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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Trump Tweets to 'Enemies' as World Leaders Share New Year's Messages - NBC News



"As 2016 comes to a close, world leaders appear just as eager to start fresh in the new year.



President-elect Donald Trump, however, couldn't let this year go without taking another dig at his critics.



"Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don't know what to do. Love!" he tweeted Saturday morning.





Trump Tweets to 'Enemies' as World Leaders Share New Year's Messages - NBC News

This is an actual Trump sentence.

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"Look, having nuclear—my uncle was a great professor and scientist  and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes,  OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart  —you know, if you're a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if,  like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I'm one of the  smartest people anywhere in the world—it's true!—but when you're a  conservative Republican they try—oh, do they do a number—that's  why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went  there, went there, did this, built a fortune—you know I have to give my  like credentials all the time, because we're a little disadvantaged—but  you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me—it would  have been so easy, and it's not as important as these lives are (nuclear  is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the  power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of  what's going to happen and he was right—who would have thought?),  but when you look at what's going on with the four prisoners—now it  used to be three, now it's four—but when it was three and even now, I  would have said it's all in the messenger; fellas, and it is fellas because,  you know, they don't, they haven't figured that the women are smarter  right now than the men, so, you know, it's gonna take them about  another 150 years—but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians  are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us."

(Via.)   This is an actual Trump sentence.:

Friday, December 30, 2016

American Jews Divided Over Strain in U.S.-Israel Relations - The New York Times

"For Rabbi Gerald Sussman of Temple Emanu-El on Staten Island, the Obama administration’s recent confrontation with Israel was a stunning turn for a president who had enjoyed support from many members of his congregation. “The word ‘betrayed’ would not be too strong a word,” he said.



But in Los Angeles, Rabbi John L. Rosove of Temple Israel of Hollywood, who is the chairman of the Association of Reform Zionists of America, felt differently. He applauded the speech delivered on Wednesday by Secretary of State John Kerry explaining the decision by the United States not to block a United Nations Security Council resolution that condemned the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Rabbi Rosove also suggested that many American Jews were broadly supportive of the Obama administration.



“I felt Kerry was exactly right,” he said. “The people who will criticize him will take a leap and say he’s anti-Israeli, just as some American Jews are saying Obama is an anti-Semite. This is ridiculous. They recognize and cherish the state of Israel.”



The relationship between Israel and the United States, historically the Jewish state’s closest ally, has seen periods of strain and tension almost from the day of Israel’s creation in 1948. But rarely has the situation between the two countries been this stressed, with President Obama under attack not only from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but also from President-elect Donald J. Trump."



American Jews Divided Over Strain in U.S.-Israel Relations - The New York Times

Vladimir Putin Won’t Expel U.S. Diplomats as Russian Foreign Minister Urged - The New York Times

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"MOSCOW — In a head-spinning turn of events on Friday, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia announced that he would not retaliate against the United States’ decision to expel Russian diplomats and impose new sanctions — hours after his foreign minister recommended doing just that.

Mr. Putin, betting on improved relations with the next American president, said he would not eject 35 diplomats or close any diplomatic facilities, rejecting a tit-for-tat response to actions taken by the Obama administration on Thursday.

The switch was remarkable, given that the foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, had just made the recommendation in remarks broadcast live on national television, and given the long history of tit-for-tat expulsions between the two countries. Russian officials have traditionally been sticklers for diplomatic protocol.

‘While we reserve the right to take reciprocal measures, we’re not going to downgrade ourselves to the level of irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy,’ Mr. Putin said, using a common Russian idiom for quarrelsome and unseemly acts. ‘In our future steps on the way toward the restoration of Russia-United States relations, we will proceed from the policy pursued by the administration of D. Trump.’"

(Via.)   Vladimir Putin Won’t Expel U.S. Diplomats as Russian Foreign Minister Urged - The New York Times:

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Inequality Is Only Getting Worse | The Nation







"Donald Trump boasted that his election reflected the “voice of the people,” but it was mostly the voice of fear. And while ingrained racism and misogyny drove much of Trump’s support, his popularity reflected a massive sense of loss: real economic loss, perceived cultural loss, and anticipatory loss for their children’s generation. Just how “real” this decline actually has been, however, depends on where you stand, and where you’re falling from.



A recent study of stratification and eroding quality of life across generations, between races, and between socioeconomic classes sheds light on how America’s so-called “middle class” perceives itself.



Social-inequality trends over the past half century indicate that class divisions are growing more rigid, most are getting worse off, and those at the bottom are falling further, faster by the day. It’s the momentum of change that is causing much of the pain and anxiety, as many self-identified “middle-class Americans” are realizing the truth only now: They were never as well-off as they thought they were.



“Overall, if you look back 30 years, most of the distribution [of wealth] is lower than where it was in the ’80s. So…the typical American family today has less wealth than the typical American family in the ’80s,” says University of Michigan sociologist Fabian Pfeffer, who co-published a new research collection on trends in inequality. And yet, Pfeffer observes, higher on the economic hierarchy, affluent households experienced “the mirror image,” accruing riches and power at others’ expense.



For households losing wealth, Pfeffer found that social insecurity hurts from many different angles: not just in the evaporation of housing and retirement wealth but also through declining health, diminished prospects for their kids, and ensuing despair and anger.



“One of the things wealth gives you is safety and security,” Pfeffer says, but when insecurity becomes chronic “as labor markets become more insecure…and as public safety nets become more porous…that role of private safety nets, such as in the form of wealth, may become even more pronounced.”



Take the case of a working-class, jobless white youth in a marginal postindustrial suburb. He hovers in the same social status as his blue-collar parents, but his life is markedly harder than theirs were. He is priced out of higher education in a community with few living-wage jobs and has virtually none of the health or retirement benefits his parents attained through their now-vanished industrial vocations.



But white anxiety about middle-class precarity is only part of the picture because the middle-class was always built on structural inequality and social exclusion. The anxiety Trump manipulated so deftly on the campaign trail expresses real agony that working people are feeling. Yet the people who aren’t represented in Trump’s support base are in many ways suffering the most from long-term economic polarization."





Inequality Is Only Getting Worse | The Nation

Trump's so vain, he probably thought Obama's speech was about him | MSNBC

U.S. President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss transition plans in the White House Oval Office in Washington, Nov. 10, 2016. (Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)





"Yesterday morning, Donald Trump announced that he’s not pleased with the state of the transition process, blaming President Obama for causing turbulence. By last night, the president-elect had walked that back, but with three weeks remaining until Inauguration Day, it’s clear Trump isn’t altogether pleased with his soon-to-be predecessor.



Part of this is the result of executive actions Obama’s taken to protect elements of his policy legacy; part of this is the fact that the president believes he could defeat Trump in a hypothetical presidential election; and part of it is the president-elect’s needlessly thin skin. Politico published this amazing tidbit:

Trump was also irritated by Obama’s comments at Pearl Harbor on Tuesday afternoon in which he said, “even when hatred burns hottest, even when the tug of tribalism is at its most primal, we must resist the urge to turn inward. We must resist the urge to demonize those who are different.” These felt to Trump like direct criticism of the president-elect, according to two people close to Trump.



Obama administration aides deny that the president was talking about Trump. And the White House is pointedly not responding to Trump’s tweets.

Let’s not brush past this too quickly. Speaking at Pearl Harbor, at the site of an attack that helped launch the United States into World War II, the American president denounced hatred, primal tribalism, and the demonization of diversity. There wasn’t so much as a hint that Obama, standing alongside the Japanese prime minister, was referring to his successor.



But Trump, remarkably, heard the president’s rhetoric and effectively came to a striking conclusion: “Maybe he’s talking about me!”



It reminds me of the incident in early 2009 when the Department of Homeland Security released reports about ideological extremists, alerting law enforcement officials to potentially violent groups and organizations. Republicans and conservative activists were apoplectic – even though the report was commissioned by the Bush administration – because much of the right feared that concerns about violent radicals might apply to them directly.



Nearly eight years later, Trump saw himself in Obama’s rhetoric about divisive and dangerous hatred. I’m not sure what that says about the president-elect, but it’s probably not good."




Trump's so vain, he probably thought Obama's speech was about him | MSNBC

2016 was the year America learned what sexual assault looks like.

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"When Republicans nominated a crude misogynist to oppose a candidate who looked like she might be the nation’s first female president, the 2016 election seemed like it would be, at least in part, a referendum on America’s entire record of discrimination and abuse against women.



The results of that referendum were clear: proud admissions of sexual assault, an inability to see women as anything but sex objects, and a penchant for sexual humiliation were not enough to keep the country’s least-qualified major party nominee in history out of the White House. For anyone who voted for Donald Trump, bald-faced racism and sexism were not the deal-breakers they should have been. Hatred of women was on the ballot in November, and it won.



But there is a thin, tarnished silver lining to the platform Trump gave to his misogynist worldview this year. As both the president-elect and his alleged victims described the uninvited sexual contact he regularly imposed upon women, mainstream observers were made to consider that the more minor violations they described—forced kisses, gropes, and grabs—belonged on the spectrum of sexual assault."




2016 was the year America learned what sexual assault looks like.

U.S. Punishes Russia for Election Hacking, Ejecting Operatives - The New York Times







"WASHINGTON — The Obama administration struck back at Russia on Thursday for its efforts to influence the 2016 election, ejecting 35 Russian intelligence operatives from the United States and imposing sanctions on Russia’s two leading intelligence services, including four top officers of the military intelligence unit the White House believes ordered the attacks on the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations.



In a sweeping set of announcements, the United States was also expected to release evidence linking the cyberattacks to computer systems used by Russian intelligence. Taken together, the actions would amount to the strongest American response ever taken to a state-sponsored cyberattack aimed at the United States.



The sanctions were also intended to box in President-elect Donald J. Trump. Mr. Trump has consistently cast doubt that the Russian government had anything to do with the hacking of the D.N.C. or other political institutions, saying American intelligence agencies could not be trusted and suggesting that the hacking could have been the work of a “400-pound guy” lying in his bed.



Mr. Trump will now have to de"



U.S. Punishes Russia for Election Hacking, Ejecting Operatives - The New York Times

Stopping future Trumps with ‘One President at a Time Act’ | MSNBC



Stopping future Trumps with ‘One President at a Time Act’ | MSNBC

Bibi Netanyahu Makes Trump His Chump - The New York Times

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"For those of you confused over the latest fight between President Obama and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of Israel, let me make it simple: Barack Obama and John Kerry admire and want to preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state in the Land of Israel. I have covered this issue my entire adult life and have never met two U.S. leaders more committed to Israel as a Jewish democracy.

But they are convinced — rightly — that Netanyahu is a leader who is forever dog paddling in the middle of the Rubicon, never ready to cross it. He is unwilling to make any big, hard decision to advance or preserve a two-state solution if that decision in any way risks his leadership of Israel’s right-wing coalition or forces him to confront the Jewish settlers, who relentlessly push Israel deeper and deeper into the West Bank.

That is what precipitated this fight over Obama’s decision not to block a U.N. resolution last week criticizing Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The settlers’ goal is very clear, as Kerry put it on Wednesday: to strategically place settlements ‘in locations that make two states impossible,’ so that Israel will eventually annex all of the West Bank. Netanyahu knows this will bring huge problems, but his heart is with the settlers, and his passion is with holding power — at any cost. So in any crunch, he sides with the settlers, and they keep pushing.

Obama ordered the U.S. to abstain on the U.N. resolution condemning the settlements (three months after Obama forged a 10-year, $38 billion military aid package for Israel — the largest for any U.S. ally ever) in hopes of sparking a debate inside Israel and to prevent it from closing off any chance of a two-state solution."

(Via.)   Bibi Netanyahu Makes Trump His Chump - The New York Times:

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Donald Trump's Shameless Bragging About His Charitable Giving - The Atlantic

"Even the most unsparing critic of the news media cannot deny the tremendous effort put forth by Washington Post reporter David A. Fahrenthold as he spent months doggedly trying to document all of Donald Trump’s donations to charity. The task wasn’t easy—the candidate refused to release his tax returns—so Fahrenthold probed records going back decades, repeatedly questioned the Trump campaign, and contacted more than 400 nonprofit organizations while showing his work."



Donald Trump's Shameless Bragging About His Charitable Giving - The Atlantic

A Significant Resolution on Israel - The New Yorker

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"Last Friday, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2334, with a dramatic abstention by the Obama Administration. The resolution called on Palestinian leaders to take “immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror,” and refrain from “incitement and inflammatory rhetoric.” Its real target, though, was Israel’s settlement project, which, the resolution sharply claimed, has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”
Later in the day on Friday, I spoke to Robert Malley, the special assistant to the President on the National Security Council, the senior adviser for the campaign against isis, and the White House coördinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf. In February, 2011, the Obama Administration vetoed a similar U.N. condemnation of settlements—opposing fourteen other members of the Security Council and a hundred and twenty co-sponsors from the General Assembly. Why abstain now, I asked Malley, and not then? “A real difference is that efforts to advance negotiations were ongoing in 2011,” Malley told me. “We were concerned not to interfere with a process that had some prospect of progressing. That’s not the case since Secretary Kerry’s efforts in 2014. We are at an impasse. There is no prospect of resumption of serious meaningful talks between the sides, so the argument that a U.N. resolution would interfere with negotiations doesn’t hold much water.”
  A Significant Resolution on Israel - The New Yorker: "

Democratic rep. vows to fight Trump come January | MSNBC




Democratic rep. vows to fight Trump come January | MSNBC

Obamacare repeal for real? A shocking look into what a world without Obamacare might look like, courtesy of a Republican congressman. - Obamacare repeal for real? | MSNBC



Obamacare repeal for real? | MSNBC

Sen. Merkley: Trump 'has the maturity of a five-year-old' Sen. Jeff Merkley slams the president-elect's tweet about expanding our nuclear arsenal, praising President Obama's efforts to ‘Trump-proof’ the government. - In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC




All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC

Could Trump tweet us into nuclear war? His comments about nuclear weapons have experts worried he could offhandedly trigger an utter catastrophe Dumb, dumb and dumber, then there is Trump - In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC



All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC

Elkhart's Economic Recovery - The unspoken reason for the Whites disliking Obama is that thery diskiked his race. - The Atlantic

"But despite the decisions that the Obama administration made that might have helped Elkhart, many people here have a strong dislike of Obama, who presided over an economic recovery in which the unemployment rate fell nationally to 4.6 percent from a high of 10 percent in October 2009. They say it’s not Obama who is responsible for the city or the country’s economic progress, and furthermore, that the economy won’t truly start to improve until President-elect Donald Trump takes office.



“He didn’t help us here, but he took credit for what happened,” Chris Corbin, 47, who works for a dispatch company in Elkhart, told me. Corbin thinks it will be Trump who improves the economy. “It’s going to take two terms, but he’ll fix things,” he said.



Elkhart is a case study in how Democrats lost the 2016 elections despite the economic resurgence the country experienced under Obama. It shows how, in an increasingly polarized country, an improving economy is not enough to get Republicans to vote for Democrats, in part because they don’t give Democrats any credit for fixing the economy. Gallup, for instance, found that while just 16 percent of Republicans said they thought the economy was getting better in the week leading up to the election, 49 percent said they thought it was getting better in the week after the election. And in a Pew poll in 2015, one in three Republicans said the economy wasn’t recovering at all, while just 7 percent of Democrats said that. This bias is true for Democrats, too, of course. Before the election, according to the Gallup poll, 35 percent thought the economy was getting worse, while after the election, 47 percent of Democrats thought that.



“What we want to be true influences what we believe to be true.”

These biases are only increasing as the country becomes increasingly polarized. As people become increasingly loyal to their parties, they are unlikely to give leaders from the other party credit for much of anything positive. Both sides are instead more likely to believe narratives that suggest that the other party has only made things worse.





“People’s predispositions affect their factual beliefs about the world,” said Brendan Nyhan, a professor of government at Dartmouth College who has researched why people believe what they do about politics. “What we want to be true influences what we believe to be true.”



Indeed, as the economy began improving, Elkhart voters grew less likely to support  Democratic candidates for president. Obama won 44 percent of the vote in Elkhart County in 2008, 36 percent in 2012, and Clinton received just 31 percent in 2016.



Of course, there are many reasons why people in Elkhart might dislike Obama that have nothing to do with his role in the economy. Ed Neufeldt, whose daughter and two son-in-laws now work in the RV industry after losing their jobs in it during the recession, told me he thought Obama was responsible for improving the economy in Elkhart, but that he still didn’t like the president because of his stance on abortion.



And it could be, as my colleague Derek Thompson has argued, that a president doesn’t have that big of a role in growing the economy anyway. But I interviewed more than a dozen people in Elkhart about the economy and their political beliefs, and I was surprised to find a strong conviction among locals that the Obama administration played absolutely no role in Elkhart’s economic revival. Though people largely admitted that the city’s economy has vastly improved since 2009, only Neufeldt believed Obama had anything to do with that. Instead, the majority of people said they were waiting for Republicans to take over to see any meaningful change. They told me that the city has been revived not because of Obama’s bailout of the auto industry, which helped some RV suppliers, or his stimulus bill, which poured money into Indiana and other states across the Midwest. The economy might have improved, they said, but it did so despite who was in office nationally, not because of him.





“We actually need a business man in there,” Josh Banks, 35, said. “Some of the decisions [Obama] made were not great.” During the recession, the company that Banks works for, which makes glass for the RV industry, saw business slow so much that he worked only 30 hours a week, which made it tough to provide for his wife and two kids. Now, he said, he’s working 45 to 50 hours a week to keep up with demand. But it was local leaders, not national ones, that help jumpstart the industry, he said.



People’s feelings about the political party in charge influence how they perceive the economy, according to academic research. One recent study asked Republicans and Democrats what they thought the unemployment rate was before and after an October 2012 jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which showed that the unemployment rate had fallen below 8 percent. Both groups thought the unemployment rate was high before the report came out, but when asked after the report what they thought unemployment rate was, people who considered themselves “strong Democrats” estimated that the unemployment rate was more than one-third of a point lower what it actually was, while Republicans estimated that it was one-third of a point higher than it actually was.



“People have a hard time reconciling information that challenges their pre-existing beliefs about the world, so they just tend to reject it instead,” Brian F. Schaffner, the lead author of that paper, said. People pick a partisan team, he said, and they often filter information through their loyalty to that team. When the information coming in contradicts their team’s beliefs, they have trouble accepting it.





Time and again, Schaffner said, people evaluate their own economic situations differently depending on who is president. During the Obama presidency, Republicans were less likely to say that their economic situation had improved over the past year. When Trump becomes president, though, this will likely switch, and Democrats will say their economic situation has not improved.





RVs at International RV World in Elkhart in 2009 (Joe Raymond / AP)

Brandon Stanley owns a bar in Elkhart. He says he’s optimistic that the economy is improving now that Republicans have regained power, but emphasizes that there are still a host of economic problems that haven’t been solved in Elkhart. As for the shrinking unemployment rate in Elkhart, “they changed how they report unemployment numbers,” he told me, so they’re not believable.



The idea that the government falsified unemployment numbers was a popular narrative among Republicans during the Obama administration, and was most notoriously trumpeted by former General Electric CEO Jack Welch on Twitter. Outlets such as Fox News published multiple stories questioning whether the Obama administration has doctored the unemployment rate. “People tend to engage in effortful resistance when information is inconsistent with their prior beliefs,” Nyhan told me.



When people hear, for example, that the unemployment rate has fallen, but they don’t want to believe that because they don’t like who is in office, they may seek out information that challenges or resists these facts. They can often find other, alternative, information on the news sites that most closely fit their political beliefs.





Andi Ermes, 39, offered a number of reasons for disliking Obama. She said Obama didn’t attend the Army-Navy football game, even though other presidents had. Obama has actually attended more Army-Navy games than George H.W. Bush. She said that he had taken too many vacations. He has taken fewer vacation days than George W. Bush. She also said that he refused to wear a flag pin on his lapel. While it is true that Obama did not wear a flag on his lapel at points during the 2007 campaign, it was back on his suit by 2008. Ermes told me the news sources she consumes most are Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and a local conservative radio show hosted by Casey Hendrickson.



Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ermes sees the biggest signs for hope in the economy in Carrier deal struck by Donald Trump, which will keep 1,000 jobs in the U.S. “He’s not even president yet and already he’s helping the economy,” she said.



Democrats and Republicans, though, appear to be equally guilty of viewing objective facts through partisan filters--Nyhan said that there’s no conclusive evidence to suggest that one party is more susceptible than the other. Though some research has indicated that even strongly partisan people are more likely to answer questions about politics correctly if they are getting paid to do so, paying Americans to listen to facts doesn’t seem a particularly realistic solution. Little will change, Nyhan said, if the environment in which political leaders and the media promote incorrect information doesn’t change.



There is, however, one way to pierce partisan biases, Nyhan said. If reality intrudes, people may be more willing to accept it. Someone can debate climate change for years, but if his house is threatened by a tide that rises every year as the planet warms, he may be more likely to accept that climate change exists.



But in Elkhart, people have jobs they didn’t have six years ago, and they’re working more hours. Their homes are worth more than they were before Obama took office, on average, and their paychecks are fatter than they used to be. Yet Obama is, and will likely remain, the president who didn’t do anything right."



Elkhart's Economic Recovery - The Atlantic

Comey a factor but not only one: HuffPo report | MSNBC



Comey a factor but not only one: HuffPo report | MSNBC

Trump gets caught lying about his charitable foundation | MSNBC



Trump gets caught lying about his charitable foundation | MSNBC

Neo-Nazis are planning an armed march against Jews in Richard Spencer’s hometown.

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"The founder of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer has announced that the site’s campaign of harassment against Jews in alt-right leader Richard Spencer’s hometown of Whitefish, Montana will continue with an armed march in January. Andrew Anglin claimed on Thursday that 200 people are already expected to participate in the march “against Jews, Jewish businesses and everyone who supports either,” which will take demonstrators carrying “high-powered rifles” through the center of the town.



“We will be busing in skinheads from the Bay Area,” he wrote. “I have already worked out most of the details with the leaders of the local groups. Several of our top supporters from Silicon Valley have offered to provide significant support for the march, but we may need to solicit donations to pay for gas/food for the skinheads.”





Neo-Nazis are planning an armed march against Jews in Richard Spencer’s hometown.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

John Kerry, in a Final, Pointed Plea, Will Outline a Vision of Mideast Peace - The New York Times







"WASHINGTON — In a last-chance effort to shape the outlines of a Middle East peace deal, Secretary of State John Kerry is to outline in a speech on Wednesday the Obama administration’s vision of a final Israeli-Palestinian accord based on bitter lessons learned from an effort that collapsed in 2014.



A senior State Department official said that Mr. Kerry, who will be out of office in three weeks, would use his remarks to “address some of the misleading critiques” directed at the Obama administration. That was a clear reference to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who has charged that the United States “orchestrated” a United Nations Security Council resolution last week condemning Israel’s continued building of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The United States abstained from the resolution, infuriating Mr. Netanyahu.



The speech, the latest salvo in a final conflict between Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Obama as Donald J. Trump prepares to assume the presidency, will make the case that “the vote was not unprecedented” and that Mr. Obama’s decision “did not blindside Israel.” Mr. Kerry, the official said, would cite other cases in which Washington officials had allowed similar votes under previous presidents.



The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a coming speech, said Mr. Kerry would also argue that, with the notable exception of Israel, there was a “complete international consensus” against further settlements in areas that might ultimately be the subject of negotiations."





John Kerry, in a Final, Pointed Plea, Will Outline a Vision of Mideast Peace - The New York Times

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Where’s St. Joseph? Finding the Hidden Man of Christmas.

"As far as biblical figures go, St. Joseph—the man who married the mother of Jesus—often gets short shrift: His life isn’t prominently featured in the Gospels, and he’s rarely depicted on Christmas cards. Yet Joseph did fulfill an astonishingly important task: raising the son of God. In 2008, James Martin explored what we do and don’t know about St. Joseph’s identity. His article is reprinted below.

Christmas cards tend to fall into three categories: the family card (cheerful children in red and green sweaters), the secular card (snowmen, snowflakes, snowy villages), and the religious card. The religious card usually bears a portrait of the Virgin Mary gazing beatifically at the crib of her newborn son, Jesus. Behind her, the picture is just as some of the Gospels describe: shepherds, animals, maybe even the three wise men, though they actually were late on the scene.

But where's St. Joseph? Where is the man to whom, according to the Gospel of Matthew, an angel announced the birth of Jesus? Where is the guy who married Mary even though she was already "with child," the man who helped to raise Jesus, the carpenter who taught Jesus his craft?

He's off to the side or stuck in the back, behind a shepherd. And he's old, balding, and stooped, looking more like Mary's father than her husband. Sometimes, he's not there at all. Many Christmas cards show just Mary and Jesus. And how many carols even mention Joseph? He is at the Nativity scene and in American Christmas traditions. That's a loss since Joseph can be a powerful figure not only for fathers but also for the average believer.

For a number of reasons, Joseph has presented something of a problem for the Catholic Church over the past two millennia. The miracle of Christmas was not only that God became human but also that this was accomplished through a virgin. Naturally, Mary is one of the stars of the story. But the emphasis on her virginity may have meant that her marriage to Joseph may have been an uncomfortable reality—after all, if they were married, didn't they, well, have sex? That flew in the face of what became an early tradition in the Catholic Church—Mary's "perpetual virginity."

Better, then, to have Joseph in the background. Some scholars have posited that this is also the reason that he is portrayed as elderly in all those paintings, even though some experts estimate he was around 30 years old at the time of Jesus' birth. Lawrence Cunningham, a professor of theology at Notre Dame and author of A Brief History of the Saints, told me, "Nine times out of 10 in Christian art, Joseph takes on more of father-protector role rather than a husband. That was a way of solving the sexuality problem." Cunningham points out that in some paintings, Joseph is shown dozing off in the corner of the stable or even leaving the scene of the Nativity entirely, "out of modesty."

But don't blame Western artists for giving Joseph short shrift. They didn't have much material to go on. Joseph is given no lines to speak in any of the Gospels, and he disappears entirely after Jesus' childhood. Significantly, he is absent during Jesus' public ministry and even at the Crucifixion, where Mary is featured prominently. This has led some scholars to believe that he must have died before the end of Jesus' earthly life.

So what do we know about Joseph? Apart from his trade—he's called a tekton in the Gospels, which is usually translated as carpenter but is more likely a general craftsman—not much. But Pheme Perkins, a professor of the New Testament at Boston College and the author of the widely used textbook Reading the New Testament, says you can draw some interesting conclusions if you read the Gospels carefully.

"The most obvious assumption in antiquity would have been that Joseph had been married before and was a widower," she said. "Most likely, an arrangement was made for him to find a young wife." This is the basis for the Catholic tradition that Jesus' "brother and sisters," who are mentioned in the Gospels, were from Joseph's first marriage. (Mainline Protestant churches are more comfortable with the possibility that Mary could have given birth to other children after the birth of Jesus.)

And given that Mary seems not to have been forced to remarry after her husband's death—the tradition in first-century Palestine—Joseph must have been a good provider, too. "He must have left them well-off," Perkins said. However, she's not certain that his portrayal as an elderly man in so many works of Christian art necessarily had to do with sexuality. "We usually make revered figures older," she said. "If you look at most of the paintings of St. Peter and St. Paul, they look older, no matter what stage of life they're in."



Though most of Joseph's life goes unmentioned in the Gospels, he carried out an astonishingly important task: raising the son of God. For the first years of Jesus' life, and perhaps into young adulthood, he would have learned much of what he knew about the Jewish faith from his mother and his foster father. Perhaps the practices Jesus learned alongside Joseph in the carpentry shop—patience, hard work, creativity—were put to good use in his later ministry. Joseph represents the holiness of the "hidden life," doing meaningful things without fanfare.

Perkins and Cunningham both see Joseph as a central figure in the Nativity story, one who can speak to contemporary men and women. The Gospel of Matthew makes clear that he is a "righteous man" who does what God asks of him. After discovering Mary's pregnancy, Joseph thinks of "quietly" ending their marriage plans, so as not to "disgrace" her. But an angel reassures him in a dream. "Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife," says the angel, who explains the unusual circumstances of the birth. Joseph's "righteousness" enables him to listen to God and carry out his difficult task.

His personality shines through wordlessly. "Here is a model of someone who represents all the virtues in the Hebrew Bible," says Perkins. "He is asked to do something shocking, but because he's righteous, he follows God's guidance. And it's no fun—not only to deal with that, but with the rest of the story—the flight into Egypt, too."

During that latter part of the Christmas story, when the holy family flees from the murderous King Herod, Joseph was responsible for protecting Mary and her son in extreme conditions. Moreover, says Perkins, "To have to take your family into Egypt—that's not a direction that Jewish stories want to go. It's the wrong way." She calls him a "model for how people can follow God through difficult times."




Where’s St. Joseph? Finding the Hidden Man of Christmas.

2016 was the end of the world as we know it. So what's next? | World news | The Guardian

"The phrase “turning point” is overused, but future historians are likely to view the year 2016 as exactly that. The standout event was Donald Trump’s surprise victory. The maverick Republican’s defeat of Hillary Clinton produced a shock that reverberated around the world. The billionaire’s White House tenancy begins on 20 January. Many will dub that date Black Friday, fearful that Trumpism may irreparably damage international security, environmental protection and human rights. Others will see it as a sign of welcome change. It will be a year of living dangerously.



Yet 2016 was remarkable for many other reasons – good and bad. The fightback against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq gathered pace, even as terrorist atrocities took lives from Nice to Jakarta. A peace deal was signed in Colombia, ending the world’s longest-running insurgency. The European Union was thrown into confusion by Britain’s vote to leave. The Paris agreement marked a breakthrough on climate change."



2016 was the end of the world as we know it. So what's next? | World news | The Guardian

The Stolen Supreme Court Seat - The New York Times

"Soon after his inauguration next month, President-elect Donald Trump will nominate someone to the Supreme Court, which has been hamstrung by a vacancy since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February. There will be public debates about the nominee’s credentials, past record, judicial philosophy and temperament. There will be Senate hearings and a vote.



No matter how it plays out, Americans must remember one thing above all: The person who gets confirmed will sit in a stolen seat.



It was stolen from Barack Obama, a twice-elected president who fulfilled his constitutional duty more than nine months ago by nominating Merrick Garland, a highly qualified and widely respected federal appellate judge.



It was stolen by top Senate Republicans, who broke with longstanding tradition and refused to consider any nominee Mr. Obama might send them, because they wanted to preserve the court’s conservative majority. The main perpetrators of the theft were Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, and Charles Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. But virtually all Republican senators were accomplices; only two supported holding hearings."





The Stolen Supreme Court Seat - The New York Times

POTUS reflects on administration during final days | MSNBC



POTUS reflects on administration during final days | MSNBC

Saturday, December 24, 2016

It’s Official: America Has Two Presidents at One Time - The Atlantic

"What happens when the most powerful country in the world effectively has two presidents at once? Its policy regarding one of the most complex conflicts on the planet collapses into a muddled mess.



Or, more precisely, you have what unfolded over the last 48 hours: The Egyptian government submits to the UN Security Council a resolution against Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This raises the possibility that the Obama administration could express its opposition to Israeli settlement policy by abstaining from the vote, rather than vetoing the resolution as it had with a similar one in 2011. Enraged Israeli officials call up Donald Trump, who tweets that the United States should veto. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the president of Egypt, abruptly calls off the vote. At some point during all this, Trump has a phone conversation with Sisi where they chat about jointly solving various issues in the Middle East. Anonymous Israeli officials, essentially siding with the incoming Trump administration, criticize Obama in unusually harsh terms for plotting with the Palestinians to abandon Israel at the United Nations. A day later, Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal, and Venezuela reintroduce the resolution, which comes to a vote and is adopted by the Security Council, including Egypt, with the United States abstaining. Barack Obama delivers a powerful parting message to Israel’s leaders that is powerfully undercut by Donald Trump’s opening message. “As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th,” Trump tweets shortly after the vote.



Still with me?



Transitions of power are always awkward, uncertain moments in the life of a nation and its relations with the world. Richard Nixon’s campaign aides, for example, allegedly interfered with Vietnam War peace talks organized by Lyndon Johnson. But Donald Trump has involved himself in international affairs like no U.S. president-elect in recent memory. NBC News reviews some of the history:



President Bill Clinton told the press after his 1992 victory that he would “reaffirm the essential continuity of American foreign policy” and recognized “that America has only one president at a time.”



President George W. Bush declined questions on topics like North Korea and Israel until he took the oath of office in early 2001. “We have one president, and we’ll have one president, and the current president is President Clinton, and our nation must speak with one voice,” Bush said at a press conference.

In 2008-2009, Barack Obama’s transition team repeatedly invoked the norm that the United States has “only one president at a time” to explain why Obama was staying silent on issues like the Gaza War. That “constitutional principle,” Obama’s incoming press secretary said at the time, is “extremely important in the arena of foreign policy,” where it must be “clear who is speaking on behalf of the United States.” Noting the “delicate negotiations” that were occurring at the time between Israelis and Palestinians, Obama argued that “we can’t have two voices coming out of the United States when you have so much at stake.”





Yet in the waning days of 2016, two conflicting voices on high-stakes international issues is exactly what we have. Barack Obama is vowing to retaliate against the Russian government’s interference in the U.S. election; Donald Trump is questioning whether Russia interfered and thanking Vladimir Putin for his “very nice” Christmas card. Obama’s Pentagon demanded that China return a U.S. underwater drone seized in the South China Sea; Trump elevated the incident to an “unprecedented act” and then suddenly reversed course, suggesting the Chinese just “keep” the darn thing. Obama is dismantling a registration system for visitors from many Muslim-majority countries; Trump might soon revive it.



These contradictions have created such confusion in recent weeks that Jared Huffman, a Democratic congressman from California, has introduced legislation to amend the 1799 Logan Act, which prohibits unauthorized private citizens from conducting U.S. foreign policy. Huffman wants to clarify that the law applies to presidents-elect, since “only the president, not the president-elect who is fresh off the campaign trail and not yet in office, has the authority to make critical foreign-policy decisions that impact America’s safety, economy, and global standing.” The legislation is still pending, with weeks to go before inauguration."



It’s Official: America Has Two Presidents at One Time - The Atlantic

Afternoon Hanukkah Reception

The Greatest Myths About Jesus Christ’s Birth - The Daily Beast

"


It’s Christmas, a celebration of the birth of Jesus to Mary (his mother) and Joseph (in modern parlance, his stepfather) in Bethlehem. For Christians this event is a celebration not only of the birth of the Son of God, but also of God’s merciful salvation of the human race. Nativity scenes, crèches, and children’s plays around the globe will tell the traditional story of how Mary and Joseph undertook the arduous journey to Bethlehem to participate in a census, how they were turned away from an inn, and how the king of kings was born in a stable, laid in a manger, and visited by a cluster of shepherds and three foreign kings.
That story, in its entirety, is not contained in a single book of the New Testament. It is a composite image crafted out of the nativity stories of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and augmented by later Christian tradition, artwork, music, and interpretation. A number of the details that make it onto the canvasses of Renaissance artists, for example the “three kings,” aren’t in the Bible at all. We assume that there are three visitors because they bring three kinds of gifts (gold, frankincense, and myrrh). But the Bible doesn’t actually specify their number.
We think that the magi (as they are called in the New Testament) are kings because of later guesswork. Dr. Brent Landau, author of The Revelation of the Magi, told The Daily Beast that the idea that there were three kings comes to us from the imagination of early Christians. “Matthew’s story about the Magi does not imply that these mysterious visitors are kings; Matthew either regards them as magicians/astrologers or Zoroastrian priests. But early Christians noticed passages like Psalm 72:10-11, about kings from far-off lands rendering tribute to the King of Israel, and wondered whether this might have been a prophecy about the Magi. Tertullian in the third century describes the Magi as ‘almost kings,’ and almost two hundred years later, Augustine flatly calls them kings. From there, the belief became commonplace.” All of which means that the magi were wise men, likely schooled in astrology or even Zoroastrianism. Sorry to ruin the carol.
The presence of three kings is an obvious and easy-to-identify addition to the New Testament but there are other, equally surprising, interpretations that have slipped into our Christmas canon. The first is the idea that Jesus was born in a stable. According to the Gospel of Luke and every modern nativity play Joseph and Mary were turned away from an inn because there was no room them there. But, as a number of scholars—including, most decisively, Dr. Stephen Carlson—have argued, the word usually translated as “inn” (kataluma) more likely refers to something like “usual space” (PDF). According to the story, Mary and Joseph were going to Bethlehem because Joseph’s family was from that city. It stands to reason, therefore, that Joseph had family there. But not enough space, Carlson has argued, to accommodate the rapidly expanding family.
What this means is that Mary and Joseph did not stay in the guest quarters of his relative’s house. Instead Mary likely delivered on the ground floor of their house, possibly close to domestic animals, and laid Jesus in a manger that was kept in the house. But he was not, as later tradition tells us, born in a stable.
Perhaps more surprisingly, Jesus was not born on Dec. 25. This much we can deduce from the story itself. Luke tells us that, when angels appeared to them, the shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks in the field. But given plummeting winter temperatures, it is unlikely that shepherds would have been braving the elements during winter. If the angels appeared to shepherd on a hillside at all, it is likely that the shepherds were found there during the lambing season, better known to us as Spring.
One might wonder then how it is that we have come to celebrate the birth of Jesus on Dec. 25. There’s a popular myth, especially widespread on the internet, that the selection of the date of birth of Jesus was timed in order to coincide and thus supplant either the festival of Saturnalia or the birthday of Sol Invictus, the victorious sun god. It seems like a compelling argument: In 274 C.E., the Roman emperor Aurelian established a feast in honor of the birth of Sol Invictus on Dec. 25. Certainly the winter solstice is around the same time and pagans did have festivals celebrating various deities but, as Professor Andrew McGowan, dean of Berkley Divinity School, has written, these were not the reasons for selecting late December as Jesus’s birthday. In fact the idea of deliberately attaching Christian festivals to pagan ones wasn’t raised until the turn of the seventh century and no one noticed that Sol Invictus and Jesus shared a feast day until the 12th century.
In the early church a whole host of dates were raised as possible candidates for Jesus’s birthday. The noted Christian philosopher Clement of Alexandria was aware of at least seven, none of which was Dec. 25. “By the fourth century,” McGowan writes, “we find references to two dates that were widely recognized—and now also celebrated—as Jesus’ birthday: December 25 in the western Roman Empire and January 6 in the East (especially in Egypt and Asia Minor).”
So why those dates? McGowan argues that the selection of these dates is attached to various ancient theories about the date of the crucifixion. Two North African Christians—Tertullian and Augustine—argued that the date of Jesus’s crucifixion and conception fell on the same day, March 25. It is because of the date of his conception, Augustine writes in On the Trinity that “he was born, according to tradition, upon December 25...”




The Greatest Myths About Jesus Christ’s Birth - The Daily Beast

"Dumb, dumb and dumber, and just plain Crazy. "Mr. Trump Flirts With an Arms Race - The New York Times

"Dumb, dumb and dumber, and just plain Crazy." One day after sending shock waves around the globe with an alarming tweet about how the United States must “greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability,” President-elect Donald Trump elaborated, and managed only to deepen the world’s fears.



“Let it be an arms race,” he said in a phone conversation with Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC on Friday. He then warned nuclear adversaries that the United States “will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”



With less than a month to go before he becomes president — and inherits the power to unleash the world’s deadliest weapons — Mr. Trump is playing a risky game. He is casually hinting at a seismic shift in fundamental, complex policies about the role nuclear weapons play in the defense of the United States and its allies. And his comments seemed to be a knee-jerk reaction to President Vladimir Putin, who on Thursday had vowed to strengthen Russia’s nuclear missiles in a speech to his military commanders."





Mr. Trump Flirts With an Arms Race - The New York Times

Obama, Trump and the Turf War That Has Come to Define the Transition - The New York Times

"WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald J. Trump and President Obama have been unfailingly polite toward each other since the election. But with Mr. Trump staking out starkly different positions from Mr. Obama on Israel and other sensitive issues, and the president acting aggressively to protect his legacy, the two have become leaders of what amounts to dueling administrations.



The split widened on Friday when the Obama administration abstained from a United Nations Security Council vote that condemned Israel for Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and allowed the resolution to pass. A day earlier, Mr. Trump had publicly demanded that Mr. Obama veto the measure, even intervening with Egypt at the request of Israel to pressure the administration to shelve the effort.



“As to the U.N.,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter after the vote, “things will be different after Jan. 20.”



It was the latest in a rapid-fire series of Twitter posts and public statements over the last week in which Mr. Trump has weighed in on Israel, terrorism and nuclear proliferation — contradicting Mr. Obama and flouting the notion that the country can have only one president at a time."



Obama, Trump and the Turf War That Has Come to Define the Transition - The New York Times

Monday, December 19, 2016

Foreign-Policy Poker With Donald Trump - The Atlantic

"...Imagine for a moment how all this looks from Vladimir Putin’s side of the table. Russia has a GDP about the same size as Italy’s. It is weaker than any of its political competitors: the U.S., China, or a united Europe. Putin's best strategy is to divide each of those potential competitors from the others—and then to subdivide them against themselves. That strategy has been hugely advanced by the election of Donald Trump. China and the United States have already been set at loggerheads. NATO has been turned against itself, the credibility of its security guarantees already visibly dented. Russia’s prestige is rising: Pro-Russian governments have been elected in the border countries of Estonia and Moldova, a pro-Russian coup was only last month thwarted in the Adriatic country of Montenegro, and pro-Russian anti-EU parties are rising across not only central but also Western Europe.



And the United States—the leader of the democratic world, the coordinating entity of all the treaties that enforce a world order that Putin experiences as constraining—has elected a president who admiringly adopts Putin’s foreign policy as his own and even often seems to share Putin’s scorn for democratic norms at home.



Friends and critics incessantly credit Trump with playing three-dimensional or five-dimensional or eight-dimensional chess. But maybe the proper analogy for Trump’s foreign policy is derived from a different game: poker. There’s a saying that there’s a patsy at every poker table. And at this poker table, Donald Trump is the one who doesn’t know who the patsy is."



Foreign-Policy Poker With Donald Trump - The Atlantic

Female Doctors May Be Better Than Male Doctors. This clearly has been my experience. - The Atlantic

"This has clearly been my experience, especially in the past year in which I have seen six doctors on at least a monthly basis plus doctors during my hospital stay. I wish all of my doctors were women. The differences, in my experiences has been dramatic.



New research estimates that if all physicians were female, 32,000 fewer Americans would die every year."



Female Doctors May Be Better Than Male Doctors - The Atlantic

Donald Trump is a Pants on Fire Liar! Trump tweet about White House, Russian hacking probe | PolitiFact


Pants on Fire! Trump tweet about White House, Russian hacking probe | PolitiFact

Donald Trump suffered a devastating, Embarrassing lost in his home State of New York In The 2016 Presidential election. It gets worse as you close in on where he lives

Donald Trump suffered a devastating, Embarrassing lost in his home State of New York.  It gets worse as you close in on where he lives:

America should have listened to the people who know Donald Trump best. Hillary Clinton carried New York State with 59% of the vote, while Donald Trump received 36.52% of the vote, a 22.48% Democratic victory margin.  In New York City where Trump has lived his whole life Trump lost overwhelmingly, in a landslide;  Citywide out of 1,969,920 voters 78.59% Clinton 461,174 Trump 18.4% , an embarrassing loss in his home town.  Trump did win the racist NYC borough of Staten Island where I grew up 67.5% to 40.1%.  There were only  67,561 voters there.  Trump lost his home borough of Manhattan; with 515,481 voters  Clinton 86.36% Trump 9.87%  New York warned America but the country did not listen.

John H Armwood

North Carolina’s Legislative Coup Shows What Voter Suppression Will Look Like Under Trump | The Nation

"... What began as a special legislative session to help victims of Hurricane Matthew quickly turned into something very different when the GOP-controlled legislature hastily passed a series of bills stripping incoming Democratic Governor Roy Cooper of his constitutional powers. Most noteworthy, Cooper will no longer get to appoint a majority of members to the state board of elections or 100 county boards of elections, and the state board will be chaired by a Republican in all even numbered years – i.e. any time there’s a major Congressional, statewide or presidential election. With Republicans holding a super-majority in the legislature, this is a guaranteed prelude to future voter suppression efforts. The bill also makes it harder for the state Supreme Court, which has a 4-3 Democratic majority, to review future challenges to election law changes. Outgoing Republican Governor Pat McCrory signed the bill 48 hours after it was first introduced... "

North Carolina’s Legislative Coup Shows What Voter Suppression Will Look Like Under Trump | The Nation

Our Manchrian President Elect Donald Trump, This Is Not Normal! - The New York Times

Our Manchurian President Elect



...And people are already ill at ease with Trump. There is increasing resolution on the dimensions of Russian interference in our election — an effort that, according to recent reports, appeared aimed at injuring Hillary Clinton and installing Trump as president. The implications of such a breach, something that comes close to an act of war, are absolutely staggering.



The fact that a hostile foreign government executed a plan to influence, and therefore irrevocably damage, the bedrock of our democracy is unfathomable. The repercussions are nearly incalculable: it corrodes faith in the process, faith in elected officials, faith in national security, faith in our assumed autonomy.



To have a president who refuses to acknowledge the violation in order to avoid the asterisk by which he might be forever marked a Manchurian candidate or, more plainly, Moscow’s mule, is not normal.



Furthermore, to have a president who is disturbingly complimentary when discussing Russia; whose onetime campaign manager had pro-Russia ties; whose son said in 2008, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” and continued, “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia”; and who has nominated for secretary of state a man on whom Vladimir Putin bestowed Russia’s Order of Friendship, is not normal. Americans shouldn’t have to worry about whether the White House will become an annex of the Kremlin.



Furthermore, to have a president surround himself with a rogue’s gallery of white supremacy sympathizers, anti-Muslim extremists, devout conspiracy theorists, anti-science doctrinaires and climate-change deniers is not normal.



To have a president for whom we don’t know the extent of his financial entanglements with other countries — in part because he has refused to release his tax returns — is not normal.... " Charle Blow New York Times





Donald Trump, This Is Not Normal! - The New York Times

Donald Trump, This Is Not Normal! - The New York Times

...The nation is soon to be under the aegis of an unstable, unqualified, undignified demagogue and with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, there is little that can be done to constrict or control his power and unpredictability.



It’s like seeing an ominous weight swinging toward a limb, sure to break it, while you feel utterly helpless to prevent the fracture.



As the exiting first lady Michelle Obama told Oprah last week: “We’re feeling what not having hope feels like.” In point of fact, we may be on the brink of feeling what an erosion of liberty, competent leadership, and absolute sovereignty feels like.



The durability of our democracy is not destined. It is not impervious to harm or even destruction. The Constitution can’t completely prevent that, nor can protocols and conventions. The most important safeguard against authoritarianism is an informed, engaged citizenry vigorously opposed to acquiescence and attrition.



In other words, it may well be that the only thing that can protect America from the man who will sit at its pinnacle of power is the urgent insistence of the public that radical alteration of our customs and concepts of accountability are not on the table, that authority in a democracy is imbued by the ballot, but it is also accountable to its people..."







Donald Trump, This Is Not Normal! - The New York Times

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Washington Post automatically inserts Trump fact-checks into Twitter | Ars Technica

"In an apparent first for any American news outlet, the Washington Post released a Chrome plug-in on Friday designed to fact-check posts from a single Twitter account. Can you guess which one?

The new "RealDonaldContext" plug-in for the Google Chrome browser, released by WaPo reporter Philip Bump, adds fact-check summaries to selected posts by President-elect Donald Trump. Users will need to click a post in The Donald's Twitter feed to see any fact-check information from the Washington Post, which appears as a gray text box beneath the tweet."

Washington Post automatically inserts Trump fact-checks into Twitter | Ars Technica

China exploits presidential transitions to test US | MSNBC



China exploits presidential transitions to test US | MSNBC

Lies, damned lies and Donald Trump: How the Reagan and Bush assaults on truth and science may presage what’s coming - Salon.com

"It has become a commonplace to say that Donald Trump is an unprecedented figure as president-elect. If we want to understand him, we need to look abroad, to examples of authoritarian rulers who’ve undermined democratic norms and the customary rule of law to consolidate their power—men like Vladimir Putin, to cite the most pertinent example, or Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Yet it would be a grave mistake to ignore significant precursors here at home, the better to illuminate the weaknesses Trump is sure to exploit.
While Trump’s authoritarianism and lack of political experience are striking and unprecedented, the underlying disconnect between reality and public perception that he feeds on and exacerbates is nothing new. The title of Jonathan Schell’s account of Nixon’s presidency says it all: “The Time of Illusion.” Similarly straightforward is the title of Mark Hertsgaard’s book, “On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency,” in which he quotes a former deputy White House press secretary Leslie Janka saying, “The whole thing was P.R. This was a P.R. outfit that became president and took over the country. And to the degree then which the Constitution forced them to do things like make a budget, run a foreign policy and all that, they sort of did. But their first, last and overarching activity was public relations.”
While most of the more than 150 journalists and news executives Hertsgaard interviewed “rejected the idea that Ronald Reagan had gotten a free ride from U.S. news organizations,” none other than Reagan’s director of communications David Gergen contradicted them, saying, “I think a lot of the Teflon came because the press was holding back.”
Echoing Hertsgaard, Lucas Graves’ new book, “Deciding What’s True: The Rise of Political Fact-Checking in American Journalism,” notes how the press basically abandoned fact-checking Reagan’s almost-constant flood of lies. Writing about the book for the Washington Post, Heidi N. Moore notes"


Lies, damned lies and Donald Trump: How the Reagan and Bush assaults on truth and science may presage what’s coming - Salon.com

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Noam Chomsky on Trump and the decline of the American Superpower

Five Weeks From Today, Donald Trump Will Be Our President

Donald Trump Admits His Supporters Were 'Violent and Nasty,' But Says They're 'Mellow' Now | The Huffington Post



Donald Trump Admits His Supporters Were 'Violent and Nasty,' But Says They're 'Mellow' Now | The Huffington Post

Don't let China ties slide into 'full conflict mode', Obama urges Trump | US news | The Guardian

"The past two weeks have seen Trump take a series of public swipes at China, accusing Beijing of manipulating its currency, building “a massive fortress” in the South China Sea and not doing enough to pressure Kim Jong-un’s North Korea.



Most controversially of all, the billionaire has also hinted he might upend nearly four decades of US-China ties by offering greater recognition to the government of Taiwan, a self-ruled island that Beijing views as a breakaway province.



Trump’s questioning of the so-called “One China” principle move drew protests from Beijing and led one state-run newspaper to call for swift preparations for a military invasion of the democratically governed island.



On Friday, Obama said Trump needed to grasp “that for China the issue of Taiwan is as important as anything on their docket”.



“The idea of ‘One China’ is at the heart of their conception as a nation and so if you are going to upend this understanding, you have to have thought through what are the consequences.”



“Because the Chinese will not treat that the way they will treat some other issues. They won’t even treat it the way they treat issues around the South China Sea, where we have had a lot of tensions. This goes to the core of how they see themselves and their reaction on this issue could end up being very significant.”



Obama said the importance of US-China collaboration in areas such as the global economy, security and international affairs was now such that “there is probably no bilateral relationship that carries more significance”.



“And where there is also the potential – if that relationship breaks down or goes into a full conflict mode – that everybody is worse off,” the outgoing president added."





Don't let China ties slide into 'full conflict mode', Obama urges Trump | US news | The Guardian

Don't let China ties slide into 'full conflict mode', Obama urges Trump | US news | The Guardian

"The past two weeks have seen Trump take a series of public swipes at China, accusing Beijing of manipulating its currency, building “a massive fortress” in the South China Sea and not doing enough to pressure Kim Jong-un’s North Korea.



Most controversially of all, the billionaire has also hinted he might upend nearly four decades of US-China ties by offering greater recognition to the government of Taiwan, a self-ruled island that Beijing views as a breakaway province.



Trump’s questioning of the so-called “One China” principle move drew protests from Beijing and led one state-run newspaper to call for swift preparations for a military invasion of the democratically governed island.



On Friday, Obama said Trump needed to grasp “that for China the issue of Taiwan is as important as anything on their docket”.



“The idea of ‘One China’ is at the heart of their conception as a nation and so if you are going to upend this understanding, you have to have thought through what are the consequences.”



“Because the Chinese will not treat that the way they will treat some other issues. They won’t even treat it the way they treat issues around the South China Sea, where we have had a lot of tensions. This goes to the core of how they see themselves and their reaction on this issue could end up being very significant.”



Obama said the importance of US-China collaboration in areas such as the global economy, security and international affairs was now such that “there is probably no bilateral relationship that carries more significance”.



“And where there is also the potential – if that relationship breaks down or goes into a full conflict mode – that everybody is worse off,” the outgoing president added."





Don't let China ties slide into 'full conflict mode', Obama urges Trump | US news | The Guardian

Trevor Looks Back on His Meeting With President Obama-The Daily Show with Trevor Noah - Video Clip | Comedy Central




Trevor Looks Back on His Meeting With President Obama-The Daily Show with Trevor Noah - Video Clip | Comedy Central

Trump: Madman of the Year - Charles Blow, The New York Times

"So, Time magazine, ever in search of buzz, this week named Donald Trump Person of the Year. But they did so with a headline that read, “President of the Divided States of America.”



The demi-fascist of Fifth Avenue wasn’t flattered by that wording.



In an interview with the “Today” show, Trump huffed, “When you say divided states of America, I didn’t divide them. They’re divided now.” He added later, “I think putting divided is snarky, but again, it’s divided. I’m not president yet. So I didn’t do anything to divide.”



Donald, thy name is division. You and your campaign of toxicity and intolerance have not only divided this country but also ripped it to tatters.



This comports with an extremely disturbing tendency of Trump’s: Denying responsibility for things of which he is fully culpable, while claiming full praise for things in which he was only partly involved.



As my mother used to say: Don’t try to throw a rock and hide your hand. Own your odiousness.



But Trump delivered the lie with an ease and innocuousness that bespoke a childish innocence and naïveté. In fact, his words disguised cold calculation.



That is the thing about demagogy: It can be charming, even dazzling, and that is what makes it all the more dangerous.



Demagogues can flatter and whisper and chuckle. They can remind us of the good in the world because they have an acute awareness of the ways of the world. They can also love and be loved. They can reflect our own humanity because they are human, but their ambitions do not bend toward the good.



Their ultimate end is distraction, which allows domination, which leads to destruction.



Trump is running two post-campaign campaigns: one high and one low, one of frivolity and one of enormous consequence.



One is a campaign of bread and circuses — tweets, rallies, bombast about random issues of the moment, all meant to distract and excite — and the other is the constant assemblage of a cabinet full of fat cats and “mad dog” generals, a virtual aviary of vultures and hawks.



On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that Trump had “settled on Gen. John F. Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general whose son was killed in combat in Afghanistan, as his choice for secretary of Homeland Security.”



They also pointed out that Kelly had “dismissed one argument cited by those who advocate closing the military prison at Guantánamo, saying it had not proved to be an inspiration for militants.” The prison fell under his command.



Make no mistake: the prison at Guantánamo is one of the most glaring and enduring moral blights remaining from our humanitarianism-be-damned reaction to the attacks of 9/11.



Trump said of the prison last month:



“This morning, I watched President Obama talking about Gitmo, right, Guantánamo Bay, which by the way, which by the way, we are keeping open. Which we are keeping open ... and we’re gonna load it up with some bad dudes, believe me, we’re gonna load it up.”



The Times also said that Kelly “questioned the Obama administration’s plans to open all combat jobs to women, saying the military would have to lower its physical standards to bring women into some roles.”



This is disturbing, but Kelly isn’t the only one of Trump’s military picks who has a disturbing attitude toward women.



Last month, The Daily Beast reported that the office of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s pick for national security adviser, “told women to wear makeup, heels, and skirts.” These directives to women were presented in a “January 2013 presentation, entitled ‘Dress for Success,’” which was obtained by a Freedom of Information request by MuckRock. The presentation reportedly made sweeping patriarchal declarations — “makeup helps women look more attractive” — and gave granular detail — “Wear just enough to accentuate your features.” According to the presentation, “Do not advocate the ‘Plain Jane’ look.”



So, in other words, while G.I. Joe is in camouflage, G.I. Jane should be in concealer. Got it. Indeed, on Wednesday, my colleague Susan Chira pondered in these pages: “Is Donald Trump’s Cabinet Anti-Woman?” She went through a litany of anti-woman positions taken and policies advanced by Trump appointees, leaving this reader with the clear conclusion that yes, it is. She closed with this: “One of the few bright spots that women’s advocates see in a Trump administration are proposals championed by Ivanka Trump to require paid maternity leave and offer expanded tax credits for child care.” But, as she notes, there is legitimate criticism that even that is patriarchal because it doesn’t cover paternal leave.



The question hanging in the air, the issue that we must vigilantly monitor, is whether the emerging shoots of egalitarianism in this country will be stomped out by the jackboot of revitalized authoritarianism.



I feel like America is being flashed by a giant neuralyzer, à la “Men In Black.” We are in danger of forgetting what has happened and losing sight, in the fog of confusion and concealment, of the profundity of the menace taking shape right before us.



That is our challenge: To see clearly what this deceiver wants to obscure; to be resolute about that to which he wants us to be resigned; to understand that Time’s man of the year is, by words and deeds, more of a madman of the year.



Addendum: I should have explicitly noted, as the link to MuckRock shows, that General Flynn repudiated the “Dress for Success” presentation."







Trump: Madman of the Year - The New York Times

Loretta Lynch’s Parting Message - The New York Times







“There is nothing foreordained about our march toward a more just and peaceful future,” Ms. Lynch said Monday, speaking to an interfaith group at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center in northern Virginia. “Our centuries-long project of creating a more perfect union was not the product of fate or destiny. It was the result of countless individuals making the choice to stand up, to demand recognition, to refuse to rest until they knew that their children were inheriting a nation that was more tolerant, more inclusive and more equal.”



She delivered a gentler version of that message on Tuesday as she sat with students at New York City’s Harvey Milk High School, which serves mainly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teenagers. She beamed as students described how they had blossomed at the school, which offers a refuge from bullying, scorn and self-doubt.



“You all are the ones who have the courage to walk with us,” Ms. Lynch told the students at the school in Manhattan. “Without people who are willing to stand up and say that they have an issue or a problem or something that has happened to them, we would not be able to move these issues forward.”



Left unsaid, but widely understood, is that the Justice Department under Mr. Trump is likely to abandon groundbreaking civil rights litigation carried out during the Obama administration. Transgender Americans will be especially vulnerable. Both Ms. Lynch and Eric Holder, her predecessor as attorney general, embraced interpretations of civil rights law to extend protections to people facing discrimination for their gender identity. In May, Ms. Lynch delivered an impassioned speech about transgender rights in explaining the Justice Department’s lawsuit to strike down a discriminatory state law in North Carolina. The department has also backed the legal claims of transgender students fighting for the right to use the restroom that matches their gender identity.



“Those cases are still pending, and we don’t know what’s going to happen to them,” Ms. Lynch told me in an interview. As she prepares to clear out her office — which could soon be occupied by Senator Jeff Sessions, a man who 30 years ago was deemed too racist to be confirmed as a federal judge — she is cognizant that other civil rights are under assault. Republican lawmakers around the country have spent the last several years creating new laws and tactics to suppress voting by racial minorities and young voters — many of which Mr. Obama’s Justice Department has fought with some success. During the interview, she appeared to acknowledge that the Justice Department may no longer be on the front lines of beating back this scourge.



“The way we achieved voting equality in this country was always from the community level up,” she said. “It was the leaders on the ground who raised these issues, who had people out there on the streets, who had people out registering people to vote.”



It is sobering to hear a departing attorney general implicitly telling vulnerable Americans that the federal government may fail to protect their rights and that they will have to do this work themselves. But any other message would whitewash the painful truth."

Loretta Lynch’s Parting Message - The New York Times

A 'legislative coup' in North Carolina The GOP-led legislature moves to sharply reduce the power of new Democratic governor Roy Cooper before he even takes office. - All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC




All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC

Trump and Putin, in the Barn - The New York Times

"The bromance seems to have started in 2013, when Trump was preparing to go to Moscow for the Miss Universe Pageant. He wondered — via a tweet, naturally — whether Putin would be going there, too: “If so, will he become my new best friend?”



Sometime later, at a conservative conference, Trump described how “great” the Russians had treated him: “Putin even sent me a present, a beautiful present with a beautiful note.” What do you think it was? A gun? Putin had given the president of Egypt an AK-47. But the owner of a beauty pageant would probably get some nesting dolls, or a nice selection of teas."







Trump and Putin, in the Barn - The New York Times

The Daily Show - Barack Obama - Navigating America's Racial Divide

Friday, December 16, 2016

John Podesta: Something is deeply broken at the FBI - The Washington Post









"The more we learn about the Russian plot to sabotage Hillary Clinton’s campaign and elect Donald Trump, and the failure of the FBI to adequately respond, the more shocking it gets. The former acting director of the CIA has called the Russian cyberattack “the political equivalent of 9/11.” Just as after the real 9/11, we need a robust, independent investigation into what went wrong inside the government and how to better protect our country in the future.



As the former chair of the Clinton campaign and a direct target of Russian hacking, I understand just how serious this is. So I was surprised to read in the New York Times that when the FBI discovered the Russian attack in September 2015, it failed to send even a single agent to warn senior Democratic National Committee officials. Instead, messages were left with the DNC IT “help desk.” As a former head of the FBI cyber division told the Times, this is a baffling decision: “We are not talking about an office that is in the middle of the woods of Montana.”



John Podesta: Something is deeply broken at the FBI - The Washington Post