Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: The indictment of Steve Bannon, and what it means

Interestingly, Hayes Brown of MSNBC thinks that it’s the “smaller fish” in the Trump orbit who we should pay more attention to, rather than the “big names” like Bannon, Stephen Miller, or Kayleigh McEnany.

Miller and McEnany are being called to appear before the committee because the seniority of their respective roles demands it, not necessarily because they seem likely to cooperate. Given the lack of cooperation we’ve seen from some of the others the committee has served, like former White House adviser Steve Bannon, don’t be surprised if Miller and McEnany risk being held in contempt of Congress, too.

That’s why their eventual responses (or non-responses) are actually less interesting than what we could hear from some of the others called to testify. They include Keith Kellogg, who served as former Vice President Mike Pence’s national security adviser. In “I Alone Can Fix It,” a book by Washington Post journalists Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, Kellogg appears as a voice of reason on Jan. 6


Joining him on the list of people subpoenaed Tuesday are several of Trump’s aides: Nicholas Luna, a personal assistant; Molly Michael, the Oval Office operations coordinator; and Cassidy Hutchinson, a special assistant for legislative affairs. Luna, the committee explained in its press release, was reportedly with Trump the morning of the riot. Michael ferried alleged election fraud information to various recipients at Trump’s request, and Hutchinson was reportedly with Trump during and after the Jan. 6 rally.


The fact that nobody reading this has likely heard any of these names before is what makes them so fascinating. None of them has the star power of Miller or McEnany. They’ll likely struggle to raise the kind of legal defense fund money that’s being raised in support of other Trumpworld denizens. And, crucially, all of them had access to the exact same information as their bosses.

Kimberly Atkins Stohr writes for The Boston Globe that, more than anything, we need to get at the truth of the Jan. 6 insurrection in order for there to ever be accountability.

At this point, the only real accountability is in truth.

“The biggest thing that Congress can do is get to the truth and put it out there effectively to the public,” said Noah Bookbinder, president of the nonprofit watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

That may feel anticlimactic and unsatisfying. But factual information is powerful. That is why disinformation has become the stock-in-trade of insurrectionists and their defenders. The Big Lie about nonexistent election fraud costing Trump the election didn’t end when he left office. It only expanded, fueling distrust of election results, spurring continued attacks on democratic systems, and causing an upsurge in threats against election officials, judges, and members of Congress. And much of this dangerous counternarrative about the insurrection at the Capitol is coming from the Republican members inside the House.

These events are the raw material for another coup attempt. The truth is needed more than ever, and quickly — before next fall’s elections.

Nicholas Rostow, writing for Roll Call, says that Congress should pass an ethics code for the United States Supreme Court.

The answer to this polarization is not court-packing or confirming more pro-life judges. Instead, Congress should pass an ethics code for the Supreme Court.

A code of conduct for the justices would be fair, practical, and effective. Such a nonpartisan reform would not change the fundamental structure of the court. But it would constrain the justices from conducting partisan or unethical activities that undermine public faith in the court and the law. A code of conduct could have held Chief Justice John Roberts accountable when he did not recuse himself from a 2016 case involving a company in which he owned stock. And ethical guidelines could have penalized Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after she told The New York Times in 2016, “I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president.”

The reality is that the American people are losing faith in the Supreme Court as a neutral arbiter. In October, the court’s approval rating sunk to 40 percent, the lowest since Gallup began tracking this statistic in 2000. Over half of Americans disapprove of the court’s job performance. But an ethics code could rebuild public faith in the judiciary at this critical time.

My problem with Rostow’s column is that he did not mention two of the most egregious ways in which SCOTUS conservatives have not been held accountable: the political activities of Clarence Thomas’s wife, Virginia Thomas, and some of the statements by Antonin Scalia—which were far more egregious than any comment by Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

I don’t think that a SCOTUS code of conduct is a bad idea, though.

Joe Davidson of The Washington Post points to a study by the Brookings Institution; it estimates that the continued maintenance of systemic racial inequities costs the U.S. economy tens of trillions of dollars.

The report’s opening line asks the central question: “How much larger would the U.S. economic pie be if opportunities and outcomes were more equally distributed by race and ethnicity?” Buried deep in the 35-page study is the distressing answer: $22.9 trillion over 30 years — that’s trillion with a “T.”

But that’s not the full answer.

When other factors are considered, including the value of capital items like machinery, factories and computers that the labor force needs to do its work, the figure jumps to a staggering $51 trillion

Looking just at “the economic cost of Black inequality” last year, a report by Citi, a global bank, reached a similar conclusion: “if four key racial gaps for Blacks — wages, education, housing, and investment — were closed 20 years ago, $16 trillion could have been added to the U.S. economy. And if the gaps are closed today, $5 trillion can be added to U.S. GDP over the next five years.”

Gary Shapiro of STATnews writes that remedying inequities in broadband access is critical for accessibility to health care.

With the rise of digital health care, the U.S. faces a new health challenge: unequal access to broadband technology. Some 43% of adults in households making less than $30,000 a year — that’s more than 25 million American adults — lack a high-speed internet connection. Those with limited or no internet access can’t communicate online with their physicians, obtain electronic medical records, or access online health resources, all of which can improve health outcomes.

Many digital health products and applications offered today work most effectively with a broadband connection. Tools like smartphones, health monitoring devices, and cloud-based software applications can support health equity by closing communication gaps between patients and providers, enhancing consumer access to health care services and increasing consumers’ knowledge about their own health.

Technology and health care firms are already doing their part working to advance health equity and reach underserved communities. Here are just a few examples: During the pandemic, Doctor On Demand (now Included Health) provided on-demand virtual care to nearly 100 million people across the U.S. Microsoft developed and deployed Covid-19 screening and triage bots, mobile apps for field workers, and analytics for public health agencies. A collaborative effort through the Alliance for Better Health distributed Kinsa Health thermometers during the pandemic to community-based organizations and their members. And Fitbit is awarding up to $500,000 in products and services to early-career researchers improving health care access for underserved populations.

In a few APR comment sections over the past couple of weeks, there have been some discussion of sit-ins currently taking place at Howard University over the unhealthy conditions of the dormitories. On more than one occasion, I have seen the question, “What if this had taken place at Harvard instead of Howard?”

In that light, I do find it interesting that the Editorial Board of the Harvard Crimson solidly supports the student sit-ins at Howard.

Earlier this year, undergraduates at Howard University discovered mushrooms, mildew, and black mold within their dorms. Some students say these glaringly unhygienic housing conditions have led to severe health consequences, including respiratory issues and “coughing blood.” Beyond concerns of subhuman housing, this semester Howard students have dealt with a weeklong WiFi outage, spurts with no running water and air conditioning in muggy dorms, and classroom eyewash stations that spit out putrid, yellow water.

Faced with seemingly unfazed administrators, students took to occupying the Armour J. Blackburn University Center in tents on Oct. 12 to demand the university address their housing concerns. They have not left the building since. Some protesters say they prefer the tents to sordid dorms.


Indeed, any of us would be outraged if a landlord failed to address black mold in our apartment; suing would certainly be reasonable. Attempting to guilt-trip demonstrators into conceding their demands through a false oppositional narrative, and by painting basic hygiene expectations as unreasonable, is dishonest and coercive.

Michael S. Roth writes for POLITICO that the University of Austin is not necessarily a bad idea but the premise of the proposed new university—attacking existing colleges and universities in the higher education “ecosystem”—is wrong-headed.

New schools can still have great value, even if they’re plowing existing ground. One of the great things about the system of American higher education is that it is not a system at all. Students who want to specialize in engineering may choose a large university — or the more experimental Olin College of Engineering, a young Massachusetts school that has smartly rethought what young people really need out of a college. Someone who wants an intensive studio experience of designing new spaces and objects might choose a multi-disciplinary art school like the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, or prefer a small liberal arts school with a strong studio program. This diversity can be confusing, but it is also immensely enriching to the landscape of American education, and to students who are exploring what they might love to do, get better at it and then learn how to find work in relation to their skills after graduation. UATX can add to this diversity.

The University of Austin makes space for itself in this ecosystem, however, not with a bold new idea but by attacking the other species already out there. Its own justification for launching is that other institutions suffer from not being adequately devoted to truth, from a lack of civility, from a failure to protect free speech and from being too tied to the elite liberal consensus that has been branded lately as “wokeness.” We’ve heard such complaints again and again from moderate and conservative critics at odds with students and faculty devoted to such things as rooting out racism, treating less conventional people with respect and eradicating gender-based violence and discrimination. Most of the critics are themselves in favor of these things in principle, but they fear that through a combination of self-righteousness, hypocrisy and group think, campus cultures have gone too far.

Finally today, Moisés Naím writes for El País (in English) that the future of U.S./China relations must include collaboration, as well as competition.

In Washington, it is now a given that a second cold war has already begun. American planners realize that a prolonged conflict with China is imminent, even in the absence of direct military confrontation. Instead, conflicts will be settled in the economic, political, communications and cyber arenas, as well as in the world of espionage and sabotage. It will also likely play out in limited armed confrontations between countries allied with one or the other of the superpowers.

There are dozens of bills under consideration in the US Congress intended to limit, counter or sanction China. A survey conducted in early 2021 by the Pew Center found that 89% of Americans viewed China as a competitor or enemy. Sophisticated observers wring their hands over the Thucydides Trap, which posits that when a rising power threatens the dominant role of an established power, conflict is almost inevitable.

Surely, the United States and China are destined to compete. But what should be equally obvious is that they must also collaborate. Worldwide threats and problems threaten the national interest of both superpowers and cannot be mitigated or eliminated by either of them acting alone. The most obvious example is the fight against global warming. The very nature of the problem, as well as the policies to deal with it, require close collaboration between Beijing and Washington. And this coordination is not going to happen out of altruism, international solidarity or because it is simply the most reasonable solution. No, it will happen because it suits the powerful. It is in the national interest of these two giants to slow temperature rises, because the disasters that will follow will have no regard for oceans or borders.

Everyone have a great day!

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