Once again, Trump displays ‘a psychopath’s inability to accept that social norms apply to him’

The New York Times reports: Last fall, Donald J. Trump inadvertently touched off a national conversation about sexual harassment when a recording of him boasting about groping women was made public at the same time a succession of women came forward to assert that groping was something he did more than talk about.

A year later, after a wave of harassment claims against powerful men in entertainment, politics, the arts and the news media, the discussion has come full circle with President Trump criticizing the latest politician exposed for sexual misconduct even as he continues to deny any of the accusations against him.

In this case, Mr. Trump focused his Twitter-fueled mockery on a Democratic senator while largely avoiding a similar condemnation of a Republican Senate candidate facing far more allegations. The turn in the political dialogue threatened to transform a moment of cleansing debate about sexual harassment into another weapon in the war between the political parties, led by the president himself.

Indeed, Republicans on Friday were more than happy to talk about Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, who apologized this week after a radio newscaster said he forcibly kissed her and posed for a photograph a decade ago appearing to fondle her breasts while she was sleeping. Democrats, for their part, sought to keep the focus on Roy S. Moore, the Republican candidate in Alabama who has been accused of unwanted sexual conduct by multiple women going back even further, including one who was 14 at the time.

But the notion that Mr. Trump himself would weigh in given his own history of crude talk about women and the multiple allegations against him surprised many in Washington who thought he could not surprise them anymore. A typical politician with Mr. Trump’s history would stay far away from discussing someone else’s behavior lest it dredge his own back into the spotlight. But as Mr. Trump has shown repeatedly during his 10-month presidency, he is rarely deterred by conventional political wisdom even as he leaves it to his staff to fend off the cries of hypocrisy.

“Like everything else Trump touches, he hijacks it with his chronic dishonesty and childishness,” said Mark Salter, a longtime adviser to Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. “The intense, angry and largely ignorant tribalism afflicting our politics predates Trump’s arrival on the scene. But he has infused it with a psychopath’s inability to accept that social norms apply to him.” [Continue reading…]

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17 women have accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct. It’s time to revisit those stories

Elisabeth Ponsot and Sarah Slobin write: After a fifth woman accused Roy Moore of sexual misbehavior or assault, US senate majority leader and fellow Republican Mitch McConnell urged the Alabama senate nominee to withdraw, saying, “I believe the women.”

His visible and vocal stance regarding Moore sharply contrasts with how supporters of Donald Trump have responded to at least 17 women who have accused him of various degrees of sexual harassment, voyeurism, and assault. Their claims against the US president span three decades. During his campaign, Trump vociferously denied each accusation, adding in one instance that the woman in question “would not have been my first choice.”

Republican leaders spoke out against Trump in October 2016, when an Access Hollywood tape emerged in which Trump can be heard bragging that he could “grab [women] by the pussy.” But they did not defend the women who came forward with assault allegations against Trump, nor did they suggest their claims were credible.

As the calendar ticked forward to the presidential vote, GOP figures who had briefly distanced themselves from Trump got behind him again. His accusers’ stories faded to the background. The media moved on to other things. Trump was elected.

Now that he has sided with Moore’s accusers, McConnell was asked on Nov. 15 if he believes the women who similarly accused Trump. He would not answer. “Look, we’re talking about the situation in Alabama,” he told reporters. “And I’d be happy to address that if there are any further questions.” [Continue reading…]

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As we rethink old harassers, let’s talk about Clarence Thomas

Joy-Ann Reid writes: Long suppressed talk about the sexual predation of men, in Hollywood, politics, business, the news industry, professional sports and life in general has swept across the country, exposing decades of dirty laundry and putting an entire nation of men on notice and on edge.

“The discussion” in which the nation is engaged almost daily at this point, has exposed the rank hypocrisy of a right-wing “Christianity” that would sooner see a child molester stalking the well of the United States Senate than free its captive base to support a Democrat, and which still stands foursquare behind braggadocious predator-in-chief Donald Trump.

It has put on display the Republican Party’s radical lack of moral conviction as its leaders rush to condemn the gross, decade-old antics of now Sen. Al Franken, who has at least apologized for his past misbehavior, while they smirk from behind the cameras at Fox News where they are surrounded by anchor women in the required uniform of tight sweaters, mini-skirts, and four-inch heels. Among the Republicans ripping Franken for kissing a woman without her consent and snapping a juvenile “groping” picture in 2006: the great hypocrite Trump himself, of the “I just kiss beautiful women and grab ’em by the pussy” un-humble brag of 2005.

The national moment of self-reflection on the culture that produces such entitled men has compelled the left to indulge in its favorite ritual: curling into the fetal position as it self-flagellates over the eternal sins of the Clintons. It’s as if they’ve forgotten that the former president who left office 17 years ago indeed paid a price, including years of forensic investigation culminating in impeachment for his illicit affair with a 24-year-old White House intern.

Well if we are getting about the business of re-examining the past indecency of powerful men, we’d be remiss not to include the moment in 1991 when a woman was not believed and her alleged abuser was elevated to the highest court in the land, where he remains 26 years later. [Continue reading…]

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Low-wage workers have been fighting sexual harassment for years

HuffPost reports: Cecilia was working as a minibar attendant at a Chicago hotel when she knocked on the guest’s door and announced herself. The man’s response was quick and unequivocal: “You can come in.”

When she opened the door, “He was at the computer, masturbating,” Cecilia recalled. She was overcome with shock and embarrassment. Judging from the satisfied look on the man’s face, that was the whole idea.

“I felt nasty,” recalled Cecilia, who asked that her last name and the hotel not be identified. “You’d expect that to happen to people in a jail but not in regular work. I felt like crying.”

It wasn’t the only time Cecilia had dealt with extreme forms of sexual harassment in her three decades working in downtown hotels. A male guest once answered her knock by opening the door naked. Just a month and a half ago, a younger colleague confided to Cecilia that a male guest had tried to embrace her while she was in his room. Cecilia escorted the shaken housekeeper to the hotel’s security team to report the incident.

Since the allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein were first revealed last month, more and more women have stepped forward with stories of sexual harassment and assault at work. Their bravery in speaking out has toppled powerful men’s careers in Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Washington. But much less attention has been paid to the rampant harassment in blue-collar workplaces, particularly the hotel industry. [Continue reading…]

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The Trump sons’ delight in slaughtering wild animals


If Donald Trump agrees with Piers Morgan that trophy-hunting is repellent, should he not therefore find the behavior of his own sons repellent?

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Donald Trump’s war on diplomacy

In an editorial, the New York Times says: American diplomats in recent decades have helped bring about an Israel-Egypt peace treaty, the peaceful fall of the Soviet Union, the unification of Germany, the end of the Bosnia war and a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program. That record testifies to the power and influence of America as well as the skill of secretaries of state and other diplomats who worked to advance international stability and the national interest.

That isn’t the way the Trump administration approaches the world. Rex Tillerson is widely seen as ill suited to diplomatic leadership and determined to dismantle his own department, which has been central to America’s national security since Thomas Jefferson ran the place. The department is being undermined by budget cuts, a failure to fill top jobs, an erratic president and a secretary who has called reorganization, rather than policy, his most important priority. Given the aggressive behavior of North Korea, Russia and China in a world that seems shakier by the day, the timing could hardly be worse.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is going gangbusters. The State Department’s budget has been targeted with a 31 percent cut, to $37.6 billion, but Congress is moving to raise the Pentagon’s spending level roughly 15 percent from the $549 billion allowed under the Budget Control Act. Aircraft carriers and tanks are obviously much more expensive than diplomatic pouches and airline tickets. Even so, such lopsided budget priorities could favor military solutions over diplomacy and development.

In recent weeks, alarming new data from the American Foreign Service Association, the union representing diplomats, shows just how far Mr. Tillerson has taken things. Since January, more than 100 senior foreign service officers have left the department, depleting the ranks of career ambassadors, the diplomatic equivalent of four-star generals, by 60 percent, while the number of career ministers (akin to three-star generals) is down 42 percent. The hiring of new foreign service officers has slowed almost to a halt, and the number of young people seeking to take the foreign service exam has fallen to less than half the 17,000 who registered two years ago. [Continue reading…]

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When the right pushes fake Jews

Jonathan Weisman writes: Bernie Bernstein pretty much fits the mold of a Jew — at least as the alt-right sees us.

A strange Northeastern accent, somewhere between New York and Boston? Check. Tossing money, but not too much money, around to no good end (remember, we’re rich, but cheap)? Check. Pursuing the agenda of the liberal fake-news media? Check. Riling the worst instincts of the South’s conservative base? Check.

But there was something a little too on the nose, forgive me please, about those robocalls in Alabama from a mythical Washington Post reporter named Bernstein seeking women to dish dirt on Roy Moore, something too “Jewy” to be actually Jewish. And that’s where the rising anti-Semitism of the new white nationalists loses its punch.

He may be Bernie Bernstein; he may be Lenny Bernstein — it’s a little hard to tell from the tape. Regardless, as the Princeton historian Kevin Kruse wrote on Twitter, “Whoever’s behind this is a horrible anti-Semite. I mean, just really bad at being an anti-Semite.”

Last week, voters in Alabama — rocked, befuddled or riled by allegations that Mr. Moore, the Republican nominee for the Senate, sexually assaulted teenage girls — were treated to an electronic “robocall” that intoned, or really whined:

I’m a reporter for The Washington Post calling to find out if anyone at this address is a female between the ages of 54 to 57 years old, willing to make damaging remarks about candidate Roy Moore for a reward of between $5,000 and $7,000. We will not be fully investigating these claims however we will make a written report.

I could be charitable and suggest that the name is a play on the Post’s legendary Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein. There really is a Lenny Bernstein at the paper, a health care reporter who most certainly does not share the caller’s voice or penchant for journalistic duplicity. But honestly, I’m more inclined to invoke Occam’s razor: The most logical explanation is usually the right one. Bernie Bernstein is the creation of an anti-Semite — or at least an opportunist appealing to Alabama voters’ willingness to believe the worst about a man named Bernie Bernstein. [Continue reading…]

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Top general says he would resist ‘illegal’ nuke order from Trump

CBS News reports: The top U.S. nuclear commander said Saturday he would push back against President Trump if he ordered a nuclear launch the general believed to be “illegal,” saying he would hope to find another solution.

Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), told an audience at the Halifax International Security Forum in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Saturday that he has given a lot of thought to what he would say if a president ordered a strike he considered unlawful.

“I think some people think we’re stupid,” Hyten said in response to a question about such a scenario. “We’re not stupid people. We think about these things a lot. When you have this responsibility, how do you not think about it?”

Hyten explained the process that would follow such a command. As head of STRATCOM, Hyten is responsible for overseeing the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

“I provide advice to the president, he will tell me what to do,” Hyten added. “And if it’s illegal, guess what’s going to happen? I’m going to say, ‘Mr. President, that’s illegal.’ And guess what he’s going to do? He’s going to say, ‘What would be legal?’ And we’ll come up with options, with a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is, and that’s the way it works. It’s not that complicated.” [Continue reading…]

The question, as to whether a presidential order to launch a nuclear strike would be legal, is a red herring. The real question Hyten should have addressed is what he will do if he receives an order that is legal but nevertheless unconscionable.

Does he accept that there might be circumstances in which his moral responsibility might be to refuse to follow a legal order?

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In Bonn, Trump’s answer to global warming? Drill, baby, drill!

Elizabeth Kolbert writes: Every year around this time, negotiators from across the globe meet in one city or another—Montreal, Marrakech, Copenhagen, Paris—to resolve that the world really ought come up with a plan to do something about climate change. This year’s Conference of the Parties, the twenty-third such gathering, is taking place in Bonn, and in addition to the usual impediments to progress—mistrust, inequality, bad faith—there’s now the Trump Administration to contend with. On Monday, the U.S. delegation used its sole official appearance at COP23 to tout fossil fuels.

“Promoting coal at a climate summit is like promoting tobacco at a cancer summit,” the former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was in Bonn for the cop, observed. Protesters at the event sang songs and then walked out, leaving the hall half empty.

Also on Monday, a group of scientists reported that global carbon emissions, which had been flat for the past few years, were once again on the rise. The group predicted that industrial CO2 emissions in 2017 would total thirty-seven billion tons, which is about two per cent more than in 2016, and that this figure would likely climb again in 2018. “World backsliding on curbing carbon emissions,” summed up a headline in the Bangor Daily News.

Then, on Tuesday, the International Energy Agency, which is based in Paris, released its annual “World Energy Outlook.” One of the agency’s key findings is that global energy demand will continue to rise through 2040. Another is that, owing to technological advances like fracking, the United States is poised to become a major exporter of fossil fuels. “By the mid-2020s, the United States [will] become the world’s largest liquefied natural gas exporter and a few years later a net exporter of oil,” the agency predicts. It’s hard to say which of these announcements was the most depressing, but, on some level, it doesn’t really matter, since they’re all connected. [Continue reading…]

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COP 23: Three ways cities are leading the fight against climate change

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By Barbara Norman, University of Warwick

The global population is predicted to rise to 10 billion by 2050, and the majority of those people will live in cities. Given that cities already account for 75% of the world’s energy use and 76% of carbon dioxide emissions, there’s a growing focus on how urban planning and design can reduce emissions and help humanity to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Representatives of the world’s global powers have gathered in Bonn to attend the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change – more pithily known as COP 23.

Working together to affect large-scale change has been the key message of the conference. There has been a groundswell of urban innovation on show, largely driven by the mayors and governors of cities and regions, as well as industry leaders and universities interested in promoting opportunities for greener growth.

These bodies have formed alliances and networks to develop ideas and strategies around smart mobility, renewable energy, living infrastructure and sustainable urban design. This has been the good news story of COP 23. The conference has given nation states a unique opportunity to work more closely with cities, to plan for climate change.

So, in my role as an urban and regional planner (in practice and academia) I spent some time in Bonn finding out about the exciting ways that cities are leading the fight against climate change.

[Read more…]

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‘Leadership means knowing when it is time for change,’ says Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams

Reuters reports: Gerry Adams, a pivotal figure in the political life of Ireland for almost 50 years, said Saturday that he would step down as leader of Sinn Fein, the main Irish Republican party, after more than three decades.

Reviled by many as the face of the Irish Republican Army during its campaign against British rule in Northern Ireland, Mr. Adams reinvented himself as a peacemaker in the troubled region and then as a populist opposition member of the Irish Parliament.

At a packed party conference in Dublin, Mr. Adams said that he would be replaced as its president at its next annual gathering and that he would not run for re-election to Parliament.

“Leadership means knowing when it is time for change,” he said in an emotional speech. “That time is now.”

Mr. Adams stayed on stage as the 2,500-strong crowd, some in tears, gave him a standing ovation and sang a traditional Irish song about the road home.

Mr. Adams will almost certainly be succeeded by someone with no direct involvement in the decades of conflict in Northern Ireland, a prospect that would make Sinn Fein a more palatable coalition partner in the Irish Republic, where it has never been in power.

Sinn Fein’s deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald, an English literature graduate from Trinity College Dublin who has been at the forefront of a new breed of politicians transforming the party’s image, is the clear favorite to take over. [Continue reading…]

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Ireland will block progress of Brexit talks without border guarantee

The Guardian reports: Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, issued a stark warning that the progress of the Brexit negotiations was at great risk of even further delay, during a day of stinging public rebukes for Theresa May as she met sceptical EU leaders at a Swedish summit.

The Irish taoiseach emerged from a frosty bilateral meeting with May at the European social summit and said: “I can’t say in any honesty that it’s close – on the Irish issue or on the financial settlement.”

Varadkar said he would not be prepared to back progress of the Brexit negotiations to trade talks at the summit in December without a formal written guarantee there would be no hard border in Ireland. Britain, he said, “wants a divorce, but an open relationship the day after”.

At the summit in Gothenburg, the president of the European council, Donald Tusk, gave the UK government an ultimatum that progress needed to be made on the Irish border and the financial settlement. Tusk also hit back at suggestions by the Brexit secretary, David Davis, that the UK needed to see more compromise from Brussels: “I appreciate Mr Davis’s English sense of humour.” [Continue reading…]

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How Yamnaya nomads and other herding cultures became early forces of globalization

Science News reports: Nomadic herders living on western Asia’s hilly grasslands made a couple of big moves east and west around 5,000 years ago. These were not typical, back-and-forth treks from one seasonal grazing spot to another. These people blazed new trails.

A technological revolution had transformed travel for ancient herders around that time. Of course they couldn’t make online hotel reservations. Trip planners would have searched in vain for a Steppe Depot stocked with essential tools and supplies. The closest thing to a traveler’s pit stop was a mountain stream and a decent grazing spot for cattle. Yet, unlike anyone before, these hardy people had the means to move — wheels, wagons and horses.

Here’s how the journeys may have played out: At a time when rainfall dwindled and grasslands in western Asia turned brown, oxen-pulled wagons loaded with personal belongings rolled west, following greener pastures into central and northern Europe. Other carts rumbled east as far as Siberia’s Altai Mountains, where Russia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan meet today. Families of men, women and children may have piled on board. Or travelers may have been mostly men, who married women from farming villages along the way. Cattle, sheep and goats undoubtedly trailed along with whoever made these trips, under the watchful guidance of horse riders. Wagons served as mobile homes while on the move and during periodic stops to let animals graze.

These journeys, by people now known as the Yamnaya, transformed human genes and cultures across a huge swath of Europe and Asia. Yamnaya people left their mark from Ireland to China’s western border, across roughly 4,000 kilometers. [Continue reading…]

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Music: Jean-Luc Ponty — ‘Nostalgic Lady’

 

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Too many Americans can’t tell fact from fiction

Timothy Egan writes: It would be much easier to sleep at night if you could believe that we’re in such a mess of misinformation simply because Russian agents disseminated inflammatory posts that reached 126 million people on Facebook.

The Russians also uploaded a thousand videos to YouTube and published more than 130,000 messages on Twitter about last year’s election. As recent congressional hearings showed, the arteries of our democracy were clogged with toxins from a hostile foreign power.

But the problem is not the Russians — it’s us. We’re getting played because too many Americans are ill equipped to perform the basic functions of citizenship. If the point of the Russian campaign, aided domestically by right-wing media, was to get people to think there is no such thing as knowable truth, the bad guys have won.

As we crossed the 300-day mark of Donald Trump’s presidency on Thursday, fact-checkers noted that he has made more than 1,600 false or misleading claims. Good God. At least five times a day, on average, this president says something that isn’t true.

We have a White House of lies because a huge percentage of the population can’t tell fact from fiction. But a huge percentage is also clueless about the basic laws of the land. In a democracy, we the people are supposed to understand our role in this power-sharing thing.

Nearly one in three Americans cannot name a single branch of government. When NPR tweeted out sections of the Declaration of Independence last year, many people were outraged. They mistook Thomas Jefferson’s fighting words for anti-Trump propaganda.

Fake news is a real thing produced by active disseminators of falsehoods. Trump uses the term to describe anything he doesn’t like, a habit now picked up by political liars everywhere.

But Trump is a symptom; the breakdown in this democracy goes beyond the liar in chief. For that you have to blame all of us: we have allowed the educational system to become negligent in teaching the owner’s manual of citizenship. [Continue reading…]

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Top Russian official tried to broker ‘backdoor’ meeting between Trump and Putin

The New York Times reports: A senior Russian official who claimed to be acting at the behest of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia tried in May 2016 to arrange a meeting between Mr. Putin and Donald J. Trump, according to several people familiar with the matter.

The news of this reached the Trump campaign in a very circuitous way. An advocate for Christian causes emailed campaign aides saying that Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Russian central bank who has been linked both to Russia’s security services and organized crime, had proposed a meeting between Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump. The subject line of the email, turned over to Senate investigators, read, “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite,” according to one person who has seen the message.

The proposal made its way to the senior levels of the Trump campaign before Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a top campaign aide, sent a message to top campaign officials rejecting it, according to two people who have seen Mr. Kushner’s message.

Though the meeting never happened, Mr. Torshin’s request is the latest example of how the Russian government intensified its effort to contact and influence the Trump campaign last year as Mr. Trump was closing in on the Republican presidential nomination. It came just weeks after a self-described intermediary for the Russian government told a Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, that the Russians had “dirt” on Mr. Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton, in the form of “thousands of emails.”

Soon after Mr. Torshin’s outreach fizzled, Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, arranged a meeting at Trump Tower after being told that a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin would bring damaging information about Mrs. Clinton to the meeting. [Continue reading…]

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Hope Hicks may hold the keys to Mueller’s Russia puzzle

Politico reports: Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is preparing to interview the woman who’s seen it all: Hope Hicks.

She’s been part of Donald Trump’s inner circle for years, first at Trump Tower and then as an omnipresent gatekeeper and fixer who could get emails or other communications directly to the boss during the 2016 campaign.

As a senior White House adviser and now as communications director, she’s been in the room for moments critical to Mueller’s probe, which has grown to include the president’s response to the Russia investigation itself.

Hicks’ history with Trump makes her one of the more useful witnesses for Mueller as he looks for insights into the president’s habits and moods. She also is one of the few people well positioned to recount the president’s reactions at various moments as the Russia scandal has sidetracked his presidency — including the Mueller appointment itself.

Mueller’s decision to request an interview with Hicks — who hasn’t been named in any criminal wrongdoing — also indicates he’s reached a critical point in the overall investigation, according to former prosecutors and veterans of past White House investigations. Typically, conversations with such senior-level aides are saved for near the end of a probe. [Continue reading…]

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