"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Antidote: The Ultimate Go-Go Boy

It's the simple pleasures that are best:



Via AmericaBlog.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Resistance: One Chicago

I've been seeing these posters on bus shelters around town, from One Chicago. Strangely enough, I can't find images of them online -- this must be a very new part of the campaign, which was launched in late May. Hah! Found one, which is one I haven't seen yet:


The ones I've seen read "100% Mexican, 100% Chicagoan" and "100% Somalian, 100% Chicagoan." Considering the ethnic makeup of my neighborhood, which is about as mixed as it gets, that's not so strange.

At any rate, Chicago is not about to put up with Trump's inflammatory immigration rhetoric or his policies. From WLS:

The city's "One Chicago" campaign kicked off Sunday at the DuSable Museum of African American History as part of Chicago's sanctuary city role.

There is a PSA and a website which explains "One Chicago" was established in response to the emerging needs of Chicago's immigrant and refugee communities most affected by recent federal policies. The slogan of the campaign is, "Three million residents, three million stories, one Chicago."

U.S. immigration arrests are up nearly 40 percent from January to April under President Donald Trump compared to the same time last year, according to the acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement director.

President Trump has threatened to cut off federal funding to so-called "sanctuary cities," but so far, a federal judge has blocked that executive order. And now cities, like Chicago, are sending a direct message to their residents, you are home here.

Take that, you racist asshole.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Special Elections: An Update

This, via Betty Cracker at Balloon Juice, has the right take:



Process is not just something that Mitch McConnell fucks with to suit his purposes. Process is what history is. We're in the middle of the process.

You don't turn a country around in a few months. Look how long it took the Republicans to turn the country into a plutocracy.


Today's Must-Read: Military Justice

If you or anyone you know is thinking of joining the Air Force -- or any branch of the military -- think again:

At the end of the week, Mario Manago, 33, will be out of the Air Force after 12 years.

But he's not just out of a job -- he's now a felon.

His crime? Being six minutes late to a meeting.

Manago, of Willingboro, was convicted at court-martial March 9 of failing to go to his "appointed place of duty." He was late to a meeting he requested with his commander to discuss his concerns that he was being treated unfairly by his supervisors at the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Burlington County, according to him and his attorney.

You might well ask "Why was he late?"

He got a meeting with his commander, Lt. Col. Eric B. Quidley, to discuss his concerns that he was being targeted. But that morning, he was told he couldn't leave his post on the base because things were too busy. He called to reschedule the meeting, but was told he could not.

This is sort of like having the police department investigate charges of policy misconduct.

His commanding officer will probably get a promotion.

Oops.

Completely forgot (well, not completely, just when I was sitting in front of the computer): Yesterday was the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. Here's a video taken at Stonehenge:

Relive the summer solstice, as we welcome in the longest day of the year at Stonehenge with sunset on 20 June and sunrise on 21 June, 2017.


Happy Litha, everybody!




Over the Edge

Presented without comment:

Conspiracy theorist broadcaster Alex Jones alleged on his radio program today that liberals are inciting violence and leading the U.S. into a civil war.

Jones claimed, absurdly, that liberals are advocating on “every publication outlet they own” for people to “kill the president, kill his family and kill his supporters.” The result, according to Jones, is that “people are getting beat up in the head with clubs, with bike locks, they’re getting stabbed. It’s happening everywhere. The Islamicists know it’s their time.”

Without referencing any specific events, Jones described what he interprets as signs of the impending war: “Communists here in Austin openly attacking our camera crew and our reporters, and having semiautomatic rifles with their fingers on the triggers. I mean, they are ready to go. They are ready to bring in the civil emergency.”

He then warned “our military, our police, and our citizenry” against acting “like cowards during the civil emergency” and instead encouraged them to “offensively in a defensive move, politically get back in their faces and also defend ourselves from physical attacks.” Otherwise, Jones said, the left will “intimidate the nation into a new dark age.”

“I’m encouraging people to hold the line, like Gandhi or Martin Luther King, and not strike out offensively because it’s politically hurting the left,” Jones added. “But if they launch a full offensive, then we’ve got to really launch back physically.”

I mean, what can I say?

Via Joe.My.God. Video at the link.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Georgia 6th

Well, Karen Handel, who has got to be one of the least appealing candidates in modern election history, won -- by about 5 points. There's been a lot of wailing and rending of garments on the left -- sure, it would have been stupendous if Ossof had taken the seat, but what's not being looked at by a lot of people is the actual numbers. Josh Marshall has what I think in the right perspective on this one:

All this being said, this is a heavily Republican district and Republicans just barely held on to the seat. Yes, nbspDemocrats gave it everything they had, with small donors from around the country pouring money into the race. But Republican SuperPacs poured millions into the race too. In the last three elections, Tom Price won this seat by 65%, 66% and 62%. A significant part of those almost 2 to 1 margins was due to the fact that Democrats fielded only nominal candidates who raised little or no money. But these are chicken and egg type questions. It is precisely because this is a strongly Republican district that Price drew no serious contenders. A better measure are the recent presidential results. There John McCain won the district by 62% and Mitt Romney won it by 61%. To use yet another measure, 538 rates it a +9.5 Republican district, which means it’s 9.5 percentage points more GOP than the country as a whole.

Democrats have lost five special elections to fill seats left vacant by Trump's cabinet appointments -- but they have lost by narrow margins. As Marshall points out, these were all "safe" Republican seats. They're not so safe any more.

Which all boils down to one thing: the GOP is going to have a fight on its hands in 2018. Can the Democrats take back Congress? Frankly, I doubt it, although the Senate might be a possibility. (Don't forget how heavily the Republicans in state legislatures have gerrymandered congressional districts to dilute minority/Democratic votes.) There might be some surprises, and a lot is going to depend on how horrible the Republicans' secret health care "reform" turns out to be -- and how smart the Democrats are about using that.

It's going to be issues like health care, jobs, and national security that are going to be key. Harping on how Trump and the Republicans are destroying American democracy isn't going to cut it: most people are very confident in the strength of our system, and Republicans don't think much of democracy to begin with.

And don't think Republican strategists aren't very aware of how their base is being eroded. They'll go low, because that's all they have. (And I can't quite shake the feeling that the press will fall in line.)

It's going to be an interesting couple of years.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Antidote: A Coming Out Story

I don't usually remark on this kind of story, but this one is exceptional:


I also decided that it was then time to officially come out to everyone at school. I remember the first teacher I told was my biology teacher, Mrs. Broomas. We had a sex-ed quiz and one of the questions asked, "How could you prevent getting a girl pregnant while having intercourse?" My reply was, "I'm GAY so I don't have to worry about that.”

As she got to my paper she broke out laughing and just smiled at me. She then asked if she could read it to the class, and with confidence I told her she could. When she did, all the kids laughed and gave me a hug afterward and told me no matter what that they would always be my friends and still support me.

It's worth reading the whole thing.

(Via RawStory.)

Today in Disgusting People: Rhetoric (Update)

There've been too many disgusting people in the news lately to single any one of them out. Here's a brief list:

Let's start with Erick Erickson:

"There is only a one way street and the crowd that demands tolerance only wants tolerance for themselves. All others must be silenced," Erickson writes. "The political left is becoming the American ISIS."

He also throws in the required Nazi comparison.

And then there's "Coach" Dave Daubenmire, addressing more moderate (i.e., real) Christians:

"Don’t you understand what’s going on? Don’t you know it’s a war? Don’t you know they want your children? Don’t you know they’re occupying your pulpits? Don’t you understand that those same people singing ‘Jesus loves you this I know’ want to kill us?”

Then there's Pastor-Governor Mike Huckabee (who doesn't know the difference between the two):

Appearing on Fox & Friends this morning, the ex-Republican presidential candidate tied in James Hodgkinson’s shooting spree that left Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) in critical condition to a leftist movement.

“This is a bigger issue,” Huckabee said. “This is an attempt to overthrow the elected government. And I don’t want people to lose sight of the fact that what we’re seeing is not necessarily an organized attempt but a widespread attempt by people who hate the results of the election. Who want to overturn it not by another election, but by violent means. By any means possible!”

The one-time Fox News host, whose daughter works for the Trump administration, went on to say that this is a much greater threat to America’s democracy than anything Russia has attempted to do.

That's just skimming the top -- or the bottom -- over the past couple of days. Two observations: these are characters who used to be on the fringes of the right; they're now being mainstreamed by the alt-right and the Trump cheerleaders at Fox (well, OK, the "independent" press in general).

Second, they're prime examples of pure projection. The overwhelming majority of incidents of political violence in the past few years have come from the right. But then, "conservatives" have all bought in to "alternative facts."

What's worrisome is the degree to which the rhetoric has ramped up: they're doing nothing more than normalizing politically motivated violence, and the rest of us will pay the price.

Update:And of course, Republicans are building on this foundation:



Coming Attractions

I've missed the last few movies wanted to see (or thought I wanted to see), as much through inertia as for any other reason. This one looks like something I'll make the effort for:

Making waves at this year's Sundance Film Festival was God's Own Country, a small but perfectly formed British indie from debut feature director Francis Lee, telling the story of a rural romance that dare not speak its name in the rolling West Yorkshire countryside. . . .

It's been described – a little lazily, you might argue – as "Brokeback Mountain set in Yorkshire". But it's a comparison that Lee, speaking to Empire for the current issue (on sale now), appreciates. " I love Brokeback Mountain," Lee says. "The comparison feels like an honour, but they are very different. Brokeback is of a particular time and place – its two central characters can't be together because of society's attitudes. In God's Own Country, it's all to do with the central character's inability to open up."

That central character is Johnny Saxby (Josh O'Connor), a young farmer in West Yorkshire, who is joined on the farm by Romanian worker Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) when Johnny's father suffers a stroke. As they work together, early hostility gives way to something physical.

I'll confess that trailers, as often as not, turn me off to the film. I'll withhold judgment on this one, though.


September 1 release.

(Via Towleroad.)

Monday, June 19, 2017

GIggle du Jour

I just had to laugh at this one:

Metropolitan Kornily, Primate of the Russian Orthodox Old Believer Church (RPSC), a friend of Vladimir Putin, urged Russian men to stop shaving to “protect themselves from homosexuality,” the Moscow Times reports:

Metropolitan Kornily, Primate of the Russian Orthodox Old Believer Church (RPSC), said that men with beards were less likely “corrupted” by same-sex relationships.

“God set down certain rules. The Lord created everyone with a beard. No man can resist his creator,” Kornily told Russia’s National News Service. “It’s made a monstrous thing to see men’s clothing and hairstyles changing.”

This guy should walk down Halsted Street on any evening if he wants men with beards.


How Trump Got Elected, #432

Because his supporters are idiots.

You've no doubt heard or read about the two trumpanzees who disrupted a performance of Shaekspeare's Julius Caesar by the New York Public Theater that depicted Caesar as -- well, he looks a lot like Trump. (Here's a bit of background on the attention-starved miscreants.)

And here's Raw Story with commentary on the reactions:

According to the Boston Globe, theater companies across the country that perform Shakespeare are getting death threats over a New York Public Theater play in Central Park that depicts the death of Ceasar — but who looks like President Donald Trump.

The senders of these death threats are “outraged over the Public Theater’s controversial staging” of Shakespeare’s “Caesar” that features the infamous stabbing scene with a character inspired by Trump — but they appear to have gotten the locations a little off.

One such theater is Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts, who have been “inundated with a flood of venomous e-mails, phone messages, and social media posts condemning them for the Central Park production.”

One sender told the management of the Lenox theater that they wish “the worst possible life you could have and hope you all get sick and die.” Another told them their “play depicting the murder of our President is nothing but pure hatred.”

The Lenox Shakespeare company is far from the only Shakespeare-performing theater who’ve gotten these kinds of threats. Raphael Parry, the director of Shakespeare Dallas in Texas, told the Globe that his theater “has received about 80 messages, including threats of rape, death, and wishes that the theater’s staff is ‘sent to ISIS to be killed with real knives.'” Theaters in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere in New York said they’ve received threats as well.

So these idiots look up "Shakespeare in the Park" on the Internet and call the first company that comes up on the list. These are people who voted based on slogans. Nasty slogans.

The directors quoted have some interesting theories as to why this is happening, but I have a slightly different take: these are the people who voted for Trump because they feel powerless. Well, there, they've done something, so they don't feel quite so powerless any more.

Meanwhile, the Senate Republicans are working behind closed doors to take away their health insurance.

(I wonder if Chicago's resident Shakespeare company has gotten any calls.)

Now Playing

Kronos Quartet performing Terry Riley's Salome Dances for Peace.

It's a Terry Riley sort of morning.

Couldn't find a live performance video, so this will have to do:


(I may do this periodically, just to give you an idea of the weird and not-so-weird stuff I listen to while I'm surfing in the morning.)

Thought For the Day

From Tom Levenson, at Balloon Juice:

One last thought: I had dinner last week with a Democratic Party senior statesman. He told me that in his view we’ve made the mistake of thinking better policies are argument enough for elections. They’re not; we surely know that now, right?

Instead we have to convey something more, the framework in which specific good policies can work. DeVos’ current obscenity gives us a hint as to what that might be. Republicans throw obstacles in the way of Americans making better lives. Democrats are — and we should say so as loud as we can — the party of opportunity.

Yeah. What he said.

Most people, at least most people who vote instead of staying home and pouting, don't know from policy: it's too complicated. The Democrats need to translate policy positions into everyday life. If the Democrats can just get their shit together and keep harping on this, especially in state and local elections, we ("we" being the vast majority of the American people) can start taking back the government.

(Read Levenson's whole post -- about education, student loans, the obscenity that is Betsy DeVos, etc.)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

What's New at Green Man Review

It's Sunday again, and more reviews -- this week wound up being heavy on the Hungarian -- take a look to see what I mean.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Today's Must-Read: Doing It Right

An illuminating article on parents dealing with a transgender child and doing the right thing -- and working very hard to figure out what that is:

It was early still, not much past 6 a.m., and James Kaplan was already dressed for the first day of third grade. The night before, his mom, Sara, pulled out the iron and he helped press the wrinkles out of his light blue polo. “My first time ironing,” he said. For the past month, he’d been pushing his parents to let him wear a suit to school. James, whose ninth birthday was a couple of months away, thought it was a sharp look.

But after some back and forth, they’d settled on the polo, khaki cargo shorts and the dark blue chambray tie that Sara was now fitting over his head. Charley, James’ 4-year-old brother, still in his pajamas, pointed at him. “Handsome, James. Handsome.” James collapsed on the couch, staring through the windows at the brightening September sky.

“How you feelin’?” James’ dad, Ben, called from the kitchen. “Nervous,” James said. “But excited.”

He wasn’t just thinking about his first day of third grade. He was thinking about the beginning of his first full school year as James.

Some eight months before, James had told his parents his “inner person was a boy.” The round-cheeked 8-year-old they’d always thought was their daughter was actually their son. It was something he’d been trying to tell them — something he’d been trying to understand for himself — for more than a year.

Sara and Ben considered themselves progressive, but they didn’t know the first thing about raising a transgender child. In the days that followed, they would talk to family, to friends and to their couples therapist. They would take James shopping for “boy clothes” and to get a “boy haircut.”

They had to get to know their first-born all over again. They loved him as they always had, but there was this sense that maybe they didn’t really know him. And, if they were being honest, he was different — lighter and smiling and more open.

The article goes into some depth, but it's a fascinating read. Do it.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Culture Break: Annbj√łrg Lien: Kjempe-Jo

I keep messing up which day of the week it is. But then, it occurs to me that it doesn't really matter, most times.

At any rate, I decided to make Annbj√łrg Lien my playlist for this morning -- I seem to have more of her albums than I realized -- so I thought I'd share this little treat with you. From the description at YouTube:

Traditional tune, arr. by Annbj√łrg Lien and Bj√łrn Ole Rasch.
Annbj√łrg Lien plays hardingfele (Hardanger fiddle).
From the NRK program "Folk:LAB - live i studio", Dec. 2012.
The tune is released on the album "Come Home" (Annbj√łrg Lien & Bj√łrn Ole Rasch, 2009).

And of course, that's an album that I don't have.


Today's Must-Read: Shut Down the Pump!

From Digby, in the wake of another shooting*, a solid take on gun control laws and why we need them:

On 7 September 1854, Snow took his research to the town officials and convinced them to take the handle off the pump, making it impossible to draw water. The officials were reluctant to believe him, but took the handle off as a trial only to find the outbreak of cholera almost immediately trickled to a stop. Little by little, people who had left their homes and businesses in the Broad Street area out of fear of getting cholera began to return.

It took many more years before it was widely accepted that cholera came from the water. (In fact, it took a priest trying to prove that it was God's will to finally do it!)

But here's the relevant takeaway: they didn't need to cure the disease to end the epidemic. What ended it was shutting down the pump.
(Emphasis in original.)

Yes, it really is about gun control. Read it.

* The Republicans, of course, are blaming the Democrats' "violent rhetoric" for the shooting, which targeted a Republican congressman. I'm not going to list them -- they all fall under the category of disgusting people -- but all you need to do is surf a bit. The New Civil Rights Movement has several stories on this.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Somebody's Been Turning Over Rocks

And guess what they found.

First, of course, is Old Reliable, Hate Group Leader Extraordaire, Mr. Mendacity himself:

The problem at the U.S. Embassy in Romania wasn’t that officials were saluting the flag. The problem was which flag they were saluting. In a tradition most Americans hoped was gone with President Obama, a handful of U.S. diplomats decided to fly the rainbow flag on par with the stars and stripes that millions have died defending.

The jarring sight in Guatemala, Cuba, Macedonia, the Dominican Republican, and other countries was just more evidence of the politically correct mess left behind by the last administration. Although President Trump refused to declare June LGBT pride month, plenty of Obama holdovers are taking matters into their own hands. Out of respect for the voters who rejected that extreme agenda, it’s time for administration officials to step in and put a stop to a display that puts a sexual fringe on the same pole as Old Glory.

As we all remember, The Hairpiece actually lost the election, even though he won the Electoral College -- an argument for getting rid of it if there ever was one: the Electoral College has given us the two worst presidents (in terms of general competence) since World War II. (Well, OK, the Supreme Court helped on one of them.)

And most Americans -- that is, the ones who believe in our country and what it stands for -- or used to stand for -- just wish Tony Perkins would shut up and go away. But then, these are the people Perkins considers "real Americans."

A side note: If Trump had made the requisite proclamation, among the seemingly dozens of others, it would have been hollow -- do we really want to be equated with "Great Outdoors Month"? (Not that I have anything against the great outdoors, at all.) And we don't need him: Here at home, the rainbow flags went up in Lakeview on May 31, along with the "Uptown Proud" banners in Uptown, and rainbows -- mostly flags, but some rather more creative -- are appearing in businesses and apartment windows all along the parade route, and other places as well. I don't doubt that it's the same in other cities.

And, for the icing on the cake, here's a voice from the far fringes of the "Christian" right:

In an audio commentary posted online last week, anti-LGBTQ activist Linda Harvey of Mission America called for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate “the outrageous actions of major homosexual groups trying to normalize this behavior throughout all of America.”

Such groups must be investigated, Harvey said, because they “continue to twist the truth, blatantly engage in religious discrimination, demand that people lose jobs and corrupt children.”

. . .

“I think we need special investigations into the actions of homosexual advocates at the state and federal level,” Harvey declared.

It seems that Donald Trump isn't the only one who has no idea how this country works. Or can we take it that Harvey is another one of those "patriots" who despise our foundational principles? (And she really should come with a laugh track.)

(For the record, Harvey and her husband are Mission America. He is also, apparently, the major funder. Take that for what it's worth.)


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Emoluments

Even the DOJ is living in an alternate universe under the Trump regime:


As The Hill reported, DOJ lawyers have sought to have the lawsuit thrown out, contending  “that the foreign emoluments clause doesn’t apply to ‘fair-market commercial transactions’ like payments for hotel rooms and golf club fees.’”

The DOJ further asserted that CREW, as well as other plaintiffs, “lack legal standing to bring the case against Trump,” citing that ‘Congress, not the court system, should determine whether Trump is in violation” of the clause our forefathers designed to protect the country.

“Neither the text nor the history of the Clauses shows that they were intended to reach benefits arising from a President’s private business pursuits having nothing to do with his office or personal service to a foreign power,” the DOJ contended in its 70-page legal brief.

First off, there is the matter of "fair market" transactions: can anyone (aside from Trump's lawyers) assert with a straight face that the buyers knowing that the facility belongs to the president of the United States has no effect on the market? (Remembering that membership fees to Mar-a-Lago doubled after the election.) Can you say "bullshit"?

I am sure, however, that they really want Congress to handle this. That's the best way to make sure nothing happens.

What's New at Green Man Review

It's Sunday again, and more reviews at GMR -- books, music, and even a troll. So check it out.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Saturday Science: Origins

A couple of articles that caught my attention this week, both about beginnings.

First, another note on that old conundrum, where did life originate?

Scientists believe that, along with the rest of our solar system, Earth arose from material left over after the Sun was formed. But how living organisms came about is a matter for debate. As Wired points out, one theory holds that life came about on Earth independently from the Sun, after the planet was formed. The other states that the ingredients of life were were formed in a solar nebula and then arrived on Earth via comets. "The detection of this molecule points toward the latter theory," Rafael Mart√≠n-Dom√©nech, one of the leaders of Centro de Astrobiolog√≠a, told Wired.

No one, to my knowledge, has made a case for this being an either/or question. I've already explored some of the possibilities, and while this finding adds support to the "it came from outer space" theory, it doesn't address the "it came from the deeps" theory. I, for one, see absolutely no reason why it couldn't have been both.

The other "origins" article hits a little closer to home: when and where did modern humans originate? It's not as recently as we had thought:

According to the textbooks, all humans living today descended from a population that lived in east Africa around 200,000 years ago. This is based on reliable evidence, including genetic analyses of people from around the globe and fossil finds from Ethiopia of human-like skeletal remains from 195,000–165,000 years ago.

Now a large scientific team that I was part of has discovered new fossil bones and stone tools that challenge this view. The new studies, published in Nature, push back the origins of our species by 100,000 years and suggest that early humans likely spanned across most of the African continent at the time.

Once again, we have a rather ambiguous question: the evidence from mitochondrial DNA is pretty definitive that we all descended from a small group of women living in East Africa about 200,000 years ago -- but that doesn't really address where and when the ancestors of those women originated.

It all comes down to asking the right questions.






Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Antidote: Doing It Right

Or maybe just doing the right thing. The video is self-explanatory, but grab a hankie:


Sunday, June 04, 2017

A Musical Interlude

Courtesy of Operatico Politico, via Joe.My.God.




In Other News

Donald Trump is

a) incompetent

b) an idiot

c) a national embarrassment

d) all of the above.

Sunday at Green Man Review

And it's all India, all the time -- some really fascinating stuff. Scoot on over and read.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Today's Must-Read: The GOP's Civil War

Digby has a good article that I think pretty much lays out where the Republican party is these days, and what it has become.

Generally speaking after an election loss the Democratic Party goes into a metaphorical circular firing squad and everybody simultaneously pulls the trigger. In common beltway parlance this is known as "Democrats in disarray" and the pundits spend many hours gleefully covering the tears and recriminations as the party tears itself apart.

This post election season has not disappointed. But all in all, it's actually been a fairly civil affair by comparison to previous years. The congressional caucuses are united in opposition to Trump and the Republicans and all signs point to a strong turn out in the mid-terms in 2018. So despite plenty of squabbling on social media, the usual internecine battles have been relatively subdued.

What is more interesting is that the Republican Party, which has everything --- the congress, the courts, the White House and a majority of state houses all over the country --- seems to be coming apart at the seams. This is, to say the least, unusual. But then it's also not usual that winning political parties elect intellectually inadequate, inexperienced, incompetent, narcissistic celebrities to lead them. It is causing more than a little distress at a time when the party should be in a position to enact a sweeping agenda.

This pretty much sums it up:



I'd love to see the results of that poll.

Today in "Real Christians"

This sort of beggars belief -- but it doesn't:

A woman charged with beating a fellow church member to “expel homosexual demons” has admitted to “starting” the mass assault in court.

Sarah Anderson is one of five people on trial for the assault on Matthew Fenner, who was beaten in his church.

30 people reportedly attacked Fenner in 2013 at the Word of Faith church in North Carolina.

Anderson has testified that she told others leaders in the church that she believed the man to be “unclean and sinful”.

After this, the minister of the church, Brooke Covington, allegedly started the two-hour long attack by screaming at Fenner and slapping him after a service.

This church sounds like something out of a dystopian science fiction novel:

The church, which was founded in 1979, has been exposed for having strict regulations and control over its members.

The Associated Press reported that the Protestant, non-denominal church had the deciding choice over who could marry who and which couples were allowed to have children.

Those who failed to obey the church faced “humiliating” or “physical” punishment.

The AP also revealed from a series of interview with former members that “sinners” regularly faced the same type of attack that Fenner faced with punching, choking and beating being an accepted way of “expelling demons”.

I have to wonder what kind of person willingly hands himself over to that kind of treatment -- I mean, the potential is always there, especially if you leave it up to someone else to decide whether you're "possessed."

And of course, they're claiming persecution -- because if you insist on a "real Christian" adhering to civilized modes of behavior, that's discrimination.

Friday, June 02, 2017

America First? Puh-leeze!

Well, he did it -- Trump has decided to pull out of the Paris Accord, but there are a lot of ifs -- it won't take effect until 2020, he wants to renegotiate the accord to get a "better deal," the usual bullshit. Needless to say, that's going nowhere.

One thing, however, that isn't getting much mention is a fairly substantial geo-political aspect of this move: For all his ballyhoo about "America first!", Trump is ceding American leadership of the free world, as we used to call it. China and Europe have already announced that they will work together to accelerate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Yep -- under Trump's leadership, America will be first -- in its own little universe.

Sidebar: As a history minor, I ran across instance after instance where old empires died and new ones took their place. I never thought I'd be living through it, but it seems to be the case: if the political/social scene here doesn't change soon, America will cease to be a factor in world politics.

If you're looking for the ultimate take-down of Trump's announcement, you can't do better than Charles P. Pierce:

It was appalling. It was condescending. It was awful content delivered by a dolt who wouldn't know the Paris Accords from a baguette without the shoddy talking points that someone put in front of him. For example, he read off a fanciful list of "consequences" for adhering to the Paris Accords down through the next decades. Afterwards, Ali Velshi, a welcome addition to the MSNBC cast of regulars, pointed out that the president* was reading from a debunked report that presumed in its analysis that the U.S. would fulfill every one of its agreed-upon conditions while no other participating country would fulfill any of theirs. This is not surprising. The president* would have read a commercial for hair-replacement if someone had put it in front of him.

(Via Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

Thursday, June 01, 2017

America, Inc. (Update)

No, this is not about the plutocracy that's running the country, this is about the idea of a "businessman" (read "con artist and crook") being fit material for the presidency. Via Digby:

This is from a WSJ op-ed today by Economic adviser Gary Cohn and national Security adviser H.R. McMaster:

The president embarked on his first foreign trip with a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a “global community” but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage. We bring to this forum unmatched military, political, economic, cultural and moral strength. Rather than deny this elemental nature of international affairs, we embrace it.

The world embraced that "elemental nature of international affairs" for several hundred years. It finally brought us two world wars and the very real possibility of annihilating civilization completely. It's thanks to cooperative agreements like NATO, and the willingness of both sides to negotiate, that we avoided that.

The sentiments expressed in the quote are about an equal mix of hard-nosed "businessman" and schoolyard bully. And there's nothing "clear-eyed" about the attitude: this is nothing but bullshit in support of a man who has no idea how the world works, whose "success" as a businessman is built on duping others into lining his pockets (which sounds a lot like the Republican party as now constituted) -- he's a liar and a cheat.

Digby:

That's exactly what I meant when I said a zillion times during the campaign that when Trump talked about "America First" he means "We're number one!" The idea was never that America would withdraw behind its big beautiful border wall. It was that we don't need no stinking allies, we're kicking ass and taking names. Our way or the highway. That's Trump. That's his voters. And that's why the rest of the world is rapidly concluding that we have become so dangerous that they have to do something about us.

I suspect that, in spite of disavowals of isolationism, the rest of the world is going to find a way to isolate us. But there's going to be a lot of shooting first.

Update: The isolation doesn't have to be military:

Chinese and EU leaders are to agree a joint statement on the Paris climate agreement saying it is "an imperative more important than ever".

A draft of the document, seen by the BBC, stresses the "highest political commitment" to implement the deal.

It will be widely seen as a rebuff to the US, as President Trump prepares to announce on Thursday if the US is withdrawing from the accord.

Via Bark Bark Woof Woof.

And so it begins.



Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Tone Deaf

I'm picking this up from yesterday, which was really too busy and too chaotic to worry about Ivanka Trump, but for the love of all that's holy, what the hell was she thinking?



On Memorial Day? WTF?

Dominos

You may have read about the High Court of Taiwan declaring the island's marriage laws, which limit marriage to a man and a woman, unconstitutional. Well, now there's huge pressure on the government of Thailand to re-introduce a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. Via Joe.My.God.:

The Ministry of Justice has vowed to take action in favour of a petition demanding a stalled bill on gay rights be enacted. The Constitutional Court of Taiwan ruled in favour of same-sex marriage on May 24 and now calls to follow suit in Thailand may be gaining strength.

Pitikan Sithidej, director-general of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department at the Justice Ministry, said he received the petition to set the wheels in motion again on May 17 and will push for getting the bill approved at the earliest possible date.

The petition has been signed by nearly 60,000 people and was organised by the website Change.org. It backs same-sex marriage rights and other equal benefits for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people and couples. The proposed law has been in a state of limbo since it was introduced in 2013.

Call it the domino effect: Essentially the same thing happened in Europe after The Netherlands legalized same-sex marriage in 2000. (There's quite an interesting pattern there if one follows the timeline: It's all very incremental, but it goes all the way back to the 1970s, starting with the notorious Baker v. Nelson case, for which the Supreme Court denied certiorari "for want of a serious federal question," a rationale that has since received the ridicule it deserves.)

But what we see over again is that one polity takes the plunge (first banning SSM, and later adopting legal recognition), followed by others falling into line

It's also been incremental in terms of substance: first we have "civil unions" or some equivalent, and then when the sky doesn't fall, it becomes full marriage.

A lot of back and forth if you look a the timeline, but one thing sticks out: no country that has adopted marriage equality has back-tracked.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Mainstreaming the Radical

I don't know much about this guy, but he's either bought into the right-wing victim mantra completely, or he's hoping to use it for his own purposes:

In light of the recent stabbing deaths of two men in Portland by a white nationalist — and constant local street brawls between neo-Nazi groups and anti-fascist protesters — the chairman of Portland’s GOP party said he would consider hiring armed right-wing militia members as bodyguards to protect Republicans on the street.

In an interview with the Guardian, Multnomah County GOP chair James Buchal said that disputes between conservatives and progressives have many Republicans considering “abandoning the public square” which worries him.

“I am sort of evolving to the point where I think that it is appropriate for Republicans to continue to go out there,” Buchal explained. “And if they need to have a security force protecting them, that’s an appropriate thing too.”

According to Buchal — a perennial GOP candidate for office — he’s not sure that conservatives can entrust their fate to the police or first responders and proposed using far-right militia members as bodyguards.

You may recall something like this from your world history classes. Maybe this will jog your memory:

“Yeah. And there are these people arising, like the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters,” he stated, adding, “We’re thinking about that. Because there are now belligerent, unstable people who are convinced that Republicans are like Nazis.”

So he wants to enlist the help of real Nazis to protect these poor right-wing snowflakes who are being bullied by the militant left. Maybe they could all wear brown shirts, or something.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Today's Must-Read: A Letter to Trump

Dan Rather, from his Facebook page:

Dear President Trump,

Their names were Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Ricky John Best. One was a recent college graduate. The other was an army veteran and father of four. I wish we would hear you say these names, or even just tweet them. They were brave Americans who died at the hands of someone who, when all the facts are collected, we may have every right to call a terrorist. A third brave man, Micah David-Cole Fletcher, was wounded in the knife attack.

This story may not neatly fit into a narrative you pushed on the campaign trail and that has followed you into the White House. They were not killed by an undocumented immigrant or a “radical Islamic terrorist.” They were killed in an act of civic love, facing down a man allegedly spewing hate speech directed at two teenage girls, one of whom was wearing a hijab. That man seems to have a public record of “extremist ideology” – a term issued by the Portland Police Bureau.

This “extremism” may be of a different type than gets most of your attention, or even the attention in the press. But that doesn’t make it any less serious, or deadly. And this kind of “extremism” is on the rise, especially in the wake of your political ascendency. Most people who study these sorts of things do not think that is a coincidence. I do not blame you directly for this incident. Nor do I think other people should. But what a President says, who he has around him, and the tone he sets can set the tone for the nation at large.

Perhaps Portland, Oregon is off your radar. It is, after all, a rather liberal place. It’s even a “sanctuary city.” But it is still an American city. And you are its President. Two Americans have died leaving family and friends behind. They are mourned by millions more who are also deeply worried about what might come next.

I hope you can find it worthy of your time to take notice.


Via just about everybody.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

What's New at Green Man Review

It's Sunday again, and more stuff up at GMR -- folklore, folk rock, and a few other things besides. Off you go for some good reading.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Post That Almost Was (Update)

I was going to do a "Disgusting People" post yesterday, but in the aftermath of Greg Gianforte's assault on Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, there were so many crawling out from under their rocks -- from Rush Limbaugh to Laura Ingraham to Dinesh D'Souza -- that it got completely out of hand.

There's only so many disgusting people I can take at one time.

Update: It occurs to me that the reactions of the right to Gianforte's assault on Jacobs reflect the phenomenon outlined in this article:

"You're lucky someone doesn't pop one of you.” A Montana voter said that to a CNN crew Thursday night, the day after Montana’s new Republican congressman-elect, Greg Gianforte, body-slammed a reporter who was asking him about President Trump’s health care plan. . . .

While attacks on journalists are becoming more common, the era of trickle-down political lawlessness is well under way for all Americans. Hate crimes in metropolitan areas rose 20 percent in the last year, fueled by an election that was engineered by men like Steve Bannon, who have branded multiculturalism a disease and fact-based journalism a scourge. In New York city, anti-Semitic incidents rose a staggering 94 percent in the last year, according to the NYPD.

Welcome to Trump's America.

Today's Must-Read: The Right's War on America

Specifically, the free press. This piece by Brian Beutler is a pretty damning analysis:

Republican Greg Gianforte defeated Democrat Rob Quist in a special election Thursday for Montana’s lone congressional seat, a six-point victory that should horrify you because he won with the full support of the GOP after body-slamming and punching an American reporter—and many of our political institutions, especially the media, are too paralyzed to impose a meaningful consequence on him or his enablers.

Gianforte, a true coward, didn’t admit any wrongdoing until his victory speech, at which point the risks of playacting decency pertained to his criminal case—the police have charged him with assault—rather than the election. “When you make a mistake, you have to own up to it,” Gianforte said. “That’s the Montana way.” I suspect some Montanans would object to the notion that you only apologize once it’s politically safe to do so.

For it was already beyond dispute on Wednesday night, thanks to audio of the attack and a witness account from a Fox News reporter, that Gianforte had attacked the Guardian’s Ben Jacobs. That’s when the process of public accountability began. In a healthier political culture, the condemnation would have been nearly unanimous, and the context of the incident would not have been a matter of controversy. What we witnessed instead was a political media — confronted with a one-sided assault on its most basic freedom — rendered by its own constructs largely incapable of identifying the threat with any precision.

That last sentence is particularly telling: the "free press" has been more than complicit in its own destruction. There are a number of contributing factors -- the corporate takeover of media outlets, leading to an emphasis on ratings rather than journalism (because in the corporate world, it's all about profits), the rise of Fox News (the propaganda arm of the Republican party), the transformation of the Republican party itself into the party of neo-fascist authoritarianism, the reluctance of reporters (or their editors) to offend those in power for fear of losing "access", the emphasis on "balance" and the resulting validation of bullshit by presenting advocates of positions that are, on analysis, grossly un-American as though they had legitimate arguments -- leading to the end result that we're seeing now: through its unwillingness to call out those such as Donald Trump (who called the press "an enemy of the American people" and got away with it), the press has rendered itself impotent, completely incapable (with a very few exceptions) of performing its essential and most basic function.

And so we wind up with something like Donald Trump in the White House, and candidates for public office winning elections after committing very public crimes.

Via Digby.

Addendum: From Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo, a take on why goons like Gianforte get away with it:

As this morning's headlines attest, Republican Greg Gianforte won yesterday's special congressional election in Montana. One of the noteworthy and little-noticed effects of his assault on Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs was, according to NBC, Gianforte raised $100,000 overnight online. One supporter told CNN the assault charge against Gianforte left her only "more ready to support Greg."

That's your modern "conservative". Read the rest, and then pour yourself a good stiff drink.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Today in Disgusting People: School Choice Edition (Update)

Betsy DeVos, who is, in a gallery of egregious cabinet picks, is one of the worst, mostly because she's intent on torpedoing our kids' futures.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos says she has no problem with states that allow schools to discriminate against LGBT students while receiving federal funds, and believes that the federal government should not intervene.

The whole exchange is appalling. There's video at the link (that I'm not able to embed) that's worth viewing, just to see DeVos squirm as she's trying to avoid the issue.

Addendum: There's more of DeVos and her agenda here. It sort of echoes the Republican philosophy on the economy: if it doesn't work, keep trying.

Update: I found the video clip on YouTube:


I Guess I Haven't Been Paying Attention

So this morning, as I was opening the blinds on the window where all the plants are clustered, I noticed that my Encyclia tampensis is blooming.

Now, you have to understand, an orchid blooming is not something that happens fast -- being epiphytes, they have slow metabolisms.* It just goes to show how distracted I've been that this one managed to put out a stalk with four buds without my noticing.

I'm also surprised that it's blooming at all: I've had this plant for years and this is only the second time it's bloomed. The first time was the summer I was able to put it out in full sun. (They're native to Florida, ranging up into the South Carolina coast,and tend to favor sunny locations on branches and tree trunks.) I haven't been able to provide those conditions in my new place (no yard), and I'd sort of resigned myself to just letting it grow until someday. . . . (And from one small plant that I purchased years ago, it is now three rather full plants.)

The picture is close to mine, but the lip is completely purple on mine; the color of the petals and sepals is not quite as strong, but would be stronger if it had more light.

* That is, most orchids are epiphytes, at least the tropical and subtropical species. Most of our native North American orchids -- lady's slippers, ladies' tresses and the like -- are terrestrial and can be found, or once could be found, in prairies and grasslands, or in the case of lady's slippers, oak woods. (And, fun fact, there are species of Cyprepedium -- lady's slippers -- found as far north as Alaska.)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Culture Break: Majid Adin: "Rocket Man" Official Music Video

Some explanation of the title is in order:

Elton John and long time co-writer Bernie Taupin have made some of the most famous pop songs of the 20th century. Many of the pair’s biggest hits came during a highly productive period in the early 70s, with songs including Tiny Dancer, Rocket Man and Bennie and the Jets. This period of work formed the basis of a competition which saw three entries win the opportunity to make a video for each of these three songs. Released before the hegemony of the MTV, Elton John asked YouTube to help cement the legacy of these tracks with official music videos.

At a special screening in Cannes, Elton and Bernie viewed the winning entries, as chosen by themselves and an expert panel including Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins. The winners included: Max Weiland’s live-action take on Tiny Dancer; Majid Adin’s animation for Rocket Man; and Jack Whiteley and Laura Brownhill’s choreographed interpretation of Bennie and the Jets. Each winning entrant presented their work with a few words. . . .

Adin, who just about made the screening due to an initial refusal for travel documents, drew on his experiences as an Iranian refugee travelling to the UK to influence his sombre and poignant animation. He called the experience “dreamy”, and that his “English teacher would be proud”. A fine art university graduate working in animation production, Adin travelled across Europe during the 2015 refugee crisis, spending time in the infamous Calais Jungle camp before being granted asylum in the UK and now rebuilding his life as an artist in Britain. He partnered with animation director Stephen McNally to realise his vision for this achingly powerful and human story.

It's what they call "powerful."


Via Joe.My.God., where you can find more information on Adin as well as the other two videos.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Notre Dame Walkout: Compare and Contrast

You've no doubt read about the 150 or so graduating students at Notre Dame University who walked out of Mike Pence's commencement address. The reactions, as one might expect, have been many and varied.

South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, I think, got it right:

“What I appreciate about it is it’s clear that the students want to express their commitment to tolerance and the values that they believe a Catholic University ought to uphold, and that this administration is not compatible with those values,” Buttigieg said. “And at the same time, I think they found a very respectful way to do it.”

Buttigieg added he does “respect the office of the vice presidency, too,” and each student should make his or her own decision on the walkout, but the way demonstrators chose to protest was an appropriate to speak out against the Trump administration.

“You go to a university in order to form your conscience and they’re expressing their conscience in a way that I really respect and admire,” Buttigieg said.

Wha's especially important to note is Buttigieg's emphasis on conscience, given the way that concept is waved like a flag to justify the petty bigotry of so-called "Christians."

Speaking of which, here's has-been-before-he-was-anybody Franklin Graham's reaction:

"The New York Times," Graham continues, "says many of those who walked out were wearing their LGBT rainbow or flag pins in protest. To get up and walk out on the Vice President of the United States of America, who was gracious enough to come speak at their graduation, that’s just insolent! Maybe they need to take another class before they graduate—one on civility and respect. What do you think?"

. . .

"This country is so fortunate to have a Vice President like Mike Pence. He’s a great man and a strong leader who isn’t afraid to speak the truth. I thank God for him."

The emphasis on respect for authority is striking, especially when contrasted to Buttigieg's comments about conscience. But then, that's what Graham's brand of "Christianity" is all about: servility.

(Oh, and do remember that that "strong leader" almost lost his cookies trying to backtrack on Indiana's anti-trans, anti-gay "religious freedom" bill.)


Today's Must-Read: "Onward Christians Soldiers" Edition

The influence of evangelical/fundamentalist "Christians" on the U.S. military has been a problem for a long time. Remember the problems with overt proselytizing a number of years back at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs? (Also home to a major anti-gay hate group, the American Family Association.) Since the election of The Hairpiece, it's apparently reached epidemic proportions:

Donald Trump’s election has led to such a steep rise in fundamentalist Christian evangelizing and religious bigotry in the U.S. armed forces that the matter is reaching the level of a “national security threat,” according to information shared exclusively with Newsweek by an organization that represents and advocates for secular and minority religious views in the military.

The number of complaints from servicemen and -women in the Army, Air Force, Marines and other service branches to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has doubled in number since November 2016, according to lawyer Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, a former Air Force officer who founded the organization.

Many of the recent charges are coming from members of minority religions, including Roman Catholics, Jews and Muslims, and from atheists. Among the complaints: military family and marital therapy programs are being infused with Protestant Christianity, which would go against the U.S. Constitution; open anti-Semitism; anti-LGBT statements, posters, symbols and bullying; openly anti-Muslim teachers and Islamophobic attacks; a rise in on-base evangelizing; and increased pressure on recruits or lower-level personnel and service members to convert to fundamentalist Christianity.

We're talking about the likes of Gordon Klingenschmitt being in the ascendant. Why they're picking Trump as their messiah is anyone's guess:

The Christian right’s willingness to see Trump as a savior for their cause—if not a messianic figure, despite his living as an urban libertine who has had three wives and a history of lewd acts and statements—continues to grow. His selection of an evangelical as vice president, plus the appointment of at least nine evangelicals to his Cabinet, have apparently soothed any concerns the religious right had with his personal life.

My guess is that they'll grab onto anything as a rationale for pushing their agenda: note that the "Christian" right has a history of blowing any little "victory" out of proportion, and claiming influence where they have none. (Just read any of Brian Brown's money begs, or Tony Perkins' press releases.)

And I think it's no surprise that this is happening along with the rise in hate crimes and the resurgence of the neo-Nazi and proto-fascist "alt right" groups: they share a mindset, and I'd bet that there's a lot of overlap in their membership.

Fasten your seatbelts -- it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Poetic Justice?

Or just the universe's comment on the substance of the Trump regime?

A sinkhole has opened in front of President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, according to an email alert from the Town of Palm Beach.

The sinkhole is just west of Mar-a-Lago’s southern entrance, where workers are gathered.

The 4-foot by 4-foot hole is in front of the club and appears to be near a new water main on Southern Boulevard, the alert said. Utility crews from West Palm Beach secured the sinkhole and likely will be doing exploratory excavation today.

A sinkhole has opened near President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach. Eleanor Roy / Daily News

Via Joe.My.God., where you will also find the Twitter reaction -- because nothing happens these days without a Twitter reaction.

Todays' Must-Read: Welcome to the Police State (Update)

From Digby, this comment on what AG Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is up to while we're all focusing on the Trump circus. This image is a good summary.


Did you really think you had a right to engage in peaceful protest? Read the whole thing.

Update: There's a lot more detail in this article from Think Progress.

The protesters will have plenty of time to think about the extensive charges filed against them — and perhaps that is the prosecutors’ intention. The first trials are not expected to start until March 2018. “In my mind, that violates their right to a speedy trial,” Flores-Williams said.

“Having serious felonies like this hanging over you is an incredible burden on your life,” he said. “Chances are that at a certain point, they’ll either roll on each other or we’ll see plea agreements regardless of their guilt or innocence.”

It's going to be interesting to see how this works out at trial -- the government at this point appears to have violated a whole slew of First Amendment rights, not to mention a few others.

"Lock 'Em Up!": Small Rodent Edition

From the soon-to-be-former chairman of the House Witch Hunt Committee:

This Week host George Stephanopoulos noted during an interview with Chaffetz that a senior official in the White House was reportedly a person of interest in the investigation into Russia interference in the U.S. election.

Chaffetz, who has announced he is leaving Congress on June 30 for a rumored position at Fox News, said that he was more interested in the person who leaked the news.

"I want to see that this person is prosecuted," the outgoing Utah Republican insisted. "I think the president makes a very good point. No matter who's in the White House, you cannot have the type of leaking of information, sources, methods, classified information. I don't care who it is, Democrat or Republican, you cannot have that happen."

"Not only do you need to wall them off, you probably need to put some handcuffs on them and put them in jail," he added.

I guess this is what Republicans mean by "law and order": forget due process, fair trials and all that other junk, just lock 'em up.* Especially if they're telling the press things that the powers that be would rather keep secret.

And of course, aside from being very revealing of the authoritarian tendencies of the right, this is just a way of deflecting attention from the real issue: who controls the White House? Or for that matter, Congress? Because it sure doesn't seem to be the American people.8

* This is what happens when you substitute belief for evidence, which may explain why so many right-wingers are fundamentalist "Christians".


Sunday, May 21, 2017

What's New at Green Man Review

Lots of goodies again today, including a massive essay, "On Reviewing," by yours truly (with lots of links to reviews). Scoot on over and enjoy.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Today's Must-Read: Yes, I Said "Dictator": A Twofer

First up, this commentary by Digby on Trump's attitude toward the press:

You will notice that Trump’s main nemesis is still the press, which he has villainized since he began his campaign. One suspects that this started out as shtick, building on the thousands of hours of talk-radio research that his lieutenant at the time, Sam Nunberg, provided to him. Beating up on the press is a staple of right-wing media and it gets a huge response from conservative crowds. But up until he started the campaign Trump had always reveled in media attention and went to great lengths to draw it. In fact, he considered himself a member of the club. But over the course of time the hatred has obviously become very real and very personal. He loathes the press and considers it the source of all of his problems.

Obviously, he isn’t the first president to feel this way. Richard Nixon famously kept an enemies list which included a large number of journalists. But Trump is taking this in a dangerous direction. The New York Times story about James Comey’s memo rightly focused on the fact that the president may have tried to obstruct justice by taking the FBI director aside privately to ask him to let Trump’s disgraced former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, off the hook. But Trump said something else in that meeting which has received less attention:

Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.

I find that quote from the Times story very revealing on a couple of counts. First, we all know the FBI doesn't put people in jail -- but Trump doesn't. It's emblematic, however, of his whole attitude that he seems to think all he has to do is make the suggestion and it's a done deal. Second, and much more worrying, is the fact that he made the suggestion at all. Perhaps it's not so surprising, given that he's already branded the press as an "enemy of the people" -- which his followers ate up. (It's worth noting here something that I've not seen in any analysis of the "Trump voter": They are the natural fodder for the authoritarian: they want to be told what to think and what to believe, and they have no understanding or particular reverence for our foundational principles -- such as an independent press.)

This attitude is filtering down to law enforcement and the security details of government officials.

There's an element of lawlessness in all of this that is really dangerous, especially since, as we might well suppose, the Department of Justice under the present attorney general is not going to be bothered with reining in rogue law enforcement -- after all, there's police morale to worry about.

Second is this piece by Benjamin Wittes specifically about Trump and James Comey. The key paragraph, at least for purposes of this post:

Comey never told me the details of the dinner meeting; I don’t think I even knew that there had been a meeting over dinner until I learned it from the Times story. But he did tell me in general terms that early on, Trump had “asked for loyalty” and that Comey had promised him only honesty. He also told me that Trump was perceptibly uncomfortable with this answer. And he said that ever since, the President had been trying to be chummy in a fashion that Comey felt was designed to absorb him into Trump’s world—to make him part of the team. Comey was deeply uncomfortable with these episodes. He told me that Trump sometimes talked to him a fashion designed to implicate him in Trump’s way of thinking. While I was not sure quite what this meant, it clearly disquieted Comey. He felt that these conversations were efforts to probe how resistant he would be to becoming a loyalist. In light of the dramatic dinner meeting and the Flynn request, it’s easy to see why they would be upsetting and feel like attempts at pressure.

The whole idea of personal loyalty to the president as a requirement for a government official is, in what's left of this republic, at least, anathema. It's the sort of thing you expect from the likes of Vladimir Putin or Kim Jong-Un. In America, we want government officials who are competent and loyal to the country.

Granted, personal relationships matter a great deal, in government as well as in daily life -- we are what we are, after all, which is essentially social animals -- but most of us recognize by the age of two or three that we're not the center of the universe. Trump has not, apparently, made it that far in his emotional development.

What I'm seeing here is an incipient cult of personality, one of the hallmarks of dictators throughout history. That, coupled with Trump's disdain for the basics of the American system of government -- which has become a signature characteristic of the right in general -- is much more than cause for concern.

Footnote: It's not just Trump himself that hates America.

Footnote 2: About the Republican attitude, read this from Paul Krugman:

They may make a few gestures toward accountability in the face of bad poll numbers, but there is not a hint that any important figures in the party care enough about the Constitution or the national interest to take a stand.

Krugman holds up one really scary possibility, but doesn't seem to make the connection:

The point is that given the character of the Republican Party, we’d be well on the way to autocracy if the man in the White House had even slightly more self-control. Trump may have done himself in; but it can still happen here.

If Trump is somehow removed from office -- and like Krugman, I'm not counting on the Republican majority to move on that, unless they start losing elections -- we're left with Mike Pense, who in real terms, given the realities of the situation, is a much scarier prospect, at least for the long-term health of the country.

OK, yeah, another must-read. Deal with it.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Giggle du Jour

Thumbnail

Offered by commenter vorpal at this post at Joe.My.God.

Enter Wikileaks, Stage Right

I don't think Wikileaks has any credibility left, for anyone who's been paying attention. This just sort of clinches it:



The context that Wikileaks chose to ignore:

The material was seized in a nuclear smuggling case in Georgia (the country), and the Russian Federation wanted to analyze the material to double-check where it may have come from. A law-enforcement matter, and it’s likely the US wanted to make a point to Russia that it’s serious. You don’t get more serious in law enforcement than the head of the FBI.

As far as I'm concerned, Julian Assange can spend the rest of his life in the Ecuadorian embassy in London -- maybe coming out once a year to see if he's developed a shadow yet.

OF All Places

This is not something I would have expected:

Lithuania’s Parliament marked the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia this week.

Marked on May 17 around the world, IDAHOT raises awareness of persecution and hate crimes faced by lesbian, gay, bisexuals and transgender people around the world. . . .

The day is heavily marked in countries that are already progressive on LGBT rights, but it is also making inroads in places where there is still a way to go on LGBT equality.

Lithuania has lagged behind on equality, with no legal recognition for same-sex couples, no gender recognition for transgender people, a ban on same-sex adoption, and generally negative social attitudes.

However, progress is slowly being made, and the day was marked this week with celebrations in the country’s Parliament in Vilnius.

My father's family is Lithuanian; my grandparents came to the US before World War I, which marks us, I guess, as the first wave. I went to university with a group of kids whose families came over after World War II -- most of them were born in Germany. They tended to be very conservative, mostly because they hated Russia and everything Russian, but I suspect they reflected attitudes prevalent in the old country -- as the article notes, Lithuania has not been on the forefront of the struggle for gay rights.

But, times change, and so do attitudes. They even lit up Vilnius city hall with rainbow colors.


A more substantial mark of a change in attitude is this:

But two asylum seekers from Chechnya have been granted asylum in Lithuania, reports the Russian Interfax news agency.

Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevińćius has confirmed that the two men have been granted asylum there after fleeing persecution in Russia.
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He said that the Lithuanian Government had “issued visas to two people from Chechnya who were persecuted because of their sexual orientation”.

“We have consistently raised these issues both within the EU and in the parliamentary structures of the Council of Europe – regarding the possibility of helping and, if necessary, granting asylum,” he added.

The US, under our neo-fascist regime, has so far refused to grant visas to gays fleeing persecution in Chechnya.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Culture Break: The Ivory Consort: A la Una

Lately I've been listening to a lot of early music -- pre-classical, a lot of it from medieval and early Renaissance Iberia. Ivory Consort's Music in the Land of Three Faiths is one of my stand-bys, although that album is mostly much more low-key than this piece.

From the description at YouTube:

A Sephardic melody, sung in Judezmo, played on period instruments. Founded in 1990, the Ivory Consort here performs music of three faiths, Christian, Muslim and Jewish, from medieval Spain and Portugal.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Asking the Right Question

Via Digby, this from Ana Novarro:

To me it feels like [Republicans] have fallen prey to a Donald Trump cult.They are ceding their loyalty not to the constitution, not to the country, not to their constituents but to this president of their party but who wasn't even a Republican until a few years ago. They' so desperate to want to play, to want to be invited to dinner at the white house that they are willing to remain silent in the face of a president who is attacking our institutions.

I think the Republicans as a group -- once faced with the inevitability of his winning the nomination -- thought Trump would be useful tool to consolidated their grip on the country. I strongly suspect they didn't really know what they were dealing with. Of course, none of us did.

I thought what James Clapper said yesterday, that our institutions are being attacked both externally and internally, was spine chilling. And it's something that we should take so seriously. This president started off by attacking the Intelligence Community. He has tweeted against judges. He has tweeted intimidation to Sally Yates on the day of her testimony. He has tweeted a veiled threat to the former FBI Director.

So I have to ask Republicans over and over again. What is it going to take for you to wake up and recognize your duty is to country and not to this one man. How far does it have to go? What does he have to do for you to wake up and speak up and do what you need to do?

Republicans have as much disdain for our foundational principles as Trump does, and their focus is purely on entrenching themselves at the top of the heap: look at their responses to some of our real problems. How to deal with increasing crime due to poverty, discrimination, and lack of opportunity? Militarize the police. what to do about the miserable failure that is the War on Drugs? Double down. How to create jobs? Give more money to the ones who are exporting American jobs to begin with. And it goes on -- the AHCA was nothing more than an excuse to give another huge tax break to the 1%, and can we talk about the whole "voter fraud" fantasy? And let's not even get into the "religious right", determined to turn this country into a theocracy.

So the question is, what is it going to take for the Republicans to wake up and recognize that their duty is to the country, not their party?

I don't have an answer.

Another Must-Read: Trumponomics

Via Digby, this article from PRI on an interview by reporters from the The Economist with our "president." The telling point:

The Economist’s own analysis was even more scalding than the snarky tweets. The magazine declared: "The impulsiveness and shallowness of America's president threaten the economy as well as the rule of law." The article goes on to compare Trump to a modern-day Henry VIII, which is never a good thing: "Donald Trump rules over Washington as if he were a king and the White House his court. His displays of dominance, his need to be the centre of attention and his impetuousness have a whiff of Henry VIII about them. Fortified by his belief that his extraordinary route to power is proof of the collective mediocrity of Congress, the bureaucracy and the media, he attacks any person and any idea standing in his way."

As PRI comments, "Ouch."

What struck me is the complete lack of any integrity -- let's not even bring up principles -- displayed by Trump's advisors and cabinet. I had thought that the primary qualification for being appointed to high-level positions in the Trump regime was opposition to the purpose of the department one was chosen to head. Apparently, abject servility is really the primary consideration.

TW: So this interview was in the Oval Office. What did the atmosphere there feel like?

DR: It's kind of like being in a royal palace several hundred years ago, with people coming in and out, trying to catch the ear of the king. That's the feel at the Trump Oval Office. He likes to be surrounded by his courtiers.
TW: Your magazine described it as being a little bit like Henry VIII.

DR: There is a "Tudor court" side to it. And the role of some pretty senior figures, including cabinet secretaries, was to chime in and agree with whatever the president had just said, rather than offering candid advice.

There was a moment with Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary.

We were talking [to Trump] about China and currency manipulation. On the campaign trail, Trump was very ferocious about [calling China a currency manipulator.] [In our interview], he said, “As soon as I started talking about China being a currency manipulator, they cut it out.” Actually that’s not true. China [stopped manipulating the currency] two or three years ago.

What was striking was, when he made that point, Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, chimed in and said, “Oh yeah. The day he became president, they changed their behavior!” And factually, that’s just not right. It's quite striking to see a cabinet secretary making that point in that way.

Can you say "Yes-man"? I wonder if Mnuchin took a loyalty oath.

Of course, given what Trump is, why am I surprised?