Friday/ what happened to Jamal Khashoggi?

‘The Greatest Stories from the Arabian Nights’: a childhood book that I have vivid memories of. Saudi society is difficult for outsiders to comprehend to this day. Saudi Arabia invaded Yemen in 2015 (with a coalition of other Arab states). The war has brought terrible suffering to Yemeni civilians (mass starvation), and is on-going. Osama bin Laden was a member of a wealthy Saudi family until 1994. And 15 of the 19 attackers on 9/11 in 2001, were Saudi Arabian nationals.

Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi (59) entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2, to obtain documents necessary to marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.  He was not seen again after that.

Turkish authorities believed he was killed in the Consulate that same day. (He had often been critical of the Saudi government).

Was the killing ordered by someone in the Saudi government?
Will there be a ‘thorough, transparent, and timely investigation’ as promised by Saudi officials to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo?
Will there be ‘severe consequences’, as promised by President Trump?

The world is watching.

Thursday/ early voting has started

Early voting for the all-important Nov 6 midterm elections has started in many places. Some districts report that three times as many early voters have shown up so far, compared to the  2014 midterm elections.

That sounds good for the Democrats .. but in other places, Republican governors and their administrators are engaging in aggressive efforts to purge voter roles (remove voters that say, have not voted recently).  Let’s give a special shout-out to the United States Supreme Court with its recent 5-4 ruling in Hustad v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, that has enabled all of this.

In spite of all of this, I dearly hope that there is still going to be a Blue Wave that will put a brake on the destruction of our democracy, wrought by the Trump Administration.

Monday/ ‘better for the American people’

A landmark report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change, is pointing to worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040.   There is also the set of  global goals for sustainable development, shown below.  (A sample: donate what you do not use | do not waste food, or water | vaccinate yourself & your family | call out sexist or racist language or behavior | recycle | bike, walk or use public transportation | plant a tree | avoid using plastic bags).

So we can all contribute, but powerful governments and corporations can have the biggest impact. The United States Federal Government with Trump at the helm is of course absolutely no help at all* (we will hopefully start to correct that in November, and get them out altogether in 2020). In the meantime, at least some State governments and cities are stepping up and the right thing.

*The State Dept: ‘We reiterate that the United States intends to withdraw from the Paris agreement at the earliest opportunity absent the identification of terms that are better for the American people’.  Really. ‘The American people’ .. they are not humans? And pray what planet will they live on in 2040? We will all be on Mars?


Friday/ the US Supreme Court: about to take a hit

After another week of national gnashing of the teeth, pulling of the hair and a fake FBI investigation, Senate Republicans are on now the brink of putting Judge Kavanaugh on the US Supreme Court, to join Clarence Thomas.

Trump’s nominee is opposed by 47% of the citizenry (41% in favor), by thousands of law professors, by a church council representing 40 million, by the American Civil Liberties Union, by the President of the Bar Association, by his own Yale Law School, by retired Justice Stevens, and by Human Rights Watch. The nomination is in violation of Title 18 U.S. Code § 1001 & 1621. This is a democracy at work?

It’s official. [From the New York Times homepage, Saturday]. The consequences of this confirmation will likely reverberate a long time in American politics. Writes David Faris in The Week: ‘The combination of bad faith and procedural manipulation by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his allies during this process is unlikely to ever be forgotten by any Democrat currently breathing air as a sentient adult’.

Sunday/ Vote ‘Em Out

So with September out the back door, it’s now only October between us and the important Nov 6. midterm elections here in the United States.

I see Beto O’Rourke (Democrat) had country music icon Willie Nelson (85) perform at one of his campaign rallies.  This is in deep-red Texas, to beat out sitting Senator Ted Cruz.  Nelson sang a ditty called Vote ‘Em Out.

Hopefully, scores of more young people have realized these last two years that they have to exercise their power at the ballot box.  In 2016, Hillary Clinton got 65 million votes and Donald Trump 62 million.  Another 100 million eligible voters in the country did not vote. Oy.

Headline & picture from a report on the news analysis site

Thursday/ spare us your indignation

Kavanaugh in his emotional 50 minute opening address: ‘.. the Democrats will reap the whirlwind for decades to come’. Stephen Colbert (on the Late Show) to Kavanaugh (pointing with his finger at the camera): ‘Spare us your indignation, sir. This IS the whirlwind – and President Trump & the Republicans are responsible for it’.

There were fireworks and high drama at the Kavanaugh hearings today.

From the NYT Editorial Board: What a study in contrasts: Where Christine Blasey Ford was calm and dignified, Brett Kavanaugh was volatile and belligerent; where she was eager to respond fully to every questioner, and kept worrying whether she was being “helpful” enough, he was openly contemptuous of several senators; most important, where she was credible and unshakable at every point in her testimony, he was at some points evasive, and some of his answers strained credulity.

What I believe: Judge Kavanagh drank beer like a fish in high school & college, to the point that he blacked out.  Who knows how many times. Of course: he denied it; refused today to say how many beers are ‘too many’. He possibly assaulted Christine Blasey Ford, and forgot about it, or he now chooses to have forgotten about it.  He refuses to agree that the FBI (it’s standard procedure) should look into Ford’s claims. Ford is only one of three women accusing him of misconduct, and all want the FBI to investigate.  It does not add up for Kavanaugh.

Update Fri 9/28: There is going to be an FBI investigation into Ford’s claims, after all. They would have to work quickly: they only have one week.

Wednesday/ America’s ‘Himpathy*’ reckoning

*Himpathy: the inappropriate and disproportionate sympathy that powerful men often enjoy in cases of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, homicide and other misogynistic behavior. Kate Manne uses the word in an opinion piece in the NYT.

Thursday morning, all eyes will be on the hearing of Dr Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony and (Supreme Court nominee) Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony, before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington DC.

Thursday/ flashbacks to 1991

I had not yet settled in the USA in 1991, but I knew about the testimony of Anita Hill in the hearings for then-nominee for Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas. Well, it’s happening again.  Christine Blasey Ford is accusing Trump’s nominee for Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, of sexually assaulting her as a teenager.

There is a difference, though: this time around the President of the United States is a known harasser (or worse) of women .. and since late 2017, the #MeToo movement has forced many powerful men to face up to the consequences of their abuse of women.

So we’ll see what happens. There may – or may not – be hearings next week. Like most Democrats I am an Absolutely Not-No Way-No HowNO‘ on Kavanaugh*- but I don’t get to vote on it.

*He’s been caught lying to the Senate, even before all of the latest allegations, and he’s a hard-line conservative. He also is of the opinion that a sitting President cannot be subpoenaed, nor indicted. No wonder Trump wants him to join the Supreme Court.

That’s Kavanaugh on the right. On the left is Ed Whelan, president of the think tank Ethics & Public Policy Center and former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who spent much of the week hinting that he could disprove Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations that Kavanaugh had drunkenly assaulted her at a party when the two were teenagers. By Friday Whelan had retracted his story and apologized. [From Yahoo News]

Friday/ Manafort the conspirator, to cooperate

It’s really too much to keep track of, all the crimes and guilty pleas of Trump’s associates, but this is a big one.

Today, Paul Manafort (Trump’s 2016 campaign manager), already found guilty of tax evasion and money laundering, plead guilty to additional charges of ‘conspiracy against the United States’ and ‘conspiracy to obstruct justice (witness tampering)’.
And: Manafort will cooperate with Special Counsel Mueller’s investigators.

Manafort was present at the June 2016 meeting with the Russians (with Donald Trump Jr and Son-in-law Jared Kushner also in attendance). He knows if Trump Senior knew about the meeting. 

What will Trump do, now that even more chickens have come home to roost*?
It really does not look like his nightmare of a presidency will make it to 2020.

*An expression that is 500 years old. The older fuller form was ‘curses are like young chickens; they always come home to roost’. Your offensive words or actions are likely at some point to rebound and hurt you.

Monday/ 10 years after 2008 (it is still the end of the world as we knew it)

The filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection by financial services firm Lehman Brothers – ten years ago this week (Sept. 15, 2008) – remains the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history. Lehman held over US$600 billion in assets. The fall-out from the 2008 crisis reverberates to this day through global politics. It gave us Donald Trump, Brexit, extreme nationalism, the blaming of immigrants for economic misfortunes.

Here is Philip Stephens in a column in the Financial Times newspaper (headquartered in London):
‘Historians will look back on the crisis of 2008 as the moment the world’s most powerful nations surrendered international leadership, and globalisation went into reverse. The rest of the world has understandably concluded it has little to learn from the West. Many thought at the time that the collapse of communism would presage the hegemony of open, liberal democracies. Instead, what really will puzzle the historians is why the ancien régime was so lazily complacent – complicit, rather – in its own demise’.


Wednesday/ uncharted waters

Fear: which one?- Trump’s fear of the Special Investigator? Fear of what Trump might do? The angst of the White House staff? Of the white people that got Trump elected in the first place?

Some say the constitutional crisis for the United States has been here for awhile, already. (Cannot get rid of a manifestly unfit-for-office President, because his party protects him). Others say it is still in the making.

But something must be seriously, seriously screwed up when senior administration officials write alarming, anonymous op-eds in the New York Times.

And when, almost every week, a book comes out that describe utter dysfunction & mayhem in the White House.  The latest book is by none other than investigative journalist Bob Woodward, famous for his work on Watergate, and with The Washington Post since 1971. There is no denying his reporting.

Democracy as we know it, teetering on the edge? Picture from the Op-Ed in the New York Times. Treason! tweeted Trump. And: the NYT must reveal to him who the source is. (Ha ha. Yes, I’m sure they will, King Trump).

Sunday/ trying some ScoMo, down under

Australia has had a turbulent week in politics, one that saw prime minister Malcolm Turnbull ousted on Friday. Scott Morrison was voted in by parliament as the country’s 30th prime minister.

Morrison’s political views are socially conservative (he abstained from the vote for legalizing same-sex marriage earlier this year). I read in Wikipedia that Morrison is from the Liberal Party of Australia, ‘a major centre-right liberal conservative political party in Australia’  .. a description which I find confusing!  Anyway: the centre-left party in Australian politics, is the Australian Labor Party (ALP).

Let me try to interpret this political cartoon: That’s new Australian PM Scott Morrison (nickname ScoMo) on the far right. He is offering detergent (a play on a popular detergent called Omo) to his main challenger that lost, Peter Dutton (middle). On the left might be James McGrath, a Turnbull supporter that turned against him (Turnbull). The ‘big on whiteness’ might be a tongue-in-cheek reference to the almost-all white constituents in the Division of Cook that Morrison has been representing since 2007 before becoming Prime Minister. (At least I hope that is all that it is).  [Source: The Weekend Australian; by cartoonist Liement].

Saturday/ John McCain : a patriot, a paradox

Key moments from John McCain’s life. [Source: The Weekend Australian]
Legendary US Senator John McCain (81) passed away on Saturday after a long battle with brain cancer.  I did not agree with the man’s politics*, but he was a survivor, for sure. Even before he was shot down in Vietnam as a Navy pilot, there was the 1967 USS Forrestal aircraft carrier fire disaster.  And in his political career, he survived the Keating Five corruption scandal in 1989.

*There was that famous midnight thumbs-down for the ‘Skinny Repeal’ of Obamacare. But the reason McCain gave, was that it was not done by ‘regular order’. Or it could have been motivated purely by revenge against Trump, for disparaging him as a war hero.

There are many more revealing details about his life in this article that Tim Dickinson wrote for Rolling Stone in 2008 when McCain ran against Obama.

Tuesday/ Trump: now an unindicted co-conspirator

Whoah. There is now irrefutable evidence that Trump conspired to influence (read: steal) the election in November 2016. (And this does not even involve the Russians or the June 2016 Trump tower meeting).

Per sworn testimony in court today: Trump instructed his ‘fixer’ personal lawyer Michael Cohen to pay hush-money to two women in October of 2016, so that they would not reveal their sexual relationships with him. This was in the wake of the tape with the infamous Billy Bush ‘locker-room’ banter. Then Trump lied about it on Air Force One, saying that he doesn’t know anything about it. (Sidenote: Trump lies to everyone, and his supporters lie to themselves).

Meanwhile, over in Virginia, the jury found Paul Manafort guilty on 8 of 18 charges today.  There are now five close Trump associates that have plead guilty or have been found guilty. (‘I hire the best people’). They are National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Campaign Aide George Papadopoulos, Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, Deputy Campaign Chairman Rick Gates, and Personal Lawyer Cohen.

What should happen next, is that the Republican-controlled House and the Senate hold hearings, and then start impeachment proceedings.
I’m not holding my breath, though.

The New York Times home page today.

Friday/ the jury is still out ..

.. in the Manafort* case. They have been deliberating for two days, and will resume on Monday. Court-watchers say that if the deliberations drag on into Wednesday, there would be cause for concern.

‘If Trump pardons Manafort (after maybe having promised a pardon to get him not to cooperate) and gets away with it, then we’re in a banana republic. We just are’. – Senator Chris Murphy (Connecticut)

*Paul Manafort (69), Trump’s ex-campaign manager.  The jury is deciding his guilt or innocence on 18 tax and bank fraud charges, related to his consulting work for pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine.

The evidence presented against Manafort is very strong. His defence lawyers really did not have much to work with. So why did Manafort not make a plea deal with Special Investigator Robert Mueller? is the question. He very well might spend the rest of his life in jail.

President Trump could offer him a pardon (which would be pretty outrageous, to be sure).
Asked about it, Trump said ‘I don’t talk about that. I think it’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort’.

Wednesday/ a student protest in 1969

The 6th floor in Seattle Central Library houses large collections of bound magazines, some more than 100 years old.

Oops! I realized today, my library books are overdue, better take them back. I hopped on the bus to the Seattle Central Library downtown. Mission accomplished as far as returning the books, I meandered through the treasure trove of magazine racks on the 6th floor. Hmm, here’s Weyerhaeuser World magazine. I worked there for four years, when I first came to the Seattle area, so let’s see what happened in 1969.

Check it out below: a report of a student protest at the University of Washington here in Seattle. The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) protested against American imperialism – in the time of the Vietnam war and all that, after all. This protest was specifically against  Weyerhaeuser’s ‘exploitation of 12 million black South Africans’.  I’m not sure if the workers deemed not to be paid fair wages, or if it was about their working conditions. It could have been both. For a long time in those years, wage earners in South Africa, especially in the mining industry, were treated very unfairly.

Anyway: the SDS splintered up and disbanded at the end of 1969, but was an important influence on student activist groups in the decades that followed. A new incarnation of SDS was founded in 2006. My advice to young people: protesting is fine and well, but the nature of the beast is : you really have to vote.  Only 40% of eligible voters typically vote in midterm elections. For young people, it could be as low as half that again: 20%.


Tuesday/ no end to Trump’s insults

Trump’s ex-senior advisor Omarosa*  must have struck a nerve, the way he viciously lashed out at her, in a tweet this morning. Who talks like this? Is this the way a President should talk? asked journalists of Press Secretary Huckabee-Sanders. Her answer was basically that Trump is an equal-opportunity insulter.

Mr President: your term will end, or you will be impeached – and then many of us (most of us) will celebrate in the streets, all over America. And then these tweets will remain as a monument to the classless and ugly President you have been, every single day.

*Her full name is Omarose Manigault-Newman. She became famous on Trump’s Apprentice reality TV show. She was fired from the White House in December 2017.  It turned out she has a recording of the firing, done by Chief of Staff John Kelly in the Situation Room. She says she has other recorded conversations, as well. She has also just published a book called ‘Unhinged’ .. a reference to Trump, of course.

Wednesday/ will the ‘blue wave’ come?

Perhaps the art world’s most iconic blue wave: ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’, Katsushika Hokusai’s most famous print (early 1830s); the first in the series ’36 Views of Mount Fuji’.

So .. 90 days now, until the 2018 midterm elections. Political pundits point to all kinds of special elections the past 18 months, as evidence that a lot of Republicans will be run out of office (enough to make the Democrats the majority in the House of Representatives). In many cases where Republicans had a 10 or 15% advantage before Trump’s election, that is now all gone. In places that used to be a toss-up – well, those will go blue (Democratic).

Time is running out for Special Investigator Mueller to make some radical moves ahead of the election. If he had not issued a report or more indictments by Labor Day (Sept. 3), he will have to wait until the election is over (Nov. 6).

In the meantime, the Trump Administration scandals never stop. Today: early Trump 2016 endorser, New York Republican Congressman Chris Collins.  He was indicted for brazen insider trading crimes. (Got confidential news of a failed drug trial, developed by a company he had shares in, and was a board member of*. Frantically dialed up his family and told them to sell their shares).

*Just an aside: why are members of Congress allowed to sit on boards of publicly traded companies?

The Ohio 12th District is a closely watched special election that was held on Tue Aug 7. Republican Troy Balderson is barely in the lead against his Democratic opponent. No matter: Trump tweeted that Balderson had won, and that his (Trump’s) uninvited visit there to stump for Balderson, made a huge difference (it did not). This is a special election for a vacated seat, and these two contenders, Balderson and O’Conner, will be running against each other again in November.  [Graphic from the New York Times].

Thursday/ сюжет сгущается

(The plot thickens). Just tonight, it was reported by CNN and NBC that President ‘No Collusion’ Trump knew ahead of time (and presumably approved) the meeting that Don Trump Jr had had with the Russians, in June 2016 in Trump Tower. This was the infamous meeting to get ‘dirt’ from Hillary Clinton’s e-mails. The meeting first became public knowledge in the spring of 2017.  Trump Sr repeatedly denied he knew about the meeting beforehand. Don Jr told Congress under oath, that his dad did not know.

Did Presidential Candidate Trump know that the Russians had hacked Clinton’s e-mail? Or tried to hack it, or planned to hack it? – and secretly sent his son to meet with them?  If so – boom! that would surely be conspiring with the Russians against the United States,  as well as seal the case for obstruction of justice.

Michael Cohen is Trump’s ex-fixer. Cohen’s office was raided and the FBI now has millions of records and about 100 voice recordings (from Cohen) to pore over. Here is Michael Cohen’s attorney saying that the Cohen camp did not leak the information that President Trump knew about the Clinton ‘Dirt’ meeting.  So who leaked it? Someone on the Trump side? The plot thickens.