Friday Reads: Bang The Drum Slowly but Loudly!

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

Do you remember the lead up to the needless invasion of Iraq? Having flashbacks yet? According to The UK Independent, “Trump administration providing ‘false’ information about Gulf of Oman attack, says Japanese tanker owner.”

The owner of the Japanese tanker attacked on Thursday said US reports have provided “false” information about what happened in the Gulf of Oman

The ship operator said “flying objects” that may have been bullets were the cause of damage to the vessel, rather than mines used by Iranian forces, as the US has suggested. 

Yutaka Katada, chief executive of the Japanese company operating the ship called Kokuka Courageous, one of two vessels attacked near the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, said the damage could not have been caused by mines or torpedos that are shot underwater, since the damage was reportedly above the ship’s waterline. 

“It seems that something flew towards them. That created the hole, is the report I’ve received,” Mr Katada said at a press conference in Tokyo on Friday, the Financial Times reported. 

Donald Trump’s administration has meanwhile insisted the attacks were carried out by Iran, which has denied having any involvement in either of the two incidents. 

The US insists that they have video of Iran taking a mine off of one of the ships.  This story line makes no sense to me.  What does Iran have to gain from attacking Japanese tankers and goods at a time when the regime is speaking to the leader of Japan for the first time since its revolution?  Also, there is continuing evidence that Iran has been living up to its agreements with the rest of the World.  Is this a false flag operation or some other weirdish situation Trump has set up to look like the role he loves to play most which is the aggrieved victim fighting back against some evil force?

Iran accused Washington of waging an “Iranophobic campaign” against it, while Trump countered that the country was “a nation of terror.”

“Iran did do it,” he said of the attack, in remarks Friday morning to “Fox & Friends.”

The black-and-white U.S. video of the Iranians alongside the Japanese-owned tanker Kokuka Courageous came after its crew abandoned ship after seeing the undetonated explosive on its hull, said Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for the U.S. military’s Central Command. It separately shared photos of the vessel, which showed what appeared to be a conical limpet mine against its side.

In the video, the boat from Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard pulls alongside Kokuka Courageous at 4:10 p.m. Thursday. The Iranians reach up and grab along where the limpet mine could be seen in the photo. They then sail away.

Limpet mines, which are magnetic and attach to a ship’s hull, are designed to disable a vessel without sinking it.

Analysts say Iran, if involved, wouldn’t want investigators to find an unexploded mine because they could check its serial numbers and other attributes to trace it.

Banging drums and making empty noises have always been a thing for religious nuts.  Adam Serwer discusses the role of culture wars by the religious right in Trumpistan at The Atlantic.   I don’t understand why these folks don’t get we don’t want to live within the parameters of their mythology.  Wanting them and their awful ways out of secular life and government is not an act of discrimination or oppression.

By the tail end of the Obama administration, the culture war seemed lost. The religious right sued for détente, having been swept up in one of the most rapid cultural shifts in generations. Gone were the decades of being able to count on attacking its traditional targets for political advantage. In 2013, Chuck Cooper, the attorney defending California’s ban on same-sex marriage, begged the justices to allow same-sex-marriage opponents to lose at the ballot box rather than in court. Conservatives such as George Will and Rod Drehergriped that LGBTQ activists were “sore winners,” intent on imposing their beliefs on prostrate Christians, who, after all, had already been defeated.

The rapidity of that cultural shift, though, should not obscure the contours of the society that the religious right still aspires to preserve: a world where women have no control over whether to carry a pregnancy to term, same-sex marriage is illegal, and gays and lesbians can be arrested and incarcerated for having sex in their own homes and be barred from raising children. The religious right showed no mercy and no charity toward these groups when it had the power to impose its will, but when it lost that power, it turned to invoking the importance of religious tolerance and pluralism in a democratic society.

That was then. The tide of illiberalism sweeping over Western countries and the election of Donald Trump have since renewed hope among some on the religious right that it might revive its cultural control through the power of the state. Inspired by Viktor Orbán in Hungary and Vladimir Putin in Russia, a faction of the religious right now looks to sectarian ethno-nationalism to restore its beliefs to their rightful primacy, and to rescue a degraded and degenerate culture. All that stands in their way is democracy, and the fact that most Americans reject what they have to offer.

The past few weeks have witnessed a nasty internecine fight among religious conservatives about whether liberal democracy’s time has passed. Sohrab Ahmari, writing at First Thingsattacked National Review’s David French for adhering to a traditional commitment to liberal democracy while “the overall balance of forces has tilted inexorably away from us.” Would the left have stood by liberal democracy in the face of such circumstances? In fact, the balance of forces tilted away from the left’s cultural priorities for most of my lifetime, and the left’s response was to win arguments—slowly, painfully, and at incalculable personal cost.

Many religious conservatives see antidiscrimination laws that compel owners of public accommodations to serve all customers, laws that might compel priests to break the seal of confession if they are told of child abuse, and the growing acceptance of trans people as a kind of impending apocalypse. It is no surprise that among their co-partisans, Ahmari seems to have the upper hand here; in such circles, “Crush your enemies” almost always plays better than “The other side has rights too.”

What follows is a diatribe that you’ll really suffer through but must read. 

We may be rid of Sarah Huckabee shortly but “The Queen of Gaslighting” is being encouraged to run for Arkansas Governor.  

When Sarah Sanders said Thursday that she hopes to be remembered for her transparency and honesty, the first impulse was to laugh.

But lying to citizens while being paid by them really isn’t all that funny.

Sanders took on an impossible job when she became Trump’s spokeswoman, a job that’s about to reach a welcome conclusion.

She would claim to represent the truth on behalf of a president who lies.

She did it disrespectfully, and apparently without shame or an understanding of what the role of White House press secretary should be.

She misled reporters or tried to, and through them, misled the American people. And all with her distinctive curled-lip disdain.

Thus, she delivered on what New York University professor Jay Rosen has called the “brand promise” of the Trump administration’s treatment of the press: “Watch, we will put these people down for you.”

 

Watching the Hatch Act go do in flames has another distressing bit of today’s news.  Conway’s violations have been punished with fines but sneering and asking about the court dates and handcuffs is just over the top  It is also a place where the Russian Potted Plant in the White House shows complete ignorance of the US Constitution and law.

Kellyanne Conway’s potential Hatch Act violations are anything but surprising.  Even less of a shock is President Donald Trump’s blatant apathy that a senior staffer openly and routinely flouts federal law.  Realistically, none of us expected Trump to fire Conway simply because it’s the recommended course of action. Still, though, it’s always jarring when the president proves that he doesn’t actually understand how the law works.

Trump’s official comment about Conway’s Hatch Act violations was that he’d submit himself to a “very strong briefing,” but that, “It looks to me they’re trying to take away her right from free speech, which is not fair.”

Trump might be interested to learn that a great many statutes abridge free speech.  Defamatory, inciteful, or obscene speech is properly prohibited by law. So is speech that violates a person’s medical privacy, that which violates court orders, and many, many other categories of communications.  Equating “free speech” with “absolutely unrestricted speech” is an error usually relegated to grade-schoolers who are still learning the words to the Star-Spangled Banner.

The purpose of the First Amendment was never to create a country in which any person could say anything at any time without consequences – it was to create one in which political discourse was unstifled by government. In fact, the Hatch Act is an example of a statute that abridges free speech for the purpose of keeping the government from inserting itself too much into politics.

Meanwhile, grifters continue to grift. The Trump Family Crime Syndicate also doesn’t believe the emollients clause of the US Constitution applies to Trump’s holdings. From Bloomberg:  “Ivanka Trump Made $4 Million From President’s Washington Hotel”.

Ivanka Trump made $4 million from her investment in her father’s Washington hotel last year, according to a disclosure released by the White House on Friday.

She also made at least $1 million from her line of branded apparel, jewelry and other merchandise, down from at least $5 million in the previous year. Trump, 37, announced in July that she was closing her fashion businesses amid controversies over her role in the White House and after some big-name department stores dropped the brand.

Together, Trump and husband Jared Kushner earned between $28.8 million and $135.1 million in outside income while working as unpaid senior advisers to her father, President Donald Trump, their disclosures, which covers 2018, show.

The reports, which list the assets and sources of income for Ivanka Trump, her husband and dependent children, have yet to be approved by the White House counsel’s office. They will also be reviewed by the Office of Government Ethics.

Well, here’s something from US New Today.  What do we do with “Trump Era Anxiety” ?’  The wisdom beings know I have no clues.  I meditate. I try to grade and limit my exposure to newspapers and TV but I’ve never been one to be attracted to reading anything or watching anything much but nonfiction.  I’m actually stumped but I can tell you that I’ve said the Mani Mantra so much over the last few years it should have liberated something.  We’ve gone from near war with North Korea to bromance and now near war with Iran.  We keep losing voting and civil rights. WTF can calm us?

More than two years after Donald Trump took the oath of office, many Americans find themselves not just taking sides – sometimes vehemently – but growing mentally anxious and exhausted, experts say.

“We know the polarization has been growing for decades but I think it’s spiking now because there’s so much division around and about this president,” said Bill Doherty, a long-time family therapist who has been watching the anger up close. “I think it’s worse now because there’s a central figure. A lot of reds did not like Obama at all, but their loathing of Obama wasn’t even close to the loathing blues have for Trump.”

“Reds” are Republicans and “Blues” are Democrats according to a group called Better Angels, which Doherty helped start in 2017 when it became clear half the country was having trouble getting over the election result and the other half resented them for not being able to accept it gracefully.

Doherty, a family social science professor who also runs the Couples on the Brink Project at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, has tried to resolve a number of family splits over political differences.

There was the adult son living abroad, who upon finding out his mother and father voted for Trump, told them “you’re no longer my parents.” In another case, a wife told her husband that she would divorce him if he voted for Trump.

To her, “it was like voting for Chancellor (Adolf) Hitler,” Doherty recalled. “We don’t share values.”

A study last year by political science researchers from four different universities found that many Americans are “dehumanizing” the political opposition. More than three-quarters of respondents rated their political opponents as less evolved than members of their own party, the study concluded.

One of its authors, Alexander Theodoridis of the University of California-Merced, calls efforts such as Better Angels an “encouraging” step to lower the temperature of political discourse. But he’s not optimistic.

“There is little reason to expect dinners and meet-ups to overcome the divides in our body politic,” he wrote in an email to USA TODAY. “For many Americans, they are a clash between people like ‘us’ and people like ‘them.’  It becomes increasingly easy to attribute pernicious motives to our opponents, and increasingly difficult to stomach compromise with them.”

In January, 87% of Republicans approved of Trump’s performance during 2018 versus only 8% of Democrats who did, according to a Gallup poll. That 79-percentage-point difference is the largest Gallup has measured in any presidential year to date.

Yes, Yes it’s a problem but wtf can we do?  Evidently, there’s a few groups trying to bridge the gap.  You can read more about them.  Meanwhile, I’m going to throw myself into work and find some fantasy fiction.  I can’t handle this world right now.

So, that’s it for me today.  What’s on you reading and blogging list?