Friday Reads: Putting it all into PerspectivePosted: November 22, 2019
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
We’ve come to the end of the second week of impeachment hearings as well as entertained yet another Candidate Debate. It’s tempting to speak of winners and losers in a day and age where frequently there’s no clear delineation. Just think, we have an occupant of an oval Office that clearly and significantly lost the popular vote and appears to have won select states narrowly with so many shenanigans and one offs that the voters were the clear losers in that one.
But, I do want to put some of these things into some kind of perspective even if historians deride it later on. My Nana was a Christian Science practitioner since ridding herself of migraines through its prayerful practices as a young woman. She always saw that my parents had an annual subscription to The Christian Science Monitor and that my sister and I had one to National Geographic. She and my Granddad died in hospital so while my grandmother had beliefs, she also had perspective. Neither of my grandmothers could vote until well into middle age so I usually take myself to the polls with that in mind. It gives me perspective when I cherish every vote. I read this article this morning with Nana in mind and a nod to religious Matriarch Mary Baker Eddy.
This perspective comes from the CSM: “Impeachment’s rock stars: Powerful women” Truly, the stand outs in the hearings this week were the powerful women in the State Department and National Security. I particularly like this introduction by authors Jessica Mendoza and Story Hinckley on why they wrote the article.
One striking aspect of the impeachment hearings is the way they’ve showcased the experience and intellect of professional women. Regardless of the political outcome, women’s advocates say that’s significant.
Dr Fiona Hill and Ambassador Marie Yavanovitch were outstanding. They were clearly the kinds of women that terrify the Kremlin Potted Plant. Hill had the Republicans on the panel so stunned they quit asking her questions and some actually fled the hearing room. Laura Cooper and Jennifer Williams also refused to play GymBro’s Republican Games.
On Thursday, David Holmes, who served as Ambassador Yovanovitch’s chief policy adviser in Kyiv, testified in his opening statement about his “deep respect for her dedication, determination, decency, and professionalism.” He added that the “barrage of allegations” leveled against her were “unlike anything I have seen in my professional career.”
To be sure, Mr. Trump often treats his perceived enemies this way, regardless of their gender. But observers say there was a certain force to seeing a successful woman gracefully fend off such attacks in real time.
“No one would say that Yovanovitch’s testimony was anything less than a master class in integrity-led leadership,” says Jenna Ben-Yehuda, founder of the Women’s Foreign Policy Network, a global organization for women in foreign affairs. “It shows that leadership takes many forms. I hope we hold on to that.”
When Ms. Yovanovitch’s hearing wrapped on Friday, she received a standing ovation from the audience.
There were also women among the ranks of the Congressional Panel.
Women lawmakers have also been front-and-center in the impeachment drama. Two of the three Democratic women are black.
Florida Rep. Val Demings, one of three Democrats on the panel, came out hard against Ambassador Sondland on Wednesday, pressing him on the details of a phone conversation he had with Mr. Trump at a restaurant in Kyiv. California Rep. Jackie Speier – who as a congressional aide in the 1970s came under gunfire while investigating the Jonestown cult in Guyana – played a key role in the depositions of Ambassador Taylor and State Department official George Kent, according to transcripts. And Rep. Terri Sewell, the No. 3 Democrat on the panel and the first black woman to serve Alabama in Congress, has also been a vocal interrogator.
This NYT op ed by Glenn R. Simpson and
As the founders of Fusion GPS, the research firm that commissioned the reports by the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele that raised some of the earliest warnings of Russia’s actions, we’re willing to clear up some of the nonsense now so ripe on the right.
House Republicans like Representatives Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan seem eager to portray Fusion as co-conspirators with the Ukrainians in some devilish plot to undermine Mr. Trump’s 2016 candidacy. That could not be further from the truth. None of the information in the so-called Steele dossier came from Ukrainian sources. Zero. And we’ve never met Serhiy Leshchenko, the Ukrainian former legislator and journalist who Republicans want to blame for the downfall of Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
That said, our investigation of Donald Trump did get a great boost because of Ukraine, just not in the way Republicans imagine. We began looking into Mr. Trump’s business dealings and ties to Russia in the fall of 2015 with funding from Republicans who wanted to stop his political ascent. The Ukraine alarms went off six months later, when candidate Trump brought into his campaign none other than Mr. Manafort, a man with his own tangled history with Russian oligarchs trying to get their way in Ukraine.
It turns out we already knew a great deal about Mr. Manafort’s activities in Ukraine because we worked on several stories about his work for Russian-backed politicians eight years earlier, when we were both still writing for The Wall Street Journal. That reporting threw a spotlight on how Mr. Manafort, while representing clients involved in fierce geopolitical struggles over Ukraine, had neglected to comply with a lobbying law requiring that he register as a foreign agent — the very law, among others, to which he pleaded guilty to violating.
Those articles triggered years of media coverage exposing Mr. Manafort’s questionable lobbying activities and ties to pro Russia oligarchs. In the meantime, we left The Journal and went on to found Fusion GPS, a research and strategic intelligence firm, in 2010.
We turned our focus back to Mr. Manafort in early 2016 and soon found a 19-page legal filing in a federal courthouse in Virginia in which one of his former clients, the Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska, accused Mr. Manafort in scorching detail of making off with tens of millions of dollars that he had promised to invest in Ukraine. The whole thing reeked of fraud and possible money laundering. It was as if Mr. Manafort had boarded the Trump campaign plane with baggage stuffed with figurative explosives. The Virginia filings later surfaced in various articles about Manafort in the national media.
A few months later we stumbled on some Ukrainian media reports noting that documents existed in Kyiv that chronicled the political spending of the pro-Russia ruling party at the time, which had hired Mr. Manafort. We wondered if his name might crop up in those papers. Someone suggested Mr. Leshchenko might be of help in the matter — a fact we stored away. To this day, we have never met him.
The New York Times got to the story first, in August 2016, reporting that a black ledger of illicit payments showed that millions of dollars had gone into the pocket of one Paul Manafort. That story led to Mr. Manafort’s ouster from the campaign, and undoubtedly fueled F.B.I. interest in his activities, though the so-called black ledger was never used in the criminal cases against him.
We’d love to take credit for finding the black ledger, but we didn’t, and any alert reporter following the Ukrainian press would have known to follow the leads that led to it.
Another perspective this week comes from former Fox News Anchor Shepard Smith who put money and his mouth to support the idea of freedom of the press. Mr Smith was frequently the target of Trumpist barbs. This comes via the NYT.
In his first public remarks since abruptly resigning from Fox News last month, the anchor Shepard Smith called on Thursday for a steadfast defense of independent journalism, while offering a few subtle barbs at President Trump’s treatment of the press.
And in a surprise announcement, Mr. Smith said he would personally donate $500,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a nonprofit group that advances press freedoms around the world.
“Intimidation and vilification of the press is now a global phenomenon. We don’t have to look far for evidence of that,” Mr. Smith said at the group’s annual dinner in Midtown Manhattan, an appearance he signed up for before he left Fox News, his television home of 23 years.
The crowd at the black-tie fund-raiser — which draws leading reporters, editors and executives from across the media industry — rose to its feet and applauded after Mr. Smith revealed his donation.
Here’s a perspective from History on one of the main issues coming up in the Democratic Presidential contest. This might be something to think about as we watch people panic in the street about the Health Care Discussion and the election.
And one final perspective from CNN and a few others: “Mr. Rogers’ most memorable moments. Fred Rogers has had a lasting impact on generations of children with his show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” which ran for 31 seasons, from 1968 to 2001. “
I am often asked what Fred would have made of our time—what he would have made of Donald Trump, what he would have made of Twitter, what he would have made of what is generally called our “polarization” but is in fact the discovery that we don’t like our neighbors very much once we encounter them proclaiming their political opinions on social media. I often hear people say that they wish Fred were still around to offer his guidance and also that they are thankful he is gone, because at least he has been spared from seeing what we have become. In all of this, there is something plaintive and a little desperate, an unspoken lament that he has left us when we need him most, as though instead of dying of stomach cancer he was assumed by rapture, abandoning us to our own devices and the judgment implicit in his absence.
What would Fred Rogers—Mister Rogers—have made of El Paso and Dayton, of mass murder committed to fulfill the dictates of an 8chan manifesto? What, for that matter, would he have made of the anti-Semitic massacre that took place last fall in his real-life Pittsburgh neighborhood of Squirrel Hill? The easy answer is that it is impossible to know, because he was from a different world, one almost as alien to us now as our mob-driven world of performative slaughters would be to him. But actually, I think I do know, because when I met him, one of the early school shootings had just taken place, in West Paducah, Kentucky—eight students shot while they gathered in prayer. Though an indefatigably devout man, he did not attempt to characterize the shootings as an attack on the faithful; instead, he seized on the news that the 14-year-old shooter had gone to school telling his classmates that he was about to do something “really big,” and he asked, “Oh, wouldn’t the world be a different place if he had said, ‘I’m going to do something really little tomorrow’?” Fred decided to devote a whole week of his television show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, to the theme of “little and big,” encouraging children to embrace the diminutive nature of their bodies and their endeavors—to understand that big has to start little.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today? What’s your perspective?