Sunday, June 2, 2024

Speaking of Which

I never bother looking for an image for these posts, but sometimes one pops up that just seems right. I picked it up from a tweet, where Ron Flipkowski explains: "Trump bus crashes into a light pole today on the way to Staten Island rally for Trump." Dean Baker asks: "How fast was the light pole going when it hit the Trump bus?"

I need to post this early, which means Sunday evening, rather than the usual late night, or not-unheard-of sometime Monday. I did manage to check most of my usual sources, and wrote a few comments, going especially long on Nathan Robinson on Trump today. But no general or section introductions. Maybe I'll find some time later Monday and add some more links and/or comments. If so, they will be marked as usual. Worst case, not even Music Week gets posted on Monday.

Initial count: 184 links, 9173 words. Updated count [06-05]: 194 links, 9598 words.

Local tags (these can be linked to directly): Nathan Robinson on Trump; on music.

Top story threads:


America's Israel (and Israel's America): The Biden administration, despite occasional misgivings, is fully complicit in Israel's genocide. Republicans only wish to intensify it -- after all, they figure racism and militarism are their things.

Israel vs. world opinion:

Election notes:

Trump: Guilty on all counts!

  • Intelligencer Staff: Donald Trump found guilty on all counts: live updates. Titles will change with updates: on [05-31] this turned into "Trump will appeal: Live updates." This seems to have picked up the baton from what has long been the best of the "live update" posts on the trial:

  • Sasha Abramsky: Trump's "tough guy" act is put to the test: "The former president's felony conviction follows weeks of Trump repositioning himself as a politically persecuted martyr -- and an American gangster."

  • Maggie Astor: [06-02] Lara Trump, RNC leader, denounces Larry Hogan for accepting Trump verdict: So much for Reagan's "11th commandment."

  • Zack Beauchamp: [05-30] Why the ludicrous Republican response to Trump's conviction matters: "Republicans are busy attacking the legitimacy of the American legal and political system." Not that there's no room for critiquing how it works, including who it favors and why it's stacked against many others, but Republicans have staked out many positions as the party of criminality. In Trump they have their poster boy.

  • Ryan Bort: [05-31] Trump is cashing in on his criminal conviction.

  • Ben Burgis: [05-31] The rule of law being applied to Trump is good.

  • Sophia Cal: [06-02] Guilty verdict fuels Trump's push for Black voters: Because they know what it feels like to be victimized by the criminal justice system? It's going to be hard to spin this as anything but racist.

  • Jonathan Chait:

    • [05-30] Trump's conviction means less than you might think: Once again, his instinct is to argue with imaginary readers, about whom he knows bupkis. It could just as easily mean more than you think. Sure, "a lot depends on what happens next." And, I dare say, on what happens after that. He dwells on analogies of negligible value, like foreign leaders who wound up in jail (but thankfully skipping over ones who returned to power, like Lula da Silva, or Berlusconi -- a better match for Trump), but has an amusing paragraph on one of Trump's heroes, Al Capone. But before making that obvious point ("life isn't fair, nor is the legal system," but it's better to get a habitual criminal on a technicality than to let him get away with everything), Chait gets the story straight:

      In a global sense, Trump's conviction in a court is not just fair but overdue. He has been flouting the law his entire adult life. Trump reportedly believed he enjoyed legal impunity due to his relationship with Manhattan's prosecutor, though the basis for that belief has never been established. The extent of his criminality has oddly escaped notice, perhaps overshadowed by his constant offenses against truth and decency, or perhaps because people tend to think stealing is a crime when you aim a gun at a clerk but not when you create phony companies and bilk the Treasury.

      Once he ascended to the presidency, Trump's criminality only grew. He issued illegal orders constantly, flummoxing his staff. He attempted (with unrecognized partial success) in turning the powers of the Justice Department into a weapon against his enemy, which was in turn an expression of his criminal's view of the law: as an inherently hypocritical tool of the powerful against the weak.

      The incongruity of the Manhattan case as the venue for Trump's legal humiliation is that it did not represent his worst crimes, or close to it. The case was always marginal, the kind of charge you would never bring against a regular first-time offender. It was the sort of charge you'd concoct if the target is a bad guy and you want to nail him for something.

    • [05-31] Does the conservative rage machine go to 11? "Republicans are now so angry, they want a candidate who will threaten to lock up his opponent." You understand, don't you, that they're just working the refs, like they always do. They're also normalizing the behavior they claim to be victimized by. They don't see a problem with prosecuting political opponents. They just think they should be immune, while everyone else is fair game.

    • [05-30] Bush torture lawyer John Yoo calls for revenge prosecutions against Democrats: "Poor, innocent Donald Trump must be avenged."

  • Ryan Cooper: [05-31] Alvin Bragg was right, his critics were wrong: "A jury of his peers agreed that Donald Trump deserved to be prosecuted in the Stormy Daniels case."

  • David Corn: [05-30] Trump loses a big battle in his lifelong war against accountability: "His 34 guilty convictions turn this escape artist into a felon."

  • Susan B Glasser: [05-31] The revisionist history of the Trump trial has already begun: "The ex-President's war on truth has an instant new target: his guilty verdict."

  • Margaret Hartmann:

  • Elie Honig: [05-31] Prosecutors got Trump -- but they contorted the law. Former prosecutors and persistent naysayer, admits "prosecutors got their man," but adds: "for now -- but they also contorted the law in an unprecedented manner in their quest to snare their prey."

  • Ed Kilgore: [05-31] How Trump will campaign as a convicted criminal. Premature to write this now, at least until sentencing, and even then there must be some possibility that he'll get some temporary relief from some appellate judge. Eugene Debs ran for president in 1920 when he was in jail, but he couldn't campaign (and his vote totals were way down from 1916 and especially 1912). McKinley never left his front porch in 1896, so that might be a model -- lots of surrogates, backed with lots of money -- if he's stuck at home, but why would a judge allow a convict a free hand to keep doing what got him into legal trouble in the first place? Do drug dealers get to keep dealing until they've exhausted appeals? I've never heard of that. But then I've never seen a criminal defendant treated as delicately or deferentially as Trump before.

  • Eric Levitz: [05-31] The best -- and worst -- criticisms of Trump's conviction: "The debate, explained." This is very good on the technical aspects of the case, and pretty good on the political ones. On purely technical grounds, I could see finding for Trump, although I still have a few questions. The charges that Bragg and/or Merchan are biased and/or conflicted amount to little more than special pleading for favorable treatment. Still, it's hard to avoid the impression that, regardless of the exact laws and their customary interpretations, this case derives from a deeply unethical act that had profoundly damaging consequences for the nation. Cohen already did jail time for his part in this fraud, so why should we excuse Trump, who he clearly did his part for?

    All along, Trump has acted guilty, but unrepentant, arrogantly playing the charges for political gain. There has never been a case like this before, not because Trump used to be president, but because no other defendant has ever pushed his arrogance so far. It's almost as if he was begging to get convicted, figuring not only that he would survive his martyrdom, but that it would cinch him the election. I might say that's a bold gamble, but insane seems like the more appropriate word.

  • Errol Louis: [06-01] The courage of Alvin Bragg's conviction: "Despite the many doubters, the Manhattan DA's steady methodical approach to prosecuting Donald Trump prevailed."

  • Amanda Marcotte: [05-31] Trump is no outlaw, just a grubby, sad criminal.

  • Anna North: [05-31] We need to talk more about Trump's misogyny: "Stormy Daniels reminded us that it matters."

  • Andrew Prokop: [05-30] The felon frontrunner: How Trump warped our politics: "This is the moment Trump's critics have been dreaming of for years. But something isn't right here." There's something very screwy going on here, but this article isn't helping me much.

  • Hafiz Rashid: [05-31] Jim Jordan launches new idiotic crusade after Trump guilty verdict: He wants to subpoena the prosecutors to "answer questions" before his House committee. Scroll down and find another article by Rashid: Trump's most famous 2020 lawyer is one step closer to complete ruin: "Things are suddenly looking even worse for Rudy Giuliani."

  • Andrew Rice: [05-31] What it was like in court the moment Trump was convicted: "Suddenly, the whole vibe changed."

  • Greg Sargent: Trump's stunning guilty verdict shatters his aura of invincibility.

  • p>Alex Shephard: Trump's historic conviction is a hollow victory.

  • Matt Stieb/Chas Danner: [05-31] What happens to Trump now? Surprisingly little. If you ever get convicted or a felony, don't expect to be treated like this. He's still free on bail, at least up to sentencing on July 11 ("just four days before the Republican National Convention starts"). Meanwhile, his political instincts seem to be serving him better than his lawyers are: "Though the campaign's claims have not been verified by FEC filings yet, they say Trump raised an historic $34.8 million in the hours since his conviction."

  • Michael Tomasky: Susan Collins's really dumb Trump defense reveals the GOP's sickness: "The only thing that was more fun yesterday than watching the Trump verdict come in was watching Republicans and assorted right-wingers sputter in outrage."

  • Maegan Vazquez/Tobi Raji/Mariana Alfaro: [06-02] After Trump's conviction, many Republicans fall in line by criticizing trial.

  • Amanda Yen: [06-01] Trump Tower doorman allegedly paid off in hush-money scandal has advice for Trump: Based on a New York Daily News exclusive interview with Dino Sajudin. Scroll down and you also see: [06-03] Trump trial witnesses got big raises from his campaign and businesses.

  • Li Zhou/Andrew Prokop: [05-30] Trump's remaining 3 indictments, ranked by the stakes: "A quick guide to Trump's indictments and why they matter."

More Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Heath Brown: [06-01] An insurrection, a pandemic, and celebrities: Inside Biden's rocky transition into the White House: An excerpt from a new book, Roadblocked: Joe Biden's Rocky Transition to the Presidency.

  • David Dayen: [05-29] The three barriers to Biden's re-election: "Price increases, a broader economic frustration built over decades, and an inability to articulate what's being done about any of it."

  • Gabriel Debenedetti: [05-30] Does Trump's conviction mean this is a new campaign? "Biden's team hopes it will start a month of contrasts that reframe the race." This is going to be tricky. For instance, all I had heard about Robert De Niro's speech outside the trial was about how he was attacking "pro-Palestinian protesters" -- a claim that has been denied, although the denial seems to have been about something else. One painful memory I have was how in the late months of his 1972 campaign, George McGovern latched onto Watergate as his big issue, and sunk like a rock.

  • Ed Kilgore: [05-30] Biden needs disengaged, unhappy voters to stay home: My first thought was that this is dumb, useless, and if attempted almost certain to backfire. The idea that the more people you get to vote, the more than break for Democrats, dates mostly from 2010, when a lot of Obama's 2008 voters stayed home and Republicans won big. However, the 2010 turnout was almost exactly the same as 2006, when Democrats won big. So while presidential elections always get many more voters than midterms, the partisan split of who's disengaged and/or unhappy varies. However, it probably is true that unhappy and/or ignorant (a more telling side-effect of being disengaged) voters will break for Trump, as they did in 2016 and 2020, so there is one useful piece of advice here, which is don't provoke them (e.g., calling them "baskets of deplorables"). Of course, that's hard, because Republicans are using everything they got to rile them up, and it's not like they won't invent something even if you don't give them unforced errors. So the real strategy has to still be to engage voters on the basis of meaningful understanding and building trust.

  • Eric Levitz: [05-28] One explanation for the 2024 election's biggest mystery: "A theory for why Biden is struggling with young and nonwhite voters." Subheds: "Biden is losing ground with America's most distrustful demographic groups; The Biden 2024 coalition is short on 'tear it all down' voters; Why the Biden presidency might have accelerated low-trust voters' rightward drift."

  • Bill Scher: [05-23] Another Biden accomplishment: 200 judges and counting. Scher also featured this in his newsletter: [05-23] How Democrats are winning the race for the lower courts.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

  • Marina Dias/Terrence McCoy: [05-28] The climate refugee crisis is here: "Catastrophic flooding in southern Brazil has forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. Many say they won't go back."

  • Heather Souvaine Horn: You'd be amazed how many people want big oil charged with homicide: Yes, I would, not least because it suggests they don't understand what homicide means (cf. Israel, which is committing homicide on a massive scale, enough so that it has its own word). "A new poll shows overwhelming support for holding oil and gas companies accountable via the courts." Now, that makes more sense. It may not be the right way to do it, but it's a more immediately accessible mechanism than moving politically to write new regulations to address the problems more directly.

  • Umair Irfan: [05-29] How one weather extreme can make the next one even more dangerous: "We're in an era of compound natural disasters."

  • Mitch Smith/Judson Jones: [06-02] From Texas to Michigan, a punishing month for tornadoes: "More than 500 tornadoes were reported, the most of any month in at least five years, uprooting homes and disrupting lives in cities small and large." May is the most common month for tornadoes, with an annual average of 275.

Economic matters:

  • Dean Baker:

  • Idrees Kahloon: [05-27] The world keeps getting richer. Some people are worried: "To preserve humanity -- and the planet -- should we give up growth?" Review of Daniel Susskind: Growth: A History and a Reckoning, also referring back to other books on growth and degrowth. I've long been sympathetic to degrowth arguments, but I don't especially disagree with this:

    As our economy has migrated toward the digital over the material and toward services over goods, the limits to growth have less of a physical basis than World3 had anticipated. In fact, the most serious limits to growth in the U.S. seem to be self-imposed: the artificial scarcity in housing; the regulatory thickets that tend to asphyxiate clean-energy projects no matter how well subsidized; the pockets of monopoly that crop up everywhere; a tax regime incapable of cycling opportunity to those most in need. The risk of another Malthusian cap imposing itself on humanity appears, fortunately, remote. Meanwhile, the degrowthers' iron law -- that economic growth is intrinsically self-destructive -- has become less and less plausible. "One can imagine continued growth that is directed against pollution, against congestion, against sliced white bread," Robert Solow, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at M.I.T., declared in a rebuttal to "The Limits to Growth" half a century ago.

    It should be obvious that some economic activities are not just useful but essential, while others are wasteful or worse. Whether the sum is positive or negative doesn't tell us which is which, or what we should be doing. The other obvious point is that growth does not balance off inequality, even though many on the Democratic of the spectrum favor pro-growth policies in the hope that they might satisfy both donors and workers. But the usual impact is just more inequality.

  • Whizy Kim: [05-29] What's really happening to grocery prices right now: "Target and Walmart are talking about their price cuts. How big of a deal is it?"

Ukraine War and Russia:

America's empire and the world:

Other stories:

Memorial Day: When I was growing up, folks in my family called it Decoration Day. We visited cemeteries close to the family, or more often sent money to relatives to place flowers on family graves -- many of which served in the military, but few who were killed in wars (which were few and infrequent before 1941, and perpetual ever since). So I always thought of the holiday as an occasion for remembering your ancestors -- not to glory in their wars, or to snub folks who got through their lives without war. Although, I suppose if you have to think about war, it's best to start with the costs, starting with the dead. But they don't end with our cemeteries.

Michael Brenes: [05-31] How liberalism betrayed the enlightenment and lost its soul: A review of Samuel Moyn: Liberalism Against Itself: Cold War Intellectuals and the Making of Our Times.

Dana Hedgpeth/Sari Horwitz: [05-29] They took the children: "The hidden legacy of Indian boarding schools in the United States."

Ein Murray: [06-01] Without solidarity, the left has nothing: Actually, the left would still have a persuasive analysis of how the world works (along with a critique of the right's failures and injustices), combined with the appropriate ethics. The problem is translating that analysis into effective political action, and that's where the book reviewed here, Astra Taylor and Leah Hunt-Hendrix: Solidarity: The Past, Present, and Future of a World-Changing Idea comes into play.

Rick Perlstein: [05-29] My political depression problem -- and ours: "Granular study of the ever-more-authoritarian right didn't demoralize the author as much as reaction from the left." I'll keep this open, and no doubt write about it some day, probably closer to the election, because I figure there's no point in me panicking about that right now.

Nathan J Robinson:

  • [05-31] Trump's worst crimes remain unpunished: "Trump's policies killed many people in the United States and around the world. Hush money is the least of his crimes. But an honest confrontation of his worst offenses creates complications for a political class that commits crimes routinely." I wouldn't say the hush money case is "the least of his crimes." Even if we limit ourselves to the indicted ones -- not even the tip of a very large iceberg -- I'd rank it above his sloppy handling of classified documents. The hush money case is a good example of how Trump does business, using legal chicanery to dishonestly manipulate what we know about his business and person. (Admittedly, the documents case also provides crucial insights into his pathological character. I wouldn't say that, in itself, should be illegal, but for someone with his political profile, the cover up matters.)

    But for sure on the main point, and not just because no American can ever be prosecuted for the worst things presidents can do -- the criminal justice system in America is designed to protect the property and persons of the rich, and only marginally to regulate and discipline the rich themselves (who are threats to themselves as well as to the public, but are accorded many courtesies denied to less fortunate offenders).

    Still, I wouldn't lead with the number of people who died, either by his command (e.g., through drone strikes) or his incompetence (his mishandling of Covid-19 looms large here, but I'd also factor in how his policies toward Israel and Ukraine contributed to wars there, and I'd consider a few more cases, like Iran and North Korea, that haven't blown up yet, but still could). But that's mostly because I'm more worried about how he's corrupted and steered public political discourse. And that's not just because I fear the end of democracy -- if you follow the money, as you should, you'll see that that ship has already sailed -- but because he has, for many (possibly most) people, soiled and shredded our sense of fairness and decency, including our respect for others, and indeed for truth itself.

    While Trump doesn't deserve sole credit or blame for this sorry state of affairs -- he had extensive help from Republicans, backed by their "vast right-wing conspiracy," who saw his cunning as an opportunity to further their graft, and by nave media eager to cash in on his sensationalism -- he has been the catalyst for a great and terrible transformation, where he sucked up all the rot and ferment the right has been sowing for decades, stripped it of all inhibitions, and turned it into a potentially devastating political force.

    I've never been a fan of "great man" history, but once in a while you do run across some individual who manages to do big things no one else could reasonably have done. My apologies for offering Hitler as an example, but I can't imagine any other German implementing the Holocaust -- fomenting hatred to fuel Russian-style pogroms, sure, but Hitler went way beyond that, exercising a unique combination of personal ambition, perverse imagination, and institutional power. Trump, arguably, has less of those qualities, although clearly enough to do some major damage.

    But the comparison seems fanciful mostly because we know how Hitler's story ended. Try putting Trump on Hitler's timeline. Four years after Hitler became chancellor was 1937, with the Anschluss and Kristallnacht still in the future -- war and genocide came later, and while there were signs pointing in that direction, such prospects were rarely discussed. One can argue that Trump made less progress in his first term than Hitler in 1933-37, mostly due to institutional resistance, but also lack of preparation on his part -- Hitler had a decade after the Munich putsch failed, during which he built a loyal party, whereas Trump found himself depending on Reince Preibus and Mike Pence for key staffing decisions. The one advantage Trump gained in four years out of power is that he's prepared to use (and abuse) whatever power he can wangle in 2024. So one shouldn't put much trust in his past failures predicting future failure. He wants to do things we can't afford to discount.

    By the way, Robinson points out something I had forgotten, that he had previously written a whole book on Trump: Trump: Anatomy of a Monstrosity, which came out a bit too late, on Jan. 17, 2017, but was reprinted with an afterword in time for the 2020 election, under a new title: American Monstrosity: Donald Trump: How We Got Him, How We Stop Him (which only seems to be available direct from OR Books). By the way, since I was just speaking of Hitler, let's slip the following 2018 article in out of order:

  • [2018-07-04] How horrific things come to seem normal: This tracks how Hitler was covered in the New York Times, from November 21, 1922 (p. 21, "New popular idol rises in Bavaria") to 1933:

    Here's a final tragic bit of wishful thinking from his appointment as chancellor in 1933: "The composition of the cabinet leaves Herr Hitler no scope for the gratification of any dictatorial ambition."

    Let's hope future historians are not driven to compile a similar record for Trump -- although I wouldn't be surprised to find books already written on the subject.

  • [05-28] No leftist wants a Trump presidency: "Let's be clear. The right poses an unparalleled threat. Left criticism of Democrats is in part about preventing the return of Trump."

  • [05-30] The toxic legacy of Martin Peretz's New Republic: Interview with Jeet Heer, who "has written two major essays about the intellectual legacy of the New Republic magazine's 70s-2000s heyday" (actually 1974-2012): From 2015 The New Republic's legacy on race; and [05-14] Friends and enemies: "Martin Peretz and the travails of American liberalism." Heer actually likes Peretz's memoir, The Controversialist: Arguments With Everyone, Left, Right and Center.

  • [05-29] Presenting: The Current Affairs Briefly Awards!: "The best, the worst, and everything in between." I won't attempt to excerpt or synopsize this. Just enjoy, or tremble, as the case may be.

  • [04-15] Why new atheism failed: I was surprised to see him publish outside his own journal, then surprised again to find that this is a "subscriber only" article. It's probably similar to this older one: [2017-10-28] Getting beyond "new atheism"; or for that matter, what he has to say about the subject in his books, Responding to the Right: Brief Replies to 25 Conservative Arguments, and The Current Affairs Rules for Life: On Social Justice & Its Critics.

Li Zhou: [05-31] The MLB's long-overdue decision to add Negro Leagues' stats, briefly explained. The statistics come from 1920-48, so there is still a large patch of history between 1870-1920 that is unaccounted for, and the official seasons were much shorter (60 vs. 150 games), so counts are suppressed. We can't replay history, but this helps understand it.

Also, some writing on music/arts:

Ryan Maffei: {03-28] Somebody explain the early '80s to me (in popular-musical terms, of course). Facebook thread, collecting 205 comments. I don't have time to focus on this, but wanted to bookmark it for possible future reference. The 1980s were my personal desert years. In 1980 I moved from NYC to NJ, gave up writing for jobs writing software, bought very little beyond Robert Christgau's CG picks -- maybe 50-75 LPs a year, only moving into CDs relatively late (well after moving to Massachusetts in late 1984). In the mid-1990s I started buying lots more CDs, and doing a lot of backtracking (before my initial heavy 1970s period, also all jazz periods), but never really filled in the numerous holes in my 1980s, so I still have some unquenched curiosity this may help with. By the way, this comment, from Greg Magarian, was the one that caught my eye:

Just love. I can't pretend to be dispassionate; '80-'89 for me were junior high, high school, college. Every day was discovery. All flavors of UK punk fallout. Following Two Tone and UB40 into original ska and reggae. US indie rock flowering everywhere and coming to stages near me. MTV exposing me to everything from MJ to Faith No More. Record store bargain bins that tricked my white urban ass into exploring soul and country. Coaxing my friends on a hunch at the multiplex to ditch The Karate Kid for Purple Rain and being changed forever. Checking out any early hip-hop 12-inch I could get my hands on. Bad Dylan and good Springsteen. 60s nostalgia as a romantic ideal. Warming up to superstar albums through their five or six durable singles. Making mixtapes for girls. Borrowing records to tape from friends and friends of friends and dudes whose apartments I stumbled into.

Li Zhou: [05-29] The Sympathizer takes on Hollywood's Vietnam War stories: "HBO's new miniseries centers Vietnamese voices -- and reframes the consequences of war." I can't say as I enjoyed watching it, but I suppose it wrapped up better when the two time tracks finally converged, and I got used to the annoying tick of showing events in multiple varying versions to reflect the vagaries of memory. Zhou likes that it introduces Vietnamese voices to a genre that's seen a lot of American navel-gazing, but it's still impossible to show any generosity to Vietnamese communists -- The Three Body Problem was even harsher in its depiction of Chinese communists. My wife tells me the novel is brilliant, and that there's more story left, so I expect another season. I read Viet Thanh Nguyen's Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War, and he's clearly a very smart and basically decent guy.

Listening blogs:

Mid-year reports:

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