Sunday, March 24, 2019
Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller handed a report in to Attorney
General Bill Barr on Friday, and Barr released a letter to Congress
"summarizing" the report, spun primarily to let Trump off the hook.
Publication of the full report would be a fairly major news story,
but all we have to go on now is just Barr's spin. For example, see:
Barr: Evidence Mueller found not 'sufficient' to charge Trump with
obstruction. That's always seemed to me to be the probable outcome.
Anyone who thought Robert Mueller would treat Trump like Ken Starr and
his crew did the Clintons clearly knew nothing about the man. Moreover,
letting Barr break the news is resulting in much different headlines
than, say, when James Comey announced that he didn't find sufficient
evidence to charge Hillary Clinton with any crimes in her email case.
At the time, Comey buried the conclusion and spent 90% of his press
conference berating Clinton for her recklessness and numerous other
faults. You're not hearing any of that from Barr, although when the
final report comes out -- and presumably if not released someone will
manage to leak it -- the odds that someone else less in Trump's pocket
could have reported it more critically of Trump are dead certain. As
I write this, reactions are pouring in. For instance: William Saletan:
Look at all the weasel words Bill Barr used to protect Trump.
No time to unpack this now, and probably no point either. I started
to write something under Matt Taibbi below, wasn't able to wrap it up
neatly, and left it dangling. I'll return to the subject at some point,
hopefully with better perspective. But I would like to make two points
here. One is that anyone who tried to pin the word "treason" on Trump
has committed a grave mistake. The word assumes that we are locked in
a state of war that is fixed and immutable, something that we are not
free to make political decisions over. It is, in short, a word that we
should never charge anyone with, even a scoundrel like Trump. Moreover,
it is a word that through its assumptions indicts its user much worse
than its target. Those Democrats who used it should be ashamed and
apologetic. (Needless to say, the same goes for Republicans who hurled
the same charge at Obama and the Clintons.)
The second point is that we need to recognize that what we allow
politicians (like Trump, or for that matter the Clintons) to get away
with legally is a much bigger scandal than whether they ever get caught
violating the law. Indeed, if you take the Mueller Report as exonerating
Trump, you're inadvertently arguing that anything a person can get away
with is fair and acceptable.
Little bit of insight I picked up from Greg Magarian on Facebook:
It's so fucking easy to be conservative. That's maybe the gratest
under-the-radar reason to hate conservatives: because all they have
to do is stand around and let the world keep sucking.
Best news I've seen this week:
A century with Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
Some scattered links this week:
Matthew Yglesias: Probably his least interesting bunch of
pieces since Trump was elected -- maybe he's letting his election as
"Chief Neoliberal Shill" (beating out Scott Linciome in the finals, and
a host of other obvious candidates along the way) go to his head, or
maybe he's just letting his mind wander as presidential campaign news
starts to heat up (although it looks to me like 16-18 months too early
Fred Barbash/Deanna Paul:
The real reason the Trump administration is constantly losing in
Why free trade is bad for you (or most of you at any rate): "Free
trade is simply a euphemism for the corporate capture of international
Ajay Singh Chaudhary:
The Amazon drama: "The Amazon HQ2 story is a microcosm of twenty-first
century capitalism and a parable about the changing nature of politics for
Gaby Del Valle:
Boeing and other companies put safety at a premium.
Anti-Muslim hate crimes soar in UK after Christchurch shootings.
Coincidentally: Ayal Feinberg/Regina Branton/Valerie Martinez-Ebers:
Counties that hosted a 2016 Trump rally saw a 226 percent increase in hate
Federal judge demands Trump administration reveal how its drilling plans
will fuel climate change.
Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump use private accounts for official business,
their lawyer says.
After Trump: "Centrist liberalism is dead, and Trump is a disaster.
But progressives can use what he's done to remake America and its place
in the world." I doubt the first premise here, but that may just be
semantics: neoliberal foreign policy -- support for globalized capital
protected by a world-wide military umbrella cemented through alliances
with dependent countries and occasional fits of fury with any countries
that aren't adequately deferential -- is so embedded in the psyches of
centrist Democrats that it's automatic even if they are dead. Still,
Trump's "America first" doctrine fractures those alliances, revealing
the underlying weakness of American hegemony, and it's going to be hard
to restore anything like the Pax Americana that thrived after WWII and
through the collapse of the Soviet Union.
What's missing from Bernie Sanders' 'Progressive International':
"To challenge fascists and weak-tea liberals, Sanders has called for
a Progressive International . . . but it's not very international."
Jacinda Ardern has rewritten the script for how a nation grieves after a
Kushner, Inc review: Jared, Ivanka Trump and the rise of the American
kakistocracy: Review of Vicky Ward's book, Kushner Inc.: Greed.
Ambition. Corruption. The Extraordinary Story of Jared Kushner and
Ivanka Trump. New word for me, reportedly coined in the 17th century:
kakistocracy: "a system of government which is run by the worst,
least qualified, or most unscrupulous citizens."
Karen J Greenberg:
Trump wants to take away your citizenship: "The current administration
is bent on making it easier to denaturalize American citizens." [Title from
The Nation.] Also at TomDispatch: William Astore:
The Death of Peace: "America's senior generals find no exits from
Nuclear powers need to disarm before it's too late: "The world's major
nuclear powers are treaty-bound to move towards disarmament. The India-Pakistan
clash underscores the need to get moving."
Rosalind S Heiderman/David A Fahrenthold:
Trump's legal troubles are far from over even as Mueller probe ends.
How the politics of racial resentment is killing white people:
Interview with Jonathan Metzl, author of Dying of Whiteness: How
the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America's Heartland,
I look at the rejection of the Affordable Care Act in the South. I look
at policies that make it far easier for people to get guns and carry
guns everywhere. I look at tax cuts that benefit wealthy Americans
but cut roads, bridges, and schools in poor and working-class areas.
Every one of those policies has been sold as a policy that will make
America great again. But they have devastating consequences for
working-class populations, particularly working-class white populations,
in many instances. . . .
I found that if you lived in a state that rejected the Medicaid
expansion and blocked the full passage of the Affordable Care Act, you
lived about a 21- to 28-day shorter life span on the aggregate. So it
was costing people about three to four weeks of life in those states.
When I looked at states that made it incredibly easy for people to
buy and carry guns pretty much anywhere they wanted, I found that this
correlated with hundreds of deaths that wouldn't have happened otherwise,
particularly in white populations, because gun suicide rose dramatically.
And I found that if you lived in a state that cut away infrastructure and
schools and funding, that correlated with higher high school dropout
All these variables are associated with shorter life expectancies, so
this is what I mean when I say these policies are killing people.
The Midwest floods are going to get much, much worse: "An 'unprecedented'
flood season lies ahead this spring, according to NOAA."
Trump's North Korea strategy is an incoherent mess: I think Kaplan
is way off-base here (although I wouldn't dispute "incoherent" either
viz. Trump or his free-wheeling administration). Starting talks should
have started a process to unwind sanctions, even with only the loosest
general agreement of reducing tensions. The fact that Kim has called a
halt to testing of rockets and nuclear warheads is significant, as is
Trump's decision to suspend "war games" in the region. Both sides have
gotten the other's attention, and made some tangible progress, so why
not start to unwind the sanctions that had so severely isolated North
Korea as to convince them of the necessity of building a nuclear threat?
The only reason the US hasn't budged on this issue is that hard-liners
like Bolton have convinced Trump to keep up maximum pressure, that all
he has to do is to hang tough until Kim surrenders everything. Yet what
happened was that Treasury tried to add even more sanctions, only to
have Trump publicly withdraw them. Kaplan thinks "Kim is gaining the
upper hand," but aside from making Trump and his administration look
even more schizophrenic I can't think of any advantage Kim accrues.
Sure, he can go back to sabre rattling, but the only reason for that
in the first place was to get Washington's attention, to start the
process of talking. But until he gets some sanctions relief, all he's
got to show for his scheming is some pictures socializing with one of
the world's most reprehensible oligarchs. The only good news on this
front since the Hanoi summit ended is that South Korea is starting to
act on its own, in its own search for peaceful resolution, rather than
letting Trump and Bolton mess things up. See: Josh Rogin:
The United States and South Korea now openly disagree on North Korea.
Gun crazy: "Trump's record-setting military budget is bloated, illegal,
Base instinct: "Trump thinks US military deployments are a protection
racket, and nothing will convince him otherwise."
Nikki Haley is wrong: Finland takes care of new moms way better than the
We read Democrats' 9 plans for expanding health care. Here's how they
work. Since I have it up (it was foolishly recommended by a FB friend),
here's a link to Ezekiel J Emanuel:
Bernie Sanders thinks he can vanquish health insurers. He's wrong.
I read Emanuel's book, Healthcare, Guaranteed: A Simple Solution for
America, when it came out in 2008, along with another dozen books
on the subject. What he recommended then was marginally better than what
we had then, and his new plan is marginally better than what we have now,
but he's always been a shill for the insurance companies (see his "full
disclosure" buried deep in this piece), and his only core belief is that
billionaires shouldn't be inconvenienced by politicians, who in any case
will never be able to buck the rigged system. (His brother is Rahm Emmanuel,
so he should know something about how that system works.) On the other hand,
why would you even consider health care policy from someone who wrote
Why I Hope to Die at 75?
A spinal surgery, a $101,000 bill, and a new law to prevent more surprises:
"How New York state fought surprise medical bills -- and won."
The brewing fight over making the Mueller report public, explained.
It took one mass shooting for New Zealand to ban assault weapons.
Who's afraid of the International Criminal Court/ Mike Pompeo, for
Greedy Boeing's avoidable design and software time bombs.
What Mozambique's unfolding flooding catastrophe looks like.
Stephen Moore, the Trump loyalists nominated to the Fed, explained.
Oddly enough, when Trump picked Larry Kudlow as his chief economic adviser
I had him confused with Moore. Maybe I'll be able to keep them straight
from here on, although their stupidities are pretty interchangeable.
Presumably Moore will back Trump and fight for low interest rates. On
the other hand, as Catherine Rampell reminds us in a tweet:
Funnily enough, when we DID have deflation -- during the depths of the
financial crisis -- he argued for tighter monetary policy, suggesting
that the Fed was about to stoke hyperinflation. Of course, a Democrat
was in the White House then.
Trump's untruths about Veterans Choice illustrate the sheer audaciousness
of his lies: "Trump takes credit for a program he didn't create in
order to demean the late war hero who in fact created it." I'm not opposed
to giving McCain credit where credit is due, but can we please stop this
reflexive reference to him as a "war hero"? It's true that he fought in
a war, and one may certainly sympathize with his suffering during that
war, but nothing he did was heroic, and indeed the only thing Americans
should feel about that war is ashamed. In fact, I have more respect for
Trump's (no doubt selfish) efforts to avoid that war than I do for the
"gung ho" enthusiasm of McCain, Kerry, and many others. [PS: I wrote the
above before I read this piece on POW fetishism: H Bruce Franklin:
Trump vs McCain: an American horror story. If pressed, I would have
guessed that the reason Trump's base so hates McCain has nothing to do
with Vietnam; what they can't forgive him for is losing to Obama. I feel
that same way about Hillary Clinton losing to Trump.]
Kellyanne Conway's stunningly irresponsible advice: read New Zealand
mosque shooter's manifesto.
16 years later, how the press that sold the Iraq War got away with
In the popular imagination, the case for war was driven by a bunch of
Republicans and one over-caffeinated New York Times reporter
named Judith Miller. . . . It's been forgotten this was actually a
business-wide consensus, which included the enthusiastic participation
of a blue-state intelligentsia. The New Yorker of [David] Remnick,
who himself wrote a piece called "Making the Case," was a source of many
of the most ferocious pro-invasion pieces, including a pair written by
current Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg, one of a number of WMD
hawks who failed up after the war case fell apart. Other prominent Democrat
voices like Ezra Klein, Jonathan Chait, and even quasi-skeptic Nick Kristof
(who denounced war critics for calling Bush a liar) were on board, as a
Full Metal Jacket character put it, "for the big win."
The Washington Post and New York Times were key
editorial-page drivers of the conflict; MSNBC unhired Phil Donahue and
Jesse Ventura over their war skepticism; CNN flooded the airwaves with
generals and ex-Pentagon stoolies, and broadcast outlets ABC, CBS, NBC
and PBS stacked the deck even worse: In a two-week period before the
invasion, the networks had just one American guest out of 267 who
questioned the war, according to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.
This is an excerpt from a new book, Hate Inc.: Why Today's Media
Makes Us Despise One Another, which seems to be available as some
subscription deal [actually, here's a
better link]. Following that link led me to another title:
"It's official: Russiagate is this generation's WMD." I'd like to
quote something here, but I'm having trouble making sense of Taibbi's
point -- other than the broader one that the media (both right and
"left") is corrupt, stupid, and vain, and as such rarely credible,
but you know that by now, don't you?.
PS: Pulled this from Taibbi's twitter feed:
As a purely journalistic failure, however, WMD was a pimple compared
to Russiagate. The sheer scale of errors and exaggerations this time
around dwarfs the last mess. Worse, it's led to most journalists
accepting a radical change of mission. We've become sides-choosers,
obliterating the concept of the press as an independent institution
whose primary role is sorting fact and fiction.
The problem I have here is that the WMD lie was simple, coherent,
and obviously directed by the White House, US security services, and
their allies, "Russiagate" is a vacuous mix of charges and innuendo,
poorly sourced, and reeking of sour grapes from the excuse-hunting
sore losers around Hillary Clinton. If you take that as a strict
definition, journalists like Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald are right to
be critical, but how much of the media has chosen to be that narrowly
partisan? Rachel Maddow is certainly one, and I'm sure there are many
more -- including a bunch I habitually avoid. On the other hand, some
journalists have helped sort fact from fiction, and those facts note
that: a fair number of Trump campaign staff had considerable contacts
with Russians and instinctively lied about them afterwards; also it
is clear that Russian cyber operators actively campaigned for Trump,
often reinforcing Trump's own campaign messages, although it is not
clear to what extent (if any) the two campaigns coordinated (in this,
Russia was acting much like the many "independent" PACs that favored
Trump for supposedly didn't coordinate with the Trump campaign); and
after the election, Trump and his circle lied about the contacts and
eventually organized a massive PR campaign to counter and discredit
the Mueller investigation, which led to uncovering further embarrassing
facts and behavior. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has turned out
to be the most thoroughly corrupt ruling clique in American history,
with dozens of inadequately reported scandals -- perhaps because it's
been convenient for both sides (originally Trump/Clinton, with varying
degrees of party allegiance) to focus on the banner charges: "collusion
with Russia" (often hysterically inflated to "treason") and "obstruction
of justice." [ . . . ]
How to blow $700 billion.
The Pentagon's bottomless money pit.
Trump wants more war money than last year and Democrats don't seem to
Turns out that trillion-dollar bailout was, in fact, real.
The massive anti-Brexit protest march in the UK, in 19 photos.
No collusion, plenty of corruption: Trump is not in the clear.