Monday Reads: With Lost Rights and Chaos for All

Cesare Borgia, The Merciless Prince, Painting by Altobello Melone

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

Today will undoubtedly bring a lot of bad news. The good news is there’s some spirited resistance going on! I’m tired of hearing the most vicious regime since the Borgias complain about the protests greeting them everywhere as compared to folks turning a blind eye to the destruction of democracy. I have a feeling it’s only begun. Like the Borgias, this regime has turned to using church to further their interests which are as venal as they can be.

Yet what distinguishes the Trump era’s turbulence is the sheer number of his deputies — many of them largely anonymous before his inauguration — who have become the focus of planned and sometimes spontaneous public fury.

“Better be better!” a stranger shouted at Stephen Miller, a senior Trump adviser and the archi tect of his zero-tolerance immigration policy, as he walked through Dupont Circle a few months ago. Miller’s visage subsequently appeared on “Wanted” posters someone placed on lampposts ringing his City Center apartment building.

One night, after Miller ordered $80 of takeout sushi from a restaurant near his apartment, a bartender followed him into the street and shouted, “Stephen!” When Miller turned around, the bartender raised both middle fingers and cursed at him, according to an account Miller has shared with White House colleagues.

Outraged, Miller threw the sushi away, he later told his colleagues.

On Saturday, as Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s former strategist, browsed at an antiquarian bookstore in Richmond, a woman in the shop called him a “piece of trash.” The woman left after Nick Cooke, owner of Black Swan Books, told her he would call the police.

Lucrezia Borgia, Daughter of Pope Alexander VI,

We’ve been privy to the whining of a group of extremely maleficent players coming to terms with social stigmatization and fanciful public shaming. There’s a long list of examples in that WAPO link bPaul Schwartzman and Josh Dawsey. What I found most hypocritical was that bit coming out of Newt Gingrich’s mouth. Gingrich is undoubtedly the primary source of the rancor and partisan bitterness that has come to fruit in politics.

Newt Gingrich, the former Republican House speaker and Trump ally, said the way to end the public confrontations is “to call the police.”

“You file charges and you press them,” Gingrich said. “We have no reason to tolerate barbarians trying to impose totalitarian behavior by sheer force, and we have every right to defend ourselves.”

He described the president’s opponents as those who “went through a psychotic episode and are having the political equivalent of PTSD. And when they wake up in the morning to the genius that Trump is, he tweets and they say, ‘Oh my God! He’s still president!’ And they get sicker.”

Referring to Trump’s advisers, Gingrich said, “They should take solace in the fact that we must be winning, since these people are so crazy. They used to be passive because they thought they were the future. Now they know we’re the future, and it’s driving them nuts.”

Possible portrait of Lucrezia as St. Catherine of Alexandria in a fresco by Pinturicchio, in the Sala dei Santi the Borgia apartments in the Vatican c. 1494.

Newt evidently doesn’t care about the destruction of Constitutional Democracy as long as he’s able to profit from it. Paul Waldman–writing for American Prospect–says liberals are angry and there will be a backlash. I mean, who wouldn’t be angry when a group of hypereligious, hypocritical, idiot white thugs join our enemies to take away every hard fought civil right of the last 60 years? These are not conservatives but reactionaries, theocrats, and autocrats.

As the recent argument over “civility” has shown, we tend to treat conservative anger as something to be analyzed, understood, even empathized with, while liberal anger is greeted with stern lectures about proper behavior—and little or no attempt to plumb its depths. But more than ever before, liberal anger is something the political system is going to have to deal with.

On November 8, 2016, liberals lost the country they thought America was in the long process of becoming. But with the Supreme Court about to be placed in the hands of a firm and unwavering conservative majority, the effects of Donald Trump’s election will be felt not just as a worry about what might happen or a shock at what’s happening to other people, but as very specific things being taken away from all of us.

But before we get to that, it’s important to appreciate just how central the politics of backlash have been to conservatives, and why it’s so unusual to see the same thing happening to liberals. As political theorist Corey Robin wrote in his book The Reactionary Mind (originally published in 2011 and recently updated), conservatism is at its heart about “the felt experience of having power, seeing it threatened, and trying to win it back.” Robin argued that from its roots with Edmund Burke in 18th-century England, conservatism has always been a reaction to any attempt by any disenfranchised group to demand or seize some measure of power and the benefits that come with it.

Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia) described as “a carnal man and very loving of his flesh and blood” circa 1485

And ReThugs are so respectful, right?

A senior prosecutor in California is under investigation after calling Rep. Maxine Waters a “c–t” on social media and wondering why no one has shot her, according to a report.

San Bernardino County Deputy District Attorney Michael Selyem, 50, also landed in hot water after posting on Facebook and Instagram mocking Mexican immigrants.

Just like the Trump Criminal Syndicate, the Borgias were merchants. They were also well known for killing things while patronizing the arts and using the church. Their game ended badly. Trump’s a lousy businessman and doesn’t understand trade at all. He only excels at fake strength and leaving any one who depended on him for a job in bankruptcy. He lives others to hang on to his baggage. Trump voters are about to learn that lesson the very hard way. according to Greg Sargent.

Numbers provided to me by the Brookings Institution suggest that those consequences will most directly impact the counties that voted for Trump. Indeed, the numbers show that China has taken aggressive steps to sharpen its targeting of Trump counties in the latest round of retaliatory tariffs it just announced.

This morning, Politico reports on the backstory leading up to Trump’s trade war. Trump has been ranting for decades about other countries “ripping off” the United States on trade. Now that hostilities are escalating, Politico notes that Trump has “no clear exit strategy and no explicit plans to negotiate new rules of the road with China, leaving the global trade community and financial markets wracked with uncertainty.” But Trump loyalists say he’s playing a long game and won’t buckle. As Stephen K. Bannon puts it, Trump “has preached a confrontation with China for 30 years,” making this a “huge moment” that pits “Trump against all of Wall Street.”

Despite this phony populist posturing about Trump targeting “Wall Street,” Trump counties are the ones most likely to take a hit. The Brookings Institution, which keeps detailed county-by-county data on employment by industry, looked at all the counties that have jobs in industries that China is targeting, and broke them out by counties that voted for Trump and Hillary Clinton.

French caricature of Pope Alexander VI, 1 January 1431 – 18 August 1583. Caption: ‘Ego sum Papa’ (‘I am the Pope’). Tinted version. January 02, 1754

Trump, however, continues to manufacture his junk in China.

EVEN as a trade war between the United States and China kicks into gear, at least one Chinese businessman is helping to “make America great again”.

Li Jiang, the owner of a flag making factory in China’s eastern Zhejiang province, told NPR’s The Indicator last week that he was making flags for US President Donald Trump’s prospective campaign for re-election in 2020.

“We also make flags for Trump for 2020,” Li told the programme through a translator. “It seems like he has another campaign going on in 2020. Isn’t that right?” referring to the escalating trade tensions with China whereby Trump has pledged to rectify an “unfair” trade relationship.
The two economic giants imposed duties on some $34 billion worth of each other’s imports on Friday, with China accusing the Trump administration of starting the “largest-scale trade war.”

“It’s very pretty with stars and stripes. Fifty stars, isn’t it?” said Li of the American flag. Asked if the Trump 2020 flags said “made in China” on them, Li confirmed: “yes, all of them.”

Meanwhile, we await the deathblow to the Justice system. Via Ezra Klein and Vox: “The Supreme Court vs. democracy. Even those most invested in the Court’s grandeur are finding it hard to defend its reality.”

Which judge Trump chooses is less meaningful than the fact that Trump is choosing a second justice at all. The first seat Trump filled opened under Barack Obama, but Senate Republicans refused to consider any replacements, hoping to win the 2016 election and see the seat filled by a Republican. Mitch McConnell’s bet paid off: Trump did win that election, though he lost the popular vote decisively, and Neil Gorsuch was named to the Court.

Such appointments are becoming the norm. With Kennedy’s replacement, four out of the Supreme Court’s nine justices — all of whom have lifetime tenure — will have been nominated by presidents who won the White House, at least initially, despite losing the popular vote.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. America, for all its proud democratic rhetoric, is not actually a democracy. Until and unless the country chooses to abolish the Electoral College, it will remain not-quite-a-democracy, with all the strange outcomes that entails. Liberals may complain, but the rules are the rules, and both sides know what they are.

But the Supreme Court’s conservative bloc doesn’t just reflect the outcomes of America’s undemocratic electoral rules; it is writing and, in some cases, rewriting them, to favor the Republican Party — making it easier to suppress votes, simpler for corporations and billionaires to buy elections, and legal for incumbents to gerrymander districts to protect and enhance their majorities.

Thought to be Giovanni Sforza, first husband to Lucretia Borgia

The Supreme Court has always been undemocratic. What it’s becoming is something more dangerous: anti-democratic.

And, the UK is having a political meltdown prior to Trump’s tour of country homes to avoid a balloon baby Trump. Speculation over May’s government abounds.

As Michael Gove, a plausible Davis replacement says, it’s not realistic to go for hard Brexit or to get rid of Theresa May.

Boris knows that he’s lagging behind as a leadership contender now, for a start.

There might well be a stalking horse or symbolic challenge, but it wouldn’t work because the votes aren’t there to topple her, probably.

There’d be a lot of Tory bloodletting which would make them look self-indulgent, divided and unfit to govern and thus risking a government meltdown and letting Jeremy Corbyn in, the ultimate catastrophe – a softish Brexit, plus socialism.

Second there is no parliamentary majority for hard Brexit. Simple as that – the May plan is as good as it gets.

Third, a so-called hard Brexit is not practically possible because preparation for life outside the single market and customs union simply hasn’t been done and it is just too late.

If May does suffer more resignations she can go for broke and “do a Corbyn”.

When most of his shadow government resigned he just appointed new people to replace them.

Well, I hope she does a better job of that than the Hair Furor.

So, that’s about all I can take for today. What’s on your reading and blogging list?

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