Monday Reads: Playing Hot Potato with a Costly War

Good Day Sky Dancers!

It’s hard to explain how much of what’s going on in Kabul today should rest directly and squarely on the bad faith negotiations of Trump’s Secretary of State–steal all the government booze–Pompeo.  Please watch this smug, smarmy, man laugh while under questioning by Representative Allred who asks what we’re doing to ensure that our conditions will be good as we leave Kabul.  It amazes me that more isn’t being made about Pompeo’s role in the chaos we experience now.  It’s worth remembering that all this was negotiated about a year ago.   Oh, wait, it was supposed to be negotiated at Camp David with Trump on the anniversary of 9/11 last year.  President Tin Ear was stopped on that one however.

Here’s Chris Wallace on Fox News dumping on the man who created this mess as he lies his way to a nonanswer.

Jennifer Ruben’s opinion piece today at WaPo discusses “Why so many people find Biden an easy target.” 

The vehemence with which many politicians and media pundits on the left and right have attacked President Biden should not be surprising. Given the chaotic and heart-wrenching scenes in Afghanistan, the commander in chief becomes an obvious target, especially for a press corps desperate to show they do not have a liberal bias.

But “chaotic” does not equal “failed,” and just because our intelligence community blew it big time — again — does not mean the United States has abandoned its Afghan partners. Since Aug. 14, we have evacuated over 37,000 people. The United States has enlisted a slew of allies to help receive refugees. And our allies remain united that they will not recognize nor extend aid to the Taliban until we are satisfied they have not hindered our evacuation and are respecting human rights.

Despite the torrent of angry media coverage, a recent CBS News poll found that 63 percent of Americans still want out of Afghanistan. And while Biden’s approval ratings have dipped (largely due to the covid-19 surge), the decline is less than one might expect. In NBC News’s poll, for example, he has dropped only one point among registered voters — from 51 to 50 percent — since April. So why is the media so determined to convey that Biden’s effort has “failed”?

Too many reporters adopt the talking points of critics of an administration, even when those critics have an interest to make Biden the fall guy. The media, for example, have parroted the right wing’s deliberate effort to impugn the Biden administration’s motives about “abandoning Afghans” (as it airlifts tens of thousands of them out the country) while ignoring the Trump team’s destruction of the visa system. With a straight face, reporters ask for the judgment of politicians and those in the military who lied for two decades about progress in Afghanistan — as if they and the reporters themselves hadn’t contributed to the rosy, false narrative about the Afghan army’s viability. And the media have run with the notion that the Biden administration broke Afghans’ “morale” rather than focusing on our utter failure to forge a national army, the endemic corruption in their government and Afghan leaders’ selling out to the Taliban for money.

The media almost by definition operates on anecdotes. They see European back-benchers criticizing Biden and squawk about a crisis among our allies. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Fox News’s Chris Wallace on Sunday:

From the get-go, I’ve spent more time with our NATO partners in Brussels, virtually, from before the president made his decision, to when he made his decision, to every time since. We’ve been working very, very closely together. We’ve gotten the G7 together, NATO together, the U.N. Security Council together. We had 113 countries, thanks to our diplomacy, put out a clear understanding of the Taliban’s requirements to let people leave the country. … I’ve heard, across the board, deep appreciation and thanks from allies and partners for everything that we’ve done to bring our allies and partners out of harm’s way. This has been a remarkable part of the effort. I’ve seen them stand up, step up to help out, including, as I said, agreements with more than two dozen countries now to help out on transit. And beyond that, we’re very focused together on the way forward, including the way forward in Afghanistan, and setting very clear expectations for the Taliban in the days, weeks and months ahead.

Which is the better indicator of our allies’ sentiments: stray comments to the media, or all of the actions Blinken outlined?

A Marine with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) provides fresh water to a child during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 20, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Samuel Ruiz)

Listening to the people who served there is a good way to get out of the damn media’s obsessions with creating tempests in teapots and seeing what was going to be a difficult process–even if perfectly planned–as the problem of the guy who’s only had 7ish months of holding a 20-year-old hot potato.  This is from the Kansas City Star and was written by  Veteran Lucas Kince who served in that theatre: “I served in Afghanistan as a US Marine, twice. Here’s the truth in two sentences.”

What we are seeing in Afghanistan right now shouldn’t shock you. It only seems that way because our institutions are steeped in systematic dishonesty. It doesn’t require a dissertation to explain what you’re seeing. Just two sentences.

One: For 20 years, politicians, elites and D.C. military leaders lied to us about Afghanistan.

Two: What happened last week was inevitable, and anyone saying differently is still lying to you.

I know because I was there. Twice. On special operations task forces. I learned Pashto as a U.S. Marine captain and spoke to everyone I could there: everyday people, elites, allies and yes, even the Taliban.

The truth is that the Afghan National Security Forces was a jobs program for Afghans, propped up by U.S. taxpayer dollars — a military jobs program populated by nonmilitary people or “paper” forces (that didn’t really exist) and a bevy of elites grabbing what they could when they could.

You probably didn’t know that. That’s the point.

And it wasn’t just in Afghanistan. They also lied about Iraq.

I led a team of Marines training Iraqi security forces to defend their country. When I arrived I received a “stoplight” chart on their supposed capabilities in dozens of missions and responsibilities. Green meant they were good. Yellow was needed improvement; red said they couldn’t do it at all.

I was delighted to see how far along they were on paper — until I actually began working with them. I attempted to adjust the charts to reflect reality and was quickly shut down. The ratings could not go down. That was the deal. It was the kind of lie that kept the war going.

So when people ask me if we made the right call getting out of Afghanistan in 2021, I answer truthfully: Absolutely not. The right call was getting out in 2002. 2003. Every year we didn’t get out was another year the Taliban used to refine their skills and tactics against us — the best fighting force in the world. After two decades, $2 trillion and nearly 2,500 American lives lost, 2021 was way too late to make the right call.

What I have read repeatedly from folks on the ground is that the only people that try won the 20 year-long war were military contractors and corrupt government officials in Afghanistan.  You can read my Friday reads for more on that from former NPR reporter Sarah Chayes.

The reality of Biden’s follow through with the result of the Trump/Pompeo man-crushes on the Taliban is explained by CNN’s John Harwood. “Why Biden’s Afghanistan exit wasn’t about good politics”.  We always knew what Biden wanted because he stated his opposition to the failed Obama Surge while he was VEEP.

In ending America’s longest war, President Joe Biden did something popular. It was never going to help him politically.

That was true before damaging images of chaos and desperation filled American television screens last week. The reason is that public opinion about the Afghanistan conflict, as with most overseas events and issues, remains ill-defined and loosely held.

Even after 20 years, the conflict that ended with the lightning Taliban takeover represents a distant blur for most Americans. Only a small sliver of the US population has a personal connection to the war through service in the all-volunteer military. Its duration through years of diminishing troop levels and casualties led much of the public to tune the story out.

Pollsters who have tracked the subject describe opinions no firmer than jello. Asked whether the American military should stay or leave, majorities say leave. Asked whether the military should leave or stay to continue counterterrorism operations, majorities say stay.

Either way, voters have not counted Afghanistan among their top-priority concerns. Survey research on foreign policy, observed Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson, “is always very fluid.”

That reality means that neither side of the long-running debate on the war can unambiguously claim the upper hand in public sentiment.

Afghans crowd at the tarmac of the Kabul airport on August 16, 2021, to flee the country as the Taliban were in control of Afghanistan after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and conceded the insurgents had won the 20-year war. AFP PHOTO

From the initial push for war by the Bush administration to the idea of a surge by the Obama administration to the total dump it on the Taliban and let Biden deal with it by the Trump administration there has been one bad commitment to bad ideas after another. You all know I’ve never been a big Biden fan.  I have to say he’s the only President that just decided to get it done and be done with it.  The collapse of Kabul was always inevitable since the Afghanistan people and their regionalism vs federalism approach to things has seriously been misunderstood by many “experts”. It still seems this was another nation-building opportunity that only enriched the military-industrial complex.  That’s my thoughts.

In other news, the FDA has given the Pfizer vaccine full approval.

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine has been known as the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, and will now be marketed as Comirnaty (koe-mir’-na-tee), for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA), including for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.

“The FDA’s approval of this vaccine is a milestone as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. While this and other vaccines have met the FDA’s rigorous, scientific standards for emergency use authorization, as the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. “While millions of people have already safely received COVID-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated. Today’s milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the U.S.” 

Since Dec. 11, 2020, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine has been available under EUA in individuals 16 years of age and older, and the authorization was expanded to include those 12 through 15 years of age on May 10, 2021. EUAs can be used by the FDA during public health emergencies to provide access to medical products that may be effective in preventing, diagnosing, or treating a disease, provided that the FDA determines that the known and potential benefits of a product, when used to prevent, diagnose, or treat the disease, outweigh the known and potential risks of the product.

FDA-approved vaccines undergo the agency’s standard process for reviewing the quality, safety and effectiveness of medical products. For all vaccines, the FDA evaluates data and information included in the manufacturer’s submission of a biologics license application (BLA). A BLA is a comprehensive document that is submitted to the agency providing very specific requirements. For Comirnaty, the BLA builds on the extensive data and information previously submitted that supported the EUA, such as preclinical and clinical data and information, as well as details of the manufacturing process, vaccine testing results to ensure vaccine quality, and inspections of the sites where the vaccine is made. The agency conducts its own analyses of the information in the BLA to make sure the vaccine is safe and effective and meets the FDA’s standards for approval.

I am without patience for anyone not getting the vaccine.  I’m still ready to tell them to go to their crazy places–churches, Republican Party National Headquarter, Mara Lago, etc.– to get treatment and stay away from our children and healthcare workers.  More and more employers are mandating vaccines and I’m really down with that.

So, what’s on your blogging list today?  This war and pandemic stuff is wearing me out!


TGIF Reads

Image

Charles Burchfield, “July Sunlight Pouring Down”, 1952, Watercolor on paper

Good Day

Sky Dancers!

Today’s art is from Charles Burchfield whose ethereal water colors of nature have always had a calming effect on me.  Water color is my favorite medium and I love painting landscapes and old buildings.  I always find his play of light to be fascinating. That’s hard to do with water color. You get one chance at it.

According to Burchfield’s friend and colleague Edward Hopper, “The work of Charles Burchfield is most decidedly founded, not on art, but on life, and the life that he knows and loves best.”

Those times were not simpler for most folks. There are always plagues and famines and wars.  However, this is the first time we look at Americana from the viewpoint of living through a nightmare of a leader who is not the least bit suited for the job a minority of the population shove him into.  I cannot wait to be rid of him one way or another and whatever gets him out of our lives quickly.

Polls continue to show the displeasure is not limited to us.  This is from Politico: “Poll shows Trump’s coronavirus approval at all-time low. The president remains reluctant to acknowledge the disease’s threat as he keeps pushing to restart the U.S. economy.”

Support for President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has hit an all-time low, according to a new survey, with a similarly substantial majority of Americans also disapproving of his response to widespread racial unrest.

An ABC News/Ipsos poll released Friday reports that a record 67 percent of respondents now disapprove of “the way Donald Trump is handling the response to the coronavirus,” while only 33 percent approve — the widest gulf in public sentiment since ABC News and Ipsos started surveying on the pandemic in March.

Dawn of Spring, ca. 1960s. Watercolor, charcoal, and white chalk on joined paper mounted on board,

It’s still disheartening that fully 1/3 of those respondents appear to be adherents to the kind of white christian nationalism that brands the Trumpist regime and supporters into the KKK corner of life.   What’s also disheartening is that the kind of blatantly fictional conspiracy theories and fairy tales embraced by these people seems to be still selling in some corners that send representatives to Congress.  This is from Media Matters: “QAnon may be coming to Congress, and journalists need to be ready”. This article describes the odd views of ““Gun-toting” restaurateur Lauren Boebert who beat an incumbent Republican in the Colorado primary.

In many ways,  Boebert and other QAnon-following candidates have been normalized in the press. FiveThirtyEight published an article about the likelihood that Republican women will increase their representation in Congress with the November elections, and used a photo of Boebert. Her fringe beliefs are not mentioned anywhere in the article or accompanying tweet.

When The New York Times wrote about Boebert’s victory, it made a passing reference to her support of QAnon, saying in the lead that she’d “spoken approvingly of the pro-Trump conspiracy theory QAnon.” It wasn’t until the 11th paragraph that the movement got mentioned again, and even that was framed in the context of how “Democrats immediately went on the attack” for her support of QAnon.

Media Matters’ Alex Kaplan has reported extensively on the QAnon movement, and he has identified two concepts that journalists need to understand when reporting on this movement. The first has to do with QAnon-supporting candidates and the need to probe their actual beliefs. “Some of these candidates seem to see QAnon and its supporters as an explicit political constituency to appeal to for support, and are trying to use existing QAnon infrastructure to do so, such as using QAnon hashtags (particularly #WWG1WGA) and going on QAnon YouTube channels,” he says. “So they seem to be treating a far-right conspiracy theory group tied to violence and flagged by the FBI as some normal voting block when it’s clearly not.”

The second issue is that reporters often seem unaware of, or aren’t reporting on, the actual number of QAnon-supporting candidates who are progressing in their races. Kaplan says, “I keep seeing just a few specific candidates mentioned over and over regarding those who made it out of primaries or to primary runoffs (Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jo Rae Perkins), when it’s way more than that; it’s at least 14 candidates that made it out of primaries to the ballot in November or to primary runoffs (and that’s leaving out independent/write-in candidates).”

 

Image

Charles Burchfield, “Purple Vetch and Buttercups”, 1959, Watercolor over charcoal,

 

This shows you exactly how far Trump thinks he can go unchecked.  Via CNN: “Trump implies he’s ready to grant clemency to Roger Stone”. 

Trump is widely expected to pardon or commute Stone’s sentence, according to at least half a dozen sources close to the President.

>Asked by Fox News host Sean Hannity whether he’s considered a pardon or commutation for Stone, Trump said during a phone interview, “I am always thinking.”

“You’ll be watching like everyone else in this case,” he said.

In another interview, with radio host Howie Carr, Trump decried Stone’s treatment at the hands of law enforcement and said he may grant his clemency plea.

“He was framed. He was treated horrible. He was treated so badly,” Trump said.

Probably the most heinous thing Trump is doing right now is turning America’s school children into political props for his culture war.  This is an Op Ed by Michelle Goldberg writing at the NYT: “Trump Threatens to Turn Pandemic Schooling Into a Culture War. The president might sabotage parents’ best hopes for getting their kids back to school.”

Instead, Donald Trump has approached the extraordinarily complex challenge of educating children during a pandemic just as he’s approached most other matters of governing: with bullying, bluster and propaganda.

While doing nothing to curb the wildfire spread of the coronavirus, he has demanded that schools reopen and threatened to cut off funding for those that don’t. On Wednesday, he tweeted that the guidelines for reopening schools from his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were “very tough & expensive,” adding, “I will be meeting with them!!!” Mike Pence then suggested that the guidelines would be revised. On Thursday the agency’s director, Dr. Robert Redfield, said they wouldn’t be, but later, seeming to give into pressure, said the guidelines should be seen as recommendations, not requirements.

Also on Thursday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos gestured toward a plan of coronavirus-inspired school choice that would punish public schools that don’t fully reopen. Without offering details, she said families could take the federal money spent at these schools and use it elsewhere. She’s long wanted to give public money to private schools; perhaps she thinks this coronavirus has given her the chance.

 

 

 

Check out New York Magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi’s piece “The Unburdened Believer”.  There’s a lot of creepy here.

Trump’s central case for reelection — the strong economy — has evaporated faster than the tear gas the administration sprayed on peaceful demonstrators outside the White House in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 130,000 Americans and counting, and the shutdowns have left millions out of work. Trump publicly worked through his grief in phases: denial, semi-acceptance, promotion of bad medical advice, denial once again, then promotion of overly rosy recovery projections. Meanwhile, he has responded to the nationwide civil unrest that erupted after Floyd’s killing by circulating far-right conspiracies, calling for more violence, defending iconic losers of the Confederacy, sharing a video in which one of his supporters shouted “White power!,” and attempting halfheartedly to cast Biden as a far-left extremist.

Trump has struggled to offer his campaign a message behind which to organize. For Trump, this would never mean formulating a case to prove that voters are better off now than they were four years ago or something similarly normal. It would mean coming up with an effective way to bully his opponent. In the 2016 Republican primary, this meant Lyin’ Ted and Little Marco and Low Energy Jeb(!). In the general, it meant Crooked Hillary and the Fake News media vs. the Deplorables. In 2020, “Sleepy Joe” hasn’t quite caught on. Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary who now hosts some kind of low-rent faux Fox News program on a D-list far-right cable channel, recently talked about this with Dick Morris. The issue with Trump’s “sleepy” message is that sleepy might sound pretty appealing to some voters right now, fatigued by the chaos of the Trump years. On Fox News, Ari Fleischer, a White House spokesman under George W. Bush, and Matt Schlapp, a Trump-campaign surrogate, had a conversation about the issue, too. They agreed that “sleepy” wasn’t working, that the president needed to go back to the drawing board and focus on something else. Kellyanne Conway has suggested that the campaign’s focus on Biden as senile and losing it might put off older voters. These allies of the president are offering campaign-strategy notes in public, on television, because that’s how you get through to him.

And so in walks Hogan Gidley, the new spokesman for the reelection effort — a job that recently belonged to Kayleigh McEnany, who in April became Gidley’s boss when she was named White House press secretary. In a normal White House, the position would’ve gone to Gidley. The ambition of any deputy, after all, is to replace the principal under which the deputy serves. Gidley has served under three press secretaries: Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Stephanie Grisham, and now McEnany. (So much for the patriarchy!)

Gidley, now 43, arrived at the White House as a supporting character in the volatile second season. A onetime broadcast-journalism major at Ole Miss and a student of political media, he ended up reporting on Mike Huckabee for a TV station in Little Rock, Arkansas, before defecting to the dark side to join the then-governor’s staff. “He’s got professional integrity. He will never do something that is wrong or immoral,” Huckabee told New York. “But, at the same time, he’s a person that, if he takes a check from someone in a job, he’s gonna be loyal to that person.” In the next breath, Huckabee addressed the question that hangs over any human shield for this president. “If it ever gets to where he can’t, then maybe he’ll find something else. But he’s not gonna go out and burn his bridges.”

When Mike’s daughter, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, replaced Sean Spicer as press secretary, she brought along her “big brother” Hogan as a special assistant to the president. In the very West Wing that inspired a tell-all book called Team of Vipers, he’s distinguished himself as “a golden retriever,” “a great teammate,” and “a really sweet person,” in terms that were repeated by more than half a dozen current and former White House staffers who spoke to New York. Across the board, but never on the record, Gidley’s colleagues described him as a nonthreatening force for good, for making things run a tiny bit smoother in what can charitably be described as the very definition of a hostile work environment — a happy-to-be-here functionary who keeps things light and in perspective. However, these qualities can sometimes read more like haplessness than virtue.

Sun and Rocks, 1918-50. Watercolor and gouache on paper,

I would really like a nice quiet weekend but I imagine I’m going to start hearing the sound of perpetual sirens.  Any one who knows me heard me say I am not going anywhere until at least two weeks after 4th of July because I want to see what Memorial Day and the 4th drag into town with all this reopening stupidity.  Well,  it reignited our Covid -19 upward trend.  So, ask me again when we get a few weeks after Labor Day.  I’m staying my fat ass home.

This is from NPR News Baton Rouge.

Louisiana is now one of the leading states in the nation for most new coronavirus cases.

It ranks third in the U.S. this week for most new cases per capita on a rolling seven-day average, according to new data from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. It’s a trajectory that could spark another shutdown.

Louisiana’s jump to the top of the list for most new coronavirus cases cannot be explained by increased testing. Hospitalizations grew by more than 50 percent over the last two weeks, and the percentage of positive tests in the state has also been rising. On Thursday the latter rate hit 12 percent positive — over the 10 percent threshold set by the state for safe opening in Phase 2. The 7-day rolling average is 8.7 percent, according to AH Datalyitcs.

But that could already be too high. The World Health Organization’s recommended goal is 5 percent. A high positivity rate indicates that the virus’s spread is too great for contact tracing to work — and that’s assuming contact tracing is actually being broadly embraced by the public, which hasn’t been the case in Louisiana.

Dr. Vin Gupta, an assistant professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of Washington, is among the medical experts warning that contact tracing is now useless across much of the U.S. because the virus has already spread too widely.

On Wednesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state has “lost all the gains made in June” and is “now seeing some numbers that rival our peak back in April.”

And while Texas, Florida and Arizona are seeing higher increases in hospitalizations, Dr. Thomas Tsai, a surgeon and assistant professor at Harvard’s School of Public Health, said it could be a matter of time.

“My worry is that Louisiana may just be a few weeks behind Texas and Arizona and Florida, unless more concerted efforts are taken,” he said.

It’s unclear whether there’s public appetite for that — or even to abide by the guidelines already in place. Health officials say that as the state reopened — too many people have ignored public health guidelines, particularly around wearing masks and keeping distance. Bars in particular have become a key source of outbreaks.

“Frankly, it’s been really, really frustrating. Because just a few weeks ago, we were in a really, pretty good place,” said Suan Hassig, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Tulane University.

“The curve is going to bounce back up if we don’t keep jumping on it and stomping it down.”

I’m no epidemiologist but frankly,  I knew opening the damned bars would send us into a spike.  The mayor backed off a little and put some size limits but we still have indoor eating,  Short term Rentals, and open bars although you can’t drink at the bar.  They’ve put them outside which is highly unpleasant in a neighbor even at the best of times.

And we have this too look forward to!  Climate change hoax again … right?

 

So, I hope it’s going better where you are.  Keep letting us know you’re safe!  If you’d like to see the Whitney Showing of Burchfield: Heat Waves in a Swamp please go to this page and enjoy  a teaching led tour!.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 


Lazy Caturday Reads: The Specter of Dictatorship in America

By Rudi Hurzlmeier, German cartoonist

Good Afternoon!!

Trump has gone to Florida for the long weekend, while the rest of us catch our breaths and try to process the horrifying events that followed the impeachment acquittal. More journalists are now writing about the specter of dictatorship in America.

Andrew Feinberg at The Independent: I spoke to experts on authoritarian rule about Trump’s behavior this week. They say 2020 could be our last free election.

Over the course of President Trump’s impeachment trial, Democrats warned the Republican-controlled Senate that acquitting Trump would mean he had successfully stymied most attempts to subject him or his administration to even a modicum of Congressional oversight. They warned that an acquittal would embolden him to finally exert full control over the entirety of the executive branch; norms, customs or guardrails be damned.

That’s exactly what Americans have seen in the days since Senate Republicans (minus Utah’s Mitt Romney) voted to absolve him of responsibility for his attempt to blackmail a foreign government.

According to several people closest to the President, he has internalized the exact lesson that Democrats feared he would, and for some time now has been intent on using the flexibility provided him by his acquittal and a compliant cohort of aides to begin settling scores.

Thursday’s Child – by Arthur Rackham (1907)

You’re familiar with the list of recent outrage, including the firings of Sondland and the Vindman brothers and trying to get the military to investigate Alexander Vindland, punishing New York by cutting off residents’ access to the Trusted Traveler program, and using Bill Barr to intervene in the Stone and Flynn cases.

…for scholars who study the authoritarian regimes for which the 45th President has repeatedly expressed admiration, Trump’s intervention in the Stone case represents a troubling milestone.

“The United States looks to be moving in the direction of Hungary or Poland, with the justice system starting to become a tool under the power of the executive branch that is being used for partisan ends,” said Jason Stanley, a Yale University philosophy professor who studies authoritarian politics.

“Republicans have shown no interest in sharing power or having a multi-party democracy, they’ve shown no interest in the rule of law,” he added, because a guiding concept of the Republican style of politics perfected by Trump is a wholesale rejection of the Democratic Party as a legitimate expression of voters’ political will….

Another scholar of authoritarianism, New York University’s Ruth Ben-Ghiat, said Trump’s co-opting of the Justice Department is typical of a democracy falling under the control of a dictator.

“You see this in authoritarian states… those in important positions like the attorney general or equivalent end up spending a lot of their time on the personal vendettas of their leader,” she said, offering the example of Barr’s recent trip to Italy to pressure Italian security services into providing information that would help discredit the Mueller investigation. “Inevitably, the people who last in the cabinet of an authoritarian leader are people who end up doing his personal-slash-official business, because you can no longer separate the two.”

Charles Frederick Tunnicliffe,Siamese cat on branch with apple blossom

Ben-Ghiat said the way Trump’s cabinet and congressional Republicans have adapted to him is a textbook example of “personalist rule.”

“This is a perfect example of when these men come to office and there is no longer a separation between their private profit and public office,” she explained, with various “lackeys” like Barr doing things that make it difficult to tell where the Justice Department’s business ends and Trump’s personal business begins.

And even though there is a presidential election in nine months, Ben-Ghiat said Republicans will continue to enable Trump’s whims and act as if there will never again be a Democratic president, because the endgame involves Trump and his allies protecting themselves by staying in power.

I recommend reading the whole article at The Independent.

 

At The Atlantic, Franklin Foer writes that Trump wants the U.S. to be like Ukraine: Now We Know What Kind of Authoritarian Trump Aspires to Be.

Donald Trump’s obsession with Ukrainian corruption turned out to be genuine: He wanted it thoroughly investigated—for the sake of its emulation. The diplomats who testified in front in Adam Schiff’s committee explained and exposed the Ukrainian justice system. Their descriptions may have been intended as an indictment of kleptocracy, but the president apparently regarded them as an instructional video on selective prosecution, the subversion of a neutral judiciary, and the punishment of whistle-blowers who expose corruption.

Over the course of Trump’s presidency, his critics have speculated about the model of illiberal democracy that he would adopt as his own. After the past week—which saw the firing of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the revocation of the Justice Department’s sentencing memo for Roger Stone, and Attorney General Bill Barr’s increasingly heavy-handed control of the investigations into his boss—there’s less doubt about the contours of the state Trump hopes to build. He’s creating Kyiv-on-the-Potomac.

Feridun Oral (1961-present, Turkish)

The House Intelligence Committee narrative featured a villainous bureau in Kyiv called the Office of the Prosecutor General. On paper, this department is akin to America’s own Department of Justice, but in practice, it acted more like an auction house where top government lawyers would entertain bids from oligarchs. These prosecutors have been integral to the maintenance and perversion of the system. Oligarchs would abuse the office to bring cases against old enemies; they also used the office to punish critics of their corrupt practices. And, in the most extreme example, one Ukrainian president weaponized the office against his primary political opponent: He actually locked her up. (It was Paul Manafort’s job, as a consultant to that president, to justify the arrest to the rest of the world.)

Again, I recommend reading the entire piece.

Sasha Abramsky at The Nation: Republicans Have Made It Clear They Will Let Trump Become a Dictator. Will We?

Trump’s attacks on the federal judiciary are the domestic Signal this week. Freed from all accountability by the Senate, the realtor’s inner autocrat is on full display, with a pressure campaign on the Justice Department to back off on its sentencing recommendations for his convicted friend Roger Stone, and with an extraordinary flurry of tweets personally attacking the judge in Stone’s case.

Trump’s actions got so extreme that, amazingly, even Attorney General Barr finally had enough. On Thursday evening, in an extraordinary exchange, Barr, who has done more than anyone else to protect and enable this lawless presidency, said that Trump’s tweets were making it impossible for him to do his job. Trump wasn’t humbled. By Friday, he was on the attack once again, claiming that he had the legal right to interfere in federal criminal cases.

By Rudi Hurzlmeier

For Senator Susan Collins, who absurdly claimed that Trump had learned his lesson after being impeached by the House, and for the other “moderate” Republicans who voted to acquit, this week has been a nightmare. Sure, they can dismiss it as simply more Trumpian Noise, but when the attorney general of the United States personally undermines his own career prosecutors to do a solid for the president, that’s far more serious than mere chatter.

And there’s no indication things will get better anytime soon. To the contrary, between now and November we are likely to see Trump fully unleashed.

We are heading into election season led by a president consumed with personal vendettas and convinced that he is surrounded by conspirators. Paranoid and narcissistic, he is firing anyone who stands in his way, demanding ever more craven demonstrations of loyalty from his courtiers. In Tennessee, legislators are debating a resolution to declare CNN and The Washington Post fake news because of their critical coverage of Trump.

Sally Yates at The Washington Post: Trump thinks the Justice Department is his personal grudge squad.

The imperative of Justice Department independence from political influence has deep roots. After the Watergate scandal, Attorney General Griffin Bell sought to reestablish Justice’s independence and ensure that the department would be “recognized by all citizens as a neutral zone, in which neither favor nor pressure nor politics is permitted to influence the administration of the law.” The nation had lost faith in the Justice Department and the rule of law, so during the Carter administration Bell instituted strict limits on communications between the White House and Justice to prevent any “outside interference in reaching professional judgment on legal matters.”

By Robert McClintock

Since Bell’s tenure, attorneys general in Democratic and Republican administrations alike have issued largely similar policies to adhere to the course Bell mapped for the department to live up to its promise of impartial justice. All have observed a “wall” between the White House and the Justice Department on criminal cases and investigations. While it is appropriate to communicate about administration policies and priorities, discussion with the White House about specific criminal cases has traditionally been off-limits. Presidents and department leaders from both parties have recognized that for case decisions to have legitimacy, they must be made without political influence — whether real or perceived. Implementation of these restrictions has not always been perfect, but the department’s independence has remained honored and unquestioned.

Until now.

While the policy is ostensibly still in effect, it is a hollow ode to bygone days. From virtually the moment he took office, President Trump has attempted to use the Justice Department as a cudgel against his enemies and as a shield for himself and his allies.

But now Trump is trying to turn back time. Read the rest at the WaPo.

And what about Trump’s attacks on the Intelligence Community? Are they working? Jefferson Morley at The New Republic: Is the CIA’s Director Going Full MAGA?

When President Trump called in his State of the Union address for legislation that would allow crime victims to sue sanctuary cities for offenses committed by undocumented immigrants, CIA Director Gina Haspel rose to her feet, clapping. It was an unusual display of partisan spirit for the nation’s top intelligence officer, especially as it concerned a domestic law enforcement issue, an area where the agency is forbidden by law from acting.

By Valentina Andrukhova

It was “not right” for Haspel to attend the speech, much less applaud it, said Gen. Michael Hayden, who served as director of central intelligence under President George W. Bush. Bruce Riedel, the CIA’s former Saudi Arabia station chief, was similarly categorical. “It is odd that a DCI who avoids public appearances of any kind would make a public appearance at the most fractious SOTU in our time,” he told me in an email. “The job is being more politicized than it should be.”

Haspel was not required to attend the State of the Union. The CIA director is not even a Cabinet officer, noted ex-CIA officer John Kiriakou. “Why was she even there, much less in a seat of honor, up front?” he said in an interview. “The joint chiefs don’t applaud. The Supreme Court justices don’t applaud. The CIA director shouldn’t, either.”

Haspel’s appearance raises the unsettling possibility that Trump, for all his denunciations of the “deep state,” might have an ally at the top of the CIA. With Attorney General Bill Barr fulfilling Trump’s whims at the Justice Department, a compliant intelligence director in Langley would enhance Trump’s ability to pursue worse whims—including, potentially, foreign aid to his political and personal fortunes.

A few more stories to check out:

Lucian K. Truscott IV at Salon: Can we stop tiptoeing around the fact that Trump is behaving like a dictator?

Shan Wu at The Daily Beast: Bill Barr Is Wrecking the Justice Department, And It May Never Recover.

Eric Boelert at Press Run: Trump unleashed — does the press know how to handle his authoritarian ways?

Cat by Lionel Lindsay (1874-1961) Australian painter

I’ll end with this sobering piece by Fred Kaplan at Slate: “The President Has the Power to Basically Destroy the World”

On Oct. 30, 2017, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on whether the president needed new congressional authorization to use military force against terrorists around the world. When his turn came to ask questions, Democratic Sen. Edward Markey asked the witnesses whether Trump could launch a nuclear first strike without consulting anyone from Congress.

At first, the witnesses, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, hesitated, calling the question “hypothetical,” but Markey wouldn’t relent, and finally, Mattis allowed that the president could order a first strike if an adversary was seen “preparing” to launch an attack.

Markey, a longtime advocate of nuclear arms treaties, knew the answer before asking the question, but some of the senators were surprised. Among them was the Republican chairman, Bob Corker. A businessman from Tennessee, Corker was deeply conservative, but he was also agitated by stories he’d been hearing about Trump’s mental state. Recently Corker had made a stir by likening the White House to an “adult day center” and warning that Trump’s reckless threats toward other countries could pave a “path to World War III.”

Read the rest at Slate if you dare.

Enjoy this long weekend Sky Dancers! With any luck Trump will spend his time on the golf course and watching TV so we can have a short break from his insanity. This is an open thread, as always.


Messed up Monday Reads: World Salad as Trump upsets the World Order for personal gain

 Good Morning Sky Dancers

Well, it’s Monday and it wouldn’t be a Messed up Monday morning without the “Human Tornado” doing something completely idiotic and self-serving.  I have no idea what’s being said between our NATO allies and our allies in the Middle East but I was not prepared to see what I saw this morning. I assume that they’re trying to figure out if it would do any good to call our idiot Preznit. Last night, a press release came out of some kind of agreement between Erdogan of Turkey and KKKremlin Caligulia. This morning Turkish Troops are on the move into Northern Syria and we’re suddenly outta there.

This is from Michael Weiss at The Daily Beast and the headline says it all: “SHORT-SIGHTED. Trump’s Crazy Syria Move Will Wipe Out America’s Allies and Set Up a Big ISIS Comeback. With Trump’s permission, Turkey will now ethnically cleanse the Syrian Kurds, who fought ISIS on behalf of the U.S., leaving no one to hold off the terror group.”

Turkey is about to invade the part of Syria the U.S. invaded to defeat the so-called Islamic State. Except Turkey is invading it to defeat the Kurdish proxy force the U.S. relied on to defeat ISIS, because Turkey considers that proxy a terrorist group. And U.S. President Donald J. Trump, apparently, is fine with that.

This according to a White House announcement released late Sunday evening that reads as if it were written by someone who wants absolutely nothing to do with a part of a world as fucked up as the Middle East and doesn’t care if the whole place burns to the ground.

The move came after Trump, in yet another decisive phone call that probably will be locked away, spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Trump’s decision was to have the United States accede to a NATO ally’s invasion of a de facto U.S. protectorate—an invasion which has been long in the making and is expressly designed to gobble up a crucial U.S. ally.

This sounds crazy and it is. But before you turn on your cable news show to find all manner of pundits filtering this Alice-in-Wonderland development through the narrow prism of a domestic news cycle, let me assure you of the following. It has nothing to do with Trump’s manifold domestic crises or the fact that his Twitter feed now resembles that of a homeless man barking at oncoming traffic. What is happening now derives from the inherent contradictions built right into America’s war on terror that are coming to the fore and threatening to precipitate the very thing that the fight against ISIS was meant to reduce.

Since 2014, the Pentagon has disproportionately relied upon one faction of armed Kurdish guerrillas who, in a sticky little turn of fate, have been fighting the Turkish state for over 40 years. Ankara has been none too pleased that America’s preferred battering ram against jihadism has a long history of blowing up Turkish army bases and police stations, albeit on secular marxisant grounds rather than apocalyptic religious ones.

Image result for Trudeau side eyes Trump In other words, Trump just stabbed another set of allies in the back and made several Dictators very happy in the process.  And of course, the fattest and happiest one is Putin.  From CNBC: “Trump handing northern Syria to Turkey is a ‘gift to Russia, Iran, and ISIS,’ former US envoy says” by Natasha Turak.

The Trump administration is facing a torrent of criticism Monday after it unexpectedly announced a full U.S. troop withdrawal from northern Syria to effectively allow a long-planned military operation by Turkey against Kurdish ground forces, who had battled to uproot ISIS.

“Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria,” a White House statement late Sunday said, noting that President Donald Trump had spoken to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan by phone. “The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘Caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area.”

Security experts on the region and former U.S. officials are calling the decision harmful and a gift to America’s adversaries, while some members of the Kurdish forces on the ground in Syria are calling it betrayal.

“The WH statement tonight on Syria after Trump spoke with Erdogan demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of anything happening on the ground,” Brett McGurk, the former U.S. special envoy to the global anti-IS coalition, said Monday on Twitter.

“Trump tonight after one call with a foreign leader provided a gift to Russia, Iran, and ISIS.”

So, here’s some Republican blowback but will they do anything?

Image result for Trudeau side eyes Trump

And yes, that last guy used to work for the Orange Snot Blob (h/t to BB).

“Donald Trump is not a Commander-in-Chief,” said McGurk, who resigned along with Mattis over Trump’s initial (but later aborted) plan for a full Syria withdrawal. “He makes impulsive decisions with no knowledge or deliberation. He sends military personnel into harm’s way with no backing. He blusters and then leaves our allies exposed when adversaries call his bluff or he confronts a hard phone call.”

McGurk also suggested the people around Trump have no idea what’s going on. He noted that the White House’s statement says the United States will not hold Islamic State fighters and how the decision will save U.S. taxpayer money, but the United States isn’t actually holding those fighters.

U.S. officials have long said these fighters are being held by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-led military force, with U.S. assistance. Despite this, Trump has said before that the United States is “holding thousands of ISIS fighters right now.”

U.S. President Donald Trump (R) extends his hand to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House on February 13, 2017 in Washington, D.C. This is the first time the two leaders are meeting at the White House. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty Images)  So, ABC reports the immediate response this morning: “Turkey begins mobilizing against Syria; US begins removing forces from area”. 

The Turkish move is likely to put the Kurdish forces that helped the U.S. defeat ISIS in peril. Turkey considers the Kurdish forces — the PKK and YPG — terrorist organizations.

The news came late Sunday after President Donald Trump spoke to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by phone earlier in the day.

The White House also confirmed that Turkey will take possession of all captured ISIS fighters from the past two years.

Image result for world leaders dismiss trump In other news:

Federal judge rules Trump must turn over his tax returns to Manhattan DA, but Trump has appealed  —  The request for eight years of records relates to the DA’s investigation into hush-money payments during the 2016 election.  Bylines by WAPO’s David A. Fahrenthold and Ann E. Marimow

From Nancy Cook  at  Politico writes that : Impeachment tentacles spread throughout Trump’s team  —  The tentacles of the Democratic impeachment investigation are extending far beyond the arms of President Donald Trump.  —  The vice president’s office, acting chief of staff’s office, State Department, Energy Department ..

From David Leonhardt at the  New York Times: “The Rich Really Do Pay Lower Taxes Than You ” —  Almost a decade ago, Warren Buffett made a claim that would become famous.  He said that he paid a lower tax rate than his secretary, thanks to the many loopholes and deductions that benefit the wealthy.  —  His claim sparked a debate about the fairness of the tax system.

Well, this is like all those memes about upsetting apple carts only this is central to world peace.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Shock and Awe Reads: Tilt-Shifting the Trumpist Regime

Image result for famous paintings tilt shifted

A Van Gogh Tilt Shifted by Serena Malyon

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

I do not know about you but I’m seeing and feeling a shift in the Force.  This is the first time–in what has been the wave of Trumpist corruption and chaos–that I’ve sensed brakes.  I know this is not likely to be the end of this at all but it most certainly feels like a beginning. The media narrative has changed, The momentum for reaching towards Articles of Impeachment in the House has surpassed the magic number. The less crazy Republicans look noticeably shaken.  The picture of the US from this weekend to last has been tilt-shifted. The focus has changed. A different lens has been applied.

My art and photo choices today are based on a technique called “tilt-shifting”. Hopefully, you’ll see why  I chose these works that express the technique which uses a special lens.

If you are new to these photo manipulations, “tilt-shift” is an effect that gives a real-world scene an illusion of being a miniature model. It can be achieved in two ways: optically (with a special lens) or simulated in Photoshop, by adjusting a photograph’s contrast, color saturation, and depth of focus.

“It works quite well with regular photographs, so we decided to try it using classical paintings by famous artists to see what would happen…” Serena Malyon, a 3rd-year student at art school, took some of Van Gogh’s most beautiful paintings and turned them into photoshopped images to achieve this amazing tilt-shift effect.

You can find an interview with Serena at My Modern Met.

You may learn more about Tilt Shift Photography here.  

And Tilt Shifting as it applies to Paintings here.

 

Tilt-Shift Paul Cezanne Sainte Victoire 1890

Tilt-Shift Sainte Victoire 1890 by Paul Cezanne https://theworldsartist.com/then-and-now-oil-painting

The first difference I sense is that Republicans are meekly showing concern.  This is still feckless and gutless but it’s more than we’ve seen in nearly three years.

The public release of the whistle-blower complaint also revealed cracks in the edifice of loyalty Trump has attempted to construct around himself, both in the West Wing and on Capitol Hill.

In addition to Collins’s criticism, Representative Mike Turner, an Ohio Republican, said in a public hearing on the complaint Thursday that Trump’s call was “not okay.”

While some of the president’s closest allies on Capitol Hill rushed to his defense, the vast majority of Senate Republicans were silent on the complaint. Many claimed they hadn’t had a chance to read it. Senator Todd Young, an Indiana Republican, said that because he might be a juror in Trump’s impeachment trial, he shouldn’t comment.

Senator Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, said some Republicans privately told him they’re concerned about the latest development. But he said he doesn’t expect them to break with Trump “yet.”

White House officials have expressed concern that the impeachment investigation — focused on the president’s foreign policy — comes at a time of vulnerability for Trump. Several high-profile national security officials who could have direct knowledge of his actions toward Ukraine have recently departed.

They include the former director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, who announced his resignation three days after Trump’s call with Zelenskiy, and his deputy, Sue Gordon, who was forced out of her position in August. Trump’s former National Security Adviser John Bolton left earlier this month after a dramatic split between the two men.

These are the most obvious officials to call to the committee investigations which are now going to be ongoing in the House and in the Senate under the auspices of the Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican.

Today, Politico shows a vote with a handful of Republican defections on rerouting pentagon funding to the Border Wall in this story: “Congress forces a Trump veto with rebuke on border wall funding.”  How will military families and the usual assortment of Defense-oriented Republicans respond to this?

The House on Friday voted to once again overturn President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration to build a border wall, sending the legislation to Trump who is sure to veto it.

Eleven Republicans and one Republican-turned-independent sided with every Democrat to block Trump’s maneuver to circumvent Congress and divert billions in Pentagon funding to his wall.

The GOP defections were one less than the 13 Republicans who voted with Democrats on the same measure in February, when Congress first attempted to block Trump’s largely unprecedented use of emergency powers.

Since that vote, the White House has disclosed precisely which lawmakers’ districts would lose military construction funding, including in seats held by more than a dozen Republicans.

“The president’s decision to cancel $3.6 billion for military construction to pay for his wasteful wall makes America less safe,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a rare floor speech Friday, adding that the Trump administration is “stooping so low as to steal from a middle school in Fort Campbell, Kentucky.”

The Senate approved the measure earlier this week after 11 Republicans joined Democrats, underscoring the somewhat bipartisan nature of the rebuke.

Congress voted to terminate Trump’s national emergency earlier this spring but failed to win enough support to override the president’s veto. When Trump vetoes the measure again, it will mark the sixth veto of his presidency.

Under the law governing national emergencies, Congress can bring up a vote on Trump’s declaration every six months — and Democrats intend to do it in a bid to squeeze Republicans.

Even better, I’ve noticed a new tendency for the media to begin to speak of the Orange Snot Blob in past tense and plans for the post Trumpist Crime Family syndicate regime.

Tilt Shifted Van Gogh Serena Molyan

Most of his here know and have discussed that Speaker Pelosi knows strategy, the house, and how to count. Discover more about Pelosi at The New Yorker.   This lede is by David Remenick: “Nancy Pelosi: An Extremely Stable Genius. When asked if it was possible that impeachment might backfire, the Speaker of the House insisted that politics has nothing to do with it. “It doesn’t matter,” she said. “He has given us no choice.”

From the start, Pelosi has confronted Trump with a wry fearlessness. When, in a moment of rare self-aggrandizement, Trump referred to himself as an “extremely stable genius,” she replied, “When the ‘extremely stable genius’ starts acting more Presidential, I’ll be happy to work with him on infrastructure, trade, and other issues.” In an Oval Office confrontation last year, she brooked no disrespect from Trump and asked that he please not underestimate “the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats.” When, on another occasion, Trump referred to Pelosi as a “mess,” the Speaker thoughtfully suggested that the President might benefit from an “intervention for the good of the country.”

For months, however, Pelosi avoided the ultimate intervention. She frustrated many members of the Democratic caucus who believed—for myriad reasons, some contained in the Mueller report, some not—that they should pursue an impeachment inquiry against the President. Pelosi was reluctant, worried that there was not enough evidence to prevent a backfire scenario, in which Trump would emerge from impeachment still safely in office, emboldened, unchallenged by his own party, a martyr with an enhanced prospect at reëlection.

“Remember this,” Pelosi told me, in an interview on Thursday afternoon, as she recalled the Watergate era. “I saw, as a young person, that the Republicans didn’t come around until the tapes. It wasn’t like they were saying, ‘This behavior is not acceptable to us.’ The tapes were dispositive of the issue. There was no vote to impeach, because it was so clear that he had to go. But even Nixon knew of his responsibility to the country. I’m not sure this person does.”

Tilt-Shift Paul Cezanne Gardanne Photo.

HuffPo’s Matt Fuller says that while Democrats are unifying, Republicans are fracturing.  Is this progress?  Is this the best we can hope for now?  What about the near future; say around Thanksgiving?

It’s been one week since most of Capitol Hill heard the first reports of a whistleblower, and with new developments almost every day since, Republicans and Democrats are still wrapping their heads around how much the impeachment dynamics have flipped.
In a week, House Democrats have moved from a drawn-out investigative approach to near-unanimity on impeachment proceedings. For them, it’s no longer a matter of whether they’ll impeach President Donald Trump; it’s when and by what charges.

Meanwhile, on the Republican side, members are all over the place.

Some say they haven’t read the whistleblower complaint released Thursday (or, worse, still haven’t read the summary of the call between Trump and the Ukrainian president that was released Wednesday). Some Republicans said there is absolutely nothing wrong with anything the president did, that Democrats owe Trump an apology or even ought to be thanking the president. Other Republicans step on that narrative by admitting that, no, actually, maybe there is something to these charges ― splitting the difference by expressing some unease with the situation but arguing it doesn’t rise to the level of impeachment.

..

Still, the loudest voices are from the Republicans who insist Trump has done nothing wrong.

Republicans are seizing on one line in the complaint to undermine the whistleblower’s credibility: “I was not a direct witness to most of the events described.”

The whistleblower said he had more than a half dozen White House sources whose accounts matched each other, plus publicly available information. But Republicans have already left the room.

But what about the voter who start going to the polls in less than a year?

According to a Politico/Morning Consult poll that was conducted between September 24 and 26, support for impeachment across party lines now stands at 43 percent, an uptick from 36 percent just last week. Similarly, a HuffPost/YouGov poll, also fielded between September 24 and 26, found that the margin between those backing impeachment and those who oppose it was expanding. In this week’s survey, 47 percent supported impeachment, while 39 percent opposed it, compared to 43 percent and 41 percent that felt the same way in a previous September poll. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll that was held on September 25 also found that 49 percent of voters favor impeachment proceedings.

These polls, while broadly conducted before the release of the whistleblower complaint on Thursday, show a shift in public sentiment since Pelosi’s impeachment inquiry announcement earlier this week. While it’s still very early to know whether such shifts in the public mood will stick, the polls do suggest that House Democrats’ decision to move forward with the inquiry along with the new information that’s come out about the Trump-Zelensky phone call on July 25 could be altering how voters view impeachment.

In both the Politico/Morning Consult and HuffPost/YouGov polls, the increases in support for impeachment were largely fueled by Democratic voters. The Morning Consult poll saw an increase from 66 percent to 79 percent among Democratic voters, 33 percent to 39 percent among Independent voters, and 5 percent to 10 percent among Republican voters. The HuffPost/YouGov poll, too, saw an uptick of 74 percent to 81 percent among Democratic voters, 35 percent to 37 percent among Independents and a dip among Republicans from 16 percent to 11 percent.

Tilt-Shift A Cottage In A Cornfield by John Constable.

This is not a huge leap either but it’s a signal of a shift.   And we almost have a weird confirmation from the Russians that The Hair Furor makes some weird, unAmerican phone calls in this headline from NBC News: “Kremlin says it hopes U.S. would not release Trump-Putin calls, like it did with Ukraine. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “we would like to hope that it wouldn’t come to that.”

Asked Friday if Moscow is worried that the White House could similarly publish transcripts of Trump’s calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “we would like to hope that it wouldn’t come to that in our relations, which are already troubled by a lot of problems.”

None of this can come soon enough for most of us.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?