Sunday Morning Coffee

Thoughts on a couple of things I read this morning over coffee:

American Rescue Plan Passes – Cosplay Socialist Complains

Yesterday the US Senate passed the Democrats’ $1.9T stimulus legislation on a 50-49 vote. It’s too bad this bill did not include a minimum wage increase of some kind, and I would not have means-tested the direct payment checks. But this legislation will put money in the pockets of people who will spend it, and includes changes to the way we support low-income families that should help reduce child poverty. It also provides funding to accelerate the pace of Covid-19 vaccinations.

It’s also excellent politics because passage keeps a campaign promise that will boost the economy while bringing the pandemic to an end that much more quickly. It will embed new support for poor families that will be difficult to withdraw later. I think Biden learned something from the 2010 midterm election catastrophe: Republicans cannot be trusted to negotiate in good faith, and in the end the won’t, so push through the most you can without their help.

Continue reading

Sunday Morning Coffee

A few of the articles I read this morning over coffee with short comments on each.

Protests against lockdowns and stay-at-home orders begin. Are these starting organically or driven by right-wing organizations?

Back in January when SARS-COVID-2 began to spread from China, a good friend of mine told me government would eventually have to shut down businesses and limit large gatherings of people in order to limit the contagion and protect the health care system. I responded that even if necessary, lockdowns like this would generate protest and backlash in the US if they lasted more than a week or two. Those protests have started.

This week a few dozen people gathered at Capitol Square in Richmond to demand an end to stay-at-home orders in Virginia by 1 May.

Both Capitol and Virginia State Police were on hand and had to remind the protesters to maintain social distancing guidelines since they said the groups encouraged participants to hug and share food during the event.

“The reason why I’m not wearing a mask is that I’m not going to have someone tell me I have to,” said protester Benjamin Wright, who lives in Richmond.

This kind of right-wing virtue signaling will spread across the US and could seriously limit the ability of US institutions to deal with this crisis. And make no mistake: it’s driven by right-wing organizations like the Proud Boys and part of Trump’s reelection campaign.

It can also lead to this kind of tragic outcome when people believe what they hear on propaganda networks instead of members of their own family.

In Pursuit of PPE

This story about an executive for a Massachusetts hospital system buying personal protective equipment for his staff demonstrates both the failure of markets to allocate resources to filling an urgent need and the failure of government to protect public health. Shortages will generate higher prices, but government should work to improve the situation by taking action to increase production, not throw up road blocks and threaten to redirect shipments on a whim.

Awarding high-dollar contracts for the purchase of masks from bankrupt firms with no staff that have never made a mask does not seem like the best way out of the PPE shortage mess.

The New England Journal of Medicine is a good general resource on SARS-COVID-2, by the way.

Just so this isn’t All Coronavirus All the Time…

As the Bernie Sanders campaign ended and the Democratic Party continued coalescing support around Biden’s candidacy, I got into it a bit with some Our Revolution folks on Twitter. I tried to make the point that for now policy has to take a back seat to ending the Trump disaster (not to mention what looks like nascent fascism) with little success. But I also pointed out that politicians like Sanders and Warren, supported by activist groups like the Indivisibles and Resistance organizations, have moved American politics to the left. So the reason Sanders’ Our Revolution movement failed to achieve electoral success has more to do with the failure of their “unite the working class” strategy than with refusal by Democratic Party elites to back progressive policies. More to come on this in the coming days.

Sunday Morning Coffee

A few articles I’m reading over coffee this morning (Trump Will Never be President Edition):

Now that Clinton and Trump have more or less locked up their respective party’s nominations, the horse-race coverage will turn to the general election contest.  Since the media has an incentive to make it look like a close one, get ready for the “Donald Trump can win” and “Trump’s path to the Presidency” articles.  We’ll hear more about what an awful candidate Clinton is and all the baggage she’ll bring to the campaign.  Trump can pivot back to the center, they’ll say, and look more “Presidential” (whatever that means).  Much will be made of his record number of GOP primary votes. Continue reading

Sunday Morning Coffee

A few things I read over coffee this morning…while watching the talking heads discuss Iowa:

Morton Guyton, writing at Patheos blog Mercy Not Sacrifice, discusses an ideological perspective he calls ” White Evangelical Nihilism:”

There’s a genuine ideological foundation for the ethos that makes Trump and Cruz so popular. I call it white evangelical nihilism.

When you’re told by your pastor that all the people outside of your ideological tribe are utterly wicked and deserving of eternal torture, that’s how it becomes a sin to compromise with your opponents politically and work together for the common good.

Everything about secular liberalism must be utterly antithetical to the Christian gospel and profoundly offensive to God. It has to be, or else secular liberals wouldn’t be worthy of damnation. So everything about liberalism is put into binary opposition with “God’s truth.” To believe in climate change is to believe that God is not in control of the environment. To believe that the government should provide for the poor is an emulation of atheist communism and a usurpation of God’s sovereignty. To promote “political correctness” is to silence the courageous proclamation of “Biblical truth.”

This tracks with a point I make when discussing today’s polarized American political climate.  Conservatives run on a set of existential issues on which there can be no compromise: abortion, homosexuality, taxes, and guns.  Two of these have their basis in religion and two in racism, but all four depend on the fundamental premise that only wicked, lazy or authoritarian people disagree with the right wing on these issues.  This is the fundamental American political problem we need to resolve.

Guyton goes on to reframe salvation.  Rather than a search for God’s help in saving individual sinners from themselves, he argues we should seek His help in saving other people from our sin:

Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.” Imagine if Christians, and especially Christian politicians, were known as the people who regard everyone else as “better than [them]selves.”

Read the whole thing.  Excellent essay. Continue reading

Sunday Morning Coffee, Snowed In Edition

National Review stood across Donald Trump’s path to the Republican nomination shouting stop! this week with a series of essays by a who’s-who of the right-wing movement. Their argument amounts to “Trump is no Conservative” and it’s pretty rich coming as it does from the folks who basically created this monster.  Do yourself a favor and click that second link – Jeb Lund has a funny take and writes well in the Matt Taibbi mold.

One way the conservative movement has paved the way for a demagogue like Trump: consolidation of power through ignorance.  People are more likely to believe we can actually build a wall along the Mexican border when they’ve been trained to reject critical thinking in favor of conspiracy theory while distrusting our most basic institutions.  You can find a lot of good writing at Hullaballoo these days, by the way.

Democrats apparently also go after each other with “bile and bullshit.”   Corey Robin documents much of the atrocity of Clinton attacks on Bernie Sanders at Crooked Timber.  Note number 10, where Robin points out that the term “Socialist” may not carry the negative weight some people think.  I highly recommend Robin’s book, The Reactionary Mind, by the way.

Speaking of books, a couple I’d like to read once I’ve finished Robert Reich’s book Saving Capitalism.  Kevin Kruse’s book connecting corporate attacks on the New Deal with the rise of religiosity in America, One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America, looks like an important read if this review accurately captures it.  And Jane Mayer writes to broaden our understanding of how the wealthy use their resources to influence public policy in her new book, Dark Money.  Alan Ehrenhalt reviews it for The New York Times here.

Finally this morning another armed moron has an accident with his firearm.  This one is especially rich – he felt like he needed a gun for self-protection in church.  Maybe God is trying to tell him something.  And maybe I need to start a new series: Moron Labe.


Sunday Morning Coffee

A few links I read this morning over coffee:

The Believer,” a short essay on how Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi became leader of the Islamic State.  Lots of insight here, but I”d like to highlight this passage:

Many of the ex-Baathists at Bucca, some of whom Baghdadi befriended, would later rise with him through the ranks of the Islamic State. “If there was no American prison in Iraq, there would be no [Islamic State] now,” recalled the inmate interviewed by TheGuardian. “Bucca was a factory. It made us all. It built our ideology.” The prisoners dubbed the camp “The Academy,” and during his ten months in residence, Baghdadi was one of its faculty members.

It appears that the US invasion of Iraq not only created the power vacuum that helped create the conditions for the rise of ISIS, our treatment of civilians radicalized some and provided the schoolhouse prison that helped them prepare their leadership.  Another data point suggesting that George W. Bush, a Republican and neoconservative, made the US less safe.

Speaking of W., this Salon article about the 2000 election reminds that in fact Americans almost certainly elected Al Gore President that year though the Electoral College did not reflect this intent.  Though we have no way to know how differently events might have unfolded under President Gore, it’s a good bet that his administration would have paid more attention to the Bin Laden threat in 2001, and would not have responded to a terrorist attack by invading Iraq. Whether or not this would mean a world without ISIS…

A recent New Yorker article, “The Siege of Miami,” highlights another issue President Gore might have formulated a policy to address: climate change.  I”m not a scientist, but it seems straightforward enough to me that venting all manner of pollutants and other crap into Earth’s atmosphere and water has to have some effect.  In any event, the scientific consensus    seems pretty solid that human activity has at least helped to warm the planet.  Perhaps we can innovate our way out of this mess, but we won’t if our political leaders keep sticking their fingers in their ears singing “la, la, la, I can’t hear you.”

Last night’s Democratic Primary debate of course touched on terrorism, and once again the Democratic candidates provided a much more nuanced discussion than what we’ve heard from the GOP field.  Bernie Sanders, for example, in a poke at Donald Trump’s bigotry, hinted that conservatives wish to inspire fear of terrorism in voters as a way to distract them from corporate threats to US economic health and the Middle Class.

The tone this campaign has taken fascinates me.  Republicans repeatedly argue that the US is going to hell in a hand basket – debased culture, corrupt government, feminized men – in a way that makes me wonder why they hate America.  In today’s conservative world, Americans – except wealthy ones – get nothing right.  How in the world does this resonate with voters?


Sunday Morning Coffee

Still working on posting more often…in the meantime, more Sunday links:

Damon Linker wants to know “Why Aren’t Conservative Intellectuals Disgusted with the GOP?”  Good question, and it begs the “what is a conservative intellectual” follow up.  Whoever it is, I think they’re wondering what to do now that they’ve constructed an electoral coalition on racism, nativism and a reactionary theological/cultural movement based on imagined existential threats to American society.  They’ve painted themselves into an ideological corner and handed extremists the brush.  To the extent any conservative intellectuals exist, I suspect they do feel disgust for today’s GOP.  They just lack the moral courage to say so.

Googling around for background on Linker lead me to this post from over a year ago by Rod Dreher.  Quoting a Linker piece about “…why its not right for same-sex marriage proponents — as he is — to say that Christians who oppose SSM are on the same footing as racists,” Dreher argues in effect that it’s impossible to “…reconcile normative Christianity with sanctioning gay relationships, without doing serious violence to Christian teaching.”  Since this teaching so permeates the very essence of Christianity and its moral teachings, it justifies discrimination against homosexuals in a way it failed to justify racial discrimination.   In the end it still comes down to using religion to justify discrimination.

Al Mohler responds to folks who wonder why evangelical Christians can’t just get with the program: “Now, at least some people seem genuinely perplexed that conservative Christians will not just go along with the program to redefine Christian morality, marriage, and doctrine.”  I would respond to Mr. Mohler, and to Dreher as well, that no one wants them to change their views on morality, marriage, or doctrine.  They and their churches can and should continue to apply their values as they see fit within these institutions.  What they cannot do is use the machinery of the State to discriminate against those who don’t share them.


Sunday Morning Coffee

In no particular order, a few links:

Take a look at this very interesting article at Bacon’s Rebellion about the tension between conservation easements in Virginia and corporate efforts to push through pipeline and transmission line projects over the objections of landowners.  One key point here is that these easements may mean less than landowners think.  If so, we’ll see fewer of them.

Was Ohio’s Marijuana Vote Stolen?  Hard to believe, but note the screenshots that show the “Yes” vote going down from almost a million votes with 39% of precincts reporting to a bit over 600 thousand with 45% in.  This might be nothing more than mistaken labeling, but it bears watching given the importance of Ohio as a swing state in Presidential contests.  If an anti-voting-rights Secretary of State is willing to fix a corporate pot referendum he’s certain to make sure his party wins Ohio’s electoral votes.

I’ve written about the silliness of the “Pick-Up Artist” community before, but this is just too much. This guy is a very special kind of…uninformed.  H/T Lawyers, Guns and Money and We Hunted the Mammoth.

At The Federalist (America’s Most Poorly Named Web Magazine), G. W. Thielman tells conservatives how to fix their “Single Woman Problem.”  His recommendations?  Help single mothers through charities and tell them stories about villainous government authorities.  Or, conservatives could stop calling them sluts because they want reproductive health care.

Sunday Morning Coffee

More like Sunday Brunch this week, but a few interesting reads:

Man walks down the street in Colorado Springs just shooting people with a rifle. Looks like he killed three, including a bicyclist who got between the gunman and a woman.  No information yet about who or why, but Colorado’s fairly liberal carry laws apparently did not deter the man.  This was not a “gun-free” zone.

A pretty good outline in Salon of how today’s Republican Party has moved away from real Conservatism from Mary Barker,.  I have to say I like the term “Conservatives in Name Only.”

Speaking of Conservatives in name only, here’s the Bearing Drift take on the CNBC debate.  Anyone who watched the debate or read the transcripts can easily see that his complaint about “gotcha” questions holds little water.  The question that sent Senator Cruz off on his “liberal media” rant was about the budget compromise deal John Boehner and President Obama made the day before.  Cruz didn’t want to answer it so he changed the subject.  At the end of the day, GOP candidates in that debate could have discussed anything they wished, and their choice to attack news organizations instead of laying out their vision for the nation says a lot.

Interesting interview with Joseph Stieglitz, who points out that the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal has more to do with restricting the power of national governments to regulate than about free trade (via Lawyers, Guns and Money).  Some political science research suggests that corporate power and private authority have been eroding State power for some time.  The State is in retreat, and not just domestically.