The paintings and drawings in this post are by Philip Guston, a painter who shocked the art world in the late 1960s by abandoning his abstract expressionism and turning to cartoonish representations of KKK-like figures that to him reflected the culture of America under Richard Nixon. These works also reflected his childhood memories of scenes of the Klan marching openly in Los Angeles, where his Jewish family lived.
Four major museums have decided to call off a retrospective of Guston’s work for fear of negative reactions to the racial justice content of the paintings. From The New York Times:
In an open letter published Wednesday in The Brooklyn Rail, nearly 100 artists, curators, dealers and writers forcefully condemned the decision last week by the National Gallery of Art in Washington and three other major museums to pull the plug on the largest retrospective in 15 years of one of America’s most influential postwar painters.
The show, after years of preparation, will be delayed until 2024. The stated reason is to let the institutions rethink their presentation of Guston’s later figurative paintings, which feature men in hoods reminiscent of Ku Klux Klan members, and which, a National Gallery spokesperson said, risked being “misinterpreted” today.
In the open letter, the artists, “shocked and disappointed,” accuse the museums — the National Gallery, Tate Modern in London, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston — both of betraying Guston’s art and of patronizing the public they are supposed to serve.
The postponement, they write, is an admission of the museums’ “longstanding failure to have educated, integrated, and prepared themselves to meet the challenge of the renewed pressure for racial justice that has developed over the past five years.” They demand that the Guston exhibition take place as scheduled, and that the museums “do the necessary work to present this art in all its depth and complexity.”
Surely these paintings are as relevant in the Trump years as they were in Nixon’s America. Postponing the exhibition until 2024 guarantees that public discussions of their import won’t happen until after Trump’s second term if he is reelected. This reminds me of the many efforts to ban Mark Twain’s profoundly anti-racist novel Huckleberry Finn because of Twain’s use of the N-word.
Read more at Art News: Controversial Philip Guston Show Postponement Met with Shock and Anger from Art Community. See also this statement (and more art works) from Guston’s daughter Musa Mayor: Philip Guston: The Danger is in Looking Away.
Now on to today’s news. Trump’s dumpster fire of a debate performance on Tuesday night is still drawing reactions.
The New York Times Editorial Board: A Debate That Can’t Be Ignored. Americans need to face the man who is their president.
President Trump’s was a national disgrace. His refusal to condemn white supremacists, or to pledge that he will accept the results of the election, betrayed the people who entrusted him with the highest office in the land. Every American has a responsibility to look and listen and take the full measure of the man. Ignorance can no longer be a tenable excuse. Conservatives in pursuit of long-cherished policy goals can no longer avoid the reality that Mr. Trump is vandalizing the principles and integrity of our democracy.
It’s a tired frame, but consider how Americans would judge a foreign election where the incumbent president scorned the democratic process as a fraud and called on an armed, violent, white supremacist group to “stand by” to engage with his political rivals.
The debate was excruciating to watch for anyone who loves this country, because of the mirror it held up to the United States in 2020: a nation unmoored from whatever was left of its civil political traditions, awash in conspiratorial disinformation, incapable of agreeing on what is true and what are lies, paralyzed by the horror of a pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands and beholden to a political system that doesn’t reflect the majority of the country.
The debate featured one politician trying his best to do his job, trying to bring some normalcy to America’s battered public square, and one politician who seemed incapable of self-control — petulant, self-centered, rageful.
Read the rest at the NYT.
Shortly after Donald and Ivana Trump’s son was born, however, the future president had an unusual concern for a parent: What if this kid grows up and embarasses me?
“What should we name him?” Donald asked, according to Ivana’s memoir, Raising Trump. When Ivana suggested Donald Jr., the real-estate heir responded, “What if he is a loser?”
That anecdote helps explain one of the more memorable exchanges in Tuesday night’s presidential debate, as well as Trump’s approach to governance. The president’s Democratic rival, Joe Biden, sought to criticize Trump’s remarks about U.S. service members being “losers,” as first reported by The Atlantic. In doing so, Biden brought up his late son, Beau, who died of a brain tumor after earning a Bronze Star in the Army National Guard.
“My son was in Iraq and spent a year there,” Biden said to Trump, raising his voice. “He got the Bronze Star. He got a medal. He was not a loser. He was a patriot. And the people left behind there were heroes.”
In an attempt to neutralize the attack, Trump changed the subject—to Biden’s other son, Hunter. “Hunter got thrown out of the military; he was thrown out, dishonorably discharged for cocaine use,” he spat out.
To a person who feared sharing his name with his son at the moment of his birth, because the child might turn out to be a “loser,” that attack must have seemed devastating. But normal parents don’t stop loving their children because they do bad things. They love them anyway. That’s what being a parent is.
Biden responded by reaffirming his love for his surviving son. “My son, like a lot of people, like a lot of people you know at home, had a drug problem,” Biden responded. “He’s overtaken it. He’s fixed it. He’s worked on it. And I’m proud of him. I’m proud of my son.” [….]
More than any other moment of the debate, Trump’s response to Biden’s invocation of his dead son—attempting to make him ashamed of his surviving one—threw the dispositions of the two men into sharp relief. I wondered how Hunter must have felt to see his father speak of his pride in his brother, only for his own name to be brandished as a weapon to inflict shame on his father. And I thought about Biden’s response, which was to reaffirm his pride in Hunter, the troubled son living in the indelible shadow of a departed war hero. In the midst of being attacked by a president trying to wield his own family against him, Biden’s instinct was to reassure Hunter that he is also loved, that nothing could make his father see him as a loser.
Read more at The Atlantic.
At The Washington Post, Eric Garcia wrote about his own struggle with addiction and how Trump’s words will affect other recovering people: Trump’s attack on Hunter Biden will only increase the stigma of addiction.
As saccharine as it sounds, the president of the United States is also the president of screw-ups, addicts and hopefuls like me and Hunter Biden. But Trump’s comments made clear that he believes that an addict’s actions can be used against our families to attack their character.
That will make us less willing to talk about our problems and get the help we need. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says explicitly that stigma can make people with substance abuse disorders less willing to seek treatment. And that makes sense. If your addiction is going to be used against you, why try to get better?
Hunter Biden’s problems with alcohol, drugs and women have been well-documented. (News reports show that, contrary to what Trump said Tuesday, Hunter was not dishonorably discharged from the Navy Reserve when he tested positive for cocaine in 2014.) Those demons were enough of an issue that when the former vice president began running last year, the New Yorker published a piece asking whether they would “jeopardize his father’s campaign.” That story ran a few days before I finally hit bottom myself.
I don’t know Hunter Biden, but I do know that worrying that your own actions could hurt the people you love is one of the things that tears an addict up inside.
I hope you’ll read the rest.
The debate also raised fears about Trump stealing the election, by suppressing votes, encouraging white supremacist violence, and using the courts.
The Daily Beast: Trump’s Crew of Far-Right Vigilante Poll Watchers Is Coming.
The truck-revving, banner-waving, loudspeaker-blaring pro-Trump rally took place, conveniently, on Sept. 19, the first Saturday of early voting in the swing state of Virginia, in a parking lot where voters in Democratic-leaning Fairfax County were lined up to cast their ballots. Some Trump supporters drove circles around the voters while others—many without face masks—mingled with the line, chanting and waving flags.
“We had a couple poll observers there that had to actually escort voters in because we saw people that would get to the edge of the parking lot, and see this giant group of Trumpers yelling and screaming,” Jack Kiraly, executive director of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, told The Daily Beast, adding that the scene reminded him of the volunteers who escort people past anti-abortion protesters outside women’s health clinics.
So during Tuesday night’s remarkably unhinged presidential debate, when President Donald Trump urged his supporters to take unsanctioned actions at polling places, Kiraly was reminded of what Fairfax County voters had witnessed earlier this month.
During the debate, Trump appeared to tell the far-right paramilitary group the Proud Boys to “stand by” and urged fans to “go into the polls and watch very carefully” for voter fraud, an exceedingly rare phenomenon Trump has crafted into a cornerstone of his political identity. For close observers of the far right, as well as officials like Kiraly, the remarks amounted to the latest warning that an embattled president might use his supporters to impede fair elections, or to cast the results of those elections in doubt.
If the prospect of election-related violence was already looming over the first presidential contest since Trump effectively welcomed the paramilitary far-right into the Republican Party, the debate made the alarm bells ring even louder.
David Sanger at The New York Times: Tuesday’s Debate Made Clear the Gravest Threat to the Election: The President Himself.
President Trump’s angry insistence in the last minutes of Tuesday’s debate that there was no way the presidential election could be conducted without fraud amounted to an extraordinary declaration by a sitting American president that he would try to throw any outcome into the courts, Congress or the streets if he was not re-elected….
Mr. Trump’s unwillingness to say he would abide by the result, and his disinformation campaign about the integrity of the American electoral system, went beyond anything President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia could have imagined. All Mr. Putin has to do now is amplify the president’s message, which he has already begun to do….
The president began the debate with a declaration that balloting already underway was “a fraud and a shame” and proof of “a rigged election.”
It quickly became apparent that Mr. Trump was doing more than simply trying to discredit the mail-in ballots that are being used to ensure voters are not disenfranchised by a pandemic — the same way of voting that five states have used for years with minimal fraud.
He followed it by encouraging his supporters to “go into the polls” and “watch very carefully,” which seemed to be code words for a campaign of voter intimidation, aimed at those who brave the coronavirus risks of voting in person.
And Mr. Trump’s declaration that the Supreme Court would have to “look at the ballots” and that “we might not know for months because these ballots are going to be all over” seemed to suggest that he would try to place the election in the hands of a court where he has been rushing to cement a conservative majority with his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
And if he cannot win there, he has already raised the possibility of using the argument of a fraudulent election to throw the decision to the House of Representatives, where he believes he has an edge because every state delegation gets one vote in resolving an election with no clear winner. At least for now, 26 of those delegations have a majority of Republican representatives.
And of course Trump’s final backstop could be to trigger mass violence by his white supremacist supporters.
I’m running out of space, but I’ll post more links in the comment thread. Have a nice Thursday, and please check in with us if you have the time and inclination. We love to hear from you!
Mary Trump’s book was released on Tuesday, and the court affirmed her right to freedom of speech, so she is now speaking out about her the horrific family that produced Donald Trump. She’ll be interviewed tonight by Rachel Maddow–that should be interesting. She gave an interview to The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker yesterday: Mary Trump says the U.S. has devolved into a version of her ‘incredibly dysfunctional family.
Mary L. Trump, President’s Trump’s niece, said that watching the country’s leadership devolve into “a macro version of my incredibly dysfunctional family” was one of the factors that compelled her to write her book, “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.”
In an interview Wednesday with The Washington Post, Mary Trump said she blames “almost 100 percent” her grandfather, Fred Trump — the family patriarch whom she describes as a “sociopath” in her 214-page memoir of sorts — for creating the conditions that led to Trump’s rise and, ultimately, what she views as his dangerous presidency.
Much like in her extended family, Mary Trump said, a similar dynamic is now playing out on the national stage, with Trump simultaneously possessing “an unerring instinct for finding people who are weaker than he is,” while also being “eminently usable by people who are stronger and savvier than he is” and eager to exploit him.
Assessing the current moment, in which Trump has amplified racism and stoked the flames of white grievance and resentment, Mary Trump said that the president is “clearly racist,” but that his behavior stems from a combination of upbringing and political cynicism.
“It comes easily to him and he thinks it’s going to score him points with the only people who are continuing to support him,” she said.
Mary Trump said that growing up in her family, her experience was one of “a knee-jerk anti-Semitism, a knee-jerk racism.”
“Growing up, it was sort of normal to hear them use the n-word or use anti-Semitic expressions,” she said.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
It seems that the majority of Americans are finally waking up to the truth about Trump. After what happened in 2016, I won’t feel confident until after the election, but things are looking very bad for a second Trump term. Here’s the latest:
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden holds a double-digit lead nationally over President Donald Trump, with 7 in 10 voters saying the country is on the wrong track and majorities disapproving of the president’s handling of the coronavirus and race relations.
Those are the major findings of a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that comes 3½ months before the presidential election, amid a pandemic that has killed about 140,000 people in the U.S. and during protests and debates over race across the country.
The poll shows Biden ahead of Trump by 11 points among registered voters, 51 percent to 40 percent, which is well outside the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.
Biden’s lead in last month’s poll was 7 points, 49 percent to 42 percent.
In addition, the poll shows Democrats enjoying an intensity advantage heading into November, and it has Trump’s job rating declining to 42 percent — its lowest level in two years.
“The atmosphere and the attitudes toward Donald Trump are the most challenging an incumbent president has faced since Jimmy Carter in 1980 and Lyndon Johnson in 1968,” said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, whose firm conducted the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies.
Nate Cohn at The New York Times: Even if the Polls Are Really Off, Trump Is Still in Trouble.
With Joe Biden claiming almost a double-digit lead in national polls, one question still seems to loom over the race: Can we trust the polls after 2016?
It’s a good question. But for now, it’s not as important as you might guess. If the election were held today, Mr. Biden would win the presidency, even if the polls were exactly as wrong as they were four years ago.
The reason is simple: His lead is far wider than Hillary Clinton’s was in the final polls, and large enough to withstand another 2016 polling meltdown.
This is not to say that President Trump can’t win. There are still nearly four months to go until the election — more than enough time for the race and the polls to change. The race changed on several occasions over the final months in 2016. And this race has already changed significantly in the last four months. According to FiveThirtyEight, three months ago Mr. Biden held a lead of only about four points.
Read more at the NYT link.
Yesterday, Trump demoted campaign manager Brad Parscale and replaced him with Bill Stepian, the guy who helped Chris Christie with Bridgegate. The Daily Beast: Trump Campaign Chief Was Edged Out ‘Weeks Ago.’ Now He’s Officially Demoted.
President Donald Trump has removed Brad Parscale as his campaign manager, installing instead Bill Stepien, his former second-in-command, in the role. Parscale had held the position since February 2018.
Parscale will remain a part of the campaign as a senior adviser overseeing digital operations, per a Facebook post from the commander-in-chief….
Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, delivered the news, according to ABC.
The move was the culmination of multiple elevations and additions to Team Trump earlier this year that amounted to alleviating Parscale of certain key responsibilities, even if he remained at the time as a campaign manager in title. For instance, Stepien and Jason Miller, another top Trump 2020 official who previously worked as a senior aide on the 2016 team and Trump presidential transition, had for weeks largely taken the helm on strategy, with Parscale generally focusing on duties that the president tweeted on Wednesday evening would remain in his portfolio after the demotion, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
In substance and assignments, “this ‘shakeup’ happened weeks ago,” one of these individuals said. “Difference [tonight] is that it’s now official in everyone’s titles.”
Of course Jared is really the one in charge of the campaign.
Trump’s planned convention in Florida keeps shrinking. Axios: RNC to restrict attendance at Florida convention amid coronavirus surge.
The Republican National Committee will move to significantly limit attendance at its nominating convention events in Jacksonville, Fla., next month, party chairwoman Ronna McDaniel wrote in a Thursday letter to members, Politico reports.
What’s happening: Only delegates will be able to attend the convention on the first three nights. On the fourth night, when President Trump will give his acceptance speech — which may take place outdoors — delegates will be able to bring a guest, while alternate delegates will also be permitted to attend.
— “Adjustments must be made to comply with state and local health guidelines,” McDaniel wrote. “I want to make clear that we still intend to host a fantastic convention celebration in Jacksonville.”
— Florida’s coronavirus outbreak has continued to worsen in recent weeks. The state reported 15,299 new coronavirus cases on Sunday — a single-day record for any state</blockquote
The coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen, while Trump refuses to do anything to help states where the virus is raging out of control. The latest alarming coronavirus stories:
Hackers from Russia’s intelligence services have attempted to steal information related to COVID-19 vaccine development from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, British officials said Thursday.
A group called “APT29, also known as “the Dukes” or “Cozy Bear” has been using malware to target various groups across the three countries, the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre said in a statement.
It said the United States’ National Security Agency agrees with the assessment.
This is a breaking news report. Please check back for updates.
There is no mystery in the number of Americans dying from COVID-19.
Despite political leaders trivializing the pandemic, deaths are rising again: The seven-day average for deaths per day has now jumped by more than 200 since July 6, according to data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic. By our count, states reported 855 deaths today, in line with the recent elevated numbers in mid-July.
The deaths are not happening in unpredictable places. Rather, people are dying at higher rates where there are lots of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations: in Florida, Arizona, Texas, and California, as well as a host of smaller southern states that all rushed to open up.
The deaths are also not happening in an unpredictable amount of time after the new outbreaks emerged. Simply look at the curves yourself. Cases began to rise on June 16; a week later, hospitalizations began to rise. Two weeks after that—21 days after cases rose—states began to report more deaths. That’s the exact number of days that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated from the onset of symptoms to the reporting of a death.
Many people who don’t want COVID-19 to be the terrible crisis that it is have clung to the idea that more cases won’t mean more deaths. Some Americans have been perplexed by a downward trend of national deaths, even as cases exploded in the Sun Belt region. But given the policy choices that state and federal officials have made, the virus has done exactly what public-health experts expected. When states reopened in late April and May with plenty of infected people within their borders, cases began to grow. COVID-19 is highly transmissible, makes a large subset of people who catch it seriously ill, and kills many more people than the flu or any other infectious disease circulating in the country.
President Donald Trump isn’t leading America much as its pandemic worsens. But that’s not stopping Walmart — along with Kroger, Kohl’s, and city and state leaders and officials — from making the tough decisions that the President has shirked.
Given Trump’s approach, if the country is to exit the building disaster without many more thousands dead, it will fall to governors, mayors, college presidents and school principals, teachers and grocery store managers to execute plans balancing public health with the need for life to go on.
There were growing indications Wednesday that such centers of authority across the country are no longer waiting for cues from an indifferent President whose aggressive opening strategy has been discredited by a tsunami of infections and whose poll numbers are crashing as a result.
More school districts — in Houston and San Francisco, for example — are defying the President’s demand for all kids to go back to class in the fall.
Head over to CNN to read more examples of state and local leaders acting on their own.
It’s just another sad and frustrating day in an American held hostage by Trump’s dysfunctional “presidency.” Hang in there, Sky Dancers! We will survive this somehow.
I said this a few days ago, and I’m still feeling it: I don’t want to live in this world. America’s toxic culture of white supremacy and mass shootings is spreading around the globe, enabled by Trump. I stayed offline for much of the day yesterday so I wouldn’t have to read about the horror in New Zealand.
I did hear last night that somehow the massacre on the other side of the world was the fault of Chelsea Clinton. At least according to some Bernie Sanders supporters. Here’s the video of a young women in a Bernie T-shirt poking her finger at Chelsea and screaming in her face.
Clinton, who attended and worked at the university in various capacities, including co-founding the Of Many Institute for Multifaith Leadership, was said to be invited to the vigil, according to students at the vigil.
But Clinton’s presence at the vigil was not a welcome sight for at least two activists who were at the vigil.
A video went viral on Twitter Friday night showing a confrontation between Clinton and a student activist, filmed and tweeted out by a friend, who can be seen in the video telling Clinton, “This right here is the result of a massacre stoked by people like you and the words that you put into the world. And I want you to know that and I want you to feel that deeply — 49 people died because of the rhetoric you put out there.” [….]
On Twitter, an account that appears to belong to the student activist wrote, “the CAUCASITY that chelsea clinton has showing up to a vigil for the 49 muslims massacred in an islamophobic hate crime after STOKING ISLAMOPHOBIA AND RACISM surrounding ilhan omar… f—ing ridiculous.” The account retweeted the video, posted by her “best friend,” writing, “apparently my brand is yelling at white politicians.”
Fact check: Chelsea Clinton is not a politician. Chelsea’s offense was that she sent a tweet about anti-semitism, after which she politely interacted with Rep Ilhan Omar, who had been criticized for tweets about politicians supporting Israel because they received donations from AIPAC. Here is what Clinton tweeted: “We should expect all elected officials, regardless of party, and all public figures to not traffic in anti-Semitism.”
On the other hand, let’s take a look at Trump’s history. Brian Klaas at The Washington Post: A short history of President Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry.
Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry has a long history. In 2011 and 2012, Trump insinuated that President Barack Obama was secretly Muslim. In September 2015, at a campaign rally, Trump nodded along as a supporter claimed “we have a problem in this country; it’s called Muslims.” Trump continued nodding, saying “right,” and “we need this question!” as the supporter then proceeded to ask Trump “when can we get rid of them [Muslims]?” In response, Trump said: “We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things.”
In November 2015, on “Morning Joe,” Trump said that America needs to “watch and study the mosques.” Four days later, he indicated that he would “certainly implement” a database to track Muslims in the United States. Two days after that, he falsely claimedthat “thousands and thousands” of Muslims cheered in New Jersey when the World Trade Center collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001.
Then came the most egregious statement — one that should haunt Trump’s legacy forever and taint everyone who supported him subsequently: On Dec. 7, 2015, he called to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. Three days later, Trump tweeted that the United Kingdom is “trying hard to disguise their massive Muslim problem.” On March 9, 2016, Trump falsely claimed that “Islam hates us.”
Upon taking office, Trump surrounded himself with anti-Muslim bigots. Sebastian Gorka, a former Trump adviser, was fired by the FBI for his Islamophobia. Michael Flynn, Trump’s disgraced national-security-adviser-turned-felon, said that Islam “is like a cancer.” And top officials such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton have also stoked hatred of Islam.
In late November 2017, Trump retweeted three videos by Jayda Fransen. She was one of the leaders of Britain First, a neo-fascist hate group. She has been convicted of multiple hate-crime offensesand was involved in organizing “Christian patrols,” which included what Britain First called “mosque invasions” aimed at intimidating British Muslims. While Fransen was out on bail, she appeared on Radio Aryan, a neo-Nazi radio station. Her interview began right after the station concluded its reading from “Mein Kampf.” That is who the president of the United States chose to amplify to his millions and millions of Twitter followers.
There’s much more at the link if you can stand to read it.
President Donald Trump just used similar language to describe immigrants coming into the United States that the alleged mass shooter did to justify killing nearly 50 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand.
On Friday, Trump issued the first veto of his presidency to override a congressional blockade of the national emergency he declared at America’s southern border. During the veto signing ceremony, Trump explained why he felt a national emergency was warranted to stop migrants from entering the US.
“People hate the word ‘invasion,’ but that’s what it is,” he said, according to the White House pool report.
That is chillingly similar to the language the main suspect in Friday’s Christchurch terrorist attack used to explain why he chose to gun down at least 49 Muslims. In the rambling 74-page manifesto the 28-year-old suspected shooter posted online shortly before the attack, he writes that he was committing the killings “to show the invaders that our lands will never be their lands.”
It’s also the same language the man who killed 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh last October used: In that case, the perpetrator blamed Jews for helping what he called “invaders”in the Central American migrant caravans who were trying to enter the US.
Informative articles on the New Zealand terrorist attack, links only:
David C. Atkinson at The New Republic: The Longer History of the Christchurch Attacks. For over a century, the United States has played a role in inspiring and enabling white supremacy in Australia and New Zealand.
More interesting reads to check out
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has a fascinating story on that former Putin pal who supposedly died accidentally in a DC hotel room: Exclusive: Washington Autopsy Files Reveal Lesin Sustained Broken Bone In Neck.
WASHINGTON — Mikhail Lesin, the former Russian press minister who turned up dead in a Washington hotel room in 2015, sustained a fracture to a neck bone just below the jaw line “at or near the time” of his death, according to documents released by the city’s medical examiner that provide new details about his final days….
That detail, however, and others contained in the 149-page file released exclusively to RFE/RL offer the most precise scientific description to date about Lesin’s death, which officials ruled accidental and said was caused by blunt-force injuries amid excessive alcohol consumption.
Once a powerful media adviser to President Vladimir Putin, Lesin fell out of favor with the Kremlin elite sometime around 2012 and had lowered his public profile before he was discovered dead in the Dupont Circle Hotel, located a few blocks from the White House, on November 5, 2015….
Among the new details revealed by the documents:
• Lesin’s hyoid — a bone located about midway between the larynx and the jaw bone — was completely fractured;
• The FBI considered possibly taking over the case in early 2016. It wasn’t clear whether the agency formally did so, though earlier files released by the agency show its agents were involved in questioning witnesses and examining video recordings from hotel cameras;
• Lesin’s son, Anton, who lives in Beverly Hills, California, told investigators he did not know why his father was in the U.S. capital, and also reported that Lesin regularly had serious bouts of drinking while on business trips;
• The day after the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner released an initial report, one of its officials was summoned to appear before a criminal grand jury looking into Lesin’s death;
• In a report filed the day of Lesin’s death, a forensic investigator with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner wrote that a detective had called and said a “friend” of the former Russian official had contacted him and “inquired about the decedent’s location.”
Read many more details at the link.
The media has begun vetting Beto O’Rourke. Two interesting reads:
While a teenager, O’Rourke acknowledged in an exclusive interview, he belonged to the oldest group of computer hackers in U.S. history.
The hugely influential Cult of the Dead Cow, jokingly named after an abandoned Texas slaughterhouse, is notorious for releasing tools that allowed ordinary people to hack computers running Microsoft’s Windows. It’s also known for inventing the word “hacktivism” to describe human-rights-driven security work.
Members of the group have protected O’Rourke’s secret for decades, reluctant to compromise his political viability. Now, in a series of interviews, CDC members have acknowledged O’Rourke as one of their own. In all, more than a dozen members of the group agreed to be named for the first time in a book about the hacking group by this reporter that is scheduled to be published in June by Public Affairs. O’Rourke was interviewed early in his run for the Senate.
There is no indication that O’Rourke ever engaged in the edgiest sorts of hacking activity, such as breaking into computers or writing code that enabled others to do so. But his membership in the group could explain his approach to politics better than anything on his resume. His background in hacking circles has repeatedly informed his strategy as he explored and subverted established procedures in technology, the media and government.
“There’s just this profound value in being able to be apart from the system and look at it critically and have fun while you’re doing it,” O’Rourke said. “I think of the Cult of the Dead Cow as a great example of that.”
That doesn’t seem to problematic to me. As younger candidates come forward, they are likely to have on-line histories. This story from Politico is a bit more embarrassing: O’Rourke ‘not … proud’ of teenage murder fantasy writing.
Beto O’Rourke said Friday he is “not … proud” of fiction he wrote as teenager about murdering children, while acknowledging its surfacing could hurt his campaign.
“Stuff I was part of as a teenager … not anything that I’m proud of today,” O’Rourke told reporters outside a meet-and-greet here. “And I mean, that’s the long and short of it.”
O’Rourke’s remarks followed a report in Reuters that O’Rourke, as a young member of the computer hacking group Cult of the Dead Cow, wrote an online article about how society could work without money and, in a more disturbing missive, about killing children.
“One day, as I was driving home from work, I noticed two children crossing the street. They were happy, happy to be free from their troubles. … This happiness was mine by right. I had earned it in my dreams,” he wrote, according to Reuters. “As I neared the young ones, I put all my weight on my right foot, keeping the accelerator pedal on the floor until I heard the crashing of the two children on the hood, and then the sharp cry of pain from one of the two. I was so fascinated for a moment, that when after I had stopped my vehicle, I just sat in a daze, sweet visions filling my head.”
There’s more of this stuff, definitely creepy; but it was a long time ago. Bernie Sanders survived his early fantasy writings about rape and his theories about breast cancer being caused by sexual frustration.
What else is happening? What stories are you following today?
The photos in this post are from the Stand Up for Science Rally in Boston on Friday.
How bad is the tRump presidency? Elderly people who remember great presidents like FDR are dissing tRump in their obituaries. Liz Smith of Norwalk, Ohio, died on Feb. 13. From her obit:
She was born June 12, 1929 in Pittsburgh, PA to the late Leo N. and Cathrine (Picker) Hierholzer. She was a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania and received her Bachelor’s of Science in Music Education. She was a switchboard operator for many years. She was a lifetime member of Girl Scouts USA and was a 45 year volunteer for Erie Shores Girl Scout Council, and for 25 years she was a driving force behind Norwalk’s Girl Scout Day Camp. She was a recipient of the Thanks Badge, which is the highest award in Girl Scouting. She volunteered for the United Fund, Salvation Army soup kitchen, participated in crop walk, visited shut-ins at nursing homes, was an MDA Volunteer and a member of Huron County Democratic Party and a poll worker. She was an active member of St. Mary Catholic Church and served on parish council, renovation committee, finance council, funeral luncheons and parish festival committees , office aide at St. Mary’s, former Eucharistic minister and liaison for the Toledo Diocesan Association for the parish. She enjoyed traveling, especially to Yellowstone Park and heli-hiking in the Canadian Rockies, white water rafting on the New River in West Virginia and the Snake River in Idaho, Orient Express trip from Vienna to Paris, entire tour of Nova Scotia including Cape Breton. Liz is smiling now, not to be living during the Trump Presidency.
She isn’t the only one. See more at Indy100.
Over the weekend, VP Mike Pence and Defense Sec. James Mattis were travelling around the world trying to convince U.S. allies that they–not the actual president–speak for our country. Today Reuters reports that the “White House delivered EU-skeptic message before Pence visit – sources.”
In the week before U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited Brussels and pledged America’s “steadfast and enduring” commitment to the European Union, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon met with a German diplomat and delivered a different message, according to people familiar with the talks.
Bannon, these people said, signalled to Germany’s ambassador to Washington that he viewed the EU as a flawed construct and favoured conducting relations with Europe on a bilateral basis.
Three people who were briefed on the meeting spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter. The German government and the ambassador, Peter Wittig, declined to comment, citing the confidentiality of the talks.
A White House official who checked with Bannon in response to a Reuters query confirmed the meeting had taken place but said the account provided to Reuters was inaccurate. “They only spoke for about three minutes and it was just a quick hello,” the official said.
The sources described a longer meeting in which Bannon took the time to spell out his world view. They said his message was similar to the one he delivered to a Vatican conference back in 2014 when he was running the right-wing website Breitbart News.
In those remarks, delivered via Skype, Bannon spoke favourably about European populist movements and described a yearning for nationalism by people who “don’t believe in this kind of pan-European Union.
“Western Europe, he said at the time, was built on a foundation of “strong nationalist movements”, adding: “I think it’s what can see us forward”.
Who should we believe: multiple sources who spoke to Reuters or the the lying White House? This morning Anita Kumar of Reuters (via The Miami Herald) asks how long Pence will have influence on policy: Pence has clout in Trump White House, but for how long?
Donald Trump has given Pence, whose connections, conservative credentials and knowledge of policy far outstrip those of his boss, a role that has him at the president’s elbow every day, relying on Pence to navigate Washington in ways that other modern presidents have not needed.
Pence is in the Oval Office when Trump calls foreign leaders. He’s in the room when the president meets with business executives, county sheriffs and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He’s there holding the executive orders after the president signs them. And he always has the best seat in the house when Trump holds a news conference.
Trump likens himself to a CEO who surrounds himself with multiple advisers, and it’s clear right now that Trump feels comfortable having Pence around. But observers caution it may not end up that way, as the new White House shakes itself out and other advisers learn the ways of Washington.
“Everything is going to depend on who Donald Trump believes is trustworthy,” said Leslie Lenkowsky, a former professor at Indiana University who has known Pence for two decades.
Pence’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump and Pence didn’t know each other well before Trump tapped him to be his running mate last summer. Pence had endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, for president just days before the crucial Indiana primary and had criticized Trump for, among others things, calling for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country.
Kumar isn’t specific about what she thinks might lead to a break between tRump and Pence, but after this weekend, I think Americans and Europeans are wondering when Pence will be sent to the doghouse.
The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin (via The Chicago Tribune) asks: Will it soon be Donald Trump vs. Mike Pence?
Trump, like most demagogues, needs an enemy — the elites, the press, Clinton. If he had to survive on his own merits and accomplishments, he’d flop. Press or Trump? Clinton or Trump? It’s all a tactic to keep his own popularity high, or as high as it can be.
Alas, the technique has not really paid off since people tend to judge presidents in office on what they do in office. Trump’s historically horrendous approval numbers (38 approve, 56 disapprove in Gallup; Pew had a nearly identical split, 39/56.) As Trump’s performance sends more voters, and lawmakers, reeling and the investigation of his and his aides’ ties to Russia get underway, we should remember how critical Vice President Mike Pence becomes. If things get really bad — impeachment or some 25th Amendment “solution” — the choice will not be Trump vs. Clinton. It will be Trump vs. Pence, who’d take over if Trump left or was removed. Uh-oh. Pence is in positive territory (43/39 in the Pollster.com average), and among Republicans, especially those on Capitol Hill, he’s exceptionally popular.
In other words, if down the road the president continues to unravel, there may be a very big bipartisan consensus to show Trump the door. It’s not like they’d be getting Clinton; they’d be getting the not erratic, not flashy, not crazy Mike Pence.
Speaking of Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady, Secretary of State, and presidential candidate has spoken out about Trump’s refusal to condemn the many anti-Semitic threats and attacks around the country. The Washington Post: After weekend of anti-Semitic acts, Clinton urges Trump to ‘speak out.’
Hillary Clinton called on President Trump on Tuesday to speak out against anti-Semitic vandalism and threats after more than 170 Jewish graves were found toppled at a cemetery in Missouri.
A tweet from Clinton did not specifically mention the gravesite disturbances in University City, Mo., but noted increasing reports of “troubling” threats against Jewish community centers, cemetery desecrations and online intimidation.
She urged her former presidential campaign rival to lead denunciations amid complains by critics that the White House has not spoken out forcefully enough against anti-Semitic acts.
And what do you know? Trump has finally said something, according to Politico: Trump calls anti-Semitism ‘horrible.’
President Donald Trump on Tuesday decried anti-Semitism, calling recent threats against Jewish community centers “horrible” and a “reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.”
“This tour was a meaningful reminder of why we ha ave to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms,” Trump said Tuesday, delivering brief remarks after visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture for the first time. “The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.
”Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton had called on Trump earlier Tuesday to speak out against anti-Semitic violence, an issue he side-stepped at his press conference last week….
Ahead of his brief address, the president had told MSNBC’s Craig Melvin that “anti-Semitism is horrible and it’s gonna stop and it has to stop.” He added that the racial divide in America is “age-old” and speculated that “something” is going on that prevents the country from fully healing.
Yeah, “something” is definitely going on–a bunch of ignorant white people elected a racist POTUS. The ADL had also called on tRump to speak out. It really doesn’t seem like enough to me, but it’s a start. Here’s a summary of what’s been happening from HuffPo: Jewish Community Centers Across the Country Hit with Another Wave of Bomb Threats.
Forcing evacuations in ten states Monday. There have been 67 incidents at 56 Jewish community centers in 27 states and one Canadian province since the start of 2017. Vandals also toppled over 100 headstones at a prominent Jewish cemetery in St. Louis. Ivanka Trump, who converted to Judaism, tweeted about the incidentsMonday, and not all of Twitter was pleased.
Here’s a report on the vandalizing of a the Jewish cemetery from The St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Up to 200 headstones damaged at Jewish cemetery, director says.
Anita Feigenbaum, executive director of the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, said officials will be cataloging the damage Tuesday and notifying relatives whose families are affected. A monument company will decide which headstones need to be replaced and which need to be reset, she said.
Feigenbaum was emotional in describing the damage she saw.
“It’s hard to even express how terrible it was,” she said Tuesday morning. “It was horrible.”
Police are investigating the vandalism, which happened sometime over the weekend. No arrests had been made, as of Tuesday. Asked whether the incident is being investigated as a hate crime, Detective Lt. Fredrick Lemons II said police were keeping all options open….
The damage was done to an older part of the cemetery, on the southeast end. In one swath, for example, spread across about 40 yards, two dozen stones are toppled but 10 rows of stones nearby are untouched. A semicircle of destruction included stones marked with names of Schaefer, Weisman, Weinstein, Pearl and Levinson, but one headstone in the middle, with the name Levy, was unscathed. The years of death on these stones ranged from about 1921 to 1962.
Visitors streamed in to see if their family stones were pushed over.
Trump and the Bannon crowd own this.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!
I’m illustrating this post with baby animals and their mothers, because I’m just about to the point that I need to sleep with a teddy bear at night because of the stress of this presidential election. Donald Trump is holding most of the country hostage as he holes up with his misogynistic, racist, xenophobic white supremacist advisers planning for campaign rallies in which he addresses his shrinking band of loud and angry fans with paranoid, insane monologues about how the media, the Republican “establishment,” “the Clintons” and a supposed “global conspiracy” are trying to rob him of the presidency. It’s all getting to be too much, and we still have 23 days to go before election day.
It has gotten so bad that American Psychological Association is offering tips on how to deal with election stress. The Washington Post reports:
Weeks before The Washington Post made that 2005 video of Donald Trump public, before Trump supporters were interrupting Hillary Clinton rallies by screaming that Bill Clinton is a rapist, before Trump told Clinton to her face that she should be in jail, Americans were already seriously stressed out by this election.
In August, the American Psychological Association included a question in its annual Stress in America survey about this election. It released the results of that particular query on Thursday, and it found that more than half of U.S. adults, regardless of party, felt very or somewhat stressed by the election.
One can only imagine that what’s transpired over the past week has intensified the disgust, anxiety and disbelief felt by so many Americans.
The poll found that people older than 71 are the most stressed out and millennials are the next most “angst-ridden” group. They also found that people who use social media are among the most highly stressed groups.
The suggestions for dealing with the situation are about what you’d expect: Turn off the TV and stop reading the news when it feels like too much and get some exercise or spend time with people you care about; avoid talking to others about politics; think about volunteering or joining a local political group; try not to catastrophize about possible results of the election; and be sure to vote.
Or you could start going to gym, get a professional trainer, do those popular workouts like the russian squat program. Stress-free and healthy at the same time.
Unfortunately, if I could tear myself away from the media coverage and social media, I wouldn’t feel like me anymore. But I’m trying to find ways to stay centered. Like Dakinikat, I’m having life worries too, so it’s all so difficult.
Was yesterday the worst day in the campaign so far? If not, it would have to be close. Trump gave two speeches in which he behaved like a madman, screaming about “the Clintons” and the women who have said he abused them, and even tearing apart his teleprompter on stage the second event. Sopan Deb at CBS News:
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — During Donald Trump’s second rally of the day, he announced dramatically to the crowd that his teleprompter – that he had uncharacteristically relied on for months – had stopped working.
“And I notice every time I look up, they’re trying. It’s trying. It’s straining. It’s straining. Hey, get this thing out of here, will you?” Trump explained.
He physically removed the device that had been telling him what to say and proceeded to speak for nearly an hour – veering from topic to topic, in a kind of stream-of-consciousness manner. It was a rally reminiscent of the barn-burning campaign he ran in the fall.
“You know what? I like it better without the teleprompters,” Trump declared.
Trump acknowledged earlier in the day that those around him did not want him to spend a bulk of his speeches responding to the numerousthat have risen in recent days and weeks.
“Folks, you know my people always say, ‘Oh, don’t talk about it. Talk about jobs. Talk about the economy,’” Trump said in Greensboro, North Carolina earlier in the day. “But I feel I have to talk about it, because you have to dispute when somebody says something, and fortunately we have the microphone. We’re able to dispute. Some people can’t.”
Trump went on to rail against accuser Jessica Leeds, implying that he couldn’t possibly have sexually assaulted her because she was too unattractive. Read more about this disgusting speech at the link.
Jonathan Martin ticked off the low points of Trump’s day at the New York Times: Donald Trump’s Barrage of Heated Rhetoric Has Little Precedent.
There is a long tradition of presidential candidates ratcheting up their language when they are trailing in the closing weeks of an election.
But in the same fashion Donald J. Trump has broken with other political traditions, he is taking a longstanding rite of fall to new heights — or perhaps new lows.
On Thursday and Friday alone, Mr. Trump unleashed a barrage of near-apocalyptic warnings about the potential destruction of the country, broad accusations about the illegitimacy of American democracy, and crude innuendo about his opponent that is almost without precedent in modern presidential history.
He warned that Hillary Clinton was conspiring with financiers to destroy American sovereignty, claimed the fate of civilization depended on his victory and ridiculed the appearance of the one of the women accusing him of sexual harassment, while also deriding Mrs. Clinton’s looks and saying she ought to be in prison. He also said the presidential election amounted to “a big ugly lie.”
While delighting his partisans, Mr. Trump’s rhetorical shooting spree has enraged Democrats and unnerved many Republicans, who believe he is acting out a political death wish.
Please go read the rest at the NYT.
At Slate, William Saletan has going full Godwin: Let’s just say it: Trump sounds more and more like Hitler.
In Godwin’s honor, let’s stipulate: There will never be another psychopath quite like Hitler. The German dictator preached such overt hatred, murdered so many people, and earned such infamy that every demagogue since, from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to David Duke, has learned to draw at least tactical distinctions between himself and the Führer.
Then there’s Trump. He’s a salesman, not a fanatic. He doesn’t foist his hatreds on others. Instead, he reads and plays to the resentments of his crowds. He tells them that President Obama was born in Kenya, that Ted Cruz is a Canadian-born Cuban, and that Ben Carson is a Seventh-day Adventist. Trump will go after a Mexican American judge, a Muslim Gold Star family—whatever he thinks will work.
Jews aren’t on Trump’s target list. His son-in-law and grandkids are Jewish. His daughter, Ivanka, is a Jewish convert. But Trump’s habit of retweeting alt-right material—Hillary Clinton with a Star of David, for instance—has immersed him in the muck of anti-Semitism. And in the past few days, Trump has turned to an ideology of global conspiracy that resembles the speeches of a certain politician from a century ago.
For Trump, the principal enemy is Muslims. He blames Muslim Americans collectively for domestic terrorism—falsely claiming, for instance, that many of them saw but didn’t report the preparations for last year’s attack in San Bernardino, California—and says we should never have let their parents into the country. For Hitler, the interlopers were Jews. Speaking in Munich on July 28, 1922, he lamented that they had been given German citizenship. Jews “have always formed and will form a state within the state,” said Hitler. That’s uncomfortably close to Trump’s warnings about Sharia in the United States.
Jews may not be “on Trump’s target list,” but they are on Steve Bannon’s; and it’s obvious that he’s in charge of Trump’s speeches now. Let’s not forget that Bannon and other white supremacists have openly said that they think they can influence Trump to do their bidding. Saletan goes on to compare some of Trump’s speeches to Hitler’s. Read about it at Slate.
Now, as an antidote to all this Trump hate, please read this article–also at Slate–by L.V. Anderson: Forget This “Hillary Is Unlikable” Stuff. Hillary Is Downright Inspiring.
Expectations for this election have become so warped that the primary conclusions media commentators took away from the second debate were that it had been an ugly, uninspiring affair and that Trump didn’t lose. Let’s set aside the absurdity that a man who brought up his own tax scandal unbidden, who threatened to jail his opponent, who betrayed his absolute ignorance of the nuances of the war in Syria, and whose best zinger amounted to recalling that Abraham Lincoln’s nickname was “Honest Abe” somehow fought to a draw with his opponent. Trump was as ugly and uninspiring as usual. But here’s what people haven’t been saying in the days since the debate: Hillary was inspiring as all get out….
Put yourself in Hillary’s shoes for a moment. You’re 68 years old. You have spent decades—decades—in the public eye, absorbing criticism from every possible angle. Your opponent is an impulsive, amoral ignoramus with a long history of humiliating women. He has made it his strategy during this debate to dredge up what are probably the darkest moments of your personal life—your husband’s affairs and alleged sexual assaults—as evidence of your failures as a wife and as a woman. He has brought three of these women to sit in the front row during the debate in an attempt to throw you off guard and cow you into submission. He literally tells you to your face that he will imprison you if he wins the election.
What would you do? If I were Hillary, I would blubber incomprehensibly through my rage-tears for the duration of the debate, if I lasted onstage that long. What did Hillary do? She stood tall and looked comfortable. She listened carefully to the voters who were asking her questions and offered them empathetic, intelligent, and articulate answers. She serenely and thoughtfully enumerated the character faults that make Trump unfit for office. She laughed it off when Trump insulted her in the most personal of terms. And at the end, she complimented him on his children. Never mind that his children don’t really deserve that compliment—Hillary responded to undeniably sexist personal attacks that are unprecedented in the history of modern American politics with an inspiring level of grace and poise.
Exactly. And when Hillary is POTUS Americans will again see her positively as they did when she was a Senator and then Secretary of State.
Then check out this humorous column by Alexandra Petri at the WaPo: The hideous, diabolical truth about Hillary Clinton. It’s written in the form of a chronological bio based on the right-wing conspiracies about her. Here are the first few paragraphs:
Before Time, Before the Earth Was Made, Before Matter and Being and History: Hillary Clinton (Lucifer, Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies, Prince of Darkness, Satan, She Whose Many Names the Cats Scream in the Night) is cast out of heaven for overweening hubris. She is condemned to lie in eternal torment in a lake of fire surrounded by her fallen angels, or, alternatively, to run for a major office while female. For thousands of years she lies outside time, smelling of sulfur, before deciding to undertake the second option.
Oct. 26, 1947: Hillary Clinton, a robot, is constructed by Saul Alinsky, then slipped into a bassinet and delivered to the Rodham house, where it stores its Six Human, Relatable Memories of squeegeeing, family life and honest toil.
Fall 1965: The young Hillary Clinton is replaced by a new model, this one with glasses. It retains only one of the memories, the squeegeeing. It attends Wellesley, where it decorates itself with spectacles and what conservative commentators will later describe as ONE VAST AND HIDEOUS EYEBROW LIKE A CATERPILLAR IN WHICH MANY WELSH MINERS COULD BE TRAPPED AND LOST AS IN A HORRID, THORNY FOREST.
Spring 1969: Hillary Clinton graduates from Wellesley, although first she gets in touch with Alinsky and his mentor, Satan. She fails to mention at the first meeting that she, too, is Satan, and then once they know each other it seems too awkward to bring it up. As a consequence, the Devil mentors Herself for many decades, wasting everyone’s time and effort. She also founds the Islamic State. She will toil for many years in secret on this passion project, keeping it even from Bill, whom she is about to meet. Once, during his presidency, he will ask, “Is there anything I should know about, Hills?” and she will shrug and say, “Nah.” A bit confusingly, she also begins to fight the Islamic State, which she will spend her entire adult life doing.
Please read the rest at the link.
So . . . what stories are you following? And how are you dealing with election stress? Be sure to take some for yourself this weekend.