15 thoughts on “Hey, Check This Out (Politics Edition)! (2023)

  1. This post, on classified information, probably deserves a separate thread, but I suspect you guys won’t be very interested in this topic. Yet, given the revelations about Biden and now Pence having classified information in their private homes/offices, as well as the ongoing investigation with Trump’s handling of classified information, I think the topic is worth thinking about, especially since there is some important nuance to the issue.

    For this post, I’m drawing on two articles: Seeking Context for Hillarygate from Scott Lilly in Huffingtonpost and Sloppiness in Handling Highly Classified Information is Widespread from John Sipher, a former CIA officer, at Cipher Brief. Both articles came out in 2016, when Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information was an issue during the presidential campaign.

    Both articles provide really important contextual information that I wish the press emphasized a lot more. The contextual information is also important to know now.

    Here are some key points:

    • When I hear of “classified information,” I think of top secret information that would damage the security and interests if it were made public. But not all classified information is like this.
    • From John Sipher, “The level of classification of a specific document is based on a judgment call as to how damaging the information would be if released. Reasonable and experienced people can disagree, and find it expedient to simply classify at the higher level.” It makes sense to do this, but it also leads to overclassification–that is, some classified information doesn’t really warrant this designation.
    • Because of this, Sipher says that, policymakers can have a dismissive attitude toward the status of classified information–that is, there is a boy-crying-wolf effect going on. Overall, Sipher and Lilly point out that mishandling classified information by senior officials is not uncommon. There are some justifiable reasons for this.

    Here are five important questions that Lilly thinks should be asked (and both articles provide some answers to them):

    1.When the word classified material is used, what are we talking about?

    2.What are the procedures for those who must deal with classified information to communicate with one another about its meaning for the policies they are responsible for shaping?

    3.How often do officials violate the best practices for handling classified material?

    4.How significant were the Clinton (insert: Trump, Biden, Pence) violations?

    5.How has the government responded to significant mistakes in the handling of classified material in recent history?

  2. Former Senior F.B.I. Official in New York Charged With Aiding Oligarch from NYT

    The oligarch in question is Oleg Deripaska, a guy Paul Manafort owed a lot of money to.

    This is also interesting:

  3. There’s Already a Solution to the Crisis of Local News. Just Ask This Founding Father. from Politico

    …in 1792, Congress passed the Post Office Act. Publishers would be charged 1 cent for most newspapers and 1.5 cents for those traveling more than 100 miles. This amounted to an enormous subsidy. Rates for regular letters ranged from 6 cents to 25 cents, depending on the distance. The postmaster in 1794 estimated that newspapers constituted 70 percent of the mail while kicking in about 4 percent of the revenue. Postage paid by publishers defrayed no more than 12-14 percent of costs, concluded Richard Kielbowicz in News in the Mail. Scholar Robert McChesney has estimated that “if the U.S. government subsidized journalism today at the same level of GDP that it did in the 1840s, the government would have to spend in the neighborhood of $30-$35 billion annually.” That’s about the size of NASA’s budget.

    The key to making this policy work — logistically, constitutionally and politically — was its content-neutrality. Benjamin Franklin did not sit around in the Postmaster General’s Office deciding whether the New York Gazetteer was wittier than the Massachusetts Spy. All newspapers benefited.

    (emphasis added)

    1. Put aside whether this would motivate me to subscribe to a local newspaper, as I think this is a separate question. What I like is the idea of a more indirect government subsidy for news outlets. I was open to direct government funding, largely because the alternates seemed bleak, but I recognize this approach is very problematic.

      But the article suggests creating an economic environment that supports all news outlets. (I do think defining a news outlet can be problematic as well.) This appeals to me. Not only will this make news outlets, local and national, become more economically viable, but I’m hoping it can give them more independence from commercial pressures.

      1. Without paid subscriptions, I don’t see how this would save local newspapers. It’s why I’m asking the question. If you’re thinking of Midweek but with government subsidies, where everyone just gets whatever local papers they request, I suppose that could work but I’m doubtful.

    2. The quality of the reporting would be a big factor in whether I subscribe, but the larger question is whether more local newspapers would become economically viable with existing, or relatively modest subscriptions, plus government policies that support these outlets. I really don’t know the answer to that.

  4. This post from Ted Gioia, who is a music critic, isn’t political, but it relates to the previous post. Gioia lays out his plan to create a profitable newspaper.

    Gioia begins by describing the abysmal state of the newspaper business, especially local newspapers. A friend asks him if this is a solvable problem.

    “Well, yes, I think it’s possible to solve this problem. But if you implemented my plan the end result won’t look anything like today’s newspapers.”

    “But if it works—and I’m confident it will—it creates good-paying jobs and ensures high quality reporting. And we can make money too, lots of money.

    “This requires some radical steps. When I’m done, we will be operating in an entirely different world from the Cleveland Plain Dealer or the Minnesota Star Tribune.”

    He pressed for details, and I gave them. But, my dear readers, I always think of you, too.

    So here’s my business plan for the “newspaper of the future.”

    More later.

    (On a side note, Gioia’s idea reminds me a little of my idea for a university.)

  5. When I first saw the following NYT headlines, I reacted very negatively:

    Oklahoma Approves First Religious Charter School in the U.S.
    The school will offer online, Roman Catholic instruction funded by taxpayers. Its approval is certain to tee off a legal battle over the separation of church and state.

    So will Roman Catholics, and Christians more broadly, be OK when government funds support a Muslim school? That’s one of the first thoughts that came to mind. Even if they did, which I doubt, government funding religious schools seems like a bad idea.

    Having said that, the arguments for it, including from the SCOTUS, gave me pause:

    In key Supreme Court rulings in 2020 and 2022, the court ruled that religious schools could not be excluded from state programs that allow parents to send their children to private schools using government-financed scholarship or tuition programs. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote that while states were not required to support religious education, if a state chose to subsidize any private schools, it could not discriminate against religious ones.

    Supporters in Oklahoma applied similar arguments to St. Isidore, contending that excluding religious schools from charter funding was a violation of the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom.

    “Not only may a charter school in Oklahoma be religious, but indeed it would be unlawful to prohibit the operation of such a school,” the school’s application stated.

    I’m not convinced this is a good idea, but I can’t immediately reject the rationale here. As long as the government isn’t favoring one religion over another, this seems more palatable. On the other hand, in practice, would the awarding of these funds be equitable (i.e., not favoring Christianity)? Moreover, under this principle, I would think schools that taught a militant atheism would have to be allowed.

    Right now, I just don’t think the government should be funding any religious institution or endeavor.

  6. A link to the indictment and an entertaining commentary of it

    Scott Shapiro is a Yale law professor whom I trust. (He appears on the lawfare podcasts.) He claimed that this thread, summarizing the indictment, was the best things he’s read on twitter.

    I LITERALLY stopped working on my memo so I could read this indictment.

    I am on page 24 and JESUS LUPITA NYONG’O CHRIST.

    HOW this man still has the capacity to shock me after everything that’s happened, i’ll never know.

    but I am sitting here *STUNNED*.
    I’ll be honest–
    b/c i really DO lean into naivete sometimes. it’s difficult for me to assume the worst from ppl, even when they have done all of the worst things.

    so this wholllllle time, i’ve been thinking, “wonder why he didn’t give back those docs. he’s probably lost them.”
    and also, “this dingus just grabbed shit from the white house b/c he’s too stupid to know he couldn’t. he probably doesn’t even realize what he has.”

    lol.

    nooooooooooooooooooooope. noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooope.
    this was a DELIBERATE and CONCERTED effort to remove the most sensitive docs the country has, and KEEP them………and then SHOW THEM TO PPL AT HIS LEISURE WHILE *ACKNOWLEDGING* THAT HE WAS NEITHER SUPPOSED TO HAVE THEM OR SHOW THEM….
    he haphazardly stored the docs ANY DAMNED WHERE……..INCLUDING………IN A GODDAMNED BATHROOM SHOWER…….they were chucked to some random room in Mar a lago, and occasionally the boxes—-because there were SOOOOOOOOO MANY–would tumble down……
    and TOP SECRET DOCUMENTS………DOCUMENTS HAVING TO DO WITH DEFENSE PLANS, MILITARY CAMPAIGNS, NUKES, YOU NAME IT…..DOCUMENTS *CLEARLY MARKED* “TOP SECRET” AND “SECRET” AND “CONFIDENTIAL” AND TWO OTHER DESIGNATIONS I’D NEVER EVEN HEARD OF BEFORE TODAY…BUT WHICH APPARENTLY
    MEAN SUPER DUPER DUPER DOUBLE PINKY SWEARSIES REALSIES SECRET……WOULD JUST…………
    SPILL OUT ONTO THE GD FLOOR……..AND LIE THERE………EXPOSED FOR ALL TO SEE………JUST…..NAKED AND BARING ALL TO THE WORLD LIKE A NATIONAL SECURITY FULL MONTY.
    AND AS IF *THAT* WEREN’T ENOUGH…..the Archives asked this MF fifty-leven times to give all this stuff back. and 45 would be all, “I GAVE YOU EVERYTHING I GOT. DAMN. SHIT. THERE’S NOTHING HERE.”

    THEN HE WOULD HAVE HIS AIDES MOVE THE BOXES……
    AND HE WOULD TRAVELLLLLLLLLLLLL WITHHHHHHHHHHHHHH THE BOXESSSSSSSSSSSS.

    and some member of his family….ivanka or melania or lara……ALSO knew he had the boxes……

    but he would TRAVEL WITHHHHHHH THEM. BECAUSE THAT WAS–PRESUMABLY–the ONLY WAY TO MAKE SURE HE KEPT THEM.
    BUT WHAT’S WILDER STILL…………IS THAT THIS MF HAD LAWYERS WHO WERE LIKE, “Fam. For serious. You need to turn in ANYTHING that you have that is a file and belongs to the US Government. DEAD. ASS.”
    and 45 was all…TO THE LAWYERS…….TO THESE OFFICERS OF THE COURT….”couldn’t y’all just tell them there’s nothing here?” and “wouldn’t it be better if we just…..kinda like…..burned all this shit…you know….if it were here….*hypothetically*.”
    and one lawyer was all…….
    Image
    then he was like, “you got this subpoena on may 11. i’m coming through on the first of the month to run through that WHOLE SHIT…and i’ma make SURE *NOTHING* that belongs to THESE UNITED ASS STATES is in that garish monstrosity you pretend is a house.”
    SO 45 has his body man and his aides MOVE THE BOXES AGAIN. LIKE JUST……….SCORES OF BOXES……..HE HAS THEM MOVE A GAZILLION BOXES AGAIN…….TO HIDE THEM FROM…………………..HIS *LAWYERS*.

    AND THENNNNNNNNNNNNN….THE NIGHT BEFORE THE DAY HIS LAWYER IS SUPPOSED TO COME THROUGH……HE CALLED HIM…….AND WAS LIKE, “Aye, dawg. You still coming tomorrow? I was sitting here talking to the homies and like…we don’t know why you’re coming. Why are you coming?”
    and the lawyer was like, (*presumably deep sigh here*), “I ALREADY TOLD YOU. I’m coming through to move through the house and make sure i can tell them we complied with the subpoena. i’m gonna make sure you don’t have anything you’re not supposed to. Okay?”
    and 45 is like, “OHHHHHHHHH! Right. Cool. Coolcoolcoolcool….cool. Come on through, then. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

    Then he hung up.

    AND HAD HIS BODYMAN MOVE MORE BOXES.
    I have to keep reading. but what i really need you to know….is that whoever drafted this is giving us NEXT LEVEL #caliber dorian corey shade.

    because SPRINKLED THROUGHOUT…..are excerpts from quotes that donald trump gave the press during campaigns and his presidency-
    boasting about how good he’d be at keeping this country’s secrets safe…how we needed a return to discretion and how ppl who violated national security laws and breached the protections afforded our most sensitive docs needed to be punished with the
    full might of the law.

    for real.

    for real.

    GASP.
    ch-

    the lawyer went to mar a lago, and 45 and his aides were just sitting there, like, “oh yeah. this guy wants to make sure we’ve turned all the stuff in. somebody take him back to the room and make sure he’s comfortable.”
    the lawyer goes, looks around….and finds 38 things that were top secret.

    and, honest to God….i think they left that stuff there deliberately so that it wouldn’t look like they’d cleaned house.
    so the lawyer packages up what’s left……goes back out, and 45 has the AUGODDAMNEDDACITY TO BE LIKE, “Wassup? How are we lookin’?”

    HAND TO GOD, this man says, “Is it good? is it bad?”

    AS THOUGH HE HADN’T DIRECTED EVERYONE TO CLEAN HOUSE.
    THEN when the lawyer shrugs and indicates that there’s still some chester copperpot level shit in the box he’s carrying, 45 MIMES taking out the secret stuff and disposing of it…..
    MIMES.

    WITH HIS WEE HANDS.
    the lawyer apparently ignores it, and is like, “okay. i’m gonna being in last lawyer and i’m gonna tell her that i went all the way through everything you said you had. then i’m gonna tell her that what i’m holding RIGHT NOW is the last of ANYthing that you have and
    aren’t supposed to. SO IF THERE IS ANYTHING ELSE IN THIS HOUSE, TELL ME NOW. CAUSE SHE’S COMING WITH AN OFFICIAL ASS PAPER THAT I AM TENDERING TO THE FEDS….AND WE DON’T LIE TO THE FEDS…SO IS THIS IT, DONALD?”
    and 45 is like, “on my mama.”

    so the lawyer brings the other lawyer in, and is like, “this is it. this is everything. so you can safely put your good name and your good Bar ID number on this super official sworn statement. b/c 45 said this is it and we’ve complied.”
    let me just stop for a moment, right here and tell you that i would *literally* die first…

    i would ****literally**** ****DIE**** before i relied on that man’s representations.

    i’d lie down in the center of my living room floor-
    cover myself up in a blanket-
    rollllllllllllllllll from wall to wall, back and forth, until i was Dexter secure in the bedding-

    and then will my body to cease breathing…

    before i’d put MY NAME on some shit off the STRENGTH of Donald Gargamel John Trump’s word.
    so the lawyers turned that weak ass certification in…….and told the NATIONAL ARCHIVES RECORDS ADMINISTRATION………THE ENTITY CHARGED WITH THE TASK OF MAINTAINING OUR COLLECTIVE MEMORY AS A NATION…….

    “that’s all we got.”
    AS IF THIS FEDERAL AGENCY………WHOSE *CHIEF* RESPONSIBILITY IS *LITERALLY* TO *KEEP* THINGS……WOULDN’T KNOW…….THIS VERITABLE MOUNTAIN OF DOCUMENTS……..WAS MISSING.
    the feds got that certification back and looked at that shit like

    then they subpoenaed video surveillance from Mar a Lago……

    BECAUSE OF COURSE.

    and what do they see?

    the bodyman and the aides NOT ONLY MOVING BOXES……..but MOVING BOXES ONTO A PLANE…
    AND THEN THAT PLANE TAKING OFF……WITH TRUMP IN TOW…….FLYING AWAY FOR THE SUMMER
    b/c he wanted the boxes with him at his vacation house.
    Image
    lol……….soooooooooooooooooooo the DOJ sent them boys in…….

    and the windbreakers searched that stucco, Mediterranean-style abomination from top to bottom……

    and found 100+ more protected docs.
    your.
    boy.
    is.
    a.
    CLOWNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN.
    there’s a breakdown of the stuff they found.

    my.
    word.

    every time i see the words “concerning military capabilities of the united states,” “concerning nuclear weaponry of the united states”– i just….

    WOW.

    WOW.
    WOW.
    WOW.
    this is the bodyman.

    if the past is indeed prologue, and we draw from my favorite episode in american history ever, brought to us courtesy of messrs. mitchell, haldeman, ehrlichman, colson, hunt, and liddy-

    HE goes DIRECTLY to jail, and 45….well…doesn’t.
    Image
    I genuinely hope, that if, over the course of these twitter years, you have taken but ONE THING from EVERYTHING I’ve EVER told you…

    It’s to not lie to the Feds.

    DO NOT LIE TO THE FEDS.

    Just decline the interview and get indicted on whatever they’ve got.
    You can beg for grace later. There are literally mechanisms in place for ppl who come clean and are helpful to them down the line.

    Just decline the interview.

    But DO. NOT. LIE.
    This dude is the valedictorian of jackasses.
    Image
    NOT THIS SUZANNE SUGARBAKER-STYLE CONFUSED DENIAL.
    Image
    anyway, that’s it.

    in summation,

    everything is awful.

    Jack Smith, the Special Counsel, and others have recommended reading the actual indictment. I had very little interest in doing so. But after reading the commentary above, I had a desire to corroborate the commentary, so I started reading a few pages. I’m only about five pages in, but it’s easy to understand and damning. The first three pages alone are worth reading.

  7. I love the sentiments expressed in this thread by Tom Nichols:

    I was thinking about this today while, of all things, hearing John Denver.
    Bear with me.
    I was listening to “Country Roads” and thinking of the great diversity of America. I was on my way to a beach in RI, but I’ve seen the beauty of WV.
    All of it is America.
    When I would travel in the old USSR, or even in the new Russia, if you ran into anyone from the United States, it was like family.
    Boston? Wheeling? Jackson? Didn’t matter. It was like encountering long-lost cousins.
    /2
    As much as I’ve been a part of the Blue/Red state divide, I hate it. And sure, I can blame some of it on the Dems, but elite culture warriors in the conservative media really created the sense that you had to hate people based on their license plates. /3
    I miss the days when, whatever our internal differences, overseas you knew that every American was your family.
    Now we have Americans openly rooting for Vladmir Putin’s Russia, a regime that seeks our destruction. Even Cold War lefties weren’t that bad. (And they were bad). /4
    I realized that no matter how much I dump on red state voters, a nostalgic song about West Virginia still moves me. (I was part of a U.S. delegation on a Soviet riverboat that played “City of New Orleans” to wake us up and it got me *right here*.) /5
    I look forward to when this madness passes, and we stow the idiotic Gadsden and Confederate flags, and stop talking about national divorces. This country is a miracle, even if we can’t remember why. But we will, if we shout back at the people making money off sedition.
    /6x

    I wish the spirit in this would infect large numbers of Americans, and embrace a sense of belonging to one family, as Americans, and that we celebrate this and the good things about America (and there are many)!

    This should be the way we “shout back.”

  8. I’m really liking Longshadow: the Rise of the Far Right podcast, hosted by journalist and historian, Garrett Graff.

    The series claims that the 1/6 insurrection is linked to and a culmination of the modern far right. I’m in the third episode and I’m not sure if they have an airtight case for this, but I’ll suspend judgment until the end.

    They also suggest a connection between white supremacy and far-right militias. There does seem to be overlap, but I’m not so clear on the relationship between the two. So far, the series suggests that the white supremacist groups morphed into anti-government militias.

    Another claim that interested me, especially since I never heard it before, was the idea that the white supremacist groups turned on the federal government after LBJ signed the Civil Rights Bill. Prior to that, groups like the KKK believed the government could be a vehicle they could use to restore a white nation.

    Finally, I’m curious to understand the nature of the ties between these far-right groups and Trump supporters, if there are any.

  9. A Global Web of Chinese Propaganda Leads to a U.S. Tech Mogul from the NYT (gifted article)

    The Times unraveled a financial network that stretches from Chicago to Shanghai and uses American nonprofits to push Chinese talking points worldwide

    On the surface, No Cold War is a loose collective run mostly by American and British activists who say the West’s rhetoric against China has distracted from issues like climate change and racial injustice.

    In fact, a New York Times investigation found, it is part of a lavishly funded influence campaign that defends China and pushes its propaganda. At the center is a charismatic American millionaire, Neville Roy Singham, who is known as a socialist benefactor of far-left causes.

    (bold added)

    …Singham is married Jodie Evans, a former Democratic political adviser and the co-founder of Code Pink.

    Ms. Evans has organized around progressive causes like climate change, gender and racism. Until a few years ago, she readily criticized China’s authoritarian government.

    “We demand China stop brutal repression of their women’s human rights defenders,” she wrote on Twitter in 2015. She later posted on Instagram a photo with the Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei.

    However,

    Since 2017, about a quarter of Code Pink’s donations — more than $1.4 million — have come from two groups linked to Mr. Singham, nonprofit records show. The first was one of the UPS store nonprofits. The second was a charity that Goldman Sachs offers as a conduit for clients’ giving, and that Mr. Singham has used in the past.

    Ms. Evans now stridently supports China. She casts it as a defender of the oppressed and a model for economic growth without slavery or war. “If the U.S. crushes China,” she said in 2021, it “would cut off hope for the human race and life on Earth.”

  10. I highly recommend these two Atlantic articles–one on General Mark Milley and the other on Mitt Romney.

    There is a lot of jaw-dropping information in both pieces–maybe too many to quote.

    What’s important about these articles, in my view, is not what it says about Trump, but what it says about those who continue to support Trump–particularly those who know better. The following tweet I just saw is a case in point:

    Brian Kemp on why he’ll back Donald Trump if he wins the GOP nod, even though he tormented the governor for much of the last three years: “Despite all of that, despite all of his other trials and tribulations, he would still be a lot better than Biden.”

    Brian Kemp, what the heck? Given what Trump officials say in the article–not just Gen. Milley, but Generals McMaster, Kelly, and Mattis, among others–I find Kemp’s position to be unfathomable, to the point where I’d say he’s deranged. He, and officials in his state, also experienced Trump’s authoritarian behavior–behavior that lead to threats of violence on his officials and their families. Does he really believe Biden would resort to the same behavior–that Biden is an authoritarian? Does he believe that Biden’s military advisers fear that Biden would use the military to stay in power?

    11/24/2023

    We’ve passed the point where the language (“treason,” punishment by death) is mere recklessness and something more nefarious–i.e., he’s encouraging his followers to intimidate or retaliate with violence.

    The “good” GOP are stuck in silence. (Here’s where Romney should stand with Democrats and vociferously denounce this. Unfortunately, I predict they’re not going to do this until something more tragic occurs.)

  11. Why Do Many People Think Negatively About the Current Economy in Spite of Good Economic Indicators?

    NYT Daily provided what I thought three compelling reasons for this:

    1. Over the last four years, aggregate prices (the price of a collection of goods and services) has gone up 20%. So while the rate of price increases have tapered off, the prices are still considerably higher from four years ago. This disparity in these prices–especially for things like grocercies, gas, and cars– is glaring and painful.
    2. Home prices has risen by 47% since 2019. Interest on mortgages are also relatively high–at 7.3%, due to the FED increasing interest rates.
    3. More people get their news from social media–e.g., 43% of tiktok users get their news from tiktok, double the percentage from a couple of years ago; 50% of adults say they get their news from social media according to Pew research. Many of the posts feature individuals complaining about the economy and their economic situation. This could possibly be feeding a negative perception of the economy.

    I find all of these reasons, especially the firs two, to be a compelling explanation.

    Thisthread on X also provided a compelling explanation, and it’s in line with the data above:

    I’ve been saying this over and over again, but: This is why inflation is so destructive to presidencies. With unemployment, overwhelming # of people are still employed, lots of unemployed expect to get hired back, etc. When you get your job, it’s largely done. 1/
    Inflation is different. People at all income levels notice it, whether it’s the $10 happy meal or the $150 Outback delivery or [whatever good someone really rich buys and notices, I don’t know]. 2/
    You notice it when you think about moving, and realize the interest rate on the loan you could get is like 3x what you’re paying. If you have credit card debt or floating debt, your interest on that explodes. 3/
    And the thing is, when inflation is over, it isn’t over. The prices stay elevated, which sucks until folks’ expectations settle in. Yeah, maybe you’re getting raises, and maybe you’re even mathematically getting ahead, but 4/
    most people are not homo economicus, and will say things like “the raise is nice, but it’s mostly going to pay my grocery bill.” And not only that, but it compounds. If your base price is $10 and you get 100% inflation (to keep the math simple) 5/
    and the inflation rate falls to 50%, prices go up another $10. Inflation just really, really sucks, it affects far more people than unemployment typically does, and it’s going to take longer for the effects to unwind than with other economically meaningful indicators. 6/6

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