Lazy Saturday Reads: Trump is Scrooge Beyond Redemption

Good Afternoon!!

The rest of the illustrations in this post are from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

What is going on with MSNBC? First they hire Hugh Hewitt and Peggy Noonan, then they dump Joan Walsh two days before Christmas.

TBogg at Raw Story: ‘F*ck you MSNBC’: Network hammered with #KeepJoanWalsh after stunning pre-Christmas firing of commentator.

Decision makers at MSNBC are taking a beating on Twitter after it was revealed late Friday night that they had fired longtime contributor Joan Walsh just days before Christmas.

Taking to Twitter on Saturday morning, Walsh, confirmed her dismissal from the network, writing, “So it’s true: after 12 years on MSNBC, six on contract, I learned Friday night they are not renewing. I’ve given my heart and soul to the network, from the George W. Bush years through today. I’m proud of the work I did.”

She later added that the firing came out of the blue.

“Yes, it’s Christmas weekend,” she tweeted. “I was baking pies with my daughter, who is home for the holidays, when I got the news. It didn’t feel too good. But all of your support helps, a lot. I’m grateful to the people who have fought for me.”

Walsh, who has a large following both online and since she was once an editor at Salon and The Nation, received a wave of support with #KeepJoanWalsh trending on Twitter, as the network was attacked for dropping the liberal commentator while still employing conservative Hugh Hewitt who inexplicably was given his own show.

Why would MSNBC keep Peggy Noonan over Joan Walsh? Are Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell next? Shame on MSNBC!

As an antidote to all the bad news, here’s an interesting long read from the Literary Hub: Charles Dickens Had Serious Beef With America and Its Bad Manners and How It Led to His Writing A Christmas Carol.

Charles Dickens’ unfettered joy at first arriving in Boston Harbor in 1842 reads like Ebenezer Scrooge’s awakening on Christmas morning. Biographer Peter Ackroyd reports that he flew up the steps of the Tremont House Hotel, sprang into the hall, and greeted a curious throng with a bright “Here we are!” He took to the streets that twinkling midnight in his shaggy fur coat, galloping over frozen snow, shouting out the names on shop signs, pulling bell-handles of doors as he passed—giddy with laughter—and even screamed with (one imagines) astonishment and delight at the sight of the old South Church. He had set at last upon the shores of “the Republic of my imagination.”

America returned his ardor. Though not quite 30, Dickens was a literary rock star, the most famous writer in the world, who landed like a conquering hero in a country swept up in an extreme “Boz-o-mania”—the hype of his tour then unprecedented in American history. He wrote his best friend, John Forster, that he didn’t know how to describe “the crowds that pour in and out the whole day; of the people that line the streets when I go out; of the cheering when I went to the theatre; of the copies of verse, letters of congratulations, welcomes of all kinds, balls, dinners, assemblies without end?” When Bostonians renamed their city “Boz-town,” New Yorkers determined to “outdollar . . . and outshine them.” Their great Boz Ball boasted flags, flowers, festoons, wreaths, a huge portrait of the author with a bald eagle overhead, chandeliers hung by gilded ropes, 22 tableaux from the great author’s works, and 3,000 guests, who consumed 50 hams, 50 tongues, 38,000 stewed and pickled oysters, and 4,000 candy kisses. “If I should live to grow old,” Dickens said, “the scenes of this and other evenings will shine as brightly to my dull eyes 50 years hence as now.” [….]

His love affair with an idealized America was short-lived and hard-felt. Apart from the country’s great writers, he found Americans malodorous, ill-mannered and invading his privacy. “I am so enclosed and hemmed about with people, that I am exhausted from want of air,” Dickens complained to Forster. “I go to church for quiet, and there is a violent rush to the neighborhood of the pew I sit in. I take my seat in a railroad car, and the very conductor won’t leave me alone. I can’t drink a glass of water without having a hundred people looking down my throat.” On a tour of the Great Lakes he woke to a crowd gawking through his steamboat cabin window while his wife slept and he washed.

He was repulsed by Americans’ table manners and the tobacco spit everywhere he looked—on even the sidewalks of the nation’s capital, where he found party politics contaminating everything, its leaders “the lice of God’s creation,” and “despicable trickery at elections; under-handed tamperings with public officers; and cowardly attacks upon opponents, with scurrilous newspapers for shields, and hired pens for daggers.”

Bob Chratchit and Tiny Tim, by Frederick Barnard, 1877

Even worse, everyone wanted a piece of the action, from Tiffany’s selling unauthorized copies of his bust, to a barber selling locks of his hair. He found Americans vulgar and insensitive, braggarts, hypocrites, and acquisitive beyond all imagining. “I never knew what it was to feel disgust and contempt,” Dickens said, “‘till I travelled in America.” When he departed in June, he left behind all notions of an Arcadian realm he now regarded as “a vast countinghouse” full of nothing but “humbugs and bores.” (See: A Christmas Carol.)

It sounds a lot like Donald Trump’s American, doesn’t it?

Speaking of Dear Leader, he’s now down in Palm Beach where his handlers will be unable to keep him from talking to his wingnut pals and making impulsive decisions.

CNN: Trump reunites with his kitchen cabinet in Mar-a-Lago.

Minutes before President Donald Trump departed the White House on Friday for his languid Florida hideaway, he appeared to exasperate aides who had hoped he might avoid holding court with the press.

“Helicopter is running out of gas,” his chief of staff, John Kelly, announced, not-so-gently nudging the assembled reporters and cameramen from the Oval Office as Trump continued to happily answer their questions.

White House aides, wishing for the President to depart Washington without venting about the Russia probe or his other political woes, were largely successful in avoiding pratfalls that might obscure the Republicans’ tax victory this week.

Marley’s Ghost

Vacationing in Florida for the first extended period in months, however, Trump isn’t likely to find himself under as strict restraints. At Mar-a-Lago, an oceanfront paean to Trump himself, the President is prone to holding court at will, consulting advisers both real and self-imagined, and basking in the knowledge that he’s the only man in charge.

Topics on the table include the future of key Cabinet officials like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Middle East policy and the makeup of his political team.

And of course the Russia investigation. Read the rest to learn who’s in the “kitchen cabinet.”

I wonder if Trump cares about this from The Washington Post: Russian submarines are prowling around vital undersea cables. It’s making NATO nervous.

Russian submarines have dramatically stepped up activity around undersea data cables in the North Atlantic, part of a more aggressive naval posture that has driven NATO to revive a Cold War-era command, according to senior military officials.

The apparent Russian focus on the cables, which provide Internet and other communications connections to North America and Europe, could give the Kremlin the power to sever or tap into vital data lines, the officials said. Russian submarine activity has increased to levels unseen since the Cold War, they said, sparking hunts in recent months for the elusive watercraft.

“We are now seeing Russian underwater activity in the vicinity of undersea cables that I don’t believe we have ever seen,” said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Andrew Lennon, the commander of NATO’s submarine forces. “Russia is clearly taking an interest in NATO and NATO nations’ undersea infrastructure.”

NATO has responded with plans to reestablish a command post, shuttered after the Cold War, to help secure the North Atlantic. NATO allies are also rushing to boost anti-submarine warfare capabilities and to develop advanced submarine-detecting planes.

The Last of the Spirits by Harry Furniss

Yesterday we learned that federal prosecutors in New York are looking into Jared Kushner’s finances.

The New York Times: Prosecutors Said to Seek Kushner Records From Deutsche Bank.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have sought bank records about entities associated with the family company of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, according to four people briefed on the matter.

In recent weeks, prosecutors from the United States attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York subpoenaed records from Deutsche Bank, the giant German financial institution that has lent hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kushner family real estate business.

Mr. Kushner, who was the Kushner Companies’ chief executive until January, still owns part of the business after selling some of his stake….

There is no indication that the subpoena is related to the investigation being conducted by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, into Russian meddling in the 2016 United States presidential election. Three prosecutors on Mr. Mueller’s team previously worked at the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn, one as recently as this year. Federal prosecutors around the country typically check with Justice Department headquarters when their investigations may overlap.

The Brooklyn United States attorney has been investigating the Kushner businesses’ use of a program known as EB-5. It offers visas to overseas investors in exchange for $500,000 investments in real estate projects.

So if Trump pardons Jared, he’ll still be in legal jeopardy. Good!

There’s tons more news even though we’re going into a big holiday weekend. That’s the new normal in Trump’s America. What stories are you following today?


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

I’m still in shock from the realization that Willard “Mitt” Romney is most likely going to be the Republican nominee. I never thought the day would come when a candidate would appear who is more soulless, more shallow, more banal, and less prepared to be president than Barack Obama. But Romney is all those things. I don’t think he knows any more about politics or economics than Donald Trump, and he’s just as much of a blowhard. What could possess anyone to vote for him? The American experiment has truly failed when these two psychopaths are the choices to lead the nation.

I was looking forward to Newt Gingrich’s attacks on Romney’s corporate raider past, but as Minkoff Minx reported last night, someone got to Newt and told him to cool it.

Newt Gingrich on Wednesday suggested his attacks on rival Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital have not been rational – though a spokesman insisted Gingrich is not backing off the attacks.

Gingrich’s comment came after a voter in Spartanburg, South Carolina, told Gingrich that he believed the former House speaker has “missed the target on the way you’re addressing Romney’s weaknesses.”

“I want to beg you to redirect and go after his obvious disingenuosness about his conservatism and lay off the corporatist versus the free market,” said the voter.

Gingrich replied: “I agree – I agree with you.”

“I think it’s an impossible theme to talk about with Obama in the background,” Gingrich continued. “Obama just makes it impossible to talk rationally in that area because he is so deeply into class warfare that automatically you get an echo effect which, as a Reagan Republican it frankly never occurred to me until it happened. So I agree with you entirely.”

Gingrich, who has harshly criticized Romney for his record at Bain, seemed to be saying he cannot “talk rationally” about Romney’s record because of the way Mr. Obama frames the issue.

He sure doesn’t sound rational there. I can’t figure out what he’s even trying to say. But it sounds like he’s claiming that somehow Obama made him attack Romney. Sadly, I’m afraid we may never see that “When Romney Came to Town” video now. Rats!

According to an article in the NYT, Romney’s advisers have been “shaken by attacks” on the candidate’s record at Bain Capital.

Although the advisers had always expected that Democrats would malign Mr. Romney’s work of buying and selling companies, they were largely unprepared for an assault that came so early in the campaign and from within the ranks of their own party, those involved in the campaign discussions said.

Even as Mr. Romney coasted to victory in New Hampshire, they worry that the critique could prove more potent as the race shifts to South Carolina, where shuttered mills dot the landscape, unemployment is higher and suspicion of financial elites is not limited to left-leaning voters.

Both Iowa and New Hampshire have unemployment rates in the 5% range.

In his victory speech Tuesday night, Mr. Romney lamented that “desperate Republicans” were attacking the free enterprise system and the very notion of success.

“This is such a mistake for our party and for our nation,” he said. “The country already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy.”

That message was echoed by Mr. Romney’s surrogates and embraced by a number of influential conservatives on Tuesday, from Rush Limbaugh to Michelle Malkin and the Club for Growth.

Unfortunately, the attacks seem to have caused many conservative who were previously unenthusiastic about Romney to rise to his defense.

At conservative blog Patterico’s Pontifications, “Karl” points out that it’s a little strange that Romney’s advisers weren’t expecting this, since Republican rivals have brought the issue up in Romney’s previous campaigns. I’m curious to see how all this will play in South Carolina.

Charlie Pierce had a bit of interesting Massachusetts gossip yesterday afternoon. Apparently one of Romney’s close advisers, Eric Fehrnstrom, is also an adviser to Senator Scott Brown, who as we all know is involved in a tough reelection fight with Elizabeth Warren.

Anyway, the gossip around the Massachusetts GOP — which is a small enough group that gossip can circulate at speeds at which matter is spontaneously created — is that some people in McDreamy’s re-election campaign have begun to complain that Fehrnstrom is spending too much time with Willard and not enough with their man, who’s in a much tougher fight with Elizabeth Warren than Romney is with the assemblage of second-raters in the Republican primary. It’s hard to see how Fehrnstrom can keep both of those balls in the air at the same time and, if he can’t, my guess is that McDreamy is the loser. This will not be a good thing for that campaign.

And speaking of Liz Warren, she raised twice as much money as Brown in the last quarter.

She has just over $6 million on hand, her campaign reported this afternoon.

Warren’s overall fund-raising for those few final months of 2011 outpaced Republican Senator Scott Brown’s total for the same time period. On Monday, Brown’s campaign released figures showing that he collected $3.2 million in the final quarter of 2011 and raised a total of $8.5 million last year.

Still, Brown holds a strong advantage, having accumulated $12.8 million in his campaign account, a record amount for any Massachusetts candidate this early in the election cycle.

Michelle Obama denies that she ever had any disagreements with Rahm Emanuel, as was reported in the new book “The Obamas” by NYT writer Jodi Kantor.

Obama said in an interview that aired on CBS’s “This Morning” that she does not routinely interfere in West Wing business despite reports that she clashed with top West Wing aides and has expressed her concerns and displeasure about policy and politics through back channels.

“I don’t have conversations with my husband’s staff. I don’t go to the meetings,” she told King. “I guess it’s more interesting to imagine this conflicted situation here, a strong woman. But that’s been an image that people have tried to paint of me since the day that Barack announced — that I’m some angry black woman.”

Obama said that she and former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel “never had a cross word” — despite Kantor’s reporting that they clashed over strategy and policy during Emanuel’s tenure.

In foreign news, another Iranian nuclear scientist has been assassinated. From the Globe and Mail:

Amid escalating threats, the covert war to thwart Iran’s efforts to get nuclear weapons took an ugly – if gruesomely familiar – turn Wednesday with the murder of a young Iranian nuclear scientist on a Tehran street.

It was the fourth such reported targeted assassination in two years, adding a dangerous new element to the escalating conflict over Iran’s refusal to rein in its nuclear program or to open it to international inspection.

Wednesday’s killing in North Tehran was similar to previous attacks. Using powerful magnets, a motorcyclist attached a small delayed-action bomb to a car carrying Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, a nuclear scientist and university professor.

The explosion killed the 32-year-old chemistry professor, who worked at the sprawling Natanz nuclear facility, and another person in the car, reports said. The pinpoint attack focused the blast into the car during the morning rush hour.

Wonderful. Are we being pushed into another war after just beginning to extricate ourselves from Iraq? The NYT reports that the covert actions are believed by “experts” to be coming from Israel, the Iranians, probably with good reason, assume the U.S. is also involved.

Iranian officials immediately blamed both Israel and the United States for the latest death, which came less than two months after a suspicious explosion at an Iranian missile base that killed a top general and 16 other people. While American officials deny a role in lethal activities, the United States is believed to engage in other covert efforts against the Iranian nuclear program.

The assassination drew an unusually strong condemnation from the White House and the State Department, which disavowed any American complicity. The statements by the United States appeared to reflect serious concern about the growing number of lethal attacks, which some experts believe could backfire by undercutting future negotiations and prompting Iran to redouble what the West suspects is a quest for a nuclear capacity.

Both Obama and Hillary Clinton denied any U.S. involvement. Sure.

Finally, there’s a wonderful article by the late Christopher Hitchens in the new Vanity Fair: Charles Dickens’s Inner Child. I haven’t finished reading it yet, but so far I’m very much enjoying it. I love Dickens and reading the piece made me want to pick up on of his novels again soon–maybe I’ll reread my favorite one–“Our Mutual Friend.” What a great book it is!

That’s all I have for today. What are you reading and blogging about?