Sunday, September 27, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Well, it's official now: as of September 22, 200,000 Americans are now confirmed dead from Covid-19. For more:

Let's start with overflow from the Supreme Court crisis, opened up by the death last week of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Some articles came out in anticipation, but it's now official: Trump selects Amy Coney Barrett to Fill Ginsburg's seat on the Supreme Court:

  • Zack Beauchamp: RBG, the 2020 election, and the rolling crisis of American democracy.

  • Daniel Block: Packing the court might work. Threatening to pack it did. Reviews Franklin Roosevelt's 1937 court packing proposal, which was ill-fated in the sense that it didn't get passed. But under pressure, the Supreme Court stopped invalidating major New Deal legislation, and gradually Roosevelt's appointees took over the Court. Block emphasizes similarities between now and 1937, but I'm more struck by two key differences: FDR and his Democrats had a huge electoral mandate after the 1936 election, whereas the most Biden can hope for is a slim majority; and while the majority on the 1930s Supreme Court was casually selected from upper class conservatives, the Trump Court is stocked with card-carrying Federalist Society cult members -- not just predisposed to right-wing sentiments but selected and cultivated for them.

  • Ryan Bort: GOP scores huge victory over democracy, integrity as Trump announces pick to replace RBG.

  • Katelyn Burns: How Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court could affect LGBTQ rights.

  • John Cassidy: Trump's selection of Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court is part of a larger antidemocratic project.

  • Igor Derysh: Mitch McConnell rams through six Trump judges in 30 hours after blocking coronavirus aid for months.

  • Garrett Epps: Amy Coney Barrett's stare decisis problem -- and ours.

  • Burgess Everett: Republicans prep lightning-quick Supreme Court confirmation.

  • Noah Feldman: Amy Coney Barrett deserves to be on the Supreme Court: "I disagree with Trump's judicial nominee on almost everything. But I still think she's brilliant." I doubt Feldman, a Harvard law professor and former clerk for Supreme Court Justice David Souter, wrote that headline. He does say that she's brilliant, and can be expected to produce carefully reasoned opinions -- "even if I disagree with her all the way." I find that degree of legalistic wiggle room disturbing. Note that this post bleeds into another unrelated one of interest: Timothy L O'Brien: Elections aren't the only things Trump thinks are rigged: "It's always somebody else's fault when things turn against him." By the way, another friend of Barrett's has chipped in: O Carter Snead: I've known Amy Coney Barrett for 15 years. Liberals have nothing to fear. I recall similar pieces popping up as soon as Cavanaugh got nominated. All nominees come with PR machines paving the way. Sooner or later we'll discover that millions of dollars have been raised to promote this and other nominations. And thanks to recent Supreme Court rulings, it will be impossible to establish criminal culpability when the new Justice rewards her benefactors.

  • Matt Ford: Amy Coney Barrett wants felons to have guns, but not votes.

  • Constance Grady: The false link between Amy Coney Barrett and The Handmaid's Tale, explained.

  • Sarah Jones:

    • American women need a revolution. It has to be bigger than RBG. Most memorable line here, about Ginsburg's "improbable" friendship with Antonin Scalia: "There's no ethical disagreement so profound that a shared class position can't bridge it." How much harder is it to form an ethical bridge over a class difference?

    • Amy Coney Barrett and the triumph of Phyllis Schlafly.

      As embraced by jurists like Barrett and her old boss, Antonin Scalia, originalism is its own dogma; the extension of a political theology committed to an older and more exclusionary version of America.

      Barrett understands all that. She's exactly as intelligent as her advocates say, and she's made all her choices with a sound mind. Her reward is power. If she's confirmed by the Senate, she'll be able to finish what Schlafly once started. She could help lock in Trump for another four years. She'll be able to deal democracy and yes, the feminist movement the blows the Christian right has dreamed of landing for years.

  • Noah Lanard: Amy Coney Barrett will strip millions of health insurance.

  • Nancy LeTourneau: Meet the man who vets Trump's Supreme Court picks: Leonard Leo, of the Federalist Society. I've long found it peculiar how Republicans invariably wind up appointing conservative Catholics to the Court -- are Protestants, who long held sway but lately have become virtually extinct, too inclined to respect people as individuals?

    You might call it a coincidence that Leo is Catholic and all of the Supreme Court justices he has been involved with since the 1990s have been Catholic -- with the exception of Gorsuch, who was raised Catholic but attended an Episcopal church after he married an Anglican. At this point, the two women who appear to be in contention for nomination by Trump (and put forward by Leo and the Federalist Society) are also Catholic. What is of concern, however, is not their religion, but how it influences their view of the role of the courts. For example, while a professor at Notre Dame, Barrett said that a "legal career is but a means to an end . . . and that end is building the Kingdom of God."

    For more on Leo, see: Robert O Harrow Jr/Shawn Boburg: A conservative activist's behind-the-scenes campaign to remake the nation's courts.
  • Eric Levitz:

    • Dems should turn Barrett hearings into an anti-GOP informercial. We've seen at least some of this starting, especially with the ACA case:

      This said, Democrats may be well-advised to make the ACA their number-one issue in the confirmation fight. The conservative legal challenges to Obamacare don't just constitute an attempt to strip millions of potentially life-saving insurance subsidies, or change health-care policy in a toxically unpopular manner; it also represents an assault on democracy itself. The American people's democratically elected representatives entertained the question of whether this law should exist twice, first in 2009 and then in 2017. The verdict is clear. The unpopularity of the conservative alternative is unmistakable. Nevertheless, the right has refused to take the electorate's "no" for an answer, and is now seeking to use its influence over the judiciary to override the will of the people. In this way, the Obamacare case conveniently weds the threat that Trump poses to the material interests of working people with the threat he poses to democracy itself.

      Democrats may have no real chance of blocking Barrett's confirmation. But the Senate's hearings will provide the party an opportunity to clarify the stakes of the impending vote that they can still win.

    • Would court packing be too slippery a slope? I think it's premature to talk about it. People need to understand two things: it's not such a radical idea; and it's necessitated by the Supreme Court's obstruction of popular and necessary policies. A good start would be to refer to Trump's appointments as "packing the Court" -- that is clearly the intention, and it's been happening for some time (a deliberate effort to install partisan ideologues, especially relatively young ones, to build up a long-lasting right-wing majority, and use that to radically change laws, subverting the normal processes of democracy). You can also start pointing out how this "packed" right-wing court has already broken with established norms to further their partisan schemes (e.g., campaign bribery = free speech, unlimited gun rights, allowing voting discrimination).

  • Dahlia Lithwick: Trump kept the quiet part quiet about Amy Coney Barrett: In his announcement, Trump "stayed mum about the real reason he needs her."

    As has been noted many times over this past week, the GOP has lost the popular vote in six of the last seven elections and yet appointed 15 out of the last 19 justices. Barrett would make that 16 out of 20 seats. And that is why the people most assuredly cannot be allowed to decide the future of reproductive freedom, the future of health care, or even whether and how their own ballots will be counted in just over a month. Trump cannot talk about those things because they will further harm his own polling and will also reflect badly on GOP senators who pledged to vote for the nominee before they even knew whom she would be. They cannot talk about those things because minority rule doesn't poll as well in the U.S. as it does in, say, Hungary or medieval France. But minority rule is on the ballot. It may well be the only thing on the ballot. Because if, as the president promises, his independent justice needs to be seated to decide whose ballots count, this isn't merely a commitment to entrench unpopular, dangerous, and partisan policies into constitutional law. It's also a commitment to commandeering the high court itself into deciding whether and how to count votes, in an election in which a sitting president has already pledged that only some voters will be allowed to pick the winner.

  • Dylan Matthews:

  • Barbara McQuade: Amy Coney Barrett is even more extreme than Antonin Scalia.

  • Ian Millhiser:

  • Nicole Narea: Amy Coney Barrett has a years-long record of ruling against immigrants.

  • Ella Nilsen: How the coming fight over Ginsburg's SCOTUS replacement could shape the Senate elections.

  • Anna North: What Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court would mean for abortion rights.

  • Molly Olmstead: Conservatives are already playing up hypothetical anti-Catholic bias against Amy Coney Barrett: Because we all know how concerned conservatives are when it comes to prejudice against minorities? I'm old enough to remember the old protestant prejudice against Catholics -- my grandmother was a prime example -- but Catholics back then (like John Kennedy) disarmed the prejudice by emphasizing tolerance and the separation of church and state, not by forcing their most arcane beliefs on their subjects, as Barrett seems to want to do.

  • Alex Pareene: McConnell will sacrifice anything to fill Ginsburg's seat -- even his Senate majority.

  • Kim Phillips-Fein: Is Amy Coney Barrett joining a Supreme Court built for the wealthy? "Future decisions by a very conservative majority could give corporations even more weight and workers less."

  • Joe Pinsker: RBG's fingerprints are all over your everyday life.

  • David Rohde: A dangerous moment for the Supreme Court. Can we start referring to the Federalist Society as a cult?

    Trump and McConnell now stand poised to create a conservative majority on the Court that could last decades. The moment marks a triumph for the Federalist Society, a conservative and libertarian legal group that has worked since the nineteen-eighties to recruit ultra-conservative lawyers to serve as judges. Republicans face a potential backlash in November, but a dramatic and historic change in American democracy and jurisprudence is under way that could vastly increase the power of the Presidency, corporations, and the wealthy, and curtail, or bring to an end, abortion rights, Obamacare, and expansive voting rights.

  • Shaskar Sunkara: 'Scranton v Park Avenue' is Biden's best campaign issue -- not the Supreme Court. He has a point, but as Yglesias points out below, the two are not unrelated. The Supreme Court in itself is unlikely to persuade anyone who isn't already committed, but it doesn't hurt to point to the Republicans' hypocrisy viz. 2016, to the naked power grab, to the packing of the court with Federalist Society cultists. Also, the most immediately tangible case before the Supreme Court is a suit to throw out all of Obamacare on the thinest of technicalities, and Barrett could be the vote that decides to strip health insurance from millions of people. Still, the overriding issue of the election is the conflict between one party which blindly serves an unaccountable, unelected oligarchy and another party which at least recognizes and is accountable to the vast majority of Americans. Since winning elections depends on building a majority coalition, that seems like the obvious point to make.

  • Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor: The case for ending the Supreme Court as we know it.

  • Jeffrey Toobin: There should be no doubt why Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett.

    Still, it's worth remembering the real priorities of Trump and Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, in this nomination. They're happy to accommodate the anti-abortion base of the Republican Party, but an animating passion of McConnell's career has been the deregulation of political campaigns. The Supreme Court's Citizens United decision brought the issue to wide public attention, but McConnell has been crusading about it for decades. He wants the money spigot kept open, so that he can protect his Senate majority and the causes for which it stands. This, too, is why the Federalist Society has been so lavishly funded over the years, and why it has expanded from a mere campus organization into a national behemoth for lawyers and students. Under Republican Presidents, Federalist Society events have come to operate as auditions for judicial appointments. The corporate interests funding the growth of the Federalist Society probably weren't especially interested in abortion, but they were almost certainly committed to crippling the regulatory state.

    Barrett is a product of this movement, and not just because she clerked for Scalia. Her writings and early rulings reflect it. Her financial-disclosure form shows that, in recent years, she has received about seven thousand dollars in honoraria from the Federalist Society and went on ten trips funded by it. But it's not as if Barrett was bought; she was already sold. The judge has described herself as a "textualist" and an "originalist" -- the same words of legal jargon that were associated with Scalia. (She believes in relying on the specific meaning of the words in statutes, not on legislators' intent. She interprets the Constitution according to her belief in what the words meant when the document was ratified, not what the words mean now.) But these words are abstractions. In the real world, they operate as an agenda to crush labor unions, curtail environmental regulation, constrain the voting rights of minorities, limit government support for health care, and free the wealthy to buy political influence.

  • Matthew Yglesias: The Supreme Court's role in economic policy, explained. Reminds us that the point of having a conservative majority on the Supreme Court is less to legislate from the bench than to veto efforts by Congress and the Executive to implement changes that regulate business, regardless of how popular those changes may be.

    It's a nice vision, in my opinion, and also a vision of a world in which the courts play a smaller role in the political process. It is not the way American politics works. When Alfred Stepan and Juan Linz surveyed the United States and 22 other peer nations to see how many electorally generated veto points each country had, they found the US to be a huge outlier. More than half their sample had just one elected body that could block policy change -- a parliamentary majority. Seven had two veto players. France often had one, sometimes two, but since then has tweaked its rules to ensure that it's always one. Switzerland and Australia had three. And the United States had four.

    Which is just to say it's really, really hard to change the law in America. In their magisterial work Lobbying and Policy Change: Who Wins, Who Loses, and Why, Frank Baumgartner and his co-authors find something superficially encouraging -- it's not the case that the side with more money backing it normally wins in Congress. The reason, however, is less encouraging. It simply turns out that there are so many veto points in the US political system that the status quo almost always wins. What the increasingly active conservative courts do, under the guise of aw-shucks balls and strikes refereeing, is essentially introduce yet another veto player into the system.

  • Li Zhou: Senate Republicans were always going to do whatever they wanted with the Supreme Court vacancy: "Their actions are deeply hypocritical -- but unsurprising."

Some scattered links on other topics this week:

Bethany Albertson: Trump's appeals to white anxiety are not "dog whistles" -- they're racism. That's because Trump's no whistler. He's the dog. He isn't the leader of the Republican Party. He's just a guy who watches too much Fox News, but because he has money and has spent his whole adult life seeking fame, he's come to represent all the little people whose prejudices and fears and psychoses he embodies.

Zeeshan Aleem: Half of Americans who lost their job during the pandemic still don't have one.

Anne Applebaum: The complicity of Republican leaders in support of an immoral and dangerous president.

Associated Press: Trump and Nixon were pen pals in the '80s. Here are their letters. Just to creep you out, from the original CREEP.

Zack Beauchamp: The Republican Party is an authoritarian outlier: "Compared to center-right parties in developed democracies, the GOP is dangerously far from normal."

Hannah Beech: 'I feel sorry for Americans': A baffled world watches the US: "From Myanmar to Canada, people are asking: How did a superpower allow itself to be felled by a virus? And why won't the president commit to a peaceful transition of power?" The answer to both questions is hubris: the latter specifically by Donald Trump, the former much more generally. Even the Soviet Bloc, with nothing we recognize as democracy, generally allowed a peaceful transfer of power. (As Jeffrey St Clair mentions, in the piece below, the exception was in Romania, where Ceaucescu's generals took the leader out into a field and shot him, then outlawed capital punishment.) The US used to be better regarded, even more generously than was really deserved, but in the late 1940s Truman decided to kick the Soviet Union out of the coalition that had won WWII, and to direct US foreign policy against communists, socialists, labor unions, and anti-colonial resistance everywhere. When the Soviet Bloc collapsed, Washington doubled down on its economic program to impose capitalist austerity everywhere. Where Republicans differed from Democrats was in their insistence on treating their own folk as shabbily as the rest of the world. Trump's only innovation to this Washington Consensus was to stop pretending that the "medicine" was good for others. His vision is a world of oligarchs who can buy and sell whole countries. His "America First" is really just Trump First. Otherwise, if he really represented a system or a party, he wouldn't cling to power so desperately.

Julia Belluz: 156 countries are teaming up for a Covid-19 vaccine. But not the US or China. Interview with Seth Berkley, of "Vaccine Alliance, one of the partners behind Covax."

Russ Buettner/Susanne Craig/Mike McIntire: The President's taxes: Long-concealed records show Trump's chronic losses and years of tax avoidance: "The Times obtained Donald Trump's tax information extending over more than two decades, revealing struggling properties, vast write-offs, an audit battle and hundreds of millions in debt coming due." Major article, although it's still far short of what a full public release of Trump's tax records might show. Side articles: Charting an empire: A timeline of Trump's finances; 18 revelations from a trove of Trump tax records; An editor's note on the Trump tax investigation. For more:

Laura Bult: How the US keeps poor people from accessing abortion.

Katelyn Burns: Trump says he won't commit to leaving office if he loses the election because of a "ballot scam". I'm growing weary of repeatedly asking Trump about whether he'd agree to "a peaceful transition of power" if he loses the election. It should be obvious by now that his repeated refusals signify two things: he doesn't believe that elections in the US are fair, not least because he's spending a lot of effort and money in scamming them for his own benefit; and underlying that, he clearly doesn't believe that fair and open democratic processes are valuable in their own right. When Al Gore in 2000 and Hillary Clinton in 2016 conceded, despite receiving more votes than Bush or Trump, they were showing their respect for a flawed but established democratic system. Trump has no such respect. He probably regards Gore and Clinton as suckers and losers for rolling over so easily. In contrast, he wants to appear tough, as someone who will fight for his beliefs down to the last technicality -- his dedication is something his supporters love about him, whereas the willingness of Democrats to back away from power fights has made them look weak and indecisive. Nor is this just Trump being his authoritarian bad self. Republicans have signalled their contempt for democracy for decades ago, as they've exploited every imbalance and loophole available to them to secure power far beyond their numbers. Indeed, their agenda is so tailored to narrow (and unpopular) special interests that it's hard to see how they could prevail in fair and open elections. (Indeed, it's easy to find instances where Republicans admit as much.) Still, I think a large part of Trump's refusal to say something as obvious as "of course, if I lose I'll respect the law" is that he feels obligated to project confidence in his electability -- especially given that polling has consistently shown him to be way behind. Muddying the waters, casting suspicion on the integrity of voting, is one of the few ways he can gain credibility for his campaign, even if it's as likely as not to backfire on him. Given all the horrors of the last four years, given his manifest ineptness for the job, given the malevolence of his administration, he should have no chance to win a second term. Yet your uncertainty just goes to show that his ploy is working. But it also adds to the sense of how ominously he looms over the future of the country, and how much of a toll even recognizing him as a legitimate political figure is taking from our psyches. [BTW: I previously wrote more on this, see Rupar below, which includes additional links on post-election worries.]

Jonathan Chait:

John Cassidy: Trump is attacking American democracy at its core.

Fabiola Cineas:

Adam Clark Estes/Rebecca Heilweil: The most dangerous conspiracy theory in 2020 isn't about blood-sucking pedophiles: "QAnon is scary, but misinformation about voter fraud poses a bigger and more immediate threat to democracy."

Susan B Glasser: Here are twenty other disturbing, awful things that Trump has said this month, and it's not over yet.

Eric Goldwyn: Costly lessons from the Second Avenue Subway.

Thom Hartmann: Trump's destruction of America started with Ronald Reagan: "Why Reaganism needs to be ripped out by the root."

Umair Irfan: Scientists fear the Western wildfires could lead to long-term lung damage.

Malaika Jabali: Joe Biden is repeating the same mistakes that cost Hillary Clinton the election: "Biden is trying to woo unhappy Republicans, when he should be mobilizing hundreds of thousands of Democrats." Well, that's one way to get your attention -- Hillary Clinton is, after all, the only Democrats who's ever managed to lose an election to Trump -- but why should those options be either/or? No doubt the Biden campaign needs to put a lot of effort into getting out the base vote -- that's how Obama won two elections for Biden, and that's one place Clinton dropped the ball. On the other hand, I don't see any harm from touting a few Republican endorsements -- former Michigan governor Rick Snyder (of Flint water notoriety) is mentioned here. I would worry if Biden started tailoring his program to make vague cross-party appeals, but considering his opponent, he has a readymade case -- e.g., sanity.

Peter Kafka: Apple won't take a cut -- for now -- when Facebook sells online classes: The underlying story is that Apple currently claims 30% of all charges for digital services that occur using apps from their app store (thus exploiting their control over iPhone users). I wasn't aware of that -- I've studiously avoided doing business with Apple ever since my Apple II days, when I got disgusted over their pricing of hardware components -- but evidently Google does the same thing with Android apps (I have an Android phone, but don't think I've ever downloaded any apps from their store, and certainly haven't paid them any money for them).

Roge Karma: To achieve racial justice, America's broken democracy must be fixed.

Jen Kirby: Yes, Russia is interfering in the 2020 election. "It wants to cause chaos, again. But it's also learned some lessons from 2016." It's no secret that Russian hackers favor Trump, and reasonable to infer that's because Putin favors Trump. But why seems to be nothing but speculation: maybe it's to sow chaos, maybe it's because Putin thinks Trump will be easier to deal with, maybe it's because Russia just wants to be viewed as a serious player, maybe the Republicans are subcontracting (an angle Mueller doesn't seem to have considered, distracted as he was by high level contacts between people who don't really work).

Ezra Klein:

Michael Kranish: Donald Trump, facing financial ruin, sought control of his elderly father's estate. The family fight was epic.

Eric Levitz:

Jane Mayer: A young Kennedy, in Kushnerland, turned whistle-blower.

Bill McKibben: A post-Ginsburg Court could be one more climate obstacle: Give him any arbitrary headline, and he'll write you a piece about how it threatens the planet, adding "any chance we still have will require abnormal action." Presumably, not abnormal as in McConnell's rush to approve Trump's pick. More like abnormal in attending demonstrations led by McKibben. I don't recall Ginsburg ever taking a stand on anthropogenic climate change, but I do recall the Supreme Court overturning EPA limits on greenhouse gases because they didn't consider the economic impacts. She may have dissented from that. Trump's next pick certainly won't, so I guess McKibben has a point. But it's always the same one.

Ian Millhiser: How the Supreme Court revived Jim Crow voter suppression tactics: Interview with Carol Anderson, author of One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy.

Sara Morrison: Section 230, the internet free speech law Trump wants to change, explained.

Nicole Narea:

Anna North: The Trump administration's war on birth control: "The Affordable Care Act made birth control more accessible than ever. Then came Trump."

Jeff Orlowski: We need to rethink social media before it's too late. We've accepted a Faustian bargain: "A business model that alters the way we think, act, and live our lives has us heading toward dystopia." Well, we never thought it through in the first place. Social media was created by private companies, and designed in ways to allow those companies to profit by taking advantage of their users, and delivering them to advertisers. There are as lot of problems with that, but giving the government more control over them, even if it's just regulating them as monopolies, isn't much better, and could be worse. I'd like to see non-profit entities set up to chip away at their market, with some kind of public funding replacing their need to sell things. One great thing about the Internet is that the marginal cost of data is nil, so there's no reason anyone has to excluded from anything. Working back from that point, it should be possible to subsidize content creation in ways that don't make it subject to political control. And all sorts of ancillary processes could be generated on the basis of what people actually want, as opposed to what a few entrepreneurs calculate can be turned into profit.

Evan Osnos: The TikTok fiasco reflects the bankruptcy of Trump's foreign policy.

JC Pan: Some rich people are hilariously freaked out about a Biden presidency: "The mere prospect of a Democratic president nominally meddling with their plunder has generated anxiety among the wealthy." The photo is of Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, worth $1.3 billion, and among the seriously worried:

A bombshell report released last week by the RAND Corporation revealed an astonishing upward redistribution of $47 trillion from the bottom 90 percent to the top 1 percent between 1975 and 2018. In their paper, authors Carter Price and Kathryn Edwards argued that if the country's economic gains over that time period had been distributed as they were in the postwar era -- that is, prior to the explosion of a bipartisan free market mania that slashed taxes, hobbled unions, and eviscerated public programs -- median worker pay today would be about twice what it is. "This really is the entire country versus a very small number of people," the Center for American Progress's Ben Olinsky said of the report. After nearly half a century of raking it in at the expense of everyone else, with the enthusiastic blessings of right-wing think tanks and policymakers from both major parties, it's no wonder that the one percent is now scandalized by whispers of even the mildest reforms.

Heather Digby Parton: Trump's eugenics obsession: He thinks he has "good German genes," because he's a fascist: "Trump's 'racehorse theory' of genetics is profoundly racist -- it's also why he thinks he's a natural-born genius."

Matt Phillips: China is on a building binge, and metal prices are surging.

Lili Pike: China's commitment to become carbon neutral by 2060, explained.

Andrew Prokop:

David Roberts:

Aaron Rupar:

Jerry Saltz: I don't know where this ends. But I cannot stop panicking about November. Sounds like he's my age, or a bit more -- talks about being at Chicago in 1968, whereas I only watched it on TV. Still, I can relate to this:

Call it liberal bedwetting; being afraid, unable to maintain our emotional hull-structures and psychological balance. Of course, it is all of that. Our internal shields collapsed. Not just waking up in the middle of the night thinking about how bad Trump and the Republicans are and have been. (That's been a norm for four years, never being able to "normalize" the actions of this ruling class.) But feeling like we were staring in the face of something bigger. And personal. Something like . . . our faith in America -- our mealy-mouthed, privileged, na´ve liberal conviction that the country would get better, erratically and only through fighting, but in some way that felt nevertheless reliable. I have always assumed that while the arc of history is long and hard and fraught, that in the end it really will arc toward justice. This was probably always foolish, but I felt it. The most pressing questions about progress always seemed to be when? and how fast? and over what obstacles? Not if.

I was pretty quickly disabused of the notion that America always does right -- the Vietnam War did that, but it was easy to find much more -- but it seemed like we always lucked out from the worst consequences of our deeds. After all, Americans are fundamentally practical people, so sooner or later you have to adjust to reality and go with something that works. Clearly, lots of things in America aren't working right now, and fixing them is going to be hard, in no small part because the solutions often run against myths right-wingers have propagated over the last 40 (to 75) years. Some such problems are subtle, intricate, difficult to see, and those will be the hardest. But some are as fucking obvious and transparent as Donald Trump, and can be solved as simply as voting him out (or if you're as angry as you should be, try this one). When I grew up, it was literally impossible to watch a movie or TV show that didn't inexorably lead to a happy ending, so you can see where my instincts came from. That started to change with the advent of "anti-heroes" (coincidentally with the Vietnam War), and has progressed to the point where villains are our heroes, and vice versa. And in this world, it's hard to believe that we'll catch a break, and see Trump and the Republicans caught up short.

Theodore Schleifer: This billionaire built a big-money machine to oust Trump. Why do some Democrats hate him? Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn and investor in other ventures. Nicholas Lemann wrote about him in Transaction Man: The Rise of the Deal and the Decline of the American Dream, where he was profiled along with Adolf Berle and Michael Jensen to illustrate the business thinking aligned with FDR's New Deal (Berle), Reagan's right-wing reaction (Jensen), and the business-friendly New Democrats like Clinton and Obama (Hoffman).

Nancy Scola: "Holy s---" is what we're thinking': Inside Facebook's reckoning with 2020.

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: Simple twists of fate: Weekly column, one I long avoided but these days he's starting to feel refreshing. Starts with a series of bullet items on Breonna Taylor, ranging from "There were 146 arrests in Louisville on Wednesday, none for the murder of Breonna Taylor" to this:

It's tempting to think: so, this is what we've come to. Police can break into your house in the middle of the night on specious warrant, shoot you in your bed, smear you after you're dead, entice witnesses to lie about you, fabricate stories about their own actions and then, after it's all been exposed, just walk. Free of charges. Free of discipline. Free to do it all over again. Because they will and they have. Yes, it's tempting to think this is what we've come to in the age of Trump. But what if this is what we've always been? Since the first slave patrols busted into houses late at night, to drag human beings back into a state of enshackled property.

Also this on the Supreme Court, which could have added more old cases (hundreds, maybe thousands) but stuck with the most notorious ones:

I keep hearing about the "legitimacy crisis" that will engulf the Supreme Court if the Senate moves forward with Trump's expected nomination. Yet when did the institution that rendered Dred Scott (1857), Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), Korematsu (1944), Bowers v. Hardwick, upholding Georgia's sodomy statute (1986), Bush v. Gore (2000), Exxon Shipping v. Baker, revoking punitive damages for Exxon Valdez wreck (2008) and Citizens United (2010) acquire this glittering aura of legitimacy?

The answer is that the 1940s-1970s court did a few things (but not everything) right, which led people of my age to look to the Court for protection against unjust political power. That Court has been systematically undermined over decades, but three Trump appointments pushes it over the edge into the abyss of despotism. And, by the way, stopping Barrett won't save us. The Court is already packed. On a different subject:

COVID-19 mortality rates were 30% lower in unionized nursing homes in New York. When there was a union, workers had significantly greater access to N95 masks and eye shields, and infection rates were lower.

Emily Stewart: We can end America's unemployment nightmare: "The problem with our social safety net is clear. The solution is, too." This is part of a series of articles Vox calls The Great Rebuild. Others:

Matt Stieb:

Margaret Sullivan: Four years ago, Trump survived 'Access Hollywood' -- and a media myth of indestructibility was born. This fails to mention that the Wikileaks dump of DNC emails came out right after the 'Access Hollywood' tape, a feint the media readily fell for. Then came Comey's announcement that the FBI was reopening its investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails, which resonated with all the earlier email stories. On the other hand, Trump managed to suppress the Stormy Daniels story until well after the election, so we have no idea how it might have played out, especially coming after the "Access Hollywood" tape. It certainly was true that major mainstream media outlets thought playing Trump up was good for business, and the polls suggested there wasn't much risk in doing so. They're liable to think the same thing for the same reasons this time. But repeatedly letting Trump off the hook isn't the same thing as deeming him indestructible. They could just as well take that as a challenge, and demolish him completely by election time. Lord knows, they owe the public a break.

Katrina Vanden Heuvel: Stephen F Cohen, 1938-2020. Obituary of the late Russia scholar and noted critic of neo-Cold War jingoism, especially popular among Clintonist Democrats since Hillary got shafted, by his wife, aka editor of The Nation. Also on Cohen:

AJ Vicens: Republicans decry slow ballot counts while hampering efforts to speed them up. This is typical of everything Republicans have done on elections this round: they never offer anything to increase voting, to make sure voting is representative of the public, and/or to make sure the results are credible and trusted. They only work to scam the system, which makes sense given that their agenda is contrary to the interests of most people, and that most people recognize it as such.

Alex Ward:

Jason Wilson/Robert Evans: Revealed: pro-Trump activists plotted violence ahead of Portland rallies.

Matthew Yglesias:

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