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Why Did Reality Winner Leak to the Intercept?

So Reality Winner, former NSA contractor, is in federal prison for leaking classified information — for five years and three months, the longest sentence of any whistleblower in history. She gave documents on how Russia had attempted to hack vendors of election machinery and software to The Intercept, which completely bungled basic security procedures (according to a recent New York Times piece from Ben Smith, the main fault lay with Matthew Cole and Richard Esposito), leading to her capture within hours. Winner recently contracted COVID-19 in prison, and is reportedly suffering some lingering aftereffects.
Glenn Greenwald has been furiously denying that he had anything at all to do with the Winner clusterfuck, and I recently got in an argument with him about it on Twitter. I read a New York story about Winner, which clearly implies that she was listening to the Intercepted podcast of March 22, 2017, where Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill expressed skepticism about Russia actually being be…
Recent posts

On Refusing to Vote for Bloomberg

Billionaire Mike Bloomberg is attempting to buy the Democratic nomination. With something like $400 million in personal spending so far, that much is clear — and it appears to be working at least somewhat well, as he is nearing second place in national polls. I would guess that he will quickly into diminishing returns, but on the other hand spending on this level is totally unprecedented. At this burn rate he could easily spend more than the entire 2016 presidential election cost both parties before the primary is over.

I published a piece today outlining why I would not vote for Bloomberg against Trump (I would vote for Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, or Biden), even though I live in a swing state. This got a lot of "vote blue no matter who" people riled up. They scolded me and demanded that I pre-commit to voting for Bloomberg should he win the nomination. The argument as I understand it is to try to make it as likely as possible that whatever Democrat wins the nomi…

Centrist Liberals and Medicare for All

Off his usual beat of gravely intoning about how political correctness on elite college campuses is a philosophical threat to American democracy, Jonathan Chait noticed I took a brief swipe at him in today's column about Medicare. He was severely triggered, accusing me of being "deliberately dishonest," and whining about my supposed bad faith and lying on Twitter.

Fair warning: this is a pretty silly slap-fight, so people not interested in columnist beefs can feel free to skip. However I think it is an instructive event in some ways.

So let me rehearse the argument of the original article. The medical lobby is whipping up fear about Medicare for All by claiming it will cause people to lose their health insurance, and I quote a new lobbying group spokesman to that effect. I argue with a bevy of statistics that this claim is false as a factual matter, and to the extent people will be forced to switch, they will receive superior coverage than what they currently have. The i…

Russiagate and the Left, Round II

Corey Robin has responded to my article arguing that the left should take the Trump-Russia story more seriously. I do appreciate that he considers me an ally, and I feel the same towards him. However I am not convinced. The points I want to make are somewhat disconnected, so I will just take them one at a time.

What should be done?

Robin complains that I don't give much attention to the question of how we should respond to Russian electoral espionage.

As an initial matter, the question of whether a problem is an important one is logically distinct from what the response should be. There is a sizable vein of skepticism about Russiagate on the left, and the argument of the post was that skepticism was misplaced. Solutions can be worked out later. This point is rather similar to the centrist argument that you can't talk about Medicare for All unless you've got a fully costed-out bill detailing all the necessary taxes and regulation.

However, I have advanced some policy solutio…

Democratic Ideological History

I spent months working on an article — based on extensive interviews with eight different congressional candidates — about how the Democratic Party has failed to promulgate any strategic response from the Great Recession. Alas, online discussion of the article has been confined almost entirely to a setup historical phrase at the beginning. Matt Yglesias led the attack, accusing me of romanticizing the mid-20th century Democratic Party in order to slander modern centrist liberals.


I will admit that the phrase in question was too strong. In particular, it obscures the enormous split between more populist northern liberals and segregationist conservative Democrats in the South (who did indeed tend to vote for union-busting legislation), as well as the split between more left-sympathetic Democrats and fervent anti-Communists. I know this history very well, and simply got a bit careless with phrasing.

But what I meant to invoke is the obvious and well-documented fact that the Democratic Pa…

The Conversational Downsides of Twitter's Structure

Over the past couple years, as I've had a steady writing job and ascended from "utter nobody" to "D-list pundit," I find it harder and harder to have discussions online. Twitter is the only social network I like and where I talk to people the most, but as your number of followers increases, the user experience becomes steadily more hostile to conversation.

Here's my theory as to why this happens. First is Twitter's powerful tendency to create cliques and groupthink. Back in forum and blog comment section days, people would more often hang out in places where a certain interest or baseline understanding could be assumed. (Now, there were often epic fights, cliques, and gratuitous cruelty on forums too, particularly the joke or insult variety, but in my experience it was also much easier to just have a reasonable conversation.) On Twitter, people rather naturally form those same communities of like interest, but are trapped in the same space with differen…

The Neoliberal Retreat

I wrote a book review for The Nation on the rise and fall of Clintonism, in which I labeled his general political tendency as a sort of left-neoliberalism. I argued (in part) that neoliberal Democrats, who gained hegemonic ideological power within the party from Clinton through Obama, advocated laissez faire-inflected policies that contrasted sharply with the old New Deal approach. That explains both stuff like the goofy market mechanisms in Obamacare, as well as repeal of New Deal items under Clinton like the Glass-Steagall banking regulation (passed in 1933) and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (1935).

Turbo-loyal centrist Dem apparatchik Tom Watson glommed onto the article several days after publication and insisted that neoliberalism does not exist (and spent hours flipping out about it).

In this Watson follows the lead of Jonathan Chait, who has previously insisted that neoliberalism is merely an epithet, and that there was no significant ideological change between FDR and…