Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Weekend Roundup

I haven't written much about the elections this year. Partly, I don't care for the horserace-style reporting, or the focus on polls as a proxy for actual news. FiveThirtyEight currently forecasts that the Democrats have a "1 in 6" chance of gaining control of the Senate, and a "6 in 7" chance of winning the House. The main difference there is that Democrats have a huge structural disadvantage in the Senate: only one third of the seats are up, and Republicans have a large margin among the carryover seats; most of the seats that are contested this year are Democratic, so the Democrats have many more opportunities to lose than to win; and the Senate isn't anywhere near close to uniformly representative of the general population. The House itself has been severely rigged against the Democrats, so much so that in recent years Democrats have won the national popular vote for the House yet Republicans won most of the seats (same as with the 2016 presidential election). Despite those odds, it seems likely that the Democrats will get a larger share of the nationwide Senate vote than the House vote. I'm not sure what the best thinking is on this, but it seems likely to me that the Democrats will have to win the nationwide House vote by 4% or more just to break even. The break-even point in the Senate is probably more like +10%, so a Democratic wave of +6-7% will give you those forecast odds.

Of course, one reason for not obsessing over the polls and odds is that Republicans have tended to do better than expected pretty much every election since the Democratic gains in 2006-08. I don't really understand why this has been the case, aside from the hard work Republicans have done to intimidate and suppress voters (but I doubt that's all there is to it). Early this year, I thought a bit about writing up a little book on political eras and strategy, but never got past the obvious era divisions: 1800, 1860, 1932, 1980; 2020 would be about right, especially since Trump has more in common with the dead-end presidents (Adams, Buchanan, Hoover, Carter) than the era-shifters (Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and, ugh, Reagan). Maybe I'll return to that after the election, with some more data to crunch.

Of course, the real meat of such a book would be a dissection of the Republican political machine: how it works, why it works, who pulls the levers, and why do so many otherwise decent people fall for it. (I don't see much value delving into the so-called deplorables, although two of them snapped and made the biggest news this week -- more on that below.) This should be easier now than it was just weeks or months ago, as Republican campaign pitches have become even more fraudulent and inflammatory as the day of reckoning approaches. Still, I'm not sure I'm up to this task. It's so easy to caricature Trump that most of his critics have failed to notice how completely, and even more surprisingly how deftly, he has merged his party and himself into a single, homogeneous force.

On the other hand, the Democrats are still very much the party of Will Rogers, when he famously proclaimed: "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat." Despite the recent polarization of political parties -- mostly accomplished by Republican efforts to detach Southern and suburban racists from their previous Democratic Party nests -- Democrats still range over virtually the entire spectrum of American political thought, at least those who generally accept that we live in a complex open society, one that accepts and respects differences within a framework of equal rights and countervailing powers. This contrasts starkly with the Republican Party, which has been captured by a few hundred billionaires, who have bankrolled a media empire which expertly exploits the fears and prejudices of an often-adequate segment of voters to support their agenda of enriching and aggrandizing their class, with scant regard for the consequences.

We see the consequences of unchecked Republican power every day, at least since the last general election delivered the presidency to Donald Trump, and allowed the confirmation of two more extreme right-wing Supreme Court Justices and many more lesser judges -- indeed, my Weekend Roundups for the last two years, including the one below, barely scratch that surface. But for all the talk of polarization, the practical situation today is not a stark choice between two dogmatic and opposed political extremes, but between one such party, and another that reflects the often flawed but still idealistic American tradition of progressive equality, an open and free society, and a mixed but fair economy: the traits of a democracy, because they are ideals that nearly all of us can believe in and agree on.

So despite the billions of dollars being spent to persuade you, the choice is ultimately stark and simple. Either you vote for a party that has proven itself determined to make America a cruder, harsher, less welcoming, less fair, more arrogant, more violent, and more rigidly hierarchical place, or you vote for Democrats, who may or may not be good people, who may or may not have good ideas, but who at least are open to discussing real problems and realistic solutions to those problems, who recognize that a wide range of people have interests, and who seek to balance them in ways that are practical and broadly beneficial. Republicans only seek to consolidate their power, and that means stripping away anything that gives you the option of standing up to them: pretty much everything from casting a ballot to joining a union. On the other hand, voting for Democrats may not guarantee democracy, but it will at least slow and possibly start to reverse the descent into totalitarianism the Republicans have plotted out.

This choice sounds so obvious I'm almost embarrassed to have to bring it up, but so many people are prey to Republican pitches that the races remain close and uncertain. Nor am I worried here just about the polls. I see evidence of how gullible otherwise upstanding people can be every time I look at Facebook. The main reason I bother with Facebook is to keep tabs on my family and close friends. While I have little cause for concern among the latter, my family offers a pretty fair cross-section of, well, white America. So every day now I see disturbing right-wing memes -- most common ones this week were efforts to paint alleged pipe-bomber Cesar Sayoc as a closet Democrat (one also argued that he isn't white). A couple weeks ago it was mostly misleading memes defending Brett Kavanaugh. It's very rare to find these accompanied by even a cursory personal argument. Rather, they seem to be just token gesture of political allegiance.

Probably the most important stories of the week were two acts of not-quite-random violence: one (mailed pipe bombs to a number of prominent Democratic Party politicians and supporters) seems to be a simple case of a Trump supporter acting on violent fantasies fanned by the president's reckless rhetoric; the other (a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh) erupts from a much older strain of anti-semitism, one that was much more fashionable back in the 1930s when Trump's father was attending pro-Nazi rallies in New York. Republicans, including Trump, were quick to condemn these acts of violence (although, as noted above, there has been a bizarre strain of denialism with regard to the pipe-bomber).

I have no doubt that these are the isolated acts of profoundly disturbed individuals. Of course, that's what politicians always say when their supporters get carried away and cross the bounds of law and decency. Still, I think there are cases where political figures set up an environment where it becomes almost inevitable that someone will act criminally. Two fairly convincing examples of this are the murders of Yitzhak Rabin in Israel (called for by prominent rabbis) and of George Tiller here in Wichita (killed on the second assassination attempt after years of being demonized by anti-abortion activists). I don't think either of this week's acts rises to that standard, but the fact is that violence against blacks, Jews, and others vilified by right-wing propagandists spiked shortly after Obama was elected president, and Trump deliberately tapped into that anger during and after the 2016 election. Indeed, right-wing rage has been a feature of American politics at least since it was summoned up by GW Bush in response to the 9/11 attacks, deliberately to put America onto a permanent war footing, something that seventeen years of further war has only increased. That random Americans have increasingly attempted to impose their political will through guns and bombs is no coincidence, given that their government has done just that -- and virtually nothing else but that -- for most of our lives.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias: The hack gap: how and why conservative nonsense dominates American politics: This at least starts to explain why, for instance, when Hillary Clinton referred to half of Trump's supporters as "a basket of deplorables" the comment was repeated ad nauseum along with the horrified reactions from both halves of the Trump party, but when Trump says "Anybody who votes for a Democrat now is crazy" hardly anyone ever hears of it:

    The reason is something I've dubbed "the hack gap" over the years, and it's one of the most fundamental asymmetries shaping American politics. While conservatives obsess over the (accurate) observation that the average straight news reporter has policy views that are closer to the Democratic Party than the Republican Party, the hack gap fundamentally does more to structure political discourse.

    The hack gap explains why Clinton's email server received more television news coverage than all policy issues combined in the 2016 election. It explains why Republicans can hope to get away with dishonest spin about preexisting conditions. It's why Democrats are terrified that Elizabeth Warren's past statements about Native American heritage could be general election poison in 2020, and it's why an internecine debate about civility has been roiling progressive circles for nearly two years even while the president of the United States openly praises assaulting journalists. . . .

    Since there are exactly two significant political parties in the United States, it's natural to think of them as essentially mirror images of each other.

    But they're not, and one critical difference is that the Republican Party benefits from the operation of mass-market propaganda broadcasts that completely abjure the principles of journalism.

    Back in the 19th century, most newspapers in America were highly partisan, but around 1900 they gave way to mainstream papers which strived to establish clear facts that could inform all readers. As broadcast media developed, it was licensed by the government and required to serve the public interest and provide equal time on matters of controversy. This pretty much ended when Reagan's FCC got rid of the equal time rule. Right-wingers were quick to buy up newly unregulated media and turn them into pure propaganda outlets. The left might have wanted to follow suit, but none (by definition) could afford to buy up the formerly "free press," while liberals and centrists were generally content to stick with the mainstream media, even as its fact-bias tilted to the right to encompass the "reality" of the propagandists. This continuous rebalancing has had the effect of allowing the right to define much of the terrain of what counts as news. A prime example of this has been the nearly continuous mainstream press reporting on an endless series of Clinton "scandals" -- even when the reporting shows the charges to be false, the act of taking them seriously feeds the fears and doubts of many uncommitted voters, in some cases (like 2016) tilting elections:

    And yet elections are swung, almost by definition, not by the majority of people who correctly see the scope of the differences and pick a side but by the minority of people for whom the important divisions in US partisan politics aren't decisive. Consequently, the issues that matter most electorally are the ones that matter least to partisans. Things like email protocol compliance that neither liberals nor conservatives care about even slightly can be a powerful electoral tool because the decisive voters are the ones who don't care about the epic ideological clash of left and right.

    But journalists take their cues about what's important from partisan media outlets and partisan social media.

    Thus, the frenzies of partisan attention around "deplorables" and "lock her up" served to focus on controversies that, while not objectively significant. are perhaps particularly resonant to people who don't have firm ideological convictions.

    Meanwhile, similar policy-neutral issues like Trump's insecure cellphone, his preposterous claim to be too busy to visit the troops, or even his apparent track record of tax fraud don't get progressives worked into a lather in the same way.

    This is a natural tactical advantage that, moreover, serves a particular strategic advantage given the Republican Party's devotion to plutocratic principles on taxation and health insurance that have only a very meager constituency among the mass public.

    Yglesias cites some interesting research on the effect of Fox News and other cogs in the right-wing propaganda machine, showing that the margin of nearly all Republican victories "since the 1980s" can be chalked up to this "hack gap." One effect of this is that by being able to stay extreme and still win, Republicans have never had to adjust their policy mix to gain moderate voters. Indeed, they probably realize that extreme negative attitudes are, if anything, more effective in motivating their "base," although that also leads to them taking ever greater liberties with the truth.

    Other Yglesias pieces from the last two weeks:

    • The case for amnesty.

    • Democratic priorities for 2021: what's most important? Given all the people who are likely running for president in 2020, what do they hope to accomplish?

      In my view, the most important things to tackle right now are climate change, the state of American democracy, and the millions of long-term resident undocumented immigrants in the country.

    • Democrats need to learn to name villains rather than vaguely decrying "division": Yglesias doesn't get very specific either, but that's because what he says about Republicans fits damn near every one of them:

      But there is also a very specific thing happening in the current American political environment that is driving the elevated level of concern. And that thing is not just a nameless force of "division."

      It's a deliberate political strategy enacted by the Republican Party, its allies in partisan media, and its donors to foster a political debate that is centered on divisive questions of personal identity rather than on potentially unifying themes of concrete material interests. It's a strategy whose downside is that it tends to push American society to the breaking point, but whose upside is that it facilitates the enacting of policies that serve the concrete material interests of a wealthy minority rather than those of the majority.

      That's what's going on, and it's time to say so.

      Here in Kansas, Kris Kobach is running for governor, and his adds try to turn him into a normal "family man," while attacking his opponent, Democrat Laura Kelly, as "far left." I don't know the guy personally, so I merely suspect, based on his public behavior and manifest ignorance of law, that the former is a bald-faced lie. The charge against Kelly is no less than rabid McCarthy-ite slander: not that it would bother me if it were true, but she's about as staidly conservative as any non-Republican in Kansas can be. Meanwhile, Ron Estes' ads for the House stress how hard he's is fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare -- something there's no evidence of in his voting record. No mention of the real hard work he does in Washington, carrying water for the Kochs, Boeing, and the hometown Petroleum Club.

      Biden is right, of course, that the upshot of that divisiveness is deplorable and bad for the country. It would be much healthier for American society to have a calmer, kinder, more rational political dialogue more focused on addressing the concrete problems of the majority of the country. But while society overall would be healthier with that kind of politics, Donald Trump personally would not be better off. Nor would the hyper-wealthy individuals who benefit personally from the Republican Party's relentless advocacy of unpopular regressive tax schemes.

      The American people were not crying out for the Trump administration to legalize a pesticide that damages children's brains and then follow it up with a ruling to let power plants poison children's brains, but the people who own the pesticide factories and power plants are sure glad that we're screaming about a caravan of migrants hundreds of miles away rather than the plutocrats next door.

      Combating this strategy of demagoguery and nonsense is difficult, but the first step is to correctly identify it rather than spouting vague pieties about togetherness.

    • An extended discussion of the US-Saudi alliance shows Trump still has no idea what he's talking about.

    • After playing nice for one afternoon, Trump wakes to blame the media for bombings.

    • Trump's middle-class tax cut is a fairy tale that distracts from the real midterm stakes:

      There is a kind of entertaining randomness to the things Trump says and does. The president decides it would be smart to start pretending that he's working on a middle-class tax cut, so he just blurts it out with no preparation. Everyone else in the Republican Party politics knows that when Trump starts lying about something, their job is to start covering for him.

      But because Trump is disorganized, and most people aren't as shameless as Trump is, it usually takes a few days for the ducks to get in a row. The ensuing chaos is kind of funny.

      But there's actually nothing funny about tricking millions of people about matters with substantial concrete consequences for them and their families. And that's what's happening here. Trump is lying about taxes -- and about health care and many other things -- because he will benefit personally in concrete ways if the electorate is misinformed about the real stakes in the election.

    • Ebola was incredibly important to TV news until Republicans decided it shouldn't be.

    • California's Proposition 10, explained: This has to do with rent control. Yglesias once wrote a book called The Rent Is Too Damn High, so this is something he cares a lot about -- certainly a lot more than I do, although I sure remember the pain of getting price gouged by greedy landlords. Yglesias mostly wants to see more building, which would put pressure to bring prices down.

    • To defend journalism, we need to defend the truth and not just journalists:

      Trump is a bigot and a demagogue, but he is first and foremost a scammer.

      When Trump fans wanted to learn the secrets of his business success, he bilked them out of money for classes at his fake university. When Trump fans wanted to invest in his publicly traded company, they lost all their money while he tunneled funds out of the enterprise and into his pockets.

      He riles up social division by lying about minority groups to set up the premise that he's the champion of the majority, and then lies to the majority about what he's doing for them.

      He can't get away with it if people know the truth, so he attacks -- rhetorically, and at times even physically -- people whose job it is is to tell the truth. To push back, we in journalism can't just push back on the attacks. We need to push back on the underlying lies more clearly and more vigorously than we have.

    • Reconsidering the US-Saudi relationship: Argues that a US-Saudi alliance made sense during the Cold War, and that hostility between the Saudis and Iran makes sense now (the sanctions keep Iran from putting its oil on the market and depressing the price of Saudi oil), but points out that while the Saudis benefit from keeping the US and Iran at loggerheads, the US doesn't get much out of it. That Trump has fallen for the Saudi bait just shows how little he understands anything about the region (and more generally about the world).

    • The biggest lie Trump tells is that he's kept his promises: Well, obviously, "a raft of populist pledges have been left on the cutting room floor," starting with "great health care . . . much less expensive and much better." Also the idea of Mexico paying for "the wall." Here's a longer laundry list:

      There's a lot more where that came from:

      • As a candidate, Trump promised to raise taxes on the rich; as president, he promised tax changes that at a minimum wouldn't benefit the rich.
      • Trump promised to break up America's largest banks by reinstated old Glass-Steagall regulations that prevented financial conglomerates from operating in multiple lines of business.
      • Trump promised price controls on prescription drugs.
      • Trump promised to "take the oil" from Iraq to reduce the financial burden of US military policy.
      • Trump promised many times that he would release his tax returns and promised to put his wealth into a blind trust.
      • Trump vowed rollback of climate change regulations but said he was committed to upholding clean air and clean water goals.
      • Trump promised a $1 trillion infrastructure package.

      The larger betrayal is that Trump portrayed himself as a self-financed candidate (which wasn't true) who was willing to take stances on domestic and economic issues that his donor-backed opponents wouldn't. In terms of position-taking, that was true.

      I see less grounds for faulting Trump on this score. For one thing, I never heard or felt him as a populist -- so half of the above, as well as such vague and impossible promises as better/cheaper health care, never registered as campaign promises. A pretty good indication of my expectations was how sick-to-my-stomach I was on election night. What Trump's done since taking office is very consistent with what I expected that night. In fact, I would say that he's been much more successful at fulfilling his campaign promises than Obama was after taking office in 2009, or Clinton in 1993. This is especially striking given that both Clinton in 1993 and Obama in 2009 had strong Democratic majorities in Congress, which they pissed away in bipartisan gestures. Trump had much less to work with, and had to awkwardly merge his agenda into that of the harder right Congressional Republicans, but he's gotten quite a bit through Congress, and gone way beyond his mandate with his executive orders. Moreover, things that he hasn't fully delivered, like his wall, wrecking universal health care, and resetting international trade regulations, he's made a good show of showing he still cares for those issues. Of course, he lies a lot about what he's doing, and what his acts will actually accomplish. And nearly everything he's done and wants to do will eventually blow back and hurt the nation and most of its people. But as politicians go, you can't fault him for delivering. You have to focus on what those deliveries mean, because history will show that Trump's much worse than a liar and a blowhard.

    • How to make the economy great again: raise pay.

    • The Great Recession was awful. And we don't have a plan to stop the next one. A couple of interesting charts here, comparing actual to potential output, as estimated over time since the 2008 recession started. Not only did the recession cause a lot of immediate pain, it's clear now that it has reduced future prospects well past when we technically recovered from the recession.

    • Progressives have nothing to learn from "nationalist" backlash politics: "Nativism is the social democracy of fools." Cites an op-ed by Jefferson Cowie: Reclaiming Patriotism for the Left.

    • Proportional representation could save America: Maybe, but it won't happen, mostly because no one with the power to make changes to make it easier for independents and third parties to share power will see any advantage in doing so. I once wondered why after 2008 no one in the Democratic Party lifted a finger to restrict or limit the role of money in elections, but the obvious reason was that even though a vast majority of rank-and-file Democrats (and probably a thinner majority of Republican voters) favored such limits, the actual Democrats (and Republicans) in power were by definition proven winners at raising money, making them the only people with good self-interested reasons for continuing the present system.

  • Jon Lee Anderson: Jair Bolsonaro's Victory Echoes Donald Trump's, With Key Differences: For the worse, he means. Actually, he's sounding more like Pinochet, or Franco, or you-know-who:

    Bolsonaro himself has promised retribution against his political foes, swearing that he will see Lula "rot" in prison and will eventually put Haddad behind bars, too. He has also pledged to go after the land-reform activists of the M.S.T. -- the Movimento Sem Terra -- the Landless Worker's Movement, whom he has referred to as "terrorists."

    In a speech last week, Bolsonaro called Brazil's leftists "red outlaws" and said that they needed to leave the country or else go to jail. "These red outlaws will be banished from our homeland," he said. "It will be a cleanup the likes of which has never been seen in Brazilian history." Later, referring to his supporters, he said, "We are the majority. We are the true Brazil. Together with this Brazilian people, we will make a new nation."

    Also see: Greg Grandin: Brazil's Bolsonaro Has Supercharged Right-Wing Cultural Politics; also Vijay Prashad: Bolsonaro of Brazil: Slayer of the Amazon; and Noam Chomsky: I just visited Lula, the world's most prominent political prisoner. A "soft coup" in Brazil's election will have global consequences..

  • Peter Beinart: The Special Kind of Hate That Drove Pittsburgh Shooter -- and Trump. In many respects the shooter is a classic anti-semite, but he specifically singled out the Pittsburgh synagogue for its support for immigrants, including Muslims. For more on this, see: Masha Gessen: Why the Tree of Life shooter was fixated on the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. Also of interest: Abigail Hauslohner/Abby Ohlheiser: Some neo-Nazis lament the Pittsburgh massacre: It derails their efforts to be mainstream.

  • Tara Isabella Burton: The Pittsburgh synagogue shooting comes amid a years-long rise in anti-Semitism; also: Why extremists keep attacking places of worship; also German Lopez: Trump's responses to mass shootings are a giant lie by omission, and The Pittsburgh synagogue shooting is another example of America's gun problem, to which I'd add "war problem."

  • John Cassidy: Donald Trump Launches Operation Midterms Diversion: Who wants to talk about pipe bombs sent to political enemies and mass shootings in synagogues (or in grocery stores) when you can send troops to the Mexican border to brace against the migrant hordes? Cassidy also wrote: The Dangerously Thin Line Between Political Incitement and Political Violence, Why Donald Trump Can't Stop Attacking the Media Over the Pipe-Bomb Packages, and American Democracy Is Malfunctioning in Tragic Fashion.

  • Michael D'Antonio: Cesar Sayocs can be found almost anywhere in America. Presidents should take heed:

    Trump campaigned using taunts and suggestions that all the Cesar Sayocs could have heard as calls to violent action. When a protester interrupted a rally, Trump announced that he would "like to punch him in the face" and waxed sentimental about the days when protesters would be "carried out on stretchers."

    He referenced a "Second Amendment" response to Hillary Clinton's possible election and offered to pay the legal bills for those who assault his protesters. . . .

    As president, Trump never pivoted from his destructive campaign mode to become a leader of all the American people. Just weeks ago, he praised fellow Republican Greg Gianforte for assaulting a reporter who had asked him a question. "Any guy that can do a body slam, he's my kind of . . . He was my guy," said Trump.

    The President's encouragement of violence, combined with rhetoric about the press being "enemies of the people" and political opponents being un-American, are green lights for those who are vulnerable to suggestion. Worse, when you think about the President's impact on fevered minds, is his penchant for conspiracy theories. With no evidence, he recently suggested terrorists were among immigrants now marching toward the United States.

    Previously, Trump has said that the hurricane death toll in Puerto Rico was inflated to hurt him politically, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia may have been murdered, climate change is a "hoax" and millions of people voted illegally in 2016. Keep in mind, this is the President of the United States we're talking about, and though they are favored on the fringes of the internet, none of these ideas is supported by facts.

    Taken together, Trump's paranoid rants encourage people to believe that almost anything can be true. Can't find actual facts to support your belief that some conspiracy is afoot? Well, the absence of facts proves that the media is in on the game. An election doesn't go your way? As the President says, the system is "rigged."

    Consider Trump's paranoid blather from the perspective of a man who may already feel alienated, angry and afraid. You hear the President of the United States repeatedly assert that the dishonest press is hiding the real truth. He implies that his enemies are out to hurt him and he needs the help of ordinary citizens. Add the way that Trump encourages violence and seems to thrill at the prospect, and is it any wonder that someone would act? The real wonder is why it doesn't happen more often.

    I wouldn't have committed to that last sentence, but the rest of the quote is pretty spot on. I can think of lots of reasons why this doesn't happen more often. For starters, few people (even few Trump voters) take politics as personally as Sayoc and Trump do. Even among those who do, and are as disaffected as Sayoc, hardly any are ready to throw their lives away to indulge Trump's whims. It might even occur to them that if Trump really wanted to order hits on his "enemies," he'd be much more able to foot the bill himself. (He'd probably even have contacts with Russians willing to do the job.) But Trump himself doesn't do things like that: he's not that deranged, or maybe he just has a rational fear that it might blow up on him (cf. Mohammad Bin Salman, or for that matter Vladimir Putin). I think it's pretty clear that Trump attacks the media because he's afraid not of satire (the former meaning of "fake news") or opinion, but of the corruption, deceit, and dysfunction that media might eventually get around to reporting (if they ever tire of his tweets and gaffes). By turning his supporters against the media, he hopes to create doubt should they ever get serious about the damage he's causing.

    A second point that should be stressed is that you don't have to be president to incite someone like Sayoc to violence. Indeed, incited violence most often reflects a loss or lack of power. It is, after all, a tactic of desperation (a point Gilles Kepel made about 9/11 in an afterword to his essential book Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam). I fully expect we'll see an uptick in right-wing violence only after Trump leaves office -- much like the one following the Republican loss in 2008, but probably much worse given the personal animus Trump has been spouting. (Of course, Republicans who argued last week that Trump is being unfairly blamed because no one blamed Obama for a Charleston church massacre that occurred "on his watch" will spare Trump any responsibility.)

    For more on Sayoc, see: Dan Paquette/Lori Rozsa/Matt Zapotosky: 'He felt that somebody was finally talking to him': How the package-bomb suspect found inspiration in Trump.

  • Madison Dapcevich: EPA Announces It Will Discontinue Science Panel That Reviews Air Pollution Safety.

  • Garrett Epps: The Citizenship Clause Means What It Says: Adding to the last-minute campaign confusion, Trump's talking about using his executive powers to override the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. Also see: Aziz Huq: Trump's birthright citizenship proposal, explained by a law professor.

  • J Lester Feder: Bernie Sanders Is Partnering With a Greek Progressive to Build a New Leftist Movement: The guy who didn't get his name in the headline is Yanis Varoufakis, who left his post as an economic professor in Texas to become Greece's finance minister under the Syriza government, and left that post when Syriza caved in to the EU's austerity demands. Since then he's written several books: And the Weak Suffer What They Must? Europe's Crisis and America's Economic Future, and Talking to My Daughter About the Economy: A Brief History of Capitalism. The article sees this as a response to Steve Bannon's efforts to forge an international alliance of far-right parties, normally separated by their respective nationalisms. Reminds me more of the pre-Bolshevik Internationale, but maybe we shouldn't talk about that? But globalism is so clearly dominated by capital that resistance and constructive alternatives emerging from anywhere help us all.

  • Umair Irfan: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke might face a criminal investigation: Although they're going to have to come up with something more substantial than "He also compared Martin Luther King Jr. to Robert E. Lee" (the subhed -- why even mention that?).

  • German Lopez: The Kentucky Kroger shooting may have been a racist attack: I don't see much need for "may" here, even if the white shooter's "whites don't kill whites" quote is just hearsay.

  • Robinson Meyer: The Trump Administration Flunked Its Math Homework: On automobile mileage standards.

  • Dana Milbank: The latest lesson in Trumponomics 101:

    Tuesday morning brought a textbook illustration of Trumponomics.

    Under this economic theory -- defined roughly as "when it's sunny, credit me; when it rains, blame them" -- President Trump has been claiming sole responsibility for a bull market that began nearly eight years before his presidency.

    But this month, wild swings in the market threaten to erase the year's gains, and on Tuesday, Trump offered an explanation: The Democrats did it! The market "is now taking a little pause -- people want to see what happens with the Midterms," he tweeted. "If you want your Stocks to go down, I strongly suggest voting Democrat."

    Most attribute the swoon to higher tariffs set off by Trump's trade war and higher interest rates aggravated by Trump's tax cut. But Trumponomics holds otherwise. . . .

    When you start from a place of intellectual dishonesty, there is no telling where you'll end up. That is the very foundation of Trumponomics.

    For something a little deeper on Trumponomics, see: Matt Taibbi: Three Colliding Problems Leading to a New Economic Disaster.

  • Bruce Murphy: Wisconsin's $4.1 billion Foxconn boondoggle: "The total Foxconn subsidy hit $4.1 billion, a stunning $1,774 per household in Wisconsin." Article also notes that $4.1 billion is about $315,000 per job promised.

  • Andrew Prokop: The incredibly shoddy plot to smear Robert Mueller, explained. Read this if you're curious. Significant subheds here are "This was an embarrassingly thin scam" and "If this was just trolling, then it sort of worked." All I want to add that I thought Seth Meyers' take on this story was especially disgusting, but I could say that for all of his "looks like . . ." bits.

  • Catherine Rampell: Republicans are mischaracterizing nearly all their major policies. Why?

    Republicans have mischaracterized just about every major policy on their agenda. The question is why. If they genuinely believe their policies are correct, why not defend them on the merits? . . .

    [Long list of examples, most of which you already know]

    You might wonder if maybe Republican politicians are mischaracterizing so many of their own positions because they don't fully understand them. But given that Republican leaders have occasionally blurted out their true motives -- on taxes, immigration and, yes, even health care -- this explanation seems a little too charitable.

    Republican politicians aren't too dumb to know what their policies do. But clearly they think the rest of us are.

  • Brian Resnick: Super Typhoon Yutu, the strongest storm of the year, just hit US territories: That would be islands in the West Pacific, Tinian and Saipan, with sustained winds of 180 mph, gusting to 219 mph, a 20 foot storm surge, waves cresting at 52 feet. Just my impression, but this year has been an especially fierce one for tropical cyclones in the Pacific, including two that improbably hit Hawaii. Any year when you get to 'Y' is pretty huge.

  • David Roberts: Why conservatives keep gaslighting the nation about climate change: I've run across the term several times recently, and sort of thought I knew what it meant, but decided to look it up to be sure:

    Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity.

    I guess that makes it the word of the week. As the article points out, the tactics have changed as climate change has become more and more undeniable, but the goal -- not doing anything about it that might impact the bottom line of the carbon extraction companies -- has held steady (although maybe they'll come around to spend money on "adaptation," given the equation: "nationalism + graft = that's the right-wing sweet spot").

  • Alex Ward: Saudi Arabia admits Khashoggi's murder was "premeditated". Ward also wrote The US is sending 5,000 troops to the border. Here's what they can and can't do. Ward cites Dara Lind, explaining:

    It is completely legal for anyone on US soil to seek asylum, regardless of whether or not they have papers. People who present themselves for asylum at a port of entry -- an official border crossing -- break no US law.

    Ward also wrote: Trump may soon kill a US-Russia arms control deal. It might be a good idea. Uh, no, it's not. Even if you buy the argument that Russia has been "cheating" -- during a period when the US expanded NATO all the way to Russia's border -- the solution is more arms control, not less, and certainly not a new round of arms race. Tempting, of course, to blame this on John Bolton, who's built his entire career on promoting nuclear arms races. By the way, Fred Kaplan has argued Trump Is Rewarding Putin for His Bad Behavior by Pulling Out of a Key Missile Treaty.

  • Paul Woodward: Loneliness in America: Could have filed this under any of the shooters above (specifically refers to Pittsburgh shooter Robert Bowers), but obviously this is more more widespread, with much more complex consequences.

Also, saved for future study:

PS: Although I started this back on Saturday, in anticipation of posting late Sunday evening. Actually got the introduction written on Sunday, but the miscellaneous links just dragged on and on and on -- finally cut them off on Wednesday, October 31. After which I still had a Music Week post due on the intervening Monday, and a Streamnotes wrap up by the end of the month (i.e., today). Of course, it's my prerogative to backdate if I wish. But while I didn't make an effort to pick up late stories, inevitably a few snuck in here. So pretend I just had a long weekend. Feels like one.