Posted: January 31, 2017 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Dana Boente, Daniel Ragsdale, Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Jeff Sessions, Sally Yates, Steve Bannon, Thomas Homan
The last time a U.S. President fired his Attorney General was 44 years ago in what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre. Last night tRump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she announced that the DOJ would not defend tRump’s Muslim ban because she didn’t think it was legal. tRump appointed Dana Boente, US Attorney from the Eastern District of Virginia to replace her until a new Attorney General is confirmed. The New York Times reports:
Mr. Boente, 62, has worked for the Justice Department since 1984 under both Republican and Democratic administrations. He served in the department’s tax division and held several positions in the Eastern District of Virginia. He also served as the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana from December 2012 to September 2013.
In October 2015, Mr. Boente was nominated by President Barack Obama to be the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and was confirmed by the United States Senate that December.
The district sprawls across a wide swath of the state. It covers six million people and often handles cases that touch on national security because its territory includes facilities like the Pentagon and the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Before joining the Justice Department, Mr. Boente clerked for a chief United States district judge, J. Waldo Ackerman, in the Central District of Illinois in 1982.
Boente has been praised by both Democrats and Republicans, including former Attorney General Loretta Lynch; but he has indicated he has no problem defending tRump’s Muslim ban.
Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the United States attorney’s office in Alexandria, Va., said Mr. Boente had no hesitation about accepting the acting attorney general’s job, given his “seniority and loyalty” to the department.
In an interview with The Washington Post on Monday night, Mr. Boente pointed out that his office had already been defending the president’s executive order against a lawsuit brought in a Virginia federal court.
“I was enforcing it this afternoon,” Mr. Boente told The Post. “Our career department employees were defending the action in court, and I expect that’s what they’ll do tomorrow, appropriately and properly.”
Indeed, shortly before midnight on Monday, Mr. Boente rescinded the guidance Ms. Yates had given department lawyers earlier in the evening and formally ordered them to defend the president’s immigration ban.
If Sally Yates goes down in history as a hero for her refusal to enforce an illegal order, Boente will be remembered in the same breath with Judge Robert Bork, who followed Richard Nixon’s order to fire his Attorney General, Archibald Cox for refusing a presidential order not to continue examining the Nixon White House tapes. We all know how that turned out.
Interestingly, during Yates’ confirmation hearing, current Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions asked her if she would say “no” to President Obama if he asked her to approval an illegal order. Again from The New York Times:
As Republicans seethed over President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration in early 2015, Senator Jeff Sessions sharply questioned Sally Q. Yates about whether she had the independent streak needed to be the Justice Department’s second in command.
Mr. Sessions, Republican of Alabama, wanted to know whether Ms. Yates, a federal prosecutor from Georgia who made her career charging domestic terrorists and white-collar criminals, would be willing to stand up to the president.
“If the views the president wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or the deputy attorney general say no?” Mr. Sessions asked during a confirmation hearing for Ms. Yates.
“I believe the attorney general or deputy attorney general has an obligation to follow the law and Constitution and give their independent legal advice to the president,” Ms. Yates replied.
Read more about Yates’ career and background at the above link.
tRump capped off the night by firing the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), without any explanation. Huffington Post:
In a statement released late Monday evening, the newly confirmed DHS secretary, John Kelly, announced that Thomas Homan had been named the new acting director of ICE. The statement did not mention Daniel Ragsdale, who was being replaced. (Ragsdale resumes his role as deputy director, according to an ICE official.) ….
By promoting Homan, who most recently led the arm of ICE that enforces detentions and deportations, the Trump administration signaled its intent to place a greater emphasis on the harsh enforcement measures that Homan carried out.
As the associate director of ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), Homan “led ICE’s efforts to identify, arrest, detain, and remove illegal aliens, including those who present a danger to national security or are a risk to public safety, as well as those who enter the United States illegally or otherwise undermine the integrity of our immigration laws and our border control efforts,” the DHS statement read.
Homan’s appointment also raises the possibility that Trump might attempt to carry out a campaign promise to deport many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. The Trump administration previously said that it will initially focus deportation efforts on immigrants convicted of violent crimes.
The White House continues to leak like a sieve, and yesterday and today there have been revelations galore about the infighting among tRump’s inner circle.
The Washington Post yesterday: Trump’s hard-line actions have an intellectual godfather: Jeff Sessions.
In jagged black strokes, President Trump’s signature was scribbled onto a catalogue of executive orders over the past 10 days that translated the hard-line promises of his campaign into the policies of his government.
The directives bore Trump’s name, but another man’s fingerprints were also on nearly all of them: Jeff Sessions.
The early days of the Trump presidency have rushed a nationalist agenda long on the fringes of American life into action — and Sessions, the quiet Alabamian who long cultivated those ideas as a Senate backbencher, has become a singular power in this new Washington.
Sessions’s ideology is driven by a visceral aversion to what he calls “soulless globalism,” a term used on the extreme right to convey a perceived threat to the United States from free trade, international alliances and the immigration of nonwhites.
And despite many reservations among Republicans about that worldview, Sessions — whose 1986 nomination for a federal judgeship was doomed by accusations of racism that he denied — is finding little resistance in Congress to his proposed role as Trump’s attorney general.
We’ll soon see. Sessions is currently being roasted by Democrats in his latest confirmation hearing.
Also yesterday, The New York Times reported on the appointment of Steve Bannon as a permanent member of the National Security Council and the apparent sidelining of top tRump adviser Michael Flynn. The article is loaded with leaks about Flynn.
…the defining moment for Mr. Bannon came Saturday night in the form of an executive order giving the rumpled right-wing agitator a full seat on the “principals committee” of the National Security Council — while downgrading the roles of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence, who will now attend only when the council is considering issues in their direct areas of responsibilities. It is a startling elevation of a political adviser, to a status alongside the secretaries of state and defense, and over the president’s top military and intelligence advisers.
In theory, the move put Mr. Bannon, a former Navy surface warfare officer, admiral’s aide, investment banker, Hollywood producer and Breitbart News firebrand, on the same level as his friend, Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, a former Pentagon intelligence chief who was Mr. Trump’s top adviser on national security issues before a series of missteps reduced his influence….
in terms of real influence, Mr. Bannon looms above almost everyone except the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in the Trumpian pecking order, according to interviews with two dozen Trump insiders and current and former national security officials. The move involving Mr. Bannon, as well as the boost in status to the White House homeland security adviser, Thomas P. Bossert, and Mr. Trump’s relationships with cabinet appointees like Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, have essentially layered over Mr. Flynn.
There’s much more, so I hope you’ll the whole article to learn all the details about Flynn’s waning importance.
This morning Vanity Fair has a fascinating piece on Jared Kushner, whom tRump has been working around lately. Kushner was supposed to be highly influential in the White House, but now it appears the Steve Bannon is pushing him aside too.
Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump
Little more than a week into the Trump presidency, the timing of the Friday sunset seems to be growing increasingly important. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and West Wing adviser, has been positioned as something of a mollifying presence upon his mercurial boss. “I have a feeling that Jared’s going to do a great job. He’s going to do a great job. You’ll work with him,” Trump recently declared at his pre-inaugural gala to assorted well-wishers and friends from the business community. In a White House split between those seemingly loyal to the Republican Party (Reince Priebus, the former chairman of the R.N.C., now Trump’s chief of staff), and its rabid base (Breitbart chairman turned chief strategist Stephen Bannon), Kushner appeared to be a Valerie Jarrett type—a steady familiar voice who could suss out the signal from the noise.
Kushner, along with his wife, Ivanka Trump, is also an orthodox Jew who observes Shabbat. From sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday, the couple abstains from technology and work. And early in the incipient Trump administration, that brief period has been unusually fraught. Last week, the president personally called the Park Service on the morning after his inauguration to inquire about the size of the crowds who came to watch him take the oath of office. He subsequently delivered a widely derided speech at C.I.A. headquarters that afternoon, during which he blathered on about the media’s treatment of him and his inaugural crowd size. He then sent his press secretary, Sean Spicer, into the briefing room to falsely claim that it was the largest audience for an inauguration in history. During the tumult, some noticed the conspicuous absence of Kushner’s allegedly calming presence. “He wasn’t rolling calls on Saturday when this happened,” one person close to Kushner told me last week. “To me, that’s not a coincidence.”
The timing of Trump’s executive order on Friday, just moments before sundown, meant that Kushner would not be in the West Wing to absorb another cataclysmic Saturday. Indeed, Kushner observed the Sabbath as thousands of people protested outside airports across the country, children waited for their detained parents, lawyers rushed to federal court rooms, taxi drivers went on strike, and one Democratic leader broke down in tears on live television.
Like the spoiled child he essentially is, Trump has been waiting until Jared and Ivanka are observing the Sabbath to whip out his more extreme actions, and Kushner, according to The Atlantic, is “fucking furious. Read the entire article for more details.
Who knows what’s in store for today and the rest of the week? We probably won’t have to wait long to find out. So . . . what stories are you following today?
Posted: January 30, 2017 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: executive orders, Muslim Band, Protests
It’s difficult to try to make sense of the last 10 days using any normal construct. Just the fact we’ve seen enormous international protests come together across the world nearly spontaneously with more in the works tells me these are not normal times. We’re two Mondays into the Drumpfocracy and this is my second Monday writing about massive protests. Chaos and division are resplendent throughout the Drumpfdom.
A friend and Dharma sister sent me a quote from historian and Boston College Professor Heather Cox Richardson today describing the Muslim Executive Order as a planned “shock event” staged by Steve Bannon. The purpose of this event is to basically “create confusion and chaos so that the administration can present itself as the only entity capable of restoring order” as paraphrased by blogger JohnFEA. Cox Richardson writes:
What Bannon is doing, most dramatically with last night’s ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries– is creating what is known as a “shock event.” Such an event is unexpected and confusing and throws a society into chaos. People scramble to react to the event, usually along some fault line that those responsible for the event can widen by claiming that they alone know how to restore order. When opponents speak out, the authors of the shock event call them enemies. As society reels and tempers run high, those responsible for the shock event perform a sleight of hand to achieve their real goal, a goal they know to be hugely unpopular, but from which everyone has been distracted as they fight over the initial event. There is no longer concerted opposition to the real goal; opposition divides along the partisan lines established by the shock event.
She’s already landed herself on the Fifth Column style website called “The Professor Watchlist”.
Heather Cox Richardson, a history professor at Boston College, has also found herself in the database. In an article on Bill Moyers’s website she objected to the crudeness of the Professor Watchlist project. She said she does not publicly identify with any political party and believes “American democracy is the form of government that comes closest to bringing that principle to reality.”
She’s written a recent book “To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party”. She was interviewed by WBUR in the fall on the party and its rank and file. There’s a podcast of that interview here. I particularly like her description of the purge of the party in the party that was a direct result of right wing christianists and so-called “movement conservatives”.
…When [Movement conservatives] took over the Republican Party and got rid of the traditional Rockefeller Republicans, if you will, Lincoln Republicans. When they read them out of the party, what they did is they wedded the party’s machinery to this quite extremist idea that most Americans don’t really believe. The moment we’re in now, that movement conservative ideology has led to the Ted Cruzes and the Paul Ryans, yes, but what it’s done is it created the demographic that feeds the white-nationalists — the hatred that most Americans don’t really embrace.”
One of my friends noted that she was called a “Muslim-loving whore” this weekend. The entire debacle is certainly dividing us and creating massive chaos. I pity any one who has got a flight to take. The airports are alive with protests. Town and City Squares are alive with protest. We can’t seem to protest enough these days.
An executive order referred to widely among protesters as a “Muslim ban” on immigration travel has led to thousands of people protesting all over the country. The protests began on Saturday and are continuing today. At the source of the controversy is President Donald Trump’s latest executive order, which temporarily blocks 130 million people from entering the United States. The order itself never explicitly uses the word “Muslim.” What it does is temporarily ban citizens of Iraq and six other Muslim-major countries (Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, and Yemen) from entering the United States. (Syrian immigration was indefinitely suspended.) Comments from Trump to media about expediting immigration for Christians sparked additional controversy, but those comments weren’t actually in his executive order. Federal judge Ann Donnelly granted an emergency stay of the executive order. Meanwhile, Trump said the ban was put in place to review the vetting process and protect the United States from radical Islamic terrorists. But protesters are disagreeing vehemently with the ban. Some of the people who were were originally detained have since been released.
Merkel took upon herself as the evident new leader of the Free World to explain that the US is a signatory to the Geneva Convention. She also had to tell him about the document and its purpose. What kind of idiot did these people elect? What have these bigoted crazy people done to us?
Donald Trump’s executive order to halt travel from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iraq, Syria, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia – has provoked a wave of concern and condemnation from international leaders and politicians.
A spokesman for Angela Merkel said the German chancellor regretted Trump’s decision to ban citizens of certain countries from entering the US, adding that she had “explained” the obligations of the refugee convention to the new president in a phone call on Saturday.
“The chancellor regrets the US government’s entry ban against refugees and the citizens of certain countries,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement.
“She is convinced that the necessary, decisive battle against terrorism does not justify a general suspicion against people of a certain origin or a certain religion.
“The … refugee convention requires the international community to take in war refugees on humanitarian grounds. All signatory states are obligated to do. The German government explained this policy in their call yesterday.”
We’re an international pariah state like never before. I don’t think it was even worse during the Nixon years when I traveled during the height of the Vietnam War and did everything I could while in Europe to convince people I was not an American.
What appears to be most disturbing is that the Executive Branch has ordered the Department of Homeland Security to enforce the ban regardless of the stays by four separate judges. Many airport security personal have blocked lawyers and congressman from seeing detainees. This has seriously breached rule of law here.
Demonstrators shout slogans during anti-Donald Trump immigration ban protests outside Terminal 4 at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Kate Munsch
Here’s Trump’s latest Executive Order: “Trump signs executive order requiring that for every one new regulation, two must be revoked”. How the fuck does that work?
President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday morning requiring that for every new federal regulation implemented, two must be rescinded.
“This will be the biggest such act that our country has ever seen,” Trump declared moments before signing it inside the Oval Office. “There will be regulation, there will be control, but it will be a normalized control where you can open your business and expand your business very easily. And that’s what our country has been all about.”
The executive order signing, which fills a campaign pledge, comes after the president held a listening session with small-business leaders.
“If you have a regulation you want, number one, we’re not gonna approve it because it’s already been approved probably in 17 different forms,” Trump said. “But if we do, the only way you have a chance is we have to knock out two regulations for every new regulation. So if there’s a new regulation, they have to knock out two.”
The White House has yet to release text of the executive order, but the president added that “it goes far beyond that.”
“We’re cutting regulations massively for small business — and for large business,” he said. “But they’re different. But for small business, and that’s what this is about today.”
The word “shock” is used a lot in both economic and finance models. It’s best described by Taleb Nassem as a “black swan”. It suddenly disrupts normal market behavior–and depending on how severe it is–can cause problems for some time. It’s like a variety of rocks thrown into water that create ripples. This is like a hail storm of rocks falling on everything around us.
Here’s another ripple that amazes me: “US Diplomats Consider Filing Dissent Over Immigration Ban”. The White House considers the move to be highly successful.
Dozens of foreign service officers and other career diplomats stationed around the world are so concerned about President Donald Trump‘s new executive order restricting Syrian refugees and other immigrants from entering the United States that they are contemplating taking the rare step of sending a formal objection to senior State Department officials in Washington.
In recent days, drafts of a dissent memo have been circulating among diplomats and associates abroad expressing concern that the new restrictions — which Trump said would help “keep America safe” — are un-American and will actually paralyze efforts to stop terrorist attacks inside the U.S. homeland.
“This ban … will not achieve its stated aim to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States,” warned one early draft reviewed by ABC News.
Instead, the executive order will expand anti-American sentiment and “immediately sour relations” with key allies in the fight against terrorism, particularly many of the countries whose citizens are now blocked from traveling to the United States, according to the early draft.
My friend David Ferguson is writing about the other shocking news that’s disturbing both Republicans and Democrats on the Hill. “Democrats and Republicans can’t believe Trump put ‘Nazi’ Steve Bannon on National Security Council”. The Muslim ban nearly seems a sideshow to this one which could be the purpose of it all.
On Saturday, Pres. Donald Trump announced that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the national director of intelligence will no longer be included in all meetings of the National Security Council (NSC)’s principals committee. However, the president’s order said, former Breitbart.com CEO Stephen K. Bannon will be attending every meeting alongside the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense and some of the highest ranking officers in the nation’s security and intelligence services.
“Chairman of Joint Chiefs and DNI treated as afterthoughts in Cabinet level principals meetings. And where is CIA?? Cut out of everything?” wrote former United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice on Sunday, according to the New York Daily News.
“This is stone cold crazy,” Rice continued. “After a week of crazy. Who needs military advice or intel to make policy on ISIL, Syria, Afghanistan, DPRK?”
“Trump loves and trusts the military so much he just kicked them out of the National Security Council and put a Nazi in their place,” she said.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer responded by complaining about Rice’s tone, which he said was “clearly inappropriate language from a former ambassador.”
These are dangerous, chaotic times and it’s all been brought on by people that are “stone cold crazy.” Democrats on the Hill are planning a rally in front of the SCOTUS building.
Democratic lawmakers will host a rally on Monday evening at the Supreme Court to protest President Donald Trump’s recent executive order imposing a temporary ban on nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the United States.
“Tomorrow at 6:00 p.m., House and Senate Democrats will gather for a press event in front of the steps of the Supreme Court to demand the President withdraw his disreputable executive order. All Members are urged to come to express our solidarity,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a letter to her Democratic colleagues in the House.
Trump on Friday signed an order that imposed a 90-day ban on nationals from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen entering the United States. The order also included a 120-day ban on admitting refugees and an indefinite halt on admitting refugees from Syria, which has been embattled in a civil war since 2011.
“We are witnessing an historic injustice unfold, and we must keep the pressure on,” Pelosi said in the letter.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday saidDemocrats are considering legislation to overturn Trump’s order, but will need Republicans to be on board.
“If we get a few more Republicans, I think we might be able to pass legislation to overturn it,” Schumer said Sunday at press conference in his home state. “It will be up to getting more Republicans.”
Pelosi, in the letter, echoes several of her colleagues by saying the order constitutes “a Muslim ban.”
“As Members of Congress, we take a solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. Democrats intend to honor that oath by fighting the unconstitutional injustice of the President’s Muslim ban.”
Now let’s hear how they are going to stop this mess. They better get a few republicans besides Lindsay Graham and John McCain to go rogue and stick with the Constitution over the mad king too.
What would Mary Richards do? Given that most of the lawyers do pro bono work at the airports are women, I say she’d take to the air waves and stand up for what’s right!!! The Boston Judge who issued the first stay is a woman too!
What’s on your reading and blogging list?
Posted: January 29, 2017 Filed under: morning reads, open thread
Today’s post is brought to you by the paintings of Michael Dumontier and Neil Farber. You can see more artwork here at their blog: personal message
Now on to the matter at hand.
What the fuck is going on?
Trump upends National Security Council, appoints Bannon and Priebus | Rare
Donald Trump has removed the Director of National Intelligence, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of Energy from the National Security Council’s Principals Committee.
In their place, he’s added former head of Breitbart News Steve Bannon and ex-RNC chief Reince Priebus.
Yeah, what the fuck…
Trump boots top officials — but includes Steve Bannon — in reshuffled National Security Council
another series of executive orders on Saturday, Pres. Donald Trump restructured the National Security Council (NSC) and created a position on it for senior aide and former Breitbart.com CEO Stephen K. Bannon.
The Washington Post reported Saturday night that in addition to installing Bannon on the council, Trump ordered the Pentagon to come up with a strategy to defeat ISIS and conducted his first phone call with Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin and conducted calls with other heads of state.
The Post reported that Bannon has been given a regular seat on the National Security Council’s principals committee, which will include the nation’s highest ranking security officials, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State.
Unlike previous presidential administrations, Trump’s Saturday memo specified that the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs will only attend principals committee meetings that pertain to their specific “responsibilities and expertise.”
The changes, Trump said, will bring “a lot of efficiency and, I think, a lot of additional safety.”
Bannon — who famously compared himself to Star Wars villain Darth Vader, former Republican Vice President Dick Cheney and Satan — has already exerted a heavy hand over the formulation Trump’s foreign policy agenda, aides say, and is extending his influence ever deeper into the administration’s workings.
The former Goldman Sachs executive presided over the expansion of Breitbart.com from a fringe right-wing web community to a sprawling hub of the so-called “alt-right,” a collection of white nationalists, racists, anti-feminists and neo-Nazis.
On the council, Bannon will be privy to some of the country’s most highly classified military and intelligence secrets. Typically membership on the council is reserved to the president and key administrators and is, as columnist and author Dan Froomkin said Saturday night “off limits to political hacks.”
This week, Bannon gave a contentious interview to the New York Times in which he urged the media to “keep its mouth shut and listen” and stop reporting negative stories about the new administration.
Why Twitter is talking about Steve Bannon with the hashtag #StopPresidentBannon | Boston Herald
These are a few various tweets from last night:
Follow that thread…
The rest of today’s links are in dump fashion because I cannot handle it anymore.
Unknown number of U.S. permanent residents stuck overseas as a result of Trump’s immigration ban – LA Times
Boston area academics facing bans on entering US – The Boston Globe
Judge blocks deportation of detainees over Trump refugee order | TheHill
Immigration attorneys seeking to help airport travelers in Los Angeles blocked by visa ban – LA Times
Attorneys General From 16 States Condemn Trump Immigration Order | The Huffington Post
Lawyers take on Donald Trump’s Muslim ban.
Judge blocks deportation of detainees over Trump refugee order | TheHill
Judges temporarily block part of Trump’s immigration order, WH stands by it – CNNPolitics.com
The Latest: Demonstrators in NYC protest Trump travel ban | Boston Herald
EEOC is withdrawing from a transgender rights case.
Donald Trump Muslim immigration ban: US border patrol ‘checking people’s Facebook for political views’ | The Independent
Russia parliament votes 380-3 to decriminalize domestic violence
Trump banned refugees on Holocaust Remembrance Day. That says everything | Cecillia Wang | Opinion | The Guardian
White House didn’t mention Jews in Holocaust statement because others “suffered” too.
Judge blocks Texas law requiring mothers to bury foetuses after abortion or miscarriage | The Independent
One Dead, Four Wounded in First Manned Raid of Trump Presidency – The Daily Beast
French Media Think Trump Is Insane, Literally | Crooks and Liars
Asghar Farhadi announces that he will not attend Oscars ceremony · Newswire · The A.V. Club
This is an open thread…
Posted: January 28, 2017 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Donald Trump, executive orders, immigration, John Hurt, notable deaths in 2017, Refugees
John Hurt as Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four.
We’ve lost another great actor. Famed British character actor John Hurt died yesterday at age 77. He had pancreatic cancer.
NBC News: Acting Legend John Hurt of ‘Midnight Express’ and ‘Elephant Man’ Dead at 77.
John Hurt, who appeared in “Midnight Express,” “The Elephant Man” and “Nineteen Eighty-Four” among many other films, has died at the age of 77, his publicist said….
With a career that stretches back more than 60 years, Hurt has long been a familiar face to moviegoers. In recent years, audiences recognized him as wandmaker Garrick Ollivander in the Harry Potter films, as the British dictator in “V for Vendetta” and as the disturbed Harold “Ox” Oxley in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”
But Hurt is perhaps best known for his role that came some years ago. His role in “Midnight Express” earned him an Oscar nomination and his work as David Lynch’s “The Elephant Man” in 1980 and as the main character in “Nineteen Eighty-Four” provided him global name recognition.
In total Hurt was nominated for two Oscars and won four BAFTA Awards and a Golden Globe Award. In 2015, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II….
Hurt had a unique voice that provided him a rich voice acting career. From the animated films “Watership Down” and “The Lord of the Rings,” both made in 1978, to the popular BBC series “Merlin,” Hurt’s voice built entire worlds for audiences.
Hurt also held the dubious honor for the most onscreen deaths of any actor, according to a 2014 article by the Nerdist.
Orwell’s famous novel has been is selling like hotcakes on Amazon in the first week of the Trump presidency; perhaps the movie will do the same now.
John Hurt as Kane dies in “Alien.”
More on John Hurt from The New York Times:
Mr. Hurt was a rising stage actor in England in the 1960s but spent most of the remainder of his career compiling a long résumé in movies and on television. A chameleon of a performer, physically unimposing but with a rich, melodic voice, he played a number of leading roles, though he could never be described as a leading man. Critics often seemed challenged to explain the appeal of his presence.
In “The Naked Civil Servant” (1975), seen first on television in England, he was Quentin Crisp, a flame-haired raconteur and social butterfly whose forthright flamboyance as a gay man helped push the acceptance of homosexuality in Britain.
In a 1979 BBC mini-series, he was Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov, the brooding, conscience-stricken killer in “Crime and Punishment.” And in Michael Radford’s 1984 adaptation of George Orwell’s dystopian classic “1984,” he was Winston Smith, the protagonist. Mr. Hurt’s pallor, fearful expression and prominent ears made him an especially feral and unromantic rebel.
“His countenance is fishy and bizarre,” Cintra Wilson wrote in Salon in 2004. “He has dark, verminous little eyes, a smirky little mouth full of nicotine-varnished teeth, and that British complexion that evokes a poached worm. Even in his early films, he has eye bags and looks like he put on a face that was at the very bottom of his laundry basket. His body, when it isn’t a little overindulged around the abdomen, is scrawny. He has never, in any role, looked particularly masculine. The characters he plays are generally weak, immoral, murderous, slimy or insane. Yet to gaze upon John Hurt, in almost any role, is to feel a drooly adoration; he is irresistible.”
I signed the petition demanding Donald Trump release his tax returns. If you haven’t signed it yet, I hope you will.
Huffington Post: Petition Demanding Donald Trump Release His Tax Returns Breaks White House Record.
A petition on the White House website asking President Donald Trump to release information about his tax returns has now received more signatures than any other petition in the system’s five-year history.
The petition demands that the federal government explain what it is doing to “immediately release Donald Trump’s full tax returns, with all information needed to verify emoluments clause compliance.” It garnered over 100,000 signatures within 24 hours of the president’s inauguration and has become the subject of a New York Times editorial.,
“The unprecedented economic conflicts of this administration need to be visible to the American people, including any pertinent documentation which can reveal the foreign influences and financial interests which may put Donald Trump in conflict with the emoluments clause of the Constitution,” states a brief description of the petition.
As of Thursday afternoon, the petition had over 368,000 signatures, surpassing the previous record of 367,180. The previous record-holder called for the United States government to “legally recognize the Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group.”
There are now more than 400,000 signatures.
The Daily Telegraph has an update on the Russian spy who was arrested and charged with treason in December: Mystery death of ex-KGB chief linked to MI6 spy’s dossier on Donald Trump.
An ex-KGB chief suspected of helping the former MI6 spy Christopher Steele to compile his dossier on Donald Trump may have been murdered by the Kremlin and his death covered up. it has been claimed.
Oleg Erovinkin, a former general in the KGB and its successor the FSB, was found dead in the back of his car in Moscow on Boxing Day in mysterious circumstances.
Erovinkin was a key aide to Igor Sechin, a former deputy prime minister and now head of Rosneft, the state-owned oil company, who is repeatedly named in the dossier.
Erovinkin has been described as a key liaison between Sechin and Russian president Vladimir Putin. Mr Steele writes in an intelligence report dated July 19, 2016, he has a source close to Sechin, who had disclosed alleged links between Mr Trump’s supporters and Moscow.
The death of Erovinkin has prompted speculation it is linked to Mr Steele’s explosive dossier, which was made public earlier this month….
The Russian state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported Erovinkin’s body was “found in a black Lexus… [and] a large-scale investigation has been commenced in the area. Erovinkin’s body was sent to the FSB morgue”.
Read more at the link.
Yesterday, tRump signed a cruel executive order to prevent refugees from several majority Muslim countries from coming to the U.S. Countries like Saudia Arabia where tRump has business interests weren’t on the list, but Syria and Iraq were. Voice of America reports:
The executive order titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” calls for suspension of visas and other immigration benefits to citizens of “countries of particular concern.”
Two United Nations agencies issued a joint statement Saturday just hours after Trump’s order, saying “The needs of refugees and migrants worldwide have never been greater, and the U.S. resettlement program is one of the most important in the world.”
The U.N. Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration said they hope the “U.S. will continue its strong leadership role and long tradition of protecting those who are fleeing conflict and persecution.” The agencies said they “strongly believe that refugees should receive equal treatment for protection and assistance, and opportunities for resettlement, regardless of their religion, nationality or race.” ….
As a reason for the order, the document cites the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, which were carried out by 19 foreigners who obtained visas to enter the United States without difficulty. It refers to other terrorism-related crimes committed over the past 15 years by foreign nationals who entered the United States using either short-term visas — as visitors, students or temporary workers — or as refugees seeking resettlement in the U.S.
Of course everyone knows the majority of the 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. The order means that we will turn away Iraqis who helped us and are in danger in their own country.
The New York Times: Fears That Trump’s Visa Ban Betrays Friends and Bolsters Enemies.
CAIRO — Across the Muslim world, the refrain was resounding: President Trump’s freeze on refugee arrivals and visa requests from seven predominantly Muslim countries will have major diplomatic repercussions, worsen perceptions of Americans and offer a propaganda boost to the terrorist groups Mr. Trump says he is targeting.
Mr. Trump’s stance has been evident since the early days of his campaign, when he advocated a “complete and total shutdown” of all Muslims entering the United States.
President Trump has since softened his language, casting his order on Friday as a way to keep terrorists, not Muslims, out of the United States.
“We don’t want them here,” Mr. Trump said as he signed the order at the Pentagon. “We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas.”
But in interviews with dozens of officials, analysts and ordinary citizens across Muslim-majority countries, there was overwhelming agreement that the order issued Friday signaled a provocation: a sign that the American president sees Islam itself as the problem.
“I think this is going to alienate the whole Muslim world,” said Mouwafak al-Rubaie, a lawmaker and former Iraqi national security adviser in Iraq.
This heartless order by tRump will be challenged in the courts.
An Iraqi refugee family
The New York Times: Refugees Detained at U.S. Airports, Prompting Legal Challenges to Trump’s Immigration Order.
President Trump’s executive order closing the nation’s borders to refugees was put into immediate effect Friday night. Refugees who were in the air on the way to the United States when the order was signed were stopped and detained at airports.
The detentions prompted legal challenges as lawyers representing two Iraqi refugees held at Kennedy Airport filed a writ of habeas corpus early Saturday in the Eastern District of New York seeking to have their clients released. At the same time, they filed a motion for class certification, in an effort to represent all refugees and immigrants who they said were being unlawfully detained at ports of entry.
Mr. Trump’s order, which suspends entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, created a legal limbo for individuals on the way to the United States and panic for families who were awaiting their arrival.
Mr. Trump’s order also stops the admission of refugees from Syria indefinitely, and it bars entry into the United States for 90 days from seven predominantly Muslim countries linked to concerns about terrorism. Those countries are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.
It was unclear how many refugees and immigrants were being held nationwide in the aftermath of the executive order. The complaints were filed by a prominent group including the American Civil Liberties Union, the International Refugee Assistance Project at the Urban Justice Center, the National Immigration Law Center, Yale Law School’s Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization and the firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton.
Just reading the words “President Trump” makes me physically ill.
On bright spot is that the tRump people have walked back a number of the ridiculous plans they’ve proposed. Rachel Maddow did a good report on this last night. If you didn’t see it, I hope you’ll go watch it. And while you’re there, please check out Lawrence O’Donnell’s open monologue about the abject humiliations tRump has suffered over the past two days. I know everyone is demoralized, and I am too. But we have to keep hope alive.
Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and do your best do enjoy the weekend.
Posted: January 27, 2017 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, just because
It’s just one devastating hit to the constitution, civil rights, global stability, science, women, our allies, our citizens of color, our GLBT citizens, journalists, National Parks, Federal Scientists and agencies … well, the list goes on and on.
We’re lucky if less than five horrifying policy offerings happen a day. It’s at the point that we’re going to be lucky to survive this chaos. This happened yesterday and then there was a certain amount of backing off from it by Spicer. It’s hard to know what’s actual and what’s just swamp fever.
As an economist, all I can say is this is a very bad idea. Mexico and Canada are number 2 and 1 importers of US goods. Mexico imports nearly twice as much as China does from us. China is #3. Altogether, Mexico is our third largest trade partner if you do not include the EU as a bloc.
We have had a net negative immigration status with Mexico and the number of Mexicans living here illegally has declined. The primary source of undocumented visitors is your local airport where people land and overstay their tourist VISAS. All of this information is quite verifiable simply by checking the sites of the World Bank and US immigration services.
Already, Mexican border towns are boycotting US goods, services and their daily shopping trips to US owned stores. Please remember Smoot Hawley and also that the WTO will allow Mexico to reciprocate. This is called a Trade War that has been known to start real wars. Our balance of trade with Mexico shows we run a trade deficit. This is one of our most equal and big trade partners!! This will seriously cripple US exporters and cost lots of jobs!
The digital image shows a clenched fist bathed in the red, white and green of Mexico’s flag and decorated with the nation’s emblematic eagle. “Consumers, to the Shout of War,” it says in Spanish above the fist. “Consume products made in country…Use your buying power to punish the companies that favor the politics of the new U.S. government.”
Created by a Mexican food-activist group, the image is part of a slew of messages, memes and videos that have been spreading in Mexico in recent days as President Donald Trump pushes for a border wall, deportations and punishing new trade rules. Others messages call for specific boycotts of U.S. companies in Mexico, including McDonalds, Walmart and Coca-Cola. One of the most heavily trending hashtags is #AdiosStarbucks, or “Goodbye Starbucks,” referring to the Seattle company which has opened hundreds of coffee houses here.
The Mexican President bailed on a meeting with Kremlin Caligula.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto announced on Twitter around midday on Thursday that he was scrapping a planned trip to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly demanded that Mexico pay for a wall on the U.S. border.
Later in the day, White House spokesman Sean Spicer sent the Mexican peso falling to its low for the day when he told reporters that Trump wanted a 20 percent tax on Mexican imports to pay for construction of the wall.
Spicer gave few details, but his comments resembled an existing idea, known as a border adjustment tax, that the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives is considering as part of a broad tax overhaul.
The White House said later its proposal was in the early stages. Asked if Trump favored a border adjustment tax, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said such a tax would be “one way” of paying for the border wall.
“It’s a buffet of options,” he said.
The plan being weighed by House Republicans would exempt export revenues from taxation but impose a 20 percent tax on imported goods, a significant change from current U.S. policy.
So, here’s the recession clenching bit of news for who ever came up with that awful policy. We’re export heavy with Mexico because WE BUY THEIR SWEET MEXICAN CRUDE OIL. Demand for gas is price inelastic which means any taxes will be passed straight on down to the final consumer.
Less than a week after assuming office, the Trump administration indicated it may impose the levy on imports from Mexico to finance construction of a barrier along the southern U.S. border. American companies imported about $14 billion in oil and related products in 2015, government data show. White House press secretary Sean Spicer noted that the tax was only one idea being mulled to pay for the wall, a cornerstone of Trump’s campaign.
The tax, which Spicer characterized in a briefing Thursday as “theoretical,” would apply to countries with which the U.S. has a trade deficit. That would seemingly exempt Canada, with which the U.S. ran a surplus of $11.9 billionin 2015. However it may include Saudi Arabia, the second-largest foreign supplier of crude to the U.S., which sent $31 billion more to the U.S. than it took back in 2012.
Most U.S. refineries reside inside Foreign Trade Zones, including the biggest U.S. importer of Mexican crude, a joint venture owned by Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Mexico’s state-controlled driller Petroleos Mexicanos.
I really hate this man.
Today, religious extremist nuts all over the country join Mike Pence and White House mommy in ignoring real live people and obsessing with fertilized eggs. Then, we have Bannon who seems to be at the center of overthrowing life as we know it in the US. This man may be as insane as Trump but not stupidly so. He appears each day to have just drug himself off the couch after an all night bender. The entire Trump staff looks as though the can barely dress themselves let alone look professional. But then, Trump himself may be the richest most unkept man alive. Nothing about him says success.
White House and Hill GOP leaders are astonished by the unambiguous, far-reaching power of Steve Bannon and policy guru Stephen Miller over, well, just about everything.
- They wrote the Inaugural speech and set in fast motion a series of moves to cement Trump as an America-first Nationalist.
- They maneuvered to get more key allies inside the White House and positioned for top agency jobs.
- They wrote many of the executive orders, sometimes with little input from others helping with the transition.
- They egged on Trump to take a combative approach with the media, China, Mexico and critics.
- And Bannon punctuated the week with a full-throated, Trump-pleasing bashing of the media.
Bannon, in a phone interview with NYT’s Mike Grynbaum, who covers media, TV, and politics (story is on A1): “The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while … I want you to quote this … The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States. … The elite media got it dead wrong, 100 percent dead wrong … The mainstream media has not fired or terminated anyone associated with following our campaign … Look at the Twitter feeds of those people: They were outright activists of the Clinton campaign … That’s why you have no power … You were humiliated.”
Pre-conventional wisdom: A conservative leader told Axios’ Jonathan Swan that Reince Priebus’ people were feeling like they “won November and December,” having filled the White House with so many loyalists. The spin was that Reince was outmaneuvering Bannon and would be the real power source. But now it’s dawning on them, as Trump makes his early moves, that maybe they spoke too soon.
Catherine Rampell writes in WAPO that Trump’s first week looks like the worst run business she’s ever seen.One week into the presidency, we’ve gotten a taste of Trump’s management style. And so far it’s been plagued by many of the bad habits common to poorly run businesses.
Take, for example, his administration’s clear indifference to — or outright rejection of — good measurement and analytics.
One of the first things you learn from talking to management experts and successful entrepreneurs is the importance of having a clear set of objectives, as well as good, consistent metrics for determining whether those objectives have been met.
Or, as Trump’s commerce secretary nominee, Wilbur Ross, argued not once but twice in his confirmation hearing last week: “I have a very heartfelt saying in management that anything you can’t measure, you can’t manage.”
Ross, arguably the most business-savvy of Trump’s Cabinet picks, has not yet been confirmed. In his absence, the administration has not exactly been taking his “heartfelt saying” to heart.
During a news conference Monday, for instance, White House press secretary Sean Spicer refused to answer a simple measurement question: What is the current unemployment rate?
The answer is not exactly a secret. Three weeks ago, the Labor Department publicly announced its latest reading as 4.7 percent.
But Spicer — whose boss has variously claimed the rate is “a total fiction” and as high as “42 percent” — ducked. Instead of providing the figure, or even citing alternative metrics he thought could be better gauges of economic health (such as measures of underemployment or labor force participation), Spicer pooh-poohed interest in quantitative gauges altogether.
“The president, he’s not focused on statistics as much as he is on whether or not the American people are doing better as a whole,” Spicer said.
He went on to admonish “Washington” for fixating on numbers and forgetting “the faces and the families and the businesses that are behind those numbers.”
I spent my private sector life being the brains for CEOs whose businesses were doing badly because they never once looked at any stats and analytics until they brought my young educated ass into the businesses. It was horrifying. My first big job out of university was basically to figure out that the largest S&L in about a 4 state area was going bankrupt and there was absolutely nothing they were going to be able to do about it. Most of it was because their stupid Marketing VP kept getting them to buy up sinking banks in economically destitute areas to get more market share with no regard to the drain on assets thst would continue. A lot of CEOs are really hopeless and you’d be surprised how many of their compadres in senior management are guys they knew from high school. Trump is beyond that and the devastation left in his wake pretty much proves it. He excels at creating chaos.
He’s also brought Orwell’s bleak “1984” into perspective. This is Adam Gopnik writing for The New Yorker.
There is nothing subtle about Trump’s behavior. He lies, he repeats the lie, and his listeners either cower in fear, stammer in disbelief, or try to see how they can turn the lie to their own benefit. Every continental wiseguy, from Žižek to Baudrillard, insisted that when they pulled the full totalitarian wool over our eyes next time, we wouldn’t even know it was happening. Not a bit of it. Trump’s lies, and his urge to tell them, are pure Big Brother crude, however oafish their articulation. They are not postmodern traps and temptations; they are primitive schoolyard taunts and threats.
The blind, blatant disregard for truth is offered without even the sugar-façade of sweetness of temper or equableness or entertainment—offered not with a sheen of condescending consensus but in an ancient tone of rage, vanity, and vengeance. Trump is pure raging authoritarian id.
And so, rereading Orwell, one is reminded of what Orwell got right about this kind of brute authoritarianism—and that was essentially that it rests on lies told so often, and so repeatedly, that fighting the lie becomes not simply more dangerous but more exhausting than repeating it. Orwell saw, to his credit, that the act of falsifying reality is only secondarily a way of changing perceptions. It is, above all, a way of asserting power.
What we have here is a very unusual set of responses including the Woman’s March and now very mad Scientists. No, not the 50s SciFi kind of mad but angry, activist political nerds. It’s the revenge of the civil servants!
The National Park System became the first rogue set of federal employees to take on Kremlin Caligula.
Five days into his presidency, Donald Trump has acted swiftly to dismantle Barack Obama’s legacy, issuing executive orders cutting federal funding to women’s health groups abroad if they discuss abortion, green-lighting the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, and scaling back the Affordable Care Act. While his press secretary Sean Spicer has been busy holding daily press briefings and generally evading journalists’ questions about the Trump presidency, Trump himself has been issuing gag orders against various federal agencies. He’s instructed employees at the Environmental Protection Agency—which has had its contracts and grants frozen—and the U.S. Department of Agriculture not to communicate with the press or the public, instituting a media blackout.
Not everyone within the federal government is staying quiet, however. On Tuesday, the Twitter account for South Dakota’s Badlands National Park—a subsidiary of the National Park Service—began tweeting out climate change facts, in apparent defiance of the gag order. Someone working for the national park’s social media team went rogue and started posting climate change facts from the National Wildlife Federation’s Web site in 140-character bursts. (Trump, who can generously be described as a climate change skeptic, has previously called called climate change a “hoax” engineered by the Chinese.)
The National Park’s tweets were retweeted thousands of times before they were suddenly deleted later Tuesday afternoon.
So, now I feel like this.
Trump is obsessed with so many things it’s not even funny. And, it’s all about him and size.
He appears to have pressured our heroes at the NPS to provide alternative facts for the size of his installation crowd. What a small little man with a small mind!
On the morning after Donald Trump’s inauguration, acting National Park Service director Michael T. Reynolds received an extraordinary summons: The new president wanted to talk to him.
In a Saturday phone call, Trump personally ordered Reynolds to produce additional photographs of the previous day’s crowds on the Mall, according to three individuals who have knowledge of the conversation. The president believed that the photos might prove that the media had lied in reporting that attendance had been no better than average.
Trump also expressed anger over a retweet sent from the agency’s account, in which side-by-side photographs showed far fewer people at his swearing-in than had shown up to see Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009.
According to one account, Reynolds had been contacted by the White House and given a phone number to call. When he dialed it, he was told to hold for the president.
For Trump, who sees himself and his achievements in superlative terms, the inauguration’s crowd size has been a source of grievance that he appears unable to put behind him. It is a measure of his fixation on the issue that he would devote part of his first morning in office to it — and that he would take out his frustrations on an acting Park Service director.
I’m now trying to stay off the internet which Trump wants to ‘close up’.
On Monday, Trump spoke at the U.S.S. Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, and suggested that he would meet with Bill Gates to discuss closing down parts of the internet to curtail its use by ISIS as a recruitment tool.
“We’re losing a lot of people because of the Internet,” Trump said. “We have to go see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what’s happening. We have to talk to them about, maybe in certain areas, closing that Internet up in some way. Somebody will say, ‘Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.’ These are foolish people. We have a lot of foolish people.”
How long can the mania last? How long can the Republicans let it go? Are they all just suicide pilots throwing what they can at us to survive politically? This is Brian Beutler from TNR.
To the contrary, if they believed their lack of consensus and popular support were fatal to their agenda, they would have no reason not to jettison Trump before he did irrevocable damage to their party, the country, and the international order. Instead, they will embrace the current arrangement, in all of its recklessness, at least until their agenda is complete—or in ruins.
The alternative—to take a principled stand against Trumpism, at the expense of the platform they’ve waited patiently to enact—would provide them little political protection in the long run. They’d still be members of Trump’s party, but on his enemies’ list and with no substantive gains to show for it. Though Trump promises to be a disastrous president, they ironically have little incentive not to go down with him.
In a perverse and amoral way, the logic of the political suicide mission is self-reinforcing, even if it ultimately fails to meet all of its objectives. Those who carry it out will have gone down for a cause, rather than for for their own sense of moral purity. And they know they won’t have to live with the unintended consequences—but everyday Americans will.
I just am seriously trying to step away from media right now. I thought I could stay on line and read but the more I read, the more the anxiety returns. Will we ever feel like a civilized nation again? What fresh hell will we awake to on Monday?
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?