Finally Friday Reads: Tweet Musk, Ye, Trump then Delete

Good Day Sky Dancers!

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner – Seated Girl (Fränzi Fehrmann), 1910, altered 1920

The votes may have shown the country is trying to be normal again, but the headlines also show how deep the crazy runs in today’s Republican Party. One of the House committee takeovers that I’m most anxiety-ridden about is the House Judiciary Committee.  Some of the deepest crazy reside there, and it will be a spectacle once their sham hearings start. This is from NBC’s Amanda Terkel and Garrett Haake. “House Judiciary Republicans delete ‘Kanye. Elon. Trump.’ tweet as rapper praises Hitler. Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee had tweeted in apparent support of Ye on Oct. 6. The tweet was removed Thursday.”  It seems Godwin’s Law and Reductio ad Hitlerum may need a revisit.  You don’t have to infer it’s NAZIish anymore when the policy and speech include casual praise of Hitler.

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee deleted their Oct. 6 tweet that appeared to support Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, after months of controversy over his antisemitic remarks.

“Kanye. Elon. Trump,” read the tweet, which held up Ye alongside Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, who has been bringing back right-wing figures who were once banned, and former President Donald Trump.

The tweet was deleted Thursday as Ye was launching a lengthy antisemitic tirade on the show hosted on Infowars by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who is known for promoting falsehoods around events like the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012.

“I love Jewish people, but I also love Nazis,” Ye said on the show Thursday. He also repeatedly expressed his admiration for Adolf Hitler.

House Judiciary Committee Republicans did not immediately reply to a request for comment about the deleted tweet. The GOP, currently in the minority, won control of the House in November’s midterm elections.

Türkisches Café, August Macke, 1914

Even Alex Jones denounced Hitler on the InforWars broadcast as he filed for bankruptcy for his Sandy Hook fines. Musk’s Twitter responded to as reported by NPR.  Every time I hear this shit, all I can think is my Dad bombed NAZIs to get them out of France and Belgium and to ensure the Allies could defeat the regime and ensure the allied armies on the ground could safely set free those held in concentration camps. 

In an appearance on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ show, Ye – the rapper formerly known as Kanye West – doubled down on a series of antisemitic comments he’s made in recent months. Ye appeared on the show alongside Nick Fuentes, the white-nationalist internet personality. The pair had dinner with former President Donald Trump last week.

Hours later, Twitter CEO Elon Musk announced that Ye’s Twitter account was suspended. The move came after the rapper reportedly posted on Twitter an image of a swastika depicted inside a Star of David.

On Jones’ show Thursday, Ye’s statements were among his most brazen. “I see good things about Hitler,” Ye said during the nearly 3-hour interview. Later, he veered into Holocaust denialism.

“This was a mask-off moment, to hear Ye just outright say that he admires Hitler,” said Megan Squire, deputy director of data analytics at the Southern Poverty Law Center. Often extremists talk around the subject of Nazism, she said, couching true beliefs in cloaked language in order to avoid being banned from mainstream platforms. Pushing the boundaries, said Squire, provides a permission structure to other far right voices.

The recent string of antisemitic comments began in October, when Ye posted “I’m going death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.” The tweet has since been deleted. Ye then spoke out on a number of podcasts and interview shows, repeating his talking points and promoting his run for president in 2024.

Before decamping to fringe channels that specialize in extremist rhetoric, Ye made an appearance in an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. He used the occasion to air his anti-abortion stance and grievances with the fashion industry. But soon after, Vice News revealed that show producers cut Ye’s references to his beliefs that align with the Black Hebrew Israelites.

Women’s Pavilion, Paul Klee, 1921

Sorry, Republicans, you own this Troika of hate. Musk. Ye. Trump.

Trump’s legal problems worsened as the 11th circuit shut down Judge Loose Cannon and her Special Master concession to Trump. This is from the New York Times. “Appeals Court Scraps Special Master Review in Trump Documents Case. The panel’s decision removed a major obstacle to the Justice Department’s investigation into Mr. Trump’s handling of sensitive government documents.”

A federal appeals court on Thursday removed a major obstacle to the criminal investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s hoarding of government documents, ending an outside review of thousands of records the F.B.I. seized from his home and freeing the Justice Department to use them in its inquiry.

In a unanimous but unsigned 21-page ruling, a three-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta shut down a lawsuit brought by Mr. Trump that has, for nearly three months, slowed the inquiry into whether he illegally kept national security records at his Mar-a-Lago residence and obstructed the government’s efforts to retrieve them.

The appeals court was sharply critical of the decision in September by Judge Aileen M. Cannon, a Trump appointee who sits in the Southern District of Florida, to intervene in the case. The court said Judge Cannon never had legitimate jurisdiction to order the review or bar investigators from using the files, and that there was no justification for treating Mr. Trump differently from any other target of a search warrant.

“It is indeed extraordinary for a warrant to be executed at the home of a former president — but not in a way that affects our legal analysis or otherwise gives the judiciary license to interfere in an ongoing investigation,” the court wrote.

The judges’ findings are consistent with what legal experts have been saying since the Trump lawyers went Judge-shopping and came up with an eager interloper.  Here’s the kicker.

Limits on when courts can interfere with a criminal investigation “apply no matter who the government is investigating,” it added. “To create a special exception here would defy our nation’s foundational principle that our law applies ‘to all, without regard to numbers, wealth or rank.’”

The panel included two judges appointed by Trump.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, German, Self-Portrait with Cat, 1920.

Well, there’s Ye. There’s Trump. And now, let’s do Musk.  “Hate Speech’s Rise on Twitter Is Unprecedented, Researchers Find. Problematic content and formerly barred accounts have increased sharply in the short time since Elon Musk took over, researchers said.”  This is also from The New York Times.

Before Elon Musk bought Twitter, slurs against Black Americans showed up on the social media service an average of 1,282 times a day. After the billionaire became Twitter’s owner, they jumped to 3,876 times a day.

Slurs against gay men appeared on Twitter 2,506 times a day on average before Mr. Musk took over. Afterward, their use rose to 3,964 times a day.

And antisemitic posts referring to Jews or Judaism soared more than 61 percent in the two weeks after Mr. Musk acquired the site.

These findings — from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, the Anti-Defamation League and other groups that study online platforms — provide the most comprehensive picture to date of how conversations on Twitter have changed since Mr. Musk completed his $44 billion deal for the company in late October. While the numbers are relatively small, researchers said the increases were atypically high.

The shift in speech is just the tip of a set of changes on the service under Mr. Musk. Accounts that Twitter used to regularly remove — such as those that identify as part of the Islamic State, which were banned after the U.S. government classified ISIS as a terror group — have come roaring back. Accounts associated with QAnon, a vast far-right conspiracy theory, have paid for and received verified status on Twitter, giving them a sheen of legitimacy.

These changes are alarming, researchers said, adding that they had never seen such a sharp increase in hate speech, problematic content and formerly banned accounts in such a short period on a mainstream social media platform.

“Elon Musk sent up the Bat Signal to every kind of racist, misogynist and homophobe that Twitter was open for business,” said Imran Ahmed, the chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate. “They have reacted accordingly.”

Young Woman with a Red Fan, Max Pechstein, 1910

CNN Prognosticators are getting some encouraging Poll results in the Warnock/Walker race. “CNN Poll: Warnock holds a narrow edge over Walker in final undecided Senate contest.” Walker is not fit for the Senate, but his treatment of women makes him an unacceptable choice.  Our Georgia Sky Dancers are voting in even the most desperate situations, like long lines and illness.

In the final undecided Senate contest of 2022, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia holds a narrow lead over Republican challenger Herschel Walker among those likely to vote in a runoff election Tuesday, according to a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS.

The survey shows that Walker faces widespread questions about his honesty and suffers from a negative favorability rating, while nearly half of those who back him say their vote is more about opposition to Warnock than support for Walker. Voters’ modestly more positive views of Warnock and a firmly committed base of supporters appear to boost the incumbent in the new poll.

Overall, 52% of likely voters say they plan to support Warnock in Tuesday’s runoff and 48% pick Walker. Partisans on both sides are deeply entrenched, with nearly all Democrats (99%) behind Warnock and 95% of Republicans backing Walker. Independents break in Warnock’s favor, 61% to 36%, but make up a relatively small slice of likely voters, 17%, compared with 24% in a CNN exit poll of voters in the first round of this contest last month. (Warnock finished narrowly ahead of Walker in November but without the majority of the vote needed to avoid a runoff.)

Franz Marc, Dog Lying in the Snow,1910-1911

This is also from CNN. “Woman alleges to Daily Beast that Herschel Walker was violent with her in 2005.” 

An ex-girlfriend of Herschel Walker, the Republican Senate nominee in Georgia, has come forward in The Daily Beast to allege that the former football star was violent and threatening toward her during an incident that took place in 2005.

Cheryl Parsa, a Dallas resident, told the news outlet she had a five-year relationship with Walker from 2004 to 2009. She alleges that in 2005, after she found Walker with another woman, he got angry, and, according to her account, placed his hands on her chest and neck and also swung his fist at her. She told The Daily Beast that she thought he was “going to beat me” and that she fled.

This endless Republican parade of wife-beaters, child sex traffickers, racists, mass shooters, anti-semites, and just crazy people is emotional torture.  They light their torches, set fires, then ignore the resulting damage.  I have decreased my daily exposure to the news, which isn’t good in a democracy.

I have one last read to share from the Washington Post. “THE ABORTION DIARIES: Pregnant and desperate in post-Roe America. Three women face unexpected pregnancies in states with abortion bans.” It’s written and compiled by Caroline Kitchener.

It’s a moment of panic that has played out again and again for people in more than a dozen states since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

Once they find out they’re pregnant, there isn’t much time to act. The closest open abortion clinics that once offered next-day appointments are now often fully booked three, four, even five weeks in advance. Pills purchased online can take up to a month to arrive.

Every day, the fetus gets a little bigger — and the anxiety builds.

Inpolarized, post-Roe America, the experiences that draw widespread attention are often the most harrowing: a 10-year-old rape victim forced to leave her state to end her pregnancy, or a woman denied an abortion for a fetus without a skull.

Often lost in the discussion are the more routine stories. The mother of two who can’t afford a third child. The teenager who can’t tell her parents she’s pregnant. The 25-year-old who isn’t ready to be a mom.

Over the next decade, if recent trends hold, more than a million people with unwanted pregnancies are likely to run up against an abortion ban. Some will find a way, traveling hundreds of miles or securing illegal pills through the mail. Others will resign themselves to parenthood.

The Washington Post made contact with three pregnant women who were seeking abortions while living in states with strict abortion bans. These women, reached early in their pregnancies, communicated regularly with The Post, sharing their experiences through calls, text messages and other documentation that supported their accounts. They participated on the condition that only their first names be used to protect their privacy.

Here are their stories, from the minute the two pink lines appeared.

The stories are compelling.  It’s not hard to think about how voting and women’s rights were the first to fall in the Republican-packed Supreme Court.  I feel so exhausted. Being under attack by a radical minority, White Christian Nationalism bloc eats everything out of one’s psyche and soul.  It’s all just out there, isn’t it?  At least we can’t be accused of playing race cards, jumping to Reductio ad Hitlerum, or being hysterical anymore. All you have to do is point to what they are saying out loud and doing daily. The Republican-run committees are just going to be amplifying it all.  We’ll still be here even if making sense of it isn’t possible anymore. The key is still to follow truth with action.

And, yes, what would a conversation about NAZIs be without ‘degenerate’ art from the period by German painters.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


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?