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On a scale of Trump by @BloggersRUs

On a scale of Trump

by Tom Sullivan

Vice President Mike Pence in his address to the Munich Security Conference on Saturday sent world leaders greeting "from the 45th president of the United States of America, President Donald Trump." He paused for applause, his eyes turned down to the podium through 5 seconds of stony silence before continuing. Trump finally achieved what he has long wanted. "They" weren't laughing at "us" anymore.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the conference first, sharply critical of Trump's handling of international security matters. "nleashing a stinging, point-by-point takedown of the administration’s tendency to treat its allies as adversaries," the Washington Post reports, adding that the international order once led by the United States “has collapsed into many tiny parts.”

Merkel highlighted the absurdity of Trump calling BMWs a threat to U.S. security when the German firm's largest factory is in South Carolina and exports to China.

The audience applauded, grinning. Seated among them, Ivanka Trump did not.

Pence's reception in Munich echoed the cold one he received earlier at the U.S.-called conference on Middle East security in Warsaw, Poland. Originally billed as a conference of the anti-Iran coalition, the conference script shifted to general Middle East matters. Fred Kaplan writes, "Few were fooled; most Europeans, to the extent they attended at all, sent lower-level diplomats rather than heads of state or foreign ministers—a clear signal that they assumed no important decisions or remarks would be made."

The sitting president attended neither conference and went golfing at Mar-a-Lago after declaring a national emergency over funding for his border wall.

Trump began his week in El Paso, TX reciting familiar lies about violent gangs of drug dealers and human smugglers, and denial of data indicating there is no crisis.

“Just remember, what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,” Trump told the crowd when he was not trying to downplay the size of an upbeat counter-rally organized nearby by Beto O'Rourke. It's always about size.

Commenting on Trump's "official" height of 6-foot-3 confirmed in a memorandum from his doctor, a bemused Rachel Maddow displayed a series of images of men 6-foot-2 who appear taller beside him.

At his Rose Garden press conference on Friday, Trump again cited unsubstantiated claims of an immigrant invasion, bristling at reporters question his assertion of fact by fiat. And with a childish, sing-song delivery, he complained how he would have to fight to have his order upheld in the courts.

How does one even evaluate the week on a scale of Trump? What does one do with a president who likes to sign documents with personalized Sharpies and hold them up for the camera, "Look, Ma!" style? What does one do with a president best left at a low table in the corner with some crayons, construction paper, a pair of blunt-nosed scissors, and a jar of paste?


In plain sight: “The Invisibles” by Dennis Hartley @denofcinema5

Saturday Night at the Movies

In plain sight: The Invisibles (***)

By Dennis Hartley

There has certainly been no shortage of historical dramas and documentaries about The Holocaust and the horror that was Nazi Germany from 1933-1945 (on television, stage, and screen). It’s even possible that “WW2 fatigue” is a thing at this point (particularly among post-boomers). But you know, there’s this funny thing about history. It’s cyclical.

You may remember this little item? From an August 30, 2018 Washington Post article:

Ian M. Smith, a Department of Homeland Security analyst who resigned this week after he was confronted about his ties to white nationalist groups, attended multiple immigration policy meetings at the White House, according to government officials familiar with his work.

Smith quit his job Tuesday after being questioned about personal emails he sent and received between 2014 and 2016, before he joined the Trump administration. The messages, obtained by The Atlantic and detailed in a report published Tuesday, depict Smith engaging in friendly, casual conversations with prominent white supremacists and racists.

In one email from 2015, Smith responded to a group dinner invitation whose host said his home would be “judenfrei,” a German word used by the Nazis during World War II to describe territory that had been “cleansed” of Jews during the Holocaust.

“They don’t call it Freitag for nothing,” Smith replied, using the German word for “Friday,” according to the Atlantic. “I was planning to hit the bar during the dinner hours and talk to people like Matt Parrot, etc.,” Smith added, a reference to the former spokesman for the neo-Nazi Traditionalist Worker Party.

Hot funk, cool punk, even if its old junk…it’s still Reich and roll to me. Cyclical.

Mr. Smith’s sophomoric wordplay associating “judenfrei” with “Freitag” aside, there is nothing inherently amusing and everything troubling regarding his friend’s casual resurrection of the word “judenfrei”. It’s a word best relegated to its historical context; I can otherwise think of no reason it should pop up while shooting the breeze with friends.

One could surmise that the lessons of history haven’t quite sunk in with everyone (especially those who may be condemned to repeat it). So perhaps there cannot be enough historical dramas and documentaries reminding people about The Holocaust and the horror that was Nazi Germany from 1933-1945, nu? Or am I overreacting and being judgmental about Mr. Smith and his friend? After all, I don’t know these guys personally.

Perhaps the email exchange was an anomaly. Okay-so it’s documented that at least one of the people Mr. Smith pals around with is “a former spokesman for the neo-Nazi Traditionalist Worker Party.” Still-should I give them the benefit of the doubt? Could it be true what President Trump said when asked why he never condemned the neo-Nazis who incited the violence in Charlottesville in 2017 (resulting in the death of peaceful counter-protestor Heather Heyer) -that there were/are “…very fine people on both sides”?

Upon deliberation, I can only conclude that…there were no fine Nazis in 1920, no fine Nazis since 1920, nor are there likely to be any fine Nazis from now until the end of time.

That said, every German citizen who remained in-country throughout the 12-year Nazi regime was not necessarily a card-carrying party member. In fact, there were Germans who were quite appalled by Hitler’s strident (and eventually murderous) anti-Semitic policies from day one; and sympathetic to the plight of the Jews to the point of helping some of them remain hidden throughout the war, at great personal risk to themselves and their families. In that context, you could say that some Germans were (in a manner of speaking) “very fine people” (with Oskar Schindler being the most well-known example).

In 1943, following a mass roundup and arrest of the city’s remaining 30,000 Jews (who were already suffering forced labor) Berlin was officially declared “judenfrei” (last time I’ll use that ugly word in this piece…I promise). Or so the Nazis thought. 7,000 Jews managed to evade arrest and go into hiding; out of that number, 1,700 survived the war.

For his 2017 docu-drama, The Invisibles (currently making its U.S. debut in limited engagements) director Claus Räfle was able to track down four of those 1,700 persevering souls and convince them to get in front of his camera to share their stories for posterity (and none too soon; two of the four have since passed away as of this writing).

Räfle intercuts the contemporary witness interviews with dramatic reenactments (a la the films of documentarian Eroll Morris), voiceover narration, and archival footage of wartime Berlin to a (mostly) good effect (the acting vignettes do fall a little flat at times).

Still, as previously evidenced in Claude Lanzmann’s shattering 1984 Holocaust documentary Shoah (recommended, if you’ve never seen it), there is no amount of skilled writing, acting, or historical recreation that matches the power of a simple close-up as someone shares their story. And each of these witnesses (Hanni Levy, Cioma Schonhaus, Ruth Gumpel, and Eugen Friede) offers a survival tale you couldn’t make up.

There is not only considerable drama and suspense in their stories, but a certain amount of irony and dark humor. For example, one of the women recalls how she dyed her hair blonde, to pass as a “regular” German on the street. While this cosmetic revision undoubtedly saved her life from the Nazis, it nearly got her killed when Russian troops reached Berlin (the soldiers didn’t initially believe her when she insisted, “I’m Jewish!”).

It saddens me to think that within the next 25 years, all the voices of the Shoah will be forever silenced by the inescapable scourges of time and human biology; as I pointed out earlier, only two of the survivors profiled in Räfle’s film are still with us (Levy and Friede). A cynic might say the stories of these two little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, but I for one am grateful for the privilege of hearing them told.

As for those who still insist there is no harm in casually co-opting the tenets of an evil ideology that would foist such a horror upon humanity, I won’t pretend to “pray for you” (while I lost many relatives in the Holocaust, I’m not “Jewish” in the religious sense, so I doubt my prayers would even “take”), but this old Hasidic proverb gives me hope:

“The virtue of angels is that they cannot deteriorate; their flaw is that they cannot improve. Humanity’s flaw is that we can deteriorate; but our virtue is that we can improve.”


Previous posts with related themes:

Big Sonia
The Last Laugh
Black Book & The Good German
Nuremberg: It’s Lesson for Today
Hannah Arendt
Generation War

More reviews at Den of Cinema
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Vote for the future

Vote for the future

by digby

This is an interesting data point:

It has flown under the radar a bit, masked perhaps by the switch of millions of Barack Obama’s voters into Mr. Trump’s column, but in 2016 Mr. Trump did not receive support from a large segment of voters who pulled the lever for Mitt Romney in 2012. In fact, our data shows that 5 percent of Romney 2012 voters stayed home in 2016, while another 5 percent voted for Mrs. Clinton. These voters tended to be female, nonwhite, younger and more highly educated — the very voters Republicans feared would be alienated by a Trump victory when he was seeking the party’s nomination.

Most strikingly, one-third of 2012 Romney voters who were under 40 in 2016 did not vote for Mr. Trump, but rather stayed home, voted for Mrs. Clinton or voted for a third-party candidate. Among the under-40 Romney voters who supported Mr. Trump in 2016, 16 percent appear to have defected from the party to vote for a Democratic House candidate in 2018. Of course, we don’t know how they will vote in 2020, but what this means is that in the past two elections Republicans may have lost more than 40 percent of Romney voters born after 1976.

Republican House candidates performed worse among 18- to 39-year-olds than they have in decades. The voters Mr. Trump and his party lost in 2016 and 2018 represent the future of American politics. If the Republican Party becomes the party of the past — that is, of aging white men with less education — it could make winning elections increasingly difficult.

Democrats win when they embrace the future with optimism and energy. All the Democratic presidents of my lifetime won on that basis. From JFK to Carter to Clinton to Obama, it was always about aspiration for progress not a retreat to the past. These numbers speak to the opening for another successful presidential race if the Democrats choose someone who can carry that message.

By the way, there are many millions of older people who actually love their kids and think everybody's kids on the whole planet deserve a better world. They'll vote for progress too.

BTW: Data also shows, unfortunately, that a lot of younger males aren't getting this memo. It's almost all women who are moving toward the Democrats.


“What did you do when the Taliban came?

"What did you do when the Taliban came?

by digby

These burqas have no sleeves

A different perspective on the proposed Afghanistan withdrawal:
The driver of a car that was stopped in the middle of the road, blocking traffic, was shocked when a passing motorist rolled down the window and shouted at him, “Dirty donkey.”

He was even more surprised when he looked up to see that the insult came from a woman. A woman driving a car. A woman driving a car without wearing the obligatory hijab.

That was Laila Haidari, who runs a popular cafe in Kabul that allows men and women to dine together, whether married or not, with or without a head scarf, and uses the profits to fund a rehabilitation clinic for drug addicts.

Nearly everyone addresses Ms. Haidari, 39, as “Nana,” or “Mom,” and her supporters describe her as the “mother of a thousand children,” after the number of Afghan addicts she has reportedly saved.

Now, Ms. Haidari plans to start a popular uprising against the continuing peace talks with the Taliban.

“Guys, the Taliban are coming back,” she said one day recently to a mixed group of diners at her restaurant, Taj Begum, which has been subjected to virulent attacks in the local media that have all but compared it to a brothel.

“We have to organize,” she told her customers. “I hope to find 50 other women who will stand up and say, ‘We don’t want peace.’ If the Taliban comes back, you will not have a friend like me, and there will be no restaurant like Taj Begum.”

Ms. Haidari’s Kabul restaurant, Taj Begum, where men and women dine together, whether married or not, with or without a head scarf.

Ms. Haidari’s Kabul restaurant, Taj Begum, where men and women dine together, whether married or not, with or without a head scarf.CreditKiana Hayeri for The New York Times
Her nearly always crowded restaurant, on the banks of the sewage-drenched Kabul River, is named after a 15th-century warrior princess from Herat who helped rule a vast kingdom, a rare example of female power from that time.

Ms. Haidari is as unusual in her own age.

While most women’s activists in Afghanistan have been Western-financed and supported, she has insisted on organizing her political activity herself, and on her own terms.

“We need to change our own men and our own families first,” Ms. Haidari said in an interview. “Don’t think of me as a victim, like so many of our women in public life seem to be. I’m not going to sit across from the Taliban wearing hijab begging for my rights.”

Few women’s activists here challenge patriarchal social norms to the degree Ms. Haidari does, and those who do, tend to do it quietly and politely. They also tend to come from Western-educated, liberal families who support their rebellion.

Ms. Haidari does it loudly and often rudely, and comes from a religiously conservative family who married her at 12 to a mullah two decades older.

“Ever since age 12, I feel like I’ve been in a boxing ring,” she said. “Back then I didn’t know that child marriage was something unjust, even though I had this feeling I was being raped every night by a full-grown man, and that was wrong.”

Her family had fled to Iran as refugees, and Ms. Haidari bore the mullah three children there. Her husband allowed her to take religious classes, but she secretly began studying general subjects and eventually went to an Iranian university, where she earned a degree in filmmaking.

Ms. Haidari divorced her husband — under Islamic law, he kept the children — and returned to Afghanistan, where she discovered her brother Hakim living under a bridge in Kabul, a heroin addict. She promised God she would open a treatment center for addicts if she could save him, and she did, using the Narcotics Anonymous 12-step method, and a dose of tough love.
“We are face to face with an ideology, not a group of people,” she said. “They believe that women are defined as the second gender and you can’t change that ideology, so I have no hope for Taliban talks.”

Ms. Haidari’s three children, now aged 16 to 21, have fled to Germany from Iran, and while she has not been able to visit them, she is in touch by WhatsApp.

Her work is for them, she said.

“I should have something to tell my own children and my grandchildren, when they ask, ‘What did you do when the Taliban came?’”

I am generally a non-interventionist because we usually make things worse. I don't honestly know if that's the case here. I do remember that prior to the invasion in 2001, when the Bush administration absurdly took up the "cause" of Afghan women as a phony motivation for their invasion, human rights groups and advocates for women were the only one's screaming into the void about the Taliban. Now that they are resugent, they're back at it apparently:

May 7, 2016 ---New video has emerged online of a woman being publically executed by the Taliban in Jowzjan Province, Afghanistan. Contradicting reports say that the woman was accused of either killing her husband or committing adultery in the province, which borders Tajikstan in the country's northern frontier.

She was reportedly convicted in an informal court and the images will bring back memories of the 1990s when public executions of women was commonplace during the Taliban's rule of Afghanistan. In the past year the public executions, including stonings and beatings, of women have taken place.

The video was reportedly shot in March or April in Khanqa village in the Aqcha district. The footage shows the woman being forced to kneel in a desert before she is shot in the back of the head.

A Taliban militant, who has his face covered with a scarf shoots the woman with an AK-47 rifle after the verdict was declared. The Taliban and local officials have not commented on the execution as yet.

During the 1990s, the Taliban would take woman convicted of adultery to the main stadium in the Afghan capital of Kabul where the public would be forced to watch executions.

In November last year, a young woman was stoned to death in Ghor province in central Afghanistan after being accused of adultery. In a 28-second clip, the woman was heard praying as several men throw rocks at her head while a crowd of onlookers watch in silence.

Here is an analysis of the current situation from Brookings:
After intense negotiations with the Taliban, the chief U.S. negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad announced yesterday that core elements of a deal to end the U.S. counterinsurgency operation in Afghanistan have been basically agreed. The disclosed core elements are not surprising: The Taliban promises Afghanistan’s territory will not be used by international terrorist groups and the United States agrees to withdraw its forces.

However, many difficult questions remain: How fast will the United States withdraw its military forces—in as few months as the Taliban wants (militarily infeasible and strategically unsound for the United States and Afghanistan), or between 16 to 24 months as the United States seeks? Will there be a residual U.S. military force, of say 1,000 soldiers, to protect the U.S. embassy, which—wink, wink, with the Taliban’s permission—will have the capacity to conduct limited counterterrorism strikes, something the Obama administration had contemplated in 2014? Will the Taliban finally agree to negotiate with the Afghan government, as President Ashraf Ghani, very leery of the U.S.-Taliban negotiations, has been insisting? Will the Taliban agree to a ceasefire while it negotiates with the Afghan government? And will the U.S. military remain in Afghanistan (and at what strength) until the agreement is concluded? If not, the U.S.-Taliban deal will merely be a fig leaf for U.S. departure while the Afghan government and people are left on their own to face the Taliban.

I don't think the plight of the women of Afghanistan under the Taliban is considered to be much of a issue in all that. It's not even mentioned.

Maybe there's nothing the US can do about this.  But I can imagine that for women who have been leading a freeer life in Afghanistan since the Taliban was ousted from power must be very, very worried to see the US going around the government and negotiating with the Taliban for a total withdrawal. They will undoubtedly pay a big price once the US leaves.


Professional Zombie Plague Weaponizer Decries All These Zombies


If only there had been some warning.

Oh, that's right.  There were warnings. 

Many, many warnings.

In fact, for decades there have been Condition Red alarm bells being rung by the Left all across this country as loud as we could manage.  It's just that, until the Rise of Trump, is was so much more profitable for the fascist Right and their enablers in the Both Sides Do It media to dismiss America's political first responders as America-hating, terrorist-loving Libtards and go right on refining the Republican monster machine.

Until, inevitably, a monster like Trump -- who is literally nothing more or less than the physical manifestation of rage and racism and paranoia and arrogant stupidity of the Republican Party base -- came shambling off the assembly line.

And now that the wingnut apocalypse that we on the Left have been warning about for decades has come to pass, who do I see on my teevee reveling in the distress of the GOP zombies?
Rick Wilson: 'Ann Coulter's Tears Taste Delicious'

In this blistering segment on AM Joy, Trump supporters are described as "zombies" and Rick Wilson enjoys Ann Coulter's meltdown about the wall
One of the very same Republican political mercenaries who spent their professional lives weaponized the Republican zombie plague to begin with.

Because let's face it.  Building a political party out of bigots and imbeciles stupid enough and fanatical enough to fling themselves into a live volcano if Sean Hannity tells them to and blame the Libtards with their dying breath has been the life's work of Republican mercenaries like Rick Wilson.

And now that they have finally created the political party of their dreams, no matter how much smoke and mirrors they deploy or how much tap-dancing they do or how many credulous Liberals foolishly lend them credibility, at the end of the day, for Republican mercenaries like Rick Wilson, their only only real regret is that the wrong Republican demagogue got hold of the wingnut launch codes.

Behold, my Twitter Legal Defense Fund!


Rogue superpowers run by cretins aren’t popular

Rogue superpowers run by cretins aren't popular

by digby

Just saying.


Payoffs in plain sight

Payoffs in plain sight

by digby

And to think people had shit-fits over Bill and Hillary Clinton running an international charity that took money from rich people to save millions of people's lives.

Washington Post:

President Trump set up a clash with an independent agency Monday evening with his call for the Tennessee Valley Authority to keep open an aging coal plant that buys much of its coal from a company chaired by Robert E. Murray, one of the president’s major supporters.

The TVA board will meet Thursday to consider whether to close the 49-year-old plant, which operated only intermittently last year because it was no longer needed to supply uninterrupted power known as baseload. The board also is considering shutting down a 52-year-old coal unit at Bull Run near Oak Ridge, Tenn.

In a tweet Monday night, Trump said: “Coal is an important part of our electricity generation mix and @TVAnews should give serious consideration to all factors before voting to close viable power plants, like Paradise #3 in Kentucky!”

But the TVA is leaning toward the closure of the Paradise and Bull Run plants precisely because they are not viable.

The agency has already said that closing the Paradise coal plant would have no significant effect. The unit “does not provide the level of flexibility needed to balance hourly, daily and seasonal changes in energy consumption,” the agency said in a proposal. “In addition, cycling the unit off and on results in more wear and tear and higher operation and maintenance costs,” it added.

“With less need for base load resources, assets that have relatively high projected future maintenance cost and environmental compliance expenditures, high forced outage rates and poor generation portfolio fit are now the focus of more detailed study for potential retirement,” the agency said on its website. “The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Paradise Fossil Plant (PAF) Unit 3 falls into this category of assets.”

As recently as 2013, Murray Energy was delivering nearly 100,000 tons of coal a month to the Paradise coal plant. But two other coal units, Paradise 1 and 2, on the same site in Muhlenberg County in western Kentucky were replaced with natural gas generation in the spring of 2017. The Paradise Unit 3 employs about 140 people.

Murray, founder of Murray Energy and a leading donor to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, has been pressing the president to help prop up coal-fired plants since the beginning of the administration. In Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s first month in office, Murray presented a four-page “action plan” to rescue the coal industry. The plan said that commissioners at three independent regulatory agencies “must be replaced,” Environmental Protection Agency staff slashed, and safety and pollution rules “overturn[ed].”

Murray is also a customer at Trump’s hotel in downtown Washington, according to a list of “VIP Arrivals” distributed to Trump hotel staff on June 20, 2018. This list, which was obtained by The Washington Post, showed Murray and a fellow coal executive, Heath Lovell of Alliance Energy, checking in for one-night stays. Under both of their names, the hotel’s staff wrote “High Rate,” signifying they were especially high-paying.

He has literally paid Trump off, not just with campaign donations the way these people normally do. He has put money into Trump's personal pocket.

Trump's populism sure is great. He's a real friend of the working man.


Yes, he is a fan of summary executions. What else is new?

Yes, he is a big fan of the death penalty and summary executions. What else is new?

by digby

He said there should be the death penalty for drug dealers, not summary execution. Of course, that's also bad.

President Trump spoke fondly again on Friday about the practice — popular among some anti-Democratic leaders — of executing drug traffickers.

Speaking at the White House to announce that he was declaring a national emergency to secure funding to build his long-promised border wall, Trump digressed to speak about a recent conversation he had with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“Their criminal list — a drug dealer gets a thing called the death penalty,” he said of China. “Our criminal list a drug dealer gets a thing called: How about a fine?”

Trump continued: “When I asked President Xi, I said, ‘You have a drug problem?’ No no no.” I said, ‘You have 1.4 billion people, what do you mean you have no drug problem?’ No we don’t have a drug problem. I said, ‘Why?’ Death penalty,” Trump said, imitating someone who speaks broken English. “We give death penalty to people who sell drugs. End of problem.”

Trump has repeatedly praised authoritarian leaders around the world and shown a particular affinity for the punitive measures some have used against drug traffickers and users.

Last winter, he told an audience in Pennsylvania that discussions about instituting the death penalty for drug dealers was “a discussion we have to start thinking about,” again saying he got the idea from Xi. Trump previously suggested the death penalty was a way to fight the opioid epidemic.

He's for summary execution as well. It's one of the issues he ran on. He said this over and over again on the stump:

“We get a traitor like Bergdahl, a dirty rotten traitor, who by the way when he deserted, six young beautiful people were killed trying to find him. And you don’t even hear about him anymore. Somebody said the other day, well, he had some psychological problems. You know, in the old days ... bing – bong [pantomimes shooting]

When we were strong, when we were strong.”

Recall that he also said the psychopath leader of the Philipines, Ricardo Duterte, handled his drug problem "the right way."
There have been over 10,000 drug users executed extra-judicially.



Democrats plan to talk to the translators

Democrats plan to talk to the translators

by digby

I don't know if this will work, but it's a good idea to at least try. Maybe busy Americans will at least hear about the fact that their president is meeting with foreign leaders privately and ensuring there are no records of the conversation:

House Democrats are taking their first real steps to force President Donald Trump to divulge information about his private conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, setting up an extraordinary clash with the White House over Congress’ oversight authority.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the Intelligence Committee chairman, and Rep. Eliot Engel, the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, told POLITICO they are actively consulting with House General Counsel Douglas Letter about the best way to legally compel the Trump administration to turn over documents or other information related to the president’s one-on-one discussions with the Russian leader.

“I had a meeting with the general counsel to discuss this and determine the best way to find out what took place in those private meetings — whether it’s by seeking the interpreter’s testimony, the interpreter’s notes, or other means,” Schiff (D-Calif.) said in a brief interview.

It’s a development that indicates Schiff and Engel are close to taking action on the matter; key members of the majority party often consult with the chamber’s general counsel on issues that could end up playing out in court. Democrats want to ensure that they are on the strongest possible legal ground because they anticipate the Trump administration will mount spirited challenges.

The move also underscores the seriousness with which Democrats view Trump’s conciliatory statements and actions toward Moscow and its place as a top House priority as the party pursues wide-ranging investigations into the president and his administration.

In particular, Democrats say they want to find out what Trump and Putin discussed during their private meeting in Helsinki last July, where Trump put himself at odds with the U.S. intelligence community and declared — while standing next to the Russian president — that the Kremlin did not interfere in the 2016 elections.

Trump’s remark prompted Democrats to call for Marina Gross, the State Department translator who was the only other American present for the Trump-Putin meeting, to share her notes with Congress and testify in public.

Schiff and Engel have left all options on the table, including issuing subpoenas, which the White House would surely fight.

Democrats acknowledge long-standing precedents about the sensitivity of presidential communications with world leaders. But they argue that Trump’s posture toward Russia and his efforts to conceal details of his private conversations with Putin are good enough reasons to pursue the issue with the House general counsel.

“I’m not saying that I’m in favor of interpreters turning over all their notes, but I do think that it shouldn’t be up to the president to hide the notes,” Engel (D-N.Y.) said in an interview.

A White House spokesman declined to comment.

Democrats’ campaign to find out what Trump and Putin discussed began in earnest last month after a Washington Post story revealed that the U.S. president went to “extraordinary lengths” to shield his interpreter’s notes about a 2017 meeting with Putin in Hamburg from senior officials in his administration.

I very much doubt they'll let this happen. But it will bring attention to the matter which may filter out more effectively to the American people and that's part of what the Democrats need to do. The fact that Trump tore up the notes and that he's meeting privately with Putin and there's no official record is damning behavior. But I'm not sure that the public is fully aware of how outrageous his actions have been.


A problem of bandwidth by @BloggersRUs

A problem of bandwidth

by Tom Sullivan

Even the most news-inhaling political junkies among us have only so much bandwidth to spare. There are only so many broadcast hours in a day, only so many column inches in our thinning papers. The current occupant of the White House demands and gets our attention. Convictions among his associates mount as Trump scandals deepen. It is hard to look away.

Still, we are aware, vaguely, that outside our own troubles the world's percolate unbothered if not emboldened by them.

Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum urges readers to turn away for a moment from the bright, shinies holding our attention. People ask her as a historian of Soviet history about Western indifference to Stalin's rise. Why did British diplomats who knew about During the Ukrainian famine of 1932-1933, why did British diplomats who knew Stalin had confiscated villagers' grain do nothing? Or the Catholic Church? Or the press?

There was Hitler's rise, of course, and the Depression to distract us. Political calculations were being made, Applebaum explains, writing:

The audiences I speak to are sometimes unsatisfied with these answers. They want to talk about the perfidy of the Left or the New York Times, or they want to blame the U.S. president at the time, Franklin D. Roosevelt. But blame is easy. Far more difficult, both for them and for me, is to admit something more profound: That precisely the same indifference, and the same cynicism, exist today.

Yes, the West looked the other way during the 1930s, when people were starving. But the West is also looking the other way in 2019, refusing to see the concentration camps in China’s Xinjiang province. These camps have been designed to suppress the Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic minority whose status in China in some ways resembles that of Ukrainians in the old U.S.S.R. Like the Ukrainians who did not want to be Sovietized, the Uighurs do not want to be fully absorbed into the Chinese state. Like the Soviets, the Chinese have responded with repression. Previous Chinese leaders sought to flood Xinjiang with ethnic Chinese, the same tactic they used against Tibetans. More recently, the state has grown harsher, creating camps where at least 1 million Uighurs undergo forced indoctrination designed to eradicate their language and culture.

We know much more about these latest camps today than the world did about Ukraine in 1933, Applebaum explains. The New York Times and the Post have reported on them. Canada's Parliament has produced a detailed report, calling Chinese actions "a campaign of assimilation unprecedented in its scale and sophistication." China has moved beyond informants and police checkpoints, Applebaum continues, to "artificial intelligence, phone spyware and biometric data. Every tool that a future, larger totalitarian state may use to control citizens is currently being tested in Xinjiang."

She concludes:

As in the 1930s, there are explanations for the world’s lack of outrage. Newspaper editors are distracted by bigger, more immediate stories. Politicians and foreign policy “realists” would say there are more important issues we need to discuss with China: Business is business. Xinjiang is a distant place for people in Europe and North America; it seems alien and uninteresting. None of that changes the fact that in a distant corner of China, a totalitarian state — of the kind we all now denounce and condemn — has emerged in a new form.
We have less time for Xinjiang because we are trying to forestall the emergence of another one here, less-competent if not less cruel. Our domestic, wanna-be totalitarian (on the Russian disinformation model) knows instinctively the public's attention is limited. When he wants our attention, he knows how to draw it. When he's drawing the wrong kind of attention, he knows how to divert it or to lob smoke. The Internet's bandwidth may be increasing, but human bandwidth is limited. He uses that.

3G, 4G, 5G, it doesn't matter. The amount of information downloadable through our devices far exceeds our human capacity to consume and process it. This makes the 1980s, before the Internet and widespread use of personal computers seem like simpler times, before the "middle class squeeze" had more of us working longer hours just to stay in the same place economically. The world found the emotional and political bandwidth then to take on and so weaken the Apartheid system in South Africa that internal resistance could finally dismantle it.

With any luck, we will free up enough political bandwidth in the near future to be agents of change again elsewhere in the world.


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