Lazy Saturday Reads

Good Morning!!

I’m completely exhausted–mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. I’m sure I’m not alone. Trump in the White House is utterly toxic. The poison he spews every day is so draining. How will it end? Will he ever go away and leave us alone?

He’s certainly isolated now. All but one of his original top advisers in the photo at the top of this post is now gone. Only Pence remains. Domenico Montenaro at NPR: What Trump’s Increasing Isolation Could Mean For His Presidency.

There has been a pattern — that if anyone gets too much attention for being influential, they become a target. Remember when U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley was getting lots of positive attention for how she spoke out on Syria?

“Does everybody like Nikki, because if you don’t—,” Trump said. “Otherwise she can easily be replaced, right?”

And there was Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who stood awkwardly behind the president when he spoke at the Boy Scouts Jamboree last month, when Trump said: “By the way, are you going to get the votes? He better get them. He better get them. Oh, he better. Otherwise I’ll say, ‘Tom, you’re fired.’ I’ll get somebody.”

(Nevermind that Price had relatively little influence in getting those votes.)

Two days later, the health care bill failed. Price is still on the job, but in an effort to separate himself from Congress and hold onto his base, Trump began to lash out at congressional Republicans, especially Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell.

Translation: Trump is all about Trump.

The ousters at the White House, taken together, amount to a Trump purge. It’s the president asserting himself and saying no one is above No. 1.

A little more:

Top officials who are gone, via NYT

What’s left in the White House is Trump’s family, “globalists,” like former Goldman Sachs executive Gary Cohn, and the generals, including Chief of Staff John Kelly, who has orchestrated much of the shakeup. The latter two are arguably part of “the swamp” his base so detests.

But that’s not to say any of them become ascendant for an extended period. Kelly has already been on the cover of Time, hailed as “Trump’s Last Best Hope.” What happens if the magazine credits him for righting the ship, or the narrative becomes that the Pentagon is dictating policy?

The narrative that really seems to irk President Trump is one of the “adults” leading him around like he’s a “child.” ….

Anything’s possible. Nothing is normal. So don’t be surprised if in another seven months, the country is looking at a completely new White House again — though Trump is running out of people who will take jobs in his administration.

Trump is runs the White House like an alcoholic father terrorizes his family. I can’t even begin to imagine what having him as a parent must have been like. No wonder his children are so soulless.

Two points of view on Bannon’s banishment:

The New York Times: Steve Bannon, Back on the Outside, Prepares His Enemies List.

Stephen K. Bannon has always been more comfortable when he was trying to tear down institutions — not work inside them.

With his return to Breitbart News, Mr. Bannon will be free to lead the kind of ferocious assault on the political establishment that he relishes, even if sometimes that means turning his wrath on the White House itself.

Hours after his ouster from the West Wing, he was named to his former position of executive chairman at the hard-charging right-wing website and led its evening editorial meeting. And Mr. Bannon appeared eager to move onto his next fight.

“In many ways, I think I can be more effective fighting from the outside for the agenda President Trump ran on,” he said Friday. “And anyone who stands in our way, we will go to war with.”

Among those already in Mr. Bannon’s sights: Speaker Paul D. Ryan; Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader; the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and Gary D. Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs who now directs the White House’s National Economic Council.

“The president was buoyed to election by capturing the hearts and minds of a populist, nationalist movement,” Alex Marlow, Breitbart’s editor in chief, said Friday evening. “A lot of it was anti-Wall Street, anti-corporatist, anti-establishment. And now we’re seeing that a lot of these guys remaining inside the White House are exactly the opposite of what we told you you were going to get.”

Sarah Kendzior at Fast Company: Steve Bannon May Be A Bigger Asset to Trump Outside The White House Than In It.

In 2016, Bannon described himself as a Leninist. When a Daily Beastreporter asked what that meant, Bannon replied: “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

That was Bannon’s goal before he became a federal employee, funded by U.S. tax dollars. But Bannon’s views did not change when he became Trump’s chief strategist. In his February speech to CPAC, Bannon said his objective was to “deconstruct the administrative state” and that many of the injurious incompetents who fill Trump’s cabinet–the EPA head who opposes environmental protections, the HUD secretary who opposes public housing–”were selected for a reason, and that is deconstruction.”

Bannon sought to destroy the United States as we know it from both from within the White House as Trump’s advisor, and from outside it, back when he was the editor of white supremacist outlet Breitbart. Bannon sought to build a movement, not serve our government. In many ways, he succeeded: his white nationalist views became sanctioned at the executive level, and the US government is chaoticunderstaffed, and weaker on the global stagethan at any point this century.

What is essential to realize is that, despite reports of a feud, Trump shares much of Bannon’s dark outlook. Trump spent his business career eagerly anticipating both social and economic disasters. “I sort of hope that happens because then people like me would go in and buy,” Trump said of the housing crash in 2006. Before that, Trump spent decades exploiting the damaged economies of towns like Gary, Indiana and Atlantic City, leaving them as bad or worse off than when he arrived. In 2014, Trump openly longed for the U.S. to “go to total hell” and cited riots as necessary for true American greatness–words that should worry all of us as we head into this tense weekend. Over the past two years, Trump has rarely condemned his white supremacist supporters who attack ethnic and religious minorities; at one point, he offered to pay legal fees for violent fans.

Click on the link to read the rest.

There is a so-called “free speech” rally in Boston today. I hope it won’t be too ugly.

Wesley Lowery at the Washington Post: Thousands expected at Boston ‘free speech’ rally and counter-protest.

BOSTON – City officials expect a gathering of thousands of participants and counter-protesters on Boston Common on Saturday afternoon for a “free speech” rally set to include speeches from several far-right political figures – prompting fears that the event could turn violent.

More than 500 police officers will be on hand for the rally, slated from noon until 2 p.m., according to a permit granted earlier this week. The gathering comes just one week after a chaotic rally of far-right political groups including neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and Klan members in Charlottesville, Va. left dozens injured and one woman dead after a neo-Nazi plowed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.

Organizers in Boston said today’s gathering is not in solidarity with white nationalists, but police have installed new surveillance cameras around Boston Common and have put restrictions on the rally – such as a ban on backpacks, sticks and other potential weapons – in hopes of preventing violence. Local activist groups have planned a massive counter-protest and march.

“We don’t want a repeat of what happened in Charlottesville,” Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said at a news conference on Friday. “Boston is too united. We have a city that doesn’t tolerate hatred and bigotry.”

Boston Herald: Ku Klux Klan to attend Boston rally.

Massachusetts members of the Ku Klux Klan reportedly are headed to Boston Common for the so-called Boston Free Speech Rally this Saturday, but a rally organizer said he doesn’t want the event “hijacked” by white supremacists.

“I know some of our members from the Springfield area are going,” said Thomas Robb, national director of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. “I’m assuming members in the Boston area are going.”

Robb did not provide details on who or how many members would attend the rally, but said they would be inconspicuous while supporting the rally.

“I don’t think they’re going to cause a disturbance,” Robb said, adding that Knights from different areas went to the Charlottesville rally. “Our members don’t stand out, they don’t walk around giving Nazi salutes, they might be your next door neighbor or Cub Scout leader.”

Now there’s a scary thought.

I saved tons of links for today, so I’ll give you the rest as headlines only.

The New Yorker: Carl Icahn’s Failed Raid on Washington.

Foreign Policy: Inside Trump’s Tortured Search for a Winning Strategy in Afghanistan.

Vanity Fair: Please God, Save Gary Cohn from Himself.

The Washington Post: Trump, first lady to skip Kennedy Center Honors over concerns of ‘political distraction.’

CNN: Sebastian Gorka’s PhD adviser: “I would not call him an expert in terrorism.”

The Washington Post: Here is the official résumé of the person Trump put in charge of federal housing in New York.

Palm Beach Post: Five more charities pull out of Mar-a-Lago events.

Buzzfeed: How Women In The KKK Were Instrumental To Its Rise.

CNN: The striking similarities between the KKK and Islamist jihadis.

Julia Ioffe at The Atlantic: The Road to Radicalism in Charlottesville.

This guy is speaking in Boston today. Berkeleyside: Kyle ‘Based Stickman’ Chapman charged with felony in connection to Berkeley rally.

Time: Student Who Attended Charlottesville White Supremacist Rally Leaves Boston University After Backlash.

Raw Story: ‘My life is over’: 21-year-old Charlottesville marcher whines over ‘outing’ by anti-fascist group.

Axios: When Confederate statues were erected throughout history.

What stories are you following today?

 

 


Thursday Reads: The Dark, Depressing Place That Is Trump’s America

July 31, 2017 – A vehicle travels east on Front St. in Bells, TN on Monday afternoon. Bells is one of five small towns that comprises Crockett County, Tennessee.  (Yalonda M. James for Mother Jones)

Good Morning!!

Ever wonder what is it like to be a person of color in a Trump-supporting state? Read some personal testimony at Mother Jones: “We Just Feel Like We Don’t Belong Here Anymore,” by Becca Andrews. Andrews returned to her hometown of Bells, Tennessee to find out.

I remember high-school Madyson Turner as a vibrant young black woman with a sense of humor that could dissipate tension in any room. (Turner’s name has been changed here to protect her privacy.) But when we meet up in a Subway sandwich shop in Alamo, there’s a new weight to her shoulders, and her infectious laugh doesn’t come quite so easily.

When she first began to see reports about the violence in Charlottesville, Turner thought it was a tasteless joke. Then she saw videos of the clash on Saturday, and her phone rang—her boyfriend was calling to check on her and process what was happening. He sounded upset. What he said tore at her: “I would rather the world end instead of us having to keep dealing with this stuff.” What hurt her more was the realization that she agreed with him.

“With the way it’s going now, I’m actually scared that I won’t make it,” she said to me in a text message.

Turner tells me that over the past year, life for her family has changed. She hints that her parents have been in West Tennessee long enough to know which families fought against civil rights “back in the day.” Since Trump’s election, they’ve warned her to steer clear of a list of people that is too long for comfort.

The day after the November presidential election, Turner went with her mother to the store, and they both kept their heads down. “We just feel like we don’t belong here anymore,” she says.

Turner’s mom, who cleans houses in town for a living, went to work a couple of days after that, and her employer, an older white woman, brought up the results of the recent election. The two had talked politics before—Turner’s mom is a Democrat, and her employer is a Republican. “Well, you might as well come and live with me now,” the employer said. “You gonna be mine eventually.”

She called her daughter in tears. Turner immediately got in her car and picked her mother up to bring her home.

Last year before the election, a young woman Turner described as one of her best friends casually mentioned she hoped for a Trump victory so that he might “do away with some of these African American people.” She quickly clarified that she wasn’t referring to Turner’s “type,” but when Turner sharply asked her what she meant, she couldn’t answer. Another friend assured her that it would be okay if Trump won the election because she would convince her parents to purchase Turner’s family as their new slaves. In a place where a few large plantation-style houses remain scattered through the county, the “joke” feels a lot like a threat.

The stories are heartbreaking. Please go read the rest if you haven’t already.

The Guardian reports what happened to an African American woman in Texas: Dashcam video shows police sexually assaulted Texas woman, lawyer says.

Charnesia Corley

The attorney for a black woman subjected to an invasive and lengthy roadside strip search by Texas police has released a dashcam video of the incident that he says shows her treatment was a form of rape.

“When you stick your fingers in somebody without their effective consent, that’s rape in any state that I know of,” said Sam Cammack, an attorney for Charnesia Corley.

Cammack made the video public after two Harris County deputies, Ronaldine Pierre and William Strong, were cleared of official oppression by a grand jury earlier this month. They are still with the sheriff’s department. Cammack wants an independent prosecutor to look into the case; a federal civil rights trial is set for January.

Corley was pulled over for allegedly running a stop sign and failing to use turn signals. In the video, she is made to stand, handcuffed, outside her car while two officers look inside. She is then searched with the rear passenger-side door open, partially obscuring the camera’s view of her body.

Corley is then put on the ground, naked below the waist, and examined for about 11 minutes by a female officer using a flashlight. The incident happened in the parking lot of a Texaco garage in Houston late on a June evening in 2015, when she was a 20-year-old student.

The federal lawsuit against Harris County alleges: “When one of the Deputies tried to insert her fingers into Ms CorTheley’s vagina, Ms Corley protested. At that point, the Deputies forcibly threw Ms Corley to the ground, while she was still handcuffed, pinned her down with her legs spread apart, threatened to break her legs and without consent penetrated her vagina in a purported search for marijuana.”

The Guardian is on the ground in Pennsylvania: ‘Trump’s delivering exactly what they wanted: white male supremacy.’

Leaning over a table stacked with “Resist!” buttons and “Impeach Trump” stickers, Kathy Harrington pointed to the offending spot. “It’s probably still there somewhere,” she said. Harrington, 56, was inviting attendees of the annual Musikfest bash in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to sign up to support progressive causes – and to protest against Donald Trump. And then there was one guy who “just looked at us and spit”, said Sandra Davis, 58, a colleague of Harrington, who pointed out the evidence still evaporating from the pavement.

Kathy Harrington joins fellow political activists during Musikfest in Bethlehem. Mark Makela for the Guardian

“They feel empowered,” Davis said of Trump supporters since the election. “They’re given voice. The louder and the more vulgar, the better.”

Images from the night before of white supremacists carrying torches in Charlottesville, Virginia, were deeply disturbing but not surprising, said another activist, Ginny Atwell.

“I think his core base are the true deplorables,” Atwell, 72, said of Trump. “The white supremacists. He’s delivering exactly what they wanted. White male supremacy.”

Trump is never too busy defending white supremacists to find new ways to reverse things President Obama did. The Washingtonian: Trump Removed the White House’s Capital Bikeshare Station.

As Capital Bikeshare grew bigger and more widespread over the past seven years, there was always one station the vast majority of users could never access: a nine-slot dock inside the White House’s security perimeter. The station, located at 17th Street and State Place, was visible to the eye when it was installed in 2010, but did not appear on any system map, making Capital Bikeshare’s smallest station an unofficial “secret” location.

The spot where the WH Capital bikeshare station used to be.

But on Tuesday, Twitter user Gregory Matlesky passed by the White House and noticed the station not there.

Turns out Matlesky’s intuition was correct. The station was removed earlier this week at the Trump Administration’s request, District Department of Transportation spokesperson Terry Owens tells Washingtonian.

Owens adds that the station was installed in 2010 at the request of the Obama Administration, which had a favorable record with the cycling community. The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery—or TIGER—grant program in the 2009 stimulus act funded bike-infrastructure programs throughout the United States, including the installation of several bike lanes and cycling paths around Washington. Before former President Barack Obama left office in January, his Transportation Department signed off on new regulations redefining traffic as people who move on roads, rather than strictly vehicles—a change considered a coup for cyclists and pedestrians.

Apparently WordPress no longer allows us to post tweets, but I’ve posted the photo Matlesky shared.

Why is Mike Pence ending his Latin American trip three days early? Oliver Willis at Share Blue opines: Pence cuts foreign trip short to rush home as Trump’s presidency collapses.

The latest alarm sign for Trump that his presidency is crumbling was the complete destruction of the advisory councils he had put together months ago. Multiple CEOs pulled out of the group, leading Trump to then impotently declare that he was ending them.

Pence also reiterated his support for Trump’s divisive remarks on the terrorist attack in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“I stand with the president,” he said, and insisted that Trump “has been clear” on standing against racism. The claim is disconnected from reality, coming less than 24 hours after Trump delivered a full-throated defense of white supremacists, arguing that they were provoked by the “alt-left,” and characterizing pro-confederacy Nazis as “fine people.”

Standing with Trump might not be so good for Pence’s 2020 prospects.

Tony Schwartz, who wrote Trump’s book The Art of the Deal, thinks Trump is going to resign. HuffPost:

Tony Schwartz

Donald Trump’s Art of the Deal co-author Tony Schwartz is predicting that the president is getting ready to call it quits ― and that the resignation will happen soon.

In followup tweets in response to questions, Schwartz predicted Trump would make a deal for immunity in the Russia investigation in exchange for his resignation.

“The Russia stuff will be huge,” he wrote. “He doesn’t want to go to jail.”

He also urged Trump’s opponents to keep up the pressure, and he slammed the president’s elder children.

Read Schwartz’s tweets at HuffPost. I agree with him. Ever since I heard that Pence was rushing back to the U.S. for a meeting at Camp David, I’ve suspected Trump will be pressured to resign. It may not happen right away, but I believe it will happen.

I’ll add more links in the comment thread. What stories are you following today?

 


Tuesday Reads: A New Civil War?

Good Morning!!

This morning I’m feeling an overwhelming sadness at what is happening to our country. I’m not at all knowledgeable about Civil War history, and now I feel I should learn more about it. It feels to me as if that long ago conflict is still going on and may never end.

Trump is only a symptom of the festering evil of racism that has haunted the U.S. since before it existed. Our “republic” was built on a foundation of slavery and the slaughter of Native Americans. How can we ever cleanse that evil from the nbational bloodstream?

Josh Marshall has a fine piece on this tortured history and how it relates to the confederate statues that are just beginning to be taken down:  Thoughts on Public Memory. He begins be discussing the mixed history of Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence and at the same time owned slaves, one of whom was forced to bear his children. But what about Robert E. Lee? What public acts could mitigate his role in trying to protect slavery?

Lee is known for one thing: being the key military leader in a violent rebellion against the United States and leading that rebellion to protect slavery. That’s it. Absent his decision to participate in the rebellion he’d be all but unknown to history. He outlived the war by only five years. There’s simply no positive side of the ledger to make it a tough call. The only logic to honoring Lee is to honor treason and treason in the worst possible cause.

Lincoln and his war cabinet had little question what Lee deserved. Look at Arlington National Cemetery. That’s Lee’s plantation. The federal government confiscated it and dedicated it as a final resting place for those who died defending the United States. It is a solemn, poetically rich, final and ultimately righteous verdict on his role in our national life. The entire project was very much by design: to punish Lee and shame him in public memory for betraying the United States. (During the Civil War, a Freedman’s Village was also established on the estate for ex-slaves making their transition to freedom.) The generals, particularly Union Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs who spearheaded the effort, wanted to be certain the Lees would never be able to reclaim their estate. Making it into a hallowed national cemetery was a good way to accomplish that.

I didn’t even know that.

What is little discussed today is that the North and the South made a tacit bargain in the years after the Civil War to valorize Southern generals as a way to salve the sting of Southern defeat and provide a cultural and political basis for uniting the country with more than military force. That meant the abandonment of free blacks in the South after the mid-1870s. It is important to see this not only as the abandonment of the ex-slaves of the South. It is difficult to pull away the subsequent history to realize that it was entirely possible in the aftermath of the Civil War that the US would be condemned to perpetual warfare, insurrection and foreign intervention. But if the opposite, the United States that went on to become a global superpower, is what was gained it was gained at a terrible price and a price paid more or less solely by black citizens.

However one judges that past, knowing its full history leaves no reason or rationale for continue the valorization of Lee. He was a traitor and a traitor in a terrible cause. That is his only mark on American history. Whether he was a personal gentle man, nice to his pets or a decent field general hardly matters.

Even this though leaves the full squalidness of Lee’s legacy not quite told. There is the Lee of the Civil War and then the mythic Lee of later decades. Today the battle over Lee’s legacy is mainly played out over the various statues of Lee which still stand across the South. The notional focus on this weekend’s tragic events in Charlottesville was a protest over plans to remove a Lee statue. But those statues don’t date to the Civil War, the years just after the Civil War. In most cases they date to decades later.

I can’t do Marshall’s article justice with excerpts. Please go read the whole thing at Talking Points Memo.

At the New Yorker, Robin Write asks: Is American Headed for a New Kind of Civil War?

A day after the brawling and racist brutality and deaths in Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe asked, “How did we get to this place?” The more relevant question after Charlottesville—and other deadly episodes in Ferguson, Charleston, Dallas, Saint Paul, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, and Alexandria—is where the United States is headed. How fragile is the union, our republic, and a country that has long been considered the world’s most stable democracy? The dangers are now bigger than the collective episodes of violence. “The radical right was more successful in entering the political mainstream last year than in half a century,” the Southern Poverty Law Center reported in February. The organization documents more than nine hundred active (and growing) hate groups in the United States.

America’s stability is increasingly an undercurrent in political discourse. Earlier this year, I began a conversation with Keith Mines about America’s turmoil. Mines has spent his career—in the U.S. Army Special Forces, the United Nations, and now the State Department—navigating civil wars in other countries, including Afghanistan, Colombia, El Salvador, Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan. He returned to Washington after sixteen years to find conditions that he had seen nurture conflict abroad now visible at home. It haunts him. In March, Mines was one of several national-security experts whom Foreign Policyaskedto evaluate the risks of a second civil war—with percentages. Mines concluded that the United States faces a sixty-per-cent chance of civil war over the next ten to fifteen years. Other experts’ predictions ranged from five per cent to ninety-five per cent. The sobering consensus was thirty-five per cent. And that was five months before Charlottesville.

“We keep saying, ‘It can’t happen here,’ but then, holy smokes, it can,” Mines told me after we talked, on Sunday, about Charlottesville. The pattern of civil strife has evolved worldwide over the past sixty years. Today, few civil wars involve pitched battles from trenches along neat geographic front lines. Many are low-intensity conflicts with episodic violence in constantly moving locales. Mines’s definition of a civil war is large-scale violence that includes a rejection of traditional political authority and requires the National Guard to deal with it. On Saturday, McAuliffe put the National Guard on alert and declared a state of emergency.

Based on his experience in civil wars on three continents, Mines cited five conditions that support his prediction: entrenched national polarization, with no obvious meeting place for resolution; increasingly divisive press coverage and information flows; weakened institutions, notably Congress and the judiciary; a sellout or abandonment of responsibility by political leadership; and the legitimization of violence as the “in” way to either conduct discourse or solve disputes.

President Trump “modeled violence as a way to advance politically and validated bullying during and after the campaign,” Mines wrote in Foreign Policy. “Judging from recent events the left is now fully on board with this,” he continued, citing anarchists in anti-globalization riots as one of several flashpoints. “It is like 1859, everyone is mad about something and everyone has a gun.”

Again, I hope you’ll continue reading at the New Yorker link.

Can racism ever be defeated or can it only be suppressed?

Catherine Rampell at The Washington Post: Trump’s lasting legacy is to embolden an entirely new generation of racists.

If there was one silver lining to President Trump’s election, it was supposed to be this: Those who voted for Trump because of, rather than despite, his demonization of Muslims and Hispanics; who fear a “majority minority” America; and who wax nostalgic for the Jim Crow era were mostly old white people.

Which meant they and their abhorrent prejudices would soon pass on — and be replaced by generations of younger, more racially enlightened Americans.

The white nationalist rally this past weekend in Charlottesville clearly proves this to be a myth. Racist grandpas may be dying out, but their bigotry is regenerating in today’s youths.

Yes, there were swastika-tattooed, Ku Klux Klan-hooded 50-somethings on the streets of Charlottesville. The most chilling photos, however, show hordes of torch-bearing, fresh-faced, “fashy”-coiffed white men in their teens and 20s….

The public faces of the white supremacist “alt-right” movement are likewise skewing younger. David Duke is still around, but as a charismatic figurehead he has mostly been displaced by the likes of 39-year-old Richard Spencer, 26-year-old Matthew Heimbach and 29-year-old Tim “Baked Alaska” Gionet.

These are not people whose backwardness we can write off as an unfortunate product of their time.

That is, we’re not talking about young white Americans whose happy formative years took place in a world with (de jure) school segregation, redlining, anti-miscegenation laws and phrenology.

If any had family who fought for the Confederacy, they’ve been dead for at least a century. No one is telling them about the good ol’ days on the plantation.

One more from the Washington Post before I have to rush off to a doctor’s appointment: Why are people still racist? What science says about America’s race problem.

Torch-bearing white supremacists shouting racist and anti-Semitic slogans. Protesters and counter protesters colliding with violence and chaos. A car driven by a known Nazi sympathizer mowing down a crowd of activists.

Many Americans responded to this weekend’s violence in Charlottesville with disbelieving horror. How could this happen in America, in 2017? “This is not who we are,” said Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (D).

And yet, this is who we are.

Amid our modern clashes, researchers in psychology, sociology and neurology have been studying the roots of racism. We draw on that research and asked two scientists to explain why people feel and act this way toward each other.

Read what science shows at the link.

The illustrations in this post are from the rallies in Charlottesville.

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?


Lazy Saturday Reads: Trump’s Amerika

neo-Nazi white supremacists in Charlottesville, VA last night

Good Afternoon!!

White “nationalists” are involved in a violent demonstration in the streets of an American city today. There has so far been no reaction from the “president,” who of course has a number of these crazies working for him in the people’s house.

According to reports on MSNBC, the rally–supposedly a protest of the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee–has now been declared an “unlawful assembly.” Interestingly,there are lots of Confederate flags on display in the crowd, but I have yet to see an American flag. Until recently, there hasn’t been much attempt by police to control the “protesters” either. It’s certainly a different scene from the police crackdowns we have seen at demonstrations organized by Black Lives Matter.

Boston.com: Hundreds face off ahead of white nationalist rally.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Hundreds of people are facing off in Charlottesville ahead of a white nationalist rally planned in the Virginia city’s downtown.

Rally supporters and counter-protesters screamed, chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other Saturday morning.

Men dressed in militia uniforms were carrying shields and openly carrying long guns.

 

From Twitter earlier today:

NBC News: Protesters Clash at White Nationalists March in Virginia, Local Emergency Declared.

Altercations erupted Saturday morning and at least two people were hurt as white nationalists and counter-protesters violently clashed in Charlottesville, Virginia, where local police and the governor declared a state of emergency.

Supporters of the “Unite the Right” rally descended again on the city’s downtown in opposition to clergy members and other groups, who stood in a line singing, “This Little Light of Mine,” to drown out the profanity and slurs.

“Love has already won. We have already won,” the counter-protesters responded.

But as the violence intensified with shoving and punching, demonstrators covered their mouths after what appeared to be tear gas was released into the crowd.

The city and Albemarle County both issued a “declaration of local emergency” for the two jurisdictions to request additional resources. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe also declared a state of emergency to allow for a response to quell the violence.

The rally hasn’t even started yet, but it has been called off. We’ll have to wait and see what happens next.

Yesterday White House employee Sebastian Gorka defended white supremacists. Think Progress: White House adviser says people should stop criticizing white supremacists so much.

On Wednesday, Gorka lashed out at “at [New York Times reporter] Maggie Haberman and her acolytes in the fake news media, who immediately have a conniption fit” and brought up McVeigh. He added that “white men” and “white supremacists” are not “the problem.”

It’s this constant, “Oh, it’s the white man. It’s the white supremacists. That’s the problem.” No, it isn’t, Maggie Haberman. Go to Sinjar. Go to the Middle East, and tell me what the real problem is today. Go to Manchester.

Gorka noted that the Oklahoma City bombing was 22 years ago, which is true. But since 9/11, right-wing extremists — almost always white men and frequently white supremacists — have been far more deadly domestically than Muslim extremists. A study found that in the first 13.5 years after 9/11, Muslim extremists were responsible for 50 deaths in the United States. Meanwhile, “right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities.”

I wonder if he went to the rally in Charlottesville?

Meanwhile, Trump has apparently been threatening a nuclear holocaust in an effort to change the subject from the Russia investigation, because there’s no sign of the U.S. military gearing up for war or of the government moving to evacuate U.S. citizens from South Korea and other areas that could be threatened by strikes on North Korea.

US Naval Base in Guam

Defense News: If the US is going to war in North Korea, nobody told the US military.

If you watch cable news or follow the president’s Twitter feed, you might be under the impression that the U.S. is heading to war with North Korea. But somebody, it seems, forgot to loop in the U.S. military.

North Korea is threatening to launch missiles toward Guam; U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Friday morning that military options were “locked and loaded;” NBC News ran a story Wednesday claiming the U.S. had ”prepared a plan” to strike North Korean missile sites with B-1 bombers.

But while the rhetoric is nearing a fever pitch in D.C., out in the Pacific you’d never know the world was on the brink of nuclear war.

In Yokosuka, Japan, the U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed ready aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan sits peacefully pier-side, along with the U.S. 7th Fleet command ship Blue Ridge. On the Korean Peninsula, the State Department has not advised American citizens to leave the country and U.S. military family members are not being evacuated. No Marines are being loaded on amphibious ships; no sailors have been recalled off leave to prepare for emergency operations; and no ballistic missile defense ships have been sortied to North Korea, the waters off Japan or to Guam, three sources said.

The frenzied rhetoric being propelled by the president’s words and fed back by the news cycle is, for the second time this year, failing to match what’s actually happening, sources told Defense News.

Continue reading at the link.

Eddie Baza Calvo Govornor of Guam

I guess Trump wasn’t satisfied with the panic he has caused around the world, because yesterday he seemed to threaten military intervention in Venezuela. But more evidence that this is nothing but a “wag the dog” strategy came in a phone call Trump made to the governor of Guam late last night. The New York Times: Trump to Guam Governor: North Korea Threats Will Boost Tourism ‘Tenfold.’

If there’s one thing that Guam does not have to worry about while the tiny island is in the nuclear cross hairs of North Korea, it’s tourism, President Trump told the island’s governor in a phone call made public on Saturday.

The threat by North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, to create “an enveloping fire” around the tiny United States territory in the Western Pacific will boost Guam tourism “tenfold,” Mr. Trump is heard saying in the recorded conversation with Gov. Eddie Calvo.

The recording was put on the Republican governor’s Facebook page and other social media accounts.

Mr. Trump said: “I have to tell you, you have become extremely famous all over the world. They are talking about Guam; and they’re talking about you.” And when it comes to tourism, he added, “I can say this: You’re going to go up, like, tenfold with the expenditure of no money.”

Trump is another P.T. Barnum, and he’s turned our government into a three-ring circus. It appears he is actually enjoying his ability to strike terror into millions of people around the globe. He’s getting off on it. I’m beginning to wonder if Trump suffers from bi-polar disorder. He is acting as if he’s in a manic phase and about to spiral out of control.

Journalist Daniel Dale tweeted a comparison of the White House readout of the Guam call vs. an actual transcript.

The New York Times and The Atlantic each have lengthy articles up asking why Trump can’t ever criticize Putin. Neither author suggests what is likely the real reason–Trump is a Russian asset.

The New York Times: Combative Trump Pulls His Punches for One Man: Putin.

TheAtlantic: Why Does Trump Still Refuse to Criticize Putin?

A couple more interesting stories I came across this morning, and then I’m going to retire to my bed to nurse a throbbing headache caused by reading about all this insanity.

The Hill: Former Mueller deputy on Trump: ‘Government is going to kill this guy.’

CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd warned that President Trump is agitating the government, saying during a Thursday afternoon interview with CNN anchor Jake Tapper that the U.S. government “is going to kill this guy.”

Mudd, who served as deputy director to former FBI Director Robert Mueller, said Trump’s defense of Russian President Vladimir Putin has compelled federal employees “at Langley, Foggy Bottom, CIA and State” to try to take Trump down.

“Let me give you one bottom line as a former government official. Government is going to kill this guy,” Mudd, a staunch critic of Trump, said on “The Lead.”

“He defends Vladimir Putin. There are State Department and CIA officers coming home, and at Langley and Foggy Bottom, CIA and State, they’re saying, ‘This is how you defend us?’ ” he continued.

Read the rest of Mudd’s rant at the link.

Nina Burleigh at Newsweek: Melania, Ivanka and Ivana Trump Wear High Heels, a Symbol of Everything that is Beautiful and Horrifying about Them.

The vertiginous spike-heel shoe is not currently in fashion, but for Ivana, Ivanka, Melania and the Trump daughters-in-law, Carrie Bradshaw’s shoe of choice never went out of style. In fact, the female consorts of the Leader of the Free World do not set foot in public without first molding their arches into the supranatural curve that Mattel toy designers once devised for Barbie’s plastic feet.

Six months in, and the Trump women are well on their way to normalizing the footwear of the beauty pageant. The Cinderella shoe fitted on the feet of all the Miss Teen USA’s and Miss Universes who ever beamed under the Trumpian gaze in contests of yore also is the shoe that average women can bear for only a few hours at weddings or proms, before casting them off, moaning and rubbing their soles.Former Vogue editor Andre Leon Talley, a longtime friend of Melania Trump’s, believes that, other than the White House Easter Egg hunt on the lawn, Melania has not been photographed as first lady without her feet arched into one of two brands of towering high-heeled shoes that she favors, Manolo Blahniks or the 4.5-inch-heeled Oh So Kate by Christian Louboutin. (Talley says Melania picked up 22 pairs of Manolos in various colors before decamping to the White House last month.)

In their old age, these women will need serious health care for their feet.

The stiletto is a podiatrist’s dream, or nightmare, depending on your point of view, because devoted wearers ultimately require medical attention. “As you get older in these shoes, your feet are going to have problems,” Talley says. “I am not gonna say Melania is gonna have them soon, but sooner or later she is going have to come down off that high arch.”

The internet and YouTube are rife with tutorials on how to bear the pain (bandages, gel inserts, baby powder) and walk gracefully in them. Michelle Phan’s “How to Master the High Heel” tutorial has received millions of views. Her nuggets of advice include: “Your first assignment when walking in heels is to find a straight line and follow it,” and “For every step you take, you need to have a general awareness of where your heel is being placed.”

Stiletto pumps demand a critical level of attention to pebbles, cobbles, sidewalk cracks, mud, grass, curbs and stairs—all while keeping head erect and shoulders back—that has sometimes eluded even the greatest public females. Remember Naomi Campbell’s famous runway spill. Or Jennifer Lawrence tripping up the steps to receive her Oscar.

But not the Trump women. Read the rest at the link.

What stories are you following today?


Thursday Reads

An inflatable chicken meant to resemble President Trump on the Ellipse, just south of the White House, on Wednesday. Credit Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/10/us/politics/trump-giant-inflatable-chicken.html

Good Afternoon!!

Where to begin? We’re still seeing the fallout from the news that broke yesterday about the late July predawn raid on Paul Manafort’s Virginia home, Trump is threatening war with North Korea and feuding with Mitch McConnell, and more info is coming out about the latest frightening climate change report, and the White House is just as chaotic as ever despite John Kelly’s efforts. I have no doubt that more crazy news will break before I finish this post.

I’ll start with the Manafort raid followup. First, it was a “no-knock” raid according to Jim Sciutto of CNN.

That means that the Special Counsel convinced a judge that Manafort might destroy evidence if he knew the FBI was at his front door. I guess it also means the FBI broke down his door. That’s  huge.

From Just Security: FBI Search of Paul Manafort’s Home: What Does It Really Mean?

Mueller’s use of a search warrant tells us that he was able to establish on the basis of evidence, and to the satisfaction of a United States Magistrate-Judge, that there was probable cause to believe that evidence of a specific crime or crimes existed in the location to be searched. That standard is significantly higher than what is required to obtain a grand jury subpoena, which can be used to obtain any evidence that a grand jury (under the direction of a prosecutor) decides will be helpful to their investigation. Mueller’s resort to a search warrant shows, therefore, that his investigation has advanced, has identified specific potential crimes, and is zeroing in on key evidence. Since it was Manafort’s house that was searched, it is likely that he is implicated in the crimes, but that is not necessarily the case. Further, it should be clear that just because Mueller has now reached this stage in the investigation, it does not necessarily mean that Manafort or anybody else will be ultimately charged with crimes.

Now why did Mueller use a search warrant instead of a subpoena, particularly since Manafort’s attorney says that they have been cooperating with the investigation all along? I can think of four possible reasons for Mueller’s move (none of which are mutually exclusive).

Read the reasons at the link. Following the revelation of the raid, journalists and twitter users looked at the timeline of events and found some interesting Trump connections.

Think Progress: Trump called for acting FBI director’s firing hours after FBI agents raided Paul Manafort’s home.

In light of the news about the raid of Manafort’s home, Trump’s tweets on the day of July 26 are of renewed interest. That was the day Trump abruptly posted a string of tweets announcing “that the United States government will not accept or allow [t]ransgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” Last Friday, Politico reported that Trump’s declaration stunned White House and Department of Defense lawyers who had warned him against such a ban.

But more directly of interest are factually inaccurate tweets Trump posted later that day asking why Attorney General Jeff Sessions hadn’t moved to replace then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe.

This morning, Fox News reported more evidence that Trump likely knew about the raid on the morning it happened: Trump lawyer slams special counsel for ‘gross abuse’ in Manafort raid, challenges warrant.

A top lawyer for President Trump slammed the special counsel’s office over the FBI raid of former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s Virginia home, accusing investigators of committing a “gross abuse of the judicial process” for the sake of “shock value” – and employing tactics normally seen “in Russia not America.”

Trump attorney John Dowd leveled the complaints in an email sent to a Wall Street Journal reporter who wrote about the Manafort raid. The email was obtained by Fox News.

The email reflects Trump’s legal team moving to protect the president, amid speculation that the raid could be part of a broader effort to squeeze Manafort for information on Trump.

Dowd, in his note, questioned the validity of the search warrant itself, calling it an “extraordinary invasion of privacy.” Dowd said Manafort already was looking to cooperate with congressional committees and said the special counsel never requested the materials from Manafort.

If Manafort informed Trump’s lawyers about the raid, they probably told Trump himself.

More on Mueller’s investigation of Manafort, and likely efforts to get him to flip on Trump:

Politico: Feds sought cooperation from Manafort’s son-in-law.

Federal investigators sought cooperation from Paul Manafort’s son-in-law in an effort to increase pressure on President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, according to three people familiar with the probe.

Investigators approached Jeffrey Yohai, who has partnered in business deals with Manafort, earlier this summer, setting off “real waves” in Manafort’s orbit, one of these people said. Another of these people said investigators are trying to get “into Manafort’s head.”

Manafort, who is a focus of the broad federal and congressional investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign, is also under investigation for his business and real estate transactions, including some that involve Yohai.

That probe has accelerated in recent weeks, according to one of the people familiar with it….

It is unclear if investigators have secured cooperation from Yohai, who also hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing. A lawyer for Yohai didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Bloomberg: With Bank Subpoenas, Mueller Turns Up the Heat on Manafort.

Mueller’s team of investigators has sent subpoenas in recent weeks from a Washington grand jury to global banks for account information and records of transactions involving Manafort and some of his companies, as well as those of a long-time business partner, Rick Gates, according to people familiar with the matter.

The special counsel has also reached out to other business associates, including Manafort’s son-in-law and a Ukrainian oligarch, according to one of the people. Those efforts were characterized as an apparent attempt to gain information that could be used to squeeze Manafort, or force him to be more helpful to prosecutors.

Manafort’s apartment building in Virginia

As prosecutors gather many years of information about his financial affairs, Manafort could be dragged deeper into any number of legal disputes. He has a history of doing business with oligarchs and politicians in Ukraine and Russia that predates his political work for Trump, with payments routed through foreign banks and investments in U.S. real estate….

Part of the reason Manafort is getting intense early scrutiny is that Mueller is drawing on investigations that were well underway, including one by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, when he was appointed in May.

With prosecutors combing through his financial life, the 68-year-old has been toeing a fine line, cooperating with congressional requests for information about the campaign, and insisting he has nothing to hide from Mueller’s team of prosecutors who are delving into his past. Privately, his supporters question Mueller’s work to unearth conduct with no apparent connection to the 2016 election.

North Korea appears to be winning the war of words with Trump. 

The Atlantic: North Korea Answers Trump’s Vague Threats With Specific Ones.

President Trump seemed to draw a red line Tuesday when he warned North Korea that continued threats against the United States would be met with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” The next day, North Korea crossed it.

Or at least it announced, in unusually specific terms, how it could. The country’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Wednesday night issued a statement that said the North is “seriously examining the plan for an enveloping strike at Guam through simultaneous fire of four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range strategic ballistic rockets in order to interdict the enemy forces on major military bases on Guam and to signal a crucial warning to the U.S.” The statement, citing the North’s Strategic Rocket Forces head General Kim Rak Gyom, added that the plan would be finished by mid-August before going to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for approval.

“Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him,” the general said, in apparent reference to Trump, whose ultimatum he described as a “load of nonsense.”

The announcement, coming a day after the North threatened Guam in vaguer terms, is stunning not only as an escalation, but also for the level of detail with which it describes the proposed strike. The statement spells out the number of intermediate-range ballistic missiles that would be involved (four), how far they would fly (approximately 2,085 miles), their exact flight path (they would traverse the three Japanese prefectures of Shimane, Hiroshima, and Koichi), plus how long all of this would take (about 20 minutes), and the earliest the plan would be ready (mid-August, so, conservatively, within a few days). And it takes care to specify that the end point of the missiles is not Guam itself, but the waters off its eastern coast (18 to 25 miles off, to be exact).

Jeffrey Lewis at Foreign Policy: The Game Is Over and North Korea Has Won.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that North Korea has a large stockpile of compact nuclear weapons that can arm the country’s missiles, including its new intercontinental ballistic missiles that are capable of hitting the United States. That’s another way of saying: game over.

Also: I told you so.

There are really two assessments in the Post’s report. One, dated July 28, is that the intelligence community — not just the Defense Intelligence Agency, contrary to what you may have heard — “assesses North Korea has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, to include delivery by ICBM-class missiles.” The other assessment, published earlier in July, stated that North Korea had 60 nuclear weapons — higher than the estimates usually given in the press. Put them together, though, and its pretty clear that the window for denuclearizing North Korea, by diplomacy or by force, has closed.

These judgments are front-page news, but only because we’ve been living in collective denial. Both intelligence assessments are consistent with what the North Koreans have been saying for some time, for reasons I outlined in a column here at Foreign Policy immediately after the September 2016 nuclear test titled, “North Korea’s Nuke Program Is Way More Sophisticated Than You Think: This is now a serious nuclear arsenal that threatens the region and, soon, the continental United States.”

Continue reading at Foreign Policy.

On the Trump-McConnell spat:

Business Insider: Trump’s feud with Mitch McConnell ‘is breathtaking in its dysfunctionality.’

A burgeoning feud between President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could have significant ramifications for the GOP’s once-ambitious policy agenda.

Analysts say the war of words could be another stumbling block for various Republican plans after limited success in their first seven months of power in Washington.

“The Trump/McConnell war of words has zero upside for the GOP agenda and is potentially limit-down,” Chris Krueger, an analyst at Cowen Washington Research Group. “It is breathtaking in its dysfunctionality.”

Isaac Boltansky, a political analyst at the research firm Compass Point, told Business Insider that the words are a stark example of the divide that exists between the two.

“I think the state of political rhetoric is concerning for both the GOP’s legislative agenda and the fiscal deadlines in September,” Isaac Boltansky, a political analyst at the research firm Compass Point, told Business Insider. “Trump and McConnell are linchpins in the legislative process, and these comments suggest a deep divide in both tone and substance.”The cracks are starting to show at a critical time for the GOP agenda, as necessary deadlines and a massive tax reform fight loom on the horizon.

Read more at the BI link.

White House Insanity Updates

New York Magazine: Sebastian Gorka Thinks the Minnesota Mosque Attack May Have Been a False Flag.

In the early morning hours of August 5, someone hurled an improvised explosive device at a mosque in Bloomington, Minnesota. None of the roughly 20 early morning worshippers were injured, but the blast broke windows and began a small fire, filling the building with smoke. The mosque’s executive director told a local TV station that “one of our congregation members came out immediately and he saw a truck fleeing from the parking lot, running at very high speed.” The FBI is investigating; no arrests have been made. On Sunday, Minnesota governor Mark Dayton called the attack “an act of terrorism.”

But the response from the Trump administration has been predictable yet disturbing: almost complete silence. President Trump has not issued a statement or tweeted about the Minnesota attack, preferring to direct his attention to other pressing matters, like Senator Richard Blumenthal’s Vietnam record.  (The Department of Homeland Security  did issue a strong statement condemning the attack.)

In a Tuesday appearance on MSNBC, Nazi-ish quasi–White House adviser Sebastian Gorka put forth a bizarre justification for the radio silence: The attack, you see, may have been perpetrated by the left.

“There’s a great rule: All initial reports are false,” Gorka said. (Editor’s note: This is a terrible rule.) “You have to check them; you have to find out who the perpetrators are,” Gorka continued. “We’ve had a series of crimes committed — alleged hate crimes by right-wing individuals in the last six months — that turned out to actually have been propagated by the left. So let’s wait and see, let’s allow the local authorities to provide their assessments, and then the White House will make its comments.” Responding to Stephanie Ruhle’s assertion that Trump had no problem immediately commenting on a London terror attack in June, Gorka countered that it was obvious in that case who the perpetrators were — ignoring the fact that Trump tweeted out a Drudge Report story written before any facts were known. Ruhle also made the eminently reasonable point that “you don’t have to make a statement about who did it, but you can make a public statement about how terrible it would be to attack a building of worship.” “That’s fine,” Gorka responded unconvincingly. “And I’m sure the president will do that.”

Anthony Scaramucci is no longer in the White House, but he’s still making news. The Washington Post: The Mooch as Monica Lewinsky? Scaramucci’s saga keeps getting stranger.

Anthony Scaramucci keeps complaining about the interview that cost him his job as White House communications director. And in doing so, he keeps betraying how amateur it was that the White House ever hired him.

When the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza first reported on Scaramucci’s vulgar comments about his then-White House colleagues two weeks ago, Scaramucci said he would tone down the language. He then apparently decided to get a little more combative, suggesting the interview wasn’t meant to be published and that a fellow Italian American like Lizza should have known he was just B.S.-ing.

And now that Lizza published additional comments from the interview Wednesday, Scaramucci is trying a new tack: Accusing Lizza of recording him without his knowledge by comparing him to a figure from the Bill Clinton sex scandal, Linda Tripp.

Go to the WaPo to read the whole ridiculous story.

I’ll get to the climate change news in the comment thread. This post is way too long.

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads: Yeah, But Her Emails . . .

Good Afternoon!!

I’m having another one of those days when having a corrupt, moronic, megalomaniacal monster as “president” is just too much to bear. Why is the universe torturing us like this? Is there any hope for the future?

One positive sign is that people of conscience in the government continue to leak information that Trump would prefer to hush up. Vanity Fair summarizes reporting from The NYT and The Guardian: Damning Federal Climate Report Leaked Before Trump Can Suppress It.

According to a government report that was leaked to The New York Times, average temperature in the U.S. have risen rapidly since 1980, and recent decades have been the hottest in the past 1,500 years. “Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” reads the congressionally mandated report, which was drafted by scientists spanning 13 federal agencies. The National Academy of Sciences has signed off on the paper, and it is now awaiting approval from the Trump administration.

According to the Times, scientists fear that the Trump administration could either alter or suppress the findings, and for good reason. The notion of the president’s team signing off on such a report seems about as plausible as the president having read the pope’s manifesto. Its assertion that “many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases, are primarily responsible for recent observed climate change” jar inconveniently with Trump’s instinctive assumption that global warming is actually a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese.

And The Guardian obtained some internal administration emails that demonstrate Trump’s efforts to censor scientific research and results

It must be irritating for the White House, then, that just as the Times broke their story, the Guardian obtained a series of e-mails that implicate his administration in a bout of hoax-perpetuation, too. Staff at the Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) have been told to get inventive with their use of language, and are being advised to replace the term climate change with the phrase “resilience to weather extremes,” according to the outlet. Bianca Moebis-Clune, director of soil health at the Natural Resources Conservation Service (N.R.C.S.), a U.S.D.A. unit that oversees farmers’ land conservation, helpfully circulated a concise encyclopedia of other, non-synonymous terms. For example, “reduce greenhouse gas” could, and should, be replaced by “build soil organic matter, increase nutrient use efficiency.” “Sequester carbon” is no longer wholly appropriate, so staff should now refer to “build soil organic matter.”

“We won’t change the modeling, just how we talk about it—there are a lot of benefits to putting carbon back in the sail [sic], climate mitigation is just one of them,” she wrote in an e-mail to staff on February 16, referencing advice from a colleague from the U.S.D.A.’s public affairs team to “tamp down on discretionary messaging right now.” Still, her note was not all negative. References to economic growth, emerging business opportunities in the rural U.S. and “improved aesthetics” should be “tolerated if not appreciated by all.” In another e-mail to senior employees on January 24, just days after Trump was inaugurated, Jimmy Bramblett, deputy chief for programs at the N.R.C.S., said, “It has become clear one of the previous administration’s priority is not consistent with that of the incoming administration. Namely, that priority is climate change. Please visit with your staff and make them aware of this shift of perspective within the executive branch.” He added that “prudence” should be used when referring to greenhouse gases, and that existing work on air quality regarding these gases could be stopped.

More from The Washington Post: White House reviewing new report that finds strong link between climate change, human activity.

The draft report, which has undergone extensive review, estimates that human impact was responsible for an increase in global temperatures of 1.1 to 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit from 1951 to 2010.

“Many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse (heat trapping) gases, are primarily responsible for recent observed climate changes,” the report notes. “There are no alternative explanations, and no natural cycles are found in the observational record that can explain the observed changes in climate.”

That counters what Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and Energy Secretary Rick Perry have said.

It remains unclear how the White House — which announced in June that it would pull out of the Paris climate accord — will handle the report. Many scientists are looking at it as a test case of the administration’s attitude toward science in general.

“The current situation will provide an acid test of whether the Trump administration is open to hearing the scientific truth about climate change or is so much in the thrall of fossil fuel interests that they are fixated on hiding the reality from the public,” Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University, said Monday night.

The Climate Science Special Report is a key element of the National Climate Assessment, which, according to the 1990 Global Change Research Act, is supposed to be issued every four years. However, the assessment has come out only three times. The 2000 assessment, finalized under President Bill Clinton, came under attack once George W. Bush took office. Bush administrationofficials declined to cite it in subsequent federal reports, arguing that aspects of the data analysis were flawed.

According to the WaPo, the White House has had a copy of the report for “several weeks.”

Kurt Andersen has a new book coming out on September 5 called Fantasyland: How American Went Haywire; and The Atlantic has published an excerpt from it as its September cover story: How America Lost Its Mind. It’s a long article, and I haven’t finished it yet. Here are the first several paragraphs:

When did america become untethered from reality?

I first noticed our national lurch toward fantasy in 2004, after President George W. Bush’s political mastermind, Karl Rove, came up with the remarkable phrase reality-based community. People in “the reality-based community,” he told a reporter, “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality … That’s not the way the world really works anymore.” A year later, The Colbert Report went on the air. In the first few minutes of the first episode, Stephen Colbert, playing his right-wing-populist commentator character, performed a feature called “The Word.” His first selection: truthiness. “Now, I’m sure some of the ‘word police,’ the ‘wordinistas’ over at Webster’s, are gonna say, ‘Hey, that’s not a word!’ Well, anybody who knows me knows that I’m no fan of dictionaries or reference books. They’re elitist. Constantly telling us what is or isn’t true. Or what did or didn’t happen. Who’s Britannica to tell me the Panama Canal was finished in 1914? If I wanna say it happened in 1941, that’s my right. I don’t trust books—they’re all fact, no heart … Face it, folks, we are a divided nation … divided between those who think with their head and those who know with their heart … Because that’s where the truth comes from, ladies and gentlemen—the gut.”

Whoa, yes, I thought: exactly. America had changed since I was young, when truthiness and reality-based community wouldn’t have made any sense as jokes. For all the fun, and all the many salutary effects of the 1960s—the main decade of my childhood—I saw that those years had also been the big-bang moment for truthiness. And if the ’60s amounted to a national nervous breakdown, we are probably mistaken to consider ourselves over it.

Each of us is on a spectrum somewhere between the poles of rational and irrational. We all have hunches we can’t prove and superstitions that make no sense. Some of my best friends are very religious, and others believe in dubious conspiracy theories. What’s problematic is going overboard—letting the subjective entirely override the objective; thinking and acting as if opinions and feelings are just as true as facts. The American experiment, the original embodiment of the great Enlightenment idea of intellectual freedom, whereby every individual is welcome to believe anything she wishes, has metastasized out of control. From the start, our ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams, sometimes epic fantasies—every American one of God’s chosen people building a custom-made utopia, all of us free to reinvent ourselves by imagination and will. In America nowadays, those more exciting parts of the Enlightenment idea have swamped the sober, rational, empirical parts. Little by little for centuries, then more and more and faster and faster during the past half century, we Americans have given ourselves over to all kinds of magical thinking, anything-goes relativism, and belief in fanciful explanation—small and large fantasies that console or thrill or terrify us. And most of us haven’t realized how far-reaching our strange new normal has become.

Continue reading at The Atlantic link.

One more hopeful bit of news is that Trump’s base is shrinking. Yesterday Trump tweeted the “fake news” that he wants people to believe. The Washington Post: No, Donald Trump’s base is not ‘far bigger and stronger than ever before.’

President Trump is clearly rankled by the notion that his political support is slipping, pushing back against the idea during a barrage of tweets Monday from his Bedminster, N.J., golf club, where aides said he is having a “working vacation.” [….]

In fact, as his overall approval rate has sunk, some of the president’s core supporters have soured on his performance, polls show. A Quinnipiac University poll last week found 23 percent of registered voters “strongly approve” of Trump’s handling of his job, down from 29 percent who felt that way during his first week in office. Even white voters with no college degree — one of the demographics that backed his candidacy most enthusiastically — disapprove of how Trump is handling his job by 50 percent to 43 percent.

His support among Republicans is still around 75%, but the trend is downward. You can read the Trump tweets at the WaPo link, if you wish.

I know there’s much more happening, but I’m burned out at the moment. I’m hoping the return of Rachel Maddow tonight will give me something to hang onto.

What stories are you following today?


Lazy Saturday Reads: The Latest News with Photos of Authors and their Cats

11 Feb 2003, Woody Creek, Colorado, USA — Author Hunter S. Thompson poses for a portrait with his cat in 2003 at his home. Image by © Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis

Good Afternoon!!

Trump left for a golfing vacation in New Jersey yesterday, but the insanity continues at the White House. The Bannon crowd is trying to get rid of H.R. McMaster and Bob Mueller’s investigation has reaching into the WH for the first time.

I’ll get to the McMaster story in a bit, but first, the latest on the Russia investigation. The New York Times broke another big Russia investigation story last night: Mueller Seeks White House Documents on Flynn.

Investigators working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, recently asked the White House for documents related to the former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, and have questioned witnesses about whether he was secretly paid by the Turkish government during the final months of the presidential campaign, according to people close to the investigation.

Though not a formal subpoena, the document request is the first known instance of Mr. Mueller’s team asking the White House to hand over records.

Doris Lessing

In interviews with potential witnesses in recent weeks, prosecutors and F.B.I. agents have spent hours poring over the details of Mr. Flynn’s business dealings with a Turkish-American businessman who worked last year with Mr. Flynn and his consulting business, the Flynn Intel Group.

The company was paid $530,000 to run a campaign to discredit an opponent of the Turkish government who has been accused of orchestrating last year’s failed coup in the country.

Investigators want to know if the Turkish government was behind those payments — and if the Flynn Intel Group made kickbacks to the businessman, Ekim Alptekin, for helping conceal the source of the money.

The line of questioning shows that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry has expanded into a full-fledged examination of Mr. Flynn’s financial dealings, beyond the relatively narrow question of whether he failed to register as a foreign agent or lied about his conversations and business arrangements with Russian officials.

Read the rest at the NYT. A couple of days ago, Flynn had to correct his financial disclosure report once again. The Washington Post: Flynn files amended disclosure report showing additional payments.

Michael Flynn, who served briefly as President Trump’s national security adviser, filed an amended federal financial disclosure report late Thursday providing new details about his contracts with the Trump presidential transition, a company connected to an Iranian American businessman, and the parent company of a data science firm that worked for the Trump campaign.

In a letter accompanying his revised disclosure, Flynn noted that his initial disclosure reports were filed under rushed circumstances without the customary consultation and review provided by White House lawyers and the Office of Government Ethics. The letter said Flynn did not receive the attention afforded others because he was no longer a White House employee at the time….

Don DeLillo, New York City, 1990s

In addition to the Russia-related income, Thursday’s filing showed that Flynn received at least $5,000 as a consultant to a project to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East. Flynn’s work on that project had been disclosed previously, but it was not known that he was paid.

The updated disclosure also confirms that Flynn had agreed to work with the SCL Group, at the time the British parent company of Cambridge Analytica, a data science company hired by Donald Trump’s campaign. One of Cambridge’s main financiers is hedge fund magnate Robert L. Mercer, whose daughter Rebekah is an influential conservative donor.

I guess that explains why Steve Bannon was so upset when Flynn was fired. And why Bannon is pushing to get rid of National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. McMaster recently got rid of several Flynn appointees to the NSC, including Ezra Cohen Watnick, whom McMaster tried and failed to fire awhile back. The Bannon white supremacist crowd is boiling mad over McMaster’s purge of Flynn loyalists.

Rosie Gray at The Atlantic: The War Against H.R. McMaster.

Long-simmering tensions within the White House burst into public view this week after the firings of three National Security Council officials, resulting in National-Security Adviser H.R. McMaster becoming Public Enemy No. 1 of the pro-Trump online brigades.

Haruki Murakami

McMaster has cleaned house at the NSC over the past few weeks. Via his deputy Ricky Waddell, he fired director of strategic planning Rich Higgins last month over a memo Higgins wrote alleging a deep-state conspiracy against President Trump. McMaster then dismissed two top officials brought on by the previous national-security adviser, Michael Flynn: the NSC’s senior director for the Middle East, Derek Harvey, who was fired last week; and the senior director for intelligence programs, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who was let go on Wednesday….

McMaster’s show of force has set off alarm bells among Bannon allies in the pro-Trump media sphere, who favored Flynn and regard the national-security adviser as a globalist interloper. Other White House officials have in the past been targets of theirs—Priebus was, for example—but the vitriol against McMaster has been notable for its speed and intensity….

It’s come from all corners. Breitbart News, the website Bannon controlled as executive chairman before joining the Trump campaign, has produced a flurry of negative stories about McMaster over the past two days, accusing him of “purging” dissenters and kowtowing to “holdovers” from the Obama administration. Fox News host Sean Hannity has tweeted about McMaster, saying he might need to go. Radio host Laura Ingraham has also weighed in, tweeting that “Obama holdovers at NSC or State Dept who are leaking shd do real time for these leaks. Why has McMasters fired actual Trump supporters?” The Daily Callerpublished an interview with two former NSC officials attacking him, accusing him of undermining the president’s foreign-policy agenda. Circa, a site owned by the conservative Sinclair Broadcasting company, published a letter Thursday that McMaster sent months ago to his predecessor Susan Rice, in which he informed her that she could keep her security clearance. It’s a standard letter, but it has caused a furor in light of the ongoing controversy over unmasking.

Colette

Even Haaretz has gotten involved in the story: Israeli Defense Officials Strongly Reject Criticism of McMaster as ‘anti-Israel.’

Far-right websites, namely Breitbart (formerly edited by Bannon), quoted two senior White House officials as saying that McMaster holds strong anti-Israel views and views it as an “illegitimate entity” and “occupying power.” The crisis is linked to McMaster’s decision to remove four Bannon allies from the National Security Council.

Senior Israeli defense officials told Haaretz on Saturday that the allegations against McMaster concerning Israel are false and baseless. McMaster accompanied Trump to Israel last May, during which he had a three-hour conversation with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Jerusalem. The meeting was described by the Israeli side as excellent. McMaster and his staff keep regular contact with the top echelons of the IDF and Defense Ministry – particularly with the head of the Defense Ministry’s political-security department, Zohar Palti.

“All on our side who has met McMaster and keeps contact with him are constantly impressed by how pro-Israel he is. The relationship with him is excellent, and we really appreciate him,” one of the senior defense officials told Haaretz.

The New York Times’ Peter Baker reports that Trump is backing McMaster for now: Trump Defends McMaster as Conservatives Seek His Dismissal.

…after two days of unrelenting attacks on General McMaster by conservative activists and news sites, complete with the Twitter hashtag #FireMcMaster, the president weighed in to quash such talk. “General McMaster and I are working very well together,” he said in a statement emailed to The New York Times. “He is a good man and very proIsrael. I am grateful for the work he continues to do serving our country.”

A senior White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the president’s views, added that Mr. Trump has “total confidence” in his national security adviser.

Ernest Hemingway

In other Russia investigation news, Slate dug an interesting tidbit out of a recent CNN article: U.S. Reportedly Intercepted Suspected Russian Agents’ Chatter That Manafort Asked for Their Help With Clinton.

Buried in a long story on CNN Thursday recapping the current state of play in the Russia investigation was a reminder that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is largely out of the spotlight at the moment, may not be for long. Manafort, who had spent years on the political fringes helping dictators and strongmen get elected around the world and then lobbying on their behalf in Washington, came out of nowhere to join the Trump campaign, and then take over the reins when Cory Lewandowski was fired in June 2016. By that time, unusual communications between the Trump campaign and Russian officials had pinged on U.S. intelligence agencies’ radar. As did Trump’s new right hand man.

In the summer of 2016, US intelligence agencies noticed a spate of curious contacts between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian intelligence, according to current and former US officials briefed on the investigation… CNN has learned that investigators became more suspicious when they turned up intercepted communications that U.S. intelligence agencies collected among suspected Russian operatives discussing their efforts to work with Manafort, who served as campaign chairman for three months, to coordinate information that could damage Hillary Clinton’s election prospects, the US officials say. The suspected operatives relayed what they claimed were conversations with Manafort, encouraging help from the Russians.

One more story related to Russia from The Dallas News: Tangled web connects Russian oligarch money to GOP campaigns. I posted this in the comments yesterday, but it’s worth front-paging.

La Rondinaia, Ravello, Amalfi Coast, Italy — Author Gore Vidal at his home, La Rondinaia, in Ravello, Italy. Image by © Jonathan Blair/CORBIS

Party loyalty is often cited as the reason that GOP leaders have not been more outspoken in their criticism of President Donald Trump and his refusal to condemn Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Yet there may be another reason that top Republicans have not been more vocal in their condemnation. Perhaps it’s because they have their own links to the Russian oligarchy that they would prefer go unnoticed.

Donald Trump and the political action committees for Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and John McCain accepted $7.35 million in contributions from a Ukrainian-born oligarch who is the business partner of two of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s favorite oligarchs and a Russian government bank.

During the 2015-2016 election season, Ukrainian-born billionaire Leonid “Len” Blavatnik contributed $6.35 million to leading Republican candidates and incumbent senators. Mitch McConnell was the top recipient of Blavatnik’s donations, collecting $2.5 million for his GOP Senate Leadership Fund under the names of two of Blavatnik’s holding companies, Access Industries and AI Altep Holdings, according to Federal Election Commission documents and OpenSecrets.org.

Marco Rubio’s Conservative Solutions PAC and his Florida First Project received $1.5 million through Blavatnik’s two holding companies. Other high dollar recipients of funding from Blavatnik were PACS representing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at $1.1 million, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham at $800,000, Ohio Governor John Kasich at $250,000 and Arizona Senator John McCain at $200,000.

What stories are you following today?