Sunday, January 12, 2020

Last Call For The Drums Of War, Con't

One of the hard and fast rules of this regime is when Trump outright lies to the American people, that reality is whatever Dear Leader says it is, and when you fail in that aspect of covering for him on national TV, it's going to go badly for you, as Defense Secretary Mark Esper is about to find out.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said he "didn't see" specific evidence that top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani was planning attacks on four U.S. embassies, but said he believed such attacks would have occurred.

"The president didn't cite a specific piece of evidence. What he said was he believed," Esper said Sunday on "Face the Nation." "I didn't see one, with regard to four embassies. What I'm saying is that I shared the president's view that probably — my expectation was they were going to go after our embassies. The embassies are the most prominent display of American presence in a country."

The president and his top officials have said the strike that killed Soleimani, the leader of Iran's elite Quds Force, was justified because there was an "imminent" threat to American service members and diplomats. Members of Congress, however, have raised questions as to the nature of the threat following briefings on the strike that the administration conducted with all members of the House and Senate.

Congressional Democrats have argued the intelligence they were presented did not demonstrate there was an "imminent" threat to U.S. personnel in the region, while some Republicans said the Trump administration was justified in killing Soleimani.

Mr. Trump told Fox News in an interview Friday that "it would've been four embassies" that were attacked, seemingly revealing more information about the nature of the threat.

Esper said he agreed that the embassies probably would've been targeted by Soleimani.
"What the president said was he believed that it probably and could've been attacks against additional embassies," he said. "I shared that view. I know other members of the national security team shared that view. That's why I deployed thousands of American paratroopers to the Middle East to reinforce our embassy in Baghdad and other sites throughout the region." 

Intelligence and analysis doesn't matter.  What Trump publicly says he believes matters, and in America in 2020, only that matters.  Trump killed Suliemani because he believed it would help him politically, period.  At some point, somebody on his national security team mentioned embassies and that became the justification after the fact.

House Democratic Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff makes that clear in response to Esper.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, accused President Trump and top administration officials of "fudging" intelligence to justify the strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran's powerful Quds Force.

"When you hear the president out there on Fox, he is fudging the intelligence," Schiff said Sunday on "Face the Nation," referencing an interview the president conducted with Fox News last week. "When you hear the [defense] secretary say, 'Well, that wasn't what the intelligence said, but that's my personal belief,' he is fudging. When Secretary Pompeo was on your show last week and made the claim that the intelligence analysis was that taking Soleimani out would improve our security and leaving him in would make us less safe, that is also fudging. That is not an intelligence conclusion, that's Pompeo's personal opinion."

After three full years of lying to the American people on a daily basis, people don't believe Trump and it's hurting him.

The poll, conducted by Ipsos in partnership with ABC News, using Ipsos' Knowledge Panel, asked Americans about their attitudes on two unfolding challenges for the Trump presidency -- escalating tensions with Iran and the impending impeachment trial in the Senate.

Overall attitudes about Trump and the consequences of his actions against Iran largely were driven by Independents, a critical target for both parties in electoral politics. The poll showed a majority of Independents, 57%, and all U.S. adults, 56%, disapproving of Trump's handling of the situation with Iran, with 43% of both Independents and U.S. adults approving.

Respondents also were asked about the fallout of the strike against Qassem Soleimani, the second-most-important official in Iran's government behind Ayatollah Khamenei, which marked a major escalation in months of tension between the U.S. and Iran, which launched retaliatory missile strikes on American bases in Iraq.

In the aftermath of the U.S. strike, only 28% of Independents, and 25% of Americans, said they felt more safe, while just over half, 51% of Independents and 52% of U.S. adults, said they felt less safe.
When it comes to attitudes on the conflict with Iran, partisanship drives opinions. An overwhelming 87% of Republicans approved of Trump's handling of Iran, and 54% say they feel safer. Among Democrats, 90% disapproved and 82% felt less safe.

Still, when asked about concerns over the possibility of the United States getting involved in a full-scale war with Iran, Democrats are more united in expressing concern than Republicans.

A net total of 94% of Democrats, and 52% of Republicans, are either very concerned or somewhat concerned about the possibility of entering into another war in the Middle East, compared with 6% of Democrats and 48% of Republicans who said they were not so concerned or not concerned at all.

Iran is not going to save Trump's presidency.

It's A Textbook Example

Students in different states learn different versions of American history, even from the same textbooks from the same authors and publishers, because our states are anything but united, and teaching the next generation of voters what lawmakers demand they learn starts early.

The textbooks cover the same sweeping story, from the brutality of slavery to the struggle for civil rights. The self-evident truths of the founding documents to the waves of immigration that reshaped the nation.

The books have the same publisher. They credit the same authors. But they are customized for students in different states, and their contents sometimes diverge in ways that reflect the nation’s deepest partisan divides.

Hundreds of differences — some subtle, others extensive — emerged in a New York Times analysis of eight commonly used American history textbooks in California and Texas, two of the nation’s largest markets.

In a country that cannot come to a consensus on fundamental questions — how restricted capitalism should be, whether immigrants are a burden or a boon, to what extent the legacy of slavery continues to shape American life — textbook publishers are caught in the middle. On these questions and others, classroom materials are not only shaded by politics, but are also helping to shape a generation of future voters.

Conservatives have fought for schools to promote patriotism, highlight the influence of Christianity and celebrate the founding fathers. In a September speech, President Trump warned against a “radical left” that wants to “erase American history, crush religious liberty, indoctrinate our students with left-wing ideology.”

The left has pushed for students to encounter history more from the ground up than from the top down, with a focus on the experiences of minorities and marginalized groups such as enslaved people, women and Native Americans.

The books The Times analyzed were published in 2016 or later and have been widely adopted for eighth and 11th graders, though publishers declined to share sales figures. Each text has editions for Texas and California, among other states, customized to satisfy policymakers with different priorities.

“At the end of the day, it’s a political process,” said Jesús F. de la Teja, an emeritus professor of history at Texas State University who has worked for the state of Texas and for publishers in reviewing standards and textbooks.

The differences between state editions can be traced back to several sources: state social studies standards; state laws; and feedback from panels of appointees that huddle, in Sacramento and Austin hotel conference rooms, to review drafts.

Requests from textbook review panels, submitted in painstaking detail to publishers, show the sometimes granular ways that ideology can influence the writing of history.

It's funny how the right screams about public education being "indoctrination" and then eagerly passes laws demanding what students are taught.  Not that the left doesn't do that, far from it, but it only seems to be a bad thing when California wants to point out that say, Japanese-American internment during WW II was pretty horrific and the right doesn't teach it at all, for instance.

There's hope though.

Publishers are eager to please state policymakers of both parties, during a challenging time for the business. Schools are transitioning to digital materials. And with the ease of internet research, many teachers say they prefer to curate their own primary-source materials online.

Still, recent textbooks have come a long way from what was published in past decades. Both Texas and California volumes deal more bluntly with the cruelty of the slave trade, eschewing several myths that were common in textbooks for generations: that some slave owners treated enslaved people kindly and that African-Americans were better off enslaved than free. The books also devote more space to the women’s movement and balance the narrative of European immigration with stories of Latino and Asian immigrants.

“American history is not anymore the story of great white men
,” said Albert S. Broussard, a history professor at Texas A&M University and an author of both the Texas and California editions of McGraw-Hill’s textbooks.

Sadly, recent political history still stubbornly refuses to acknowledge that.

Sunday Long Read: Sin City

Eve Ettinger brings us this week's Sunday Long Read, a pretty heartbreaking story about debt, Christian prosperity theology, Dominionist theory, and Dave Ramsey's magic envelopes.

Dave Ramsey comes into the building through the back door in the receiving room behind the store. He’s wearing a black turtleneck and a leather jacket and jeans, and he has security with him — several large men looking alert and formidable. I can smell his cologne behind him as he walks through the store. I take the back elevator up after him, to the third floor where his event is, and the elevator is suffocating with the bitingly bright cologne wafting off his body. I feel like I need to vomit.

I want to push past his security and confront him, to make him look me in the eyes and tell him how much he hurt me. I want to slap his face and eradicate the smile that follows me everywhere through the store today — on the signage for his event, on the covers of his books, in my memory from the hours of videos I’ve seen of him talking about how to not be “stoopid,” how to get out of debt quickly with a “snowball,” how to not be a “gazelle.” I want to break through the character of popular finance guru Dave Ramsey and make him see me, a fragile 24-year-old heartbroken about losing everything familiar in the space of a couple years — a loss that felt like it had snowballed directly from his teachings.

It’s like the story of the mouse and the cookie: Dave Ramsey and his mentor, Larry Burke, gave my father the idea that debt was sinful. Because my father believed that debt was sinful, and believed God wanted him and my mom to have as many kids as possible (Quiverfull theology), they were too broke to help me pay for college. Because of this anti-debt theology, I wasn’t allowed to take out student loans myself, and had to attend a really conservative Christian college because it was so cheap and the school gave me a good scholarship package. The school also didn’t allow students to take out federal student loans (given their conditional exemption from Title IX). Because I went to that college, I met my boyfriend, who had private student loans because his family was too rich for him to get a scholarship package. Because my boyfriend had student loans, my father tried to break us up. Because my father tried to break us up, we got married in a rush. Because we got married in a rush, his family gave us a wedding gift of paying for us to take Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class. Because we took that class and were shamed into agreeing with Ramsey’s teachings by our parents, we spent all our undesignated remaining funds after rent and bills paying off my ex-husband’s student loans and didn’t have any bills in my name because I didn’t have a credit score, and ate cheaply at home and lived in a shitty illegal basement apartment in DC with a former Nazi as our landlord. Because I didn’t have a credit score, when I needed to leave my husband, I couldn’t rent an apartment of my own, and because we’d been paying off his student loans, I didn’t have savings to buy my own a car to commute to work. Because… because because because.

And here I was: living in yet another a shitty, illegal apartment with two fraternity brothers in a sort of sleazy-and-more-impoverished New Girl setup in Los Angeles, divorced at 24, and working hourly wage jobs because the PTSD from my marriage was so bad, I couldn’t hold down the kind of salaried job I was actually qualified to hold. I was starving because I was broke, and I was slowly building up a credit score with a loan on a car (a relatively new car, because only a dealer would sell to someone with no credit history) and a tiny credit card that I was using to pay for my gas and groceries every week. My part-time retail job at Barnes & Noble meant that I was supposed to help facilitate Dave Ramsey’s book signing event that night at our store.

I felt lightheaded — hungry, angry, and panicked about being so close to this man whose legacy in my life had been a mindset of scarcity and fear for as long as I could remember.

Dave had $1,000 in cash that he was going to give away in a couple of chunks to the attendees. The money was tucked into white envelopes — symbolic of his famous “envelope system” for budgeting, based on the concept that handing over physical cash would be psychologically harder for people than swiping a credit card, thus leading them to reduce spending. My mom used that system for years, as did other homeschool or Quiverfull moms I knew. It was a sign that this person was like you. It was an in-joke within our community.

That night in the Barnes & Noble, Dave held the envelopes aloft, standing at the top of the escalators on the third floor of the store before a crowd that surged around all three levels, faces craning upward to look at him. He was glowing a little with sweat, light reflecting off his bald head and glasses. Everyone around me was dazzled, excited. Cash money lit a primal instinct in everyone around me, and for a moment I felt like I was in church during a revival. I half expected someone to fall to the floor, taken up by the Holy Spirit in the heat of the moment. I felt as if I was the only person in the building whose feet were still on the ground, who was unmoved by his waving cash in the air like a conductor casting a spell over an entire orchestra. Our regular store security was unmoved as well, and I caught the eye of my favorite guard — a kind, retired cop who had regularly rescued me from clingy young male customers begging me to change my mind and give them a date. He shook his head a little, a baffled grin on his face.

I don’t remember what Dave was saying to the crowd. I’ve heard his lines so many times that they all run together in my head now, vague and cliched, but the energy was biting. He was angry; restrained, but there was a sharpness to his speech that night which I had never picked up on before. He sounded to me like he despised the people who were there to hear him, and I wondered if I was imagining it. But when my friend the guard talked to me about it the following day, I discovered I wasn’t the only one. “He was pretty intense, wasn’t he?” he said.

“I hate him so much,” I said.

“I don’t understand why he does gigs like that if he’s so rich and dislikes his followers so much.”

“Me either,” I said.

I've met several women with stories just like Eve, telling me how they've escaped bad marriages, controlling fathers, and a life of servitude, growing up in small-town North Carolina, and at the core of each story is Christian Dominionism: that husbands are the final arbiters of the family, and that those women are supposed to dutifully assist him by taking care of the kids and carefully shepherding financial and spiritual resources.  In these stories the men are supposed to be mindful, hard-working Christian providers who make enough to never have to worry about debt so the wife can stay home and care for the kids, even homeschool them.

Very few men I've known in my life are capable of meeting their end of the bargain in this scenario.  I can count the number that I've met on one hand, as a matter of fact, who truly hold up to this ideal and they are happy with well balanced marriages, a few children, and hard-earned careers.  There's shared responsibility and shared dreams there, under the umbrella of faith, but that takes mountains of maturity and constant work.

They are absolutely the exception that proves the rule that Eve's story is far, far more likely to be the outcome, and it's one of the reasons I'm agnostic.  I've seen too much of humanity and "Christians" to believe too much in a beneficent deity.

Impeachment Reached, Con't

Lora asked:

Do reporters get any sense of whether any Republican senators feel secretly frustrated by McConnell’s strategy? Or, are they all in?

CARL HULSE, chief Washington correspondent: The Republican senators most frustrated with Mr. McConnell have already said so publicly, like Lisa Murkowski. The more moderate Republicans also trust that Mr. McConnell will do whatever he can to protect them during the trial.

All of the Republicans are comfortable starting with what Mr. McConnell referred to as the Clinton trial precedent. But there are several keeping their options open on witnesses. There will be a big test vote on that at some point, and then we’ll know who’s on board. There’s a growing sense among senators I’ve talked to that there will be some witnesses.

There will be no witnesses, especially John Bolton.

John Bolton will be blocked from testifying at Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, the president has indicated, despite the former national security adviser insisting he would do so if he received a subpoena.

Trump claimed in an interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Friday night he would “love everybody to testify”, including Bolton, secretary of state Mike Pompeo and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

But he went on to say “there are things that you can’t do from the standpoint of executive privilege”.

“Especially a national security adviser,” Trump added. “You can’t have him explaining all of your statements about national security concerning Russia, China and North Korea, everything. You just can’t do that.”

Asked if that meant he would invoke executive privilege to prevent Bolton from testifying, Trump said: “I think you have to for the sake of the office.”

GOP senators will not test Trump on this, especially Collins.  Mitch will make sure that the GOP position is to support the White House on blocking witnesses, and that it would be up to the courts to decide otherwise.  Chief Justice Roberts won't touch it either, saying the issue should be worked out on a case-by-case basis.  Neither will the media help, they'll just bring up the time Eric Holder refused a subpoena on Operation Fast & Furious.

So no, there won't be any witnesses.  Like Clinton's trial the determination will be "There's already enough evidence."
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