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A Terminus in a Trainwreck Case for America

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of all three counts, including murder, in the death of George Floyd.

Forty-five year-old Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was convicted on all charges, including murder, in the case of the May 2020 death of George Floyd. The jury deliberated for an hour. 

Mr. Floyd’s slaying was a veritable Franz Ferdinand moment, and certainly the coup de grace in an already unprecedented, hardline pandemic response in much of the world. The death brought the Black Lives Matter movement into the Western mainstream, and set off months of often iconoclastic protests that eventually brought down the presidency of Donald Trump.

The subtext Tuesday was plain: fear of repeat business if Chauvin was cleared of wrongdoing. Earlier in the day, President Biden explicitly conveyed his wishes for a guilty verdict, caveating that it was appropriate to do so once the trial jury was sequestered. His remarks drew concern even from political sympathizers. The clear sounds of cheering outside the courthouse, and the national transfixion for the result, the “right verdict” as the president said, in an individual criminal matter of heretofore non-celebrities raised questions of the stability of the American system.    

But Chauvin is being held fully responsible for Floyd’s death, found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of: second degree unintentional murder, third degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The prison term will be lengthy. The most serious conviction, murder in the second degree, carries a maximum of forty years incarceration. 

Chauvin’s counsel, Eric C. Nelson, will likely protest that the jury was not properly sequestered for the length of the whole trial in any appeal, as he has consistently. Last week, two seated jurors were dismissed following possible exposure to the multimillion-dollar settlement the city brokered with Floyd’s family. And on Monday, obscene comments from Rep. Maxine Waters overtly lending support to potential violent protests prompted the presiding judge to concede, “I’ll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned,” before he denied a motion to dismiss.

Chauvin, who had been out on bail, will soon have to report to prison, likely for a very long time, sparing a changed country further immediate trauma. But it’s certain the issues raised by the killing of Floyd and its reaction are far from fully litigated.  

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George W. Bush: How Ever Did the GOP Become So ‘Isolationist’?


Credit: NBC/Today/YouTube Screenshot

George W. Bush is doing political punditry now:

Former President George W. Bush described the modern-day GOP as “isolationist, protectionist, and to a certain extent, nativist” in an interview Tuesday that was packed with implicit criticism of the most recent Republican president.

“It’s not exactly my vision” for the party, Bush told NBC’s “Today” show in a rare live TV appearance. “But, you know, I’m just an old guy they put out to pasture.”

I’m occasionally tempted to view Bush, with his paintbrush and his easel haunted by the dead, as a tragic figure. Certainly many of the worst ideas to come out of his administration didn’t originate with him, even if he was ultimately The Decider. But come on, man. It takes some doing to be that obtuse. The adjectives listed by Bush all fall under the umbrella of nationalism. In which case, the question is why the GOP isn’t as internationalist as it used to be. And is he really puzzled as to at least one reason why? Single word? Four letters? Begins with an I?

If Bush wants to posit that the Republican base has gone too far in a nationalist direction, then that’s fair. But let’s not pretend this happened in a vacuum uninformed by events.

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The American Legion Calls for Ending the Forever War

A major shift from the largest veterans' advocacy group in the country

Oley, PA - May 24: Members of the Oley American Legion Post 878 perform a 21-gun salute at Oley Cemetery in Spangsville followe by taps on Sunday, May 24, 2020. (Photo by Lauren A. Little/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

The American Legion has now gone on record calling for an end to the “Forever Wars.” This is a major development in the fight for a more restrained foreign policy.

Despite its declining membership, The American Legion continues to be the largest and most powerful of the DC veterans advocacy organizations. And, while its advocacy power is most pronounced in veterans affairs, it maintains a commission dedicated to advocating for national security issues and can be influential given its status as a voice for military veterans and service members.

The statement follows the adoption of a resolution last fall by the organization entitled “Addressing the ‘Forever War’” which calls for “a renewal of a proper constitutional balance to American foreign policy decision-making by encouraging Congress to repeal and replace outdated Authorizations for Use of Military Force.” The resolution, however, stopped short of calling for an end to the wars.

Yesterday’s move makes explicit what was implicit in the resolution, and represents a stark reversal of its previous position.  

In 2010, the Legion passed a resolution expressing unqualified “support for the war on terror” which urged “all Americans and freedom-loving peoples everywhere to stand united in their support of the global war on terrorism” and the National Commander of the Legion “to engage whatever means necessary to ensure the united support of the American people.”

When a powerful beltway voice like The American Legion, with the credibility provided by two million veterans and their families behind it, calls for an end to two decades of war, it is clear that change is afoot in DC. Advocates of a restrained foreign policy are making major headway, despite the complaints of those who would have more American blood spilled and treasure spent in far-away places 20 years after the events that sent them there.

For more than 100 years, The American Legion post has been a staple of civic life in cities and towns across America, sponsoring baseball leagues, barbeques, Fourth of July parades, and service projects. 

With this shift, the Legion signals that it is taking seriously the views of the citizens of those American cities and towns, as well as those of the veterans that it represents.

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Despite Delay, Biden’s Afghanistan Exit is a Win for Conservatives

Biden looks poised to finish what Trump started.

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 14: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks from the Treaty Room in the White House about the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan on April 14, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden announced his plans to pull all remaining U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by September 11, 2021 in a final step towards ending America’s longest war. (Photo by Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images)

President Biden announced yesterday that he would withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan  by September 11. This is, of course, a symbolic nod to the 20th anniversary of the 2001 terror attacks that prompted America’s longest war. Let’s not make it a habit for twenty-year-anniversaries to mark the end of wars.

But it’s also a delay of the exit date to which then-President Donald Trump committed last year: May 1, 2021. Will Ruger, writing at The National Interest, nails the implications here (Disclosure: Ruger is a member of the board of the American Ideas Institute, which publishes TAC):

The September date is nerve-wracking since time is a seedbed for mischief in war termination decisions. Thus, advocates of withdrawal should keep the pressure on and Biden should pay great heed to the implementation process, goad foot-draggers, and try to get out ahead of schedule.

Indeed. But President Biden’s decision should still be seen as a win for conservatives who were emboldened by President Trump’s denunciations of America’s endless wars. The initial reaction of those opposed to Biden’s announcement—and, really, the cast of characters itself who are opposing the move—is telling. Predictably, NeverTrumpers like David French and Bill Kristol have circled the wagons to oppose Biden’s withdrawal. (Wasn’t Biden their guy last fall?)

The most comical reaction, as it usually does, belongs to Max Boot, who wrote on Twitter, “The US is abandoning all the girls going to school, all the women in the workforce, all the brave soldiers fighting the Taliban, all the young entrepreneurs starting businesses, all the government officials trying to build a fragile democracy.” Yet in a way, Boot helps to clarify the foreign policy debate: Should American forces be deployed to encourage workplace diversity in entrepreneurial start-ups in far-off lands? Or should they be focused on defending American national interests?

The divide here is not Republican versus Democrat. It’s the permanent national security establishment versus those in the “provinces” who actually fight their wars. (Although, as our politics continues to realign and the Republican Party welcomes more working-class voters into its ranks, restraint in foreign policy may very well become a more partisan issue—with conservatives owning it.)

For now, we should be thankful that there are enough restrainers left on the Left to pressure the Biden administration into honoring Trump’s Afghanistan withdrawal—albeit belatedly—and after a full twenty years, we should make sure they see it through.

Be on the lookout for full coverage of the Biden administration’s press conference on Afghanistan in TAC tomorrow.

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It’s Bust or Be Busted

Trusts and political collusion aren't going away unless there's a fight, as the Georgia situation shows.

I thought about jumping into editorializing right away but the news story speaks for itself, or at least it should. In what CBS assures us was a “First-of-its-kind-meeting” (methinks the lady doth protest too much, yes, I’m already editorializing a little):

More than 100 of the nation’s top corporate leaders met virtually on Saturday to discuss ways for companies to continue responding to the passage of more restrictive voting laws across the country, a signal that the nation’s premier businesses are preparing a far more robust, organized response to the ongoing debate. 

With some CEOs chiming in from Augusta National Golf Club, site of the Masters golf tournament, attendees on the high-level Zoom call included leaders from the health care, media and transportation sectors and some of the nation’s leading law and investment firms.

Representing hundreds of billions, if not trillions of dollars (Georgia’s tax revenues in 2020 were $23.7 billion), this little cabal should remind us that combinations and trusts emerging in the private sector do not stay in the much-vaunted, semi-mythic private sector. Collusion will protect itself in whatever domains it deems necessary, and states can be made an example of.

Those who recall the treatment of Indiana in 2015 over RFRA legislation should not be surprised by this massed-money mobilization in reaction to an attempt at underwhelming electoral reform. To put recalcitrant red states back in their place, corporate muscle has been flexed before. They still got uppity enough to elect Donald Trump, however, and it was too close for comfort the second time. It seems there was need for a reminder.

Much like the security state’s pivot from funding and fighting terrorism abroad to funding and fighting purported terrorists at home, it’s back to the neoconservative playbook, but this time, domestically. Jonah Goldberg, drumming up support for the disaster in Iraq in 2002, coined what he called the “Ledeen Doctrine” to encapsulate our insane relationship to the idea of credibility; it states, “Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.” Lately it has been business’s turn, on a more condensed timeline, to occasionally pick up some small crappy little conservative state and throw it against the wall, just to show the world they mean it, too. This tends to be bad for state self-government, but because Republican politicians are, as a rule, both spineless and brainless, they tend to survive the blunt-force trauma just fine (Indiana’s governor even became the vice president). If politics ever stops working out for them perhaps they can be crash test dummies. 

Hope springs eternal in the human breast and all that, though, so there’s a chance a few are alright, but I’m not yet certain. Senator Josh Hawley introduced a bill yesterday called the “Trust-Busting For the 21st Century Act.” The proposed legislation would ban mergers and acquisitions by companies with more than $100 billion market cap. It would also empower the FTC to prohibit Big Tech from buying out up-and-coming competition, and would force corporations that lose antitrust lawsuits to forfeit money made with monopoly. 

Explicitly drawing the connection between economic power and political power, as well as economic collusion and political collusion, Hawley called out the 100 tyrants, too. CBS quotes the Missouri senator as saying of the corporate Zoom meeting (all that money and still using Zoom?):

Their efforts to influence or outright stop voting laws in various states, this is indicative I think of the kind of very significant and growing political power that the largest concentrated corporations the mega corporations have in this country and are willing to use today.

Hawley, who once wrote a biography of Theodore Roosevelt, appears to have realized the sort of soft speech allowed by a tone-policing bipartisan establishment requires Republican lawmakers to find a big stick of their own. It’s bust or be busted. 

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Quite a Day in the Right Turn Against Corporate America

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Justice Clarence Thomas signaled camaraderie Monday with those who would check corporate power.

Shutterstock/Wikimedia Commons

Two events came to pass Monday that, for now, have gained only the attention of specialists. That is, legal eagles, aggrieved conservative activists, and hardline devotees of the status quo. 

But here’s putting forward that these developments have the potential to soon be viewed as watersheds in tandem.

First, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose political status has taken a hit in recent months—having failed to persuade former President Trump to concede the election, having failed to maintain a peace with his party’s standard-bearer, and then having helped forfeit the Republicans’ Senate majority in Georgia with dubious, corporate-friendly candidates—affirmed a new reality on Monday. The Kentuckian confirmed what seems an increasingly uni-party mindset in America’s major corporations, decrying “a coordinated campaign by powerful and wealthy people to mislead.”

What McConnell really did here is affirm his party’s future, indeed likely its only real chance of survival: a path forward predicated on going to war with big business. It’s no doubt an astonishing reversal for a figure who came into politics as a Reaganite, first elected to the Senate in the early 1980’s. 

But McConnell is nothing, if not a survivor.  

“From election law to environmentalism to radical social agendas to the Second Amendment, parts of the private sector keep dabbling in behaving like a woke parallel government,” McConnell proclaimed in a release. As much prophecy as legislative threat, McConnell said: “Corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order.” The minority leader argued that “Americans do not need or want big business to amplify disinformation or react to every manufactured controversy.” And the Bluegrass Stater bemoaned that it is “jaw-dropping to see powerful American institutions not just permit themselves to be bullied, but join in the bullying themselves.”

The backdrop to all this, or the final straw, was of course the decision of Major League Baseball, “America’s pastime” to heave-ho its all-star game from Atlanta following a controversial voting rules overhaul in Republican-governed Georgia.

Quite dubiously decried by the White House as a “new Jim Crow,” McConnell for his part smacked down that characterization by noting that “wealthy corporations have no problem operating in New York, for example, which has fewer days of early voting than Georgia, requires excuses for absentee ballots, and restricts electioneering via refreshments.” He made the case that “there is no consistent or factual standard being applied here.”

Next, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Monday secured his place as the sweetheart of conservative reformers, and even some left-wing critics of big technology firms. In an expressive dissent in a basically moot case over former President Donald Trump’s (defunct) Twitter account, Thomas wrote: “If part of the problem is private, concentrated control over online content and platforms available to the public, then part of the solution may be found in doctrines that limit the right of a private company to exclude.” 

The proliferation of trap doors on social media in recent years has suited the c-suite well (though some leaders, such as Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, have expressed squeamishness with this level of essentially unilateral authority). And it has, of course, been manna from heaven for the dispositionally censorious. To say Republicans and traditional civil libertarians have been up in arms on the matter would to disqualifyingly understate the case. 

Big Tech censorship, perhaps only vindicated by the 2020 triumph of “woke” politics, has become the issue for many.

And Justice Thomas just threw dissidents a huge bone. “This Court long ago suggested that regulations like those placed on common concurring carriers may be justified, even for industries not historically recognized as common carriers, when ‘a business, by circumstances and its nature, . . . rise[s] from private to be of public concern,’” said Thomas.  

Biden may bore, but the emerging battle lines of his America most certainly do not. 

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Leaked Texts From Israeli Consulate Employee Show More Details in Gaetz-Levinson Funding Scheme

'We only asked for $25 million as an estimate at first. We came way down.'

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 09: Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) during a House Armed Services Subcommittee hearing with members of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee on Capitol Hill on December 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. The U.S. Army has fired or suspended 14 leaders at Fort Hood following an investigation into the death of Specialist Vanessa Guillén and numerous other deaths and reports of sexual abuse on the military base. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Three screenshots of texts between Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, and Jake Novak, media director of the Israeli consulate in New York City were shared with TAC. The messages were authenticated by one of the parties to them.

In the first screenshot, Novak messaged Adams last Saturday to tell him about the investigation into Gaetz. The New York Times story on the Gaetz investigation was not published until Tuesday.

In the second, Novak appears to represent himself as deeply involved in the efforts to free Bob Levinson from Iran, telling Adams “this is screwing up my efforts to free Bob Levinson.”

“Gaetz’s dad was secretly finding [sic] us,” he continues. “So I’m very much wanting this to be untrue. I’ve got a commando team leader friend of mine nervously waiting for the wire transfers to clear.”

In the third screenshot, Novak casts doubt on Gaetz’s claims that he is being extorted. “The real documents do not extort,” he writes, “And we only asked for $25 million as an estimate at first. We came way down.”

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Iran: The Narrowest Window for Detente

The Biden administration consented to new informal talks with Iran on Friday, after months of dashing hopes of restrainers, progressives.

Throwing a bone to his left flank, as well as to prominent conservative allies of restraint, Joe Biden’s administration announced on Friday the resumption of some indirect talks with Iran. They are set to take place next week through intermediaries in Vienna, Austria.

For weeks, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party had assailed the new president for an unexpectedly hawkish line on Iran. These swipes followed airstrikes on Iranian proxies in Syria earlier this year and the apparent, active disinterest on the part of the administration in swiftly returning to the nuclear accord brokered by its Democratic predecessor. Biden supporter Rep. Ro Khanna, a hardline foreign policy restrainer, this week panned Biden’s national security team for its “disappointing start,” and previously warned Biden to stop “playing chicken” with Iran. 

Rubbing it in, this week the socialist periodical Jacobin proclaimed: “Joe Biden is killing the Iran deal,” that is, finishing the work of Donald Trump. For its part, Iran tried to play it cool Friday with its state press chiding any “step-by-step lifting of sanctions.” Behind the scenes, however, the government is seen as likely set to accept any serious sanctions relief it can get, after years of pummeling at the hands of President Trump. The informal nature of the current talks suits both sides, with Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif emphasizing what’s not on the agenda next week: “No Iran-US meeting,” before adding, “unnecessary.”

Longtime critics of Zarif and the deal are certainly plussed. Richard Goldberg of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and formerly of the Trump White House, concluded on Friday that Biden administration is “offering terrorism sanctions relief to Iran without any demand it halt” its regionional, malign behavior, as part of the salvo to have informal talks. Goldberg charged such a move “shatters” promises made by Antony Blinken, Biden’s secretary of state. FDD’s leadership had previously hailed Blinken, seemingly trying to cultivate him as an ally for the organization’s de facto regime change policy preference.

Citing the Goldberg comments, a conservative proponent of the deal, Justin Logan of the CATO Institute, said “Periodic reminder that the Trump administration sanctioned Iranian entities on terrorism grounds which were already sanctioned on nuclear grounds. Why do this? To make it harder politically to return to the nuclear deal.” 

Foreign policy realists frequently make the case that conflating violent, regional behavior on the part of Iran and its cadre of Shia militias is a tendentious sleight of hand, equating Shia state thuggery with Sunni millenarian terrorism, the likes which struck the U.S. on September 11. The leadership of the Republican Party disagrees, perhaps most prominently former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has branded swathes of the Iranian high command terrorists, and who oversaw the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani on such grounds last year.

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Truth in Beauty

We need more of what’s going on in “Chemtrails Over the Country Club.”

I reviewed Lana Del Rey’s latest album, Chemtrails Over the Country Club, for the Blaze. I liked the record a lot, and said so, but really I like Lana, and her artistic project, and the review was an essay about her far more than this particular album. Her music is a baroque or gothic celebration of femininity, what I’ve decided to call “gender euphoria.” This is in marked contrast to the androgyny and subversion of sexual dynamism of so much contemporary pop music, which in its preoccupation with sex as mere pleasure, rather than intimacy, reduces people to so many individual bodies. The majority of “love songs” today are exercises in narcissism; that’s not true of Lana. 

The standout track of the album is called “Let Me Love You Like a Woman.” It’s beautiful. It’s reminiscent to my ears of the folk rock of the ’60s, and details a twofold escape from Los Angeles. Yes, Lana wants out, to find a refuge in small-town America. But she also doesn’t “care where as long as you’re with me.” It’s the love of a man and a woman, a woman for a man, that can truly upend the prison of economic existence. To quote the conclusion of my review:

Sometimes Lana takes the fantasy of a midcentury Americana and gives it a voice. But more often, she reminds us that our wasteland of respectability and power dynamics and critique and consumption is subject to death, and that there is re-enchantment and maybe even life to be found in the romance and comfort of a woman holding a man in her arms.

I’m reminded by Chemtrails Over the Country Club of a recent NYT column by Ross Douthat, titled “What the 2020s Need: Sex and Romance at the Movies.” Douthat, like some other shrewd observers of contemporary society, notes that for all our sex talk as a culture we are shockingly unsexy and unromantic. There’s an especial loneliness to all our smut. Douthat writes, “there’s a cultural void where romance used to be. And it doesn’t seem coincidental that this void opened at a time when the sexes are struggling to pair off — with fewer marriages, fewer relationships, less sex.”

A friend of mine likes to say—when dating trouble, birth rates, or loneliness comes up—“people aren’t horny enough.” He’s making a similar point to Douthat. It’s a restatement of an ancient philosophical account of eros, eros not just as lust, or sexual desire, but as the compelling force that draws us from ourselves to another. Without true eroticism, we are left self-obsessed addicts, looking, not for intimacy, but to be soothed. Lana is a woman, and doesn’t make didactic points as she philosophizes, but in her art she shows us the other way.

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‘An Endless Cycle of Asininity’

Kevin Williamson is terrified of Harvard's first female professor of color, but not the lizard-man who runs the world economy.

Left: Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). (By Maverick Pictures/Shutterstock) Right: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. (By lev radin/Shutterstock)

Former Atlantic staffer Kevin D. Williamson, the lower-right quadrant’s most literate troll, took some potshots at my senator this morning for her modest attempts to put an irksome galactic hegemon in his place. Civic duty, mild boredom, and feudal loyalty oblige me to respond.

Poor old beleaguered Lizzie Warren, everyone’s favorite punching bag, is just trying to do her job. Williamson thinks the job has gotten to her head, and so he opens his weekly newsletter—it’s worth a read and a subscription, by the way—with a string of Williamsonian insults capped with the accusation that Warren “is getting a little full of herself, and believes that as a senator, she should be above the petty ‘heckling’ of the little people. You know, peons. Like you.”

There’s a hell of an elision here. Williamson has one particular peon on his mind: Amazon founder Jeffrey Preston Bezos, of “richest person in the world” notoriety. Good old Jeff, just a peon like me. Unless Kevin is pointing out Bezos’s petite frame—it would be kind of mean, but I wouldn’t put it past him—I think he might have spelled “lizard people” wrong.

Because Senator Warren is not particularly nice to Mr. Bezos or his megacorporation, Williamson decides to hit us with a classic:

This isn’t North Korea or Venezuela or East Germany — not yet! — where people have to be afraid of criticizing those who hold government office. The fact that Senator Warren so obviously wishes that it were so is a real good reason to retire her pronto.

This is a tired line, the kind that ought to have been put to sleep by a decent high school English teacher or—at the very least—a young conservative journalist’s first professional editor. And yet it remains a staple of the lower-right repertoire. Williamson trotted out a particularly outrageous example last year when he accused Sen. Marco Rubio of sliding into “the familiar moral basis of fascist economic thinking” for…referencing Pope Leo XIII? (Funnily enough, Williamson also compared Rubio to Warren in that piece; at least he’s consistent.) The idea that any attempted assertion of political power puts us half a step away from Berlin or Caracas or Pyongyang is not a very bright one, but it seems to be convincing for a certain kind of audience.

Why, in Kevin Williamson’s Manichaean world, is Senator Warren flirting with Maduro? Two reasons. First, she suggested pursuing legislation that would raise the effective tax rate on Amazon and other massive multinationals like it. Second, she promised to “fight to break up Big Tech so [they’re] not powerful enough to heckle senators with snotty tweets.”

For folks of a particular worldview, there are two sides to every story: public and private. (Private good, public bad.) You and Jeff Bezos both fall on the private side, so any distinction between the two is one of degree and not of kind. He’s still a peon—just the biggest peon, with more peon-ness than all of the other peons put together. So when a senator—government, public, bad—squares up against a poor peon like Amazon, it is incumbent on all people of good will to speak up in the megacorp’s defense. A threat to peons anywhere is a threat to peons everywhere.

I’m not going to defend the particular wording of Warren’s tweet, which I’ll admit is infelicitous. But the point that the unelected representatives of the colonizers from Alpha Draconis should not be able to rival—and, if we’re being even a little bit honest, decisively outbox—the elected representative of the citizens of the greatest state in the Union is well taken.

There is a difference between wanting to take some power away from people who hold absurd amounts of it, and have not shown themselves to be particularly conscientious in its use, and wanting to take all power away from everyone. It’s pretty clear which one of these Warren is proposing, and it’s not the one Kevin Williamson has decided to take aim at.

Like Kevin, I dislike concentrated centers of power that run the risk—or, at the very least, have the ability—of crushing the little people with impunity. Unlike Kevin, I’m consistent about it, and if a little old lady “from Massachusetts from Oklahoma” wants to devolve one of the most massive concentrations of capital and power in the history of the human race, I’m not going to tell her “no.” You know who I’m not afraid of? The fake-Indian former schoolteacher who bluffed her way to the U.S. Senate. You know who I am afraid of? The Lex Luthor knockoff who operates perhaps the single most powerful non-government entity ever.

Williamson does mockingly invite Senator Warren to use the power of her office to address the problems that concern her. He suggests that she and her Democratic colleagues could pass “a big fat progressive tax-reform bill that raises corporate taxes and capital-gains taxes to 65 percent.” The suggestion obscures the fact that what Warren actually proposed during the exchange in question was bringing the effective tax rate on Amazon’s profits up to 7 percent—admittedly, a sizable increase from the modest 1.2 percent it paid in 2019. Seven percent taxation of a company with 11-figure profits? Karl Marx himself could hardly have dreamt so ambitiously.

Williamson doesn’t see it happening, and thinks he’s figured out the game:

We see this year after year after excruciatingly stupid year: Somebody with big ideas about spurring blue-collar employment proposes a tax subsidy for politically connected manufacturers, and then two years later bitches that tax subsidies are being used by politically connected manufacturers. Because we tax businesses on their profits rather than on their cashflow, ordinary expenses are deducted from taxable income — and politicians bitch about businesses getting to deduct expenses resulting from business decisions the politicians don’t like. An endless cycle of asininity, over and over and over.

I see the scene from a rather different angle: At the end of the day—not just in 2021 but for a long, long time—American oligarchs like Jeff Bezos have a lot more power than peons like us, even those with “Senator” prefixed to their names. So the system is set up in their favor—sometimes by the Senator-prefixed, sometimes just by steamrolling them. And year after year after excruciatingly stupid year, conservative commentators toe the company line, because government is invariably the bad guy and anyone who’s not elected must be just like us. To borrow a phrase from Mr. Williamson, it’s “an endless cycle of asininity, over and over and over.” At least it’s familiar territory.

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