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On Mental Health

So I’m also the site’s clinically diagnosed sufferer from Depression and Anxiety (also SAD and PTSD) and I’ve been in Therapy for years (I recommend it to everyone). I’ve come to the conclusion that Existential Depression is not my main problem at the moment, in 14 Billion years or so the Universe will either disperse into thermal non-existence (Entropy, the Second Law of Thermodynamics) or disappear beyond the Event Horizon of Light itself (Dark Energy).

Pick your poison, Physics is no help.

But my Anxiety focuses me and is persistent and unrelenting.

I find it difficult to hear the remote diagnosises of Psychiatrists (who are no more real Doctors than Chiropractors) of Unindicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio. So much of his behavior is explained by the fact that he, and all Republicans, are evil. Their policies are evil, their personna is evil, their motivations are evil. They are all driven by selfishness and self-aggrandizement, not some mystical mind demon that makes their acts sickness instead of crime.

You see, it’s not just him- it’s all of them, all together (“it’s all of them”) the 40% of Deplorables who for some reason are allowed to dictate what’s politically acceptable and what is not.

Screw you and the .01% Media. Evil!

Indefinite detention in Concentration Camps? How are we different from Nazis again? Were they just crazy or was it something else?

Erik Thorvaldson’s Big Swindle

I suppose as the resident Viking (I’m a quarter Danish, that’s why I have the Ben Franklin seal of ‘Whiteness’ you turkeys which is proof enough that not every idea is a good one) I have to say something about Greenland, and Denmark for that matter.

Denmark is basically a flat swampy part of Germany that nobody really cared about (certainly not the Germans). It is attractive and wealthy only in comparison to more fjordy parts of Scandinavia while there are many parts of Germany with much more potential. Today their best known product Internationally is Butter. You should try some, it’s really good.

But most parts of Scandinavia are depressingly isolated except by sea and while Vikings are impressively piratey and fierce it’s not really condusive to developing advanced political structures like Kingdoms and Empires and so for a time the Danes were the Top Dogs by virtue of organization.

It’s during that period that the Viking age of Exploration and Expansion occured and all of a sudden there were Vikings everywhere. Normandy? That’s Norse Man’s Land and it is certainly arguable that the Battle of Hastings was nothing more than a squabble between 3 rival Viking Princes. It’s the Harolds, Hardrada of Norway and the Danelaw and Godwinson of the (Danish) Anglo-Saxons that confuse you while William, the Viking of Norse Mand’s Land in France conquered the island. Vikings sacked about every city that was worth it from Paris to Moscow and were employed as Palace Guards by the Byzantines (kind of a bribe really).

What made this possible was the Longship, a marvel of design that is easily constructed, incredibly seaworthy (well, for the time, you might find the accomodations a bit Spartan today), light, and shallow drafted. That’s the real secret of their success, they could sail up rivers like a canoe and if they couldn’t be portaged you just build a new one. Easy peasey.

But also ocean and in 874 or so (CE) Garðarshólm (named after Garðar Svavarsson who kind of bumped into it by accident) became a thing and it’s not as bad as all that. You have hot springs, you have fish.

But it’s a tough neighborhood and six months of darkness can make you cranky. After being booted off Iceland for being a big dick who buried his neighbor’s farm in a landslide Erik Thovaldson took his boat and sailed west for a bit and basically discovered what is now North America.

Not discovered in the sense that it was utterly uninhabited because Native Americans had been there for thousands of years, but new to ignorant Europeans.

So anyway, Vineland, a place of milk and honey. I’ve tasted Newfoundland wine and found it not terrible, if unremarkable. Evidence of Viking settlement shows they persisted for a time and then assimilated or perished.

Greenland

From 986, Greenland’s west coast was settled by Icelanders and Norwegians, through a contingent of 14 boats led by Erik the Red. They formed three settlements—known as the Eastern Settlement, the Western Settlement and the Middle Settlement—on fjords near the southwesternmost tip of the island They shared the island with the late Dorset culture inhabitants who occupied the northern and western parts, and later with the Thule culture that entered from the north. Norse Greenlanders submitted to Norwegian rule in 1261 under the Kingdom of Norway (872–1397). Later the Kingdom of Norway entered into a personal union with Denmark in 1380, and from 1397 was a part of the Kalmar Union.

Yeah, the Kalmar Union is kind of complicated so we won’t deal with it here, my point is that Greenland is basically an icy rock with a certain strategic value and some mineral resources which have heretofore been buried under Glaciers over a mile thick. It’s so tough it killed off the Vikings for the most part and the only thing that makes it marginally more attractive today is that GLOBAL WARMING IS BURNING OFF THE GLACIERS AT AN ALARMING RATE!

But I’m not here to talk about that, I’m here to talk about Economics.

Seward’s Folly may seem a bargain at 2 Cents an acre but while it has potential it is not quite the bonanza some people promote.

The White House Saw Riches in the Arctic Refuge, but Reality May Fall Short
By Henry Fountain and Steve Eder, The New York Times
Aug. 21, 2019

When the Trump administration first pushed to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil exploration, it predicted that drilling would generate a windfall for the federal Treasury: $1.8 billion, by a White House estimate.

But two years later, with the expected sale of the first oil and gas leases just months away, a New York Times analysis of prior lease sales suggests that the new activity may yield as little as $45 million over the next decade. Even the latest federal government estimate is half the figure the White House predicted.

The lofty original projection was just one element of a campaign within the administration to present in the best possible light the idea of opening the refuge’s coastal plain after decades of being stymied by Democrats and environmentalists, according to internal government communications and other documents reviewed by The Times.

Opponents of exploration have said the 19-million-acre refuge, one of the largest expanses of pristine land in the United States, could be forever damaged in pursuit of oil that would bring little benefit to American taxpayers.

The administration, bent on proving them wrong, turned to the federal bureaucracy to help make its case, the records show.

Even before plans to allow the lease sales were completed and approved by Congress in late 2017, the Interior Department pressed for new — and possibly rosier — assessments of the prospects for oil discoveries that would entail field research in the environmentally fragile refuge, according to the documents.

In revising a draft plan for the new assessments, officials played down evidence that the refuge might not have much oil, deleting references to disappointing wells nearby.

They also pushed scientists to provide studies and other information so quickly that some expressed concern over the speed of the process, according to the documents, which were obtained through public records requests by Trustees for Alaska, an environmental law firm that has opposed oil exploration in the refuge.

An Interior Department spokeswoman said the agency “absolutely” respected the work of its scientists and staff, and had not interfered with it in any way. She said negative information about nearby wells was not pertinent to prospects in the refuge.

When the Interior Department drew up plans in 2017 to update assessments of the potential oil reserves in the refuge, officials stripped out disappointing findings about test wells drilled just outside the area. The details were included in a draft but removed from the final plan, a comparison of the documents showed.

In response, the Interior spokeswoman noted that only one well had been drilled in the coastal plain, and that only one seismic survey had ever been done. “Other wells and geophysical studies do not apply to the coastal plain,” she said.

Even with all of the discussion about the refuge, major oil companies have been relatively quiet about whether they intend to bid. Some people in government and in the industry attribute this to a lack of interest based on the companies’ own data-gathering over the years. Others say the companies are probably just trying not to tip their plans to competitors.

The question will not be answered, of course, until bidding begins.

“Will it be a stupendous billion-dollar bid? Probably not,” said Larry Persily, a former federal gas official responsible for Alaska, who noted that there was no shortage of oil or gas reserves now. “Maybe it would be good to have the lease sale and find out if there is any interest,” he added. “And we can move on.”

I’ll note this has been a mainstream Republican policy for decades, not the fever dream of Unindicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio.

You can have a mountain of gold and if it costs more to get to Market than you can receive in legal tender (say Ur Cow Tokens for example) you’re just like the retailer who takes a loss on each purchase but thinks they’ll make it up in volume. Watch some Gold Rush, serious dudes like Parker, Tony, and Rick know it’s all about controlling the margin of what it costs to get and what people will pay for it.

Greenland could be sitting on an ocean of Oil as big as the Atlantic (it isn’t, we know that much geology) but it won’t matter a bit going forward because Oil (if you can’t produce it for about $10 a Barrel) is not cost competitive with Solar and Wind.

Unless you really are counting on the incineration of the Earth turning all those fjords into Golf Courses.

Cartnoon

Jesus!

I am overjoyed to meet you face to face
You’ve been getting quite a name all around the place
Healing cripples, raising from the dead

And now, I understand you’re God

At least, that’s what you’ve said

So, you are the Christ, you’re the great Jesus Christ
Prove to me that you’re divine – change my water into wine
That’s all you need do, and I’ll know it’s all true
C’mon, king of the Jews!

Jesus, you just won’t believe the hit you’ve made round here
You are all we talk about, the wonder of the year!

Oh, what a pity if it’s all a lie
Still, I’m sure that you can rock the cynics if you try

So, you are the Christ, you’re the great Jesus Christ
Prove to me that you’re no fool – walk across my swimming pool
If you do that for me, then I’ll let you go free
C’mon, king of the Jews!

I only ask things I’d ask any superstar
What is it that you have got that puts you where you are?

I am waiting, yes, I’m a captive fan
I’m dying to be shown that you are not just any man

So, if you are the Christ, yes, the great Jesus Christ
Feed my household with this bread – you can do it on your head!
Or has something gone wrong? Why do you take so long?
C’mon, king of the Jews!

Hey! Aren’t you scared of me Christ? Mr Wonderful Christ!
You’re a joke, you’re not the Lord
You are nothing but a fraud!

Take him away – he’s got nothing to say!
Get out, you king of the Jews! Get out of my life!

Oh, absolutely. Did that part for 3 years, constantly directed to “gay it up” because I was the only first tenor in the cast, why do you think I got Ralph Rackstraw?

The Breakfast Club (Front Row Seat)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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The last Jewish settlers leave the Gaza Strip; President Bill Clinton signs welfare reform into law; Black Panthers’ co-founder Huey Newton killed; Sci-fi author Ray Bradbury and singer Tori Amos born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

When you’re born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you’re born in America, you get a front row seat.

George Carlin

Continue reading

Do you believe it’s fascism now?

Fascism is not dependent on anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is an unfortunate side effect. Accusing people of “dual loyalty” based upon religious belief is to say Catholics or Jews or Muslims are “other” and is pure hatred and bigotry designed to separate winners (fascists) from losers (everyone else).

It’s an expression of the anger they have for anyone more fortunate than themselves which is what puzzles me when Neo Liberals embrace it (supposed to be all about merit and the market guys, be intellectually consistent).

Are you odd in any respect? Conform or die.

Trump Accuses Most American Jews of “Disloyalty” to Israel, Deploying Anti-Semitic Trope
by Robert Mackey, The Intercept
August 20, 2019

President Donald Trump revealed again on Tuesday that he subscribes to the anti-Semitic belief that American Jews harbor a secret dual loyalty to Israel.

Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, the president first accused Democratic lawmakers of insufficient support for the state of Israel before adding, “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

That Trump was accusing the vast majority of American Jews who vote for Democrats in election after election of being disloyal to Israel was clear in the context of his full answer to the question he was asked: Should U.S. aid to Israel be suspended following the Israeli government’s decision to prevent two Democratic congresswomen, Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, from visiting the Palestinian territories it occupies?

Trump, who pressed Israel to block the visit by the two Muslim Democrats, responded by falsely smearing Tlaib and Omar as “two people that hate Israel and hate Jewish people.” In recent months, he has repeatedly mischaracterized as anti-Semitic the two lawmakers’ criticism of Israel’s far-right government, and their support for the Palestinian-led campaign of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against companies that enable the occupation to continue.

Trump also took time out of his meeting with Romania’s president, Klaus Iohannis, to mock Tlaib for crying on Monday as she described her disappointment at not being allowed to visit her Palestinian grandmother in the Israeli-occupied West Bank without surrendering her right to free speech during the trip.

The Romanian president, who comes from the country’s ethnic German minority, made no comment on Trump’s remark, but his presence was a silent reminder of the horrific violence that has resulted from the idea of Jewish dual loyalty. At least 380,000 Romanian Jews were slaughtered between 1940 and 1944 by a fascist government that was allied with Nazi Germany.

This was at least the second time this year that Trump invoked the anti-Semitic trope of dual loyalty. Speaking to a group of Jewish Republicans in April, the president referred to Israel’s leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, as “your prime minister.”

That group, the Republican Jewish Coalition, defended Trump on Tuesday, accusing the 79 percent of American Jews who voted for Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterms of defending “a party that protects/emboldens people that hate you for your religion.”

A far larger number of Jewish Americans were appalled by what they saw as the clear anti-Semitic undertone of Trump’s logic.

“This is it, Trump’s antisemitic philosophy exposed,” the progressive Orthodox activist Elad Nehorai wrote. “If Jews don’t agree with him, they aren’t good Jews. This is how he gets us killed. Sides with the “good ones” and spouts hate at the rest, coded or not. Thus the Soros caravan conspiracy that led to the Pittsburgh massacre.”

“This is an explicit dual loyalty charge wielded by the President of the United States against 80% of American Jews who voted against him,” Emily Mayer, a spokesperson for the anti-occupation group IfNotNow said in a statement. “It is not merely an antisemitic dog whistle — it’s a bullhorn to his white nationalist base.”

As Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg explained last year, the ancient dual loyalty charge is what lies beneath Trump’s use of the phrase “globalist” to describe people he sees as insufficiently American. “Globalist — one of Trump’s favorite dogwhistles — implies that someone is not of-this-nation, they’re not tied here, their loyalty is not to *us* of this country but to *each other* internationally,” Ruttenberg wrote. “The idea the Jews’ loyalty is not to France or Germany or Poland or etc. because they are infiltrators, outsiders–that’s one of the oldest tropes in the book. They’re out to get us, to undermine us, not one of us. It’s being used to great effect these days.”

“This is outrageous,” Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, wrote on Twitter. “So US Jews’ ‘loyalty’ is mainly to Israel? Or it is supposedly in Israel’s interest to back Netanyahu’s right-wing agenda of creating a discriminatory, repressive one-state reality?”

Crap, if you are Jewish you already understand. If you are Catholic or Evangelical and believe in the divinity of the soul from conception and consider abortion the same as murder, I think you misguided but basically I don’t care. See the difference?

How about them Mets?

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Amanda Marcotte: Now the GOP is coming for birth control — which was always the plan

The reason Republicans keep trying to take birth control away from women is simple: They think birth control is bad and you shouldn’t be able to get it.

This should seem obvious, but apparently it is not. Every time Republicans find some new avenue to take away birth control, there is always some elaborate excuse — dutifully repeated by the mainstream media as fact — for why they don’t want to take away your birth control, but simply have to for some other reason that is always, they claim, not about birth control. Birth control is never the target, they swear. It’s always just the unfortunate collateral damage of some fight over, they swear, something else.

Don’t buy it. The reason Republicans keep taking away birth control is because Republicans want to take away your birth control. They hate the power it gives women, especially young women and low-income women.

Conservatives are modern Puritans and, as H.L. Mencken famously said, they are driven by the “haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

This fact is getting lost in the coverage of Donald Trump’s administration stripping away Title X funding from Planned Parenthood. Title X is a program that covers a lot of reproductive health care — though, importantly, not abortion — but it was mainly set up in 1970 to help low-income women who don’t qualify for Medicaid obtain low-cost birth control. But the anti-choice activists who control the Republican Party don’t like that this program provides birth control to women who need it. So they are finding ways to slash away at the program until it can no longer accomplish the goal it was set up to accomplish.

Stephen W. Thrasher: Daniel Pantaleo Was Fired. We’re Still Afraid for Our Lives.

Five years after Eric Garner’s death, it’s painfully obvious that the daily anxiety black and brown people experience is justified.

A study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that police use of force is a leading cause of death for young men of color overall and the sixth leading cause for young black men. One in 1,000 black men and boys can expect to be killed by the police, making them about 2.5 times more likely to experience this fate than white men and boys.

The same study found that black, American Indian and Alaska Native women face a higher risk than white women, with American Indian and Alaska Native being up to twice as likely to be killed by the police as white women.

“This study shows us that police killings are deeply systematic, with race, gender and age patterning this excess cause of death,” Michael Esposito, one of the study’s authors, said.

On Monday, news broke that the New York City police commissioner had finally fired Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who had used the banned chokehold that led to Mr. Garner’s death, a death that the medical examiner deemed a homicide. It took five years — a half decade during which Eric Garner’s daughter Erica died at just 27 years old from a heart attack after vigorously pursuing justice for her father. During which Mr. Pantaleo continued to draw paycheck after paycheck.

I don’t know if white readers can comprehend how stressful police stops are for black and brown folks in the United States. I don’t know if any amount of writing, or epidemiological research, or news accounts can convince white readers that a police encounter is a dangerous, potentially family-separating or life-ending event for black and brown folks.

But to brown and black readers: Know that the fears you have are not merely in your imagination. As white supremacists grow bolder under President Trump, and as technology allows for ever-more-expansive surveillance of intimate areas of life, policing still haunts and threatens us as much as it did the day Mr. Garner stopped breathing.

Michelangelo Signorile: Trump has a devastating record on LGBTQ rights. Don’t deny the truth.

President Trump’s dismissal of “fake news” means his constituencies can believe whatever they want about him and his actions — even if their beliefs are in mind-bogglingly stark opposition to one another. Religious extremists opposed to LGBTQ equality can confidently tout Trump as being down with their agenda by pointing to a speech in February in which Trump defended state-funded adoption agencies that turn away gay couples on religious grounds. Trump supporters who want to believe the opposite will point to a tweet he sent recognizing “LGBT Pride Month.”

But it’s the religious crusaders who are correct — and in rare agreement with most LGBTQ activists. The Trump administration’s continued assaults on LGBTQ rights are nothing short of breathtaking. And yet, Trump’s supporters who don’t want to acknowledge this aspect of the administration find ways to bury this part of his record in the chaos.

Last week alone, there were two major salvos in the Trumpian war on LGBTQ Americans.

Bill Blum: The Biggest Obstacle to Gun Control May Be the Supreme Court

With the addition of Trump appointees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, today’s Supreme Court may be even more pro-gun than it was when Scalia penned Heller.

In the wake of recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, the biggest obstacle to effective gun control may not be President Trump, Mitch McConnell or even the National Rifle Association (NRA) but the United States Supreme Court.

It’s been a long time since the Supreme Court considered a major Second Amendment case. Eleven years ago, the court delivered a landmark victory to the gun-rights lobby in District of Columbia v. Heller—a 5-4 majority decision written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia that ruled, for the first time, the Second Amendment protected an individual right to own and bear firearms.

Heller broke with the great weight of prior scholarship and legal precedent, including the Supreme Court’s 1939 decision in United States v. Miller, which held the Second Amendment protected gun ownership only in connection with service in long-since antiquated state militias. And while Heller was technically limited to gun ownership in the nation’s capital and other federal venues, the court extended its individual-rights analysis to the states two years later in McDonald v. Chicago, via a 5-4 opinion authored by Justice Samuel Alito.

When the court reconvenes in October, its docket will include a new Second Amendment appeal—New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. City of New York—that has the potential to rival or surpass Heller for its impact on gun rights and gun regulation.

Michael H. Fuchs: Donald Trump’s UK trade promises are hot air – his aim is Brexit chaos

As the UK races towards a potential no-deal Brexit, President Donald Trump is cheering it on. But Brexit – especially without a deal in place with the European Union – would be bad for the US-UK special relationship and would make the UK a much less important US ally. [..]

Trump has long supported Brexit. He made that support clear during his presidential campaign and has expressed it repeatedly as president. Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, now appears to be doing what he can to ensure Brexit happens. When in the UK recently, Bolton tried to incentivise Brexit by dangling the possibility of a trade deal with the US after the UK leaves the EU, saying that the UK would be at the “front of the trade queue” for a deal.

But that won’t happen. First, the politics in the US right now mean that it is incredibly difficult to pass any trade deals, even with America’s closest allies. Second, and more important, US congressional leaders have already signalled that a deal would be dead on arrival in Congress if Brexit affects the situation in Northern Ireland. As the speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said: “If Brexit undermines the Good Friday accord, there will be no chance of a US-UK trade agreement passing the Congress.”

 

Italian Politics, Briefly Explained.

This is a really helpful take given that I’d be tempted to start with Aleric’s Sack of Rome on August 24th, 410 (CE), not the less well known one by Brennus of the Gauls in 390 (BCE). Clio is a harsh mistress. After over 1000 years of division Giuseppe Garibaldi (a fascinating man, you should look him up) helped develop the Risorgimento which culminated in the period of 1870 to 1918. You thought the only thing that happened between 1914 and 1918 was a World War. It’s more complicated than that.

Oh, he was a Mason by the way.

So we’ll skip past the 20th Century and fast forward to today where Italy is a basket case hamstrung by the austerity policies of the European Union and the vagaries of the Euro.

Italy’s prime minister just resigned. What the heck comes next?
By Jen Kirby, Vox
Aug 20, 2019

Matteo Salvini is pretty much what’s going on in Italian politics.

His rise to power fits into a broader resurgence of right-wing populism that swept Europe in recent years. When Salvini took over leadership of the Lega in 2013, it was a regionalist party with a narrow focus on northern Italy (its full name is Lega Nord, or Northern League), and it lacked national appeal.

Salvini helped changed that, especially in the lead-up to the 2018 elections. He pushed the party rightward and embraced a populist, “Italians first” message. Most notably, he embraced an anti-immigrant platform at a time when Italy was on the front lines of Europe’s refugee and migrant crisis.

A savvy politician, Salvini plays up the anti-elitist, “man of the people” vibe, and he’s skilled at promoting this persona on social media. This summer, he campaigned on Italy’s beaches, deejaying, snapping selfies, and going shirtless, where he showed off his “proletarian paunch.”

Salvini also invokes religion a lot, something Conte criticized Salvini for during his resignation speech on Tuesday, saying it “undermined the principle of secularism of the modern state.” Salvini, in response, kissed a rosary.

All of this has worked out well for Salvini so far. He’s arguably the most popular politician in Italy right now, and his Lega party is polling at 38 percent — very close to the number needed to fully take control of government. Salvini’s party also came in first in the European parliamentary elections in Italy, with his anti-EU campaign taking 34 percent of the vote.

What hasn’t worked out well for Salvini is the awkward coalition government he’s a member of, which consists of his party and the Five Star Movement.

The Five Star Movement is a true hodgepodge. Founded by a former comedian in 2009, the party’s only real unifying ideology is that it’s anti-establishment. Georgetown political scientist Hans Noel described the party as “like what would happen if you put Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, and Jon Stewart in a blender.”

But the Five Star Movement received the most votes — about 32 percent — in the elections last March. The center-left coalition, led by the Democratic Party, came in second place. In third was the center-right coalition, which included Salvini’s Lega. Lega got about 17 percent of the vote.

Thus ensued a long and complicated process of trying to form a government, in which neither the left nor the right could do so without the support of the Five Star Movement. It flirted with both sides, but Five Star’s leader Luigi di Maio eventually reached a deal with Salvini to form a government.

Both party leaders became deputy prime ministers, and they brought in Conte — an independent law professor who had never held a political office — as a compromise choice to be the prime minister.

But the Five Star-Lega partnership was an odd fit from the start, and since the 2018 election, Salvini and Lega have gained in popularity, while support for the Five Star Movement has waned.

The Five Star Movement, new to government, struggled to keep pace — or match Salvini’s political savvy. Tensions arose between the two partners, and sometimes spilled over into public feuding.

Salvini, buoyed by his popularity, saw a chance to increase his party’s power in government and perhaps become prime minister himself. In early August — just 14 months into the government — Salvini declared that the coalition with the Five Star Movement had failed and the only way to break the deadlock was to hold new elections. He pushed a confidence vote to take down the government in the hopes of getting those elections this fall.

But Salvini may have miscalculated.

Salvini called for a confidence vote earlier this month, which was expected Tuesday. But Conte sidestepped him by resigning, putting the power into the hands of Italy’s president, Sergio Mattarella, who would decide whether to accept Conte’s resignation. It also undercut Salvini. (Conte’s resignation didn’t cancel the confidence vote, but Salvini and Lega, perhaps recognizing their blunder, withdrew it anyway.)

Mattarella said he requested Conte stay on as he figures out what’s next: either calling new elections or trying to piece together a new governing coalition with Italy’s party leaders.

This might be a caretaker-type government, meaning a coalition that would stay in power to pass some critical legislation and then disband in a few months, or a more long-term one that would last for the remainder of what should have been Conte’s five-year term.

But in either case, it could also mean Salvini gets pushed into the opposition and out of power altogether.

That’s because a possible option is a coalition between the center-left, led by the Democratic Party, and the Five Star Movement — which would mean Lega, and Salvini with it, would be gone.

It would certainly be a twist if Salvini’s machinations ended with a center-left coalition in power. If that happens, Salvini can still be an agitator from the outside, and skilled politician he is, he may be able to spin the narrative in his favor. But his influence within government — and right-wing, anti-immigration policies — would be diminished.

Salvini seemed to realize this over the weekend, trying to make nice again with the Five Star Movement. But it looked to be too little, too late. The Five Star Movement leader di Maio called such offers “regretful” and “tardy,” and reports suggested that they’d already started making overtures to the center-left.

Umm… yeah.

Look, Jon Stewart has always been a little “Centrist” for me. If it pushes Five Star and moves the Overton Window slightly Left it’s a good thing.

Cartnoon

How about my Metropolitans?

Nine games trailing the Braves and 6 shy of the Nationals riding a 3 game streak. Two losses behind the Cubs for the last Wild Card.

Yankees and Dodgers tied at 83 – 44 for best.

The Breakfast Club (Evil Ways)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Soviet coup against Mikhail Gorbachev fails; Exiled revolutionary Leon Trotsky murdered in Mexico; Nat Turner leads a slave rebellion; U.S. flag gets 50th star; Count Basie and singer Kenny Rogers born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.

Flannery O’Connor

Continue reading

Yeah, I never waste time gaming.

Ever.

The Police State That Already Exists

Borders are not where you think they are. If you live within 100 miles of an “International” Airport (and most people do), you’re technically in “Border Country” and Customs and Border Patrol can stop and arrest you on whim, without pretext let alone a warrant or probable cause.

I have no idea what it’s like for normal people (White Guy) but the last time I visited Campobello (literally so close to Lubec you can walk there if the tide is right) I dumped a Gallon of Green Tea (Kirkland, it’s really good) before I crossed so I could say that I wasn’t transporting any Agricultural products.

Not that the Canadians care about anything except Firewood carrying parasites. “You’re smuggling U.S. beer into Canada? I’m sure you could find someone willing to piss in your mouth.” Most Canadians are waaay too polite to say something like that out loud, but the ones who aren’t thinking it have never tasted U.S. beer.

Returning is a different story. “Smile for me. You were smiling in your passport picture.”

Ok. My natural demeanor is resting bitch face which some people interpret negatively and that’s fine in most normal interactions, scares away the weak, but I didn’t want to upset my companion who was in fact smuggling a trunkfull of beer so I summoned up what passes as a rictus.

“Welcome back.”

Now none of this is helped mind you by my habit of costuming myself in full Stockton for crossings, Bucket Cap, Aviators, Flamingo Shirt, and Cigarette Holder.

C’mon. It’s Campobello. FDR sported a Cigarette Holder.

But the sad fact is I live in Connecticut, home of BDL, 110 miles from Greenwich to Stonington and 70 miles from New Haven to Enfield and there’s not a square inch that isn’t under CBP jurisdiction. We are at the front line of the War Against…

Brown people?

Steve Thrasher has some more thoughts in the New York Times, not his usual haunt at The Guardian.

Daniel Pantaleo Was Fired. We’re Still Afraid for Our Lives.
By Steven W. Thrasher, The New York Times
Aug. 20, 2019

Returning from visiting a friend near the Mexico border, I was driving up State Route 90 when all northbound traffic was diverted into a giant tent, where officers from Customs and Border Protection were performing cursory inspections of all vehicles. A menacing German shepherd was being led around each and every car, presumably sniffing for narcotics.

I was experiencing one of the legal checkpoints that the agency uses to search and potentially seize any vehicle within 100 miles of a border, without what would normally be called probable cause. And while I didn’t have any contraband, I felt a rising sense of panic as the officers and dog got closer to my car.

As a kid, I often saw my father pulled over and harassed by the police. And as an adult black man, I’ve been threatened by the police myself. As a journalist, I’ve reported on and read research about how — though most murdered Americans are killed by someone they know — about one-third who are killed by strangers are killed by the police. And while I’m a United States citizen, the Supreme Court’s ruling that allows for indefinite detention of noncitizen migrants has made me fearfully wonder, Just how could I prove I am a citizen and entitled to a lawyer and other rights if I was arrested by Customs and Border Protection or Immigration and Customs Enforcement?

To mitigate some of my fears, I’ve taken to having my passport with me most places in the country. In Arizona I kept it in my backpack as I drove. And as I waited for the authorities and dog to search my car, I took it out of my bag and placed it on the seat next to me, beside the rental car agreement I already had in plain sight, just in case I got pulled over, as I almost always do when I rent a car.

Not that a passport would have saved me from a long detention necessarily — ICE recently held a citizen for a month — and it wouldn’t have saved me from an officer’s bullet. But as I’ve written before, whenever I am near the police or even think I might be, I do anything I can so that I won’t have to put my hands in my pockets or into a bag or give them an excuse to say I might have been reaching for something dangerous.

The dog was walked around my car and an officer smiled at me inconclusively. Cautiously, I asked if everything was O.K., and he told me I was free to go. I drove off. I realized my heart was pounding and my breathing had unconsciously become very shallow.

I have a passport and citizenship yet still have this reaction, so I can only imagine how certain migrant communities — particularly Latinx communities subject to racist targeting — cope with the threat of detention or deportation by an immigration system that can stop anyone, anytime, and make judgments without due process.

But as a black journalist who has reported as police officers lobbed tear gas and used sound cannons in Baltimore, Ferguson and New York, and simply as a black person living in America, my experience in Arizona reminded me of how very real the stress of living under occupation is for black and brown people. Such stress, of course, takes a mental health toll and likely contributes to rates of hypertension and heart disease that create “John Henryism,” a term Dr. Sherman James, an epidemiologist, coined while trying to understand why black men die younger than white men.

Five years after Mr. Garner was killed, it is still painfully, mortally obvious that we’re justified in our daily anxiety.

After leaving Arizona last week, I was quickly reminded how such fears of the police do not exist merely in our heads. A study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that police use of force is a leading cause of death for young men of color overall and the sixth leading cause for young black men. One in 1,000 black men and boys can expect to be killed by the police, making them about 2.5 times more likely to experience this fate than white men and boys.

The same study found that black, American Indian and Alaska Native women face a higher risk than white women, with American Indian and Alaska Native being up to twice as likely to be killed by the police as white women.

“This study shows us that police killings are deeply systematic, with race, gender and age patterning this excess cause of death,” Michael Esposito, one of the study’s authors, said.

On Monday, news broke that the New York City police commissioner had finally fired Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who had used the banned chokehold that led to Mr. Garner’s death, a death that the medical examiner deemed a homicide. It took five years — a half decade during which Eric Garner’s daughter Erica died at just 27 years old from a heart attack after vigorously pursuing justice for her father. During which Mr. Pantaleo continued to draw paycheck after paycheck.

I don’t know if white readers can comprehend how stressful police stops are for black and brown folks in the United States. I don’t know if any amount of writing, or epidemiological research, or news accounts can convince white readers that a police encounter is a dangerous, potentially family-separating or life-ending event for black and brown folks.

But to brown and black readers: Know that the fears you have are not merely in your imagination. As white supremacists grow bolder under President Trump, and as technology allows for ever-more-expansive surveillance of intimate areas of life, policing still haunts and threatens us as much as it did the day Mr. Garner stopped breathing.

See, I’m allowed to give a wink and a nod because I appear unthreatening, “Old (120+ you young whippersnapper) White Dude.”

That makes me as angry as Bugs Bunny finding the bounty on Rabbits is 2 Cents.

I am busy formulating plans to steal the locks from the Panama Canal and cut Florida off the continent. Rabbits are perfectly harmless my ass.

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: The World Has a Germany Problem

The debt obsession that ate the economy.

You might think that recent events — market turmoil, weakening growth, declining manufacturing production — must be producing some soul-searching in the White House, particularly over Donald Trump’s view that “trade wars are good, and easy to win.” That is, you might think that if you haven’t paid any attention to Trump’s past behavior.

What he’s actually doing, of course, is attributing the economy’s troubles to a vast conspiracy of people out to get him. And his recent remarks suggest, if anything, that he’s preparing to open a new front in the trade war, this time against the European Union, which he says “treats us horribly: barriers, tariffs, taxes.”

The funny thing is that there are some aspects of European policy, especially German economic policy, that do hurt the world economy and deserve condemnation. But Trump is going after the wrong thing. Europe does not, in fact, treat us badly; its markets are about as open to U.S. products as ours are to Europe’s. (We export about three times as much to the E.U. as we do to China.)

The problem, instead, is that the Europeans, and the Germans in particular, treat themselves badly, with a ruinous obsession over public debt. And the costs of that obsession are spilling over to the world as a whole.

Eugene Robinson: Trump is melting down. Again.

Uh-oh. President Trump is in such a state of panic about his dimming reelection prospects that he’s getting his lies mixed up and occasionally blurting out the truth.

“It’s tough for Apple to pay tariffs if it’s competing with a very good company [Samsung] that’s not,” the president told reporters Sunday — flatly contradicting the ridiculous and utterly false narrative that he has spent months trying to sell. Trump apparently forgot his standard lie that China is somehow paying “billions of dollars” in tariffs, acknowledging instead that they are taxes paid by U.S. companies and, ultimately, the American consumer.

This reflects more than just the difficulty of juggling multiple lies. Evidence suggests that Trump is melting down. Again.

And for good reason.

Fears of a global recession, greatly exacerbated by Trump’s erratic and self-destructive trade policies, have sent financial markets tumbling. A sharp downturn would close off one of the principal lines of attack the president was hoping to use against his Democratic opponent. He tried it out at a rally in New Hampshire last week: “You have no choice but to vote for me,” he told the crowd, “because your 401(k)’s down the tubes, everything’s gonna be down the tubes” if he loses. “So whether you love me or hate me, you gotta vote for me.”

Fact check: No.

Catherine Rampell: Move over, Illuminati. The conspiracy against Trump’s economy is massive.

When Barack Obama was president and the economic statistics were good, then-candidate Donald Trump said they were fake. When Trump became president and inherited the exact same stats, they suddenly became real.

Now that they’re turning south, they’re apparently fake once more.

Trump, aided by his economic brain trust of cranks and sycophants, believes any indicator showing the U.S. economy could be in trouble must be fabricated. It’s all part of an anti-Trump conspiracy, he rants, according to reports in The Post, the Associated Press and the New York Times.

And move over, Illuminati, because this particular conspiracy is massive.

It’s led by the Federal Reserve, Democrats and the media, of course, or so say Trump and his Fox News minions. But it also includes the entire U.S. bond market, which flashed a warning sign last week when the Treasury yield curve inverted (meaning long-term bonds had lower interest rates than short-term ones, which usually predates a downturn).

Michelle Goldberg: Toxic Nostalgia Breeds Derangement

A writer who charted the collapse of reality in Russia now sees it worldwide.

In 2014, Peter Pomerantsev, a British journalist born in the Soviet Union, published “Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible,” which drew on his years working in Russian television to describe a society in giddy, hysterical flight from enlightenment empiricism. He wrote of how state-controlled Russian broadcasting “became ever more twisted, the need to incite panic and fear ever more urgent; rationality was tuned out, and Kremlin-friendly cults and hatemongers were put on prime time.”

Since 2016, the book has enjoyed a new life among people struggling to make sense of the dual shocks of Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory. Both catastrophes demonstrated the triumph of xenophobic post-truth politics, and both were assisted by Russian information warfare. Pomerantsev’s book about Russia suddenly seemed prophetic about the rest of the world.

Now, he’s written a penetrating follow-up, “This Is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality,” that is partly an effort to make sense of how the disorienting phenomena he observed in Russia went global. The child of exiled Soviet dissidents, Pomerantsev juxtaposes his family’s story — unfolding at a time when ideas, art and information seemed to challenge tyranny — with a present in which truth scarcely appears to matter.

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