Quick hits (part II)

1) Good NYT Editorial on Trump and Republicans:

In the summer of 1950, outraged by Joseph McCarthy’s anti-Communist inquisition, Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican senator from Maine, stood to warn her party that its own behavior was threatening the integrity of the American republic. “I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the four horsemen of calumny — fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear,” she said. “I doubt if the Republican Party could — simply because I don’t believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation above national interest. Surely, we Republicans aren’t that desperate for victory.”…

The Republican Party is again confronting a crisis of conscience, one that has been gathering force ever since Donald Trump captured the party’s nomination in 2016. Afraid of his political influence, and delighted with his largely conservative agenda, party leaders have compromised again and again, swallowing their criticisms and tacitly if not openly endorsing presidential behavior they would have excoriated in a Democrat. Compromise by compromise, Donald Trump has hammered away at what Republicans once saw as foundational virtues: decency, honesty, responsibility. He has asked them to substitute loyalty to him for their patriotism itself…

These attempts to enlist foreign interference in American electoral democracy are an assault not only on our system of government but also on the integrity of the Republican Party. Republicans need to emulate the moral clarity of Margaret Chase Smith and recognize that they have a particular responsibility to condemn the president’s behavior and to reject his tactics.

2) How the design of almost everything is biased towards men.

3) Nice essay from a mom who had a late-term abortion in the face of severe fetal brain abnormalities.

4) Chait on why impeaching Trump is popular:

This isn’t Russia. The anticlimactic denouement of the Russia investigation weighed heavily on the impeachment skeptics. But the political impact of the Russia probe was smothered both by its dependence on Robert Mueller, who was held back by an almost monk-like desire to escape politics by giving Trump every benefit of the doubt, and the sheer complexity of the affair. If the only important facts in the Russia story were Donald Trump negotiating for a several-hundred-million-dollar payoff from Vladimir Putin during the campaign and then lying about it, the outcry might have toppled him. But because that was just one of countless shady details, the incriminating facts were buried beneath one another.

The Ukraine scandal is much simpler. There is a lot of evidence of wrongdoing, but it all revolves around a single narrative of Trump pressuring a foreign country to investigate his domestic rivals. And the narrative is controlled by Congress, which is willing to charge the president with a high crime, not a reclusive prosecutor who has decided it is improper for him to make any such accusation.

Even Republicans have trouble defending it. For all the public affirmations of support from Trump’s fervent base in the party and party-controlled media, even his supporters are harboring some qualms…

The story can get worse. One thing that ought to have been apparent at the outset of this scandal, but which many people missed, is that a lot of people were involved. Turning American foreign policy into an episode of The Sopranos isn’t easy. You have a whole bureaucracy that’s used to operating along established channels, and distorting its functions in such a gross fashion sends ripples throughout the system.

There are going to be more witnesses and more records of communication. Trump is going to keep lying and saying crazy things. It’s not going to be easy to deprive the story of oxygen.

The politics can get worse, too. Republican support for Trump may be louder than the criticism. But the silence of many Republicans, not just the handful of quasi-independent voices, speaks volumes. Many Republicans are withholding judgment, perhaps criticizing impeachment as hasty, but not defending Trump’s behavior or ruling out removal if more evidence emerges…

Most voters are locked in to one of the parties. The swing vote tends to be low-information voters with a hazy grasp of the issues. Impeachment is a signal to those voters that Trump has done something seriously wrong. It’s not a magic trick that works against every president — there needs to be misconduct people can easily understand, and which the news media covers as a serious scandal. This easily qualifies.

If Trump has any political strengths, it is that he is a low-information voter himself, and grasps how the political narrative plays out in snippets of cable-news chyrons drifting across screens in bars and airports. Trump has confided to allies that impeachment “looks bad on his résumé.”

Because his victory surprised so many people, Trump has a way of psyching out his opponents sometimes. There’s no real political magic here. Having the news dominated by a scandal even many Republicans can’t defend, with a constant drip of damning new details, is extremely unhelpful for the president.

5) Derek Thompson, “The NBA-China Disaster Is a Stress Test for Capitalism.”

China exercises a kind of veto power over the global marketplace of speech. Every piece of content that is critical of the government, or dubious of its claims about Tibet, or Taiwan, or Tiananmen Square, or Xinjiang, is subject to grave financial punishment. It amounts to a kind of “values tariff” on the companies and individuals with which China does business. That is, rather than [x] percent tax on imported goods in China, companies must compromise [x] percent of their values to do business in China. The focus might be on the NBA today. But each firm with business there is paying the values tariff…

Everybody is having it both ways.

The NBA wields social advocacy as a sword within the U.S. and surrenders its outspokenness at the border. Multinational companies ask their employees to “bring their full selves to work” and then fire those employees when their “full selves” offend Beijing bureaucrats living 10,000 miles away. Academic institutions say they cherish free thought while giving Beijing sway over their employees’ thinking.

But if the NBA is cowardly, and Marriott is shameful, and colleges are hypocrites, then what are we, the consumers, in this equation? China is the U.S.’s largest trading partner, from which we import hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of computer parts, toys, furniture, shoes, and plastic.

6) Post, “Economists project Trump will win easily in 2020 — and by a bigger margin.”  Hmmm.  It’s almost like prediction models that only look at the economy and don’t consider presidential approval might not be so great.

7) Krugman on how we’re damn lucky Trump is neither stable nor a genius:

The surprising thing about the constitutional crisis we’re now facing is that it took so long to happen. It was obvious from early on that the president of the United States is a would-be autocrat who accepts no limits on his power and considers criticism a form of treason, and he is backed by a party that has denied the legitimacy of its opposition for many years. Something like this moment was inevitable.

What still hangs in the balance is the outcome. And if democracy survives — which is by no means certain — it will largely be thanks to one unpredictable piece of good luck: Donald Trump’s mental deficiency.

I don’t mean that Trump is stupid; a stupid man couldn’t have managed to defraud so many people over so many years. Nor do I mean that he’s crazy, although his speeches and tweets (“my great and unmatched wisdom”; the Kurds weren’t there on D-Day) keep sounding loonier.

He is, however, lazy, utterly incurious and too insecure to listen to advice or ever admit to a mistake. And given that he is in fact what he accuses others of being — an enemy of the people — we should be thankful for his flaws.

8) Enjoyed this Wired video on the conditions that created the sub 2:00 marathon.

9) Margaret Sullivan on some pretty bad reporting on Elizabeth Warren:

A news report can be narrowly factual, and still plenty unfair.

And so it was with a “revelation” regarding one element of Elizabeth Warren’s personal history, oft-told on the campaign trail: That her 1971 pregnancy caused the 22-year-old to be “shown the door” as a public-school teacher in New Jersey — an unwanted career change that put her on the path to law school and public life. (Warren, of course, is now a Democratic Massachusetts senator who is a leading 2020 presidential candidate.)

The conservative Washington Free Beacon’s new top editor, Eliana Johnson, late of Politico and the National Review, kicked off the contretemps with a report Monday that dug up the minutes from the Riverdale, N.J., school board showing that Warren had been offered another term and that her eventual resignation was accepted with regret.

The headline: “County Records Contradict Warren’s Claim She Was Fired Over Pregnancy.”

Shockingly, nowhere on these documents is it stamped: “The all-male board fired this young woman because she was pregnant and because of its deep-seated misogyny.” (And, more seriously, nowhere in the story is it indicated that the renewal offer likely came before school district honchos knew Warren was pregnant.)

Conservatives and pro-Trumpers gobbled it up — and spit back out an amped-up version, one less tethered to facts. The poisoned version quickly spread into the larger mediasphere…

The headline: “County Records Contradict Warren’s Claim She Was Fired Over Pregnancy.”

Shockingly, nowhere on these documents is it stamped: “The all-male board fired this young woman because she was pregnant and because of its deep-seated misogyny.” (And, more seriously, nowhere in the story is it indicated that the renewal offer likely came before school district honchos knew Warren was pregnant.)

Conservatives and pro-Trumpers gobbled it up — and spit back out an amped-up version, one less tethered to facts. The poisoned version quickly spread into the larger mediasphere.

10) James Mattis‘ unwillingness to speak more forthrightly about Trump is nothing short of a massive failure of leadership– no matter what lies he tells himself.

11) And the frustrating feature on him in the Atlantic.

12) What in the hell is wrong with this country that we think it a remotely good idea to detain a British family–including an infant– for weeks for the crime of accidentally crossing an unmarked U.S.-Canadian border?

13) A colleague of mine brought Cato Institute Criminal Justice policy expert, Clark Neily, to NCSU this past week.  One of my very favorite speakers we’ve had.  Very much a hardcore libertarian, but one who also clearly gets it on matters of race.  Thus, it was terrific to discussing criminal justice reform issues from him and I really appreciated his perspective.  Good stuff from him on the trial tax; the absurd and coercive amount of authority we give to prosecutors; and a pretty interesting idea for making cops carry personal liability insurance.

14) William Barr’s recent speech on how securlization is ruining America was an abomination and an embarrassment.  Toobin is on the case:

William P. Barr just gave the worst speech by an Attorney General of the United States in modern history. Speaking at the University of Notre Dame last Friday, Barr took “religious liberty” as his subject, and he portrayed his fellow-believers as a beleaguered and oppressed minority. He was addressing, he said, “the force, fervor, and comprehensiveness of the assault on religion we are experiencing today. This is not decay; this is organized destruction.”

Historically illiterate, morally obtuse, and willfully misleading, the speech portrays religious people in the United States as beset by a hostile band of “secularists.” Actually, religion is thriving here (as it should be in a free society), but Barr claims the mantle of victimhood in order to press for a right-wing political agenda. In a potted history of the founding of the Republic, Barr said, “In the Framers’ view, free government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people—a people who recognized that there was a transcendent moral order.” Not so. The Framers believed that free government was suitable for believers and nonbelievers alike. As Justice Hugo Black put it in 1961, “Neither a State nor the Federal Government can constitutionally force a person to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. Neither can constitutionally pass laws or impose requirements which aid all religions as against nonbelievers, and neither can aid those religions based on a belief in the existence of God as against those religions founded on different beliefs.” But the real harm of Barr’s speech is not what it means for historical debates but what it portends for contemporary government policy…

Perhaps the most galling part of Barr’s speech, under current circumstances, is its hymn to the pious life. He denounces “moral chaos” and “irresponsible personal conduct” as well as “licentiousness—the unbridled pursuit of personal appetites at the expense of the common good.” By contrast, “religion helps teach, train, and habituate people to want what is good.” Throughout this lecture, one can only wonder if William Barr has ever actually met Donald Trump.


15) Lots of people fleeing Humanities— especially English– for STEM and maybe that’s not so good.  Is it wrong that I’m not entirely sold on the relative value of an English major.  Now, a social science major– that’s the place to be.

16) I will not be reading one of the two new books on Clarence Thomas.  But I think the review of one of these books is really useful:

Contrary to what Magnet and other white admirers assume, Robin shows that Thomas never gave up this deep-seated black nationalism. He systematically goes through Thomas’s copious work to show that race informs it all. Thus, Thomas rejects affirmative action not because it harms whites, as other conservatives claim, but because it harms blacks, brands them with a “badge of inferiority,” elevates whites to the status of benefactors and perpetuates white supremacy. Policies aimed at the desegregation of schools and housing are rejected because they imply that blacks are inferior and need whites to learn how to create viable communities. Thomas has declared flatly that “the whole push to assimilate simply does not make sense to me.”

Robin demonstrates that Thomas firmly believes blacks will eventually be saved only through engaging with the capitalist economy, as his grandfather did, and that black interests can never be satisfied through the state, which only does harm, as it did through centuries of slavery and Jim Crow. Moving full circle to a position similar to the racial pessimism of the extreme left, he argues that race is so historically and structurally entrenched that liberal policies amount to mere tinkering, entailing the good will of whites, which can always be revoked. Black agency can be found only outside of politics, through an elite of economically independent black men.

Thomas has come to an extreme view of freedom in which economic decisions are seen as moral choices and hence amount to the exercise of freedom of speech, or moneyed speech. This is what Elena Kagan calls “weaponizing the First Amendment,” allowing the court to strike down many forms of economic regulations. It is, for Thomas, the philosophical basis of the landmark Citizens United decision on campaign finance. Thomas has become the leading advocate of this “liberation of commerce,” and the main defender of plutocracy on the court, his commercial jurisprudence distinguished by the fact that “it is in the market … that the leadership customarily associated with politics is to be found.”

17) And Chait reviews a new book on Comey:

Stewart shows how Comey violated the F.B.I.’s norm of doing everything possible to avoid involving itself in election campaigns, especially at the end. He believed that failing to intervene would lead conservative agents to leak the story — and would result in his own impeachment by the Republican Congress after the election. As a result, Comey told his staff he needed to publicly reopen the investigation lest he create “corrosive doubt that you had engineered a cover-up to protect a particular political candidate.”

This was a catastrophic violation of protocol — and probably a decisive one; as Stewart notes, the new email story led the news in six of the seven days in the final week before the election. But what drove Comey to this error was the refusal of Republicans in the bureau and Congress to accept and follow the rules. Stewart’s narrative shows Democrats still believed in institutions and norms — even after Comey’s extraordinary intervention against Clinton, he was still treated warmly by President Obama and cordially by Loretta Lynch. Comey felt bound to appease the Clinton-haters because they refused to accept any process that failed to yield their preferred outcome.

18) Loved this 99% Invisible episode on the elimination of the ability of the soccer goalkeeper to use their hands on the backpass and how that led to all sorts of changes in the game.

19) It’s official– HRC didn’t really do anything meaningfully wrong with her emails.  I expect the NYT to have a week of headlines on this :-).

20) “Booksmart” received tons of great reviews.  It was fine, but definitely didn’t love it.

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

5 Responses to Quick hits (part II)

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    #19 I heard this morning on Fox the exact opposite and that numerous State Dept. employees were acting badly with many improper emails on Clinton’s server.
    Looks like we have to wait for the Inspector General’s report for an answer. Will any truth ever be generally accepted?

      • jak cranney says:


        Have found a few of your posts of reasonable substance, but an undercurrent of influence toward a liberal political party. so i dont think your statement in “ABOUT” is accurate. are you impersonating “factual” in order to advance “liberal” ?

        what does “ugh” mean (in response to Jenrette). ?

        i am a republican. i think DT is an uncouth brigand, yet brilliant in some areas, foolish in others,
        A statesman… ?
        he operates imperially. in the times of Kennedy, we embraced the idea that the President was like a King. POTUS is definitely imperial in his nature… and in a world, his brash intimidation will aggravate, irritate, alienate, yet .. draw respect for the US, vice allow countries to be polite, take investment from the US and do something entirely corrupt on their own time.

        DT is not so much for “MAGA”, but more for “MAGA – because Trump did it!”,
        he is not Reagan, Reagan was “you can get a lot done if you dont care who gets credit”

        … but … we elected DT and the democratic party hammered him for better than 2 yrs on collusion with Russia. They’ve dropped that ball. They’ve picked up the other… because:
        – the first one was vapor, but yet they pushed it for two years… why … because they just wanted to keep it hot in the media … so that the general public would disenfranchise any alliance with DT and the liberal democratic socialist agenda could resurge. Bunch of dirty political tricks. Moreover.. they have done that rather than work out something along hte lines of constructive collaboration for the good of the county with the incumbent.

        If someone chased you for two years to publicize something you didnt do as tho you were responsible for it, and to cause you professional impact in moving forward, you’d be doing every thing you could do to fight back. its human and frail for DT to have politically influenced the whole kurds-turkey thing… but it is not any different than what other presidents have done for the betterment of US gain. Should it happen. no. Should he be impeached for it. No. the DNC just wants to hurt him, because he has called the political machine for what it is… an incredible fat organization that hasnt really done much for the common citizen, while they have insidiously said that was their focus and while they have gained personal wealth for doing so.
        DT came in rich… so he doesnt need to use his office for his gain. Moreover, out of pride (not greed) he offers to leverage his property for international collaboration and at no $$ gain and he still gets beat up … the DNC looks like a bunch of jeaolous schoolgirls (including N. Pelosi) … so why would DT not be pissy to those people.

        ..again… this new Kurds-Turkey influence peddaling.. may actually have substance, but it is no dirtier than Kennedy or Clinton’s or other’s daliances, it is no more corrupt than Hillory’s emails, or Obama’s speaking with Loretta Lynch irt to the emails, or … Comey or …

        the stage has been set by poor performance on both ends… your liberal leaning isnt justified and hasnt presented anything that justifies a major change to the constitution,

        … although i have one, but its not more programs like EW’s health insurance for all or …

        take care…

  2. jak cranney says:

    oh.. and not withstanding the debt… major congressional pork barrel crud that congress is now trying to push blame on the wealthy in the country.. for crying out loud, the wealthy didnt get wealthy without congressional support and pork barrel for each congressman’s state, which effectively meant they were not and are not operating in the black… $1 trillion in debt just in this year. Thats not Trump.. That’s the congressional budget. appproved by congress. as per the constitution.

  3. Jim Danielson says:

    19) Stating religion is about “x” is simply wrong, there are many religions, sects and denominations of religions, some of them very harmful, some of them helpful. How many TV evangelicals are pretending to heal people (and been proven frauds), how many take money from the gullible who can least afford it so the TV preacher can buy another mansion, jet or super car.
    How many preach hatred and divisiveness? How many demand families shun members who fall away?
    “God will make you rich, just send your money to me!” “Throw away your pills, your faith in Jesus will cure you, and send me all your money.” “Gays cause tornadoes!” “The end is coming, no need to take care of the environment!” “God promised not to drown us again, climate change is a fraud!”

    I could go on for dozens of pages.

    Regarding Jak
    You have a better chance of teaching a dog algebra than you do getting a Trump supporter to see reality.

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