Monday, July 16, 2018

Today, Tom Tomorrow (Dan Perkins) Misses The Ultimate Threat To The United States Of America — Hint: It Ain't The Supreme Court, Stupid

Tom/Dan enclosed the following message:

Hey, all —

Well as always, good lord what a week. The SCOTUS nomination, the Stzrok show trial, Trump blowing up NATO and proclaiming himself, once again, a very stable genius, and the indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers for election tampering. I’m writing this on Friday evening so I can get out of town for the weekend, and who knows what might have happened by the time you read it.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m in the middle of a divorce and living in New York these days, but my soon-to-be-ex teaches at Yale and I spent the last 14 years sort of in that orbit, though always on the periphery — I never quite fit in, never quite made sense to people there (and vice versa). But I have more than a passing familiarity with the tribalism of Yale, and it felt a bit like watching my personal and professional lives collide this week, as Yale Law School types published op-eds explaining that Kavanaugh is actually a very nice man and no one should oppose his nomination even if he is a reactionary right winger who will almost certainly overturn Roe

Meanwhile, ...this weekend, I’ll be hanging out with a friend in the Catskills, either in a swimming pool or floating on the river, not quite sure which yet. Maybe both! None of this would have made any sense to me a year ago, but, life goes on.

Until next week, which will probably be even weirder than this one.

Dan (aka Tom)

Unfortunately, we are moving furniture abround on the deck of a virtual Titanic while the current occupant of the Oval Office making nice in Helsinki with the murderous President of Russia whose military cyberwarriors are attacking the United States of America at this very moment. Hell, the current occupant would have taken tea, if the occupant were alive in 1939, with Hitler while the Wehrmacht invaded Poland or the current occupant would have taken tea with bin Laden in an Afghan cave on September 10, 2001. The Blowhard (Charles Blow) was exactly correct in proclaiming that the current occupant was a "Treasonous Traitor" in today's column. The time has come to forego niceties and civility and call treasonous behavior what it is. If this is a (fair & balanced) wish that Tom Tomorrow (Dan Perkins) had focused on the most dire threat to the United States of America, so be it.

[x TMW]
The Path To The Supreme Court — Here We Go Again
By Tom Tomorrow (Dan Perkins)

Tom Tomorrow/Dan Perkins

[Dan Perkins is an editorial cartoonist better known by the pen name "Tom Tomorrow." His weekly comic strip, "This Modern World," which comments on current events from a strong liberal perspective, appears regularly in approximately 150 papers across the U.S., as well as on Daily Kos. The strip debuted in 1990 in SF Weekly. Perkins received the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Excellence in Journalism in both 1998 and 2002. When he is not working on projects related to his comic strip, Perkins writes a daily political blog, also entitled "This Modern World," which he began in December 2001. More recently, Dan Perkins, pen name Tom Tomorrow, was named the winner of the 2013 Herblock Prize for editorial cartooning. Even more recently, Dan Perkins was a runner-up for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning.]

Copyright © 2018 This Modern World/Tom Tomorrow (Dan Perkins)

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Sunday, July 15, 2018

In 1932, FDR Had A Rendezvous With Destimy — Tomorrow, The Current Occupant Of The Oval Office Will Have A Rendezvous With Perfidy

[x NY Fishwrap]
Trump, Having A Bawl In Europe
By The Cobra (Maureen Dowd)

TagCrowd Cloud of the following piece of writing

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I had dinner with Vladimir Putin once. He made me lose my appetite.

The then-fledgling president of Russia was polite and smiling at first with me and the other journalists present at the 21 Club [21 West 52nd Street in New York City].

But then Katie Couric asked about his bloodless behavior in the wake of the Kursk submarine disaster in the summer of 2000, when the boat sank and all 118 on board were killed. She pressed him on why he didn’t come back from vacation when all those Russian sailors were suffering and dying in the submarine at the bottom of the sea.

His face completely changed, almost as though he had ripped off a “Mission Impossible” mask. Suddenly, he stared coldly at Katie, every inch the minacious KGB. agent. He looked like Richard Widmark playing a psychotic thug in a ’50s film noir.

Just beneath the surface of the leader was a killer.

And thanks to the admonitions of his father, Donald Trump admires killers.

Trump hugging Putin even as Putin stabs at our democracy is an incomprehensible mystery.

Flummoxed and craven Republicans scramble to go along with a president who has turned the traditional heroes and villains of the GOP topsy-turvy, berating our European allies, NATO, the NFL, the FBI and the CIA, and canoodling with the mendacious and scheming Russians.

On the eve of the Helsinki summit, which Trump has arranged as a very intime pas de deux, it is still befuddling and alarming to watch him kowtow to Putin.

Maybe he is the Manchurian candidate, in need of a hypnotic tuneup. “Will Trump be meeting with his counterpart — or his handler?” Jonathan Chait asks in his New York cover story.

Perhaps it’s an Oedipal thing, that Putin reminds Trump of his authoritarian father [The Russian is half-a-decade younger than the current occupant of the Oval Office.]. Possibly it’s blackmail or his fear of people suspecting that Russia saved his businesses.

Or maybe it is, as it so often is with Trump, the most puerile answer: He is affronted by the suggestion that he won his election illegitimately. This is, after all, a man who is still obsessing on the size of his inauguration crowd and how he won Wisconsin’s electoral votes and Ronald Reagan didn’t. (Except that Reagan did -in both 1980 and 1984].)

So rather than accept the reality, laid out in detail by his own Justice Department, that we are in a dangerous cyberwar with Russia, the president did what he does best. The “Apricot Toddler,” as he was dubbed in Britain, pounds the high chair, makes messes, pushes buttons, stage-manages cliffhangers and filigrees his “labyrinth of lies,” as Jaron Lanier calls it.

Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, gave an interestingly timed press conference Friday that overshadowed Trump’s moment with the queen — a split-screen situation that must have really steamed him. It was as though they were sending a message to Trump before his Putin meeting Monday that “We’ve got our eye on you.”

Rosenstein said he briefed the president before Friday’s indictment of the 12 Russian agents — military officers who wouldn’t have made a move without Putin’s blessing. So if Trump got through his whole briefing, he would have been aware of this hair-raising fact: that on the same day in July 2016 that he publicly urged Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s “30,000 emails that are missing,” Russian hackers tried for the first time to break into her servers.

Even so, he was his usual blithe self about Russia in the news conference with Theresa May at Chequers. He knocked Robert Mueller’s “rigged witch hunt” and said that he would “firmly” ask Putin whether Russia meddled in our election, but that he doubted there would be any “Perry Mason” moment where Putin would break down and confess, saying, “Gee, I did it, I did it, you got me.”

But there is no question for Putin any more. The question now is for Trump: What are you going to do about the Russian attack on America?

Instead, as politicians on both sides of the aisle got increasingly nervous about the Helsinki Rendezvous With Perfidy, the White House put out a statement that was another masterpiece of idiocy designed to protect Trump’s gossamer ego:

“There is no allegation in this indictment that Americans knew that they were corresponding with Russians. There is no allegation in this indictment that any American citizen committed a crime. There is no allegation that the conspiracy changed the vote count or affected any election result.”

It’s hard to believe that the British have found someone to despise more than they despise George W. Bush and his poodle, Tony Blair. But they have. With their flair for satirical wit, they perfectly lampooned the loathed American president with “Trump Baby,” a 19-foot floating balloon in the shape of a wailing orange baby in a diaper holding a cellphone with Twitter on the screen.

There were dueling Trump babies — the real one and the blimp — when the president sucker punched his hostess. Trump gave Rupert Murdoch’s Sun an interview criticizing Prime Minister May on Brexit, threatening her on trade, praising her rival, Boris Johnson, and throwing in some white nationalist dog whistles as clotted cream on the crumpet.

Ever the Ugliest American, Trump tried his own version of crazy damage control at the Chequers news conference, declaring his taped Sun interview fake news and buttering the battered May with belated praise.

It is up for debate whether Donald Trump will be a sad aberration in American history, a mere blip. But, thanks to the cheeky citizens of London, he will always be a blimp. # # #

[Maureen Dowd received the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1999, with the Pulitzer committee particularly citing her columns on the impeachment of Bill Clinton after his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Dowd joined The New York Times as a reporter in 1983, after writing for Time magazine and the now-defunct Washington Star. At The Times, Dowd was nominated for a 1992 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, then became a columnist for the paper's editorial page in 1995. Dowd's first book was a collection of columns entitled Bushworld: Enter at Your Own Risk (2004). Most recently Dowd has written The Year of Voting Dangerously: The Derangement of American Politics (2017). See all of Dowd's books here. She received a BA (English) from Catholic University (DC).]

Copyright © 2018 The New York Times Company

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Saturday, July 14, 2018

When We Have A Wannbe Professional Wrestling Villain In The Oval Office, We Need The 14th Amendment More Than Ever In Every Part Of The Land

Today; Professor Eric Foner offers a lesson in US Constitutional History that celebrates Amendment XIV of the founding document. It is invaluable in our time when civil rights are increasingly given short shrift in US courtrooms as well as the streets and classroom of this land. If this is a (fair & balanced) civics lesson, so be it.

[x The Nation]
We Should Embrace The Ambiguity Of The 14th Amendment
By Eric Foner

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On July 9, 1868, Louisiana and South Carolina approved the 14th Amendment, bringing the number of ratifications to three-quarters of the states and making it part of the Constitution. On this 150th anniversary, when the future of the Supreme Court and the fate of many American freedoms hang in the balance, it is worth recalling the amendment’s complex, contradictory history.

On the one hand, the amendment fundamentally changed the Constitution. It declared anyone born in the country an American citizen, and went on to bar the states from denying them the “privileges or immunities” of citizenship, or depriving any person (including aliens) of life, liberty, or property without due process or law, or of the equal protection of the laws. While its immediate focus was guaranteeing the essential rights of the 4 million emancipated slaves, its language is universal. As a result, it made it possible for all sorts of movements for equality to be articulated in constitutional terms, something previously impossible. The 14th Amendment led numerous Americans to view the federal government as the protector of their rights and to expand the definition of those rights far beyond anything known before the Civil War. In our own time, the amendment’s guarantees of liberty and equality have underpinned Supreme Court decisions establishing the “one man, one vote” rule, and overturning state laws denying the right to utilize contraception and terminate a pregnancy and discriminating in marriage on the basis of sexual orientation.

But there is a profound irony at the heart of the 14th Amendment’s history.

When it comes to the status of black Americans, its promise has never been fulfilled. Beginning during Reconstruction itself, only a few years after ratification, the Supreme Court severely restricted the amendment’s scope as a weapon for racial equality. It defined almost out of existence the “privileges or immunities” arising from American citizenship. It made a fetish of the idea of “state action,” insisting that the amendment barred racially discriminatory actions by state governments and officials, not by private individuals, and as a result making it all but impossible for the federal government to prosecute violence against blacks or racial discrimination in transportation and public accommodations. In 1896, the Court ruled that state laws requiring racial segregation did not violate the equal protection of the laws. It also refused to enforce the 15th Amendment, which sought to guarantee the right of black men to vote throughout the nation, allowing Southern states to disfranchise them.

Of course, the Warren Court of the 1950s and ’60s gave constitutional sanction to the civil-rights revolution. But, with the exception of overturning Plessy v. Ferguson, the decision upholding racial segregation, it did not directly confront the long train of decisions that restricted the 14th Amendment’s reach regarding blacks. Instead, it opted to work around existing jurisprudence. For example, in affirming the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which barred discrimination by private businesses, the justices relied not on the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equality but on the Constitution’s clause empowering Congress to regulate interstate commerce. The elevation of the commerce clause into a pillar of human rights in this and other decisions has made the judiciary look ridiculous. Everyone knows that guaranteeing the free flow of goods was not the motivation of those who took to the streets to demand passage of the Civil Rights Act, or of the congressmen who voted for it. The justices could not bring themselves to say that for 80 years the Court had been wrong. More recently, the Court has proved more sympathetic to white plaintiffs complaining of “reverse discrimination” because of affirmative-action policies than to blacks seeking assistance in overcoming the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow. The majority seems to feel that “racial classifications” pose the greatest danger to equality, not racism.

But there is another way of reading the 14th Amendment, one pioneered by the former slaves and their allies and articulated in legal terms by the country’s first generation of black lawyers, who challenged the emerging jurisprudence of the late 19th century. It is too often forgotten that, with one exception, the all-white Southern governments created by President Andrew Johnson after the Civil War rejected the 14th Amendment, making ratification impossible. Congress then required the creation of new ones in which black men voted in large numbers and held public office. These new governments ratified the amendment. In other words: No black suffrage in the South, no 14th Amendment. Yet when the Court has sought to construe the amendment’s purposes and meaning, the black voice is never heard.

The counter-interpretation developed in the 1880s and 1890s remains available today, certainly as plausible, if not more so, than existing jurisprudence. There is no reason, for example, why the “privileges or immunities” of citizens must remain a dead letter, why it cannot be understood to encompass rights not only denied by slavery but essential to full membership in American society, such as access to an adequate education. There is no reason why what the Court dismissively refers to as “societal racism” cannot be taken into account in assessing affirmative-action and school-integration programs, or why the “state action” doctrine must hamstring national efforts to protect the rights of Americans against violation by private parties.

The language of the 14th Amendment—equal protection, due process, privileges or immunities—is imprecise. Because it cried out for future interpretation, this “indefiniteness of meaning” was a “charm” to John A. Bingham, the Ohio congressman most responsible for the wording. To be sure, this ambiguity also opened the door to the cramped reading that still hangs over jurisprudence today. But rather than lamenting ambiguity, we should, in the spirit of Bingham, embrace it. Ambiguity creates possibilities. Ambiguity paves the way for future struggles.

By themselves, constitutional amendments cannot address all the legacies of slavery. Charles Sumner, the abolitionist senator from Massachusetts, remarked that rewriting the Constitution was not an end in itself but “an incident in the larger struggle for freedom and equality.” With conservatives about to fasten their grip on the Court, it would be foolhardy to expect the latent power of the 14th Amendment to be invoked any time soon. But one day, in a different political climate, this “sleeping giant” (to borrow a phrase from Sumner) may yet be awakened, and its power employed to implement in new ways the Reconstruction vision of equal citizenship for all. # # #

[Eric Foner, a member of The Nation’s editorial board and the DeWitt Clinton Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University (NYC), is writing a forthcoming book, The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Changed the Constitution. See other books by Eric Foner here. Eric Foner received a BA (history) from Columbia University (NYC), an AB (history) from Oxford University (UK), and a PhD (history) from Columbia University; the late Richard Hofstadter was Foner's dissertation advisor.]

Copyright © 2018 The Nation

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Friday, July 13, 2018

International-Relations Expert Amy Zegart Has Located A "Special Kind Of Stupid" & It Is Found Between The Ears Of The Current Occupant Of The Oval Office

International relations expert Amy Zegart offers a nuanced essay on 21st-century US foreign policy and finds that that it has been based on five pillars since 1945: neighbors, allies, markets, values, and military might. Unfortunately, this is lost on the current occupant of the Oval Office who thinks he knows better, groundlessly offends US neighbors, lectures allies without a bit of sense, has a one-note market policy — tariffs — and despoils US values at home and abroad. In a reasonable world, this should suffice for an impeachment proceeding, but the party-first loons in the majority place political power above country. So, the especially stupid occupant of the Oval Office is on the loose in Europe behaving like a bull in a china shop. If this is (fair & balanced) proof that stupidity is doing something that has a high degree of certainty to end badly, injure others, destroy property, and reduce long-held values, so be it.

[x The Atlantic]
The Self-Inflicted Demise Of American Power — Or, Making The USA Weak Again
By Amy B. Zegart

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NATO leaders have a lot to worry about. The UK government is a Brexit hot mess. Germany’s Angela Merkel, who has been holding a unified Europe together on her shoulders like Atlas, may not be able to last much longer. Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been channeling his inner authoritarian, and he’s not the only one. And then there’s President Donald Trump. Never one for subtlety, Europe’s most important ally called NATO obsolete, threatened to ignore America’s treaty defense commitments to NATO members that don’t pay up, slapped tariffs on European aluminum and steel, and treated NATO as an irritating layover on the way to his real destination: Helsinki, where he’ll be meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. And that was before Trump actually touched down in Brussels and started berating European leaders face-to-face.

Many experts believe the chief challenge of managing President Trump’s foreign policy is keeping Trump on message. They’re wrong. Trump isn’t misspeaking when he ignores his talking points, insults allies, or congratulates Putin on winning a sham election. He’s not veering off script when he declares that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat just because Kim Jong Un posed for a photo in Singapore. Trump is actually on message nearly every day and in every tweet. It’s just not a message that most serious national-security experts want to hear. Deep in the recesses of our brains, we experts just cannot believe that an American president would pursue so many profoundly shortsighted policies—or that he would actually believe he’s doing a good job.

Trump has a foreign-policy doctrine, all right. He’s been advancing it with remarkable speed, skill, and consistency. Its effect can be summed up in one neat slogan: Make America Weak Again.

America’s preeminence on the world stage rests on five essential sources of power: neighbors, allies, markets, values, and military might. The Trump Doctrine is weakening all of them except the military.

To be fair, America’s military might is a biggie in global politics, and Trump deserves high marks for rebuilding America’s fighting forces after years of decline in the face of growing threats. The February 2018 budget deal allowed for a $61 billion increase in military spending in 2018 with another $18 billion increase in 2019, making it the largest defense budget in U.S. history and reversing crippling defense sequestration caps from 2013—a deal designed to be so bad, Congress thought it would bring everyone to their senses but didn’t. Trump isn’t just spending more; he’s modernizing and innovating more, too. The Trump administration is committed to modernizing America’s aging nuclear weapons and delivery systems, and has called for additional research spending for cyber, electronic warfare, artificial intelligence, and space—all key areas where the U.S. is increasingly vulnerable and the country’s innovation edge is narrowing. Trump’s defense-spending policies have received overwhelming bipartisan support, a rare feat in Washington. In a complicated global landscape with Russia seeking to stretch its territorial reach and China undergoing a massive 20-year military buildup, a recommitment to investing in military strength is both welcome and necessary.

But it won’t be enough. In today’s threat environment, military power can’t go it alone. The other four sources of American power are more important now than ever. And under Trump, they are growing weaker by the day.

Friendly neighbors are underrated as a source of global power. The United States was born with good geography and successive presidents have made the most of it. For centuries, the empires and nation-states of Europe and the Middle East have lived in tough neighborhoods, with hostile powers nursing historical grievances and vying for advantages through brutal territorial conquest. By contrast, the United States has prospered in no small measure because it has been flanked by two vast oceans and two friendly neighbors that have provided a level of security other states would envy. The last time American and Canadian soldiers fought one another was in 1815. The Mexican–American War ended in 1848, and the last US president to order troops into Mexican territory was Woodrow Wilson, who did so a century ago. Europe’s latest territorial aggression occurred in 2014 (when Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea). Wars are so prevalent in the Middle East, it’s hard to remember a time when there wasn’t one.

The Trump Doctrine, however, sees dangerous threats massing along America’s borders and calls for a sharp departure from the past. The Trump administration’s policies and pronouncements have sent Canadian–US and Mexican–US relations into tailspins, threatening longstanding ties and close cooperation on everything from defense to drug interdiction to trade. Relations in the ’hood haven’t been this bad in a century. From imposing tariffs on Canadian goods because they’re “national-security threats,” to all those comments about Mexican “rapists” and “bad hombres” flooding into US cities, to the border wall, to vows to jettison the North American Free Trade Agreement that has been pivotal to economic growth across the continent, it’s little wonder the neighbors aren’t feeling so neighborly anymore. Mexican voters just elected an anti-Trump, radical leftist president in a landslide election. Canadian officials have imposed retaliatory tariffs and are now talking about how to protect their nation from the United States. It takes a special kind of stupid to make enemies out of Canadians.

Alliances are another vital source of American strength on the global stage. In Asia, the US has better bilateral relations with China’s neighbors than China does, including defense treaties with Japan and South Korea. These relationships advance US interests, project American power, protect global commerce, and promote peace and stability. In Europe, one of Russia’s chief aims is to split the NATO alliance because Russia has so few friends of its own. Putin knows that alliances are not about spreading some woolly-eyed vision of global peace over lattes and arguing over who pays the bill. They are about the hard-nosed projection of national power in a dog-eat-dog world. The more friends you have, the more economic, diplomatic, and military might you can marshal and the more you can coerce adversaries to do what you want them to do.

But the Trump Doctrine sees alliances as raw deals in which the US pays too much and gets too little. Yes, it’s true that most NATO allies have not lived up to their defense spending commitments and it’s high time they did. But the Trump Doctrine often seems to suggest that alliances should be run more like a market bazaar, where buyers and sellers haggle over everything and often get nothing—even when a lopsided deal is in everyone’s best interest. Joint-readiness drills, foreign sales of American military equipment, and relationship management cannot be boiled down to Buy the scarf with that shirt or you’ll get nothing. For alliances to work, allies have to know they have each other’s backs. And enemies have to know it, too. Just ask Putin if he’d rather have NATO—with all of its “raw deals” uniting 29 nations that include economic powerhouses such as Germany and Spain and global leaders such as France and the United Kingdom—or his own allies, which consist of exactly one besieged Syrian tyrant, the six-member Collective Security Treaty Organization (whose other members are the superpowers called Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan), and, on good days, some Iranians.

The third source of American power is the country’s economy, which has become the envy of the world because it trades with the world. Thanks to falling trade barriers and rising globalization since World War II, global economic growth has hit unprecedented levels. More than a billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty. And the US has prospered. Sure, free trade creates global winners and losers, and many playing fields are not level. China has been stealing American intellectual property and doing everything it can to keep American companies down and out. Beijing isn’t even secret about it. China’s “Made in China 2025” plan declares the country’s intention to corner the market in key growth industries such as robotics and electric vehicles.

The Trump Doctrine views free trade with suspicion, the liberal international order as a rip-off to American workers, and economics as a zero-sum game in which if you win, we lose. Trump is a protectionist and proud of it. It seems he’s never met a tariff he didn’t like. First came the steel and aluminum tariffs on US allies, sparking retaliatory tariffs on everything from American motorcycles to bourbon. Now Trump and China are locked in an escalating trade war that has started at $50 billion worth of goods on each side. It’s anyone’s guess when or how it will end, but this much is clear: It won’t be good.

Why would the president undermine American economic vitality? Because the Trump Doctrine is meeting 21st-century trade challenges with 20th-century tactics: tariffing the heck out of foreign products under the misguided assumption that tariffs will only affect the countries they target. Trump seems stuck in the 1970s, when most cars were made in Detroit and most TVs were made in Japan. In today’s world of global supply chains, products just aren’t made in one place anymore. The Dutch company Fairphone has just 27 employees but sources its parts from Africa, the Middle East, Europe, North America, and China. Made in America doesn’t mean what it used to. In a global-supply-chain world, tariffs don’t just hurt foreign companies and workers. They hurt American ones, too.

The fourth and most unique source of global power is American values. The United States has always been much more than a country. It’s an audacious experiment in democracy and an enduring hope for others. This “shining city upon a hill” has not always lived up to its own aspirations or expectations. But for many oppressed peoples in the far reaches of the globe, the United States has always stood for the triumph of laws over the naked abuse of authority, and for the capacity of democracy to bring freedom, peace, and prosperity to everyone, not just Americans.

The Trump Doctrine rejects these bedrock American values at home and refuses to advance them abroad. Democratic states are considered weak, authoritarian leaders are admired, moral authority counts for nearly nothing, soft power is too soft, and hard power is what gets results. In this presidency, journalists are labeled enemies and dissent is considered unpatriotic. Nobody should count on hearing stirring speeches about the march of freedom or the power of justice during the president’s trips abroad. Or seeing throngs of well-wishers in distant capitals lining up to see the president because of the noble values he represents or the sacrifices he honors in America’s military heroes, who paid the ultimate price to secure the blessings of freedom for others. The effect of the Trump Doctrine is Making America Weak Again by diminishing the role of American values, and with them our standing in the world.

International-relations scholars have long found that great powers typically fall for two reasons: imperial overstretch or rivalry with other great powers. Never in world history has a country declined because of so many self-inflicted attacks on the sources of its own power. # # #

[Amy Zegart is a contributing editor at The Atlantic. She is the co-director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution (CA), and a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute at Stanford University (CA). Her most recent book (written with Condoleezza Rice) is Political Risk: How Businesses and Organizations Can Anticipate Global Insecurity (2018).See other books by Amy Zegart here. A former Fulbright scholar, Amy Zegart received an AB magna cum laude (East Asian studies) from Harvard University (MA) and both an MA and PhD (political science) from Stanford University (CA).

Copyright © 2018 The Atlanic Monthly Group

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

During The 2018 Campaign & Beyond, The Texas GOP Will Have To Respond This Question — ¿Eres Un Violador O Un Asesino? ¡Entonces, No Votes Por Los Pemdejos! (Are You A Rapist Or A Murderer? Then, Don't Vote For The Dumbasses!)

Mimi Swartz paints a portrait of change among Latino/-ina Texans since November 8, 2016, who began to cringe — then change — with the first words out of the mouth of the current occupant of the Oval. The epithets of "rapists" and "murderers" brought cheers from the knuckle-dragging, drooling "base,." but doubt began to grow in the Spanish-surnamed/-speaking gente (people) of Texas. Now, after more than a year of the non-stop racist, xenophobic blathering and intensified by the forced separation of migrant families at the border may bring a November surprise to the current occupant and his minions. If this is (fair & balanced) magical thinking, so be it.

[x NY Fishwrap]
The GOP’s Wobbly Hold On Texas Latinos
By Mimi Swartz

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Listening to President Trump try to explain away his indefensible policy on family separations the other week — and his latest attempts to get an immigration bill passed ASAP — I couldn’t stop thinking about Cynthia, whom I have known for most of her 35 years. Born in Monterrey, Mexico, she’s a pretty woman with a head of shiny black waves and a broad smile that obscure her killer competence and ambition. She didn’t want me to use her last name because she’s now a bigwig at a Fortune 500 Company that might not want the publicity.

What I can’t stop thinking about, in particular, is how different Cynthia’s life would have been if she had been separated from her mother while trying to cross into Texas in recent weeks instead of arriving undocumented in 1989.

Unlike Mr. Trump’s depictions of Mexican immigrants as violent drug traffickers, Cynthia’s family was like so many I knew growing up in South Texas. The family had struggled financially in Mexico — at one point Cynthia’s mother, Eva, tried to make ends meet by opening a food stand in front of their house, but they continued their slide toward destitution. First, Cynthia’s father, José, left for Houston in December 1989, catching a break because his own mother had crossed over in 1970 and eventually became a United States citizen, so José could stay here legally to care for her.

The rest of the family — Eva, Cynthia and her older sister and infant brother — piled into a car driven by a cousin and came to Houston on a tourist visa and the end of 1989. Then, like so many others, they just stayed here. In other words, the family was already separated and trying to reunite with the help of extended family already living in the United States. Cynthia could have just as easily come with a cousin or an aunt or any other trusted relative who, according to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, wasn’t really family at all.

For more than a decade, Eva worked as a nanny while her husband was a clerk in one of Houston’s large corporations, and the family disappeared seamlessly into the city’s crazy quilt of diversity. After 16 years of waiting, Eva was granted citizenship in 2015. During those years, the family could never return to Mexico for fear that they wouldn’t be allowed back in the United States. “This is the only country I’ve ever known,” explained Cynthia, who was naturalized just a year ago.

Her parents saved enough to send all their children to Catholic private schools — they feared the racism and low quality of the public schools in their neighborhood would be a deterrent to opportunity. In high school, Cynthia fell in love with engineering and came to accept unquestioningly the American precept that if she studied hard and did well, there wasn’t any reason she couldn’t become an engineer. She was an A student, aced high school calculus, graduated from a public university with an engineering degree and found a job with a multinational company.

After 10 years, Cynthia is not just the only Latina in her division, but also the only woman and the only Latina executive. “We are trying to adapt,” she said of the company. “That’s one of the things I question my boss about.” In the meantime, she drives a shimmering $43,000 Audi A5 Sportback and complains about the millennials who can’t follow instructions at work. She took her mother on a trip to Rome to see the pope on his balcony at the Vatican. It’s all good. “People leave their cultures and their families for years, sometimes they end up losing their identity for a chance,” she said.

Maybe it won’t surprise you that Cynthia is also a Republican. The party’s up-by-your-bootstraps ethos appealed to her, she’s anti-abortion and she hates paying taxes. She’s one of those people Democrats can’t depend on to turn Texas blue.

And she isn’t alone: The Republican Party of George W. Bush understood that people living south of the border wanted to come here to work and that businesses on the other side depended on them for cheap labor. It wasn’t a perfect system, but it was one that often made a pathway to economic success for the second generation, like Cynthia.

But that was before Mr. Trump. From the beginning, the talk of a wall and bloodthirsty gangs has sent what could have been a growing voter bloc of the Republican Party into a serious identity crisis — even if they don’t say so in public.

Some, like George Antuna, a co-founder of the Hispanic Republicans of Texas, insist that border crime is real if you consider both sides of the border as one place and that much of what Mr. Trump says — referring to Latino immigrants as “animals” and “bad hombres” — is merely “rhetorical.” Still, Mr. Antuna is putting his efforts into local races: When Hispanic Republicans win in their cities and counties, he said, “that rhetoric on the national level becomes noise. The guy I know as my county judge, he’s not like that.”

Artemio Muniz, a Bush loyalist who started the Federation of Hispanic Republicans in Texas in 2008, is far less cautious and has been banned from the White House for his trouble. “The days of Republican delegates from Texas singing in Spanish and waving cowboy hats at the convention — those days are gone,” he said, along with any chance to bring Latinos into the party anytime soon. “The stereotype, the broad brush used to describe Mexicans is just horrible. It’s offensive. There’s no two ways about it.”

Being offensive doesn’t seem like a winning strategy. Democrats lost to Republicans statewide in the last two presidential elections, but the margins have been shrinking: 16 percent in 2012; only 9 percent in 2012. If Texas isn’t blue, the urban areas certainly are. By 2022, Hispanics will be the majority in Texas. Fifty percent of their vote is in the two largest cities, Dallas and Houston.

Assuming Latinos can and will vote in future elections, the old notion that the fiscal and social conservatives among them will stick with the Republican Party is up for debate. “I’m trying my hardest to change the direction of a bus that’s going off the cliff,” Mr. Muniz explained. It won’t be easy: There were once three Latino Republicans in the Texas Legislature; now that sorry number is down to one.

Voter suppression and gerrymandering aside, Mr. Muniz believes more grass-roots work and encouragement of civic engagement could build the party’s Latino wing, but today’s Republican leadership — in Texas and nationally — can’t even find those places with a map. Mr. Muniz is a Bush-era Republican and knows its smaller South Texas towns and urban neighborhoods where the battles have to be waged. Old-style Republicans — moderate, Bush-era people — have to learn new ways. “This is not Midland, TX, where you jump off a golf cart,” Mr. Muniz said.

As for Cynthia? She was busy when I called the other day, giving a tour of her plant to some vice president of something or other, another white guy she’d have to convince of her competency as a woman and as a Mexican-American. She gave me a long sigh when I asked about President Trump.

“I think the Republican Party is in the middle of a change, just like everything else in the world,” she told me, sounding like the conservative she is. She wasn’t angry, she said, just disappointed. She wants to be a loyal Republican, but she has come to see that the people leading the party these days don’t speak to the ideals that fueled her dreams.

“You have to adapt to change. We have not been able to adapt our Republican beliefs to the world we live in,” she said, and I started to hear just a hint of doubt as she spoke about the party she loves, the one that clearly wants nothing to do with her. “We need the Republicans who made America different. Where are the Lincolns of the world? That’s not them anymore.” # # #

[Mimi Swartz, an executive editor at Texas Monthly, also is a NYT contributing Op-Ed writer. Swartz received a BA (English) from Hampshire College (MA). She is the co-author (with Sherron Watkins) of Power Failure, The Inside Story of the Collapse of Enron (2003).]

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Current Occupant Of The Oval Office -Likes- Loves A "Get Out Of Jail Free" Supreme

Handy Andy delivered on the heels of the Reality TV idiocy that is constant with the current occupant of the Oval Office with the prime-time "announcement" that Brett Kavanaugh had been tapped for the SCOTUS vacancy. Kavanaugh, the author of a brief during his time as an attorney during POTUS 43's second term when there were rumblings of a possible attempt to impeach POTUS 43 proclaimed that the POTUS was immune to subpoenas and charges of wrongdoing while in office. Handy Andy picked up on this audacious assertion and reframed that brief into a competitive essay entitled "Why Trump Shouldn’t Go to Prison." No such competitive essay event exists or existed, but Handy Andy got the last laugh. The current occupant of the Oval Office hadn't read the imaginary essay, but his elder daughter had read it to him and it was "the greatest essay ever written." If this is a (fair & balanced) diagnosis of hopeless Narcissistic Personality Disorder, so be it.

[x The New Yorker]
Man Wins "Why Trump Shouldn’t Go to Prison" Essay Contest
By Andrew (Andy) Borowitz

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A Washington, DC, man has won a nationwide essay contest on the topic "Why Donald J. Trump Shouldn’t Go to Prison."

The man, Brett Kavanaugh, received his award for the winning essay at a ceremony at the White House on Monday night.

Kavanaugh’s essay, which was distributed to the press shortly after he was announced as the winner, reads as follows:

“Donald J. Trump should never go to prison because he is the President of the United States and the President of the United States is a very important person in the country. It would look bad if visitors from foreign countries came to the United States and asked, ‘Where is your President?’ and we had to say, ‘He is in prison,’ which in my opinion is another reason Donald J. Trump should not go to prison. For these reasons, if I am ever in a position to keep Donald J. Trump from going to prison, I will do that (keep him from going to prison).”

Shaking Kavanaugh’s hand, Trump heaped praise on him for his “very, very beautiful” essay, calling it “maybe the best essay that has ever been written.”

“I did not personally read it, but Ivanka read it aloud to me, and I thought it was fantastic,” Trump said. # # #

[Andrew (Andy) Borowitz is the creator the Borowitz Report, a Web site that is a lot funnier than the stuff posted by Matt Drudge and his ilk. Borowitz is a comedian and writer whose work appears regularly in The New Yorker. He is the first winner of the National Press Club's humor award and has won seven Dot-Comedy Awards for his web site. His most recent book (and Amazon's Best Kindle Single of the Year) is An Unexpected Twist (2012). Borowitz received a BA, magna cum laude (English) from Harvard University (MA).]

Copyright © 2018 The New Yorker/Condé Nast Digital

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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Sorry, But "Snapping Out Of It" Ain't Easy

Steven Hyden, a prominent musico-social critic, attempts a diagnosis of the drear times of 2018. His finding is not clear-cut, but Richard Hofstadter wrote of the national rejection of Herbert Hoover in 1932: "Perhaps ... it was the spirit of the people that was not fundamentally sound." Perhaps, indeed. The actions and image of Herbert Hoover — in newsreel footage — teasing his dogs to dance on their hind legs while waving pork chops (not scraps) above their noses was a real mood-killer in 1931-1932. Of course, this blog is voice of a great deal of negativism, but the current occupant of the Oval Office is scarcely an uplifting presence. If this is (fair & balanced) rejection of miasma, so be it.

[x NY Fishwrap 'Zine]
Is The National "Mood" The One In Polls Or The One Online?
By Steven Hyden

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Nobody looks in the mirror and sees an archetype. The world may define you as a millennial or a Trump voter or a “Star Wars” bro, but inside your own head, you are you — an individual with thoughts, emotions and experiences as particular as your fingerprints. The only problem is that you are not, from many perspectives, quite unique in the way you think you are: Much of the time, your feelings are shared by so many millions of people that you are merely another face in the crowd. Your anger or indignation or gleeful schadenfreude is only one drop in a great countrywide wave of it. Like it or not, you are part of a national mood.

In psychological terms, “mood” is a weather report for your personal emotions, a measure of balmy good cheer or dreary storms. But our emotions, naturally, are influenced by the same winds of change that blow on every other person’s. Certain clouds gather over all our heads — the hardships of a war, or a sudden economic downturn — and dump the same cold rain on everyone. Other days we bear witness to an unexpected act of heroism or a rousing international sports triumph and bask in the same sun. Psychologists have suggested for years that moods are actually contagious, meaning yours are just one part of a vast, dynamic system: We take in what those around us say, absorb the sentiments behind those words and slowly begin mirroring those feelings with our own.

The idea of scientifically measuring such moods traces back at least as far as the 1930s, when George Gallup, the man who would one day be described by Time magazine as the “Babe Ruth of the polling profession,” founded the American Institute of Public Opinion and committed himself to collecting accurate data on the whole nation’s sensibilities, unskewed by the ulterior motives of political parties or interest groups. The institute correctly predicted that Franklin D. Roosevelt would defeat the Republican challenger Alfred Landon in the 1936 presidential election; just two years after that, it had already begun conducting market research for studios in Hollywood. A new industry — public-opinion data as a valuable commodity, an advance warning of which way the country’s emotional winds were blowing — was off and running.

It was in 1979 that Gallup Inc. introduced its “Mood of the Nation” poll, which asks participants how satisfied they are with the direction of the country. Back then, with the United States mired in gas shortages and inflation, the national mood seemed to be a foul one, scraping as low as 12 percent. A sampling from this year, taken in early June, is positively cheery in comparison, with a robust satisfaction rate of 38 percent. This might seem somewhat meager, but it’s actually America’s highest level of satisfaction since September 2005, soon after Hurricane Katrina, when it registered 39 percent (though some other periods fell within the poll’s margin of error); it reached as high as 46 percent earlier that year, and soared all the way to 70 percent a few months after Sept. 11. By Gallup’s measure, the mood of the country today is worse than it was in the wake of some of the worst disasters in U.S. history, and this is still an improvement over nearly every point in the past 13 years.

It’s the job of politicians and the media’s pundit class to utilize such numbers in the service of advocating and implementing public policy. A Quinnipiac poll in June showed that the family separations stemming from President Trump’s “zero tolerance” border policy were so resoundingly opposed that, according to NBC News, “it doesn’t take a political scientist to read the current public mood on the topic.” Sometimes hard numbers aren’t even necessary; sheer political instinct will do. John Podhoretz of Commentary, assessing whether Republicans have a chance of holding their congressional advantages in the coming midterms, concluded, without citing any polling data, that voters “will probably be in a much better mood than previous midterm electorates” because of the improving economy.

Whether based on data or on intuition, all these divinations of the national mood are rooted in the idea that the most important parts of our emotional weather are happening outside us as individuals, over our collective heads. We’ll act and think as a kind of hive mind, driving markets and electing officials and erupting in anger en masse, always gathering up into some kind of aggregate emotional register.

In the modern era, you no longer need to ask people how they feel. The collective mood is more pervasive and more obvious than ever. On Twitter and on Facebook, millions of us offer up-to-the-minute updates on our state of mind with essentially no prompting whatsoever. And unlike polls, these weather reports aren’t reduced into yea-or-nay boxes or “disapprove” versus “strongly disapprove” categories. They allow you to be true to your idiosyncratic self. You don’t even have to use words.

In January, Ryan Cummings, then an eighth grader in North Carolina, participated in a cheerleading competition with a group called Cheer Extreme Allstars. At the beginning of her group’s routine, she struck a defiant pose: Her head was cocked, her steely eyes stared unblinkingly forward and her lips were tightly pursed, forming an expression set somewhere between a smirk and a sneer — the sort of withering glare that adults secretly fear whenever walking past a pack of contemptuous teenagers on the street. (“When I made that face,” Cummings would later tell BuzzFeed, “I was just thinking, I really want my team to kill it.”) It’s very unlikely that anyone outside Cheer Extreme Allstars’ immediate sphere would be aware of that face were it not for a single Twitter account, which plucked, from a nearly six-minute YouTube video of the routine, a five-second clip of Cummings and captioned it with two simple words: “big mood.” The resulting tweet has since been liked more than 164,000 times.

“Big mood” (or simply “mood,” if you’re not into hyperbole) has been thriving as social-media slang for years now, usually appearing in tandem with a funny image, video or animated GIF. It’s meant to convey a relatable feeling, with maximum irreverence, as if to say: Here is a visual approximation of my soul right now. The avatars in these images are rarely related to anything about who their posters are; each is just an idealized version of a heightened self, a meme as self-portrait. The “big mood” of an insolent cheerleader can indicate any number of feelings: “I’m awesome,” or “I’m happily deluded about my own awesomeness,” or “I’m trying in spite of everything.” Some moods evoke eternal swagger: News that Rihanna is possibly ending a relationship, or doing virtually anything else, is reliably a big mood. Others signify of-the-moment insouciance: An obscene gesture from Villanelle, one of the protagonists of the popular BBC America series “Killing Eve,” is a big mood. The best ones are outlandish and obscure: An old photo of Carrie Fisher in a trash can, holding a bottle of wine, screams big mood.

It’s that viral tweet about the young cheerleader, though, that has been credited by internet-culture sites like The Daily Dot with finally bringing “big mood” to its mainstream saturation point, making the phrase fair game for use by established media, moderately hip parents and corporate brands. Cummings is a big reason you may have noticed a lot more things being categorized as big moods lately: Blake Lively’s testy encounter with photographers at the Met Gala (as described by E! News), or a Japanese animated series on Netflix (as described by Elle), or a video of two lynxes yelling at each other (as described by Vice), or an important win by the Boston Red Sox (as described by the Boston Red Sox). Nothing is so small or inconsequential that it can’t inspire the internet’s outsize passions.

We would rather our moods be big in this figurative sense (rich, vibrant, specific, intensely personal) than the literal one (collective, shared, part of a system that acts upon us). Social media emboldens this feeling of specialness. Who else but you would think to sum up a personal mood with, say, a photo of an exhausted squirrel, splayed out on a railing outside an office window? But of course hundreds of people recently favorited a tweet doing exactly that, offering replies like “same” and “she is me and I is her.”

There’s no avoiding these emotional contagions. Being inundated with so many moods can affect how we see everything around us, unleashing complex waves of uplift or tumult. If you scan social media these days, it’s hard not to conclude that the overriding sentiments — the inescapable moods that hang over all our heads like stagnant humidity — are those of annoyance, consternation and abstract misery. Not just about the day’s news or the latest grand controversy, but about everything, in general. These feelings can feed into one another, influencing the collective mood as profoundly, and maybe as adversely, as world-historic news events and natural disasters and national humiliations. Take a step back, and you see something like a rat-king of feeling, the biggest mood of all. # # #

[Steven Hyden is the author of Twilight of the Gods: A Journey to the End of Classic Rock (2018) as well as Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me: What Pop Music Rivalries Reveal About the Meaning of Life (2016). The music critic has written for Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Slate, American Songwriter and Salon as well. Hyden received a BA (journalism) from the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire.]

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