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Donald Thinks D-Day Is About Him

From The New York Times, by Roger Cohen:

PARIS — How small he is! Small in spirit, in valor, in dignity, in statecraft, this American president who knows nothing of history and cares still less and now bestrides Europe with his family in tow like some tin-pot dictator with a terrified entourage.

To have Donald Trump — the bone-spur evader of the Vietnam draft, the coddler of autocrats, the would-be destroyer of the European Union, the pay-up-now denigrator of NATO, the apologist for the white supremacists of Charlottesville — commemorate the boys from Kansas City and St. Paul who gave their lives for freedom is to understand the word impostor. You can’t make a sculpture from rotten wood.

It’s worth saying again. If Europe is whole and free and at peace, it’s because of NATO and the European Union; it’s because the United States became a European power after World War II; it’s because America’s word was a solemn pledge; it’s because that word cemented alliances that were not zero-sum games but the foundation for stability and prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic.

Of this, Trump understands nothing. Therefore he cannot comprehend the sacrifice at Omaha Beach 75 years ago. He cannot see that the postwar trans-Atlantic achievement — undergirded by the institutions and alliances he tramples upon with such crass truculence — was in fact the vindication of those young men who gave everything.

As Eisenhower, speaking at the Normandy American Cemetery, last resting place of 9,387 Americans, told Walter Cronkite for the 20th anniversary of the D-Day landings: “These people gave us a chance, and they bought time for us, so that we can do better than we have before.”

That was a solemn responsibility. For decades it was met, culminating with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Doing better, however, is not rising nativism, xenophobia, nationalism and authoritarianism given a nod and a wink by the president of the United States. It’s not Brexit, Britain turning its back on the Europe it helped free.

The American moral collapse personified by Trump is not “beautiful” or “phenomenal” or “incredible” or any of the president’s other clunky two-a-penny superlatives. It’s sickening and dangerous.

My impression here is that Europe has gotten used to Trump to the point that it is no longer strange that the American president is a stranger. In less than two and a half years Trump has stripped his office of dignity, authority and values.

His foreign policy increasingly consists of a single word, “tariffs.” His contempt for allies undermines American diplomacy, or whatever is left of it, from Iran to North Korea, from Venezuela to China. His trampling of truth is so consistent that when he says in London that Britain is the largest trading partner of the United States — it’s nowhere near that — the impulse is to shrug.

Before arriving in London, Trump set the tone. He mocked the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, as short. It was a tweet in keeping with the president’s signature stunt as schoolyard bully. Khan, who had criticized “rolling out the red carpet” for Trump, responded by comparing the president to an 11-year-old.

This was generous. Most 8-year-olds know better.

Of course Khan — the brown Muslim son of a bus driver, self-made guy — would get under the skin of a man like Trump, who was born on third base and imbibed his reflexive racism in the family real estate business.

Khan called Trump’s policies — on the reproductive rights of women, on immigrant children at the Mexican border, on “amplifying messages from racists” — the antithesis of Londoners’ values and “abhorrent.” In response, Trump tweeted that Khan was as bad as the “very dumb” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, “only half his height.”

There is something so disturbing about a very small man like Trump impugning the height of the mayor of the great international city he is visiting that even 28 months of progressive inurement to his outrages feels inadequate.

America is much better than this, much better than an American president who, as the cartoonist Dave Granlund suggested, probably thinks the D in D-Day stands for Donald and spends the night of the commemoration trashing Bette Midler on Twitter.

As for the Republican Party, don’t get me started. To recover its bearings the G.O.P. would do well to recall one of its own, Eisenhower, who in that same 20th-anniversary interview said that America and its allies stormed the Normandy beaches “for one purpose only.”

It was not to “fulfill any ambitions that America had for conquest.” No, it was “just to preserve freedom, systems of self-government in the world.” It was an act, in other words, consistent with the highest ideals of the American idea that Trump and his Republican enablers seem so intent on eviscerating.

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1

At Least He Wasn’t, You Know, “Hormonal.”

From the Washington Post, by Monica Hesse:

“Throughout the 448-page Mueller report, the president is very emotional. He is forever “becoming angry” or “expressing anger” or “expressing frustration.” He “was furious” at Jeff Sessions for not protecting him. He “screamed” at and “lambasted” his attorney general, demanding, “How could you let this happen?” Regarding perceived “horrible treatment” of an adviser, the president was “upset for weeks.”

At one point, the president became so “unhappy” and “upset” with then-national security adviser Michael Flynn that “he would not look at him during intelligence briefings.”

I see almost no benefit in imagining parallel universes. Hypotheticals are difficult and not always comparable. But, my God: Can you imagine if a female president became so paralyzed by her emotions that she was notably upset for weeks? Can you imagine if a female politician’s strategy for dealing with her staff involved screaming at them, then lambasting them in public, and then not looking at them?

Can you imagine how hard she would have tried not to put herself in that situation, knowing how eager people have been throughout our political history to hold women’s emotions against them? Anti-suffragists claimed women’s rash temperament should exclude them from voting. Stubborn voters claimed women’s rash temperament should exclude them from running for office (Hillary Clinton spoke of learning to “control her emotions” as far back as college). In a Georgetown University study released just this week, 13 percent of Americans still believed that women were less emotionally suited to political office than men.

Can you imagine if the president was a person of color? If an attorney general waved away a black man’s bombastic behavior in the Oval Office by explaining he was often just really angry?

Here is why it matters now, though. The attorney general of the United States of America has stated that the president’s emotions are relevant to the legal analysis of the obstruction case. And there’s a way we tend to talk about the emotional displays of men in power: as if they’re extremely relevant. Righteous, even. Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s outraged, tearful outbursts during his confirmation hearings last summer could have been taken as a sign that he lacked the dispassionate mien one would hope for in a Supreme Court nominee. But instead of putting a damper on the judge’s outraged approach, committee member Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) mirrored it, shouting and literally shaking a finger at his Democratic colleagues. His anger was rewarded. “Lindsey Graham may have single-handedly saved Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation,” read a CNN headline.

As much as Barr’s statements about President Trump are about the specifics of the Russia investigation, they also reflect broader questions: Whose emotions are valid? Whose anger is righteous, and whose anger is hysterical? Whose frustration is “sincere,” and whose is a sign that they are unfit to serve?

The answer isn’t for female politicians to start screaming, or male politicians to become robots. It’s to recognize that we can’t dignify emotion in one sex and dismiss it in another. It can’t be righteous indignation for some people, and hysterics for others. The president is an emotional man. What a luxury. So many of the rest of us are forced to just be crazy women.

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3

Pot Meet Kettle

From CNN:

President Donald Trump, dismissing the potential hypocrisy, said Friday he thinks he “is a very good messenger” when asked whether he is the right person to be criticizing former Vice President Joe Biden amid recent allegations from several women that he made them uncomfortable.

“I think I’m a very good messenger, and people got a kick out of it,” Trump told reporters before leaving the White House for a trip to the US-Mexican border. “He’s going through a situation, let’s see what happens. But people got a kick … we gotta sort of smile a little bit, right?”

 

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3

DIY FALL CENTERPIECES TO OWN THE PATRIARCHY

From McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, by Sarah Hutto:

A Father of Daughters,
Which is Actually Just a Jockstrap
Wrapped Around an AR-15, With Cinnamon

  • Step 1: Tie an AR-15 into a knot, rendering it unusable, which is fine because no one actually needs an AR-15.
  • Step 2: Tie a jockstrap into knots, which is fine, because, be honest, you don’t need one of those either.
  • Step 3: Sprinkle cinnamon everywhere.
  • Step 4: Light the whole thing on fire, along with the Patriarchy, because it’s bad and we need to start over.
  • Step 5: Stand back and enjoy the glow of smoldering outdated gender roles and toasted cinnamon.

Ruth Bader Gourdsburg

  • Step 1: Download a jack-o’-lantern stencil of a respected judge who was voted onto the Supreme Court by the Senate, 96-3, with no controversy or temper tantrums.
  • Step 2: Trace the image onto a midsize, hollowed out pumpkin. Then carve with your sharpest knife.
  • Step 3: Appreciate your festive justice gourd for another twenty years at least, as it will remain vital and sassy out of sheer spite.

The Birds From The Birds, and They’re Ovulating

  • Step 1: Get a bunch of murderous birds to sit in the middle of your table.
  • Step 2: Tell them they are laying eggs for the patriarchy.
  • Step 3: Watch them peck away at their oppressors, a gathering of local craft cider brewers who thought they were coming over for a potluck.
  • Step 4: As the cider bros get pecked to death, strum a lute while sing-yelling, “Caw, caw! The birds will decide when and how they’ll lay their own eggs from now on!”

The Statue of Liberty Spending $300 On a Self-Defense Class

  • Step 1: Convince France that you are worthy of a giant copper statue.
  • Step 2: Erect said statue in your dining room, being sure to illuminate her permanent resting bitch face from enduring over a century of being hissed at, demeaned, poked, prodded, and defiled by strange men confused by their attraction to her.
  • Step 3: Use her torch to burn it all down and start over, starting with the highly flammable seasonal foliage, and ending with stubborn misogyny, which blooms year-round.

The Iceberg That Sunk the Titanic,
Melted Into the Shape of a Middle Finger

  • Step 1: Find a massive frozen hunk of water from the ocean that destroyed an ocean liner in olden times. Stick it on the table.
  • Step 2: As sea levels begin to rise due to fumes created by fueling the patriarchy, sculpt the giant floe into the shape of the last message left to Earth’s remaining inhabitants, who now have less than a decade to salvage what remains of the only known habitable planet. (This is a great conversation-starter.)
  • Step 3: Make sure there are enough fucking lifeboats this time.
  • Step 4: More cinnamon.

The Elevator Full of Blood From The Shining

  • Step 1: Get out your favorite rustic wine crate.
  • Step 2: For the blood part of this centerpiece, you can use your own. (You will only be able to do this once). Observe a news item depicting two judges reputed for sexual assault laughing and enjoying each other’s company at a swearing-in party thrown by the president. Spontaneously hemorrhage from every orifice of your body.
  • Step 3: Fill the decorative crate with your outrage-blood, allowing it to spill all over the table in dramatic autumnal fashion.
  • Step 4: Leave it there until Valentine’s Day, or whenever you throw out your Christmas tree, whichever comes first.

Some Antlers From an Endangered Animal
Shot By a Politician On a Continent Full of People
He Refuses to Help

  • Step 1: Find the absolute worst people imaginable online.
  • Step 2: Contact them and ask them to smuggle animal parts into the country for you on the way back from their next murder safari.
  • Step 3: Alert customs to their imminent arrival.
  • Step 4: While they are interrogated, pick up some fake antlers and a pumpkin spice candle at Target.
  • Step 5: Everything is broken.

A Lady Scarecrow Who Lives In Ohio and Votes

  • Step 1: Find some maternity clothes left over from your high-risk pregnancy and stuff them with hay. Feel free to give the scarecrow an extra flourish, like some dehydrated corn or body autonomy.
  • Step 2: Make affordable health care almost unobtainable for her, but tell her that she must finish incubating her hay baby, subject to punishment by law.
  • Step 3: After she’s billed $3k for pushing out a pile of hay in the hospital, wheelbarrow her over to the closest voting booth and offer to hold her hay pile while she votes.
  • Step 4: Watch the election returns together while bonding over a case of cinnamon schnapps.

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1

I AM SICK AND TIRED OF CONSTANTLY BEING BULLIED FOR MY EXTREME WEALTH AND POLITICAL POWER

From McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, by Bob Vulfov

“‘I could say I’m the most bullied person on the world,’ Mrs. Trump said in an interview with ABC News that was filmed during her visit to Kenya last week.” — New York Times, October 11, 2018

I have had enough! Army of butlers, please exit the parlor. Bullying is a serious issue for the supremely privileged and it is time for me to speak out. I refuse to let my brave voice be silenced, even though it literally never has been and never will be. It’s time for me to speak up on behalf of yacht owners and tax loopholers everywhere. As I sit on my throne of golden influence, I know more than ever that I am the most bullied person in the world.

Do you all think it’s easy to be on the wrong end of unreasonable income inequality, lapping up beluga caviar as most people can’t afford to pay their monthly rent? It’s extremely difficult to be me. I am often taunted with terrible verbal abuse, such as, “It looks like we’ve run out of caviar,” and “You have eaten over 12 tins of very expensive caviar this week.” When will somebody tell me it gets better? This morning, I stubbed my toe on my platinum coffee table because I was distracted reading a tweet claiming that I am canceled. My diamond-studded life is really hard.

I will no longer stand by silently as I am mercilessly ridiculed and bullied by the unwashed masses just because I happen to have an unpaid servant whose only responsibility is to tell me what the weather is like outside. I know I could just look it up on my phone, but I don’t want to. Does that make me a bad person? I don’t think I should be bullied just because I stand idly by as my friends, family, and I continue to accumulate wealth and influence on the backs of the poor and powerless. I deserve to continue living my immoral, complicit life without any criticism.

I can think of no person in the world who has been bullied to the extent that I have. Open a textbook, point to any figure throughout history, and I’ll tell you how I’ve been bullied worse than them. Every day I wake up as a member of the elite ruling class. I have complete economic freedom to do anything I want with no consequences. I can afford the best doctors — so I’m basically immortal — and the best lawyers — so I’m basically above the law. But, from time to time, someone says something slightly mean about me and my complicitness in the destruction of the planet. This bullying of me and my almost limitless power must stop.

I also don’t deserve to be mocked for dressing like a 19th-century colonialist while visiting countries that were most impacted by brutal colonial oppression. Sometimes, I think people just need to walk a mile in my $10,000 shoes. Then, maybe they’d think twice about bullying me.

 

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But I Hope You Feel Empowered, Sweet Cheeks

From The Washington Post, by Alexandra Petri:

Well, sure, I am going to vote yes on Kavanaugh, sweetie. Don’t become hysterical. But I just feel so awful it had to happen like this. It’s such a shame, I think.

I just think, dollface, if there is one thing that came out of all this, sugar, that was good, it is, pumpkin, that you got to have your say. Baby, you got to stand up in front of all these people and bear witness to what you felt like you had experienced, like a big girl! It was so important, and I absolutely believed you, sweetheart!

Chickadee, baby doll, your voice was so important. Your movement matters, honey. It matters, darling. It matters, sweet cheeks.

I think the people who should feel bad, though, honey pie (not you, of course, duckling!) are the people who told you that if you said something, it might matter. That was mean of them. What was so cruel was that you, baby girl, had to bear witness thinking that something would happen. I suppose you didn’t know, sugar tits, that nothing was going to happen, doll baby. But I was so inspired by you and what you did! It was so brave, pudding! It was so wonderful, toots!

It was so important! It was so inspiring! I am going to work to be sure your voice is heard, chickadee — loud and clear, dumpling! I am going to be sure, of course, that your daughters never suffer an indignity, baby, like thinking that if they poured out their pain, people might do something other than wade through it and go about their business, buttercup. That must have been embarrassing.

Oh, sugar, your movement is so important. But if you had a legitimate objection, I’m sure the legislative body would have ways of shutting the whole confirmation down, darling. The point is, we can all be inspired by the brave women and girls like you, baby doll, who said their piece, who poured their voices down a deep well from which no echo emerged, honey! I was certainly inspired. Girl power!

I believe you, sweetie. Of course I do, jellybean. It mattered. It mattered so much. The future is female, toots! But speaking up is its own reward, isn’t it? Don’t you find that, dollface, sugar, sweet cheeks? I find that. You got to feel heard, didn’t you, toots? Not listened to, but heard. You got to say words out loud where people were able to hear them, and then you got to watch them continue about what they were doing, which must have been so empowering for you, duckling! You got to feel like you had a real voice, honey! It was adorable.

Gumdrop, what matters is that it was good for you. I hope it was good for you. I just feel awful that it was all for nothing, pumpkin, sugar pie, peach! I just feel so sad watching you struggle like that while I did nothing, princess! It pained me to see you think you could change my mind, oh honey, oh precious, oh lamb.

But don’t worry your head about it, darling, sweetheart, love bug. I have every reason to believe that Justice Kavanaugh will be fair and fine. He will bridge the partisan gap. The process isn’t broken, doll baby, darling. You can trust him, sweetie. What’s important, sugarplum, is that you tried!

It was so important, what you said. Of course it was, sunshine! I am so glad we heard you, sweetheart, even if we did not listen to you, pumpkin!

Sit down, now. Shut up, honey.

Of course, I believe you, sweetie. I don’t believe that what you say happened happened, duckling, but I think it is so brave you said it! I’m just mad that those meanies, pookie, lied to you and gave you hope. Hope is always the cruelest thing to give people. Hope is what makes the monsters in the box unbearable.

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Suffer the Little Children…

The ever-expanding sexual abuse scandals involving the Catholic church have been in the news for days now.
It’s time to re-post part of a piece (“A Tale of Two Pedophiles”) in which I wrote about my encounter in the late 1980’s with Father Oliver O’Grady.
Unfortunately, it seems nothing has changed in the wake of that scandal:

Thoughts of Jaycee Dugard brought up my brief brush with one of the worst pedophiles the Catholic church has known to date.  His name is Father Oliver O’Grady, who spent years being shuttled from one diocese to another even though the hierarchy of the church knew he was molesting children.  He finally wound up as the parish priest in a small town in Calaveras county, California.  I was working as a dental hygienist for a local dentist and Father O’Grady happened to be one of our patients.

The dentist I worked for was a devout Catholic.  My employer was, on the whole, a nice fellow who felt strongly about his convictions.  He had anti-abortion posters hung quite visibly in his lab where patients would see them as they were escorted to their dental chairs.  Some patients took offense at being subjected to something like that in a dental office and angrily left the office–and in some cases they left the practice itself.  To me, this dogmatism on his part was like wearing a pair of blinders which allowed you to see only what you were supposed to see.

Often the dentist, his assistant and I would have lunch at a nearby sandwich shop.  On some occasions the dentist’s wife would join us.  At one of these informal lunches we were talking about water wells; a common topic in rural areas where having a good well is essential to life itself.  I happened to mention that a neighbor of mine, whose father was half Native American, taught me how to dowse for water with a forked branch.  The usual term for that was “water witching”, a skill that even the men who worked for our local electric company, PG & E, knew how to do.

My employer turned to me and said, very serious and straight-faced, “Isn’t that witchcraft?”  At first I thought he was kidding, but quickly realized he wasn’t.  I was nonplussed and stammered something about “No, it’s just something you feel.”  The dentist’s wife was in our little group and she tried to smooth things over a bit, but I have to say I was taken aback that someone in our modern age would bandy about the charge “witchcraft.”

Now, post-Palin anti-witchcraft blessing ceremonies, I’m no longer surprised.

I mention all of this in regard to Father O’Grady only to make the point that while my employer was looking behind the dental chair for imaginary witches, here we had a man who was actually doing unspeakable things with children.  Father O’Grady was a figure of authority and power, as was the diocese that sent him to this unsuspecting little hamlet.  Everyone in my office fell all over himself in deference to this man when he came in for his appointments.  It was “Father this…” and “Father that…” but no one had the slightest clue that he had been molesting children for years and the powers that be knew about it, but kept it hidden.

The sadly laughable thing about it was that he was such a little milquetoast of a man when I finally did meet him.  I took an immediate dislike to him because he would not look me in the eye.  What kind of a priest won’t look you in the eyes?  Aren’t the eyes windows into the soul?  Father O’Grady’s soul was hidden from view.  There was too much ugliness there.

Father O’Grady as he looked sometime around when I met him.

2005_07_13_Russell_BlindEye_ph_Oliver_OGrady

It was several years after I left that practice that the whole story surrounding Father O’Grady came to light.  I could only imagine what they thought at my old dental office.  Had real evil replaced the imaginary?  I somehow doubt it.  Excuses were made all along the line for the transferring of O’Grady from one place to the next, without punishment or warning.  The man involved in Jaycee Lee Dugard’s abduction seems to have had every break in the books also.  It shouldn’t have taken so long in either Garrido’s case or Father O’Grady’s for someone to step up and put a stop to the abuse.

The kids deserved better.