Rachel Maddow’s new book, Blow0ut

I haven’t read Rachel’s new book, Blowout, and I probably won’t until there is a summarized version on Blinkist. ( a premium book summary service helping you to digest the key insights of books in 15 minutes.) I listen to Rachel on MSNBC weeknights at 9 pm. I like Rachel and would like to say a few words about her book, and without having read it.

I did read the following Review from Penguin Random House:

Big Oil and Gas Versus Democracy—Winner Take All

In 2010, the words “earthquake swarm” entered the lexicon in Oklahoma. That same year, a trove of Michael Jackson memorabilia—including his iconic crystal-encrusted white glove—was sold at auction for over $1 million to a guy who was, officially, just the lowly forestry minister of the tiny nation of Equatorial Guinea. And in 2014, Ukrainian revolutionaries raided the palace of their ousted president and found a zoo of peacocks, gilded toilets, and a floating restaurant modeled after a Spanish galleon. Unlikely as it might seem, there is a thread connecting these events, and Rachel Maddow follows it to its crooked source: the unimaginably lucrative and equally corrupting oil and gas industry.

With her trademark black humor, Maddow takes us on a switchback journey around the globe, revealing the greed and incompetence of Big Oil and Gas along the way, and drawing a surprising conclusion about why the Russian government hacked the 2016 U.S. election. She deftly shows how Russia’s rich reserves of crude have, paradoxically, stunted its growth, forcing Putin to maintain his power by spreading Russia’s rot into its rivals, its neighbors, the West’s most important alliances, and the United States. Chevron, BP, and a host of other industry players get their star turn, most notably ExxonMobil and the deceptively well-behaved Rex Tillerson. The oil and gas industry has weakened democracies in developed and developing countries, fouled oceans and rivers, and propped up authoritarian thieves and killers. But being outraged at it is, according to Maddow, “like being indignant when a lion takes down and eats a gazelle. You can’t really blame the lion. It’s in her nature.”

Blowout is a call to contain the lion: to stop subsidizing the wealthiest businesses on earth, to fight for transparency, and to check the influence of the world’s most destructive industry and its enablers. The stakes have never been higher.

For Rachel the bad guy in all this is the oil and gas industry:

“the unimaginably lucrative and equally corrupting oil and gas industry”
“the greed and incompetence of Big Oil and Gas “
“[the iindustry] has weakened democracies in developed and developing countries, fouled oceans and rivers, and propped up authoritarian thieves and killers”
“the world’s most destructive industry”
and finally,
“democracy either wins this one (the war with oil and gas) or disappears.”

But is this what has brought us to the point we are at today, when the world’s wealth (now mostly represented by the oil and gas industries) is concentrated in very few individuals in very few countries? Is it the bad guy that Rachel would have it?

Sure the world labors under extreme inequalities between people and peoples. But was there ever a time when the world’s wealth was distributed equally? Now I don’t know, but the little I do know about our past, the past of homo sapiens, some several tens of thousands of years, would have me say no. Certainly the answer is no for the recent past, before the discovery of oil and gas in the ground, some few thousand years, when most people shared very little of the world’s wealth whatever it was at that time with the kings and emperors and tyrants.

For the inequality that we see around us everywhere in the world today is the oil and gas industry most to be blamed? I don’t think so. The oil and gas fat cats have simply replaced the kings and emperors of the past. Men have not changed.

In respect to numbers democracy has always been on the losing side of the battle for men’s minds. Democracy has never captured the minds let alone the hearts of men and women, in the same way as has the material wealth of the earth. If you believe otherwise talk with the men and woman on their way to the gold mines in the California of the 19th. century. These men and women didn’t bring democracy with them, rather their lust for gold. At best democracy would become at a later date in our history a just another way of defending the new divisions of the world’s wealth, brought upon all of us by the rise of the oil and gas industry.

I haven’t read Rachel’s book, not yet even the Blinkist summary, but I would disagree with her conclusion that “democracy either wins this one or disappears.” If for no other reason that we are closer today to having real, world wide democracy than ever before and this is so even when the evil oil and gas industry still controls the world’s wealth.

And in any case the real battle yet to begin in earnest is that between the oil and gas industry and the proponents of global warming who would replace oil and gas by wind, sun, and water.

Oil and gas either wins this one or disappears.

how dare you! Mr. Trump!

Greta Thunberg’s speech to UN secretary general António Guterres.

For 25 years countless of people have stood in front of the United Nations climate conferences, asking our nation’s leaders to stop the emissions. But, clearly, this has not worked since the emissions just continue to rise.

“You come to us young people for hope. How dare you?” she thundered.

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words, yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing.”

“We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is the money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

She added that in her talks with leaders, she had been told that the youth were being heard and the urgency was understood.

“But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that, because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil, and that I refuse to believe.”

[Thunberg, who often appears uncomfortable in the limelight and is seen as a reluctant leader, then detailed the various targets that were being missed, heightening the risk of “irreversible chain reactions beyond human control.”]

She also took aim at the summit called by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to ask countries to expand their commitments saying: “There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here today because these numbers are too uncomfortable, and you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.”

“You are failing us,” she concluded. “But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal.

“The eyes of all future generations, are upon you, And if you choose to fail us. I say, we will never forgive you!”


[Rich countries like Sweden, where Greta’s from, need to start reducing emissions by at least 15% every year to reach the 2 degree warming target. You would think the media and everyone of our leaders would be talking about nothing else — but no one ever even mentions it.]


And then there’s Bill McKibben writing in the New Yorker of September 17,2019:

Money Is the Oxygen on Which the Fire of Global Warming Burns

What if the banking, asset-management, and insurance industries moved away from fossil fuels?

Following the money isn’t a new idea. Seven years ago, 350.org (the climate campaign that I co-founded, a decade ago, and still serve as a senior adviser) helped launch a global movement to persuade the managers of college endowments, pension funds, and other large pots of money to sell their stock in fossil-fuel companies. It has become the largest such campaign in history: funds worth more than eleven trillion dollars have divested some or all of their fossil-fuel holdings. And it has been effective: when Peabody Energy, the largest American coal company, filed for bankruptcy, in 2016, it cited divestment as one of the pressures weighing on its business, and, this year, Shell called divestment a “material adverse effect” on its performance. The divestment campaign has brought home the starkest fact of the global-warming era: that the industry has in its reserves five times as much carbon as the scientific consensus thinks we can safely burn. The pressure has helped cost the industry much of its social license; one religious institution after another has divested from oil and gas, and Pope Francis has summoned industry executives to the Vatican to tell them that they must leave carbon underground. But this, too, seems to be happening in too-slow motion. The fossil-fuel industry may be going down, but it’s going down fighting. Which makes sense, because it’s the fossil-fuel industry—it really only knows how to do one thing.….

Banking

Around the turn of the century, a California-based environmental group called Rainforest Action Network (RAN) was trying to figure out how to slow down the deforestation of the Amazon. It found that Citigroup, then the largest bank on earth, was lending to many of the projects that cut down trees for pastureland, and so it ran a campaign that featured celebrities cutting up their Citi credit cards. Eventually, Citigroup joined with other banks to set up the Equator Principles, which the participants call a “risk management framework” designed to limit the most devastating lending.

Asset Management

Every year, Larry Fink, the C.E.O. of BlackRock, writes a letter to the C.E.O.s of the companies in which his company invests. This year, his letter was about capitalism with a “purpose.” Along with making a profit, he counselled, the C.E.O.s should be running their businesses to help “address pressing social and economic issues.” Given that the rapid heating of the planet would seem to meet that criteria, some have suggested that Fink should look at his own operation; BlackRock is the world’s largest investor in coal companies, coal-fired utilities, oil and gas companies, and companies driving deforestation. No one else is trying as diligently to make money off the destruction of the planet.

So now consider extending the logic of the divestment fight one ring out, from the fossil-fuel companies to the financial system that supports them. Consider a bank like, say, JPMorgan Chase, which is America’s largest bank and the world’s most valuable by market capitalization. In the three years since the end of the Paris climate talks, Chase has reportedly committed a hundred and ninety-six billion dollars in financing for the fossil-fuel industry, much of it to fund extreme new ventures: ultra-deep-sea drilling, Arctic oil extraction, and so on. In each of those years, ExxonMobil, by contrast, spent less than three billion dollars on exploration, research, and development. A hundred and ninety-six billion dollars is larger than the market value of BP; it dwarfs that of the coal companies or the frackers. By this measure, Jamie Dimon, the C.E.O. of JPMorgan Chase, is an oil, coal, and gas baron almost without peer.

Insurance

In some ways, the insurance industry resembles the banks and the asset managers: it controls a huge pool of money and routinely invests enormous sums in the fossil-fuel industry. Consider, though, two interesting traits that set insurance apart.

The first is, it knows better. Insurance companies are the part of our economy that we ask to understand risk, the ones with the data to really see what is happening as the climate changes, and for decades they’ve been churning out high-quality research establishing just how bad the crisis really is. “Insurers were among the first to sound the alarm,” Elana Sulakshana, a RAN campaigner who helps coördinate the Insure Our Future campaign for a consortium made up mostly of small environmental groups, told me. “As far back as the nineteen-seventies, they saw it as a risk.” In 2005, for instance, Swiss Re, the world’s largest reinsurance company, sponsored a study at the Center for Health and the Global Environment, at Harvard Medical School. The report predicted that, as storms and flooding became more common, they would “overwhelm the adaptive capacities of even developed nations” and large areas and sectors would “become uninsurable; major investments collapse; and markets crash.” As a result of cascading climate catastrophes, the day would come when “parts of developed nations would experience developing nation conditions for prolonged periods.” In April, Evan Greenberg, the C.E.O. of Chubb, the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurer, said in his annual statement to shareholders that, thanks to climate change, the weather had become “almost Biblical” and that “given the long-term threat and the short-term nature of politics, the failure of policy makers to address climate change, including these issues and the costs of living in or near high-risk areas, is an existential threat.” To its credit, Chubb soon took a step that no other big U.S. insurer has managed, and announced that it was restricting insurance and investments in coal companies. But it still invests heavily in oil and gas, and so does virtually every other major insurance company.

Bill McKibben, a former New Yorker staff writer, is a founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org and the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in environmental studies at Middlebury College. His latest book is “Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?Read more »


Progressive populism, conservative populism, and the winner is, moderate liberalism

Wouldn’t that be great! Wouldn’t that mean dancing in the streets, which we haven’t done since when? since Barack Obama was elected to a second term as president nearly 8 years ago.

We’ve been living through, and still are, difficult times. In that regard it’s enough that Donald Trump is the president. David Brooks looks back from the year, 2050, and tells us what happened 2020 and what’s happened since then, things we all want to know, now in 2019.
Follow these two links:

1, Brooks: A Brief History of the Warren Presidency, A look back at American politics from the year 2050.
David Brooks has placed himself in the year 2050 and he tells us what has happened, in 2020, and since then.

2. Goldberg: Dare We Dream of the End of the G.O.P.?
Michelle Goldberg, still in 2019, brings us the words of the polster, Stanley Greenberg, who tells us with great assurance what will happen in 2020.

For what I write below I have first David Brooks and then Michelle Goldberg and of course the pollster, Stanley Greenberg, to thank.

DAvid Brooks

First David Brooks, the big events he writes about during the 2019-2050 period were:

  1. In the Democratic primary Elizabeth Warren triumphed over the other progressive populist, Bernie Sanders,
  2. Then in November of 2020 Trump’s unfitness for the presidency as well as the fact that he had tied himself down to a white ethnic national narrative that only appealed to a shrinking segment of white nationalists, meant that Warren would and did win convincingly in November.
  3. Also the Democrats won an even bigger majority in the House, and even a slim majority in the Senate.
  4. After that election, the Republicans suffered a long, steady decline. Post election Trump was reviled by everyone and once out of the Oval Office he learned he had no loyal defenders, not even his sidekicks Pence and Pompeo. Furthermore only 8 percent of young people called themselves conservatives. Republican voters, mostly older, were dying out, and were not making new ones. For the ensuing two decades the party didn’t resonate beyond its white rural base.
  5. In 2020 while the progressive populists (Berni Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), and the Republican populists (Trump, Pence and Fox News and friends) did desire radical changes our democracy, for sharply breaking with the past, only the the progressive populist, Elizabeth Warren came out on top.
  6. But the euphoria, the dancing in the street that greeted the expulsion of Trump from the Oval Office, all that quickly came to an end when Warren tried to pass her radical legislative agenda. One by one, her proposals failed in the Senate: Medicare for all, free college, decriminalizing undocumented border crossing, even the wealth tax…
  7. And when the recession of 2021 hit, things got ugly. It became evident that the nation had three political tendencies — conservative populism, progressive populism and moderate liberalism, and not one of them could put together a governing majority to get things done.
  8. With the Republicans powerless and irrelevant, the war within the Democratic Party grew vicious. Democratic progressives detested the moderate Democratic liberals even more than they did the conservatives.
  9. The struggle came to a head with another set of Democratic primaries in 2024. Here the moderate liberals triumphed easily. Progressive populism burned out as had right-wing populism before, and the Democratic moderates became the nation’s majority party.

We’re left after reading Brooks’ article with the big question, which Brooks doesn’t answer, even from the 2050 perspective, what had happened to the moderate liberals, those who had won the election of 2020, those with a basic faith in American institutions, in capitalism and the Constitution, in the classical liberal philosophy that was embedded in America’s founding, the philosophy inherited by Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’s and embodied in a millennial nationalism, a sense that America had a special destiny as the last best hope of earth. We’d like to think that this was David’s country in 2050, but nothing he says makes us, or him probably, believe it. Wishful thinking.

Michelle Goldberg

Michelle Goldberg’s article doesn’t look ahead to 2050. We’re back in 2019, and we’re still preoccupied by what will happen in 2020. Michelle introduces us to the present thinking of the polster, Stanley Greenberg who in his new book, “R.I.P. G.O.P,” makes a thrilling prediction, delivered with the certainty of prophecy.

“The year 2020 will produce a second blue wave on at least the scale of the first in 2018 and finally will crash and shatter the Republican Party that was consumed by the ill-begotten battle to stop the New America from governing.”

“It sounds almost messianic: the Republican Party, that foul agglomeration of bigotry and avarice that has turned American politics into a dystopian farce, not just defeated but destroyed. The inexorable force of demography bringing us a new, enlightened political dispensation. Greenberg foresees “the death of the Republican Party as we’ve known it,” and a Democratic Party. “liberated from the nation’s suffocating polarization to use government to advance the public good.”
I’d like to believe that, and maybe you would too.

Michelle goes on to say:
“This is not the first time that experts have predicted the inevitable triumph of progressive politics. Seventeen years ago, John Judis and Ruy Teixeira published “The Emerging Democratic Majority,” which argued that the country was on the cusp of a liberal political realignment driven by growing diversity, urbanization and gender equality…. But Republicans still have more power than Democrats, and in 2017, Judis disavowed his book’s thesis, arguing that only populist economics could deliver Democratic victories….”

Yet going into 2020, Greenberg believes that what he calls the “rising American electorate” — including millennials, people of color and single women — will ensure Democratic victory, almost regardless of whom the party nominates. “We’re dealing with demographic and cultural trends, but we’re also dealing with people that are organizing and talking to one and another and becoming much more conscious of their values,” he said.

Srtanley Greenberg

In his polling and focus groups, he’s seeing that the reaction to Trump is changing people. “The Trump presidency so invaded the public’s consciousness that it was hard to talk to previously disengaged and unregistered unmarried women, people of color and millennials without them going right to Trump,” he writes.

A resolve to resist has led many voters to define their own beliefs in opposition to Trump’s. On immigration, for example, “every Trump outrage increased the proportion of Americans who said, ‘We are an immigrant country,’” writes Greenberg. Indeed, according to recent Pew data, 62 percent of Americans say that immigrants strengthen the country, while 28 percent, a near record low, see them as a burden.

The specter of California haunts the modern right; many conservatives see it as a portent of what demographic change will do to Republican power nationally. But California can just as easily be seen as a sign of how a political party can drive itself to ruin by making a cruel, doomed stand against the coming generation. If Greenberg is right, national Republicans, fearful of going the way of those in California, may have ensured precisely that fate.


And Goldberg: “But is Stranley right? … His confidence will not be enough to lessen the insomnia that has plagued me since the cursed night when Trump was elected. But his book should be a corrective to the media’s overweening focus on the mulish devotion of Trump voters. Trump hatred is a much more potent force in this country than Trump love. “


Stanley Bernard “Stan” Greenberg (born May 10, 1945) is a leading Democratic pollster and political strategist. A political scientist who received his bachelor’s degree from Miami University and his Ph.D. from Harvard. He spent a decade teaching at Yale University before becoming a political consultant. He is the CEO of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a polling and consulting firm, and co-founder (with James Carville and Bob Shrum) of Democracy Corps, a non-profit organization which produces left-leaning political strategy.[ He advised the Presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton and Al Gore, as well as hundreds of other candidates and organizations in the United States, Latin America, Europe and around the world, including Gerhard Schröder, the former Chancellor of Germany and Tony Blair, the former British prime minister. (Wikipedia)

“Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”

Theodosius Dobzhansky, born in Nemiriv, now in Ukraine, on 25 January in 1900, was the son of a high school mathematics teacher. He belonged to a family of Russian Orthodox priests. During his childhood, Dobzhansky developed a passion of collecting butterflies and ladybugs, and was an ardent fan of outdoor activities. In his high-school days, he decided to become a biologist.

After graduating in biology from the University of Kiev in 1921, Dobzhansky accepted a position at the Polytechnic Institute of Kiev as a zoology instructor. He moved to the University of Saint Petersburg in 1924 as an assistant to Yuri Filipchenko, head of the genetics department.

Dobzhansky is now most remembered for these words: “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”

Well, that makes sense to me. Evolution as the dominant idea that would explain all life. In my ownlife there has never been a more powerful idea.

Trump has never apologized

Quora Question: Has Trump ever apologized, for example, to former President Obama for spreading the Birther lie?

Answered by Bruce Spielbauer, July 12, 2019

“Actually, your question can be truncated, as follows: “Has Trump ever apologized?” And, the answer is (of course) no. Trump has never apologized.”

Trump has never apologized for any of the damage that he has done to this nation, nor has he apologized for the damage he has done to the citizens of this nation, nor has he apologized for the damage he has done to the allies of this nation, nor has he apologized for the damage he has done to the planet, nor has he apologized for the damage he has done to the human beings who inhabit this planet.

And, he never will.

A must read, Susan B. Glasser’s New Yorker column of Sept 3, 2019

Trump’s Wacky, Angry, and Extreme August

The thirty-one days of August, 2019, offer an extraordinary catalogue of President Trump’s public meltdown.Photograph by Cheriss May / NurPhoto / Getty

President Trump ended August as he began it, with a blast of angry tweets, ad-hominem insults, and bizarre fulminations that have become so standard that they no longer receive the attention they deserve—emanating, as they do, from the world’s most powerful leader. In between retweeting hurricane-preparation warnings, Trump spent the final day of the month attacking the “Disgusting and foul mouthed Omarosa” Manigault, his former adviser, who wrote a tell-all book about her short time in the Administration; the “Crooked Cop” James Comey, the former F.B.I. director, whom he fired; and the “even dumber” former C.I.A. director John Brennan. He bragged about low Labor Day gas prices, although they were actually lower on the Labor Day before he became President. He congratulated his friend Sean Hannity for the ratings on his Fox News “shoe.” A day earlier, he had tweeted what appeared to be a classified image from his intelligence briefing of “a catastrophic accident” at an Iranian missile-launch site, a Presidential leak of secret information on social media that would have been, needless to say, unthinkable in another Presidency.

All of this took place when Trump was supposed to be in Poland, for a sombre commemoration of the beginning of the Second World War. He cancelled the trip, however, citing the need to monitor the progress of Hurricane Dorian, which was threatening Florida. Instead, he watched Fox News; tweeted nearly two dozen times before noon on Saturday, August 31st; and then motorcaded to a Trump-branded golf course for his two hundred and twenty-sixth day on the links at one of his own properties since becoming President. (That statistic came from Kyle Griffin, an MSNBC producer who keeps track of this particular niche Trump metric.) The Poland trip wasn’t even the first foreign visit that Trump cancelled last month. He was supposed to have gone to Denmark earlier in August, but he refused, in a fit of pique, after the Danish government mocked his efforts to buy Greenland—which was, of course, another Oval Office antic that, had it occurred a few years ago, no one would have believed.

Trump not only makes us believe it now but, as we approach the three-year mark of his upset victory, in 2016, his project has succeeded in such a confounding way that it seems as though Americans will now believe anything—and nothing at all. Today there are few things too extreme not to have plausibly come out of the mouth, or the Twitter feed, of the forty-fifth President. In August, Trump called himself the “Chosen One” for his confrontation with China, grinned and flashed a thumbs-up during a photo op with the family of mass-shooting victims, accused Jews who voted for Democrats of “great disloyalty,” and called the chairman of the Federal Reserve an “enemy” of the United States. He cheered the robbery of a Democratic congressman’s home and labelled various critics “nasty and wrong,” “pathetic,” “highly unstable,” “wacko,” “psycho,” and “lunatic,” among other insults. The daily stream of invective was dizzying to keep track of, and so voluminous as to almost insure that no one could, in fact, do so.

The Trumpian extremes on display in the third August of his Presidency revived a debate about whether he is descending into even less Presidential behavior, shedding the remaining constraints imposed upon him by his office and the efforts of his ever-changing staff. If it seems as if Trump is wackier, angrier, more willing to lash out, and more desperately seeking attention, that is because he is. This, at least, is my conclusion after reviewing his Twitter feed from the past month, along with his public statements, remarks to the press, speeches, and rallies. To revisit a month in the life of this President was exhausting, a dark journey to a nasty and contentious place. And, while Trump’s performance raised many questions that we can’t answer about just what is going on in his head, it was also revelatory: the thirty-one days of August, 2019, turn out to be an extraordinary catalogue of Trump’s in-our-faces meltdown.

At first I wasn’t sure that anything about Trump’s frenetic August was really different. There had been many previous months of dysfunction. He has always courted controversy and trafficked in insults. But then I looked at August, 2017, during the first summer of his Presidency, which was one of the more shocking months of his early tenure. Back then, Trump warned of “fire and fury” against North Korea and spoke of good people on both sides of the white-supremacist march in Charlottesville that culminated in the killing of a peaceful counter-protester. And yet the Trump of two years ago was different—to a degree. He was provocative and insulting and fact-challenged, of course, but to a much lesser extent than he is today. Then and now, he was boastful and braggadocious. He picked fights. But there was much less of that behavior over all—the Trump Twitter archive records two hundred and eighty-seven Trump tweets and retweets in August, 2017, compared to six hundred and eighty in August, 2019—and the volume seems to have been turned up along with the frequency. Today’s Trump is not just more prone to misspeaking and stumbling, he is also more overtly confrontational more of the time, more immersed in a daily cycle of Presidential punditry, and more casually incendiary with his words and sentiments.

Is he finding it harder to break through? Does he simply have fewer meetings on his schedule and more free time? Maybe it is all of the above. Trump has such little confidence in his third and current chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, that he’s still not removed Mulvaney’s title of “acting” White House boss, more than eight months into his tenure. It’s also true that the outrage cycle that his Presidency has become requires more fuel than it did two years ago, when the wacky pronouncements and shrill insults emanating directly from the Oval Office were still seen as a shocking novelty. Sure enough, the anger and abuse have dramatically and notably increased. Two years ago, Trump used his feed to criticize, belittle, or humiliate specific targets fourteen times in the month of August. (Interestingly, many were Republican senators who were still offering him resistance, including “publicity-seeking Lindsey Graham,” who is now one of his most faithful public promoters, and the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, whom Trump disparaged as a “loser.”) In August of this year, the number shot up: the President made or shared fifty-two direct insults on his Twitter feed, by my count. Many were aimed at individual members of the media—from “Crazy Lawrence O’Donnell,” of MSNBC, to “Lunatic” Chris Cuomo, of CNN, to “Psycho” Mika Brzezinski, of MSNBC, and “pathetic” Juan Williams, of Fox. Other targets who were singled out included “the Three Stooges running against me in the G.O.P. primary”; Denmark; NATO; the euro; “car company executives”; “Sleepy Joe Biden” (August 10th: “Does anybody really believe he is mentally fit to be President?”); Beto O’Rourke; liberal Hollywood, “the true racists”; the “anti-Semite” Representative Rashida Tlaib; the “nut job” Anthony Scaramucci, the former Trump White House communications director who finally broke with his former boss last month; and, in a retweet to start off the month, “the nipple-height mayor of Londonistan.”

Another frequent target was the Federal Reserve and its Trump-appointed chairman, Jerome Powell. For months, Trump has been crusading against Powell in what appears to be an unprecedented public-pressure campaign to turn the Fed into an arm of the President’s reëlection campaign. In August, Trump’s focus on the Fed dramatically escalated, as fears mounted about a slowing economy and the intensifying trade war with China. I counted thirty separate tweets by Trump in August criticizing Powell or the Fed in which the President variously referred to “clueless Jay Powell,” complained about Powell’s “horrendous lack of vision,” and, most strikingly, on August 23rd, blamed the Fed for China’s alleged currency manipulation. On that day, Trump tweeted, “My only question is who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or Chairman Xi?”

Of course, Trump’s biggest enemy and most frequent target, two years ago and today, remains what he called the “Corrupt and Fake News,” at 5:46 P.M. on August 27th, and the “Fake & Corrupt News,” three minutes later. All told, “#CROOKEDJOURNALISM,” as he called it on August 18th, was the subject of twenty-six complaining tweets in August, 2017—and eighty this August. This escalation seems to be by design, rather than the result of indiscipline or passing fits of anger, at least in the sense that, as Trump himself said in a tweet last month, he hopes his criticism of the media will be one of the lasting accomplishments of his tenure. “When the ‘Age of Trump’ is looked back on many years from now, I only hope that a big part of my legacy will be the exposing of massive dishonesty in the Fake News!” There is little doubt that Trump has also decided to explicitly attack the media as part of his reëlection campaign, a plan that he broadcast in an August 10th tweet, writing, “Never has the press been more inaccurate, unfair or corrupt! We are not fighting the Democrats, they are easy, we are fighting the seriously dishonest and unhinged Lamestream Media. They have gone totally CRAZY.”

At August’s G-7 summit, in Biarritz, France, Trump even claimed that other world leaders were commiserating with him about negative coverage by the American press. “The question I was asked most today by fellow World Leaders, who think the USA is doing so well and is stronger than ever before, happens to be, ‘Mr. President, why does the American media hate your Country so much? Why are they rooting for it to fail?’ ” None of those leaders stepped forward to validate Trump’s claim, although many were subject to another, perhaps surprising, aspect of his Twitter feed: the increasing tendency to use it as a vehicle not only for threats and critiques but also for blandishments and over-the-top praise. This, too, seems more purposeful, or at least more self-consciously executed, than many of Trump’s critics would allow. On Saturday, during his end-of-month social-media spree, he methodically ticked off a list of tweets and retweets individually praising most of the members of the Senate Republican Conference (including targets of his ire two Augusts ago, such as McConnell and Graham).

Like his insults, Trump’s praise has become more flamboyant, and the list of those whom he Twitter-flattered this August included populist nationalists, such as India’s Narendra Modi and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro; the “great leader” and “good man” Xi Jinping, of China; and the shambolic and duplicitous new pro-Brexit British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. The naïveté of his praise is sometimes as alarming as the vitriol of his hatred. On August 15th, with fears rising of a Chinese crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong, Trump tweeted, “If President Xi would meet directly and personally with the protesters, there would be a happy and enlightened ending to the Hong Kong problem. I have no doubt!” On August 10th, he revealed a letter from Kim Jong Un in which the North Korean dictator “very nicely” asked for a meeting while offering a “small apology” for his latest missile tests and claimed that the tests would end when U.S.-South Korean military exercises did. (They did not.)

Two years ago, the President’s use of Twitter was still so unprecedented that his aides would warn journalists and foreign counterparts not to take it too seriously. But now, as the President’s online pronouncements and stream of daily commentary have almost subsumed regular policymaking, few dispute the significance of having an around-the-clock, unfiltered Presidential feed. It is, therefore, all the more striking that Trump’s major policy preoccupation this past August—his trade war with China—was the subject of his most contradictory, confusing, and hard-to-parse statements. I counted more than forty tweets mentioning China last month. They veered wildly, almost day to day and hour to hour, on whether a deal or a whole new round of tariffs was imminent. On August 23rd, Trump issued a decree that stands out as his most remarkable: at 10:59 A.M., he directed U.S. corporations, via Twitter, to shut down their business with China. “Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China,” he wrote. Markets, as they did repeatedly throughout the month of confusing Presidential commentary, swooned.

But it seems that the markets have moved on. And so, probably, have you. We’re barely forty-eight hours into September, and the President has already claimed that he’s never heard of a Category 5 hurricane; got into a public spat with the star of the sitcom “Will & Grace”; congratulated Poland on the anniversary of the Nazi invasion, in 1939; and played more golf at a Trump resort. The election, if you are counting, is four hundred and twenty-six days away.

Susan B. Glasser is a staff writer at The New Yorker, where she writes a weekly column on life in Trump’s Washington.

waiting for the democratic candidate who can lead a moral uprising

I somehow missed this at the time. David Brooks’ op piece inThe NYTimes of August 1, Marianne Williamson Knows How to beat Trump. I was struck by his article but quickly put it aside and only now one month later am getting back to it. Brooks had just heard Marianne Williamson at the Second Democratic Debate on July 31, who said, while speaking of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, that the water crisis, “was part of the dark underbelly of American society — the racism, the bigotry.”

By her words Wlliamson raised the important question, just how much racism and bigotry are embedded in our society? It’s not too difficult to see that Donald Trump’s almost daily racist and bigoted tweets are proof enough of what she is saying.

As a result one might think, as does Williamson, that the 2020 election should be all about confronting and overcoming a racist and bigoted president, not most about as it now seems policy questions such as immigration, health care, the economy and jobs, infrastructure, et al. let alone Trump’s wall which even today Trump himself was once again talking about, having stolen money for the wall from USArmy funds.

Brooks says we have been all subtly corrupted by our president. And that the Democrats in particular have not risen to what are the real needs of the moment. The Democrats don’t know how to speak on Trump’s level. … And then there is the even bigger problem, that being the culture of the Democratic Party. The modern version of the party emerged during the Great Depression to solve one problem: material want. It is a secular party, trapped in a Lockean prison. The Democratic candidate, Marianne Williamson seems to understand this and is running her own spiritual crusade, not an economic redistribution effort…

And Williamson is right about this, as she says, “We’ve never dealt with a figure like this [Trump] in American history before. This man, our president, is not just a politician; he’s a phenomenon. And an insider political game will not be able to defeat him. … The only thing that will defeat him is if we fashion a phenomenon of equal force, that phenomenon being a moral uprising of the American people.”

And while apparently not ready for it, it falls upon the Democrats to arouse the American people to rebuild the moral infrastructure of our country, to promote the country’s traditional values, such as: Unity, We’re one people; Honesty, We respect the truth; Pluralism, We treasure members of all races and faiths; Sympathy, Our daily lives are marked by kindness. and finally, Opportunity, That all children be given an open field and a fair chance in the great race of life.

Marianne Williamson, September 5, 2019:


It’s not a plan or policy competition. The conversation needs to go beyond not just who has the best plan, but to who has the greatest ability to harness the excitement, the enthusiasm and the inspiration of the American people in such a way as to override the anti-democratic forces that confront us. I don’t presume to be able to analyze what is going on inside the president’s mind. I just know how important it is to make him irrelevant as soon as possible.”

And Brooks concludes by asking if there is just one Democrat among the candidates who can lead an uprising to restore these values. After all aren’t these the values of decency, rough trodden for two and one half years by president Trump? And Brooks says, although we haven’t yet identified him or her, there must be one individual who can be the phenomenon the country now needs. So yes we are still looking, just prior to the third Democratic debate on September, 12 to identify, and recognize him or her.

Reading once again Herodotus

The recent NRA encouraged but otherwise mindless shootings at El Paso and Odessa, Texas, came to mind while reading Herodotus (I’m making a major effort to read the great books, some of them anyway, in the years left me for such).
I’ve had most of the great books on my shelves for most of my life, years and years, and they’re still with me right now on our bookshelves here in Tampa, FL but I’ve only tasted them, often yes, but only rarely swallowed them whole and digested them. So it’s about time. That life-long education we talk so much about. pbw

I take the following passage from Jennifer Roberts’s. Herodotus: A Very Short Introduction

Our roving reporter, a thinker and traveler of insatiable curiosity, catches us up in his narrative by the intensity of his contagious thirst for knowledge. Whether about the true story of the abduction of Helen (she was never, Herodotus says, in Troy, but remained in Egypt throughout the war), the way the Scythians buried their kings (with many retainers), …

how the Trausians greet the birth of a baby (mourning the sufferings it will have to endure),

how the Greeks and Persians came to blows (a very long story indeed), Herodotus wants to know. He would have heartily agreed with Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuściński (who travelled all over the world with a copy of The Histories) that ‘Without trying to enter other ways of looking, perceiving, describing, we won’t understand anything of the world.’ And he imparts this burning desire to us as we read, for he not only wants to know about the broad diversity of customs and values in the world; he wants us to know too. A conspicuous lack of Greek chauvinism undergirded Herodotus’s ethnography and spurred it on. Yet for all his tolerance, for all his praise of individual Persian customs… –

the writer greatly approves their practice of keeping a boy from his father for the first five years of his life, lest it be too upsetting to him if the child should die

he nowhere suggests that Eastern autocracy is as viable an institution (attention Donald Trump) as the variety of more broadly based governments that marked the Greek world.

The country I love , which one is it?

Well I know for sure that It’s not this one where there are tens of thousands of white supremacist losers like these three pictured below.

No, it’s another one entirely, this one, our country, that is not building a wall but welcoming at the border with Mexico the waves of immigrants and refugees coming here on foot from the countries of the Northern Triangle.

Liberté, Égalité, et Fraternité