Friday Reads: Even First Ladies Get the Blues

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I continue to wake and wonder what fresh hell awaits us today.  There’s a lot of it but I’m finding some comfort in Michelle Obama’s openness about her mild depression in her new podcasts. I would really like to return to the day and age where there was less yelling and incoherent sentences and a lot more humanly shared experience. Empathetic people get the blues while witnessing human suffering. This is from E. 

The former first lady spurred concern from supporters this week after mentioning in a new episode of her eponymous podcast that she is “dealing with some form of low-grade depression” as a result of these historic times.

However, a day later, she addressed the worry about her head on with a message directly to fans via social media. “I just wanted to check in with you all because a lot of you have been checking in on me after hearing this week’s podcast. First things first—I’m doing just fine,” she assured on Instagram. “There’s no reason to worry about me.”

As Obama elaborated, her concern is with frontline workers, Black Lives Matter activists and families making decisions about school amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Like I said in that conversation with @Michele__Norris, I’m thinking about the folks out there risking themselves for the rest of us—the doctors and nurses and essential workers of all kinds,” she explained. “I’m thinking about the teachers and students and parents who are just trying to figure out school for the fall. I’m thinking about the people out there protesting and organizing for a little more justice in our country.”

Obama also took a moment to comfort anyone who is struggling with how things are presently—because times are indeed hard.

“The idea that what this country is going through shouldn’t have any effect on us—that we all should just feel OK all the time—that just doesn’t feel real to me,” she wrote. “So I hope you all are allowing yourselves to feel whatever it is you’re feeling.”

“I hope you’re listening to yourselves and taking a moment to reflect on everything that’s coming at us,” Obama encouraged, “and what you might be able to do about it.”

As the public figure concluded, Obama left readers with one last suggestion. “And to all of you who’ve reached out—thank you,” she said. “I hope you’re also reaching out to all those you’re closest with, not just with a text, but maybe with a call or a video chat. Don’t be afraid to offer them a shoulder to lean on, or to ask for one yourself. Love you all.”

These are the words in her podcast that drew strong empathy from me.

“These are not…fulfilling times spiritually, so I know that I am dealing with some form of low-grade depression,” she shared, “not just because of the quarantine, but because of the racial strife and just seeing this administration, watching the hypocrisy of it, day in and day out, is dispiriting. So, I’ve had to kind of give myself that—those days, those moments.”

I keep saying it but these are wretched times. Nothing feels normal about any of this.   Susan Glasser–writing for the New Yorker–describes this President’s lack of vision and priorities.  Clearly, he’s interested in only ego stroking attention and grifting.  Actually doing his job or thinking about it isn’t particularly interesting to him. His short attention span and inability to think outside of his visceral needs shows how uniquely unsuitable he is for his job.

It was not supposed to be a trick question, or even all that tricky. For any other candidate, it would have been the softest of softballs, the slowest of pitches. But when the Fox News host Ainsley Earhardt asked Donald Trump the other morning, “Mr. President, what is your second-term agenda? What are your top priorities?,” his inability to answer was one of the most revealing moments of his reëlection campaign so far. “I want to take where we left,” Trump said. “We were better than we were ever,” he added, wistfully conjuring the booming pre-pandemic America of his fantasies, where everybody had a job and the stock market was great. Facing uncontrolled death from the coronavirus and an economy that is cratering because of it, Trump is desperate for a do-over. Other than that, he had pretty much nothing to say about why he should be elected to a second term, although he took more than three hundred words to say it. The bottom line seemed to be that Trump is promising four more years of “jobs” and of stopping U.S. allies, especially Germany, from “ripping us off.” And that’s it.

This painful exchange, which even the Fox hosts eventually cut off, after a few cringe-inducing minutes, was little noted among the many whoppers, distortions, and outrages offered up by Trump this week. It wasn’t even the big news out of that particular Fox interview, the coverage of which rightfully focussed on the President’s absurd claims that the coronavirus is just “going away” and that schools should reopen because children are “almost immune” to covid-19. Throughout the week, Trump’s near-delusional state about the pandemic has been on awkward display, most notably in his instant classic of an interview with the Axios journalist Jonathan Swan, whose simple but skeptical queries about the virus revealed a President unable to comprehend basic facts about the public-health crisis or devise a national plan for combatting it. “It is what it is,” Trump told Swan, when asked about the large, and growing, American death toll—a line that may well go down as one of his most chillingly callous.

But Trump’s struggle to answer such an important and straightforward question about what he would do in a second term should not be overlooked, because it goes to the heart of why his campaign— and the country that he nominally governs—is in such trouble. As an incumbent, Trump is certainly in a bind: he can hardly campaign on his record, when the United States is in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and close to a hundred and sixty thousand Americans are dead of the coronavirus. There’s only so much blame that Trump can deflect; this is a catastrophe that happened on his watch, and—no matter how many times he calls it the “China virus” or warns Americans that Joe Biden will turn the country into a godless hellscape—he knows it.

Trump’s vapid answer is more than a reflection of a political-messaging dilemma—it’s a sign of decline, both in terms of the President’s ability to respond cogently to a simple query and as a warning for American democracy, given that such a large segment of the electorate apparently finds it acceptable to support a leader whose only campaign selling point is himself. Is Trump’s inability to come up with something to say about the next four years a reflection of the fact that even he thinks he is going to lose? Perhaps, but it’s also a measure of how far Trump has descended into full “l’état, c’est moi”-ism. Running for reëlection without offering even a hint of a program is a sure indicator of at least aspirational authoritarianism.

Still, watching polls and interviews with former Hair Furor devotees does give me hope that we my eventually be rid of him.  This is from Prevail: “The Great Escape: Donald John Trump’s Exit Strategy. Where does the President go from here?” It’s written by Greg Olear.

 

A thousand Americans are dying of the novel coronavirus every day. Volume Five of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report is due for release any day now. Senators, Congressmen, and emeritus members of the intelligence community have stopped pulling punches and are sounding the alarms. Cy Vance announced that his investigation is wider than originally thought, and likely includes tax fraud; the New York Times reported that Deutsche Bank has already turned over Trump’s financial documents to prosecutors. The vaunted economy is falling along with the president’s poll numbers. And the presumptive guy in charge gave the most unflattering interview of all time ever, unequivocally exposing himself as a complete and total moron:

 

Even the Trump people know they can’t win the election without banana-republic-level fuckery, as the indefatigable historian Heather Cox Richardson writes:

No one is pretending that Trump is going to win the popular vote. He’s not even trying to. He’s doubling down on the culture wars that excite his base in the hopes of getting them to turn out in strong numbers, most recently by sending federal law enforcement officers into cities led by Democrats in order to create images of what looks like rioting, to enable him to set himself up as defending “law and order.”

At the same time, he and his supporters in the Republican Party are working to guarantee an undercount of votes for his opponent by attacking mail-in voting, shutting down polling places, kicking people off voter rolls, undercutting the United States Postal Service, and even, perhaps, by permitting a wave of evictions that will make it significantly harder for displaced people to vote.

It is notable that, as a country, we are not talking about policies or winning majorities. We are talking about how Trump can win by gaming the Electoral College, or by cheating.

Even so, enthusiasm for cheating to keep a low-IQ mobster in office seems to be on the wane, even among Republicans, who must be sick of the guy. There have been many cracks in the facade these last few weeks. Sure, Bill Barr is boss at torpedoing investigations, but he can only do so much—and as Lincoln’s Bible pointed out during his embarrassing House hearing, the AG is not nearly as smart as he thinks he is:

(Sidenote: Being not nearly as smart as one thinks one is is the prevailing character trait of everyone involved with this White House. Other than, you know, pure uncut greed).

So, like, now what? Where does Trump go from here?

We’ll know more by the end of the month. The Republican National Convention is scheduled for August 24-27. Whether it’s in Charlotte, Jacksonville, the South Lawn of the White House (illegally, but whatevs), or the back nine of Bedminster, that’s the moment when Republicans will certify the Trump/Pence ticket—or not certify it.

The Republican National Committee, chaired by the ever-mendacious Ronna Romney McDaniel, decided to eschew a proper primary process, likely fearing that some dark horse candidate, perhaps Ronna’s own Uncle Mitt, would prevail. Last week came the curious report that the convention would be closed to the press. While that original announcement has been walked back, it brought up the obvious question: Why would the RNC opt to go dark at the precise moment when it should want every TV channel in the country broadcasting its propaganda program?

This question is answered by the Corona Virus epidemic Trump enabled and created through out the country. Go read the entire biting essay. Oh, and my answer to his question is this:  Go directly to Jail. Do not pass Go. Do not Collect $200.

Emily Stewart of Vox tries to understand antimaskers by letting them explain themselves. Yes, it’s that basket of deplorables again.

In recent weeks, I spoke with nearly a dozen people who consider themselves anti-mask to find out just that. What I discovered is that there is certainly a broad spectrum of reasons — some find wearing a mask annoying or just aren’t convinced they work, and others have gone down a rabbit hole of conspiracies that often involve vaccines, Big Pharma, YouTube, and Bill Gates. One man told me he wears a mask when he goes to the store to be polite. A woman got kicked out of a Menards store for refusing to wear a mask amid what she calls the “Covid scam garbage.”

But there are also many commonalities. Most people I talked to noted government officials’ confusing messaging on masks in the pandemic’s early days. They insist that they’re not conspiracy theorists and that they don’t believe the coronavirus is a hoax, but many also expressed doubts about the growing body of scientific knowledge around the virus, opting for cherry-picked and unverified sources of information found on social media rather than traditional news sources. They often said they weren’t political but acknowledged they leaned right.

Most claimed not to know anyone who had contracted Covid-19 or died of it, and when I told them I did, the responses were the same: How old were they? Did they have preexisting conditions? They know their position is unpopular, and most spoke on condition of anonymity and will be referred to only by their first names. Amy told me people are “not very nice about this.”

The mask debate is complex. As much as it’s about science, health, and risk, it’s also about empathy. If someone doesn’t personally know anyone who died from Covid-19, does it mean those lives don’t matter? Are older and immunocompromised people disposable? Does one person’s right to ignore public health advice really trump someone else’s right to live?

“Death is happening in these wards where even family members can’t visit their loved ones when they’re sick with Covid, so the death and the severity of this disease are really invisible to the public,” said Kumi Smith, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota who studies infectious diseases.

It leads some people to brush the issue aside.

So, again, I empathize with Michelle Obama and know exactly where she’s at since I’ve struggled with this ever since Trump took office and fucked the country over royally.

Today’s art is from Picasso’s blue period.  That would be 1901-1904.

And here’s some Blues.

Be Kind and gentle yourselves and others.  Try to relax and stay in the moment and do what you love to do.  Check in we love you and worry about you.

 

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 


Monday Reads: The Utter Failure that is Trump

Good Day Sky Dancers!

It’s hard to read a headline today comparing our country to just about any other and not realize that the Trumpist Regime has been a disastrous and utter failure.  This is the headline today from The Atlantic: “How the Pandemic Defeated America.  A virus has brought the world’s most powerful country to its knees.”  Well, it should have the addendum that this is a virus ignored by an American President who followed up with a botched response. His administration is a cautionary tale of how not to do anything.

Despite ample warning, the U.S. squandered every possible opportunity to control the coronavirus. And despite its considerable advantages—immense resources, biomedical might, scientific expertise—it floundered. While countries as different as South Korea, Thailand, Iceland, Slovakia, and Australia acted decisively to bend the curve of infections downward, the U.S. achieved merely a plateau in the spring, which changed to an appalling upward slope in the summer. “The U.S. fundamentally failed in ways that were worse than I ever could have imagined,” Julia Marcus, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, told me.

Since the pandemic began, I have spoken with more than 100 experts in a variety of fields. I’ve learned that almost everything that went wrong with America’s response to the pandemic was predictable and preventable. A sluggish response by a government denuded of expertise allowed the coronavirus to gain a foothold. Chronic underfunding of public health neutered the nation’s ability to prevent the pathogen’s spread. A bloated, inefficient health-care system left hospitals ill-prepared for the ensuing wave of sickness. Racist policies that have endured since the days of colonization and slavery left Indigenous and Black Americans especially vulnerable to COVID‑19. The decades-long process of shredding the nation’s social safety net forced millions of essential workers in low-paying jobs to risk their life for their livelihood. The same social-media platforms that sowed partisanship and misinformation during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Africa and the 2016 U.S. election became vectors for conspiracy theories during the 2020 pandemic.

It appears most of the country has had it with him and his pathetic, unqualified, and hapless cronies as well as the Republican pols that enable all of his insane policy.  But, we’ve got until January to see him gone and he can cause a lot of problems in the mean time. Politico offers some hope as state after state begins to lose all that red. The Ides of November are coming.  So is winter. Trump campaign nears point of no return.  Early voting begins in several key swing states next month, leaving a ‘dwindling window of time’ for the president to turn the race around.”

Trump’s window is smaller — and his margin for error tighter — because of an expected surge in mail voting due to the coronavirus and because the electorate this year appears more hardened than in 2016, with fewer undecided voters to peel off in the closing days of the contest.

Voters will begin receiving ballots in key swing states as early as next month. In North Carolina, elections officials will start sending ballots to voters on Sept. 4. Four more battleground states — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida and Minnesota — will begin mailing ballots or start early voting by the end of September.

All of that will happen before the first presidential debate, on Sept. 29. Arizona, Ohio and Iowa will start early voting right after, in the first seven days of October.

“If I were running the Trump campaign, I would want to see a marked uptick by the beginning of October,” said Charlie Gerow, a Pennsylvania-based Republican strategist.

Gerow, like many Republicans, believes the Republican president will outperform current polls on Election Day. But “clearly, with early voting,” he said, “the timeline is accelerated.”

Trump’s concern about the timing and mechanics of the election was never plainer than on Thursday, when he suggested delaying it because of unsubstantiated claims about widespread mail voting fraud.

The president has no authority to change the date. But he has good reason to be worried. While in a closer contest, the rigors of the election calendar would be felt more evenly by both campaigns, Trump has so much ground to make up in the polls that allowing Biden to lock down even a small portion of the early vote could be debilitating.

Entering August, Trump trailed Biden by 7 percentage points in national polls, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average. Biden also holds an edge in nearly every swing state.

There’s such a huge amount of dysfunction over the public health crisis that the economy is certain to fall off the proverbial cliff and stay there from some time.  Trump’s economic team is comprised of a matched set of snake oil salesmen with absolutely no credibility in their field.

Any plan to either retain the pandemic-related unemployment benefits or provide relief in the form of a stimulus check or forgivable loans to small businesses is stalled.

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The government should again impose strict coronavirus-related lockdowns for a month or longer across the U.S. in order to boost the economy, a top Federal Reserve official said Sunday via The Hill.

Neel Kashkari, president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, said the nation needs to control the spread of the virus, which is increasing across much of the country, to get back on a path to economic health.

“That’s the only way we’re really going to have a real robust economic recovery. Otherwise, we’re going to have flare-ups, lockdowns and a very halting recovery with many more job losses and many more bankruptcies for an extended period of time unfortunately,” Kashkari said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

To do so, he suggested strict shutdowns, which is contrary to what President Trump and many of his allies have been pushing in recent months as measures to aid the economy.

“I mean if we were to lock down really hard, I know I hate to even suggest it, people will be frustrated by it, but if we were to lock down hard for a month or six weeks, we could get the case count down so that our testing and our contact tracing was actually enough to control it the way that it’s happening in the Northeast right now,” Kashkari said. “They had a rocky start, but they’re doing a pretty good job right now.”

He warned the virus will spread throughout the country with flare-ups and local lockdowns for the “the next year or two,” causing more businesses to fail, without such measures.

“We’re going to see many, many more business bankruptcies, small businesses, big businesses, and that’s going to take a lot of time to recover from to rebuild those businesses and then to bring workers back in and re-engage them in the workforce. That’s going to be a much slower recovery for all of us,” Kashkari said.

He also said that Congress can afford large sums for coronavirus relief efforts, though Republican lawmakers are looking to lessen the amount of supplemental aid for unemployed Americans as part of the next relief bill.

Stephan Moore is out huckstering for Trump to declare an national emergency and then cut payroll taxes because nothing could be more important that starving the Social Security and Medicare programs.

“Last week Mr. Trump acknowledged that compromising with Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a fool’s errand, because the House won’t agree to anything that boosts growth and job creation,” Moore claimed in the article co-authored with Phil Kerpen, head of the free-market nonprofit advocacy group Committee to Unleash Prosperity. The duo added that the Democratic Party’s plan to address economic issues during the coronavirus pandemic “would sink the economy and imperil Mr. Trump’s reelection.”

“The president needs to pull an end run, and there’s a legal way to do that. He should declare a national economic emergency and announce that the Internal Revenue Service will immediately stop collecting the payroll tax,” Moore declared. “This is technically called a deferral of the tax payments.”

Moore went on to say that President Trump “should order Treasury to put bonds into the Social Security and Medicare trust funds,” arguing, “Since Barack Obama did that in 2011, his vice president would have a hard time explaining his opposition to it now,” and claiming that the action “would flip the political tables.”

“Democrats can’t credibly call it a tax cut for the rich,” he wrote, concluding, “Mr. Trump could cap it at, say, $75,000 of income, so the vast majority of the benefit would go to straight into the wallets of middle- and lower-income workers, almost all of whom pay more payroll than income tax.”

Republicans have repeatedly pushed a payroll tax cut as the answer to the economic woes under the coronavirus pandemic, and have generally fought against direct payouts to affected workers through stimulus packages.

Real Economists–like me–have repeatedly shown through peer evaluated studies that tax cuts are generally the weakest form of stimulus possible. They continue to be the panacea for everything some what like an economic spoonful of apple cider vinegar to Republicans who want our government and every program to fail.  Navarro does have has terminal degree but mostly appears to have a terminal case of racism when it comes to anything Chinese. He also thinks he’s a doctor which is seriously deluded

 

CNN host Jim Sciutto took on White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on Monday about his evangelism of the drug hydroxychloroquine.

During an interview with Navarro, Sciutto noted that Assistant Health and Human Services Secretary Brett Giroir had recently said that there is no benefit in taking hydroxychloroquine to prevent or treat COVID-19.

“Given your past public support for it,” Sciutto said, “is it time for the administration to focus on proven treatments for COVID rather than one that has not been proven?”

“I take exception to Giroir’s analysis,” Navarro objected. “He hasn’t looked at the data.”

“It’s his job to look at the data,” the CNN host noted.

Navarro replied by encouraging Sciutto to interview several doctors who support the use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19.

“Doctors opinions are a dime a dozen,” the trade adviser continued. “And you’ve got some doctors who say it doesn’t work, you’ve got some doctors who say it does.”

“But it’s not a both sides thing,” Sciutto observed. “There’s a process for approving drugs in this country. There’s a reason the FDA hasn’t approved it. And this hasn’t passed muster so why all the focus on that drug? Why not focus on things that work like remdesivir?”

Frankly, his opinion isn’t even worth a dime on either economics or medicine.  CNN should stop making platforms for these idiots.  But then, Trump loved him some doctor who is serious about “Demon Sperm”.   John Oliver–the HBO comedian--took that up this weekend.

On Sunday night, John Oliver took a break from dunking on Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson’s racist news coverage to address what was sadly one of the biggest stories of the past week: President Donald Trump’s continued spreading of misinformation surrounding the novel coronavirus, which has killed over 157,000 people in the U.S.

“Recklessness is abounding right now, heightening the need for strong leadership. And unfortunately, we’re getting the opposite of that,” said John Oliver, before pointing to Trump’s “shockingly reckless” co-sign of Dr. Stella Immanuel, aka “Dr. Demon Sperm,” whose video of her cosplaying as a “frontline doctor” racked up tens of millions of views and was shared by both the president and his son. Dr. Immanuel, who only recently acquired a license to practice medicine in the U.S., has been pushing the ineffective COVID-19 “cure” hydroxychloroquine and believes, among other things, that real-life ailments like tumors and cysts stem from the demon sperm that is accumulated after a demon has sex with you in your dreams.

It’s this and the stories about huge parties that make me wonder about exactly how smart most Americans really are.

There’s a lot more examples of these out there and just to give you a clue. Bourbon Street is still hopping with tourists as bars have started rebranding themselves as “restaurants”. One up the street from me had a huge garage sale of sorts along with its usual drug and booze wares. I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like if they start up universities and sports this year.  I’m glad my kids are way out of school for sure because their asses would be home with mine if they weren’t adults.

So, again, hello from my desk chair where I stay firmly planted because I do not want to go out and risk getting this stuff from somebody’s stupid children.  Plus, I’m holding tight to my money because I heard enough Depression stories in my life to know that hoarding makes the economy worse but makes me feel safer on that account too.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?  

Any of this sound and look familiar?


Friday: Something Fascist This Way Comes

Good Day Sky Dancers!

It’s just so hard to start this morning because the headlines are particularly disturbing and not what one expects to see in what was once a fully mature democracy and a highly developed nation. The economic numbers are truly devastating. What makes it worse is that policy and lack of national health strategy is making us live through more than a shock to the economy and more than a national health crisis.

We’ve had a crisis in national health for years. Our broken system and the continuing focus of Republicans on hyping cultural wedge issues and voodoo economics while funneling taxpayer money to billionaires has just hit something that’s put the Republican agenda since Reagan on its destructive full display. It’s no longer slowly killing most of us. It’s actively killing most of us and the world is watching us like we’re living the real version of American Horror Story.

I’ve always enjoyed a good horror movie but sheesh, do we have to live in one? Sir John Cleese has started a zoom performances, speeches, thoughts, etc. He’s spot on here as quoted in the Daily Beast. He’s doing a series of live stream talks from an empty Cadogan Hall in London that is the very essence of the art of dark comedy.

“I don’t mean there’s no hope for us as individuals,” he clarifies when I ask him to elaborate on the ominous title. What he means is, “There is no hope for us that we could ever live in an intelligent, kind, well-run society. Mainly because most people have no idea what they’re talking about.”

Whenever he meets someone who is at the top of their respective field, Cleese asks them how many people in their profession “really know what they’re doing.” He says most people answer in the 10-15 percent range, which may say more about individual arrogance than widespread ineptitude, but he takes them at their word.

“So that means that six out of seven people really don’t know what they’re doing,” he says. “They can just follow routines. But if the routines don’t work, then they don’t understand it at that deeper level.” As is often the case with Cleese, the serious point is followed by a joke: “They’re like I am when my computer crashes.”

From there, Cleese says he moves on the question of why people seek power, which of course brings him to Donald Trump. The comedian has been prolifically anti-Trump on his Twitter account for the past several years and does not need much prompting to start ranting against the American president.

“If you look around at the moment, most of the people who seek great power are complete assholes, who are really only out for themselves,” he says. “Well, if someone’s out for themselves primarily, like our dear President Donald Trump, with no interest in other people at all, it’s not very likely that they’re going to be very good at building a society. And you see that the characteristics of people who are powerful is that they have a deep, deep fear of losing their power.”

“So with all these things going on there’s very little chance we will ever have a sensible society and this is a particularly bad moment,” Cleese adds.

Referring to the rise of strongman leaders around the world like Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and others, Cleese says, “We have madness and power-seeking and complete unscrupulousness and pathological lying. And it’s very interesting why. Is it because people are very stupid? That’s a possible explanation.”

It’s really hard to watch and listen to the eulogies from three past presidents for such a towering human as John Lewis with normal behavior then return to the Daily Trumpist Reality Shit Show. It was on express view yesterday since former President Obama is an ongoing trigger for which ever personality disorder is front most at that particular point in time. However, President Obama did a job on him that should royally trigger him without even mentioning his name. This article is from Stephen Collinson at CNN: “Obama warns that Trump’s actions threaten US democracy.”

In one of the most jolting moments in modern political history, former President Barack Obama reclaimed his political pulpit with a stark warning that his successor is a grave and imminent threat to American democracy and racial justice.

Then, even more remarkably, President Donald Trump went on television and proved him right, putting a foreboding shadow over an election that he is already seeking to cast as illegitimate in the eyes of millions of Americans.

The campaign between Trump and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has mostly chugged along out of sight, obscured by a pandemic that has killed more than 150,000 Americans.

But the extraordinary interventions Thursday of two presidents, whose legacies will be forever entwined, suddenly underscored how this election, in the words of the quadrennial cliché, will actually be the most important one of our lifetimes.

Thursday brought a tableau of one president, liberated now that he is out of office, at the funeral of Rep. John Lewis, weaving the life of a national hero into a parable of America’s long struggle to reach its promise. The current commander in chief, mired in crisis and desperate to cling to power, reached not for inspiration but for lies and disinformation to obscure the truth.

Yes. Trump held a press conference so he could do his magic hands routine to distract the press away from everything and anything. The shocking but not possible announcement of the day was his inkling of putting off the national election. The shock was undoubtedly the point. From archconservative and a co-founder of The Federalist Society Steven G Calabresi writing in a NY Times Op Ed today: “Trump Might Try to Postpone the Election. That’s Unconstitutional. He should be removed unless he relents.” Trump has been doing things since he came down that elevator shadowing the need to remove him and every time that happens Mitch McConnell calls a recess and leaves town.

But I am frankly appalled by the president’s recent tweet seeking to postpone the November election. Until recently, I had taken as political hyperbole the Democrats’ assertion that President Trump is a fascist. But this latest tweet is fascistic and is itself grounds for the president’s immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office by the Senate.

Read the paragraph that precedes this one and realize that this man is really a major indicator of the problem. His late arrival to the party pearl clutching is really just typical of an oligarch realizing there’s a guillotine out there with his name on it. Trump is a champion mangler of the US Constitution. Where has he been?

The “rigged campaign” Trumpist Election Strategy is basically a strategy of projection. We’re supposed to look the other way while they rig the campaign and depress and fail to count votes. This is from Politico: ‘Rigged election’ goes from Trump complaint to campaign strategy. The notion that the president might not accept the election results has jumped from the partisan fever swamps to center stage in the campaign.” Translation of this is that if his rigging of the election doesn’t quite work he won’t leave but will try to tie things up endlessly in the courts.

Donald Trump’s suggestion that he might try to delay the election — or might not accept the result — is rapidly coming to the forefront of the presidential campaign, foreshadowing a final stretch roiled not only by the coronavirus and the economy, but by clashes over the nation’s most fundamental democratic norms.

Though Trump has no authority to move the election — an idea he floated Thursday — Democrats are already bracing for Republican challenges to absentee ballots and at vote counting on Election Day. They have good cause to be prepared: the president has repeatedly raised the prospect of a “rigged election” and recently declined to say if he’ll accept the results.

Trump’s rhetoric points increasingly to the possibility that he will dispute the outcome in a year marked by primary election administration meltdowns — a prospect that is heightened by his absolute control of state and national party machinery and an attorney general who has amplified Trump’s unsubstantiated claims about mail-in voting fraud.

“I don’t have any doubt that’s where he’s headed,” Pete Giangreco, a Democratic strategist who has worked on nine presidential campaigns, said of Trump’s effort to discredit the election. “He wants to delay the election because if they had the election today, he’d lose. The further out he gets from today, the better off he is … So, he wants more time to jerry-rig the system to somehow spit him out as the winner.”

So, here’s a horrifying report from WAPO on the DHS. And you thought they only sent secret police out to terrify those folks peacefully assembled while exercising the first amendment rights! “DHS compiled ‘intelligence reports’ on journalists who published leaked documents.” Everybody gets to lose their first amendment rights but whacko white nationalist christianists.

The Department of Homeland Security has compiled “intelligence reports” about the work of American journalists covering protests in Portland, Ore., in what current and former officials called an alarming use of a government system meant to share information about suspected terrorists and violent actors.

Over the past week, the department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis has disseminated three Open Source Intelligence Reports to federal law enforcement agencies and others, summarizing tweets written by two journalists — a reporter for the New York Times and the editor in chief of the blog Lawfare — and noting they had published leaked, unclassified documents about DHS operations in Portland. The intelligence reports, obtained by The Washington Post, include written descriptions and images of the tweets and the number of times they had been liked or retweeted by others.

After The Post published a story online Thursday evening detailing the department’s practices, the acting homeland security secretary, Chad Wolf, ordered the intelligence office to stop collecting information on journalists and announced an investigation into the matter.

“Upon learning about the practice, Acting Secretary Wolf directed the DHS Intelligence & Analysis Directorate to immediately discontinue collecting information involving members of the press,” a department spokesman said in a statement. “In no way does the Acting Secretary condone this practice and he has immediately ordered an inquiry into the matter. The Acting Secretary is committed to ensuring that all DHS personnel uphold the principles of professionalism, impartiality and respect for civil rights and civil liberties, particularly as it relates to the exercise of First Amendment rights.”

Some of the leaked DHS documents the journalists posted and wrote about revealed shortcomings in the department’s understanding of the nature of the protests in Portland, as well as techniques that intelligence analysts have used. A memo by the department’s top intelligence official, which was tweeted by the editor of Lawfare, says personnel relied on “FINTEL,” an acronym for financial intelligence, as well as finished intelligence “Baseball cards” of arrested protesters to try to understand their motivations and plans. Historically, military and intelligence officials have used such cards for biographical dossiers of suspected terrorists, including those targeted in lethal drone strikes.

Yeah. Isn’t that special!

And then there’s this from CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin ” Fearing Trump interference, FBI agents hid copies of Russia investigation docs”. It’s excerpted from his new book TRUE CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS: The Investigation of Donald Trump,” by Jeffrey Toobin. Feeling better yet?

From Comey’s first meetings with Trump, shortly after he won the presidency, the FBI director developed misgivings about his new boss’ behavior — about Trump’s demands for “loyalty,” and even more unnerving, his request that the Bureau drop its investigation of Flynn. Comey’s conversations with Trump had been so distressing that the director started writing up contemporaneous summaries of their interactions and sharing them with a handful of top officials at the Bureau. Now, suddenly, Comey was out — and the question arose of what to do with his memos about his conversations with the President

Andrew McCabe, who was Comey’s deputy and now the acting director of the FBI. McCabe thought Trump’s behavior was sufficiently problematic to be investigated for possible obstruction of justice, and he told his team to open a criminal case.

Given the wild pace of events, McCabe couldn’t be sure how long he’d last as director, so he wanted to lock down as much evidence as possible. Most important, he told the investigating agents to place Comey’s memos in SENTINEL, the FBI’s case management software. McCabe knew that once documents were inside the system, they were virtually impossible to remove. With Comey’s memos in the system, the investigators were certain to have access to them — even if McCabe himself would eventually be gone.

Indeed, FBI officials even went a step farther. Once McCabe became director, Bureau employees grew so concerned that Trump would try to shut down the investigation that they secreted at least three copies of key documents, including Comey’s memos, in remote locations around the Bureau. This was to make sure that in the event Trump directed an end to these inquiries, the documents could always be preserved, located, and shared.

On May 17, eight days after Trump fired Comey, Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, announced that he had appointed Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the FBI from 2001 to 2013, to serve as special counsel. Rosenstein gave Mueller a broad mandate — to investigate ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, as well as any matters that arose from his investigation. Mueller’s team ultimately took possession of Comey’s memos, and they proved to be important evidence in the report Mueller filed two years later. As Mueller later learned, and included in his report, Trump seriously contemplated firing the special counsel on several occasions — so the initial suspicions at the FBI, about the President’s real intentions, were well-grounded.

And, I haven’t even gotten to the economy yet. Dan Rather puts it rather succinctly.

Yes. There’s that. We’re officially in a recession and this is the worst Quarter’s GDP ever.

The US economy contracted at a 32.9% annual rate from April through June, its worst drop on record, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said Thursday.

Business ground to a halt during the pandemic lockdown in the spring of this year, and America plunged into its first recession in 11 years, putting an end to the longest economic expansion in US history and wiping out five years of economic gains in just a few months.

A recession is commonly defined as two consecutive quarters of declining gross domestic product — the broadest measure of the economy. Between January and March, GDP declined by an annualized rate of 5%.

Okay, we’ll let’s listen to something a little more uplifting.

Please be safe! Be gentle with yourself and others! Give yourself space to heal and relax! Check in with us! We love and value your thoughts!!!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today!


Monday Reads: Horticulture

Woman With Flower 1932 By Pablo Picasso

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I’m going to borrow something–well steal it directly–with attribution to my friend and writer Michael Tisserand. It’s a reference to Dorothy Parker which is a hell of a lot better to read about than anything I can find on a Monday Morning in Trumpist America. It’s also a one word reminder for me to get my horticulture class finished up shortly despite that the weather here is really messing with everything except my damn banana trees. Michael wins the internet for the entire month of July with his tweet hands down! (See below).

So, let’s do the background work for Michael’s punchline in which Dorothy is brilliant and Michael is spot on. You can see his tweet below and how he revamped it for the bizarre announcement that Melania has suddenly taken an interest in revamping the Rose Garden.

There is substantive evidence that Dorothy Parker created the horticulture pun while she was participating in a word game at a party. She may have spoken it during a meeting of the famed Algonquin Round Table. These gatherings were held regularly by a group of columnists, playwrights, actors and other bright individuals at lunch within the Algonquin Hotel in New York City between roughly 1919 and 1929.

The earliest evidence, however, appeared several years later in 1935 in the widely-syndicated column of Walter Winchell. The actual pun was too taboo to print in a newspaper in the 1930s; hence, Winchell’s comment was curiously cryptic. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

Dorothy Parker can make up a sentence containing the word “Horticulture,” but hardly here.

A month later another gossip columnist named Harrison Carroll printed an elliptical comment that also linked Parker to the pun without sharing with readers the details of the witticism: 2

What was Dorothy Parker’s priceless offering when the gang at the James Gleason party were playing one of those “make a sentence with a word” games and someone suggested “horticulture”?

Special thanks to top researcher Bill Mullins who located the two citations given above.

The earliest account presenting a full version of Parker’s remark that QI has located was published in 1962 in a magazine of arts and literature called “Horizon”. An article by the prominent drama critic John Mason Brown referred to two puns. The first quip was based on the word “meretricious”, and an exploration of its provenance is available in another entry here. The second jest was ascribed to Parker: 3

Frank Adams’s solving the problem of building a sentence around “meretricious” with “Meretricious ‘n’ a Happy New Year,” and Mrs. Parker’s solving the same problem with “horticulture” by coming up with “You may lead a whore to culture but you can’t make her think”—these and a hundred others of their kind may by now have become enfeebled by familiarity. But they were born of a moment, and meant for that moment, and at that moment they were triumphant.

In addition to wordplay with “horticulture” Parker cleverly refashioned a very old English proverb about stubbornness: You may lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. As noted previously, when Parker delivered her joke it was too racy to be reprinted in contemporaneous books or periodicals published for a wide audience.

See the source image

Frederic Bazille: Black Woman with Peonies 1870

So, given those disastrous–albeit not permanent–Christmas displays where she ruins the White House annually, I can only wonder how dark and deranged the nation’s First Illegally visa’d sex worker will make the Rose Garden. My guess is this is another attempt to distract us from the miserable job her Sugar Daddy has done on everything and his continued assault on civil liberties as well as his massive grifting enterprise.

And then, not to mention the folks around him like crank Economist Peter Navarro who felt inclined to mock Dr. Fauci’s first pitch today.

“You know, the only thing I regret is Dr. Fauci’s pitch the other day at Opening Day. I felt bad for him,” Navarro said. “But I always look forward, and we’re all part of the team. And he actually tells people to wear the masks, and my job is to get them made.”

All the best people! All the BEST! People! Be BEST!

Henri Matisse (1869-1954) Jeune fille aux anémones sur fond violet

Okay, enough levity. It’s back to the Sugar Daddy billing it all to us and the depths of depravity he brings to this country.

So, I don’t often read Town & Country, but when I do I make sure the article is almost as cheeky as Dorothy Parker. “How Brooks Brothers Became a Symbol of What Not to Wear to the Revolution. That notorious “Ken and Karen” couple from St. Louis politically slimed a 202-year-old staple of American belonging. Is it still Ok to wear sensible chinos and a pink polo?”

Clothes are not the only politicized aspect of our appearances now—nor were they ever; hair is also a prominent battleground. During the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette’s signature powdered pouf was copied by the bourgeoisie, but it was reviled by the starving sans-culottes, who saw it as a wasteful indulgence, another representation of her to loucheness and profligacy.

A more modern hairdo once popular with hipsters is the shaved/faded sides and long-on-top look, or grown-out “high and tight” once favored by everyone from Macklemore to David Beckham. That, too, has been appropriated by far-right figurehead Richard Spencer and his ilk, who have taken to wearing it with Brooks Brothers suits, because Nazis used to wear the hairdo to look tidy under their helmets.

The New York Times once dubbed it the “Hitler Youth,” but it has since gone on to be nicknamed the “Fashy Haircut”—short for fascist, natch—and some of its adherents seem blithely unaware of the politics telegraphed by their coiffure. In 2016, the Washington Post once noted the irony of white nationalists “sporting a hairstyle that’s already been repurposed in the 21st century by young people whose ethos is radical safe-space inclusiveness, not ethnophobic separatism with eugenic undertones.”

In the context of today, that misdirection is precisely the point. The alt-right has intentionally become more sophisticated about blending in, substituting red tank tops and MAGA hats with more ambivalent iconography, the kind of fungible avatars that can be taken at face value, or interpreted as dog whistles if weaponized.

Arguably, another head of hair that looks suspect in the current climate is worn by perennially corporate hyper-conservatives like Jared Kushner. It’s the third-grade-picture-day, combover haircut that announces you have a turtle in your lunchbox and get to wear big boy pants because you haven’t wet the bed in weeks. It’s hair that looks excessively Boy Scouty and feckless precisely because it isn’t, like when predatory octopods camouflage themselves by mimicking the ocean floor.

For maximum due diligence, ask yourself a few difficult questions before opting for the old standbys when getting dressed for your next Zoomtinis. Remember that something that looks “safe” on the surface rarely is. We must all make sacrifices during times of (culture) war, but dressing in flip flops and pajama bottoms is arguably better than walking out of your house looking like you want to annex the Sudetenland.

The McCloskeys, by the way, are looking at a possible felony for what the Circuit Attorney’s Office in St. Louis called unlawful use of a gun “in an angry or threatening manner.” The fashion police, however, has not yet pressed charges, though a guilty verdict seems like a foregone conclusion.

⊰ Posing with Posies ⊱ paintings of women and flowers - Suzanne Valadon | The Blue Room, 1923

Suzanne Valadon | The Blue Room, 1923

And of course, having enough money to eke a roof and essentials during a global pandemic and a country wide depression is just too much for Republican Senators who want every one back lifting that bale and toting that barge. Maybe they should be forced to find a job in this environment. After all, they caused it.

From WAPO: “GOP, White House aim to temporarily reduce weekly unemployment benefit from $600 to $200. House Democrats have proposed keeping $600 benefit in place through January but the program is set to expire later this week; $200 would be bridge as states move to new system.”

“We have unemployment running out, we have renter protection running out, we have state and local governments going into new month and won’t have the money and will lay off thousands and thousands of people,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Monday morning on MSNBC. “We’re at all these cliffs and we still at this very moment don’t have a plan from the Republicans. We want to sit down and negotiate. But you can’t negotiate with a ghost.”

Given the difficulty of reaching agreement on the multiple contentious issues at play, Meadows and Mnuchin suggested over the weekend that Congress might need to pass a narrow bill including just the unemployment insurance, schools money and liability provisions.

Democrats have rejected that approach, and McConnell has yet to publicly embrace it, either.

The legislation will exclude the payroll tax cut President Trump had demanded, which Senate Republicans opposed. But it is expected to include language related to the FBI headquarters building that is diagonal from Trump’s hotel in downtown D.C. It was unclear exactly what the language would say, but Trump has said he wants to see a new headquarters building built on the site, and his administration killed a plan to relocate the headquarters to the suburbs.

The legislation also appeared likely to contain a number of other provisions pushed by a variety of Senate Republicans, which could potentially help secure more votes. These include a bill by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) aimed at bringing production lines back to the U.S. from China. Graham predicted over the weekend that half of Republicans wouldn’t support a new coronavirus spending bill.

Legislation by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) on increasing incentives for advanced chip manufacturing also was being eyed for inclusion, as was a bill by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) called the Safeguarding American Innovation Act.

See the source image

Woman Seated By A Bouquet Of Flowers Artwork By Suzanne Valadon

Nothing like the smell of bacon in the morning!!! Grifters gotta grift!!!

The plan does include an August payment to all of another $1200. The generosity and humanity underwhelms! So Greg Sargent has an interesting hypothesis up today. Is this just Click Bait or Wishful Thinking? “How Fox News may be destroying Trump’s reelection hopes”. This is also from WAPO.

It would be a peculiarly apt form of poetic justice if the entity that has done so much to help President Trump run this country into the ground — Fox News — ends up playing an outsize role in helping destroy his chances at reelection.

Yet that may be exactly what’s happening.

This possibility is thrust upon us by two remarkable new reports: one in The Post illuminating Trump’s unsettled mental universe as he grapples with the new coronavirus surge, and one in the New York Times reporting that his law enforcement crackdowns are only accelerating more protests in response.

For Trump, Fox News has two functions: With some exceptions, it largely functions as his “shameless propaganda outlet,” as Margaret Sullivan put it, aggressively inflating his successes and faithfully pushing his messages. When Fox occasionally departs from this role, Trump rages at it as a form of deep betrayal.

Okay, so this is enough for me today. But hey, we got the whole week and at least until January to endure all this pettiness, meanness, greed, law breaking, … oh, go ahead! Add to that list!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Finally Friday Reads: Be More Like Baseball!

Baseball in the 1800s

Good Day Sky Dancers!

Let’s start with a little in your face Trumperz from the Yankees and the Nationals!  Not only did Dr. Fauci–with a wild pitch–get the honor of throwing out the first pitch of the shortened MLB season,  we also got this! All the players took the knee during the National Anthem.  Now, let’s just continue with giving him a good old fashioned Bronx Cheer.

Black Lives Matter is a part of the culture now even if the Hair Furor’s white nationalist christianist racists want it all to go away.  Every day more people turn on the Trumpist Regime but every day he responds with something crazier and crazier. This is from baseball stats and numbers wonk Nate Cohn writing at the NYT.

Recent national polls show that Joe Biden’s commanding lead has eroded longstanding demographic divisions that have favored Republicans, endangering their hold on a tier of states where the Democratic Party usually has little chance to prevail in federal elections, even Republican strongholds like Kansas or Alaska.

President Trump still has plenty of time to close the gap with Mr. Biden. But with Mr. Biden’s lead enduring well into a second month amid a worsening coronavirus pandemic, it’s worth considering the potential consequences of a decisive Biden victory.

Remarkably, Mr. Trump’s lead among white voters has all but vanished. On average, he holds just a three-point lead among them, 48 percent to 45 percent, across an average of high-quality telephone surveys since June 1. His lead among white voters has steadily diminished since April.

Let’s hope the country can outlast him.  I’m not a ‘surburban housewife’ but I feel less safe with under the Trumpist Regime than I did as a kid ducking and covering under my desk from the nukes in Cuba.  I just want us all to be safe at home.

Jackie Robinson American Baseball Player

So, the Dark Side is coming to Seattle and Dr. Daughter’s neighborhood as of yesterday. Why is he going to places with either women mayors or governors? Trying to work out mommy issues now?  Also from the NYT: “Feds Sending Tactical Team to Seattle, Expanding Presence Beyond Portland. After outrage over the presence of federal agents in Portland, Ore., the Trump administration is sending a team to Seattle. Officials say they will be on standby.”

The deployment to Seattle came on the same day that the inspector general of the Justice Department announced an investigation into tactics used by the federal agents in Portland and in front of Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., in early June.

The inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, Joseph V. Cuffari, is also conducting an inquiry into the tactics of the agents in Portland. Mr. Cuffari said in a letter to Democrats that he expected to examine the authority used to deploy agents to the city after President Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to increase security at monuments, statues and federal property.

The order prompted the Homeland Security Department to form teams that were briefly deployed to multiple cities to guard federal property, including Seattle, for the July 4 weekend. The tactical teams in Portland have remained at a federal courthouse as tension with protesters there has heightened.

Dorothy Kamenshek American baseball player

A Federal Judge in Oregon has restricted the actions of Federal Troops terrorizing Portland Protestors. This is from OPB: “Judge restricts force federal officers can use in Portland”.

U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon has temporarily curbed the use of force by federal officers deployed to Portland, restricting their interactions with legal observers and journalists observing nightly protests against police violence.

On Thursday afternoon, Simon issued a temporary restraining order on officers from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals Service sent to Portland to guard federal buildings. The restrictions will last for two weeks. The judge is still considering a longer-lasting injunction against federal law enforcement.

The order comes as part of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in Oregon, alleging law enforcement has been targeting and attacking journalists at the protests.

The city of Portland was originally the main defendant in the suit. In early July, Simon issued a temporary restraining order against the city, placing new restrictions on how local police can interact with observers. Last week, the Oregon chapter of the ACLU successfully added the federal government to its lawsuit and immediately began pushing for similar restraints.

The new restrictions for federal officers are nearly identical to the limits already placed on Portland police. Federal officers are barred from arresting, threatening to arrest or using physical force against someone who they should “reasonably know” is a journalist or a legal observer unless they have probable cause to believe that person has committed a crime. Journalists and observers are also not required to follow orders to disperse nor can a federal officer tell them to stop documenting the protest.

One difference between the two orders: If a federal officer intentionally violates the order, it states they would not be protected under the doctrine of qualified immunity, a legal principle that often protects officers in police brutality lawsuits.

Like the last order, the judge said federal officers should identify legal observers by the green hats, worn by observers from the National Lawyers Guild or blue vests, worn by observers from the ACLU. Journalists should be identified by either a press pass or clothing that identifies them as press.

More on this from the ACLU: “FEDERAL COURT ISSUES RESTRAINING ORDER ON FEDERAL AGENTS IN PORTLAND”. 

U.S. District Judge Michael Simon today blocked federal agents in Portland from dispersing, arresting, threatening to arrest, or targeting force against journalists or legal observers at protests. The court’s order, which comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, adds the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Marshals Service to an existing injunction barring Portland police from arresting or attacking journalists and legal observers at Portland protests.

Under the court order, federal agents also cannot unlawfully seize any photographic equipment, audio- or video-recording equipment, or press passes from journalists and legal observers, or order journalists or legal observers to stop photographing, recording, or observing a protest.

“This order is a victory for the rule of law,” said Jann Carson, interim executive director of the ACLU of Oregon. “Federal agents from Trump’s Departments of Homeland Security and Justice are terrorizing the community, threatening lives, and relentlessly attacking journalists and legal observers documenting protests. These are the actions of a tyrant, and they have no place anywhere in America.”

Satchell Paige American Baseball player

From John Feffer at Foreign Policy in Focus: “Feds Attack! Trump’s use of federal paramilitaries is a classic tactic of autocrats to test how far they can push their authority in opposition-controlled regions.”

President Trump is doubling down, not backing down. He says that the paramilitaries are there to restore order. The Feds are preparing to descend on Chicago, and Trump is also warning Philadelphia and New York that they’re next. “Look at what’s going on — all run by Democrats, all run by very liberal Democrats. All run, really, by [the] radical left,” Trump said. “If Biden got in, that would be true for the country. The whole country would go to hell. And we’re not going to let it go to hell.”

Halfway around the world, meanwhile, the Russian authorities arrested Sergei Furgal, the governor of the far eastern city of Khabarovsk, on charges that he orchestrated the murder of two men 15 years ago. Over the last week, tens of thousands of people have demonstrated on the streets of Khabarovsk demanding the release of this leader of the opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Furgal and his supporters argue that the arrest is politically motivated.

In Hong Kong, authorities are using a new national security law criminalizing many forms of protest to arrest several pro-democracy advocates, including the politician Tam Tak-chi, who was expected to run for the legislature in the September election. The action put an immediate damper on opposition efforts to select candidates for the vote. From Beijing, the Chinese Communist Party is cracking down on any challenges to its authority from the periphery, whether in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, or Tibet.

Analysts of the new authoritarian wave that has swept across the world in the last few years have largely focused on power grabs in capitals. Leaders like Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Xi Jinping have attempted to reduce the influence of legislative and judicial bodies in favor of their own executive power. They have targeted civil society and media. They have used the coronavirus crisis to consolidate their control.

An equally important feature of this new authoritarianism is its intolerance for regional or local power bases that lie beyond executive reach. For countries that have federal structures, this means a conscious effort to strengthen the federal center at the expense of the regions. It’s part of the remaking of the nation-state in the 21st century, a reversal of the two-edged trend to devolve power to local authorities and delegate authority to international institutions.

These nationalists don’t just hate globalists. They hate anybody who stands in their way, including just about any potential counterforce taking shape on the periphery.

Ty Cobb 1928 American Baseball Player

Feffer suggests Trump has started a “new civil war”.

Now Trump is claiming that areas of the country under Democratic Party control are in fact swamps of anti-Americanism. He is deploying the classic vocabulary associated with dehumanizing America’s putative enemies prior to attack. This is no longer a conflict between red and blue. Trump is transforming America’s political divide into an existential battle between grey and blue, where the Feds are supporting a Confederate-friendly president and the rebellious states long for the return of a more perfect Union.

Trump’s use of federal paramilitaries is a classic tactic of autocrats to test how far they can push their authority and what forces they can count on in an emergency. The Black Lives Matter protests inadvertently provided Trump with that opportunity. Come election time, he’ll know which guns are on his side if he chooses to question the election results and stay in office.

There are two more stories today that show that getting more than just white men in office = change for the better.

Women used to play in this?

From the Chicago Trib: “Mayor Lori Lightfoot has Christopher Columbus statues removed from Chicago parks overnight”  And look who complained:

It was not immediately clear where the statues were taken. Reports from television stations showed the statue in Arrigo Park, 801 S. Loomis St., in Chicago’s historic Little Italy neighborhood, was removed a few hours after the downtown statue.

The Grant Park removal capped off an at-times surreal evening. Late Thursday, Chicago Fraternal Order of Police president John Catanzara made his way to the downtown statue wearing an “Italia” T-shirt. He lounged around, talking with cops, criticizing Lightfoot, and promising there would be a pro-police protest there on Saturday even if the statue stayed in place..

He also got into debates with anti-Columbus protesters, some of which grew heated.

Boston 1909

Good bye Columbus!  Good Bye all you pantheons to White Male Colonizers!  And a big fuck off to jerks like Representative YoYo.  From The New Yorker and David Remnick: “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Delivers a Lesson in Decency on the House Floor”.

The video of Ocasio-Cortez’s speech is available online, of course; it should be studied for its measured cadence, its artful construction, and its refusal of ugliness.

She began with narrative, setting the scene: “I was minding my own business, walking up the steps, and Representative Yoho put his finger in my face. He called me ‘disgusting.’ He called me ‘crazy.’ He called me ‘out of my mind.’ And he called me ‘dangerous.’ ” Then she broadened her scope: “This issue is not about one incident. It is cultural. It is a culture of lack of impunity, of accepting violence and violent language against women and an entire structure of power that supports that.” Ocasio-Cortez made it clear that she was not going to fall down and faint. She had heard it all before, on the subway and as a bartender. But she wasn’t going to let this pass, not from a fellow-member of Congress: “I could not allow my nieces, I could not allow the little girls that I go home to, I could not allow victims of verbal abuse, and worse, to see that. To see that excuse, and see our Congress accept it as legitimate and accept it as an apology and to accept silence as a form of acceptance. I could not allow that to stand.” What’s more, she was not going to allow Yoho, in his clumsy way, to use his family as a “shield” for his barrage.

“Having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man. And when a decent man messes up, as we all are bound to do, he tries his best and does apologize,” she said. “I am someone’s daughter, too.”

The politics of our moment are dominated by a bully of miserable character, a President who has failed to contain a pandemic through sheer indifference, who has fabricated a reëlection campaign based on bigotry and the deliberate inflammation of division. His language is abusive, his attitude toward women disdainful. Trump is all about himself: his needs, his ego, his self-preservation. Along the way he has created a Republican Party in his own image. Imitators like Ted Yoho slavishly follow his lead. On the House floor Thursday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez exemplified a different sort of character. She defended not only herself; she defended principle and countless women. And all in just a few short minutes on the floor of the House of Representatives.

So, there are some things uniquely American that change and adapt while still remaining uniquely American in a very good way.  Baseball is used as a metaphor for many things. I’ll just go with that. It used to be all white male.  Then it was not.  It used to have no women players.  Then it did not.  It missed the usual season opening stuff in 2020 but reinvented itself to play in an atmosphere compatible with the Covid-19 Pandemic and Dr. Fauci–not the Orange Snot Blob–threw out the first pitch.  The MLB is fully on board with the social justice goals of Black Lives Matter.

America!  Be more like Baseball!

What’s on your blogging and reading list today?