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Breathtaking Grotesquerie

#violenceagainstwomen | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. President Donald Trump pauses as he talks to members of the travel pool aboard Air Force One during a trip to Palm Beach, Florida, while flying over South Carolina, 3 February 2017. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

“The latest excuse for assaulting women minimizes the violence so much we can contain it in just one short word: ‘it’.”

Laura McGann

Quibbling over what passes for mastery is probably not helpful. To go down the line from Vox:

• Coaston, Jane. “The White House had to protect Rob Porter to save Donald Trump”. Vox. 9 February 2018.

For the White House, the politics are simple: Protect Trump. Because Trump himself is accused of assaulting dozens of women, they’ve had to lower the bar for male behavior so that even he can meet it. Any allegation of misconduct made against anyone close to Trump, then, must be dismissed as if it were being made against Trump himself.

• Kirby, Jen. “A second White House aide resigns over domestic abuse allegations”. Vox. 9 February 2018.

Another Trump administration official is resigning amid accusations of domestic abuse, just days after White House staff secretary Rob Porter stepped down after he faced similar allegations . . . [Speechwriter David] Sorensen denied the allegations to the Post, saying that he was the victim and that he resigned because he didn’t want the allegations to be a “distraction.” The Post was working on the story when he resigned.

• McGann, Laura. “Trump just taught a master class in manipulating language to excuse abuse”. Vox. 9 February 2018.

Trump’s attempt to help Porter on Friday shows he understands the root of #MeToo’s power. When victims speak, when they take action, when they force us to see, the power of predators fades away. The best Trump could do for Porter was to take away his victims’ humanity, their active descriptions, and replace it all with just one word: ‘it’.

• North, Anna. “Trump’s long history of employing — and defending — men accused of hurting women”. Vox. 9 February 2018.

At least five administration and campaign figures (including Trump himself) have been the subject of abuse allegations. Rather than treat such allegations with gravity, Trump and his team have chosen to ignore them, to fire back at the women on Twitter, or to parrot men’s assurances of their innocence over women’s reports . . . [Staff Secretary Rob] Porter resigned amid public pressure, but Trump’s response is a good reminder of the lesson he’s learned from escaping the reckoning sweeping much of the rest of the country — #MeToo does not apply to him. And given his tolerance for men accused of abuse inside his very inner circle, it’s clear he doesn’t think it applies to his closest associates, either. Trump’s team may lose men like Porter periodically, but the message the president sent on Friday was clear: to him, violence against women really doesn’t matter.

What a day. That is, of course they did, of course he did, of course he did, and of course he does. Nor is that all.   (more…)

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Something About Alfalfa

This is something that has been bugging me, and the question doesn’t seem to want to calm down.

To the one, the infamous Yemen raid is all the more notorious for being the first military action of President Donald Trump’s new administration. To the other, Rachel Maddow spoke with a Colin Kahl, formerly a national security advisor to Vice President Joe Biden:

MADDOW: In terms of how President Trump did run this process, we don’t know very much about it. We are told in terms of the timeline that his National Security Advisor briefed him on the plans for the operation one day. The next day, at dinner with his senior strategist Steve Bannon and with his son in law Jared Kushner, and with Secretary of Defense and some other principal-level personnel, he made the decision around the dinner table that it would happen, and then it was launched immediately. That seems like a remarkably informal, small, quick process. Is that totally out of keeping with the kinds of processes that you’ve seen around potentially deadly raids like this, in the past?

KAHL: Well, it is unusual, especially in a context where a raid like this represents a significant escalation in the nature of our actions in Yemen. So it’s not just the raid itself, it’s that there’s a broader set of authorities that are behind that, that deserve deliberation, and what I mean by that is you need to have not just the Defense Department around the table. You also need your intelligence professionals, so that they can vet the intelligence to make sure that they agree with the risk assessment the Pentagon is making. You also need the State Department at the table, so that they can go through the political implications; what happens if civilians die, what are the implications for tribal relations in Yemen, or diplomatic relations? You need the communicators in the room so that you know that you’re on message and you can coordinate with your allies. You also need the legislative team in the room so that you can notify Congress. This is a deliberate process that you owe the president a holistic assessment, and the problem is even if you’ve got a bunch of smart capable people around the table at dinner―like Secretary Mattis, who I think the world of, and Joe Dunford, our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who’s an amazing man―you need a fuller picture than those two general can provide so the president to make a decision of this gravity.

Quite the question; quite the answer. Nor should we look past the rest of it but for the moment, well, the words “significant escalation” stand out. And it’s just one more reason.

(more…)

The Donald Trump National Convention (Sounds About Right)

Donald Trump speaks to South Carolina voters in North Charleston, 19 February 2016. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The lede from Jonathan Swan of The Hill might describe (ahem!) merely one small facet of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland―

A top donor raising money for Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee says he has resigned in disgust after the party muscled through a vote on the convention floor that squashed the “Free the Delegates” movement.

―but still, it seems significant of, well, at the very least, something. And maybe that sounds vague, but this is the conundrum:

Gary Emineth, the former North Dakota GOP chairman who joined the Trump-RNC joint finance committee earlier month, says he was disgusted by the floor vote and immediately texted his resignation to Priebus.

Emineth says he’s furious the campaign and RNC worked in tandem to keep delegates from voting their conscience.

Detail of 'This Modern World' by Tom Tomorrow, via Daily Kos, 18 July 2016.“I was on the Trump finance committee and I just resigned because that bully tactic is absurd,” Emineth said. “I just texted them right now. Why can’t the people be heard? I’ve been texting Reince for 10 minutes. He said we didn’t have the votes. We had 10, 11 states. They peeled people back. They were calling delegations asking people to step off the committee. You don’t do this in America. You do this in other countries.”

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A Bob Beckel Moment

Bob Beckel

“These are words I never thought I would say: I feel kind of sorry for Bob Beckel.”

Jack Mirkinson

And then there is this:

On Thursday afternoon, the network informed Mediaite that Beckel—who had been off the air for a while thanks to some well-publicized struggles with drug addiction—is no longer on the payroll and won’t be returning as a co-host of panel show “The Five.” After the site said that the parting was “amicable,” Fox News went to Politico to emphasize that, no, it was not:

“We tried to work with Bob for months, but we couldn’t hold ‘The Five’ hostage to one man’s personal issues,” Bill Shine, executive vice president of programming, said in a statement. “He took tremendous advantage of our generosity, empathy and goodwill and we simply came to the end of the road with him.”

To call that “harsh” isn’t even an understatement. It’s an under-under-under-under-understatement. Fox News is famous for the pugnaciousness it employs when talking about its competitors, but to turn on your own employee like that when he’s dealing with a drug problem is fairly jaw-dropping. No matter what private misery Bob Beckel may have put his colleagues through, Fox News had the option of letting him go quietly and leaving him to handle his clearly tough fight with addiction. Instead, the network chose to drive the knife through. That’ll definitely help Beckel get better, won’t it?

(Mirkinson)

Honestly, Bob Beckel’s name is not one we might enjoy recalling; as a FOX News host he has been such a horror show one would rather forget he exists. And while schadenfreude whispers from the shadows of conscience that it could not have happened to a … what, really? … is the joke really that it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy? … the fact is that there is absolutely no excuse for kicking an addict when he is down. Mr. Beckel entered rehab in April, and at the time, according to Andrew Kirell of Mediaite, “As with Fox anchor Gregg Jarrett’s treatment for alcoholism last year, Beckel’s employment status remains unchanged”.

Certes, some might protest that two months is not nearly long enough, but perhaps there really are circumstances that required his termination. Nonetheless, what kind of asshole do you have to be in order to be the president of programming at FOX News? Bill Shine could have left the Mediaite suggestion of an amicable parting alone. Or he could have just said, “You know, actually, it was kind of a mess.” But to go out of his way to mop the floor with Beckel like he did?

Yeah. Ladies and gentlemen, this is your FOX News.

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Mirkinson, Jack. “Fox News just fired one of its hosts in the most vicious & humiliating way imaginable”. Salon. 26 June 2015.

Kirell, Andrew. “Fox’s Bob Beckel Undergoes Addiction Rehab”. Mediaite. 30 April 2015.

The Rick Perry Show (Useless Coward)

'This is the M.O. of this administration, any time there is an accident like this―the president is clear, he doesn't like for Americans to have guns and so he uses every oportunity, this being another one, to basically go parrot that message.' (Rick Perry, on mass murder at Mother Emanuel)

To: Rick Perry

re: Mother Emanuel

Mass murder is not an “accident”, sir.

“This is the MO of this administration, any time there is an accident like this―the president is clear, he doesn’t like for Americans to have guns and so he uses every opportunity, this being another one, to basically go parrot that message.”

(qtd. in Tashman)

Rev. Clementa Pinckney.

Tywanza Sanders.

Cynthia Hurd.

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton.

Rev. Depayne Middleton Doctor.

Ethel Lance.

Susie Jackson.

Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr.

Myra Thompson.

They have names, Mr. Perry.

This was not an accident.

____________________

Tashman, Brian. “Rick Perry: Charleston Shooting An ‘Accident’ Due To Drug Use, Manipulated By Obama To Ban Guns”. Right Wing Watch. 19 June 2015.

Saliba, Emmanuelle, Erik Ortiz, and M. Alex Johnson. “Charleston Church Shooting: Tributes Paid to ‘Kind-Hearted’ Victims”. NBC News. 19 June 2015.

Trivia, But Not Trivial

Undated photo of the iconic sign welcoming visitors to Las Vegas.  The sign was designed by Betty Willis in 1959.  (Photo: Sam Morris/AP)

Associated Press brings us the sad note:

The woman who came up with a neon sign that has welcomed countless visitors to “fabulous Las Vegas” since 1959 has died.

Betty Willis, credited with designing the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign, died in her Overton, Nev., home on Sunday, according to an obituary on the Virgin Valley & Moapa Valley Mortuaries’ website.

The 91-year-old artist’s often-copied sign sits in a median in the middle of Las Vegas Boulevard south of the Strip.

“It’s the most recognizable icon in the world,” said Danielle Kelly, executive director of The Neon Museum in Las Vegas, where the signs of Sin City’s past are retired and on display.

So recognizable an icon is hardly a trivial contribution; be not surprised should Betty Willis turn up on trivia night at the pub in the near future.

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Image note: Undated photo of the iconic sign welcoming visitors to Las Vegas. The sign was designed by Betty Willis in 1959. (Photo: Sam Morris/AP)

Associated Press. “Betty Willis, who designed iconic ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ sign, dead at 91”. New York Daily News. 21 April 2015.

Fiscal Prudence in New Jersey

Gov. Chris Christie in Illinois this month [Feb. 2015]. His office vowed to appeal a judge’s ruling on public employee pensions. (Credit Jim Young/Reuters)

As New Jersey reels from yet another legal scandal reaching the office of Gov. Chris Christie (R), it really is hard to know where to begin. Naturally, it is tempting to start “at the beginning”, but sometimes that is a difficult proposition, since nothing ever begins. So let us start, then, with Katie Zernike of the New York Times:

In a major blow to Gov. Chris Christie, a New Jersey judge ruled on Monday that he violated state law when he declined to make the full payment into the state’s pension system for public employees last year and ordered him to find a way to fund it now.

Earlier this month we learned that the governor, who once promised “a new era of accountability and transparency” was “waging 23 battles to keep state documents secret” amid a flurry of ethics investigations that have challenged his political ambitions. Zernike notes:

The decision further complicates Mr. Christie’s hopes of reviving his presidential ambitions, which have suffered in recent weeks as his approval ratings in New Jersey have sunk to the lowest point of his tenure, and Republican donors have moved to other contenders for the party’s nomination.

Mr. Christie will now be scrambling also to find the $1.57 billion the judge ordered him to pay.

And while it is easy enough to start, and even finish, with a roll of the eyes because Chris Christie has once again managed to do whatever it is he thinks he is doing, we ought not gloss over the other powerful irony, here. After all, what did Christie accomplish by skipping out on the pension system?

Well, he actually managed to convince Fitch Ratings to downgrade New Jersey debt. And he only had to break the law to do so. At some point, nobody can rightly claim to be surprised.

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Image note: Gov. Chris Christie in Illinois this month. His office vowed to appeal a judge’s ruling on public employee pensions. (Credit: Jim Young/Reuters)

Zernike, Kate. “Christie Broke Law With Pension Move, New Jersey Judge Says”. The New York Times. 23 February 2015.

Redden, Molly. “Chris Christie Is Now Waging 23 Court Battles to Keep State Documents Secret”. Mother Jones. 4 February 2015.

Rizzo, Salvador. “Fitch downgrades N.J. debt, saying Christie is repudiating his pension reform”. The Star-Ledger. 5 September 2014.

The State with Legal Brothels

Nevada Republicans have selected Ira Hansen of Sparks to be the next Assembly Speaker, either despite or because of his racism, misogyny, and homophobia.

“Have you ever heard the case … of a young boy sticking his finger in his ear, getting ear wax and inserting it into a girl to test her for chlamydia?”

Nevada Assembly Speaker-Designate Ira Hansen (R-Sparks)

This one is going to take some explanation.

Actually, in truth, it is pretty much inexplicable.

Hansen has consistently voted against legislation that would have modernized the state’s sex education curriculum. But in one odd exchange with a 19-year-old mother who had become pregnant as a 15-year-old, Hansen challenged her on her understanding of sex as a sixth grader and asked her to verify a rumor brought up by a prior witness.

Here are excerpts from the exchange:

Assemblyman Hansen: “You said that when you would talk with your parents about sex, they would tell you that they would beat up if you ‘did it.’ Did you know what ‘did it’ was at that time?”

Teenage mom: “No, not exactly.”

Assemblyman Hansen: “You had no clue about what sex was in sixth grade? When your parents asked you not to do it, did you ask what ‘did it’ was?”

Teenage mom: “I knew what they were talking about, but I did not know what to expect.”

Assemblyman Hansen: “Have you ever heard the case … of a young boy sticking his finger in his ear, getting ear wax and inserting it into a girl to test her for chlamydia?”

Teenage mom: “No, I have not.”

At that point the committee chairwoman interrupted the exchange.

(Damon)

So this is how it goes in Nevada. It’s what the people vote for. But, yeah. You’re welcome to try to figure out that one on your own.

Earwax?

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A Falling Star

Comedian Bill Cosby speaks at the Jackie Robinson Foundation annual Awards Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s over.

While The Washington Post has fallen somewhat from its glory days as one of the nation’s newspapers of record, it’s hard to ignore the coincidence of the masthead and Paul Farhi’s rhetoric:

Bill Cosby’s dazzling, decades-long career as one of America’s most beloved entertainers appeared to be toppling this week amid a succession of allegations painting Cosby as a serial sexual predator.

On Wednesday, NBC — the network that roared back to television supremacy in the 1980s thanks to Cosby’s warmhearted family sitcom — joined the list of entertainment companies and TV programs that have abandoned projects or distanced themselves from the 77-year-old comedian and actor amid the cascade of shocking headlines.

And Farhi’s headline for the paper’s Style Blog (?!) is grim: “As NBC distances itself from Bill Cosby, a decades-long career crumbles”.

(more…)

The Funky Fishscale Fog

Detail of 'La Pêche Miraculeuse', ca. 1610, by Peter Paul Rubens.

The fictional Jebediah Springfield famously explained, “A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.” In the modern day, wise men like Bill Maher question the vapidity of the word “spirit”. Either way, a transfusion seems out of the question:

So, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is blocking health care benefits for low-income families in order to help them “live the American dream” and Gov. Pence is curtailing food aid in order “ennoble” people.

How very gracious of them.

In theory, the “give someone a fish” adage sounds quite nice, and in a booming economy with low unemployment and broad job opportunities, we can have a credible conversation about work requirements and the safety net.

But Pence, like Walker, runs the risk of sounding horribly out of touch – their argument is predicated on the assumption that the economy is in great shape, and everyone who wants a job can easily get one. I suspect most of the American mainstream would offer a different assessment of economic conditions.

(Benen)

We might also note that while once upon a time perhaps it was possible to teach a man to fish, such that he could do the work properly and earn a living, in a day. In modern times, though, that isn’t quite so easy. That is to say, we can certainly test the thesis, but probably need not: Go out on the street and give a job to the first unemployed person you find.

The objections and complications are easily predictable.

Who says that person is qualified, for instance? Maybe she was a waitress before the restaurant closed to make room for the McDonald’s in the Walmart, or he was a janitor who cleaned the school restrooms before being laid off for budget cuts. In either case, though, you need a “people person” with strong reading, speaking, and interpersonal skills, and maybe, just maybe you can teach that person to solicit telephone survey responses and appropriately record the data in a day.

Or maybe not. Either way, that person is going to need to eat at some point during the day.

And, you know, in most markets you’re probably going to be paying that employee less than they need to continue living in order to do the work.

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