Lazy Saturday Reads: #tRump – Bull in a China Shop

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Good Afternoon!!

Yesterday I spent the afternoon and evening with my brother’s family–they invited me for a birthday dinner and family movie. Unsurprisingly, while I wasn’t paying attention for a few hours the president-elect did massive damage to U.S. foreign policy, overturning decades-long policies on China. And it appears this wasn’t about policy but about enriching the #tRump family business.

Ann Gearan at The Washington Post: Trump speaks with Taiwanese president, a major break with decades of U.S. policy on China

President-elect Donald Trump spoke Friday with Taiwan’s president, a major departure from decades of U.S. policy in Asia and a breach of diplomatic protocol with ramifications for the incoming president’s relations with China.

The call is the first known contact between a U.S. president or president-elect with a Taiwanese leader since before the United States broke diplomatic relations with the island in 1979. China considers Taiwan a province, and news of the official outreach by Trump is likely to infuriate the regional military and economic power.

The exchange is one of a string of unorthodox conversations with foreign leaders that Trump has held since his election. It comes at a particularly tense time between China and Taiwan, which earlier this year elected a president, ­­­Tsai Ing-wen, who has not endorsed the notion of a unified China. Her election angered Beijing to the point of cutting off all official communication with the island government.

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It is not clear whether Trump intends a more formal shift in U.S. relations with Taiwan or China. On the call, Trump and Tsai congratulated each other on winning their elections, a statement from Trump’s transition office said….

A statement from the Taiwanese president’s office said the call lasted more than 10 minutes and included discussion of economic development and national security, and about “strengthening bilateral relations.”

Trump claimed the call was initiated by Taiwan’s president, but that was a lie, NBC News reports:

BEIJING — A phone call between Donald Trump and Taiwan’s leader that risks damaging relations between the U.S. and China was pre-arranged, a top Taiwanese official told NBC News on Saturday.

Trump — who lambasted China throughout the election campaign and promised to slap 45 percent tariffs on Chinese goods — tweeted that Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen had called him.

“Maintaining good relations with the United States is as important as maintaining good relations across the Taiwan Strait,” Taiwanese presidential spokesman Alex Huang told NBC News. “Both are in line with Taiwan’s national interest.”

He added that the call had not been a surprise.

Apparently the call was carefully planned and scheduled by Trump staffers. It was also reported that bomb-thrower John Bolton was seen at Trump tower yesterday. Could he have helped instigate this?

After the media reported foreign policy experts’ heads exploding, Trump defensively tweeted again.

China was apparently on the phone with the White House right after the news broke, and they have now filed a complaint with the U.S. about this breach of diplomacy. The Guardian:

China has lodged “solemn representations” with the US over a call between the president-elect, Donald Trump, and Taiwan’s leader, Tsai Ing-wen.

Trump looked to have sparked a potentially damaging diplomatic row with Beijing on Friday after speaking to the Taiwanese president on the telephone….

The US closed its embassy in Taiwan – a democratically ruled island which Beijing regards as a breakaway province – in the late 1970s after the historic rapprochement between Beijing and Washington that stemmed from Richard Nixon’s 1972 trip to China.

Since then the US has adhered to the “One China” principle, which officially considers the independently governed island to be part of the same single Chinese nation as the mainland.

Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said in a statement on Saturday: “It must be pointed out that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory. The government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legitimate government representing China.”

Geng added: “This is a fact that is generally recognised by the international community.”

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#tRrump is a real bull in a china shop, so to speak. But what was his real goal in talking to Taiwan? Think Progress: Trump’s unusual phone call is great for his business, dangerous for America.

Trump is mixing his business with the presidency. Today was a stark illustration that the combination is extremely dangerous — to Americans and the world.

The Financial Times, citing three sources, reports that Trump called Tsai Ying-wen, the president of Taiwan, on Friday. The call is a symbolic breach of the United States’ “One China” policy, which recognizes Beijing as the only government and which has been in place since 1972.

The call will antagonize China and risks “opening up a major diplomatic dispute with China before he has even been inaugurated.”

The incident is raising eyebrows because the Trump Organization, in which Trump plans to maintain ownership as president, is actively seeking new business opportunities in Taiwan. The Shanghaiist reported on the Trump Organization’s interest last month:

A representative from the Trump Organization paid a visit to Taoyuan in September, expressing interest in the city’s Aerotropolis, a large-scale urban development project aimed at capitalizing on Taoyuan’s status as a transport hub for East Asia, Taiwan News reports.With the review process for the Aerotropolis still underway, Taoyuan’s mayor referred to the subject of the meeting as mere investment speculation. Other reports indicate that Eric Trump, the president-elect’s second son and executive vice president of the Trump Organization, will be coming to Taoyuan later this year to discuss the potential business opportunity.

#tRump is trying to turn our country into a wholly owned subsidiary of the #tRump organization.

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In just the past couple of days, Trump has bumbled through bizarre phone calls with Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte. Do you supposed #tRump even knows that China, Pakistan and sworn enemy India have nukes?

The Atlantic: Lessons From Trump’s ‘Fantastic’ Phone Call to Pakistan.

This week, the U.S. president-elect spoke with the Pakistani prime minister and, according to the Pakistani government’s account of the conversation, delivered the following message: Everything is awesome. It was, arguably, the most surprising presidential phone call since George H.W. Bush got pranked by that pretend Iranian president.

Pakistan, Donald Trump reportedly told Nawaz Sharif, is a “fantastic” country full of “fantastic” people that he “would love” to visit as president. Sharif was described as “terrific.” Pakistanis “are one of the most intelligent people,” Trump allegedly added. “I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems.” ….

Like their problems with India?

It’s unclear how accurate the Pakistani government’s record of the discussion is, though the language does have a Trumpian ring to it (Trump’s transition team released a much more subdued summary of the call). But what’s surprising about the account is how disconnected it is from the current state of affairs. Everything is not awesome in U.S.-Pakistan relations. The two countries are the bitterest of friends. They have long clashed over the haven that terrorist groups have found in Pakistan and over U.S. efforts, including drone strikes and the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, to kill those terrorists. Pakistan, a nation with a growing arsenal of nuclear weapons, is the archenemy of India, another nuclear-armed state and a critical U.S. ally. U.S. officials see Pakistan—with its weak political institutions and suspected government support for militant groups in Afghanistan and the contested territory of Kashmir—as an alarming source of regional instability. The suspicion is mutual: Just a fifth of Pakistanis have a favorable view of the United States. Trump himself has argued that Pakistan “is probably the most dangerous” country in the world, and that India needs to serve as “the check” to it.

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The reports also provoked a caustic response from the Indian government, which opposes U.S. mediation in its border dispute with Pakistan. “We look forward to the president-elect helping Pakistan address the most outstanding of its outstanding issues: terrorism,” a spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs said. And, ultimately, they forced Pakistani officials to backpedal after initially publicizing the conversation. “Our relationship with the United States is not about personalities—it is about institutions,” a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs clarified. In other words, a brief, breezy conversation had real reverberations on the subcontinent.One lesson of the phone call is that words matter, especially in international relations where information is patchy, things get lost in translation, rhetoric is often interpreted as policy, and a government’s credibility is only as good as its word. (Think of all the people in the United States puzzling over what policies Trump will pursue as president; now imagine trying to do that from Islamabad or New Delhi.)

 

And now Pakistan is sending an envoy to meet with the #tRump bumblers. The Indian Express reports:

Pakistan has decided to send an envoy to the US to hold meetings with Donald Trump’s transition team, two days after a “productive” telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the President-elect. Pakistani Prime Minister’s special assistant for foreign affairs Tariq Fatemi will visit the US this weekend to meet officials of the Trump transition team.

Fatemi’s meeting with officials of Trump transition team was confirmed by Jalil Abbas Jilani, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US. “Besides meeting members of the transition team, Fatemi will meet officials of the outgoing Obama administration,” said Jilani.

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Huffington Post: Donald Trump Praises Philippines Deadly Drug War And Invites Leader To White House.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump praised Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte for his war on drugs that has left thousands dead, Duterte said on Saturday after the two held a phone conversation in which Trump also invited Duterte the White House.

“He was quite sensitive also to our worry about drugs. And he wishes me well … in my campaign and he said that … we are doing it as a sovereign nation, the right way,” Duterte said in a statement. Duterte has conducted a severe crackdown on drugs in the country, where police and vigilante groups have killed thousands.

Trump’s brief chat with the firebrand Philippine president follows a period of uncertainty about one of Washington’s most important Asian alliances, stoked by Duterte’s hostility towards President Barack Obama and repeated threats to sever decades-old defense ties.

The call lasted just over seven minutes, Duterte’s special advisor, Christopher Go, said in a text message to media, which gave few details. Trump’s transition team had no immediate comment.

So #tRump is on the record supporting mass murder now. Awesome.

Two more links to check out:

The New York Times: How Trump’s Calls to World Leaders Are Upsetting Decades of Diplomacy.

The Washington Post: Donald Trump keeps confirming fears about his diplomatic skills.

Isn’t there anyone who can do something about this monster before he destroys our country and/or blows up the world? We are so screwed.

What stories are you following today?


Thursday Reads

Blue Girl Reading, Auguste Macke

Blue Girl Reading, Auguste Macke

Good Morning!!

Today is my birthday. I don’t feel much like celebrating, but I’m being lazy so I don’t know when this post will go up.

The wildfires in Tennessee are a real disaster. I’m hoping our beloved ANonOMouse and her family are still safe.

NBC News: Seven Deaths Confirmed as Smokies Wildfires Spread in Tennessee.

Officials were continuing to assess the damage Thursday from a ferocious wildfire that erupted across Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park more than a week ago, killing at least seven people and gutting over 700 structures.

Drenching rain on Wednesday helped firefighters beat back the massive blaze, which still burned more than 15,650 acres and was about 10 percent contained, according to the Southern Area Incident Management Team, which assumed command of the fire.

Rescue operations have been slowed by mud and rockslides caused by the wet weather.

“The rain we received may have slowed this fire for a day or two at a critical time, but the threat from this fire is still there,” the team said.

While large swaths of the national park were ravaged, the wind-whipped flames also reached the neighboring Appalachian tourist meccas of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

Maid reading in a library, Edouard John Mentha

Maid reading in a library, Edouard John Mentha

Efforts to pinpoint the cause of deadly wildfires that engulfed two popular tourist towns outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park and shut down one of the country’s most popular natural attractions focused Thursday on their devastating path through East Tennessee, where officials said at least seven people were dead and hundreds of buildings have burned.

Several people remained missing Thursday, and at least 53 people have been treated for injuries at hospitals, though their conditions were not known.

The fires are estimated to have damaged or destroyed more than 700 homes and businesses throughout Sevier County — nearly half of them in the city of Gatlinburg. Additionally, thousands of wooded acres have burned in the most-visited national park in America.

Park Superintendent Cassius Cash said that the first fires, spotted last week, were “likely to be human-caused.”

As people throughout Sevier County tried to return to their routines Thursday, some schools were still closed and access to Gatlinburg remained limited.

The story doesn’t give anymore information about the suspected causes of the fires.

Girl in grey, Louis le Brocquy

Girl in grey, Louis le Brocquy

In other non-political news, researchers have discovered that psilocybin could help people with anxiety and depression. AP via TPM: Studies: ‘Magic Mushroom’ Psychedelic Drug May Ease Anxiety, Depression.

The psychedelic drug in “magic mushrooms” can quickly and effectively help treat anxiety and depression in cancer patients, an effect that may last for months, two small studies show.

It worked for Dinah Bazer, who endured a terrifying hallucination that rid her of the fear that her ovarian cancer would return. And for Estalyn Walcoff, who says the drug experience led her to begin a comforting spiritual journey.

The work released Thursday is preliminary and experts say more definitive research must be done on the effects of the substance, called psilocybin (sih-loh-SY’-bihn).

But the record so far shows “very impressive results,” said Dr. Craig Blinderman, who directs the adult palliative care service at the Columbia University Medical Center/New York-Presbyterian Hospital. He didn’t participate in the work.

Psilocybin, also called shrooms, purple passion and little smoke, comes from certain kinds of mushrooms. It is illegal in the U.S., and if the federal government approves the treatment, it would be administered in clinics by specially trained staff, experts say….

Psychedelic drugs have looked promising in the past for treating distress in cancer patients. But studies of medical use of psychedelics stopped in the early 1970s after a regulatory crackdown on the drugs, following their widespread recreational use. It has slowly resumed in recent years.

Griffiths said it’s not clear whether psilocybin would work outside of cancer patients, although he suspects it might work in people facing other terminal conditions. Plans are also underway to study it in depression that resists standard treatment, he said.

Trumpworld News

Have you heard about the conversation #tRump had with the prime minster of Pakistan? Yes, the president-elect is still talkingto foreign leaders on his personal phone without benefit of intelligence briefings or background information from the State Department.

Chair Car, Edward Hopper

Chair Car, Edward Hopper

Time Magazine: Donald Trump’s Phone Conversation With the Leader of Pakistan Was Reckless and Bizarre.

There are few foreign policy topics quite as complicated as the relationship between India and Pakistan, South Asia’s nuclear-armed nemeses. Any world leader approaching the issue even obliquely must surely see the “Handle With Care” label from miles away, given the possibility of nuclear conflict.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, however, doesn’t seem to have read the memo, injecting a pronounced element of uncertainty about the position of the world’s only remaining superpower on this most complex of subjects in a call with the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

According to a readout of the conversation from the Pakistani authorities, he apparently agreed to visit the country and said he was “ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems.” He reportedly added: “You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work which is visible in every way.”

The hilarity of his hyperbole aside, Trump’s intervention could have serious consequences for both regional and global stability.

Do you suppose #tRump knows that both Pakistan and India have nukes and they hate each others’ guts? Anyway, read the rest at the link. Here’s the full readout of the call from Pakistan’s press information site. The Trump people don’t bother to provide any information about the god-emperor’s phone calls.

Girl Reading, Jacob Chapiro

Girl Reading, Jacob Chapiro

Yesterday the CIA head John Brennan tried to give #tRump some foreign policy suggestions via an interview with the BBC. The New York Times reports: C.I.A. Chief Warns Donald Trump Against Tearing Up Iran Nuclear Deal.

LONDON — The director of the C.I.A. has issued a stark warning to President-elect Donald J. Trump: Tearing up the Iran nuclear dealwould be “the height of folly” and “disastrous.”

During the election campaign, Mr. Trump railed against the deal, calling it a disaster and pledging to “dismantle” the historic accord, reached in 2015, in which Tehran agreed to limits on its nuclear program in return for the lifting of international oil and financial sanctions.

Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas, a Republican whom Mr. Trump has chosen to succeed John O. Brennan as head of the C.I.A., wrote in mid-November on Twitter, “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”

But in an interview with the BBC that was published on its website on Wednesday, Mr. Brennan warned that scrapping the nuclear deal would undermine American foreign policy, embolden hard-liners in Iran and threaten to set off an arms race in the Middle East by encouraging other countries to develop nuclear weapons.

“First of all, for one administration to tear up an agreement that a previous administration made would be unprecedented,” Mr. Brennan said in the BBC interview, which the broadcaster said was the first by a C.I.A. director with the British news media. “I think it would be the height of folly if the next administration were to tear up that agreement.”

Mr. Trump has professed admiration for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, calling him a strong leader, and promised closer relations with Moscow, but Mr. Brennan, who was appointed by President Obama and will step down in January after four years, warned that the incoming administration needed to be skeptical about the Kremlin.

“I think President Trump and the new administration need to be wary of Russian promises,” he told the BBC, reiterating the widely held view that Russia had carried out hacking during the United States election and blaming Moscow for the deteriorating situation in Syria.

More at the link. #tRump supposedly reads the NYT; will he pay attention? Probably not.

Women reading, Robert Breyer

Women reading, Robert Breyer

Some analysis from Vox: CIA Director John Brennan tells the BBC that Trump’s ideas are terrible.

On Wednesday morning, the BBC published excerpts from an interview with CIA Director John Brennan, the first time a serving head of America’s best-known spy agency has sat down with the British media, according to the BBC. Brennan’s comments are, unmistakably, a shot at Donald Trump. He calls Trump’s proposal to scrap the Iran deal “disastrous,” warns that “the overwhelming majority of CIA officers” oppose Trump’s call to bring back torture of suspected terrorists, and says the famously Putin-sympathetic Trump should “beware Russian promises.”

Brennan is stepping down from the CIA leadership on January 20, so he’ll never have to deal with President Trump directly. That means he’s free to do something as brazen as trash the incoming president on one of the world’s most-watched TV channels.

If you take a deeper look at Brennan’s comments, you start to realize that he’s expressing criticisms of Trump policies that are widely held in the foreign policy community.

 Take his attack on Trump’s approach to the Iran deal, which Brennan calls “the height of folly.” He warns that doing so would allow Iran to simply restart its nuclear program.

This, as my colleague Zeeshan Aleem explains, is the consensus among even anti-deal experts and policymakers. That’s because of the way the deal is structured: Iran has already gotten the sanctions relief it was promised, but has yet to fully comply with the terms of the deal that dismantle its nuclear program. If Trump were to scrap the deal on day one, Iran would have everything it wanted without having to give up too much. It would have billions of new dollars as well, and a free hand to build a nuke without pesky international inspectors.

Brennan’s position on Russia is another good example. His argument is that the Obama administration’s negotiations with Russia have mostly failed to alter Moscow’s worst behavior — for example, its slaughtering of civilians in the Syrian city of Aleppo and bombing of the moderate opposition looking to unseat Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad.

Intelligence officials have been reduced to trying to communicate with a madman through the media. Please go over to Vox and read the rest.
Young lady reading, Mary Cassatt

Young lady reading, Mary Cassatt

You probably heard that #tRump drove someone at the Office of Government Ethics Office to nervous breakdown yesterday. Slate: Federal Ethics Agency Spent the Afternoon Sarcastically Praising Donald Trump.

The U.S. Office of Government Ethics, as its name suggests, interprets and advises federal officials on the ethics laws and rules designed to help keep them honest. “When government decisions are made free from conflicts of interest, the public can have greater confidence in the integrity of executive branch programs and operations,” its mission statement admirably declares. Given what likely awaits the agency in less than two months’ time, it understandably had some, um, thoughts on Donald Trump’s vague, predawn Twitter announcement that he will be “leaving his great business” to focus on the presidency….

Remarkably, those exclamation-filled tweets from a normally staid Twitter account don’t appear to be the result of a hack. “Like everyone else, we were excited this morning to read the President-elect’s twitter feed indicating he wants to be free of conflicts of interest,” agency spokesman Seth Jaffe said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon. He added: “We don’t know the details of their plan, but we are willing and eager to help them with it.”

A few of the tweets (see the rest at Slate):

That’s it for me today. Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and enjoy the rest of your Thursday!


Tuesday Reads: Donald #tRump, The Ugly UnAmerican, Wants an Ugly America

Trump wants to ban photos of his double chin

Trump wants to ban photos of his double chin

Good Morning!!

Breaking news this morning: #tRump will be leading rallies again beginning on Thursday in Cincinnati. He will then go on to stage rallies in other “swing states.” He doesn’t want anyone to call it a “victory tour” either, so don’t do that or you might lose your citizenship or be thrown in jail.

Bloomberg reports:

President-elect Donald Trump will begin a “Thank You Tour” on Thursday in Cincinnati, replicating the arena events that powered his surprise campaign, three of his transition officials said.

The Republican has credited his rallies as a central component of his victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton. The events at times drew tens of thousands of people and were often broadcast live and in their entirety on cable news networks, affording him a practically unfiltered channel to voters.

His post-election tour may take him to “swing states we flipped over,” George Gigicos, Trump’s director of advance, told reporters on Nov. 17. Trump won Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida, all states President Barack Obama won twice.

In case you haven’t noticed, insane president-elect doesn’t like dissent–not one little bit! He either hasn’t heard about the first amendment to the Constitution or thinks it should be ignored. This morning he tweeted about it.

Last night, #tRump flew into a rage at CNN reporter Jeff Zeleny for saying on the air that there is no evidence of that voter fraud led to Hillary Clinton’s more than 2 million lead in the popular vote, and then retweeted several random twitter posts about it. One of them was from a 16-year-old boy, but he apparently likes #tRump; so #tRump thinks he’s an expert.

The president elect doesn’t think he needs intelligence briefings from the U.S. intelligence agencies, because he’s apparently getting his briefings from “foreign leaders”–most likely Vladimir Putin. He gets his “expert advice” on appointments from Fabio and Don King. He doesn’t give press conferences or talk to the media. The only thing we have is his tweets. Some folks think we should ignore them, but this madman is the president elect and his tweets are essentially press releases. They may be the only direct communications Americans get from #tRump for the next four years. They are also the best evidence we have that #tRump is literally insane.

Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: Why we can’t — and shouldn’t — ignore Donald Trump’s tweets.

With a trio of tweets Sunday alleging millions of fraudulent votes and “serious” fraud in three states, Trump effectively hijacked the news cycle for the next 24 hours with baseless conspiracy theories. A week prior, it was Trump’s tweets demanding an apology from the cast of “Hamilton” for disrespecting Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who was in the audience the previous night.

It can all feel pretty small and sideshow-y at times. Some have a prescription: The media should resist the urge to cover Trump’s tweets as big news. Others even say we should ignore them altogether.

But both of those are fantasies. And we’d be doing readers a disservice if we tried either.

Undergirding the idea that Trump’s tweets shouldn’t be big news is the theory that he’s manipulating the media into focusing on small things to cover up less sexy but more important things — conflicts of interests and possible corruption, in particular.

I’m skeptical any such plan exists, given that Trump’s thin-skinned tweeting is pretty indiscriminate. But this idea has returned with a vengeance given the latest tweetstorm, and it’s likely to perk up again after Trump on Tuesday morning suggested revoking the citizenship or jailing of people who burn the American flag.

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I don’t buy that he’s following some Machiavellian theory of media distraction.  We’ve already seen that #tRump has virtually no self-control. He’s an childish man who has always been prone to temper tantrums. He’s not going to change. This dangerous man has been chosen by a minority of American voters have chosen to be the most powerful person in the world. More from Blake:

What we’re basically talking about here is treating Trump like a social media troll with an egg for an avatar who can be blocked or ignored and hopefully loses the will to keep harassing us.

But this is the president-elect of the United States. The job comes with the so-called bully pulpit, and what he says matters and will be the subject of debate no matter what the mainstream media does. Everything he says reverberates. It doesn’t matter if he says it on Twitter or at a news conference; either way it’s going to be consumed by tens of millions of people, and the media has an important role to play when it comes to fact-checking and providing context.

ProPublica senior reporting fellow Jessica Huseman nailed it in an interview with The Fix’s Callum Borchers on Monday.

“If he had said something similar in a press conference, no one would be concerned that journalists are getting distracted by his absurd language,” Huseman said. “But because it was a tweet, that’s somehow different? Unfortunately, this president-elect has decided to make Twitter his main means of communicating with the American public, and the American public listens deeply to things that he says on Twitter.”

Now, before I move on to other #tRump news, here’s a bizarre photo that Kellyanne Conway posted on Twitter yesterday.

caption-this

How would you caption this picture?

I have lots of links for you today.

Here’s one of the most frightening. The New York Times: How Stable Are Democracies? ‘Warning Signs Are Flashing Red,’ by Amanda Taub.

Yascha Mounk is used to being the most pessimistic person in the room. Mr. Mounk, a lecturer in government at Harvard, has spent the past few years challenging one of the bedrock assumptions of Western politics: that once a country becomes a liberal democracy, it will stay that way.

His research suggests something quite different: that liberal democracies around the world may be at serious risk of decline.

Mr. Mounk’s interest in the topic began rather unusually. In 2014, he published a book, “Stranger in My Own Country.” It started as a memoir of his experiences growing up as a Jew in Germany, but became a broader investigation of how contemporary European nations were struggling to construct new, multicultural national identities.

He concluded that the effort was not going very well. A populist backlash was rising. But was that just a new kind of politics, or a symptom of something deeper?

To answer that question, Mr. Mounk teamed up with Roberto Stefan Foa, a political scientist at the University of Melbourne in Australia. They have since gathered and crunched data on the strength of liberal democracies.

Their conclusion, to be published in the January issue of the Journal of Democracy, is that democracies are not as secure as people may think. Right now, Mr. Mounk said in an interview, “the warning signs are flashing red.”

Read the rest at the link, but here’s disturbing chart from the piece showing how attitudes toward the need to live in a democracy have changed over time. Older people still care about democracy, younger people not so much.

democracy-chart

We haven’t heard that much about #tRump’s son-in-law lately; but, according to the Wall Street Journal, like he may have nearly as many conflicts of interest as #tRump.

The real-estate company controlled by Jared Kushner, President-elect Donald Trump’s son-in-law, has hundreds of millions of dollars in loans outstanding from domestic and foreign financial institutions, markets condominiums to wealthy U.S. and foreign buyers and has obtained development financing through a controversial U.S. program that sells green cards.

Those and other business activities could raise conflict-of-interest issues if Mr. Kushner is named to a staff position in the Trump administration. Executive branch employees are prohibited from participating in any matter in which there is “a close causal link” between that matter and a “real possibility” of a financial gain or loss, according to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.

Mr. Trump has floated the idea of Mr. Kushner taking a number of roles in his administration. But he also is considering not giving Mr. Kushner any staff position to sidestep the conflict issue, a person familiar with his thinking said Monday.

If Mr. Trump wanted to give Mr. Kushner an official role he also would have to comply with federal nepotism law. Even if Mr. Kushner were to serve in the new administration as an unpaid adviser, his potential influence on policy would invite scrutiny, legal experts said.

Much more at the WSJ. I got through the paywall somehow; I hope my link works.

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Jonathan Cohn at Huffington Post: Trump’s Pick For HHS Signals He Is Dead Serious About Repealing Obamacare

President-elect Donald Trump will name an ultraconservative surgeon, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), to run the Department of Health and Human Services.

The choice, which Trump’s transition team announced on Tuesday morning, would appear to signal Trump’s determination to proceed with a major overhaul of federal health care programs ― including not just Obamacare, which Republicans have sworn to repeal, but also Medicare and Medicaid.

Price, 62, practiced as an orthopedist for about two decades before winning election to the House of Representatives in 2005.

Once in Congress, Price gained notoriety for his right-wing views ― first as chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, a group of conservative lawmakers, and then as a founding member of the Tea Party Caucus. A constant in his career has been a hostility to government interference with the practice of medicine.

That may help explain why Price has emerged one of Washington’s most vocal and persistent critics of the Affordable Care Act. That law, which President Barack Obama signed in 2010, has helped more than 20 million people to get health insurance and made coverage available even to people with pre-existing medical conditions. It has also increased the underlying cost of insurance and raised taxes on the very wealthy.

In a prepared statement, Trump hailed Price as “a renowned physician” and “go-to expert on healthcare policy. … He is exceptionally qualified to shepherd our commitment to repeal and replace Obamacare and bring affordable and accessible healthcare to every American.”

Democrats reacted to the news harshly, noting Price’s history of criticizing major federal health programs ― as well as his strong opposition to abortion rights.

“Congressman Price has proven to be far out of the mainstream of what Americans want when it comes to Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, and Planned Parenthood,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the incoming minority leader. “Nominating Congressman Price to be the HHS secretary is akin to asking the fox to guard the hen house.”

Price is also a birther:

More reads, links only:

Think Progress: Trump’s lies have a purpose. They are an assault on democracy.

George Lakoff: A Minority President: Why the Polls Failed, And What the Majority Can Do.

Vox: What the alt-right actually wants from President Trump.

New York Times: Combative, Populist Steve Bannon Found His Man in Donald Trump.

Washington Post: What a President Trump means for foreign policy.

Jamelle Bouie at Slate: Keep Hope Alive. Demoralized Democrats have a road map for success in Trump’s America. It was written by Jesse Jackson.

Must Read! David Fahrenthold and Robert O’Harrow Jr. at The Washington Post: The mogul, in a 2007 deposition, had to face up to a series of falsehoods and exaggerations. And he did. Sort of.

Catherine Rampell at The Washington Post: In Trump’s economy, mammas should make sure their babies grow up to be con men.

Washington Post: Donald Trump’s political mandate is historically small.

Eric Boelert at Media Matters: Too Little, Too Late: Weeks After Election, Media See Trump’s Conflicts, Potential Self-Dealings, And Corruption.

Matthew Yglesias at Vox: The Trump conflicts of interest we can see are just the tip of the iceberg.


Lazy Saturday Reads

Cuban-Americans celebrate upon hearing about the death of longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, Fla., on Saturday. AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Cuban-Americans celebrate upon hearing about the death of longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, Fla., on Saturday.
AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Good Morning!!

The big news this morning is the death of Fidel Castro. From the AP via the NYT: Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Who Defied US for 50 Years, Dies at 90.

Former President Fidel Castro, who led a rebel army to improbable victory in Cuba, embraced Soviet-style communism and defied the power of 10 U.S. presidents during his half century rule, has died at age 90.

With a shaking voice, President Raul Castro said on state television that his older brother died at 10:29 p.m. Friday. He ended the announcement by shouting the revolutionary slogan: “Toward victory, always!”

Castro’s reign over the island-nation 90 miles (145 kilometers) from Florida was marked by the U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis a year later that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. The bearded revolutionary, who survived a crippling U.S. trade embargo as well as dozens, possibly hundreds, of assassination plots, died 10 years after ill health forced him to hand power over to Raul.

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Castro overcame imprisonment at the hands of dictator Fulgencio Batista, exile in Mexico and a disastrous start to his rebellion before triumphantly riding into Havana in January 1959 to become, at age 32, the youngest leader in Latin America. For decades, he served as an inspiration and source of support to revolutionaries from Latin America to Africa.

His commitment to socialism was unwavering, though his power finally began to fade in mid-2006 when a gastrointestinal ailment forced him to hand over the presidency to Raul in 2008, provisionally at first and then permanently. His defiant image lingered long after he gave up his trademark Cohiba cigars for health reasons and his tall frame grew stooped.

“Socialism or death” remained Castro’s rallying cry even as Western-style democracy swept the globe and other communist regimes in China and Vietnam embraced capitalism, leaving this island of 11 million people an economically crippled Marxist curiosity.

The Times also has a lengthy obituary: Fidel Castro, Cuban Revolutionary Who Defied U.S., Dies at 90.

Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died Friday. He was 90….

In declining health for several years, Mr. Castro had orchestrated what he hoped would be the continuation of his Communist revolution, stepping aside in 2006 when he was felled by a serious illness. He provisionally ceded much of his power to his younger brother Raúl, now 85, and two years later formally resigned as president. Raúl Castro, who had fought alongside Fidel Castro from the earliest days of the insurrection and remained minister of defense and his brother’s closest confidant, has ruled Cuba since then, although he has told the Cuban people he intends to resign in 2018.

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Fidel Castro had held on to power longer than any other living national leader except Queen Elizabeth II. He became a towering international figure whose importance in the 20th century far exceeded what might have been expected from the head of state of a Caribbean island nation of 11 million people.

He dominated his country with strength and symbolism from the day he triumphantly entered Havana on Jan. 8, 1959, and completed his overthrow of Fulgencio Batista by delivering his first major speech in the capital before tens of thousands of admirers at the vanquished dictator’s military headquarters.

A spotlight shone on him as he swaggered and spoke with passion until dawn. Finally, white doves were released to signal Cuba’s new peace. When one landed on Mr. Castro, perching on a shoulder, the crowd erupted, chanting “Fidel! Fidel!” To the war-weary Cubans gathered there and those watching on television, it was an electrifying sign that their young, bearded guerrilla leader was destined to be their savior.

Much more at the link.

Meanwhile, we’re in the midst of a shocking revolution here at home. Our government has been essentially taken over by a hostile foreign state, and it appears that no one in power is doing anything about it. It looks like we are going to be ruled by billionaires–are we really going to allow our country to become a Russian oligarchy?

The Washington Post: Americans keep looking away from the election’s most alarming story, by Eric Chenowith.

In assessing Donald Trump’s presidential victory, Americans continue to look away from this election’s most alarming story: the successful effort by a hostile foreign power to manipulate public opinion before the vote.

U.S. intelligence agencies determined that the Russian government actively interfered in our elections. Russian state propaganda gave little doubt that this was done to support President-elect Trump, who repeatedly praised Vladimir Putin and excused the Russian president’s foreign aggression and domestic repression. Most significantly, U.S. intelligence agencies have affirmed that the Russian government directedthe illegal hacking of private email accounts of the Democratic National Committee and prominent individuals. The emails were then released by WikiLeaks, which has benefited financially from a Russian state propaganda arm, used Russian operatives for security and made clear an intent to harm the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

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From the Russian perspective, the success of this operation can hardly be overstated. News stories on the DNC emails released in July served to disrupt the Democratic National Convention, instigate political infighting and suggest for some supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — without any real proof — that the Democratic primary had been “rigged” against their candidate. On Oct. 7, WikiLeaks began near dailydumps from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email account, generating a month of largely negative reporting on Clinton, her campaign staff, her husband and their foundation. With some exceptions, there was little news in the email beyond political gossip and things the media had covered before, now revisited from a seemingly “hidden” viewpoint.
Russian (and former communist) propaganda has traditionally worked exactly this way: The more you “report” something negatively, the more the negative is true. Trump and supportive media outlets adopted the technique and reveled in information gained from the illegal Russian hacking (as well as many “fake news” stories that evidencesuggestswere generated by Russian intelligence operations) to make exaggerated claims (“Hillary wants to open borders to 600 million people!”) or to accuse Clinton of illegality, corruption and, ironically, treasonous behavior.
Does anyone in the Obama administration have serious concerns about this? And what about possible connections between Russia and factions in FBI? I can only hope that efforts to deal with the situation are going on behind the scenes, but it sure doesn’t seem that way. Instead, it looks like the Obama administration is focused on making things easier for Trump and his Russian oligarch pals.

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NYT: U.S. Officials Defend Integrity of Vote, Despite Hacking Fears.

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration said on Friday that despite Russian attempts to undermine the presidential election, it has concluded that the results “accurately reflect the will of the American people.”

The statement came as liberal opponents of Donald J. Trump, some citing fears of vote hacking, are seeking recounts in three states — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — where his margin of victory was extremely thin.

A drive by Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, for recounts in those states had brought in more than $5 million by midday on Friday, her campaign said, and had increased its goal to $7 million. She filed for a recount in Wisconsin on Friday, about an hour before the deadline.

In its statement, the administration said, “The Kremlin probably expected that publicity surrounding the disclosures that followed the Russian government-directed compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations, would raise questions about the integrity of the election process that could have undermined the legitimacy of the president-elect.”

That was a reference to the breach of the Democratic National Committee’s email system, and the leak of emails from figures like John D. Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.

“Nevertheless, we stand behind our election results, which accurately reflect the will of the American people,” it added.

I don’t get it. So President Obama really isn’t that interested in fighting for his legacy anymore? And there’s this from The Hill: Obama urged Clinton to concede on election night.

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President Barack Obama called Hillary Clinton to persuade her to concede the White House on election night, according to a forthcoming book on Clinton’s defeat.

Authors Amie Parnes, The Hill’s senior White House correspondent, and Jonathan Allen cite three Clintonworld sources familiar with the election-night request in the unreleased book from Crown Publishing.

“You need to concede,” Obama told his former secretary of State as she, her family, and her top aides continued to watch results trickle in from the key Rust Belt states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. The latter state, called after 1:30 a.m. by The Associated Press, was the clear tipping point for the White House race, ensuring Trump would crest over the 270 electoral-vote threshold needed to win.

Clinton ultimately heeded Obama’s advice and called Trump to acknowledge her defeat in the early morning hours Wednesday….

Obama’s call left a sour taste in the mouths of some Clinton allies who believe she should have waited longer, and there’s now a fight playing out between the Obama and Clinton camps over whether to support an effort to force the Rust Belt states to recount their votes.

Meanwhile, efforts to get recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania are moving forward. The Wisconsin Election Commission: Wisconsin Elections Commission Receives Two Presidential Election Recount Petitions.

MADISON, WI – The Wisconsin Elections Commission today received two recount petitions from the Jill Stein for President Campaign and from Rocky Roque De La Fuente, Administrator Michael Haas announced.

“The Commission is preparing to move forward with a statewide recount of votes for President of the United States, as requested by these candidates,” Haas said.

“We have assembled an internal team to direct the recount, we have been in close consultation with our county clerk partners, and have arranged for legal representation by the Wisconsin Department of Justice,” Haas said. “We plan to hold a teleconference meeting for county clerks next week and anticipate the recount will begin late in the week after the Stein campaign has paid the recount fee, which we are still calculating.”

The last statewide recount was of the Supreme Court election in 2011.  At that time, the Associated Press surveyed county clerks and reported that costs to the counties exceeded $520,000, though several counties did not respond to the AP’s survey.  That election had 1.5 million votes, and Haas said the Commission expects the costs to be higher for an election with 2.975 million votes.  “The Commission is in the process of obtaining cost estimates from county clerks so that we can calculate the fee which the campaigns will need to pay before the recount can start,” Haas said. The Commission will need to determine how the recount costs will be assessed to the campaigns.

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The state is working under a federal deadline of December 13 to complete the recount. As a result, county boards of canvassers may need to work evenings and weekends to meet the deadlines. “The recount process is very detail-oriented, and this deadline will certainly challenge some counties to finish on time,” Haas said.

A recount is different than an audit and is more rigorous, Haas explained.  More than 100 reporting units across the state were randomly selected for a separate audit of their voting equipment as required by state law, and that process has already begun.  Electronic voting equipment audits determine whether all properly-marked ballots are accurately tabulated by the equipment.  In a recount, all ballots (including those that were originally hand counted) are examined to determine voter intent before being retabulated. In addition, the county boards of canvassers will examine other documents, including poll lists, written absentee applications, rejected absentee ballots, and provisional ballots before counting the votes.

Haas noted that the Commission’s role is to order the recount, to provide legal guidance to the counties during the recount, and to certify the results.  If the candidates disagree with the results of the recount, the law gives them the right to appeal in circuit court within five business days after the recount is completed.  The circuit court is where issues are resolved that may be discovered during the recount but are not resolved to the satisfaction of the candidates.

The Detroit News: Mich. readies for presidential recount as cutoff looms.

Lansing — Elections officials are preparing for a possible presidential election recount in Michigan that could begin as soon as next week, state Director of Elections Chris Thomas said Friday.

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein has indicated she plans to jumpstart a recount in the Great Lakes state over fears that Michigan’s election results could have been manipulated by hackers. Republican President-elect Donald won the state by 10,704 votes over Democrat Hillary Clinton, according to unofficial updated resultsposted Wednesday.

By Friday afternoon, Stein had raised more than $5 million of her $7 million goal to cover the cost of a recount in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan “to ensure the integrity of our elections” because “there is a significant need to verify machine-counted vote totals,” according to her campaign website. Stein finished nearly 2.3 million votes behind Trump in Michigan and received 1.1 percent of the vote.

Michigan’s deadline for initiating a recount is Wednesday. “We have not heard from anybody,” Thomas said about a Stein recount request. “We’re just trying to be proactive, make sure we have plans.”

Thomas said officials “could probably begin by the end of the week,” although it will be “a huge undertaking in a very short period of time” if it happens.

That’s all I have for you today. I admit that I’ve been sinking into depression and despair over the past few days. I don’t know how to deal with this nightmare. I’m not giving up; I’m just in a state of extreme confusion and not sure how to come out of it yet.

Take care Sky Dancers! I love you all.


Thanksgiving Day Reads

Thanksgiving Day Parade, by Garin Baker

Thanksgiving Day Parade, by Garin Baker

Good Afternoon!!

I decided to stay home today instead of getting together with family and friends. I’m still too traumatized to deal with polite society. Again this morning, I find myself on the verge of tears–and I’ve felt that way since I woke up.

I’m thankful that I still have a roof over my head, food to eat, clothes to wear, and health care if I need it–for now. I’m thankful for my family and that my mom is still with us. I’m thankful for this blog and for the ability to connect with other like-minded people on the internet–for now. Everything is short-term now, because I have no idea what is coming.

All I know for sure is that a minority of U.S. voters have elected a simple-minded authoritarian to lead this country, and that his inner circle is filled with racists and white supremacists. He has named a number of startlingly unqualified people as candidates for his cabinet.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, 1930

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, 1930

Last night the Washington Post revealed that the president-elect has refused to participate in daily intelligence briefings. Apparently he is quite satisfied with his overwhelming ignorance of foreign affairs and national security risks.

President-elect Donald Trump has received two classified intelligence briefings since his surprise election victory earlier this month, a frequency that is notably lower — at least so far — than that of his predecessors, current and former U.S. officials said.

A team of intelligence analysts has been prepared to deliver daily briefings on global developments and security threats to Trump in the two weeks since he won. Vice President-elect Mike Pence, by contrast, has set aside time for intelligence briefings almost every day since the election, officials said.

The Trump team claims their great god-emperor has been too busy selecting incompetent people for his White House staff and Cabinet.

But others have interpreted Trump’s limited engagement with his briefing team as an additional sign of indifference from a president-elect who has no meaningful experience on national security issues and was dismissive of U.S. intelligence agencies’ capabilities and findings during the campaign.

A senior U.S. official who receives the same briefing delivered to President Obama each day said that devoting time to such sessions would help Trump get up to speed on world events.

“Trump has a lot of catching up to do,” the official said.

But the president-elect knows more than the generals do so no big deal according to his staff and many Republicans. Still, let us not forget that ignoring intelligence briefings very likely gave us the 9/11 attacks.

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Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s popular vote lead continues to balloon (Thanksgiving Day parade pun intended). Politico: Clinton’s lead in the popular vote surpasses 2 million.

A series of long-shot bids to reconsider the result of the 2016 election cropped up on Wednesday as Democrats and liberals dismayed by Donald Trump’s victory saw Hillary Clinton’s lead in the popular vote surpass 2 million on Wednesday.

Clinton’s camp and leading Democrats have been entirely silent on the efforts — including a potential request for a recount of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin sponsored by Green Party candidate Jill Stein — further underscoring the unlikelihood of movement on that front. But left-leaning activists were nonetheless temporarily cheered after New York Magazine reported on Tuesday evening that Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta and campaign attorney Marc Elias spoke with a group of election lawyers and computer scientists about the possibility that results may have been altered in those states.

The former secretary of state has garnered 64,223,958 votes, compared to the president-elect’s 62,206,395, according to a count curated by Dave Wasserman of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

Among the potential steps to challenge the results on Wednesday was an announcement from Stein, often a strident Clinton critic, that she would seek to challenge the results in all three of the states if she raised the $2 million necessary to do so. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are traditionally Democrats states that fell into Trump’s column on Nov. 8, and Michigan’s story is similar, though it has yet to be officially called for Trump. As of Thursday mornng, Stein’s campaign had raised at least $2.5 million, according to multiple news reports.

Frankly, I’m not getting my hopes up, but anything that potentially embarrasses the president-elect is just fine with me. Let’s have a recount and a forensic analysis of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Florida. Maybe Clinton will still win Michigan, but lets have a recount there too. Let the president-elect have all the Twitter tantrums he wants and let’s mock him unmercifully.

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The Atlantic: Hillary Clinton’s Lead Is Greater Than Multiple Former Presidents.’

Clinton’s and Trump’s totals will continue to grow as authorities work through the ballots, the bulk of which are coming from blue states and thus won’t change the election. The counting process will wrap up by the time the Electoral College votes on December 19, said David Wasserman, an editor at The Cook Political Report, which is tracking the count. Wasserman has predicted that when all the votes are tallied, Clinton could be ahead of Trump by approximately 2 percentage points. It could be a little over or a little under, but “I’m confident it’ll ultimately round to 2,” he told me.

But even Clinton’s current lead is noteworthy—or personally painful, depending on one’s political leanings. That’s because multiple candidates in American history have been elected president with far smaller margins than hers in the popular vote. According to figures from the Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections—and as alluded to by one Atlantic reader—they include:

James Garfield in 1880: 0.09 percentage points

John F. Kennedy in 1960: 0.17 percentage points

Grover Cleveland in 1884: 0.57 percentage points

Richard Nixon in 1968: 0.7 percentage points

James Polk in 1844: 1.45 percentage points

If the final vote count does, indeed, put her roughly 2 percentage points ahead of Trump, her margin would edge up against those of winning presidential nominees Jimmy Carter in 1976 (2.07 percentage points) and George W. Bush in 2004 (2.47 percentage points). And all this is not to mention the presidents who’ve been elected without winning the popular vote at all. That’s a list that includes Bush in 2000, and will soon include Trump. As my colleague Ronald Brownstein put it, Trump “is on track to lose the popular vote by more than any successfully elected president ever.”

Three Important Reads for Today (IMHO)

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Barbara Kinsolver at The Guardian: Trump changed everything. Now everything counts.

If you’re among the majority of American voters who just voted against the party soon to control all three branches of our government, you’ve probably had a run of bad days. You felt this loss like a death in the family and coped with it as such: grieved with friends, comforted scared kids, got out the bottle of whisky, binge-watched Netflix. But we can’t hole up for four years waiting for something that’s gone. We just woke up in another country.

It’s hard to guess much from Trump’s campaign promises but we know the goals of the legislators now taking charge, plus Trump’s VP and those he’s tapping to head our government agencies. Losses are coming at us in these areas: freedom of speech and the press; women’s reproductive rights; affordable healthcare; security for immigrants and Muslims; racial and LGBTQ civil rights; environmental protection; scientific research and education; international cooperation on limiting climate change; international cooperation on anything; any restraints on who may possess firearms; restraint on the upper-class wealth accumulation that’s gutting our middle class; limits on corporate influence over our laws. That’s the opening volley.

Wariness of extremism doesn’t seem to trouble anyone young enough to claim Lady Gaga as a folk hero. I’m mostly addressing my generation, the baby boomers. We may have cut our teeth on disrespect for the Man, but now we’ve counted on majority rule for so long we think it’s the air we breathe. In human decency we trust, so our duty is to go quietly when our team loses. It feels wrong to speak ill of the president. We’re not like the bigoted, vulgar bad sports who slandered Obama and spread birther conspiracies, oh, wait. Now we’re to honor a president who made a career of debasing the presidency?

We’re in new historical territory. A majority of American voters just cast our vote for a candidate who won’t take office. A supreme court seat meant to be filled by our elected president was denied us. Congressional districts are now gerrymandered so most of us are represented by the party we voted against. The FBI and Russia meddled with our election. Our president-elect has no tolerance for disagreement, and a stunningly effective propaganda apparatus. Now we get to send this outfit every dime of our taxes and watch it cement its power. It’s not going to slink away peacefully in the next election.

Please go read the whole thing.

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Rebecca Traister: Blaming Clinton’s Base for Her Loss Is the Ultimate Insult.

To say that the past two weeks — past two months, and perhaps two years — have been punishing for America’s women and people of color is surely an understatement.

During the presidential campaign, many Americans, notably those most likely to have voted for Hillary Clinton, were on the receiving end of torrents of vitriol coming from Donald Trump and his supporters: They were caricatured as rapists and criminals, bimbos, dogs, and pigs, and subjected to the humiliation of watching a man repeatedly accused of sexual assault run for president, advised by a cadre of racists adorably referred to as members of the “alt-right,” all while our first black president and first woman nominee were regularly called crooks and threatened with imprisonment and execution.

That man won the presidency, beating the candidate whom the vast majority of black voters, Latino voters, Asian-American voters, and women (if not white women, who voted for Trump by 53 percent) supported.

Those voters watched as Trump promptly appointed white nationalist Steve Bannon as a senior White House adviser and proposed Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, a man once deemed too racist to serve as a judge, to succeed Loretta Lynch as attorney general. They have shuddered as, across America, hateful expressions of white-nationalist victory have proliferated: “You can kiss your visa good-bye, scumbag; they’ll deport you soon, don’t worry, you fucking terrorist,” screamed one man in Queens at a Muslim Uber driver. A dugout wall in upstate New York was decorated with swastikas alongside the words “Make America White Again.” In Ann Arbor, a man threatened to set a Muslim student on fire with his lighter unless she removed her hijab. At Canisius College in New York, students posted photos of a black doll hung from a curtain rod. The nation’s white supremacists have been rolling in their own affirmations of power, while those proven again to have less of it stand witness.

And now, the women and people of color who made up Clinton’s base and were the most enthusiastic supporters of her campaign, the ones who have the most to lose under the Trump administration, have found themselves on the receiving end of the lion’s share of the blame for our recent national cataclysm.

Read the rest at The Cut.

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A speech by Christiane Amanpour at the International Press Freedom Awards.

I never in a million years thought I would be up here on stage appealing for the freedom and safety of American journalists at home.

Ladies and gentlemen, I added the bits from candidate Trump as a reminder of the peril we face.

I actually hoped that once president-elect, all that that would change, and I still do.

But I was chilled when the first tweet after the election was about “professional protesters incited by the media.”

He walked back the part about the protesters but not the part about the media.

We are not there but postcard from the world: this is how it goes with authoritarians like Sisi, Erdoğan, Putin, the Ayatollahs, Duterte, et al.

As all the international journalists we honor in this room tonight and every year know only too well:

First the media is accused of inciting, then sympathizing, then associating–until they suddenly find themselves accused of being full-fledged terrorists and subversives.

Then they end up in handcuffs, in cages, in kangaroo courts, in prison–and then who knows?

Just to say, Erdoğan has just told my Israeli colleague Ilana Dayan that he cannot understand why anyone’s protesting in America, it must mean they don’t accept–or understand–democracy! And he thinks America, like all great countries, needs a strongman to get things done!

A great America requires a great and free and safe press.

Read more at Columbia Journalism Review.

I wish each and every one of you a Happy Thanksgiving. Live for today and plan to fight back when necessary. #Resist!


Tuesday Reads: We’re Approaching a Constitutional Crisis

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Good Morning!!

It’s been two weeks since the election, and I think we’re already very close to a constitutional crisis. Each day we wake up to new insanity from the “president elect.” And yes, I do believe that he is insane. Something needs to be done very quickly and I’m not sure anyone in authority is going to act. As Matthew Yglesias wrote recently, we only have until noon on January 20, 2017 to stop Donald Trump from systemically corrupting our institutions. We’ve posted this article before, but everyone should save it and refer to it often.

 

The country has entered a dangerous period. The president-elect is the least qualified man to ever hold high office. He also operated the least transparent campaign of the modern era. He gave succor and voice to bigoted elements on a scale not seen in two generations. He openly praised dictators — not as allies but as dictators — and threatened to use the powers of his office to discipline the media.

He also has a long history of corrupt behavior, and his business holdings pose staggering conflicts of interest that are exacerbated by his lack of financial disclosure. But while most journalists and members of the opposition party think they understand the threat of Trump-era corruption, they are in fact drastically underestimating it. When we talk about corruption in the modern United States, we have in mind what Andrei Shleifer and Robert Vishnydefine as “the sale by government officials of government property for personal gain.”

This is the classic worry about campaign contributions or revolving doors — the fear that wealthy interests can give money to public officials and in exchange receive favorable treatment from the political system. But in a classic essay on “The Concept of Systemic Corruption in American History,” the economist John Joseph Wallis repminds us that in the Revolutionary Era and during the founding of the republic, Americans worried about something different. Not the venal corruption we are accustomed to thinking about, but what he calls systemic corruption. He writes that 18th-century thinkers “worried much more that the king and his ministers were manipulating grants of economic privileges to secure political support for a corrupt and unconstitutional usurpation of government powers.”

We are used to corruption in which the rich buy political favor. What we need to learn to fear is corruption in which political favor becomes the primary driver of economic success.

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Donald Trump is more dangerous than any potential president in history, because he is a sociopath with zero empathy for anyone but himself and he seems to be incapable of feeling shame.

Past presidents have been restrained from behaving in such a manner by institutional checks and balances that are eroding under the pressure of rising partisan polarization.

But most of all, past presidents have simply been restrained by restraint. By a belief that there are certain things one simply cannot try or do. Yet Trump has repeatedly triumphed in circumstances that most predicted were impossible. As Ezra Klein has written, he operates entirely without shame:

It’s easy to underestimate how important shame is in American politics. But shame is our most powerful restraint on politicians who would find success through demagoguery. Most people feel shame when they’re exposed as liars, when they’re seen as uninformed, when their behavior is thought cruel, when respected figures in their party condemn their actions, when experts dismiss their proposals, when they are mocked and booed and protested.

Trump doesn’t. He has the reality television star’s ability to operate entirely without shame, and that permits him to operate entirely without restraint. It is the single scariest facet of his personality. It is the one that allows him to go where others won’t, to say what others can’t, to do what others wouldn’t.

Trump lives by the reality television trope that he’s not here to make friends. But the reason reality television villains always say they’re not there to make friends is because it sets them apart, makes them unpredictable and fun to watch. “I’m not here to make friends” is another way of saying, “I’m not bound by the social conventions of normal people.” The rest of us are here to make friends, and it makes us boring, gentle, kind.

Trump does not care if normally conservative newspapers’ editorial pages denounce him, if media fact-checkers slam him, if GOP operatives furiously tweet against him, or anything else.

TV journalists and execs at Trump Tower yesterday

TV journalists and execs at Trump Tower yesterday

Since the publication of that piece on November 17, the situation has gotten more and more grave. It seems Trump does care what newspapers and TV networks say about him, but his response will be to try to control what they write and broadcast, not reverse his own corrupt behavior. As we all know, Trump called some broadcast media representatives into an off-the-record meeting yesterday. These craven executives and reporters attended the meeting and were treated to a “dressing down” by a screaming Trump. The story first leaked out to the right-wing, Trump-favoring New York Post.

“It was like a f−−−ing firing squad,” one source said of the encounter.

“Trump started with [CNN chief] Jeff Zucker and said, ‘I hate your network, everyone at CNN is a liar and you should be ashamed,’ ” the source said.

“The meeting was a total disaster. The TV execs and anchors went in there thinking they would be discussing the access they would get to the Trump administration, but instead they got a Trump-style dressing-down,” the source added.

A second source confirmed the fireworks.

“The meeting took place in a big boardroom and there were about 30 or 40 people, including the big news anchors from all the networks,” the other source said.

“Trump kept saying, ‘We’re in a room of liars, the deceitful, dishonest media who got it all wrong.’ He addressed everyone in the room, calling the media dishonest, deceitful liars. He called out Jeff Zucker by name and said everyone at CNN was a liar, and CNN was [a] network of liars,” the source said.

“Trump didn’t say [NBC reporter] Katy Tur by name, but talked about an NBC female correspondent who got it wrong, then he referred to a horrible network correspondent who cried when Hillary lost who hosted a debate — which was Martha Raddatz, who was also in the room.”

More TV bigshots summoned by Trump yesterday

More TV bigshots summoned by Trump yesterday

I guess it wasn’t enough that CNN paid multiple Trump supporters to defend him against any criticism. Here’s a more staid version of the story from The New York Times. And there’s this one from David Remnick at The New Yorker: Donald Trump Personally Blasts the Press.

First came the obsessive Twitter rants directed at “Hamilton” and “Saturday Night Live.” Then came Monday’s astonishing aria of invective and resentment aimed at the media, delivered in a conference room on the twenty-fifth floor of Trump Tower. In the presence of television executives and anchors, Trump whined about everything from NBC News reporter Katy Tur’s coverage of him to a photograph the news network has used that shows him with a double chin. Why didn’t they use “nicer” pictures?

For more than twenty minutes, Trump railed about “outrageous” and “dishonest” coverage. When he was asked about the sort of “fake news” that now clogs social media, Trump replied that it was the networks that were guilty of spreading fake news. The “worst,” he said, were CNN (“liars!”) and NBC.

This is where we are. The President-elect does not care who knows how unforgiving or vain or distracted he is. This is who he is, and this is who will be running the executive branch of the United States government for four years.

The overall impression of the meeting from the attendees I spoke with was that Trump showed no signs of having been sobered or changed by his elevation to the country’s highest office. Rather, said one, “He is the same kind of blustering, bluffing, blowhard as he was during the campaign.”

Another participant at the meeting said that Trump’s behavior was “totally inappropriate” and “fucking outrageous.” The television people thought that they were being summoned to ask questions; Trump has not held a press conference since late July. Instead, they were subjected to a stream of insults and complaints—and not everyone absorbed it with pleasure.

“I have to tell you, I am emotionally fucking pissed,” another participant said. “How can this not influence coverage? I am being totally honest with you. Toward the end of the campaign, it got to a point where I thought that the coverage was all about [Trump’s] flaws and problems. And that’s legit. But, I thought, O.K., let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. After the meeting today, though—and I am being human with you here—I think, Fuck him! I know I am being emotional about it. And I know I will get over it in a couple of days after Thanksgiving. But I really am offended. This was unprecedented. Outrageous!”

Let’s hope none of them “get over it.”

This morning Trump cancelled a scheduled meeting with The New York Times, claiming the newspaper tried to “change the ground rules.” The New York Times responded that that did not happen.

Supposedly the meet has been rescheduled now.

This is all so unbelievable, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg of Trump insanity this country is going to be dealing with. In just a few days we’ve seen that the level of corruption we’ll see under this monster is comparable to what has happened in the worst dictatorships around the globe. Dakinikat wrote about this yesterday, and there’s already more corruption in the news today.

The New York Times: With a Meeting, Trump Renewed a British Wind Farm Fight.

When President-elect Donald J. Trumpmet with the British politician Nigel Farage in recent days, he encouraged Mr. Farage and his entourage to oppose the kind of offshore wind farms that Mr. Trump believes will mar the pristine view from one of his two Scottish golf courses, according to one person present.

The meeting, held shortly after the presidential election, raises new questions about Mr. Trump’s willingness to use the power of the presidency to advance his business interests. Mr. Trump has long opposed a wind farm planned near his course in Aberdeenshire, and he previously fought unsuccessfully all the way to Britain’s highest court to block it.

The group that met with Mr. Trump in New York was led by Mr. Farage, the head of the U.K. Independence Party and a member of the European Parliament. Mr. Farage, who was a leading voice advocating Britain’s exit from the European Union, or Brexit, campaigned with Mr. Trump during the election. Arron Banks, an insurance executive who was a major financier of the Brexit campaign, was also in attendance.

“He did not say he hated wind farms as a concept; he just did not like them spoiling the views,” said Andy Wigmore, the media consultant who was present at the meeting and was photographed with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Wigmore headed communications for Leave.EU, one of the two groups that led the Brexit effort. He said in an email that he and Mr. Banks would be “campaigning against wind farms in England, Scotland and Wales.”

This morning Trump tweeted that he wants Great Britain to appoint Nigel Farage as ambassador to the U.S.!

British Prime Minister Teresa May told CNN that’s not going to happen. But this is just one more breach of protocol by the out-of-control “president elect.”

I haven’t even scratched the surface of this morning’s shocking news. I have an important appointment this afternoon, but I’ll post more links when I can. 

Now it’s your turn. Have at it.


Lazy Saturday Reads: Trump “Values” Are Not American Values

postcard

Good Afternoon!!

Here’s something we can do right away to let the PEOTUS know how we feel about his decision to install a white supremacist in the White House. A friend invited me to join this Facebook group that is asking people to send postcards from their states to Trump Tower between November 26 and 28. I sent invitations to my Facebook friends, so many of you will be getting them. Here’s the plan:

**IMPORTANT: Please do not send your postcard until NOV 26th**

**PUBLIC PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/events/235432800204102/

Instructions to participate:

1. Get a postcard from your state – any picture that represents your state.
2. In the message section, write this simple message: NOT BANNON!
3. Sign your name if you wish
4. Address it as follows:
Donald Trump
c/o The Trump Organization
725 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10022
5. Affix a stamp – you can use a 35 cent postcard stamp, or a normal letter stamp.
6. Take a picture of your postcard that you can share on social media using the hashtag #stopbannon #postcardavalanche
7. Drop it in the mail between Saturday, Nov 26th and Monday, Nov. 28th to create a concentrated avalanche of postcards.

If you can’t send yours until later, don’t let that stop you.

**IF YOU CANT INVITE, WE RECOMMEND USING THE PUBLIC PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/events/235432800204102/

boston-postcard

Now invite, invite, invite! The more voices we can get in the mail, from the more states, the better. To make it go viral we will all need to share the details with our sphere of influence in whatever ways we feel comfortable. Feel free to copy and paste the details or even post your own public event. The more the merrier!

If you are unfamiliar with Steve Bannon, he is a white supremacist who is also the head of a media company that proliferates misogynistic, homophobic, and xenophobic views. The Donald is about to make him chief White House strategist. We have to stand up for American values against this man!

Let’s go national and send a message the old fashioned way!

Here’s something else people are doing. From the Indianapolis Star: 46,000 people have donated to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence’s name since the election.

People on social media, ranging from regular Janes to celebrities, have been passing around Mike Pence’s official contact information.

Why?

To encourage others to make a donation to Planned Parenthood in Pence’s name and send him a notification of the gift.

Planned Parenthood confirmed that people are putting their money where their tweets are. Of more than 200,000 donations made to Planned Parenthood since the election, 46,000 have been made in the vice president-elect’s name, according to the organization.

I’m sure you’ve all heard about what happened to VP elect Pence last night. From the LA Times: Mike Pence gets booed as he arrives for performance of ‘Hamilton.’

Mike Pence, the vice president-elect, took a break from planning the next administration on Friday night by attending the popular Broadway show “Hamilton.”

Though Pence received a smattering of applause when he arrived, the New York audience mostly greeted the Indiana governor with boos….

The hip-hop musical about one of the country’s founding fathers, with its multicultural cast and tale of immigrant pride, has been a favorite of liberals. One of its songs was first performed at the White House when creator Lin-Manuel Miranda was a guest of President Obama.

From Rolling Stone: Watch ‘Hamilton’ Cast’s Powerful Plea to Mike Pence.

Pence had initially received an icy reception from the New York audience, with video of the Indiana governor being roundly booedupon entering the Richard Rodgers Theater quickly circulating on social media.

However, upon the show’s curtain call, the cast and crew of Hamilton, led by actor Brandon Victor Dixon, had a strong message to deliver to the VP-elect. “There’s nothing to boo here, we’re all here sharing a story of love,” Dixon said. “We have a message for you, sir.”

“Vice President-elect Pence, welcome. Thank you for joining us at Hamilton – An American Musical. We, sir, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values, and work on behalf of ALL of us,” Dixon said.

Dixon, who plays Aaron Burr in the production, then again thanked Pence for attending a show featuring a “diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds and orientations.” “We don’t have to fight one another. The beautiful part of this country is… we don’t have to agree, but we gotta live here, baby, and share with one another,” Dixon added.

Watch the video at the LA Times or Rolling Stone link.

PEOTUS has already sent two whiny tweets claiming that Pence was “harassed.”

PEOTUS is not a fan of the first amendment to the Constitution. I wonder if he realizes how millions of people are going to greet his inauguration? He is going to hear a lot of boos in the next four years–if he lasts that long. He’d better get used to it. This isn’t Venezuela or Nazi Germany yet.

Meanwhile, the Trump organization is already well on the way to turning the U.S. Government into a kleptocracy. You probably saw that photo of Ivanka Trump sitting in on a meeting between her father and the Japanese Prime Minister. Ivanka’s husband was there for part of the meeting too.

Think Progress: This isn’t just a photo of Ivanka Trump. It’s a middle finger to democracy.

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Donald Trump is leveraging his new position as president-elect to empower his business empire — and he’s doing it publicly.

We’ve known for some time that Trump didn’t plan to actually resolve the unprecedented conflicts his far-flung business interests presented.

Instead of liquidating his assets and placing them in a Qualified Diversified Trust, as President Bush did, or investing in index funds and government bonds, as President Obama did, Trump has done nothing.

He’s waved away concerns about conflicts-of-interest, saying that he would just hand over control of his business interests to his children.

He called this a “blind trust” but it is actually the opposite. A blind trust is when you hand marketable assets over to a neutral third party to control. The contents of the trust, since they can be traded at any time by the administrator, are soon unknown to you. Trump knows what his assets are and says he is handing them to his children.

Immediately after Trump’s election, he named three of his adult children — Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Jr. — to his transition team. This means the same people running the Trump Organization will also be choosing the top officials in the Trump administration.

Now he is taking things a step further. In his first meeting with a head of state, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump invited his daughter Ivanka — who will likely serve as acting CEO of his companies — to participate.

Trump could have kept Ivanka’s participation private. Instead, his team handed out a photo featuring Ivanka.

Please go read the rest. They are thumbing their noses at all that is decent and ethical.

And remember that Trump hotel in Washington DC–right near the White House? Foreign leaders and diplomats will soon be able to bribe the President of the U.S. by staying in that hotel on their official visits. They will be able to do the same by staying in other Trump branded hotels and patronizing his golf courses and other businesses.

Washington Post: For foreign diplomats, Trump hotel is place to be.

Trump International Hotel, Washington DC

Trump International Hotel, Washington DC

About 100 foreign diplomats, from Brazil to Turkey, gathered at the Trump International Hotel this week to sip Trump-branded champagne, dine on sliders and hear a sales pitch about the U.S. president-elect’s newest hotel.

The event for the diplomatic community, held one week after the election, was in the Lincoln Library, a junior ballroom with 16-foot ceilings and velvet drapes that is also available for rent.

Some attendees won raffle prizes — among them overnight stays at other Trump properties around the world — allowing them to become better acquainted with the business holdings of the new commander in chief.

“The place was packed,” said Lynn Van Fleit, founder of the nonprofit Diplomacy Matters Institute, which organizes programs for foreign diplomats and government officials. She said much of the discussion among Washington-based diplomats is over “how are we going to build ties with the new administration.”

Back when many expected Trump to lose the election, speculation was rife that business would suffer at the hotels, condos and golf courses that bear his name. Now, those venues offer the prospect of something else: a chance to curry favor or access with the next president.

Perhaps nowhere is that possibility more obvious than Trump’s newly renovated hotel a few blocks from the White House, on Pennsylvania Avenue. Rooms sold out quickly for the inauguration, many for five-night minimums priced at five times the normal rate, according to the hotel’s manager.

Read more at the link, but prepare to be nauseated.

That’s all I have the strength for today. Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread, have courage and hold onto your values for dear life.