Saturday Morning Open Thread: Social vs. Anti-Social Media

Michelle Goldberg, smart person in the NYTimes, “Our National Emergency Turns 2”:

I feared, at the beginning of this administration, that Trump would try to exploit American intelligence capabilities against his personal enemies, but instead he gets his intelligence from Fox News. The fact that so many high-level Trump associates have pleaded guilty to crimes is a sign of his corruption, but it also shows he hasn’t corrupted our entire system.

Trump has turned out to be the Norma Desmond of authoritarians, a senescent has-been whose delusions are propped up by obsequious retainers. From his fantasy world in the White House, he barks dictatorial and often illegal orders, floats conspiracy theories, tweets insults and lies unceasingly. But much of the time he’s not fully in charge. He has the instincts of a fascist but lacks both the discipline and the loyal lieutenants he’d need to create true autocracy.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the country isn’t coming undone. Trump’s bumbling incoherence, coupled with his declining political fortunes since the midterms, makes him seem less frightening than he once did. But, two years in, the jaded weariness many of us have developed might obscure how bad things are. We’re living through an unprecedented breakdown in America’s ability to function like a normal country.

The shutdown throws our crisis into high relief. For the first two years, Trump destroyed American norms, standards and conventions. Now he’s cavalierly destroying American lives…

Gropey Glenn Thrush wails: But mah NARRATIVE!…



Mueller’s Office Speaks

This could mean almost anything. But it looks like something is seriously wrong with the BuzzFeed report.

I don’t think there’s enough there to speculate on specifics, but I’m sure others will.

And open thread!

 



Open Thread: Could the Narrative Be Shifting?

Probably too much to hope from our Media Village Idiots, but still… “Why Democrats refuse to pay Trump’s ransom in the shutdown fight”:

I think there are several factors playing out simultaneously. For example, congressional Dems care about the efficacy of public policy, and they realize that a giant border wall is a bad idea. It’s from this starting point that Dems’ spines were stiffened by multiple independent polls, each of which showed the American mainstream rejecting the president’s idea and blaming Republicans for the shutdown.

Relatedly, Democratic leaders know that Democratic voters would never forgive them if they simply caved to the White House’s absurd demands.

At the same time, Trump has made it easier for Dems to stick to their guns by refusing to offer them anything: the president hasn’t tried to broker a deal; he’s simply told Schumer and Pelosi to meet his demands in exchange for nothing…

But it’s against this backdrop that there also the question of incentives. Trump is trying to bypass the traditional American policymaking process – introduce an idea, send it to committee, allow for congressional debate and amendments, hold a series of legislative votes, etc. – by simply jumping to the end. He wants a wall, and he’ll hold government agencies and government workers hostage until he gets one.

If Dems agree, it will tell this president – and future presidents – that the easiest way to succeed is to embrace the politics of extortion. For the remainder of Trump’s term, no matter how long that is, he would know that he can get what he wants simply by demanding a series of non-negotiable ransoms…
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Those New Russian Weapons

Vladimir Putin has claimed that Russia is building a suite of advanced nuclear weapon delivery vehicles – Hypersonic missiles, an underwater drone, a nuclear-powered cruise missile. The American Missile Defense Review is, in part, a response to that.

The new Russian weapons sound amazing! The underwater drone, Putin would have us believe, could sneak up on the east coast of the United States and cause a radioactive tsunami! The nuclear-powered cruise missile could cruise around the globe twice and then nuke Florida!

Putin has shown all that on animated videos. A few frames appear to be actual photos, but the videos are mostly animation.

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Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Elections Have Consequences

Excellent, and sometimes unexpected, consequences:

Davids is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation from Kansas. Haaland is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna from New Mexico. They joined a record number of Native women that ran for public office in 2018, according to Indian Country Today’s Mark Trahant. To say their arrival in Congress is overdue is a harsh understatement…

Congress has desperately needed more Native voices, specifically Native women. Without them, the nation’s most powerful legislative body will continue to misunderstand and mute the litany of issues that Indian Country faces. Some of the more headline-grabbing issues are tragic—scores of missing and murdered Native women, woefully underfunded health services, white parents continuing the long practice of snatching Indian children from the reservation. And some are more abstract, like the issue of climate change in the Southwestern tribes, or the sudden importance of non-voided tribal land agreements.

With such a wide array of issues to tackle, and with little support coming from the White House or the Department of the Interior, it’s fortunate that a pair of Democrats as distinctive as the new Native congresswomen are the first to emerge. Haaland and Davids come from different generations, from different states, from different life experiences, from different tribes, from different views of what a government should look like. The steps they’ll take to represent their people, let alone their own districts, are going to be just as unique as Indian Country itself…
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The floor time constraint of any 2021 agenda

Prioritization will be a key differntiatior of Democratic Presidential and Senate primary candidates. I believe that most Democrats will share significant elements of what is on their top-10 list of areas that need federal government attention in a government that could theoretically have a narrow Democratic trifecta. But the key will be prioritization.

In 2009-2010, the US Senate was able to do the following big things:

  • Confirm two Supreme Court Justices
  • Pass the ACA
  • Pass Dodd-Frank
  • Pass the stimulus (ARRA)

In 2017-2018, the US Senate was able to do the following big things:

  • Pass a huge ass tax cut
  • Confirm two Supreme Court Justices
  • Not pass Repeal and Replace while burning several months of attention on it

Senate floor time is a key constraint.  A very productive Senate might have slots for two big bills, three or four medium actions (such as SCOTUS nominees) and a lot of housekeeping.  A productive Senate is most likely positively correlated with the size of the effective majority.

Right now, there are numerous agenda items that could qualify as a “big” thing from the Democratic/liberal perspective.  The following will be an incomplete list:

  • Healthcare reform
    • Medicare for All?
    • ACA 3.0?
  • Global Warming Policy
  • Voting Rights Act revision
  • Civil Rights Act revision
  • 2 or more SCOTUS confirmations
  • Truth and Reconciliation
  • Constitutional Amendments to make electing a compromised buffoon harder (mandatory disclosure of 14 years of paperwork related to anything authorized by the 16th amendment etc )
  • Immigration and naturalization

Any of these things could easily eat up three months or more of floor time in the Senate.  I’ve listed well over twenty four months of potential floor time activities from an incomplete list if all of these items were considered to be “big” items for the Senate.  That is infeasible as it neglects the basic day to day functioning of the Senate as well.  The Senate still has to approve nominees, it still has to pass appropriations, it still has to make tweaks and changes to the law as circumstances dictate.

So the question will be prioritization.

Candidates are likely to share the same items on a top-10 list but the rank ordering and asset allocation will matter a lot. One candidate might want to spend six months on healthcare again at the cost of doing not much if anything on immigration and naturalization. Another candidate could want to spend a little time on a minimal “fix-it” healthcare bill while spending more time on global warming policy.  Those are all defensible choices.  But the prioritization is very valuable information.

 



Tuesday Morning Open Thread: We Book People Protect Our Own


 
There is a rich vein of irony that Kondo’s personal habit of keeping only the thirty books that ‘spark joy’ for her has become A Thing now because people are watching her on television. (Netflix released an eight-episode series on New Year’s Day.) But of course we’re defensive beyond ‘rationality’ about our books, because a vast percentage of the American population regards books not as portable information units but as icon/objects. For such folk, having multiple books is like having multiple pairs of shoes or action figures or collectible plates — past a certain point, it’s just an issue of bad brain chemistry, amirite?

And the Yes But Actually snobs are running with the enemy…

As for me and my house, may we always remain.. bibliophibians!: