Sunday, September 20, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Aside from the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, my main takeaway for the week is that I'm seeing a lot of articles trying to promote the election chances of Donald Trump, or at least make you real nervous. One of the more self-consciously rational ones is Ed Kilgore: A rational case for Trump winning the election without stealing it. A bit less rational is Michael Kruse: Trump is riding high. Can he keep from blowing it?. I suppose this sort of thing is good for clicks, and may impress upon Democrats the need for extra vigilance. The "rational" basis seems to be that Trump's approval ratings are little (if any) worse than they've ever been, and there's also the Electoral College skew, the well-oiled Fox propaganda machine, and a lot of "dark money" up to "dirty tricks" (and I suppose you can throw the omnipotent Russians into the mix). But there's also a lot of irrational, often downright magical thinking involved. I cite a few articles in this cluster below, but I'm not in general interested in speculative paranoia. There are plenty of real things to fear these days. Nor do I wish to prejudge the malevolence and malignancy of the American people. If Trump wins, that case will be proven, and if not, faith in democracy -- even one as compromised as ours -- will be vindicated.

The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg opens up a seat on the Supreme Court, which has emerged as the ultimate arbiter of vice and virtue in the nation today. The fact that at age 87, with a series of grave illnesses, she clung onto her "appointment for life" shifts our focus away from her life and accomplishments to the political import of allowing Donald Trump to appoint her successor, subject only to the confirmation of Mitch McConnell's Republican Senate. The politicization of the Court is not new, although it has taken on a heightened and more desperate tone with recent polarization. From roughly 1940-80, we were fortunate to have had a Supreme Court that interpreted the Constitution in ways that expanded personal freedom and promoted social justice. This was a consequence of Franklin Roosevelt's long tenure as president and the legacy he left, which Republican Dwight Eisenhower rarely challenged, and which John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson extended. The most important achievement of the New Deal Court was its rulings against Jim Crow laws, although it's worth noting that their effect was limited until serious civil rights legislation was passed under Johnson. This period lasted long enough to let people forget that before Roosevelt, the Supreme Court had been by far the most reactionary branch of government. Conservatives railed against the Court, and Richard Nixon mounted the first significant right-wing attack on the civil rights and social justice the New Deal Court promoted. Ever since, the right has mounted an hysterical campaign to take away the rights granted by the Court -- especially abortion, but also the constitutional right to privacy free choice is based on -- and to secure ever greater privileges for the rich (as evidenced most clearly by the Court's recent claim that unlimited campaign spending is protected "free speech").

In recent years, the Court has been precariously balanced between Republican-nominated conservatives and Democratic-nominated liberals, with the former holding a 5-4 majority. The vacancy caused by the death of Antonin Scalia in February, 2016 should have given Obama the chance to flip the court 5-4 in favor of the liberals, but Mitch McConnell's Republicans controlled the Senate and refused to even hold hearings much less risk a vote on Obama's nominee (Merrick Garland, actually chosen for his centrist credentials). Their argument then was that with the election on the horizon, the appointment should be reserved for the incoming president, not the outgoing "lame duck." Needless to say, that is an argument you won't be hearing McConnell make this time, even though the election is much closer now (46 days after Ginsburg's death, vs. eight months after Scalia's).

All of this (and more) is covered in the following links. Perhaps the best place to start is Ian Millhiser: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's legacy, and the future of the Supreme Court, explained.

By the way, just read that Stephen F Cohen (81) died. He's written extensively on Russia and Putin, consistently arguing against restarting the Cold War and de-escalating the anti-Russia hysteria among Democrats since the 2016 election, without being uncritical of Putin. He will be missed, but if Trump is soundly defeated in November he may not be as essential as he's been over the last four years.

I'm also saddened to note that Diane Wahto (80) has died here in Wichita. She was a friend and an ally, a former chair of the Wichita Peace group.

Some scattered links this week:

Kate Aronoff: The Biden adviser who gives climate activists nightmares: Ernest Moniz, Obama's secretary of energy, nuclear physicist, "good friend" of the fossil fuel industry. Under Moniz, oil companies overcame Hubbert's Peak to increase US oil and gas production past its 1969 peak. Since then, he's cashed in on the favors he doled out to the industry.

Andrew Bacevich: The China conundrum: deterrence as dominance: "Does it really make sense to begin an arms race with China when there are so many other areas for competition and collaboration?" Democratic defense apparatchik Michele Flournoy, oft-touted as Biden's likely Secretary of Defense, thinks so. She is being provocative, as well as stupid.

Dean Baker:

  • Robert Samuelson hangs it up. I said my piece about Samuelson last week. Still, more here worth pointing out.

    Samuelson notes the work that Treasury secretaries Henry Paulson and Timothy Geithner, along with Federal Reserve Board Chair Ben Bernanke did to combat the Great Recession, and then says "but that doesn't excuse their failure to anticipate the housing boom and to preempt the bust." This is absolutely right. . . .

    Unfortunately, Samuelson also gives this trio credit for avoiding a second Great Depression. That's just a fairy tale they tell to children to justify shoveling hundreds of billions of dollars to the richest people in the country, to save their banks from their own incompetence. There is nothing about the situation in 2008-09 that would have forced us to endure a second Great Depression. We know the secret of getting out of a depression. It's called "spending money."

    Unfortunately, that trio made sure that most of the money went to bankers, which turned out to be a very inefficient use of stimulus cash (but nice for bankers, sure).

  • Trade wars are class wars: Even more than Klein and Pettis say: A note on the book Trade Wars Are Class Wars, by Matthew Klein and Michael Pettis.

Moriah Balingit/Laura Meckler: Trump alleges 'left-wing indoctrination' in schools, says he will create national commission to push more 'pro-American' history. If anything, the opposite is the problem: "Yet educators and students say that Trump is wildly out of touch with what happens in public school classrooms, where the United States is still held up as a beacon of freedom and democracy, and a moral leader." That assertion was dubious even when I was growing up, which was one reason the more I read into US history, the more critical I became of American foreign (and for that matter domestic) policy. Trump is calling for more (not less) indoctrination, because he wants to make sure that Americans blindly follow leaders like himself. I find this proposal exceptionally horrifying, not just because it perpetuates a mythology which reinforces problems and issues we've failed to own up to but more basically it attacks the very principle that truth matters, and that historians are responsible for uncovering truth within the context of time past. It is, in short, a demand that we give up the ability to think critically and act morally.

Zack Beauchamp: Conservative media is setting the stage for delegitimizing a Biden victory.

Medea Benjamin/Leonardo Flores: The US needs a new 'Good Neighbor' policy toward Latin America: Reminds me how one of Mexico's 19th century presidents lamented: "Poor Mexico. So far from God, so close to the United States." For 30 years after the Spanish-American War, America treated Latin America with "gunboat diplomacy" -- repeatedly invading countries and installing puppet regimes. Franklin Roosevelt tried to turn this around with his Good Neighbor Policy, and generally did, until the Cold War spread and gave he US excuses to overthrow a dozen or more countries, starting with Guatemala in 1953.

Jonathan Blitzer: The private Georgia immigration-detention facility at the center of a whistle-blower's complaint.

John Cassidy:

Jonathan Chait:

Fabiola Cineas:

Aaron Ross Coleman: Congress's failure to pass stimulus has had a devastating -- and predictable -- effect on minority groups.

Chas Danner: The 2020 hurricane season is officially out of names. Only other year when they "went Greek" for extra names was 2005, which wound up with 27 named storms, but took an extra month to get there (three storms were so large that year their names were retired: Katrina, Rita, and Wilma). For a full rundown on this year's storms, see Wikipedia. Since this article, Tropical Storm Beta was named, and is gathering strength in the Gulf of Mexico as it heads for Texas and Louisiana. Hurricane Teddy, a Category 4 (the second largest this year, after Laura), is still active, but well off the Atlantic coast, threatening Bermuda, and likely to wind up hitting Nova Scotia. Tropical Storm Vicky petered out after hitting the Cabo Verde Islands, and Tropical Storm Alpha veered east into Portugal and Spain. Tropical Storm Wilfred is still active, well out in the Atlantic and slowly heading toward the East Coast. Because storms are named when they reach tropical storm level (tropical depressions are just numbered) the names sometimes seem out of sequence. The Atlantic hurricane season officially ends on November 30, but note that there were already 4 named storms (all tropical storms with 45-60 mph winds) before the season started, so norms don't seem to be working this year.

Katherine Eban: "That's their problem": How Jared Kushner let the markets decide America's COVID-19 fate. I was referred to this piece by Libby Watson: Jared Kushner's psychopathic incompetence: "The White House's most cynical opportunist can't even get amorality right." Eban wrote:

At the end of July, writing for Vanity Fair, I revealed that Kushner had commissioned a robust federal COVID-19 testing plan, only to abandon it before it could be implemented. One public health expert in frequent contact with the White House's official coronavirus task force said a national plan likely fell out of favor in part because of a disturbingly cynical calculation: "The political folks believed that because [the virus] was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy."

The story struck a nerve, partly because it painted a picture of what might have been: The administration could have invested in a national testing system at a scale that could have greatly limited the number of cases and deaths. Instead the U.S. is on track to pass the grim milestone of 200,000 official COVID-19 deaths this month. With just 4% of the world's population, we now account for 20% of global deaths from the virus. . . .

Part of the answer almost certainly lies in the deep-seated belief, held by Kushner, President Trump, and their loyalists, that the federal government not only should not, but cannot play an effective leading role in responding to the pandemic, owing to its lumbering bureaucracy and onerous rules. At almost each step they have ignored the expertise of career officials and dismissed those with relevant experience as counterproductive meddlers. Trump famously calls them the Deep State.

Tom Engelhardt: Fire and fury like the world has never seen: One thing I've never been able to fathom is why some people think the "second coming of Christ" would be a good thing. My grandfather was the first to broach that subject with me, when he asked me whether I thought the founding of Israel would harken the day (the only thing I can remember him ever asking me). I don't recall answering. He came from along line of farmers whose intellectual interests began and ended with the Book of Revelations. (My father was the last of that line, and his ideas were pretty unconventional. My own take was that Revelations was to the Bible what a punchline was to a joke: if somehow you managed to swallow the set up, something that would make you finally realize it has all been a farce.) As it turns out, David Lloyd George thought just that when he signed the Balfour Declaration in 1917, and British rule over Palestine seemed designed to further that scenario (to the extent it seemed designed at all). There are at least a dozen recent books on how Trump is paving the way for the end times -- and those are just the ones by his more fanatic supporters. As something of a born-again atheist, I have no faith in heavenly kingdoms, either on earth or elsewhere, but I do recognize the impulses of crazed leaders to burn and leave it all in ruins. Early in his term, Trump famously threatened "fire and fury" should North Korea defy him. As Engelhardt notes:

And in every way imaginable, Donald Trump delivered as promised. He's been uniquely fiery and furious. In his own fashion, he's also been a man of his word. He's already brought "fire and fury" to this country in so many ways and, if he has anything to say about it, he's just gotten started.

Don't doubt for a second that, should he be losing on November 3rd (or beyond, given the mail-in vote to come), he'll declare electoral fraud and balk at leaving the White House. Don't doubt for a second that he'd be happy to torch that very building and whatever, at this point, is left of the American system with it before he saw himself "lose."

Since he is, in his own fashion, a parody of everything: a politician, a Republican, an autocrat, even a human being, he sums up in some extreme (if eerily satiric) fashion human efforts to destroy our way of life in these years. In truth, fiery and furiously fueled, he's a historic cloud of smoke and ash over us all.

John Feffer: Trump's scorched-earth doctrine: "Trump is doing whatever he can to make it impossible for his successor to resolve some of the world's most intractable problems." This article could have been 5-10 times as long (for instance, it never mentions Venezuela or Cuba, Bolivia or Brazil, or Somalia, where Trump has now bombed more than Bush and Obama combined). Maybe he's making some progress on disengagement from Afghanistan and Iraq, although nothing you can bank on. And he does seem to have dodged the worst case scenario he was headed for with North Korea, but again he's failed to work out any form of deal. Feffer has been working up to this piece, as in his A memo to the next president.

Matt Ford: Bill Barr's titanic lack of self-awareness: I don't see why it's so hard to understand Barr. Subhed says "he claims to be just a public servant," but Republicans since Margaret Thatcher have repeatedly argued that there is no public interest, therefore no such thing as a public servant. All people are simply self-interested, and for Republicans self-interest means looking at everything purely in terms of political advantages. In Barr's case, "everything" is law, and law is simply a tool to be used for advancing his party and himself. He's smarter about it than Trump is, but that's a pretty low bar. More on Barr this week:

Susan B Glasser: "It was all about the election": The ex-White House aide Olivia Troye on Trump's narcissistic mishandling of Covid-19: "The first staffer on the coronavirus task force to go public tells The New Yorker that America's pandemic response was 'derailed by the person at the very top.'"

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

Benjamin Hart: Trump administration to ban WeChat and TikTok from app stores beginning Sunday. Allegedly there is a national security angle here, but it also seems likely that Trump is doing this just to force the apps to be sold to "American" companies, in which case it's hard to imagine that some sort of graft isn't involved. More:

Pamela Karlan: Our most vulnerable election: Review of Lawrence Douglas: Will He Go?: Trump and the Looming Election Meltdown in 2020.

Stephen Kinzer: Back off Venezuela already: "The American campaign against socialist leader Nichoas Maduro is only hurting the people of the country." And reminding Venezuelans that the United States has always favored business interests over the people. [Unfortunately, the Boston Globe makes it impossible for occasional readers to access articles on their website.]

Jen Kirby: Are China and Iran meddling in US elections? It's complicated. I'm sure that nearly every government in the world sees their fate affected by US elections, but few can do anything about it, and little of what they do can have any real effect -- in part because "meddling" usually produces an adverse reaction. Israel is the only real exception inasmuch as they can appeal for support from two groups of voters: Israel-minded Jews, and (more significantly and successfully of late) Apocalypse-minded Christians. But nobody much talks about Israel's efforts.

Ezra Klein:

  • There are no good choices: "In shifting so much responsibility to individual people, America's government has revealed the limits of individualism."

  • Race, policing, and the universal yearning for safety: Interview with Phillip Atiba Goff, of the Center for Policing Equity.

  • A progressive vision to make America great: Interview with Klein's partner at Vox, Matthew Yglesias, about his book: One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger. "In it, he argues that the path to ensure American greatness and preeminence on the world stage is a combination of mass immigration, pro-family policy, and overhauling America's housing and transportation systems." Yglesias is an often astute critic of right-wing political efforts, but he also won last year's "Neoliberal Shill" award, mostly for the sort of "policy vision" he presents in the book. I often cite Yglesias, but haven't rushed out to buy the book. Last week I cited a critical review: Jacob Bacharach: The emptiness of Matthew Yglesias's biggest idea. Bacharach's sharpest jibe:

    But what does it mean when a columnist or a pundit writes "a book"? Swift reads, even when they number in the many hundreds of pages, volumes like David Brooks's The Second Mountain or Paul Krugman's Arguing With Zombies or Thomas Friedman"s "flat world" diptych tend to collect a set of superficially counterintuitive arguments and insights that upon closer inspection almost always resolve themselves into the preexisting, commonsense notions that their intended readership already assumes to be true.

    I can see the argument that if America wants to "remain number one," it may be helpful to swell the population to a level comparable with China and India, but I don't get what's so important about "remaining number one." If America's self-appointed role as global hegemon is failing (as certainly appears to be the case), maybe the answer isn't to compete harder but to find a path to cooperation that precludes the need for anyone to be hegemonic? And while I'm open-minded about immigration, I don't see a tripling of the current population as necessarily good for our quality of life. Indeed, I'm inclined to be skeptical about the real value of growth -- which is, as always, the main thing "neoliberal shills" have to peddle. Here's another review of Yglesias' book: Felix Salmon: Matthew Yglesias thinks there should be 'One Billion Americans'.

Paul Krugman: The GOP plot to sabotage 2021: In refusing to even negotiate a new relief/stimulus package, Republicans are signifying two things: they don't think any new legislation will help them at the polls in November; and if they lose, their intention is to leave the nation in the worst possible shape for the Democrats in January. Of course, if the Republicans retain control of the Senate, they'll do all they can to make Biden look bad, much as they did to Obama in the recession he inherited. You'd think this calculation would be obvious -- and something Democrats could rally voters against. But Republicans were no less blatant in 2008-09, and somehow managed to ride obstruction to a major rebound victory in 2010. Even if they lose in November, they feel invincible, because no one really calls them on their most malevolent impulses. Even less remarked upon is how this works as extortion. The basic argument is that if you don't elect Republicans, they are going to cause so much destruction that you'll regret the affront. Of course, normal, sane people would never give in to that sort of bullying. Yet time and again the American voters do -- at least, enough of them in our severely skewed electoral system to let them claim victory and use their powers to profit the 1% and undermine everyone else.

Eric Levitz: It is not undemocratic to call Trump's presidency 'illegitimate'.

Martin Longman:

German Lopez:

Jane Mayer: For Mitch McConnell, holding the Senate is the highest priority.

Harold Meyerson: A Rorschach test for establishment liberalism. A note, which serves as an introduction, to a New York Times feature on the 50th anniversary of Milton Friedman's essay, "The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits": Greed is good. Except when it's bad.

Ian Millhiser:

Kiana Moore: "They didn't see me as innocent": "Can you remember your first experience with the police? For these 9 Black and brown people, the encounters would shape their sense of safety forever." Also see Amber Ruffin shares a lifetime of traumatic run-ins with police, a week's worth of memoirs Seth Meyers broadcast the week after George Floyd was killed.

Nicole Narea:

Ella Nilsen: The ways Democrats could retake the Senate majority, explained. I rarely link to these horserace pieces, but flipping the Senate (and ending the filibuster) are essential for Biden and the Democrats to have any effectiveness at all. Would be especially delicious should South Carolina and Kentucky retire Graham and McDonnell.

Timothy Noah: The good life that Keynes promised America got stolen: "A new study shows in electrifying terms the extent to which 45 years of income inequality destroyed the prosperity we should all be enjoying."

Osita Nwanevu:

  • The ridiculous war-gaming of the 2020 election: "Trump's opponents are so concerned that he might steal the election that they have forgotten to worry that he might simply win it."

  • The cultural permanence of Donald Trump: "Trumpism has become America's latest civic religion, and it won't be voted out of office in November." Presumably what he means to say is that even if Trump is voted out of office in November, Trumpism will survive as a political legacy and continue to affect elections indefinitely into the future. I rather doubt that. A big part of Trump's allure is his reputation as a winner, and losing will wipe that out -- even if his apologists come up with lots of excuses. Also, although his retail political skills are pretty meager, it is really hard to think of anyone else who is seriously rich/successful yet with his slovenly reality TV persona seems approachable and acceptable to the clods who adore him. Mainstream Republican donors had no interest in Trump until he won, and will have no interest in him if he turns out to be a loser. They will carry on, looking for newer, more convincing cons to carry on their graft.

Trita Parsi:

Deborah Pearlstein: How the government lost its mind: "Over the past 50 years, America has given up on the Enlightenment-era ideals of its Founders -- and the country's coronavirus disaster is the result."

Cameron Peters: Trump's Nevada rally was an exercise in delegitimizing voting -- and denying reality: "Trump keeps holding potential superspreader events in the middle of a pandemic."

Lili Pike: What wildfires in Brazil, Siberia, and the US West have in common: "Climate change and mismanagement are fueling large, uncontrolled fires around the world." More on fire:

Katha Pollitt: Melania Trump really doesn't care: "A new book by her ex-best friend shows how the first lady sold her soul." The book is Stephanie Winston Wolkoff's "tell-not-quite-all" Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship With the First Lady. By the way, article opens with a picture of Trump and Melania kissing. Reminded me of the cartoon show Bojack Horseman. Weirdest thing about that show was when different species (e.g., with horse or dog heads) try to kiss.

Andrew Prokop: Bob Woodward's new book Rage, and the controversies around it, explained. "What did Trump know about the coronavirus? And what did Woodward know?" It's occurred to me that Woodward might have been trying to make Trump look more knowledgeable about coronavirus in February than he was, although when you listent to the tapes, you quickly realize that he didn't know much -- the value of the tapes was in contrast to the even dumber things he later said publicly. It's also possible that Woodward didn't grasp even what Trump said, and that the import of the quotes only became evident near publication time when publishers were searching through the book for tidbits they could market. It's even possible that Woodward's conclusions about Trump fitness were suggested by editors after having read the book. More on Rage:

  • Jonathan Chait: Noted bibliophobe Donald Trump claims he read 466-page Woodward book in 1 night.

  • Isaac Chotiner: Bob Woodward's bad characters: Evident sources include Robert O'Brien, James Mattis, and Dan Coats ("Of Woodward's three main characters, Coats's journey is the most pathos-filled.") The book starts with O'Brien:

    We are only two pages in, which is usually about the moment in a Woodward book when you can guess whether a subject has co÷perated: if he has, he almost certainly comes out looking well. Three pages later, a week has passed, and Woodward casually notes that O'Brien, appearing on CBS, has just said about the virus, "Right now, there's no reason for Americans to panic. This is something that is a low risk, we think, in the U.S." Another author might note the dissonance between O'Brien's public and private statements; Woodward does not even allude to it. But this is typical of Woodward's White House-centric narratives: inconsistencies pile up; narrative threads are dropped and then recovered without any notice of the ways in which they have altered in the interim. In a 1996 review of his books, Joan Didion wrote, "Those who talk to Mr. Woodward, in other words, can be confident that he will be civil ('I too was growing tired, and it seemed time to stand up and thank him'), that he will not feel impelled to make connections between what he is told and what is already known, that he will treat even the most patently self-serving account as if untainted by hindsight." . . .

    And yet Woodward appears as unequipped to grapple with Trump as the erstwhile members of his Cabinet were. Whether Woodward and his sources are aware or disengaged, cynical or na´ve, takes on extra importance because of the unique challenges and outrages of our era, in which a willingness to abide Trump has sat side by side with an inability to understand his malignancy. . . .

    One of the issues that marred Woodward's Bush books, despite their interest, was his willingness to believe less-than-honest people. That is an even bigger problem in the Trump era, which has outdone the Bush years in dishonesty and features an outrageous number of people whose only motive for serving in government seems to be personal glory or wealth. If this is not enough to make anyone pine for Dick Cheney, the lying at least makes it even more vital that journalists doubt what they hear and think carefully about what to weed out or explain. I somehow have trouble believing that Lindsey Graham is, as Woodward recounts, worried that the judiciary is becoming "too partisan" or that much can be gleaned from Jared Kushner's endless monologues on leadership. The problem goes beyond the details. In one conversation, Mattis and Tillerson discuss the importance of State and Defense working together and beefing up the diplomatic corps; a reader who did not follow the news in 2017 would be surprised to learn that Tillerson was simultaneously embarking on gutting the State Department. . . .

    Even Woodward's worst books contain an astonishing number of fascinating details, but those who have lamented the failure of our institutions to stand up to Trump are unlikely to be surprised by the mind-set of the people who populated them. Acceptance of how far we have fallen would have meant not only reappraising the country many of them loved but also the Party many of them belonged to. But the alternative explanation for their behavior is no better: they knew what was coming and -- whether out of a sense of decorum or partisanship or cowardice -- refused to say so.

  • Constance Grady: Bob Woodward withheld his Trump revelations for months. Was that wrong? "Book publishing doesn't consider ethical questions to be its business. Increasingly, that's a problem."

  • Fred Kaplan: Trump comes off even worse in Woodward's Rage than you've heard.

  • Aaron Rupar: New Woodward audio is the starkest illustration yet of how Trump misled about coronavirus.

David Roberts: 4 astonishing signs of coal's declining economic viability: "Coal is now a loser around the world."

Aja Romano: What we know about a deadly shooting in Rochester, New York: "Two people are dead and 16 injured after a shooting at a party."

Aaron Rupar:

  • "There has to be retribution": Trump's chilling comments about extrajudicial killings, briefly explained.

  • Trump's ABC town hall revealed a president disconnected from reality: "He faced tough questions from voters -- and had few answers." Subheds: Trump won't even acknowledge that systemic racism is a thing; Trump has no shame about just making stuff up; This is your brain on Fox News.

    Along similar lines, Trump told a voter who asked him about immigration that he'll unveil new legislation "in a very short time" -- a talking point he often uses to buy time when he doesn't really have a plan.

    On the topic of law and order -- one that Trump is trying to make a centerpiece of his campaign -- Stephanopoulos grilled him on a disconnect between what he said back in 2016 and what he's saying now.

    "You promised four years ago at the Republican Convention, 'I'm gonna restore law and order in this country,'" he pointed out.

    Trump's response was that he has -- if you disregard all the large cities that are run by Democrats (so, most of them).

    Trump went on to compare the unrest that took place in American cities over the summer with the fall of Berlin in 1945, seemingly unaware of how that analogy reflects on his stewardship of the country.

  • Trump's dark National Archives speech was white resentment run amok: "It's just nonsense to believe that America isn't racist." Related:

    • Nancy LeTourneau: Is America strong enough to confront its racist past? Clever of her to flip the tables and present Trump as weak, but the real issue with him is that he rejects Americans' common understanding of ideals: especially the central importance of equality.

      That is precisely what threatens both Trump and his supporters. To confront the role that racism plays in our society is a two-step process. First of all, we must recognize that, since our founding, U.S. institutions have been grounded in white supremacy. Secondly, in order to ensure that our principles of equality and justice apply to everyone, those institutions have to change.

      That first step presents an obstacle for people like Trump, who view any admission of error as a sign of weakness. During his speech on Thursday, the president said that the narratives being pushed by the left resemble the anti-American propaganda of our adversaries, concluding that "both groups want to see America weakened, derided and totally diminished."

      But Trump's approach is the one that broadcasts weakness. It takes strength to examine ourselves, identify shortcomings, and correct them to the best of our ability. . . .

      In many ways, what is on the ballot in November are these two views of what it means to be an American. Are we a country that is too afraid to even admit our shortcomings, or are we strong enough to be self-critical and seize our power to continue the process of aligning the country with our highest ideals?

Tom Scocca: Crowd cheers as the President gloats about this one time the cops shot a reporter with a rubber ballot for no reason.

Liliana Segura: Trump prepares to execute Christopher Vialva for a crime he committed as a teenager: "Vialva is the first Black man to face execution during Trump's killing spree. He is set to die on September 24." Vialva has spent more time on death row than he lived before he was sentenced to die.

Alex Shephard:

    Why aren't voters blaming Donald Trump for the bad economy?: "Tens of millions are unemployed, hungry, and behind on the rent. But the economy is barely registering as an election issue." Just spitballing here, but Trump got no credit for the "great" economy because for most people it wasn't all that great, but has the "bad" economy since the pandemic broke out really been that bad? The massive first-round of stimulus spending made up for a lot -- one result being that Americans did a lot of saving during the lockdown. On the other hand, there's a tweet here based on an article interviewing construction workers in Ohio, which is totally deluded. Doesn't say much for the cognitive skills of the American people.

  • Barack Obama's memoir is set to be the biggest book of this year. That's pretty depressing considering that his main claim to fame was providing us a brief and unhappy respite between two much more disastrous Republican presidents.

  • Why does The Washington Post publish this Never-Trump drivel? Singles out a recent op-ed by AEI flunky Danielle Pletka, where her "principles" go into full wobble: "I never considered voting for Trump in 2016. I may be forced to vote for him this year."

Danny Sjursen: September 14, 2001: The day America became Israel: The date was when Congress voted, with just one dissent (Rep. Barbara Lee, D-CA) to give GW Bush a blank check for starting his Global War on Terror. Three days earlier, planes flew into the World Trade Center in NYC and the Pentagon near DC, killing close to 3,000 people. I was in Brooklyn at the time, visiting friends, and we watched a lot of TV that day. One thing I saw was stock video of Palestinians cheering and burning US flags, released by Israel shortly after the attacks. Later during the day, I saw the grinning mugs of Benjamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres bragging about how good the attacks were for Israel, predicting that now Americans will see the world the way Israelis do. (Ariel Sharon was PM of Israel at the time, but his limited English didn't merit prime time, nor did his perpetual scowl.) 9/11 gave the neocons recently installed in key government positions by Bush and Cheney the opportunity they've been waiting for. The neocons may have started as fanatic Cold Warriors, but in the 1990s they formed an alliance with Israel's right-wing to scuttle the Oslo Peace Process and confront both the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors from a stance of absolute, uncompromising power. With Sharon's accession to power, their relationship to Israel shifted from support to envy: their most fervent hope was for the US to impose its absolute power on the world, as Israel was doing in its own little corner. Whence came mantras like "axis of evil" and "real men go to Tehran." You can argue about how well that stance has served Israel: the conflict with the Palestinians will never end until Israel grants them some semblance of justice, but the costs of dominance are within politically acceptable bounds, as long as BDS doesn't hamper business, and the next Intifada is no more efficient than the last. And for now, Israel has nothing to fear from formerly hostile neighbors. The thrust of Kushner's (which is to say Israel's) diplomacy has been to form a united political front between Israel and Arab despots who fear Iran and their own people and other Arabs and hope they will be more secure with hoards of sophisticated American and Israeli arms. Speaking of which, more on the Kushner deal:

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: Smoke on the water, lies burning in the sky. Starts with a bunch of photos of what Oregon looks like these days.

Matt Stieb: Federal officials considered using a 'heat ray' against DC protesters.

Farah Stockman: What I learned from a list of Trump accomplishments: "Facts are vital. But they are not sufficient." An introduction and executive summary of A fact-checked list of Trump accomplishments, where the list itself "consisted of 123 bullet points posted on the Conservative Hangout Facebook page in May." The thing I found most interesting here is that in order to make Trump look good, the listers most often selected "facts" designed to make Trump look more liberal than he is. Liberals may be embarrassed about using the word to describe themselves, but conservatives are shameless in recognizing that liberal policies are more popular than their own -- hence the need to hide and lie about them.

Once you strip away the misleading claims from this list of accomplishments, you are left with what Mr. Trump has delivered: tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations -- No. 84. Deregulation for banks and businessmen -- No. 97. Judges for the evangelicals -- No. 109. Tariffs on Chinese steel for the steelworkers -- No. 113. And after those tariffs sparked a trade war, bailouts for farmers -- No. 72. He moved the embassy to Jerusalem, for conservative Jews and evangelicals -- No. 110.

To Mr. Trump's supporters, those are real accomplishments. But are they worth more than Mr. Trump's failures, during a deadly pandemic? More than his broken promises? More than what he has destroyed? That's the question facing voters in November. Maybe this list of his true accomplishments needs to be weighed against a list of what he has dismantled over these last four years. Anybody got one? I'd be happy to fact-check it.

Derek Thompson: The reason Trump isn't trying to save the economy: "He is stuck in a Pollyannaish fantasy of his own making."

Alex Ward: The bogus Steve Bannon-backed study claiming China created the coronavirus, explained.

Matthew Yglesias:

  • America needs a democratic revolution: "Fixing systemic inequities in voting power should be a high priority for Democrats." Sure, the Electoral College, the extreme rural skew of the Senate, the gerrymandering of House districts, are all structural defects that skew and deform democracy, but they are essentially impossible to fix without overhauling the Constitution, and that's impossible as long as one major party thinks those iniquities work in its favor, especially a party with no scruples for democratic process. By all means, feel free to shame the Republicans for attempting to undermine democracy and turn government into a self-perpetuating grift and patronage machine, but don't for a moment think Democrats can afford to wait until the structural problems are fixed before delivering better policy and service when and wherever they manage to win some power. Also, note that the biggest inequity in American politics isn't geographical. It is money, which cut across party lines deeply enough that Democrats in 2009 made no effort to limit campaign spending or lobbying, even though they had the presidency and large majorities in Congress. Sure, it's unfair that the Electoral College is so skewed that a Democrat might have to win the popular vote by more than 5% to break even, but presidential elections have swung as much as 22% (61%-39%). There's no reason Democrats can't formulate a winning campaign, especially given that Republicans seem to have deliberately chosen policies so extreme and unpopular they can only win by exploiting structural inequities. The Democrats' biggest problem has loss of credibility, caused by failing to deliver on the modest promises of their centrist leaders. Whining about how the system is stacked against them isn't a viable excuse. After all, stacked systems are something workers face every day. They don't need to be told the system is unfair. They need leaders who can challenge and beat it anyway.

  • "Reopening" isn't enough to save bars and restaurants -- the US needs a bailout.

Li Zhou:

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