What We're Reading

Daily Reads: “We Are Witnessing a Collapse of the Norms of Governing”

A roundup of stories we're reading at BillMoyers.com HQ...

"We Are Witnessing a Collapse of the Norms of Governing"

We produce this news digest every weekday. You can sign up to receive these updates as an email newsletter each morning.


Commander in Hate –> We’re not sure what’s most troubling about Trump’s three-tweet “order” barring trans servicemen and women from the armed forces — its discriminatory intent, the impulsiveness it reveals given that the Pentagon found out about it along with the rest of us or the cynicism toward patriotic Americans’ military careers. Was it just to shore up support among Trump’s hard-right base while he feuds with Jeff Sessions? At the link above, Richard Kim, The Nation’s executive editor (who only writes when he’s angry), says that this is far from a distraction from health care — it is in fact much worse than that. (The headline is borrowed from today’s New York Daily News.)

There are some silver linings: a handful of prominent Republicans not known for their embrace of LGBT rights blasted the White House. Anecdotal reports suggest that military commanders on the ground will obey a proper command but are telling their troops that they’re not honoring a tweet storm. And capturing the fighting spirit of many trans service members, Air Force Staff Sgt. Logan Ireland told Stephen Losey of the Air Force Times, “I would like to see them try to kick me out of my military… You are not going to deny me my right to serve my country when I am fully qualified and able and willing to give my life.” Losey adds: “Other transgender service members expressed the same determination to stay in uniform in interviews with Military Times.”

And once again, our Canadian friends under PM Justin Trudeau make us look like a bunch of knuckle-draggers…

The Big Picture –> EJ Dionne writes at The Washington Post that “we are witnessing a collapse of the norms of governing, constant violations of our legitimate expectations of political leaders, and the mutation of the normal conflicts of democracy into a form of warfare that demands the opposition’s unconditional surrender.”

Speaking of collapsing norms –> Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski has been one of a handful of moderate Republicans who have so far matched their rhetorical opposition to the GOP’s various repeal bills with actual NO votes. But Erica Martinson reports for Alaska Dispatch News that “Trump isn’t going to just let Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s no vote on Tuesday’s health care motion go.” Murkowski and the state’s junior senator, Dan Sullivan, “each received a phone call from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke letting them know the vote had put Alaska’s future with the administration in jeopardy.”

Today, we’ll get a vote on the misleadingly named “skinny repeal” bill, which is fat enough to strip health coverage from 16 million people, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Jonathan Chait writes at New York Magazine that the point “is to reduce the repeal agenda to its most popular constituent elements, pass something that 50 Republicans can live with and then create a chance to go to conference with the House and rewrite the proposal. Republicans are very clear about their belief that the skinny plan is not intended to be passed into law.” But some senators are warning that going to the House with such a bill would cede much of the Senate’s leverage in negotiations with the lower chamber and probably result in something like the House’s horrific bill, which would kick 23 million off of their coverage.

Meanwhile, one Republican senator, Steve Daines of Montana, is going to introduce an amendment that would create a single-payer system in “an attempt to splinter the Democratic caucus and expose the minority party’s divisions on how to reform the health care system,” according to Vox’s Jeff Stein. But Sen. Bernie Sanders isn’t going to take that bait. Sanders, a fierce advocate for Medicare for all, is voting no, which will signal to the rest of his caucus that they can put up a united front against Daines’ ploy without taking any fire from their left.

Just as a reminder of how conservative rhetoric about Obamacare has backed the GOP into a corner where they can either pass a wildly unpopular bill or face the wrath of their base, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) said on Tuesday that “voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act is a vote for ‘free market and competition’ over ‘Stalin-type socialism,'” according to Addy Baird at Think Progress.

And pollster Matt McDermott offers us a sneak peek at how this may play out in 2018…

Criminalizing dissent –> Kelly Weill reports for The Daily Beast that police “officials seized Trump protesters’ cell phones, cracked their passwords, and are now attempting to use the contents to convict them of conspiracy to riot at the presidential inauguration.” Around 200 protesters are facing up to 75 years in prison, “despite little evidence against them.”

Nothing to see here –> According to Tom Winter at NBC, the DOJ is now alleging that Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch who worked for a pro-Russia Ukrainian political party with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort — and then later joined Manafort in an aborted real estate deal in New York — is a high-ranking figure in the Russian mafia. Oh, and he also took a pile of money from Gazprom which he then tried to use to bribe officials in the US and other countries. Manafort, whose companies reportedly owed Firtash almost $10 million when he joined the Trump campaign, says he barely knows the guy.

Meanwhile, Democrats say that Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who couldn’t possibly investigate the Benghazi attack thoroughly enough, “acted behind closed doors like a lawyer for President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, during questioning Tuesday by the House Intelligence Committee.” Billy House has that story at Bloomberg.

The trillion-dollar national security budget” –> At TomDispatch, (and also reprinted at our site) William Hartung writes: “You wouldn’t know it, based on the endless cries for more money coming from the military, politicians and the president, but these are the best of times for the Pentagon. Spending on the Department of Defense alone is already well in excess of half a trillion dollars a year and counting. Adjusted for inflation, that means it’s higher than at the height of President Ronald Reagan’s massive buildup of the 1980s and is now nearing the post-World War II funding peak. And yet that’s barely half the story. There are hundreds of billions of dollars in ‘defense’ spending that aren’t even counted in the Pentagon budget.”

You can judge a society by how well it treats its prisoners –> After visiting what has been called “the world’s most humane prison,” which is located in Norway, North Dakota prisons chief Leann Bertsch realized that “we’re hurting people.” While Mother Jones’ Dashka Slater notes that Bertsch “is no pushover,” upon her return she decided to “implement our humanity.” Click through at the link to learn more about North Dakota’s experiment with Scandinavian-style incarceration.

No way to live –> While local efforts to raise the minimum wage have met with some notable successes, the federal wage floor remains stuck at $7.25 for the eighth year. At The American Prospect, Justin Miller reflects on what that means for the working poor in the real world.

Kooky or revolutionary? –> Nerd-king Elon Musk recently took some fire for proposing a futuristic “hyperloop” transportation system to connect metro areas in the Northeast, but Eric Holhaus writes for Grist that Musk may be onto something big.

We may be doomed –> Finally, in what may be a sign of the impending apocalypse, or something, Dancing With The Stars is trying to recruit former Trump flack Sean Spicer to get down on TV.

Daily Reads was compiled by BillMoyers.com staff and edited by Kristin Miller.

We produce this news digest every weekday. You can sign up to receive these updates as an email.