Robert P Saldin/Steven M Teles: Never Trump: The Revolt of the
Exceptionally close to the Never Trump insurgency, Saldin and Teles
take a cozy approach to their study of this movement and its central
characters, faithfully drawing on their accounts of the rise of Trump.
They start with the national security experts -- figures such as former
National Security Council staffers Peter Feaver and Philip Zelikow.
Officially, this stalwart crew feared that Trump threatened the Cold
War national security consensus that had once led conservatives beyond
geopolitical "isolationism." Views once safely quarantined to the
libertarian or racist fringes of their party were now getting a second
look, they worried.
Their concern here was hardly disinterested: More important than
anything else for them was that Trump was breaking the taboo within
the Republican Party that forbade calling the Iraq War a gross error.
That Never Trumpers were more bothered by Trump's apostasy on Iraq
than by his racism, self-dealing, and ignorance of the Constitution
makes sense. However, it doesn't necessarily follow that their revolt
against Trump has won them much influence in the Democratic Party --
where second thoughts on Iraq, for instance, is now the norm even
among those who originally voted to authorize the war. It is true
that they have reinforced the view among Democratic hawks that it is
safest to attack Trump over foreign policy issues, especially when
they can paint him as doing favors for Russia. But that's not because
they've cultured any support among rank-and-file Democrats. All they
did was to sway a few centrists into thinking that they might pick up
support among nominal Republicans for impeachment and such if the
issues were defined strictly in national security terms. That never
worked, other than to sidetrack Democrats from pressing more popular
charges, like corruption and gross negligence. By the way, Saldin
and Teles wrote a reply to this review:
Don't blame Never Trumpers for the left's defeat. They have a
point, provided you don't count Michael Bloomberg among the Never
Trumpers -- although you could argue that he was the biggest one
of all, especially in a world where free speech is denominated in
Trump's "blasphemous" attacks on Biden were torn from the Republican
hymnal: "The president's pearl-clutching critics have forgotten
how defaming Democrats' faith is a longstanding tradition for the
GOP." Still, no examples here further back than 2012 -- I expected
at least a reference to the Republicans' characterization of the
Democratic Party in the 1880s: "The party of rum, Romanism, and
rebellion." After all, charging your opponent with antipathy to
religion just exposes your own bigotry and intolerance. Nwanevu
quotes Ashley Parker: "Rather than look for campaign ammunition
in the former vice president's long track record of politically
vulnerable votes and policy proposals, Trump has instead chosen
to describe Biden as a godless Marxist bent on destroying the
country with a radical agenda that would make Che Guevara blanch."
At least those are charges that require no work researching, or
any measure of self-reflection.
Israel and the UAE just struck a historic peace deal. It's a big win
for Trump. Hard to see where Trump deserves any credit here. As
a practical matter, Israel has been very low on UAE's foreign policy
list for quite some time, so joining Egypt and Jordan in recognizing
Israel isn't much of a thing. Perhaps more importantly, this gives
Netanyahu an excuse for backing away from his campaign promises to
annex the West Bank -- which are disturbing especially in Europe,
where BDS is increasingly popular.
But at the heart of the agreement is a trade: As the statement lays out,
Israel will "suspend declaring sovereignty over" parts of the West Bank
that it had previously expressed intentions to annex. In exchange, the
UAE will treat Israel as it would any other country it has friendly
relations with -- making it only the third Arab country to have such
open relations with Jerusalem.
PS: Robert Christgau forwarded this string of tweets from John Ganz
(@lionel_trolling). I couldn't follow it as presented, so wondered if
copying it down might help. Christgau's comment:
Read the five-part thread, reread a few of your political tweets,
and ask yourself whether he nailed you or not. If you find that
question discomfiting, please try to err on the side of not being
contrarian till the election is over.
There's also a kind of anti-respectability politics, which views
everything that appeals to conventional people as either hopelessly
naive and dowdy or thoroughly hypocritical, and sometimes as both
Usually this attitude is fostered in bohemian milieus, where a
shared commitment to 'epater les bourgeois' and cultivated
anti-conformism mistakes itself for political principle, it's almost
beneath mentioning that it becomes its own sort of conformism
You get an importation of the intellectual habits of art criticism
and social appraisal into politics, in some ways a welcome new
perspective for political judgment to consider, but have the
unfortunate result of turning everything into a question of affect or
There is always a performative aspect of politics, it's a kind of
theater, so the eye trained to either judge artistic or social
performances is going to make very witty and sometimes penetrating
observations about politics, but usually they have more wit than
Politics, or rather commentary on politics, is one of the last
places where people can maintain the very 19th century pretension of
being simultaneously totally ensconced in a tiny elite cult of
decadence while convincing themselves they understand the feelings of
There are also some comments by Ganz:
Some of the points of the bohemian political commentators are
undoubtedly correct: much of conventional society and its ruling class
are hypocritical and stupid, and their vaunted norms both hide their
misconduct and prevent them from thinking
But they don't really have much of substantial position beyond
seeing through these things and flaunting their own superiority to it
Very fond of armchair sociology, they can't raelly theorize their
own sociological position vis a vis the squares and dupes and how they
need them for their existence
It's histrionic in the old sense of the word: a kind of theater of
poses and attitudes, which might provide worthwhile critique of the
serious world that is actually just as full of pretense, if it could
drop its own pretense to self-seriousness and authenticity
Well, no, I don't think he "nailed" me. I don't even think he struck
a glancing blow. Although it's hard to tell what he was aiming at, due
to the total lack of specific references. I don't doubt that there are
strands of socio-political analysis that reflect one clique making fun
of, belittling, and/or looking askance at a broader population, scoring
points with their wit. At least since I started reading critical theory,
I've always been critical of trying to understand, much less practice,
politics as an aesthetic concern. In fact, I'm pretty skeptical of
anyone who attempts to impose an arbitrary ethics on it.
I have no idea what kind of political analysis Christgau wants to
counter, but I can make a guess given his time frame: from now to the
November election. On a good day, you can imagine an infinite range
of political possibilities, and that's what people like me prefer to
talk about. I'd like to write about why patents are always bad, or
why everyone should have free access to the internet, and advertising
should be banned there (except when you specifically ask for its, and
even then you need to ability to challenge it). However, between now
(roughly speaking) and election day in November, the political universe
we live in has radically constricted to the choices on the ballots, in
particular the two dominant political parties here in the US). During
that time, the only practical thing you can do is to compare A and B
(or, realistically, R and D) -- or, at least, that's the position of
people who are totally invested in the election to the exclusion of all
else. I'm not generally disposed to do that. In particular, I want to
reserve the option of saying when both sides are in the wrong -- and I
swear to you, I'm not being contrarian; there is always some underlying
principle at stake. And those principles are grounded in serious thought;
they're not just things that strike my aesthetic fancy.
Of course, politics isn't just voting. If, between now and November,
cops kill yet another unarmed black teenager for no reason, I'm not
going to tell you not to go march, even if I suspect doing so might
reflect poorly on the election. It might even be a good idea to put
a march together in Washington for funding for the USPS, unemployment,
to stop evictions, etc. (a good time might be during the so-called
Republican Convention, but not at wherever it's supposed to be -- not
to draw attention to them but to take away from their news cycle).
And sure, take it easy on the Democrats until November. If they win,
you'll have plenty of occasion to critique them in the future, but at
least you'll be starting in a better place. And if they lose, you'll
need them more than ever.
One thing I've noticed here but don't have the time or patience to
try to unpack is that a significant share of the articles below look
ahead to after the November election -- usually assuming that Trump
will be defeated, some allowing for the possibility that Trump will
cheat massively and produce a disputed result. This was bound to
happen sooner or later, but this soon is a bit surprising. Maybe
it's because the whole year is something we can't wait to get over
Some of the future articles imagine a chance for the Republican
Party to reform itself after the Trump debacle, but I don't see
that happening any time soon -- in large part thanks to the speed
with which the Party recovered after the 2008 debacle. In many
ways, Democrats will find it harder to function after winning
than Republicans will -- especially if their victory isn't deep
enough to capture both houses of Congress, allowing Republicans
to obstruct their efforts, and Fox to blame those losses on the
Finally, some pieces start to look at where the economy is headed --
not so much after the pandemic but along with it. Had I tried to
speculate on that 4-6 months ago, I no doubt would have come up with
little more than reassertions of what I had long been thinking. Now
I'm less certain than ever.
Biden's date for announcing his VP pick is August 10. Good to get
this posted before then.
Biden personally intervened to get the word 'occupation' removed from
the Democratic Party platform: I don't discount the significance
of one's views on Israel-Palestine as a test of political principles,
but as a practical matter in a contest between Biden and Trump, and
more generally between the parties, dropping it from the platform,
and inserting some pablum, doesn't bother me. Biden isn't stuck in
Sheldon Adelson's pocket, and he's not going to owe anything to the
fundamentalist Christian apocalypse-mongers backing Trump. After
the election, he'll have options based on future events, which he
may or may not respond to constructively. But at this point, Israel
has gone so far down its racist-militarist apartheid path that it's
hard to see the US having any real influence (as if it ever has).
Elsewhere, it's more important that the US disengage from its own
occupations and interventions. Dismantling systemic racism and
militarism at home would also help, perhaps more than anything
else. Israel has chosen to follow its own rogue path, but that
choice has always been easier with the US as a model. Take that
away, and maybe Israel will start to realize the folly of its
path. In the long run, all nations have to change of their own
accord -- even the ones the US is so obsessed with bending to
its will, like North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, Russia, and China.
If anything, there is a sense that many in the Trump administration
and its allies across the country want public education to fail. For
example, Kansas City Metropolitan charter and private schools received
between $19.9 million and $55.9 million from the Paycheck Protection
Program (PPP), program whereas Kansas City Public Schools received
Superhawk Elliott Abrams named Special Envoy on Iran: Most recently,
he's been Special Envoy for Venezuela, a job he's made a total mess of.
Disasters are nothing new for Abrams. Ever since he got out of jail for
his role in Reagan's Iran-Contra scandal, he's using his foreign policy
clout to make things worse -- especially his tenure as GW Bush's top dog
on Israel-Palestine. More on Abrams:
The unexpected past, the unknown future: It could have been different:
Nostalgia for the bad old days, just following 9/11, when the Bushies
thought all they had to do to rule the world was "to take the gloves
off." Engelhardt resisted that idea from its inception, and if he's
ever been wrong, it was to underestimate how bad it might get.
The anti-election party: "Trump's threat to delay the election over
mail-in ballots is consistent with decades of anti-voter campaigns by
Facebook took down a Trump post for the first time. Trump claimed
that "children are almost -- and I would almost say definitely -- but
almost immune from this disease [Covid-19]." Not true, and dangerously
so, but Trump got to play the victim, as one of his flacks put it:
"Another day, another display of Silicon Valley's flagrant bias
against this President, where the rule are only enforced in one
For years, Trump has made false claims on Facebook; in recent months,
he has made incorrect statements about topics such as mail-in voting
and former Vice President Joe Biden's platform on policing. Independent
fact-checkers that are part of Facebook's fact-checking network have
flagged these posts as incorrect on their own sites, but Facebook has
not labeled them as such on its platform because its rules exempt
politicians from being fact-checked. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has
repeatedly said that he does not want his company to be an "arbiter of
truth" and that the company does not fact-check political speech.
Susan B Glasser:
"Mr President, what are your priorities?" is not a tough question:
"Trump is running for reëlection, but, unlike four years ago, he can't
even say why." Reduced to red hat slogans, he wants to keep America as
great as it became the moment he was elected and inaugurated in 2017,
which by definition will cover four more years. Why can't people grasp
that? I mean, aside from the fact that none of the people are Donald
Trump's vapid answer is more than a reflection of a political-messaging
dilemma -- it's a sign of decline, both in terms of the President's
ability to respond cogently to a simple query and as a warning for
American democracy, given that such a large segment of the electorate
apparently finds it acceptable to support a leader whose only campaign
selling point is himself. Is Trump's inability to come up with something
to say about the next four years a reflection of the fact that even he
thinks he is going to lose? Perhaps, but it's also a measure of how far
Trump has descended into full "l'état, c'est moi"-ism. Running
for reëlection without offering even a hint of a program is a sure
indicator of at least aspirational authoritarianism.
John F Harris:
Donald Trump has the sole authority to blow up the world. It is madness
to let him keep it. Madness to give any president solo authority,
much less one who seems incapable of understanding what nuclear weapons
can do, yet who seems fascinated with finding out. Thought about filing
this under Hiroshima (below), but decided this is a current issue, not
history. One thing that keeps is current is how completely Trump has
dismantled arms limitation treaties with Russia. Also how he's approved
the plan to spend a trillion dollars rebuilding America's nuclear
arsenal. I sometimes wonder what else Trump can do to destroy the
country before leaving office, and this is high on the list.
Present absences: Review of Rashid Khalidi's new book, The
Hundred Years' War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism
and Resistance, 1917-2017, selecting the Balfour Declaration
as his arbitrary starting point, no doubt cognizant that the "war"
isn't over at a mere century.
Why the United States invaded Iraq: Review of Robert Draper's
new book, To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America
Into Iraq. Seems like there should be more here on Afghanistan,
but for Bush, Cheney, et al., war with Iraq was predetermined, and
if anything Afghanistan just slowed them down a bit. One thing here
I previously missed was the 1998 "Rumsfeld Commission," where Congress
gave "Donald Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and other hawks . . . a high-profile
platform" to fantasize about and play up the Iraqi threat. Draper
also "presents the former CIA director George Tenet in a particularly
unflattering light, suggesting that he made up for his frustrations
with Bill Clinton by excess ("slam dunk") enthusiasm for GW Bush.
If Draper expertly dissects the ferocious turf battles that took place
within the administration over the war, he does not really seek to set
it in a wider context other than to note rather benignly that "the story
I aim to tell is very much a human narrative of patriotic men and women
who, in the wake of a nightmare, pursued that most elusive of dreams:
finding peace through war." But there was more to it than that. Thanks
to Donald Trump's bungling, Bush may be benefiting from a wave of nostalgia
for his presidency. But he was criminally culpable in his naïveté and
incuriosity about the costs and consequences of war. At the same time,
Cheney and Rumsfeld were inveterate schemers whose cynicism about going
to war was exceeded only by their ineptitude in conducting it.
The elusive horror of Hiroshima: It's the 75th anniversary of our
rude awakening to the atomic age. This refers back to John Hersey's
early reporting of the bomb's devastation -- you can read Hersey's
here. I previously wrote about Hiroshima and Nagasaki on their
Thinking about the unthinkable. I also wrote an earlier piece in the
August 6, 2005 notebook.
Some more on Hiroshima:
Sleepwalking into the atomic age: "The decision to bomb Hiroshima
wasn't a decision at all." Basically what I think, although I haven't
had time to read this closely. It's interesting that some scientists
do actually seem to have understood what they were opening up, but no
way someone like Harry Truman did. His "decision" was driven by inertia,
and rationalized well after the fact. Of course, his rationalizations
weren't very good, or very helpful.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Excerpt from Raico's essay on Harry Truman
in John V Denson, ed: Reassessing the Presidency: The Rise of the
Executive State and the Decline of Freedom.
Richard J Samuels:
Why the US dropped atomic bombs on Japan: This piece doesn't even
try to answer that question, but in reviewing Marc Gallicchio's book,
Unconditional: The Japanese Surrender in World War II, it suggests
that even before the end of the US-Soviet alliance in WWII the Cold War
was developing in Washington, largely fueled by Republicans who saw red
baiting as a way to battle back against New Deal reforms. The book no
doubt has more on the internal discussions on surrender. In the end,
the US backed away from its unconditional surrender demand and allowed
Emperor Hirohito to be spared. Had that allowance been communicated
earlier, it's possible that the war could have ended before the atom
bombs were dropped, and before the Soviet Union declared war on Japan
and fatefully invaded Manchuria and Korea, but no one was operating
with a clear understanding of the other. That's usually the case in
Michael Krimmage/Matthew Rojansky:
The problem with Putinology: "We need a new kind of writing about
Russia." Primarily a review of Catherine Belton's Putin's People:
How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West, which
exemplifies the "old kind of writing," which trades in paranoia over
Russia's evil designs to cripple and dominate the West -- easy enough
to sell in America given the legacy and continuing hegemony of Cold
War propaganda. The authors counter some of this, but don't go very
far -- they certainly don't want to be dismissed as pro-Putin. It's
easy for us to be critical of Putin, but we forget what a disaster
Russia faced in the 1990s under Boris Yeltsin. With the old regime
discredited, Yeltsin turned state-owned enterprises over to a set of
underworld figures who emerged as more-or-less criminal oligarchs.
Putin's principal task was the bring the oligarchs back from anarchy,
which he did in classic Mafia manner by becoming capo di tutti capi.
He wrapped his move by playing up nationalism, but he's more often
been a limit against the ultra-nationalist opposition, which really
does want to restore Russia's imperial greatness by recovering the
periphery lost in 1991. He's also embraced the usual center-right
power bases, like the church and the military. And he hasn't always
respected the tenets of liberal democracy, but that's partly because
they've never really taken root in Russia, and also because the left
has never been able to form a credible opposition to Putin (remnants
of the Communist Party are so wrapped up in nostalgia that they
often wind up to Putin's right). Of course, America doesn't really
care about Putin strong-arming his opponents -- even the tiny slice
devoted to America's vision of neoliberalism. Rather, they cannot
abide Russia doing business with countries on America's shit list,
like Syria, Iran, and Venezuela. The fact is that Russia has few
opportunities to form bonds abroad, and standing up to American
bullying is still a popular stance in Russia. This situation only
gets worse as American foreign policy gets ever more self-centered
and myopic -- a trend that Trump has added a few new twists to but
has been the rule since GW Bush decided to lead his Global War on
Terror. The art to diplomacy is the ability to see what's important
to the other side, and compromises which deliver more than half a
loaf to both sides. Simply demanding that the other side bow over
and submit has never worked very well (or for very long), and is
even more ridiculous given America's declining stature with the
rest of the world. A positive step here would be to start showing
some respect for Putin, which doesn't necessarily mean glossing
over his crimes, just putting them in context.
The Jakarta method: How the US used mass murder to beat Communism:
Review of Vincent Bevins' book, The Jakarta Method: Washington's
Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program That Shaped Our
World. Aside from the brutal wars in Korea and Vietnam, and I
suppose in Afghanistan and Iraq, I've long felt that Indonesia's
anti-communist purge in 1965-66 was the single most reprehensible
event in American foreign policy.
The unique US failure to control the virus: "Slowing the coronavirus
has been especially difficult for the United States because of its
tradition of prioritizing individualism and missteps by the Trump
administration." Also of prioritizing business over all other aspects
of human life.
Bannon and Trump got the emotions right. They understood that Republican
voters were no longer motivated by a sense of hope and opportunity; they
were motivated by a sense of menace, resentment and fear. At base, many
Republicans felt they were being purged from their own country -- by the
educated elite, by multiculturalism, by militant secularism. . . . It
would have been interesting if Trump had governed as a big-government
populist. But he tossed Bannon out and handed power to Jared Kushner
and a bunch of old men locked in the Reagan paradigm. We got bigotry,
incompetence and tax cuts for the wealthy.
Of course, Trump to offer Republican populists, beyond his own
emotions as someone as hated and degraded by those elites as was his
base -- yet that never came off as sympathy, only as more rage. As
for the post-Trump Party, Brooks suggests building on these "core
Everything is not okay. The free market is not working well.
Economic libertarianism is not the answer. Free markets alone won't
solve our problems.
The working class is the heart of the Republican Party.
China changes everything.
The managerial class betrays America.
When I read that list, the answer is pretty simple: put workers in
charge of US companies. Worker-owned companies aren't going to ship
jobs overseas. Worker-owned companies aren't going to strip assets
for short-term gain. Workers who own companies will support their
communities, and their nation. And when workers own companies, the
managerial class will work for them. Nothing else satisfies these
concerns as simply and elegantly. Well, aside from China: not sure
that anyone understands what that point means.
David Shor's unified theory of American politics. He's obviously a
very smart guy who's been paid by Democrats to think about how to win
elections for the last decade, and he's come up with insights that are
uncomfortable to everyone. One thing that occurred to me in his bit on
the Obama-to-Trump voters is that while he's probably right that race
was the determining factor, one should consider the different ways the
two candidates affected thinking on race. Obama was very conciliatory,
which encouraged white voters to credit themselves for rising above
the race question. Trump, on the other hand, gave white voters reason
to feel good about themselves even if they were racist, which it turns
out many still were. But Trump's also allowed super-racists to thrive,
and maybe that's starting to make the fence-sitters a bit nervous. All
through the interview, Shor is very critical of people who develop any
consistent sort of ideology, which includes most Democratic politicians,
their campaign staffs, and their donors (even rich ones). His advice:
"you should talk about popular issues, and not talk about unpopular
ones." And do the research to tell one from the other, rather than
just following your instinct. Here's an interesting quote:
So I think people underestimate Democrats' openness to left-wing policies
that won't cost them elections. And there are a lot of radical, left-wing
policies that are genuinely very popular. Codetermination is popular. A
job guarantee is popular. Large minimum-wage increases are popular and
could literally end market poverty.
All these things will engender opposition from capital. But if you
focus on the popular things, and manage to build positive earned media
around those things, then you can convince Democrats to do them. So we
should be asking ourselves, "What is the maximally radical thing that
can get past Joe Manchin." And that's like a really depressing optimization
problem. And it's one that most leftists don't even want to approach, but
they should. There's a wide spectrum of possibilities for what could happen
the next time Democrats take power, and if we don't come in with clear
thinking and realistic demands, we could end up getting rolled.
Amid all the strange, alarming and exciting things that have happened
lately, the fact that real long-term (30-year) interest rates have
fallen below zero has been largely overlooked. Yet this is the end of
capitalism, at least as it has traditionally been understood. Interest
is the pure form of return to capital, excluding any return to monopoly
power, corporate control, managerial skills or compensation for risk.
If there is no real return to capital, then then there is no capitalism.
In case it isn't obvious, I'll make the point in subsequent posts that
there is no reason to expect the system that replaces capitalism (I'll
call it plutocracy for the moment) to be an improvement.
I have two thoughts based on this. The first is a corollary, that
if capitalism is dead, the free market will no longer be able to rebuild
the economy. Therefore, government must step in, providing planning and
finance (and possibly even direction) for new ventures. The nations of
East Asia (most dramatically China) have been able to grow above market
rates thanks to central economic planning, in contrast to the relatively
anemic growth in the West, especially if you discount the excess wealth
generated by monopolies, corporate predation, and asset inflation (which
is what happens when the rich have more money than things to spend it
on). The Green New Deal is certainly one way the government could force
feed the economy, and thereby prop it up, but probably isn't in itself
all that will be needed. Which leads to the second point, which is that
we need to come up with a better alternative than plutocracy. Indeed,
we're far enough into plutocracy now that it's more properly seen as a
problem, not a solution. But if Quiggin wants to scare people, sure,
feel free to point out where that road heads.
Jeffrey D Sachs:
America's unholy crusade against China: Reaction to Mike Pompeo's
big China speech -- "inflammatory anti-China rhetoric could become even
more apocalyptic in the coming weeks, if only to fire up the Republican
base ahead of the election" -- not sure why he focuses so much on
According to Pompeo, Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Communist
Party of China (CPC) harbor a "decades-long desire for global hegemony."
This is ironic. Only one country -- the US -- has a defense strategy
calling for it to be the "preeminent military power in the world," with
"favorable regional balances of power in the Indo-Pacific, Europe, the
Middle East, and the Western Hemisphere." China's defense white paper,
by contrast, states that "China will never follow the beaten track of
big powers in seeking hegemony," and that, "As economic globalization,
the information society, and cultural diversification develop in an
increasingly multi-polar world, peace, development, and win-win
cooperation remain the irreversible trends of the times."
More on China (for pieces on TikTok, see Shirin Ghaffery above):
Let's face it, China is its own worst enemy: "Much like Trump, Xi's
grand ambitions are checked by his inability to make friends." Bandow
is a libertarian (Cato Institute) critic of American foreign policy,
so so he avoids most of the usual Washington clichés. Still, he comes
up with a long list of ways Xi's instincts to fight back and bully at
every slight has hurt China's business relations.
Kobach and Clay go down: Takeaways from a big primary night:
Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Washington, and
Tennessee. In Kansas Republican Senate primary, Roger Marshall
beat Kris Kobach 39.41% to 25.68%, with Bob Hamilton at 18.34% and
Wichita Eagle-endorsed David Lindstrom in 4th with 6.33%. Kobach
barely won the governor primary in 2018 then lost, so he's increasingly
viewed as a loser as well as a lunatic. Lacy Clay (D-MO), who's always
struck me as a pretty progressive Congressman, lost to Cori Bush, who
promises to be even better. Another incumbent, Steve Watkins (R-KS),
recently indicted, lost his primary. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) faced a
well-financed opponent she had barely won over in 2018, and won
66.27% to 33.73%. The biggest piece of election news was Missouri
voting in favor of Medicaid expansion. Article doesn't have any
"takeaways" from Tennessee (which voted later), where Trump-endorsed
Bill Hagerty appears to have won the Republican Senate nomination.
A confidential highly-informed Israeli source has told me that Israel
caused the massive explosion at the Beirut port earlier today which
killed over 100 and injured thousands. The bombing also virtually
leveled the port itself and caused massive damage throughout the city.
Israel targeted a Hezbollah weapons depot at the port and planned
to destroy it with an explosive device. Tragically, Israeli intelligence
did not perform due diligence on their target. Thus they did not know
(or if they did know, they didn't care) that there were 2,700 tons of
ammonium nitrate stored in a next door warehouse. The explosion at the
arms depot ignited the next door warehouse, causing the catastrophe
that resulted. More on Beirut:
Silverstein followed this initial report with
Ex-CIA analyst confirms Beirut blast initiated by "military munitions,"
Lebanese President to examine role of "external actors"; and
Senior Israeli opposition leader: Hezbollah arms cache caused Beirut
explosion. I should note that I haven't seen any corroboration of
Silverstein's reports elsewhere. Israel has publicly denied its
involvement, although they've frequently attacked alleged Hezbollah
supplies and forces in Syria, waged a brutal war against Lebanon in
2006, and invaded Lebanon in 1982, not leaving until 2000. They still
occupy a small patch of Lebanon, a major bone of contention with
Hezbollah. Mainstream media sources have focused on the large store
of ammonium nitrate, which came from an abandoned Russian ship, while
claiming that the initial fire which ignited the larger explosion
had something to do with fireworks. As the articles below note,
Lebanon has been struggling for some time, and there is a lot of
pent-up resentment against the long-ruling cliques. There were
popular demonstrations against the government over a year ago,
and they have flared up again.
Li Zhou/Ella Nilsen:
Why Republicans are dragging their feet on more stimulus. Now that
the stock market has recovered, and the rich are richer than ever, their
job is done. Sure, they still would like to get lawsuit immunity for
businesses. But fuck everyone else. Note: The first group of pieces date
from earlier in the week, before Trump punted with his executive orders.
I've put them first, then reports on the executive orders and the reaction
in a second block.
Then on Saturday, Trump broke off negotiations and signed his orders.
They are a purely political ploy: a way to claim he's doing something
without delivering much of anything. They are a "free lunch," as in
"there's no such thing as a free lunch":
This is terrible policy. But it's political gold for Democrats. I mean,
this is a classic Trumpian gambit. I'm giving you money to help out.
But actually you have to pay me back after you reelect me. And if Trump
isn't reelected, what does he care? It becomes a landmine for Joe Biden
who has to oversee collecting the money that workers effectively borrowed
without knowing it. This is actually the kind of bait and switch Trump
has been known for his whole life.
Caitlin Oprysko/Evan Semones:
Trump announces executive actions after stimulus talks broke down.
The first part is his "payroll tax holiday." Not clear what right he
has to do any of this, let alone where the money will come from, and
doubtful any of it will hold up to a court challenge, but for Trump
there is no long term past November.
Trump laid out four actions that he said would cut taxes for workers
through the end of the year, extend unemployment benefits but at a
reduced rate, renew a moratorium on evictions during the pandemic,
and defer student loan payments and interest until the end of the year.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley's reaction to these executive orders:
Don't let the occupant of the White House distract you.
He just unilaterally cut Social Security and your unemployment
benefits. In the middle of a pandemic.
My oldest surviving cousin, Duan Stiner, died on Sunday, due to
Covid-19. He was days away from his 93rd birthday. He had been living
in a VA center near Tulsa, Oklahoma. The center was locked down in
March. He hasn't been able to leave, and our relatives haven't been
able to visit, since then. Nonetheless, Covid-19 got into the facility,
causing at least 58 cases and 10 deaths (figures I got before Duan
died). Duan joined the Army in 1945, spent some time occupying Japan,
then got called back for the Korean War in 1950. He never talked much
about his Army days (unlike his older brother, Harold, who was an MP
and was present for the war crimes trials on Tokyo; Harold died in
2015). Duan was a butcher, first in a grocery store, then he owned
his own meat business. When I was young, my parents used to buy a
side of beef at a time from him. I think he was the first person I
personally knew to die of the disease, although I've written about
dozens of more famous people in these pages.
I also found out that Don Bass (77) died last week, but don't know
the cause (so he may have been the first). I ran into him often,
especially at Peace Center events. He was a talented artist, and
always a welcome sight.
Minor formatting change here, as I've eliminated the outer layer of
Some scattered links this week:
An economic survival package, not a stimulus package. I could have
buried this among the other "stimulus" articles (see Li Zhou), but
they're tied to actual negotiations, whereas this is more along the
lines of what should be done. Krugman described the downturn as more
of an induced coma than a typical recession, a distinction that is
lost on people who have one-track minds (like everyone in business).
Until the virus is contained and normalized (cured would be nice, but
I'm imagining a somewhat more delicate and treacherous equilibrium),
talk of restoring growth really misses the point, which is survival --
difficult enough in any case.
If we do let obsessions with government deficits and debt curtail spending,
then we can expect to see a long and harsh recession. . . . And, we also
have to recognize that when we have a serious problem of unemployment,
the failure to run large deficits is incredibly damaging to the country.
Millions of workers will needlessly suffer, as will their families. And
the failure is increased when it means not spending in areas that will
have long-term benefits for the country, like child care and slowing
global warming. It is tragic that deficit hawks are able to do so much
harm to our children under the guise of saving our children.
Trump attacks an election he is at risk of losing: "Mr Trump has
become a heckler in his own government, failing to marshal leaders in
Washington to form a robust response to the health and economic crises.
Instead, he is raising doubts about holding the election on time."
Richard Fausset/Rick Rojas:
John Lewis, a man of 'unbreakable perseverance,' is laid to rest:
I'm afraid I found all the pomp surrounding the death and funeral of
John Lewis a bit disconcerting. Such events only come about when
someone has a political legacy they want to build up -- usually around
a president, most recently/similarly someone like John McCain. I don't
actually have much of an opinion about Lewis, but he does provide a
reminded that the fight for civil rights isn't over, and the struggle
for equality still has a long ways to go. Still, it was a big deal,
all the more conspicuous because of the times (e.g., see the picture
of Obama delivering a eulogy to a more-than-half-empty church). More
related to the funeral:
The no-trust world. The first point George Brockway made in his
brilliant The End of Economic Man (1991) was that nothing works
in modern society without trust. Indeed, it's impossible to get anything
done when you constantly have to scan 360 degrees for potential threats.
(E.g., imagine trying to do simple reconstruction projects in war-torn
Iraq.) Of course, it's even harder to defend against an invisible virus,
especially where you can't trust people around you to follow recommended
practices. Karen Greenberg's article below pairs well with this one: a
big part of the reason we an trust no one is that powerful people, like
but not exclusively Trump, are rarely held accountable for their acts,
let alone their accidents.
In fact, Rangel clarified, if somebody wants to sell drugs to a child,
they should fear "that they will be arrested and go to jail for the
rest of their natural life. That's what I'm talking about when I say
fear." Then he suggested that America should tap the generals who won
the Gulf War to intensify the War on Drugs. "What we're missing: to
find a take-charge general like Norman Schwarzkopf, like Colin Powell,
to coordinate some type of strategy so that America, who has never run
away from a battle, will not be running away from this battle," he said.
"Let's win this war against drugs the same way we won it in the Middle
That Gulf War "victory" doesn't look so great now, though the War
on Drugs may have fared even worse. Neither failed for lack of tough
guys like Schwarzkopf. Both were severely tarnished by the arrogance
and racism that was baked into their execution, and were utterly
ruined by the contempt and carelessness the enforcers had for the
people they impacted. Here's another quote:
Had the drug war ended back in the early 1990s, younger Millennials
would have been spared a policy that empowered gangs, fueled bloody
wars for drug territory in American cities, ravaged Latin America,
enriched narco cartels, propelled the AIDS epidemic, triggered police
militarization, and contributed more than any other policy to racial
disparities in national and local incarceration.
Also note that while Buckley and other libertarians have criticized
the War on Drugs, they've never spent any political capital doing so.
The one issue conservatives are serious about is privileging the rich,
and that makes them comfortable with repression as a tool to protect
the established order. So while it's possible that the left might pick
up a few right-wing votes to decriminalize drugs, I don't expect them
to be much help.
We train police to be warriors -- and then send them out to be social
workers. A breakdown of training time (840 total hours) here shows
that 20% goes for "firearm skills, self-defense, and use of force." A
breakdown of actual time spent by police shows that only a tiny fraction
of time is spent dealing with violent time, and that's mostly taken up
by things like interviewing witnesses. Given that a large percentage of
police are former military, this training bias is probably even more
warped -- and given how many former military suffer from PTSD, the
bias could be even more dangerous.
Annie Karni/Katie Rogers:
Like father, like son: President Trump lets others mourn: "Whether
he is dealing with the loss of a family member or the deaths of nearly
150,000 Americans in a surging pandemic, President Trump almost never
displays empathy in public. He learned it from his father."
Why can't Trump's America be like Italy? "On the coronavirus, the
'sick man of Europe' puts us to shame." The "sick man of Europe" quip
was commonly applied to the Ottoman Empire in its last century, as
European powers were chipping away at its borders and demanding
"capitulations" to give them extraterritorial rights within the
Empire. I've never heard it used to refer to anyone else. Italy is
often derided for its unstable governments and unequal economy, but
Greece and Portugal are more often viewed as the bottom of the
barrel. If there is a "sick man of Europe" these days, it must be
Donald Trump, who's personally much more rooted in Europe than in
Republicans keep flunking microbe economics: "Getting other people
sick isn't an 'individual choice.'" Henry Farrell has a comment at
Crooked Timber, more focused on economists than Republicans.
My own theory is that most economists do everything possible to
view everything through their own prism, which is single-mindedly
focused on increasing growth. The problem with the pandemic is
that it's causing a lot of people to consider other factors, like
health and safety, and that messes with the economists' heads.
It also messes with Republicans, who basically agree with the
economists but tweak their measurements to only really consider
the effects of policy on making the rich richer.
Trump's eight potentially impeachable offenses in six months:
If we've learned anything about impeachment under Trump, it's that it
isn't a very useful process. The two-thirds supermajority rule makes
it impossible to convict in the Senate, and the simple majority rule
in the House makes it too each to impeach. Maybe that could work if
the complaint wasn't political, but everything's political these days,
so nothing works. As this list here indicates, it's easy to come up with
a list of essentially political charges, and it's also fruitless. What
might have worked better was if Congress had reserved to itself the
right to overrule executive actions by simple majority, but somehow
we've gotten into the ridiculous where Trump can simply veto
Congressional resolutions (like ones limiting arms sales to Saudi
Arabia, or military interventions in Syria). That puts us back at
needing a two-thirds supermajority, which is well nigh impossible.
On the other hand, the thing I find most disturbing about this list
isn't its pointlessness. It's that a lot of these things aren't
very good charges. Indeed, number four ("abuse of power in foreign
affairs") insists on policies that Trump is right not to have
followed ("willingness to ignore China's treatment of the Uighurs
in exchange for help with farmers during trade negotiations" and
"totally ignored Russia placing bounties on the lives of American
soldiers in Afghanistan").
The key to a real Democratic landslide: Better rural performance:
I'm sympathetic to this position, partly because with all the factors
stacked against them Democrats have to win landslides to be effective --
Obama's margins clearly weren't sufficient, and the popular pluralities
of Al Gore and Hillary Clinton didn't even score as wins -- but also
because I believe that Republicans are doing a terrible job of serving
rural and small-town voters, and Democrats could do a lot better, so
why not try harder. Kansas has long thought of itself as a rural state,
but the percentage has been declining steadily, at least since my father
moved to Wichita in the 1940s. According to the first measure I found,
the rural percentage in 2018 was 31.5%, but I doubt the farm percentage
is even 10%. (There are 58,500 farms in Kansas. If 4 people lived on
each, that would come to 8%. The nationwide farm population is 2%.)
Obama: The filibuster is a "Jim Crow relic". As usual, Obama is
not on the leading edge of the opinion curve here. He is right that
the filibuster used to be mostly used to protect and perpetuate Jim
Crow laws, but since 2009, Republicans have used it much more broadly
to obstruct any kind of progressive change. Under Clinton and Obama
Democrats got a reputation for rarely (if ever) delivering on their
campaign promises, and the filibuster was a big part of their excuse.
Democrats have to learn to deliver results, and disposing of the
filibuster is a necessary first step.
Joe Biden will announce his running mate soon. Here's who's on the
list. Not something I spend much time thinking about, although
I still think Elizabeth Warren is a cut above the rest on two major
counts: she's a fearless campaigner, and while that isn't especially
reassuring in a presidential candidate, it's a quality that stacks
up especially well against Trump and Pence; and she simply knows a
lot more about policy than anyone else. She's also likely to be a
shrewd judge of personnel, if she gets the chance. The last two
Republican gave their VPs (Cheney and Pence) decisive impact on
staffing, but Clinton and Obama worked through their own personal
staffs (who often gave them limited bad choices). Beyond Warren,
Gretchen Whitmer would be a sensible pick, helping in a key state
where she's currently very popular. I don't see any advantage in
picking a black woman: Biden has very solid black support, but he
also has substantial support from whites who might take exception
to a black VP, so why run that risk. Only one I have any specific
objection to is Susan Rice, who was a consistent hawk under Obama
and a leading player in all of his foreign policy mistakes. The
idea that her selection would allow Biden to focus on domestic
policy while she runs foreign is one of the worst advanced here.
Still, there isn't much reason to think that anyone else on the
list would be much better than Rice on foreign policy issues --
they've just had less opportunity to discredit themselves.
Why would Biden pick a human lightning rod as VP? Susan Rice.
Personally, I'd say insulting Lyndsey Graham and "flipping the bird"
at Richard Holbrooke are the least of her offenses, and that Milbank,
who calls her a "great brain," hasn't even scratched the real reasons.
Even more (inadvertently) damning is:
Kansas should go f--- itself: Review of Thomas Frank's new book,
The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism. I have the
book, and expect to read it soon -- maybe then I'll be able to figure
out the confusion from Taibbi's review. I've read most of Frank's
books, from What's the Matter With Kansas? (which has left
a bad taste, mostly because it seems mostly to have been read and
taken to heart by culture war conservatives, who have taken it as
a dare to hold Republicans responsible for their promises) through
Listen, Liberal (which perhaps could be blamed for exposing
the Clintons as liars and frauds, although there's little evidence
that the people who took that insight and voted for Trump got it
from reading a book). Taibbi also cites a recent review by Jeff
Why the working class votes against its economic interests,
which could be of Frank's work, but actually refers to Robert B
Reich: The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It, and Zephyr
Teachout: Break 'Em Up: Recovering Our Freedom From Big Ag, Big
Tech, and Big Money.
5 real steps the US could take to help Uighurs in China: The first
one that's missing is: why? It's certainly not because the US has any
sympathy with or concern for Muslims in the far west of China, even as
part of a more general commitment to human rights. To demonstrate the
latter, one would have to make a show of supporting the Palestinians
against Israeli occupation. One suspects the US of bad faith, because
the US has rarely shown anything but bad faith on human rights. Otherwise,
the US would support international institutions that tackle human rights
issues, like the ICC. The US can't even be bothered to support the WHO.
And the "real steps" listed here are straight from the Cold War toolkit
being retargeted at China, for reasons only known to Trump and Pompeo.
For more on them, see the comment under Robin Wright, below.
Why Trump will never win his new cold war with China. Couple
things here. First, the notion that the US "won" the Cold War with
Russia is flat-out wrong, and misguided too. I've compared it to
a wrestling match where one fighter has a heart attack, then the
other pounces on top to claim the win. The people under the Soviet
Union's thumb simply gave up their system of government, and really
didn't get much from the West for their trouble. (Russia was so
ravaged under Yeltsin that average life expectancy dropped 10 years
in less time than that. Putin's popularity is to no small extent
based on arresting that decline.) One striking aspect is that
countries the US had totally ignored, like Albania and Mongolia,
fell without so much as a funny glance from the US. The ones that
didn't fall were the ones the US fought wars with (Korea, Vietnam),
blockaded (Cuba), and China (both, but somewhat different), so
there's no evidence that the Cold War's most aggressive tools
achieved anything, other than to make the US look like a public
menace. China might also have fallen, but the ruling party held
on and imposed top-down reforms that radically grew the Chinese
economy -- much faster and more equitably than any capitalist
regime had achieved. Second thing is that while the Soviet Union
saw itself as leading a worldwide workers revolution, China is
just concerned with China. Their investments abroad promote their
businesses, mostly at home. While they like the idea of garnering
good will, they don't pose any threat to the regimes they do
business with. As such, there's no demand for a global capitalist
alliance to limit their power, let alone to tell them how to run
their own damn country. On the other hand, the US is always telling
its "allies" and clients how to run their countries and how to
mistreat their people -- start by looking up
Washington Consensus for examples. Article explains some of
the ways China has outmaneuvered typical Cold War tactics like
sanctions. It doesn't even dignify the neocons' unipolar military
fantasies with a rebuttal, but well before his death in 2010,
Chalmers Johnson wrote about how China could easily disable
America's advanced weapons systems by "launching a dumptruck
full of gravel into space" (destroying every satellite). The
fact is that America's military can't win in Aghanistan, let
alone take on a vastly more sophisticated foe like China. The
only question here is how stupid Trump and Pompeo really are.
More on China:
Thursday's historically bad economic growth numbers, explained.
Subhed tries to reassure us -- "It's not as bad as it looks" -- but
that vastly understates how bad the chart looks. Real GDP dropped
about 5% in Q1, most of which occurred before the lockdown. The Q2
GDP drop, which picked up part of the original lockdown, the slow
reopening, but not much of the further backpedaling as cases rose
to a second peak, is a staggering 33%. That's "not just the worst
on record, but the worst on record by a large margin." This suggests
to me that, given that the drop in employment is only half that much,
we're seeing a huge drop in productivity in addition to lost jobs.
Offhand, that makes intuitive sense, given the number of people
working from home, the overhead of masks and sanitation, and the
pretty severe dip in demand. But Yglesias focuses more on how the
numbers are cooked up. That leads him to the hypothesis that in Q3
"we're probably going to see a historically amazing growth number
when expressed as an annualized rate," and that "Trump will doubly
brag that it's the best economy ever, but of course it won't be,
any more than Q2 was the worst economy." Still, one shouldn't
soft-peddle the notion that this is the worst economy ever. The
only reason it hasn't been as painful as the Great Depression is
that Congress (mostly thanks to Democrats) moved quickly to shore
up incomes (and the Fed moved even faster to bail out banks and
stockholders). Take that away (as many Republicans want to do) and
it won't be long before we feel just how bad this economy is.
More on this economy:
Don't extend the Cares Act's $600 weekly bonus: Trump's first,
disgraced pick for Secretary of Labor, a fast-food chain CEO, weighs
in. He's worried that if the unemployed get enough compensation to
live on, they won't want to return to his crappy, dangerous minimum
wage jobs. If the extra $600 creates a perverse incentive, why not
fix that by raising the minimum wage?
Here's a meme which pretty succinctly sums up where the President's
head is at these days. No idea where it originated, but Sue Katz
posted it on Facebook, and Laura Tillem forwarded it.
Here's a tweet, attributed to Richard Feynman:
A guy who says offensive things and decides whether he was joking
based on the reaction of people around him.
Or in Trump's case, since he isn't much good at judging reactions
of people around him, based on subsequent polling, or less formally
on how Fox's talking heads decide to spin it.
Some scattered links this week:
Republicans race to head off Kansas Senate nightmare: Conventional
thinking here is that if Kris Kobach wins the Republican primary, he's
likely to lose an otherwise safe Senate seat to a Democrat, just as he
lost a normally safe governorship to Democrat Laura Kelly in 2018.
So now you have Mitch McConnell's PAC and others trying to prop up
Roger Marshall's campaign against Kobach. There's also a report of
"a super PAC with links to Democrats last week began a $3 million,
meddling ad campaign aimed at boosting Kobach and damaging Marshall" --
strikes me as a serious waste of good money, if that's what it is.
It's so easy to attack both that it's hard to be clear on who's doing
what why. I've seen ads about Kobach's ties to "white nationalists,"
and wondered whether the ad might end with "I'm Kris Kobach, and I
approved this message." (It doesn't, but if it did, I doubt it would
hurt his base.) Meanwhile Bob Hamilton's spending $2 million on ads
where he out-Trumps everyone. (Kobach was the first and only KS pol
to endorse Trump before the 2016 primary, and made a widely reported
pilgrimage to Trump to show off his binders, but evidently creeped
Trump out so much all he got was co-chairman of a "voting fraud"
commission, which he then ran into the ground without producing a
report. "Doc" Marshall's Trumpiest idea was to make family take
hydroxychloroquine, which speaks volumes about how far he'll go to
suck up to Trump.) More on Kansas:
Carter buys the often-told story that bailing out the banks in the
Great Recession saved us from a Second Great Depression. No biographer
of Keynes should ever say anything like this.
First and foremost, Keynes taught us how to get out of the first
Great Depression. The secret is spending money. If the government had
gone on a huge spending spree in 1930, in response to the initial
crash, instead of waiting to go full Keynesian in response to World
War II, we never would have had the first Great Depression.
If we had let the market work its magic on Citigroup, Goldman, and
the rest, there is no doubt that the initial downturn would have been
worse. But if we responded with a massive public investment program
in clean energy, health care, child care and other areas, we quickly
would have recovered. And, we would have eliminated a massive source
of economic waste in the bloated financial sector. It is also worth
noting that the bloated financial sector is a major generator of
inequality. It is where many of the seven, eight, and even nine figure
paychecks can be found.
We should be clear; the bailout was about saving the very rich and
their institutions. We could have rescued the economy just fine without
The $24 an hour minimum wage: While $15/hour is the current popular
political demand, $24 would be closer to the mark had the minimum wage
from 1968 reflected productivity growth since then.
Portland, polarization, and the crisis of the Republican Party: "We
are witnessing a crisis of democracy that is perfectly acceptable to a
significant portion of the population -- as long as it hurts their
enemies." More links follow, and more still (more generally about DHS)
under Fred Kaplan below:
Philadelphia's top prosecutor is prepared to arrest federal agents:
I've been wondering about why Portland hasn't attempted to arrest
federal agents, given that every level of state and local government
is opposed to their presence, and that their actions, if performed
by anyone else, would appear to be illegal. For that matter, under
ALEC's "stand your ground" laws, aren't you entitled to shoot armed,
unidentified goons trying to force you into minivans? On the other
hand, see Graff and Jurecic/Wittes above.
Less punishment, more justice: Review of two books: Alexandra Natapoff:
Punishment Without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the
Innocent and Makes America More Unequal; and Rachel Elise Barkow:
Prisoners of Politics: Breaking the Cycle of Mass Incarceration.
Why progressives should welcome anti-Trump Republicans: Easy and
sensible to say, but "progressives" are very wary of being sold out
by mainstream Democrats, who have often cloaked their treachery with
claims about how it's necessary to compromise with Republicans. Also,
the only cases in recent history where Republicans courted Democrats
were projects which materially hurt the Democratic base (e.g., "trade
deals"), and therefore damage the credibility of Democratic politicians
with their voters. I think you can break "anti-Trump Republicans" down
into three camps: those who personally can't stand Trump, but have no
qualms with the conservative Republican agenda -- these will vote for
Biden, but not other Democrats; those who realize that the Republican
right-wing project has become dysfunctional -- these may see value in
electing Democrats down the ballot, but worry about left-wingers; and
those who simply want viable solutions, wherever they come from --
these are potentially Democrats, to the extent that Democrats work
to find real solutions to real problems.
I scored worse than Donald Trump did on that brain test: "Why the
president's claim that he got 'all 35' questions right on the Montreal
Cognitive Assessment is meaningless." Where most of us see Trump's
even bringing up much less bragging about the test as an exaple of
how demented he is, she sees it as evidence of his genius at deflecting
the media away from the real stories that plague his administration.
But then, she admits to having blown off the test.
The DHS was a sham from the get-go. It was the brainchild of Democratic
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who proposed the new department in late 2001, just
after the 9/11 attacks, as a way of showing that the Republicans in the
White House weren't the only ones trying to tackle terrorism. President
George W. Bush opposed the idea, seeing it as burdening the government
with another bureaucratic layer. But then, the 9/11 Commission hearings
revealed that al-Qaida succeeded in toppling the World Trade Center in
part because the FBI, CIA, and other agencies hadn't shared intelligence
about the hijackers' movements prior to the attack. Coordination and
consolidation were suddenly seen as nostrums to our problems.
So, under pressure, in late 2002, Bush signed Lieberman's idea into
law. DHS wound up subsuming 22 agencies from eight federal departments --
with a combined budget of $40 billion and a payroll of 183,000 employees --
into one hydra-headed behemoth.
One can imagine that Lieberman's intent was to consolidate a national
state police, much like the "interior" departments of other countries
(many dictatorships). But the FBI and CIA managed to escape inclusion
and subordination. In the short term, the worst effect was demoting
FEMA from Cabinet-level, which became especially obvious when Katrina
hit in 2005. Related:
DHS was a mistake. I regret voting for it. "I never imagined a
president like Trump when I voted to create the Department of Homeland
Security." Sure, but GW Bush was president at the time, and Dick Cheney
was VP, and the CIA was kidnapping suspects and rendering them to dark
sites and Guantanamo, so what happened wasn't all that far fetched.
"Homeland" is an anxious, combative word: it denotes a place under
assault, in need of aggressive defense from shape-shifting dangers. . . .
The nation used to protect itself against other nations and their
hostile military forces, but now it had to fear individuals. This is
the premise on which secret police forces are built. Their stated
purpose is to find danger where normal human activity appears to be
taking place. . . . The logic of the secret police, however, dictates
that it perpetually has to look in new places for threats. . . .
The C.B.P. is the largest law-enforcement agency in the country.
Its leader -- who at the same briefing stated that his troops are
highly trained and experienced in putting down riots -- and his boss,
Chad Wolf, were telling the nation that they are terrified of the
protesters. These men represent a government agency born of fear.
Their tactics are designed to engender an equal amount of fear in
the people they see as their enemies. The secret police is always
a terror-production machine.
Biden must bring an end to the Bush era: "It was W who gave federal
thugs the authority to terrorize Portland. Undoing Trumpism will require
Biden and the Democrats to repeal Bush's signature legislation." He means
the DHS, but I'd point to Obama's failure to break meaningfully with
Bush's Global War on Terror. Obama may not have liked the term, but he
stressed continuity as early as his decision to keep Robert Gates as
Secretary of Defense. "Homeland Security" has always been subordinate
to war abroad, so you couldn't prevent the possibility of abuses at
home without stopping the war abroad. Lots of things reflect that war,
including police brutality, America's obsession with guns, the opioid
crisis, paranoia over immigration, and much more.
The high-finance mogul in charge of our economic recovery: "How
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin became one of the most consequential
policymakers in the world." One of those deep profile pieces. Some
things I didn't know include how Mnuchin made a fortune driving Sears
into bankruptcy, and how many times he made business deals with George
There are nearly seven hundred thousand police officers in the United
States, about two for every thousand people, a rate that is lower than
the European average. The difference is guns. Police in Finland fired
six bullets in all of 2013; in an encounter on a single day in the year
2015, in Pasco, Washington, three policemen fired seventeen bullets when
they shot and killed an unarmed thirty-five-year-old orchard worker from
Mexico. Five years ago, when the Guardian counted police killings,
it reported that, "in the first 24 days of 2015, police in the US fatally
shot more people than police did in England and Wales, combined, over the
past 24 years." American police are armed to the teeth, with more than
seven billion dollars' worth of surplus military equipment off-loaded by
the Pentagon to eight thousand law-enforcement agencies since 1997. At
the same time, they face the most heavily armed civilian population in
the world: one in three Americans owns a gun, typically more than one.
Gun violence undermines civilian life and debases everyone. A study found
that, given the ravages of stress, white male police officers in Buffalo
have a life expectancy twenty-two years shorter than that of the average
American male. The debate about policing also has to do with all the
money that's spent paying heavily armed agents of the state to do things
that they aren't trained to do and that other institutions would do better.
History haunts this debate like a bullet-riddled ghost.
Two kinds of police appeared on mid-century American television. The
good guys solved crime on prime-time police procedurals like "Dragnet,"
starting in 1951, and "Adam-12," beginning in 1968 (both featured the
L.A.P.D.). The bad guys shocked America's conscience on the nightly
news: Arkansas state troopers barring Black students from entering
Little Rock Central High School, in 1957; Birmingham police clubbing
and arresting some seven hundred Black children protesting segregation,
in 1963; and Alabama state troopers beating voting-rights marchers at
Selma, in 1965. These two faces of policing help explain how, in the
nineteen-sixties, the more people protested police brutality, the more
money governments gave to police departments.
That led into Lyndon Johnson's 1965 "war on crime." We now know
that police in the South weren't notably more violent than police in
the North, as evidence in "riots" in Detroit, Watts, and elsewhere.
The big difference was that the civil rights protests framed police
violence clearly, whereas the media never got clear pictures of
police violence against ordinary people in the North. To a large
extent, what's different now is that ubiquitous cell phones let
us see police violence that until recently had been hidden and
covered up. Well, also that fifty years after civil rights had
been secured in law, we're sick and tired (and frankly disgusted)
when we see this shit still happening. Also relevant here:
Get over your Russia obsession, liberals: Vladimir Putin's not
responsible for America's sorry state: "Did Putin turn America
into a delusional nation that couldn't handle a pandemic? Or did he
just watch and laugh?" The former can pretty clearly be traced back
to Reagan, whose "morning in America" slogan signaled his intent
to live in a fantasy world, although Reagan's roots go back to the
beginning of the Cold War -- the decision to champion the powers
of capital over the rights of workers both abroad and at home,
even over traditional American values like democracy and freedom.
As for Putin laughing at us, or more generally plotting to deliver
the government to Trump out of a cynical desire to undermine or
just embarrass American democracy, I've never seen him act that
frivolously. Sure, he may have thought the easily corruptible
Trump would be easier to deal with than Hillary Clinton, and he
may have relished the idea of giving America a dose of its own
election-interfering medicine. The problem I have with obsessive
anti-Putin liberals is that they hardly ever manage to articulate
their misgivings about Putin in anything other than Cold War
clichés, and that risks starting another conflict -- one that
people of neither nation wants, or that anyone other than the
munitions makers might profit from.
China is systematically detaining Uighurs -- and the world isn't doing
enough about it. Well, the "world" can't do anything about it,
because the five permanent, veto-wielding UN powers have made it
impossible for the UN (or any international institution, like the
ICC or the World Court) to take an effective stand on human rights
issues. While China and Russia have often been on the defensive on
such issues, the real culprit is the US, which uses its veto to
shield Israel, conducts a "war on terror" over most of the Middle
East and North Africa, and has a long history of backing coups to
install dictators in Latin America, Africa, and Asia (as well as
a history of meddling in democratic elections, from Italy to the
Ukraine). The US is certainly quick to condemn human rights abuses
in countries that don't show sufficient deference to it, while
casting a blind eye to its so-called allies -- hence Venezuela
is a violator but Guatemala is just fine. Nor is US culpability
limited to its foreign policy. The US, after all, has more of
its citizens incarcerated than any other nation -- including
China, regardless of whatever evil they've done in Xingiang and
Tibet. The "world" did start to make some progress on apartheid
in South Africa, but that's proven to be a one-shot. Meanwhile,
any time you hear about Uighurs in the American press, you can
suspect that there's an anti-China political agenda behind it,
rather than a pro-human rights one. The only way to change that
would be for the US to respect its own human rights, and to work
to build international institutions that can do so credibly
elsewhere. That's not going to happen under Trump. Not likely
to happen with Biden, either.
How "Karen" became a symbol of racism: I clicked on this because
the suddenly ubiquitous use of "Karen" as a term of derision never
made any sense to me. Still doesn't, even after I referred to Romano's
Karen: The anti-vaxxer soccer mom with speak-to-the-manager hair,
explained, which points out: "The current use of the 'Karen'
meme is almost always to call out the perceived entitlement and
rude behavior of white women." Sure, I can see a use for that,
but why attach it to a name that has no bearing on it (unlike,
say, Scrooge)? Indeed, why make it easier to lob insults? Isn't
that just a way of forming a clique? Or am I just being too much
of a Tom?
Not until early June did White House officials even begin to recognize
that their assumptions about the course of the pandemic had proved
wrong. Even now there are internal divisions over how far to go in
having officials publicly acknowledge the reality of the situation.
Robert J Shapiro:
Investors are doing great under Trump, but what about the rest of
us? Sometime in the 1990s you started hearing the term "Greenspan
put" -- essentially a guarantee that whenever the stock market took a
dip, the Fed would intervene to prop it up. As the 2008 meltdown
worsened, the Fed intervened massively. This time the Fed was even
faster on the trigger, allowing the stock market, after its March
collapse, to recover much faster than the economy at large.
Today, much like the last time, the extraordinary measures used to
boost the stock and bond markets are unfolding in plain sight. But
since the main mechanisms are the esoteric operations of the Federal
Reserve, it's hard for most people to sort them out. It's actually
pretty straightforward, though. From March through June (our latest
data), the Fed flooded the financial markets with capital by buying
up $2.8 trillion in Treasury and agency mortgage-backed securities
and some corporate bonds. These purchases enabled banks to vastly
expand credit in the form of loans to businesses at easy terms and
large stock and bond purchases by institutional investors. The
official term for this approach is quantitative easing (QE),
operations pioneered by the Fed for the last financial crisis and
used again now -- but now on steroids. . . .
The Fed has gone even further to support bond investors by declaring
its readiness to directly buy the corporate paper. While the Fed's
actual purchases of corporate bonds have been small, its pledge to
support the market for those bonds stopped the normal downward pressures
on their prices, especially for junk bonds. That's why private investors
have dived back into that market and bid up the prices of corporate bonds
to nearly their recent historic highs. And many of the country's biggest
corporations are taking full advantage of this implicit government
guarantee for their debts: The New York Times reports that through
late June "giant U.S. corporations had borrowed roughly $850 billion in
bond markets this year, double the pace from last year." Their shareholders
will accrue most of the benefits.
The president of what is supposed to be the greatest country in all
of human history cannot tell the difference between image and reality,
or cares more about image than reality, as he orders a halt in reporting
COVID-19 hospitalizations to the CDC and laments the increase in
coronavirus testing because it makes the case numbers go higher. Is
it possible that his mental defect means that he doesn't realize that
the actual incidence of infection is a fact independent of how many
are detected by tests? Or is he just trying to fool his fellow Americans?
And how many will be fooled? Or frightened?
I haven't figured out a way of expressing just how far off the rails
this MAGA idea has gone. Shipler is right that his obsequious lackeys
only confirm his delusions, but so does Fox News.
Economists say congress should think big on the next economic rescue.
One thing that's clear is that the presumptive trillion-dollar cap on what
can be done, which hobbled Obama's response to the 2008 meltdown, is a
thing of the past. Economists were pretty clear in 2009 that more would
be needed, but politicians (and Larry Summers) didn't dare.
Fact-checking the alternate history and politics of Curtis Sittenfeld's
Rodham. Just my opinion, but I don't think Hillary Rodham would
have had much of a chance of becoming a significant political figure
in her own right. Not impossible, because she's not totally lacking
in political talent, and would have had useful connections on her own,
but not very likely. Bill Clinton didn't have much of an organization
in 1992, but by 1996 he did, and Hillary built her career on taking
it over. The more interesting question is whether she would have done
better after 2000 by divorcing Bill. I could imagine that playing out
several different ways, but she didn't, so we only know that one path.
As for one question discussed here -- whether her preëminence starved
other women of the opportunity to run -- it probably did until she
lost, after which it became an incentive for other women to prove
they could do better.
What Republicans and Democrats want in the next stimulus package.
Democrats want to extend unemployment insurance, and to provide money
to states and local governments that bear much of the responsibility
for services during the pandemic but are faced with revenue shortfalls
due to the recession. Both parties want more money for small business,
for pandemic medical expenses (including vaccine development), and
for a second stimulus check. Republicans want liability protections
for businesses, and less money for everything else (although Trump
has been pushing for a payroll tax cut, which would temporarily help
employed workers but not unemployed).
I probably scraped the cartoon on the right from Twitter. It
seemed to capture the moment and the person exceptionally well.
Not sure who did it. Google shows several Pinterest lists it's
on, and various Twitter threads. I didn't care for the meme that
attributed Covid-19 deaths to Trump's inaction in and before
March -- I figured any politician would have been blind-sided --
but it's harder to excuse him from the second peak (if that's
all it is) we're going through now. But that's secondary here,
to the all-important stroking of Trump's fragile ego. Of course
he's incompetent: Republican orthodoxy demands that government
fail whenever called on in an emergency. But why does he have
to be so needy? He's an embarrassment, and that's finally,
albeit still slowly, sinking in even to the people who hitched
their hopes to his dumb luck.
On the other hand, I believe that there is more behind America's
abysmal failure to contain the Covid-19 pandemic than just the
buffoon in the White House. There's a Lincoln Project widget I've
that provides a running bar graph of total Covid-19 cases in OECD
countries. It starts with South Korea as the highest country, then
Japan and Italy have their moments, but the USA soon overtakes and
buries the rest. Still, the rise of the UK to second place is as
steady. For an explanation of this, Pankaj Mishra takes a
more unified view of Anglo-America in:
Flailing states. Writing for an English audience who hate being
left out, Mishra glosses over differences which are evident even in
the chart. The UK does still have a functioning, albeit not especially
well funded, public health system, which even Boris Johnson showed
some appreciation for after they saved his life. Still, every march
to the right in America has been felt in the UK. Some samples:
Anglo-America's dingy realities -- deindustrialisation, low-wage work,
underemployment, hyper-incarceration and enfeebled or exclusionary
health systems -- have long been evident. Nevertheless, the moral,
political and material squalor of two of the wealthiest and most
powerful societies in history still comes as a shock to some. In a
widely circulated essay in the Atlantic, George Packer claimed
that 'every morning in the endless month of March, Americans woke up
to find themselves citizens of a failed state.' In fact, the state
has been AWOL for decades, and the market has been entrusted with the
tasks most societies reserve almost exclusively for government:
healthcare, pensions, low-income housing, education, social services
and incarceration. . . .
The escalating warning signs -- that absolute cultural power
provincialises, if not corrupts, by deepening ignorance about both
foreign countries and political and economic realities at home --
can no longer be avoided as the US and Britain cope with mass death
and the destruction of livelihoods. Covid-19 shattered what John
Stuart Mill called 'the deep slumber of a decided opinion,' forcing
many to realise that they live in a broken society, with a carefully
dismantled state. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung put it in May,
unequal and unhealthy societies are 'a good breeding ground for the
pandemic.' Profit-maximising individuals and businesses, it turns out,
can't be trusted to create a just and efficient healthcare system, or
to extend social security to those who need it most. . . .
The pandemic, which has killed 130,000 people in the US, including
a disproportionate number of African Americans, has now shown, far
more explicitly than Katrina did in 2005 or the financial crisis in
2008, that the Reagan-Thatcher model, which privatised risk and shifted
the state's responsibility onto the individual, condemns an unconscionable
number of people to premature death or to a desperate struggle for
existence. . . .
However, after the most radical upheaval of our times, even the
bleakest account of the German-invented social state seems a more
useful guide to the world to come than moist-eyed histories of
Anglo-America's engines of universal progress. Screeching ideological
U-turns have recently taken place in both countries. Adopting a
German-style wage-subsidy scheme, and channelling FDR rather than
Churchill, Boris Johnson now claims that 'there is such a thing as
society' and promises a 'New Deal' for Britain. Biden, abandoning
his Obama-lite centrism, has rushed to plagiarise Bernie Sanders's
manifesto. In anticipation of his victory in November, the Democratic
Party belatedly plans to forge a minimal social state in the US through
robust worker-protection laws, expanded government-backed health
insurance, if not single-payer healthcare, and colossal investment
in public-health jobs and childcare programmes.
Mishra skips around, through quite a few countries for examples,
including a bit on how democracy doesn't guarantee anything. What
does work is having a government which sees its role to provide
for the public welfare of all, and having a society which looks to
the government for justice, security, help, and improvement, again
for all. Democracy, by giving everyone an equal stake, should lead
to healthier, more equal societies, but democracy can be corrupted
and conned by privileging money, as we've seen. What the pandemic
has done has been to split the world open according to how inequal
nations are, with the most inequal ones paying the harshest price.
This comes as no surprise to recent critics of inequality, such as
Richard Wilkinson/Kate Pickett, The Spirit Level: Why Greater
Equality Makes Societies Stronger. Even mainstream Democrats
seem to have some intuitive understanding of this, as evidenced by
their relief proposals. On the other hand, people who are totally
oblivious to the problem of inequality have been utterly gobsmacked
by the pandemic -- none more so than Trump.
In one of the most alarming developments of Trump's presidency, dozens
of federal agents in full camouflage seized protesters and threw them
into unmarked cars, taking them to locations unknown without specifying
a reason for arrest. It appears that at least some of the agents involved
belonged to the US Customs and Border Protection (colloquially known as
Border Patrol), an organization that obviously has no business whatsoever
conducted counterinsurgency tactics against peaceful American protesters
in Portland, Oregon. Neither the mayor of Portland nor the governor of
Oregon wanted them there; in fact, they specifically requested that they
Atkins asks why Trump is doing this, and rolls out some theories,
saving the "ridiculous" but "also likely closest to the truth" for last:
But if Fox News were the sum of your reality, you would believe that
emergency action needed to be taken before the residents started to
erect a Thunderdome and the services of Snake Plissken would be required.
You would send in the troops despite the potential cost out of a belief
that relieved Americans would be desperately grateful for your embrace
of "law and order" (even if it were heavy on the "order" and light on
the "law.") You would do whatever it took to bring the situation to heel,
and figure the public approval would follow from the new Pax Trumpiana.
After all, Fox News declared it must be so.
CPB and ICE are among the most aggressively politicized branches of
federal law enforcement and heavily supportive of the President's
policies. They are also accustomed to and indeed trained to deal with
people with few civil or political rights and little ability to invoke
the few rights they have. The specific officers deployed in support of
FPS aren't even regular CBP and ICE officers. They're the immigration
equivalent of SWAT teams. The acting head of CBP openly says they won't
wear name tags or numbers because this would allegedly put them and
their families at risk from Antifa. In other words, they're explicitly
invoking the Antifa hysteria one sees on Fox News and right wing media
to justify what are commonly understood as secret police tactics.
Doubling down on his claim of the coronavirus "disappearing" someday
Defending the Confederate flag
Piling on more attacks against Biden
Griping about his inability to hold rallies amid the COVID-19 pandemic
Refusing to guarantee he will accept the results of the November
The last was the more-or-less new one. But it's worth nothing that he
did the same thing in 2016, and he trapped Hillary Clinton into declaring
that she would accept the results, and true to her word, she gave up
meekly and vanished from sight.
Trump says it's "terrible" to question why Black people are killed by
police: "So are white people": He refers to "white people" five
times in 20 seconds, per the CBS tweet. Question: "Why are African
Americans still dying at the hands of law enforcement in this country?"
Trump's complete answer: "So are white people. So are white people.
What a terrible question to ask. So are white people. More white
people by the way. More white people." Maybe he could have recovered
a bit by adding, "Bottom line, police kill more people of all races
than they should. And sure, statistics say they're more likely to
kill a black person than a white, but the answer isn't to make them
discriminate more carefully based on race. The answers is for them
to kill a lot fewer people." Still, when your first thought to a
question about discrimination against black is to bring up "white
people," you're a racist. QED.
Donald J Trump, or Osama bin Laden's revenge. Starts with a
stroll through Trump's sculpture "garden of heroes" (which
Masha Gessen wrote up in sufficient detail last week, then
considers the fate Osama bin Laden hoped we would have in leading
America into "the graveyard of empires" in Afghanistan.
The federal government ended its 13-year moratorium on executions on
Tuesday morning by killing Daniel Lewis Lee at the federal death chamber
in Terre Haute, Indiana. Lewis is the first in a series of federal
prisoners slated to die in the next few days as part of a renewed push
by the Trump administration to carry out death sentences at the federal
level, even as the practice falls out of favor nationwide.
Jeff Hauser/Max Moran/Andrea Beaty:
Better policy ideas alone won't stop monopolies. Outlines the
obstacles antitrust enforcement faces, especially in the courts but
also in the bureaucracy. But the conclusion I'd draw from this is
that that's why better policy ideas are needed. Why not develop some
policies that would prevent monopolies from forming in the first
place? Ending patents, promoting open source software and research,
giving employees more power on boards and as owners, making it much
more difficult to acquire companies (e.g., limiting debt financing
of purchase price), allowing bankrupt companies to return under
employee management, publicly-sponsored non-profit cooperatives --
those are all things that would help. Certainly way better than
waiting for monpolies to form and trying to prosecute the worst
Masks off: How the brothers who fueled the reopen protests built a
volatile far-right network. On Ben Dorr and brothers Aaron, Chris,
and Matthew. When Trump was elected, we saw an outpouring of protests
styling themselves as the Resistance. It seems inevitable that when/if
Trump loses, the right will organize its own Resistance -- smaller but
more menacing, much like the Dorrs here. I expect thay'll make the Tea
Party look like a polite afternoon klatch.
The case for unschooling: "Why the hands off alternative to
homeschooling might get parents through the Covid-19 pandemic."
I was intrigued by this because my own experience with the school
system was mostly negative. My impression is that schooling has
become even more demanding and oppressive since then, especially
with "No Child Left Behind"'s focus on testing. So my initial
reaction when schools shut down this Spring was that maybe kids
could use a break. On the other hand, to make this work, I don't
doubt that children and adolescents need access to and support
from people who do have decent educations. My parents weren't
much help, but after I dropped out of high school I found my own
way. Would certainly be easier today with the Internet. By the
way, after I dropped out, I spent a lot of time reading about
education. The term "unschooling" comes from John Holt, who was
one of the pioneering writers I read back then. Teaching as a
Subversive Activity, by Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner,
was my favorite.
Elahe Izadi/Jeremy Barr:
Bari Weiss resigns from New York Times, says 'Twitter has become its
ultimate editor': I can't say as Weiss was even on my radar, but
she was prominently mentioned in the Harper's letter controversy,
and evidently decided to exploit that moment of fame by "canceling"
herself. She was evidently most famous as the main pro-Zionist voice
on their opinion staff, not that the Times' biases there are likely
to change in the near future. Some reaction:
McCarthyism is back. This time, it's woke. The Weiss resignation
Andrew Sullivan's resignation from New York Magazine) stirred up
a hornet's nest of outrage among Washington Post opinion writers --
scroll down for links from Matt Bai, Hugh Hewitt, Kathleen Parker,
Megan McArdle, and Jennifer Rubin -- but this is about as off the
deep end as any. Olsen has no more grasp of McCarthyism than Clarence
Thomas did of lynching when he decried having to face unflattering
testimony. Although I am glad that McCarthyism is still being viewed
as something bad. For a better grounded use of the term, see
Trumpism is the new McCarthyism. Sullivan's farewell letter,
which doubles as promo for his new subscription newsletter, is
A New York Times columnist blamed a far-left 'mob' for her woes. But
maybe she deserves them. In any case, the talking point will set
her up for lucrative ventures further right.
The self-cancellation of Bari Weiss: "Like much of her writing,
the New York Times editor's resignation letter is long on accusation
and thin on evidence." As Shephard concludes, her resignation will
"make the perfect ending for her next book."
What a post-Trump Republican Party might look like: Interview with
Oren Cass, who was a Romney consultant and author of The Once and
Future Worker: A Vision for the Renewal of Work in America, on "why
conservatives need to challenge free-market economic orthodoxy." He
doesn't say much about the Republican party (either the financiers or
the rank-and-file), but does offer a bunch of dubious economic ideas.
Some such rethinking is in order (although few ideas have fared worse
than supply-side focus), but even if Trump loses badly, I don't see
many Republicans (either rich or poor) taking the hint to rethink
economic policy. Rather, they'll try to pin their loss on media focus
on Trump's gaffes, limiting them as much as possible to Covid-19.
Most importantly, the real power base behind the GOP -- which is
Fox News -- will pivot to attack mode, and try to gin up another Tea
Party, as they did in 2009. And once again, they'll do that not for
tactical reasons but because they have to fill up 24/7 of air time,
and outrage sells, and it doesn't matter to them if their market is
a hopeless minority -- just so it's big enough to be profitable.
All of that is happening as the news of a potential landslide in the
2020 election continues to build. There's been a lot of talk about how
several incumbent Republican senators are extremely vulnerable in their
quest for reelection. But today, the Cook Political Report made some
changes to their House ratings -- with 20 seats moving towards the
Democrats. . . .
So when Greg Dworkin's friend
suggested that this wasn't so much an election as a countdown, it
resonated deeply. The hope that we can turn things around in a few months
is palpable. But what will happen over those months is terrifying. The
clock is ticking.
Perhaps the saddest part of all of this is that it begs the question:
"Why did it have to get this bad?" I'm sure that future historians will
write volumes in an attempt to answer that question. But something is
deeply wrong with our democratic republic when it takes a pandemic costing
the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans to get us to wake up and
smell the stench emanating from the president and his congressional enablers.
Mary Trump's book shows how Donald Trump gets away with it: "The
problem with a fraud as big as this president is that once you start
collaborating with him, it's impossible to get out." I must admit I'm
enjoying the reviews of niece Mary Trump's book, Too Much and Never
Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man, not
least because it seems so close and personal, even if the title could
apply equally to nearly every silver-spooned baby boomer in the land.
Donald Trump ogled his own niece in a bathing suit and sought to fill
one of his books with hit lists of "ugly" women who had rebuffed him;
Donald Trump paid someone to take his SATs; Maryanne Trump Barry, a
retired federal appeals court judge, once described her brother as a
"clown" with no principles; Donald Trump was a vicious bully even as
a child; Freddy Trump -- the author's father -- died alone in a hospital
while Donald went to a movie. The details are new, and graphic, yes, but
very little about it is surprising: The president is a lifelong liar and
cheater, propped up by a father who was as relentless in his need for
success as Donald Trump was to earn his approval. . . .
But as it became clear that Donald had no real business acumen -- as
his Atlantic City casinos cratered and his father unlawfully poured secret
funds into saving them -- Mary realized that Fred also depended on the
glittery tabloid success at which Donald excelled. Fred continued to prop
up his son's smoke-and-mirrors empire because, as Mary writes, "Fred had
become so invested in the fantasy of Donald's success that he and Donald
were inextricably linked. Facing reality would have required acknowledging
his own responsibility, which he would never do. He had gone all in, and
although any rational person would have folded, Fred was determined to
double down." . . .
And as Mary Trump is quick to observe, the sheer stuck-ness of his
enablers means that Trump never, ever learns his lesson. Being cosseted,
lied to, defended, and puffed up means that Donald Trump knows that, "no
matter what happens, no matter how much damage he leaves in his wake,
he will be OK." He fails up, in other words, because everyone
around him, psychologically normal beings all, ends up so enmeshed with
his delusions that they must do anything necessary to protect them.
Trump's superpower isn't great vision or great leadership but rather
that he is so tiny. Taking him on for transactional purposes may seem
like not that big a deal at first, but the moment you put him in your
pocket, you become his slave. It is impossible to escape his orbit
without having to admit a spectacular failure in moral and strategic
judgment, which almost no one can stomach. Donald Trump's emptiness
is simply a mirror of the emptiness of everyone who propped him up.
Ivanka Trump and Lockheed Martin want you to reach for the stars and
stop collecting unemployment. Actually, "find something new" isn't
a totally stupid idea. It seems likely that the economy will eventually
adapt to Covid-19 and look different than the one before the pandemic.
As such, those who can shift their trajectories toward emerging careers
will benefit both for themselves and for the future society. Extended
unemployment compensation and benefits could help. But companies like
Lockheed Martin are just trying to scam the program for themselves.
How Trump is helping tycoons exploit the pandemic: "The secretive
titan behind one of America's largest poultry companies, who is also
one of the President's top donors, is ruthlessly leveraging the
coronavirus crisis -- and his vast fortune -- to strip workers of
Palantir is also controversial because its co-founder and board chair,
Peter Thiel, is controversial. Thiel, who was one of Facebook's first
outside investors and maintains a position on its board of directors,
has seen his share of criticism over the years, but the libertarian
billionaire really came into the public eye in 2016 when he revealed
himself as the money behind Hulk Hogan's privacy lawsuit against Gawker
(which would ultimately kill the site) and an early Trump supporter.
As most of liberal Silicon Valley's big names publicly came out against
Trump, Thiel was one of relatively few public figures who supported his
candidacy. After speaking at the Republican National Convention, he gave
the Trump campaign $1.25 million, and when Trump won the election, New
York magazine said he was "poised to become a national villain." Thiel
has been rewarded for his support: He was chosen to be a member of the
president's transition team; in the early days of the Trump presidency,
Politico dubbed Thiel "Donald Trump's 'shadow president' in Silicon Valley";
and Thiel's chief of staff and protégé, Michael Kratsios, served as the
White House's chief technology officer from 2017 until this month, when
he was named acting undersecretary for research and engineering at the
Department of Defense.
The article notes that "Palantir even sued the US Army in 2016 to
force it to consider using its intelligence software after the Army
chose to go with its own," and "won the suit, and then it won an $800
Trump keeps fighting a Confederate lag battle many supporters have
conceded. I thought Nikki Haley made a courageous move in ditching
the Confederate flag after a mass shooting in Charlestown while she
was governor, but it became merely savvy when literally no one tried
to save the flag. As a northerner whose ancestors came to the US well
after the Civil War, you'd expect Trump to have even less interest in
the Confederacy. But some polling here shows not only that a majority
of Americans view the Confederate flag as a racist symbol, there is
no significant difference between North and South -- but there is one
between Republicans and Democrats.
Throw the bums out: "We are in the midst of a world-historic failure
of governance. Why isn't anyone in charge acting like they are responsible
for it?" Picture is Andrew Cuomo, and his "three-dimensional foam mount
repreenting the pandemic's toll on the state." I'm not one inclined to
defend Cuomo, but I really doubt a random reshuffling of politicians
would do us any good. There may be exceptions, but in damn near all of
the country, there's a big difference between Republican and Democratic
Trumpism is an aesthetic, not an ideology -- and it will survive Donald
Trump. I'm half convinced: ideology involves too much thinking for
Trump followers. But at least I can imagine an ideology. I'm finding it
much harder to come up with a Trump aesthetic. Sure, there's no great
shortage of Trump kitsch, from his Goya pandering to his gold toilets,
but is that really an aesthetic? I've long been wary of efforts to
ideologize and/or aestheticize politics, not least because the Nazis
and Fascists put so much effort into doing just that. (I don't like
lumping them, but in this regard one could also include various
Communist parties -- with Korea the most comprehensive.) But with
Trump's followers, what you mostly get are Trilling's "irritable
mental gestures" -- well, sometimes physical gestures as well. All
they have is a psychology, and sure, that will survive Trump, not
because Trump invented it but because Trump was as mired in it as
they are. He never was the leader of a movement. He just caught the
spotlight as the guy acting out most flagrantly.
Political correctness is destroying America! (Just not how you think.)
What he means is that the right, and for that matter the center, work at
least as hard at patrolling use of language among their followers. You
don't have to spend much time watching Fox News to see that everyone in
every time slot echo the same talking points, offering the same spin on
and definition of events and ideas. The modern term for this is message
discipline. The exclusive association of PC with the left goes back to
the Leninist Communist Parties, where approved speech was deemed to be
correct, and because correct implies fidelity to a higher authority, like
nature or reality (or God or Party). The use in recent America has been
far more haphazard, mostly as people have sought to avoid and deplore
slurs, occasionally resorting to indirect or infelicitous phrases. This
is contentious because parties on all sides understand that controlling
the language used to define an issue often determines the outcome. But
it also becomes pedantic when debates reduce issues to terminology --
itself a common, if unappealing, debate technique. Schwarz provides many
examples of Republicans dictating their followers' speech, as well as a
few where mainstream Democrats have joined them (e.g., deference to God
and Country, to the military and the police). Still, I'm not sure that
calling this PC is helpful. For example, insisting that climate change
is a hoax is more properly propaganda, its message discipline enforced
as dogma. It is in no sense of the word correct.
Donald Trump Jr wages a culture war on the publishing industry:
"He evidently believes that he can make more money self-publishing --
especially if he portrays the move as a rebuke of liberal elites."
Trump has a new book, to be released during the Republican convention,
Liberal Privilege: Joe Biden and the Democrat's Defense of the
Chief Justice John Roberts has created the most conservative court in
modern history: In just the last few weeks, his court has helped financial
firms bilk pension funds, strengthened fossil fuel companies' power to
fast-track pipelines, limited the power of regulatory agencies that police
Wall Street, and stealthily let Donald Trump hide his tax returns. As a
reward for Roberts's continued defense of the wealthy and powerful, much
of the national media has obediently depicted him as a great hero of
moderation, because he sort of seemed to snub Trump in a handful of
Matthew Avery Sutton:
The truth about Trump's evangelical support: Review of recent books
on evangelical Christians: Kristin Kobes Du Mez: Jesus and John Wayne:
How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation;
Sarah Posner: Unholy: Why White Evangelicals Worship at the Altar
of Donald Trump; and Samuel L Perry/Andrew L Whitehead: Taking
America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States.
Before the pandemic, Trump was one of the worst presidents in our history.
But now he has laid waste to our country, with his unique combination of
incompetence and malevolence -- and he's not done yet. Once we finally rid
ourselves of him, it will take years to recover. But as we do, we should
never for a moment forget what he was and what he did to us. And we should
never stop being angry about it.
Same thing could have been said about Bush in 2008, but Obama chose
not to remind people of the wars and recession and environmental and
climate degradation and collapsing infrastructure and education and
increasing inequality he was to no small extent responsible for. He
not only let people forget the perils of electing Republicans, he let
them transfer blame to his own party and self, allowing Republicans
to stage a resurgence which led to Trump in 2016.
The pioneers of the misinformation industry: Book review of Claire
Bond Potter: Political Junkies: From Talk Radio to Twitter, How
Alternative Media Hooked Us on Politics and Broke Our Democracy;
and Matthew Lysiak: The Drudge Revolution: The Untold Story of How
Talk Radio, Fox News, and a Gift Shop Clerk with an Internet Connection
Took Down the Mainstream Media. "Potter, a professor at the New
School, keeps a (mostly) neutral, academic distance from her subjects,
while Lysiak has written a sympathetic biography that moves at the
speed of a screenplay."
Richard D Wolfe:
Why government mostly helps people who need it the least . . . even
during a crisis. Mostly on the stock market, which the Fed and
the Trump administration have struggled mightily to re-inflate after
the panic in March, even though an overvalued stock market is useless
to fighting the pandemic or even re-opening the economy. Trump thinks
it makes him look good, and maybe it does to people who own a lot of
stocks. The re-inflated stock market is a big part of the reason the
share of wealth owned by billionaires has increased dramatically while
virtually everyone else has suffered.
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
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."
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.
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
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.
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?
The House Democrats have made a good start with HR2, the Invest in
America Act -- but with one weird exception: A provision slipped into
the bill by the water privatization industry and its Congressional
allies would create incentives to privatize America's water supply
systems, one of the few essential services that are still mostly
public thanks to the heroic struggles of our Progressive Era forebears,
who worked to assure clean and affordable water via public systems. . . .
Privatized systems are typically less reliable, far more expensive,
and prone to corrupt deal-making. The average community with privatized
water paid 59 percent more than those with government supplied water.
In New Jersey, which has more private water than most, private systems
charged 79 percent more. In Illinois, they charged 95 percent more.
Private water corporations have also been implicated in environmental
disasters. The French multinational, Veolia, issued a report in 2015
certifying that Flint, Michigan's water system met EPA standards, but
neglected to mention high lead concentrations.
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
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."
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.
A partial explanation for the liberal victories this term is that
conservative advocates got ahead of their skis. . . . When the Court
moves rightward, conservative advocates are more likely to bring
dubious cases -- and conservative lawmakers are more likely to enact
laws of dubious constitutionality -- out of a belief that an
ideologically sympathetic Court is likely to rule in their favor.
Liberal lawyers, meanwhile, will be more likely to avoid federal
court unless they are sure their arguments are airtight. As a result,
the Supreme Court will tend to hear weaker claims from conservatives
and stronger claims from liberals.
The willful blindness of reactionary liberalism: "The critics of
progressive identity politics have got it all wrong: They're the illiberal
ones." This is relevant to the discussion of the Harper's letter below
(although I doubt I'll have time to sort it all out).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Liberal Zionists use arguments -- 'There is no equality between us and
the Palestinians' -- that echo white nationalists: Both are stuck
in the mentality of white settler colonists, something which seems more
anachronistic in America (where the question has been effectively settled)
but more urgent in Israel (where the native population is still large,
and the settler advantage more obviously compelled by force). I've long
felt that the rationale for two states was ultimately rooted in the
colonialist-racist desire to keep the Palestinian population as small
as possible, even if it means giving up some land. That's what we're
seeing here in liberal Zionist opposition to annexation, and of course
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.
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.
The Wichita Eagle doesn't publish a paper edition on Saturdays any
more, so I had to scrounge around for something to read with breakfast.
Picked up the 4 June 2020 London Review of Books, and started
reading Eliot Weinberg's lead article, "The American Virus":
As confirmed American coronavirus deaths pass 67,000, the president
declares, in an interview with Fox News held inside the Lincoln
Memorial, where events are traditionally banned: "They always said
nobody got treated worse than Lincoln. I believe I am treated worse."
A Twitter wit writes that, for the massive marble sculpture looming
above, "It was the second worst thing Lincoln ever watched."
Internal White House documents predict three thousand American
deaths a day by the end off May. The president weeets: "Getting great
reviews, finally, for how well we are handling the pandemic." He
retweets that the Trump Turnberry golf course has been named by
Golf World magazine as the best golf course in the UK and
Ireland for 2020. . . .
Republicans continue the fight against voting by mail. (The
president has said that if this were universally allowed, "you'd never
have a Republican elected in this country again," though he himself
mails in his ballot.) In Wisconsin in April, the Republican-majority
Supreme Court had demanded that voters appear in person, leading to a
spike in infections. In Texas, which permits voting by mail for the
ill, the attorney general rules that fear of Covid-19 is an "emotional
reaction . . . and does not, by itself, amount to a 'sickness.'"
Signs at the many protests at state capitols against the lockdown,
where crowds wave Confederate and "Don't Tread on Me" flags and
(legally) carry assault riffles:
COVID-19 IS A LIE
MY RIGHTS DON'T END WHERE YOUR FEAR BEGINS
FAUCI IS NOT OUR PRESIDENT
MY BODY MY CHOICE
JESUS IS MY VACCINE
KEEP TEXAS FREE FROM TYRANNY
GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME COVID-19
SACRIFICE THE WEAK: REOPEN
ARBEIT MACHT FREI
A WANT A HAIRCUT
In the ten days after the Republican governor of Georgia, Brian
Kemp, reopens gyms, spas, hair salons, tattoo parlours and other
essential services, confirmed coronavirus cases in the state rise by
42 per cent.
Of course, this is one news, but not very old. The death count has
nearly doubled since this was written (132,000 on Saturday; the 67,000
figure dates to April 25). The anti-lockdown demonstrations receded as
all states followed Georgia in re-opening non-essential businesses,
mostly with the same increase in infections. One thing that hasn't
changed is Trump's fetish for large statues, once again selecting a
large stone Lincoln for his July 4 spectacle. (See: Jordan Muller:
Trump seeks to claim the mantle of history in fiery Mount Rushmore
Is BlackRock the new vampire squid? "The investment giant casts
itself as socially responsible while contributing to the climate
catastrophe, evading regulatory scrutiny, and angling to influence
a Biden administration."
It is no accident that the same president who delivered this revanchist,
defensive Fourth of July message also could not articulate a single
second-term policy priority in front of a friendly interviewer. The
gauzy haze of nostalgia that it activates in the conservative mind can
be good at whipping up certain kinds of votes, but it cannot serve as
the basis for a coherent policy platform. It can encode certain
sentiments -- that America should be primarily for white evangelical
Christians and run primarily by older white men -- but those sentiments
are not only deeply unpopular, they run contrary to the actual words
of most of the country's founding documents and the majority of the
last century's constitutional jurisprudence.
Trump has failed on policy at every level because his vision is
difficult to translate into legislation, and when articulated almost
impossible to enact democratically. As a substitute for literally
Making America White Again, building a big wall, enacting travel bans
on certain countries or putting migrant children into cages is not
only unpopular and villainous, it's also difficult to do legislatively
and simply ineffectual in accomplishing the task. That's why these
sorts of right-wing populist jabs have historically been culture war
red meat designed to keep the bigots distracted while the rich people
in charge made off the loot in the form of subsidies and tax cuts. So
has it been also with Trump: his base gets to feel like they owned the
"libs," but in actuality the only structurally significant outcomes
have been tax cuts and giveaways for rich corporate executives and
a raft of corporate-friendly judges. Meanwhile, everyone else gets
the shaft economically -- including his own downwardly-mobile
supporters. . . .
Trump's vision has no future at all and cannot be negotiated or
compromised with. Even if it weren't morally repulsive, it would
still be a dead-end for what politics is supposed to be all about:
solving problems. During more frivolous times that might not be
seem like such a big deal: after all, in 2016 many people voted
for Trump out of a sense of "let's see what happens" bored amusement.
Many thought that the country essentially ran itself, so why not
put a showman in charge? Well, we've now seen what happens.
The Trump administration is giving up on fighting the pandemic:
The term narrowly considered, meaning the political operatives in and
near the White House: the conscious, political direction. But the term
is more often used to refer to the whole executive branch, which still
harbors countless anonymous bureaucrats who are merely doing their jobs,
or trying to (despite political obstacles).
Netanyahu wants to annex the West Bank. Will Joe Biden stop him?
Argues: "The Democratic nominee needs to be clear: the move would come
with real consequences if he's elected." I doubt that: annexation will
be baked into "the facts on the ground" by the time Biden can take
office, and he has never shown any evidence of standing up to (or even
questioning) Israel. Moreover, while the US has given lip service to
a "two-state solution" for a long time, the US has never really done
anything to make it happen. The problem Netanyahu faces most immediately
is losing European support to BDS -- that would be a "real consequence."
Longer term, Israel risks losing its bedrock Democratic Party base --
not Biden directly, but people Biden will ultimately depend on, and
who will eventually follow him. Netanyahu may think annexation will
be the great finale of his career, but it will leave his successors
in an impossible situation, as a pariah nation with an unassimilable
and rebellious underclass. On some level, he must realize that every
Black Lives Matter placcard that's appeared all around the world the
last few months can easily be repurposed to point a finger at him.
In his speeches this weekend, Trump positioned himself as a guardian
of American identity, depicting protests against police brutality and
racism -- which have slowed significantly in recent weeks, and have
been largely peaceful -- in paranoid and cartoonish terms as a "fascist"
threat to the republic.
It should be noted that Trump's claims of the existence of "far-left
fascism" are fundamentally incoherent: fascism is a right-wing form of
ultranationalism calling for a rebirth of a nation or race, and that
has nothing to do with liberal and left-wing calls for an end to police
brutality and racism. But that didn't stop Trump from making it the
central message of his speeches, which aimed to sensationalize the
issue of protests and statue-toppling.
Speaking at Mount Rushmore, amid peaceful protests led by members
of the Sioux Nation meant to underscore the fact the monument was built
on stolen and sacred land, Trump promised that the South Dakota monument
"will never be desecrated." And he went on to describe the ongoing
re-evaluation of public symbols of racism in American life as a threat
M Steven Fish/Neil A Abrams/Laila M Aghaie:
Make liberalism great again: "Liberals around the world have let
right-wing authoritarians claim patriotism as their own, with disastrous
consequences. It's time to take it back." This is a long article, only
given a cursory glance, partly because while I'm not unsympathetic to
those who would like to present a progressive agenda in the context of
America's oft-stated, rarely-realized ideals -- cf. Jill Lepore's This
America: The Case for the Nation, backed by her longer These Truths:
A History of the United States, or (much better) Ganesh Sitaraman's
The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution -- I don't find it
very satisfactory to go to all that trouble only to end up with another
paean to old-fashioned, left-hating liberalism. But also, deep down, I
just don't care much for the idea of patriotism, which has been left to
the right to debase as knee-jerk militarist idolatry precisely because
both liberals and the left (who are really just liberals who emphasize
that universal rights means everyone, not just individuals) feel any
real need to limit their horizons to a single nation. Consequently,
much of the framing pushed here sounds like bullshit, more or less on
the same level as the right-wing's patriotic claims.
To defeat systemic racism, America must end endless war. Well,
America's systemic racism predates "endless war," even the sporadic
imperial wars against Mexico (1848) and Cuba/Philippines (1898),
which it colored and conditioned -- one can trace it back to the
Indian wars of the 17th century. Still, every new war gins up yet
another wave of racism, as we've seen clearly in Korea, Vietnam,
and the Middle East (despite the efforts of Bush et seq. to exempt
"our allies" in and around Saudi Arabia). By the way, "endless
war" perpetuates much more than racism. Most obviously, there's
gun violence. Also see:
National Review is trying to rewrite its own racist history.
One thing I've long been struck by is how virulently racist 1950s
conservatives were, especially William F Buckley. (Nancy McLean's
Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's
Stealth Plan for America has many examples.) Barry Goldwater
denied that he was a racist when opposing civil rights laws --
something I could never square with his supposedly principled
positions on individual freedom, but which made sense given how
inextricably the 1950s conservative project was bound up with
the support of segregation and white supremacy.
Bob Harris/Jon Schwarz:
Carl Reiner's life should remind us: If you like laughing, thank FDR
and the New Deal. The comedian died at 94 last week. He got his
start in a WPA class for would-be actors. The New Deal had a number
of programs to support the arts in the 1930s. A similar effort would
be a great idea today, but doesn't seem to be on anyone's agenda. It
is currently impossible for most musicians to make their usual living
performing, but they could be paid to record music and make it freely
available over the Internet.
Trolling Trump, the Lincoln Project also peddles militarism:
"The Never Trump super PAC makes entertaining ads that get under
the president's skin -- but progressives should take a closer look
at their agenda." When asked about the maxim that "the enemy of my
enemy is my friend," Richard Stallman noted that was, at best, an
heuristic. I doubt it's even that useful. It's easy to get seduced
by people who hate Trump for totally wrong reasons, like for making
conservatives look bad, or for failing to be a monomaniacal hawk
like John Bolton.
Writing in The Atlantic, conservative writer Andrew Ferguson,
no fan of the president,
criticized the Lincoln Project for fighting Trump with Trumpian
means. He described the ads as "personally abusive, overwrought,
pointlessly salacious, and trip-wired with non sequiturs."
This ethical critique has merit, but the real problem with the
Lincoln Project is political. To the extent that the ads articulate
any political vision, it is a desire to return to the hard-line
military aggression of the George W. Bush era.
On Tuesday, the Lincoln Project released an ad addressing
accusations that Trump hasn't protected American troops in
Afghanistan from a bounty on their lives supposedly placed by
the Russian government. The ad, titled "Betrayed," features Dr.
Dan Barkhuff, a physician and former Navy SEAL. "Months ago,
Donald Trump learned the Russians were paying a bounty for dead
American soldiers in Afghanistan and chose to do nothing about
it," Barkhuff said. "Any commander in chief with a spine would
be stomping the living shit out of some Russians right now --
diplomatically, economically, or, if necessary, with the sort of
asymmetric warfare they're using to send our kids home in body
bags." He added, "Mr. Trump, you're either a coward who can't
stand up to an ex-KGB goon, or you're complicit. Which is it?"
The article cites a bunch of liberals who applauded this ad.
On some level, I don't care why people decide to oppose Trump,
but I do worry about people who encourage Biden to be even more
hawkish than Trump, both because it's the wrong stance to take
and because I'm convinced that Hillary Clinton's commander-in-chief
posturing and long history of applauding belligerence cost her
the 2016 election. Biden's record is little better, which is all
the more reason to downplay his past mistakes. For some better
advise, see: John Nichols:
Anti-war groups push Biden and the Democrats to rethink foreign
The Trump cult is loyal to an ideology, not the man: "A rise in
extreme polarization culminated in Trump -- and likely won't be
vanquished by Biden." This is an idea that's going around, but it
doesn't make much sense to me. Although some of Trump's followers --
someone like Steve Bannon -- could conjure up something that looks
like an ideology, Trump couldn't begin to articulate it. He's just
a rich guy who likes being in front of the camera, spouting the
received prejudices and irritable mental gestures he's picked up
watching Fox. His fans share those prejudices, and appreciate that
he's able to say what they can't -- they may even think that he's
fighting for them, but he's really just stroking his own ego. Once
he's gone, others will try to pick up the mantle, but I don't see
how anyone else can keep his movement together. On the other hand,
I doubt Trump will fade away like GW Bush did. He's going to rule
right-wing media until he dies or is incapacitated, so, sure, his
cult will be with us for a while. But it won't be an ideology.
Trumpism, not polarization, drives America's disastrous coronavirus
politics. Some indication here that Republicans are starting to
turn on Trump. Better news would be if Americans turned sharp against
Republicans. Trump is basically a vessel that collected decades of
Fox-spread bile and insanity, something he reflects all the way down
to the blank stare of oblivion as the world crumbles around him.
Natasha Korecki/Marc Caputo:
A Sun Belt time bomb threatens Trump's reelection: "Rising Covid-19
caseloads in Florida, Arizona and Texas raise fresh doubts about the
president's reelection prospects." Favorite line here: "Trump's campaign
accuses Democrats of exploiting tragedy."
What if Trump decides not to seek a second term? "It's not as crazy
of an idea as it sounds" -- but, really it is. Trump filed for reëlection
the day after his inauguration. Running for a second term is the only
thing he's actually wanted to do as president. He lets his underlings run
everything else, at least until they become too embarrassing, in which
case he makes them find more pliable and less competent replacements. So
what if he's going to lose? He stayed true to his blindest and dumbest
followers, and he certainly knows how to monetize whatever treachery
undid him. As for the Republicans, it's too late for them to find a
credible replacement. Sure, they could go with Mitt Romney, and piss
off his base. Or they could elevate Mike Pence, and bore them to death.
In any case, they're stuck with Trump's record, which is arguably worse
than the man himself (not that such distinctions matter to most of us).
Longman also wrote:
What happens when Trump stops believing he can win reelection?
Problem there is that the "chaos and malevolence" is coming anyway.
Trump can't help himself (not that he would if he could). Related:
Trump to Trump: You're fired!. Also not going to happen. Although
I did imagine that he might resign after getting reëlected, to get a
jump on cashing in. Or maybe after getting trounced, to give Pence a
presidential legacy, although he'd really just be running out the
clock, like a third-string quarterback.
In 'Russia bounty' story, evidence-free claims from nameless spies became
fact overnight. A story claiming "Russia secret offered Afghan militants
bounties to kill U.S. troops" was planted in the New York Times and picked
up everywhere, including among liberals who figured they could spin it into
their favored story lines: that Trump is a Putin puppet, or (more plausibly)
incompetent and indifferent. My initial reaction was that the story was a
crock, meant purely to sabotage the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and/or
to ratchet up cold war tensions with Russia, and nothing since then -- an
investigation that found one soldier who might have been affected, or a
"confirmation" from the Taliban -- has changed my mind. There are lots of
good reasons for being critical of Russia, but this one makes no sense.
It's not hard to understand Trump. It is hard to understand the people
in his Administration who enable the blather and the misinformation,
who spin-cycle it to bleach out the most offensive or dangerous
implications, and who parrot it dutifully. For the first two years of
Trump's Presidency, some of these people were known as "the adults in
the room." To an admittedly remote observer, those people looked
indistinguishable from opportunists willing to suppress their opinions
in the hopes of becoming Presidential puppet masters. They were dreaming.
All of them have departed with their reputations scarred.
It's bad politics for Democrats to be hawkish on foreign policy.
Cites Elliot Engel ("one of only two dozen House Democrats out of 1888
who ultimately voted against the Iran deal"), defeated in last week's
primary, as a cautionary example, but the point should be made much
more generally. Hawkish Democrats are especially suspect, not least
because they usually frame their interventionist appeals as acts of
humanitarianism, and such crises are numerous and inevitable. Besides,
there's nothing many Americans hate more than "helping" unappreciative
others. Republicans may be more supportive of funding America's imperial
overreach, but they usually withhold actual war until they can gin up
a popular desire for spite and revenge -- something Americans do believe
Senator Bernie Sanders' reasonable suggestion that the U.S., like Denmark,
should nationalize its healthcare system is dismissed as the fanciful pipe
dream of an aging socialist rather than an obvious solution to a human
problem embraced by nearly every other nation in the world. The Seattle
healthcare professional who expressed shock that even "Third World
countries" are "better equipped" than we are to confront COVID-19 betrays
a stunning ignorance of the diversity of healthcare systems within
developing countries. Cuba, for instance, has responded to this crisis
with an efficiency and humanity that puts the U.S. to shame.
Indeed, the U.S. is only beginning to feel the full impact of COVID-19's
explosive confrontation with our exceptionalism: if the unemployment rate
really does reach 32 percent, as has been predicted, millions of people
will not only lose their jobs but their health insurance as well. In the
middle of a pandemic.
Over 150 years apart, political commentators Edmund Burke and Aimé
Césaire referred to this blindness as the byproduct of imperialism.
Both used the exact same language to describe it; as a "gangrene" that
"poisons" the colonizing body politic. From their different historical
perspectives, Burke and Césaire observed how colonization boomerangs
back on colonial society itself, causing irreversible damage to nations
that consider themselves humane and enlightened, drawing them deeper
into denial and self-delusion.
Roe v. Wade isn't safe: "The Supreme Court just struck down an anti-abortion
law. Here's why access is still at risk."
Democrats can't quit their addiction to big-money donors: "The
urgency of beating Trump in November has once again set campaign
finance reform on the back burner." After 2008 would have been an
ideal time for Democrats to clamp down on money in campaigning, but
Obama had raised significantly more money than McCain, and was
looking forward to repeating his dominance in 2012, and members of
Congress in both parties were united in their ability to raise more
funds than their opponents. Further complication comes from a Supreme
Court firmly committed to protecting corruption in at least two ways:
equating money with free speech, and making it virtually impossible
to convict anyone of taking bribes.
Trumpism after Trump. More notes and conjecture than an argument.
Quiggin has also signed up to write a book on
The Economic Consequences of the Pandemic. If, as he assumes,
Biden will be the next president, with a workable majority in
Congress, the real question has less to do with rump Trumpism than
his third assumption: whether "mainstream Democrats recognize the
need for radical change, and Biden will align with the mainstream
position as he always has done." Quiggin's book will presumably
argue for "radical change" under those conditions.
'The most ignorant and unfit': What made America's worst ever leader?
Starts with a convenient quote from Michelle Obama: "Being president
doesn't change who you are, it reveals who you are." Rothkopf sifts
through various historian surveys of the worst presidents ever -- poor
lists, if you ask me, prejudiced against the mediocrities of the 19th
century while omitting Nixon and the Bushes, whose only saving graces
were to be followed by even worse Republicans -- but ultimately settles
on a past leader more temperamentally (and cognitively) suited for
comparing Trump to: George III.
America has almost 800 billionaires, a record high. Well, 788, up
12% from a year before, or 27% (from 620) in 2016. That's 0.0002409% of
the US population (328.2 million). Maybe it would be fairer to divide
by US households (128.58 million): 0.00061284%, or 1 in every 163,174
households. That's an unimaginably tiny fraction of the total -- about
2 people in Wichita (who happen to be Charles Koch and Phil Ruffin,
something you may know even if you're not from here). But those 788
billionaires control $3.4 trillion in assets, up 14% since the end of
How Trump gave insurance companies free rein to sell bad health plans.
"Obamacare wasn't repealed. Trump's deregulation is eroding it anyway."
I an think of few things that are more injurious than insurance plans
that don't actually protect you from unexpected health care expenses.
One thing Obamacare did so was establish minimum standards of coverage --
although they also allowed huge deductibles and co-payments, so a great
many people wound up paying more out of pocket, but at least they had
some coverage for major expenses. Trump is just a co-conspirator to
Why a Covid-19 drug costs $3,100. This piece doesn't provide a very
good explanation -- it mostly muddies the water with insurance variations
like deductibles -- and the section "is this a fair price for remdesivir
as a Covid-19 therapy?" is mostly nonsense. (For instance, Gilead figures
that if their drug reduces hospital stays 3-4 days, their "value proposition"
should reap a significant percentage of the saved hospital costs.) Bottom
line is that Big Pharma is built on patents and extortion pricing. This
is an example, not an exception.
The entire pharmaceutical sector has been raising prices during the
pandemic: 245 drugs hiked up between January and June according to
Patients for Affordable Drugs, including 61 being used for COVID-19
treatment and another 30 in use in clinical trials. . . . Hilariously,
Gilead's stock fell in Monday trading because investors thought they
should charge more.
If remdesivir were sold at the cost of production, it would cost
$10, not $3,120. The "value" of the drug comes with the reduction in
admission length, and the savings to hospitals and patients. But even
that value, based on the known science, shouldn't go too far past $400,
according to the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review. You could
say that Gilead needs to recoup its research and development costs, but
of course the U.S. government financed much of that research.
Similarly, bipartisan legislation passed in 1980 created so-called
march-in rights that empower the government to authorize another
company -- or the government itself -- to produce a lower-priced
generic version of a high-priced medicine.
The problem, of course, is that the government's health care
apparatus is controlled by former pharmaceutical industry executive
The only force staving off desperate conditions for many households
was the one-time checks the government sent most Americans and the
temporary expansion of jobless benefits.
Now with the resurgence of COVID-19 infections, Congress has little
choice but to approve another round of checks and extend the generous
unemployment benefits. If Congress does approve a lot more help, millions
of American households will still face financial peril -- and if Congress
fails to step up again, tens of millions of Americans could confront
As a dose of reality, the new income data show that our current
conditions are roughly three times as severe as the Great Recession.
All personal income fell 4.2 percent in May and 3.0 percent over the
three months from March through May. It took nine months for personal
income to fall that much during the Great Recession. Wage and salary
income actually increased by 3.3 percent in May, as the payroll grants
under the CARES program kicked in and businesses began to reopen. Even
so, wage and salary income fell 7.9 percent from March through May,
again more than during the entire Great Recession.
The reason that total personal income fell "only" 3.0 percent over
the three months -- the steepest drop on record -- while total wage and
salary income fell an astounding 7.9 percent in three months was due
almost entirely to those government checks and jobless benefits. After
setting aside government transfers, the BEA reports that total personal
income fell 7.5 percent in three months.
John Roberts distances himself from the Trump-McConnell legal project:
But (see Millhiser above) he still strikes me as a team player, casting
the deciding vote to uphold Republican voting restrictions. Occasional
votes that seem independent could just as well be calculated to retain
a shred of integrity for a Court that will increasingly curtail democracy,
especially if people don't panic and stop the flow of Federalist Society
Liz Essley Whyte:
Trump's favorite weapon in the coronavirus fight: Deregulation:
Well, his favorite weapon in every fight, regardless of aptness.
"Instead of addressing this crisis head-on, the Trump administration
appears to be exploiting the chaos of the pandemic by rolling back
critics civil rights regulatory protections and environmental