New Year’s Eve Reads: Trumpschmerz

New Year’s Eve by Sabzi

Good Morning!

One more day until 2020 begins. Here’s what’s happening right now:

As 2019 draws to a close with “Death to America” is trending on Twitter. The New York Times: Protesters Attack U.S. Embassy in Iraq, Chanting ‘Death to America.’

BAGHDAD — Protesters broke into the heavily guarded compound of the United States Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday and lit fires inside to express their anger over American airstrikes that killed 24 members of an Iranian-backed militia over the weekend.

The men did not enter the main embassy buildings and later withdrew from the compound, joining thousands of protesters and militia fighters outside who chanted “Death to America,” threw rocks, covered the walls with graffiti and demanded that the United States withdraw its forces from Iraq.

The situation remained combustible, with protesters vowing to camp outside the compound indefinitely. Their ability to storm the most heavily guarded zone in Baghdad suggested that they had received at least tacit permission from Iraqi security officials sympathetic to their demands.

Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians play Auld Lang Syne, by David Lloyd Glover

The American airstrikes on Sunday have resulted in the most serious political crisis in years for the United States in Iraq, stoking anti-Americanism and handing an advantage to Iran in its competition for influence in the country.

The airstrikes targeted an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia, Kataib Hezbollah, which the United States accused of carrying out a missile attack on an Iraqi military base that killed an American contractor and wounded American and Iraqi service members. A spokesman for the militia denied involvement in the attack.

But the size of the American response — five strikes in Iraq and Syria that killed two dozen fighters and wounded dozens of others — prompted condemnation from across the political spectrum and accusations that the United States had violated Iraqi sovereignty.

Trump is blaming Iran, The Washington Post reports:

President Trump responded angrily Tuesday to the protesters’ actions, charging that Iran was behind a deadly militia attack that led to the airstrikes and blaming Tehran for the embassy siege.

“Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many,” Trump tweeted from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. “We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!”

Painting for The New Yorker by Owen Smith

A spokesman for the Kataib Hezbollah militia said the demonstrators intend to besiege the embassy until the facility shuts down and U.S. diplomats leave Iraq.

But the angry demonstrators defied appeals delivered over loudspeakers by the group’s leaders not to enter the embassy compound and smashed their way into one of the facility’s reception areas, breaking down fortified doors and bulletproof glass and setting fire to the room.

American guards inside the embassy fired tear gas to keep the militia supporters at bay. U.S. troops could be seen nearby and on rooftops, their weapons drawn, but they did not open fire. Embassy civil defense workers just inside the gates attempted to put out the fires with water hoses.

The protesters also smashed security cameras, set two guardrooms ablaze and burned tires. They made a bonfire out of a pile of papers and military MREs (meals ready to eat) found in the reception area, where guards normally search visitors. Kataib Hezbollah flags were draped over the barbed wire protecting the embassy’s high walls.

So much for Trump and Kushner’s plans for peace in the Middle East. And didn’t American taxpayers spend $750 million to make the Baghdad embassy impenetrable?

Here’s a little comic relief from The Daily Beast: Team Trump’s Furious Hunt to Find Out Who ‘Liked’ a Chelsea Clinton Tweet.

On the evening of July 10, 2017, staffers at the U.S. embassy in Brussels—the official office for the ambassador to the European Union—received an unusual call from the seventh floor of the State Department back in Washington. The office of then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was irate. Someone in Brussels with access to the mission’s Twitter account had liked the wrong tweet. It had set off alarm bells in Foggy Bottom.

The tweet wasn’t just any tweet. It was one written by Chelsea Clinton and directed at President Donald Trump in a public spat that took the internet by storm.

A New Years Eve Night by A. Snegirev, 1982

That week in July, Trump drew criticism for his decision to let his daughter Ivanka fill his seat at the G-20 meeting of top economic powers in Hamburg, Germany. After days of the pile-on, Trump took to Twitter the morning of July 10 to claim his decision to have Ivanka represent the U.S. at the G-20 was “very standard” and that Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany agreed. Not more than 15 minutes later, he switched his tenor and began attacking Clinton and the press. “If Chelsea Clinton were asked to hold the seat for her mother, as her mother gave our country away, the Fake News would say CHELSEA FOR PRES!,” Trump said.

Clinton shot back: “It would never have occurred to my mother or my father to ask me. Were you giving our country away? Hoping not.”

That tweet garnered more than half a million likes, including by the account for the U.S. mission to the European Union. That kickstarted a weeks-long investigation, prompted by the secretary’s office, into who exactly at the Brussels mission had access to the Twitter account and hit “Like” on Clinton’s tweet, according to two former U.S. officials. (Full disclosure: Clinton sits on the board of IAC, The Daily Beast’s parent company.) Nearly 10 people were interviewed about whether they, as administrators of the account, had mistakenly or deliberately pressed the “Like” button. All of them denied any wrongdoing, those sources said. One individual familiar with the exchanges said the secretary of state’s top managers in Washington “wanted blood” and called Brussels numerous times demanding the name of the culprit.

U.S. officials in Belgium were never able to give Tillerson’s office a name and soon after, the embassy restructured the Twitter account and limited access to just two individuals.

The Trumpies know what’s really important–protecting their boss’s fragile ego.

New Year’s Still Life, by Moesey Li

At The Washington Post, Greg Sargent explains why Mitch McConnell is counting on the political media to help him protect Trump in a fraudulent impeachment trial: Explosive new revelations just weakened Trump’s impeachment defenses.

If Mitch McConnell is going to pull off his scheme to turn President Trump’s impeachment trial into a quick and painless sham with no witnesses, the Senate majority leader needs the story to be covered as a conventional Washington standoff — one that portrays both sides as maneuvering for advantage in an equivalently political manner.

But extraordinary new revelations in the New York Times about Trump’s corrupt freezing of military aid to Ukraine will — or should — make this much harder to get away with.

McConnell badly needs the media’s both-sidesing instincts to hold firm against the brute facts of the situation. If Republicans bear the brunt of media pressure to explain why they don’t want to hear from witnesses, that risks highlighting their true rationale: They adamantly fear new revelations precisely because they know Trump is guilty — and that this corrupt scheme is almost certainly much worse than we can currently surmise.

That possibility is underscored by the Times report, a chronology of Trump’s decision to withhold aid to a vulnerable ally under assault while he and his henchmen extorted Ukraine into carrying out his corrupt designs.

The report demonstrates in striking detail that inside the administration, the consternation over the legality and propriety of the aid freeze — and confusion over Trump’s true motives — ran much deeper than previously known, implicating top Cabinet officials more deeply than we thought.

Please go read the rest at the link. It’s long but important.

I’ve been pretty successfully ignoring the news during these two holiday weeks, except for when I’ve had a blog post to write. Susan Glasser of The New Yorker had more trouble doing that, and now she has found a word to describe life in Trumpworld: Our Year of Trumpschmerz.

So much for the holidays. In the quiet of Christmas and New Year’s, the President of the United States has repeatedly attacked “Crazy Nancy” Pelosi and her family, inveighed against the “bogus Impeachment Scam” and circulated the alleged name of the C.I.A. whistle-blower whose complaint triggered it, retweeted an account that described former President Barack Obama as “Satan’s Muslim Scum,” hosted the accused war criminal he recently pardoned over the objections of military leaders, and promoted a post calling himself “the best President of all time.” He even accused the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, of personally ordering Canadian television to cut a seven-second snippet of the schmaltzy Christmas movie “Home Alone 2” that features Trump, an accusation the President refused to retract, although it was quickly proven that the scene was one of many edited out as a time-saver back in 2014, long before either Trudeau or Trump was anywhere close to power.

Dance at the Moulin Rouge, by Toulouse Lautrec

Even now, three years into the Trump Presidency, there is no language to fully capture the madness of all this, though many of my journalistic colleagues have gone to great lengths to record and codify just how disturbingly nutty 2019 has been. The Washington Post reports that Trump ended the year having made more than fifteen thousand four hundred false and misleading statements since his inauguration. CNN’s “Inside Politics” produced a four-page, single-spaced list of all the people and institutions Trump has attacked by name this year. There are online trackers for the unprecedented levels of turnover in Trump’s Administration and for the rapidly proliferating array of lawsuits involving Trump’s assertions of sweeping executive authority. By any measure, 2019 will go down as a remarkable year in the annals of the American Presidency: Trump began it by causing the longest-ever federal government shutdown in history, after Congress refused to spend billions on his proposed border wall, and ended it as only the third President in history to be impeached by the House of Representatives.

Glasser searched for a word to encompass the horrors of living in Trump’s world.

There must be one of those long German words for all that soul-sickening worry, right? Some tortured mouthful of consonants that captures the ceaseless anxiety and absurdity of Washington in the age of Trump? I asked my friend, the German scholar and writer Constanze Stelzenmüller, an astute observer of Trumpism at the Brookings Institution and especially of its toxic effect on the troubled transatlantic relationship. She said that, even in Trump-skeptical Berlin, there was no single, widely accepted word that describes this phenomenon but gamely offered up her own stab at it. The word she came up with is “Trumpregierungsschlamasselschmerz.”

Her word has pretty much everything that has come to characterize this uniquely dysfunctional moment in America’s troubled capital: Trump and his Administration (“regierung” means government); the slow-motion car crash of constant controversies (“schlamassel”); and the continuous pain or ache of the soul that results from excessive contemplation of it all (“schmerz”). Sure, it’s a mouthful, but that’s the point: there should be one word that sums up the Trumpian disruption we are experiencing, not merely a jumble of different ones. It’s the tweets and the other stuff, too: the endless attacks on enemies, real and imagined; the torrent of lies; the eroding of the basic functions of government; and the formerly unimaginable assault on our institutions. It’s impeachment and the Mueller Report and migrant children in cages, the bullying of allies, and the lavish praise of adversaries. It’s the uncertainty and worry that comes with all of the above.

On the brink of a new year, Trumpregierungsschlamasselschmerz has come to dominate our collective psyche. There is no taking a vacation from it. I confess that I have not yet figured out how to pronounce this unwieldy linguistic invention that so deftly captures our national Trump-soul-sickness. Luckily, I received a follow-up e-mail from Constanze, in which she proposed a shortened version that gets right to the angsty, anxious point: If “Trumpregierungsschlamasselschmerz” is too much, she said, you can just use “Trumpschmerz.” Either way, in German or in English, it’s my nominee for the word of the year in 2019. I suspect it will be in 2020 as well.

And with that I’ll turn the floor over to you, Sky Dancers. What stories are you following, if any?


Monday Reads: It’s beginning to look a lot like Impeachment

classic-hollywood-glam: “Lucille Ball and Bob Hope ”

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

Welcome to the last few days of 2019!   The NYT has a story up today that describes how every Republican Talking point on the Ukrainian Aid Freeze is basically obfuscation and may foil McConnell’s plan to prevent key witnesses being called to provide information supporting the political quid pro quo narrative.  This is the headline today “Behind the Ukraine Aid Freeze: 84 Days of Conflict and Confusion. The inside story of President Trump’s demand to halt military assistance to an ally shows the price he was willing to pay to carry out his agenda.”  Here’s the key take away.

It was June 27, more than a week after Mr. Trump had first asked about putting a hold on security aid to Ukraine, an embattled American ally, and Mr. Mulvaney needed an answer.

The aide, Robert B. Blair, replied that it would be possible, but not pretty. “Expect Congress to become unhinged” if the White House tried to countermand spending passed by the House and Senate, he wrote in a previously undisclosed email. And, he wrote, it might further fuel the narrative that Mr. Trump was pro-Russia.

Mr. Blair was right, even if his prediction of a messy outcome was wildly understated. Mr. Trump’s order to hold $391 million worth of sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, night vision goggles, medical aid and other equipment the Ukrainian military needed to fight a grinding war against Russian-backed separatists would help pave a path to the president’s impeachment.

The Democratic-led inquiry into Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine this spring and summer established that the president was actively involved in parallel efforts — both secretive and highly unusual — to bring pressure on a country he viewed with suspicion, if not disdain.

Interviews with dozens of current and former administration officials, congressional aides and others, previously undisclosed emails and documents, and a close reading of thousands of pages of impeachment testimony provide the most complete account yet of the 84 days from when Mr. Trump first inquired about the money to his decision in September to relent.

What emerges is the story of how Mr. Trump’s demands sent shock waves through the White House and the Pentagon, created deep rifts within the senior ranks of his administration, left key aides like Mr. Mulvaney under intensifying scrutiny — and ended only after Mr. Trump learned of a damning whistle-blower report and came under pressure from influential Republican lawmakers.

In many ways, the havoc Mr. Giuliani and other Trump loyalists set off in the State Department by pursuing the investigations was matched by conflicts and confusion in the White House and Pentagon stemming from Mr. Trump’s order to withhold the aid.

Opposition to the order from his top national security advisers was more intense than previously known. In late August, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper joined Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John R. Bolton, the national security adviser at the time, for a previously undisclosed Oval Office meeting with the president where they tried but failed to convince him that releasing the aid was in interests of the United States.

By late summer, top lawyers at the Office of Management and Budget who had spoken to lawyers at the White House and the Justice Department in the weeks beforehand, were developing an argument — not previously divulged publicly — that Mr. Trump’s role as commander in chief would simply allow him to override Congress on the issue.

And Mr. Mulvaney is shown to have been deeply involved as a key conduit for transmitting Mr. Trump’s demands for the freeze across the administration.

The interviews and documents show how Mr. Trump used the bureaucracy to advance his agenda in the face of questions about its propriety and even legality from officials in the White House budget office and the Pentagon, many of whom say they were kept in the dark about the president’s motivations and had grown used to convention-flouting requests from the West Wing. One veteran budget official who raised questions about the legal justification was pushed aside.

A SPECIAL NEW YEAR'S PIN-UP FOR MARINES - Marilyn Monroe - early 1950s

It’s now obvious we need to hear from Pompeo, Bolton, Esper, and Mulvaney at the very minimum.  This completely weakens the Trumpist Defense as outlined here in WAPO by Greg Sargent.

McConnell badly needs the media’s both-sidesing instincts to hold firm against the brute facts of the situation. If Republicans bear the brunt of media pressure to explain why they don’t want to hear from witnesses, that risks highlighting their true rationale: They adamantly fear new revelations precisely because they know Trump is guilty — and that this corrupt scheme is almost certainly much worse than we can currently surmise.

That possibility is underscored by the Times report, a chronology of Trump’s decision to withhold aid to a vulnerable ally under assault while he and his henchmen extorted Ukraine into carrying out his corrupt designs.

The report demonstrates in striking detail that inside the administration, the consternation over the legality and propriety of the aid freeze — and confusion over Trump’s true motives — ran much deeper than previously known, implicating top Cabinet officials more deeply than we thought.

Among the story’s key points:

  • As early as June, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney worked to execute the freeze for Trump, and a top aide to Mulvaney — Robert Blair — worried it would fuel the narrative that Trump was tacitly aiding Russia.
  • Internal opposition was more forceful than previously known. The Pentagon pushed for the money for months. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and then-national security adviser John Bolton privately urged Trump to understand that freezing the aid was not in our national interest.
  • Trump was unmoved, citing Ukraine’s “corruption.” We now know Trump actually wanted Ukraine to announce sham investigations absolving Russia of 2016 electoral sabotage and smearing potential 2020 opponent Joe Biden. The Times report reveals that top Trump officials did not think that ostensibly combating Ukrainian “corruption” (which wasn’t even Trump’s real aim) was in our interests.
  • Lawyers at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) worked to develop a far-fetched legal argument that Trump could exercise commander-in-chief authority to override Congress’ appropriation of the aid, to get around the law precluding Trump from freezing it.
  • Michael Duffey, a political appointee at OMB, tried to get the Pentagon to assume responsibility for getting the aid released, to deflect blame away from the White House for its own role in blocking it. This led a Pentagon official to pronounce herself “speechless.”
  • Duffey froze the aid with highly unusual bureaucratic tactics, refused to tell Pentagon officials why Trump wanted it withheld and instructed them to keep this “closely held.” (Some of this had already been reported, but in narrative context it becomes far more damning.)

It’s impossible to square all this with the lines from Trump’s defenders — that there was no pressure on Ukraine; that the money was withheld for reasonable policy purposes; and that there was no extortion because it was ultimately released. As the Times shows, that only came after the scheme was outed.

Capitol Hill is still empty due to the hols but we can be assured that talking points will be made available as soon as they come back. I cannot wait to see Mitch McConnell wiggle out of this one and one wild card continues to be Justice Roberts. How much of a sham trial will he allow?

James Dean with Bill Gunn and Barbara Glenn, at a New Years Eve party in Roy Schatts apartment.Congressman and Civil Rights Legend John Lewis will be undergoing treatments for Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer.   His office announced this over the weekend and it was reported on all news outlets including CNN.

Lewis, 79, said he was diagnosed following a routine medical visit with subsequent tests that reconfirmed the diagnosis. The long-time Georgia congressman will undergo treatment for the cancer.
“I have been in some kind of fight — for freedom, equality, basic human rights — for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now,” Lewis, who in March 1965 joined forces with Martin Luther King Jr. to lead a voting rights march out of Selma, Alabama, said in a statement.
He continued later: “While I am clear-eyed about the prognosis, doctors have told me that recent medical advances have made this type of cancer treatable in many cases, that treatment options are no longer as debilitating as they once were, and that I have a fighting chance.”

Let’s hope more people see this for the threat to our democracy that it is!  Last time I posted, we reflected on the huge gender gap facing Trumpist candidates.  Black Voters are not only anti Trump as a general rule, but it looks like turnout may be high this year.

'And we're gonna have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap danced with Danny F***ing Kaye'

Several hate crimes have been focused on the Jewish Community. We’ve seen anti-Semitic attacks many places but this one targeting the heart of New York’s Hasidic community was brutally carried out with a knife which is why the victims have survived.  They’ve found more about the attacker who has now been labelled the Hanukah stabber. This is from TPM.

A Hanukkah party at the house of an ultra-Orthodox rabbi outside New York City on Saturday night was interrupted by a man with a machete.

Five were stabbed, though none fatally, and the suspect is now in custody. Two remained hospitalized on Sunday.

Here’s what we now know about the attack.

The alleged stabber, Grafton Thomas, had obscured his face with a scarf when he barged into the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg home in Monsey, New York. He immediately began attacking people inside the home, who’d gathered to celebrate the seventh night of Hanukkah.

“Nobody is going anywhere!” Thomas reportedly announced.

“Hey you, I’ll get you,” Josef Gluck, who attended the gathering, recalled Thomas telling him.

Thomas pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary in court Sunday

The motive still remains unclear but is the second stabbing attack on people of Jewish faith this year.  The last one was on November 20th.  The stabber’s family has detailed a long history of mental illness which may have been a contributing factor.  You may read more at the link.  It is just really fortunate that all are on the mend.

So, I won’t waste a lot of your Monday today.  Just have a safe New Year’s Eve Tomorrow!

What’s on you reading and blogging list today?

 


Sunday Reads: Don’t bitch to us…

With all the bullshit lately about fucking Bernie Sanders…and since the one person who could stand up to tRump has/was left to drop out (Kamala)…to where we are seriously looking at a old white guy (Biden)…to wit, do we honestly think the elections are actually “secured” anymore (Putin)…

I feel that when tRump is re-elected, we here can tell all those news media assholes, BernieBros, Biden Shills, Tom Perez and the rest of the damn fools…

Hey! You listen to me, wacko.

See this fist?

I’m about ready to use…

that hatchet-face

of yours as a punching bag.

Now sit down and shut up!

Mole’s right, Peggy.

I am sick of listenin’

to your bitchin’.

The next time you feel a fit

comin’ on, go outside and bitch.

Bitch at the air.

Bitch at the trees.

But don’t bitch at us!

Gotta love John Waters Desperate Living!

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As 2019 winds down I get to reflect back on the work I’ve done this past year. Here are my top ten cartoons. Thank you all for the support. Couldn’t do it without you. • #topten #top10 #yearinreview #goodbye2019 #politicalcartoons #fucktrump #politicalart #resist #guncontrol #mostliked #mostlikedphoto #hello2020

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No shit…but in all seriousness, if tRump is re-elected, the USA will turn into a Mortville:

(Once you get past the roaches, you’ll see what I mean.)

Since this post is a total downer, let’s take a look at who died this year.

Now the video does not include, Sue Lyon Dies: ‘Lolita’ Star Was 73

She was 14 when Kubrick cast her as Lolita back in 1962. She was two years older than my mom.

More, “Gone but not forgotten…”

13 Trailblazing women:

Cokie Roberts, Toni Morrison. Gloria Vanderbilt.Getty Images/AP

From the NYT: In a Year of Notable Deaths, a World of Women Who Shattered Ceilings

Just a few tweets to round this thread up:

All I can say to this next tweet is…If only:

https://twitter.com/raising_hill/status/1210746457801625602?s=21

Oh yeah, this tweet reminds me:

Giuliani pals leveraged GOP access to seek Ukraine gas deal

Check it out, Nixon got something right:

And lastly:

This has been a difficult year, I miss my mama like crazy. Just wanted to get through all the sad depressing rehash of who we lost this year. Some I have left out on purpose. Can y’all guess who?

This is an open thread.

After I wrote this post, news of the latest anti-Semitic attack/hate crime in NYC:


Lazy Caturday Reads

Good Morning!!

I really dislike these two “holiday” weeks at the end of every year. I always end up with a sense of unreality. This year I’m away from my home–I’m house- and cat-sitting for my brother and his family while they visit Denmark and Norway for two weeks.

I’ve been reading constantly and avoiding TV. I’ve been reading a lot; I just finished a book by Stephen King, The Institute. I guess that is contributing to that freaky unreal feeling I’m experiencing. And of course there’s the knowledge that Trump is still “president” and our country and the world are in danger because of him.

I don’t know if anyone will read this, but if you do I want tell you that this blog and everyone who has read it and/or commented on it have helped me maintain some sanity in a crazy world over the more than a decade since 2008. I’m grateful to all of you and I wish you strength to get through whatever is coming in 2020. I love you all.

If you read nothing else today, I hope you’ll choose this essay by Michiko Kakutani at The New York Times: The 2010s Were the End of Normal.

TWO OF THE MOST WIDELY QUOTED and shared poems in the closing years of this decade were William Butler Yeats’s “The Second Coming” (“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold”), and W.H. Auden’s “September 1, 1939” (“Waves of anger and fear / Circulate over the bright / And darkened lands of the earth”). Yeats’s poem, written just after World War I, spoke of a time when “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.” Auden’s poem, written in the wake of Germany’s invasion of Poland, described a world lying “in stupor,” as democracy was threatened and “the enlightenment driven away.”

Apocalypse is not yet upon our world as the 2010s draw to an end, but there are portents of disorder. The hopes nourished during the opening years of the decade — hopes that America was on a progressive path toward growing equality and freedom, hopes that technology held answers to some of our most pressing problems — have given way, with what feels like head-swiveling speed, to a dark and divisive new era. Fear and distrust are ascendant now. At home, hate-crime violence reached a 16-year high in 2018, the F.B.I. reported. Abroad, there were big geopolitical shifts. With the rise of nationalist movements and a backlash against globalization on both sides of the Atlantic, the liberal post-World War II order — based on economic integration and international institutions — began to unravel, and since 2017, the United States has not only abdicated its role as a stabilizing leader on the global stage, but is also sowing unpredictability and chaos abroad.

A 2019 Freedom House report, which recorded global declines in political rights and civil liberties over the last 13 years, found that “challenges to American democracy are testing the stability of its constitutional system and threatening to undermine political rights and civil liberties worldwide.”

If Lin-Manuel Miranda’s dazzling 2015 musical “Hamilton,” about the founders’ Enlightenment vision of the United States, embodied the hopes and diversity of America during the Obama years, dystopian fables and horror-driven films and television series — including “Black Mirror” (2016), a rebooted “Twilight Zone” (2019), “Joker” (2019), “Get Out” (2017), “Watchmen” (2019), “The Handmaid’s Tale” (2017) and “Westworld” (2016) — spoke to the darkening mood in the second half of the decade, as drug overdose deaths in America rose to nearly half a million by the decade’s end, life expectancy fell in the United States and Britain, and many of us started to realize that our data (tracking everything we viewed, bought and searched for online) was being sold and commodified, and that algorithms were shaping our lives in untold ways. In what was likely the hottest decade on record, scientists warned that climate change was swiftly approaching a “point of no return”; we learned that glaciers were melting at record speed at the top of the world; and fires ravaged California and Australia and threatened the very future of the Amazon rainforest.

A bit more and then you’ll need to head over to the NYT to read the rest.

Many of these troubling developments didn’t happen overnight. Even today’s poisonous political partisanship has been brewing for decades — dating back at least to Newt Gingrich’s insurgency — but President Trump has blown any idea of “normal” to smithereens, brazenly trampling constitutional rules, America’s founding ideals and virtually every norm of common decency and civil discourse….

Mr. Trump’s improbable rise benefited from a perfect storm of larger economic, social and demographic changes, and the profoundly disruptive effects of new technology. His ascent also coincided with the rising anxieties and sense of dislocation produced by such tectonic shifts. Around the world, liberal democracy is facing grave new challenges, authoritarianism is on the rise and science is being questioned by “post-fact” politicians. Echoes of Mr. Trump’s nativist populism can be found in Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain’s recent electoral victory and the Brexit referendum of 2016, and in the ascent of the far-right President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil. Democracy is under threat in Hungary and Poland. Once fringe right-wing parties with openly racist agendas are rebranding themselves in Sweden and Belgium. And far-right groups in Germany and Spain are now the third-largest parties in those nations’ parliaments.

AT THE SAME TIME, Donald Trump remains a uniquely American phenomenon. Although the United States was founded on the Enlightenment values of reason, liberty and progress, there has long been another strain of thinking at work beneath the surface — what Philip Roth called “the indigenous American berserk,” and the historian Richard Hofstadter famously described as “the paranoid style.”

It’s an outlook characterized by a sense of “heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy,” Hofstadter wrote in his 1964 essay, and focused on perceived threats to “a nation, a culture, a way of life.” Its language is apocalyptic (Mr. Trump’s “American carnage” is a perfect example); its point of view, extremist. It regards its opponents as evil and ubiquitous, while portraying itself, in Hofstadter’s words, as “manning the barricades of civilization.”

The “paranoid style,” Hofstadter observed, tends to occur in “episodic waves.” The modern right wing, he wrote, feels dispossessed: “America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it.” In their view, “the old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals,” and national independence has been “destroyed by treasonous plots, having as their most powerful agents not merely outsiders and foreigners but major statesmen seated at the very centers of American power.”

You might also want to read this opinion piece by Deborah Pearlstein at The Atlantic: How the Military Lost Its Proper Place in the Constitutional Order.

In his efforts to mask the seriousness of his actions around Russia and Ukraine, President Donald Trump has taken aim at one essential democratic institution after another—questioning the legitimacy of the press, the intelligence community, the courts, and, most recently, the House of Representatives itself. But he has so far mostly held his fire against both “his generals” and “our boys” in America’s military. “I will always stick up for our great fighters,” Trump promised his political supporters in Florida at a recent rally, championing on that day his recent decisions to pardon soldiers accused of war crimes.

The military, for its part, has had more mixed feelings. As a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, described one such pardon, the president’s action was nothing less than an “abdication of moral responsibility.” Indeed, the military’s generally steadying reactions to the president’s worst moments of volatility have given members of Congress on both sides of the aisle reason to hope that the Pentagon at least will remain a check on presidential impulse that might really compromise national security, should other checking institutions fail.

But hoping that a president will defer to the judgment of the professional military is a sign that something has gone very wrong in America’s constitutional infrastructure. The American republic was, after all, founded on the complaint that the king had “affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.” The Constitution’s Framers abhorred the British army, as much or more for its treatment of colonists in the years leading up to the war as during it. As Alexander Hamilton put it with characteristic clarity in “Federalist No. 26”: “The people of America may be said to have derived an hereditary impression of danger to liberty from standing armies in time of peace.”

Click the link to read the rest.

A few more stories to check out:

Margaret Carlson at The Daily Beast: McConnell’s Big Mistake Defending Trump? Listening to Him.

Raw Story: Trump interrupted his vacation for a Friday night social media meltdown.

Salon: Pelosi “has the right” to submit Trump to an “involuntary evaluation”: Yale psychiatrist Bandy Lee.

Newsweek: Trump Teen Rape Allegation Resurfaces, Ronan Farrow Claims National Enquirer Tried to Protect Him in New Book.

Scott Turow at Vanity Fair: Could Chief Justice Roberts Be the Democrats’ Impeachment Savior?

Have a nice weekend, Sky Dancers! If you’re around today, please comment and/or share a link.


Friday Reads: Get ready for 2020! Out with the Olds!

Image result for New Years Eve vintage photosGood Morning Sky Dancers!

It’s hard to believe we’re careening towards 2020.  I’m reading for the year to get started in many ways because I really would like us to find a way to dump Trump.  My New Year’s resolution is just plain “Out with the Olds”. However, I realize that it’s likely to be a brutal year because thugs never go quietly into the night no matter which way they’re turned out and that’s if he gets turned out at all.

We’re going to have to take the bad with the good and hope that the good outweighs the bad.

The political season will be brutal.  I can only wonder what horrid lies and diatribes we’ll get at the State of the Union Address.  There are a few early trends on what may be ahead.

First, it appears that 2020 is stacking up for a historical gender gap in voting.  This comes via CNN.  Women hate Trump. They really hate him and in increasing numbers.

If President Donald Trump loses in 2020, it will be at the hands of women.

An examination of recent CNN polls reveal that we could be looking at a record gender gap in the 2020 presidential election. For simplicity’s sake, I’m comparing Former Vice President Joe Biden (the leader in the Democratic primary polls) to Trump. In general election matchups against all the leading Democratic candidates, a greater than 25-point gender gap existed.

Biden has held a 60% to 36% lead over Trump among women in an average of our last two (October and December) CNN/SSRS polls. The same polling put Trump up 52% to 42% among men voters. When you combine Biden’s 24-point lead among women and Trump’s 10 point lead among men, this makes for a 34-point gender gap.

Gender gaps have been getting larger in recent years. From 1952 to about 1980, there really wasn’t a gender gap in presidential elections. So this isn’t just about Trump.

Still, this 34-point gender gap would be a significant increase from what we saw in 2016. In that election, the gender gap was 25 points. This, itself, was a record gender gap for any presidential election dating back to 1952. In fact, no presidential election had previously featured a gender gap of even greater than 20 points.

The gender gap becoming larger would fit with what we’ve seen in the Trump era. There was a larger gender gap in the 2018 House midterm election (23 points) than in any previous midterm.  

But what’s causing an escalation in the gender gap from even 2016 and 2018? It’s women turning even more against Trump than they were previously.

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That’s some really good news right there except the Biden part. The Hill reports that it will be a “bloody primary” season and that no one candidate appears to have a lock on it as of right now.

Democrats are bracing for a long, drawn-out primary season.

With just six weeks until the Iowa caucuses, some Democrats say they don’t expect a likely nominee to emerge anytime soon after early-voting states hold their contests. Instead, they’re preparing for a bruising four-way match-up that could drag on for months as candidates compete for the chance to challenge President Trump.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have consistently topped nationwide polls, but Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg remain key contenders who show no signs of slowing down.

“It’s going to be uglier than ugly,” one Democratic strategist said, pointing to surveys showing there is no clear winner across the first four states in the nominating process. “It’s going to be a bloody slugfest. And the thing a lot of us fear is that Trump will benefit from all of it.”

Democrats have focused their efforts on electability, making the case for rallying behind the kind of candidate who can topple Trump. Some Democrats say that while a progressive candidate can energize the party’s base and win in the primary, it would be much more difficult for that same White House hopeful to win the general election against Trump.

Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, argued that because the top candidates each have strong pockets of support, the primary may even lead to a brokered convention in July.

“Although people always say that, this time it could be true,” Zelizer said. “Democrats are so desperate to defeat Trump they have very different visions of how to do this and won’t concede easily.”

The party’s top four candidates — two progressive candidates and two moderate candidates — are indicative of where the Democratic Party is right now, said Democratic strategist Michael Trujillo.

Maybe more of us need to adopt Mona’s policy .  “I refuse to allow those who don’t recognize my full humanity to expect politeness of me,” she said.

Over time, she’s developed a reputation for telling the patriarchy and its footsoldiers—as she calls the white women who believe in polite feminism—to fuck off, literally. Cursing is a very important aspect of Eltahawy’s feminism; the third chapter in her latest book is titled “profanity.” On Twitter, where Eltahawy is known for telling people to “fuck off, kitten,” she’s amassed a following of over 300,000.

“I will not be civil to those who do not recognize my full humanity,” she explains.

But Eltahawy’s rhetoric is driven by more than shock value. It is rooted in her own horrific sexist experiences across the globe, and her commitment to eradicate them for herself and other women in the future. We spoke to Eltahawy about what the last decade taught her about feminism and what needs to happen in the next decade for a true feminist revolution.

VICE: Take me back to a decade ago. What did your feminism look like and what brought you there?

MONA ELTAHAWY: I always say I was traumatized into feminism. I go all the way back to when my family moved from Cairo to London, and then we moved from the U.K. to Saudi Arabia and what I learned on those journeys. Very quickly, what I learned in the U.K. was that very little was expected of Arab-looking women because my white teachers kept asking me, “What does your father do that brought you to London from Cairo?” They never bothered to ask what my mother does, and both my parents were on government scholarships to study for a PhD in medicine. It never occurred to my white teachers in London in the mid 70s that my mother could be studying her PhD. And then when we moved to Saudi Arabia, I saw what happened. My mother couldn’t drive anymore. We were utterly dependent on my father to take us everywhere. So those experiences in the U.K. and Saudi Arabia back to back were a reminder of how universal patriarchy is everywhere you go.

But the years 2009 and 2010 brought me to a really pivotal moment in my life, and that was when the revolution in Egypt started. For me personally, the revolution led to the dying of the old Mona and this coming out of this new Mona because in November of 2011, almost exactly eight years ago, Egyptian riot police beat me and broke my left arm and my right hand and sexually assaulted me. I was detained for 12 hours. You very rarely get a before-and-after moment in your life where you can actually point to a moment and say, this is my moment. But that was my moment. The last decade was that moment when I survived. And I survived by the old Mona dying and this Mona coming to be.

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And, this from Mashable, just about sums up the last decade: “2010s = 1984: The decade we finally understood Orwell”  written by Chris Taylor.

Don’t call him Winston Smith. Call him Mr. 2019. Because it’s looking increasingly like we live in Oceania. That fictional state was basically the British Isles, North America, and South America. Now the leaders of the largest countries in each of those regions — Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro — are men who have learned to flood the zone with obvious lies, because their opponents simply don’t have the time or energy to deal them all.

As we enter 2020, all three of them look increasingly, sickeningly, like they’re going to get away with it. They are protected by Party members who will endure any humiliation to trumpet loyalty to the Great Leader (big shout-out once again to Sen. Lindsay Graham) and by a media environment that actively enables political lies (thanks, Facebook).

All the Winston Smiths of our world can see what the score really is. It doesn’t seem to make any difference. But hey, at least we’re all finally aware of the most important line in 1984, which is now also its most quote-tweeted:

Yes, Virginia, there is no impeachment!  Huhn?

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And as we approach New Year’s Eve and Day and the entire freaking year, let’s just think, out with the old, in with the new.  That includes old white dudes like Trump, Biden, and Bernie. Out  out  OUT!!!

And I continue to debate the folks that say just vote for whoever looks bestest to beat Trump regardless of the fact that some one like Bernie has no plans, past history of accomplishment, or for that matter real grasp of anything beyond what the wobbles thought about way back when.  OR, that Biden has actively written and passed legislation hurting women, the black community, and every one that’s ever incurred a debt.  You want to trade one dotard for another?

So, here’s USA Today with a riff on the thought that just elect some one to Dump Trump. “Beating Donald Trump in the 2020 election isn’t everything; it’s the only thing”.

But there is also a warning in it: Few of the ideas being debated are getting much traction beyond Democratic true believers. And even many Democrats are ready to see some winnowing of the field in the early caucus and primary states.

This is a pretty good indication that the party’s voters should focus largely on one overriding issue: which of the candidates is best equipped to defeat Donald Trump next November.

In just a few short years, Trump has promoted the interests of U.S. foes, needlessly run up massive government debts, thwarted progress on climate change, done palpable harm to America’s health care system, and turned the once-proud party of Abe Lincoln and Ronald Reagan into an adulation cult.

Ridding the nation of his unfit leadership is far more important than who has the most extensive plan to hand out free money (we’re looking at you, Andrew Yang) or require everyone to get their health care through an expanded Medicare (Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders).

The Democrats need a nominee who can go toe-to-toe with Trump, explain to the electorate why he is so wrong in so many ways, and build a consensus on taking the nation in a new direction.

But tell me, do we really know who that is at this point?  Voters in Iowa sent Biden packing two times already? Are we supposed to wait for South Carolina to put his pasty ass first? I’m pretty sure neither Iowa or New Hampshire is going to do that.

But, any way, I digress, and I just want some peace and quiet a few days before the 2020 hell realm breaks lose.   Meanwhile, point me to the wine cave for poor people.

What’s on you reading and blogging list today?