Matt Yglesias – The Hack Gap, Why Conservatives Have Such an Advantage in Shaping the News in a Supposed Liberal Media

So yeah, Clinton called half of Trump supporters “deplorables” and to this day it’s a talking point on the right.  Last week Trump called anybody who votes Democratic “crazy” – not a story at all.  Funny how the liberal media has such a conservative bias when it comes to stories that reinforce umbrage.

Matt Yglesias at Vox calls it the Hack Gap and analyzes its whys and wherefores.

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


Why People Should Vote – How Government Can Matter

Been having this conversation with people lately whereby they assert that they do not usually vote because “what can politicians do for me?” and they are surprised by my sudden and aggressive passion trying to get them to see the profound wrongness of that viewpoint.  Frustratingly they often think they’re the smartest people in the room for  opting out of the whole democracy thing.

This is easily fixed with bringing back civics classes, but since that’s not going to fix people who have already left High School, the easy terse answer is that if you imagine that government is just a self-driving car that will go where it wants to go without your input, you are wrong.  Cynicism may seem cool, but every great step forward for mankind from fire to universal healthcare was done by people sincerely looking for a better way.

Just thinking that such car is just going to keep going and it’ll be okay is truly dangerous thinking.  There’s no end of government success stories that people forget about because good public servants were elected, (or appointed), and also no end to the list of government failures, sometimes tragic, caused by the election of people of ill will because citizens opted out.  Let’s go right to Flint, Michigan.  Hordes of people stayed home and allowed a small turnout, predominantly of Republicans, to elect Gov. Snyder in 2010.  That governor, a businessman who campaigned on running the state as a business, took affirmative actions to undercut democracy in the majority minority areas of his state.  They made a decision to save money on water to be delivered to citizens in a predominantly African American city.  That decision further victimized people who already had a bad situation and poisoned thousands of innocent citizens who had no say in what was being imposed on them.  When people who want power and really don’t understand public service are elected, the results are very bad.

This is all a prelude to where we can go in the very near future if public servants are restored to positions of power in our capitals.  Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) has proposed a modified basic-income style plan that would be a great step forward along with Medicare for all.

First, Bernie Sanders unveils his Medicare-for-all bill; then Kirsten Gillibrand comes out for a job guarantee (and Sanders follows suit). Elizabeth Warren announces a plan to give workers seats on corporate boards, and Kamala Harris and Cory Booker propose new tax credits to help with rising rents.

The latest volley in the competition is the LIFT the Middle Class Act from Harris. As the Atlantic’s Annie Lowrey explains, the bill would offer a sizable cash payment to most middle-class households. Single people would get $250 per month or $3,000 a year, married couples would get $500 per month or $6,000 a year, and it would phase out for singles without kids making $50,000 or more, and for married couples or single people with kids making $100,000 or more. It costs about $200 billion in the first year or $2 trillion over 10, roughly in the range of the price tag for the 2017 tax cuts.

Obviously, we are way behind the social democracies of Europe in strengthening and expanding the social safety net that can lift all people and increase their opportunity to live up to their potential.  The U.S. is 13th as of 2018 in human development as measured by the United Nations.  We have a ways to go to strengthen the middle class and create a more generous state with affordable healthcare, education, childcare, etc.  The next step is the universal basic income, which is still on the drawing board in a Europe that has been retrenching since Thatcher.  But let’s be hopeful, ambitious strivers like the people that discovered fire, sliced bread, and the like, and have always pushed things forward.  The United States threw off monarchy first, and then Europe ran with our Constitution and surpassed us.  It’s our turn to catch up and surpass them with a burst of enlightenment.

These are the kinds of ideas that breed hope and engagement and can bring people in.  FDR’s New Deal wasn’t just the most successful program of social and economic reforms, they also created a generation of people that would never ever doubt the power of government and collective action.

And start up the damn civics classes again so I don’t have to yell at people.



Khashoggi Murder – This is Exactly Why We Have the Emoluments Clause

The Founding Fathers got a bunch of stuff wrong – their deification is white male privilege taken to the nth degree.  And that’s from a person who decries the misguided revisionism that says we have to judge slave owners by the values of our time, not theirs. So yes, we’re grateful for their boldness and the thoughtfulness and vision that went into so much of their legacy, but they weren’t infallible by a long shot and they never claimed any such godlike quality.  One thing that was a no-brainer was declaring that a chief executive can have no ties to foreign nations and cannot accept any gifts or titles from them.  They didn’t have cars, automatic weapons or women they had to respect but they sure had seen the consequences of those pesky “foreign entanglements” and the constraints of foreign policy that corruption can cause.

Like for example if a country is a human rights nightmare, as bad as the worst countries in the world in that regard, but our policy towards them is constrained by powerful financial ties.  Our foreign policy towards Saudi has been deranged since they discovered oil there.  We’ve castigated other countries with less blood on their hands as part of evil empires, and an axis of evil, and conspired for regime change.  Not Saudi.  Beheadings just go with the territory.  Moral relativism is evil, but all that oil and cash, well, let’s engage in real politik here!!

From FDR on we’ve been willing enablers of horrors in Saudi and other Middle Eastern nations that have always, always blown back on us.  The Iranian revolution  and the kidnapping of Americans was all about the CIA coup that dispatched a democratically elected nationalist president for a corrupt western puppet like the Shah.  9/11 was literally carried out by Saudis that hated America for supporting murderous dictators.  So we’ve been putting financial factors ahead of democracy and morality in Saudi for a long damn time.

Trump takes it to a new level of galling hypocrisy and venality.  The chief executive, his family and especially his son-in-law are dependent on Saudi money for their complex and mostly obscure private businesses.  It’s bad enough to base foreign policy on our thirst for oil, to cover up for a corrupt and inbred royal family because the first family didn’t disentangle their business interests is a new low.

His likening the implication of the Saudi Prince in the Khashoggi murder to the Kavanaugh affair, claiming that both are unfairly being labelled “guilty until proven innocent” means that the president has upped the ante from covering up the sexual assault of one arrogant frat boy for the murder of a human being by the worst dressed frat boy of all time.

This is why you do not elect a business man.  This is why you do not elect a businessman who will not put his finances in a blind trust.  This is why you do not elect a businessman who will not release his taxes.  This is why you do not elect a businessman with murky foreign ties.  This is why you do not elect a businessman who was helped in his election by foreign countries.

Sure we’re getting all these tax cuts and the infrastructure is coming and Americans are so happy that therapists are retiring early, but I assert that there may be a downside to Trump.

The Medium-sized Lie is Just as Dangerous – Anne Applebaum on Circular History and this Bad Moment in Europe

I warn you it’s long, but every word is worth it. American columnist Anne Applebaum lives in Poland with her husband who has been in the government there and has had a front row seat to the devolution of that democracy as well as the tumult in Hungary. As the American Jewish wife of a liberal political operative, she has become the focus of conspiracy theories created by the illiberal political right wing in Eastern Europe that lives on resentment, conspiracy theories and delusions of grandeur. Sound familiar? It will. Wherever the right makes its play for power the same ingredients are in the very strange brew.

A Warning From Europe: the Worst is Yet to Come

What has caused this transformation? Were some of our friends always closet authoritarians? Or have the people with whom we clinked glasses in the first minutes of the new millennium somehow changed over the subsequent two decades? My answer is a complicated one, because I think the explanation is universal. Given the right conditions, any society can turn against democracy. Indeed, if history is anything to go by, all societies eventually will.

We Americans look at history as linear. Our 242 years as a nation give us the illusion we’re moving forward. But in Europe they’ve had too much damn history to see it that simply.  History is instead quite circular, always repeating patterns.

It’s pretty bad here already for people whose relatives, neighbors, spouses voted incomprehensively in 2016. Imagine hosting a New Year’s party in 1999 and then just 19 years later being estranged from most of the people who attended. Some of them have slandered and libeled you as they embrace conspiracy theories about you and your secret cabal (with George Soros, of course) to destroy entire nations.

Crazy. But real.




Must Read – David Leonhardt “Trump Derangement Syndrome is a Myth”

Conventional wisdom says that the middle is disappearing from American politics: The Republicans have moved far to the right, the Democrats far to the left, and woe to any moderate voters looking for politicians to represent their views.

Well, the conventional wisdom is wrong. The Democrats have not actually become radical leftists, or anything close to it.

David Leonhardt offers a very pithy rebuttal to the absurd bothsideism that says both sides are moving to polar opposites.  Anybody who can read should know by now that Democrats have not moved nearly left over the last 10, 20, 30 years as the right has moved right.  Starting with Reagan in 1980 Republicans nominated someone considered too right for the GOP just 4 years earlier.  They’ve been drifting further right ever since with big movements in 2010 and in the Trump era with actual fascists and racists being nominated.  Even with so called “socialists” like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez being nominated in dark blue places like New York, and a general left movement among Democrats, there is no commensurate left movement on the whole by Democrats to compare to how far right the Republicans have gone.

I write this as I’m listening to a debate on radio wherein someone tries to say that both sides have gone off the rails.  The speaker hates the right for the obvious reasons.  But also chides the left for… what for it… toxic PC culture.

Yep, toxic PC culture.  That’s how the bothsidesers justify their a pox on both houses.  It’s not a policy, not a plank in the party platform, not even something that can or should be attributed expressly to Democrats, progressives or liberals but “toxic PC culture”.   And what constitutes toxic PC culture?   Well, don’t you think Roseanne Barr got a raw deal?  No. How about Louis CK?  um, no.  Should we be treating Al Franken the same as Harvey Weinstein?  Of course not, WHO IS??

The citation of “toxic PC culture” as a left movement is bullshit.

Let’s stick with actual policies and the metrics that can judge where the public is and where the politicians are on said policies, because it’s tough enough to intellectually assess that in any concrete way without having the entire debate weighted with cultural issues that do not emanate from legislation.  If people are less accepting of asshole behavior, that’s not a right or left issue except that the assholes need someone to blame for their downfall and blaming themselves is not an option.

In the real world this still controls:

For the most part, though, the Democratic agenda remains decidedly center-left: Raise taxes on the rich, and use the money to help the middle class and poor. Protect civil rights. Expand educational access. Regulate Wall Street, and fight climate change. Expand health insurance using the current system. And compromise with Republicans when necessary.

The radical agenda is the Republican agenda: Make climate change worse, unlike almost every other conservative party in the world. Aggravate inequality. Sabotage health-insurance markets. Run up the deficit. Steal a Supreme Court seat. Keep dark-skinned citizens from voting. Protect Trump’s lawlessness.

If you consider yourself a moderate — whether you lean slightly right or slightly left — your choice in this year’s midterms is clear.

Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty clear.  If you think, as these bothsidesists do, that some people agree with Democrats on many of the above issues, but are turned off by the “me too” movement, so they will vote for Republicans instead, I can’t help you.  Nobody can. Medication likely can’t.  There is no Trump Derangement Syndrome because there is no unacceptable level of anger at the threat he and his party present to our democracy.  However, if you have “Toxic PC culture” derangement syndrome, the cure is to get your head out yer ass.


When you’ve got a tiger by the tail you don’t let him go for five minutes to go pen an op-ed about it for the NYT

Is the anonymous Senior WH Staffer a hero?  Or just another Republican asshole that has enabled a totally unfit maniac to wield more power than any other living human (of any color, including orange) and endanger us all.  They help him continue to endanger our lives, our freedom, our economy.   They help him continue to blow holes through our laws, our norms, our traditions – our cherished imperfect democracy itself.  The promise that they’re holding him back is pretty goddamn empty.

What’s the end game here for these people?  Is it to continue to restrain him through 2020, through re-election and then continue to do it for another 4 years?  Because those sweet sweet corporate tax cuts and deregulation of well, everything! is all worth it.

No.  You want to help, don’t help.  Go public in ways that force Republicans on the Hill if not in the hinterlands to recognize that this is unsustainable and the menace has to be put down.

More and more I’m looking at Trump and I see Enron – a corrupt, amoral, unethical, all decency be damned unrestrained id.  And the Republican Party plays the role of Arthur Anderson, the giant accounting firm that looked the other way, certified their financial chicanery before the IRS and the SEC and ultimately received the institutional death penalty for their abandonment of their duties to society.

It must never be lost for one second that the GOP was supposed to be the gatekeeper that would protect the public from a despicable and irresponsible nominee for president.  The party always stood aside waiting to see what would happen when the dust cleared as the contenders tried lamely to stop him.  The party offered only a half-hearted non-endorsement, not the full strength of its derision.  They of course created this monster by populating the countryside with rabid, deluded, torch wielding idiots ready to burn it all down.  Then when it was clear that the mob had chosen him as their glorious leader, they succumbed, grabbed tikis and got behind him.  They too deserve the institutional death penalty.

The New Socialists

Corey Robin is one of the better translators of the movement.  It would confound conservatives and libertarians to learn that socialism is about freedom and they’re the ones selling being yoked to and reliant upon systems that actually consider your needs last.

I personally like the definition that freedom is when if you lose your job your kid doesn’t lose their health insurance over the conservative version of freedom which so often means freedom for some to do what they please and freedom for others to work for less, to starve, to suffer at the whim of the first guy.

The New Socialists – Corey Robin

Under capitalism, we’re forced to enter the market just to live. The libertarian sees the market as synonymous with freedom. But socialists hear “the market” and think of the anxious parent, desperate not to offend the insurance representative on the phone, lest he decree that the policy she paid for doesn’t cover her child’s appendectomy. Under capitalism, we’re forced to submit to the boss. Terrified of getting on his bad side, we bow and scrape, flatter and flirt, or worse — just to get that raise or make sure we don’t get fired.

The socialist argument against capitalism isn’t that it makes us poor. It’s that it makes us unfree. When my well-being depends upon your whim, when the basic needs of life compel submission to the market and subjugation at work, we live not in freedom but in domination.

As FDR declared in the Second Bill of Rights “[N]ecessitous men are not free men.”  Socialism rose and waned based on the common conception of how fair our society was.  As inequality reaches levels not seen since the Gilded Age, that teeth grinding and grumbling over how much the 1% have and how much of a struggle the working class are enduring is fueling this new generation of economic warriors who are just looking to use our wealth to relieve some of the rampant anxiety Americans are feeling.

Still, today’s socialism is just getting started. It took Lincoln a decade — plus a civil war, and the decision of black slaves to defy their masters, rushing to join advancing Union troops — to come to the position that free labor meant immediate abolition.

In magazines and on websites, in reading groups and party chapters, socialists are debating the next steps: state ownership of certain industries, worker councils and economic cooperatives, sovereign wealth funds. Once upon a time, such conversations were the subject of academic satire and science fiction. Now they’re getting out the vote and driving campaigns. It’s too soon to tell whether they’ll spill over into Congress, but events have a way of converting barroom chatter into legislative debate.

Let’s debate.