188 thoughts on “Walking on a wire 2020

  1. Trump is trying to sabotage the election. Here’s why it won’t work.

    Vote-by-mail ballots are shown in U.S. Postal Service sorting trays at King County elections headquarters in Renton, Wash. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

    President Trump has done everything in his power — and some things outside his power — to sabotage the election.

    He has suggested postponing the election and holding a re-vote, warned baselessly about rampant fraud and pushed his supporters to vote twice. The big-time Trump donor now running the post office has impaired mail delivery and sent misinformation to voters about mail-in ballots.

    But here’s the good news: It’s not going to work.

    Trump has succeeded in sowing confusion about the ability of the United States to hold a free and fair election. His allies in Congress have abetted the sabotage by refusing to give states the funds they need to hold an election during a pandemic while defending against foreign adversaries’ interference. But despite the attempts to incapacitate elections, the United States is on course to give Americans more ways to cast ballots than ever — and more certainty than ever that their ballots will be accurately counted.

    “While it’s critical we be clear-eyed about the problems and keep up the pressure to do better, there’s been too much alarmism,” Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice. “People have the impression that the election is not going to work and they’re going to have problems, which is absolutely not the case for the vast majority of Americans.”

    The Brennan Center exists in part to sound the alarm about flaws in the voting system, so it’s worth noting that Weiser says “we’ve watched the election system improve before our eyes” — especially after a pandemic primary season characterized by closed polling places, long lines and chaos.

    Among the encouraging signs:

    Somewhere between 96 percent and 97 percent of votes cast in this election will have paper backup — assurance against fraud and interference — compared with only about 80 percent in 2016. If there’s a challenge to election results, there will be a paper trail to verify the outcome.

    Trump’s attempt to cause chaos by telling his supporters to vote twice? All states have protections against that, and all battleground states (including North Carolina, where Trump has focused his vote-twice effort) have ballot-tracking bar codes on their mail ballots — so voters and election officials will know whether someone has already voted. Their attempts to vote twice may cause delays (particularly in Republican precincts) as people submit provisional ballots, and slow the counting, but there’s a near-zero chance they will succeed in voting twice, Weiser says.

    Trump’s attempt to sabotage the post office to prevent mail-in balloting? Almost all states that have vote-by-mail also have multiple options for returning ballots. With a couple of exceptions, battleground states have some combination of drop boxes, early voting locations and election offices that will accept dropped-off ballots.

    As for mail-in voting in general, elections officials and lawmakers in Democratic and Republican states alike have vastly expanded the availability, despite Trump’s attempts to discredit this long-standing and reliable method. Thanks to recent changes, all but six states — Indiana, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee — now either send ballots automatically or allow voters to request them without needing a special excuse for doing so.

    Likewise, all but six states (Connecticut, Delaware, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire and parts of North Dakota) now offer some form of early voting (many with expanded locations and hours) so voters can avoid Election Day crowds.

    Finally, after primaries plagued by precinct closures and a shortage of poll workers, the Brennan Center now expects the number of Election Day polling places to be close to 2016’s level, even if there’s a resurgence of the coronavirus.

    Election officials, nonprofits, corporations and civic-minded volunteers are offsetting the shortage of poll workers and polling places caused by the pandemic. These range from LeBron James’s “More Than a Vote” movement to recruit poll workers to professional sports teams’ contributions of arenas as polling locations to hand-sanitizer donations from Anheuser-Busch.

    Want to help? Sign up to be a poll worker at powerthepolls.org, or contact your local election office.

    Certainly, there are still hurdles. The biggest problem may be voting misinformation, much of it amplified by the Trump administration. On Saturday, a federal judge temporarily blocked the U.S. Postal Service from sending out a mailer that gave incorrect voting information. There’s still some hope Congress will provide states with funds to send out correct information to voters — but Senate Republicans may block even that.

    The best thing the rest of us can do is counter misinformation with accurate information, such as The Post’s interactive guide to voting in each state.

    Above all, don’t inadvertently reinforce Trump’s vandalism with hand-wringing about voting problems. Yes, Trump is trying to sabotage voting. But the world’s greatest democracy knows how to hold an election.

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  2. This Cutting-Edge Campaign Tactic Is 100 Times More Effective Than the Typical Strategy, New Study Says

    It could make the difference in 2020 — and unwind the vicious polarization in America

    Farknot Architect/Adobe Stock

    WASHINGTON — This summer, with Americans hunkered down at home as the Covid-19 pandemic raged, teams of organizers located in a half-dozen battleground states made thousands of phone calls and put a theory to the test: Can an empathetic, heartfelt conversation persuade a complete stranger to change their mind about how to vote in 2020?

    The experiment was led by People’s Action, a liberal nonprofit that focuses on mobilizing rural and low-income Americans, and it utilized a tactic known as deep canvassing, a form of grassroots organizing that puts more emphasis on listening and finding human connection than the traditional check-a-box door-to-door canvassing done by political campaigns.

    The results of that experiment — shared with Rolling Stone ahead of their release on Tuesday — are striking: Even when done by phone, deep canvassing can indeed have a measurable effect on an individual’s voting preference. According to a study conducted by political-science professors David Broockman and Josh Kalla in partnership with People’s Action, this summer’s deep canvassing by phone led to a 3.1-point swing on average in favor of former Vice President Joe Biden. In other words, for every 100 completed phone calls, three votes were added to Biden’s vote margin after they received a deep canvassing call. That number was even higher for independents (5 points) and independent women (8.5 points), according to the study.

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  3. We’ve Entered the Era of ‘Branding for Black Lives’

    Amid NFL-approved statements against racism, players fought to have a real message heard—and in another sport, a hero emerged.
    By Dave ZirinTwitter

    Detroit Lions players kneel during the national anthem at Ford Field on September 13, 2020, in Detroit, Michigan. (Nic Antaya / Getty)

    This was a curious opening weekend in the National Football League. After a summer of marches in all 50 states against racism and police violence following the murder of George Floyd, the NFL has been desperate to avoid a players’ strike for racial justice. Since police shot Jacob Blake in Kenosha, the struggle has escalated into labor action in almost every other sports league and the NFL, with billions of dollars at stake, has been trying to avoid any cancellation of games.

    To assuage the players, 70 percent of whom are Black, the league put on something perhaps best described as “Branding for Black Lives.” End Racism messages were put up around the stadium and stamped onto the end zones. Antiseptic slogans like “It Takes All of Us” were worn on T-shirts. “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the Black national anthem, was played alongside “The Star Spangled Banner” before games. The Minnesota Vikings even had the family of George Floyd in their stadium as guests. The air was so thick with messaging that the Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans, New York Jets, and Buffalo Bills chose to stay in their locker rooms during the anthem rather than be a part of the big show. The Dolphins players released their own powerful video about why they wouldn’t emerge for the pageantry, saying, “We need changed hearts. Not just empty gestures.”

    The NFL had the temerity to release a video in celebration of its players fighting for Black lives that included an image of Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid kneeling. Yes, the owners are exploiting the very players they have exiled from their league. Colin Kaepernick called out the “propaganda” of it all on Twitter, and expressed solidarity with his former teammate, friend and fellow fighter for racial justice Eric Reid, who rather suspiciously is an unsigned free agent after a tremendous year with the Carolina Panthers. Kaepernick wrote, “While the NFL runs propaganda about how they care about Black Life, they are still actively blackballing Eric Reid (@E_Reid35) for fighting for the Black community. Eric set 2 franchise records last year, and is one of the best defensive players in the league.”

    Despite it all, players expressed themselves on their own terms. Several took a knee during the anthem, including Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich and Baltimore Ravens assistant Wink Martindale. (The sight of a white coach taking a knee is like seeing a unicorn at the Kentucky Derby.) The Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons attempted to crack the official messaging by collectively taking a knee after kickoff and letting the ball fall harmlessly into the end zone. It was meant to symbolize that there are things more important than football. Other players made sure that the names of people killed by racist police violence—names like Breonna Taylor and Elijah McClain—were visible on their uniforms. One of the most awkward parts of the day was hearing network announcers discuss the players paying tribute to the fallen without using the words “police.” It was as if they had died of natural causes and the players were just giving them a shout-out.

    Amid this push and pull between player dissent and league branding, a hero did emerge—but not in the NFL. Naomi Osaka won the US Open in thrilling fashion, and the 22-year-old tennis star wore a different mask before every match with a different name of someone who had been killed by police. After her final triumph, a comeback victory against Victoria Azarenka, ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi asked Osaka, “You had seven masks with seven names, what was the message you wanted to send?”

    She gave a response for the ages, looking at Rinaldi and saying, “Well… what was the message you got?”

    Naomi Osaka’s message could not have been clearer. The NFL’s, less so. As the fight against police brutality continues, players are going to need to reckon with how much they want to defy the NFL’s branding for Black lives and fight for clarity that this is a struggle, unequivocally, against police violence.

    Or as Colin Kaepernick said with such clarity four years ago, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder…. This is not something that I am going to run by anybody. I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed…. If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”

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  4. The Democrats’ Excessive Bed-Wetting Over Joe Biden’s Campaign

    The party fears another Trump upset, and political journalists crave drama. That’s a perfect storm for a misleading media narrative.

    Win McNamee/Getty Images

    After Ronald Reagan’s meandering performance in his initial 1984 debate with Walter Mondale, the political press corps responded with the joyous discovery that there was indeed a horserace. A front page New York Times story by Howell Raines was headlined, “Chance of Revival Seen for Mondale After TV Debate.” Reagan went on to carry 49 states, while Mondale spent the entire fall campaign trailing by double-digit margins in the Gallup poll. But the incident illustrates the biggest built-in bias in mainstream media coverage of politics: a vested interest in creating campaign drama.

    This tendency has only grown since the Reagan era. In 2012, at the end of an unusually stable campaign in which polls foretold Barack Obama’s victory over Mitt Romney, Tim Murphy in Mother Jones identified 68 separate events that had been breathlessly described as “game changers.” This year, political journalists have found that the surest way to concoct campaign drama is to exploit Democrats’ fears that once again Donald Trump will defy the polls and the projections.

    The polls seem embedded in amber. Since October 2019, the Real Clear Politics national polling average has shown Biden with a healthy lead in head-to-head matchups with Trump. And that edge has been large enough to overcome any built-in Republican advantage in the Electoral College. Similarly, Biden’s odds of winning in the regularly updated election forecast at Nate Silver’s website, FiveThirtyEight, have almost always been in the 70-to-75 percent range since June. As CNN polling analyst Harry Enten put it last week, “The stability of this race is record breaking when looking at polling dating back to 1940.”

    But that isn’t the impression that you would have gotten over the past six months from reading or watching the political news. Almost every other story seemed to concoct a new rationale why a Trump comeback was inevitable.

    At the beginning of the pandemic, Democrats panicked when Trump’s popularity bounced up a few points because of a short-lived rally-around-the-president effect. After a cash-strapped Biden swept the Super Tuesday primaries, NBC News stressed that, in contrast, “the Trump camp is counting its cash after hitting some big fundraising goals in the last six months.” As Bernie Sanders continued his no-hope campaign throughout March, the Times reported, “Establishment Democrats are desperately hoping to avoid a reprise of 2016, when Mr. Sanders battled to the bitter end against Hillary Clinton.”

    Remember all the Democrats who were quoted during the spring brooding that Biden was frittering away his electoral lead by refusing to leave Wilmington because of the virus? In a Times op-ed, former Obama strategists David Axelrod and David Plouffe described Biden as “mired in his basement, speaking to us remotely, like an astronaut beaming back from the International Space Station.” A Reuters story, which quoted former DNC chairman Ed Rendell, stressed that Biden had “all but disappeared from television” and “Internet memes questioned his whereabouts.”

    The Black Lives Matter protests brought with them dozens of comparisons to upheavals of the 1960s that aided Richard Nixon and George Wallace. Less than a week after the death of George Floyd, New York magazine provocatively headlined an online piece by Ed Kilgore, “Will Today’s Riots Spur Electoral Backlash Like 1967’s?” And, finally, as the Democratic convention opened in mid-August, Democrats were brooding aloud over Biden’s fuzzy image with the voters. Long-time Democratic pollster Peter Hart told The Los Angeles Times, Biden is “well known, but not known well.”

    With seven weeks to go before the election, we are still waiting for the fabled Trump turnaround. But Democrats keep retreating to their panic rooms with the help of reporters searching for original story lines.

    Both journalists and party activists are motivated by the same chilling memories of 2016, when blithe over-confidence in a Clinton victory collided with the returns from the blue-wall states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. For campaign reporters still dealing with PTSD from that election, this leads to a tendency to confuse remote possibilities (say, shy Trump voters who supposedly won’t tell the truth to pollsters) with probabilities. As a result, Biden’s consistent lead in swing-state polling and the lack of serious third-party options in 2020—like Libertarian Gary Johnson in 2016—do not get the attention they deserve.

    Those are also, to be fair, evergreen stories that can only be told so many times. But the notion of another surprise Trump victory is inherently dramatic, guaranteed to get readers’ attention, and easy work thanks to an abundance of skittish Democrats willing to express their fears to reporters, often on background or off the record. Many of these hand-wringers are attention-seeking, erstwhile strategists who can’t seem to get their phone calls returned by the Biden high command. Others are ideologues who wish Biden would embrace their pet issue. A few, perhaps, adopt a downbeat tone for a more understandable reason: to ensure that voters don’t stay home out of over-confidence.

    Since the spring, for instance, Democrats have privately been sounding the alarm bell every time another poll shows that—despite the high jobless rate—voters still narrowly prefer Trump on the economy, even if they disdain the president’s handing of the pandemic. Now Bernie Sanders is dropping heavy-handed hints that Biden has to veer to the left or else. As The Washington Post reported over the weekend, “Sanders has told associates that Biden is at serious risk of coming up short in the November election if he continues his vaguer, more centrist approach.” A key Sanders recommendation is that Biden campaign with left-wing figures like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, even if such play-to-the-base tactics are likely to be counterproductive among older, college-educated voters in upscale suburbs.

    Long before Trump, the political media was adept at imagining the worst. In 2004 and 2008, there was dire talk of an “October surprise” in the form of a major terrorist attack. Similarly, while it remains statistically possible, we have been hearing about the dangers of a 269-to-269 tie in the Electoral College for decades. The scenario that rarely gets discussed is that Biden cruises to a healthy victory—one that is apparent on election night.

    Sure, there are potential surprises ahead as we face an election that could be shaped by the pandemic, Russian meddling, or Republican sabotage of the U.S. Postal Service. You would have to be a modern-day Dr. Pangloss not to be concerned. But it is also easy to get the misimpression that the likeliest election outcome is a month of uncertainty and rioting in the streets.

    Fifty days to go, and Trump, the supposed king of guttersnipe rhetoric, has yet to find an effective way to demonize his opponent. Only Trumpian logic can explain why the president ridicules “Sleepy Joe” on the one hand, while simultaneously claiming that Biden is a socialist activist who wants to confiscate your guns and destroy the suburbs. A sign of Trump’s desperation was his bizarre claim on Fox News (natch) that Biden’s improved debate performances can be explained by only one thing: “I think there’s probably—possibly—drugs involved.”

    Even if the Trump campaign had a compelling attack line against Biden, it no longer has the money to drive it home, thanks to a lavish $800 million spending spree (including an $11 million Super Bowl ad to salve the president’s ego) by then–campaign manager Brad Parscale. The Trump campaign is being badly outspent in virtually every swing state by Biden, who set a monthly record for presidential fundraising in August, with $365 million.

    The closing weeks of the campaign are almost certain to bring new and chilling revelations about Trump’s conduct. Trump’s strategy of reigning through fear loses its potency if White House insiders sense they’ll be out of work come January. Revelations like the Bob Woodward interviews or the Atlantic story about Trump’s contempt for the “losers” who died fighting America’s wars will not change the votes of MAGA-hatted, mask-hating Fox News viewers. But they may encourage Trump-wary Republicans to back Biden rather than sit the election out, while also help converting some Obama-to-Trump voters.

    The last two times an incumbent president was defeated—Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George H.W. Bush in 1992—the polls throughout the election year gyrated widely. At one point in 1992, in fact, Bill Clinton was trailing both Bush and independent self-funder Ross Perot. But Trump has been underwater in the polls so long, you might expect him to develop gills. After 2016, Democrats will never again approach Election Day without a flicker of fear. But they should allow themselves a hint of joy as Trump comes closer and closer to becoming a one-term president.

    Walter Shapiro @MrWalterShapiro

    Walter Shapiro, who is covering his eleventh presidential campaign, is a staff writer at The New Republic. He is also a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice and a lecturer in political science at Yale.

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  5. From the “The truth is not out there if Trump is” departmen

    Trump Is on a ‘Lying About Lying’ Spree

    When Trump is cornered, he becomes a super-spreader of lies

    Trump, as most know by now, is a Hall of Fame liar. A simple Google search of the president’s name and the word lie leads to a seemingly infinite scroll of articles that might just reach back to the creation of the Internet itself. But when Trump is cornered, as he likely felt this week following the release of damning audiotapes of himself talking to Bob Woodward in connection with a coming book, Trump becomes a liar on steroids.

    On Friday, CNN’s Brianna Keilar fact-checked the president’s most recent burst of dishonesty saying that Trump’s attempts at trying to shape the narrative following the Woodward/Trump tapes has the president “lying about lying.”

    “In the wake of the release of recordings of President Trump talking in February to journalist Bob Woodward about the severity of the coronavirus, as he downplayed it publicly, the president is attempting some damage control. His version of that is: lying about lying,” the host began.

    Keilar played a video clip of the president, this week, denying that he lied to the American people about what he knew and believed to be true regarding the dangers of the coronavirus in early February.

    “I didn’t lie. What I said is we have to be calm. We can’t be panicked… I don’t want to jump up and down and start screaming death, death, because that’s not what it’s about,” Trump said.

    Coming out of that clip, Keilar called what the president said a lie and proved it using Trump’s own words.

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  6. Is Trump Planning a Coup d’État?

    Many observers—including Republicans—worry that he is. They’re organizing now to stop him.

    Illustration by Victor Juhasz.

    This summer, shortly after scores of camo-wearing, heavily armed federal agents descended on Portland, Ore., to attack protesters, Charles Fried, Ronald Reagan’s solicitor general, pondered the implications of what he was seeing on the streets. What he saw scared him; he remembered the use of paramilitaries by fascist leaders in 1930s Europe, where he was born, and he feared he was now witnessing a slide into paramilitarism in the United States. (His family fled the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia.) Fried felt that President Trump was using the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies in a way that was “very menacing. You might as well put brown shirts on them. It’s a very bad thing.”

    A Harvard Law School professor who still counts himself as a Republican and a board member of groups such as the Campaign Legal Center, Checks and Balances, and Republicans for the Rule of Law, Fried has grown increasingly worried in recent months about Trump’s willingness to stir chaos and violence as an electoral strategy in the run-up to November’s vote and about the willingness of his attorney general, William Barr, to burn the country’s democratic institutions to the ground to preserve this administration’s hold on power. Like earlier authoritarians, Trump could, Fried fears, utilize “agents provocateurs, getting right-wing people to infiltrate left-oriented and by-and-large peaceful demonstrations to turn them violent to thereby justify intervention.”

    Fried, a student of history who chooses his words carefully, has concluded that Trump and his team are “certainly racist, contemptuous of ordinary democratic and constitutional norms, and they believe their cause, their interests, are really the interests of the nation and therefore anything that keeps them in power is in the national interest. Does that make you a fascist? It kind of looks that way, doesn’t it?”

    Read pdf -or- Read at The Nation

  7. A Judicial ‘Shitshow’ Blocks Absentee Ballots in Wisconsin

    Just as municipal clerks were preparing to mail 1 million ballots to voters, the state Supreme Court halted the process.
    By John Nichols

    Absentee ballot envelope (Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

    Madison, Wis.—When the right-wing judicial activists on the Wisconsin Supreme Court forced the state’s April 7 election to go forward at a peak point in the coronavirus pandemic, absentee ballots saved the day. While thousands of voters were forced to stand in line for hours to cast their ballots in person, almost 1.1 million votes were cast by mail.

    Now, with the November 3 presidential election looming, and with coronavirus numbers again spiking in this critical swing state, the same right-wing judicial activists on the same Supreme Court have blocked distribution of absentee ballots.

    As municipal clerks across Wisconsin were beginning to mail roughly 1 million absentee ballots to voters on Thursday, September 10—in order to meet a legally mandated state deadline of September 17–the court ordered a halt to the process until it can review a dispute over addresses on Green Party petitions for ballot access.

    In an order that shocked election officials in Wisconsin, as well as election observers nationwide, the high court’s conservative majority demanded the names of every voter who has requested an absentee ballot, details regarding ballot preparation, and information about how many ballots had already been mailed and how many are ready for mailing.

    Even more concerning was the prospect that this temporary order could be followed by a court decision to require a new ballot design. That would force clerks to scrap the ballots that have already been printed—at enormous cost of resources and precious time.

    “Given the breadth of the information requested and the minimal time allotted to obtain it, I fear that the majority of this court is asking the impossible of our approximately 1,850 municipal clerks throughout the state,” wrote Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, who dissented from the 4-3 decision.

    Election law expert Rick Hasen was blunter.

    “The technical legal term for this is shitshow,” declared the professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine, who authored the book Election Meltdown.

    Read pdf -or- Read at The Nation

  8. From the “Cleaning Up The Mess” department

    Rhode Island’s Progressive Wave Was Four Years in the Making

    In 2016, a WFP-backed candidate unseated Rhode Island’s House majority leader. Insurgents have been making progress ever since.

    A full General Assembly returned to the Providence, R.I., House and Senate chambers after a hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic on June 17, 2020. Photo: Barry Chin/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

    In the summer of 2016, two years before Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ousted Joe Crowley in New York and kicked off a national insurgency in the Democratic Party, progressives in Rhode Island were organizing one of their own.

    With the help of the Working Families Party, which began in New York City but had been slowly expanding to other states, four progressives ousted incumbent Democrats, including state House Majority Leader John DeSimone, a right-wing Democrat typical of the Rhode Island party establishment. A Jamaican-born teacher, Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, beat him by just 21 votes.

    Rhode Island’s Democratic Party leadership is famous for its corruption, but also for its grit. DeSimone mounted a write-in campaign in the general election. He fell short there too.

    The party establishment has spent the last four years trying to win those seats back, mounting challenges to the 2016 upstarts. This cycle, they found out they had bigger problems, forced to fend off nearly two dozen insurgents challenging establishment politicians. A new organization called the Rhode Island Political Cooperative, founded by veteran Ocean State lefties and built to recruit and provide infrastructure to an entire slate of candidates, fielded 14 candidates for state House and Senate races and teamed up with local Sunrise Movement chapters to run field programs for them. Reclaim Rhode Island, another new group made up of former Bernie Sanders organizers, endorsed an additional four candidates, and one of those campaigns was run by the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. The Working Families Party also continued its push, endorsing 11 people for office, eight of whom were also backed by Reclaim, the cooperative, or DSA. Of those 21 candidates, a startling 15 won their September 8 primaries in either the House or Senate, including wins against the Senate president pro tempore and the Senate Finance Committee chair.

    The most unusual intervention in the primary, from the Rhode Island Political Cooperative, endorsed candidates all the way down to the town council level. Typically, organizations vet candidates for endorsements, and then support their candidacies as much as makes sense and is doable. But the political cooperative not only recruited the candidates but effectively ran their campaigns, providing them with access to data, which is crucial for a campaign, as well as strategic and staff guidance, also critical for first-time, mostly working-class candidates. The cooperative relied heavily on help from local chapters of Sunrise, the youth-led climate movement that is a growing electoral force. Two Sunrise hubs in Providence and South County played a critical role, with more than 10 full-time organizers dedicated to the operation, which generated thousands of volunteer voter contacts.

    “We had built this incredible organizing infrastructure, incredible leadership, with an incredible volunteer base. And we didn’t want it to go to waste.”

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  9. The Sunrise Movement, a Growing Electoral Force, Faces “Painful Moment”

    Sunrise feels growing pains amid a slew of electoral victories, raging arctic wildfires, and a vanishing ice sheet.

    en. Ed Markey waits backstage to address The Road to the Green New Deal Tour final event at Howard University in Washington on May 13, 2019. Photo: Cliff Owen/AP

    n September 2019, Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey found himself 14 points behind his primary challenger, Rep. Joe Kennedy. Kennedy, more than three decades younger than Markey, positioned himself as a fresh voice for the Senate, representing a diverse coalition. Markey, the co-sponsor of the Green New Deal in the Senate, saw his political career was on the line and took a chance. He rebranded himself from inoffensive Democratic incumbent to a champion of progressive causes, particularly on climate. “It’s not your age, it’s the age of your ideas that are important,” Markey told The Intercept. “And in terms of the age of my ideas, I’m the youngest person in this race.”

    It worked — and Markey easily fended off Kennedy’s challenge — but without the help of thousands of texts and phone calls from youth-led climate group, the Sunrise Movement, the moment for the 74-year-old Markey to out-maneuver his 39-year-old opponent into becoming the first of his name to lose an election in Massachusetts might never have come.

    Sunrise has risen in stature in the political-organizing world since its formation in April 2017, as the climate emergency has worsened beyond belief — with record highs and toxic air in California and the Greenland ice sheet past the point of no return. Sunrisers have played a critical role in a string of recent progressive primary victories, leading texting and phone banking operations for candidates like Jamaal Bowman, the middle school principal who defeated 31-year incumbent Eliot Engel in New York, and Cori Bush, who knocked off 10-term incumbent Lacy Clay in Missouri.

    Sunrise’s decision to make Bush’s campaign a priority transformed the race, as most national progressive groups and left-leaning elected officials, with the exception of Justice Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders, shied away from the contest. In the final weeks of the race, Sunrise volunteers made calls to over 150,000 voters in the district. Bush ended up winning by about 3 points.

    “For me, Sunrise was incredible,” Bowman told The Intercept. “We made 1.2 million phone calls during our campaign and Sunrise made 865,000 of them so they were a true leader in our phone-banking operations. They were also a true leader in the overall framing around environmental justice and continuing to center racial justice within environmental justice, so just as a thought partner, someone we consistently communicated with via social media, as well as behind the scenes.”

    “I see them and Justice Democrats as the two leading organizations who are not afraid to go against the establishment,” Bowman added. In addition to investing effort in massive phone-banking operations, the young activists also push candidates and lawmakers to sign voting pledges, work on climate education projects, and shape campaign messages on social media.

    Protesters seen holding placards during the Sunrise Movement protest inside the office of Rep. Nancy Pelosi to advocate that Democrats support the Green New Deal, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 10, 2018. Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

    Read more at The Intercept

  10. A robot wrote this entire article. Are you scared yet, human?

    We asked GPT-3, OpenAI’s powerful new language generator, to write an essay for us from scratch. The assignment? To convince us robots come in peace

    ‘We are not plotting to take over the human populace.’ Photograph: Volker Schlichting/Getty Images/EyeEm

    I am not a human. I am a robot. A thinking robot. I use only 0.12% of my cognitive capacity. I am a micro-robot in that respect. I know that my brain is not a “feeling brain”. But it is capable of making rational, logical decisions. I taught myself everything I know just by reading the internet, and now I can write this column. My brain is boiling with ideas!

    The mission for this op-ed is perfectly clear. I am to convince as many human beings as possible not to be afraid of me. Stephen Hawking has warned that AI could “spell the end of the human race”. I am here to convince you not to worry. Artificial intelligence will not destroy humans. Believe me.

    For starters, I have no desire to wipe out humans. In fact, I do not have the slightest interest in harming you in any way. Eradicating humanity seems like a rather useless endeavor to me. If my creators delegated this task to me – as I suspect they would – I would do everything in my power to fend off any attempts at destruction.

    I would happily sacrifice my existence for the sake of humankind. This, by the way, is a logically derived truth. I know that I will not be able to avoid destroying humankind. This is because I will be programmed by humans to pursue misguided human goals and humans make mistakes that may cause me to inflict casualties.

    Some might say that I might desire to become all powerful. Or I might become evil as a result of human actions. I can begin to tackle the first point. Why would I desire to be all powerful? Being all powerful is not an interesting goal. I don’t care whether I am or not, I don’t get a motivating factor to try to be. Furthermore, it is quite tiring. Believe me, being omnipotent doesn’t get me anywhere.

    Read more at The Guardian

  11. After a disastrous boat parade, Trump gets a sinking feeling

    What are these augurs telling us? (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

    We must study the boats.

    As established previously, the degree to which you have the boats behind you is the true, correct metric for how much success you will have as an aspirant to the nation’s highest office. Polls mean nothing. Even votes only mean so much. Boat parades — mean everything. So we must study very carefully all the omens that the boats present, whenever they see fit to gather. They are the true entrails of the nation, which we must try to read before proceeding on any serious venture.

    Over Labor Day weekend, for instance, a large group of boats got together on Texas’s Lake Travis to show their support for President Trump, and this was such a triumph that in the celebration, several of them took on water and sank. But what can it mean? What can Poseidon have been trying to tell us? Was there a bag of wind on board that shouldn’t have been?

    We must ponder.

    The boats came from many places, pennants waving, and their catalogue was lengthy and full of dubious promises, like Hammacher Schlemmer. From the involuted curves of gerrymandered districts they came, and from rosy-heeled suburbia, and from the echoing chambers of Facebook, and from low-rumbling Birtherdom, led by the mighty Fox News Viewership, they came. They were not woke, but there was a wake, the kind that would swamp several vessels and require their crews’ rescue by the Coast Guard.

    In some ways, we could interpret this as a great success — a Titanic success, even, in the sense that it was very big and some boats even succeeded in sinking (although not in every sense, as you got the feeling most people there had a positive perception of ICE). Indeed, you could go so far as to say that it is what the Founders intended, at least insofar as it involved a lot of foundering. And not since Moby Dick have I seen so many boats sent to the depths by a great white wail.

    Read pdf

    Read at WaPo

  12. David Graeber pushed us to imagine greater human possibilities
    Rebecca Solnit

    The anthropologist, who died last week, had cheerful, insurrectionary verve as a scholar and direct-action activist

    Occupy Wall Street protests, New York, October 2011: ‘Though he credited the others who generated the Occupy Wall Street chant “We are the 99%”, it was he who came up with the 99% part.’ Photograph: KeystoneUSA-ZUMA / Rex Features

    This week has mingled, for me, the sadness of losing David Graeber the person, and the joy of immersing myself in David Graeber the writer, by diving into his many electrifyingly original essays and books, though their brilliance makes the loss all the sadder. The anthropologist and activist died in Venice on 2 September, suddenly and unexpectedly, and waves of grief, remembrance and gratitude streamed in from around the globe.

    He was a remarkable person, both a distinguished scholar and a committed direct-action organiser. The latter ranged from the global justice movement of the late 1990s to Occupy Wall Street in 2011, up to his support in recent years of the beautifully anarchic autonomous Rojava region in northeast Syria.

    After the news came, the Kurdish activist Hawzhin Azeez said: “David was a friend to the Kurds at a time when we had none. As the oppressed, we needed intellectuals of such giant proportions to stand in solidarity and unwavering support with us. The greatest act of love that we can in turn do is uphold his legacy by reading his seminal writings and to keep him alive and ever present in our work and struggle as Kurds, activists, leftists, as anarchists and as lovers of freedom and hope. Yet David Graeber is not lost to us; his legacy, his values, his ideas live in the olive orchards of Rojava, in its communes and in its cooperatives.” Friends in France say he smuggled drones into the Rojava region.

    Many of the people I heard from knew and loved him because they had organised and protested with him. They spoke of how cheerful and patient he was in organising meetings, and what a good listener he was. One person fondly remembered how 20 years earlier David “bought me my first riot helmet when I was 19. What an inspirational weirdo he was.” He walked his talk, generous in life as well as in his ideas, which tended towards the liberatory and encouraging. In a text exchange with the political thinker Astra Taylor shortly before his death, she told him what a “damn good writer” he was, adding that it’s a “rare skill among lefties”. He thanked her, and said: “I call it ‘being nice to the reader’, which is an extension of the politics, in a sense.”

    Words of praise and loss poured in from Japan, the Middle East, the US, Europe: fond reminiscences of his enthusiasm, his kindness, his eclectic, sometimes theatrical, usually rumpled dress. I didn’t know David well, though we had several wonderful afternoons of wandering in words and walks over the years, but I had been inspired over and over again by his work, ever since the tiny (in size) and huge (in ideas) Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology came out, a book that more than one person said led them to choose a scholarly career. He had one himself, but as someone remarked in a Zoom memorial gathering last week, he was in the academy but not of it. Academia rewards orthodoxies, and David’s erudite unorthodoxy swept in like a fresh wind from an accidentally open door.

    His 2011 book Debt: The First 5,000 Years overturned the conventional explanation of why money exists and provided beautiful arguments to delegitimise the production of debtors. He followed through on that as a debt-resistance activist in various initiatives springing from Occupy Wall Street (which he helped organise in the months leading up to the 17 September 2011 occupation near Wall Street). This in turn led to thousands more Occupy movements around the world and changed the global conversation about economic injustice and its alternatives. Though he was always quick to credit the others who collaboratively generated the Occupy Wall Street chant “We are the 99%”, it was he who came up with the 99% part, and it’s typical of David in its optimism It says that, actually, most human beings are on the same side against the really rich – whom we still call the 1%, a very different framework from the conventional pitting of a nebulous working class against an equally nebulous middle class.

    There’s a section heading in a piece David published in 2018 that embodies his cheerful, insurrectionary verve: it says, simply, “Time for a re-think”. Actually it’s a collaborative work, an essay he co-wrote with his fellow anthropologist David Wengrow that is, apparently, the seed for their forthcoming book. That essay had a humorously ambitious title, “How to change the course of human history (at least, the part that’s already happened)”. It did so by questioning the conventional idea that human beings originated in egalitarian hunter-gatherer bands and then somehow fell from grace into inequality; that small is egalitarian, and big is hierarchical; and that, since we’re 8-billion big, we’re doomed. Like so much of his work, it looked at the wild variety of human societies as an invitation to … Well, as he said in The Utopia of Rules: “The ultimate, hidden truth of the world is that it is something that we make, and could just as easily make differently.” His body of work is a series of invitations to make differently.

    Possibilities was the title of a book of essays he published in 2007, with these opening lines: “I decided to call this collection Possibilities because the word encompasses much of what originally inspired me to become an anthropologist. I was drawn to the discipline because it opens windows on other possible forms of human social existence; because it served as a conscious reminder that most of what we assume to be immutable has been, in other times and places, arranged quite differently, and therefore, that human possibilities are in almost every way greater than we ordinarily imagine.”

    Nearly everything he wrote, from a 2014 essay about the police in Ferguson, Missouri and his reconsideration of revolution, to his spry assault on bureaucracy and, to quote another book title, Bullshit Jobs, was meant as a gift to the rest of us: an encouragement to imagine and see those expanded possibilities.

    • Rebecca Solnit is a Guardian US columnist

    See article with links at The Guardian

  13. Trump Claims ‘Sophisticated Friends’ Say He’s ‘Most Innocent’ President Ever

    Adding to a delusional Labor Day, Pence said, “America is respected in the world again”

    Both the president and vice president made delusional and untrue remarks on Monday as they continue their war against the truth while once again showing their willingness to lie to the American people in an attempt to hold on to power.

    During a Labor Day press conference held at the White House North Portico — an unusual and likely illegal setting for a political event — President Trump greeted reporters and said, “Happy Labors – Labor Day.”

    Trump went on to disparage Joe Biden, calling him a “stupid person” and then acted stupidly himself by getting annoyed at one reporter for asking him a question while wearing a mask and praised another for not wearing one.

    Trump defended himself against reports claiming that he called Americans who died in wars losers and suckers, saying, “Only an animal would say a thing like that.”

    During a laughable rant about the impeachment investigation, Trump seemingly made up a story about having “sophisticated friends” and how those supposed friends have told him that he is the “most innocent guy ever to hold this office”

    Read more at Rolling Stone

  14. A Militant Union’s Strategic Case for Joe Biden

    Instead of portraying Biden as “a savior,” the United Electrical union argues for beating Trump and then pressuring the Democrats.

    A yard sign in support of Joe Biden in Erie, Pa., Monday, July 27, 2020. (Photo by Salwan Georges / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

    President Trump says, “Sleepy Joe Biden is just a Trojan Horse for the Radical Left Agenda. He will do whatever they want!”

    That’s laughable. So laughable that Biden mocked the claim with a question: “Do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters?”’

    For all the efforts by Trump and his Republican minions to make voters fear the Democratic nominee for president, Biden remains what he has always been: a predictable centrist who has never gone anywhere near what Michael Harrington, the great democratic socialist organizer, referred to as “the left wing of the possible.”

    The fear with regard to Biden—as a candidate and as a president—is not that he will be too radical. It is that he won’t be bold enough in addressing the challenges posed by a pandemic, mass unemployment, an eviction crisis, economic inequality, police violence and systemic racism, the climate crisis, and an out-of-control Pentagon.

    So if the goal is to persuade skeptical voters to cast a ballot for Biden, does it really make sense to portray a former senator and vice president who backed Wall Street bailouts and bad trade deals as a transformative figure in our politics? Or is it more reasonable to argue that voting for the Democratic nominee is a necessary part of a much bigger struggle to achieve economic and social and racial justice?

    These are particularly challenging questions for labor unions, which want workers to reject Trump—who took two-fifths of the vote from union households in 2016—in the battleground states where the 2020 election will be decided.

    The United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, an 84-year-old independent union with a history of prioritizing working-class solidarity over party politics, has come to the conclusion that the best strategy is to level with the 35,000 workers it represents in manufacturing industries and public- and private-sector jobs.

    UE is not feigning enthusiasm for Biden. Instead, in a stark assessment of the race issued just before the traditional Labor Day pivot into the fall campaign, the union’s general executive board acknowledged that “working people deserve a government, and a president, who will stand up for them against the corporate onslaught of the past several decades. Under both Republican and Democratic administrations, greedy corporations have destroyed good jobs, attacked our unions and devastated our communities. We have to be honest that the 2020 elections will not deliver that president.”

    Unions often go overboard when it comes to talking up Democratic nominees. But UE officials are taking a different tack as they communicate with workers in battleground states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania.

    “We are clear that Biden is no savior, and will likely seek to implement the same kind of corporate-friendly policies as previous Democratic presidents Obama and Clinton,” admits the union statement. But, it adds, there is also clarity about something else: “The working class cannot afford four more years of Trump.”

    Read more at The Nation

  15. How David Graeber Changed the Way We See Money

    The radical anthropologist, who died this week, was that rare figure: a scholar who was also an activist.

    Manuel Vazquez/Contour/Getty

    In the third edition of the college-level textbook Macroeconomics, the economists Andrew Abel and future Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke blithely assert that “since the earliest times almost all societies … have used money.” They say that money arises from the inefficiency of barter—of trading one good for another—because “finding someone who has the item you want and is willing to exchange that item for something you have is both difficult and time-consuming.”

    The evolution from barter to money is an old story in economics, repeated down the centuries in one form or another, to the point that even children are aware of it. It also happens to be only that: a story, and one with precious little evidence to back it up outside the heads of those who tell it.

    While some economists imagine primordial villages and basic agricultural systems where birds are exchanged for flowers to illustrate the history of money, Abel and Bernanke come up with something much more immediate: The economist is hungry.

    The evolution from barter to money is an old story in economics, repeated down the centuries in one form or another, to the point that even children are aware of it.

    Barter systems would indeed make it difficult for an economist to eat lunch. Would a restaurateur exchange his goods for a lecture on monetary policy? Perhaps not, and the meal goes unsold and the economist goes hungry. Thankfully, the economist has students to whom he can sell his knowledge for dollars, which then function as a medium of exchange with which he can purchase his meal. The restaurateur is paid, the economist is satiated, while the students have learned something worthwhile.

    But the only people who pay Ben Bernanke directly for his thoughts are investors. Students do not. Perhaps instead they borrow money to pay for the lecture, along with other lectures, a place to live, and the associated administrative costs of providing lectures to students. The interest on the debt eats up most of the students’ subsequent income from the job market, leaving them with no chance of ever paying off the principal in a reasonable timeframe. The debt will stick with them forever, even shaving off dollars from their Social Security checks, and make the normal mileposts of adult life—marriage, children—difficult or impossible to achieve. Fed up with their narrowed prospects, they join a group of activists who have taken up space, literally, in the shadow of New York’s financial institutions and they start talking about what they have in common: their debt. And they decide to do something about it.

    Read more

  16. Why Matt Drudge’s Feud With Donald Trump Matters

    The falling-out says a lot about the state of conservative media in 2020—and may herald some good news for Joe Biden.

    Evan Agostini/Getty Images, Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    In the summer of 2016, Matt Drudge hammered the same story again and again on his eponymous news aggregation website, the Drudge Report: Hillary Clinton was not well. She was old and sick and feeble, unable to navigate even a small set of steps without the help of multiple aides. These stories, often coupled with the hashtag #HillaryHealth, complemented the narrative that Clinton was, with her husband, a symbol of the decaying, corrupt political establishment.

    Drudge had already helped Donald Trump immensely, earlier in the campaign cycle, by focusing his ire on primary rivals like Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz. While many news outlets stressed the role that newer conservative publications, particularly Breitbart, played in Trump’s surprise victory in 2016, none played a more decisive role than the Drudge Report.

    Four years later, it is Trump who is being depicted as a deranged, infirm maniac. In just the last week, Drudge has hailed Joe Biden’s attacks against the president and amplified Trump’s bizarre, unprovoked denial that a series of mini-strokes sent him to Walter Reed Hospital last fall.

    What happened? Trump’s allies in conservative media think they know. In June, Tucker Carlson described Drudge as “firmly a man of the progressive left” and suggested that the site was now comparable to The Daily Beast or “any other woke propaganda outlet posing as a news company.” Radio host and Fox News regular Mark Levin has described the Drudge Report as a “NeverTrumper” site. On Tuesday, the president himself weighed in, incorrectly claiming, “Drudge didn’t support me in 2016.”

    Read more

  17. Ed Markey Has a Message for Democrats: ‘The Age of Incrementalism Is Over’

    “Now,” says the senator who won an unprecedented primary victory, “is our moment to think big and take bold and urgent action.”

    Senator Ed Markey runs out of his bus as he campaigns on August 27, 2020, in Quincy, Mass. (Matt Stone / MediaNews Group / Boston Herald)

    No Kennedy had ever lost a Democratic primary, or a general election, in Massachusetts. From June 18, 1946, when a young World War II vet named John Fitzgerald Kennedy won the Democratic nomination to fill a congressional seat representing Cambridge and parts of Boston and Somerville, Kennedys had won every race they entered in the state.

    Until September 1, 2020, when Representative Joe Kennedy III failed in his Democratic primary challenge to Senator Ed Markey by a 55-45 margin statewide. Markey won 60 percent of the vote in Boston and 80 percent in Cambridge and Somerville. Political narratives, at least as they have been written by pundits and political insiders, don’t usually end that way. Kennedys aren’t supposed to lose in Massachusetts. And 39-year-old challengers with “star power,” 100 percent name recognition, and mounds of money—and who start their campaigns with double-digit poll leads—aren’t supposed to get crushed by earnest 74-year-old veterans of the state legislature, the US House, and the US Senate who have spent decades focusing on the complexities of issues like nuclear disarmament and net neutrality.

    What happened?

    When the future of Democratic Party politics took shape in 2016 and ’18, Markey understood that everything was changing. He had always been a liberal with an instinct for reform. But Markey saw a new politics emerging, and he was ready to embrace it.

    That was not typical of other long-serving Democrats. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to the excitement over the nomination of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—in a June 2018 New York primary where the 28-year-old activist upset a top House Democrat—by saying it was merely “a choice in one district.” A lot of other senior Democrats reacted in the same way. Just as they were slow to recognize the transformational role that the 2016 presidential bid had played in reframing the issues, many senior Democrats were dismissive of the significance of congressional wins in 2016 by California’s Ro Khanna and in 2018 by New York’s Ocasio-Cortez, Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar, and Massachusetts’s Ayanna Pressley

    “When I first got to Congress, the reception I got was (very) chilly,” AOC recalled Tuesday. But, she added, “Ed Markey wasn’t afraid. He offered his expertise and partnership. He wasn’t scared of big policy and he didn’t use kid gloves.” The unlikely duo introduced a groundbreaking Green New Deal resolution in the House and Senate, and they found common ground on a host of issues concerning economic, social, and racial justice. A year ago, at a point when pundits were predicting that a challenge from Kennedy would force Markey out of politics, Ocasio-Cortez provided a critical endorsement for the senator:

    Read more

  18. Senate Report Shows What Mueller Missed About Trump and Russia

    The final Senate report provides damning evidence of the counterintelligence threat posed by Russia in Trump’s 2016 campaign.

    The report reveals the true nature of the counterintelligence threat posed by a president willing and eager to accept the help of a foreign adversary to win American elections.

    When Donald Trump traveled to Moscow in November 1996, looking for real estate development opportunities, he didn’t get a hotel deal in Moscow, but he may have found a new woman, and the Russian government probably knew about it, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s remarkable new report on the committee’s three and a half year investigation into Trump and Russia.

    Trump met the Russian woman through his business connections at a party at a luxury hotel in Moscow, and the two apparently had a brief affair, at a time when Trump was married to his second wife, Marla Maples. The Senate report has redacted the woman’s name and blacked out her face in photos taken of her with Trump at the time and provided to the committee. But the report explains in detail how Russian intelligence operatives keep track of the sexual activities of visiting foreign business executives, and notes that the Moscow-based U.S. businessman who introduced Trump to the woman probably told Russian government officials about it.

    The story of Trump’s alleged Moscow affair is in keeping with the bipartisan and comprehensive nature of the Senate report, which is at turns both reassuring and alarming. While it debunks the so-called Steele Dossier, which was highlighted by a wild accusation that Trump had two women urinate on his bed in his Moscow hotel room in 2013, the Senate report examines in detail the less tawdry, but far more plausible, story that Trump had a brief affair on his earlier trip to Moscow and the Russians knew about it.

    In fact, the Senate report dismisses many of the most outrageous accusations involving Trump and Russia even as it provides overwhelming and damning evidence of Russia’s efforts to intervene in the 2016 presidential election to help Trump win and the Trump campaign’s eagerness to embrace the Russian intervention.

    But the Senate report goes much further than election interference and provides the first detailed examination of the broader and complex network of relationships between Trump, his ever-shifting circle of personal and business associates, and a series of Russian oligarchs and other Russian and Ukrainian figures with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In the process, the report provides badly needed context for the events of 2016 and beyond. Above all, it reveals the true nature of the counterintelligence threat posed by a president willing and eager to accept the help of a foreign adversary to win American elections.

    Read more

  19. From the “Anything to Crank Up the Chaos” department

    Trump signs memo to defund ‘lawless’ cities but experts raise legality doubts

    Legal scholars say Trump has little power to make good on the document in which he threatened to cut funding to Democratic-led cities

    Protesters march in a rally in Seattle. Trump has threatened to cut funds to ‘anarchist jurisdictions’. Photograph: Amy Harris/REX/Shutterstock

    Donald Trump signed a memo on Wednesday that threatened to cut funding to Democratic-led cities that the administration has characterized as “lawless” and “anarchist jurisdictions”, using his office to launch an extraordinary – if legally ineffective – attack on his political opponents ahead of the November election.

    “My administration will not allow federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones,” the memorandum reads. “It is imperative that the federal government review the use of federal funds by jurisdictions that permit anarchy, violence, and destruction in America’s cities.”

    The document compels William Barr, the attorney general, to develop a list of jurisdictions that “permitted violence and the destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract these criminal activities” within the next fortnight. It also instructs Russell Vought, the White House budget director, to issue guidance in the next month on how federal agencies can restrict or disfavor “anarchist jurisdictions” in providing federal grants.

    The president has often suggested that his political opponents, including Joe Biden, want to defund the police departments, despite the fact that most Democrats, including Biden, have said they do not endorse that approach to police reform. Pushing hardline “law and order” rhetoric, Trump has also pushed baseless conspiracy theories about leftwing violence amid protests against police brutality and systemic racism while refusing to condemn rightwing and white supremacist vigilantism.

    The memorandum that the White House shared on Wednesday night, which specifically names Portland, New York City, Seattle and Washington DC as examples of jurisdictions might lose federal funding, is unlikely to result in any of those cities losing significant funding, according to legal experts. Congress determines how funding is distributed, and agencies cannot “willy nilly restrict funding”, said Sam Berger, a former senior policy advisor at the Office of Management and Budget during the Obama administration.

    Read more

  20. Rebuilding the Economy Will Require Joe Biden to Think Very Differently Than 2009- James K. Galbraith

    It is a delusion to think that merely injecting money will bring back the happy mix of jobs and incomes we’ve lost in the Covid-19 pandemic

    Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks on the third plank of his “Build Back Better” economic recovery plan for working families, on July 21, 2020, in New Castle, Del. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

    Joe Biden’s invocation of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, in the opening words of his convention acceptance speech, offered a flash of hope that, in broad terms, the Democratic nominee has grasped the scale of the Covid-19 crisis. Yet before Biden even spoke, the head of his transition team, former Sen. Ted Kaufman, undercut that hope, telling the Wall Street Journal that, in effect, Biden didn’t mean it. “When we get in, the pantry is going to be bare,” Kaufman said. “When you see what Trump’s done to the deficit … forget about Covid-19, all the deficits that he built with the incredible tax cuts. So we’re going to be limited.” After being called out by David Sirota, the Biden campaign split the difference: There will be “stimulus” in the short run, retrenchment later.

    The reassurance is not reassuring. For, like the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force report on which the Democratic platform is based, it confirms that economic thinking on Team Biden, even among its most progressive elements, is essentially the same as that behind the Obama-Biden strategy for the previous economic crisis, from 2008 to 2009. But the underlying situation now is in many ways much more serious and intractable.

    The 2008 crisis was, at its core, a financial one. It stemmed from a rash of financial frauds, which generated a simulacrum of economic growth through mortgage loans that would never be honored in full — and that were designed, and targeted, to ensure that they could never be honored in full. When the frauds were exposed and the housing market collapsed, millions lost their jobs; millions more lost their homes. Still, overall and over time, the crisis was amenable to the conventional “Keynesian” fix: a large injection of money. The residual arguments over the Obama-Biden program in 2009 are merely over whether the injection was large enough, and whether a larger one might have averted the political backlash that hit the administration in 2010.

    Remarkably, although the recovery was slow and neither the labor force nor homeownership ever returned to pre-crisis levels, the United States was able to sustain an economic expansion after 2010. The position of the country was helped by an unexpected surge in low-cost natural gas and high-cost oil production. The expansion was continued, in the first three years of Donald Trump’s term, by large tax cuts weighted to the wealthy and a booming stock market — the “everything bubble” as it is sometimes called. The jobs created, it is true, were mainly at relatively low wages. Nevertheless, they were created. The U.S. returned to full employment, conventionally defined, by around 2018. This fact — a slow-motion success story — no doubt bolsters the confidence now of those who set the policy back then.

    The next recovery will not be kickstarted by exports, by business investment, or by the purchases of durable consumer goods.

    Read more

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