Lazy Saturday Reads

Resurrection, by Alma Thomas

Resurrection, by Alma Thomas

Good Afternoon!!

It’s day 29 of the illegimate presidency of Donald tRump and the chaos continues unabated. There are hundreds of stories I could share with you today, and it’s difficult to figure out which is most worthy of attention. I believe that Russian influence on our government has to be number one, but there are many other urgent issues as well. We can’t ignore the truly frightening story of what tRump is trying to do to undocumented immigrants. Of course there really are many more serious concerns, such as tRump’s refusal to accept advice from experts and his war on the free press. So here are a few stories to check out and I hope you’ll add more in the comments.

First, here’s a follow-up to what Dakinikat wrote yesterday about the increasingly public concerns about tRump’s mental health from Dr. Steven Beutler at The New Republic: A Medical Theory for Donald Trump’s Bizarre Behavior. In response to the many questions asked by political leaders, psychologists, and psychiatrists, he writes:

Physicians like me have also taken notice of Trump’s bizarre, volatile behavior. Given our experience, we can’t help but wonder if there’s a medical diagnosis to be made. After all, many medical conditions exhibit their first symptoms in the form of psychiatric issues and personality changes. One condition in particular is notable for doing so: Neurosyphilis.

Syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection, is sometimes referred to as “The Great Imposter” because of its ability to mimic many other conditions. It is commonly broken down into three stages. Primary syphilis is the most widely recognized form of the disease. It is characterized by the development of an ulcer, usually genital, a few weeks to a few months after sexual contact with an infected person. If the ulcer is not noticed, or not treated, it heals on its own, and the disease enters a dormant phase. But during this time, the bacteria—a spirochete called Treponema pallidum—spreads throughout the body without causing any symptoms.

Untitled, by Perle Fine

Untitled, by Perle Fine

A secondary stage of the disease is seen in some patients weeks or months later. These patients may develop a variety of systemic symptoms, such as rash, fever, and swollen glands. If not treated, the infection enters a prolonged latent phase, which can last decades. During this time, it is asymptomatic and it is not contagious. In some cases, this is followed by a tertiary stage, which is the most serious and may involve any organ in the body. It is seen 10 to 30 years after the initial infection, and is best known for causing neurologic and neuropsychiatric disease: Neurosyphilis.

The symptoms of neurosyphilis are protean, varying widely from one individual to another. Commonly recognized symptoms include irritability, loss of ability to concentrate, delusional thinking, and grandiosity. Memory, insight, and judgment can become impaired. Insomnia may occur. Visual problems may develop, including the inability of pupils to react to the light. This, along other ocular pathology, can result in photophobia, dimming of vision, and squinting. All of these things have been observed in Trump. Dementia, headaches, gait disturbances. and patchy hair loss can also be seen in later stages of syphilis.

Beutler of course admits that he cannot make a diagnosis without more information and access to tRump, but he argues that Neurosyphilis needs to be considered as a possibility along with psychological disorders because of tRump’s own public admissions about his sexual history.

Night Creatures, Lee Krasner

Night Creatures, Lee Krasner

Supposedly tRump is going to be interviewing candidates for the National Security Adviser position vacated by Michael Flynn. He has already been turned down by his top two candidates, Adm. Robert Harward and Gen. David Petraeus.

Last night Chris Hayes broke some news about the Harward turndown on his MSNBC show. Business Insider reports: Top national security adviser pick reportedly bailed after seeing Trump’s press conference.

MSNBC host Chris Hayes on Friday cited a former national security official familiar with Harward’s decision who said Harward asked that several demands be met as a condition of accepting the offer:

“Harward wanted to undo the fairly large changes the president had made to the NSC that had inserted Bannon into the process,” Hayes reported.

Citing his source, Hayes said “The White House did not offer Harward sufficient assurances that he would have such autonomy.” Harward wrote a letter declining the offer.

The White House reportedly sought to negotiate with Harward on the matter, which Harward was initially open to, Hayes said, but that changed a short time later.

Lucy, by Mary Abbott

Lucy, by Mary Abbott

On Petraeus, CBS News reports:

Sources close to retired Gen. David Petraeus say the White House eliminated the former CIA director from consideration for the open national security adviser post after he weighed in on the job during a conference in Germany this week.

“Whoever it is that would agree to take that position certainly should do so with some very, very significant assurances that he or she would have authorities over the personnel of the organization — that there would be a commitment to a disciplined process and procedures,” Petraeus said at the Munich Security Conference.

That pronouncement angered the White House as it deepened the sense the next national security adviser must assert authority over staff and the inter-agency process — highlighting the reason Vice Adm. Robert Harward refused to take the job earlier this week. Two sources confirmed to CBS News that Harward had demanded his own team, and the White House resisted.

Sources close to the situation said the White House is content for the time being with acting National Security Adviser Keith Kellogg and does not have a coherent replacement plan in place. Kellogg, a former commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, had been serving as chief of staff and executive secretary of the National Security Council when he took over as the national security adviser.

Apparently, tRump is determined to control the makeup of the NSC, including keeping Steve Bannon on the principals committee. It’s hard to imagine any experienced candidate who would accept that.

Politico: Help wanted: National security adviser who can handle the chaos.

As President Donald Trump prepares to interview more candidates this weekend, accepting the influential policy-making post that oversees a policy staff of hundreds is now widely considered a high-risk gambit, according to current and former government officials and longtime veterans of the National Security Council.

Trump will be forced to “sweeten the deal,” predicted one former Republican NSC official, in order to enlist a high-caliber replacement following the resignation of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn….

Red Ikon, by Sonia Gechtoff

Red Ikon, by Sonia Gechtoff

“I would want to know that I had direct, unimpeded access to the president whenever I felt it was necessary,” said Nicholas Rostow, who served as the top legal adviser to both Colin Powell and Brent Scowcroft when they held the post under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, respectively.

“Historically that job has been one step removed from domestic politics, and the national security adviser and his or her staff have always prided themselves on looking at things through the prism of the national interest — and therefore slightly less political than other positions,” added Rostow, who now teaches political science at Colgate University.

A former high-ranking national security official in the George W. Bush administration, citing the perils of navigating Trump’s dueling power centers, was far more blunt about the challenges awaiting Trump’s would-be national security adviser: “No serious person would take that job. It’s a recipe for disaster.”

If you’re interested in the Russia connection, I hope you had a chance to watch Joy Reid’s show this morning. She had a great segment on Russia’s reaction to the firing their obvious ally Michael Flynn. Here’s a piece Reid wrote about the situation at The Daily Beast: It’s Not Too Early to Ask: Are Even the Russians Turning on Trump?

Trump’s utility to the Russians has never been in his wackiness. It’s been in the potential for him to deliver, as President, a different U.S. foreign policy; one that deemphasizes the traditional Western alliances and frees Russia to operate in the European theater as it pleases, with lifted sanctions and a few lucrative bilateral oil deals to boot.

But Trump as President hasn’t shown any inkling of the kind of competence or political skill—or the political capital—to do any of that. Even his Secretary of State, Exxon’s Rex Tillerson, has sounded a dubious note about the extent to which the United States will allow Moscow to flex its muscle around the world, which had to be a great disappointment to his good friend, “V. Putin,” as Trump labels him in tweets, using the common Russian nomenclature….

Russian leaders seemed palpably freaked out when Gen. Michael Flynn, clearly seen as Moscow’s main man in Washington, was forced out of the Trump administration amid revelations that he conducted secret foreign policy on the phone with the Russian ambassador over Christmas, then lied to the vice president about it. It’s pretty difficult to imagine that Flynn acted without the direction, or at least the approval, of his boss, the then-incoming president.

But more alarming than the phone calls was the fact that Flynn was considered potentially compromised by a foreign power, by the Director of National Intelligence, the acting attorney general of the United States, Sally Yates, and others, and that the White House was told as much and still waited to act. Now, the Kremlin has reportedly ordered Russian media outlets to dial back their glowing Trump coverage, amid uncertainty about what comes next.

Read the whole thing at the link.

Origin,1956 by Jay Defeo. Access. #1980.24 Berkeley Art Museum and Film Archive, Berkeley, CA., USA

Origin,1956 by Jay Defeo. Access. #1980.24
Berkeley Art Museum and Film Archive, Berkeley, CA., USA

More links to explore:

The New York Times: Trump Calls the News Media the ‘Enemy of the American People.’

The Atlantic: Donald Trump’s Plan to Outsource Immigration Enforcement to Local Cops.

The New York Times: Sun, Sand and Influence: For Mar-a-Lago Members, Proximity Is Power.

The New Yorker: Michael Flynn: General Chaos.

Politico: Leaked Trump tape: ‘You are the special people.’ Exclusive audio shows how Trump lets loose at his clubs — inviting guests to join him on staff interviews.

Buzzfeed: Source Says Dr. Ben Carson “Baffled” At Firing Of HUD Staffer. One of Carson’s closest aides was fired from the agency after writings critical of Trump from October resurfaced.

NPR: Trump’s Sons Heading To Dubai As Business Interests Continue To Expand Overseas.

The New York Times: The Downfall of Kellyanne Conway.

CBS News: Trump yells at CIA director over reports intel officials are keeping info from him.

CBS News: “Chill” in flow of intelligence to Trump White House, sources say.

Politico: Trump ignores ‘the grown-ups’ in his Cabinet. Foreign policy chiefs struggle to influence a wobbly White House.

Media Matters: Anti-Semites Praise Trump For Berating Jewish Reporter And Refusing To Condemn Anti-Semitism In Press Conference.

The Washington Post: John McCain just systematically dismantled Donald Trump’s entire worldview.

Note: The images in this post are by women abstract expressionist painters.

Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers!!


Lazy Saturday Reads: Chaos, Turmoil, and Crazies

The Wave, by Edvard Munch

The Wave, by Edvard Munch

Good Afternoon!!

We are living through chaotic times; and the way I see it, we can trace our problems back to Republicans. The drug war and the prison industrial complex began with Richard Nixon; our economic problems began with Ronald Reagan; and the turmoil in the Middle East began with George W. Bush.

Cartoon by Chan Lowe

Cartoon by Chan Lowe

One of the cartoons (see right) that JJ posted last night says it all about Bush and his neocon buddies. The chaos on Capital Hill? That traces back to the Tea Party–a response to the election of a black President by the wingnuts and religious fundamentalists that Bush and Rove enabled.

Can order and harmony ever emerge from the chaos we’re living in right now? I don’t know, but my guess is it will take a very long time. It might require the destruction of the Republican Party as we know it.

Yesterday’s resignation by House Speaker John Boehner is likely to make things even worse in Washington. Josh Marshall’s take: Lord of the Flies on Capitol Hill.

While there are certainly internecine and factional rivalries in the Democratic party, it’s all but impossible to imagine the outpouring of celebration, schadenfreude and smackdowning that is greeting the retirement of Speaker John Boehner. Even a kind word on the day of his retirement appears beyond the ability of most of those he led. Yes, there’s been base clamoring against Nancy Pelosi and even more at certain times with Harry Reid. But it simply doesn’t compare to the angry joy we’re seeing now toward a quarter-century member of the House. The only analogue I can think of is the enmity that grew toward Joe Lieberman. But of course, by that time he wasn’t even a Democrat anymore, let alone one of the party’s top leaders.

An Order of Chaos, Richard Ricker

An Order of Chaos, Richard Ricker

Of course the resemblance to Lord of the Flies stems from the juvenile behavior of the “crazies” in the House. Some of them–see Ted Cruz, for example–have even been able to destroy the traditional courtesy of the Senate.

AP via ABC News: Boehner’s Departure Raises Question: Can House GOP Be Led?

The gulf between tea party conservatives and establishment Republicans has grown so wide that it just swallowed up the speaker of the House, and may threaten the entire Republican Party and Congress itself.

The question now is whether anyone can tame the House’s rabble-rousing faction, in the wake of Speaker John Boehner’s decision to resign rather than face a possible vote to depose him. The stakes are sky-high, given the critical deadlines looming to keep the government running and raise the nation’s borrowing limit.

With the GOP presidential contest riding an anti-establishment wave, it’s almost mandatory for the candidates to denounce Republican congressional leaders at the first sign of any potential compromise with Democrats. Dealmaking is that much tougher in Congress, even as some fear it could harm the party’s chances at the White House in 2016.

The long-running drama of establishment vs. insurgency played out anew Friday on Capitol Hill as tea party conservatives cheered Boehner’s announcement that he will leave his job at the end of October. The move will ensure that the government stays open into December because the 13-term Ohio lawmaker rejected conservative demands to dare President Barack Obama to veto a government spending bill that cuts money for Planned Parenthood.

But Boehner’s announcement only puts off that fight and others, and promises a chaotic leadership struggle that may result in new leaders facing the same fundamental problem: a core group of 30 or so conservative lawmakers repulsed by compromise and commanding enough votes to stymie leadership plans, despite the GOP’s immense majority.

Turmoil, Michael Lang

Turmoil, Michael Lang

The only possible solution is for the Democrats to retake the House.

Bobby Jindal used Boehner’s resignation to make another futile attempt to get support from the crazies. From Talking Points Memo:

“Mitch McConnell, it’s your turn,” Jindal said to loud applause.

The Louisiana governor said he was “actually angrier with the Republicans than with the Democrats” because they “don’t do the things they say they’re going to do.”

“It is time to fire these clowns and restore order once and for all,” he said.

This from the clown who destroyed Louisiana.

A few more reactions to the Boehner resignation:

Back to Chaos, Aldo Tambellini

Back to Chaos, Aldo Tambellini

Politico: Resignation triggers all-out leadership scramble.

CNN: John Boehner’s resignation spells trouble for Jeb Bush.

John Avlon at The Daily Beast: GOP’s Kamikaze Caucus Takes Out John Boehner.

Slate’s XX Factor: In the End, Maybe John Boehner Just Didn’t Love Fetuses Enough.

Mother Jones: Admit It: You’re Kinda Going to Miss John Boehner.

The latest crazy caucus obsession is their effort to defund Planned Parenthood–even to the point of shutting down the government if they don’t get their way. Here in the reality-based world real people will be badly hurt if this effort succeeds.

Crazy Obsession

Sarah Kliff at Vox:  Stat check: No, women couldn’t just “go somewhere else” if Planned Parenthood closed.

Chaos Theory, Erik von Ploennies

Chaos Theory, Erik von Ploennies

The “defund Planned Parenthood” movement has a standard response to the question of where women would go if their local clinic closed: somewhere else.

“There are 13,000 community-based organizations that provide health services to women, 13,000 in this country,” Jeb Bush said at last week’s Republican primary debate. “I don’t believe that Planned Parenthood should get a penny from the federal government.”

Other Republicans make a similar claim. A spokesperson for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) argued that Planned Parenthood’s funding could be diverted to “community health centers and other entities providing health services without abortions.” And on paper, it sounds plausible that 13,000 clinics might be able to absorb Planned Parenthood’s 2.7 million patients who get government help paying for birth control and other reproductive health services.

But a Vox review of academic research, recent Planned Parenthood closures in Texas, and interviews with half a dozen health policy experts suggests the opposite. Historically, researchers have found that when Planned Parenthood clinics close, other clinics do not step up to fill the gap. Meanwhile, when there are fewer reproductive health clinics available, women get less reproductive health care — from birth control to cancer screenings to STD testing and treatment. Unintended pregnancies would likely increase, too.

So while many politicians like to assert that women can “go somewhere else,” the consensus in the literature shows a different picture. Higher-income women will find alternatives. But a sizable minority of Planned Parenthood’s patients, particularly low-income women, would lose access to medical services.

But Republicans couldn’t possibly care less about poor women–or women in general, for that matter.

Saudi Sex Crimes

Police in Los Angeles a Saudi prince for sexual assault a couple of days ago after a woman reported him for attacking her. From The Daily Mail:

Beverly Glen Compound where Saudi Prince Majed Abdulaziz Al-Saud, 28, was arrested by LAPD

Beverly Glen Compound where Saudi Prince Majed Abdulaziz Al-Saud, 28, was arrested by LAPD

A Saudi Prince sexually abused and beat at least three women during a three-day party in his $37 million Beverly Hills home, a new lawsuit claims.

The graphic new allegations against Majed Abdulaziz Al-Saud, 28, were filed by his alleged victims on Friday night.

It comes two days after the monarch, who does not have diplomatic immunity, was arrested on suspicion of forcing a woman to perform oral sex on him.

From the LA Times: More women accuse Saudi prince after his arrest on sex crime charge, LAPD says.

A Saudi prince who allegedly tried to force a female worker to perform a sex act on him inside a Beverly Glen residence has now been accused of attacking other women in the home, according to Los Angeles police and court records.

Majed Abdulaziz Al-Saud, 29, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of forced oral copulation of an adult.

Police said Friday that they are investigating claims that Al-Saud also preyed on other women on the estate.

Detectives “found more victims who were also alleging crimes against Mr. Al-Saud,” Officer Drake Madison said.

Al-Saud, 28, was detained by police for hours Wednesday afternoon as officers investigated a reported disturbance inside the 22,000-square-foot residence about 12:45 p.m., Madison said.

He was held on suspicion of false imprisonment, sexual assault and battery. He was booked on suspicion of forcing the oral copulation of a worker inside the residence, Madison said. He could not be reached for comment Friday.

Three women have sued Al-Saud:

A civil lawsuit filed in L.A. County Superior Court on Friday claims he attacked other women inside the home for several days.

The suit, filed by three women only identified as Jane Does, accuses him of “extreme,” “outrageous,” and “despicable” behavior that started Monday and ended in his arrest.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and claims Al-Saud inflicted emotional distress, assault and battery, sexual discrimination and retaliation against the workers, among other allegations. The attorneys who filed the suit did not return calls seeking comment.

Moon Happenings

Tomorrow night there will be a total eclipse of the moon at the same time as a blood moon or a supermoon or something.

Lunar eclipse of this year's supermoon (Boston Globe)

Lunar eclipse of this year’s supermoon (Boston Globe)

From AL.com: Blood moon, harvest moon, supermoon: What’s the difference?

Sunday’s full moon has a lot going for it — almost too much.

Not only will it be 2015’s harvest moon, but it will also be a supermoon and a blood moon and coincide with a total lunar eclipse.

According to NASA it’s the first time in more than 30 years a supermoon has coincided with a lunar eclipse.

That’s a lot to pack in a night.

So what is the difference between a harvest moon, a blood moon and a supermoon?

Read all about it at the link.

And from The Boston Globe, meteorologist and horticulturist David Epstein explains Everything you need to know about the supermoon eclipse Sunday September 27th.

There is an eclipse Sunday evening and after so many days of clear skies and mild temperatures, it’s going to be a tough break if clouds disrupt us from seeing it. As of right now, there should be enough clear spots in the sky to see the eclipse quite well. I’ll be updating weather conditions on Twitter @growingwisdom. I put the details of the eclipse later in this entry. Let’s discuss the supermoon thing first.

Although words like “super moon” and “rare” are used in eye catching headlines. These terms aren’t what astronomical professionals will use to describe this event. While these phenomena don’t happen all the time, they have happened before and will certainly happen again. I enjoy teaching about astronomical events, and while meteorologists aren’t astronomers the cool occurances in the sky often fall to us to explain.

From Sky and Telescope

From Sky and Telescope

Epstein’s message is that this is an interesting event, but not as big a deal as the media is claiming.

Sunday’s moon is the closest encounter with Earth until November 14, 2016. The full moon on November 14, 2016, will be the closest full moon (356,509 kilometers) until November 25, 2034 (356,448 kilometers). So yes, these things are interesting, but not all that uncommon.

Not So Super
In a recent article in the Evening Sun, Ian Clarke, director of the Hatter Planetarium at Gettysburg College told the newspaper the following, “Take a quarter and hold it 103 inches away from you. That’s the apparent size of the moon relative to us, as we see it. Take that same quarter, and bring it 5 inches closer, 98 inches away from you. That’s the effect of the Supermoon, he said.” As you can see, this isn’t the celestial event of the century.

Eclipse
What’s happening Sunday evening is an eclipse of the moon, in its full state, while making its closest approach of the year. The eclipse begin at 8:11 p.m. ET. The moon will be fully covered at at 10:11 p.m. ET, peaking at 10:47 p.m. ET. The moon stays covered until 11:23 p.m.ET, and the eclipse will end at 12:27 a.m ET.

You only need to look towards the east to watch this event. There aren’t any special glasses or special precautions to take. However, if you are driving, pay attention to the road, not the moon. During the time the Earth gets in the way of the Sun’s light from illuminating the moon, the moon will take on a reddish hue. This is why you are hearing the term “blood moon” associated with this eclipse.

Read more at the link.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread.