Quick hits (part II)

1) Interesting NYT feature on the growth of the anti-vaccine movement in America.

Though the situation may seem improbable to some, anti-vaccine sentiment has been building for decades, a byproduct of an internet humming with rumor and misinformation; the backlash against Big Pharma; an infatuation with celebrities that gives special credence to the anti-immunization statements from actors like Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey and Alicia Silverstone, the rapper Kevin Gates and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. And now, the Trump administration’s anti-science rhetoric.

“Science has become just another voice in the room,” said Dr. Paul A. Offit, an infectious disease expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “It has lost its platform. Now, you simply declare your own truth.”

The constituents who make up the so-called vaccine resistant come from disparate groups, and include anti-government libertarians, apostles of the all-natural and parents who believe that doctors should not dictate medical decisions about children. Labeling resisters with one dismissive stereotype would be wrongheaded.

“To just say that these parents are ignorant or selfish is an easy trope,” said Jennifer Reich, a sociologist at the University of Colorado Denver, who studies vaccine-resistant families.

Easy trope or not… these parents are ignorant (by definition!) and selfish.

2) Dahlia Lithwick, “Did the White House Hide a Bombshell Memo From Mueller?”  Ummm, yes, almost surely.

3) On the same theme, Benjamin Wittes on “collusion after the fact.”

It seems obvious, in the context of these concerns, that information that the president informed Russian officials that he did not care about Russian election interference would have been key to this analysis on the FBI’s part—and, later, on the part of Robert Mueller.

But it seems preponderantly likely that Mueller never learned of this information. His report includes plenty of material on Trump’s Oval Office meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak the day after Comey’s firing, including Trump’s comments that, “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” And it includes detail about Trump’s exchange with an apparently concerned White House Counsel Don McGahn following the meeting. But there is nothing in the report about any comment by Trump informing the Russian delegation that he did not care about election interference. And there are no redactions in this section whatsoever where such information might be hiding…

I actually doubt that this fact would have fundamentally changed the criminal analysis in the Mueller report on “collusion.” The fundamental finding that there, after all, was that there was no evidence of any agreement between the Trump campaign, or Trump himself, and the Russians to violate U.S. law. I’m not sure I see how this would have changed that, it not being evidence of an agreement, just a kind of mutual aid without one. It also takes place after the fact, which would complicate things.

But it rather dramatically affects the “no collusion” narrative. And had Mueller been aware of it, I feel certain that it would have warranted investigation and discussion. The fact that nobody privy to the fact of its having happened came forward even though Comey had publicly announced that the bureau was investigating possible collusion represents—as my correspondent indicated—a triumph of omertà over patriotism.

4) You know what I truly want out of all this– other than saving our democracy, of course– is William Barr in prison.  Seriously.  What an absolute despicable human.

5) So, this was a really interesting take on the 737 Max and quite different from Langeweishe’s I recently shared.  Basically, the failure of this jet is a failure of late-stage capitalism (and how that corrupted Boeing’s corporate culture).  My guess- both this and Langeweishe’s pilot focus are appropriate.

So no more than a handful of people in the world knew MCAS even existed before it became infamous. Here, a generation after Boeing’s initial lurch into financialization, was the entirely predictable outcome of the byzantine process by which investment capital becomes completely abstracted from basic protocols of production and oversight: a flight-correction system that was essentially jerry-built to crash a plane. “If you’re looking for an example of late stage capitalism or whatever you want to call it,” said longtime aerospace consultant Richard Aboulafia, “it’s a pretty good one.”

The 737 MAX sailed through its FAA certification flight tests in just over a year. The plane was actually early, which was a good thing from an investor’s standpoint, since Boeing’s last new plane, the 787, had been three years late. Of course, the MAX wasn’t really a new plane, just an “upgrade” of the old 737 that had the benefit of carrying roughly two and a half times as many passengers about three times as far as the original 737.

6) Never really thought about my clothes being “sustainable,” but enjoyed this guide on buying clothes that are built to last.

7) If you haven’t seen anything about the appalling outburst from the former head of ICE, read the whole thing.  If you have, there’s this…

These incidents demonstrate how ICE operated under Homan’s watch. Agents felt free to illegally detain immigrants, then deceive courts to secure their deportation. They treated their targets as legal nonpersons, in a crusade to detain and deport as many as possible. ICE has gone after lawful immigrants, too, attempting to revoke their green cards for no good reason. Homan claimed he simply sought to enforce the laws on the books. But when state legislators began to limit local law enforcement’s ability to cooperate with ICE, Homan announced on Fox News that those lawmakers should be charged with crimes.

The first wave of coverage of Homan’s outburst Thursday came from right-wing media, praising his defiance. It was pure Trumpism, the elevation of culture war over the basic constitutional order. Thomas Homan does not recognize the authority of Pramila Jayapal or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He does not think he has to follow their rules. He does not believe that two women of color have any right to hold power over him. “You work for me!” the former government employee screamed at an elected member of the government. He is a man who is used to wielding power against people who look like Jayapal and Ocasio-Cortez. He is the embodiment of ICE under Trump, certain—as so many ICE officers are—that he answers to no one.

8) Pete Wehner, “Trump Is Not Well: Accepting the reality about the president’s disordered personality is important—even essential.”  This is from a few weeks ago, but seriously, even just that liddle‘ tweet was insanely embarrassing.

“I don’t oppose Mr. Trump because I think he’s going to lose to Hillary Clinton,” I told Ben from Purcellville, Virginia. “I think he will, but as I said, he may well win. My opposition to him is based on something completely different, which is, first, I think he is temperamentally unfit to be president. I think he’s erratic, I think he’s unprincipled, I think he’s unstable, and I think that he has a personality disorder; I think he’s obsessive. And at the end of the day, having served in the White House for seven years in three administrations and worked for three presidents, one closely, and read a lot of history, I think the main requirement for president of the United States … is temperament, and disposition … whether you have wisdom and judgment and prudence.”

That statement has been validated.

Donald Trump’s disordered personality—his unhealthy patterns of thinking, functioning, and behaving—has become the defining characteristic of his presidency. It manifests itself in multiple ways: his extreme narcissism; his addiction to lying about things large and small, including his finances and bullying and silencing those who could expose them; his detachment from reality, including denying things he said even when there is video evidence to the contrary; his affinity for conspiracy theories; his demand for total loyalty from others while showing none to others; and his self-aggrandizement and petty cheating.

It manifests itself in Trump’s impulsiveness and vindictiveness; his craving for adulation; his misogynypredatory sexual behavior, and sexualization of his daughters; his open admiration for brutal dictators; his remorselessness; and his lack of empathy and sympathy, including attacking a family whose son died while fighting for this countrymocking a reporter with a disability, and ridiculing a former POW. (When asked about Trump’s feelings for his fellow human beings, Trump’s mentor, the notorious lawyer Roy Cohn, reportedly said, “He pisses ice water.”)

9) I have less interest in country music than I have appreciation for Ken Burns documentaries, so I did not watch his latest.  Nonetheless, is it wrong that articles like this just bug me?  “Ken Burns’ ‘Country Music’ Does Little to Tell the Story of the Non-White, Non-Straight World of Country.”  Okay, I’m no expert, but pretty sure that the non-straight, non-white part of Country is a modest part of the story (and even the article sounds like Burns was pretty decent on the non-white part).

10) The tone of this kind of bugged me, “Cleaner Ships May Mean More Expensive Holidays
New rules designed to reduce sulfur pollution from ocean-going ships will increase demand for low-sulfur fuel, boosting the cost of some imported goods.”  Well, hell, yes, cleaner ships should lead to goods costing more.  Right now, the negative externalities of the sulfur pollution are borne by us all, much better to have less pollution and those costs captured in higher fuel costs.

11) Good stuff from Edsall on campaign finance, “The Changing Shape of the Parties Is Changing Where They Get Their Money: Trump leads among small donors. Democrats now get plenty of support from the wealthy, with predictable consequences.”

A pair of major developments give us a hint about how future trends will develop on the partisan battleground.

First: Heading into the 2020 election, President Trump is on track to far surpass President Barack Obama’s record in collecting small donor contributions — those under $200 — lending weight to his claim of populist legitimacy.

Second: Democratic candidates and their party committees are making inroads in gathering contributions from the wealthiest of the wealthy, the Forbes 400, a once solid Republican constituency. Democrats are also pulling ahead in contributions from highly educated professionals — doctors, lawyers, tech executives, software engineers, architects, scientists, teachers and so on.

12) Drum is pretty right about this, “Saudi Arabia Is the Worst Country in the World.”

I’m hardly a fan of Iran. They chant Death to America! and hold Americans hostage in their prisons. They support terrorist groups around the world that have killed scores of Americans. They bankroll Hezbollah and other extremist groups. There’s not much to like there.

But nothing Iran has done holds even a tiny candle to Saudi Arabia’s behavior. The theological terrorists who control religion in the Kingdom have been exporting their murderous anti-Americanism for decades. Their citizens were behind 9/11 and they bear a fair amount of responsibility for the rise of ISIS as well. They’ve been fighting Yemen forever and their current war has included endless atrocities—which Geraghty generously suggests were merely “botched” operations.¹ Internally they’re as repressive a regime as you can imagine, even more so than Iran. Just recently they murdered a critic and then carved him up with a bone saw to get rid of the evidence. They are forever trying to get America to lay down American lives in their endless proxy wars against Shiite Iran.

I could continue, but why bother? I would say that over the past few decades, Saudi Arabia has been America’s worst nightmare. Not Russia, not China, not Iran, not North Korea. All of them are frankly pipsqueaks compared to the damage Saudi Arabia has done to American interests.

And yet we continue to treat them as a friend and ally.² It is truly beyond belief.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

One Response to Quick hits (part II)

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    Saudi Arabia has been a U.S. State Department faction’s favorite since World War II. You may have read that they were on the Nazi side in that war. That faction fought the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Oil trumps a lot. Remember President George W. Bush walking and holding hands with a Saudi prince at his Texas ranch. Apparently that faction is alive and well in today’s State Department, despite 9/11 and the ongoing anti-American propaganda.
    We condemn Iran’s chants of “Death to America” but ignore the anti-American views sent out under our radar through the Sunni world and more.

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