You are browsing the archive for 2020 December 01.

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The rise and fall of American empire: Trump brought a message from hell to a failing planet

December 1, 2020 in Blogs

By TomDispatch

We’re nw living in an age of opacity, as Rudy Giuliani pointed out in a courtroom recently. Here was the exchange:

“‘In the plaintiffs’ counties, they were denied the opportunity to have an unobstructed observation and ensure opacity,’ Giuliani said. ‘I’m not quite sure I know what opacity means. It probably means you can see, right?’

“‘It means you can’t,’ said U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann.

“‘Big words, your honor,’ Giuliani said.”

Big words indeed! And he couldn’t have been more on the mark, whether he knew it or not. Thanks in part to him and to the president he’s represented so avidly, even as hair dye or mascara dripped down his face, we find ourselves in an era in which, to steal a biblical phrase from Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman, all of us see as if “through a glass darkly.”

As in Election Campaign 2016, Donald Trump isn’t the cause but a symptom (though what a symptom!) of an American world going down. Then as now, he somehow gathered into his one-and-only self so many of the worst impulses of a country that, in this century, found itself eternally at war not just with Afghans and Iraqis and Syrians and Somalis but increasingly with itself, a true heavyweight of a superpower already heading down for the count.

Here’s a little of what I wrote back in June 2016 about The Donald, a reminder that what’s happening now, bizarre as it might seem, wasn’t beyond imagining even so many years ago:

“It’s been relatively easy… — at least until Donald Trump arrived to the stunned fascination of the country (not to speak of the rest of the planet) — to imagine that we live in a peaceable land with most of its familiar markers still reassuringly in place… In truth, however, the American world is coming to bear ever less resemblance to the one we still claim as ours, or rather that older America looks increasingly like a hollowed-out shell within which something new and quite different has been gestating.

“After all, can anyone really doubt that representative democracy as it once existed has been eviscerated and is now — consider Congress Exhibit A — in a state of advanced paralysis, or that just about every aspect of the country’s infrastructure is slowly fraying or …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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'Very bad signs': Columnist warns of a Trump plan for a 'massive, government-wide purge' before leaving

December 1, 2020 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Since the November 3 election, President Donald Trump has fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Homeland Security official Chris Krebs and others he considered insufficiently loyal. But more firings are likely during Trump’s final weeks in office, and Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell is predicting that there will be a lot of them.

“Trump has been quietly dismantling the entire federal civil service — and possibly laying the groundwork for a massive, government-wide purge on his way out the door,” Rampell explains. “Trump signed a technical-sounding executive order in October that invented a new category of government employees, called ‘Schedule F.’ Career civil servants whose jobs include ‘policymaking,’ the order said, should be newly reclassified under Schedule F — a designation that would strip them of long-held civil service protections and allow them to be fired with little demonstrated cause or recourse. Including, presumably, for showing insufficient loyalty to Trump.”

Rampell observes that Trump “gave the heads of federal agencies 90 days — that is, until January 19, Inauguration Eve — to review their personnel rosters and decide which roles should be Schedule F.” According to Rampell, an Office of Management and Budget memo that was leaked last week “proposed reclassifying 88% of his agency’s workforce, or 425 employees, under Schedule F.”

“These are very bad signs,” Rampell warns. “OMB, for example, reaches across nearly every government function, given its involvement in setting budgets and vetting regulations for other agencies. Had Trump won a second term, he presumably would have used this reclassification to clear out distrusted members of the ‘Deep State.’ Already, Trump has been working to politicize traditionally independent agencies, including by ‘burrowing’ political appointees into senior civil service jobs for which they’re not qualified.”

Rampell adds, “Now that he’s lost, it’s reasonable to wonder if Trump simply plans to fire — and perhaps not replace — as many career experts as possible, leaving Biden with a hollowed-out government unable to perform even its most basic functions. In other words: a purge.”

The Post columnist points out that Max Stier, president and chief executive of the Partnership for Public Service, has described Trump’s actions as “crashing the car before turning back the keys.” And Rampell notes that a union of federal government employees has “challenged the Schedule F executive order in court” and that Democrats “have tried …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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CNN host rains fire on a Republican's attack on a Biden nominee after ignoring Trump's misdeeds

December 1, 2020 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

This week, President-elect Joe Biden announced that he plans to nominate Neera Tanden — who heads the Center for America Progress, a liberal think tank — for director of the Office of Management and Budget. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas is highly critical of the nomination, citing Tanden’s “combative and insulting” tweets attacking U.S. senators. But CNN’s Brianna Keilar emphatically called out Cornyn’s hypocrisy by noting some of the many inflammatory things that Cornyn’s ally, President Donald Trump, has said about both Republican and Democratic senators.

Keilar stressed, “Sen. Cornyn is an imperfect messenger here, clutching his pearls in Donald Trump’s oyster bar.” And the CNN host went on to play a supercut video that showed Trump insulting and berating one U.S. senator after another, from Elizabeth Warren to Mitt Romney to Bernie Sanders to the late John McCain

“The other ironic part of Cornyn’s Trump amnesia is his sudden attention to Twitter, because this comes on the heels of his pretty noteworthy ignorance of what’s said on the platform,” Keilar told viewers. “Like many Republicans, he often dodges questions about President Trump’s tweets by pretending he hasn’t seen them, or dismissing them with ambivalence — sometimes, not so subtly.”

Keilar made her point by airing a clip of a reporter asking Cornyn if Trump should be “more cautious about his tweets” — and Cornyn responded to her by walking away. But now, as Keilar stressed, Cornyn is very concerned about what Tanden has been tweeting.

Cornyn, Keilar noted, has developed “a sudden and intense interest in the Twittersphere. Tweets from the president — Cornyn doesn’t want to talk about them, doesn’t want to know about them, he told one reporter. He said it’s not his job to provide running commentary on the president’s behavior. But tweets from a prospective budget director, he would like to provide running commentary on her behavior.”

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Trump's allies are growing increasingly dangerous and calling for violence as his coup attempt drags on

December 1, 2020 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Although the results of the 2020 presidential election have been certified in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia and other battleground states, President Donald Trump continues to push the debunked idea that he was victim of a voter fraud conspiracy. Trump obviously has no intention of acknowledging Joe Biden as president-elect, and some of his far-right allies are sounding increasingly unhinged in their rhetoric. Trump lawyer Joe diGenova has called for the execution of former Homeland Security official Chris Krebs — although diGenova has said he was merely being rhetorical — and Georgia-based attorney Lin Wood believes that Trump should fight the election results by declaring martial law.

Krebs, who specialized in cybersecurity at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security before Trump fired him, emphatically rejected the president’s claims of fraud and has made it clear that he believes Biden won the election fair and square. Krebs, in fact, described the 2020 election as the “most secure in United States history.”

Appearing on Howard Carr’s talk radio show (which simulcasts on Newsmax), diGenova declared, “Anybody who thinks the election went well, like that idiot Krebs who used to be the head of cybersecurity — that guy is a class-A moron. He should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot.”

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A Senate insider has a dark warning about Mitch McConnell

December 1, 2020 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Democrat Adam Jentleson can recite chapter and verse about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s bitter partisanship: he served as deputy chief of staff for former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid during the Obama years. And in an interview with New York Magazine, Jentleson has a warning for President-elect Joe Biden: expect the worst from McConnell.

Jentleson discusses the state of the U.S. Senate in his upcoming book, “Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy.” It remains to be seen whether McConnell will be Senate majority leader or Senate minority leader in 2021 — that will be determined by what happens in the two U.S. Senate runoff elections in Georgia in January. And when New York Magazine’s Ben Jacobs asked Jentleson, during the interview, “how important” the outcome of those Senate races will be for Biden’s incoming administration, he replied, “It’s all the difference in the world.”

Jentleson told Jacobs, “It is night and day. That ranges from prospects for passing legislation and having his nominees confirmed to who controls the committees and the day-to-day business and sets the agenda of the Senate. So, it’s two seats that could lead to two very different prospects for Joe Biden when he is inaugurated in January.”

The former Reid staff added, “If Democrats win those two seats, even though it’s the barest majority possible…. that means that instead of Mitch McConnell deciding what bill is on the floor every single day, it will be Chuck Schumer in that decision seat. And it means that instead of Lindsey Graham or another Republican overseeing all of Biden’s judicial picks, it will be a Democrat…. And that goes all the way down, from Supreme Court picks to circuit and district court picks. So, it is just a massive difference.”

Biden and McConnell go way back. The 78-year-old president-elect served in the U.S. Senate from January 1973 to January 2009, when he was sworn in as President Barack Obama’s vice president — and McConnell, who is also 78, was first elected to the Senate via Kentucky in 1984. McConnell has always been quite conservative, but in recent years, he has grown much more vindictive. For example, McConnell blocked many of Obama’s judicial nominees and wouldn’t even consider Obama’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, in 2016. Obama was clearly willing to meet McConnell …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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First issue of "Vogue" is published

December 1, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

On December 17, 1892, Arthur Baldwin Turnure first publishes a new magazine, dedicated to “the ceremonial side of life” and targeted at “the sage as well as the debutante, men of affairs as well as the belle.” A product of the Gilded Age, Vogue has chronicled and influenced high society, fashion and culture ever since.

By the late 19th Century, the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the corporation had bestowed previously unimaginable levels of wealth upon a tiny but high-profile fraction of American society. Families like the Vanderbilts and Astors had the time and the means to build opulent homes, throw glamorous parties, and purchase the finest clothing. As such, their social activities became subjects of great interest for their peers as well as the less-wealthy but aspirational middle classes. Seeing “endless opportunities for running comment and occasional rebuke,” Turnure decided to create a magazine dedicated to this lifestyle, calling it “a magnetic wielding force.” The first issue featured a black-and-white drawing of a debutante on its cover, and early issues of Vogue extensively chronicled “the 400,” a set of elite socialites named for the alleged capacity of the Astors’ ballroom.

Publisher Condé Nast purchased Vogue in 1905, changing it to focus almost entirely on women and fashion and creating the first of its international editions (there are now over 20). The magazine has remained popular and relevant ever since, regularly featuring the work of world-famous models, photographers and writers.

…read more

Source: HISTORY

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First episode of "60 Minutes" airs

December 1, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

On September 24, 1968, CBS airs the first episode of 60 Minutes, a show that would become a staple of the American media landscape. A pioneer of the “newsmagazine” format, 60 Minutes is the longest-running primetime show in American television history.

The show was similar in tone and style to W5, a Canadian current affairs program considered one of the first newsmagazine shows. 60 Minutes intentionally portrayed itself as a magazine, with “cover” graphics and a variety of content that ranged from straightforward investigative reporting to editorials to more lighthearted commentary. Its first episode, aired on September 24, 1968, featured coverage of the Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey presidential campaigns, commentary from various writers and journalists, an interview with the Attorney General, part of an Oscar-winning short film, and even a high-minded discussion between the hosts on the nature of reality.

Over its run, 60 Minutes has been known primarily for investigative journalism—termed “gotcha” journalism by some critics—including exposés on the Vietnam War, the Watergate Scandal, the Abu Ghraib torture revelations and other corporate and political scandals. The “Point/Counterpoint,” segment, which featured two commentators giving the liberal and conservative sides of various arguments, was a 60 Minutes innovation that launched a slew of imitators and spoofs.

While the show has received criticism throughout its history for segments that contained incomplete or false reporting, it has remained the premier newsmagazine program in the country. A number of famous journalists and pundits, including Mike Wallace, Dan Rather, Diane Sawyer, Leslie Stahl, Walter Cronkite and Christiane Amanpour have contributed to the show, which has won over a hundred Emmy Awards and 20 Peabodys.

…read more

Source: HISTORY

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"House of Cards," Netflix's first original series, starts streaming

December 1, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

By 2013, Netflix had already fundamentally changed the way Americans consumed movies and television. The service offered unlimited DVD rentals—and, starting in 2007, direct streaming of many of its titles—for a flat monthly fee, a wildly popular model that almost single-handedly drove Blockbuster and other video rental stores out of business. In February of 2013, Netflix introduced House of Cards, the first major TV show that ran exclusively on a streaming service. It was another Netflix innovation that would alter the media landscape.

Director and producer David Fincher began developing an American version of the British political drama House of Cards in 2011. Cable and premium channels like HBO and AMC, which had experience with “prestige TV” programming, were in talks to pick up the show, but Netflix outbid them, hoping to begin its foray into original content with a bang. Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey was announced in the lead role the same year, and buzz built around the show.

House of Cards’ first season was released all at once rather than episode-by-episode, another first. The show was a hit, garnering nine Emmy nominations, a first for a streaming-only program. House of Cards ran for five more seasons and received a total of seven Emmys and 56 nominations, ending with a final season that focused on Spacey’s character’s wife, played by Robin Wright, after a series of sexual misconduct allegations against Spacey became public.

Netflix had another major hit with Orange is the New Black, which premiered a few months later, and its original shows have numbered among the most popular in the country ever since. Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and other streaming services have made a concerted effort to produce original content in the years since House of Cards debuted, and 60 percent of Americans now subscribe to at least one streaming service. In 2018, Icarus became the first Netflix production to win an Oscar, taking home the award for Best Documentary Feature, and the following year Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma won three Academy Awards.

…read more

Source: HISTORY