Monday Reads: Somebody needs to Cancel The Trump Show

Circus Horse 1964 Marc Chagall

Good Day Sky Dancers!

The Biden Transition Team has been announcing its team while chaos and denial surround KKKremlin Caligula. It’s time to pull the big top down on Trump and Trumpism. I have a feeling we’ll have the sideshows for a very long time to include gun toting angry white nationalists.

The Biden Transition Team announced these folks and their role in the leadership team come January 21. The National Security Team is the focus of today’s announcements. This is from the NYT: “Biden Will Nominate First Woman to Lead Intelligence, First Latino to Run Homeland Security. John Kerry, the former secretary of state, will be climate czar, according to the Biden transition team.”

At an event in Wilmington, Del., Mr. Biden will announce plans to nominate Alejandro Mayorkas to be his secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, his transition office said, and Avril Haines to be his director of national intelligence. He intends to name Mr. Kerry as a special presidential envoy on climate. The transition office also confirmed reports on Sunday night that Mr. Biden will nominate Antony J. Blinken to be secretary of state and Jake Sullivan as national security adviser.

Mr. Biden will also nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be ambassador to the United Nations and restore the job to cabinet-level status, giving Ms. Thomas-Greenfield, an African-American woman, a seat on his National Security Council.

Mr. Kerry’s job does not require Senate confirmation. A statement released by the transition office said Mr. Kerry “will fight climate change full-time as Special Presidential Envoy for Climate and will sit on the National Security Council.”

The emerging team reunites a group of former senior officials from the Obama administration, most of whom worked closely together at the State Department and the White House and in several cases have close ties to Mr. Biden dating back years. They are well known to foreign diplomats around the world and share a belief in the core principles of the Democratic foreign policy establishment — international cooperation, strong U.S. alliances and leadership but a wariness of foreign interventions after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The racial and gender mix also reflects Mr. Biden’s stated commitment to diversity, which has lagged behind notoriously in the worlds of foreign policy and national security, where white men are disproportionately represented.

This is encouraging. It’s going to take a lot of experienced people to put together the mess the Trump Regimists will leave in their respective Departments. Biden has also announced his choices for State and the UN. He appears to be looking for folks with quite deep credentials and experience. Kerry’s the only one so far that has a big name and the highly visible position. This is from WAPO: “Biden picks Antony Blinken as secretary of state, emphasizing experience and the foreign policy establishment”.

President-elect Joe Biden has selected Antony Blinken, one of his closest and longest-serving foreign policy advisers, as secretary of state as he prepares to unveil a slate of new nominees this week that will emphasize a deep well of experience in the foreign policy and national security establishment.

Blinken will be nominated to one of the highest-profile Cabinet positions at a time when Biden is planning to prioritize foreign policy as a major pillar in his administration, with vows to reassemble global alliances and insert the United States into a more prominent position on the world stage.

Soon after taking office, Biden plans to rejoin the Paris climate agreement, stop the U.S. exit from the World Health Organization and resuscitate the Iran nuclear deal. Blinken has been described as having a “mind meld” with Biden on a range of issues that will be important in his early tenure.

Blinken’s appointment, first reported Sunday night by Bloomberg News, was confirmed by three people familiar with an announcement scheduled for Tuesday. Jake Sullivan, another top Biden adviser, is expected to be named as national security adviser, according to two people familiar with the announcement.

Biden also is planning to announce Linda Thomas-Greenfield as his nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, giving a former career Foreign Service officer and African American woman one of the most high-profile diplomatic posts in government, according to three people familiar with the decision.

All three expected nominees have decades-long careers working at the highest levels of government, and a deep respect for institutions.

Harlequin on Horseback ,1905, Pablo Picasso

This ought to have Steven Bannon muttering deep state from the recesses of his fevered brain and drug dreams. That’s not a problem. What is a problem is that Emily Murphy will not do her job. This is from The Atlantic and Anne Applebaum : “Why Won’t Emily Murphy Just Do Her Job? In delaying the transition, the General Services Administration chief is acting like an ideologue.” You think?

Not everybody has succumbed to this ideology. Just last week, Chris Krebs, the head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, was fired for refusing to lie. He would not support the president’s baseless claims of electoral fraud, and so he was told to leave his job.

But not everybody is Chris Krebs. Clearly, Emily Murphy is not Chris Krebs. Confronted with the reality of Joe Biden’s victory, and with the predictably mendacious reaction of the president, Murphy, along with an astonishing number of elected and appointed Republican officials, has chosen to stand by him too. “Friends” are now speaking to the national media on her behalf. One of these “friends” told CNN that Murphy is distressed: “She’s doing what she believes is her honest duty as someone who has sworn true allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America, and the laws that govern her position.”

Well, no. She is not doing her honest duty. She is behaving badly, dishonestly, unfairly. She is violating the Constitution of the United States of America by refusing to recognize that the election is over, that Trump’s lawsuits and legal games are frivolous, and that the transition has begun. But she, like so many others in the White House, seems to believe the exact opposite: that it is part of her job to support radical, norm-breaking, democracy-destroying lies. Like so many others in the Republican Party, she appears to think that election results do not need to be accepted; that legal votes can be challenged; that courts and political pressure can be used to change the result.

In the grand historical scheme of things, this particular form of delusion is not uncommon. A lot of historical and political-science work has been devoted in recent years to bureaucrats who become ideologues—though I cringe to mention it, because most of it applies to people in much more severe and dramatic situations. In the years since Hannah Arendt coined the expression banality of evil, a number of historians have begun to argue, for example, that most of the Nazi bureaucrats who later described themselves as “just following orders” were doing no such thing: They were active and enthusiastic partisans, imagining themselves to be brave members of the Nazi avant-garde. They thought they were good people.

A similar argument has been made retrospectively about the participants in the infamous “shock experiments” carried out by the Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram in the 1960s. Most of those who agreed to deliver a series of what they thought were painful electric shocks to a person in the next room were doing so not out of an ingrained instinct for obedience, as Milgram claimed at the time, but because Milgram had truly convinced them of the significance of their task. They didn’t see themselves as delivering pain, but rather being part of a cutting-edge scientific project. They thought they were good people too.

Soir Bleu, Edward Hopper,1914

I’ll be interested in seeing what BB says about the Milgram experiments.

And speaking of interesting:

Cark Bernstein appeared on CNN last night and spilled a few beans about which senators think Trump is acting cray cray.

It seems that more than just a few Republicans are getting tired of these crazy antics by Trump to hold on to the presidency. “Trump’s legal absurdities force more Republicans to speak out”. This analysis is by Stephen Collins of CNN.

President Donald Trump’s increasingly inane legal claims and constitutional arson are prompting a growing number of high-profile Republicans and informal advisers that it’s time for him to end his attempt to overturn his election loss.

The President, ruining time-honored traditions of a peaceful transfer of power, is firing off long-shot court challenges and heaping pressure on state election officials. His aides are stoking a political storm apparently designed to destroy Joe Biden’s presidency before it starts and to shield Trump from the historic humiliation that comes with losing an election after only a single term.

Most congressional GOP leaders are still silent. But the spectacle has some senior Republicans ready to call time. “It’s over,” GOP Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan said on CNN’s “Inside Politics” Sunday. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a frequent Trump critic, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Trump’s behavior was akin to that seen in a “banana republic.” And even Trump’s friend, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, speaking on ABC News’ “This Week,” branded Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his cohorts a “national embarrassment.”

Meanwhile, Trump keeps doing really odd things in the National Defense arena.

This includes vetoing a bill to remove confederate traitors names from military bases and flying B-52 Bombers near Iran as some kind of message. He’s also withdrawing troops from Somalia.

George Seurat, The Circus, 1891

This has led to a flurry of denouncements from the National Security Leaders for Biden group who are especially interested in starting the transition. This was reported by The Hill this morning. “Former Republican national security officials demand GOP leaders denounce Trump’s refusal to concede election. “

More than 100 former GOP senior national security officials who served under former Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, as well as President Trump, are urging party leadership to demand the president cease his “anti-democratic assault on the integrity of the presidential election” and concede.

“It has been clear for over two weeks that Joe Biden won the 2020 Presidential election, garnering 306 electoral votes, far more than the 270 electoral votes required to be elected,” reads letter signed by the group of former officials, known as Former Republican National Security Officials that was released on Monday.

“While the President is legally entitled to request recounts and file good-faith legal challenges, he has presented no evidence of widespread fraud or any other significant irregularities. Nearly every case filed by the President’s team across multiple states has been summarily dismissed,” the letter continued.

So, I have no idea what’s going to be going on the rest of the year with all of this but I do see some troubling signals coming from airports where a lot of really stupid Americans are creating Thanksgiving SuperSpreader events. As for me and mine, we shall stay home.

Take care! Have a great holiday where you’re safe from harm!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: Refolution?

Disgusting.

This next link is an interview with historian/sociologist Jack Goldstone:

It is a lengthy article, but please take time to read the whole thing.

I also suggest looking into the articles listed in the first few paragraphs of the Alternet piece:

…Jack Goldstone, whose 1991 book, “Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World,” revolutionized our understanding of revolutions as products of organizational failure in coping with demographic pressures. 

Goldstone’s book appeared just as America was celebrating “The End of History,” as announced in a then-famous book by Francis Fukuyama. With the end of the Cold War, everything had supposedly been settled. There would be no more revolutions or ideological struggles. Almost 30 years later, no one thinks that anymore, and the demographic factors Goldstone identified — such as the “youth bulges” associated with the Arab Spring — have become commonplace terms in discussing potential revolutions. Goldstone’s model combined measures of demographically-driven social stress from the mass population, the elites and the state to produce a single number, the “political stress indicator,” or psi. State breakdown — and thus revolution — has only occurred when psi rises to dramatically high levels. Unlike earlier theories, Goldstone’s approach explained when revolutions didn’t happen, as well as when they did.

I discovered Goldstone’s work by way of cultural anthropologist Peter Turchin, who refined and expanded his model and applied it to a broader range of societies, including modern industrial states. Four years ago, the month before Donald Trump was elected, I reviewed Turchin’s book, “Ages of Discord: A Structural-Demographic Analysis of American History,” which predicted an approaching period of social and political disintegration, regardless of whether Trump won or lost.

But even in 1991, Goldstone had seen worrying signs in America of the same sorts of problems his book described in England and France in the 17th and 18th centuries, respectively, as well as in China and the Ottoman Empire. Most notable was the problem of “selfish elites” who “preferred to protect their private wealth, even at the expense of a deterioration of state finances, public services, and long-term international strength.”

That’s why Goldstone’s perspective on the problems facing us today seem particularly worth our attention. He and Turchin combined to write an article for Noema magazine in September, “Welcome to the Turbulent Twenties,” and BuzzFeed highlighted their perspective — and specifically, the role of psi — in a late October storyon the possibility of rising political violence in the U.S. But their perspective deserves much more than an occasional mention — it should inform the entire framework in which our discussions take place.

So please give that interview your attention…some responses may give you pause to think, but others are completely on the mark.

The other day:

Here’s a few other items from this week:

Love the message:

Isn’t nature amazing:

Finally, hello Dolly…

I love this woman.

Have a safe day….peace.


Lazy Caturday Reads: Trump’s Failed Coup

Mary Fedden, Cat along the shore

Mary Fedden, Cat along the shore

Good Morning!!

I’m not too with it these days. I’ve had a nagging cold for a couple of weeks now and it isn’t going away. I’m afraid it might be turning into a sinus infection. I’ve been trying to keep up with the posts and comments as best I can. I got a coronavirus test last week just in case. It was negative. Anyway, I’m going to call my doctor’s office again on Monday if I don’t feel better. I just thought I’d let you know why I haven’t been commenting as much as usual. 

Trump is still trying to stage a half-baked coup. Here’s the latest on that pathetic story.

At The Daily Beast, William Bredderman provides a summary of Trump’s recent attempts to reverse the election results: The Desperate Final Gasps of Team Trump’s Flailing ‘Mini-Coup’

The past week saw Team Trump piling up losses and running out of road.

The campaign dropped its lawsuit to stop the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Michigan, while the Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out the campaign’s claim that COVID-19 restrictions had deprived GOP observers of their right to monitor the postal vote count.

Cat on the carpet, Gleb Baranov

Cat on the carpet, Gleb Baranov

Then, on Thursday night, with just four days remaining before both Michigan and Pennsylvania certify their results, Rudolph Giuliani and local lawyer Marc Scaringi dropped a wild new brief in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Probably the most audacious of the dozens of legal Hail Marys the campaign and Republican interests have hurled into the end zone since Election Night, the filing argues that the campaign’s constitutional rights have been violated and asks the judge to declare Trump the winner of the Keystone State’s 20 electoral college votes.

But, according to Charles Fried, solicitor general under Ronald Reagan, this brief’s legal claim hangs almost entirely on a single word: “meaningful”—as in the “meaningful observation of the canvassing of mail ballots.” The professor at Harvard Law School told The Daily Beast that, in this context, ”meaningful” has no meaning at all.

The suit makes essentially the same argument that the state Supreme Court rejected: that observers in several counties could not get as near to the tabulation as they wanted. Now, at the federal level, they argue the system in Pennsylvania violated the campaign’s due process rights under the 14th Amendment by denying them “meaningful” access.

According to Fried, however, “meaningful” has no legal definition, nor is it adequately described in the legal team’s filings.

“There’s no allegation here. It’s just an unsubstantiated claim, which was thrown out in several courts,” he told The Daily Beast. “And now they’ve gone to federal court. Why should the result be any different?”

Fried described this latest tack as “garbage”—the same way he characterized the Trump team’s legal efforts two weeks ago, before the campaign shed several attorneys and took on Giuliani and Scaringi.

Read more details about Trump’s garbage lawsuits at the link.

Dog and Cat, Alex Colville

Dog and Cat, Alex Colville

Also from The Daily Beast, by Asawin Suabsaeng and Sam Stein: Team Trump Leaders, Including Campaign Manager Bill Stepien, Have No Faith in Rudy.

While Donald Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani embarks on a quixotic and potentially destructive effort to reverse the results of the 2020 election, much of the president’s official campaign apparatus wants to disown it.

Several officials in leadership positions on Trump’s re-election team, including campaign manager Bill Stepien, have recently told associates they have zero faith in Giuliani, and are currently waiting for what they view as a doomed, haphazard legal fight to burn out and end, according to four sources with knowledge of the situation.

One Trumpadviser called the current strategy a “dead end,” and said Giuliani’s high-profile attempts at drumming up legal obstacles to the certification of Biden’s election amounted to a hostile takeover of the campaign.”

“The obvious thing is, this is a shitshow,” the adviser said. “When the Rudy show started, that was a sidelining of everyone else. At that point, it became an issue of going through the motions and the recognition of, ‘OK, this is definitely over because we don’t have a chance with… these conspiracy theories.’”

But Trump apparently thinks what Rudy is doing is just ducky.

The sense of resignation felt privately by a chunk of the Trump campaign operation is at odds with the president’s personal assessment of how his long-shot efforts to recapture a second term are going.

Orovida Camille Pisarro

by Orovida Camille Pissarro

As of Friday night, two sources close to the president said he remained intensely invested and personally supportive of Giuliani’s legal challenges. It was presumed among campaign staff that he was thrilled with his team’s now-infamous press conference on Thursday, in which Giuliani, and two other allied lawyers—Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis—presented a smorgasbord of wild conspiracy theories about election fraud, including a lengthy explanation of how anti-Trump Venezuelan villains supposedly worked to rob Trump of legal votes. And, for that reason, there was little appetite for anyone to say anything questioning the current approach—at least with their name attached to it.

“It appears that none of us are allowed to say [publicly] that that was one of the weirdest fucking things we’ve ever witnessed,” one senior Trump administration official said, noticeably exasperated.

Click the link to read the rest.

Of course we have long known that Trump is out of his mind. This is from David Smith at The Guardian: Trump’s monumental sulk: president retreats from public eye as Covid ravages US.

There was one thing that even Donald Trump’s harshest critics were never able to accuse him of: invisibility….

Yet two weeks after his defeat by Joe Biden in the election, Trump has effectively gone missing in action. Day after day passes without a public sighting. He does not hold press conferences any more. He has even stopped calling into conservative media….

John French Sloan, Chinese Restaurant

John French Sloan, Chinese Restaurant

Amid the deafening silence, Trump’s only “proof of life” since Biden’s victory has been a handful of public events at the White House and a military cemetery, weekend outings to his golf course in Virginia and a barrage of tweets airing grievances and pushing baseless conspiracy theories that the election was stolen from him.

“I don’t think we’ve had a president since Richard Nixon who is as far in the bunker and detached from the country as Donald Trump is right now,” said Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota.

“Donald Trump has not only suffered a catastrophic political defeat, he’s clearly also suffering from a deep emotional break. This behavior is even more erratic than usual and he has retreated. He has put himself in a form of psychological isolation. His emotional state is clearly abysmal. In the popular lexicon, he’s lost it.”

Trump’s pathetic efforts are still dangerous, writes Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: The Danger (and Ineptitude) of Trump’s Failed Coup.

In his address to the Democratic National Convention in August, Barack Obama warned that the Trump administration “has shown it will tear our democracy down if that’s what it takes to win.” Kamala Harris began her first speech as vice-president-elect by saying “America’s democracy is not guaranteed.”

Felix Vallotton

By Felix Vallotton

Some may have dismissed this as mere hyperventilated campaign rhetoric. But in the days that followed the election, Trump fulfilled the stark prophecies. He has seized whatever powers he still has in his grasp to rattle the system and to take vengeance against his successor by leaving him with a ruin.

Trump has attempted to retain power much as he wielded it throughout his term: with a comic ineptitude of his means that made it difficult to absorb the seriousness of his ends. If you had predicted four years ago that Trump would finish his term by proposing to cancel the election and reinstall himself in a second term, you’d have been brushed off as a hysteric. And yet here he is attempting to do just that and recruiting Republican allies to his mad scheme. The certainty of his failure does not make the damage caused by the coup effort disappear. It simply makes it harder to see clearly. The surreality of Mussolini continually slipping on banana peels is the defining paradox of this sordid era.

To lead his attempted coup, Trump has turned once again to Rudy Giuliani. Just weeks before, Giuliani — who is the subject of a criminal investigation for his efforts to shake down Ukraine while working for Trump and who was colluding publicly with a man identified by the U.S. Treasury Department as a Russian spy — had produced what he called “evidence” of a global criminal plot by Joe Biden and his family. (Many people on the right spent the last ten days of the campaign scolding the media for failing to take his accusations seriously.) In the aftermath of the election, Giuliani emerged to claim he had uncovered yet another worldwide plot — this one even wider and more sinister in scope.

Read more at the link.

Emma Nelson by the Fire 1987 by Edward Bawden 1903-1989

By Edward Bawden 1903-1989

Peter Nicholas at The Atlantic: The 3 Norms Trump Could Still Break.

America has seen little of Donald Trump since the election. Speaking to the nation largely through Twitter, he’s barely strayed outside the White House as he absorbs a defeat that shattered the myth he created of his own invincibility. Still, he’s been busy—firing officials he deems disloyal and plotting ways to stay in power. He can’t and won’t overturn the election result, but he can cause plenty more havoc on his way out. Some of the ways would be immediately evident; others, hidden.

“We’re going to have to be very vigilant in the next two months for abuse of the pardon power, awarding of contracts to friends and family, and destruction of records, as well as policy decisions to box in the incoming administration,” Representative Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who helped prosecute the case against Trump in the Senate impeachment trial earlier this year, told me.

Trump, too, may feel boxed in, and for that reason he may be more prone to acting out. Congressional investigators still want to see his tax records. Prosecutors in New York are scrutinizing his business practices. The Biden administration will face intense public pressure to examine the money that flowed to Trump’s hotels and golf clubs over the past four years.

Soon enough, Trump will be stripped of the leverage that arms presidents looking to protect their interests. As he confronts an uncertain future, he could stretch or smash the boundaries of presidential power in ways no one else has tried. He could damage the basic notion that presidents are accountable for their actions and answerable to the law. All of which makes the interregnum before Joe Biden’s swearing-in an especially precarious time.

Nicholas writes that Trump could:

1) try to pardon himself (and his compatriots)

2) try to ditch important records.

3) spout state secrets.

Read the Nicholas’ detailed arguments at The Atlantic link.

That’s it for me today. I’m going back to bed. Take care everyone!


Friday Reads: Lady Lindsey and Sister Ruth

Jean Simmons as Kanchi

Good Day Sky Dancers!

My first share is from one of my favorite movies “Black Narcissus”.  It was made in stunning technicolor in 1947 and stars Deborah Kerr and a very young Jean Simmons.  I’m going to share some images from the movie.  It’s directed by Michael Powell who is also known for “The Red Shoes” which is another favorite of many classic film buffs. I started reading the book last night which is the basis for the movie and a new series .  The book was published in 1939 and I’m getting ready to watch  the FX/BBC collaboration series based on Rumer Godden’s novel of the same name.

This is from the BBC: “The enduring allure of erotic masterpiece Black Narcissus”. 

The book, Godden’s third, and first bestseller, was praised by critics for its “rare beauty” and its “subtlety and freshness”, yet the story is not commonly described in such terms now. Rather Amanda Coe, the writer of the new three-part television version, says she thinks of it as “The Shining with nuns”.

Godden, who died aged 90 in 1998, was born in England but spent much of her childhood in India where her father managed a steamship company. She was a bestselling author who wrote more than 60 books, several of which were filmed. However her popularity has waned to the point where the most familiar Rumer to some will be the actress daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, apparently named after the writer.

Black Narcissus is Godden’s best-known work, partly because of the success and enduring popularity of the 1947 film. It tells the story of a small cadre of nuns from an Anglo-Catholic order sent to a remote mountaintop palace 8,000ft (2,400m) up in the Himalayas to establish a school and dispensary for the ‘natives’ – whether the ‘natives’ want one or not. The young, relatively inexperienced and rather self-important Sister Clodagh is placed in charge of this mission. Among the nuns is the highly-strung, difficult Sister Ruth.

Kathleen Byron as Sister Ruth

Ah, Sister Ruth!

And, we have some bonus links!

Painting with Light (2007) – A fascinating documentary on the making of Black Narcissus featuring interviews with cinematographer Jack Cardiff and actress Kathleen Byron.

Available on YouTube HERE

Sister Ruth is more than a bit fascinated by actor David Farrar as Mr. Dean who always wears the most scant of outfits with that hat.

And the review:

British director Michael Powell (Peeping Tom – 1960) and longtime collaborator Eric Pressburger apply a rapturously lush gloss and striking visual distinction to his Oscar-nominated 1947 screen adaptation of Rumer Godden’s 1939 novel. There seems to be something overheated and audacious about the entire enterprise, which, like the harem-house turned convent perched atop the Himalayan mountainscape that serves as the film’s primary locale and chief metaphor, allows Black Narcissus to recklessly skirt along the edges of high melodrama, camp overstatement, and visual poetry. If it was Powell & Pressburger’s goal to submerge the audience in a barrage of sensual excess parallel to that experienced by the white-clad nuns in the film—to indeed create a film as visually heady as the fragrance of the Black Narcissus flower—then they succeeded beyond all reasonable expectation.

I am wondering if the series can live up to its original especially given the setting of the movie completely in India in a time that seems equally remote as the Himalayas now.  However, it is Dame Diana Rigg’s last performance and I simply cannot miss it.

There is a version of the scene in the new TV adaptation. “There are certain things that people who want to watch this because they love the film will expect,” says Coe. “You’ve got to deliver. Otherwise it would be like seeing Hamlet and he doesn’t do ‘To be or not to be’.” Arterton is Sister Clodagh and Franciosi is Sister Ruth, in this production, which also briefly features the late Diana Rigg in what was to be her last TV role. (Rigg starred in a screen adaptation of another Godden story about nuns – 1975 TV movie In This House of Brede).

The mini-series pays homage to the Powell and Pressburger classic while building a quietly powerful atmosphere that is very much its own. The melodrama has been toned down and certain themes – the decline of the British Empire, for example –  teased out more. The cast are excellent, with several secondary characters making a strong impression, such as Patsy Ferran as sweet Sister Blanche and Karen Bryson as the flower-obsessed Sister Philippa, who becomes aware of the dangers of Mopu.

Mr Dean is played by Alessandro Nivola, who was already familiar with the movie because his wife, Emily Mortimer, had been given it to watch as homework by Scorsese when she worked with the director on 2010 psychological thriller Shutter Island. “One of his big inspirations for the way that he wanted to shoot Shutter Island was Black Narcissus,” Nivola tells BBC Culture. “He made it required viewing for all of the actors, so I remember her [Mortimer] coming home and saying: ‘Marty says we have to watch this movie’. That was the first time that I’d seen it. It just seemed so strange and gothic and just bizarre. I remembered how potent all of the kind of sexuality was in it, without it being explicit in any way.”

So, you may want to binge this when it comes on. This is one of the few things I will probably watch for awhile as I have cultlike tastes in films and series. So, from Sister Ruth I turn to face Lady Lindsey who is among one of the oddballs in Washington so completely turned Trumpian lapdog.  He’s one of three people I can think of completely blowing up whatever gravitas he had in supposed service to the people and our government. He’s nearly as crackers as Rudy Giuliani these days and seems as committed to blowing up our constitutional democracy as AG Bill Barr.

And now a lot of lawyers have their knives out for him . BB has given us some reads this week over this event but I’d like to take a deep dive.

From Law and Crime; Colin Kalmbacher: “‘What We in the Legal World Call a Felony’: Lawyers Condemn Lindsey Graham, Call for DOJ and Senate Investigations.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) may have made a huge mistakeOn Monday, the Palmetto State institution found himself in the middle of a scandal after Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger accused Graham of asking him to throw out valid ballots in the Peach State during a recent phone call.

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Graham and Raffensperger actually spoke twice on the phone–on the same day. The request to toss ballots “from counties with higher rates of signature errors” reportedly occurred during the second call. And there was a witness during the call in question.

Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting system manager, confirmed to NBC News that Graham brought up the subject of throwing out ballots from “whole counties” with high rates of signature rejections.

Questions immediately swirled–and so did the speculation.

“Perfect call?” Tulane Law Professor and election law expert Ross Garber tweeted–a reference to President Donald Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which ultimately led to Trump’s impeachment in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“I wonder who Senator Graham spoke to between the two calls?” asked Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) Research Director Robert Maguire via Twitter.

Former White House ethics attorney Walter Shaub was similarly interested and said that an investigation into Graham “is needed.”

That line of thought quickly picked up steam among legal experts.

“It is deeply troubling,” said Kristen Clarke of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law during a Monday evening appearance on MSNBC. “Here is something that the Justice Department should indeed open an inquiry into.”

What’s mostly interested in me is that Crew (Citizens for Ethics in Washington) has taken a big interest in Graham’s election tampering antics.

Yeah, This is just a gratuitous photo of Rudy Giuliani dripping hair dye while speaking in a unhinged manner about all kinds of election fraud fantasy.

This is the recent Crew Statement on “Lindsey Graham suggesting election interference”.

“For the chairman of the Senate committee charged with oversight of our legal system to have reportedly suggested that an election official toss out large numbers of legal ballots from American voters is appalling. Not only is it wrong for Senator Graham to apparently contemplate illegal behavior, but his suggestion undermines the integrity of our elections and the faith of the American people in our democracy. Under the guise of rooting out election fraud, it looks like Graham is suggesting committing it. That is unacceptable, and Senator Graham should step down from his chairmanship immediately.”

What is driving some of these long term Republicans to completely go off the deep edge chasing down conspiracy theories and doing really illegal and unethical things?  Why isn’t the bar getting complaints about all this?  I can’t imagine they deserve to keep their license to practice.

Oh, and then there’s the continuing superspreader event called working in the West Wing. And yes, it’s another whack Giuliani moment  but this time it’s the kid.

But back to Lindsey Graham and another lawyer laying it on today.  This is an article from Slate written by Mark Joseph Stern but recommended by the Laurence Tribe.

Graham’s alleged request is unseemly and corrupt. But is it criminal? In short, yes, according to multiple Georgia election law experts. If Raffensperger’s account is true, there is virtually no doubt that Graham committed a crime under Georgia law. The more difficult question is whether Graham will suffer any consequences for his alleged offense. Because he is a Republican and a sitting U.S. senator, Graham likely won’t face an investigation, let alone prosecution, for conduct that would get almost anyone else arrested. It might be tempting to dismiss Graham’s alleged interference as unscrupulous strategizing blown out of proportion. But Georgia has a sordid history of prosecuting putative voter fraud involving far more innocent conduct. Graham does not deserve a pass simply because he is a wealthy white senator.

I know it seems like there’s a lot on our national plates with retaking our place on the world stage, getting this Pandemic under Control, and trying to do something about the Economic Recession we’re experiencing but sheesh, these people need to be prosecuted.  These are actual felonies and just letting this slide sets a horrid example for the Rule of Law during four years where the Rule of Law has taken a severe beating.

So, that’s me here on the dark side again but at least a lot of it is in a movie and not real life.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads

 

Good Morning!!

EnMDYlJW4AIiOstToday is another agonizing day in the ongoing disaster of the dying Trump Administration. We still have to make it through another 62 days until he has to leave the White House. Long after that day, we’ll be paying the price for Trump’s godawful reign.

Yesterday, deaths from the coronavirus in the U.S. passed a quarter of a million. The New York Times: The Coronavirus Has Now Killed 250,000 People in the U.S.

The United States passed a grim milestone on Wednesday, hitting 250,000 coronavirus-related deaths, with the number expected to keep climbing steeply as infections surge nationwide.

Experts predict that the country could soon be reporting 2,000 deaths a day or more, matching or exceeding the spring peak, and that 100,000 to 200,000 more Americans could die in the coming months.

Just how bad it gets will depend on a variety of factors, including how well preventive measures are followed and when a vaccine is introduced.

“It all depends on what we do and how we address this outbreak,” said Jeffrey Shaman, a Columbia University professor of environmental health sciences who has modeled the spread of the disease. “That is going to determine how much it runs through us.”

245592_rgb_768Back in March, when the virus was still relatively new and limited mainly to a few significant pockets like New York, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the country, predicted that it might kill up to 240,000 Americans.

It has now passed that mark, with no end in sight.

Since the very beginning, preventive measures like wearing masks have been caught up in a political divide, and that remains the case today, as the Trump administration resists beginning a transition of power to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and cooperating on a pandemic strategy….

There is always a lag in deaths, compared with the rate of infection and hospitalizations, and with the latter measure now hitting records every day — 76,830 Americans were hospitalized on Tuesday, according to the Covid Tracking Project — the death toll is certain to go on rising.

Also from The New York Times: States That Imposed Few Restrictions Now Have the Worst Outbreaks. Click on the link to see explanatory charts.

Coronavirus cases are rising in almost every U.S. state. But the surge is worst now in places where leaders neglected to keep up forceful virus containment efforts or failed to implement basic measures like mask mandates in the first place, according to a New York Times analysis of data from the University of Oxford….

The index comes from Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government, where researchers track the policies — or lack thereof — governments use to contain the virus and protect residents, such as contact tracing, mask mandates and restrictions on businesses and gatherings. Researchers aggregate those indicators and assign a number from 0 to 100 to each government’s total response….Most states imposed tight restrictions in the spring even if they did not have bad outbreaks then. After reopening early, some Sun Belt states, including Arizona and Texas, imposed restrictions again after case counts climbed. Now, Midwestern states have among the worst outbreaks. Many have also done the least to contain the virus.

lk111220daprWhen cases first peaked in the United States in the spring, there was no clear correlation between containment strategies and case counts, because most states enacted similar lockdown policies at the same time. And in New York and some other states, “those lockdowns came too late to prevent a big outbreak, because that’s where the virus hit first,” said Thomas Hale, associate professor of global public policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, who leads the Oxford tracking effort.

A relationship between policies and the outbreak’s severity has become more clear as the pandemic has progressed.

“States that have kept more control policies in a more consistent way — New England states, for example — have avoided a summer surge and are now having a smaller fall surge, as opposed to states that rolled them back very quickly like Florida or Texas,” Mr. Hale said. “I think timing really matters for the decisions.”

The worst outbreaks in the country now are in places where policymakers did the least to prevent transmission, according to the Oxford index. States with stronger policy responses over the long run are seeing comparatively smaller outbreaks.

Iowa, North Dakota, and Utah have finally mandated masks, but the Governor of South Dakota is still resisting.

The Guardian: Kristi Noem rigidly follows Trump strategy of denial as Covid ravages South Dakota. Noem has been sucking up to Trump for a long time, and she is still doing it even though he lost the election.

The actual lives of many South Dakotans could depend, in turn, upon that decision given the terrifying surge of Covid-19 cases that is battering the state under Noem’s contentious leadership. South Dakota has been listed by Forbes as one of the 10 most dangerous states in the Union, all of them in the Midwest.

Coronavirus in South Dakota is running at an intensity only surpassed in the US by its neighbor North Dakota. The state has an alarming positivity rate of almost 60% – nearly six out of 10 people who take a Covid test are infected – second only to another neighbor, Wyoming.

Viewed through the lens of cases and deaths, South Dakota is also at the top of the league table. More than 66,000 South Dakotans have contracted the disease and at least 644 have died, a number likely to rise as hospitals reach breaking point.

badlands-cartoonAmid this devastating contagion, Noem is rigidly sticking to the strategy she has adopted since the pandemic began. It consists of a refusal to accept mask mandates and repeated denial of the science around the efficacy of wearing masks; resistance to imposing any restrictions on bars and restaurants; no limits on gatherings in churches or other places of worship; and no orders to stay at home.

While the statistics are clear – the virus is running wild in South Dakota – Noem has turned a public health emergency into an issue of “freedom” and “liberty”, consistently lying about the trajectory of the disease under her watch. “We’re doing really good in South Dakota. We’re managing Covid-19,” she has said.

She has also embraced the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for Covid, even after it was proven to be ineffective and potentially dangerous.

If all of this sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Since the start of the pandemic, Noem has consciously adopted the posture of a mini-Trump, following the president’s every move in the handling of the health crisis.

Read the rest at The Guardian.

Meanwhile, Trump is hunkered down in the White House, tweeting and trying to find some way to steal the election.

Eric Lutz at Vanity Fair: As His Bogus Election Fraud Charges Go Up in Flames, Trump goes into Hiding.

Still yet to concede to Biden, Donald Trump and his allies are continuing to hold up his successor’s transition team, putting America’s national security at risk and threatening to complicate the rollout of the forthcoming COVID vaccine while his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, fights his hopeless legal battle against the election results. (It isn’t going great.) Giuliani, working his first federal case in nearly two decades, wasn’t much sharper in court than he was in the Four Seasons Total Landscaping parking lot the day the race was called for Biden. His arguments—a tangle of easily disproved lies and already-debunked conspiracy theories—seem exceedingly unlikely to succeed, something he may be aware of himself. According to the Washington Post’s Robert Costa, Giuliani has privately suggested his real strategy isn’t so much to land a long-shot victory in court, but to push the fight to Capitol Hill by getting officials in key states to refuse to certify the results. GOP members of the board of canvassers in Wayne County, Michigan, tried to do just that Tuesday, voting against certifying the election results there, with one official saying she’d sign off on other jurisdictions but not Detroit, a majority Black, Democratic-voting city. But after public outrage, the board reversed course and unanimously certified the results later that night.

20201117edbbc-aWith Giuliani losing his games of 3-D and regular chess, Trump’s campaign and legal teams have reportedly been thrown into disarray, with backstabbing and chaos and power struggles. Trump himself, meanwhile, has been pretty much AWOL since he lost the election. He’s only made two public appearances—showing up late to Arlington National Cemetery on November 11 to spend 10 minutes at a Veterans Day ceremony; remarks touting recent progress on the COVID vaccine—since his despotic rant in the briefing room of the White House on November 5, when he baselessly alleged a massive voter fraud conspiracy was being perpetrated against him. 

“It feels like bunker mentality,” an administration official told CNN on Tuesday. Indeed, the Trump White House these days has been more like Grey Gardens, with the reclusive president emerging only to play golf at his nearby Virginia club. Appearing to have largely abandoned his presidential duties, to the extent he ever sought to fulfill them, Trump’s only activities of late have been settling scores with insufficiently loyal officials—Chris Krebs, the top cybersecurity official in the Department of Homeland Security, became the latest purge victim after defending the integrity of the election—and wailing on and on about voter fraud on Twitter, which has slapped a warning label on a majority of his posts in recent days.

Click the link to read the rest.

Today those Michigan Republicans are trying to take back their votes to certify the election. The Washington Post: Wayne County Republicans ask to ‘rescind’ their votes certifying election results.

In affidavits signed Wednesday evening, the two GOP members of the four-member Wayne County Board of Canvassers allege they were improperly pressured into certifying the election and accused Democrats of reneging on a promise to audit votes in Detroit.

“I rescind my prior vote,” Monica Palmer, the board’s chairwoman, wrote in an affidavit reviewed by The Washington Post. “I fully believe the Wayne County vote should not be certified.”

William Hartmann, the other Republican on the board, has signed a similar affidavit, according a person familiar with the document. Hartmann did not respond to a message from The Post.

Jonathan Kinloch, a Democrat and the board’s vice chairman, told The Post it’s too late for the pair to reverse course, as the certified results have been sent to the secretary of state in accordance with state rules. He lashed out at the Republicans over their requests.

“Do they understand how they are making us look as a body?” he said. “We have such an amazing and important role in the democratic process, and they’re turning it on its head.”

245689_rgb_768This has gone way beyond ridiculous. I have to wonder if this country will ever return to any kind of  normality. At the Atlantic, Anne Applebaum writes: The World Is Never Going Back to Normal. Other countries are learning to live without America. Biden can’t restore the pre-Trump status quo.

In the hours and days after American news networks declared him the victor on November 7, President-elect Joe Biden received congratulatory tweets and statements from American allies around the world. Even Fox News sounded excited by the list of well-wishers, who, the channel noted, included “British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin, and Spanish President Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón.” Biden himself made a point, on November 9, of calling the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, and Great Britain to thank them in return. A few days later, he spoke with the leaders of Australia, Japan, and South Korea too.

Had it not been for the intervening four years, the tweeted congratulations would have seemed entirely unremarkable, nothing more than the predictable pleasantries so common to global diplomacy in the era before Donald Trump. Readouts published by Biden’s transition team noted, for example, that “the President-elect underscored that the United States and Australia share both values and history”—boilerplate cliché, unless you remember that President Trump’s first call with the then–Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, ended in a nutty argument about refugees. According to the readout of a call with South Korea’s leader, Moon Jae-in, America’s president-elect “thanked President Moon for his congratulations, expressing his desire to strengthen the [two countries’] alliance as the linchpin of security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.” This was also pretty boring, unless you remember that Trump publicly mused about withdrawing U.S. troops from South Korea—a move that would have left the country vulnerable to invasion from the North….

And yet there was something misleading about all of these statements and compliments, for after the Trump era, there can be no return to normal. None of America’s relationships, with either our friends or our enemies, is the same as it was four years ago. None of the major diplomatic institutions, international or domestic, is the same either. Some on the Biden team, veterans of the Obama administration, will be tempted to restart relationships and reboot old plans as if nothing has happened. That would be a mistake.

B7OQBWOVHJAAJHJHQZVAZ2WH3MSince 2016, America’s international reputation has been transformed. No longer the world’s most admired democracy, our political system is more often perceived as uniquely dysfunctional, and our leaders as notably dangerous. Poll after poll shows that respect for America is not just plummeting, but also turning into something very different. Some 70 percent of South Koreans and more than 60 percent of Japanese—two nations whose friendship America needs in order to push back against Chinese influence in Asia—view the U.S. as a “major threat.” In Germany, our key ally in Europe, far more people fear Trump than fear Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, or North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

Read the rest at The Atlantic.

More stories to check out:

Slate: Does Anyone Really Want to Do This After Every Election for the Rest of Our Lives?

The New York Times: Threats and Tensions Rise as Trump and Allies Attack Elections Process.

The Washington Post: As defeats pile up, Trump tries to delay vote count in last-ditch attempt to cast doubt on Biden victory

Politico: Could GOP states ignore voters and send Trump delegates to the Electoral College?

Laurence Lessig at USA Today: State legislatures do not have the power to veto the people’s choice in an election.

Jonathan Mahler at The New York Times on whether Trump should face prosecution.

Raw Story: Mueller prosecutor explains why Biden will be forced to indict Trump whether he wants to or not.

Kurt Bardella at USA Today: Biden’s top unification task: Expose Trump team wrongdoing, restore trust in government.

AP: Biden approaches 80 million votes in historic victory.

Hang in there, Sky Dancers! Take care of yourselves and please take a minute to let us know how you’re doing today. We love to hear from you.