The Guardian

Not a Comedy (Write Your Own Ship of State and McMaster and Commander in Chief and Hand on the Tillerson Joke, Damn It—Why Do I Always Have To Do Everything?)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Composite: President Donald Trump photo by Reuters, 2017; Puti-Toots protest image.

This is not supposed to be some manner of comedy. Or, several paragraphs from Reuters:

Tillerson and McMaster were present at the May 10 meeting where Trump discussed his firing of James Comey, the former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister and Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States.

The New York Times, citing officials familiar with an internal White House summary of the meeting, reported that Trump referred to Comey as a “nut job” and said his removal would relieve “great pressure” coming from the agency’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Lavrov denied that the subject of Comey came up during the meeting, according to Interfax news agency.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had offered to provide the U.S. Congress with transcripts of the same meeting to counter reports that Trump also disclosed classified information to Lavrov about a planned Islamic State operation.

However, neither McMaster nor Tillerson on Sunday disputed that the subject of Comey’s dismissal came up in the meeting with Russian officials. Both said that Trump’s remarks had been misinterpreted.

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The Ben Carson Show (Phenomenon)

Source photos: Ben Carson announces his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, 5 May 2015 (Paul Sancya/AP). A biblical inscription is chiseled into the wall of Ben Carson's home, with 'proverbs' spelled incorrectly (Mark Makela/The Guardian, 2014).

Tom McCarthy tries to explain the Ben Carson phenomenon for The Guardian:

He is more than an American success story, brilliant brain surgeon and bestselling author of 10 Christian-themed books. He has also coined some of the most outlandish statements ever uttered on the national stage, a purveyor of bizarre conspiracy theories and a provocateur who compares abortion to slavery and same-sex marriage to pedophilia.

This week, Carson restated his belief that the pyramids were built by the biblical Joseph to store grain, and not by Egyptians to entomb their kings. He believes that Vladimir Putin, Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Abbas attended school together in Moscow in 1968. He believes that Jews with firearms might have been able to stop the Holocaust, that he personally could stop a mass shooting, that the Earth was created in six days and that Osama bin Laden enjoyed Saudi protection after 9/11.

The Carson conundrum is not fully captured by a list of his eccentric beliefs, however. He also confounds the traditional demographics of US politics, in which national African American political figures are meant to be Democrats. Not only is Carson a Republican – he is a strong conservative on both social and economic issues, opposing abortion including in cases of rape and incest, and framing welfare programs as a scheme to breed dependence and win votes.

He has visited the riot zones of Ferguson and Baltimore but offered little compassion for black urban poor populations who feel oppressed by mostly white police forces.

Even Carson’s core appeal as a Christian evangelical is complicated by the fact that he is a lifelong adherent to a relatively small sect, the Seventh-Day Adventist church, whose celebration of the sabbath on Saturday instead of Sunday and denial of the doctrine of hell have drawn accusations of heresy from other mainstream Christian groups.

That last probably plays more strongly with the British audience; in the United States, Christian is as Christian does; Dr. Carson’s penchant for false witness and exclusionary, judgmental scorn are his own ad hoc iteration of faith, shot through with neurotic self-contradiction as it struggles to justify his self-centered pretense of humility. If one seeks strangeness about the SDA experience in general, it is a different phenomenon.

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A Joke That Isn’t Funny

Inside New Orleans Planned Parenthood clinic. (Detail of photo by Bryan Tarnowski for The New York Times)

“It strikes me as extremely odd that you have a dermatologist, an audiologist, a dentist who are billing for family planning services.”

Judge John DeGravelles

And, yet, the hidden jewel is one you might overlook if you’re not careful. Molly Redden of Mother Jones tops His Honor, wondering the obvious: “They know vagina dentata is a myth, right?”

It’s a fair question, given the Louisiana proposal to do away with Planned Parenthood in the Pelican State and expect other providers to pick up the load.

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Madness for a New American Century

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announces his candidacy for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination on 13 April 2015.  (AP Photo)

Trevor Timm for The Guardian:

The New York Times detailed many of the Republican candidates’ nebulous “criticisms” of the Obama administration, most of which assume a fantasy world in which Obama is not sending the US military to fight Isis at all, even though he’s authorized thousands of airstrikes per month in both Iraq and Syria. Most of the candidates, while competing with each other over who can sound more “muscular” and “tough”, are too cowardly to overtly call for what they likely actually want: another ground war in the Middle East involving tens of thousands of US troops.Project for the New American Century

The vague, bullshitt-y statements made by Republican candidates would be hilarious if it wasn’t possible that they’ll lead to more American soldiers dying in the coming years. “Restrain them, tighten the noose, and then taking them out is the strategy” is Jeb Bush’s hot take on Isis. Thanks, Jeb – I can’t believe the Obama administration hasn’t thought of that! Marco Rubio’s “solution” is even more embarrassing: according to The Times, he responded to a question about what he would do differently – and this is real – by quoting from the movie Taken: “We will look for you, we will find you and we will kill you.”

Rubio has also called for “strategic overhaul”, but his radical plan seems to be virtually indistinguishable from what the Obama administration is actually doing – yet another sign that Republicans tend to live in a fantasy land where Obama is an anti-war president rather than someone who has bombed more countries than his Republican predecessor. (That is not a compliment, by the way.)

This is one of those things where we won’t be able to say we weren’t warned. Consider that Mr. Rubio’s campaign slogan is “A New American Century”.

Just think about that for a moment.

They really are promising us a war.

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Image Note: Top ― Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announces his candidacy for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination on 13 April 2015. (AP Photo) Right ― Logo of the Project for the New American Century.

Timm, Trevor. “Republicans’ ‘plans’ for Isis would drag us into Iraq for another ground war”. The Guardian. 27 May 2015.

SourceWatch. “Project for the New American Century”. 19 February 2012.

A Lack of Faith

The Archbishop of Canterbury made his lack of faith in God known:

FaithlessAfrican Christians will be killed if the Church of England accepts gay marriage, the archbishop of Canterbury has suggested. Speaking on an LBC phone in, Justin Welby said he had stood by a mass grave in Nigeria of 330 Christians who had been massacred by neighbours who had justified the atrocity by saying: “If we leave a Christian community here we will all be made to become homosexual and so we will kill all the Christians.”

“I have stood by gravesides in Africa of a group of Christians who had been attacked because of something that had happened in America. We have to listen to that. We have to be aware of the fact,” Welby said. If the Church of England celebrated gay marriages, he added, “the impact of that on Christians far from here, in South Sudan, Pakistan, Nigeria and other places would be absolutely catastrophic. Everything we say here goes round the world.”

This reasoning has until now been kept private, although both Welby and his predecessor, Rowan Williams, anguished about it in private.

(Brown)

It is not that we should expect Christians to follow in the footsteps of their founding predecessors, suicidal megalomaniacs who looked forward to being murdered. To the other though, there is a phrase for the Archbishop’s stance: Giving over to bullies.

Still, though, there is a contrast of courage. Sort of. Again, screw the lions.

But think about the logic: If we do the right thing, it might upset some bad people who might do some bad things. Let us therefore honor God by not doing the right thing.

I have a proposition for the Archbishop: Since some would inevitably use Christ’s gift to harm, kill, and suppress people, perhaps He should have honored God by not doing the right thing, saving His own life, and leaving humanity to Sin.

Walking in the footsteps of Christ is not supposed to be easy. The Archbishop of Canterbury is faithless.

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Brown, Andrew. “African Christians will be killed if C of E accepts gay marriage, says Justin Welby”. The Guardian. April 4, 2014.

The Lede of the Month

Taman News/AFPLet’s call this one the lede of the month. Via Tom Parfitt, for The Guardian:

Police in southern Russia have launched an animal cruelty investigation after a tour operator forced a donkey to parasail over the sea.

It should be noted that nothing about the story isn’t hilarious in that morbid way of things:

Video footage showed the beast being catapulted into the air after a group of men on a beach at Golubitskaya, on the Sea of Azoz, strapped it into a harness.

The donkey was then towed by a boat for half an hour, initially flailing its legs and then hanging forlornly under a multi-coloured parachute at least 30 metres above the surf.

Stunned beachgoers said the animal had brayed in fear as it whistled through the air, causing children to burst into tears. Others calmly filmed the event on their mobile phones.

“This is a little town and we all know that donkey well,” one local woman told reporters. “He worked for several years on the beach, being photographed with tourists. As soon as his ordeal was over, a lot of the people on the beach ran forward to soothe him.” Witnesses say the animal was hauled through the sea and on to the sand as it landed.

Setting aside the bit about the catapult, we might be seeing one of the strangest sentences in all journalism for the year: “Stunned beachgoers said the animal had brayed in fear as it whistled through the air, causing children to burst into tears.

I mean, this is horrible, so why can’t I stop laughing? I’m a monster … a monster!

Your Liberal Media Conspiracy

Glenn Greenwald explains:

CNN yesterday ended the 20-year career of Octavia Nasr, its Atlanta-based Senior Middle East News Editor, because of a now-deleted tweet she wrote on Sunday upon learning of the death of one of the Shiite world’s most beloved religious figures: “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah . . . . One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.” That message spawned an intense fit of protest from Far Right outlets, Thought Crime enforcers, and other neocon precincts, and CNN quickly (and characteristically) capitulated to that pressure by firing her. The network—which has employed a former AIPAC official, Wolf Blitzer, as its primary news anchor for the last 15 years—justified its actions by claiming that Nasr’s “credibility” had been “compromised.” Within this episode lies several important lessons about media “objectivity” and how the scope of permissible views is enforced.

First, consider which viewpoints cause someone to be fired from The Liberal Media. Last month, Helen Thomas’ 60-year career as a journalist ended when she expressed the exact view about Jews which numerous public figures have expressed (with no consequence or even controversy) about Palestinians. Just weeks ago, The Washington Post accepted the “resignation” of Dave Weigel because of scorn he heaped on right-wing figures such as Matt Drudge and Rush Limbaugh. CNN’s Chief News Executive, Eason Jordan, was previously forced to resign after he provoked a right-wing fit of fury over comments he made about the numerousand obviously disturbingincidents where the U.S. military had injured or killed journalists in war zones. NBC fired Peter Arnett for criticizing the U.S. war plan on Iraqi television, which prompted accusations of Treason from the Right. MSNBC demoted and then fired its rising star Ashleigh Banfield after she criticized American media war coverage for adhering to the Fox model of glorifying U.S. wars; the same network fired its top-rated host, Phil Donahue, due to its fear of being perceived as anti-war; and its former reporter, Jessica Yellin, confessed that journalists were “under enormous pressure from corporate executives” to present the news in a pro-war and pro-Bush manner.

What each of these firing offenses have in common is that they angered and offended the neocon Right. Isn’t that a strange dynamic for the supposedly Liberal Media: the only viewpoint-based firings of journalists are ones where the journalist breaches neoconservative orthodoxy? Have there ever been any viewpoint-based firings of establishment journalists by The Liberal Media because of comments which offended liberals? None that I can recall. I foolishly thought that when George Bush’s own Press Secretary mocked the American media for being “too deferential” to the Bush administration, that would at least put a dent in that most fictitious American myth: The Liberal Media. But it didn’t; nothing does, not even the endless spate of journalist firings for deviating from right-wing dogma.

So here we have another example of the Liberal Media Conspiracy charging forward at reckless speed. Yet another journalist has fallen from grace for holding and communicating opinions too liberal for the … uh … Liberal Media Conspiracy.

Er … yeah. That makes sense. Right?

Anyone?