Monday Reads: World Press Freedom Day

Ker-Xavier Roussel Reading the Newspaper, 1893, Private Collection Édouard Vuillard

Happy World Press Freedom Day Sky Dancers!

A Free Press is enshrined in our Constitution here in the United States. It’s always been a hallmark of open, democratic societies.  So, how is the press doing in this day of increasing right-wing authoritarianism?

Here’s the 2020 World Press Freedom Index from Reporters without Borders.  Notice who is missing from the top ten? Notice where most of the world’s oldest Democracies land.  One of our NATO allies is one of the most frequent jailers of journalists.

A Press–independent of government oppression and manipulation–is a cornerstone of a democratic society.  EuroNews reports the concerns the UN has for a media free of government interference..

The world of journalism faces “drastic losses”, the UN has warned, as it highlights the importance of ‘information as a public good’ on World Press Freedom day.

The intergovernmental organisation says the current coronavirus crisis has forced closures and job cuts within the industry, while other media outlets are facing “political capture”.

The result is more “creeping news deserts” in countries where journalists are unable to get accurate information out to the public.

You may read country descriptions based on the Press Freedom Index on the challenges faced by journalists.

Elaine de Kooning, self portrait, 1946

We may be going back towards normalcy with the White House recognizing the role of a free press today. You may remember that we spent the last four years hearing how the press was the enemy of the people unless it presented stories that flattered and backed-up the delusional rantings of the previous guy.  It is also high time the Saudis pay for killing one of our journalists.  This is just one of the atrocities the previous guy ignored.

Will Biden stand up to the Saudis for the Prince’s murder of Jamal Khashoggi?   This is from NBC.

The Biden administration earlier this year released a U.S. intelligence report implicating the crown prince in the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi but spared him any direct punishment. The prince denies any involvement.

Burns, Peter; Old Man Reading a Newspaper; 

There is perhaps no greater difference in our press than the split between the media  using traditional journalism and the lie pushing, agenda based narrative for something other than reality just for ratings, outrage, and political gain.  Our right-wing propaganda outlets have influenced nearly all of our institutions recently. They do not provide checks and balances to corruption but enable it.  No one is the clear these days. Even the U.S. Supreme Court Justices–a majority group of religious zealots with know records of hostility to democracy–are eager to cash in.   This is from Bloomberg: “Supreme Court’s Ethics Problems Are Bigger Than Coney Barrett. As conflicts of interest accumulate, the justices need to embrace more stringent standards of conduct.”  

We have impeached judges before.  Is this the decade of taking out the trash dumped in our justice system?  Perhaps we could at least develop and enforce standards of ethical behavior for judges?

A lot of hand-wringing has accompanied Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s $2 million book deal (including from those of us who wish we had a $2 million book deal). While there’s always reason to worry when big piles of money land on the court, and Coney Barrett has wasted little time monetizing her new job, some larger points are getting lost in all of this.

After all, Coney Barrett isn’t the first justice to reel in a big book deal. Justice Sonia Sotomayor collected an advance of more than $3 million for her memoir, and Justice Clarence Thomas got $1.5 million for his. Justice Neil Gorsuch was paid $225,000 for a book about the Constitution. Here’s the rub: Federal ethics guidelines mandate that justices can’t accept more than about $30,000 annually in outside pay. However, book income — which can reliably bring in much larger sums than the relatively modest pay justices receive for teaching gigs — is exempt from the guidelines.

When these deals arise, concerns are often voiced about justices being compromised by pocketing money from publishers who might have free speech and other issues affecting them before the court. But books are only a small part of a bigger problem: The Supreme Court’s conflicts of interest and financial disclosure rules remain ragged and outdated.

Unlike every other member of state and federal judiciaries, the court’s nine justices aren’t subject to an ethical code of conduct. That mirrors the latitude given the presidency, which also isn’t beholden to most guidelines circumscribing financial and professional practices of people in lower-ranking government jobs. Former President Donald Trump’s tenure, marked by flagrant financial conflicts of interest, is a reminder of how ineffective self-regulating ethics are when someone isn’t really interested in self-regulation.

Woman with a newspaper, Richard Diebenkorn

The danger of right-wing propaganda to our Democracy has been an ongoing issue in the last several centuries. It has always skirted the First Amendment in terms of substance and motivation. We depend on an educated populace to search out the truth among many sources.  The role it has played in putting public health issues into the realm of political cosplay is beyond the pale.  Derek Thomas writes this for The Atlantic: “Millions Are Saying No to the Vaccines. What Are They Thinking?  Feelings about the vaccine are intertwined with feelings about the pandemic.”  It’s also intertwined with politics and right-wing news media falsehoods.

What are they thinking, these vaccine-hesitant, vaccine-resistant, and COVID-apathetic? I wanted to know. So I posted an invitation on Twitter for anybody who wasn’t planning to get vaccinated to email me and explain why. In the past few days, I spoke or corresponded with more than a dozen such people. I told them that I was staunchly pro-vaccine, but this wouldn’t be a takedown piece. I wanted to produce an ethnography of a position I didn’t really understand.

The people I spoke with were all under 50. A few of them self-identified as Republican, and none of them claimed the modern Democratic Party as their political home. Most said they weren’t against all vaccines; they were just a “no” on this vaccine. They were COVID-19 no-vaxxers, not overall anti-vaxxers.

Many people I spoke with said they trusted their immune system to protect them. “Nobody ever looks at it from the perspective of a guy who’s like me,” Bradley Baca, a 39-year-old truck driver in Colorado, told me. “As an essential worker, my life was never going to change in the pandemic, and I knew I was going to get COVID no matter what. Now I think I’ve got the antibodies, so why would I take a risk on the vaccine?”

Some had already recovered from COVID-19 and considered the vaccine unnecessary. “In December 2020 I tested positive and experienced many symptoms,” said Derek Perrin, a 31-year-old service technician in Connecticut. “Since I have already survived one recorded bout with this virus, I see no reason to take a vaccine that has only been approved for emergency use. I trust my immune system more than this current experiment.”

Others were worried that the vaccines might have long-term side effects. “As a Black American descendant of slavery, I am bottom caste, in terms of finances,” Georgette Russell, a 40-year-old resident of New Jersey, told me. “The fact that there is no way to sue the government or the pharmaceutical company if I have any adverse reactions is highly problematic to me.”

Many people said they had read up on the risk of COVID-19 to people under 50 and felt that the pandemic didn’t pose a particularly grave threat. “The chances of me dying from a car accident are higher than my dying of COVID,” said Michael Searle, a 36-year-old who owns a consulting firm in Austin, Texas. “But it’s not like I don’t get in my car.”

And many others said that perceived liberal overreach had pushed them to the right. “Before March 2020, I was a solid progressive Democrat,” Jenin Younes, a 37-year-old attorney, said. “I am so disturbed by the Democrats’ failure to recognize the importance of civil liberties. I’ll vote for anyone who takes a strong stand for civil liberties and doesn’t permit the erosion of our fundamental rights that we are seeing now.” Baca, the Colorado truck driver, also told me he didn’t vote much before the pandemic, but the perception of liberal overreach had a strong politicizing effect. “When COVID hit, I saw rights being taken away. So in 2020, I voted for the first time in my life, and I voted all the way Republican down the ballot.”

974 Expressionist Oil Painting Woman Reading Newspaper

We’re fucked at this rate.  And, here’s FiveThirtyEight explaining where we see the big divides in American Voters.

In many ways, the 2020 election was basically like every recent American presidential election: The Republican candidate won the white vote (54 percent to 44 percent, per CES), and the Democratic candidate won the overwhelming majority of the Black (90 percent to 8 percent), Asian American (66 percent to 31 percent) and Hispanic (64 percent to 33 percent) vote. Like in 2016, there was a huge difference among non-Hispanic white voters by education, as those with at least a four-year college degree favored Biden (55 percent to 42 percent), while those without degrees (63 to 35) favored Trump. (There wasn’t a huge education split among voters of color.)1

Other surveys tell the same general story: Trump won white voters overall by a margin in the double digits and won whites without four-year degrees by even more; Trump lost among whites with at least a four-year college degree, lost by a big margin with Asian American and Latino voters and lost by an enormous margin among African Americans.

So the main reason that Trump nearly won a second term was not his increased support among Latinos, who are only about 10 percent of American voters and are a group he lost by more than 20 points. Trump’s main strength was his huge advantage among non-Hispanic white voters without college degrees, who are about 45 percent of American voters. His second biggest bloc of support was among non-Hispanic white Americans with degrees, who are about 30 percent of all voters. According to the CES, over 80 percent of Trump’s voters were non-Hispanic white voters, with or without a college degree. In contrast, around 70 percent of nonwhite voters supported Biden, and they made up close to 40 percent of his supporters. So it is very much still the case that the Republicans are an overwhelmingly white party and that the Democratic coalition is much more racially diverse.

Here’s the President of Orleans Republican Women to prove a point: President of Women’s Republican Club of New Orleans Touts Biblical Positives of Slavery.   That scream you hear from way down on the Mississipi River is mine.  Yeah, for small, local,  independent media like The Big Easy Magazine!

The story began when Chalmette State Representative Raymond Garofalo proposed a bill where-in he wanted to ban “critical race theory” from being taught, a complex subject that conservatives have been using as a talking point recently to score political points. He said that he, in fact, wanted to “teach the good, the bad, and the ugly” about slavery. To which Hilferty replied, “There’s nothing good about slavery” to laughter.

Garofalo corrected himself, saying that, “You’re right. I didn’t mean to imply that. I don’t believe that, and I know that’s the case. But I’m using the term, ‘the good, bad, and ugly as a generic way of saying that you can teach any facts, factually based on anything.”

Both Hilferty and Garofalo have spoken directly to the media about the incident. Garofalo has tried to clarify his words, explain the terminology “good, bad, and ugly” was meant “generically,” and Hilferty claimed he was, “…talking about the good in slavery.”

Whether Garofalo meant that there were good aspects to slavery or whether he was speaking “generically,” Huckaby repeatedly came to his defense, and to the defense of slavery itself. The above was not her only post related to slavery and Garofalo. She also wrote in another post, “Slavery goes all they [sic] way back to biblical times, and if you’ve read your Bible, you would know that many of the slaves loved their masters, and their masters loved them, and took very good care of them, and their families.”

In addition, she indicated that, “Stephanie (Hilferty) has been indoctrinated by leftis [sic] marxisum [sic] education.”

So, hmm, I’m a communist troll in her eyes.  So bet it!  At this point, I’ll take any moniker that doesn’t include what she’s all about.

Anyway, you’ll have a good week!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Wednesday Reads: Me worry?

And good morning to you…

Some hard hits there…as usual, the political comics bringing the point home.

First tweet I saw when I started to write this post:

This is one of my favorite pictures…please click on that link and read more about Raymond Cauchetier.

Now for some news updates:

And one last thing…

#FuckBernieSanders

( And #FuckJoeManchin too!)

Ugh…

Try and stay safe today…


Imminent My Ass Monday Reads

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Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

So, just in case you’re not of the sportsball persuasion like me, I  thought I’d mention our LSU Tigers have a big game today in the Super Dome and the Orange Snot blob has decided it might be a good place to be cheered at even though outside he will be jeered at. The Tigers are going after their 4th National Championship and, of course, I have no idea what a Clemson is other than some college with another team

Frankly, I’d rather the university my kids went to and the system for which I taught for about 10ish years would stop all the  water leaks in the Library and other buildings.  But, silly me, panem et circenses  always keeps the desperate masses from revolution or so it’s been said.

ImageYes.  We’re getting a visitation from the orange snot blob that either lies continually, says deluded things continually, and just makes up things of the top of his critter festooned head.  He mentioned he’s going to visit his property here to the usual suspects.  So, look to the left and see exactly how realistic, possible, and plausible said visitation would be.

Most of the outstate Yahoos from here included the folks that put into office do not care that he lies and some of them–Yes Senator John Kennedy I’m looking at you–just repeat  the lies with a faux hillbilly vibe.

Even more startling than the sheer number of POTUS lies is how brazen many of them have been. Dig deeper into this political phenomenon and something odd and counterintuitive emerges: Many people know that Trump is lying to them and simply don’t care. This raises a fascinating question: Could the president extricate himself from the Ukraine quid-pro-quo scandal, the linchpin of the current impeachment proceedings, by spewing one lie after another? 

According to the academic paperProcessing Political Misinformation: Comprehending the Trump Phenomenon, the answer is yes. Conducted prior to the 2016 presidential election, the study focuses on credibility experiments. Subjects were asked to rate their belief in eight statements (four true, four false) that Trump made during his campaign. Some were attributed to him: “Donald Trump said that vaccines cause autism.” Others had no attribution: “Vaccines cause autism.” Then came the fact checks. After false items were corrected and true items confirmed, the test subjects rerated the statements. 

One of the findings confirmed what every FOX and MSNBC pundit already knows. When subjects first rated the veracity of true and false statements, Republican supporters of Trump believed the claim more when it was attributed to Trump; the opposite was true of Democrats. Republicans who were not pro Trump also believed less in statements attributed to him (but not to the same degree as Democrats), while their belief in the false statements was not influenced by attribution. 

The other key finding is less obvious. There was a large bipartisan shift in belief after the fact check, suggesting that both conservatives and liberals can change their minds if they’re presented with convincing, unbiased information. But there was a catch: After a one-week delay, subjects partially “rebelieved” the false statements and partially forgot that factual information was true. Or, to quote the study: “Even if individuals update their beliefs temporarily, explanations regarding both fact and fiction seemingly have an expiration date.” 

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So, I’m not the psychologist on the blog so I have no idea what makes him lie so much.  I do know that I have never in my life seen any one even near this level of bull shit swinging and my dad had a car dealership and used car salesmen in his employ.  I can’t even imagine the pathology that would create that circumstance but it’s really so disturbing in needs a new term because pathological lying just doesn’t sound enough  for how he manages to nuclearize obvious whoppers.

So, there are lies and then there are lies that cover up things that every one country needs to realize are dangerous lies. This headline and story from NBC:  “Trump authorized Soleimani’s killing 7 months ago, with conditions.”  So, we know the entire story of four embassies under imminent danger is basically a Lie of Mass Destruction and now we have more and more evidence thanks to Carol E. Lee and Courtney Kube.

President Donald Trump authorized the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani seven months ago if Iran’s increased aggression resulted in the death of an American, according to five current and former senior administration officials.

The presidential directive in June came with the condition that Trump would have final signoff on any specific operation to kill Soleimani, officials said.

That decision explains why assassinating Soleimani was on the menu of options that the military presented to Trump two weeks ago for responding to an attack by Iranian proxies in Iraq, in which a U.S. contractor was killed and four U.S. service members were wounded, the officials said.

The timing, however, could undermine the Trump administration’s stated justification for ordering the U.S. drone strike that killed Soleimani in Baghdad on Jan. 3. Officials have said Soleimani, the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, was planning imminent attacks on Americans and had to be stopped.

“There have been a number of options presented to the president over the course of time,” a senior administration official said, adding that it was “some time ago” that the president’s aides put assassinating Soleimani on the list of potential responses to Iranian aggression.

After Iran shot down a U.S. drone in June, John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser at the time, urged Trump to retaliate by signing off on an operation to kill Soleimani, officials said. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also wanted Trump to authorize the assassination, officials said.

But Trump rejected the idea, saying he’d take that step only if Iran crossed his red line: killing an American. The president’s message was “that’s only on the table if they hit Americans,” according to a person briefed on the discussion.

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Not even his cronies in the cabinet are supporting the stories he’s telling his cult in the Hatefests or to Hate Monger Laura Ingraham on Faux News (via WAPO).

In an interview with Fox News’s Laura Ingraham, excerpts of which were released Friday afternoon, Trump expanded on comments from a day earlier, when he initially told reporters that Soleimani’s forces “were looking to blow up our embassy” in Baghdad. He later said at a rally in Toledo that “Soleimani was actively planning new attacks, and he was looking very seriously at our embassies, and not just the embassy in Baghdad.”

Mike Esper did not carry water for the Liar-in-Chief yesterday on Face the Nation (via Raw Story).  Pompeo is still on the End Times Juice and is hanging in there with each shifting explanation

President Trump has claimed that Soleimani was plotting to  “blow up” the U.S. embassy in Baghdad as well as “four” other embassies, but according to Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper speaking to CBS News, the claim of four embassies being targeted wasn’t based on an intelligence analysis; it was just something Trump “believed” to be true.

Esper confirmed that there was intelligence to support the claim that Soleimani was targeting the embassy in Baghdad and that intelligence was “shared with the Gang of Eight, not the broader membership of the Congress” — a claim that was somewhat contradicted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who told NBC News that the information was indeed shared with Congress. According to Blake, therein lies the contradiction.

“…Esper now says he hasn’t seen intelligence on the threat to multiple embassies, whereas Pompeo said the ‘specific information’ about imminent threats included threats to those embassies,” Blake writes, adding that “even if we’re to accept that Pompeo was speaking loosely and the intelligence was really just about the one U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Esper said that information wasn’t shared with ‘the broader membership of the Congress,’ but only with the Gang of Eight. Pompeo, in contrast, said ‘we did’ when asked if the information about attacks on embassies was shared in that wider briefing. He later deflected when asked to re-confirm, but he did confirm.”

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I remembered Jeremy Scahill–writing for The Intercept--on the connections between Trump, Erick Prince, and ignorance and then a developing obsession on Suleimani.  He’s updated that information and this was his headline on January 3: “WITH SULEIMANI ASSASSINATION, TRUMP IS DOING THE BIDDING OF WASHINGTON’S MOST VILE CABAL”.

On August 3, 2016 — just three months before Donald Trump would win the Electoral College vote and ascend to power — Blackwater founder Erik Prince arranged a meeting at Trump Tower. For decades, Prince had been agitating for a war with Iran and, as early as 2010, had developed a fantastical proposal for using mercenaries to wage it.

At this meeting was George Nader, an American citizen who had a long history of being a quiet emissary for the United States in the Middle East. Nader, who had also worked for Blackwater and Prince, was a convicted pedophile in the Czech Republic and is facing similar allegations in the United States. Nader worked as an adviser for the Emirati royals and has close ties to Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince.

There was also an Israeli at the Trump Tower meeting: Joel Zamel. He was there supposedly pitching a multimillion-dollar social media manipulation campaign to the Trump team. Zamel’s company, Psy-Group, boasts of employing former Israeli intelligence operatives. Nader and Zamel were joined by Donald Trump Jr. According to the New York Times, the purpose of the meeting was “primarily to offer help to the Trump team, and it forged relationships between the men and Trump insiders that would develop over the coming months, past the election and well into President Trump’s first year in office.”

One major common goal ran through the agendas of all the participants in this Trump Tower meeting: regime change in Iran. Trump campaigned on belligerence toward Iran and trashing the Obama-led Iran nuclear deal, and he has followed through on those threats, filling his administration with the most vile, hawkish figures in the U.S. national security establishment. After appointing notorious warmonger John Bolton as national security adviser, Trump fired him last September. But despite reports that Trump had soured on Bolton because of his interventionist posture toward Iran, Bolton’s firing merely opened the door for the equally belligerent Mike Pompeo to take over the administration’s Iran policy at the State Department. Now Pompeo is the public face of the Suleimani assassination, while for his part, the fired Bolton didn’t want to be left out of the gruesome victory lap:

CNN picked up the Blackwater Back Channel.  This is a good summary from Raw story on the connection between the assassination and Erik Prince.  Again, the last attack by a Hezbollah proxy killed now American Soldiers but took out a “contractor”.  American soldiers were injured but not killed.

An American defense contractor whose death late last month was cited by President Trump amid escalating violence with Iran was identified Tuesday as an interpreter who was born in Iraq and lived in Sacramento.

Nawres Hamid, 33, became a naturalized citizen in 2017, according to his widow. He was the father of two boys, ages 2 and 8, she said.

In recent years, as an Arabic interpreter for U.S. forces in Iraq, Hamid was known to decorate his living space with pictures of the children, according to a co-worker.

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So, did we do this because of Erik Prince? John Bolton? Mike Pompeo? Who pushed the dementia-addled Dotard to do this outsized attack at mar a lago?

New details continue to emerge about Donald Trump ordering the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassim Suleimani.

“Erik Prince, the Blackwater-founder-turned-unofficial-2016-Trump-campaign-adviser, advocated to the campaign years ago for the killing of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, according to a recently disclosed memo that reveals some of the earliest thinking circulated within Donald Trump’s team regarding his approach to Iran,” CNN reported Saturday.

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The UK version of Business Insider believes Trump made the assassination orders based on GOP Senators.  This is based on Wall Street Journal reporting late last week.

President Donald Trump told associates that he assassinated Iran’s top military leader last week in part to appease Republican senators who’ll play a crucial role in his Senate impeachment trial, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

In a lengthy piece detailing how the president’s top advisers coalesced behind the strike on Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, The Journal reported that Trump had told associates he felt pressured to satisfy senators who were pushing for stronger US action against Soleimani and who will run defense for him on impeachment.

One of Trump’s most outspoken supporters, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, appears to be the only congressional lawmaker Trump briefed about his plan to assassinate Soleimani in the days leading up to the strike.

“I was briefed about the potential operation when I was down in Florida,” Graham told Fox News. “I appreciate being brought into the orbit.”

The South Carolina Republican, an Iran hawk, celebrated the controversial strike, which the administration did not seek congressional authorization to carry out. After Iran retaliated by hitting US-occupied Iraqi bases on Tuesday, Graham called the move “an act of war.”

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The other shocking part of the Ingraham interview was this via Crooks and Liars: “Trump Blasted For Bragging About ‘Selling’ American Troops To Saudi Arabia And S. Korea. ” Trump boasted to Fox’s Laura Ingraham during an interview last Friday that Saudi Arabia deposited a billion dollars “in the bank” for US troops being sent, and that South Korea is paying $500 million for troops as well.  So is this boast a truth, dare, or lie?

Attacking Nancy Pelosi and making up more threats to our embassies out of whole cloth weren’t the only crazy things to come out of Trump’s mouth during his softball interview with Fox’s Laura Ingraham Friday night. Trump also told Ingraham that both Saudi Arabia and South Korea have deposited money into a “bank account” in exchange for more U.S. troops. Who this supposed “bank account” belongs to, he did not say.

Trump was rightfully taken to task on Twitter for the exchange by former Republican Rep. Justin Amash and others, who went after Trump for treating our troops like mercenaries, and would like to know, as I would, just where this money he’s talking about was deposited.

Rep. Justin Amash Blasts Trump For ‘Selling’ American Troops To Saudis:

Conservative Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) accused Donald Trump Saturday of “selling” American troops to Saudi Arabia after the president boasted that the nation has deposited $1 billion into a bank he did not identify for “more troops.”

“He sells troops,” Amash tersely noted in a tweet.

Other critics erupted on Twitter over a possible future in which U.S. soldiers could be sent as mercenaries to any high-bidding country to risk their lives, regardless of a nation’s ideology or rationale for fighting.

Others argued the country doesn’t deserve American support because of Saudi Arabia’s link to the vicious dismemberment and murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was writing at the time for The Washington Post. Some pointed out that most of the hijackers in the 9/11 attack were Saudis.

And some wondered exactly where the Saudi $1 billion is.

Trump clearly saw nothing wrong with the idea. “Listen, you’re a very rich country,” he told Saudi officials, Trump recounted on Fox News. “You want more troops? I’m going to send them to you, but you’ve got to pay us. They’re paying us. They’ve already deposited $1 billion in the bank.”

So, did the US take oil from Syria thereby committing a war crime and  did he send US troops as mercenaries to South  Korea and Saudi Arabia as mercenaries?   Inquiring minds want to know

Just one last item and it’s not related to the Lying Scumbag occupying the Oval Office.  Corey Booker has pulled out of the 2020 Presidential Race leaving former Mass. Governor Deval Patrick as the only black candidate in the race.  We clearly need a change in the way we elect president because it is truly odd that a party with a diverse base can only come up with a slate of mostly white senior citizens which is all the Republicans provide and work hard to ensure.

 

Mike Berbenes of Yahoo News asks this question: “Do Democrats have a diversity problem?”   Why is it that everyone thinks the safest way to get Trump out of the White House is to sic a white man on him?  

Many on the left have expressed concern that an all-white top tier of the Democratic field might alienate voters of color that the eventual nominee will need to defeat Donald Trump in the general election. One of the key reasons Hillary Clinton lost in 2016 was a decline in black voter turnout. Others have argued that the party has a duty to represent its base so issues that matter to the various racial and ideological constituencies are heard.

Castro echoed a popular sentiment among liberals in blaming the primary process for the lack of diversity in the field. Having the predominantly white states of Iowa and New Hampshire vote first, he argued, puts minority candidates at a disadvantage. Part of the criteria for debate qualification is how many donors a candidate has — which some argue disadvantages minority voters who are less likely to have disposable income.

Some analysts say the lack of minority representation in the Democratic field isn’t as big of a problem as it may seem. The top of the field is actually historically diverse if you look beyond race, some argue, with a woman, a Jewish man and a gay man among the top three candidates. There’s also a significant chance that the nominee will choose a person of color as their running mate.

Others have argued that it’s reductive to think black and Latino voters would only be excited about candidates of their own race. Part of the reason Castro, Harris and Booker have struggled is because the demographics they represent have given steady support to white candidates. Joe Biden has a strong advantage among black voters, and Bernie Sanders has been the top choice of Latinos.

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Yeah, right. I forgot. Everything is Hillary’s fault.

So, we have a debate on Tuesday Night, impeachment articles are heading to the Senate, and I’m tired of being bullied and gaslighted by what’s supposed to pass as a leader in the USA.  I’m as confused as any one on this slate of candidates including the sudden interest in Steyer.   This NPR article kinda sums it up for me the kid who grew up in Iowa.  The debate will be at Drake University which is my sister’s Alma mater.

Without Yang or Booker (who failed to qualify for the debate and suspended his campaign on Monday), the debate will not have even one person of color.

Those who remain will, as always, strive to differentiate themselves from each other while proving they have what it takes to defeat President Trump in November. Iowans will have their chance to weigh in on that question in three weeks during the party’s precinct-level caucuses on Feb. 3.

And that suggests something else that may seem missing Tuesday night: a clear favorite. The well-respected Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom poll now has Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont leading in Iowa, but the average of polls nationwide and in other early voting states still shows a modest preference for former Vice President Joe Biden.

At this point, it is possible to imagine either emerging from the early voting states as a bona fide front-runner in time for Super Tuesday on March 3, when 14 states will vote, including delegate-rich California and Texas.

But it is also possible to imagine neither of them doing so, and thus to imagine Super Tuesday as a hodgepodge of conflicting results.

What’s on you reading and blogging list tonight?

 


Wednesday Reads: Turd Reich

After seeing a few minutes of the MSNBC interview with Barr yesterday…I had to turn the shit off.

Did you see this crap:

Check out some of the responses on that thread.

I believe my expression had to be something like that mountain lion…

Wouldn’t you know it, later last night…

If this impeachment trial in the Senate goes by like we know #MoscowMitch will handle it… I am so fearful of what could end up happening…

Someone is actually selling this design online… (lucashgm on redbubble)

The photo above was taken in Atlanta.

Now a few non-tRump things:

Didn’t something like this happen the last time a Saudi national murdered some dissident… after Khashoggi, women got the right to drive? Yes? (Actually, it was given to them a couple of months before he was killed.) I’m just making a connection.

That asshole. Fucking disgusting.

Let’s end this on a positive note.

This is an open thread.


Wednesday: Ain’t there one damn song that can make me…Break down and cry?

 

And I did cry…

I found out about David Bowie’s death around 4;00 am Monday Morning, it was so sad. Bowie was born in 1947…the same year as my dad, maybe that was why it touched a nerve? I don’t know. But as the days have past since the news of his death, I’ve been able to look back on his music and massive product of work. I see now just exactly amount of thread this artist has woven through my memories. For all my life.

Simon Pegg sent out this tribute tweet:

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I was born in April 1970. Space Oddity was 1st released in July of 1969. For me that tweet is especially true.

 

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The post today will feature artwork by David Bowie and include a few links to photo galleries…as well as a few other articles about Bowie the man, flaws included.

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Just a couple of thoughts before we start.

My mom took me to see Cat People and The Hunger back when I was a kid…

 

I can still feel that powerful voice of Bowie’s pounding in the theater as the credits rolled when he sang Putting Out The Fire.

 

 

And I always thought, for some strange reason…that he would live forever somewhere…never imagining that he would die a few days after turning 69.

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Now for the links.

Highlights of President Obama’s 2016 State of the Union Address – Politics – NYTimes.com

Full text of President Barack Obama’s 2016 State of the Union Address

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And if you didn’t catch the speech…check this out:

CNN Releases Video Imagining the State of the Union as a Wes Anderson Movie (No, Really) | Mediaite

“What if the State of the Union was like a Wes Anderson movie?”, asked no one ever. Well, CNN is here to answer your question, nobody!

And, well, it’s not so much a movie as it is a primer on the history of the State of the Union address and all the things that go into making it happen.

(P.S. If CNN is taking requests, next year do it Tarantino-style. God knows these speeches could use some tense moments and balls-to-the-wall profanity.)

Gag….okay.

Now, moving on.

Interesting video here: Arctic seed vault ‘key to future global crops’ – BBC News

And then you have this newsy bit here: Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall Are Engaged | Vanity Fair

 

Ugh, more gag.

Meanwhile on the Ted Cruz “birther” irony front:

Under Ted Cruz’s own logic, he’s ineligible for the White House – The Boston Globe

There’s more than meets the eye in the ongoing dustup over whether Ted Cruz is eligible to serve as president, which under the Constitution comes down to whether he’s a “natural born citizen” despite his 1970 Canadian birth. Senator Cruz contends his eligibility is “settled” by naturalization laws Congress enacted long ago. But those laws didn’t address, much less resolve, the matter of presidential eligibility, and no Supreme Court decision in the past two centuries has ever done so. In truth, the constitutional definition of a “natural born citizen” is completely unsettled, as the most careful scholarship on the question has concluded. Needless to say, Cruz would never take Donald Trump’s advice to ask a court whether the Cruz definition is correct, because that would in effect confess doubt where Cruz claims there is certainty.

People are entitled to their own opinions about what the definition ought to be. But the kind of judge Cruz says he admires and would appoint to the Supreme Court is an “originalist,” one who claims to be bound by the narrowly historical meaning of the Constitution’s terms at the time of their adoption. To his kind of judge, Cruz ironically wouldn’t be eligible, because the legal principles that prevailed in the 1780s and ’90s required that someone actually be born on US soil to be a “natural born” citizen. Even having two US parents wouldn’t suffice. And having just an American mother, as Cruz did, would have been insufficient at a time that made patrilineal descent decisive.

This narrow definition reflected 18th-century fears of a tyrannical takeover of our nation by someone loyal to a foreign power — fears that no longer make sense. But the same could be said of fears that a tyrannical federal army might overrun our state militias. Yet that doesn’t lead Cruz — or, more importantly, the conservative jurists he admires — to discard the Second Amendment’s “right to bear arms” as a historical relic, or to limit that right to arms-bearing by members of today’s “state militias,” the national guard.

On the other hand, the kind of judge I admire and Cruz abhors is a “living constitutionalist,” one who believes that the Constitution’s meaning evolves with the perceived needs of the time and longstanding practice. To that kind of judge, Cruz would be eligible to serve because it no longer makes sense to be bound by the narrow historical definition that would disqualify him.

When Cruz was my constitutional law student at Harvard, he aced the course after making a big point of opposing my views in class — arguing stridently for sticking with the “original meaning” against the idea of a more elastic “living Constitution” whenever such ideas came up. I enjoyed jousting with him, but Ted never convinced me — nor did I convince him.

At least he was consistent in those days. Now, he seems to be a fair weather originalist, abandoning that method’s narrow constraints when it suits his ambition.

Ted Cruz is not eligible to be president – The Washington Post

Donald Trump is actually right about something: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is not a natural-born citizen and therefore is not eligible to be president or vice president of the United States.

The Constitution provides that “No person except a natural born Citizen . . . shall be eligible to the Office of President.” The concept of “natural born” comes from common law, and it is that law the Supreme Court has said we must turn to for the concept’s definition. On this subject, common law is clear and unambiguous. The 18th-century English jurist William Blackstone, the preeminent authority on it, declared natural-born citizens are “such as are born within the dominions of the crown of England,” while aliens are “such as are born out of it.” The key to this division is the assumption of allegiance to one’s country of birth. The Americans who drafted the Constitution adopted this principle for the United States. James Madison, known as the “father of the Constitution,” stated, “It is an established maxim that birth is a criterion of allegiance. . . . [And] place is the most certain criterion; it is what applies in the United States.”

Cruz is, of course, a U.S. citizen. As he was born in Canada, he is not natural-born. His mother, however, is an American, and Congress has provided by statute for the naturalization of children born abroad to citizens. Because of the senator’s parentage, he did not have to follow the lengthy naturalization process that aliens without American parents must undergo. Instead, Cruz was naturalized at birth. This provision has not always been available. For example, there were several decades in the 19th century when children of Americans born abroad were not given automatic naturalization.

Article I of the Constitution grants Congress the power to naturalize an alien — that is, Congress may remove an alien’s legal disabilities, such as not being allowed to vote. But Article II of the Constitution expressly adopts the legal status of the natural-born citizen and requires that a president possess that status. However we feel about allowing naturalized immigrants to reach for the stars, the Constitution must be amended before one of them can attain the office of president. Congress simply does not have the power to convert someone born outside the United States into a natural-born citizen.

Let me be clear: I am not a so-called birther. I am a legal historian. President Obama is without question eligible for the office he serves. The distinction between the president and Cruz is simple: The president was born within the United States, and the senator was born outside of it. That is a distinction with a difference.

Thanks to Boston Boomer for the H/T on both of those links.

Back to some bad journalism… now that it has been a few days since that riveting piece of “journalism” from Sean Penn in the latest Rolling Stone? (Flash Frame: That was a piece of shit.)

The problem with Rolling Stone’s El Chapo interview isn’t Sean Penn. It’s his editors. – Poynter

If you’re an editor about to send a famous and sympathetic writer to interview one of the world’s most notorious villains, here’s how you might prep him:

First, drill him on his assumptions and make sure there is an intellectual argument elsewhere to back him up.

Then, you’d likely remind him that his loyalty should be with his readers, not his subject. And you’d reinforce that by helping him anticipate the natural questions those readers might bring to such a controversial interview.

You’d want to see his interview questions ahead of time to ensure they are asked in neutral language that will hold your notorious source accountable.

Of course you’d advise him that it’s unacceptable to cut a deal that provides the source with prior review.

And finally, you’d remind him that the story must be well-reported and intellectually honest, so that it could stand on its own without a byline. That’s how you know it’s worth the paper it’s printed on.

It’s common for a writer’s ambitions to outpace his talents. (Sean Penn, you are no Hunter S. Thompson). That’s what editors are for. The best editors lift writers above the level they might reach on their own. They bring discipline to wandering pieces. They force writers to nail down assumptions and abandon unnecessary prose.

The editor’s role on the front end is the easy work. All he had to do was prepare Penn to set aside his own ego and go into the interview with his loyalties firmly on the side of Rolling Stone’s audience. But that front end work often makes the heavy lifting on the back side a bit lighter. During the actual writing, an editor should have been working with Penn to identify a structure, build a coherent argument and then challenge readers to see a complicated character operating in a complicated system.

How do you do that? You have to bring in other voices. Here’s what’s missing from Penn’s El Chapo piece…

Take a look at that link to see what is missing. I would guess that Penn did not do this work with Rolling Stone backing his moves. I suggest it is a Penn deal alone…and possibly a movie in the works all along. The “article” was probably shopped to the highest bidder and under no circumstance could it be “edited” because it is Penn’s pitch in glorified shit filled black and white print. *Note: I may be wrong here, in which case I really don’t give a damn…but that is my own opinion on the matter.

But what does give me a problem about this commentary on what Penn’s article is missing…is that there is a big stink about the single Penn’s crappy piece, but what about the fucking trash put out by journalist on a daily basis? Ana Kasparian is asking that question in this article:

Sean Penn interviews El Chapo and suddenly journalists care about ethics

No one expected Sean Penn to interview the world’s most wanted drug kingpin after he escaped prison for the second time. But three months before El Chapo was recaptured by Mexican Marines, he was hanging out with the actor in a jungle for a lengthy Rolling Stone interview. In an interesting turn of events, Penn’s discussion with El Chapo has been criticized as “unethical” by politicians and journalists who couldn’t score or stomach the interview.

At the heart of the issue is how Penn allowed the violent head of the Sinaloa drug cartel to sign off on the final Rolling Stone piece, which certainly does breach journalistic ethics. One rule of journalism is to ensure that the subject being reported on doesn’t have any sway or influence on the final product, and letting El Chapo decide what can and can’t be published defeats the true purpose of doing the interview in the first place.

“Allowing any source control over a story’s content is inexcusable,” Andrew Seaman, chair of the Society of Professional Journalist’s ethics committee wrote in a blog post. “The practice of pre-approval discredits the entire story. The writer, who in this case is an actor and activist, may write the story in a more favorable light and omit unflattering facts in an attempt to not be rejected.”

Seaman does make a good point. But with the daily ethics violations committed by people who were actually trained to be journalists, it does seem strange that all of a sudden members of the media want to hash out what’s acceptable in reporting the news or conducting interviews.

You’re goddamn right!

It is a shame that her article is only a couple of more paragraphs long, using an example regarding a situation with PBS and funding to illustrate her point (go and read the rest at the link) but it should open the can of worms, don’t ya think?

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Mona had a question up on her Facebook feed…about this topic…I think this article is a good way to open it up for discussion:

The dark side of David Bowie: As the mourning goes on, we can’t ignore his history with underaged groupies in ’70s – Salon.com

More Bowie, this time pictures:

vintage everyday: The Icon of Androgynous Fashion Style – Marvelous Color Photos of David Bowie in the 1970s-80s

vintage everyday: Amazing Vintage Photos of David Bowie in the early Days of His Career

On with a few more news links.

Pennsylvania police fatally shoot 12-year-old at her home | US news | The Guardian

Scientists struggle to stay grounded after possible gravitational wave signal | Science | The Guardian

Father of Koch Brothers Helped Build Nazi Oil Refinery, Book Says – The New York Times

Central American immigrants scramble for options to deportation by U.S. | Reuters

In human rights news:

Saudi Arabia Arrests Samar Badawi, Human Rights Advocate – The New York Times

U.N. war crimes investigators gathering testimony from starving Syrian town | Reuters

Let’s not end on that note.

The Mysteriously Tiny Drawings of an 18th-Century Artist, Born Without Hands or Feet

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In Wordplay: Matthias Buchinger’s Drawings from the Collection of Ricky Jay, opening today at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, there’s a 1724 engraved self-portrait that the “Little Man of Nuremberg” would have used to promote his act. As the portrait shows, the German-born artist, who stood 29 inches tall, was born without hands or feet.

Using an implement he wielded with his stumps, Buchinger excelled in calligraphy, ornamentation, and micrography, the practice of making patterns with tiny letters. In this self-portrait, in the curls of his wig, he has written seven full psalms and the Lord’s Prayer.

Art was just one of Buchinger’s talents. He was a master magician, superb marksman, and a virtuoso musical-instrument player, to name a few of the skills he was paid to perform in fairgrounds and noble houses across Europe. He could also throw dice, and could put wooden objects in tiny bottles.

To contemporary sensibilities, the idea of an 18th-century dwarf magician getting a Met show of his text art might come off as an arch conceptual hoax. But Buchinger was real, and very much a part of his time.

Oh, how I wish I could see this exhibit.

Wordplay: Matthias Buchinger’s Drawingsfrom the Collection of Ricky Jay | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

January 8–April 11, 2016

Exhibition Location: The Robert Wood Johnson, Jr. Gallery, 2nd floor,Gallery 690

Approximately 15 drawings by the 18th-century German artist Matthias Buchinger (1674–1739), who was born without hands or feet, will be presented in Wordplay: Matthias Buchinger’s Drawings from the Collection of Ricky Jay, opening at the Metropolitan Museum on January 8, 2016. Despite his physical limitations, Buchinger was celebrated in his own time as a draftsman and calligrapher as well as a magician and musician, and poetic broadsides were written in Europe and Britain about his many talents and achievements. Known as “the Little Man of Nuremberg” because he was only 29 inches tall, Buchinger lived a nomadic existence and boasted a clientele that included noblemen, kings, and emperors, along with members of the public who visited him at inns and fairs, from Leipzig to Paris and London to Belfast.

And in another Met website link:

Color The Temple: Using Projected Light to Restore Color | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

It is a long read but fascinating.

Did You Know The Temple Wasn’t Always Beige?

The small square shows a cleaned surface on a temple in the Karnak Temple Complex. Image courtesy of the authors

Temples in Egypt, and in much of the ancient world, were not only carved with detailed reliefs, but also painted with vivid colors, like the example from the Karnak Temple Complex shown above. The small square shows a cleaned surface in an otherwise soot- and grime-covered relief scene. This small section at Karnak allows visitors to see the temple in new ways, and we set out to do this digitally with The Temple of Dendur.

The Temple of Dendur was originally located on an ancient site south of Aswan in the West Bank of the Nile, near the border between Egypt and the Sudan. Because the Nile flooded every year, the Egyptian government attempted to control the water through a series of dams. However, by the late 1920s, Dendur and the surrounding area was flooded for nine months out of the year. In the 1960s, the Egyptian government planned to construct a new dam that would have made this flooding permanent year-round.

Well, that is all for today…

Have a safe Wednesday. This is an open thread.