Lazy Saturday Reads: Trump Is Getting Boring. That Makes Him Even More Dangerous.

Good Morning!!

Maybe it just the holiday blues, but I’m bored with Trump. I’m bored with with the advance of authoritarianism and outright fascism in the United States of America. It’s ugly as all get out and I’m sick and tired of it. After one year of this shit, I just want to resign from the human race. I guess that’s how it happens. The fascists wear you down until you just want to escape into books or music or art or anything that isn’t about Trump. Is this something like what Hanna Arendt meant by “the banality of evil?”

Of course I know I can’t escape Trumpism. I will continue to wake up every day fearful of what he might have done overnight, of what idiotic tweets he may have already sent out, of what evil deeds he may be plotting. I can’t let myself sink into despair.

Michael Gruenwald writes about Trump’s first year at Politico: Donald Trump Is a Consequential President. Just Not in the Ways You Think.

On January 20, 2017, as President Donald Trump began his inaugural address, a cold rain began to fall.

A few hours later, Trump claimed the rain had not begun to fall.

“The crowd was unbelievable today,” Trump crowed to revelers at the Liberty Inaugural Ball. “I looked at the rain, which just never came. You know, we finished the speech, went inside, and it poured!”

It wasn’t a consequential falsehood. And neither was Trump’s claim that his inaugural crowd was the largest ever, a whopper he sent his press secretary out to defend the next day in the face of overwhelming photographic evidence. Neither the meteorological conditions at his swearing-in nor the size of the audience that witnessed his swearing-in altered the remarkable fact that he had just been sworn in as the president of the United States. So why would the holder of the most powerful office on Earth insist on juicing his narrative with petty embellishments, especially when his propaganda could be so easily and objectively disproved?

In retrospect, it’s obvious that Trump was starting to construct an alternative reality for his supporters, establishing himself (rather than the “enemies of the people” in the “FAKE NEWS” media) as the only reliable source of truth. Really, it was pretty obvious at the time. Trump aide Kellyanne Conway was already spinning that the administration was helpfully supplying the media with “alternative facts.”

I wrote back in the Week One edition of the Did-It-Matter-Meter that the crowd-size episode “laid down a marker about the irrelevance of facts to this White House,” and “staked out new territory in Orwellian up-is-down-ism, forcing Americans to choose whether to believe Trump or their lying eyes.” A year later, Trump is still spinning an alternative reality in which he’s achieved more than any other first-year president, he doesn’t watch much TV, the Russia investigation is nothing but a partisan witch hunt, the successive defeats of both candidates he endorsed in a Senate race in Alabama actually demonstrated his immense popularity, the coal industry is coming back, Americans are finally free to say “Merry Christmas” without fear of persecution, and legislation that would slash taxes for the rich in general and real estate developers in particular would somehow hurt his bottom line. No matter how often the fact-checkers fact-check him, he sticks with his alternative facts.

And so it has continued. Is Trump doing this to our country as part of a deliberate plan or is it just who he is? I can’t help wondering when I hear and read his garbled words in interviews like the one with the New York Times a couple of days ago. I think he’s just behaving according to his fascist instincts, but maybe it doesn’t matter; because there are people around him who seem to be just as ignorant and just as evil, and for now they are making progress. Check out this video of a Republican lawmaker, Rep. Robert Pittenger of North Carolina.

Where do the Republicans find these people and what kinds of people vote for them?

Back to the Politico article:

The most consequential aspect of President Trump—like the most consequential aspect of Candidate Trump—has been his relentless shattering of norms: norms of honesty, decency, diversity, strategy, diplomacy and democracy, norms of what presidents are supposed to say and do when the world is and isn’t watching. As I keep arguing in these periodic Trump reviews, it’s a mistake to describe his all-caps rage-tweeting or his endorsement of an accused child molester or his threats to wipe out “Little Rocket Man” as unpresidential, because he’s the president. He’s by definition presidential. The norms he’s shattered are by definition no longer norms. His erratic behavior isn’t normal, but it’s inevitably becoming normalized, a predictably unpredictable feature of our political landscape. It’s how we live now, checking our phones in the morning to get a read on the president’s mood. The American economy is still strong, and he hasn’t started any new wars, so pundits have focused a lot of their hand-wringing on the effect his norm-shattering will have on future leaders, who will be able to cite the Trump precedent if they want to hide their tax returns or use their office to promote their businesses or fire FBI directors who investigate them. But Trump still has three years left in his term. And the norms he’s shattered can’t constrain his behavior now that he’s shattered them.

If the big story of the Trump era is Trump and his unconventional approach to the presidency, two related substories will determine how the big story ends. The first is the intense personal and institutional pushback to Trump—from the otherwise fractious Democratic Party; the independent media; independent judges; special counsel Robert Mueller; advocates for immigrants, voting rights, the poor, the disabled, the environment and other #Resistance causes; and ordinary citizens, who have made Trump the least popular first-year president in the modern era.

The second substory is the sometimes grudging but consistent support—the critics call it complicity—that Trump has enjoyed from the Republicans who control Congress. The uneasy marriage of convenience between Trump and the congressional GOP explains his two big legislative victories, the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and last month’s $1.5 trillion tax cut. It also explains Capitol Hill’s see-no-evil approach to investigating activities that would have triggered endless outrage and probable impeachment hearings in a Hillary Clinton administration.

I hope you’ll go read the rest.

Dakinikat covered the NYT interview thoroughly yesterday, but I want to share a couple of reactions that came out yesterday.

John Harwood at CNBC: Trump displays delusions in his New York Times interview.

President Donald Trump says so many things that are untrue as to complicate attempts at explaining them. Did he know better? Was he uninformed? Should he be taken literally?

What made the president’s year-end New York Times interview notable was repetition of a particular brand of untruth. Even as his administration struggles with historic unpopularity and extraordinary dysfunction, Trump ascribes to himself qualities that surpass all predecessors – even reigning Republican icon Ronald Reagan.

Call them “delusions of omnipotence.”

Over and over during the 30-minute session, Trump cast his performance in terms so grandiose and extreme as to be self-evidently false. Taken together, his comments signaled an inability to grasp conditions in the country, the limitations of his own capacities and the nature of the office he holds.

Harwood gives a number of specific examples. Here are the first three:

– He attributed his 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton to skill in overcoming the pro-Democratic tilt of the Electoral College. There is no such tilt. The electoral college system provides a path to victory for the party losing the popular vote. Republicans lost six of the last seven popular votes in presidential contests, but they won the Electoral College in two of those six instances.

– He insisted his Democratic adversaries on Capitol Hill have absolved him of “collusion” with Russia on election interference. They have not. They have said they haven’t yet seen conclusive evidence from Congressional and Justice Department investigations that remain ongoing.

– He declared, “I have absolute right to do what I want with the Justice Department.” He does not. He holds executive branch authority over the Justice Department, but under America’s constitutional system, executive power is not absolute and no one is above the law.

Click on the CNBC link to read more.

Ezra Klein: Incoherent, authoritarian, uninformed: Trump’s New York Times interview is a scary read.

The president of the United States is not well. That is an uncomfortable thing to say, but it is an even worse thing to ignore.

Consider the interview Trump gave to the New York Times on Thursday. It begins with a string of falsehoods that make it difficult to tell whether the leader of the free world is lying or delusional. Remember, these are President Donald Trump’s words, after being told a recording device is on:

Virtually every Democrat has said there is no collusion. There is no collusion. And even these committees that have been set up. If you look at what’s going on — and in fact, what it’s done is, it’s really angered the base and made the base stronger. My base is stronger than it’s ever been. Great congressmen, in particular, some of the congressmen have been unbelievable in pointing out what a witch hunt the whole thing is. So, I think it’s been proven that there is no collusion.

It almost goes without saying that literally zero congressional Democrats have said that there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. Zero….

Nor is Trump’s base strengthening, or even holding steady. In a detailed analysis of Trump’s poll numbers, FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten concluded that the president is losing the most ground in the reddest states:

In states where Trump won by at least 10 points, his net approval rating is down 18 percentage points, on average, compared to his margin last November. In states that were decided by 10 points or less in November, it’s down only 13 points. And it’s down 8 points in states Clinton carried by at least 10 points.

The fact that Trump has lost the greatest number of supporters in red states is perhaps the clearest indication yet that he is losing ground among some form of his base, if you think of his base as those who voted for him in November.

CNN took a different angle on the same question and also found slippage among Trump’s base. It looked at the change in Trump’s approval ratings from February to November among the demographic groups that formed the core of Trump’s electoral coalition — in every group, there’d been substantial declines. Trump’s numbers have fallen by 8 points among Republicans, by 9 points among voters over 50, by 10 points among whites with no college, by 17 points among white evangelicals. “It has become increasingly clear that even his base is not immune to the downward pressure,” CNN concluded.

Head over to Vox to read the rest.

NOTE: The cartoons in this post are by Ann Telnaes of The Washington Post.

It appears that we have a “president” who is both evil and cognitively dysfunctional. For now, it’s up to the Republicans in Congress to hold him in check and they’re not doing it. There’s a good chance the Democrats will be able to take over Congress in 2018, but can we last another year with Trump in charge? I hope we get through it, that’s all I can say.

What stories are you following?


Independence Day Reads

4th of July and NSA

Good Morning!!

So Egyptians staged a whole lot of protests and with the help of the army, overthrew the president they elected about a year ago. From the Boston Globe: Egypt’s army ousts Morsi, who calls it a ‘coup’

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s first democratically elected president was overthrown by the military Wednesday, ousted after just one year in office by the same kind of Arab Spring uprising that brought the Islamist leader to power.

The armed forces announced they would install a temporary civilian government to replace Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, who denounced the action as a ‘‘full coup’’ by the generals. They also suspended the Islamist-drafted constitution and called for new elections.

Millions of anti-Morsi protesters around the country erupted in celebrations after the televised announcement by the army chief. Fireworks burst over crowds in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where men and women danced, shouting, ‘‘God is great’’ and ‘‘Long live Egypt.’’

That sure sounds like coup. The army overthrows an elected leader and appoints a new one, while suspending the constitution. What else would you call it? And then there’s this:

The army took control of state media and blacked out TV stations operated by the Muslim Brotherhood. The head of the Brotherhood’s political wing was arrested.

It’s like Groundhog Day. A year from now will the whole thing happen all over again?

Morsi Dud by Jeff Darcy

From BBC News: Egypt swears in Mansour as interim leader after Morsi ousted

The top judge of Egypt’s Constitutional Court, Adly Mahmud Mansour, has been sworn in as interim leader, a day after the army ousted President Mohammed Morsi and put him under house arrest.

Mr Mansour said fresh elections were “the only way” forward, but gave no indication of when they would be held.

Mr Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected leader, is under house arrest after what he says was a military coup.

The army said he had “failed to meet the demands of the people”.

So it’s as if the Pentagon overthrew President Obama and installed Chief Justice Roberts as temporary president, while at the same time suspending the Constitution and shutting down the media.

The Dark Side of Egyptian “Revolution”

There’s also another similarity to the previous Egyptian “revolution” an outbreak of sexual assaults and gang rapes targeting women in public. From Human Rights Watch:

Egyptian officials and political leaders across the spectrum should condemn and take immediate steps to address the horrific levels of sexual violence against women in Tahrir Square. Egyptian anti-sexual harassment groups confirmed that mobs sexually assaulted and in some cases raped at least 91 women in Tahrir Square, over four days of protests beginning on June 30, 2013, amid a climate of impunity.

“The rampant sexual attacks during the Tahrir Square protests highlight the failure of the government and all political parties to face up to the violence that women in Egypt experience on a daily basis in public spaces,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “These are serious crimes that are holding women back from participating fully in the public life of Egypt at a critical point in the country’s development.”

The Egyptian group Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault, which runs a hotline for victims of sexual assault and seeks to intervene to stop attacks, has received scores of reports of attacks on women in Tahrir Square over the past three days. The group confirmed 46 attacks on June 30, 17 on July 1, and 23 on July 2. The group’s volunteers intervened to protect and evacuate women in 31 cases of sexual assault. Four of the women needed medical assistance, including two who were evacuated by ambulance. The women’s rights group Nazra for Feminist Studies had confirmed another five attacks on June 28.

One woman required surgery after being raped with a “sharp object,” volunteers with the group said. In other cases, women were beaten with metal chains, sticks, and chairs, and attacked with knives. In some cases they were assaulted for as long as 45 minutes before they were able to escape.

Please go read the rest at Human Rights Watch.

At CNN, writer Nina Burleigh puts the sexual violence in Egypt in the historical context of male efforts to control women’s access to the public sphere.

Last week, a 22-year-old Dutch journalist was gang-raped in Tahrir Square and had to undergo surgery for severe injuries. The assault reminds us yet again of an often overlooked aspect of the Egyptian revolution.

When Egyptians overthrew their dictator in 2011, one of the first celebratory acts in Tahrir Square included the gang beating and sexual assault of American journalist Lara Logan, who, like the Dutch journalist, landed in the hospital.

The Logan rape has always been portrayed as another unfortunate byproduct of mob violence. In fact, it was much more than that. It was a warning shot fired by men whose political beliefs are founded on a common pillar: Women must stay out of the public square.

One of the hallmarks of revolutionary victory in Tahrir Square has always been rape and sexual harassment. Mobs of men routinely set upon women, isolating, stripping and groping. No one is ever arrested or held accountable, and elected officials shrug their shoulders and blame the victims….

Egyptian women are the primary victims of sexual violence, and ultimately they are the intended recipients of the message: Stay home, your input in government and politics is not wanted.

Read the rest of Burleigh’s analysis at CNN.

In other news,

Bolivian officials laughing hysterically at the media for buying their tall tale

Bolivian officials laughing hysterically at the media for buying their tall tale

We learned yesterday afternoon that the claims that Bolivian president Evo Morales’ plane was refused permission to fly over France, Italy, and Spain were totally false and that no one forced his plane to land in Austria. See this article at The Atlantic for a complete debunking of the story.

But many so-called progressives are still pushing the false narrative that President Obama somehow was responsible. I was surprised to see Taylor Marsh hyping it this morning, and there has been no correction to Kevin Drum’s nasty claim that Obama behaved like “a Chicago thug.” That was originally in Drum’s headline until commenters told him he was pushing a Tea Party meme and he moved the accusation to the end of his post.

Marsh is also claiming we didn’t know about the extent of NSA spying a year ago. Really? If you agree with her, you might want to check out this detailed article on the NSA spying programs in the Wall Street Journal–dated March 10, 2008. And of course that wasn’t the first time the corporate media covered the story either. All the progs claiming utter shock and awe over Snowden’s revelations should be ashamed of themselves.

I don’t want to completely depress you, so let’s turn to some non-political news. I found a couple interesting science stories on Google this morning.

Here’s some exciting news out of Boston (NYT): After Marrow Transplants, 2 More Patients Appear H.I.V.-Free Without Drugs.

Two H.I.V.-infected patients in Boston who had bone-marrow transplants for blood cancers have apparently been virus-free for weeks since their antiretroviral drugs were stopped, researchers at an international AIDS conference announced Wednesday.

The patients’ success echoes that of Timothy Ray Brown, the famous “Berlin patient,” who has shown no signs of resurgent virus in the five years since he got a bone-marrow transplant from a donor with a rare mutation conferring resistance to H.I.V.

The Boston cases, like Mr. Brown’s, are of no practical use to the 34 million people in the world who have H.I.V. but neither blood cancer nor access to premier cancer-treatment hospitals.

But AIDS experts still find the Boston cases exciting because they are another step in the long and so-far-fruitless search for a cure. They offer encouragement to ambitious future projects to genetically re-engineer infected patients’ cells to be infection-resistant. At least two teams are already experimenting with variants on this idea, said Dr. Steven G. Deeks, an AIDS researcher at the University of California, San Francisco.

It’s real progress, even though the treatment won’t be widely available for a long time.

From BBC News:  Active brain ‘keeps dementia at bay’

A lifetime of mental challenges leads to slower cognitive decline after factoring out dementia’s impact on the brain, US researchers say.

The study, published in Neurology, adds weight to the idea that dementia onset can be delayed by lifestyle factors….

In a US study, 294 people over the age of 55 were given tests that measured memory and thinking, every year for about six years until their deaths.

They also answered a questionnaire about whether they read books, wrote letters and took part in other activities linked to mental stimulation during childhood, adolescence, middle age, and in later life.

After death, their brains were examined for evidence of the physical signs of dementia, such as brain lesions and plaques.

The study found that after factoring out the impact of those signs, those who had a record of keeping the brain busy had a rate of cognitive decline estimated at 15% slower than those who did not.

That’s some impressive empirical evidence for something many of us have long suspected. So maybe we are helping keep our brains young through our obsession with reading and arguing about politics on the internet!

I’ll end with a recommendation that you listen to this NPR story on the history of “The Star Spangled Banner” and how it became our national anthem. It’s only about 8 minutes long. Or you can just read the article. I thought it was really interesting.

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? If you’re headed out for barbeques and family gatherings instead of surfing the net, have a wonderful time and drop in for a minute if you can.

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY EVERYONE!!