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January 2, 2020

Hal Brown's blog Jan. 1, 2020 to -

This is a blog with my own opinion plus some of today's stories that piqued my interest. Click on the panoramic photos (which I took) between stories and days to enlarge them. They are meant as moments of zen.

Jan. 12, 2020

Trump took credit for Ethiopian PM's Nobel Prize because he confused Eritrea with Egypt

Eight years of Trump sucks, right? It’s terrible, isn’t it? I mean, it can’t get worse, right?
Oh, you cockeyed optimists.
As in all things Trump, it can get much, much worse. If he wins in 2020, we’re never getting rid of these dolts. Even if shit goes really, really off the rails, Immortan Don and the rest of his Mad Max crew will still be racing around the desert far into the future.
A second term guarantees the rise of the Imperial Trumps, a family cult built on the remains of the moldering corpse of the GOP, featuring all the warmth of North Korea’s Kim dynasty and a kind of Hapsburg-jawed je ne sais dumbfuck rien.
The fantasy self-image of Donald Trump has always been that of royalty, and as I wrote in Everything Trump Touches Dies, it’s just that pesky Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution that forbids titles of nobility. Since he’s not, you know, famously dedicated to the Constitution in most areas, why this one?
Get ready for Donald Trump Jr., a man who speaks the fluent asshole dialogue of the own-the-libs Trump Party, to rise to the top of the 2024 GOP primary ranks. The dynastic talk that was once treated as a joke (even by me) is already growing around both Don Jr. and Ivanka. Poor Eric is left out, but then again, he always has been. Read article

Elizabeth Warren Steamrolls Past Meghan McCain’s Interruptions On ‘The View’

The senator approached interruptions from the co-host by pretending they weren’t happening, which Twitter users lauded as a big “mood.”

Moment of Zen, The Knob, called the most beautiful place on Cape Cod with a beach that is almost always empty.

Jan. 11, 2020

Those in the movement of mental health professionals publicly warning about the dangers of Trump's psychopathology like your's truly should use measured language when describing Trump's personality and not open ourselves unnecessarily to attacks by the right wing for suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome. 

Click above for a moment of zen
Jan. 10, 2020 

Ms. Carroll, a writer who claims the president raped her in the 1990s, says that his denials have hurt her reputation and career.
A New York judge has rebuffed President Trump’s bid to throw out a lawsuit filed against him by the writer E. Jean Carroll, who accuses him of hurting her career and reputation in denying her claim that he raped her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s. 
In a ruling made public on Thursday, Justice Doris Ling-Cohan of State Supreme Court in Manhattan rejected Mr. Trump’s argument in a filing last week that New York’s courts lack jurisdiction to hear the case because he was not in New York and did not live in the state when he made the comments that Ms. Carroll says defamed her. 
Justice Ling-Cohan noted that Mr. Trump had failed to provide anything — “not even a tweet, much less an affidavit” — to support his position beyond his lawyer’s statement that “the President of the United States has resided in the White House for the past three years.” 
The judge also denied Mr. Trump’s accompanying request that discovery in the case be stayed. 
Roberta Kaplan, Ms. Carroll’s lawyer, said in a statement that she and her client were “pleased, yet unsurprised” by the ruling.

The evangelical belief that Trump is the messiah is more rampant than you think — and dangerous

The messianic entrance as noted in The Palmer Report and elsewhere:

Donald Trump was backlit by intense sunlight as he emerged through the double doors of the Grand Foyer at the White House to address the American people Wednesday morning. The sunlight was dramatically cut off as soon as he’d stepped to the podium and the double doors closed behind him. Were the cinematic lighting effects deliberate? Has the demeaning of the office of the president of the United States come to that? Until some staffer writes a tell-all book we may never know. But a man who once described himself as “the chosen one” would probably not have minded the effect, and is certainly self-involved enough to engineer it.

Entertainment - Streaming video
I'm watching Outrageous Fortune (the number one New Zealand series ever) on Amazon Prime, and when I'm done will check out Giri/Haji on Netflix.

Edinburgh, Scotland
Jan. 9, 2020

Press Watch is a new website

Official explanations have thus far been insufficient and lacking in credibility.
  • Trump is an inveterate liar, with very little public credibility.
  • So far, nobody in the administration has publicly released any credible evidence to support any of their explanations.
  • There is no evidence that Soleimani had suddenly become a bigger threat.
There’s no evidence of a normal deliberative process.
  • Trump does not pay attention to details.
  • He does not display any appreciation for strategic planning
  • The support system of knowledgeable, experienced people to which a president would normally turn for advice in such a circumstance does not exist.
  • There is no evidence that any normal procedures were followed in this process.
Reporting suggests Trump made his decisions impulsively, rather than strategically.
  • He has a history of making decisions impulsively.
  • He was angry about negative press reports related to his decision last year to call off an airstrike against Iran at the last minute, which he felt made him look weak.
  • He was angry about Iranian-backed attacks on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
  • Some officials — presumed to be Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence — goaded him by telling him the Iranians would consider him weak if he didn’t act forcefully.
  • There was apparently no discussion about what would happen after the attack.
Other than Trump supporters, pretty much everyone agrees this was a very bad, inflammatory decision.
  • None of the explanations provided by Trump administration officials provide a legitimate, legal motive under U.S. or international law for the assassination of a high-ranking government official.
  • Killing Soleimani was never pursued in the past because it was considered too provocative.
  • Iran experts have been overwhelmingly critical of Trump’s action, calling it hugely destabilizing and likely to lead to all-out war.
  • European and other international allies consider Trump unhinged and have called for de-escalation.
And Trump had an obvious ulterior motive. Continued

Donald Trump is one of those rare unifying leaders. All around the world — from Russia and the U.K. to Australia and Japan — most people don’t trust him to do the right thing. 
And that was before his impulsive acceleration toward another unwinnable and counterproductive war in the Middle East. 
Lack of confidence in Trump is a big problem, not just for Trump, but for Americans and the rest of humanity. None of our pressing problems can be solved without cooperation, diplomacy and the rule of law. America cannot go it alone in this world, as much as the nationalists would like to try. 
The latest Pew Research Center poll of global attitudes toward the United States and its president shows a wide disconnect between the mostly favorable (but softening) views that the outside world has about America and the mostly negative views that residents of major foreign nations have of Trump.

Just an observation
I can't imagine what happens with some people, men like Pence, and Nikki Haley as in the photo, gazing adoringly at this man. Pence looks like he has either a man crush on Trump, thinks he's the Second Coming, or both. Look at how comfortable Haley is with his hand on top of her hand. Body language experts would point out that her leaning towards him with her head cocked to the side indicates flirtation.

Trump needs a short leash as impeachment trial looms | Opinion

Down, but not disarmed

But though he stands accused of abusing the highest office in the land, Trump faces fewer restrictions than a storefront accountant suspected of cheating his clients. He can still issue executive orders, veto bills adopted by Congress, order the assassination of a foreign leader or put American lives and assets at risk as effortlessly as any president not encumbered by impeachment.
This makes no sense. The 25th Amendment, adopted after the assassination of President John Kennedy, establishes a process by which a president disabled by illness or injury can be temporarily relieved of his duties until those impediments are resolved. Surely the threat of imminent removal could pose as serious an impairment of sound executive judgment.
It's standard operating procedure for corporations to require that CEOs indicted for serious crimes step aside while charges are pending. Bu allowing the House of Representatives to sideline a president merely by adopting articles of impeachment would radically alter the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches.
Even so, wouldn't it make sense to require that any impeached president face conditions on the exercise of his most powerful executive prerogatives? Shouldn't some other executive authority — the president's cabinet, say, or the Joint Chiefs of Staff — be required to sign off on presidential orders that threaten to embroil the nation in war or destabilize financial markets?
I'm not enough of a constitutional authority to guess which mechanism would be most practicable and least disruptive to the legitimate exercise of presidential authority. But surely that the meager restraints currently in place are unequal to the dangerous circumstances our country confronts today.

Jan. 8, 2020

From The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne:

Hey Republicans, demagoguery won’t hide Trump’s incoherence

Photo added by me
President Trump’s incoherent recklessness is not the only problem for U.S. foreign policy dramatized this week. Also troubling is the eagerness of Republicans to fall in behind whatever he does and turn to demagoguery to paint his political opponents as traitors, a term Trump regularly deploys himself.
The surprise winner of the prize for the most mendacious and shameful partisan attack is former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley for her statement on the Democratic response to the killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani. Many Republicans — and some outside the party’s ranks — once praised her for a certain measured independence and civility.

Not this time. “The only ones that are mourning the loss of Soleimani are our Democrat leadership and our Democrat presidential candidates,” Haley told Fox News. “No one else in the world.”
Wow. Clearly this is a politician who has decided there is no future in GOP politics for anyone but a Trumpian distorter of reality and divider of the American people, even at a moment of crisis.
This incoherence (on Trump's part of course) may have one advantage for the rest of us: He seems to prefer the satisfactions of moving a joystick to the burdens of full-scale war. He wants to show his political base he’s a tough guy and an opponent of war at the same time. So, having taken out Soleimani, he used the opening that Iran’s limited retaliation offered to back off, at least for now.
His comments on Wednesday were classic Trump: a lot of tough-sounding words, self-congratulation over Soleimani’s death and condemnations of earlier administrations for not doing what he did.
He promised he would stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons without telling us how. He said he would impose new sanctions — even though the ones imposed so far haven’t achieved the results he seeks. He asked for help from the very allies he regularly scorns. “The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it,” he said, suddenly channeling St. Francis of Assisi rather than Genghis Khan.

Bolton Gave Pelosi a New Card to Play for Impeachment

Trump: Iran Is ‘Standing Down,’ but I’m Gonna ‘Punish’ It Some More


"The one tendril of good news here is that
 Trump appears to realize that starting a war
 with Iran will only make things worse for him,
 and so is backing down for the moment.
 This whole debacle illustrates how long this
 year is likely to feel, as Trump keeps on making
 impulsive and stupid decisions in an increasingly
 desperate bid to score political points going
 into the November election. Here's hoping we
 can make it across the finish line without
him getting anyone else killed."
As is the case with so many national addresses by Trump, he dedicated a significant portion of his remarks on Wednesday morning to bragging and doing victory laps, and not only on his latest confrontation with Iran.
“Over the last three years, under my leadership, our economy is stronger than ever before and America has achieved energy independence,” Trump said. “These historic accomplishments changed our strategic priorities. These are accomplishments that nobody thought were possible.”
To Trump and his team, last Thursday’s strike was yet another one of those accomplishments, further proof that this president had one-upped prior administrations, particularly Trump’s direct predecessor and political enemy. In the days since he ordered the killing of Soleimani, Trump has taken to boasting to friends and advisers how the death of the Iranian general is “bigger than Bin Laden,” according to two people with knowledge of the president’s private comments.
His comment mirrored what he’d said in October about killing ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, another death that Trump insists is a greater success than the raid ordered by President Barack Obama.

Good quote:

Much of the work of H.P. Lovecraft, an American horror and science fiction writer who worked during the first decades of the 20th century, is defined by individual encounters with the incomprehensible, with sights, sounds and ideas that undermine and disturb reality as his characters understand it. Faced with things too monstrous to be real, but which exist nonetheless, Lovecraftian protagonists either reject their senses or descend into madness, unable to live with what they’ve learned.

It feels, at times, that when it comes to Donald Trump, our political class is this Lovecraftian protagonist, struggling to understand an incomprehensibly abnormal president. The reality of Donald Trump — an amoral narcissist with no capacity for reflection or personal growth — is evident from his decades in public life. But rather than face this, too many people have rejected the facts in front of them, choosing an illusion instead of the disturbing truth.

Jan. 7, 2020
This will dispel any notion that the Iranian government might not pay attention to what Trump tweets. This is what their government tweeted tonight after their attacks.

Jan. 6, 2020
Breaking News: Little known Pentagon chief of staff resigns.

I have to wonder how this visa request which by a  1947 treaty would be automatically granted in normal times ended up on Trump's desk. "Trump Admin Bars Top Iranian Diplomat From Entering U.S.: Report"

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had requested a visa to come to address the United Nations Security Council.The Trump administration blocked
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s top diplomat, from entering the United States, Foreign Policy reported Monday. 

The diplomat planned to come to the U.S. to address the United Nations Security Council in a meeting on Jan. 9, when he was expected to speak on the assassination of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani by the U.S.

Unnamed diplomatic sources who told Foreign Policy about this move by the Trump administration also said it violates a 1947 agreement with the U.N. that the U.S. allow foreign officials into the country for U.N. affairs.

A Trump administration official called U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday to tell him Zarif would not be allowed in, a source told Foreign Policy. At the time, the Iranian government was still waiting for a response on the visa that Zarif had requested weeks ago.

HuffPost reached out to the White House for comment but did not immediately receive a response. The U.N. Secretary-General’s office did not comment. HuffPost also did not immediately get a response from the permanent mission of Iran to the United Nations.

Like I said:
Nearly all of us, frankly, have been guilty of that to some degree. In this moment of crisis, I think we all owe a debt to NeverTrump conservatives like Tom Nichols and Rick Wilson, and to mental health professionals like Dr. Bandy Lee, Dr. Lance Dodes, Dr. John Gartner and others, who have consistently warned that Trump was unstable and unpredictable, and at some stage was likely to endanger the safety of not just the United States but the entire world. Well, here we are.

Hey evangelical Trump supporters here 

Click above for a moment of zen

Jan. 5, 2020

Who talks this way? A president you say. Only in a fever dream. I need some ibuprofen.

The United States just spent Two Trillion Dollars on Military Equipment. We are the biggest and by far the BEST in the World! If Iran attacks an American Base, or any American, we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way...and without hesitation!

Click above to enlarge

Related, my tweet:

If you don't subscribe to the WaPo here's a summary of Jennifer Rubin's column "Why lying about an ‘imminent’ attack would matter"

Little Harbor Beach. Wareham, MA

There's something astounding and alarming if Trump and whoever advised him didn't take this into account and believe this was a warranted outcome: Iraq's Parliament calls for expulsion of U.S. troops

Click above for story
Related story
Excerpt: In the five days prior to launching a strike that killed Iran’s most important military leader, Donald Trump roamed the halls of Mar-a-Lago, his private resort in Florida, and started dropping hints to close associates and club-goers that something huge was coming.
According to three people who’ve been at the president’s Palm Beach club over the past several days, Trump began telling friends and allies hanging at his perennial vacation getaway that he was working on a “big” response to the Iranian regime that they would be hearing or reading about very “soon.” His comments went beyond the New Year’s Eve tweet he sent out warning of the “big price” Iran would pay for damage to U.S. facilities. Two of these sources tell The Daily Beast that the president specifically mentioned he’d been in close contact with his top national security and military advisers on gaming out options for an aggressive action that could quickly materialize.
“He kept saying, ‘You’ll see,’” one of the sources recalled, describing a conversation with Trump days before Thursday’s strike. 

Note how The Guardian titles this cartoon

Tucker Carlson Criticizes Soleimani Killing: “Who’s Actually Benefiting From This?”

Tucker Carlson stood apart from most of his Fox News counterparts by openly criticizing the decision to assassinate top Iranian general Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani. In a segment on his show Friday night, Carlson largely avoided directly criticizing President Donald Trump, but he did condemn “chest beaters” who want the United States to get involved in more foreign wars. Carlson openly criticized Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s assertion that the strike that killed Soleimani was called due to “threats in the region.”
“Threats in the region? If you don’t live in Washington, here’s the translation: That would be in hostile Middle Eastern countries,” Carlson said. “Places where American troops would never be in the first place, were it not for the insistent demands of nongeniuses like Max Boot and John Bolton.”
Carlson went on to ask four questions to make his point that he thinks the United States has bigger things to worry about: “Is Iran really the greatest threat we face? And who’s actually benefiting from this? And why are we continuing to ignore the decline of our own country in favor of jumping into another quagmire from which there is no obvious exit? By the way, if we’re still in Afghanistan, 19 years, sad years, later, what makes us think there’s a quick way out of Iran?”
Woods Hole

Jan. 4, 2014

Click to enlarge
For those of you who are rooting for me to be asked to be a regular Daily Kos writer (and get paid a small stipend for stories they decide to feature on the left side of the page) I remind you that if you register that and recommend my stories you can help me. Yesterday's story about Wag the Dog was recommended and as you see got over 150 comments and 2,717 people took the poll. Today is is one of 50 stories on the recent stories sidebar list. I make a special effort to design a thumbnail that is eye catching aware that readers scroll down the page quickly and don't read every title. Here's what I used today to no avail as it would appear that no that many people are reading the story. I can get a general idea of readership by the polls I try to include on all stories. 

Below: This is a sober and serious assessment of how Trump's narcissism drove his decision making and led to his decision to order the assassination:

Jan. 3, 2020

Two of the top salesmen of the Iraq War, Karl Rove and Ari Fleischer, also showed up. Rove, a Fox News contributor, labeled the strike a “major victory, not only for the United States of America, but also for the cause of stability in moderation in the Middle East.” Fleischer, who also works for Fox News, was even more optimistic about the attack.
“The Iranian people have been leading a revolution, a rebellion against their government knowing what dictatorship it is,” he said. “And I’m curious to see, they’re going to celebrate this as well.”
“I think it’s entirely possible this is going to be a catalyst inside Iran where the people celebrate this killing of Soleimani and puts pressure on the Iranian government to stop the terrorism, stop supporting all of the various terrorist movements it has around the world,” Fleischer concluded.
Of course the exact opposite could happen. The experts on MSNBC are saying that most Iranians will rally around the current regime and this may totally undermine those who want a democratic society. It may also harden the regime's resolve to stamp out protests. HB
Amazingly this is from Tucker Carlson:
While Hannity’s show was completely centered on unabashed praise for the president in the wake of the airstrikes, Fox News host Tucker Carlson—who has previously advised the president against war with Iran—offered a dose of skepticism. Warning that “America appears to be lumbering towards a new Middle East war,” Carlson seemed to put the blame on any potential escalation on advisers surrounding Trump.
“We have to say, it’s one that officials in Washington wanted for decades. John Bolton has made it his life’s mission to start a war with Iran and Bolton might be getting his wish,” the prime-time host said of Trump's former national security adviser. 
As for the president, Carlson said that Trump is “wary” of war and was “elected on the promise that he’d avoid war except when absolutely necessary.”
“There are a lot of people around the city of Washington prepared for this, agitating for it,” Carlson continued. “Bolton is one of many. For an awfully long time. May he be outmaneuvered by that, and we might find ourselves moving towards war despite what the president wants?

Quote from Heather "Digby" Parton's 

Bill Barr, warrior for theocracy: Why didn't we know this until now?

Bill Barr may be the most unvetted attorney general in history, which is strange since he had served as AG under George H.W. Bush and was well known in DC circles. How could he have been confirmed as the nation's top law enforcement official when nobody knew that he was a far-right religious extremist on a mission to use the law and the executive power to enforce a moral code? How many others like him are buried within the Trump administration, protecting this licentious president in order to Make America Christian Again?

Quote from Jennifer Rubin (WaPo) 

Trump has raised strategic incoherence to new levels with Soleimani’s killing

Meanwhile, if there is an overall strategy here, it is hidden under a pile of contradictory impulses. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper claimed that we acted to deter further attacks on Americans. Nevertheless, it is widely anticipated that Iran will make good on its threat to avenge Soleimani’s death. One immediate consequence: Instead of mass protests against the regime, thousands of Iranians took to the streets to denounce the United States.
In other words, Trump has raised strategic incoherence to new levels. Acting without so much as briefing Congress and despite his own party’s qualms about a new war in the Middle East, Trump risks not only war but also political blowback should Iran retaliate. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) tweeted the question on most lawmakers’ minds: “Soleimani was an enemy of the United States. That’s not a question. The question is this — as reports suggest, did America just assassinate, without any congressional authorization, the second most powerful person in Iran, knowingly setting off a potential massive regional war?”
There is plenty of reason for anxiety. We stand on the precipice of an international conflagration, with a president whose word cannot be trusted and whose impulsivity and ignorance are unmatched by any modern U.S. president. He is surrounded by yes men who command little if any respect outside the Trump cult.

I think this is better described as a  folie à deux.

Jan. 2, 2020

Fort Warren Georges Island, Boston Harbor

Salon thought this was cool enough to make it their lead story this afternoon. The comment is mine.

My picture, but also a link

Jan. 1, 2020
New Years Wish

This is the comment I posted:

Dangerous case therapists like Bandy Lee and Duty to Warn therapists like John Gartner and I have naively been waiting for a collective EUREKA moment among Trump supporters when he finally does something so obviously dangerous and unmoored from reality that only a garden slug could think it's normal. More than two years ago we were using "The Emperor's News Clothes" as our hoped for analogy. Trump rewrote the ending of the story. Instead of the crowd seeing Trump for who he is and deposing him they continued to see the non-existent glorious robes and not only that, they turned on the messengers and threw rocks at us. You did a yeoman job in trying to explain to Salon readers the nature of Trump's malignant narcissism and his other psychopathology. Unfortunately while the non-psych majors reading Salon are far more conversant with abnormal psychology thanks to you and the experts you interviewed, they already were appalled by what Trump was doing. It's like they've the doctors telling the patient I have your test results. Do you want the good news or the bad news first when the good news is that you have a terminal disease and the bad news is far worse.

By: Ted Noel MD, a Board Certified Anesthesiologist with 36 years of experience. He produces a video blog on current political subjects weekly at 
Excerpt: There has to be something truly evil about Donald Trump or the process that has led to such hysteria. Hundreds of pundits have carefully outlined how there is no rational explanation for this departure from civility. It’s so bad that psychiatrist Bandy Lee MD has declared that Nancy Pelosi “has the right” to force President Trump to submit to a “mental health hold.” In Florida, where the President resides away from DC, this is called “Baker Acting” him. A person who is a danger to themselves or to others can be involuntarily admitted to a hospital for 72 hours for psychiatric evaluation.

But we shouldn’t be too hard on Doctor Lee. She has repeatedly demonstrated that she is another ignorant loudmouth, declaring the President to be “highly unwell.” Perhaps she should read Doug Wead’s magnificent work revealing how Trump is “colorful,” but also how accusations against him will be “ground to powder by history.”

So what should we make of the infantile handfuls of sand thrown at the President? Do they reflect anything about him, or are they simply temper tantrums of children unable to function in his adult world?

(Talk about projection! We are the ones who have a derangement syndrome? This being noted, it is these kinds of perceptions that lead me to be wary of being too extreme if not ridiculous by making suggestions like Dr. Bandy Lee did about wanting Nancy Pelosi to have Trump forced to get a psychiatric evaluation. )

Music Icon Linda Ronstadt Compares Trump To Hitler: ‘Mexicans Are The New Jews’ (with video)

The 10-time Grammy winner says the president’s goal is to “find a common enemy for everybody to hate.”