What Else Happened This Week

Some significant developments that are not part of the Mueller report:

On Thursday, Trump gave Bibi Netanyahu a big present:

On Thursday, President Trump tweeted his intention to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, territory that Israel annexed from Syria in the wake of the 1967 war. For decades the United States, along with the entire international community, has refused to recognize Israel’s annexation, instead treating the Golan Heights as temporarily occupied territory.

While commentary has largely focused on the effects Trump’s announcement will have in the Middle East, this shift in U.S. policy has global implications, as well. Trump’s position on the Golan Heights is inconsistent with what scholars call the territorial integrity norm, the principle that denounces territorial conquest as a legitimate instrument of international politics. Trump’s announcement is likely to weaken the norm of territorial integrity, and in the process, undercut the U.S. ability to deter and punish states that engage in territorial expansion.

Juan Cole puts it in starker terms. Please read his entire post; this is just a snip:

Trump’s call for recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, a part of Syria, is intended to help his and his donors’ ally Binyamin Netanyahu win the Israeli elections.

It is another example of his uncanny ability to sabotage his own policies.

Not to mention to sabotage any semblance of international legality. …

…Russian President Vladimir Putin is delighted at Trump’s move, since it cuts off at the knees US objections to the Russian annexation of Crimea from the Ukraine (and at least Russia had Crimea until 1954; Israel never had the Golan).

Moreover, it has implications for Russia’s return as a Middle East power.

The Syrian regime is already grateful to Putin’s Russia for its military intervention to defeat the rebels. Now, Damascus will view its close relationship with Moscow as the only hope of recovering lost territory. No state is willing to lose territory, and a weak Syria knows it cannot fight this development alone.

Juan Cole goes on to explain that the move has royally pissed off Turkey and is likely to drive other nations in the region to ally themselves with Iran. Way to go. See also Michael McGough, The Golan Heights switch is typical Trump, in the Los Angeles Times.

But thoroughly gumming up the Middle East was just a warmup. Then Trump announced a new appointment to the Federal Reserve Board — Stephen Moore.

Steven Pearlstein writes at WaPo:

Now our reality-TV president is set to nominate Stephen Moore, a right-wing crackpot who has been playing a TV economist for decades, for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board.

I use the phrase “right-wing crackpot” after careful consideration of possible alternatives, recognizing that it’s generally not a good idea to criticize the motives or intelligence of those with whom you disagree. Unfortunately, “famous idiot” was already taken by New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, who for two decades has been chronicling Moore’s unbroken string of false statements and failed predictions. I also might have gone with “charlatan and crank,” but New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, a real economist with a Nobel Prize, beat me to it.

During the 2008 financial crisis, Moore and I were in regular disagreement while appearing on a CNBC show hosted by another TV economist, Larry Kudlow, now President Trump’s top economic policy adviser. Back then, Moore was blaming the government rather than Wall Street for the market crash and warning that the heavy dose of fiscal and monetary stimulus then proposed by the Obama administration and the Fed would result in hyperinflation and a collapse of the dollar. …

…The central features of Moore’s economic way of thinking? A stubborn refusal to learn from historical experience, embrace economic consensus or accept the world as it is rather than as he would like it to be. He led the charge in predicting that the Clinton and Obama tax increases would fail to raise additional revenue and drive the economy into recession. He turned out to be wrong on both counts.

The only way Moore is able to continue peddling his supply-side nonsense is to simply make stuff up, hoping nobody will notice. A few years back, Miriam Pepper, the editorial-page editor of the Kansas City Star, caught him lying red-handed in an op-ed she had published. She banned him from ever appearing on her pages again. Indeed, outside the alternate-reality bubbles of Fox News, the Heritage Foundation, the Wall Street Journal editorial page and the Trump White House, Moore has no credibility, even as a TV economist.

Here’s a blog post by Paul Krugman from 2015 that’s just too deliciously snarky not to quote:

But there’s another aspect of the story, which is Moore himself: this is a guy who has a troubled relationship with facts. I don’t mean that he’s a slick dissembler; I mean that he seems more or less unable to publish an article without filling it with howlers — true, all erring in the direction he wants — in a way that ends up doing his cause a disservice. For example, his attempt to refute something I wrote about Kansas ended up being mainly a story about why Stephen can’t count, which presumably wasn’t his intention.

But here’s the mystery: evidently Moore has had a successful career. Why?

Think about Heritage: It’s immensely wealthy, and could surely afford to hire a technically competent right-wing hack. The Wall Street Journal, similarly, could have attracted someone much less likely to trip over his own intellectual shoelaces. Again, the problem isn’t even that Moore got the macroeconomics of recent years all wrong, although he did; it’s the inability to write without making embarrassing mistakes.

See also Krugman’s 2016 post on Larry Kudlow and Stephen Moore, titled “Send in the Clowns.”

Yesterday Trump tweeted a cancellation of some new economic sanctions against North Korea:

The tweet caused much confusion, because Treasury hasn’t announced any additional sanctions yesterday. It had announced some sanctions on Thursday, but what the Tweetster was talking about, it turns out, were some sanctions that hadn’t been announced yet.

Trump was referring to a future round of previously unknown sanctions scheduled for the coming days, said administration officials familiar with the matter. The officials declined to specify what those sanctions would entail.

The move to forestall future sanctions represents an attempt by the president to salvage his nuclear negotiations with North Korea in the face of efforts by national security adviser John Bolton and others to increase punitive economic measures against the regime of Kim Jong Un.

The confusion created by policy differences inside the administration was compounded by the president’s imprecise tweet.

When asked to explain the tweet, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders simply noted that “President Trump likes Chairman Kim, and he doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary.”

The Many Roads to Universal Health Care

In his column yesterday, Paul Krugman reminded us that there are many possible solutions to our health care mess and that the Democratic Party seems to be moving toward two possibilities.

On one side, there’s “Medicare for All,” which has come to mean the Bernie Sanders position: replacing the entire existing U.S. health insurance system with a Medicare-type program in which the government pays most medical bills directly.

On the other side, there’s “Medicare for America,” originally a proposal from the Center for American Progress, now embodied in legislation.

The difference is that Medicare for America would allow people to keep employee-based insurance if they (and their employers) want that. Buying into Medicare would be a voluntary option, with substantial subsidies provided for lower- and middle-income people.

My concern is that a lot of people I bump into on social media seem fixated on Medicare for All as the only way to go, and any other approach is selling out. In many cases I can tell that people making these pronouncements are using “Medicare for All” as a synonym for “universal health care as a right” without really understanding that Medicare for All is just one of many roads to the same goal.

These days, most people on the left are very aware that the United States is the only industrialized democracy that doesn’t have a taxpayer-supported system providing at least basicc health care to all citizens. What has escaped the notice of many is that the many different countries have developed many different way to approach this. The French system is different from the German system is different from the Japanese system is different from the UK’s National Health Service system, etc.

Many countries have mixed public and private systems. The very highly rated Australian health care system, for example, provides a single-payer system to cover many medical services but encourages people to get private insurance also, often subsidized, for more comprehensive coverage. You can read about it here. The Commonweal Fund gives the Australian system a very high rating for providing good care; it’s also one of the most cost-effective systems on our planet.

I’m not saying that this is how the U.S. should go; I’m just pointing out that there are many ways to provide universal health care. Countries with only a single-payer system providing all health care are unusual. Most countries have worked out some kind of mixed public and private system. Switzerland’s system is something like Obamacare on steroids. The British National Health Service features government-owned hospitals staffed with government-employed doctors. And so on. You can compare the health care services of several countries from this page.

Krugman continues,

Every two years the Commonwealth Fund provides an invaluable survey of major nations’ health care systems. America always comes in last; in the latest edition, the three leaders are Britain, Australia and the Netherlands.

What’s remarkable about those top three is that they have radically different systems. Britain has true socialized medicine — direct government provision of health care. Australia has single-payer — it’s basically Bernie down under. But the Dutch rely on private insurance companies — heavily regulated, with lots of subsidies, but looking more like a better-funded version of Obamacare than like Medicare for All. And the Netherlands actually tops the Commonwealth Fund rankings.

It’s a shame we haven’t been allowed to have a rational discussion about national health care systems and what might work best for us without right-wing whackjobs screaming over everyone about death panels and gulags. But that’s the world we live in.

Krugman argues that the system he’d prefer to go with is the one most likely to actually get passed in Congress and enacted into law. And a lot of people think that the Medicare for America plan would be an easier sell.

Paul Waldman wrote a few days ago:

As you may know, almost every Democrat running for president has said he or she supports Medicare-for-all, but most of them (with the exception of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has been proposing a single-payer plan for years) have been vague about what that might mean. Maybe private insurance will be eliminated, or maybe not; maybe people will continue to get coverage through their employers, or maybe not. They will all presumably present specific plans eventually, but they haven’t yet.

What they are doing is circling closer and closer to something that doesn’t yet have a name, but which I’ll call “Medicare For Anyone.” The fundamental difference between that and Medicare-for-all is that instead of eliminating (or minimizing) private insurance and putting everyone into the same pool, it would open up Medicare or something like it to anyone who wants it.

In most of the variations that have been proposed, large numbers of Americans (newborns, people with low incomes, the uninsured) are automatically enrolled to make sure they’re covered. Employers can choose to stay with the insurance they have, or put their employees into the government plan. It’s paid for through a combination of taxes and premiums, with low-income people paying nothing and premiums rising with income.

For the moment I won’t get too deep into the policy details. But if you’re looking for a full version of it, there’s a proposal from Reps. Rosa DeLauro and Jan Schakowsky called “Medicare for America” that is probably what most Democratic candidates will either specifically endorse or which will be very similar to what they present.

But if you want to sum it up in the most simplified form, this kind of proposal is like Medicare-for-all, except instead of everyone being put into Medicare, there will still be private insurance plans that people can stay with if they want to. If the policy heart of it is that everyone gets insured, the political heart is that it’s voluntary.

I suspect that over time the employee-based insurance would fade away and pretty much everyone would be in the single-payer system. And like Krugman, I also believe that selling the Medicare for America plan to the American people would be a lower mountain to climb than achieving Medicare for All.

However, I fear that even if most of the Democratic Party gets behind it, the plan will be undermined by people on the Left who are suspicious of anything that doesn’t have the Medicare for All label. If that gets in the way of passing something, that would be a damn shame.

For that matter, if Obamacare could be updated to make it more like the systems in Switzerland and the Netherlands, that wouldn’t be absolutely terrible. I’d prefer one of the Medicare-based approaches, though.

Did Deregulation Cause the Boeing Fiasco?

Something we learned today:

As the pilots of the doomed Boeing jets in Ethiopia and Indonesia fought to control their planes, they lacked two notable safety features in their cockpits.

One reason: Boeing charged extra for them.

And these features were …

The jet’s software system takes readings from one of two vanelike devices called angle of attack sensors that determine how much the plane’s nose is pointing up or down relative to oncoming air. When MCAS detects that the plane is pointing up at a dangerous angle, it can automatically push down the nose of the plane in an effort to prevent the plane from stalling.

Boeing’s optional safety features, in part, could have helped the pilots detect any erroneous readings. One of the optional upgrades, the angle of attack indicator, displays the readings of the two sensors. The other, called a disagree light, is activated if those sensors are at odds with one another.

Boeing will soon update the MCAS software, and will also make the disagree light standard on all new 737 Max planes, according to a person familiar with the changes, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they have not been made public. Boeing started moving on the software fix and the equipment change before the crash in the Ethiopia.

It sounds to me that there is more to this story, and when it comes out it will make Boeing look very, very bad. If it comes out, I should say.

James Hall, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board during Bill Clinton’s administration, wrote last week,

President Trump’s executive order on Wednesday afternoon to ground all Boeing 737 Max 8s was a necessary step. But it is a step that should have been taken directly by the federal agency responsible for aviation safety. That it came from the White House instead speaks to a profound crisis of public confidence in the F.A.A.

The roots of this crisis can be found in a major change the agencyinstituted in its regulatory responsibility in 2005. Rather than naming and supervising its own “designated airworthiness representatives,” the agency decided to allow Boeing and other manufacturers who qualified under the revised procedures to select their own employees to certify the safety of their aircraft. In justifying this change, the agency said at the time that it would save the aviation industry about $25 billion from 2006 to 2015. Therefore, the manufacturer is providing safety oversight of itself. This is a worrying move toward industry self-certification.

Jeff Wise wrote at Slate:

For many years, every time a significant accident occurred, investigators would arrive on the scene, figure out what happened, and then issue a rule. Over time, there grew to be a mountain of regulations, directives, circulars, notices, and advisories. They cover things like the time interval between inspections of a particular part, the vertical distance that a plane can fly from its assigned altitude, the age at which pilots must get physicals every two years instead of every three. To read any one of these rules is an excruciatingly boring task, and there are millions of them. Yet each is there for a reason. If any one of them were erased, lives could be put at risk.

The urgency of a safety-first mindset is steeped into every facet of aviation. Pilots tend to be meticulous, dot-the-i-and-cross-the-t kind of people. The type who got their homework in on time, and enjoyed doing so. They understand the paradox of freedom: that you can only soar carefree above the clouds if you’ve been anal enough to check the fuel-tank sump and know that water won’t clog your fuel line.

The problem is: Regulation has gone out of fashion. As well as being tedious, regulations are also expensive. They require the commitment of money, material, and labor. One can easily imagine a struggling aviation company for which the expense of complying with regulations can mean the difference between survival and bankruptcy. If lives are at stake, so are livelihoods.

If you haven’t already read it, do see Wise’s Where Did Boeing Go Wrong?: How a bad business decision may have made the 737 Max vulnerable to crashes. And see After two fatal Boeing plane crashes, the world turned on the US.

Some conservative/libertarian pundits argue against any connection between deregulation and the Boeing crashes. Indeed, one cannot point to any particular rule that was deregulated that directly caused the crashes. But one has to question whether those planes would have been flying, in particular without all safety features, if regulators who were not employees of the company were deciding whether they would fly.

Sixteen Years

Paul Waldman reminds us that the invasion of Iraq was 16 years ago today. It says something that those seem like relatively innocent times compared to what we’re going through now. But Waldman’s question is, “What did we learn?”

Democrats learned a number of things. Many of them, including figures like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, learned that trying to look “strong” by supporting military adventurism makes you look anything but. And they learned that their worst fears about what such adventurism can bring came true.

I don’t know that Kerry and Clinton really learned that. Well, Kerry, maybe. In 2008 he said, “Four years ago today, the United States Senate voted to give President Bush the authority to use force in Iraq. There’s nothing — nothing — in my life in public service I regret more, nothing even close. We should all be willing to say: I was wrong, I should not have voted for the Iraq War Resolution.”

But when he was running for POTUS in 2004, and many times since 2008, Kerry has claimed that he really truly opposed invading Iraq back in 2002 and only voted for the Iraq War resolution … well, he seems to come up with differing reasons for voting for the Iraq War resolution. FactCheck.org says that at the time Kerry was mostly supportive of invading Iraq but criticized how Bush was going about it.

Hillary Clinton has made several different excuses for the vote, ranging from an argument that she really just wanted Saddam Hussein to allow weapons inspectors back into Iraq (people forget that he did; Bush invaded anyway) to saying that yes, she was sorry about the vote, but having made that mistake made her uniquely qualified to not make it again.

However, I do think that other Democrats learned a lesson from the damage the vote did to Kerry and Clinton and have realized that it’s okay to oppose military adventurism. I believe that future Dems will not be so easily cowed by Republican war-mongering. So that’s something.

But what did Republicans learn? Waldman says, nothing.

It may have faded from most people’s memory by now, but in the 2016 presidential primaries the Republican Party was bedeviled by the question of Iraq, and specifically whether the war was a mistake. Though that was evident to every sane person in the country, it was a hard thing for those seeking to lead the party to admit, because their entire party couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about it at the time, and acknowledging the truth would mean criticizing the last Republican president.

The excuse is, of course, that the intelligence was wrong. But the real intelligence, meaning the genuine information available about Saddam Hussein’s capabilities and intentions,  wasn’t wrong. The morons in the White House refused to believe it because they wanted to go to war, so they made up their own intelligence.

Of the Republican candidates in 2016, Trump was alone in saying he wouldn’t have gone into Iraq, although that’s far from certain.

Yes, in typical fashion, Trump told a ludicrous series of lies about what a loud opponent he had been in 2003, even claiming that his opposition was so potent that the Bush administration sent a delegation to New York to beg him to tone it down. (In fact, he had said almost nothing publicly about the war and didn’t oppose it.) …

Trump ran for president saying he didn’t want to get entangled in more invasions like Iraq. But this wasn’t because he worried about the cost in human suffering or the threat to American interests, because he doesn’t care about human suffering and never demonstrated much conception of what American interests might be. His point was more that he wouldn’t invade someplace to spread democracy, nor would he favor military action to stop a genocide.

But what about the rest of the party?

But there’s absolutely no evidence that anyone in the Republican Party learned much of anything from the Iraq disaster. The next Republican president will probably be just as eager to launch an invasion or two as the last one was. You don’t hear them talk about the lessons of Iraq, because they didn’t draw any.

Within the GOP, the Bush Doctrine — or at least the part of it involving the belief that American military force is a useful tool to shape the world to our liking, and unintended consequences are not really anything to worry about — lives on. It’s just in suspended animation until Trump is no longer leading the party.

The Republican Party as we know it has to die.

Being Responsible

After the Oklahoma City bombing, President Clinton had this to say about hate speech:

President Clinton Monday denounced the “loud and angry voices” that inflame the public debate and called on the American people to speak out against “the purveyors of hatred and division.”

Addressing last week’s bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, Clinton said the nation’s airwaves are too often used “to keep some people as paranoid as possible and the rest of us all torn up and upset with each other. They spread hate, they leave the impression that, by their very words, that violence is acceptable. … It is time we all stood up and spoke against that kind of reckless speech and behavior,” he said in Minneapolis.

In angry tones, the president said: “When they talk of hatred, we must stand against them. When they talk of violence, we must stand against them. When they say things that are irresponsible, that may have egregious consequences, we must call them on it.”

You probably remember what happened next.

Some conservatives reacted furiously to suggestions that there is a link between the Oklahoma bombing and harsh public attacks on government. Rush Limbaugh accused liberals on Monday of trying to foment a “national hysteria” against the conservative movement.

“Make no mistake about it: Liberals intend to use this tragedy for their own political gain,” said Limbaugh, whose radio show is carried on 660 stations. He blamed “many in the mainstream media” for “irresponsible attempts to categorize and demonize those who had nothing to do with this. … There is absolutely no connection between these nuts and mainstream conservatism in America today.”

The joke is that “mainstream conservatism” these days is synonymous with “right-wing extremism,” and the few remaining conservatives who are, you know, conservative got hooted out of the Republican party some time ago. Only the nutjobs remain.

Many years have passed. Now we know that back in the innocent days before Tim McVeigh was executed the Right was just getting warmed up. Now we’ve got a monster posing as POTUS who threatens political opponents with violence and hurls vile hate speech at minorities, especially Latinos and Muslims.

Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry has a long history. In 2011 and 2012, Trump insinuated that President Barack Obama was secretly Muslim. In September 2015, at a campaign rally, Trump nodded along as a supporter claimed “we have a problem in this country; it’s called Muslims.” Trump continued nodding, saying “right,” and “we need this question!” as the supporter then proceeded to ask Trump “when can we get rid of them [Muslims]?” In response, Trump said: “We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things.”

In November 2015, on “Morning Joe,” Trump said that America needs to “watch and study the mosques.” Four days later, he indicated that he would “certainly implement” a database to track Muslims in the United States. Two days after that, he falsely claimed that “thousands and thousands” of Muslims cheered in New Jersey when the World Trade Center collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001.

Then came the most egregious statement — one that should haunt Trump’s legacy forever and taint everyone who supported him subsequently: On Dec. 7, 2015, he called to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. Three days later, Trump tweeted that the United Kingdom is “trying hard to disguise their massive Muslim problem.” On March 9, 2016, Trump falsely claimed that “Islam hates us.”

See also Republicans Are Denying Trump’s Complete Open Bigotry Against Muslims. But, of course, it isn’t just Trump. Steve King got into trouble again with a tweet that encouraged civil war. And then there’s the ever horrible Jeanine Pirro. Pirro was booted off Fox News — I assume temporarily — for this:

Pirro teed off on criticism of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) for allegedly making anti-Semitic remarks in discussing Israel and its supporters in the United States. Omar is a Muslim and wears a hijab. “Think about it,” said Pirro. “Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to sharia law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution?”

But Trump is outraged that one of his favorite bobbleheads was taken off the air.

One of the few bedrock values that nearly all Americans at least pay lip service to is the right to say any damnfool thing you want without penalty from the government. Other western democracies do prohibit some speech, such as screeds denying the Holocaust. Germany bans displays of Nazi symbols. Germany also bans Volksverhetzung, “incitement of the people” or hate speech. Should the U.S. do likewise? The problem, of course, is that when the Right takes back government again I hate to think how they would administrate such a ban. See Trump Supporters Say the Darndest Things.

https://www.citywatchla.com/index.php/2016-01-01-13-17-00/important-reads/16495-trump-s-anti-semitism-shouting-fire-in-a-crowded-theater

Speaking of “Electability”

Paul Waldman wrote yesterday,

… it doesn’t matter which of the Democratic candidates for president now looks as though they might be able to appeal to Republicans, because none of them will. It won’t matter who they are or where they come from or what kind of talent they have. Once they’re run through the conservative media wringer, everyone on the right will despise them.

Which suggests that Democrats should do something radical and pick the candidate they like the best, not the candidate they think other people will like. Most Democrats like Ocasio-Cortez, so they shouldn’t be worried if Republicans hate her. Likewise, they shouldn’t freak out when Fox News and the rest of the conservative media start going to town on their nominee and whatever negligible approval that person has among Republicans disappears. It’s inevitable.

This is something I’ve written about before; see Ground Rules for Politics Nerds.  See also Matt Taibbi.

The role of “electability” has always been to convince voters to pick someone other than the candidate they prefer. The idea is to tell audiences which candidate has the broad appeal to win.

The metric pundits usually employ is, “Which Democrat could most easily pass for a Republican?” and vice-versa.

“Electability” tends to come up most in election seasons when the incumbent president is violently unpopular with minority-party voters. This is why people should be cautious now. With Democratic voters so anguished by Trump’s presidency they’ll pick anyone they think is the best bet to win, be on the lookout for experts pretending to know the unknowable — how the broad mean of voters will behave nearly two years from now.

Picking who we want, rather than who we think mythical “centrists” will vote for, is important for two reasons. One, as we should have learned in 2016, a lot of people are likely to sit out an election if the Dem candidate, or either candidate, isn’t somebody they feel good about voting for. Just a D after the name isn’t enough.

In the endless social media discussions of which candidate is “electable,” I keep saying that the one with the broadest and deepest genuine support among liberal/progressive voters can beat Trump, because the base will turn out for such a candidate. However, we don’t know who that person is yet. It will be several months before we do know. Don’t listen to anyone who says otherwise.

By genuine support I mean the person who actually embodies and expresses our hopes, ideals, and policy preferences. Not-genuine support is voting in the primary for the candidate the teevee ads keep saying can beat Trump, whether you like that candidate or not. I’m convinced Hillary Clinton won a lot of primaries with that argument.

The other reason to vote for the person we most want to be president is that winning the next election isn’t enough. The Democrats need to sustain power and build on it. As Martin Longman wrote awhile back, “Democrats have a pattern of losing their majorities at the first opportunity after they gain them. This happened in the 1994 midterms and again in the 2010 midterms.” I would add that every time Republicans take back a portion of government from Democrats they are even more crazy right-wing than they were before.

Even assuming the “safe” pragmatic incrementalist blah blah blah Democrat takes back the White House in 2020, and even if we take over both houses of Congress, if the Dems fritter away the next two years with small-bore incrementalist policies that mean little to most people, you can pretty much count on another midterm shellacking. And then we’ll be back to nowhere.

Going back to Paul Waldman’s column, it hardly matters what Democrats propose or what they do; the right-wing media will blast them for it. The next Democratic presidential nominee will be soundly denounced by the right-wing media infrastructure. She or he will be called radical, socialist (all of them; not just Bernie Sanders), America-hating, military-hating, God-hating, and crazy. Any policies she or he runs on will be socialist, job-killing, budget-busting (like they care), too expensive, ruinous, and will amount to giving undeserving people something they didn’t earn. It hardly matters how centrist or conciliatory the nominee might be, or whether, like Obamacare, the hated policy is one that originated on the Right and is based on conservative principles. The Right will pour fire and hate speech upon it, and Fox News regular viewers will be certain that if this terrible thing comes to pass, America is done.

So, no more defensive nominees. Vote for the nominee you want to be president.

Can We Take Right-Wing Terrorism Seriously Now?

Just hours after the so-called president dropped an unsubtle threat of violence against his political enemies, a right-wing terrorist attack took the lives of (so far) 49 people in New Zealand. The shooter was a right-wing white nationalist/supremacist. C.J. Werleman writes in the Sydney Morning Herald that the killer’s social media profile “reads as the sum total of every counter-terrorism practitioner’s and academic’s fear, one that law-enforcement agencies throughout the Western hemisphere have long warned to be the No. 1 terror threat: right-wing extremism.”

Tried to warn,anyway. Here in the U.S., in 2009 political pressure from “conservatives” squelched a report issued by the Department of Homeland Security to federal, state and local law enforcement regarding the threat of terrorism from right-wing extremists groups. See The Terrorists Among Us (November 2018) and Malkin et al. Admit That “Conservatives” Are Right-Wing Extremists and Potential Terrorists (April 2009).

Back to Werleman:

More specifically, Tarrant represents the dangerous convergence between broken white men and extreme right-wing media, bearing in mind that 100 per cent of all terrorist attacks carried out on US soil in 2018 were carried out by right-wing extremists, with the Southern Poverty Law Centre crediting a “toxic combination of political polarisation, anti-immigrant sentiment and modern technologies that help spread propaganda online”.

This particular shooter was streaming a live video of the massacre as it happened and had uploaded a 74-page manifesto explaining his motivation. Josh Marshall:

This shooter is someone who is immersed in the great arc of anti-immigrant, racist hyper-nationalist discourse and paramilitary violence ranging from the rightist parties of Europe, various mass murderers like Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik to the white supremacist and neo-Nazi subculturewe have come to know so well in the US. Charlottesville, Pittsburgh, Charleston. Dylann Roof’s massacre gets explicit reference as an inspiration and antecedent for this massacre.

Josh Marshall goes on to say that a thread running through white nationalist terrorism around the globe is an obsession with being replaced by minorities.

This will not surprise you.

The ringleader of a deadly terrorist attack on two New Zealand mosques left a 74-page manifesto explaining their rationale for going on a murder spree that has so far caused 49 deaths and many more serious injuries. In that manifesto, the author explains “that he supported President Donald Trump as a ‘symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose’ but not as a ‘policy maker.’” The overall tenor of the manifesto is a familiar argument about immigration causing a “white genocide.”

I’ve written about the confluence of white entitlement and right-wing politics a lot over the years, such as in this post from about a year ago. Individuals who get sucked into right-wing extremism tend to be people with a fanatical grievance — they aren’t getting something to which they believe they are entitled — who somehow find empowerment in nationalist symbolism and some authority figure who articulates their anger. Such people are dangerous. I don’t have anything new to add.

I will give the last word to Waheed Aly, speaking on Australian television.

A postscript — the ever brilliant Louie Gohmert thinks that such violence is so unnecessary and can be corrected with more death. (H/t Oliver Willis).

“There are courts, dispute resolutions, and legislatures to resolve controversies – there is no place for cold blooded murders. Though New Zealand does not have the death penalty, hopefully its people, through their justice system, will send the message loudly and clearly that such barbarity from anyone will not be tolerated,” he wrote.

Well, at least Louie didn’t claim the shooter wasn’t mentally ill.

Our Decadent Aristocracy

What do the college admissions scandal, Paul Manafort’s lame sentences, and the Boeing 737 Max have in common? They all show us that the U.S. is being run by a decadent, corrupt, incompetent, and inbred aristocracy. Government of the people? Ha.

As of this morning the Boeing 737 Max has been grounded nearly everywhere on the planet except in the United States. [Update: As I was writing this, Trump announced he is grounding the planes, overriding the opinion of his FAA acting director. He was probably catching a lot of grief about the planes.] You will not be surprised to learn that the acting director of the FAA — acting because Donald Trump hasn’t bothered to appoint anyone permanent — is a one-time American Airlines executive who spent a large part of his career as a representative/lobbyist for airline industry associations. I’m sure he will keep the Boeing 737 Max planes in the air until one of them drops out of the sky on his head. This guy’s boss, Elaine Chao of Transportation, could overrule him. But we’re talking about Mrs. Mitch McConnell here.

McConnell married former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao in 1993. Normally a wedding isn’t a big moneymaker, but when his mother-in-law died in 2008, he and Chao received a monetary gift between $5 million and $25 million, according to PolitiFact. Chao is the daughter of a wealthy Chinese shipping company founder.

The plane itself seems to be the result of Boeing executives — part of the corporate aristocracy — overruling engineers. See Jeff Wise, “Where did Boeing Go Wrong?” in Slate.

And then there’s Paul Manafort, a man who spent years running illegal scams involving tax and real estate fraud, not to mention his work for a blood-soaked Ukranian despot, but who lived an otherwise blameless life.  As Charles Pierce said, “Robbing Oleg to pay Ivan is a nice way to get some polonium in your Cheerios, and it takes a special kind of crook to turn someone like Oleg Deripaska into a wronged plaintiff, but otherwise blameless Paul Manafort managed to do it.”

I’ve written before about the way white collar crime just gets winked at in the U.S. “According to the FBI, the annual cost of street crime is $15 billion compared to nearly $1 trillion for white-collar crime,” it says here. One wonders why it isn’t taken more seriously (she said, sarcastically).

The college admission scandal, at least, ought to make people think twice about badmouthing affirmative action. It ought to, but it won’t.

One of the unintentionally hilarious aspects of the college admission scandal is that the federal prosecutors themselves drew a line between bribing a soccer coach to get a child admitted and the time-honored practice of bribing the entire bleeping university — say, with a new building — to ensure that Junior gets a place in the next freshman class. Charles Kushner spent $2.5 million getting his drearily unexceptional son Jared into Harvard, for example. This was a few years before Dad served 14 months for illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering. But now the dimwit son is in charge of U.S. foreign policy! So heartwarming.

Frank Bruni wrote,

The wrinkle here is that the schemes were actually criminal and will apparently be prosecuted, and for once the colleges’ administrators were in the dark about them. But they’re versions of routine favor-trading and favoritism that have long corrupted the admissions process, leeching merit from the equation.

It may be legal to pledge $2.5 million to Harvard just as your son is applying — which is what Jared Kushner’s father did for him — and illegal to bribe a coach to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars,but how much of a difference is there, really? Both elevate money over accomplishment. Both are ways of cutting in line.  …

… What a message it sends to the children: You’re not good enough to do this on your own. You needn’t be. Your parents and your counselors know the rules, and when and how to break them. Just sit back and let entitlement run its course.

And then the children so admitted become our captains of industry and heads of government, because the truth is that these days good grades, ability, smarts and talent get you nowhere in America. Success comes from privilege, money, and connections.

See also Farhad Manjoo:

The real news in the college-bribery scheme isn’t that the ultrarich have discovered a fast track to the Ivy League. Instead, the true story here concerns the petite charms of the slightly less bougie. Rather than the perfidies of billionaires and hundred-millionaires, the charges illustrate the anxieties afflicting people who are just below society’s tippy-top rung.

Dig into the parents charged and you find they are the mere mini-titans of tech, finance, law and entertainment, mostly falling into a class that the billionaire Peter Thiel once described with pained sympathy as “single-digit millionaires.

And while the billionaires are crushing society on a grand scale, the single-digit millionaires are striving to crush it small. Beyond what the bribery scheme says about the integrity of the American education system, the charges tell a story about the democratization of graft — or what you might more aptly call the Uberization of it.

Some news articles have talked about the cutthroat nature of college admission, but what they are really talking about is getting slacker teens with average or less grades into prestigious schools. A high school grad with reasonably good grades can always get into some college, somewhere. But the education isn’t the point, is it?

And someday these little hothouse flowers will get all kinds of opportunities that the merely bright and hard-working will be denied, and our ruling class will get dumber and dumber.

The Hapsburgs, who got dumber and uglier over time, once dominated Europe.

Trump’s Soylent Green Budget

Let’s review:

Now, let’s look at what Trump put in the budget proposal released yesterday, from Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent:

Some of the highlights:

  • The Trump budget would cut about $845 billion from Medicare over 10 years
  • It cuts $241 billion from Medicaid
  • It would push Medicaid toward block grants which cap the amount each state would receive, which when the money runs out would result in pared-back benefits, recipients being tossed off the program or both
  • It would eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, which would mean millions would lose their health coverage
  • It would cut $25 billion from Social Security
  • It would impose work requirements on recipients of food stamps, Medicaid and housing assistance, forcing them to navigate a bureaucratic maze or lose their benefits
  • It would cut $220 billion from food stamps
  • It would cut $1.1 trillion from domestic discretionary programs, which do not include Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security
  • It would cut the Department of Housing and Urban Development by 16 percent and the Education Department by 12 percent
  • It would cut the Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent

In short, it’s Ryan’s dream come true.

Now, it’s entirely possible this stuff was cobbled together by staff, and Trump himself never saw it. After all, in the past few days he’s been hard at work tweeting that climate change is a hoax and that he has found new ways to be more efficient with names. But he might have noticed that the timing of this budget was a tad awkward, as we’re in the middle of a tax season in which millions of Americans are realizing they were conned about getting a tax cut.

Further, in 2016, older white voters were Trump’s most reliable demographic. You’d think this would piss them off. However, one suspects they aren’t calling this out much on Fox News …