Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Trump v. Anderson

We begin today with Ann E. Marimow of The Washington Post and her primer on Trump v. Anderson, the Colorado Supreme Court case involving Number 45’s disqualification from the Colorado presidential ballot, which will have oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court later this morning.

The justices will decide whether Colorado’s top court was correct to apply a post-Civil War provision of the Constitution to order Trump off the ballot after concluding his actions around the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol amounted to insurrection. Primary voting is already underway in some states. Colorado’s ballots for the March 5 primary were printed last week and include Trump’s name. But his status as a candidate will depend on what the Supreme Court decides.

Unlike Bush v. Gore in 2000, when the court’s decision handed the election to George W. Bush, the case challenging Trump’s qualifications for a second term comes at a time when a large swath of the country views the Supreme Court through a partisan lens and a significant percentage still believes false claims that the last presidential election was rigged. [...]

But election law experts have implored the justices to definitively decide the key question of whether Trump is disqualified under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, settling the issue nationwide so that other states with similar challenges to Trump’s candidacy follow along.

They warn of political instability not seen since the Civil War if the court was to overturn Colorado’s ruling but leave open the possibility that Congress could try to disqualify Trump later in the process, including after the general election.

Oral arguments for Trump v. Anderson begin at 10 AM ET and can be followed through a number of available audio feeds.

Donald K. Sherman writes for Slate that Trump v. Anderson is, in many ways, this generation’s Brown v. Board of Education.

Now the Supreme Court is facing another inflection point to consider democratic protections. On Thursday, the justices will hear arguments in Trump v. Anderson, to consider whether to uphold Donald Trump’s disqualification from office given the Colorado Supreme Court’s finding that he engaged in an insurrection by inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. As the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which famously litigated Brown, argued in a friend of the court brief filed in Anderson, the “Reconstruction Amendments were enacted to ensure that the worst abuses in our nation’s history are not repeated and to achieve the fullest ideals of our democracy. But those Amendments are effective only when those responsible for applying them have the courage to do so.”

Of course, millions of Americans would be disappointed or even infuriated if Trump is removed from the ballot. Some may even turn to violence. But that threat is obvious given the former president’s incitement of violence after his refusal to accept the results of the 2020 presidential election. Trump’s supporters continue to threaten violence in his name, and without condemnation by the candidate. In his briefs before the Supreme Court, Trump has threatened “bedlam” if he is kept off the ballot, but the bedlam he provoked on Jan. 6 is how we got here—and why he is disqualified by the Constitution from serving as president again. [...]

If the Supreme Court allowed concerns about civil unrest or violence to deter enforcement of the Constitution, especially the 14th Amendment, then Black Americans and millions of others would never have secured the rights enshrined after the Civil War. Brown provoked immediate backlash from many white Americans, including violence, riots, and the founding of segregation academies throughout the South—with effects still seen today. Because the court did not cower in the face of this resistance, our country continued forward on the path toward a more just and democratic society.

The amicus curiae brief filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund for Trump v. Anderson (linked in the excerpt) is a great read and a short read.

For example, the footnote at the bottom of page 7 reminds us that part of the insurrection scheme was designed “to undermine the voting rights and full citizenship of Black voters in violation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and other federal laws.”

Kevin Lind of Columbia Journalism Review interviews Slate’s senior editor Dahila Lithwick about Trump v. Anderson and, more generally, about how the media covers the courts.

[LIND]: You gave a talk at Columbia Journalism School’s graduation last year (I was among the graduating class) and discussed how reporters from other beats broke major stories about the Supreme Court—particularly around undisclosed gifts from wealthy interests to justices—as opposed to court reporters doing it. What led to that happening, and what can journalists learn from that experience?

[LITHWICK]: I think that the Supreme Court press corps had a narrow aperture for what its responsibility was. There was a sense that its job was to cover the cases—What’s happened in oral argument; here’s what the decision held. We had this pristine beat, covering the law itself. The justices who produced it are nameless, faceless actors in a sausage-making factory, and we just write about the sausage. It became clear that there wasn’t a beat that was asking, Who are these justices, how do they get on the court, how do they decide cases? and Who’s paying for what, why is it never disclosed, and why are we constantly told that probing these things is somehow destabilizing to the rule of law? We were so busy guarding the henhouse that it took us years to realize nobody was covering the foxes.

We’ve really seen a change both in investigative journalists being sicced on the court and the raft of important stories that have subsequently come out. Stuff is starting to happen, but the critique was another version of what I said before, which is that we’re so busy covering this structure, we forgot to cover all of the systems and subterranean money. We failed to cover it, or we covered it incidentally. It is incredibly boring to write about how a handful of dark-money groups essentially captured the Supreme Court. But the fact that the press didn’t think that was a front-page story day after day, as it happened, for decades? That’s on us.

David A. Graham of The Atlantic looks at the week of Congressional Republicans in disarray (and the week isn’t even finished!).

Underlying the drama was a banal truth: Speaker Mike Johnson doesn’t have a grip on his caucus. Maybe no one could manage such a thin majority, but his task will be even harder after yesterday’s failure. (Johnson vowed to try again on the Mayorkas impeachment. We’ll see.) The inexperienced Johnson is speaker thanks to Trump, who cheered on conservative rebels against former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and refused to save him. Johnson’s rise was due in part to his starring role in attempts to overturn the 2020 election. (An irony: If McCarthy hadn’t resigned after his ouster, Republicans might have had the votes yesterday.)

Things are barely going better for the Senate Republican caucus. Over recent months, that group hatched what seemed like a clever plan to entrap Democrats. Rather than pass a bill with aid to Ukraine and Israel, which the White House as well as many GOP members wanted, it would tie those issues to tighter security at the southern border. That would force Democrats to support policies that the GOP wanted, or else to vote against them and face political blowback on immigration, Trump’s favorite campaign issue. [...]

“I feel like the guy standing in the middle of a field in a thunderstorm holding up a metal stick,” Lankford lamented last week, before lightning struck. “The reason we’ve been talking about the border is because they wanted to, the persistent critics,” McConnell told Politico. “You can’t pass a bill without dealing with a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate.”

McConnell is right, but no one in his caucus wants to hear it. As for Lankford, his mistake was believing his colleagues when they said they wanted a bill that would tighten the border, and then trying to write one. But the Trump wing of the Republican Party isn’t interested in policy—it’s interested in sending signals. The MAGA crowd would rather impeach Mayorkas, even if they know he won’t be convicted and it won’t change anything, than enact a law that actually affects the border. The point is expression, not legislation.

Bill McKibben of the Guardian has nothing but good things to say about the Biden Administration’s decision to say no to big oil in one respect.

Ten days ago Joe Biden did something remarkable, and almost without precedent – he actually said no to big oil.

His administration halted the granting of new permits for building liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals, something Washington had been handing out like M&Ms on Halloween for nearly a decade. It’s a provisional “no” – Department of Energy experts will spend the coming months figuring out a new formula for granting the licenses that takes the latest science and economics into account – but you can tell what a big deal it is because of the howls of rage coming from the petroleum industry and its gaggle of politicians.

And you can tell something else too: just how threadbare their arguments have become over time. Biden has called their bluff, and it’s beautiful to watch.

Charles Blow of The New York Times reminds us of a previous schism between Jewish Americans and African Americans over the Six-Day War of 1967 and says that It still has lessons to offer us today.

Despite the fact that Jewish American sentiments don’t necessarily align with sentiments in Israel, the world’s lone Jewish state, or with the policies of Israel’s government, there are parallels between the perceived split years ago and the current cleavage: Many Black Americans, especially younger, politically engaged Black Americans, oppose Israel’s conduct of the war in Gaza, with particular concern about the death toll among Palestinian civilians.

Many Jewish Americans support Israel’s right to conduct the war and American support for Israel’s war effort in order to eliminate the threat posed by Hamas — and some feel disappointed or even betrayed that many Black people seem to have more sympathy for the Palestinian perspective than the Israeli perspective.

The issues involved feel irreconcilable, because many of those engaged in the debate believe that their positions represent the moral high ground. And nuanced views are sometimes characterized as weak. But there has to be room for nuance.

David Gilbert of WIRED has exclusive reporting about a Russian disinformation campaign involving the border “crisis.”

The disinformation campaign began in earnest in late January, and expanded after Russian politicians spoke out when the US Supreme Court lifted an order by a lower court and sided with President Joe Biden’s administration to rule that US Border Patrol officers were allowed to take down razor-wire fencing erected by the Texas National Guard. Days later, when Texas governor Greg Abbott refused to stand down, former Russian president and prime minister Dmitry Medvedev, who is currently deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, claimed that the Texas border dispute is “another vivid example of the US hegemony getting weaker.” [...]

After these comments, state media, influencers, and bloggers quickly got involved. Over the past two weeks, state-run media outlets like Sputnik and RT have called the dispute between the Texas governor and the Biden administration a “constitutional crisis” and an “unmitigated disaster,” while one Sputnik correspondent posed a video on the outlet’s X account, stating: “There’s a big convoy of truck drivers going down there. So, it can very easily get out of hand. It can genuinely lead to an actual civil war, where the US Army is fighting against US citizens.”

On Telegram, there were clear signs of a coordinated effort to boost conversations around the Texas crisis, according to analysis shared exclusively with WIRED by Logically, a company using artificial intelligence to track disinformation campaigns.

Finally today, Alex Burness of Bolts writes about a new initiative by a Montgomery County, PA county commissioner to create mobile units designed to go into neighborhoods to help voters “cure” their ballots.

Having won his election last November, [Neil] Makhija is now in a position to secure voting rights from the inside. County commissions in most of Pennsylvania double as boards of elections, with broad discretion over election procedures, handing Makhija power to help shape how voting is conducted in the third most populous county of this pivotal swing state. And he’s intent on getting creative.

Makhija tells Bolts he intends to propose that Montgomery County set up a mobile unit that’d go into neighborhoods to help people resolve mistakes they’ve made on their mail ballots.

He likens his proposal, which election experts say does not currently exist anywhere in Pennsylvania, to an ice cream truck for voting.

“Imagine if voting was as efficient and accessible as getting an Amazon delivery or calling an Uber,” Makhija told Bolts. “Exercising fundamental rights shouldn’t be more burdensome.”

Try to have the best possible day everyone!

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: New Hampshire Republican primary poll numbers remain steady

We begin today with Steven Shepard of POLITICO and the latest poll numbers from this coming Tuesday’s New Hampshire Republican primary race.

Former President Donald Trump leads former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley by 17 percentage points in the latest New Hampshire tracking data from Suffolk University, The Boston Globe and WBTS, the NBC affiliate in Boston.

In interviews conducted Thursday and Friday, Trump leads Haley, 53 percent to 36 percent, the poll shows.

Since the Iowa caucuses, the race in New Hampshire has remained remarkably stable. In each of the four days the tracking poll has been released, Trump has been at or above 50 percent, and his lead over Haley has ranged between 14 and 17 points.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is in a distant third place, with 7 percent. Another 5 percent prefer another candidate, are undecided or refused to answer.

Moving right along...

Heather Cox Richardson writes for her “Letters from an American” Substack about the reasons that Number 45 has been sounding off about “debank-ing” as of late.

His statement looks like word salad if you’re not steeped in MAGA world, but there are two stories behind Trump’s torrent of words. The first is that Trump always blurts out whatever is uppermost in his mind, suggesting he is worried by the fact that large banks will no longer lend to him. The Trump Organization’s auditor said during a fraud trial in 2022 that the past 10 years of the company’s financial statements could not be relied on, and Trump was forced to turn to smaller banks, likely on much worse terms. Now the legal case currently underway in Manhattan will likely make that financial problem larger. The judge has already decided that the Trump Organization, Trump, his two older sons, and two employees committed fraud, for which the judge is currently deciding appropriate penalties.

The second story behind his statement, though, is much larger than Trump.

Since 2023, right-wing organizations, backed by Republican state attorneys general, have argued that banks are discriminating against them on religious and political grounds. In March 2023, JPMorgan Chase closed an account opened by the National Committee for Religious Freedom after the organization did not provide information the bank needed to comply with regulatory requirements. Immediately, Republican officials claimed religious discrimination and demanded the bank explain its position on issues important to the right wing. JPMorgan Chase denied discrimination, noting that it serves 50,000 accounts with religious affiliations and saying, “We have never and would never exit a client relationship due to their political or religious affiliation.”  

But the attack on banks stuck among MAGA Republicans, especially as other financial platforms like PayPal, Venmo, and GoFundMe have declined to accept business from right-wing figures who spout hate speech, thus cutting off their ability to raise money from their followers.

Kathryn Dunn Tenpas of the Brookings Institution examines the personnel turnover of senior Biden Administration officials.

2023 was another challenging year for the president — tepid approval ratings, narrow margins in Congress, calls for impeachment, new and continuing military conflict abroad, and an economy struggling to regain its footing. Despite these challenges, relative stability in White House staffing continued to be a Biden administration hallmark, particularly when compared to the tumult in the Trump administration. In year three, the men and women who work at the most senior levels of the Executive Office of the President (EOP) continued their efforts with less turnover than in 2022, dropping from 35% (23 individuals) in 2022 to 23% (15 individuals) in 2023. Overall, three years of top staff departures stand at 65%, which ranks President Biden fourth among the seven presidents going back to Ronald Reagan and including George H.W. Bush, William Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. [...]

Though one can only speculate on the causes of the 15 departures, one reason may be the increased (and inevitable) focus on reelection when, some former White House staff members contend, reelection politics trumps policymaking. Ever since President Nixon established an independent reelection organization (CREEP, The Committee for the Reelection of the President), the national party’s role in reelection planning has declined, and the White House has become more involved in campaign planning. Referring to the 1992 reelection campaign, Marlin Fitzwater, President George H.W. Bush’s press secretary, explained, “Within the White House there is less emphasis on issues, fewer decisions coming to the president. The President was distracted by the campaign…lots of travel…Maybe we should’ve abandoned the process of governing earlier. The reality is the White House pretty much comes to a stop.” “Shutting down” governing for the reelection campaign does not necessarily create an inviting climate for those happily immersed in the details of legislation or policy analysis. Also, “burnout” in the White House is real: Many of the 15 departing staff began working grueling hours when they joined the Biden campaign in spring of 2019. In short, some of the senior staff members departing in year three were reaching their fifth year with Team Biden.

Another key segment of senior presidential appointees includes the Cabinet secretaries in the 15 departments that are in the line of presidential succession. Whatever the fluctuations among the “A Team” in the EOP, the Biden Cabinet has experienced record-level stability compared to the six most recent administrations. George Condon of the National Journal recently reported that one had to go back 171 years, to the nation’s 14th president, Franklin Pierce, to find a more stable Cabinet. Only one Biden Cabinet member has departed, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh. (Note that my analysis of turnover relies on a strict definition of “Cabinet,” including only the 15 Cabinet secretaries in the line of presidential succession.)

It’s interesting that Republican administrations, by and large, experience the most Cabinet-level turnover (and the Shrub’s Administration should have experienced more turnover….which it did during it’s second term)

Melissa Hellman of the Guardian says that the right-wing strategy utilized to force former Harvard President Claudine Gay’s resignation will continue to be used as long as it works.

The strategy behind Gay’s ousting wasn’t new, and has been used to advance conservative agendas, influence school curriculum and demonize Black people throughout history. What was different this time was the quick efficacy of the takedown, which, according to some political scientists, historians and lawyers, emboldened conservative activists and could have dangerous implications for the future of education. [...]

Weeks prior to Gay’s resignation, the rightwing activist Christopher Rufo publicized the plan to remove her from office: “We launched the Claudine Gay plagiarism story from the Right. The next step is to smuggle it into the media apparatus of the Left, legitimizing the narrative to center-left actors who have the power to topple her. Then squeeze.” In an interview with Politico after Gay vacated her post, Rufo described his successful strategy as a three-pronged approach of “narrative, financial and political pressure”.

Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, an associate professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University, noted the effectiveness of the plan, and warned of what it could portend considering that these actors have “seen the impact that they can have when they are able to marshal pressure from the media, donors and others”.

Of course, many on the Left have internalized the centuries-long propaganda about Black people. That’s why this method of attack remains so effective.

Mary Mitchell of the Chicago Sun-Times writes about how the decision and desire of seniors to remain in their homes for various reasons are affecting the housing market.

What does aging in place mean?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes it “as the ability to live in one's own home and community safely, independently and comfortably regardless of age, income or ability level.”

According to a 2021 AARP survey, “More than three-quarters of adults 50 and older said they wanted to stay in their homes or communities as they age.”

That means most seniors don't want to move to a retirement community or an assisted-living facility or nursing home.

I'm sure there are plenty of quality facilities in the Chicago metro area aimed at seniors, but I've been in enough bad ones to know that's not where I want to spend my last days. [...]

Seniors’ decisions to not move have affected the housing market, according to Construction Coverage, a company that specializes in researching construction software, insurance and related services.

The headline on an email it sent that landed in my inbox leaped out: “Boomers own 35.6% of Chicago homes amid a housing shortage.”

Katrin Kuntz (with photographs by Dmitrij Leltschuk) of Der Spiegel looks into the efforts of survivors of the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre at the Nova music festival to overcome the trauma.

The Nova festival in the Negev Desert of southern Israel was a popular event for electronic trance music. Around 4,000 people gathered there for several days of partying – just five kilometers from the border to the Gaza Strip. On October 7, around 50 terrorists attacked the party and killed 364 people. Dozens more were abducted and taken back to Gaza. [...]

On October 7, young people once again found themselves the targets of a terror attack – just as they have been in the past. In 2015, the terror organization Islamic State killed 90 people in the Paris concert venue Bataclan, many of them in their thirties. The right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik murdered 69 people, most of them teenagers, on the Norwegian island of Utøya in 2017. Films, novels and Netflix series have appeared in the wake of such attacks, and many of those directly affected by the assaults have never been able to find their way back to normal lives. It remains to be seen what the consequences of the attack on the Nova festival might be.

Therapists fear that the trauma inflicted on the Nova festivalgoers is likely to be even worse than that caused by previous wars in Israel. One reason is that the survivors are so young, averaging 27 years of age, but also because the attack was so unexpected and because Israel failed to protect them. And because many were high on hallucinogenic drugs at the time. Their experiences have also been magnified by the horrific video clips that can be found on the internet. Some survivors saw themselves in those videos, fighting for survival. In a number of cases, festivalgoers themselves filmed with their mobile phones.

The government is paying for at least 12 hours of therapy for survivors, but not all Nova guests qualify. Experts believe the time allotted to be absurdly inadequate and have also complained about the slow pace of financing. It’s like promising a cancer patient just a single cycle of chemotherapy, says one Israeli scientist.

Sui-Wee Lee of The New York Times previews another of the upcoming elections in 2024, this time in Indonesia.

...Prabowo Subianto has spent the past two decades trying his hand at democratic politics, donning different personas in multiple attempts to become Indonesia’s leader.

Now, a month before the next election, nearly every poll shows Mr. Prabowo, 72, leading in the first round of voting. His rise, with the help of a running mate who is the son of the popular departing president, Joko Widodo, has alarmed millions of Indonesians who still remember the brutal and kleptocratic rule of Suharto, Mr. Prabowo’s former boss and father-in-law.

A victory for Mr. Prabowo, his critics warn, would revive a dark past.

“What will happen is the death of democracy,” said Hendardi, the director of the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace. Like many Indonesians, he goes by one name. “We have long been against Prabowo,” he added, “and with our limited power, we were still able to prevent him from moving forward. But now he has gained this support.”

Finally today, Rafael Clemente of El País in English explains the complexities of landing on the Moon.

Japan’s recent lunar landing, becoming the fifth nation to complete a soft landing after India last August, showcased the challenges of returning to the moon. The moon lacks air, of course, making parachute deployment impossible. Only rocket engines can be used, requiring precise adjustments to achieve a near-zero speed touchdown. Landing on the moon is a complex task that requires radar and laser measurements to monitor altitude and carefully manage fuel consumption. The objective is to avoid premature depletion while ensuring a safe landing without any horizontal displacement. And the delicate onboard instruments must be protected from potential damage upon impact.

The challenge is such that NASA has chosen to delay the Artemis program, pushing back its crewed lunar landing until at least 2026. Uncrewed landers have also met with frequent failure. In the past decade, no privately-funded attempts have succeeded, with only China and India making successful soft landings.

Try to have the best possible day everyone!

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: The insurrection continues

We begin today with Chris Geidner of the “LawDork” Substack stating that the U.S. Supreme Court must state that Number 45 engaged in insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.

Over the coming month, a handful of lawyers will be arguing in briefs at the U.S. Supreme Court, and then at oral arguments on Feb. 8, that the justices must reverse the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision holding that Trump “engaged in insurrection,” is disqualified from being president under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, and can be barred under Colorado law from appearing on Colorado’s primary ballot.

Some of the arguments being brought forth — like whether the president is an “officer” subject to Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment — are weak and ultimately show how much weaker other arguments are. Arguments about whether states have the authority to act as Colorado has done, meanwhile, are arguments about the implementation of the amendment. I don’t think they’re successful either, but they’re (more or less) arguments being made by lawyers engaged in lawyering about issues not previously implemented in this way.

Those lawyers, however, who go so far — as Trump’s lawyers did in their petition for certiorari — as to argue that Trump did not engage in insurrection at all are failing the law, the court, and the nation.

The Supreme Court should affirm the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision, but — given that they granted certiorari in response to Trump’s petition — they should do so in an opinion concluding specifically and explicitly what we all know to be true: Donald Trump engaged in insurrection three years ago today.

Adam Serwer of The Atlantic takes note of the fine line between the political and legal merits of Anderson v. Griswold; the Colorado Supreme Court case that said Trump was disqualified for Colorado primary ballots.

In the history of self-defeating euphemisms, Jonathan Chait’s characterization of Donald Trump’s failed coup as an attempt to “secure an unelected second term in office” belongs in the hall of fame, alongside George W. Bush’s “weapons of mass destruction–related program activities” or Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts.” [...]

When writing that line, Chait, like many other liberal writers, was alarmed by the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision disqualifying Trump from the ballotbased on Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which bars from political office those who have sworn an oath to the Constitution and subsequently engaged in “insurrection or rebellion.” Although Chait curiously insisted that he wouldn’t “comment on the legal merits of the case,” he managed to somehow zero in on one of the main legal points at issue, which is whether Trump’s behavior “constitutes ‘insurrection.’” [...]

There are many compelling political reasons not to disqualify Trump under the Fourteenth Amendment, among them the potential implications of removing the immense decision of who gets to be president from the electorate’s control. But to oppose his removal on legal, not political, grounds is to, in a circuitous way, make the same argument as Trump himself: that he is above the law—that the constraints of the Constitution apply to others but, for some reason, not to him.

David Montgomery and Kathy Frankovic of YouGov look at a YouGov/Economist poll that shows that most Americans think that they should be able to decide for themselves whether an insurrectionist belongs on the presidential ballot.

The latest Economist/YouGov poll from December 31, 2023 - January 2, 2024 asked Americans whether voters, the courts, and Congress should be able to determine if Donald Trump should be able to run for president in 2024. Respondents could select multiple options. 62% of Americans said voters should be able to determine whether Trump runs again, including majorities of Democrats and Independents, and 75% of Republicans.

Fewer Americans — 42% — said the courts should be able to make that determination. That includes 55% of Democrats, but just 28% of Republicans.

Only 20% said Congress should be able to determine Trump's eligibility.

Many Americans who think voters should be able to decide also think the courts or Congress should have a say: 31% of those who think voters should decide also say the courts should be able to decide, and 21% say Congress should also be able to.

So according to this poll, there should be no explicit PROHIBITION of who is allowed to run for president or any other office...if you get my drift on that.

Peter Grier and Sophie Hills of The Christian Science Monitor look at how easy (or difficult) it would be for Trump to become a dictator if he wins the 2024 presidential election.

As the Iowa caucuses and the official beginning of the 2024 election cycle arrive, the question of whether a second Trump term would result in the collapse of American democracy as we know it has gripped much of official Washington and U.S. pundits and political insiders.

Mr. Trump’s own words have fed this narrative. Among other things, he’s dehumanized political opponents as “vermin” who need to be exterminated, proposed that shoplifters be shot, said immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country,” and suggested that former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley should be executed after a trial for treason.

His critics say those words should be considered against the background of past actions. They point to what the former president actually did in the wake of the 2020 election, when he falsely insisted the election had been stolen despite lack of evidence and numerous court rulings against him. He pushed state officials to overturn their results, tried to shut down the Electoral College vote count in Congress, and considered seizing voting machines with the U.S. military. [...]

Yet in Mr. Trump’s first term, experienced officials such as chief of staff John Kelly blocked many of his most reckless proposals. The Trump team is planning for any second term to be staffed with loyalists who may not act the same way. The former president’s impeachments, indictments, and criminal and civil trials have already written a new chapter in the history of the United States. The book is open. Where will the story go now?

Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press reports on Michigan Republicans in disarray now that they has voted to remove their state party chair, Kristina Karamo.

Mark Forton, chairman of the Macomb County Republican Party, said he has long been a supporter of Karamo and still admires her, but he ultimately concluded she has to be removed because of the people around her. "We have an election in 2024 and up until now the state party hasn't addressed any part of it," Forton said.

But the special meeting of the state party's governing committee had already been declared null and void by Karamo and her supporters. Karamo, who took office 11 months ago, said the meeting at a hall in western Oakland County was not convened in accordance with the party's bylaws. She did not attend Saturday's session and pointed to an authorized special state committee meeting, set for Jan. 13. [...]

So for now, Saturday's action signals further strife and disarray and possibly another in a long list of lawsuits in a party riven by divisions as its power has cratered in Michigan. Just before the 2018 election, the GOP controlled both chambers of the state Legislature plus the offices of governor, attorney general, and secretary of state. After the 2022 election, that full control was held by Michigan Democrats.

Good riddance!

Daniel Soufi of El País in English reports on an alarming movement within Silicon Valley circles called “effective accelerationism.”

Effective accelerationism advocates deregulated technological development. Its supporters believe in the need to allow emerging technologies to progress as quickly as possible, without obstacles that slow down innovation. They give special importance to AI and consider the path to technological singularity — a point where AI will vastly surpass human intelligence — as an inevitable destiny. [...]

To a large extent, effective accelerationism arises in response to effective altruism — a philosophy and social movement that seeks to maximize the effectiveness of charitable actions, by using evidence-based methods and critical reasoning to determine the most efficient ways to help others. Followers of this doctrine research how to earn the most money possible and donate it to causes that save the most lives, or reduce the most suffering for each dollar invested. However, in recent years, many philanthropists have expressed concern about the safety of artificial intelligence, with the idea that powerful AI could destroy humanity if not properly regulated. The confrontation between proponents of effective accelerationism and altruists represents one of the many schisms currently emerging on the AI scene in San Francisco.

Effective accelerationism is directly rooted in the writings of the British philosopher Nick Land, who proposes accelerating technological and social processes to induce radical changes in society and the economy. Land — who was quite influential in the late-1990s — considers capitalism to be an autonomous force that’s reconfiguring society. He suggests intensifying its effects to provoke a collapse that could overcome capitalism itself.

Land is also focused on how technology could lead humanity into a post-human era. A reference for the North American neoreactionary right, Land wrote The Dark Enlightenment in 2022, where he argues that accelerationists should support figures like Donald Trump to blow up the current order as quickly as possible.

Finally today, Graham Readfearn of the Guardian reports about an Australian academic that has designed an app to combat vaccine and climate change misinformation.

The basis for the game is research by Cook and other social science colleagues that tested how best to combat misinformation.

A standard approach to debunking a myth might be to first state the piece of misinformation, such as “climate change is caused by the sun” or “vaccines are dangerous because a child got sick after having a jab”, and then explain the facts.

But Cook and others have developed an approach which – perhaps ironically – is known as the “inoculation technique”, where people are taught common modes of arguing used by “cranky uncles” before they are exposed to the myths they spread.

“We’ve found through a number of studies that inoculation has some powerful benefits, such as it converts immunity across topics,” says Cook.

Try to have the best possible day everyone!

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Why the Claudine Gay story now?

We begin today with the now former president of Harvard, Claudine Gay, writing for The New York Times that it’s the forces which led to her resignation have a much bigger agenda.

As I depart, I must offer a few words of warning. The campaign against me was about more than one university and one leader. This was merely a single skirmish in a broader war to unravel public faith in pillars of American society. Campaigns of this kind often start with attacks on education and expertise, because these are the tools that best equip communities to see through propaganda. But such campaigns don’t end there. Trusted institutions of all types — from public health agencies to news organizations — will continue to fall victim to coordinated attempts to undermine their legitimacy and ruin their leaders’ credibility. For the opportunists driving cynicism about our institutions, no single victory or toppled leader exhausts their zeal.

Yes, I made mistakes. In my initial response to the atrocities of Oct. 7, I should have stated more forcefully what all people of good conscience know: Hamas is a terrorist organization that seeks to eradicate the Jewish state. And at a congressional hearing last month, I fell into a well-laid trap. I neglected to clearly articulate that calls for the genocide of Jewish people are abhorrent and unacceptable and that I would use every tool at my disposal to protect students from that kind of hate. [...]

Never did I imagine needing to defend decades-old and broadly respected research, but the past several weeks have laid waste to truth. Those who had relentlessly campaigned to oust me since the fall often trafficked in lies and ad hominem insults, not reasoned argument. They recycled tired racial stereotypes about Black talent and temperament. They pushed a false narrative of indifference and incompetence.

Kimberly Atkins Stohr of The Boston Globe says that yes, of course, Black women took note of what happened to Claudine Gay and why it happened.

Whatever your views about Claudine Gay, the plagiarism accusations against her, or her handling of antisemitism on campus, the mode of her downfall should ring alarm bells for everyone in academia. The voices of deep-pocketed donors with even deeper animosity for diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts drowned out those of the members of Harvard University’s own governing board, which supported Gay until they didn’t. If some folks missed that piece of context in this controversy, Black women surely did not.

As Joy Gaston Gayles, a professor and a former president of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, told me, Black women in academia feel disposable.

“It’s no secret that if you are a Black woman, in order to rise to certain levels of leadership — especially at a place like Harvard — you’ve got to do 10 times more than people who are privileged and who don’t share your identities have to do,” said Gayles, who heads the Department of Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development at North Carolina State University but clarified that she was expressing her personal views. [...]

Even among Black women who succeed in academia, the toll can be great. The deaths of two Black female college presidents last year —  JoAnne A. Epps of Temple University and Orinthia Montague of Vol State — led some Black academics to speculate if their deaths were hastened by the stress Black women feel on the job. Given the medical data supporting the fact that racism shortens Black people’s lives by weathering our bodies, I can understand the suggestion.

Charles Blow had a few words to say about the resignation of Claudine Gay on TikTok.

It’s as simple as this.🤷🏾‍♂️ pic.twitter.com/wBPJXayKB9

— It’s Me Ya’ll (@Datelinefam) January 4, 2024

You can read Blow’s column in The New York Times (on the same topic) here.

David Roberts of the “Volts” Substack went on a tweetstorm about the ease with which center-left pundits allow themselves to be used to peddle the right-wing framing of news topics.

I just want to describe a certain pattern/dynamic that has replicated itself over & over & over again, as long as I have followed US media and politics. I have given up hope that describing such patterns will do anything to diminish their frequency, but like I said: compulsions.

— David Roberts (@drvolts) January 2, 2024

The center-left pundit approach to these things is simply to accept the frame that the right has established and dutifully make judgments within it. In this case, they focus tightly on the question of whether particular instances qualify as plagiarism as described in the rules. [...]
Why are we talking about this? Is there any reasonable political or journalistic justification for *this* being the center of US discourse for weeks on end? Who has pushed this to the fore, and why, and what are they trying to achieve? [...]
There are a lot of important things going on right now. Why are we talking about this and not any of those?  
We know why: the right is expert at ginning up these artificial controversies and manipulating media. Again, they brag about it publicly! [...]
My one, futile plea to everyone is simply: before you jump in with an opinion on the discourse of the day, ask yourself *why* it is the discourse of the day and whose interests the discourse is serving

Note: I understand and even agree, somewhat, with people who would rather not see embedded posts from Twitter/X. However, some relevant material is only available on Twitter/X.

Author Ishmael Reed describes how America’s so-called “media elite” are Trump’s willing Barnumesque “suckers” for El País in English.

Playwright Wajahat Ali, the fastest and most prepared mind on television panels, was discontinued at CNN because he talked about white racism too much. Because whites buy their products, TV reporters and pundits are instructed to refrain from calling the Trump followers racists or anti-Semites, so they give tepid reasoning for why whites are attracted to a man charged with 91 felonies. Though they might spend 24/7 criticizing the former president, they assist him by making excuses for those who support him, millions of deplorables, and thousands who are deranged like the man who attacked Representative Pelosi’s husband.

On Dec. 26, both media elite members, Chris Matthews, and Tim Miller, appearing on MSNBC, said that Trump followers are rural people who vote for him because the Eastern elites insult and ridicule them. Are they suggesting that if the Eastern elite hadn’t mocked them, the insurgency of Jan. 6 would never have happened? Maybe bought them a beer? [...]

Trump has to be one of the greatest showmen in history. He believes with circus entrepreneur P.T. Barnum that there’s a sucker born every minute. Not only is the media Trump’s sucker, but the sucker earns money by being taken. Trump knows that if he says outrageous things, it would make round-the-clock news. So the media reacts to his every tweet. He called political opponents “vermin,” which became a subject in TV panels for days to come, or his desire that President Biden “rot in hell.” Instead of covering the world like the BBC and Al Jazeera, American media owners involve all-day panels in answering Trump’s tweets, something that’s entertaining and inexpensive.

Well, Trump no longer “tweets,” technically. Members of the “media elite” screenshot his every post on TruthSocial and tweet his message for him.

Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post says that an amicus brief filed by never-Trump Republicans in support of Tanya Chutkan’s ruling that presidents do not have any sort of “privileged immunity” reflects “true conservatism.”

First and foremost, the amicus brief demonstrates fidelity to the clear meaning of the Constitution. When its writers argue that the Constitution’s text omits any reference to presidential immunity and that the Framers could have put one in had they intended to shield the office from prosecution (as they did for members of Congress in the speech or debate clause), the writers are deploying honest originalism. Because the text lacks an immunity provision, the courts have no power to invent such a protection. They likewise find no basis in the Constitution for Trump’s argument that prosecution must be preceded by impeachment and conviction. In deploying an originalist analysis, the amicus brief returns to a principle that the current right-wing majority on the Supreme Court has kicked to the curb: judicial restraint.

Second, these true conservatives embrace the concept of limited government. Citing Federalist Paper No. 69, they note that the president should not be regarded as a king but rather as something akin to the governor of New York (hence, subject to prosecution). To back up their argument that the president has never been regarded as beyond the reach of criminal laws, they cite, among other things, the pardon for Richard M. Nixon (unnecessary if he was immune) and Trump’s own arguments in the second impeachment trial.

Trump’s notion that Article II means he can do whatever he wants is a repudiation of our constitutional system that rejected a monarchy. In an era in which the GOP attempts to intrude into every corner of life — from banning abortion and books to micromanaging health care for LGBTQ+ youths — it’s helpful to remember that limited government used to be a fundamental principle for conservatives. Presidents are not kings; government is not all-powerful. Such ideas are now an anathema to Trump’s MAGA party.

Phyllis Cha of the Chicago Sun-Times writes that some abortion rights advocates and LGBTQ+ groups are already gearing up to protest at the 2024 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

Abortion rights advocates want to send delegates a message when they come to Chicago for the Democratic National Convention in August: They’re tired of what they say is “lip service” from the Democratic Party when it comes to reproductive and LGBTQ+ rights, and they’re demanding action. [...]

In addition to CFAR, Bodies Outside of Unjust Laws: Coalition for Reproductive Justice and LGBTQ+ Liberation includes members of local abortion rights and LGBTQ+ advocate groups Stop-Trans Genocide, Chicago Abortion Fund, Reproductive Transparency Now and the Gay Liberation Network.

The Chicago Department of Transportation has 10 days to make a decision on the permit and notify the applicant. Permits are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis, a CDOT spokesperson said, and are reviewed by multiple city departments. Approval of the permit depends on whether the event can be held safely.

CDOT hasn’t received any other applications for the time period when the convention is in town, the spokesperson said, but more applications are expected as convention dates approach.

Patrick Wintour of the Guardian analyzes South Africa’s request before the International Court seeking an Interim measure in order to prevent Israel from carrying out the intent of genocide.

Crack legal teams are being assembled, countries are issuing statements in support of South Africa, and Israel has said it will defend itself in court, reversing a decades-old policy of boycotting the UN’s top court and its 15 elected judges.

The first hearing in The Hague is set for 11 and 12 January. If precedent is any guide, it is possible the ICJ will issue a provisional ruling within weeks, and certainly while the Israeli attacks on Gaza are likely to be still under way.

The wheels of global justice – at least interim justice – do not always grind slowly.

South Africa’s request for a provisional ruling is in line with a broader trend at the ICJ for such rulings. Parties have been seeking – and obtaining – provisional measures with increasing frequency: in the last decade the court has indicated provisional measures in 11 cases, compared with 10 in the first 50 years of the court’s existence (1945-1995).

Finally today, Kyle Orland of Ars Technia writes about the 13-year old kid that killed Tetris.

For decades after its 1989 release, each of the hundreds of millions of standard NES Tetris games ended the same way: A block reaches the top of the screen and triggers a "game over" message. That 34-year streak was finally broken on December 21, 2023, when 13-year-old phenom BlueScuti became the first human to reach the game's "kill screen" after a 40-minute, 1,511-line performance, crashing the game by reaching its functional limits.

What makes BlueScuti's achievement even more incredible (as noted in some excellent YouTube summaries of the scene) is that, until just a few years ago, the Tetris community at large assumed it was functionally impossible for a human to get much past 290 lines. The road to the first NES Tetris kill screen highlights the surprisingly robust competitive scene that still surrounds the classic game and just how much that competitive community has been able to collectively improve in a relatively short time.

And yes, I do play Tetris on my smartphone.

Everyone try to have the best possible day.

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Republicans trashing our institutions

We begin today with John T. Bennett of Roll Call reporting on the GOP-lead House approving of an impeachment inquiry of President Biden.

The measure was approved 221-212, with every Republican supporting it and every Democrat opposed. One Democrat did not vote.

The impeachment resolution spells out the authorities of three involved committees, and an accompanying measure describes the GOP-run panels’ subpoena powers. GOP leaders, including Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., who teed up the resolution, contend the move would place the inquiry on firmer legal ground, should the Biden camp challenge any subpoenas in court. [...]

House Judiciary Committee ranking member Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., on Wednesday called the inquiry “political hackery,” adding: “This is not serious work.” And Oversight and Accountability ranking Democrat Jamie Raskin of Maryland said moments earlier that “this stupid, blundering investigation is keeping us from getting any real work done for the people of America.”

President Biden and White House aides have vigorously denied any wrongdoing. Asked last week about House GOP claims that he had interacted with his son’s foreign business associates, Biden told White House reporters, “I did not. And it’s just a bunch of lies.”

Kimberly Atkins Stohr of The Boston Globe says that the U.S. Supreme Court threatens to dismantle the criminal prosecution of Donald Trump by taking up the appeal of a case from a Jan. 6 Capitol rioter.

By taking up an appeal by accused Jan. 6 Capitol rioter Joseph W. Fischer, the court could undo the most serious federal criminal charge Trump is facing for his attempt to subvert democracy.

Fischer’s appeal stems from a charge that he, Trump, and hundreds of others involved in the events of Jan. 6 are facing: corruptly obstructing, influencing, or impeding an official proceeding. The charge comes under a federal law passed in the wake of the Enron collapse and was aimed at toughening penalties for actions including destroying, altering, or fabricating financial records. The penalties are stiff indeed: Trump and the other defendants face as many as 20 years in prison as well as steep fines if found guilty.

The language of the statute is not limited to shredding documents and the like. It contains the broad catchall that prohibits any action that “otherwise obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so.” And it has been deemed by courts to include interfering with congressional proceedings.

Adam Serwer of The Atlantic writes about the complete absurdity of the “Great Replacement” theory at a time Republicans can field Vivek Ramaswamy for the Republican presidential nomination.

Right-wing apologism for January 6 is no longer shocking, not even from Republican presidential candidates. Trumpists often vacillate between denying it happened, justifying and valorizing those who attempted to overthrow the government to keep Donald Trump in power, or insisting that they were somehow tricked into it by undercover agents provocateurs. But the basic facts remain: January 6 was a farcical but genuine attempt to overthrow the constitutional government, which many Trump supporters think is defensible because only conservatives should be allowed to hold power. [...]

Since Trump’s election, in 2016, the Great Replacement has gone from the far-right fringe to the conservative mainstream. After a white supremacist in Texas targeted Hispanics, killing 23 people in 2019, many conservatives offered condemnations of both the act and the ideology that motivated it. But over the past several years, a concerted campaign by conservative elites in the right-wing media has made the theory more respectable. By 2022, after another white supremacist murdered 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo, some prominent voices on the right were willing to claim that there was some validity to the argument that white people are being “replaced.” [...]

Arab American voters, both Christian and Muslim, are withdrawing support from Joe Biden over his thus-far unconditional support for Israel’s conduct in its war with Hamas. This shift, along with a drift to the right that had already begun among more conservative segments of the Muslim community over LGBTQ rights—is an obvious example of how religious and ethnic minority groups can realign politically in unanticipated ways. Muslim voters were a largely pro-Bush constituency in 2000, prior to the GOP embrace of anti-Muslim bigotry after 9/11. So  were Hispanic voters in 2000 and 2004, and Trump showed similar strength with such voters in 2020, as well as making gains with Black voters. Many immigrants who fled left-wing or Communist regimes in Asia and Latin America—Vietnamese, Venezuelans, Cubans—lean right, much as the influx of Jewish refugees from the Soviet Union in the 1990s did. Immigrants from West Africa are often highly religious and socially conservative. And even within particular groups, there are tremendous regional, cultural, class, and educational differences—Puerto Rican voters in Chicago will not necessarily have the same priorities and values as Tejano voters living in Laredo. The far right and its admirers are too busy railing against diversity to understand that diversity is precisely why “the Great Replacement” is nonsense.

Charles Blow of The New York Times looks at some of the reasons that too many Americans are thirsty for authoritarianism.

Confidence in many of our major institutions — including schools, big business, the news media — is at or near its lowest point in the past half-century, in part because of the Donald Trump-led right-wing project to depress it. Indeed, according to a July Gallup report, Republicans’ confidence in 10 of the 16 institutions measured was lower than Democrats’. Three institutions in which Republicans’ confidence exceeded Democrats’ were the Supreme Court, organized religion and the police.

And as people lose faith in these institutions — many being central to maintaining the social contract that democracies offer — they can lose faith in democracy itself. People then lose their fear of a candidate like Trump — who tried to overturn the previous presidential election and recently said that if he’s elected next time, he won’t be a dictator, “except for Day 1” — when they believe democracy is already broken.

In fact, some welcome the prospect of breaking it completely and starting anew with something different, possibly a version of our political system from a time when it was less democratic — before we expanded the pool of participants.[...]

And while these authoritarian inklings may be more visible on the political right, they can also sneak in on the left.

The former chair of the board of trustees at the University of Pennsylvania, Scott L. Bok, writes about the negative influence of donors on university decisions for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

I advocate for free expression and the right to demonstrate, but I am deeply troubled by the hurtful rhetoric sometimes used at demonstrations.

I despair at the ability of social media to mislead, distort, and amplify such rhetoric.

But there are limits to what universities can do to address such matters. Physical safety concerns must come first, so at Penn, we dramatically stepped up our police presence — that campus has never been more closely watched. And if you walked across campus as I did numerous times this semester, most often you would have been struck by how normal life seemed. [...]

Penn has repeatedly condemned hateful speech and appropriately investigated all acts of antisemitism, pursuing every remedy within its power. In particular, it has acted aggressively in response to any vandalism, theft, violence, or threats of violence on the campus.

The challenge all universities face — and always have faced — is how to balance the desire to allow free speech with the desire to maintain order and allow all students to flourish free from bias or harassment. Chaos and violence are bad, but so are McCarthyism and martial law.

Jeannie Suk Gersen of The New Yorker asks an interesting hypothetical question: should American colleges and universities have affirmative action for men?

Despite efforts to dampen their success in admissions, women have, since the nineteen-eighties, been a majority of undergraduate student bodies. Today, they constitute nearly sixty per cent of students enrolled in college nationwide, at private and public institutions. The freshman classes of nearly all Ivy League schools are majority female. Female applicants consistently have higher high-school grades than male applicants, have completed more credits and more challenging courses, and have done more extracurricular activities. Male applicants reportedly have more trouble getting their application materials submitted (which has led Baylor to launch a “males and moms communication campaign” to help keep male applicants on track). Women also perform better than men in college, being more likely to graduate and to do so with honors. Women outnumber men in college applications by more than a third, and there are more qualified women than men in the applicant pool. [...]

At oral arguments in the S.F.F.A. [Students for Fair Admission] case, more than a year ago, Justice Elena Kagan stated aloud the open secret that, if selective colleges were to admit applicants without considering gender, the student bodies would be majority female. Justice Kagan asked the lawyer for S.F.F.A., who argued against using race in admissions, whether he thought it was lawful for schools to use gender in admissions and “put a thumb on the scales” for men in order to serve the health of university life and of society. He replied that the use of gender in admissions may be lawful even though the use of race is unlawful, because the Court does not subject gender to the same level of scrutiny that it subjects race to. Kagan observed that it “would be peculiar” if “white men get the thumb on the scale, but people who have been kicked in the teeth by our society for centuries do not.”

In equal-protection analyses under the Fourteenth Amendment, the Court has indeed allowed more leeway for using gender, but, in order to be constitutional, the use of gender must be substantially related to an important interest. The question, then, would be whether colleges’ interest in having a gender-balanced student body is so important that it justifies holding women to higher admissions standards than men. If a plaintiff brought an equal-protection challenge to the use of sex in admissions, colleges would surely have to do better than to invoke students’ desire to be on a gender-balanced campus, which may reflect their assessment of dating or marriage prospects. (Susan Dominus reported this fall in the Times that at Tulane, where last year’s freshman class was nearly two-thirds women, female students felt that “the gender ratio left them with fewer options, in sheer numbers and in the kinds of relationships available to them.”) Alexandra Brodsky, a civil-rights lawyer at Public Justice and the author of “Sexual Justice,” told me, “I’d be curious, in an equal-protection suit, what reasons a school would give for wanting a sex-balanced class. Relying on the desires of customers is not usually a justification for discrimination.” It’s also doubtful that the Court, which doesn’t consider racial diversity a compelling interest for schools to pursue, would conclude that gender diversity is an important one.

Marianne Lavelle of Inside Climate News says that, with the help of U.S. Special Climate Envoy John Kerry and his team, COP28 wasn't the total disaster that it might have been.

The United States may not have entirely won over its critics when COP28 ended Tuesday with the first statement on fossil fuels in the history of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. But the summit’s cautious final compromise text—which the United States clearly had a key role in helping to craft, say those familiar with Kerry’s team—was enough to ensure that the gathering did not blow up and end without a deal. And that, in itself, was a victory both for the United States and the much-maligned U.N. process, say a number of close observers of climate talks.

To the extent that the U.S. contributed to keeping the process alive, it was able to ensure continued progress would come out of its intensive pre-summit diplomacy with China. The world’s two largest greenhouse gas polluters worked together at Dubai to include in the summit’s final statement a number of items from the agreement they reached in November in Sunnylands, California, including language on addressing potent greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide, especially methane.

Univision news anchor Enrique Acevedo pens an essay for The Washington Post defending his Univision interview with Number 45.

Joaquin Blaya, a former president of Univision who left the network 32 years ago, told The Post, “This was Mexican-style news coverage,” casting a shadow of corruption over my interviewing style and overlooking how journalists in Mexico, where I’m based, are killed more than anywhere else in the world for doing their jobs. Some Latino celebrities employed the same nativist rhetoric they decry from the far right to say “the Mexicans” were importing unscrupulous practices to meddle in U.S. elections. Never mind, I’m American, and have been working more than 20 years for some of the most prestigious news outlets in the world, my record speaks for itself.

Outdated prejudice about Mexico and its news media poses significant dangers, validating decades-old perceptions that fail to reflect the modern, vibrant and open society that defines the country today. Moreover, it underscores a striking absence of humility in the face of our own democratic challenges. Given this broader context, the irony of such false claims is glaring and concerning.

Amid intense partisanship with clearly delineated camps, my interview with Trump wasn’t crafted to convince Democrats or my colleagues in the press that Trump is an unsuitable choice. Instead, its purpose was to afford conservative Latinos the opportunity to hear directly from him without confrontation or hostility.

I didn’t even consider watching Mr. Acevedo’s interview with Number 45 until last night, which basically consisted of Acevedo asking a question and then allowing Number 45 to gish gallop his answers. That’s my problem with the interview as opposed to Mr. Acevedo or Univision wanting to create a “safe space” for conservative Latinos that admire Trump.

Finally today, Fred Kaplan of Slate reports on the possible consequences of Republicans holding Ukraine aid hostage.

The Ukrainian president had flown 5,000 miles to patch up his fraying relationship with Washington legislators. On his previous two trips, they’d practically hoisted him on their shoulders, cheering him as democracy’s great brave hope. But this time, in a series of meetings on Tuesday, the Republican lawmakers brushed him off, shrugged that the romance was over, then tacked on that hoariest of evasions: It’s not you, it’s us.

It was among the most shameful episodes of a sordid political season—and it could have dangerous consequences worldwide.

Taken by itself, the cause of Ukrainian independence—which requires arming Ukrainian troops to fight off Russia’s invading army—enjoys broad, bipartisan support. But the cause has hit a dire moment. The troops are running out of ammunition. President Biden has asked Congress for $60 billion in emergency supplemental funding to keep them going. But Senate Republicans are telling him: We won’t give you the money—we’ll block the 60-vote majority needed to pass the supplemental funding—unless you let us pass a radical immigration bill that all but locks down America’s southern border and makes it nearly impossible for migrants to apply for asylum.

Biden says he’s willing to meet the Republican demand for border tightening halfway. But the Republicans want no compromise; they demand a Senate version of a bill that the House passed earlier this year—a bill so extreme that it garnered not a single Democratic vote. And they are willing to do this even if it means the collapse of Ukraine’s defenses against Russia.

I didn’t even need to read that story, just the look on Zelensky’s face in the photo…

Everyone try to have the best possible day!

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: The early legacies of the COVID-19 pandemic

We begin today with David Wallace-Wells of The New York Times citing a rather obvious underlying reason for continuing American economic pessimism: the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But in fishing for causes, an obvious contributor is often overlooked: the pandemic itself. It not only killed more than a million Americans but also threw much of daily life and economic activity and public confidence into profound disarray for several years, scarring a lot of people and their perceptions of the country, its capacities and its future.

When Americans are asked whether the country is on the right track, or whether they themselves are optimistic or pessimistic, they don’t treat the query like a trivia quiz about the last quarter’s G.D.P. growth or the Black unemployment rate or even the size of their own paychecks or stock portfolios. They are effectively responding to the therapist’s query: How are things? They answered that question according to one set of patterns, stretching back decades. And the pattern did not begin to shift only when inflation peaked in late spring 2022, or when pandemic relief was relaxed in fall 2021, or when supply-chain issues first arose earlier that year. They began answering differently in 2020, as the scale and duration of the pandemic came into view.

For decades, surveys about the economy were an accurate gauge of economic fundamentals that, practically speaking, there was little need to distinguish between the two.

That all changed in early 2020, when a significant gap opened between economic conditions and public perception...

Solomon Jones of The Philadelphia Inquirer sees the legacy of the worst of COVID-19 pandemic in the lingering violence of a stabbing of a security guard at a Macy’s in Philadelphia.

The armed rage that led to the fatal stabbing of a Macy’s security guard on Monday is an indication that the COVID-19 pandemic has given birth to yet another contagion. This time, the disease is violence. [...]

The trend seems to have begun in 2020, when cities around the world shut down in an effort to protect the public from a virus that killed at least three million people worldwide in a single year, according to World Health Organizationestimates. That year, as schools and offices closed, interpersonal guardrails like after-school programs and social services were removed. An economic downturn and a historic uptick in gun purchases occurred. The killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor spurred worldwide protests, and amid all of those factors, the divisive politics of a presidential election also boiled over.

Daniel Webster, the director of the Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins, told ABC News that 2020 was the “perfect storm,” adding that “everything bad happened at the same time — you had the COVID outbreak, huge economic disruption, people were scared.”

I’ve already expressed my belief that the COVID-19 pandemic was one of the underlying and hidden factors of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol (Jan. 6, 2021 also happened to be the day of the most single-day deaths from COVID-19 up to that point in time). Reports about everything from lingering loneliness to children left behind in school are also a part of the legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic.
America isn’t alone in suffering from the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, either (although those “lingering effects” do vary from country to country and city to city).

The editorial board of The Los Angeles Times says that former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is only a victim of his own machinations.

It’s not surprising that dozens of members of the U.S. House of Representatives are choosing to leave the dysfunctional chamber rather than seek another term. The politics are toxic. The rhetoric is ugly. And it seems that members aren’t interested in doing much besides fighting the culture wars — and one another.

But we don’t believe for a minute that’s the reason former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy decided to step down at the end of the month after 17 years in Congress. After all, he helped create the hostile conditions in Congress by toadying to the hard-right Republicans in his conference by, among things, voting to challenge some of the results of the 2020 election and authorizing a baseless inquiry into impeaching President Biden.

In the end, however, McCarthy couldn’t manage the unruly conference and was deposed in October after a mere nine months in charge. His crime, according to the GOP hard-liners who orchestrated his downfall? Taking the kind of sensible action that Americans expect of their leaders. He’s no a tragic hero, though. Just a victim of the MAGA flames he fanned.

Clint Smith of The Atlantic details the radical plans that a potential second Trump Administration would have for educational policy.

Although educational policy is formed most directly at the state level, the Department of Education has $79 billion of discretionary funding that it can use as both carrot and stick, to encourage states and school districts to teach—or stop them from teaching—certain topics in certain ways. Trump’s 2024 education-policy plan promises to cut federal funding to any school or program that includes “critical race theory, gender ideology, or other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content” in its curriculum. Already, in Texas, Florida, and other Republican-controlled states, educators are being ostracized for attempting to teach parts of American history that don’t cast straight, white, Christian Americans as the primary protagonists. Teachers are being punished for engaging with the history of policies that segregated, violated the rights of, or oppressed those whose identities fell outside that group. Trump would encourage such sanctions on a national scale.

What Trump and the MAGA movement want is a country where children are falsely taught that the United States has always been a beacon of righteousness. Despite our nation’s many virtues, the truth of its past is harrowing and complicated. Slavery, Jim Crow, Indigenous displacement and slaughter, anti-immigrant laws, the suppression of women’s rights, and the history of violence against the LGBTQ community—these things sully the MAGA version of the American story. [...]

A central part of Trump’s project is to depict the presentation of empirical evidence as an attempt at ideological indoctrination. The claim that this country has prevented millions from achieving upward mobility should not be a controversial one; it reflects actual policies such as convict leasing, school segregation, and housing covenants. To Trump and his allies, however, anyone making such a claim has fallen prey to a “radical movement” that sees America as an inherently and irredeemably evil country. A professor stating that the Confederacy seceded from the Union because of slavery and racism is a member of the “woke mob,” never mind the fact that the seceding states said this directly in their declarations of secession. (Mississippi in 1861: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest in the world.”) An elementary-school teacher highlighting the importance of LGBTQ figures in the history of American activism is reprimanded for being part of an effort to force sexuality onto students, never mind the fact that Bayard Rustin, Harvey Milk, and Marsha P. Johnson played an indisputable role in shaping political life.

Jim Saksa of Roll Call reports on the very different political stances that religious House Democrats have from Speaker Mike Johnson.

When he was mayor of Kansas City, Mo., Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II faced a choice. As pastor of one of the city’s largest congregations, he had helped lead opposition to the legalization of riverboat gambling. It passed anyway, and some expected Cleaver would use his new office to protect the downtown waterfront from the kind of sinful business that any good Christian would find repugnant.

They were wrong. Cleaver refused to get involved. “I was not elected as the Methodist mayor. I was elected as the mayor of our largest city, and I’m not going to try to convert people to Methodism,” the Democrat explained.

Before Mike Johnson was speaker of the House, he faced a similar moral dilemma. In his hometown of Shreveport, La., a strip club was set to open, the kind of sinful business that any good Christian would find repugnant. A coalition of neighbors thought Johnson, then a young attorney just a few years out of law school, might help them fight it. [...]

Confronted with forks on the path of righteousness, these two deeply devout Christians went opposite ways. And today they follow those paths in Congress.

Ian Millhiser of Vox parses out the oral arguments of Moore v. The United States, which was argued before the Supreme Court yesterday.

The Supreme Court spent much of Tuesday morning beating up Andrew Grossman, a lawyer asking the justices to revive a long-defunct limit on Congress’s ability to levy taxes. [...]

The full array of legal issues in Moore is dizzyingly complex. To completely understand the case, someone must have a working knowledge of how tax accounting typically works, how it works for certain investors who are taxed differently than others, how the Court once read a provision of the Constitution enacted to preserve a Union between free states and slaveholders to protect investors from taxes, and why the United States amended its Constitution to restore the federal government’s ability to tax investment income. (I explain all of these details here.)

But the shortest explanation of what’s at issue in Moore is that it asks whether the Constitution prohibits Congress from taxing investment income before that income is “realized” — meaning that the investor has sold an asset for a profit or otherwise disposed of that asset.

Renée Graham of The Boston Globe is unconvinced by the “apology” of actress Julianna Margulies over her derogatory comments about Black and LGBTQ support for Jews.

During an appearance last month on “The Back Room with Andy Ostroy” podcast, the actress best known for “The Good Wife” questioned the level of support for Jews in Black and LGBTQ communities since the Israel-Hamas war began on Oct. 7 when Hamas stormed into Israel, massacred at least 1,200 people, and took more than 200 others hostage.

After mentioning Jewish support of the 1960s civil rights movement, Margulies said, “The fact that the entire Black community isn’t standing with us, to me, says either they just don’t know or they’ve been brainwashed to hate Jews.” She also castigated LGBTQ people, especially those who identify as gender nonconforming who, she said, “will be the first people beheaded and their heads played like a soccer ball on the field” in places run by extremist groups like Hamas. [...]

Every headline about Margulies claimed she apologized for her comments. She didn’t. Her podcast appearance aired Nov. 21. Only more than a week later when her remarks started getting negative traction on social media did she even say anything about them. And when she did, she shifted away from what she said to how she has worked “tirelessly to combat hate of all kind, end antisemitism, speak out against terrorist groups like Hamas, and forge a united front against discrimination.” She added that she “did not intend for my words to sow further division, for which I am sincerely apologetic.”

Her intentions are irrelevant. Her words sowed further division. But Margulies did not retract her statement that Black people “have been brainwashed to hate Jews,” as if antisemitism is as innate to us as the texture of our hair or the melanin in our skin. She reduced Black people to a monolith guided by one mind and a binding set of hateful beliefs.

Sarah DeWeerdt of Anthropocene reports about a study showing that attempts to combat climate disinformation have only very limited success.

Spampatti and his colleagues have developed six psychological interventions to combat climate disinformation. Past research has suggested that pre-emptively providing warnings about disinformation and counterarguments against it could serve as a psychological ‘vaccine,’ inoculating people to better resist denialists’ messages.

The new interventions, which Spampatti and his colleagues describe in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, are based on current research about how people develop and update their understanding of scientific information. The researchers devised messages emphasizing:

  1. The strong scientific consensus about the reality of human-caused climate change;
  2. The trustworthiness of scientists who prepare international climate reports and suggest strategies to fight climate change;
  3. Transparency about the pros and cons of climate actions;
  4. The strong moral case for climate action;
  5. The importance of carefully judging the accuracy of online information; and
  6. The positive emotions that come from climate action.

[...]

“We expected the psychological inoculation we tested to protect people from climate disinformation, because they had been identified as a promising strategy to fight disinformation,” Spampatti says.

“Unfortunately, we noted that these inoculations protect only against one piece of disinformation, but not more.” A more sustained effect would be necessary to protect against disinformation in the real world, where climate denial is plentiful.

Florantonia Singer of El País in English reports about the annexation of Essequibo, a disputed territory between Venezuela and Guyana, by Venezuela.

Two days after the referendum on Essequibo, a territory disputed between Venezuela and Guyana, the government of Nicolás Maduro is moving forward to try to enforce what was approved Sunday in a vote that registered almost no participation in the streets but which Chavismo hailed as a victory with 10.4 million voters, reawakening a crisis of credibility in the country’s electoral authorities. In a television appearance Tuesday, Maduro presented a new official map of Venezuela with Essequibo incorporated, without the disputed delimitation, during a Council of State in which he announced a series of measures and upcoming legislation to cement Caracas’ possession of the territory and its resources. Earlier, Maduro had sent a military contingent to Puerto Barima on the Venezuelan Atlantic border, close to the limits of the area under claim.

The war of narratives has begun. A few weeks ago, Guyana raised a flag on a small hill in Essequibo. On the day of the referendum, the Venezuelan Ministry of Communication released a video in which Indigenous people lowered the Guyanese flag and raised the Venezuelan flag. Maduro is now counterattacking with everything at his disposal. Via a special law announced Tuesday, he will create a new province or state in the territory, having already appointed a single provisional authority: Major-General Alexis Rodríguez Cabello, a deputy for the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), who will operate from the mining community of Tumeremo in Bolívar state, barely 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the town of San Martín de Turumbang in the disputed area. [...]

Brazil, which shares a border with both Venezuela and Guyana, has also expressed concern over the escalation of the territorial dispute. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva spoke with both Maduro and Ali and reinforced the military deployment on the border. The Ministry of Defense increased the contingent of the Boa Vista detachment in the state of Roraima from 70 to 130 uniformed personnel. Its mission is to “guard and protect the national territory,” according to a statement from the ministry. After the Venezuelan referendum, Lula also decided to send around 20 armored vehicles to the triple border.

Finally today, we return to The Philadelphia Inquirer and Elizabeth Wellington’s celebration of the complex legacy of Norman Lear, who died yesterday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 101.

At five, I was banned from watching “Sanford & Son” after I slapped a toy out of my cousin’s hands, rolled my eyes, called him a fish-eyed fool and a heathen in my best Aunt Esther imitation.

That was the power of Norman Lear’s situation comedies on my little pop-culture psyche back in the 1970s and 1980s, when Lear’s shows dominated the primetime landscape. With shows like “Maude” and “All in The Family,” Lear introduced taboo topics like rape, incest, and abortion to America’s living rooms in a way that educated us and made us laugh. Lear died Wednesday morning at his Los Angeles home. He was 101.

Lear’s impact on the Black situation comedy was groundbreaking. From “The Jeffersons” to “Good Times,” Lear introduced modern Black life to television, when before we just had “Soul Train.” Little Black children saw ourselves in Arnold, Willis, Tootie and Michael. Songs in these shows’ opening credits were schoolyard chants. Lear proved that Black shows starring Black people had a place on primetime television, paving the way for a slew of 1990s comedies from “Martin” to “Moesha.”

It wasn’t all good in the hood. Lear’s shows were full of stereotypes. Sherman Hemsley’s George Jefferson moved on up to the East Side, but when he got there he was rude, loud, obnoxious and racist. The Evans family on “Good Times” were always struggling and broke, so much so my mother didn’t allow my sister and I to watch it because she didn’t want us to internalize that Black people never could have anything. She was also disgusted at how much of a buffoon JJ Evans (Jimmie Walker) was.

Try to have the best possible day everyone!

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Dark Brandon jumps all the way out

We begin today with Aaron Blake of The Washington Post wondering what the GOP majority in the House will do now to get a Speaker elected not that Jim Jordan jumped out and then back into the race for House Speaker.

Thursday brought one of the most embarrassing episodes yet in the GOP’s arduous 16-day quest to find someone — anyone — who can get the votes to be House speaker. With the realization that that might not be possible at this juncture apparently setting in, Republicans set about forging a temporary fix that seemed potentially agreeable to much of the House: giving acting speaker pro tempore Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.) more power to conduct vital business while everyone figured out a longer-term solution. [...]

That Jordan would even attempt something so haphazard and immediately doomed speaks to the fact that he’s running out of ideas. And he’s surely not alone in that distinction.

To be sure, there are very understandable reasons this wasn’t workable, personal feelings about McHenry aside. Some opposed the idea of a temporary speaker on constitutional grounds. Some Jordan opponents probably feared this could keep his bid alive, by giving him a couple months of McHenry potentially working with the Democrats (whose votes would help install him) to run against. And you can bet more than a few Republicans viewed this, correctly, as the capitulation to Democrats that it would be. [...]

Apparently the old, unworkable dynamics were preferable to that potential new dynamic. The problem is that the old ones are going nowhere and probably just became more unworkable.

Thanks to Greg for subbing on short notice yesterday!

Peter Baker of The New York Times notes that when President Biden was asked a question on Air Force One about the House Speakership fiasco, Dark Brandon jumped all the way out (as noted by Kerry Eleveld).

President Biden was on his way back from a high-stakes diplomatic mission to Israel on Wednesday night when a reporter on Air Force One asked him if he had any thoughts about Representative Jim Jordan’s predicament in the House.

“I ache for him,” Mr. Biden said, putting his hand on his heart.

Really?

“Noooo,” he said with a laugh.

No sympathy there. “Zero,” he said. “None.” [...]

As much of a struggle as it was for Mr. Biden to work across party lines with Kevin McCarthy when he was speaker, a Jordan speakership would be a nightmare in the view of the president’s aides. Mr. Jordan, dubbed a “legislative terrorist” by former Speaker John A. Boehner, a fellow Republican, has long preferred bomb throwing to deal making and could push for Mr. Biden’s impeachment, government shutdowns and other moves at odds with the White House.

Mr. Biden has resolutely refused to comment at any length about the chaos in the House, sticking by the old view that it is up to Congress to determine its own leadership, not the executive branch. Still, he has alluded to his attitude before. When Mr. Jordan jumped into the speakership race a couple of weeks ago, Mr. Biden said he would work with whoever won. “Some people, I imagine, it could be easier to work with than others,” he said, “but whoever the speaker is, I’ll try to work with.”

David Graham of The Atlantic examines how Sydney Powell’s guilty plea in the Georgia RICO elections case against Number 45 (and 18 co-conspirators) might shape the overall case.

First, the plea simplifies the Chesebro trial. Powell and Chesebro had asked for speedy trials, rather than waiting a few months for a more standard trial. Though both are attorneys, their roles were very different. Powell, flashy and drawn to animal prints and chunky jewelry, became a household name in the weeks after the election because she often spoke to the press about the election scheme, though her role seems to have been mostly lower-level and operational. Chesebro, by contrast, was little known and had no public profile but worked closely with John Eastman and other lawyers on the broad contours of the paperwork coup. [...]

Second, Powell’s plea moves forward the Coffee County portion of the racketeering case. According to prosecutors, the conspirators arranged to unlawfully access and copy data from voting machines in the Southeastern Georgia location. Powell is the second person to plead guilty to involvement there, following Scott Hall, an Atlanta bail bondsman who copped a plea in September. Their testimony may help prosecutors target Jeff Clark, a little-known Justice Department official who attempted to lead a coup inside the department, getting Trump to appoint him acting attorney general, and to convince state legislatures to overturn election results. (He has pleaded not guilty.) [...]

Third is the question of how other people accused in the case might react to Powell’s plea. Prosecutors likely hope that it might convince some of the lower-level defendants to conclude that their chances of beating the rap are low but also that cooperating now might produce favorable terms. Agreements to testify would, in turn, presumably make it easier to mount a successful case against the biggest names in the case—Trump, of course, as well as the attorneys Eastman and Rudy Giuliani, and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. A trial for these defendants likely won’t occur until next year.

David E. Sanger of The New York Times analyzes last night’s Oval Office address by President Joe Biden about the wars in Ukraine and Israel.

Throughout the speech, Mr. Biden toggled between the two crises, making the case that if America does not stand up in both conflicts the result will be “more chaos and death and more destruction.” That argument reflects his certainty that this is the moment he has trained for his entire political career, a point he often makes when challenged about his age.

His sense of mission explains why, at age 80, he has in the past eight months visited two countries in the midst of active wars. But at the same time he has married his public embraces with private cautions to American allies, while carefully keeping American troops out of both conflicts — so far. He seems determined to prove that for all the critiques that the United States is a divided, declining power, it remains the only nation that can mold events in a world of unpredictable mayhem.

“When presidents get into their sweet spot you usually see and hear it, and in the past few weeks you have seen and heard it,” said Michael Beschloss, the historian and author of “Presidents of War,” which traces the rocky history of Mr. Biden’s predecessors as they plunged into global conflicts, avoided a few, and sometimes came to regret their choices.

Whether Mr. Biden can bring the American population along, however, is a more unsettled question than at any moment in his presidency, and was the backdrop of his Oval Office address.

Lawrence Freedman of The New Statesman studies some of the reasons for intelligence failures.

Intelligence failures happen when pieces of information that should be picked up are not or are picked up and then misinterpreted. If they are interpreted correctly but not acted upon then it becomes more of a policy failure. When Israel was caught out by the Hamas attack of 7 October this was both an intelligence and policy failure. Despite the famed professionalism and tenacity of Israel’s intelligence agencies, they did not notice signs of the coming attack by the Palestinian militants, and despite the equally famed security focus of the government, it was complacent about the situation in Gaza. This was not the first time the country had been caught out, in different circumstances but for similar reasons. Fifty years earlier, on 6 October 1973, Israel was surprised as Egyptian and Syrian forces embarked on a sudden offensive and broke through its defensive lines.

Perhaps still the most fateful and studied example of a successful surprise attack is the Japanese strike against the American Pearl Harbor naval base on 7 December 1941 that opened the Pacific War. In a landmark study, the historian Roberta Wohlstetter introduced the thought that the problem was not a lack of information – the Americans were after all reading Japanese diplomatic and military traffic – but that those bits that in retrospect warned of trouble to come were lost in the background “noise” of masses of material that turned out to be irrelevant. [...]

This is why the problem facing intelligence analysts is often described as one of “joining the dots”: seeing a pattern in disparate pieces of information that point to the danger ahead. This is always going to be a difficult exercise because the information is often incomplete, ambiguous, contradictory and confusing. To make sense of it all analysts need a working hypothesis – we can call it a “construct” – against which the incoming evidence will be tested, and its reliability judged. If the construct is too strongly held, the risk is that only information that fits with it will be highlighted, while that which does not is disregarded...

Haaretz Editor-in-Chief Aluf Benn looks at the specific reasons for the Israeli intelligence failure to foresee the brutal attack by Hamas on October 7.

This was the mission planned by the Hamas commanders, the mission for which they trained, armed and equipped their people, as they collected intelligence for the operation and identified the time when Israel’s alertness would be particularly low, at the end of the holidays. They kept their extensive plans from leaking and pulled off a perfectly executed deception: The Israel political and military leadership, from Benjamin Netanyahu on down, was convinced that Hamas was deterred and mainly focused on economic growth and not preparations for an invasion.

Hamas’ military build-up was not kept completely out of sight. Its terrorists trained right out in the open, in broad daylight, and the Israeli side that was monitoring this activity saw infantry units being built and training for combat in Gaza.

But the IDF assumed that the Hamas elite force was being built to fight the IDF, Nukhba versus Golani, and interpreted it as a sign of Hamas becoming more establishment and transforming from a terrorist organization into a regular army. Israel failed to grasp that the confrontation with the IDF would only be a secondary mission, while the main effort would be a mass slaughter of civilians in their homes and at a large outdoor event, all through the area, and all at the same time.

Israeli intelligence and the IDF was working with very wrong “constructs”, more or less...which doesn’t remove Hamas’s responsibility.

Georg Fahrion, Christoph Giesen, and Christina Hebel of Der Spiegel look at the alliance between Beijing and Moscow.

Moscow, for its part, is making no attempt to play down its close ties with China. On the contrary, having the world's second-largest power on its side is an invaluable asset for Russia. At most, Moscow officials would like to avoid giving the impression of increased dependence on Beijing, even if the facts clearly speak a different language.

Xi and Putin stage their summits to look like meetings of equals. And the two autocrats appear to get on quite well. Putin addresses Xi as his "dear old friend," who in turn has called Putin his "best friend." They have awarded each other honorary doctorates from their respective alma maters and – on the periphery of international summits – celebrated birthdays together on several occasions: in 2013 in Bali over vodka and sausage, and in 2019 in Tajikistan with ice cream. [...]

But beyond their similar backgrounds, they share an overarching political goal: that of breaking U.S. dominance. Russia and China see themselves as pushing back against Washington's "pursuit of hegemony," while "the friendship between the two countries has no limits, there are no 'forbidden' areas of cooperation." That's from the text of a joint statement from February 4, 2022, adopted shortly before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, when Xi received his guest of honor Putin for the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Finally today, in spite of the overall results of the Slovakian parliamentary, Lubos Palata of Deutsche Welle locates a very bright light in the those elections.

Before the election, the anti-corruption OLANO party of former Prime Minister Igor Matovic had joined forces with a number of smaller parties to form the OLANO and Friends coalition.

When all the votes were counted, it had come away with almost 9% of the vote and was the fourth-largest grouping in parliament. This was far more than most polls had predicted in the run-up to the election.

Another surprise was that a record six Roma had been elected to the 150-seat Slovak parliament. Four of the six belong to OLANO and Friends; two to the largest opposition party, Progressive Slovakia. [...]

Straight after the election, the Slovak police investigated whether electoral fraud or bribes had been behind the phenomenal results. There have in the past been attempts to buy Roma votes.

However, over two weeks after the election, no evidence of such fraud has been presented.

Matovic called the allegations absurd. "We just ran a good campaign," he told Slovak media.

Everyone try to have the best possible day!

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Epitaph

We begin today with Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post and her epitaph to the speakership of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

There was a time when most Americans probably couldn’t have told you who the current speaker — say, Carl Albert or John McCormack — was; the job went to an inside operator in what appeared to be a permanent majority. Now, however, the speaker is both well-known and without any job security. Six of the seven who preceded McCarthy were forced by scandal or political setback to relinquish the gavel.

Still, McCarthy’s leadership — if you can call it leadership — was notably rudderless and chaotic. On his watch, the country came to the brink of what could have been a catastrophic default on its debt. His hard-right members regularly humiliated him by blocking vital GOP-backed measures from even coming to a vote on the House floor — among them, recently, one to fund the Pentagon. It was only with the help of Democrats that he managed to muster enough votes Saturday to prevent a government shutdown.

And yet, he continued to try to appease the hard-liners, including by unilaterally opening an impeachment inquiry into President Biden based on allegations — but no evidence — that the president had benefited from the business dealings of his son Hunter.

In a grievance-filled news conference after he announced his decision not to try to get his job back, McCarthy said, with dark humor: “I made history, didn’t I?” Indeed, he has left a mark — a scar on the institution and the office — that will be hard to erase.

David Remnick of The New Yorker writes that in a way, Number 45 is keeping a campaign promise, of sorts, by fomenting even more violence and that we can’t afford to look the other way.

Trump’s reëlection campaign is, by necessity, being conducted as much in and around various courtrooms as it is on traditional podiums. The once and future autocrat has decided to make his legal jeopardy a virtue, to portray himself as the persecuted Everyman standing up to a prosecutorial system riddled with hypocrisy. In August, one day after a federal magistrate judge in Trump’s 2020 election-interference case in Washington warned him not to threaten or intimidate witnesses, he went online to post this: “if you go after me, i’m coming after you!” In New York, the judge in Trump’s civil fraud case, Arthur Engoron, had to issue a gag order after the former President baselessly branded a court clerk as “Schumer’s girlfriend” and added, “How disgraceful! This case should be dismissed immediately!!” Engoron ordered Trump to take down the post, though, of course, the damage was done: the word was out, and the court clerk could expect endless harassment online and worse. [...]

These are not mere anecdotes, “colorful” moments of unscripted temper from a familiar source. (“Just Donald being Donald!”) No, these moments are the essence of Trump and his campaign. In the coming year, you will rarely, if ever, hear discussion of policy from Trump. You will hear expressions of rage and impulse. It is tempting to ignore them, to dismiss them as inconsequential, repetitious, corrosive. They are so painful to listen to, both in their hatefulness and in their frequency, that some have argued the media should ignore them entirely, the better to avoid elevating them. But ignoring them will not make them go away. They are the center of a candidacy that is polling very highly and that threatens so much of what is decent or promising about our politics. Trump’s rage is the inspiration for everything from the Proud Boys to the mailing of pipe bombs to political targets, to say nothing of the deranged behavior of much of the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives. In the meantime, the gaggle of Republicans who are ostensibly Trump’s rivals for the nomination barely criticize him. In their moral cowardice, they run for attention, for branding purposes, or, perhaps, for a spot in a new Trump Administration.

Lisa Rubin of MSNBC speculates about the reasons that Number 45 decided to make a physical appearance at the New York State fraud trial when he didn’t have to.

First, he was able to physically show his contempt for — and potentially rattle — witnesses, the judge, prosecutors and New York Attorney General Letitia James herself just by being there. [...]

Second, Trump would have demeaned the trial as a “disgrace” or a “witch hunt” wherever he was. But by attending for a few days, Trump was also able to more credibly spin reporters that all has been going beautifully — whether or not his own lawyers or outside legal experts would concur — because he has been an eyewitness. [...]

Third, by showing up, Trump was able to distract from what actually happened in the courtroom, collapsing the usual split screen of Trump legal coverage, on one hand, and political reporting, on the other, into a single stream. Indeed, he held several impromptu press conferences each trial day where he further attacked his perceived enemies, including James and Engoron, as if a shabby, dimly-lit courthouse hallway were his runway or the White House lawn.

But perhaps most importantly, Trump came to court to play victim and raise money...

Just as former San Francisco Mayor Sen. Dianne Feinstein was lying in state at San Francisco City Hall, Renée Graham of The Boston Globe reminds us that the event that most defined Sen. Feinstein’s political career, Dan White’s 1979 assassinations of San Francisco mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, is very related to today’s white supremacist violence.

Next month marks 45 years since White killed Moscone and Milk. After abruptly resigning from the board, he soon decided he wanted his position back. But Moscone did not plan to reappoint him. In his confession, White claimed that’s what compelled him to go to City Hall and shoot Moscone four times. He then reloaded his gun, went to Milk’s office, and shot him five times.

But to White, the men he killed also personified how the city where he was raised was becoming more liberal and his perception that many like him — white, working-class, and conservative — were being marginalized. His campaign slogan was “Unite and Fight with Dan White.” He denounced those he called “social deviants” and talked about restoring the “old fashioned values that built this country” — a kind of “Make San Francisco Great Again” rallying cry. [...]

There’s a through line from White’s assassinations of Moscone and Milk to the white supremacist violence that today poses this nation’s most potent domestic threat. Even incremental progress in America is met with a backlash, often violent. It happened after the Civil War when, instead of recompense for formerly enslaved Black people, the nation hardened into decades of heightened brutality and laws that kept slavery and racist disenfranchisement intact under other names and means.

Craig Spencer writes for The New York Times about the ways in which the strike now affecting Kaiser Permanente health care system, perhaps the largest in the nation’s history, isn’t all that typical.

The seeds of the Kaiser strike were sown before the pandemic, which certainly aggravated the issues afflicting workers. No matter how this strike ends, the problems at the Kaiser network, which operates in eight states and the District of Columbia, are not unique. Health care workers have already taken to the picket line at hospitals and clinics across the country this year — six of the 19 work stoppages involving 1,000 or more workers recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2023 were in health care. Providers commit to serving others. That so many are walking off the job in protest means the conditions are so unsustainable, there’s no option left but to take this action of last resort.

Health care providers have long experienced burnout, a product of working in a system with grueling hours and byzantine approval processes for routine patient care. But in the first year of the pandemic, levels of reported burnout among providers soared into their own epidemic. According to a study by the American Medical Association, over 60 percent of physicians reported feeling burned out in 2021. And now large numbers of health care workers have joined other Americans in the Great Resignation over the past two years.

Finally today, James Palmer writes for Foreign Policy that China, too, is finding friends in the European far right.

This week, a German report from news site T-Online exposed a politician in the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, Maximilian Krah, as having extensive ties to a Chinese influence network. Krah is the AfD’s top candidate in next year’s European Parliament elections, running on the party’s Euroskeptic, anti-immigration, and nationalist platform. He is also a longtime defender of Beijing. [...]

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government remains a friend of Beijing, with the foreign minister recently citing “opportunities rather than risks” of working with China. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has kissed the Chinese flag. Former Czech President Milos Zeman, who shifted from the left to the populist right, was so close to Beijing that he appointed Chinese state-linked businessman Ye Jianming as an economic advisor in 2017. Sometimes the focus on individual politicians has backfired on Beijing, leading the political opposition to take up the anti-China cause.

By contrast, far-right parties in Western Europe have a mixed attitude toward China. In France, Marine Le Pen—a leader in the National Rally party—has called for a strategy against China in the Indo-Pacific. Italy under Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is withdrawing from China’s Belt and Road Initiative. In Britain, an increasingly far-right-leaning Conservative Party also has a strong anti-China faction. (To some degree, that’s a result of affiliation with U.S. conservatism.)

Have the best possible day everyone!

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: The Republican “agenda” for the week

We begin today with Rex Huppke of USA Today commentary on the wacky Republican agenda for this week.

First, a floundering group of Republican presidential primary candidates, none polling higher than 14%, will attend a debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Southern California. Absent from Wednesday's debate will be the guy who’s beating the tuna salad out of them all, a one-term, twice-impeached former president facing 91 state and federal felony counts ranging from falsifying business records to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government. [...]

On Thursday, House Republicans will ignore a looming government shutdown and hold their first impeachment inquiry hearing against President Joe Biden. They want to impeach the president for … things? Nobody is quite sure because, despite months of investigations, Republican lawmakers have failed to show the American people a single piece of evidence that would suggest Biden is impeachment-worthy. His son, Hunter Biden, might be impeachment-worthy, but, inconveniently, he’s not president. [...]

So a reasonable question to ask as this week unfolds is: Which side is making sense here? Which side has at least one foot, or maybe even both, in reality, and which side is flailing nonsensically in service to a loudmouth whose only concern is himself?

Note that as diaried here at Daily Kos by Blank Regina, Number 45 will be visiting a non-union shop in Macomb County where he plans to oppose striking UAW workers.

Matt Viser and Isaac Arnsdorf of The Washington Post summarize the appearances of President Biden and Number 45 in the state of Michigan at this time.

The visits come as the two leaders test their appeal among the working class in a key swing state. They set up what will be a driving force in the 2024 presidential campaign, while also highlighting the starkly different records that Biden and Trump carry into a contest likely to feature both men.

Biden comes at the invitation of union leaders. Trump came despite their warnings to keep his distance. Biden has touted a record as a “pro union” president while at times struggling to maintain the support of rank-and-file members. Trump calls himself “pro worker” while at times clashing with union leadership and implementing policies as president that worked against their interests. And while Biden is joining a picket line of union members, Trump’s remarks will be given at a non-union shop.

Alexander Sammon of Slate asserts that President Biden’s visit is a huge moment for both President Biden’s reelection chances and the organized labor movement.

If this strike feels unusually political, it is. Seemingly everyone in the national political world has felt called upon to weigh in on the labor action, lending it in an air of importance beyond just its numbers. At the end of last week, a total of 12,700 autoworkers were striking, roughly the same number of screenwriters in the striking Writers Guild of America, though the numbers increased over the weekend as new manufacturing plants shut down and joined the strikers’ ranks.

Already, the political press was referring to Biden’s relationship to the strike as “historic” after the president called for “record contracts” for the UAW, pointing to the automakers’ record profits. And now Biden has gone a step further, becoming the first president in memory to commit to joining striking workers on the line. In a phone call, Nelson Lichtenstein, director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy at the University of California, Santa Barbara, agreed that the move was “historic, certainly,” he said. “The old centrist Democratic thing would be to encourage both sides back to the negotiating table and come to an agreement quickly.”

The strike is a huge moment for organized labor in the United States, which is enjoying the greatest public support it’s seen in decades, but makes up a still-dwindling percentage of the labor force. It’s also a huge moment for the Democratic Party. Joe Biden, the self-proclaimed most pro-union president in history, heads to Michigan with a chance to atone for 30 years of intermittent policy sins by Democratic presidents against organized labor and the auto industry—not to mention the state of Michigan.

Nothing quite exemplifies the shift in the Democratic approach to union politics better than the involvement of Gene Sperling.

Adam Quigley, Paul M. Krawzak, and David Lerman of Roll Call report that Senate stopgap spending measures might not include aid for Ukraine.

Senate Democratic and Republican leaders have been negotiating the contents of a stopgap spending measure while keeping House GOP leaders in the loop, sources familiar with the talks said. They are cognizant of the pressures McCarthy is facing and are trying to give him something his conference can feasibly swallow, these people said.

Accordingly, Senate leaders are said to be considering leaving out Ukraine aid and possibly additional supplemental disaster relief appropriations. [...]

Leaving out Ukraine aid could make it easier to jump through that chamber’s procedural hoops given expected roadblocks from Rand Paul, R-Ky., and possibly others. One source familiar with the talks said adding a Ukraine aid package could also lead to demands from Republicans for a substantial border security package that there may not be time to negotiate. [...]

Disaster relief is broadly popular as well. But a bipartisan “anomaly” that’s already in an initial House version of stopgap legislation would free up $20 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund without adding extra money that House conservatives have said they oppose.

Ed Kilgore of New York magazine writes that lurking beneath the surface of the problematic polling, it appears Number 45 is receiving credit from the voters for the economic boom which began under President Obama.

It seems that a significant share of voters are buying Trump’s argument that he built a sensational economy before COVID and then the 2020 election, interrupted his fine work. The Trump “boom,” of course, was arguably just a situation he inherited from Barack Obama. But to Americans who have been disgruntled with the economy since the pandemic unhinged it, the early Trump years look good in retrospect (indeed, even the early COVID years under Trump left many voters flush with stimulus checks). This way of viewing the economy also robs Biden of credit for incremental improvements in economic conditions during his presidency. If voters mainly want to know if they are better off now than in 2020 rather than in 2022, the answer can change from positive to negative quite decisively.

Yes, it’s entirely possible there is simply a lag in public perceptions of the economy, which will become brighter at precisely the right moment for Biden if runaway inflation doesn’t return and the economy avoids a recession. But on the other hand, as New York’s Eric Levitz recently noted, there are potential economic storms on the horizon that could harden or even intensify unhappy-voter perceptions. The odds of even higher energy costs (including gasoline-pump prices) largely beyond the administration’s control is just one vote-killing peril to keep in mind.

Anecdotally, I’ve heard a few people (all men of color) mention the initial COVID stimulus checks as a point in Trump’s favor. (Over a million people died in the United States due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Number 45’s mismanagement of that crisis.)

Kilgore can miss me with yet another prediction of economic apocalypse on President Biden’s watch, though 

Jack Forrest of CNN writes about witness list for the sham House impeachment inquiry.

The hearing, scheduled for Thursday, will focus on the constitutional and legal questions Republicans are raising about the president, and will include testimony from Bruce Dubinsky, an expert witness in forensic accounting; Eileen O’Connor, former assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice Tax Division; and Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University Law School.

“This week, the House Oversight Committee will present evidence uncovered to date and hear from legal and financial experts about crimes the Bidens may have committed as they brought in millions at the expense of U.S. interests,” House Oversight Chair James Comer, a Kentucky Republican, said in a statement. [...]

Republicans have made Hunter Biden’s business dealings a central component of their impeachment inquiry, but there is no public evidence to date that the president profited off his son’s business deals or allowed them to influence him while in office.

Finally today, Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo burns the midnight oil with an analysis that given indicted Senator Bob Menendez’s severely lagging popularity among elected Democrats in New Jersey, his defiance may not matter much at all.

The simplest alternative is for another candidate to defeat him in a primary. It may not be as hard as it sounds.

Normally a primary would be a tall order. But I’m not sure that’s the case here. At the federal level, the Menendez dam is mostly holding. Sens. Fetterman and Brown have called on him to resign. But that’s it. Meanwhile, Majority Leader Schumer has essentially said it’s Menendez’s call. Not bad when your new middle name is “Gold Bars”.

But it’s a very, very different story where it probably counts most: in New Jersey. As Abby Livingston notes at Puck it’s hard even for an incumbent to win a primary in New Jersey without the support of the Democratic county chairs. 10 of the 21 of them have already called on him to resign. And that’s just the start of it. David Wildstein’s New Jersey Globe is keeping a tally of which in-state politicians have called on Menendez to step down and it’s pretty shocking. (And yes, Wildstein’s the guy who was earlier at the center of the BridgeGate scandal.) [...]

The first is that absolutely no one is scared of this guy. If he still inspires fear, dislike of the guy must have overwhelmed it. It’s hard to overstate the total and catastrophic loss of confidence and support this list represents. New Jersey has a pretty high tolerance for crooked pols. Local politicians get thrown in jail all the time. Indeed, in New Jersey you can be crooked and completely known to be crooked – Sharpe James comes to mind – and yet still very popular. No one seems to be afraid of Menendez – almost certainly because they see him as a political dead man walking. The length of the list calling on him to resign suggests no one likes him much either.

Have the best possible day everyone.

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Of strikes and impeachments

We begin today with the Texas Observer’s Justin Miller observations of the immediate aftermath of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s acquittal in the Texas state Senate impeachment trial yesterday.

After the final votes were taken, Dan Patrick–who presided over the trial as judge—didn’t waste a second letting his true feelings be known after being largely silent over the preceding three months.

He unleashed a tirade against the House and its Speaker Dade Phelan for the rushed and half-cocked process for impeaching Paxton in the first place. Patrick promised that he would push to pass constitutional amendments in the next session that would reform the state’s impeachment laws. Prior to the trial, Patrick’s campaign received $3 million from the pro-Paxton PAC Defend Texas Liberty.
“The speaker and his team rammed through the first impeachment of a statewide official in Texas in over 100 years while paying no attention to the precedent that the House set in every other impeachment before,” Patrick said. [...]
While Paxton is back in power, his troubles aren’t over. Next month, he’ll finally go to trial on the state securities fraud charges for which he was indicted nearly a decade ago. Then, there’s the federal investigation into him for the very same allegations that brought his impeachment.

Mark Jones writes for the Houston Chronicle that Paxton’s acquittal was all about political calculation.

Paxton’s acquittal underscores a truism in Texas politics today: political power flows through the Republican Party primary in March and May rather than through the November general election. As a result, Republican elected officials, such as these 18 Republican state senators, the governor and the lieutenant governor, are far more attuned to the preferences and priorities of the 1 to 3 million Texans who vote in Republican primary elections than to the preferences and priorities of the state’s 18 million registered voters, or to the evidence that was presented during the impeachment trial.

A Texas Politics Project poll in August showed that, even before the trial began, 47 percent of Texas registered voters believed Ken Paxton took actions that justified removing him from office, compared to 18 percent who believed they did not justify removal and 35 percent who were unsure.

However, Texans who identify as Republican were more mixed in regard to Paxton’s fate in the survey, with 24 percent in favor of removal, 32 percent against and 43 percent unsure. Furthermore, many of the most visible and dynamic activist groups and individuals within the Republican Party mounted a robust and effective campaign, with an assist from Donald Trump, to mobilize the GOP’s activist base to pressure the 18 senators and other Republican elected officials to support acquittal. And, while there was some modest counter-pressure from other Republican groups and elites to convict, or to at least not discard conviction out of hand, it was much more subdued and not nearly as passionate.

Molly Jong-Fast of Vanity Fair writes about the U.S. House caucus of the bullied.

Now, let’s pause and take a moment to remember the last time Republicans impeached a Democratic president. The year was 1998, and a certain House Speaker named Newt Gingrich had decided to impeach a certain president named Bill Clinton over a blow job. (Sure, officially, the charges were perjury and obstruction.) But later that year, during the midterm elections, the GOP’s “out-of-power momentum” was nowhere to be found, having lost the House five seats and gaining zero in the Senate. The impeachment blowback was swift; it was the first midterm since 1934 in which the president’s party actually gained seats in the lower chamber.

Fast-forward to today, and obviously, McCarthy doesn’t seem to have learned anything from that. Why, might you ask? Probably because his lord and savior, Donald J. Trump, wants Biden out of office. And if there’s anything we’ve learned about this cowardly Republican Party, it’s that Donald J. Trump always gets what he wants. “Why aren’t they impeaching Biden?” Trump asked during an Iowa town hall in July. “They impeach me, they indict me, and the Republicans just don’t fight the way,” he echoed during a late-July rally in Erie. “They’re supposed to fight.” In other words, it’s pretty clear that Trump wants his pound of flesh, and if some vulnerable Republicans have to lose their seats, well…sorry, not sorry. [...]

Even Republicans who used to have a modicum of common sense seem sick with the impeachment bug. Take Colorado’s Ken Buck, who was previously anti-impeachment, who told NBC’s Sahil Kapur that an impeachment inquiry was “a good idea.” Buck has recently been threatened by the possibility of a primary challenge—and has also been a frequent target of Marjorie Taylor Greene’s. “I really don’t see how we can have a member of the Judiciary that is flat out refusing to impeach,” she recently said of Buck. “It seems like, can he even be trusted to do his job at this point?” If Buck and McCarthy can be bullied into being pro impeachment by Republicans like Gaetz and Greene, could they also be bullied into allowing a government shutdown?

British political commentator Eliot Wilson writes for The Hill that the sheer pace of impeachments, threats of impeachments, and filing for impeachments indicates that impeachment, itself, has become a partisan weapon indicating instability in government.

Next month marks 25 years since the House of Representatives approved a resolution authorizing the Judiciary Committee to examine potential grounds for Clinton’s impeachment. Since then, however, impeachment has started to become a quotidian and partisan weapon. President Trump made history by being impeached twice, in 2019 and 2021, while the loose cannon that is Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene filed articles of impeachment against President Biden the day after his inauguration. The notion was aired again after the fall of Kabul in August 2021, and Speaker Kevin McCarthy just launched an impeachment inquiry related to Biden’s relationship with his wayward son, Hunter.

This is symptomatic of a breakdown of faith in the political system. This breakdown has happened gradually, and some will point to Watergate and Nixon as the origin point, but the arrival of Donald Trump catalyzed the process. His banishment of truth and facts from any political importance was a transformation: it reduced the venerable institutions of the United States to mere context, the backdrop to an utterly transactional style of politics.

Under those circumstances — the declaration that no holds were barred, that winning was the only thing that mattered — impeachment becomes just another weapon. It is foolish, weak and frankly naïve to hold it in any special regard, an instrument for grave emergencies. Everything is an emergency, and yet everything is ephemeral. So if a party thinks it can gain advantage over its enemies by reaching for articles of impeachment, then it will do so, because that is what you do to win.

I agree with Mr. Wilson’s conclusion that impeachments have become simply another tool of political partisanship but I would place blame at the feet of Newt Gingrich or Gerald Ford.

It’s also why I was in favor of Speaker Nancy Pelosi taking “impeachment off the table” during the 110th Congress.

UAW Statement on Reports of Layoffs of Non-Striking Workers UAW President Shawn Fain released the following statement following reports of planned layoffs of non-striking workers at GM and Ford.#StandUpUAW pic.twitter.com/Fi8Np9Yjgx

— UAW (@UAW) September 16, 2023

Jeanne Whalen and Lauren Kaori Gurley of The Washington Post reports that UAW leaders have returned to the bargaining table but remain far apart from an agreement with the Big Three automakers.

The union and companies remain far apart on pay and benefits in their weeks-long contract negotiations, with the union demanding a 36 percent wage increase over four years. On Saturday, Stellantis, the parent company of Jeep and Chrysler, said it is offering a 21 percent cumulative wage increase over the course of a new contract, a proposal it made Thursday, before the strike started. Ford and GM have offered raises of 20 percent.

The UAW continues to keep its strike plans secret. When asked Friday night whether it might strike at more plants, UAW President Shawn Fain said that depended on the outcome of negotiations. [...]

The UAW president has called the companies’ wage offers inadequate after years of sharp inflation and fat corporate profits. He also points to the large pay increases the auto CEOs received during the course of the autoworkers’ just-expired contract, which was signed in 2019.

Sarah Kessler, Ephrat Livni, and Michael J. de la Merced of The New York Times write about the A.I. concerns that underlie many of the unions that have been or are on strike.

Unions aren’t just fighting for an inflation-beating wage boost. They also are campaigning for job security at a time when workers increasingly fear that shifts to new technologies, like electric vehicles and artificial intelligence, threaten their job, and tech bosses themselves say this gloomy outlook is inevitable. [...]

Concern over disruptive technologies are seen on the picket lines.The Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA, the actors’ union, fear studios are embracing A.I. tools to generate scripts or copy the performances of actors. “If we don’t stand tall right now, we are all going to be in trouble,” Fran Drescher, president of SAG-AFTRA, warned in July. “We are all going to be in jeopardy of being replaced by machines.”

The U.A.W., meanwhile, is concerned that the industry’s shift to electric vehicles will require fewer workers, and that many of the jobs needed will be in battery factories, most of which are not unionized.

Giving workers a voice in the use of technology has taken on new urgency, said Thomas Kochan, an emeritus professor at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management, who has been studying the future of work since the 1980s: “Generative A.I. in particular has just exploded on the scene in a way that’s going to make this one of the most controversial and one of the most important workplace issues of our time.”

Finally today, Dominic Rushe of the Guardian thinks that it’s not simply political partisanship causing widespread pessimism about the American economy.

Americans are deeply divided on the economy. The Harris poll shows over half (53%) of Americans believe the economy is getting worse. Some 72% of Republicans share that view compared with 32% of Democrats. But the unhappiness runs deep on both sides. Only a third of Democrats believe that the economy is getting better.

Even when Americans say they are doing OK financially, they believe the economy is in trouble. According to the Federal Reserve’s annual survey of economic wellbeing, 73% of households said that they were “at least doing OK financially” at the end of 2022. In 2019, that figure was 75% of households. But back then, 50% said the national economy was good or excellent. By 2022, that number had fallen to just 18%. [...]

Partisanship explains much of the seeming disconnect between economic data and sentiment. But not all of it. Large forces are reshaping the US economy and may explain the nation’s vertigo.

Many low-wage workers, have been living with that fear of falling for a long time.

Have the best possible day everyone!