Ancient pottery, like this jar from Iron Age Judea, can record our planet’s magnetic ebb and flow.
By Marcia Bjornerud
The New Yorker February 13, 2017
Of all the environmental amenities that this hospitable planet provides, the magnetic field is perhaps the strangest and least appreciated. It has existed for more than three and a half billion years but fluctuates daily. It emanates from Earth’s deep interior but extends far out into space. It is intangible and mostly invisible—except when it lights up in ostentatious greens and reds during the auroras—but essential to life. The magnetic field is our protective bubble; it deflects not only the rapacious solar wind, which could otherwise strip away Earth’s atmosphere over time, but also cosmic rays, which dart in from deep space with enough energy to damage living cells. Although sailors have navigated by the magnetic field for a millennium and scientists have monitored it since the eighteen-thirties, it remains a mysterious beast. Albert Einstein himself said that understanding its origin and persistence was one of the great unsolved problems in physics. Today, the scientific consensus is that the field arises in Earth’s outer core, where the movement of liquid iron creates a giant, self-perpetuating electromagnetic dynamo, and that the geometry of the field is approximately dipolar, like a bar magnet, with the two ends coinciding, on average, with the geographic North and South Poles.
In detail, however, things are much messier. The global magnetic field also has quadrupole and octopole components, which make its actual geometry something like a playground jack with extra spikes. The strength and orientation of the field can change without warning, over millions of years or in a few days. Since 1990, the magnetic North Pole has migrated almost nine hundred miles, from Axel Heiberg Island, in the high Canadian Arctic, to a site close to the true North Pole. At the same time, the over-all intensity of the field has been falling at a rate of about six per cent each century. Changes like this do not always happen steadily; since 1969, there have been four well-documented “geomagnetic jerks,” in which the rate of change in the field strength abruptly accelerated before, months later, settling back to normal.
Direct measurements of the magnetic field now span almost two hundred years, and iron-rich volcanic rocks on the ocean floor provide a lower-fidelity chronicle of its erratic behavior—including wholesale reversals in polarity—back about a hundred and fifty million years. But reconstructing the field’s behavior between these two extremes has been difficult. The trick is to find an iron-bearing object that locked in a record of the magnetic field at a well-constrained time in the past, in the way that wine of a given vintage preserves an indirect record of that year’s weather conditions. For this sort of remnant magnetism to form, the object generally must have been heated and then cooled through its Curie temperature—the threshold, named for Pierre, at which iron-oxide particles will align themselves with the ambient magnetic field. At best, however, young volcanic rocks can only be dated to within a few thousand years. Fortunately, natural rocks aren’t the only ones with magnetic memories; archeological materials like fired pottery and even smelting slag may bear similar information. On Monday, in a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of Israeli and American archeologists and geophysicists reports the most detailed reconstruction yet of the magnetic field in pre-instrumental times, using a set of ceramic jars from Iron Age Judea.
The clay jars, which were likely everyday vessels for wine or olive oil, do not appear to have been made with particular care. Although they exist now as fragments, they can be dated with unusual confidence because of the royal insignias stamped on their handles; they were made between 750 and 150 B.C. The team’s analysis suggests that for much of that time the magnetic field was relatively stable, and about forty per cent stronger than it is now. But the oldest jars reveal that, just before 700 B.C., the field’s strength briefly jumped by half, to almost twice its modern intensity, then fell rapidly in the next three decades. Today, such an event would cause catastrophic disruption of the electrical grid and satellite communications. It’s unlikely that the Judeans even noticed it.
The new findings, with their clear evidence of a geomagnetic spike, may help archeologists date pottery from other Iron Age sites, particularly where stamps are lacking. The study could also be useful in a second, less direct way. Carbon-14, the isotope that archeologists use in radioactive dating, is cosmogenic—continuously created in Earth’s uppermost atmosphere by cosmic-ray collisions. As a result, its rate of production fluctuates with the strength of the magnetic field. At times when the field is weak, more 14C is produced, and organic materials (wood, peat, seeds, textiles) soak up more of it than usual, making them seem younger. When the field is strong, the same materials’ ages will skew old. By understanding the past dips and rises of the magnetic field, archeologists can reduce the uncertainties in their calculations.
But, in the geophysical community, the tales told by the Judean jars may cause unrest. Both the height and the sharpness of the spike they recount push up against the limits of what some geophysicists think Earth’s outer core is capable of doing. If the eighth-century-B.C. geomagnetic jeté is real, models for the generation of the magnetic field need significant revision. Given the importance of a stable magnetic field to our electricity-dependent, communications-obsessed culture, these questions are of more than academic interest. The makers of these old jars, diligently stamping handles with the royal brand, had no idea that they were contributing to a twenty-first-century debate about the very heart of the planet. One wonders what unintentional messages the objects we leave behind will carry into the future.
Marcia Bjornerud is a professor of geology at Lawrence University, in Appleton, Wisconsin, and the author of “Reading the Rocks: The Autobiography of the Earth.”February 20th, 2017
A charcoal drawing by Miné Okubo, who was incarcerated in the Topaz internment camp in Utah at the same time as Fred Korematsu. Okubo studied fine art at Berkeley and in Europe, and worked on government art projects (including a W.P.A. mural with Diego Rivera) before the government interned her and other Japanese-Americans on the West Coast. In 1946 she included hundreds of her drawings in a memoir, “Citizen 13660.”
By KAREN KOREMATSU
NY TIMES FEBRUARY 17, 2017
When President Trump signed an executive order temporarily banning travel from seven majority Muslim countries, he hurled us back to one of the darkest and most shameful chapters of American history. Executive orders that go after specific groups under the guise of protecting the American people are not only unconstitutional, but morally wrong. My father, and so many other Americans of Japanese descent, were targets of just such an order during World War II.
Seventy-five years ago on Sunday, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, all people of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast were forced to leave their homes and report to incarceration camps. Two-thirds were American citizens. Fred Korematsu, my father, then 23, refused to go. A proud and loyal citizen, he had tried to enlist in the National Guard but was rejected and was wrongly fired from his job as a welder in an Oakland, Calif., shipyard He was arrested and tried for defying the executive order. Upon conviction, he was held in a horse stall at a hastily converted racetrack until he and his family were moved to a desolate camp in Topaz, Utah. My father told me later that jail was better than the camp.
He appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court. In his case, and in cases brought by Minoru Yasui and Gordon Hirabayashi — among the most infamous cases in American legal history — the court in 1944 upheld the executive order. Justice Frank Murphy vehemently opposed the majority decision, writing in a dissenting opinion, “Racial discrimination in any form and in any degree has no justifiable part whatever in our democratic way of life.” In the hysteria of war and racialized propaganda, my father’s citizenship did not protect him. For him and the 120,000 other Japanese-Americans incarcerated during World War II, there was no attempt to sort the loyal from the disloyal.
In 1982, almost 40 years after my father’s conviction, evidence was discovered proving that the wartime government suppressed, altered and destroyed material evidence while arguing my father’s, Yasui’s and Hirabayashi’s cases before the Supreme Court. The government’s claims that people of Japanese descent had engaged in espionage and that mass incarceration was necessary to protect the country were not only false, but had even been refuted by the government’s own agencies, including the Office of Naval Intelligence, the F.B.I. and the Federal Communications Commission.
With that evidence, my father reopened his case. In November 1983, he stood before a Federal District Court judge, Marilyn Hall Patel, and said, “As long as my record stands in federal court, any American citizen can be held in prison or concentration camps without a trial or a hearing.” Judge Patel overturned my father’s conviction, declaring that his case “stands as a caution that in times of distress the shield of military necessity and national security must not be used to protect governmental actions from close scrutiny and accountability.”
Around that time, the federal Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians declared that the Korematsu case had been “overruled in the court of history” and found that my father’s incarceration was based on “race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.”
Although his conviction was vacated, my father was keenly aware that his case was never formally overturned, even though it was widely discredited by scholars and even the courts. He was a quiet, soft-spoken man, but he spent the rest of his life speaking around the country about the government misconduct that led to incarceration, in hopes of preventing it from occurring again. In 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom for the brave stand he took against an unjust government action.
In 1991, President George H. W. Bush declared, “The internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry was a great injustice, and it will never be repeated.” But it can happen again. Since my father’s death in 2005, I have taken on his work to remind Americans what happens when our Constitution is ignored in the name of national security. We need to scrutinize Mr. Trump’s executive orders and any other attempts to single out groups for repression. Let us come together to reject discrimination based on religion, race or national origin, and to oppose the mass deportation of people who look or pray differently from the majority of Americans.
“Stand up for what is right,” my father said. “Protest, but not with violence. Don’t be afraid to speak up. One person can make a difference, even if it takes 40 years.”
Karen Korematsu is the founder and executive director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute.February 18th, 2017
Closed today for National General Strike
By Paul Krugman
NY Times February 19, 2017
The story so far: A foreign dictator intervened on behalf of a U.S. presidential candidate — and that candidate won. Close associates of the new president were in contact with the dictator’s espionage officials during the campaign, and his national security adviser was forced out over improper calls to that country’s ambassador — but not until the press reported it; the president learned about his actions weeks earlier, but took no action.
Meanwhile, the president seems oddly solicitous of the dictator’s interests, and rumors swirl about his personal financial connections to the country in question. Is there anything to those rumors? Nobody knows, in part because the president refuses to release his tax returns.
Maybe there’s nothing wrong here, and it’s all perfectly innocent. But if it’s not innocent, it’s very bad indeed. So what do Republicans in Congress, who have the power to investigate the situation, believe should be done?
Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, says that Michael Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador were “entirely appropriate.”
Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, angrily dismissed calls for a select committee to investigate contacts during the campaign: “There is absolutely not going to be one.”
Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House oversight committee — who hounded Hillary Clinton endlessly over Benghazi — declared that the “situation has taken care of itself.”
Just the other day Republicans were hot in pursuit of potential scandal, and posed as ultrapatriots. Now they’re indifferent to actual subversion and the real possibility that we are being governed by people who take their cues from Moscow. Why?
Well, Senator Rand Paul explained it all: “We’ll never even get started with doing the things we need to do, like repealing Obamacare, if we’re spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans.” Does anyone doubt that he was speaking for his whole party?
The point is that you can’t understand the mess we’re in without appreciating not just the potential corruption of the president, but the unmistakable corruption of his party — a party so intent on cutting taxes for the wealthy, deregulating banks and polluters and dismantling social programs that accepting foreign subversion is, apparently, a small price to pay.
Put it this way: I’ve been seeing comparisons between the emerging information on the Trump-Putin connection and the Watergate affair, which brought down a previous president. But while the potential scandal here is far worse than Watergate — Richard Nixon was sinister and scary, but nobody imagined that he might be taking instructions from a foreign power — it’s very hard to imagine today’s Republicans standing up for the Constitution the way their predecessors did.
It’s not simply that these days there are more moral midgets in Congress, although that, too. Watergate took place before Republicans began their long march to the political right, so Congress was far less polarized than it is now. There was widespread agreement between the parties on basic economic ideas, and a fair amount of ideological crossover; this meant that Republicans didn’t worry so much that holding a lawless president accountable would derail their hard-line agenda.
The polarization of the electorate also undermines Congress’s role as a check on the president: Most Republicans are in safe districts, where their main fear is of primary challengers to their right. And the Republican base has suddenly become remarkably pro-Russian. Funny how that works.
So how does this crisis end?
It’s not a constitutional crisis — yet. But Donald Trump is facing a clear crisis of legitimacy. His popular-vote-losing win was already suspect given the F.B.I.’s last-minute intervention on his behalf. Now we know that even as the F.B.I. was creating the false appearance of scandal around his opponent, it was sitting on evidence suggesting alarmingly close relations between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia. And nothing he has done since the inauguration allays fears that he is in effect a Putin puppet.
How can a leader under such a cloud send American soldiers to die? How can he be granted the right to shape the Supreme Court for a generation?
Again, a thorough, nonpartisan, unrestricted investigation could conceivably clear the air. But Republicans in Congress, who have the power to make such an investigation happen, are dead set against it.
The thing is, this nightmare could be ended by a handful of Republican legislators willing to make common cause with Democrats to demand the truth. And maybe there are enough people of conscience left in the G.O.P.
But there probably aren’t. And that’s a problem that’s even scarier than the Trump-Putin axis.February 17th, 2017
February 17 through March 26February 8th, 2017
By Peter Schjeldahl
The New Yorker: Feb 13, 2017
The enigmatic, fantastically erudite artist Raymond Pettibon takes to Twitter like a bird to sky. My favorite of some fifty tweets that he posted on a recent day offers a reason that Donald Trump can’t be the Antichrist: “Not charming, goodlooking, endearing enuff.” In his art, Pettibon only sometimes addresses topical politics, or topical anything, but he knows his archetypes, and it’s nice to have eschatological expertise on current events. How seriously to take it is an uncertainty that haunts all of Pettibon’s art, which is surveyed in “A Pen of All Work,” a retrospective at the New Museum of some seven hundred creations, mostly drawings with text. He has intrigued and befuddled a growing audience since the late nineteen-seventies, when he emerged, in Hermosa Beach, California, as a bookish surfer who made flyers and album covers for the punk band Black Flag (his older brother Greg Ginn was the founder and guitarist) and a flurry of zines. His fame took hold slowly, and it remains confined largely to fine-art circles. Seeing the show is like being lost in a foreign but strangely familiar city, where polyphonic disembodied voices whisper, yell, or sputter wit and wisdom that you’re rarely sure that you heard quite right.
The title, “A Pen of All Work,” is from Byron’s “The Vision of Judgement,” in which the mediocre poet Robert Southey proposes to ghostwrite a memoir for Satan and, upon being rebuffed, extends the same offer to the archangel Michael. This befits Pettibon, who says that roughly a third of his texts are lifted, or rephrased, from cherished writers: a pantheon in which St. Augustine consorts with Henry James and Mickey Spillane. But every Pettibon phrasing sounds like a quotation from someone else, often in the formal, slightly stilted tones of a Victorian wordsmith.
Take the inscription on an inky drawing, from 1992, of a shut eye with long lashes: “Where the record is one of emotions and sentiments, delicately traced and disentangled, one blush may do more than enough to expose the immediate view.” That sounds true, but what is the question that it answers? An inscription on a 2015 image of the formidable St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson, in mid-delivery, reads, “The fruit of the foreign tree is shaken down there with a force that smothers everything else.” Pettibon loves baseball, with a mystic’s intensity; surfing, too. In a favorite motif, a tiny surfer rides a monstrous wave, as philosophical thoughts attend: “The sand and water to which we are reducible are as a rock to me” or “Don’t complicate the moral world.” Pettibon’s way with words, somewhat like the poetry of John Ashbery, instills a conviction of cogency untethered to understanding.
The images that Pettibon draws are also either borrowed or look like they are. Comic-book characters have been a frequent source: Batman, Gumby, and the little guy from the old “Felix the Cat” television cartoon series, whose face is all gaping mouth and whose vocabulary consists of the single locution “Vavoom!” Another recurring persona is Jesus, who, in a 1990 drawing, appears on the Cross, musing, “I am after eight years’ hammering against impenetrable adamant, become suddenly somewhat of a success.” Pettibon’s graphic style is no style, a clunky mélange of cartooning and illustrational modes that lack honed skill and nuanced feeling. It works extremely well, appearing gauche only until you accept its service to blunt statement: manner at one with matter. Though never employing caricature, the work’s effect updates a tradition of pointed grotesquerie that has roots in Hogarth, Goya, and Daumier and branches in the modern editorial cartoon: aesthetic pleasure checked by the absurdity or the horror—the scandal—of the subject at hand.
Pettibon’s approach is also reminiscent of the directness of children’s art, a quality emphasized in the show by drawings that he made as a kid but only recently inscribed. (A wild battle scene, which he drew as a preteen, now bears the confession “As a boy I passed my life in day-dreams of military glory. There will be a war for you, my Father said, when you grow up.”) Curators and critics often group Pettibon with Mike Kelley and Jim Shaw, California-based contemporaries who display similar veins of punk-seasoned satire and poisoned narcissism. But he differs from them in the ruminative and sensitive qualities of his work, which suggest at once the sagacity of an old mind and the vulnerability of a young heart.
Pettibon was born in 1957, the fourth of five children. His father, who taught English at a junior college in Los Angeles and published the occasional spy novel, nicknamed his son “Petit Bon,” which the artist adopted as his surname at the age of twenty-one. His mother was a housewife. He earned a degree in economics from U.C.L.A., in 1977, and briefly taught math at a junior high school. He then plunged into artmaking, living in his parents’ basement, in slacker fashion, but he was compulsively productive. When I spoke with him recently, he said that his mother had been more or less his only admirer at the time, when his first zine, “Captive Chains” (1978), a racy noir narrative now highly prized by collectors, sold just a few copies.
Pettibon is a big, doughy, shambling guy, who, when he’s with you, can seem also to be somewhere else, but he’s cordial. In 2011, he moved to Manhattan with his wife, the video artist Aida Ruilova. They now live near the Brooklyn Bridge, with their five-year-old son. Pettibon’s parents were Christian Scientists, though the faith didn’t do much to form him, he said, except for its ubiquitous reading rooms, which “helped with my relationship to reading.” He has made his way “many times” through the Bible and—I believe I gasped when he said it—“Finnegan’s Wake.” He absorbed aesthetic theory from Edmund Burke, prosodic elevation from John Ruskin, and social description from John Dos Passos. But Pettibon responds to instances of rhetorical glamour in any sort of writing that strikes his ear with the “raggedy-assed edges of the sublime.
I have had spells of swearing off Pettibon, owing to the exhausting onslaught of things to see and read, from a sum of works that the New Museum show’s co-curator, Massimiliano Gioni, estimates to number around twenty thousand. Pettibon sympathizes. He said to me of his drawings, “Even to look at them can be an ordeal, like reading Milton at a sitting.” Each one demands absorption. After fully contemplating a few, you inevitably numb out. But there’s no help for an art that, as fast and as loose as it appears at first glance, distills long periods of conception and reflection. Pettibon told me that images can await the right words for years, and vice versa.
The new show, on three floors of the museum, eases a viewer’s toil by grouping works according to theme—sports, religion, sex, politics, nuclear apocalypse—though items that fit no genre are necessarily scattered throughout. There are videos made with friends, for which Pettibon wrote the screenplays. In one, “Judgement Day Theatre: The Book of Manson” (1989), a band’s guitarist drops dead, but his guitar keeps playing until the plug is pulled on it. A survivor remarks, “Guess we’re a power trio now, huh?” The script is a jumble of profane, stoned rants and the occasional Old Testament prophecy. Amateur actors deliver it woodenly, reading from cue cards. Stupid? And how. With his videos, Pettibon positively luxuriates in brainlessness—as he does on Twitter, in raunchy bursts of uncorked id. He thereby usefully disperses impulses that his pictorial work disciplines.
Charles Manson, the Symbionese Liberation Army, and the Weathermen preoccupied Pettibon early on, as aspects of the ruined hippiedom and misfired far-left militancy that punk scorned. But a signature tone of quizzical detachment marks even his most violent imaginings. In a drawing from 1986, a naked Manson girl, with the group’s signal “X” on her forehead and brandishing a switchblade, comes with a sociological gloss, likely imported from somewhere: “Kansas prepares them for it perfectly.” In another drawing, a pot-smoking cool dude gravely testifies, “I’ve never heard so many nuances in Donovan.” Pettibon didn’t express the era so much as seem to struggle through it toward air more breathable, with humor that was a recourse from discomfort.
Far left himself, to the extent that he is political, Pettibon subjected Ronald and Nancy Reagan to some obscene mockery in the nineteen-eighties. In a drawing from 1986, he hit on another public figure, viewed from behind against a moonlit city skyline; the work is inscribed, at the top, “A certain Donald Trump” and, below, “The first real gentleman I’d met in years.” But his pitch deepened in reaction to the Iraq War. True rage informs a burlesque, from 2007, of the iconic Second World War photograph of marines raising a flag on Iwo Jima. In Pettibon’s version, the men are naked but for peaked hoods. The inscription reads, “For once Cheney bows to multiculturalism etiquette, adds representatives from Al Qaeda, Iran to flag taking-down monument.” Elsewhere, a group of naked American torturers with erections, surrounding a hooded victim, is laconically lamented: “They brought their game with them, and what they didn’t learn back in the States in their black box of growing up, they learnt as they went along.” The blandness of the language intensifies the awfulness of the scene—a device that recalls Goya’s dry captions on his “Disasters of War” series. It’s not a note that you can hit by wanting to. Pain must administer it.
It’s odd that work so teeming with aspects of contemporary popular culture should stir associations to remote art history, but the contrast points up Pettibon’s singularity. I think, too, of medieval paintings that garland the actions of saints with scrolled scriptural passages, bracketing meanings, between image and word, for a community of the faithful. Pettibon’s coarsely robust picturing and suavely refined prose do the same, but for initiates who are more strictly fanciful. The fiction of an audience that knows what he’s about may be his chief invention. ♦February 8th, 2017
By MATT FLEGENHEIMER
NY Times: FEBRUARY 7, 2017
WASHINGTON — Republican senators voted on Tuesday to formally silence a Democratic colleague for impugning a peer, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, by condemning his nomination for attorney general while reading a letter from Coretta Scott King.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, had been holding forth on the Senate floor on the eve of Mr. Sessions’s expected confirmation vote, reciting a 1986 letter from Mrs. King that criticized Mr. Sessions’s record on civil rights.
Sensing a stirring beside her a short while later, Ms. Warren stopped herself and scanned the chamber.
Across the room, Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, had stepped forward with an objection, setting off an extraordinary confrontation in the Capitol and silencing a colleague, procedurally, in the throes of a contentious debate over President Trump’s cabinet nominee.
“The senator has impugned the motives and conduct of our colleague from Alabama, as warned by the chair,” Mr. McConnell began, alluding to Mrs. King’s letter, which accused Mr. Sessions of using “the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters.”
Mr. McConnell called the Senate to order under what is known as Rule XIX, which prohibits debating senators from ascribing “to another senator or to other senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator.”
When Mr. McConnell concluded, Ms. Warren said she was “surprised that the words of Coretta Scott King are not suitable for debate in the United States Senate.” She asked to continue her remarks.
Mr. McConnell objected.
“Objection is heard,” said Senator Steve Daines, Republican of Montana, who was presiding in the chamber at the time. “The senator will take her seat.”
The debate appeared to center, in part, on whether the rule allowed exemptions for quoted remarks — Ms. Warren had been reading directly from the letter from Mrs. King, the widow of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — to demean a sitting senator.
In a party-line vote, 49 to 43, senators upheld Mr. Daines’s decision, forcing Ms. Warren into silence, at least on the Senate floor, until the showdown over Mr. Sessions’s nomination is complete. He is expected to be confirmed on Wednesday.
Immediately, Democrats took up Ms. Warren’s cause, urging on social media for Republicans to “#LetLizSpeak.” Ms. Warren said on Twitter that Mr. McConnell had “silenced Mrs. King’s voice” on the Senate floor, to say nothing of “millions who are afraid & appalled by what’s happening in our country.” Within hours of being shut down on the Senate floor, Ms. Warren read the letter from Mrs. King on Facebook, attracting more than two million views — an audience she would have been unlikely to match on C-Span, if she had been permitted to continue speaking in the chamber.
Democrats argued that Mr. McConnell was enforcing the rule selectively, citing examples of Republicans appearing to test the boundaries of Rule XIX. In one instance from 2015, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas accused Mr. McConnell of lying “over and over and over again.” In another, last year, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas described the “cancerous leadership” of Senator Harry Reid, the former Democratic leader.
Republicans accused Ms. Warren of violating the rule repeatedly, saying she had been warned before Mr. McConnell’s objection. Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, suggested that Ms. Warren had been rebuked over “a quotation from Senator Ted Kennedy that called the nominee a disgrace to the Justice Department.”
“Our colleagues want to try to make this all about Coretta Scott King, and it is not,” he said.
But when Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, sought clarification, he was informed that while a warning was issued over the letter from Mr. Kennedy, the ruling itself hinged on Mrs. King’s letter. That judgment came from Senator Mike Rounds, Republican of South Dakota, who had taken over as the presiding officer.
In either event, Republicans suggested, the episode spoke to Democrats’ inability to accept the results of the 2016 election — and, more narrowly, to adhere to the rules of a body where decorum has often fallen away.
“She was warned,” Mr. McConnell said of Ms. Warren. “She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Democrats planned to hold the floor into the wee hours of Wednesday to protest Mr. Sessions’s nominationFebruary 8th, 2017
Felix Plate, 2016
ceramic and glaze
4 1/2 X 4 1/2 inches
January 20, 2017 – February 23, 2017January 22nd, 2017
By Paul Krugman
NY Times Published : JAN. 20, 2017
Betsy DeVos, whom Donald Trump has nominated as education secretary, doesn’t know basic education terms, doesn’t know about federal statutes governing special education, but thinks school officials should carry guns to defend against grizzly bears.
Monica Crowley, selected as deputy national security adviser, withdrew after it was revealed that much of her past writing was plagiarized. Many other national security positions remain unfilled, and it’s unclear how much if any of the briefing materials prepared by the outgoing administration have even been read.
Meanwhile Rex Tillerson, selected as secretary of state, casually declared that America would block Chinese access to bases in the South China Sea, apparently unaware that he was in effect threatening to go to war if China called his bluff.
Do you see a pattern here?
It was obvious to anyone paying attention that the incoming administration would be blatantly corrupt. But would it at least be efficient in its corruption?
Many Trump voters certainly thought they were choosing a smart businessman who would get things done. And even those who knew better may have hoped that the president-elect, his ego finally sated, would settle down to running the country — or at least delegate the boring business of governing America to people actually capable of doing the job.
But it’s not happening. Mr. Trump hasn’t pivoted, matured, whatever term you prefer. He’s still the insecure, short-attention-span egomaniac he always was. Worse, he is surrounding himself with people who share many of his flaws — perhaps because they’re the sort of people with whom he is comfortable.
So the typical Trump nominee, in everything from economics to diplomacy to national security, is ethically challenged, ignorant about the area of policy he or she is supposed to manage and deeply incurious. Some, like Michael Flynn, Mr. Trump’s choice as national security adviser, are even as addicted as their boss to internet conspiracy theories. This isn’t a team that will compensate for the commander in chief’s weaknesses; on the contrary, it’s a team that will amplify them.
Why does this matter? If you want a model for how the Trump-Putin administration is likely to function (or malfunction), it’s helpful to recall what happened during the Bush-Cheney years.
People tend to forget the extent to which the last Republican administration was also characterized by cronyism, the appointment of unqualified but well-connected people to key positions. It wasn’t as extreme as what we’re seeing now, but it was striking at the time. Remember “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job”? And it caused very real damage.
In particular, if you want some notion of what Trump governance is likely to look like, consider the botched occupation of Iraq. People who knew anything about nation-building weren’t wanted; party loyalists — and corporate profiteers — took their place. There’s even a little-known connection: Betsy DeVos’s brother, Erik Prince, founded Blackwater, the mercenary outfit that, among other things, helped destabilize Iraq by firing into a crowd of civilians.
Now the conditions that prevailed in Iraq — blind ideology, contempt for expertise, effective absence of any enforcement of ethics rules — have come to America, but in a far more acute form.
And what will happen when we face a crisis? Remember, Katrina was the event that finally revealed the costs of Bush-era cronyism to all.
Crises of some kind are bound to occur on any president’s watch. They appear especially likely given the crew that’s coming in and their allies in Congress: Given the stated priorities of the people about to take charge, we could very well see collapsing health care, a trade war and a military standoff with China just in the next year.
But even if we somehow skirt those dangers, stuff always happens. Maybe there will be a new economic crisis, helped along by the rush to undo financial regulation. Maybe there will be a foreign affairs crisis, say over adventurism in the Baltics by Mr. Trump’s good friend Vladimir. Maybe it will be something we’re not thinking about. Then what?
Real crises need real solutions. They can’t be resolved with a killer tweet, or by having your friends in the F.B.I. or the Kremlin feed the media stories that take your problems off the front page. What the situation demands are knowledgeable, levelheaded people in positions of authority.
But as far as we know, almost no people meeting that description will be in the new administration, except possibly the nominee for defense secretary — whose nickname just happens to be “Mad Dog.”
So there you have it: an administration unprecedented in its corruption, but also completely unprepared to govern. It’s going to be terrific, let me tell you.January 20th, 2017
Opens Saturday January 21, 2017. 3-5 PMJanuary 14th, 2017
By JILL FILIPOVIC
NY Times: JANUARY 13, 2017
The high-achieving elder daughter of President-elect Donald J. Trump is, on the surface, a glowing picture of modern American womanhood: a mother of three young children who built a business that bears her name. A glamorous figure whom it would be easy to picture balancing a baby in one hand and a briefcase in the other, all in her own branded high heels.
She has it all — including the ear of her future president father and a husband, Jared Kushner, who will serve as a senior adviser in the Trump administration.
But while Ms. Trump has found both professional and personal success by enjoying many of the benefits of feminism, she is far from an avatar of a feminist future. Instead, she’s a kind of post-feminist huckster, selling us traditional femininity and support of male power wrapped up in a feminist bow.
Indeed, in an attempt to smooth out the anti-nepotism concerns of her husband’s appointment, Ms. Trump will no longer run her own brand or serve as an executive with the Trump organization and is moving with her family to Washington — even as her brothers will continue to run the family company. Her plan, she said, is to “take time to settle our three young children into their new home and schools.”
The Trump-Kushners will arrive in Washington as one of the town’s most powerful power couples. While many think Ms. Trump will eventually take on a quasi first lady role — and while having either Ms. Trump or her husband working for Mr. Trump poses serious ethical and legal issues — it is important to note that Mr. Trump chose the male half of the Trump-Kushner pair to serve in the West Wing, presumably with the blessing of his daughter.
The particulars of this arrangement are unusual, but the norms underlying it are not. Even in the cosmopolitan centers where “power couples” exist aplenty, the male partner is often the more powerful one, and finds his success precisely because of his wife’s combination of feminist-facilitated achievement and traditional feminine support.
Unlike in past generations when educated women had a harder time finding partners, today, college-educated women like Ms. Trump are more likely than their working-class counterparts to wed, and also like Ms. Trump, usually delay childbirth until after the wedding. With the fewer financial stressors that come with dual incomes or a single extremely high one these educated couples divorce less often than those with fewer financial resources, despite other findings that both groups have comparable dedication to the marital ideal.
That educated women fare better romantically and occupationally than they used to is in many ways a feminist victory, if only for women at the top of the heap. And Ms. Trump has used the carefully cultivated image of her own career and family to sell both her brand and her father’s political ambitions. Her Instagram feed is full of images with motivational captions about the importance of stay-at-home motherhood or maternal multitasking, often with the hashtag #WomenWhoWork. “I have a few very important roles, but being a mother will always be my favorite,” she posted with a family photo.
This mastery of balancing ambition with likability is no easy task. Women usually have to trade one for the other. Yet tabloids describe Ms. Trump as both a “doting mom” and a “successful businesswoman.” Her father credits her with pushing him toward a paid maternity leave policy.
She’s also a woman who sells this image strategically. The white working-class Americans to whom Ms. Trump’s father directed many of his appeals hew more closely to traditional views of marital obligations and gender norms than those who are college educated, even as most working-class mothers are employed outside the home and are more likely to be raising children on their own.
Ms. Trump’s clear ambition remains unobjectionable in part because she seems to require nothing of men. She affirms her status as a wife and a mother first and a businesswoman second. While she speaks to the challenges of combining work and family, she makes no demands that her husband “lean in” at home — maybe Mr. Kushner does do the dishes, but they aren’t Instagramming it.
Her push for paid parental leave is certainly laudable and especially out of the box for the Republican Party, but the policy she urged her father to propose wasn’t really about parents — it offered maternity leave only, emphasizing that the task of raising children remains the domain of women (even “women who work”). And her soft-focus feminism is put to use covering for her father’s boorishness: Mr. Trump has repeatedly boasted of his refusal to do any child care whatsoever for his five children, but his daughter nevertheless deems him “a feminist.”
For some people — perhaps people who voted for her father — there is a post-feminist salve in the neotraditional marriage model Ms. Trump promotes. It’s a palatable way to mesh old sexist ideas about women as nurturers and helpers with the realities of modern American life. Ms. Trump embodies a feminine ideal, even while she lives a more feminist reality.
For working and middle-class women, though, the space where that ideal rubs up against reality is more likely to produce friction than anything else. Many Americans remain psychologically stuck between some vision of the 1950s white suburban family and the revolutionary, and still unfulfilled, promise of gender equality. While a majority of Americans agree that women should not return to traditional 1950s roles, that calculus changes when women have kids — a majority also believes that mothers should stay home with young children.
This is an especially precarious set of expectations for families who, unlike the Trump-Kushners, live in constrained financial circumstances. For heterosexual couples of all income levels, having children often leads to discord precisely because mothers and fathers tend to slide into more traditional roles — leaving women to tend to the trivial details of adult life, like changing diapers, picking up the dry cleaning or, in Ms. Trump’s case, setting up a new house and getting the kids acclimated to a new school.
Women expecting egalitarianism at home often feel hoodwinked by this new subtly sexist arrangement. Women expecting traditionalism find they’re stretched too thin by a belief that they should be the primary parent and an economic reality that demands their employment.
Ms. Trump has written a book called “Women Who Work,” so must presumably think she has advice to offer other women. But trying to emulate the Ivanka model without her financial means is a precarious path. Women who maintain demanding careers and also believe they are chiefly responsible for managing the domestic front are much more stressed out than women whose partners share in both work and family duties, according to social science research. For white working-class families, where women often work out of necessity and who also believe in the importance of divergent responsibilities for men and women, that dissonance sows significant marital conflict.
Least feminist of all: The “women who work” discourse adopted by Ms. Trump frames this all as a woman’s choice, rather than the predictable and deliberate outcome when feminist gains are warped by conservative public policy.January 14th, 2017
Thanks to Dewey NelsonJanuary 14th, 2017
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