Finally Friday Reads: A Woman’s Day

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1915, Women on a Street

Good Day Sky Dancers!

Misogyny is the word for the day. Two of the headlines deal with the egregious actions of Trump. Then, hold his beer because New Zealand lost an outstanding prime minister because she got tired of the same treatment the woman-hating press and right-wingers give women leaders here.  There is some really good news today from a U.S. court.

This is from the New York Times. “Judge Orders Trump and Lawyer to Pay Nearly $1 Million for Bogus Suit. In a scathing ruling, the judge said the suit against Hillary Clinton and dozens of the former president’s perceived political enemies was “brought in bad faith for an improper purpose.”  It’s not a large sum of money, but it paints him as a loser and bringer of frivolous lawsuits. I do have to mention the bylines as Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman.

In a scathing ruling, a federal judge in Florida on Thursday ordered Donald J. Trump and one of his lawyers together to pay nearly a million dollars in sanctions for filing a frivolous lawsuit against nearly three dozen of Mr. Trump’s perceived political enemies, including Hillary Clinton and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey.

The ruling was a significant rebuke of Mr. Trump, who has rarely faced such consequences in his long history of using the courts as a weapon against business rivals and partners, as well as former employees and reporters.

And it was the latest setback for Mr. Trump as he faces a broad range of legal problems and criminal investigations. His lawyers are increasingly under scrutiny themselves for their actions in those cases, as well as divided in the advice they are offering him.

“This case should never have been brought,” U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks wrote in a 46-page ruling. “Its inadequacy as a legal claim was evident from the start. No reasonable lawyer would have filed it. Intended for a political purpose, none of the counts of the amended complaint stated a cognizable legal claim.”

While Mr. Trump has often blamed his lawyers for his problems, the judge, in his ruling on Thursday, addressed Mr. Trump’s history of using the courts as a cudgel, going back decades in his business career.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Tightrope Walk (1908-10)

Dan Mangan of CNBC also reports the story.  This is the first news day in some time where I honestly say it put a smile on my face.

Trump’s suit, which sought $70 million in damages, accused Clinton and 30 other defendants of conspiring to “weave a false narrative” during the 2016 election that Trump and his campaign were colluding with Russia in their efforts to win the race.

Middlebrooks in his order Thursday noted that “Mr. Trump is a prolific and sophisticated litigant who is repeatedly using the courts to seek revenge on political adversaries.”

“He is the mastermind of strategic abuse of the judicial process, and he cannot be seen as a litigant blindly following the advice of a lawyer,” Middlebrooks wrote.

“He knew full well the impact of his actions … As such, I find that sanctions should be imposed upon Mr. Trump and his lead counsel, Ms. Habba.”

Under the order, the Republican Trump and Habba, are jointly and severally liable for the total amount of sanctions the judge imposed to cover the defendants’ legal fees and costs : $937,989.39. That amount is about $120,000 less than what the defendants jointly requested for sanctions.
Clinton was awarded $171,631 in sanctions to be paid by Trump and Habba, with most of that money earmarked for Clinton’s attorneys’ fee.

That was the second largest amount awarded in Middlebrooks’ order, which gave the Democratic National Committee, its former chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, and a related corporation $179,685.

“The amount of fees awarded in this case, while reasonable, is substantial,” Middlebrooks noted.

The judge in November had sanctioned Habba and other Trump lawyers $50,000 in favor of another defendant in the lawsuit, Charles Dolan.

He called the legal pleadings filed in the case by Habba “abusive litigation tactics,” and said the original lawsuit and a later, 186-page amended complaint “were drafted to advance political narrative; not to address legal harm caused by any Defendant.”

“The Amended Complaint is a hodgepodge of disconnected, often immaterial events, followed by an implausible conclusion,” Middlebrooks wrote.

“This is a deliberate attempt to harass; to tell a story without regard to facts.”

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Five Women on the Street, 1913

If you want to know how Trump’s mental acuity is doing these days, read this transcript of his Deposition in the E. Jean Carroll case released by Judge Kaplan. The weirdest moment was when Trump mistook a picture of Carroll for his former wife, Marla Maples. This is from MSNBC and Steve Benen. “Deposition transcript adds to Trump’s troubles in Carroll case. Why does it matter that Donald Trump confused a woman who has accused him of rape with one of his ex-wives? Because it might undermine his defense.”

It was about a week ago when the public first saw a partial transcript of Donald Trump’s deposition in E. Jean Carroll’s defamation case. As we discussed soon after, it was not good news for the Republican: The former president not only lashed out at his accuser as a “nut job” and someone who’s “mentally sick,” he also falsely suggested that Carroll was on record enjoying sexual assault.

“She actually indicated that she loved it. OK?” Trump said in the deposition, mischaracterizing comments Carroll made on CNN four years ago. “In fact, I think she said it was sexy, didn’t she? She said it was very sexy to be raped.”

The plaintiff’s attorney asked, “So, sir, I just want to confirm: It’s your testimony that E. Jean Carroll said that she loved being sexually assaulted by you?” Trump responded, “Well, based on her interview with Anderson Cooper, I believe that’s what took place.”

As NBC News reported, the rest of the deposition is now also coming into focus in striking ways.

Former President Donald Trump confused E. Jean Carroll, the writer who has accused him of rape, with ex-wife Marla Maples in a photo he was shown during a deposition, newly unsealed court documents show. An excerpt of the October deposition released by U.S. District Court for Southern New York on Wednesday includes an exchange in which Trump was asked by Carroll’s lawyer about a black-and-white photograph that showed a small group of people, including Trump and Carroll.

Describing the image showing him and his accuser, Trump said, “That’s Marla, yeah. That’s my wife,” referring to the second of his three spouses. At that point, the Republican’s lawyer intervened, correcting her client’s mistake.

“No, that’s Carroll,” lawyer Alina Habba said, according to the newly released transcript. 

At face value, this might seem like an embarrassing blunder in which the former president confused one of his former wives with a woman who accused him of attacking her. But there’s more to it than that: As NBC News’ report added, “Trump’s comments under oath threaten to undercut his repeated denials of Carroll’s allegations, claiming she’s ‘not my type.’”

Portrait of Emy, 1919. Karl Schmidt-Rottluff

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden announced her plans to step down yesterday.  She was widely hailed as an effective and empathetic leader. Among her accomplishments was the impressive handling of the Covid-19 outbreak in the country, which was considered one of the most effective in the world.  This is from NPR. 

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Thursday announced her intent to step down in a shock move that rocked the country’s political landscape.

Speaking to her party’s annual caucus in the seaside town of Napier, 42-year-old Ardern said “it’s time” for her to move on and that she “no longer had enough in the tank” for her premiership. She also called for a general election on Oct. 14.

“I’m leaving, because with such a privileged role comes responsibility,” Ardern told her audience. “The responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead and also when you are not. I know what this job takes. And I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple.”

Ardern became the world’s youngest female leader in 2017 at the age of 37. Her last day in the office will be Feb. 7.

“This is not something we were expecting today,” said Geoffrey Miller, a geopolitical analyst with the Wellington-based nonprofit Democracy Project. “It was something that commentators had thought of and have been asking since the end of last year … and she quite convincingly said she was going to stay, and that she wasn’t going anywhere.”

The last six years have been busy for Ardern, managing disasters and tragedies that propelled her to global superstardom, Miller said. From the COVID-19 pandemic and a volcanic eruption to the terrorist attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, he said Ardern has become much more well known than any New Zealand prime minister in the past.

“In many ways, she was the anti-Trump figure,” Miller said. “They both came into office in 2017 … but she went off to the United Nations and she decried isolationism, brandishing an image of being an internationalist or being a globalist.”

New Zealand’s relationship with China was probably her biggest foreign policy sticking point, Miller said, with Ardern always having to walk a line between souring relations with China and the fact that Beijing is Wellington’s largest trading partner.

“But she had to try and find a way forward,” Miller said. “And I think her consensus approach helped with this, but at the same time, she wasn’t immune to these bigger geopolitical trends.”

Four Ages in Life, 1920, Edvard Munch

This is from Monica Hesse, writing for the Washington Post. “Jacinda Ardern didn’t make working motherhood look easy. She made it look real. Five years ago, she became the second world leader to give birth while in office. Now the New Zealand prime minister plans to step down.”

A few weeks ago, while I watched Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) win admiration for caring for his infant on the House floor, I started to think about the last time I’d seen an elected official engage in such a public display of parenting. It was New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, scraping herself together after a six-week maternity leave to simultaneously raise a human and run a country.

I don’t remember Ardern winning universal admiration for this balancing act. What I remember mostly was the debate that raged over her breastfeeding choices. Since baby Neve was still nursing when Ardern was expected at a Pacific islands summit, the prime minister had arranged to take a separate flight from other government officials, shortening her trip to avoid a prolonged absence from her newborn. The extra travel arrangements cost thousands of dollars in fuel. Was this a good use of taxpayer money? Should Ardern have taken a longer maternity leave or avoided pregnancy altogether?

“If I didn’t go, I imagine there would have been equal criticism,” she told the New Zealand Herald at the time, explaining the careful analysis that had gone into her decision. “Damned if I did and damned if I didn’t.”

So one lesson from Jacinda Ardern’s term was that mothers can’t win and that even in the highest levels of governing, a father who rearranges his work schedule for his kids is seen as dedicated and a mother who does the same is seen as disorganized. But if you prefer the optimistic take, the other lesson was that if citizens are willing to accept flexibility in how their leaders get the job done then they can have a leader like Jacinda Ardern.

They can have a leader who, after stepping into her role at the age of 37, went on to create one of the most diverse cabinets in the world: 40 percent women, 25 percent Maori, 15 percent LGBTQ — a group that, Arden said proudly, reflected “the New Zealand that elected them.”

They can have a leader who, less than a week after 50 New Zealanders were shot to death in a Christchurch mosque, helmed a nationwide ban of assault-style weapons without fuss or consternation: “Our history changed forever,” she said simply. “Now, our laws will too.”

The Mother leading two Children, 1901, Pablo Piccaso

Ardern cited burnout as her primary reason for resignation.  There was a surging right-wing movement in the nation and among the press that some of my friends felt was hell-bent on doing her in.  This is from the BBC.  “Why Jacinda Ardern’s star waned in New Zealand.”

She has been the subject of often-vile abuse by the anti-vax movement and other populist-inspired right-wing protest groups in New Zealand.

It was evident in her resignation remarks on Thursday that the pressure had had an impact and caused her to doubt whether she could lead her party into the election scheduled for October.

“This summer, I had hoped to find a way to prepare not just for another year but another term because that is what this year requires; I have not been able to do that,” she said.

Now, for yet another insult to American Women. This is from Bloomberg. It’s written by Nancy Cook.  “GOP Quietly Plots What’s Next on Abortion in Nod to 2022 Failures. ”

  • Anti-abortion rally in DC highlights scattershot approach
  • Abortion rights energized women, young voters in midterms “

Republicans still haven’t solved the quandary of how to talk to voters about abortion, still stinging from their midterm losses and with the White House at stake in less than two years.

Conversations with a dozen GOP candidates, former White House aides, activists and lobbyists show the issue continues to bedevil the party even after Roe v. Wade was overturned. Conservatives who celebrated that ruling are weighing what is politically possible to restrict access to abortion without repelling key voters like suburban women, independents and young people.

The GOP ceded this ground in the 2022 midterms to Democrats, whose own furious base was galvanized following the Supreme Court’s decision last summer to end 50 years of constitutionally protected abortion rights.

On the campaign trail, some Republicans avoided the topic entirely while some endorsed total bans, with no exceptions. The reality that hit them was that a majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

So with the 2024 race already on, Republicans’ strategy is to paint Democrats as the true extremists, try to put them on the defensive and avoid their own schisms from spilling out in public.

The GOP ceded this ground in the 2022 midterms to Democrats, whose own furious base was galvanized following the Supreme Court’s decision last summer to end 50 years of constitutionally protected abortion rights.

On the campaign trail, some Republicans avoided the topic entirely while some endorsed total bans, with no exceptions. The reality that hit them was that a majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

So with the 2024 race already on, Republicans’ strategy is to paint Democrats as the true extremists, try to put them on the defensive and avoid their own schisms from spilling out in public.

“When you run from abortion and don’t talk about it, you forfeit the issue to the other side,” Marc Short, chief of staff to former Vice President Mike Pence, said in an interview. “We have a responsibility, as a party, to explain our position and do it in a winsome way that is not judgmental.”

Winsome?  WTAF?

Well, that’s it for me today!  I hope you have a great weekend!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?