Thursday Reads

Hurricane, Bahamas, by Winslow Homer, 1898

Good Afternoon!!

As Hurricane Dorian makes its way up the Atlantic coast, the Dotard continues to insist that he was right when he claimed that Alabama was in the hurricane’s path. He tweeted this morning,

Alabama was going to be hit or grazed, and then Hurricane Dorian took a different path (up along the East Coast). The Fake News knows this very well. That’s why they’re the Fake News!

If only he would shut the f@ck up! Yesterday, he committed a federal crime by altering a weather map as “proof” for his false statement.

The Washington Post: Trump continues to push erroneous claim about Alabama as Dorian lashes Carolinas.

After the Hurricane, Bahamas, by Winslow Homer, 189In his first tweets of the morning, Trump insisted that what he first said in a Sunday tweet was accurate at the time and attacked the news media.

As Hurricane Dorian unleashed torrential rains on the Carolinas on Thursday morning, President Trump continued to push his erroneous contention from the weekend that Alabama could have been affected by the life-threatening storm.“What I said was accurate! All Fake News in order to demean!” Trump wrote.

In his first tweets of the morning, Trump insisted that what he first said in a Sunday tweet was accurate at the time and attacked the news media.

Trump’s latest tweets on the subject came a day after he attempted to retroactively justify his Sunday tweet by displaying in the Oval Office a modified National Hurricane Center “cone of uncertainty” forecast, dated Aug. 29, indicating Alabama could in fact be affected. The graphic appeared to have been altered with a Sharpie to indicate a risk the storm would move into Alabama from Florida.

The Dotard is loony tunes and he has access to the nuclear codes. He cares more about justifying his silly mistake than about the millions of human beings in the path of the storm.

The conventional wisdom is that Trump suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. That diagnosis no longer fits. Trump is a criminal psychopath, IMHO. In other words, he very likely qualifies for a diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Here are the DSM IV-TR criteria for ASPD:

A. There is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the
rights of others occurring since age 15 years, as indicated by three
(or more) of the following: having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from
another.
1. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful
behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that
are grounds for arrest.
2. Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases,
or conning others for personal profit or pleasure.
3. Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead.
4. Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated
physical fights or assaults.
5. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others.
6. Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure
to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial
obligations.
7. Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or
rationalizing.

B.  The individual is at least age 18 years.
C. There is evidence of Conduct Disorder with onset before age 15
years.
D. The occurrence of antisocial behavior is not exclusively during the
course of Schizophrenia or a Manic Episode.

Aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Artist Unknown

You can read the new DSM V criteria at the above link. That description is longer, so I won’t post it here. Tell me Trump doesn’t qualify as ASPD. The only thing we don’t know for sure is whether Trump had Conduct Disorder in childhood. But it seems like, since he is known to have attacked a teacher as young child and his parents sent him away to military school at age 13, presumably because of his behavior. On top of the ASPD, he likely has ADHD and worsening dementia.

Today’s news is full of Trump’s selfish, destructive, cruel behavior. Here are just three examples:

Politico: Watchdog: Migrant children separated from families experienced intense trauma.

Migrant children in government custody who were separated from their parents experienced intense trauma that shelters were unprepared to handle, according to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general.

The findings echo reports from physicians and mental health advocates about lasting ills stemming from the Trump administration’s family separation policies. They come as the administration is trying to revise the so-called Flores agreement, a long-standing court order that outlines standards of care for migrant children and families.

Many children in HHS custody already faced trauma in their home countries or during their journey to the United States, according to the watchdog report, which was based on visits to 45 shelters operated by the department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement in August and September 2018. Children then experienced additional trauma after they were separated from their parents, including intensified fear, feelings of abandonment and post-traumatic stress.

Shelter staff said that they were unprepared to address the problems because of a lack of resources and ongoing efforts to reunify children with their parents. The share of children under the age of 12 in ORR custody rose to 24 percent from 14 percent from April to May of last year.

Please go read the rest at Politico.

Hurricane Sandy, Illustration by Yuko Shimizu

Bess Levin at Vanity Fair: Trump Wanted to Obliterate the U.S. Economy to Get Revenge on China.

One of the scariest aspects of the current national nightmare that is Donald Trump is that for as much of a dystopian hellscape as his presidency has turned out to be, we’re periodically reminded that if he got his way, it would be even worse. Over the past two and a half years we’ve learned that he had to be convinced not to invade Venezuela, or nuke hurricanes, or escalate tensions with Syria by assassinating Bashar al-Assad, or scrap a trade deal with South Korea, the latter of which was avoided when then-National Economic Council director Gary Cohn reportedly swiped a letter from the president’s desk that Trump didn’t even realize had gone missing. According to a new report, the president also wanted to shiv the U.S. economy in a characteristically self-defeating attempt to get back at China—a move that was only prevented by a chorus of staffers and CEOs begging him not to go through with it.

CNBC reports that after China retaliated with $75 billion worth of tariffs last month, the president was so angry—and apparently surprised, despite the fact that China has responded this way every time he’s ratcheted up the trade war—that he wanted to double existing tariffs on Chinese goods. That such a move would have hit the economy even harder than the trade dispute already has, and undoubtedly send the stock market into free fall, apparently did not cross his mind, even though people have tried to sit him down and explain it to him many times. Unable to talk him off the ledge on their own, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer apparently enlisted multiple CEOs to call the president and get it through his seemingly impenetrable skull that the impact of such an action would be, in his own words “not good!” Instead, Trump simply chose to unleash a series of belligerent tweets about how he “hereby ordered” U.S. companies to cease doing business with China “immediately,” sending the Dow plummeting, which he later joked about. (He also settled for a 5% hike in tariffs on $550 billion in Chinese products.)

The news that Trump wanted to go nuclear on China comes days after aides confirmed that the president was lying about Chinese negotiators calling his “top trade people” and saying they wanted to “get back to the table.”

Desaturated – Hurricane Katrina, by El Franco Lee

Reuters: Pentagon pulls funds for military schools, daycare to pay for Trump’s border wall.

The Pentagon said on Wednesday it would pull funding from 127 Defense Department projects, including schools and daycare centers for military families, as it diverts $3.6 billion to fund President Donald Trump’s wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Schools for the children of U.S. military members from Kentucky to Germany to Japan will be affected. A daycare center at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland – the home of Air Force One – will also have its funds diverted, the Pentagon said.

Trump declared a national emergency earlier this year to access the funds from the military construction budget. In March, the Pentagon sent to Congress a broad list of projects that could be affected.

A Pentagon official said in a briefing that the department was given a “lawful order” by Trump to divert the funds. She said the Pentagon is working closely with Congress and its allies abroad to find funding to replace money diverted for the wall, but that there are not any guarantees that those funds will come.

More articles on this topic:

PBS: Full list: The 127 defense projects postponed for the border barrier.

HuffPost: GOP Senators Who Backed Trump’s Emergency Declaration Lose Military Funding.

CNN: Lawmakers furious after learning how military will pay for Trump’s wall.

I’m going to wrap this up, because it’s getting really late. Please post your own thoughts and links in the comment thread. 


Lazy Saturday Afternoon News Reads

michael caine reading

Good Afternoon!!

It’s a perfect day to curl up with a great detective novel. As you can see, Michael Caine up there is deeply engrossed in Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely. Chandler is terrific for those of us who are connoisseurs of the hard-boiled school of mystery writers; I think his masterpiece was The Long Goodbye. I’ve read it multiple times. Here are a few great one-liners from the book:

“I was as hollow and empty as the spaces between stars.”

“The girl gave him a look which ought to have stuck at least four inches out of his back.”

“I belonged in Idle Valley like a pearl onion on a banana split.”

“A man who drinks too much on occasion is still the same man as he was sober. An alcoholic, a real alcoholic, is not the same man at all. You can’t predict anything about him for sure except that he will be someone you never met before.”

“The French have a phrase for it. The bastards have a phrase for everything and they are always right. To say goodbye is to die a little.”

Years later, another hard-boiled detective novelist, Ross MacDonald, wrote a kind of paeon to The Long Goodbye called The Goodbye Look, which I also enjoyed and have read more than once.

These days I tend to prefer female detectives and women writers, but I still prefer the hard-boiled types over the “cozy” ones.

There’s not a whole lot of exciting news out there, but I have a variety of recent reads for you to delve into today if you choose.

I wish John Boehner and Mitch McConnell would read this article in today’s New York Times, although it probably wouldn’t begin to melt their cold cold hearts: Restored Payroll Tax Pinches Those Who Earn the Least.

Jack Andrews and his wife no longer enjoy what they call date night, their once-a-month outing to the movies and a steak dinner at Logan’s Roadhouse in Augusta, Ga. In Harlem, Eddie Phillips’s life insurance payment will have to wait a few more weeks. And Jessica Price is buying cheaper food near her home in Orlando, Fla., even though she worries it may not be as healthy.

Like millions of other Americans, they are feeling the bite from the sharp increase in payroll taxes that took effect at the beginning of January. There are growing signs that the broader economy is suffering, too.

Chain-store sales have weakened over the course of the month. And two surveys released last week suggested that consumer confidence was eroding, especially among lower-income Americans.

While these data points are preliminary — more detailed statistics on retail sales and other trends will not be available until later this month — at street level, the pain from the expiration of a two-percentage-point break in Social Security taxes in 2011 and 2012 is plain to see.

“You got to stretch what you got,” said Mr. Phillips, 51, a front-desk clerk and maintenance man for a nonprofit housing group who earned $22,000 last year. “That little $20 or $30 affects you, especially if you’re just making enough money to stay above water.” So he has taken to juggling bills, skipping a payment on one this month and another next month.

Don’t I know it!

President Obama used his Saturday radio address to once again poke Congress to deal with the upcoming “sequester” cuts.

“If the sequester is allowed to go forward, thousands of Americans who work in fields like national security, education or energy are likely to be laid off,” he said. “All our economic progress could be put at risk.”

Mr. Obama’s remarks echoed a statement issued by the White House Friday that warned the sequester would “threaten thousands of jobs and the economic security of the middle class.”

But, as usual, Republicans are blaming Obama for the problem.

“We know the President’s sequester will have consequences,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement this week. “What we don’t know is when the President will propose a plan to replace the sequester with smarter spending cuts and reforms.”

Sigh…

I hope President Obama reads this op-ed in The Washington Post by Georgetown constitutional law professor David Cole. Cole is the author of the recent book The Torture Memos: Rationalizing the Unthinkable.

There are plenty of problems with President Obama’s targeted killings in the war against terrorism: The policy remains secret in most aspects, involves no judicial review, has resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians, has been employed far from any battlefield and has sparked deep anti-American resentment in countries where we can ill afford it.

But when it comes to the particular legal issue raised in a recently leaked “white paper” from the Justice Department — namely, whether it is legal to kill Americans with drones — one problem looms largest: The policy permits the government to kill its citizens in secret while refusing to acknowledge, even after the fact, that it has done so.

There may be extraordinary occasions when killing a citizen is permissible, but it should never be acceptable for the government to refuse to acknowledge the act. How can we be free if our government has the power to kill us in secret? And how can a sovereign authority be accountable to the people if the sovereign can refuse to own up to its actions?

Cole likens Obama’s assassination policy to the “disappearances” in Argentina in the 1970s.

When Argentina’s military junta secretly abducted and killed its citizens during that country’s “dirty war” in the 1970s, the world labeled these acts “disappearances” and condemned them as violations of human rights. A disappearance is not just an abduction or killing, but an unacknowledged abduction or killing. To “disappear” citizens not only deprives them of their liberty or life without fair process but is deeply corrosive of democratic politics, casting a shadow of fear over all.

Please read the whole thing if you can.

I liked this piece by Gary Gutting at The New York Times, despite my initial hesitation to read anything by a professor at Notre Dame. I finally decided I shouldn’t condemn him by association over the ND football team scandals. Headlined “Depression and the Limits of Psychiatry,” it’s a philosophical discussion of the upcoming changes in the definition of depression in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Read the rest of this entry »