Lazy Saturday Reads: New Year’s Eve Edition

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Good Morning!!

Today is the final day of 2016, and naturally King tRump posted a nasty message to the country via his preferred form of communication:

What a pathetic asshole he is.

Meanwhile the tRump camp and many Republicans are seemingly embracing Vladimir Putin and his buddies. I have to believe their ultimate goal is to turn the U.S. into a kleptocracy on the the Putin model.

It looks like good ol’ Kellyanne is on board with the Putin love.

Politico: Team Trump: We’re the true target of Obama’s sanctions.

President Barack Obama said Thursday that the sanctions announced against Russia were a response to the Kremlin’s “aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election.” But Republican allies of the incoming administration say those sanctions have another target: Donald Trump.

“I will tell you that even those who are sympathetic to President Obama on most issues are saying that part of the reason he did this today was to quote ‘box in’ President-elect Trump,” incoming counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway said Thursday night on CNN. “That would be very unfortunate if politics were the motivating factor here. We can’t help but think that’s often true.”

Conway was just one of multiple Trump allies to attack the president’s package of sanctions, announced Thursday afternoon. The president-elect and his team have thus far been unwilling to concede what all 17 U.S. federal intelligence agencies announced last fall, that Russia was behind the wave of cyberattacks that shook up the presidential election by releasing hacked email messages from the Democratic National Committee and other prominent Democratic figures. Instead, Trump has said the attacks could have been performed by Russia or China or “somebody sitting in a bed someplace.”

And the president-elect has taken particular objection to the assessment of the FBI and CIA, which were reported in the media but not released publicly, that the Russian government’s cyber efforts were intended not just to undermine the U.S. electoral process but specifically to help install Trump as the next president.

Instead, Trump’s team has said regularly that discussion of Russian cyberattacks by Democrats and the mainstream media are little more than efforts to delegitimize the incoming administration before it even arrives. Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and prominent Trump supporter, said Friday that Obama’s decision to impose sanctions late in his second term was “extraordinary” and added that he has “never seen a president try to create more problems for a future president.”

Oh really? And what about the revelation that the same people involved in the DNC hacking also hacked into the U.S. electric grid? Is that a political lie by the intelligence community too?

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The Washington Post: Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility, showing risk to U.S. electrical grid security, officials say.

A code associated with the Russian hacking operation dubbed Grizzly Steppe by the Obama administration has been detected within the system of a Vermont utility, according to U.S. officials.

While the Russians did not actively use the code to disrupt operations, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a security matter, the discovery underscores the vulnerabilities of the nation’s electrical grid. And it raises fears in the U.S. government that Russian government hackers are actively trying to penetrate the grid to carry out potential attacks.

Officials in government and the utility industry regularly monitor the grid because it is highly computerized and any disruptions can have disastrous implications for the country’s medical and emergency services.

Burlington Electric said in a statement that the company detected a malware code used in the Grizzly Steppe operation in a laptop that was not connected to the organization’s grid systems. The firm said it took immediate action to isolate the laptop and alert federal authorities.

Friday night, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) called on federal officials “to conduct a full and complete investigation of this incident and undertake remedies to ensure that this never happens again.”

“Vermonters and all Americans should be both alarmed and outraged that one of the world’s leading thugs, Vladimir Putin, has been attempting to hack our electric grid, which we rely upon to support our quality-of-life, economy, health, and safety,” Shumlin said in a statement. “This episode should highlight the urgent need for our federal government to vigorously pursue and put an end to this sort of Russian meddling.”

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This is getting really scary. If our electrical grid becomes compromised we could be in serious trouble. The Russians did this in Ukraine (and here in the U.S.) previously. The Wall Street Journal:

A team of Russian hackers that has been linked to this year’s cyberbreach of the Democratic National Committee was also behind a successful attack in 2015 on three different utilities in Ukraine that caused unprecedented blackouts, according to government and independent security experts.

The same group is thought by those experts to be behind successful cyberattacks on several U.S. energy companies in 2014 that gave the hackers access to company industrial control networks.

In mid-December, Ukraine’s capital city of Kiev suffered another partial power outage when a high-voltage electric substation turned off under suspicious circumstances.

“We’re 99% sure that it was a hacker,” said Vsevolod Kovalchuk, chief executive of Ukrenergo, the utility that operates the backbone of Ukraine’s power transmission network.

Shortly before midnight on December 17, someone started disconnecting circuit breakers through remote means until the electrical substation was completely disabled, Mr. Kovalchuk said.

Utility employees re-energized the substation by manually restoring equipment to their “on” positions. Substations are linchpins in all power grids because they control voltage levels and direct the flow of electricity down power lines.

Read more at the link.

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Tommy Christopher posted an excellent analysis of the tRump team’s attitude toward Russian interference in our democratic institutions: Trump openly urges cover-up of Russian hacks that CIA says got him elected.

Asked if he would back sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin over the Russian cyber crimes that the CIA and FBI agree were undertaken to help get Trump elected (and which were directed by Putin himself), Trump said we should all “get on with our lives:”

This was an utterly bizarre event, once again showcasing Trump’s terrifying inability to personally let anything go by taking shots at a guy who dropped out of the Republican primary before a single vote was cast — even as Trump is urging the rest of us to “get on with our lives” regarding Russian interference in our presidential election.

But Trump’s brazen attempt to whitewash Russia’s role in hacking the election, with direct encouragement from Trump himself, must not be gotten over but rather ought to be top of mind with every responsible journalist and attentive citizen.

While Democrats and a few principled Republicans seek true accountability for this unprecedented and dangerous intrusion, Republican leaders are ready to sweep it all under the rug — and Trump himself has even tacitly endorsed the interference.

The GOP leaders who stick with tRump on this may find this to be a problematic choice in the future. It looks like we’ll continue to get information given and leaked to the media, especially if tRump continues to disrespect the intelligence community. History shows that the CIA tends to win these battles with presidents.

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It’s fairly obvious to everyone except tRump and his crew that Vlad P. is playing him and sees him as a useful idiot. At The Washington Post, Karen de Young and David Filipov speculate about where this bromance is headed: Trump and Putin: A relationship where mutual admiration is headed toward reality.

For much of this year, Donald Trump and Vladi­mir Putin have been engaged in a long-distance courtship. They have said kind things about each other in public and separately expressed visions of a mutually agreeable future.

Since Trump’s election, the anticipation has become more explicit. It culminated this week in the U.S. president-elect’s call for America to “move on” from allegations of Russian electoral hacking, and the Russian president’s blithe pronouncement Friday that he would rather plan for a new relationship with Trump than retaliate in kind to sanctions and expulsions ordered by outgoing President Obama.

“Great move on delay (by V. Putin),” Trump tweeted. “I always knew he was very smart!”

But as with all such arms-length pairings, the looming question is whether Trump and Putin will find fulfillment or disappointment once face-to-face reality strikes.

U.S. and Russian officials and experts are deeply divided over the answer. Some see Moscow playing Trump like a fiddle. The Kremlin “sees Trump’s presidency as a net loss for the U.S. strategic position that Russia should take advantage of,” said Vladi­mir Frolov, a Moscow-based analyst.

Read the whole thing at the WaPo.

Along with many of us, Chuck Todd has noticed that tRump doesn’t have a sense of humor. He talked about it in an interview with Glenn Thrush of Politico:

Chuck Todd has interviewed Donald Trump many times, and he’s noticed something somewhat disquieting about the unquiet president-elect.

The man doesn’t laugh — not in a normal, spontaneous, regular-human kind of way.

“[It] drives me crazy. Do you know what? I’ve never seen him laugh,” the “Meet the Press” host told me during an interview for POLITICO’s “Off Message” podcast earlier this month. “I challenge somebody to find him laughing, and that person has yet to find an example, in my opinion. He’ll smile, but he smiles appropriately. Watch him at the Al Smith dinner [the roast in New York City in October] … He doesn’t really laugh. He looks for others to laugh. It is just weird.”

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And this is really weird:

And there’s one other thing that Todd thinks is odd: After several of his Sunday appearances as a candidate, Trump would lean back in his chair and request that the control room replay his appearance on a monitor — sans sound.

“Then there’s the amount of time he spends after the interview is over, with the sound off. He wants to see what it all looked like. He will watch the whole thing on mute,” Todd told me, sitting in his cluttered office in NBC’s nondescript, low-slung Washington headquarters on Nebraska Avenue.

WTF?

So . . . that’s what I have for you this morning? What stories are you following?

 

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Last Friday of 2016 Reads: RESIST

15781068_10202587205197499_5603833120012101186_nThe struggle continues in earnest.  RESIST.

I’m not going to be celebrating the New Year as much as I will be crying over 2016 which turned hope into dread.  The only hopeful thing I’m seeing at this point are the acts of deliberate protest against the Fascist regime we face starting January 20th.  Some are more subtle than others. The most important thing is that must continue.

We must RESIST.

 

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Mama Ayesha’s restaurant Washington, D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood does not plan on painting President-elect Donald Trump into its presidential mural, the Washingtonian reported on Thursday.

“Our official position is that it is not in the budget,” Amir Abu-El-Hawa, a member of the family that owns the restaurant, told the publication.

The mural features the founder of the restaurant, “Mama” Ayesha Abraham, standing alongside 11 presidents, from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Barack Obama.

“She was the American dream. For a Muslim and Arab woman immigrant from Palestine to come here on her own and build this business, is a remarkable legacy,” said Abu-El-Hawa, who is the founder’s great-nephew.

According to the Washingtonian, the mural was painted by Karla “Karlisima” Rodas between 2007 and 2009 and was partially sponsored by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

The artist is Colombian born had has been in the USA since 1984.  You can see more about the artist and the restaurant at the link.  There’s a great video of the artist explaining her work and vision.

15698278_10209781867398191_6258457269335681400_nA member of the Mormon Tabernacle choir has resigned rather than be part of an organization that would participate in the Inauguration of the Hair Furor.  The best part is that she said she “could not throw roses at Hitler” and would “certainly never sing for him”.

President-elect Donald Trump’s plans for his inauguration have hit another bump in the road. A member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which is slated to perform at the event, has quit in protest and penned an open letter explaining her reasoning.

Jan Chamberlin announced her resignation from the Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day Saints-affiliated choir in a note on Facebook on Thursday. In the letter, which is addressed to the choir’s leader and her family and friends, Chamberlin said that after reflection and prayer and with “a sad and heavy heart,” she is resigning her position in the choir.

T-rump continues to have a difficult time getting any one to perform at his installment.  Performance is definitely a political statement for many and even those who may like him are afraid of the blowback from those of us that RESIST.

Unlike any other year, however, the overarching theme of performing at Trump’s swearing-in is that of risk. “An artist would be risking too much,” notes Horowitz. “Their career, their fan base, their relationships in the music industry. As one of the most divisive president-elects in history, Trump shouldn’t be surprised that he’s facing a lack of support.”

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Meanwhile, a restaurant in Hawaii has banned Trump voters saying “No Nazis”.

Café 8 ½ in Honolulu, Hawaii, is facing harsh criticism for hanging a sign on its front door that tells voters who cast their ballot for President-elect Donald Trump to eat elsewhere.
“If you voted for Trump you cannot eat here! No Nazis,” reads the yellow sign, as reported by Fox News on Tuesday.

Here’s a great interview to read at VersoBooks: “Trump, fascism, and the construction of “the people”: An interview with Judith Butler”.  Isn’t it nice to see people calling it what it is?  FASCISM!!!!

What does Donald Trump represent? The American philosopher Judith Butler, professor at Berkeley University, has recently published a short book in French, Rassemblement [Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly]. She explains that Donald Trump incarnates a new form of fascism. As she puts it, “A lot of people are very happy to see this disturbing, unintelligent guy parading around as if he was the centre of the Earth and winning power thanks to this posture.”

Many writers and intellectuals in the United States and Europe have expressed their views on the Trump phenomenon; mostly to express their consternation or their reprobation, condemning the excesses of his language or expressing their alarm at his proposals to build a wall on the Mexican border or to expel millions of undocumented migrants. But if we are to try to understand what is going on with “Trump” — the Trump phenomenon — then we need to bear in mind the analyses that Judith Butler has elaborated since the late 1990s, from her Excitable Speech, A Politics of the Performative to her latest book, Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly.

Mediapart: Might we say that Donald Trump is a sort of “figure in the carpet” of the analyses you have been producing over the last two decades? Is Trump not a “Butlerian object” par excellence

Judith Butler: I am not sure that Trump is a very good object for the analyses that I usually conduct. For example, I do not think that there is a fascination for Trump as a person. And when we look at his speeches, we also have to consider more particularly the effects this discourse has on a certain fringe of the American people. Let us not forget that he was elected by less than a quarter of the population, and that he is on the brink of becoming president only thanks to the existence of an archaic Electoral College.

So we should not imagine that Trump enjoys wide popular support. There is a general disillusionment with the political field and a certain scorn for the two main US parties. But Hillary Clinton got more votes than Trump. So when we ask about the support for Trump, we should also ask ourselves how it was that a minority of Americans was able to bring him to power.  What we need to interrogate is not an upsurge of popular support [for Trump], but a democratic deficit. The Electoral College should be abolished so that our elections more clearly reflect the popular will. I also believe that our political parties should be rethought in order to increase popular participation in the democratic process.

The minority that supported Trump, the minority allowing him this electoral success, was able to achieve its goal not only thanks to its own rejection of the political field but also the fact that almost 50% of the electorate expressed their disaffection by not going out to vote. Perhaps we ought to speak of the collapse of democratic participation in the United States.

I think that Trump unleashed a rage that has many causes and many targets, and we should probably be sceptical of those who claim to know the true cause, the one single object of this anger. The state of economic devastation and disappointment and the loss of hope for the future — born of economic and financial movements that have decimated whole communities — certainly did play an important role. But so, too, did the United States’ increasing demographic complexity, as well as forms of racism both old and new… There is a desire for “firmness,” expressed through the strengthening of state power against foreigners and undocumented workers, but this is also accompanied by a desire for greater freedom from the burden of government: a slogan simultaneously serving both individualism and the market.

Here’s a ten-point list of what we can do in the upcoming year(s) of the work to tear down our country within the White House itself. Peter Drier suggests we prepare ourselves. I love this first one.

1. Don’t forget: Trump does not have a mandate. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote byclose to 3 million votes. Only 27 percent of the nation’s 231 million eligible voters voted for Trump. In the first election in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act, Republicans intensified their voter-suppression efforts, targeting black and Latino communities in key battleground states. More than 40 percent of eligible voters did not vote; most non-voters were low-income, minority and/or young Americans who, had they gone to the polls, would have voted Democratic. Polls also show that even most Trump voters do not agree with much of his policy agenda. A CBS survey showed about one-quarter of Trump voters said he is not qualified to be president. Seventy percent of all voters said immigrants without documents should be able to apply for legal status rather than be deported.

2545a7a78c6bd79acf1178e548d7c1afBut, can we ever forget exactly how much we saw racism, misogyny, and xenophobia on display this last year?  Can we face down our disappointment at being wrong when we thought that America was basically good and couldn’t go down this rabbit hole of hate?  Can the struggle for justice succeed?

After Trump’s election, it is more or less impossible to believe that we are making meaningful progress. White liberals who woke up horrified on Nov. 9 weren’t horrified because the world had suddenly changed—we were horrified because the scales had finally fallen from our eyes, and we could at least see our unjust, racist, sexist country for what it is. The next president will not be a woman, the makeup of the Supreme Court will not shift toward progressivism, and we are not jolly passengers on a cruise ship sailing toward an era of tolerance, justice, and respect for the dignity and rights of all.

The first challenge is being met now.  Trump’s spin on Russian interference in our election is falling apart. The Alt-Right enablers have going from denying Russian involvement to saying it was a good thing.  How can this not be seen as treason?

This morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to the Obama administration’s announcement yesterday that the United States will undertake sweeping retaliation against Russia for its alleged interference in our election. In a surprise, Putin said he would not be expelling U.S. diplomats as part of the escalating tensions.

This led to some speculation that Putin is simply biding his time until Donald Trump takes over as president, putting someone more friendly to Putin and Russia in the White House — hopefully meaning all those bad feelings about possible Russian efforts to tip the election to Trump can be forgotten. Trump, too, has been saying we need to “move on.”

Reporters and scholars continue to be under attack for providing evidence.  False claims from Alt Right enablers are sending Trump Goons into attack and threat mode.

If we ever had any doubt that DudeBroProgs are just Republicans in hipster clothing who smoke pot, take a look at this Chait headline:  “Glenn Greenwald, Tucker Carlson Unite to Dismiss Russian Hacking Allegations”.  At least were seeing the birds of that feather finally flock together.

One of the great meetings of journalistic minds took place last week, when left-wing journalist Glenn Greenwald appeared on Fox News with Tucker Carlson. The segment was devoted to their purportedly strange agreement over the Russian hacking story (which is not actually strange at all, given their mutual antipathy for the center-left). Greenwald has long dismissed the charge that Russia manipulated WikiLeaks’ publication of Democratic party emails as a “smear,” mocking suspicions of misbehavior by what he referred to in sarcastic capitalized words as “The Russians”; he called it typical of the Democrats’ alleged tendency to use false attacks against Russia to discredit its adversaries (“So WikiLeaks has become an enemy of the Democratic Party, and they seem to have one tactic with their adversaries and enemies, which is to accuse them of being Russian agents”). On Carlson’s program, Greenwald attacked the Washington Post for reporting that the CIA and the FBI believed Russia’s hacking was intended to help Trump win. It is a remarkable segment that merits close reading.

“Should we believe that assessment?” asked Carlson. “We should be extremely skeptical of it for multiple reasons,” replied Greenwald. “These are assertions that are being made unaccompanied by any evidence whatsoever.”

download-1We actually need to thank Lady Lindsey and her sidekick McGrumpy McGrumpkins for doing the right thing today.

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain has scheduled a hearing on cyber threats for Thursday, where the issue of Russia’s election-year hacking will take center stage, a source familiar with the committee’s planning told POLITICO.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, National Security Agency and Cyber Command Chief Adm. Mike Rogers and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Marcel Lettre are scheduled to testify, according to the source.

The timing of the hearing — three days into the new Congress — is in the same week that President-elect Donald Trump says he plans to be briefed by the intelligence community on the Russian hacking.

This is going to be a long, draining struggle but I don’t think we have much of a choice at this point but to fight all we can.

RESIST.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?



Thursday Reads

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Good Morning!!

We just have three more days to go before we reach the bitter end of this terrible year, but there’s still plenty of time for things to get even worse.

Another Hollywood Icon Gone

Last night Debbie Reynolds left us, just one day after her daughter Carrie died. It sure seems as if Debbie died of a broken heart.

Variety: Debbie Reynolds, ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ Star and Carrie Fisher’s Mother, Dies at 84.

Debbie Reynolds, the Oscar-nominated singer-actress who was the mother of late actress Carrie Fisher, has died at Cedars-Sinai hospital. She was 84.

“She wanted to be with Carrie,” her son Todd Fisher told Variety.

She was taken to the hospital from Carrie Fisher’s Beverly Hills house Wednesday after suffering a stroke, the day after her daughter Carrie Fisher died.

The vivacious blonde, who had a close but sometimes tempestuous relationship with her daughter, was one of MGM’s principal stars of the 1950s and ’60s in such films as the 1952 classic “Singin’ in the Rain” and 1964’s “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” for which she received an Oscar nomination as best actress.

Reynolds received the SAG lifetime achievement award in January 2015; in August of that year the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences voted to present the actress with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Nov. 14 Governors Awards, but she was unable to attend the ceremony due to an “unexpectedly long recovery from a recent surgery.”

Reynolds had a wholesome girl-next-door look which was coupled with a no-nonsense attitude in her roles. They ranged from sweet vehicles like “Tammy” to more serious fare such as “The Rat Race” and “How the West Was Won.” But amid all the success, her private life was at the center of one of the decade’s biggest scandals when then-husband, singer Eddie Fisher, left her for Elizabeth Taylor in 1958.


Careening towards disastrous 2017

This is just an open thread. But, if any one can explain why a Victorian artist would put an animated potato on a New Year’s postcard I would be much obliged! Is this Mr Potatoheads’s Grandspud?

President Obama was named Most Admired Man in America for the 9th time. Hillary Clinton was named Most Admired Woman in America for the 15th consecutive year.This brings her total to a record-breaking 21 times.

Please note that “record-breaking,” does not mean “for a woman”. Clinton earned this title more times than any person–man or woman–since this distinction was created back in the 1940s.

Eat shit and die T-RUMP.


Tuesday Reads: I Hate 2016.

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Good Afternoon!!

Before I begin, news just broke that Carrie Fisher has died. I hate 2016.

I’ve defended President Obama for years now, but I’m disgusted with him right now. Obviously, the man has a huge ego and he’s not really much of a feminist except at at a surface level. Now he has joined Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in claiming he would have beaten Donald Trump–and not a single one of those men did the work or went through the attacks that Hillary Clinton had to deal with. U.S. News:

President Barack Obama says he is “confident” he could have beaten Donald Trump if he was on the ballot this year, prompting the president-elect to respond with an defensive denial amid a flurry of tweets sent out late Monday night.

“President Obama said that he thinks he would have won against me,” Trump wrote. “He should say that but I say NO WAY! – jobs leaving, ISIS, OCare, etc.”

Trump was responding to Obama’s interview with former aide David Axelrod, in an episode of Axelrod’s podcast The Axe Files released Monday.

In a sit-down at the White House before departing last week for his annual Christmas getaway to Hawaii, Obama told Axelrod that he did not believe Trump’s election was a repudiation of the vision of a more inclusive America Obama had tried to convey in his campaigns and as president

“In the wake of the election and Trump winning, a lot of people have suggested that somehow, it really was a fantasy,” Obama said. “What I would argue is, is that the culture actually did shift, that the majority does buy into the notion of a one America that is tolerant and diverse and open and full of energy and dynamism.”

Yes, and Hillary did win a majority of votes–about as many as Obama got in 2012; but, never mind. A man would have done better, right? WTF?! And BTW, David Axelrod tore down Hillary throughout the campaign. Surely Obama must be aware of that fact?

Everyone, including he media, is now blaming Hillary for the coming apocalypse. No one wants to deal with the media’s year-long obsession with emails or their failure to adequately investigation and report on the Russian interference in the election. Many reporters are rushing to excuse James Comey’s successful efforts to hurt Clinton shortly before election day.

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Here’s an unscientific investigation by Sam Stein (who has actually been pretty friendly to Clinton): Did James Comey Cost Hillary Clinton The Election? We Asked The Late-Deciding Voters.

For months, as the election wound down to its bitter conclusion, Leonard Rainey of Louisiana struggled over which presidential candidate he’d support.

In the past, the choice would have been simple. Rainey, 33, leans Republican. He voted for Mitt Romney in 2012. But like others this cycle, he found the idea of backing GOP nominee Donald Trump repugnant, matched only by the nausea that accompanied the thought of pulling the lever for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

He entertained sitting out the election. But, as he said, “you don’t have a right to bitch if you don’t vote.” So he pored over the news in search of guidance. It became overwhelming. Each WikiLeaks revelation was a new micro-drama; every Trump debate performance an eye-opener.

“His mouth doesn’t fucking stop,” he said after the second one.

By the final week, the continuous revelations and conspiracy theories surrounding Clinton were taking a toll. Rainey had heard something about Clinton’s ties to a pedophilia ring ― a hoax that led an armed man to fire shots in a D.C.-based pizzeria. He found Clinton Foundation ties to the Saudis and Qatari government disturbing.

The night before Election Day, Rainey kept worrying about how a President Trump might navigate a complex international standoff. He woke up wondering if Clinton was the right choice. But in the end, he voted for Trump anyway ― an uninspired, rote contribution to American democracy.

“You could have put up anybody else against him,” Rainey said. “But they just picked a bad candidate.”

Well that proves it then. A life-long Republican from Louisiana thinks Clinton was a “bad candidate,” and a few other folks that Stein talked to said similar things. Stein quotes five men and one woman in his piece. Most were Republicans, and one was a Bernie bro. Case closed.

Meanwhile, instead of rehashing the election and making unprovable claims, maybe Obama should be reflecting on his failure to act when he might have been able to reduce the damage done by Putin and Comey or at least take action to punish Russia for stealing our election. He might also want to think about why he failed to take any action to prevent what looks to be genocide in Syria.

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The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen: Thanks to no-drama Obama, American leadership is gone.

If Dec. 7, 1941, is the day that Franklin D. Roosevelt said “will live in infamy,” then Dec. 20, 2016, has got to be a close second. No Americans died that day as they did at Pearl Harbor, but the American Century, as Time magazine founder Henry Luce called it, came to a crashing end. Turkey, Iran and Russia met in Moscow to settle matters in the Middle East. The United States wasn’t even asked to the meeting.

Winston Churchill said in 1942 that he had not become Great Britain’s“First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire.” Nonetheless, by the end of the 1940s, much of the empire was gone. Churchill was an unapologetic colonialist, but he was up against liberation movements of all kinds, not to mention the antipathy of the United States to imperialist ambitions — in short, history itself. Churchill had a marvelous way with words, and greatness accompanied him like a shadow, but in certain ways he was a 19th-century man wandering, confounded, in the 20th.

Barack Obama is quite the reverse. He is a 21st-century man who never quite appreciated the lessons of the 20th. He has been all too happy to preside over the loss of American influence. Aleppo, Syria, now a pile of rubble, is where countless died — as did American influence. The Russians polished it off from the air, doing for the Syrian regime what the United States could not figure out how to do for the rebels. The city hemorrhaged civilian dead, and America, once the preeminent power in the region, did virtually nothing.

It could be that Obama was right. It could be that all along he knew that the rebels were beyond saving — although he predicted that Bashar al-Assad would be toppled — and, anyway, the United States was not going to again get into some Middle Eastern quagmire. America had twice made war in Iraq; it had lost Marines in Lebanon. Though perhaps these were just excuses to do nothing. After all, no one ever recommended putting boots on the ground in Syria. That was Obama’s straw man.

And now we are headed toward autocracy. That will be Obama’s legacy.

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Here’s an interesting article by Yochi Dreazen at Vox: I’ve spent 15 years covering national security. I’ve never seen anything like the Russia hack.

National security has been the focus of virtually all of my professional life….But I’ve never covered anything quite like Russia’s hack of the Democratic National Committee’s servers and the email account of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, moves designed to steal and then release information damaging to the Democratic presidential nominee.

Think about it this way: In a best-case scenario, Russian President Vladimir Putin has managed to persuade tens of millions of Americans to question the integrity of the US political system and the legitimacy of Donald Trump’s narrow win. In a worst-case scenario, the Kremlin just handed the White House to the most jarringly pro-Russian presidential candidate in American history.

Imagine I had told you, in 2013, that this would happen — that Russia would successfully hack into a political party’s servers and use the revelations to try to change the course of an American presidential election. Imagine you didn’t know which party benefited, so there was no reason to downplay the event’s horror, or shrink from its implications. How much of a freakout would you have predicted across America? What sort of response would you have expected? How angry, specifically, would you have expected Republicans — a traditionally Russo-skeptic party — to be?

And yet there may be no response. Nor is it even obvious what the response should, or would, be. Part of me thinks we should consider this to be a case of espionage (stealing the documents in the first place) paired with an unusually sophisticated propaganda effort (leaking the sexiest material slowly to dominate the news cycle in the final weeks before the election). Part of me thinks we should consider this to be an act of war, no different than if Putin had launched a cyberattack that took down the electrical grid or the banking system. And part of me thinks it’s something new entirely — a hybrid that is more than mere spying but less than an outright assault.

I’m at even more of a loss when it comes to thinking about what the US should do in response. Russia doesn’t have real elections, so there’s no Putin rival for Washington to quietly try to help win the presidency. The US could try to embarrass the Russian leader by releasing details of the tens of billions of dollars that he and his closest allies are believed to have squirreled away in a labyrinth of offshore bank accounts. Putin controls Russia’s media, though, so it’s not clear if that information would reach many Russians. Given Putin’s sky-high approval ratings, it’s not also clear if many Russians would care. And not even Russia hawks think Obama would — or should — retaliate with military force.

I’m left with a pair of depressing conclusions: Putin got the president he wanted, and he’ll likely escape without any serious retribution for his direct attack on American democracy — in fact, he’s likely to get the most pro-Russian president, and pro-Russian administration, in recent American history. His operation will have been an extraordinary success, and so the US won’t be the only Western power that Putin targets: German politicians are already warning that Russian hacking threatens their upcoming elections.

Please read the rest at Vox.

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And check this out at Newsweek too: Neil Buchanan: American Democracy is on Life Support. Here’s the intro:

Is it too late to save constitutional democracy in the United States?

It is possible that there is nothing that can be done to prevent Donald Trump’s presidency from turning the U.S. into an autocratic state, completing the Republicans’ generation-long effort to make sure that only certain people are allowed to participate in our weakening republic.

Even if that is true—and no one can say with certainty, at this point in history, whether we will indeed go down that path—it is important to decide how to proceed even in the face of inevitable disaster.

Should people who believe in the rule of law act as if there is something still to be done to save the nation from political death, or should they face reality and merely try to minimize the pain as the patient dies slowly in hospice care?

Here, I will explain why it is so difficult to see a hopeful path forward after the 2016 elections. The deep problem is not merely that the Democrats will not control any branch of the federal government or most state governments, although that is obviously a huge disability.

The ultimate problem is that Trump and the Republicans have thrown off any hint of good faith, which means that Democrats who try to bargain with them might be fated to be played for suckers.

In such circumstances, Democrats could choose to simply ease people’s pain as the republic fades away. Like palliative care for the dying, strategies that would be unthinkable for other patients—such as administering high doses of painkillers—might now make sense.

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One more from CNN: It’s your duty to laugh at Donald Trump, by Rob Crilly.

Time and time again he has shown himself vulnerable to mockery. Humor is Kryptonite to his thin-skinned existence.
He is utterly impervious to the usual weapons of politics. Try to wound him with shame or embarrass him with public scrutiny and you may as well try to sink a duck by pouring a jug of H2O over its rear end.
But we all know the size of his hands. Graydon Carter’s long-running feud with the “short-fingered vulgarian”, as he so pithily put it, recently resurfaced in the pages of Vanity Fair, where a waiter at the Trump Grill was quoted discussing the size of his bosses’ digits.
Inevitably, the orange-haired bloviator responded with a humorless tirade on Twitter.
Trump’s sensitivity is easily understood when you realize he is on a desperate quest to be taken seriously. Just remember the face he pulled when he sat beside Barack Obama in the Oval Office on that Thursday after an election.
it was the sort of face a three-year-old exhibits when they really, really want you know they are concentrating. Or when they are trying to squeeze out a number two.
Please go read the whole thing.

What stories are you following today?


Monday Reads: 2016 has been like a year long Red Wedding

george-michael-rockers-revenge-bsa-leather-jacket-faith-videoWell, it’s the last week of 2016 and the only thing I can think is that it’s a prelude to 2017 which is lining up to be an even worse year although we don’t know which of the icons that wrote the soundtrack to our lives will die at this time. I’m actually more concerned about the death of more important things like civil liberties and civil rights.

But, before I move on to my tribute to people who resisted Fascism in the past as inspiration for what faces us in 2017, let me just say goodbye to George Michael whose life, loves and music was unapologetically, in your face sexuality after being outted by Tabloids. George Michael was fierce.

I can barely get through a week without listening to his outstanding tribute with Queen to Freddie Mercury. He considered it his proudest but saddest moment. I’ve linked to a video of Queen and George in rehearsal for that performance where you can see David Bowie watching with Seal.  It feels like George RR Martin wrote the script for 2016 where all the good guys get killed and the bad guys take over the kingdom.  Seriously, it feels that way to me.

Here’s some inspiration from the past to help us buckle up as we careen towards 2017 and the take over of our government by Fascists.  A flamboyant sportscaster led a secret mission to get his family out of Germany during those famous 1936 Berlin Olympic games.  His story is now coming to light.

But here’s where we can start. Stanley Wertheim was a little more than 2 years old when Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany. He doesn’t remember much from his childhood in Warburg, about 400 kilometers southwest of Berlin.

“I have some memories, but they’re vague. And only memories of certain incidents,” he says.

In one of those incidents, Stanley wandered out of his family’s backyard.

“And saw everyone saying ‘Heil Hitler’ and raising their arms, and so I did the same thing,” Stanley recalls. “Until, finally, some man caught me by the back of the neck and dragged me back to my house. ‘Cause that could have resulted in serious consequences.”

Stanley Wertheim is Jewish. Everything he did — or didn’t do — could have resulted in serious consequences.

The Olympics came to Berlin when Stanley was 6. The world was becoming concerned about German militarization and discrimination against Jews. And the regime hoped to send the message that there was nothing to fear.

So, the Games were important for Hitler and the Third Reich, but they weren’t of much consequence to 6-year-old Stanley Wertheim and his family.

“Well, that meant nothing to us except that Ted would be here,” Stanley says.

22pritchard-obit-1-articlelargeAlso worth reading is the obituary of 96 year old Marion Pritchard who saved the lives of around 150 Jewish people and children in acts of bravery that should be told and retold. She was a true hero.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

We take time now to remember Marion van Binsbergen Pritchard who died this month at the age of 96. During the second world war in her native Holland, she helped more than 150 Jews evade the Nazis. Her son Ivor Pritchard told us how she became a rescuer.

IVOR PRITCHARD: She was riding her bicycle down the street and came upon a scene where the Germans were collecting Jewish children, just picking them up by the arm and the leg and the hair and throwing them into a truck. And there were two women who saw this. And they went up to the Germans and protested, whereupon they took the two women and put them in the truck, too, and drove off. And my mother witnessed this.

CHANG: From that moment forward, she committed herself to protecting Jews. She shuttled young children from one hiding place to another. Little ones couldn’t be moved in the dark after curfew because they might cry out, so she transported them in broad daylight.

PRITCHARD: She would put a child on her bicycle and pedal down the street. And the German soldiers would see the young woman with her child and wave at her, and she would wave at them. And she would go right by to wherever she needed to go.

CHANG: For almost three years, Marion helped hide a Jewish man and his three children in a home outside Amsterdam. One day, several Germans and a local Dutch collaborator came to the door looking for Jews. They left without finding the hidden family. But then…

PRITCHARD: The Dutch collaborator came back by himself. And she had a revolver that had been given to her by the friend in the resistance. And she didn’t know what else to do, so she shot him. So now she’s got a Dutch collaborator dead on the floor. What’s she going to do?

CHANG: Marion had a friend who found a delivery man to pick up the body and a mortician to dispose of it. This is the lesson that Marion Pritchard took from that story.

PRITCHARD: The world, at that time, did not neatly divide up into perpetrators, victims, bystanders and rescuers. The delivery man wasn’t actively involved in the resistance. The mortician wasn’t actively involved in the resistance. And yet, when asked, they cooperated.

downloadIn two truly bizarre acts of weirdness, the Trump administration seems to have declared itself the beacon for radical christianity in an act of unconstitutional unrepentant reptilian ickiness. Then T-Rump himself sends out a weirdish christmas greeting that looks like a raised white power fist. It was such a tiny fist with such tiny fingers.

Sean Spicer is going to be T-Rump’s press secretary and he’s already caused quite the controversy with a badly worded tweet which appears to be the way of things right now. One badly worded tweet after another on things that are blatantly not constitutional, legal or American.  Who tweets out about freaking Kings these days anyway? George RR Martin are you writing this script?  Please, let us know.

President-elect Donald Trump’s team yesterday accused media critics of politicizing Christmas after a holiday message from the Republican Party sparked a Twitter war over whether the GOP was comparing Trump to Jesus Christ.

The message released yesterday by the Republican National Committee read in part, “Over two millennia ago, a new hope was born into the world, a Savior who would offer the promise of salvation to all mankind.

“Just as the three wise men did on that night, this Christmas heralds a time to celebrate the good news of a new King,” the statement continued.

That last clause caused social media users of both parties to question whether the “new King” referred to on “this Christmas” was Trump.

For a lift, check out our Seventh Ward Santa who made the NPR news.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Happy Sunday, Happy Christmas, Happy Hanukkah 

Merry Christmas….

And….

Happy Hanukkah!

Enjoy your day, this is an open thread.