Lazy Caturday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

Doris Day

We’ve reached the end of another exhausting week in Trumpville. On Thursday the wannabe dictator cancelled his scheduled trip to Poland because he supposedly needed to monitor Hurricane Dorian from Camp David. The New York Times:

WARSAW — Elaborate military escorts stood ready. Chefs were at work on a grand state dinner at the Royal Castle. A concert was cued up for television and radio broadcast. The annual commemoration of the outbreak of World War II was even moved from Gdansk to Warsaw, where crowds would be bigger.

Poland’s governing party had carefully choreographed a day of pomp and ceremony to welcome President Trump this weekend — a powerful reminder to its own people, just six weeks before national elections, of the strong bond between the government and Trump administration.

Except that he will not be here.

Mr. Trump announced on Thursday that he would remain in the United States to monitor an impending hurricane, forecast to hit Florida next week, and send Vice President Mike Pence in his place. It was a blow to the leadership in Warsaw, which hoped to use the moment to bolster its standing and deflect criticism that it is undermining the nation’s Constitution.

Today, as Dorian bears down on Florida, Trump is golfing once again.

USA Today: Dorian, packing near 150 mph winds, bears down on The Bahamas as it hurtles toward Florida.

As a strengthened Hurricane Dorian bore down on the Bahamas Saturday, bringing the danger of life-threatening storm surges and heavy rain, new tracking forecasts suggested the storm could turn north before hitting the U.S. mainland, and move up the coast instead.

Lauren Bacall

But even as Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina braced for a possible hit, forecasters and government officials warned Floridians not to ease up on preparations for a devastating storm early next week.

The National Hurricane Center said in its 11 a.m. EDT advisory that Dorian, packing near 150 mph winds as a Category 4 “major” hurricane, was located about 415 miles east of West Palm Beach, slowing to 8 mph.

The NHC said the latest track suggested that the core of Dorian should move over the Atlantic well north of the southeastern and central Bahamas Saturday and near or over the northwestern Bahamas on Sunday. That would put it near the Florida east coast late Monday.

Yesterday, the dotard tweeted a classified photo that gave away all sorts of information about U.S. spying. He appeared to be taunting Iran and implying that the U.S. had somehow caused the failure of an Iranian missile launch.

Business Insider: US official confirms that Trump tweeted out a picture from a classified intelligence briefing.

A US official told CNBC on Friday that a photo of an Iranian launchpad that President Donald Trump tweeted out in the afternoon came from an intelligence briefing Trump received earlier in the day.

The picture was attached to a tweet in which Trump said the US was not involved in the failure of an Iranian rocket launch on Thursday.

Jimmy Stewart

“The United States of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir SLV Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran,” Trump tweeted. “I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One.”

Iran’s rocket launch failed and blew up on the pad at a space center in Iran, an Iranian official said. A US official also confirmed the news.

Shortly after Trump made his statement, military and national-security experts began sounding the alarm that the president likely tweeted out classified intelligence.

Read some of those tweets at BI. And here’s a thread that explains how much foreign intelligence services can glean from the photo Trump tweeted.

More from The Washington Post: Trump shares potentially revealing image of Iranian launch site on Twitter.

In a tweet Friday, President Trump revealed a detailed aerial imageof an Iranian launchpad, an unusual disclosure that may have confirmed the United States is violating Iran’s airspace to spy on its missile program.

Some imagery experts, examining the angle and very-high resolution of the image, said it may have been taken by an aircraft, possibly a drone.

“It looks like it was taken from an airborne platform, not a satellite,” said Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, an assessment echoed by several other experts.

Meryl Streep

The image Trump tweeted Friday is almost certainly highly classified, experts said, and bears markings that resemble those made by intelligence analysts. They note damage to the facility and vehicles near it, as well as “scorching and damage” on one side of the launchpad.

Trump said it showed a “catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir SLV Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran.” The Safir is an Iranian rocket used to place satellites in orbit.

Trump said it showed a “catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir SLV Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran.” The Safir is an Iranian rocket used to place satellites in orbit.

Trump said “the United States of America was not involved” in the incident, which was puzzling because Iran had one day earlier confirmed a rocket explosion at the site, which it said was “due to some technical issues.”

What Trump shared on Twitter appears to show a camera flash and a person’s shadow, leading to speculation that Trump or one of his aides may have snapped a picture of the image using a cellphone.

“I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One,” Trump wrote, in a taunting jab.

As it frequently does, the president’s public schedule lists an intelligence briefing at 11:30 a.m. Friday. Those sessions are typically done in the Oval Office when the president is in Washington. Trump’s tweet had a time stamp of 1:44 p.m.

Aren’t those classified briefings supposed to be done in a SKIF? And aren’t cell phones banned in those places? Nothing is normal in Trumpville, and the dotard dictator commits impeachable offences on a daily basis.

Whoopie Goldberg

Dahlia Lithwick at Slate: Let’s Compare Donald Trump’s Week to the Impeachment Articles Brought Against Nixon, Clinton, and Johnson.

Every single day, Donald Trump offers up a fragrant, colorful, teeming bouquet of reasons to believe he is unfit to hold the office of president. And every single day, the nation shrugs and waits for something to be done about it. (Really, congressional Democrats take a long summer break and largely shrug, and hope that the election will take care of this specific problem for them.)

But it’s still worth cataloging the specific things Trump is doing that, in another time or place or plane of being, could be deemed as demanding an immediate and focused impeachment inquiry, as Jennifer Rubin also points out in the Washington Post. Because this week alone, the president has asked government workers to break the law to fulfill his requests, and noted that he will pardon them if they get in trouble; suggested hosting the next G-7 summit at his property (so that he can profit); and diverted funds from FEMA relief to his border fever dream. He’s also denying lifesaving medical care to immigrant children he will deport and changing citizenship rules for the children of military families born abroad. On the 25th Amendment front (meaning the “is he mentally unfit for office” front), the president has lied about his wife’s relationship with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, garbled an answer about climate change in ways that would terrify anyone in search of a topic sentence, attacked Fox News for disloyalty, blamed Puerto Rico in advance of a hurricane for being in the path of a hurricane, and generally conducted himself in ways that bespeak grievously low functioning. This all comes on the heels of a week in which he approvingly quoted someone describing him as the second coming (a performance that would have sent most of us to the nearest psych ward), called his own economic adviser the enemy of the state, “ordered” American companies to stop investing in China, and got in a fight with Denmark over a real estate deal gone south in Greenland.

All that in just two weeks. But that’s what are lives are like now.

Elton John

The responses to the increased chaos are to be predicted. Jim Mattis went to work on his brand, gravely stating that he tried to protect us as long as he could, but things are officially out of hand and stay tuned for future acts of bravery™ (or as Scott Pilutik drolly interprets Mattis, “At some indeterminate point in the future, when the political risk has thankfully passed (if it indeed does), I will roar with the courage of a lion at a series of book signings”). Stephanie Grisham explained that he’s just kidding. Senate Republicans are hiding or quitting. And congressional Democrats are still just waiting for a sign that things have gotten Really Bad.

Here’s a sign that things are Really Bad. If one were to consider, again, the articles of impeachment against the three sitting presidents who have historically faced impeachment proceedings, not only has Trump clearly achieved all of them—he actually now achieves most of them in under a week. Every week. As Frank Bowman has argued in his new book, High Crimes and Misdemeanors, because Americans have no contemporary understanding of the grounds for impeachment, they fail to comprehend that we go there, and back, on stilts virtually every day. So, let’s refresh our memories. What did previous presidents do that warranted congressional action?

Read the comparisons at Slate. Why can’t we get rid of this monster?

Eartha Kitt

One more story before a sign off. As you probably heard, Trump abruptly fired his personal assistant Madeline Westerhout on Thursday because she said some things about his children in an off-the-record press dinner. I’ve been waiting breathlessly to learn what she said. And now we know.

Politico: Trump’s personal assistant fired after comments about Ivanka, Tiffany.

Madeleine Westerhout, who left her White House job suddenly on Thursday as President Trump’s personal assistant, was fired after bragging to reporters that she had a better relationship with Trump than his own daughters, Ivanka and Tiffany Trump, and that the president did not like being in pictures with Tiffany because he perceived her as overweight….

The critical comments happened at an off-the-record dinner, according to two people familiar with the matter, that Westerhout and deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley held earlier this month with reporters who were covering Trump’s vacation at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Westerhout also jokingly told the journalists that Trump couldn’t pick Tiffany out of a crowd, said one of the people. “She had a couple drinks and in an uncharacteristically unguarded moment, she opened up to the reporters,” the person said.

I wonder who in the press leaked this?

Arthur Schwartz, a confidant of Donald Trump Jr. who spars frequently with the media, accused Rucker on Friday in a series of tweets of having “burned” Westerhout and of violating the Washington Post’s policies on sourcing.

Marianne Faithfull

Rucker referred a request for comment to the Washington Post, while the other reporters present either declined to comment or referred requests to spokespeople for their news organizations….

Trump on Friday confirmed that Westerhout had been dismissed for talking to reporters about his children, calling the comments “a little bit hurtful.”

“It was too bad,” Trump told reporters before leaving the White House for Camp David, adding that Westerhout was a “very good person” who performed her job well. “I wished her well.”

Trump said he would speak by phone with Tiffany when he reached Camp David, disputing that he had ever personally disparaged his daughter.

“I love Tiffany,” he said.

Yeah right. Apparently Melania’s staff didn’t care for Westerhout, according the The New York Times:

…she also had a fairly large coterie of enemies, includIing some in the East Wing — the purview of the first lady, Melania Trump — which viewed her with suspicion. Some of the president’s friends counseled him over the past two years that she was, in the words of one, “immature,” and was blocking access to him from some people he had known for years….

Inside the faction-split White House, Trump loyalists cheered Ms. Westerhout’s departure as a move that was long overdue, and said they hoped it served as something of a wake-up call for Mr. Trump to bring in more loyalists into the West Wing. But current and former officials also expressed alarm about what information Ms. Westerhout could share down the road, not just about the president, but about her colleagues.

I’ll bet book publishers are already lining up at Westerhout’s door.

So . . . what stories are you following today?


Fresh Hell Friday Reads: The Cruelty is the Point

Image

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I cried through Rachel Maddow’s show last night which is not a good thing when you need to lecture a class directly after the tears.  I’ve been trying to take a step back from watching any TV that doesn’t deal with the kind of future Star Trek promises.  Certainly, today convinces me that only cruelty, greed, and destruction will guide us in the future ahead of us given our current path..

I’m not sure why our elected officials seem unable to stop these things. It’s not like we don’t know how to impeach a president.  It’s not like the 25th amendment is a new idea.  I’m beginning to think that the key thing about our Constitution is that the framers had the inability to think that one day we’d see a Mad King George occupy the White House in what may or may not have been a legitimate election and that everything  and every one around him would be so corrupt and illegal and unconstitutional it would just lock up the system. I’m certain no one imagined that an entire group of elected officials who could do something would just enable it.

We know our history of mass kidnapping and enslavement of an entire race of people. We are aware of our slaughter of indigenous Americans for their lands and the destruction of their race and culture.  We know the cruelty of Jim Crow. We see the religious bigotry that frames the lives of women, religious minorities, and of the GLBT community.  I’ve always held out hope that even incremental progress meant we were still inching forward with an eye to “a more perfect union”.  Today, I just see the deliberate cruelty and oppression of White Nationalism and our hapless response to it.

By now, we should be better than this even though our history tells us that we are capable of some of the most deliberate acts of cruelty on a national scale.  You would think we’d embrace the idea of the shining city on the hill and not the Gulag, the willful destruction of the planet, and the concentration camp all for the profit and power of a few. But, here we are.  We are stuck in the moment.

I’m going to leave a few of these stories here before I pick up the phone to call my useless US Senators and ask them what exactly the label pro-life means to them.  Then, I’m going to go about my life in the shadow of Hurricane Katrina 14 years ago and the looming Dorian today.

The Cruelty is the point.

I can’t even bring myself to quote from these.  Be kind to each other and call what ever piece of the worthless group of shits you call your representatives.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Thursday Reads

Cliff Walk at Pourville, Claude Monet

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

I’m running late again, because I’ve been trying to find any good news in this nightmare dystopia we are living in. But there simply isn’t much to be optimistic about. Here’s the latest.

The New York Times: Comey Is Criticized in Watchdog Report Over Handling of Memos About Trump.

The Justice Department inspector general released on Thursday a report that was highly critical of the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey’s handling of memos detailing his interactions with the president, accusing him of setting “a dangerous example” for officials with access to government secrets.

The findings were the result of a lengthy investigation by Michael E. Horowitz, the inspector general, who examined whether Mr. Comey had acted inappropriately when he gave one of the memos to a confidant who later provided its contents to The New York Times. Mr. Comey has said he helped make the information public in part to bring about the appointment of a special counsel.

“Comey violated F.B.I. policy and the requirements of his F.B.I. employment agreement when he chose this path,” the report said.

Oh really? Why should we trust anything that comes out of the Trump/Barr injustice department? And the report also found that Comey didn’t reveal any classified information.

Boaters on the Seine at Bougival, Pierre Auguste Renoir

Mr. Comey responded by noting that the report found he had violated no laws and criticized those who had accused him of lying or leaking information.

“I don’t need a public apology from those who defamed me, but a quick message with a ‘sorry we lied about you’ would be nice,” he wrote on Twitterchallenging his critics to stop trusting “people who gave you bad info for so long, including the president.”

He’s right about that. Now when will Comey apologize to Hillary Clinton and the millions of Americans who voted for her?

But DOJ doesn’t care about laws anymore, just what’s best for Trump. Otherwise they’d be revealing what happened to that investigation of the leaks from the NY office of the FBI to Rudy Giuliani in 2016.

Yesterday, former defense secretary James Mattis gave an interview to Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic. Mattis has a book coming out, but will he speak out and inform the public about Trump’s behind the scenes behavior? Of course not. Politico: Mattis says he owes Trump silence, but won’t keep quiet ‘forever.’

Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis said in a new interview he feels duty-bound to keep quiet his personal opinions of President Donald Trump’s leadership, but revealed his obligation to refrain from criticism of the current commander-in-chief is “not eternal.”

“The duty of silence,” Mattis explained. “If you leave an administration, you owe some silence.”

Edward Henry Potthast, Children Playing at the Beach

“When you leave an administration over clear policy differences, you need to give the people who are still there as much opportunity as possible to defend the country,” he continued, arguing that “we have to give the people who are protecting us some time to carry out their duties without me adding my criticism to the cacophony that is right now so poisonous.”

Pressed on whether he bears a responsibility to warn Americans about a potentially unfit president, Mattis insisted it was inappropriate to “endanger the country by attacking the elected commander in chief.”

But Mattis also indicated he may soon more vocally challenge the president and speak out about his time leading Trump’s Defense Department. “There is a period in which I owe my silence. It’s not eternal. It’s not going to be forever,” he said.

Asshole.

I have to agree with Sharlet on this one.

Awhile back, I was feeling somewhat hopeful that House Democrats would fight back against Trump, but they seems to have been stymied by his obstructionism. Is anything even happening on the impeachment front?

Abigail Tracy at Vanity Fair: An “Imperfect Strategy”: Even Democrats Sound Confused about Whether They’re Impeaching Trump.

Last week, Congressman Ben Ray Luján, a close ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, made waves when he became the 127th Democrat in the House to endorse an impeachment investigation into Donald Trump.“I support moving forward with an impeachment inquiry, which will continue to uncover the facts for the American people and hold this president accountable,” Luján said. There was just one problem: Hasn’t the impeachment inquiry already begun?

It’s hard to get a straight answer out of Democrats. During a press conference on July 26, days after Robert Mueller’s congressional testimony, Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said for the first time that his panel was “in effect” conducting an impeachment inquiry. In court documents filed that day, the committee wrote that articles of impeachment “are under consideration.” About two weeks later, Nadler seemed to break news again when he declared in a CNN interview that “formal impeachment proceedings” were under way. But his exact rhetoric was cagey. No formal vote has been taken by the House. Nadler said he hoped to “vote to vote articles of impeachment to the House floor” by the end of the year. “Or we won’t,” he added. “That’s a decision that we’ll have to make. But that’s exactly the process we’re in right now.”

Two Women Running on the Beach, Pablo Picasso

The key to deciphering Nadler’s rhetorical mumbo jumbo is to understand the political quandary facing Democrats. For Speaker Pelosi, the top priority in 2020 is maintaining her Democratic majority—and that means doing whatever it takes to protect so-called majority makers or frontline Democrats who either flipped Republican seats or won districts that swung for Trump in 2016. “The public isn’t there on impeachment,” she argued during a conference call with her caucus last Friday, according to a congressional source. The numbers back her up: A recent Monmouth University pollfound that 72% of Democrats support impeaching Trump, but only 35% of respondents feel the same.

This leaves Pelosi somewhat torn between the wings of her party. But the polling also explains why the Speaker is leaving the decision to support an inquiry up to her members.

I don’t understand how the public is going to get there if Democrats don’t hold hearings that will shock them into demanding action.

At the New Yorker, Adam Gopnick also tries to explain Pelosi’s strategy: Another Look at Impeachment, at the End of a Long Summer.

Pelosi is focussed on the welfare of the Democratic representatives who were elected in purple districts, or even in red ones, who are telling her, directly and indirectly, that an impeachment inquiry and proceedings will alienate their constituents, and possibly convince them that it is all just playing politics or intended for partisan gain, especially since no conviction is likely to result in the Senate. Nor, given Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s contempt for settled constitutional procedure, is there even likely to be the trial that an impeachment constitutionally demands….

Children playing on the beach, Mary Cassatt

The principled case, now and then, is summed up in three words: Trump’s a crook. If the phrase deliberately left open by the Founders to be defined as “high crimes and misdemeanors” does not apply to the evidence of Trump’s conduct over the past three years, then it would seem to have no meaning at all. Any one of half a dozen scandals that would have been the immediate cause of an impeachment inquiry into—and, before that happened, of universal cries for the resignation of—any previous President are still open. His former personal lawyer is serving a three-year prison sentence for crimes including campaign-finance violations that involved paying off two women, reportedly with Trump’s knowledge, to remain silent about their relationships with him; Trump himself continues to profit while and through holding public office. Above all stands his record of open engagement with foreign autocrats against American interests and against democracy itself, and, with it, a record of attempting to obstruct justice to obscure inquiry into any such engagement. Looking at this record, and remembering Bill Clinton’s impeachment for lying about a consensual sexual encounter, or the attacks on Jimmy Carter for supposedly not keeping his peanut warehouse sufficiently sealed off from the Presidency, and one can almost despair for the country.

Trump is getting away with his criminal behavior because of his blatant, public criminality.

The protection that Trump has is the level and the energy and the somewhat awe-inspiring completeness of his corruption. Not only has there never been anything like it in American history; there has never been anything like it in the modern history of democracies. He makes Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi look like Alexander Hamilton, Richard Nixon like a statesman who set a few feet wrong. Nixon could have promised, explicitly or not, to pardon the Watergate figures whose sentencing by Judge John Sirica opened the dam releasing floods of information about his Administration. He didn’t, because, in that quaint day, it was apparent that a President offering a pardon to his subordinates, even sotto voce, was unimaginable….

T Harbor at Lorient, Berthe Morisot

The task of holding Trump accountable becomes more urgent for a simple reason: he’s getting worse. Apparently emboldened by what he sees as his acquittal in the Mueller report, he feels free to execute his own vision of the Presidency. His behavior during the past few weeks—from insulting the Prime Minister of Denmark for her dismissal of his desire to buy Greenland, to cravenly defending Vladimir Putin at the G-7 meeting in Biarritz, and touting one of his own resorts as the site of the next—mark a man out of control, now supported only by dutiful and amoral loyalists.

I hope you’ll go read the whole thing.

And what about our hopes of beating Trump next year? Well, if Biden is the nominee, I think we’ll lose. So much troubling stuff has come out about him and I’m sure there will be more to come. We’re still more than a year away from the election. Here’s the latest from The Daily Beast: A Racist Narrative’: Biden Warned of Welfare Moms Driving Luxury Cars.

In the fall of 1988, shortly after Congress had passed the first piece of welfare reform legislation in 50 years, Joe Biden, then a senator from Delaware, wrote a column in his local newspaper that leaned heavily on racial stereotypes in praise of the effort.

“We are all too familiar with the stories of welfare mothers driving luxury cars and leading lifestyles that mirror the rich and famous,” the column read. “Whether they are exaggerated or not, these stories underlie a broad social concern that the welfare system has broken down—that it only parcels out welfare checks and does nothing to help the poor find productive jobs.”

Biden’s argument, delivered in the pages of the Newark Post, was not a full embrace of the rhetoric of conservatives at the time, who warned that the indigent (in their estimation, mainly African-Americans) were using government assistance to supplement lavish lifestyles. But it certainly echoed it, adding to the perception that the problem wasn’t poverty itself but poor people abusing poverty-fighting programs.

“The thing that strikes me about the Biden quote is him acknowledging that it might not be true but then saying that doesn’t matter because perception becomes reality… that people’s attitudes need to be listened to and respected rather than corrected,” said Josh Levin, who wrote a book titled The Queen that traced the roots of the stereotype. Levin added that Biden’s line struck him as atypical of Democrats at the time.

Even if Biden were to win, we’d be stuck with a guy with this history. I don’t trust him.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread. I wish you all a peaceful Thursday.

 


Tuesday Reads: Too Many Emergencies

Good Afternoon!!

Is it just me, or are we really approaching the point at which U.S. democracy cannot be saved? Trump wants to hold next year’s G7 at his private Doral resort in Florida, which would mean that foreign countries would literally have to pay his family business for the privilege of attending. And Trump will likely try to invite Putin next year after he “went to the mat for Putin” over the weekend.

As we approach next year’s presidential election, the Federal Election Commission, the agency that enforces campaign finance laws, is going out of business. Trump and McConnell have stymied legislative efforts to secure our elections.

House Democrats aren’t doing much to control the lawless madman president, much less take steps toward impeaching him. They are making efforts to get his tax returns through the courts, but Rep. Richard Neal refuses to ask New York to provide Trump’s state tax returns.

It’s beginning to look like the race for the Democratic presidential nomination will be between three deeply flawed septuagenarian candidates: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.

I hope you’ll check out the links above; there simply isn’t time or space for me to provide excerpts here. And there are so many emergencies that I didn’t mention, such as Trump’s war on immigrants, the problem of easily available guns and the rising threat of white supremacist violence.

Today’s top emergency is the burning of the Amazon rain forest in Brazil.

The Washington Post: What you need to know about the Amazon rainforest fires.

The Amazon — nearly four times the size of Alaska — is a vast sink for storing carbon dioxide and a key element of any plan to restrain climate change. Any increase in deforestation there would speed up global warming as well as damage an important refuge for biodiversity.

Studies show the 2.2 million-square mile forest is nearing a tipping point, at which large fragmented portions of the rainforest could transform into an entirely different, drier ecosystem, leading to the acceleration of climate change, the loss of countless species and disaster for the indigenous populations that call the tropical rainforest home….

The trees and plants of the Amazon forest pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere as part of photosynthesis. Destruction of the forest releases carbon stored in the trees and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide used by them.

People are the cause of the Amazon fires.

…most fires in the Amazon are caused by humans, set either accidentally or intentionally.

Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research found the country has lost more than 1,330 square miles of forest cover to development since January, when President Jair Bolsonaro took office. That’s a 39 percent increase over the same period in 2018. July in particular featured a huge spike in forest loss, with an area larger than the city of Los Angeles lost in a single month.

Why would anyone want to hard the Amazon rain forest?

The biggest economic interest groups eating away at the Amazon are cattle grazers and soybean growers. “Directly after deforestation, mostly what we see is pasture,” said Mikaela Weisse, a fellow at the World Resources Institute. Later, soybean growers expand by taking over pasture lands.

Mining, timber and development firms are also eyeing the region for expansion, encouraged by Bolsonaro’s election.

There’s much more helpful (and horrifying) information at the WaPo link.

The New York Times: Brazil Says It Will Reject Millions in Amazon Aid Pledged at G7.

Hours after leaders of some of the world’s wealthiest countries pledged more than $22 million to help combat fires in the Amazon rainforest, Brazil’s government angrily rejected the offer, in effect telling the other nations to mind their own business — only to later lay out potential terms for the aid’s acceptance.

President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil expressed his ire in a series of Twitter posts on Monday, and specifically criticized and taunted President Emmanuel Macron of France, who had announced the aid package at the Group of 7 summit meeting. Their comments extended a verbal feud between the two leaders.

But early the next day, Mr. Bolsonaro offered possible terms for the acceptance of the aid package when he spoke to reporters in the capital, Brasília.

He said that if Mr. Macron withdrew “insults made to my person,” and what Mr. Bolsonaro interpreted as insinuations that Brazil does not have sovereignty over the Amazon, he would reconsider.

“To talk or accept anything from France, even with their very best intentions, he will have to withdraw his words, and then we can talk,” Mr. Bolsonaro said. “First he withdraws them, then he makes the offer, and then I’ll answer.”

Mr. Bolsonaro, who has suggested earlier that Mr. Macon’s real motive is to shield France’s agriculture from Brazilian competition, had tweeted on Monday that the president “disguises his intentions behind the idea of an ‘alliance’ of the G7 countries to ‘save’ the Amazon, as if we were a colony or a no-man’s land.”

He sounds a lot like like Trump.

The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board: Editorial: The Amazon is burning and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro doesn’t care.

The fires raging at the edges of the Amazon rainforest are, at the moment, largely consuming lands that had already been converted from their natural state into tracts waiting to be farmed or developed. Nevertheless, some of the blazes are eating away at the rainforest itself, reducing its size by a football field a minute. And one of the most disturbing things about them is that they aren’t part of the cycle of nature, like a California wildfire might be, but are intentionally set in many cases to get rid of brush and felled trees to make way for soy fields and beef grazing grounds. That reflects Brazil’s troubling return to a policy of deforestation that, if unabated, could have grave consequences for efforts to counter the worst effects of global warming.

The reason the Amazon is burning is because Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who followed Donald Trump’s populist, anti-establishment playbook to win election last year, wants it to. He thinks the Amazon should not be protected, and that lands reserved for indigenous peoples should not be recognized — all in the name of economic growth. That see-no-evil approach is another point Bolsonaro has in common with Trump, who has sought to make an alarming amount of public lands available for oil and gas drilling and other extractive industries, such as uranium mining — the health of the planet be damned.

At the just-concluded G-7 meeting in France, international leaders criticized Bolsonaro for his land-use and environmental policies, which include telling those who would cut the rainforest that his government would no longer stop them. So the rate of deforestation, while still far below what it had been a dozen years ago, has been increasing. The G-7 also announced more than $20 million in aid to Brazil and Bolivia for firefighting equipment — a drop in the bucket considering the need, advocates say — and French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to put together an alliance to push for reforestation.

Bolsonaro was not receptive; he accused the leaders of embracing colonialism by telling Brazil what to do. But there’s nothing colonial in asking a neighbor to stop lighting fires that affect the rest of us….

We are all joined by the hard reality that our continued release of carbon into the atmosphere — whether it be from the cars we commute in or the forest Brazilians burn to grow food — is endangering us all. It’s a reality not recognized by Bolsonaro. Nor by Trump, who neither joined the criticism of Bolsonaro’s policies nor showed up for the G-7 climate talks that led to the fire aid package. Both presidents’ disregard for the well-being of the world is, literally, playing with fire. That won’t end well.

The Washington Post: How beef demand is accelerating the Amazon’s deforestation and climate peril.

There are approximately 1.5 billion cows in the world, a population second only to humans among large mammals. They can be raised anywhere: from the Arctic to the equator, on prairies, in deserts and on mountains.

Cattle ranchers in the Brazilian Amazon — the storied rainforest that produces oxygen for the world and modulates climate — are aggressively expanding their herds and willing to clear-cut the forest and burn what’s left to make way for pastures. As a result, they’ve become the single biggest driver of the Amazon’s deforestation, causing about 80 percent of it, according to the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

The ecological devastation is done in the service of the surging demand for beef. About 80 percent of Brazil’s beef is consumed domestically, said Nathalie Walker, the director of the tropical forest and agriculture program at the National Wildlife Federation.

Read more at the WaPo.

I admit, I’m feeling extremely pessimistic today. If anyone has more positive news, I’d love to read about it. I love you guys.


Monday Reads: World Leaders play a round of “Don’t Piss off” the Man Baby

Image result for vintage photos dogs and authors famous peopleGood Morning Sky Dancers!

Happy International Dog Day!

Jonathan Chait–writing for NY Magazine–has a review of Tim Alberta’s Book “American Carnage” that’s worth reading.  It basically explains how the goals of the Republican party led directly to our dire circumstances.

One of the debates that have split both parties is whether Trump is an outlier from the Republican Party or a continuation of a trend. Republicans like Ben Shapiro and Democrats like Joe Biden have depicted Trump as a freak who invaded a once-respectable party and whose removal, like a malignant growth, might leave behind a relatively healthy body. Tim Alberta’s American Carnage, a deeply reported account of internal Republican deliberations over the past decade, ought to drive a stake into this fanciful notion. Alberta shows how deep the rot goes, how little resistance the party elite put up against a man they privately fear, and how ripe conditions had grown for his demagoguery.

This is not to say it was inevitable Republicans would elect somebody exactly like Donald Trump. In some ways, he truly does stand apart from his party — in his amateurish ignorance of basic political and policy facts, his refusal to learn, and his utter lack of self-control, Trump is a sui generis man-child. Alberta has added to a vast trove of inside-the-room scenes of Republican professionals standing mouth agape at the Mad King.]

Image result for vintage photos dogs and authors famous peopleI think that the most important part of the book details the one overriding goal of Republicans-tax cuts for the wealthy–led directly to the bitter culture wars.  I should mention that Albert considers himself a conservative so his viewpoint is somewhat different than would be an outsider to Republicans or their supposedly intellectual leanings.

Alberta reports that internal polling by conservative groups found that voters had no interest in an anti-spending message. Republican elites wanted to run on small government, but they realized that culture-war messaging was what moved their voters.

This would seem to confirm the conclusions that liberals have long harbored. The Republican Party’s political elite is obsessed with cutting taxes for the wealthy, but it recognizes the lack of popular support for its objectives and is forced to divert attention away from its main agenda by emphasizing cultural-war themes. The disconnect between the Republican Party’s plutocratic agenda and the desires of the electorate is a tension it has never been able to resolve, and as it has moved steadily rightward, it has been evolving into an authoritarian party.

The party’s embrace of Trump is a natural, if not inevitable, step in this evolution. This is why the conservatives who presented Trump as an enemy of conservative-movement ideals have so badly misdiagnosed the party’s response to Trump. The most fervently ideological conservatives in the party have also been the most sycophantic: Ryan, Mike Pence, Ted Cruz, Mick Mulvaney, the entire House Freedom Caucus. They embraced Trump because Trumpism is their avenue to carry out their unpopular agenda.

The most interesting revelation in Alberta’s book may be the degree to which Republicans convinced themselves of their own lofty rhetoric. When he predicted that he and his allies would resist Trump’s authoritarianism, thereby proving that their opposition to Obama was genuine, Mulvaney clearly believed it. And when Ted Cruz told his aides during the primaries, “History isn’t kind to the man who holds Mussolini’s jacket,” he surely had no idea what lay in store for him. If Trump has accomplished anything, it is to force Republicans to see their party and themselves a little more clearly.

It is difficult to take Republicans seriously on anything but their desire for extreme tax cuts given the current state of the deficit and Trump’s Trade Wars. Most of Trump’s culture war successes have come from Trump’s executive orders, his spewed bigotry, and Mitch McConnell’s ability to kill anything.  I can’t imagine any Republican being happy at the thought of the destruction of NATO that’s not directly aligned with something nefarious.   Here’s Greg Sargent–of WAPO– writing on Trump’s G-7 Performance Art appearance: “As Trump zigzags wildly at G-7, one ugly truth remains constant”.

It came complete with an advertisement.

It took three days, but amid President Trump’s wild gyrations in his trade wars, his erratic efforts to spread confusion and lies about the utterances of other world leaders, and his unstable lapses of attention into matters unrelated to the Group of Seven summit, we have finally sighted one bedrock principle, one unshakable constant in Trump’s conduct, from which he will never waver.

We’re talking, of course, about Trump’s absolute, unfaltering devotion to using the powers of the presidency to serve his own financial self-interest.

With the G-7 winding down, Trump just disclosed that he’s seriously considering hosting next year’s G-7 gathering at his Doral resort in Florida. Trump extolled his resort for its location (right near the airport!), size (tremendous acreage!) and amenities (great conference rooms!).

This headline from Peter Baker and the NYT is downright embarrassing: Rule 1 at the G7 Meeting? Don’t Get You-Know-Who Mad”.

Ever so gingerly, as if determined not to rouse the American’s well-known temper, the other Group of 7 leaders sought to nudge him toward their views on the pressing issues of the day, or at least register their differences — while making sure to wrap them in a French crepe of flattery, as they know he prefers.

It was far from clear the messages were received, or in any case at least welcome.

Like other presidents, and perhaps even more so, Mr. Trump tends to hear what he wants to hear at settings like this, either tuning out contrary voices or disregarding them. Through hard experience, other leaders have concluded that direct confrontation can backfire, so they have taken to soft-pedaling disagreements.

Republicans are to blame for these dismal performances.  I really hope those tax cuts were worth fucking up the economy and ruining our gravitas on the World Stage.  Performance art by children is not diplomacy and the Pantomime President is just a dismal person.

One particular Republican is likely to lose her re-election and I couldn’t be more pleased!   From Politico: “Inside Susan Collins’ reelection fight in the age of Trump. The four-term Republican is facing a formidable opponent, anger over her support of Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Democrats energized over the president’s divisive politics.”

For Collins to win a fifth term, she needs Mainers to again like her more than the current White House occupant. A whole lot more.

The 66-year-old political giant is facing the race of her life despite her universal name recognition and bipartisan reputation. President Donald Trump is targeting Maine as a battleground while his divisive politics has cleaved the state in two, and Collins has to share the ticket with him.

National Democrats, meanwhile, are backing Sara Gideon as her likely opponent, a battle-tested statehouse speaker who raised more than $1 million in the week after her launch.

Projected to be the most expensive in Maine’s history, the race is of imperative importance for party leaders and the Senate institution itself. With scarce opportunities elsewhere, Senate Democrats essentially need Gideon to win to gain a minimum of three seats and the majority. In the Senate, a Collins loss would be a potentially fatal blow to the reeling center of the chamber.

Faced with a cavalcade of challenges, Collins is projecting confidence while balancing her meticulous senatorial approach with an unmistakable shift into campaign mode. Collins, who is sitting on $5 million in campaign cash, bashes Gideon as a candidate who has “outsourced her campaign” to Washington and her longtime aides are gearing up for a knife fight.

She’s been fairly worthless and any hope to get a Dem to replace her would be well-placed.  Meanwhile, another one abandons’ their Congressional seat.

I can’t believe we’re coming up on the Labor Day Weekend. Usually August is such a slow month, but as you know there is no more “usual” in this country.  So, I need to be short and sweet today since I’ve got a lot on my platter.

Take care of each other!

Temple Says happy international dog day!  Here’s to all the Good Boys and Good Girls!!!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads

 

 

 

This is an open thread…


Lazy Caturday Reads: The Insanity Continues . . .

By Juan Bejar, b. 1946

Good Morning!!

The insanity continues. Yesterday Trump rocked markets with a series of unhinged tweets. I hope you’ll read this CNBC thread. It’s a classic of Trump turbulence.

 

Last night Trump left for the G7 Summit and on his way he had another yelling session with reporters. Nothing sane came out of that, but he claimed that his remark about being “the chosen one was “sarcastic.” and “we were all laughing?” I don’t think Trump knows what sarcasm is.

This morning I turned on the TV to see him at a “working lunch” with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron spoke about the many serious problems that need to be discussed at the summit, including climate change. Trump uttered several disconnected sentences, mostly about the weather. After the lunch, Trump tweeted thanks to Macron to a parody account, misspelling Macon’s name.

The New York Times summarizes yesterday’s insanity: One Crazy Day Showed How Political Chaos Threatens the World Economy.

President Trump arrived in France on Saturday for a meeting of the Group of 7 industrialized nations, having set the stage for fireworks and confusion. In one dizzying day, he had seemed to be searching for whom or what to blame for economic troubles, first using Twitter to call his own Federal Reserve chief an enemy of the United States and then to urge American companies to stop doing business with China.

Louis-Léopold Boilly – Gabrielle Arnault as a Child, 1813

And that was just while the markets were open. Later Friday, he said he would apply tariffs to all Chinese imports and increase those already in place….if a recession and breakdown in international commerce happens in the coming year, histories of the episode may well spend a chapter on the Friday collision of official actions in the government offices of Beijing, in the Grand Tetons in Wyoming and in the Oval Office.

It became clear in real time how the risks of an escalating trade war and the fraying of longstanding financial and political ties could quickly outpace the ability of central banks — the normal first responders to economic distress — to do anything about it.

President Trump’s shoot-first approach adds to the risks at a delicate moment, with major economies in Asia and Europe already teetering and policymakers’ capacity to contain the damage in question.

“The escalation, the unpredictability, the erratic nature of policy developments is central to what is going on, and these aren’t things you can plug into an economic model,” said Julia Coronado, president of MacroPolicy Perspectives, an economic consultancy. “Something is breaking. It’s very dangerous.”

Read the rest at the NYT.

In France today, Trump claimed he has the power to force companies to follow the commands he issued on Twitter yesterday. The New York Times: Trump Asserts He Can Force U.S. Companies to Leave China.

Portrait of a Young Girl, Samuel Miller (c. 1807–1853), c. 1845

BIARRITZ, France — President Trump asserted on Saturday that he has the authority to make good on his threat to force all American businesses to leave China, citing a national security law that has been used mainly to target terrorists, drug traffickers and pariah states like Iran, Syria and North Korea.

As he arrived in France for the annual meeting of the Group of 7 powers, Mr. Trump posted a message on Twitter citing the International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977 — a law meant to enable a president to isolate criminal regimes but not intended to be used to cut off economic ties with a major trading partner because of a disagreement over tariffs.

“For all of the Fake News Reporters that don’t have a clue as to what the law is relative to Presidential powers, China, etc., try looking at the Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977,” Mr. Trump wrote. “Case closed!” [….]

In raising the possibility of forcing American businesses to pull out of China on Friday, Mr. Trump framed it not as a request but as an order he had already issued.

“Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing our companies HOME and making your products in the USA,” he wrote on Twitter, adding, “We don’t need China and, frankly, would be far better off without them.”

In fact, aides said, no order has been drawn up nor was it clear that he would attempt to do so. Instead, it could be the latest negotiating tactic by a president who favors drastic threats without always following through on them in hopes of forcing partners to make concessions.

The “president” is a madman and we’re stuck with him for now.

By George Gassner 1811–1861

According to CNN, Trump doesn’t understand why he has to go to the G7: Trump has questioned why he must attend G7.

…in conversations with aides over the past weeks, Trump has questioned why he must attend, according to people familiar with the conversations. After the past two G7 summits ended acrimoniously, Trump complained about attending a third, saying he didn’t view the gathering as a particularly productive use of his time.

He’s made similar asides in meetings with other world leaders, including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and French President Emmanuel Macron, who have encouraged him over the past six months to commit to attending the Biarritz summit, people familiar with the conversations said. Macron is this year’s summit host.

The G7 represents the world’s major economies, and has long been a regular stop on the US President’s calendar. In small group sessions, with only the leaders and few aides present, the world’s major economic and geopolitical problems are discussed at length.
It’s a more workaday style of foreign travel than the type of trip Trump has come to enjoy, which usually include lavish displays of welcome like royal parades or state banquets. It’s also a practice in the kind of multilateralism that Trump and his aides have downplayed in favor of one-one-one negotiations with other countries.

But if he didn’t attend, he would miss an opportunity to sow global chaos and frighten out allies half to death.

By Otto Van Veen, 1584

Associated Press: At global summit, Trump facing limits of go-it-alone stance.

Trump, growing more isolated in Washington, faces a tepid reception on the world stage, where a list of challenges awaits. Anxiety is growing over a global slowdown , and there are new points of tension with allies on trade, Iran and Russia.

Fears of a financial downturn are spreading, meaning the need for cooperation and a collective response is essential. Yet Trump has ridiculed Germany for its economic travails at a time when he may have to turn to Chancellor Angela Merkel and others to help blunt the force of China’s newly aggressive tariffs on U.S. goods. Those trade penalties, combined with the economic slowdown, have raised political alarms for Trump’s reelection effort .

In a late addition to the schedule, Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron sat across from each other at a small table for lunch outside the opulent Hotel du Palais before the official start of the summit. Hours earlier, Trump threatened anew to place tariffs on French wine imports to the U.S. over France’s digital services tax, and that prompted a European leader to promise European Union action if the U.S. followed through. Macron called for an end to the trade wars he said are “taking hold everywhere.”

Macron, the summit host, said two were discussing “a lot of crisis” around the world, including Libya, Iran and Russia, as well as trade policy and climate change.

Good luck with that.

Martha Bartlett with Kitten 1875 Unknown artist

At The New Yorker, David Remnick warns us about sinking into despair over Trump’s insanity: Trump Clarification Syndrome. Here’s the gist:

Again and again, Trump’s top advisers––Daniel Coats, Gary Cohn, James Mattis, Rex Tillerson, H. R. McMaster, and John Kelly among them––have left the White House clutching their heads, their dignity and nerves in rags, realizing that they have served a President who is unreachable, beyond cure and counsel; a man of rotten character, blatant instability, and zero empathy; an empty but radically dangerous human being, who occupies the highest office in the land….

But, as perilous and unnerving as things are, any form of political despair at such a moment remains unforgivable. Despair is a form of self-indulgence, a dodge. Trump’s derangements in policy and character should instead instill a kind of Trump Clarification Syndrome, a reckoning with what confronts us. A reckoning, as the Amazon rain forest burns, with climate change. A reckoning, as Trump threatens to revoke the barest protections for immigrant children and the guarantee of birthright citizenship, with the history and persistence of bigotry in all forms. With the structural persistence of inequality of income and opportunity. With matters of truth and falsehood. Trump’s presence in the White House is depressing, there is no doubt, but to wallow in that gloom, or even to imagine that public life will “return to normal” on its own after his departure, is insufficient, even inexcusable. Democrats, Independents, and Republicans who cannot countenance Trumpist politics ought to welcome the most urgent kind of political debate on matters of policy and on who we are as a country. Perhaps it is a form of derangement to say it, but it’s entirely possible that Donald Trump, who has been such a ruinous figure on the public scene, has at least done the country an unintended service by clarifying some of our deepest flaws and looming dangers in his uniquely lurid light.

A Girl with Her Cat by Hendrik Maarten Krabbe

In non-Trump news, Joe Biden committed another disturbing faux pas yesterday. The Washington Post: Evoking 1968 at town hall, Biden asks: What would have happened if Obama had been assassinated?

HANOVER, N.H. — Former vice president Joe Biden, returning to this crucial primary state and attempting to put the focus on the foibles of President Trump, took an unusual departure toward the end of a 70-minute dive into health-care policy by asking the crowd to imagine the assassination of Barack Obama.

“None of you . . . women are old enough — but a couple of you guys are old enough,” he said during a town hall at Dartmouth College. “I graduated in 1968. Everybody before me was, ‘Drop out, go to Haight-Ashbury, don’t trust anybody over 30, everybody not get involved.’ No, I’m serious. I know no woman will shake her head and acknowledge it. But you guys know what I’m talking about. Right? But then what happened?”

The front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination referenced the assassinations of two of his political heroes, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy — who was killed while running for president.

At least he’s figured out that the assassinations happening 1968, not the late-1970s.

“Imagine what would have happened if, God forbid, if Barack Obama had been assassinated after becoming the de facto nominee,” he continued. “What would have happened in America?”

La dame et son chat Marguerite Gérard (1761-1837)

What was his point? Your guess is as good as mine. But this puts me in mind of something Hillary said in 2008 that was met with universal outrage. The New York Times, May 24, 2008:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton defended staying in the Democratic nominating contest on Friday by pointing out that her husband had not wrapped up the nomination until June 1992, adding, “We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California.”

Her remarks were met with quick criticism from the campaign of Senator Barack Obama, and within hours of making them Mrs. Clinton expressed regret, saying, “The Kennedys have been much on my mind the last days because of Senator Kennedy,” referring to the recent diagnosis of Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s brain tumor. She added, “And I regret that if my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation and in particular the Kennedy family was in any way offensive.”

Why isn’t Biden’s strange remark getting the same amount of negative attention that Clinton’s did back in 2008? Actually, I know the answer . . .

So . . . what stories are you following today?