Muslim Ban 2.0 — First Time Tragedy; Second Time Tragic Farce

I’ll leave it to the more knowledgeable among us to dissect (looking at you, Adam…). But the greatest hits are about what I’d expected.  Iraq’s off the list as we owe too much to too many there.  The other six countries from the original order remain, though the specific restrictions are a little different than in Fear The Furriner version one.  Here’s The Washington Post‘s take:

President Trump signed a new travel ban Monday that administration officials said they hope will end legal challenges over the matter by imposing a 90-day ban on the issuance of new visas for citizens of six majority-Muslim nations, authorities said.

In addition, the nation’s refu­gee program will be suspended for 120 days, and it will not accept more than 50,000 refugees in a year, down from the 110,000 cap set by the Obama administration.

 

The goal is obviously to deliver some red meat to the Trump base while sliding past inconvenient judicial reality tests. Trumpistas are already suggesting that the administration should not have to justify the order in court, despite evidence that there is no net national security gain from a Muslim ban:

A Department of Homeland Security report assessing the terrorist threat posed by people from the seven countries covered by President Trump’s original travel ban had cast doubt on the necessity of the executive order, concluding that citizenship was an “unreliable” threat indicator and that people from the affected countries have rarely been implicated in U.S.-based terrorism.

The Department of Homeland Security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, criticized the report as being incomplete and not vetted with other agencies, and he also asserted the administration should not be pressed by the judiciary to unveil sensitive national security details to justify the ban.

“This is not something that the Department of Justice should have to represent to a federal-district court judge,” the official said.

We shall see.

Over to y’all.

Image: Benjamin West, The Ambassador from Tunis with His Attendants as He Appeared in England in 1781, 1781



The Common Inheritance, The Common Defense

A bit of self promotion here, but I’ve got a piece in today’s Boston Globe that might be of interest to some here.

It’s a look at what the idea of the commons — not just the abstract, model commons of Garrett Hardin’s famous essay, but the historical commons as actually lived and used — can tell us about current problems.  The TL:DR is that commons are not inherently prone to tragedy, but that the preservation of communal goods requires…wait for it…communal action: regulation, self-regulation.

This is, of course, exactly what the Republican Party denies — more, loathes and condemns.  With Trump, they’re getting their way, but its vital to remember that the consequences that will flow from these decisions are not down to him, or simply so: the entire Republican power structure is eager to do this, and when we pay the price, we must remember who ran up the bill.

Anyway, here’s a taste from my piece.  Head on over to the Globe’s site if you want more.

The idea of the commons is deeply woven through the history of the English countryside. Shakespeare captured this idyllic approach to nature’s wealth in “As You Like It,” when the shepherd Corin explains to the cynic Touchstone the joys of his life. “I earn that I eat, get that I wear,” he says, adding that “the greatest of my pride is to see my ewes graze and my lambs suck” — in the unowned, readily shared Forest of Arden.

There can be trouble in such an Eden, as Hardin pointed out in an influential 1968 paper. Hardin asked what would happen if access to a commons were truly unfettered — if Corin and every other villager ran as many sheep as they could there. In such cases, Hardin argued, the endgame is obvious: Too many animals would eat too much fodder, leaving the ground bare, unable to support any livestock at all.

The evolution of resistance to antibiotics fits that story perfectly. The first modern bacteria-killing drug, penicillin, came into widespread use in 1944, as American laboratories raced to produce millions of doses in time for D-Day. The next year, its discoverer, Alexander Fleming, used his Nobel Prize lecture to describe precisely how this wonder drug could lose its power, telling the sad tale of a man who came down with a strep infection. In his tale, Mr. X didn’t finish his course of penicillin, and his surviving microbes, now “educated” (Fleming’s term), infected his wife. When her course of penicillin failed to eradicate these now-resistant microbes, Mrs. X died — killed, Fleming said, by her husband’s carelessness. It took just one more year for this fable to turn into fact: In 1946, four American soldiers came down with drug-resistant gonorrhea, the first such resistance on record.

 

Go on — check it out.  You want to hear about the great Charnwood Forest rabbit riot.  You know you do…

Image: Jacopo da Ponte, Sheep and Lambc. 1650.



Open Thread: Tom Perez for DNC Chair

Former Vice President Joe Biden is backing Tom Perez to head the Democratic National Committee, calling the former Obama administration labor secretary the “best bet to help bring the party back.”

Biden’s endorsement — a sign of Perez’s strong support among former Obama administration officials — drew a sharp response from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, escalating the relatively sleepy party chairman battle into a fight between the liberal wing that supported Sanders’ insurgent primary bid and backers of Hillary Clinton….

Biden cast Perez, a Dominican-American civil rights lawyer who grew up in the Rust Belt, as a tireless champion of working Americans, immigrants and the disabled.

“He knows how to explain why our party’s core beliefs matter to the immigrant family in Arizona and the coal miner in West Virginia. That matters,” Biden said in a statement. “I’ve watched him work. I think I know his heart. That’s why I endorse him as the next chairman of the DNC.”

Perez, who was quietly urged by the White House to jump into the race, faces his stiffest competition from Ellison…

Along with Perez and Ellison, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, South Carolina Democratic Chairman Jaime Harrison, New Hampshire Democratic Chairman Raymond Buckley, Democratic strategist Jehmu Greene and the executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, Sally Boynton Brown, are in the race…

When the BernieBros first glommed on to Rep. Ellison as the sock puppet for their one true lord & savior, I was willing to let Ellison have it, even if it meant running another no-doubt-expensive campaign to hold his “safe” seat. Partly because Ellison’s been a staunch Democrat, and partly because there were all these rumors that President Obama would be transitioning his OfA platform into a voting-rights / voting-registration powerhouse that would pretty much replace most of what the DNC is supposed to do anyways.

But I’ve liked Tom Perez more and more, as the campaign went on. And now that Bernie Sanders has signed up for a CNN “debate on Obamacare” with Ted Cruz (predicted conclusion: It’s all that Obama guy’s fault, also every single Democrat and their entire party suxxs)… fuck that greedy little egotist and all his deluded diehard followers with the farm implement of your choice.

Sanders wants to represent the Democrats, let him join the Democratic Party, and stop hotdogging around as The Only Remaining Pure Spirit, Make Checks Out to Cash. And for the Democratic National Committee: TEAM PEREZ.
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Men Like Ravenous Fishes Feed On One Another

Here’s a three-year old video with sadly renewed resonance.

It’s Ian McKellen, delivering a speech from Sir Thomas More, a work from the early 1590s that passed through many hands, including, as author of the passage McKellen performs, William Shakespeare.  It speaks precisely to the predicament we face now, and (as McKellen notes) because it’s Shakespeare’s the demand it makes on us is to discover our humanity.

Would that more of our former friends across the aisle could not just hear him, but listen.

Open thread.



Early Morning Open Thread: Queen of the Useful Idiots

Talent does what it can, genius does what it must, and when it comes to gumming up the wheels Dr. Jill Stein has shown a certain genius. The latest from Reuters:

Wisconsin’s election board agreed on Friday to conduct a statewide recount of votes cast in the presidential race, as requested by a Green Party candidate seeking similar reviews in two other states where Donald Trump scored narrow wins.

The recount process, including an examination by hand of the nearly 3 million ballots tabulated in Wisconsin, is expected to begin late next week after Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s campaign has paid the required fee, the Elections Commission said.

The state faces a Dec. 13 federal deadline to complete the recount, which may require canvassers in Wisconsin’s 72 counties to work evenings and weekends to finish the job in time, according to the commission.

The recount fee has yet to be determined, the agency said in a statement on its website. Stein said in a Facebook message on Friday that the sum was expected to run to about $1.1 million.

She said she has raised at least $5 million from donors since launching her drive on Wednesday for recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania – three battleground states where Republican Trump edged out Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by relatively thin margins…


Read more



Who bears the risk

Who bears the risk?  That is a fundamental question of our political system.  In the United States, we are a mixed economy where there is a mixture of private risk bearing and public risk bearing.  All industrialized nations have a mixed economy where there is public and private risk bearing.  The difference is the split between public and private risk bearing and how much exposure the private individual has to bear if things truly get bad.  In the United States, we have traditionally had a comparatively small proportion of public/governmental risk bearing.

Our retirement system has counted on either private sector funded defined benefit plans or private sector funded defined contribution plans.  Defined benefits, if they were funded well enough, collectivized the risk of an individual outliving their average savings.  Social Security is a minimal insurance against outliving savings and destitution.  It is not a particularly rich benefit compared to other national public pension plans.

Medicare is insurance against the catastrophe that is old age.  Getting old means getting unhealthy and needing expensive care.  Very few people can self-insure against the care that they need to have a long and full life.

That is the fundamental question that animates our politics. How much do we self-insure and allow for tail risk to smash individuals who have no ability to self-insure and how much do we collectively insure while using the ability of the federal government to operate with a nearly infinite shadow of the future and much looser budgetary constraints than any individual. It is not a fight about voucherization of Medicare as the right design could produce vouchers that perform the same insurance function at the same cost to the individual. It is not about Social Security privatization. It is about how much idiosyncratic risk do we expect people to bear.



Let’s Not Follow Sanders Off the Cliff

Remember last week when some folks were reassuring us that criticism of “identity politics” in the wake of the Democrats’ loss wasn’t code for throwing marginalized people under the bus? Here’s TPM’s report on a speech Bernie Sanders delivered in Boston yesterday:

In a speech Sunday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) urged attendees to move away from “identity politics” and towards policies aimed at helping the working class.

Sanders spoke to a crowd of more than 1,000 mostly young people at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston, according to a report from WBUR.

“The working class of this country is being decimated — that’s why Donald Trump won,” Sanders said, according to the same report. “And what we need now are candidates who stand with those working people, who understand that real median family income has gone down.”

Sanders also urged the crowd to move the party away from what he called “identity politics.”

“It is not good enough for somebody to say, ‘I’m a woman, vote for me.’ That is not good enough,” he said, according to the same report. “What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industries.”

Let’s unpack some of the insulting, revisionist implications that follow from this speech. My first “Go Fuck Yourself, Sanders” goes to the implication that Clinton ever asked anyone to vote for her just because she’s a woman. She didn’t, so fuck that bullshit, and fuck Sanders for implying that she did.

The second goes to the wholesale purchase of the cherished and increasingly accepted in some circles wingnut-fomented meme that the Democrats don’t represent “real America” and got what was coming to them for turning their back on the working class in favor of embracing the elites. That’s a lie we believe at our peril.

The DLC is dead, and good riddance. I agree there has been too little attention paid to those hurt by globalization, too much happy talk about the jobs that would flow in from that process, too much eagerness on the part of some Democrats to curry favor with big donors. We’ve debated that endlessly here throughout PBO’s two terms; it was debated endlessly in the primaries, and that message was incorporated into the Democratic Party platform. Sanders didn’t invent it, and he doesn’t own it now.

But since we’re the reality-based party, supposedly capable of handling nuance and complexity, we can — in theory — simultaneously acknowledge the accomplishments of a highly successful two-term Democratic president who pulled us from the brink of a second Great Depression, got an additional 20 million people access to health care coverage, helped make sure marriage equality became the law of the land, turned a catastrophically high flood of job losses into a stable, less than 5% unemployment economy, etc.

During the primary, Sanders shit all over that, as did Trump in the general. But it doesn’t follow that a Sanders-like message — from anyone, including Sanders — would have been a winner. For every one WWC vote an “everything sucks after eight years of Obama” platform might have pulled in, how many votes would be lost from Democrats who believe in this president and have supported his agenda? Greater than Trump’s margins in the Rust Belt, is my guess.

And finally, what I find most infuriating about Sanders’ take is that he’s ignoring the people who actually DID embrace identity politics in this election cycle: That would be Donald J. Trump and the millions of voters who embraced WHITE identity politics. The Democrats ran on an inclusive message. Trump did the opposite. Again, for every WWC vote we’d gain by embracing a very specific kind of identity politics to chase Trump voters, how many would Democrats lose? Well, mine, for one.

Two final thoughts: the first is that politicians are running around trying to pound the round peg of this election loss into the square hole of their own agenda. Yes, we need to examine the causes and learn the appropriate lessons, but they are myriad. Any simple solution, such as turning the party’s soul over to a man who couldn’t win the Democratic primary, would be compounding the problem rather than solving it, IMO. Yes to sharpening the economic message to more loudly broadcast an appeal to ALL voters. Yes to making sure future candidates’ messages — and arguably the candidates themselves — excite people since we seem to be in the reality TV era of politics. But not just “no” but “FUCK NO” to the idea that the Democrats lost because of “identity politics.”

Second, so much of this intramural squabbling is crab bucket politics. We’ve got an unhinged, pathological liar, authoritarian conman poised to take office, and he is shaking out the KKK bedsheets and emptying the armoires where the brown shirts are stored to fill his administration with the very worst pricks imaginable. A man who is openly setting up a kleptocracy to funnel loot to the pack of parasites who are accompanying him to DC. A man who will rage-tweet all night about perceived disrespect shown at a Broadway show to his beady-eyed, bible-humping VP and remain utterly silent about the hundreds of hate crimes psychos nationwide are perpetrating in his name.

Perhaps we have more important things to focus on, is what I’m saying. And it’s flat-out unseemly for a politician with standing in the Democratic Party to focus elsewhere, even if he does have a book to flog.