Weekend Roundup [20 - 29]

Monday, September 7, 2020

Weekend Roundup

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 yet on 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 Labor Day.

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 feed:

"It's days like this that make me wonder if I should be tweeting more or golfing more. . . ."
"Wow, for a lawless hellscape that Joe Biden is somehow responsible for, it seems like a nice day!"
Downtown Portland in smoldering ruins. Notice the fear on everyone's face as they await the arrival of antifa.

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 themselves.

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 democracy.

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.

Some scattered links this week:

Kate Aronoff: Elon Musk thinks his treatment of workers is a "trade secret".

Dean Baker: Trump's 'America First' vaccine agenda may leave us last: "By using the usual patent monopoly framework rather than international open-source collaboration, the coronavirus vaccine may prove both elusive and more costly for Americans."

Peter Baker/Maggie Haberman: Trump fans strife as unrest roils the US.

BBC: International Criminal Court officials sanctioned by US. "The Hague-based ICC is currently investigating whether US forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan."

Zack Beauchamp: Donald Trump is inciting violence. "His audience is tens of millions of people. Only a tiny percentage need to act to severely disrupt this country's politics."

Riley Beggin:

  • 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 city" crime.

    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.

  • Jacob Blake speaks about being shot by a police officer: "It's nothing but pain".

  • The fight over defunding Stars and Stripes, explained. I've seen articles both blaming Trump for shutting down the Pentagon's house propaganda organ and crediting Trump for saving it.

Jake Bittle: This is what Trumpism after Trump looks like: Profile of Laura Loomer, "proud Islamophobe," QAnon supporter, Republican nominee for Congress.

Bob Brigham:

Rosa Brooks: 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 various scenarios.

John Cassidy: Donald Trump's incitements to violence have crossed an alarming threshold.

Fabiola Cineas/Sean Collins/Anna North: The police shooting of Jacob Blake, explained: "Blake's shooting has inspired intense protests, a professional sports strike, and fiery rhetoric from President Trump."

Patrick Cockburn: Trump at the RNC: Echoes of Saddam.

Aaron Ross Coleman:

Summer Concepcion: Ex-staffers at DeJoy's former business say he reimbursed them for donations to GOPers.

Chris D'Angelo: Trump is trying to greenwash his appalling environmental record before the election.

Jason Ditz:

  • Pentagon accuses China of massing anti-satellite weapons:

    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 years.

  • Pompeo: Whole world uniting against China.

  • Israel attacks airport in Syria's central city of Homs.

  • Pompeo tells Venezuela opposition to boycott election.

Adam Eichen: The GOP remains loyal to corporations and lobbying groups over Americans. Covid hasn't changed that.

Paul Farrell: David Graeber dead: Anthropologist & anti-capitalist thinker behind 'we are the 99%' slogan dies at 59.

Also worth linking to some of David Graeber's work (also see the listing at The Anarchist Library):

Matt Ford: 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.

Andrew Freedman/Diana Leonard: Heat 'rarely ever seen' is forecast to roast West by the weekend, with wildfires still burning. Freedman followed this up with: California faces record-setting 'kiln-like' heat as fires rage, causing injuries.

Susan B Glasser: The 2020 election, a race in which everything happens and nothing matters: "If a pandemic that has killed nearly two hundred thousand Americans can't significantly hurt Trump's support, can anything?"

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 Trump books 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 (2017, Regnery)
  • 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 books I 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 & Schuster)
  • 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, Harper)
  • 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)
  • Jonathan Allen/Amie Parnes: Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign (2017, Crown)
  • 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:

Benjamin Hart: Black man died of asphyxiation after officers placed hood on him: "Rochester police put a 'spit hood' over Daniel Prude's head, then pinned him to the ground for two minutes. Seven officers have now been suspended."

Eoin Higgins: 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.

Michael Hudson: How an "act of God" pandemic is destroying the West: The US is saving the financial sector, not the economy. In fact, now that the financial sector appears safe from its March panic, the Republicans seem to be done with everyone else.

Harmeet Kaur: Covid-19 has killed more law enforcement officers this year than all other causes combined. "At least 101 officers have died from Covid-19, while at least 82 have died by other means, as of Thursday, according to ODMP. . . . Gunfire is the second-highest cause of death, which has killed at least 31 officers this year." Meanwhile, the number of people killed by police: 679 so far this year, 1,013 in the past year.

Sunil Khilnani: 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).

Ezra Klein:

  • Can anything change Americans' minds about Donald Trump?: "The eerie stability of Trump's approval rating, explained."

    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 unbelievable."

    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.

  • What the Iraq disaster can teach us about Trump. Interview with Robert Draper, author of To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq.

Natasha Korecki/Christopher Cadelago: With a hand from Trump, the right makes Rittenhouse a cause célèbre.

Paul Krugman:

Robert Kuttner: 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: Alex Thompson: Biden transition team shapes up with Obama-Biden alum hires.

Nancy LeTourneau: Trump's attack on Booker would be laughable if it wasn't so racist.

Eric Lipton: How Trump draws on campaign funds to pay his legal bills.

Martin Longman:

Michael Luo: 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 movement since.

David J Lynch/Carol D Leonnig/Jeff Stein/Josh Dawsey: Tactics of fiery White House trade adviser draw new scrutiny as some of his pandemic moves unravel. Fiery? Some new euphemism for "full of shit"?

Bill McKibben: 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.

Ian Millhiser:

Max Moran: Mick Mulvaney: A frustrated wrecking ball: "The former top Trump official is seething that civil servants want to do their jobs well."

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 Northern Ireland.

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 "exist." Also:

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.

Nicole Narea: How Trump made it that much harder to become a US citizen.

Ella Nilsen: Joe Biden makes the case Donald Trump has already made America more dangerous.

Timothy Noah: Wall Street's greedy indifference to human misery: "The disparity between the soaring stock market and struggling Americans perfectly epitomizes the country's grotesque inequality."

JC Pan: Rotting produce, vacant luxury apartments, and fake scarcity in a pandemic: "Leaving essentials like food and shelter to the whims of the market produces an extreme kind of disorganization." At the very least, this shows that markets don't respond very quickly or aptly to unpredicted events.

James Pasley: Trump frequently accuses the far-left of inciting violence, yet right-wing extremists have killed 329 victims in the last 25 years, while antifa members haven't killed any, according to a new study. I suppose the killing of a Trump militia man in Portland might be the first, if not self-defense, which will be hard to prove after police killed the alleged shooter.

Kevin Peraino: 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 Wisner.

Cameron Peters:

Daniel Politi: Trump took art from ambassador's home in Paris, but pieces were fakes and replicas.

Andrew Prokop: The debate over whether unrest will help Trump win, explained.

John Quiggin: The economic consequences of the pandemic: Title for a book he's working on, which has recently spawned two articles: Have we just stumbled on the biggest productivity increase of the century?, on shifting work from office to home, and The end of the goods economy. Two more recent notes by Quiggin: What's with the stock market?, and Intangibles = monopoly.

Emily Rauhala/Yasmeen Abutaleb: US says it won't join WHO-linked effort to develop, distribute coronavirus vaccine.

Kate Riga: In first interview since FBI firing, Strzok frets about Trump-Russia unknowns; and Eric Tucker: Strzok calls attacks from Trump 'outrageous' and 'cruel'. Fired FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok starts to flog his Sept. 8 book: Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J Trump. More:

David Roberts: Big Oil's hopes are pinned on plastics. It won't end well. "The industry's only real source of growth probably won't grow much." Related:

Aaron Rupar:

Giovanni Russonello: Jazz has always been protest music. Can it meet this moment? Related: Alan Scherstuhl: Jazz is built for protests. Jon Batiste is taking it to the streets.

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:

Greg Sargent: These old quotes from Trump make his attacks on Biden look even more pathetic: "Violence on a president's watch is only his fault when that president is Barack Obama."

Walter Shapiro: America is not reliving 1968: "Sure, Donald Trump is harnessing Richard Nixon's law and order rhetoric, but that doesn't mean it will work."

Alex Shephard: The media is falling for Trump's law and order con.

Matt Shuham: With itchy trigger fingers, some right wingers predict the next civil war has finally arrived.

Timothy Snyder: What ails America: Specifically, a diary of botched medical care.

Roger Sollenberger: Ted Cruz seeks abortion pill ban, claims pregnancy is not "life-threatening".

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 they hate.

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 1969).

Margaret Sullivan:

Emily VanDerWerff: One good thing: Stephen Colbert is looser, funnier, and angrier in quarantine.

Alex Ward:

Libby Watson: Covid patients are receiving eye-popping bills. It's not all Trump's fault. "His plan to help with hospital charges is poorly designed. But even a well-crafted plan would have been no match for our inept health care system."

Peter Wehner: Why Trump supporters can't admit who he really is:

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.

Michael Patrick Welch: Lake Charles was destroyed by Hurricane Laura. America has already moved on. "Like Katrina before it, Hurricane Laura has exposed disturbing inequalities -- and the rest of the nation's fundamental indifference."

Ben White: Trump's rebound story meets mounting bankruptcies: "Local business site Yelp found that 55 percent of the firms that closed during the worst of the pandemic beginning in March are now permanently shuttered."

Jill Wine-Banks: Don't forget about the Steve Bannon indictment. Seems like there may be more to come.

Matthew Yglesias: 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.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Before we waddle in the dirt, here's an election song from Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby. It will make you feel better. And to top it off, how about People Have the Power (e.g., "the power to wrestle the earth from fools")?

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 trigger).

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).

Links on the Republican National Convention:

  • Vox [Zack Beauchamp/Jane Coaston/German Lopez/Ian Millhiser/Nicole Narea/Andrew Prokop/Aaron Rupar/Dylan Scott/Emily Stewart/Matthew Yglesias/Li Zhou]:

  • Tim Alberta: 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.

  • Eric Alterman: The 'abomination' of a convention makes clear the GOP threat.

  • David Atkins:

  • Zack Beauchamp:

    • Nick Sandmann, RNC speaker and Covington Catholic video star, explained: Why is an 18-year-old nobody speaking at the RNC?

      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 and the subtle rot of Trump's reality TV presidency: "Why the RNC's broadcasted naturalizations and pardon ceremony felt so wrong."

    • The RNC weaponized exhaustion: "The sheer volume of lies and illegal behavior from Trump and the Republicans is what allowed them to get away with it."

      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.

  • Katelyn Burns:

    • Kimberly Guilfoyle's speech encapsulated the Fox News feel of the RNC's first night: "Loudly." How can a person find any logic in gibberish such as this:

      "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 trade deals.

      "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 said.

      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.

  • John Cassidy: Mike Pence's big lie about Trump and the coronavirus at the Republican National Convention.

    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 role naturally.

  • Jonathan Chait:

  • Jane Coaston: 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 doing.

  • Aaron Ross Coleman: Republicans claim Democrats want to defund the police. Biden's plan calls for more police.

  • Chas Danner: NYC tenants in RNC video say they were tricked.

  • Josh Dawsey: Trump escalates rhetoric on unrest in cities, looking for a campaign advantage.

  • David Dayen: A guide to the GOP Convention's pretend agenda.

  • Dan Diamond/Adam Cancryn: How Mike Pence slowed down the coronavirus response.

  • Thomas B Edsall: 'I fear that we are witnessing the end of American democracy': "The Frank racism of the contemporary Republican agenda is on display at the RNC."

  • Matt Ford: Donald Trump declares total war on the civil service: "The Republican National Convention is a testament to the president's effort to permanently recast the executive branch in his own warped image."

  • David Frum: The platform the GOP is too scared to publish: "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 running."

    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 running.

    1. 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. . . .
    2. The coronavirus is a much-overhyped problem. It's not that dangerous and will soon burn itself out. . . .
    3. 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.
    4. China has become an economic and geopolitical adversary of the United States. . . . When China wins, the U.S. loses, and vice versa.
    5. 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 on Iran.
    6. Health care is a purchase like any other. Individuals should make their ow best deals in the insurance market with minimal government supervision. . . .
    7. Voting is a privilege. States should have wide latitude to regulate that privilege . . .
    8. 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 protecting them.
    9. 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.
    10. The post-Watergate ethics reforms overreached. We should welcome the trend toward unrestricted and secret campaign donations. . . .
    11. Trump's border wall is the right policy to slow illegal immigration; the task of enforcing immigration rules should not fall on business operators. . . .
    12. 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. . . .
    13. 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.

  • Masha Gessen: Trump's Republican National Convention was a spectacle fit for a would-be king.

    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.

  • Susan B Glasser: The malign fantasy of Donald Trump's convention.

    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.

  • Melissa Gira Grant: The real, paranoid housewives of the Republican Convention: "Patricia McCloskey and Kimberly Guilfoyle are a new twist on a dangerous lineage of conservative women."

  • Elliot Hannon: New citizens in Trump's naturalization stunt were unaware it would be used at RNC.

  • Monica Hesse: Trying to disgust you is the only move the Republican convention's antiabortion speakers have left.

  • Dan Hopkins: Why Trump's racist appeals might be less effective in 2020 than they were in 2016.

  • Sarah Jones: The GOP thinks Marxists are taking over. If only that were true: All this insane paranoia about radical Democrats and the march of socialism is helping to produce a backlash as more and more people wonder if that wouldn't be a good idea after all.

  • Fred Kaplan:

  • Ed Kilgore:

  • Ezra Klein:

    • A loyalty test for the GOP, a reality test for the country: "The Republican Party has become a personality cult."

      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 same."

      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.

    • The 3 charts that disprove Donald Trump's convention speech: "Trump wants to take credit for something he didn't do [pre-pandemic economic growth], and dodge blame for something he did do [coronavirus response]."

  • Michael Kruse: How Trump mastered the art of telling history his way. Grim conclusion, quoting Doug Brinkley: "And if he gets reelected with us knowing all of this, then he is a reflection of what America has become."

  • Nancy LeTourneau: How Trump inoculates his supporters against reality.

  • Eric Levitz:

  • German Lopez:

  • Andrew Marantz: The manic denialism of the Republican National Convention.

    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 about.

  • Nick Martin: The Republican National Convention's carnival of white grievance.

  • Ben Mathis-Lilley:

  • Harold Meyerson:

  • Ian Millhiser:

    • The Hatch Act, the law Trump flouted at the RNC, explained.

    • 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."

    • The RNC yanked a speaker who promoted an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory: Mary Ann Mendoza. "Cancel culture" lives on.

    • The most shocking line in Vice President Pence's 2020 RNC speech: "Pence blames right-wing violence on a vague leftist enemy."

      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 audience.

      Underwood's death is tragic, but it has nothing to do with left-wing radicals.

      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.

  • Elie Mystal: 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.

  • John Nichols:

  • Timothy Noah:

  • Anna North: Trump's pitch to evangelical voters, explained in one RNC speech: "He's 'the most pro-life president we have ever had,' according to anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson."

  • Rebecca Onion: American history has never seen anything to rival the Trumps' RNC family act: Alternate title, "The Trump children hogged the spotlight like nothing else in history."

  • JC Pan: The Republicans' love letter to rich culture warriors.

  • Cameron Peters: The difference between the DNC and RNC, in one tweet: It's mostly visual, so you'll have to follow the link to get it. Of course, that's not the only difference, or even the most important one.

  • Paul R Pillar: The costs of Mike Pompeo's partisanship.

  • Andrew Prokop: Why Republicans didn't write a platform for their convention this year: "The party's true priority is supporting Donald Trump."

  • Frank Rich: Trump thinks racism is his best chance: "Trailing in the polls, he used the Republican National Convention to ratchet his violence-encouraging rhetoric to an even more dangerous level."

  • Alyssa Rosenberg:

  • David Roth: Trump's cloud of gossip has poisoned America: "The president's insatiable need to traffic in rumor and conspiracy blows larger holes in our shared reality with each passing day."

  • Aaron Rupar:

  • Greg Sargent: The GOP convention just ripped the mask off Trump's corruption and lies: On Pam Bondi's speech.

  • Dylan Scott: The contradictory Republican case to Black voters -- and why it matters.

  • Doreen St Félix: The special hypocrisy of Melania Trump's speech at the Republican National Covention.

  • Joshua Shanes: This was the week American fascism reached a tipping point.

  • Walter Shapiro:

    • The surprising boredom of Trump's circus show.

    • Mike Pence is a parody of a politician.

      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 tracks.

      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.

    • The Republicans still don't know how to run against Biden.

  • Alex Shephard:

  • Roger Sollenberger: Registered foreign agent Pam Bondi accuses Joe Biden of self-dealing in Republican convention speech.

  • Emily Stewart: 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.

  • Emily VanDerWerff: The bland, boring visuals of the Republican National Convention: "The aesthetics of the 2020 RNC are a disaster."

  • Paul Waldman: The RNC will be a strange mix of denial and terror.

  • Joan Walsh:

  • Alex Ward:

  • Robin Wright: A dubious Pompeo speech for an empty Trump foreign policy.

  • Li Zhou:

  • Jonathan Zimmerman: Trumpism is the real cancel culture.

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:

  • Katelyn Burns: What a second Trump term could mean for LGBTQ people.

  • Nicole Narea: A nation of immigrants no more.

  • Andrew Prokop: Lock them up: The danger of political prosecutions in a second Trump term.

  • David Roberts: 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 know, eventually.

  • Dylan Scott: What would Trump actually want to do on health care in a second term?

  • Alex Ward: "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.

Some more scattered links this week:

Dan Alexander: Trump has now oved $2.3 million of campaign-donor money into his private business.

Edward Burmila: What populism is and is not. Review of Thomas Frank's book, The People, NO! The War on Populism and the Fight for Democracy.

Katelyn Burns:

Marcia Chatelain: How federal housing programs failed black America: Review of Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's book, Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership.

Fabiola Cineas: 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.

Eric Cordellessa: The Republicans newest plan to derail voting rights.

Vinson Cunningham: The exhilarating jolt of the Milwaukee Bucks' wildcat strike.

David Enrich: The incestuous relationship between Donald Trump and Fox News: Review of Brian Stelter's book, Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth.

David A Farenthold/Jonathan O'Connell/Joshua Partlow:

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.

Chris Gelardi: US law enforcement's warrior complex is on full display in the streets -- and in leaked documents: "Hacked documents from the early weeks of the ongoing protest movement illustrate one of Black Lives Matter's central observations: Policing in the United States functions as a military occupation."

Sean Illing:

Umair Irfan: What makes California's current major wildfires so unusual: Updated from last week. After all, the state is still on fire.

Ezra Klein:

  • Isabel Wilkerson wants to change how we understand race in America: Wilkerson's book is Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents. Makes me wonder why she can't just say "class."

  • 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.

  • How to decarbonize America -- and create 25 million jobs: Interview with Saul Griffith, who runs an organization called Rewiring America, and has an ebook on how to do it.

Markos Kounalakis: 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.

Akela Lacy: Protesters in multiple states are facing felony charges, including terrorism.

Nicholas Lemann: 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:

German Lopez:

  • Trump asked for fewer Covid-19 tests. Now the CDC is recommending less testing.

  • 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.

Sarah Lyall: In Trumpworld, the grown-ups in the room all left, and got book deals: Gang-reviews books by Sean Spicer, James Comey, Omarosa Manigault Newman, Andrew G McCabe, Anonymous, John Bolton, and Mary L Trump.

Jonathan Martin: Over 100 ex-staff members for John McCain endorse Joe Biden. As someone who's long regarded McCain as one of the most reprehensible characters in American politics, I don't find this very gratifying. Especially give the other large Republican cluster to come over to Biden: Top Republican national security officials say they will vote for Biden. McCain was long the most reckless hawk in the GOP, and that's bread and butter to the security officialdom, so the bet is that Biden will follow militarist orthodoxy more faithfully than Trump will. Biden has given them little reason to think otherwise, so they may be onto something. Those camps loom large in All the Republicans who have decided not to support Trump.

Bill McKibben: On climate change, we've run out of presidential terms to waste. He probably said that about Bush too -- if not the first, certainly the second. After all, he founded 350.org when 350 was just a fearsome future number. The latest carbon dioxide number (from 2019) is 409.8 ppm.

Ian Millhiser: What happens to the Supreme Court (and the Constitution) if Trump wins: "The Supreme Court has rejected some of the GOP's sloppiest and most presumptuous arguments. It won't anymore if Republicans grow their majority."

Anna North: Elizabeth Warren calls for investigation into Trump's politicization of Covid-19.

Evan Osnos: 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.

JC Pan: Private equity is cannibalizing the post-pandemic economy: "These vulture firms helped create the conditions for economic collapse. Now they're cleaning up."

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."

Alex Pareene:

Vijay Prashad: Why Cuban doctors deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.

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.

Andrew Prokop: The Jerry Falwell Jr scandal, explained: "It's not just about sex -- it's a tale of financial, institutional, and political corruption. And there's a Trump angle." More on Falwell:

Robert Reich: Trump's 40 biggest broken promises.

Aja Romano: 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.

Siguel Samuel: Germany is launching a new experiment in basic income.

Luke Savage: Joe Biden's strategy of appealing to Republicans is courting disaster. See 2016. I don't mind the messaging going that way, but the mistake that Biden cannot afford is slighting the "ground game" to make sure the base votes, and understands what's at stake. That's something Obama did well, and Hillary barely did at all.

John Schwartz: Climate is taking on a growing role for voters, research suggests. Related: Lisa Friedman: Climate could be an electoral time bomb, Republican strategists fear.

Dylan Scott: How Obamacare helped millions who lost their jobs during Covid-19, in 3 charts.

Avi Shlaim: UAE-Israel deal: Breakthrough or betrayal?

Emily Stewart: Americans are falling through the safety net. The government is helping predatory lenders instead.

Libby Watson: 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.

George Will: 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 Robert Tracinski: Biden needs a Sister Souljah month, which elicited a response from Martin Longman: 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 notes:

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.

Matthew Yglesias:

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Weekend Roundup

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:

  • Vox [Zack Beauchamp/Aaron Ross Coleman/Dylan Matthews/Nicole Narea/Ella Nilsen/Anna North/Andrew Prokop/Dylan Scott/Emily Stewart/Emily VanDerWerff/Li Zhou]:

  • Zack Beauchamp: Andrew Yang said the smartest thing about Biden at the DNC: "The magic of Joe Biden is that everything he does becomes the new reasonable."

  • Fabiola Cineas: What it will take to fight the sexist, racist attacks against Kamala Harris. Interview with Niambi Carter, author of American While Black: African Americans, Immigration, and the Limits of Citizenship.

  • Constance Grady: How politicians showed off their books at the Democratic National Convention. Something I'm always curious about, but Cory Booker didn't help himself by showcasing a David Brooks book.

  • Sue Katz: Rating the Democratic National Convention: Highlights & bummers: A friend's blog report.

  • Ezra Klein:

    • 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."

  • Mike Konczal: Can Joe Biden unrig the economy? "Raising taxes on the rich would help stop the economy from simply channeling income to 1 percent."

  • Nancy LeTourneau: What everyone should learn from Michelle Obama.

  • German Lopez:

      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.

    • The Democratic convention highlighted gun violence. Here's what Biden plans to do about it. Gun control isn't an unpopular issue, but is is a polarizing one, so much so that I doubt it works as a political issue, so I don't see any value in the Democrats bringing it up.

  • Dylan Matthews: This is the future Joe Biden wants. Introduction to a series called A Biden Presidency: "The Democratic nominee's policy vision, explained." Other links in this series:

  • Ian Millhiser:

  • Nicole Narea: A Covid-19 victim's daughter delivered a moving account of her father's death -- and a searing critique of Trump. This may be the sound bite of the convention: "My dad was a healthy 65 year-old. His only preexisting condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that he paid with his life."

  • Ella Nilsen:

  • Anna North:

  • Cameron Peters: Bernie Sanders just made the progressive case for Joe Biden.

  • David Remnick: Obama, Harris, and an unconventional convention.

  • Aja Romano:

  • Aaron Rupar: Fox News thinks Joe Biden's DNC speech was "a home run": "Trump won't be happy with Fox News's rave reviews of Biden's speech."

  • 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.

  • Dylan Scott: Biden's 2020 message rests on Trump's fundamental Covid-19 failure. Cites a major piece by Ed Yong: How the pandemic defeated America: "A virus has brought the world's most powerful country to its knees." Scott quoted this much:

    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 at Trump:

    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 care, about 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. . . .

    The federal government could have mitigated those problems by buying supplies at economies of scale and distributing them according to need. Instead, in March, Trump told America's governors to "try getting it yourselves." As usual, health care was a matter of capitalism and connections. In New York, rich hospitals bought their way out of their protective-equipment shortfall, while neighbors in poorer, more diverse parts of the city rationed their supplies. . . .

    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.

    Yong has another piece out: Long-haulers are redefining COVID-19.

  • Walter Shapiro:

  • Alex Shephard:

    • 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.

    • A night of magical thinking at the Democratic convention: "Democrats are already in love with their future, in spite of the face that Joe Biden has glossed over how he will get them there."

  • Doreen St Félix: Michelle Obama's unmatched call to action at the Democratic National Convention.

  • Emily Stewart: Ordinary Americans stole the show at this year's Democratic convention.

  • Emily VanDerWerff:

  • 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.

  • Matthew Yglesias:

  • Li Zhou:

On to the Republican Convention next week. For a preview, see Riley Beggin: The Repubican National Convention: Who's speaking and how to watch. Also not one but two hurricanes, one on Monday to open the RNC, a second (bigger) one for its climax: Hurricane warnings issued as Gulf Coast prepares for March and Laura. Neither are likely to come close to the RNC in Charlotte. Here's some early anticipation of the RNC:

Some scattered links on other subjects this week:

Kate Aronoff: 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" and now.

Riley Beggin:

Jane Coaston: QAnon, the scarily popular pro-Trump conspiracy theory, explained. More QAnon:

Jason Ditz:

Dilip Hiro: 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.)

Sean Illing: 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.

Umair Irfan: What makes California's current major wildfires so unusual: "Dry lightning, extreme heat, and Covid-19 are all shaping California's efforts to contain massive, deadly blazes." Related:

  • Darryl Fears/Faiz Siddiqui/Sarah Kaplan/Juliet Eilperin: Heat is turbocharging fires, drought and tropical storms this summer.

    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.

  • David Wallace-Wells: California has Australian problems now.

Colby Itkowitz/Amy Gardner: Tennessee adopts new law that could strip some protesters of voting rights.

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.

Ezra Klein:

  • What it would take to end child poverty in America: Interview with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA).

  • 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":

    1. It's Trump's fault.
    2. Conservative thinking has no room for Covid-19.
    3. They're worried about Tea Party 2.0.
    4. 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 soon.

Paul Krugman:

  • Stocks are soaring. So is misery. "Optimism about Apple's future profits won't pay this month's rent."

    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 it bursts.

  • 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.

  • Trump sends in the economic quacks: "Now he's prescribing hydroxychloroquine to fight recession."

Nancy LeTourneau:

  • 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.

  • Former DHS staff: Trump claimed "magical authorities" to break the law: Touts a group called Republican Voters Against Trump (RVAT), which have been posting videos of Republicans explaining why.

Eric Levitz: America is drowning in joblessness -- and swimming in cash: "Thanks to the CARES Act, Americans hae saved roughly $930 billion more in recent months than they were on pace to do before the pandemic."

German Lopez: Why Trump shouldn't compare America's Covid-19 outbreak to New Zealand's, in one chart.

Laura McGann: Melania Trump's changes to the White House Rose Garden, explained: "She dug up trees and put in paved walkways."

Bill McKibben:

Stephanie Mencimer: Judge orders Trump to pay Stormy Daniels $44,000 in legal fees.

Ashley Parker: The permanent outsider: "President Trump has no idea how to run for reelection as an incumbent.

Yumna Patel: 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:

Gail Pellett: Out of China: An affair in a dangerous ditch. She spent 1980 working in China, chronicled in her marvelous book Forbidden Fruit: 1980 Beijing, recapped here with further thoughts.

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.

Andrew Prokop:

Steven Rattner: The economic recovery that isn't: "Don't believe the story that Trump will tell at the Republican convention." Related:

Kate Riga: Pelosi's Kennedy endorsement and why people are so mad about it.

David Roberts: Air pollution is much worse than we thought: "Ditching fossil fuels would pay for itself through clean air alone."

David Roth: Trump's cloud of gossip has poisoned America: "The president's insatiable need to traffic in rumor and conspiracy blows larger holes in our shared reality with each passing day."

Dylan Scott: 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.

Robert J Shapiro: How Trump may be plotting to stay out of jail:

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.

Margaret Sullivan: Trump is 'Fox's Frankenstein,' insiders told CNN's Brian Stelter -- and here's the toll it's taken. Stelter has a book coming out next week: Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth. It's hard to escape the conclusion that everyone involved deserve each other -- especially the ones who think they have scruples but don't act on them.

Trevor Sutton: 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).

Alex Ward:

Luke Winkie: 3 renters on getting screwed over by landlords during the Covid-19 housing crisis.

Joe Yerardi/Alexia Fernández Campbell: Fewer inspectors, more deaths: The Trump administration rolls back workplace safety inspections. Isn't this really what the Trump administration is all about? This is part of a Vox series called System Failure, a collaboration with Center for Public Integrity. Other pieces:

Mairav Zonszein: 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.

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Sunday, August 16, 2020

Weekend Roundup

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 them.

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.

Some links on the Harris pick:

Tweet of the week, from Chris Hayes:

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.

To which Steve M. astutely replied:

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 Republicans.

Some scattered links this week:

Alexandra Alter: Michael Cohen releases details about his forthcoming memoir. Title is Disloyal. Publication date September 8. Annie Karni: has more: In tell-all foreword, Cohen promises sordid tales Trump 'does not want you to read': "In his memoir, Disloyal, Michael D. Cohen, President Trump's onetime lawyer and fixer, claims that he had unique access to Mr. Trump, a man with 'no true friends.'"

Kate Aronoff:

  • 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 climate change."

    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.

  • We can't fight climate change without China: "The Democratic Party's 2020 platform echoes President Trump's hawkishness on China. That's a mistake."

Ruth Ben-Ghiat: Co-opt & corrupt: How Trump bent and broke the GOP.

James Bruno: What are the chances Trump could actually go to jail?

Kyle Cheney: GAO finds Chad Wolf, Ken Cuccinelli are ineligible to serve in their top DHS roles.

Colin Dickey: 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.

Jason Ditz: US push to extend Iran arms embargo fails at UN Security Council: 2 votes for (US and Dominican Republic, of 13 needed), 2 against (Russia and China), 11 abstentions. More:

  • Bob Dreyfuss: 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 partnership.

  • Mark Fitzpatrick: Pompeo set to double down on failure to extend Iran arms embargo.

Jesse Dorris: How DeForrest Brown, Jr, centers the black body in techno music: I don't usually put music links here, but have had trouble keeping track of them for Music Week. I reviewed several records by Brown last week, especially recommending his (i.e., Speaker Music's) Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry (A-).

Robert Guffey: 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.

Chris Hedges: 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 bearing.

Rebecca Heilweil: The dystopian tech that companies are selling to help schools reopen sooner.

Mark Helenowski: Billionaires have made an absolute killing during the pandemic. The number is staggering.

Patrick Iber: 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.)

Ezra Klein:

  • 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 Keynes.

    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.

Sheelah Kolhatkar: Trump's incoherent policy on TikTok and China.

Robert Kuttner: Falling upward: The surprising survival of Larry Summers: "He is once again a senior economic adviser to another prospective Democratic president."

Lyz Lenz: 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.

Martin Longman: Trump's bizarre obsession with Mount Rushmore.

German Lopez:

Louisa Loveluck/Chris Mooney: Baghdad's record heat offers glimpse of world's climate change future.

Ian Millhiser:

Samuel Moyn: 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 Conservative Elites.

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 dollars.

Olivia Nuzzi: The most tremendous reelection campaign in American history ever: "Inside the chaotic, desperate, last-minute Trump 2020 reboot." I can't read this because "You've reached your monthly article limit." But I read the Kos synopsis: Trump's campaign IS the cesspool of corruption and incompetence we thought it was.

Osita Nwanevu: 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.

Aaron Rupar:

Katherine Stewart: Betsy DeVos's plot to enrich private schools amid the pandemic: "The secretary of education wants religious schools to flourish at the public system's expense; and she's doing it under the cover of the coronavirus crisis."

Matt Taibbi: Big Pharma's Covid-19 profiteers.

Alex Ward:

Li Zhou: Why Democrats are holding out for more comprehensive stimulus: "They don't think Trump's executive actions come close to covering what's needed -- and they have the leverage to push for more." Besides: "Republicans are set to bear more of the political backlash, for now."

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.

Ganz's thread:

  • 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 pose
  • 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 substance
  • 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 "the people"

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 all
  • 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.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Weekend Roundup

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 with?

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 Democrats.

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.

Some scattered links this week:

Zeeshan Aleem: Trump falsely claims coronavirus is "disappearing" and Russia isn't meddling in the 2020 election: "Trump's surprise news conference held at his private club was packed with false claims about America's crises."

Michael Arria: 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.

Joshua A Barocas/Jennifer E Lacy: The pandemic is an extraordinary opportunity to reform US education: "We should allow kids to take a gap year and waive standardized testing before it's too late."

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 nothing.

Isaac Chotiner: Why Stuart Stevens wants to defeat Donald Trump: Interview with Stevens, who worked in the GW Bush presidential campaigns and was Mitt Romney's top strategist in 2012. More recently, he wrote It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump, and is an adviser to the Lincoln Project. Still a lot of delusions here for past Republicans, especially Romney. Also a strong belief that the president's number one job is opposing Putin. For another interview with Stevens, see David Corn: The Republican Party is racist and soulless. Just ask this veteran GOP strategist.

Patrick Cockburn:

Chas Danner: Yes, Trump actually did want to be added to Mount Rushmore: "A White House aide reportedly looked into the process for adding another president's face to the monument." Filed under "Delusions of grandeur."

Wade Davis: The unraveling of America: "Anthropologist Wade Davis on how Covid-19 signals the end of the American era."

Jason Ditz: 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:

Tom Engelhardt: 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.

Amy Gardner/Josh Dawsey: As Trump leans into attacks on mail voting, GOP officials confront signs of Republican turnout crisis: It's real hard to anticipate how turnout is going to break, but this is one part of the question. This was the first of several articles linked to in As Trump attacks mail voting, GOP officials confront signs of Republican turnout crisis. Another is Pema Levy: Democracy depends on the postal service more than ever. Republicans won't help fix it. Some more pieces on Trump, voting, and mail:

Shirin Ghaffary:

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 J Trump?

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.

Kaleem Hawa: 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.

Jacob Heilbrunn: 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.

Sean Illing:

Alex Isenstadt: Trump antagonizes GOP megadonor Adelson in heated phone call.

Derrick Johnson: Voter suppression is back, 55 years after the Voting Rights Act.

Fred Kaplan:

  • Trump's latest move at the Pentagon is brazenly unlawful: Giving Anthony Tata the job of Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (you remember, the job in 2003 filled by "dumbest fucking person on earth" Douglas Feith), without getting Senate approval..

  • Trump's troop tantrum: "There's no strategy behind the decision to withdraw US troops from Germany. It's about the president's anger and ego."

Roge Karma: How cities can tackle violent crime without relying on police: Interview with Patrick Sharkey, author of Uneasy Peace: The Great Crime Decline, the Renewal of City Life, and the Next War on Violence.

Isabel Kershner/Pam Belluck: When Covid subsided, Israel reopened its schools. It didn't go well.

Ezra Klein: How inequality is changing the Republican Party -- and breaking American politics. Review of Jacob S Hacker/Paul Pierson: Let Them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Economic Inequality. I read the book recently, and recommend it. More on this book:

Hiroki Kobayashi: 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 classic report here. I previously wrote about Hiroshima and Nagasaki on their 70th anniversary: Thinking about the unthinkable. I also wrote an earlier piece in the August 6, 2005 notebook. Some more on Hiroshima:

Zack Kopplin: How Mike Pompeo built a blood-for-oil pipeline: "The State Department, a conservative-connected shell company, and a key Kurdish crime family team up to siphon Syrian oil for US investors."

Josh Kovensky: NRA looted its Foundation to cover cash hemorrhage, DC AG alleges.

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.

Anita Kumar: 'She is absolutely our No. 1 draft pick': GOP pines for Rice as Biden VP. Hoping not to do a VP cluster this week, but must reiterate that Rice would be a really poor choice. PS: Mine is not the only such opinion:

Daniel Larison: 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.

David Leonhardt: 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.

Nancy LeTourneau:

  • Trump's latest attack on Biden: Photoshops and cheap shots.

  • David Brooks wants a nicer, more competent form of Trumpism. I for one don't care what Brooks thinks, but I will jump off from this Brooks quote:

    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 assumptions":

    1. Everything is not okay. The free market is not working well.
    2. Economic libertarianism is not the answer. Free markets alone won't solve our problems.
    3. The working class is the heart of the Republican Party.
    4. China changes everything.
    5. 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.

Eric Levitz: 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.

Amanda Marcotte: Right-wing conspiracy theorists get (even more) unhinged as Trump's chances fade: "With QAnon on the rise, Alex Jones tells his fans to 'kill' progressives: Trump Nation is going full cuckoo."

Terrence McCoy: Last year's Amazon fires stirred international outrage. This year's dry season has started out worse.

Alexa Mikhail/Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff/Joel Jacobs: After hundreds of covid-19 deaths in state-run veterans homes, lawmakers press VA to adhere to science. I should mention again that my cousin was one of the victims in a VA facility in Oklahoma.

Nicole Narea: Trump's latest plan to use the census for political gain, explained. As they note, "more than a third of all US coronavirus cases occurred in July."

Michael T Osterholm/Neel Kashkari: Here's how to crush the virus until vaccines arrive: "To save lives, and save the economy, we need another lockdown."

JC Pan: The pandemic benefit seems so great because actual wages are insanely low.

Kim Phillips-Fein: Rethinking the solution to New York's fiscal crisis.

Wendell Potter: The health care scare: "I sold Americans a lie about Canadian medicine. Now we're paying the price."

David Roberts: How to drive fossil fuels out of the US economy, quickly.

Aaron Rupar:

John Quiggin: The end of interest: This is interesting:

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.

William K Rashbaum/Benjamin Weiser: DA is investigating Trump and his company over fraud, filing suggests.

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 evangelicals:

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):

  • Doug Bandow: 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.

Claudia Sahm: Economics is a disgrace.

Dylan Scott:

Steven Shepard: Kobach and Clay go down: Takeaways from a big primary night: Primaries in 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. Related:

Alex Shephard:

Richard Silverstein: Israel bombed Beirut:

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.

Jeffrey Toobin: It really is time to get rid of the filibuster.

Lucian K Truscott IV: Let's remember that long with everything else, Donald Trump's a total pig. Pic here of a much younger Trump with his old buddy, Jeffrey Epstein.

Chris Walker: Students suspended for taking pictures of crowds in Georgia school's reopening: This is the "cancel culture" I remember from the 1950s. PS: 9 people test positive for coronavirus at Georgia school that went viral for crowded photo.

Sean Wilentz: What Tom Cotton gets so wrong about slavery and the constitution: It was the Arkansas Republican Senator to called slavery "a necessary evil upon which the union was built" -- not the founders he cites. See Bryan Armen Graham: Tom Cotton calls slavery 'necessary evil' in attack on New York Times' 1619 Project. Note that Cotton is not only asserting his own views, he's trying to suppress the views of others: specifically, historians who have attempted to document the long and disgraceful history of slavery and racism in the United States.

Matthew Yglesias:

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":

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Sunday, August 2, 2020

Weekend Roundup

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.

More newsworthy individual deaths below. For numbers of the less famous, see At least 151,000 people have died from coronavirus in the US. Worldometer has the US death count at 158,365. (Those links may be volatile.)

Minor formatting change here, as I've eliminated the outer layer of bullets.

Some scattered links this week:

Dean Baker:

  • 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.

  • More thoughts on the post-pandemic economy: GDP is headed down, but are we worse off for that?

    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.

Peter Baker: More than just a tweet: Trump's campaign to undercut democracy.

Jake Bittle: The right's increasingly unhinged fight against Black Lives Matter: "As the movement's popularity surges, the conservative media insists that it is hell-bent on destroying the American way of life."

Charles M Blow: Trump's nakedly political pandemic pivot.

Alleen Brown: Trump's pick to manage public lands has four-decade history of "overt racism" toward native people: Meet William Perry Pendley.

Alexander Burns: 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."

Katelyn Burns: The NYPD unit that snatched a protester off the street has been accosting people for years.

Alexia Fernández Campbell: A small federal agency focused on preventing industrial disasters is on life support. Trump wants it gone: "The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board is without enough voting members, and its investigations are stuck in limbo."

Matthew Cappucci/Mustafa Salim: Baghdad soars to 125 blistering degrees, its highest temperature on record. Also record-high temperatures elsewhere in the Middle East.

Steve Coll: Is the Postal Service being manipulated to help Trump get reëlected?

Summer Concepcion: Cotton's office denies he believes slavery was a 'necessary evil' after backlash over remark: Maybe if he wasn't such a reactionary racist, he wouldn't be so often misunderstood? Still, it's hard to be any kind of conservative in America without having lots of racist skeletons in your closet. Maybe that's why so many conservatives move them to the front porch, and celebrate them.

James Downie: Republicans' pandemic blunders keep piling higher.

Katherine Eban: How Jared Kushner's secret testing plan "went poof into thin air": "This spring, a team working under the president's son-in-law produced a plan for aggressive, coordinated national COVID-19 response that could have brought the pandemic under control. So why did the White House spike it in favor of a shambolic 50-state-response?" Or, as David Atkins commented on this piece: Trump and Kushner should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity.

Alex Emmons: Democrats unveil draft foreign policy platform with promises to end "forever wars" and "regime change": however, blanket support for Israel makes it harder to achieve those goals.

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:

John Feffer: 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.

Conor Friedersdorf: Forging a right-left coalition may be the only way to end the War on Drugs. Link to Atlantic article therein, but I'm up against my article limit. Quote sets up a 1991 debate between black liberal Charlie Rangel and white reactionary William F Buckley Jr, quoting Rangel in favor of escalating the war on drugs:

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 East."

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.

Masha Gessen: Why America feels like a post-Soviet state.

Shirin Ghaffary: The TikTok-Trump drama, explained.

Karen Greenberg: Can the pandemic bring accountability back to this country?

Glenn Greenwald: The US-supported coup in Bolivia continues to produce repression and tyranny, while revealing how US media propaganda works.

Daniel A Hanley: Another Trump legacy: Spreading price discrimination on the Internet: "Consumers are already feeling the pain of the president reversing net neutrality." Two prominent offenders mentioned here are Cox, which we use, and AT&T, which has made a big push to break into Cox's cable monopoly here.

Shane Harris: DHS compiled 'intelligence reports' on journalists who published leaked documents.

Doug Henwood: We have no choice but to be radical.

Sean Illing: "It's ideologue meets grifter": How Bill Barr made Trumpism possible. Interview with David Rohde, who wrote a long New Yorker profile of Barr.

Roge Karma: 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."

Ankush Khardori: There's never been a better time to be a white-collar criminal: "Thanks to the Trump administration's signature mix of incompetence and corruption, America is knee-deep in fraud and corporate malfeasance."

Bonnie Kristian: Trump's reasoning is bad, but withdrawing troops from Germany is a good idea.

Paul Krugman:

  • The nightmare on Pennsylvania avenue: "Trump is the kind of boss who can't do the job -- and won't go away.

  • The cult of selfishness is killing America: "The right has made irresponsible behavior a key principle."

  • 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 America.

  • What you don't know can't hurt Trump: "Slow the testing down," he said, and it's happening."

  • 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.

Michelle Ye Hee Lee/Jacob Bogage: Postal Service backlog sparks worries that ballot deliveries could be delayed in November.

Jill Lepore: How the Simulmatics Corporation invented the future: Mostly on the data-driven 1960 presidential election.

Nancy LeTourneau:

  • How white supremacists are using protests to fuel racial tensions. It's widely felt, especially among Trump's campaign advisers, that playing up the protests, and especially provoking violence in/around them, will produce a backlash that will benefit Trump and his ilk.

  • 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").

Martin Longman: 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%.)

Carlos Lozada: Trump tried to shut him down, but Robert Mueller was his own worst enemy. Review of Jeffrey Toobin's new book, True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump.

Eric Lutz:

Nick Martin: It was insane to restart sports in America.

William Marx: Far-right groups now pose the greatest terrorist threat in the US and Europe. Links to: Jihadist plots used to be US and Europe's biggest terrorist threat. Now it's the far right. And that's just freelance terror, not the kind practiced by "law enforcement" organizations.

Ian Milhiser:

Bennett Minton: The lies our textbooks told my generation of Virginians about slavery.

Max Moran: The 277 policies for which Biden need not ask permission: "As president, Joe Biden could take action on hundreds of policies without having to go through Congress. The Biden-Sanders unity task force provides a map."

Sara Morrison/Rebecca Heilweil: How Trump and his son helped make a Covid-19 conspiracy theorist go viral in a matter of hours.

Nicole Narea:

Ella Nilsen:

  • The slow-motion 2020 election disaster states are scrambling to prevent, explained.

  • 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.

Osita Nwanevu: The 2020 election doesn't really matter to Republicans.

Helaine Olen: The CFPB once defended consumers. Thanks to Trump, it now helps companies prey on them instead.

Vijay Prashad/Alejandro Bejarano: 'We will coup whoever we want': Elon Musk and the overthrow of democracy in Bolivia.

Laurence Ralph: Countries with levels of police brutality comparable to that in the US are called 'police states': That's the title in the link from Attention to the Unseen; better than "To protect and serve: Global lessons in police reform." There's a chart here of "Number of people killed by the police" per ten million residents, and the US is only in second place, barely above Iraq and just below Democratic Republic of the Congo, but no other country is close (only Luxembourg is more than 5% of the US rate, and Luxembourg is so small that its 16.9 rate works out to be 1 unfortunate person).

Catherine Rampell: Trump knows he's going to lose. He's already salting the earth behind him. Part of her evidence is Fed nominee Judy Shelton. Rampell wrote more about her here: Yes, Trump's latest Fed pick is that bad. Here's why.

Diane Ravitch: How Trump politicized schools reopening, regardless of safety.

Katie Rogers/Maggie Haberman: Kayleigh McEnany heckles the press. Is that all?

Theodore Schleifer: Tech billionaire Peter Thiel is searching for new political allies. He's found one in Kansas: Thiel's spent almost $1 million on Kris Kobach's Senate primary race. The only other candidate Thiel has supported so far this year is Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR). More on Kansas and/or elections:

Dylan Scott: Herman Cain, 2012 presidential contender, dies after contracting Covid-19: He was 74, a former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, one of the most prominent black Republicans, a major Trump surrogate. He attended Trump's Tulsa rally, signed his liability waiver, and was diagnosed a week later. More on Cain:

Robert J Shapiro: Trump is wrong again: US manufacturing is not recovering.

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: Demon seed.

Matt Taibbi: 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 Madrick: 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.

Adam Taylor: Trump ordered federal forces to quell Portland protests. But the chaos ended as soon as they left.

Alexander S Vindman: Coming forward ended my career. I still believe doing what's right matters.

Alex Ward: 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.

Robin Wright: 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:

Matthew Yglesias:

  • 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:

  • The real stakes in the David Shor saga.

Li Zhou: Senate Republicans have a new stimulus bill. Here's what's in it. Author also wrote, with Ella Nilsen: Senate Republicans' dramatically smaller unemployment insurance proposal, explained, and Millions of people will see a sharp drop in their unemployment benefits because Congress failed to act..

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Sunday, July 26, 2020

Weekend Roundup

A good headline to sum up the week comes from Philip Rucker: Trump's week of retreat: The president reverses course as the coronavirus surges out of control. Rucker lists various things that Trump had to backpeddle on -- wearing masks, opening schools, packing his convention hall in Jacksonville, insisting Congress cut payroll taxes. You know, things that any reasonable adviser could have predicted weeks or months ago. Turns out the will doesn't always triumph over reality. And speaking of reality: Coronavirus updates: US deaths top 1,000 for fourth consecutive day. Also: Rebecca Rainey: New unemployment claims rose last week to 1.4M, ending months of declines.

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:

Schrödinger's Douchebag:

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:

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Sunday, July 19, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Featured headline this week: Griff Witte/Ben Guarino: It's not only coronavirus cases that are rising. Now covid deaths are, too. When I posted last week's headline, Florida shatters single-day infection record with 15,300 new cases, denialists responded that it wasn't a problem, because the death rate hadn't risen. That wasn't very clever. Bad as the disease is, it does take a week or two to kill, and that sort of lag time has followed the infection curve from the very start. Moreover, infections continue to rise: see Hannah Knowles/Derek Hawkins/Jacqueline Dupree: Coronavirus updates: Halfway through the year, the pandemic's only intensifying in many states.

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 seen on Twitter 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.

Some scattered links this week:

  • David Atkins: Why is Trump sending stormtroopers into Portland?

    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 leave.

    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.

    Atkins followed this post up with a more speculative one: Trump may use DHS stormtroopers to stop people from voting. I don't see how he can do this, at least on a scale that might sway the election, without generating a huge backlash. More on Portland:

  • Ryan Bort: So long, Jeff Sessions: Trump's former attorney general lost the Republican Senate primary to Tommy Tuberville, who was endorsed by Trump.

  • John Bresnahan/Ally Mutnick: Kansas Republican Rep. Steve Watkins charged with voter fraud. Watkins' father is also being investigated for campaign finance violations.

  • Philip Bump: In a pair of interviews, Trump highlights white victimhood.

  • Megan Cassella: America's hidden economic crisis: Widespread wage cuts.

  • Jane Coaston: The Lincoln Project, the rogue former Republicans trying to take down Trump, explained. More on Lincoln Project:

  • Sean Collins: Rep. John Lewis, civil rights leader and moral center of Congress, has died at 80: "He is remembered as a Freedom Rider, voting rights champion, and the 'conscience of the Congress.'" Also on Lewis:

  • Sumner Concepcion: 5 key takeaways from Trump's lengthy off-the-rails interview on Fox News:

    • 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 election

    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.

  • Igor Derysh:

    • Trump Victory Committee paid nearly $400,000 to Trump's Washington hotel in second quarter. "Trump's properties have earned well over $20 million in political spending since he took office, per CPR data." I suppose his defense is "that's chump change," but the thought counts.

    • 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.

  • Tom Engelhardt: 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.

  • David S Fogelsong: With fear and favor: The Russophobia of 'The New York Times': "Disregarding all past experience, journalists, politicians, and foreign policy experts have simply assumed that the claims of Russian bounties for killing American troops are true. They -- and we -- should know better."

  • Matt Ford: The Supreme Court's unconscionable rush to kill a prisoner.

    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.

  • Melissa Gira Grant: The dark obsessions of QAnon are merging with mainstream conservatism: "With Republican candidates and Trump embracing the strange, child trafficking-fixated movement, it can no longer be dismissed as merely a conspiracy theory."

  • Maggie Haberman: Trump replaces Brad Parscale as campaign manager, elevating Bill Stepien. Parscale got a lot of credit for Trump's 2016 win with his Facebook operation, so naturally got promoted to head the whole campaign operation, finding himself in way over his head.

  • 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 offenders.

  • Mara Hvistendahl: 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.

  • Tyshia Ingram: 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:

    • Henry Olsen: McCarthyism is back. This time, it's woke. The Weiss resignation (and/or 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 Peter Beinart: Trumpism is the new McCarthyism. Sullivan's farewell letter, which doubles as promo for his new subscription newsletter, is here.

    • Avi Selk: 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.

    • Alex Shephard: 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."

    • Philip Weiss: Bari Weiss leaves the 'NYT' and that's bad for Zionists: "Weiss is such a gifted careerist that even this moment feels like shtik: Bari Weiss playing her own persecutino for the greater glory of Bari Weiss."

  • Jen Kirby: Israel's West Bank annexation plan and why it's stalled, explained by an expert: Interview with Brent E Sasley ("a professor at the University of Texas at Arlington and an expert on Israeli politics").

  • Ezra Klein: 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.

  • Andy Kroll: The plot against America: The GOP's plan to suppress the vote and sabotage the election.

  • Paul Krugman: Why do the rich have so much power?

  • Nancy LeTourneau: The pandemic is making Republican lawmakers much more vulnerable:

    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.

  • Dahlia Lithwick: 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. Lithwick writes:

    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.


  • German Lopez: Florida now has more Covid-19 cases than any other state. Here's what went wrong. "The percentage of positive tests is now nearly 19 percent," which means they're not testing enough (recommended maximum is 5 percent), not too much. More Covid-19 stories:

  • Nick Martin: 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.

  • Dylan Matthews: Trump reduced fines for nursing homes that put residents at risk. Then Covid-19 happened.

  • Jane Mayer: 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 protections."

  • Sara Morrison:

    • Lawmakers are very upset about this week's massive Twitter breach: Maybe because the folks who got hacked are rich and famous?

    • Everything you need to know about Palantir, the secretive company coming for all your data.

      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 million contract."

  • Elie Mystal: The Trump administration is on a capital punishment killing spree: "After 17 years, attorney general Bill Barr has resumed federal executions -- and the conservative on the Supreme Court approve."

  • Terry Nguyen: Boycotts show us what matters to Americans.

  • Tina Nguyen: 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.

  • John Nichols: Why the hell is the Supreme Court allowing a new poll tax to disenfranchise Florida voters?

  • Anna North: America's child care problem is an economic problem. Subhed bullet list:

    • More than 41 million workers have kids under 18. Almost all of them lost child care as a result of the pandemic.
    • In normal times, inadequate child care is the equivalent of a 5 percent pay cut for parents. Now it's much worse.
    • By late June, 13 percent of parents had cut back hours or quit their jobs
    • 80 percent of moms say they're handling the majority of homeschooling responsibilities in their families
    • And about 16 percent of parents are taking care of kids alone, without a partner
    • Add to that parents needing and looking for jobs: More than 11 percent of women are unemployed right now
    • Meanwhile, 40 percent of child care programs say they will have to close permanently without outside help
    • More than 250,000 child care workers have lost their jobs
    • When it comes to schools, the news is just as grim: At least 3 of the country's biggest school districts will be partially or fully remote in the fall
    • With fewer options for child care, parents could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars over their lifetime
    • Trump has offered zero solutios to solve the problem

    All originally in bold. Thought that would be too much clutter, but kept one that seemed to stand out.

  • JC Pan: In defense of free stuff during (and after) the pandemic: "The mass expansion of public goods is long past due, so pay people to say home, give them free health care, and stop charging tuition."

  • Alex Pareene: 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 "bums."

  • Heather Digby Parton: Trump's unhinged Rose Garden campaign rally: His sideshow act is getting truly pathetic: "He can't hold rallies, so he forced the press corps to sit through one. Then he said Joe Biden will ban windows."

  • Kim Phillips-Fein: Rethinking the solution to New York's fiscal crisis.

  • Abraham Ratnet: 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.

  • David Roberts:

  • Michael Scherer/Josh Dawsey: From 'Sleepy Joe' to a destroyer of the 'American way of life,' Trump's attacks on Biden make a dystopian shift.

  • Jon Schwarz: 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.

  • Dylan Scott:

  • Alex Shephard: 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 Indefensible (sic?).

  • David Sirota: Wall Street is deeply grateful for the Supreme Court's recent little-noticed ruling.

    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 other rulings.

  • Roger Sollenberger: Fox News peddled misinformation about the coronavirus 253 times in five days. Well, that's what you get for counting.

  • Emily Stewart: The PPP worked how it was supposed to. That's the problem. "America's plan to save small business in the pandemic was flawed from the start."

  • 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.

  • Derek Thompson: A lot of Americans are about to lose their homes: "The current housing crisis could get messy quickly, but fixing it shouldn't be complicated, if Congress intervenes."

  • Paul Waldman: If you aren't filled with rage at Trump, you aren't paying attention.

    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.

  • Alex Ward:

  • Libby Watson: The Democrats' baffling silence as millions of Americans lose their health insurance: "Five million have lost coverage amid the pandemic -- a number that's expected to triple by year's end. But the party leadership isn't reacting as though it's a crisis."

  • Moira Weigel: 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."

  • Erik Wemple: Tucker Carlson whitewashes the racism of his show and his former top writer.

  • Erica Werner/Jeff Stein: Trump administration pushing to block new money for testing, tracing and CDC in upcoming coronavirus relief bill. This seems beyond stupid. It's part of negotiations on a follow up to the CARES act, which expires at the end of the month (more on it below). Trump is also insisting on a payroll tax cut, which seems especially dumb given the more pressing needs of the unemployed, and "another round of stimulus checks" (same problem, plus until the virus is contained there won't be much economy to stimulate).

  • 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.

  • Matthew Yglesias:

  • Li Zhou: Congress is running out of time to extend expanded unemployment insurance. Also on CARES:

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Today's headline: Florida shatters single-day infection record with 15,300 new cases. I don't generally like linking to video, but here's Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis bragging about how safe Florida is (video seems to be from May 20), and how the alarmists have been disproven.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Zeeshan Aleem: 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 their dissent.

  • Jay Ambrose: 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 selves.

    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 contribution. See: An interview with historian Gordon Wood on the New York Times' 1619 Project.

  • Dean Baker: Is it impossible to envision a world without patent monopolies? Elisabeth Rosenthal, at the New York Times, thinks not.

    While her points are all well-taken, the amazing part is that she never considers the simplest solution, just don't give the companies patent monopolies in the first place. The story here is the government is paying for most of the research upfront. While it has to pay for it a second time by giving the companies patent monopolies.

    There is no reason that the government can't simply make it a condition of the funding that all research findings are fully open and that any patents will be in the public domain so that any vaccines will be available as a cheap generic from the day it comes on the market. Not only does this ensure that a vaccine will be affordable, it will likely mean more rapid progress since all researchers will be able to immediately learn from the success or failures of other researchers.

    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 trade.

  • Zack Beauchamp: What the police really believe: "Inside the distinctive, largely unknown ideology of American policing -- and how it justifies racist violence."

  • Jamelle Bouie: Maybe this isn't such a good time to prosecute a culture war

  • Ronald Brownstein: Trump's America is slipping away: "He's trying to assemble a winning coalition with a dwindling number of sympathetic white voters." Nixon, with Kevin Phillips crunching the numbers, figured that if he could add Southern whites and Northern ethnics (mostly Catholics) to the Republican core he'd have a coalition capable of winning for decades. He came up with the basic pitch in 1972, and Reagan clinched the deal in the 1980s before, well, they proved basically incompetent at running the government. Since then they've mastered the mechanics of tilting elections their way, and they've repeatedly doubled down on the demagoguery, recovering quickly from the inevitable setbacks when their record came into focus. Trump is still using the Nixon/Reagan coalition plan. He won in 2016 by hitting it hard, while facing a uniquely compromised opponent running on a lacklustre record of indifference to average Americans. And no, he has no new ideas on coalition-building, even though (as the article points out) the numbers have shifted significantly away from his favor.

  • Kate Conger/Jack Healy/Lucy Tompkins: Churches were eager to reopen. Now they are confronting coronavirus cases.

  • David Dayen: 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.

  • Matt Ford: 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.

  • Masha Gessen: 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 little government."

  • Brittany Gibson: One billionaire vs. the mail: "A new report details Charles Koch's 50-year war on the US Postal Service."

  • David A Graham: Donald Trump's lost cause.

  • Stanley B Greenberg: The Tea Party's last stand. "The right wing's current pathetic defense of President Trump contrasts sharply with the Tea Party revolt against the election and re-election of President Barack Obama." The Tea Party only worked as an attack vehicle. They never had any program to advance. They simply meant to oppose whatever it was Democrats wanted, starting with recovery from the recession. Even today, Trump appeals to them not for any program but because Trump is the embodiment of their nihilistic worldview. Greenberg writes: "President Trump is trapped by a pandemic and protests that only magnify his insecurity and weak hold on his own party -- and by his need to provoke a Tea Party to make its last stand." But the Tea Party can't save Trump, because they can't turn their intensity into votes. On the other hand, Trump's demise won't be their end. They will find even more to hate in the next wave of Democrats. The open question is whether the media will take them seriously next time around, allowing them to magnify their impact. A big part of the reason they were able to pull that off in 2009 was Obama's efforts to "reach across the aisle" and "heal the divide" -- by their very existence they proved Obama wrong. Better to dismiss them as the whiny dead-enders they are.

  • Glenn Greenwald: How the House Armed Services Committee, in the middle of a pandemic, approved a huge military budget and more war in Afghanistan.

  • Jonathan Guyer: How Biden's foreign-policy team got rich: "Strategic consultants will define Biden's relationship to the world."

  • Jack Healy/Adam Liptak: Landmark Supreme Court ruling affirms Native American rights in Oklahoma.

  • Sean Illing: 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.

  • Umair Irfan: 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?

  • Jen Kirby:

  • Ezra Klein: Masha Gessen on the frightening fragility of America's political institutions: Interview, based on Gessen's new book Autocracy: Rules for Survival.

  • Bonnie Kristian: The real story about Russian bounties on US troops isn't whether Trump knew about it,

  • Robert Kuttner:

    • Biden's new economic nationalism: Better than you may think: "And some of it seems to have been inspired by Elizabeth Warren." Also:

    • Privatizing our public water supply.

      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.

  • Dave Lindorff: 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 Russia.

  • Martin Longman: The spiraling downward trend of Donald Trump's political life: "My best guess is that for the rest of the campaign, every day is going to be worse for Trump than the last. And that means every day will technically be the worst day of Trump's political life."

  • Annie Lowrey: The pandemic proved that cash payments work: "An extra $600 a week buys freedom from fear."

  • Farhad Manjoo: 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."

  • Dylan Matthews: Congress's Covid-19 rescue plan was bigger than the New Deal. It's about to end.

  • Terrence McCoy: 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.

  • John Merrick: 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.

  • Ian Millhiser:

  • Lee Moran: GOP state lawmaker: 'I want to see more people' get coronavirus.

  • Sean Murphy: Health official: Trump rally 'likely' source of virus surge.

  • Ellen Nakashima: Trump confirms cyberattack on Russian trolls to deter them during 2018 midterms.

  • Nicole Narea:

  • Ella Nilsen: How Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders joined forces to craft a bold, progressive agenda.

  • Osita Nwanevu:

  • Ashley Parker/Philip Rucker/Josh Dawsey: Trump the victim: President complains in private about the pandemic hurting him.

    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.

  • Andrew Prokop: The past 24 hours in Trump legal issues and controversies, explained: "Supreme Court decisions, closed-door testimony, and developments for Michael Flynn and Michael Cohen."

  • Nathan Robinson: Trump's Mount Rushmore speech was a grim preview of his re-election strategy.

  • Jeffrey Sachs: 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.

  • Dylan Scott: Covid-19 cases are rising, but deaths are falling. What's going on?

  • Alex Shephard: Mary Trump diagnoses the president: "A dark new family history from Donald Trump's niece may be the most intimate psychological portrait of him yet." Her book is Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man. She also happens to be a clinical psychologist, so sure she goes there. After considering the pathetic demise of Trump's older brother (Fred Trump Jr., Mary's father):

    Donald was the one Trump child who lived up to Fred Sr.'s expectations (he would also be the only one Fred Sr. would remember when suffering, late in life, from dementia). While the other Trump children gained little from their extremely wealthy father for most of his life (Maryanne, who became a federal judge, at one point was reduced to begging her mother for spare change), Donald was endlessly rewarded for his mendacity and aggression in the rough-and-tumble world of New York real estate. Fred Sr. showered his son with money, allowing him to create the illusion that he was self-made, a brilliant dealmaker. This phony personal brand would be the foundation of Donald's successful presidential campaign.

    Seems like I've heard that story before: sounds a lot like spree killer Andrew Cunanan in The Assassination of Gianni Versace, although Trump's money saved him from taking such a murderous turn. The review continues:

    But Donald, in Mary's telling, was the most wounded of the Trump children. He was also the most pathetic. He became profoundly needy as a result of childhood neglect but lacked the means of processing his emotions. He got stuck in an endless feedback loop of self-aggrandizement and self-loathing, seeking out sycophants to assure him that he really was great -- even though, deep down, he knew he was unloved and incapable of executing even the most basic tasks.

    This too is a familiar story: the basis of the recurring Seth Meyers features of exclusive access to the tiny voice in the back of Trump's head.

  • David Sirota: Trump's Labor Secretary is reaching cartoonish levels of supervillainry. Eugene Scalia.

  • Bhaskar Sunkara: Stop trying to fight racism with corporate diversity consultants: "Inclusivity seminars and books like White Fragility protect power; they don't challenge it. We're being hustled."

  • Margaret Talbot: The study that debunks most anti-abortion arguments.

  • Jeffrey Toobin: 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.

  • David Wallace-Wells: America is refusing to learn how to fight the coronavirus.

  • Laura Weiss: How America exports police violence around the world.

  • Philip Weiss:

  • Conor P Williams: To DeVos, the virus is an excuse to strip public money from public schools: "The policy is in line with conservative goals of converting public dollars into private K-12 scholarships." More on DeVos:

  • Robin Wright: Trump's impeachment revenge: Alexander Vindman is bullied into retiring.

  • Matthew Yglesias:

There's also this: A letter on justice and open debate. It appeared in Harper's, and was signed by 152 people, mostly authors, between a third and a half names I readily recognize. Unfortunately, half of those I recognize mostly for their support of American (and often Israeli) military ventures abroad and/or their propensity to attack the left (often including Sanders supporters within the Democratic Party). This adds an air of disingenuity to what otherwise appears to be an innocuous (albeit deliberately vague) defense of free speech. The middle paragraph could offer some clues if you could map the unnamed censorious forces seeking to punish the unnamed actors for their unspecified offenses: although Trump is the only named threat, I wouldn't be surprised to find many more worried by what the left might provoke than by what the right actually does, and some may even fear winding up on the wrong side of justice. Take Yascha Mounk's tweet, for example:

If the crazy attempts to shame and fire people for signing this reasonably anodyne letter don't convince you that our current intellectual atmosphere is deeply unhealthy, then you're more invested in parroting the propagandistic line of the moment than in acknowledging the truth.

Tom Scocca replied:

The use of "shame and fire" here is the whole damn game. Treating them as interchangeable is, in fact, a cynical attack on free discourse.

Osita Nwanevu's piece on "reactionary liberalism" (see above) fits in here, without actually making the connection. Many of the signatories fit that mold, and they're the main reason people like myself have taken exception to the letter. I actually share a wariness about overly harsh and arbitrary punishments.

Also relevant here is Alex Shephard: The problem with Yascha Mounk's Persuasion, which does discuss the Harper's letter.

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.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Weekend Roundup

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:


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 address.)

But the Fourth of July celebrations were a side show. The big article this week is Derek Hawkins/Marisa Iati/Jacqueline Dupree: Seven-day average case total in the US sets record for 27th straight day.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Kate Aronoff:

  • David Atkins:

    • Universal basic income continues to gain mainstream support due to COVID-19. By the way, I just finished Rutger Bregman's Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World, which starts with UBI, which pointed out that the idea was widely considered in the early 1970s: he cites Nixon's interest, but my recollection is more McGovern. I recall reading several books on it back then, especially by Robert Theobald (1929-99), best known for Free Men and Free Markets (1963). For a new piece on UBI: Luke Savage: Want to fight poverty? Give poor people money.

    • Why a movement like Trumpism doesn't have a future. The takeaway from the Mt. Rushmore speech:

      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).

  • Mike Baker/Jennifer Valentino-DeVries/Manny Fernandez/Michael LaForgia: Three words. 70 cases. The tragic history of 'I can't breathe.'

  • Dan Balz: Trump turned July Fourth into a partisan event. The damage could be long-lasting.

  • William J Barber/Phyllis Bennis: The police and the pentagon are bringing our wars home.

  • Medea Benjamin/Nicolas JS Davies: Trump's record on foreign policy: Lost wars, new conflicts, and broken promises.

  • Matt Bruenig: The racial wealth gap is about the upper classes.

  • James Bruno: 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.

  • Jonathan Chait: Trump blames losing campaign on listening to 'woke Jared': "Trump decides to ignore his son-in-law and focus on voters who fear he isn't racist enough."

  • Jane Coaston: Social conservatives feel betrayed by the Supreme Court -- and the GOP that appointed it.

  • EJ Dionne Jr: A vicious culture war is all Trump has left. Also: Zeeshan Aleem: Trump is going all in on divisive culture wars. That might not work this time.

    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 to civilization.

  • W Ralph Eubanks: The Confederate flag finally falls in Mississippi.

  • 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.

  • Nima Gerami: 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:

  • Amy Goldstein: Voters in deep-red Oklahoma approve Medicaid expansion. I have no doubt this would pass in Kansas if the voters are given the chance. Almost passed in the legislature this year, spoiled only by Senate majority leader Susan Wagle refusing to schedule a vote.

  • Graig Graziosi: Trump ally Herman Cain who attended Tulsa rally hospitalized with coronavirus. Of course, he didn't necessary get the virus there. He also traveled to "a lot of places" that week, including hotspot Arizona. Related?

  • Miranda Green: It will take years to undo the damage from Trump's environmental rollback: "Even if Democrats win back the White House and the Senate, it will be a long struggle to restore the regulations the Republican-controlled EPA has erased."

  • Glenn Greenwald: House Democrats, working with Liz Cheney, restrict Trump's planned withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Germany. Jason Crow (D-CO) co-sponsored the amendment with Cheney. This particular amendment was approved 45-11, opposed by 8 Republicans and 3 Democrats.

  • Ryan Grim: 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.

  • Gabrielle Gurley: This time, it's the Democrats' infrastructure week: "House Democrats steered an ambitious transportation and infrastructure plan through the chamber. Structured more like a wish list, it's dead on arrival in the Senate."

  • 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.

  • Jeet Heer: 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 policy.

  • Sean Illing: How Black Lives Matter fits into the long history of American radicalism: Interview with Michael Kazin.

  • Umair Irfan: The "Godzilla" Saharan dust cloud over the US, explained: "The giant dust cloud is part of a system that feeds the ocean, fertilizes the rainforest, and suppresses hurricanes."

  • Mugambi Jouet: 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.

  • Jen Kirby:

  • Ezra Klein:

  • 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."

  • Josh Kovensky: Trump admin scales back mandate that health insurers cover Covid tests.

  • Michael Kranish: New York court sides with publisher of explosive book by President Trump's niece. Kranish previously wrote about the book: Mary Trump once stood up to her uncle Donald. Now her book describes a 'nightmare' of family dysfunction.

  • Martin Longman: 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:

    • Robert Kuttner: 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.

  • German Lopez: Just 2 states meet these basic criteria to reopen and stay safe: New York and Rhode Island meet 4 (of 5) criteria; 21 states and DC meet 2 or 3; 27 states 0 or 1. Only 2 states and DC have "a sustained two-week drop in coronavirus cases": Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

  • Eric Margolis: The coming ecosystem collapse is already here for coral.

  • Alan MacLeod: 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. For more:

  • Louis Menand: This fourth of July, consider Trump's lobster fib.

    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.

  • Stephen Miles: 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 in.

  • Ian Millhiser:

  • Jeanne Morefield: 'Never in my country': COVID-19 and American Exceptionalism.

    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.

  • Anna North: Roe v. Wade isn't safe: "The Supreme Court just struck down an anti-abortion law. Here's why access is still at risk."

  • JC Pan: 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.

  • Daniel Politi: Washington NFL team launches review of racist nickname: You mean the Redskins? I remember that name being questioned fifty years ago. On the other hand, the proposed replacements, starting with Warriors, are often worse.

  • John Quiggin: 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.

  • David Roberts: House Democrats just put out the most detailed climate plan in US political history: "A new select committee report is perfectly in tune with the growing climate policy alignment on the left around standards, investments, and justice."

  • Paul Rosenberg: The secret of his success: Donald Trump's six weird tricks for authoritarian rule: Interview with Jennifer Mercieca, author of: Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump.

  • Daid Rothkopf: '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.

  • Theodore Schleifer: 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 2018.

  • Andrea K Scott: The removal of a Theodore Roosevelt statue is a good first step in rethinking America's monuments.

  • Melody Schreiber: The climate crisis will be just as shockingly abrupt.

  • Dylan Scott:

    • 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 fraud.

    • 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.

      • David Dayen: Time to seize drug patents.

        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.

      • Donald Shaw: Biden sides with Big Pharma against affordable coronavirus vaccine plan [Marh 19].

      • David Sirota: The US public paid to develop this COVID-19 drug. It will cost $3,000 a dose. Title seems to have the price wrong ($3,100 for a 5-day course of treatment, not per dose).

        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 Alex Azar.

  • Robert J Shapiro: Trump's bungled pandemic response is crushing American incomes: "New data shows the costs of the administration's failure to stem the coronavirus outbreak."

    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 financial ruin.

    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.

  • Apa Sherpa (as told to Emily Atkin): I've climbed Everest 21 times. It's not the mountain it used to be.

  • Matt Shuham: "Nothing is normal here": Trump campaign claims its NDA applies to Omarosa's WH work.

  • Jeffrey Toobin: 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 judges.

  • Nahal Toosi: Human rights groups turn their sights on Trump's America.

  • Sina Toosi: How John Bolton and Mike Pompeo thwarted Trump's plan to get a deal with Iran. More Bolton (not that you need any):

  • Alex Ward: Donald Trump is vulnerable on China. So is Joe Biden. They're both wrong, too, although that's not what they perceive as each other's faults.

  • 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 safeguards." Appears?

  • Colin Woodard: Woodrow Wilson was even worse than you think.

  • Robin Wright: To the world, we're now America the racist and pitiful.

  • Matthew Yglesias:

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