“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”
My ducklings! My darlings! My scrumptious Christmas puddings!
I’m officially on holiday, can you tell? By the time most of you read this I will likely be on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, winging my way westward to the nation of my birth. The past week has been a frenzy of work activity to close as many tasks as possible, whilst juggling the occasions and events of the festive season. The Christmas “do” is over, I’ve dropped off presents to my London peeps, and Now I’ve got eight hours on plane to catch up on podcasts, audiobooks, and reading. How I’m looking forward to it!
We are shamefully unprepared for this holiday. I mentioned previously that November seemed to skate by at warp speed and by the time I felt I had looked up, it was halfway through December and I had managed nothing on my seasonal To Do list. Even our holiday packing is a last minute affair…I pen these words to you in a fit of desperate procrastination between outfit wrangling for two weeks and toiletries. And the sheer amount of mismatched food we need to eat in the next twelve hours to clear out the fridge is positively bonkers.
You’ll get a scattering of missives from me over the next couple of weeks, but I’m taking a proper holiday this year and mostly checking out. You can keep up with our Stateside shenanigans here if you feel so inclined. See you a bit nearer to the new year!
Let’s start with the news. Once again the stories are still breaking fast and hot as I put this post together but what a week! The American president is officially an un-indicted co-conspirator in multiple investigations and his bagmen are being found guilty of crimes left and right. It’s been amazing to watch the propaganda machines whirl this week. In normal times a credible allegation of involvement of a foreign power in his election campaign OR a credible allegation of major breach of campaign finance law OR an allegation of significant and corrupt business practices in his private capacity with corresponding state level investigations OR multiple mistresses would derail a politician. To have all at once may genuinely overwhelm our democracy. It’s an incredible testament once more of how much of a curve this man is graded on and I’m truly baffled as to how many people decided this was the guy they were willing to overturn all the rules for.
The progression of defenses:
1) It didn’t happen.
2) Okay it did, but I wasn’t involved.
3) Okay I was involved, but It wasn’t a crime.
4) Okay maybe it was a crime, but not one of those really BAD crimes.
5) What is crime, even, except a social construct?
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) December 12, 2018
It speaks volumes that he can’t seem to find a competent, willing, able, and viable chief of staff, a whole week after (perhaps presumptively) announced his incumbent was leaving. Though I swear if Newt Gingrich gets it, I will set something alight…
From The New Yorker, summarizing so much of the news out of Trump world generally: “It may be only part of the full story, but what we now know is a powerful tale that combines elements that are familiar from other Trumpworld scandals. It is, at once, shockingly corrupt, blatantly unethical, probably illegal, yet, at the same time, shabby, small, and ineptly executed.”
How politics became one of the many things replacing more traditional religious practices in the west, and why.
Another hero of mine down. God damn it, Neil.
Our bigotries cost us. Morally, without question, but also financially. I had a long and delightful conversation with a friend recently after we both saw an item online praising a woman for choosing to take a lower paying job at her husband’s request so that he wouldn’t feel intimidated or inadequate. Congratulations, was my take, you have literally put a price on that man’s pride and the whole family got to pay it. Other prejudices cost us too, and here is a much bigger and darker story about one such bill.
Why lip gloss is relevant again. Look, I’m open to being convinced on this, but lip gloss was the bane of my teenage years and I see no reason to go back down that dark road again.
Why that gene editing story in humans has so many people up in arms: the truth is we simply don’t really understand the complexity of how genes interact within us and the few times we’ve meddled with other creatures, the unintended consequences have ranged from strange to alarming.
Good. He should be anxious. I’m particularly struck by the line that states that that President wants to move away from legislation (actual outcomes) and towards politics (which I think we can safely file under showmanship). This is not a man who has ever actually been interested in governing.
Face facts, countrymen: we didn’t “miss” the rise of white supremacy and nationalism, we’ve been pointedly ignoring it or making excuses for the institutions or cultures that perpetuated it.
We must examine the notion of “adults in the room” who keep getting worn out by (in this metaphor) an adolescent-in-chief. As one writer at Vox has summarized it: “Consider the fact that Trump is now on his second secretary of state (Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo); his third national security adviser (Mike Flynn, H.R. McMaster, and John Bolton); his second secretary of health and human services (Tom Price and Alex Azar); and his second EPA administrator (Scott Pruitt and Andrew Wheeler). He’s just nominated his second UN representative (Nikki Haley and Heather Nauert), though Nauert won’t serve as a Cabinet-level official. By Trump’s methodology of counting interim officeholders, he’s on his third VA secretary (David Shulkin, Peter O’Rourke, and Robert Wilkie) and will be on his third attorney general (after Jeff Sessions and Matt Whitaker), should William Barr be confirmed by the Senate. And then there’s the intra-White House turnover that has given him two press secretaries (Sean Spicer and Sarah Sanders) and five White House communications directors (Spicer, Mike Dubke, Anthony Scaramucci, Hope Hicks, and Bill Shine). And the fact that Trump has removed both the chief of the FBI (James Comey) and the head of the Federal Reserve (Janet Yellen) for dubious reasons.”
Time Magazine named their Person(s) of the Year.
Final Vox piece this week, and it’s Ezra Klein’s take on Paul Ryan. It’s not kind (nor should it be): “To be clear, I am not particularly concerned about deficits right now, just as I wasn’t in 2010. But I took Ryan seriously when he said he was. I covered the arguments Ryan made, the policies he crafted, and I treated them as if they offered a guide to how Republicans would govern. I listened when Ryan said things like, “In Europe, generations of welfare-dependent citizens are hurling Molotov cocktails because their governments can no longer fund their entitlement programs. We can’t let that happen here.” Ryan’s office did not grant my request for an interview for this piece. But now, as Ryan prepares to leave Congress, it is clear that his critics were correct and a credulous Washington press corps — including me — that took him at his word was wrong. In the trillions of long-term debt he racked up as speaker, in the anti-poverty proposals he promised but never passed, and in the many lies he told to sell unpopular policies, Ryan proved as much a practitioner of post-truth politics as Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, in Britain… The Prime Minister survived a vote of no confidence but was subsequently humiliated with the EU and generally continues to have the political’s world’s most poisoned chalice of a job. British politics has been wild this week.
Brexit explained through a metaphor. Come for the thread, stay for the follow up puns.
This week in Mormon news, a weirdly deep piece on defecation. Yes, seriously. There is some downright lyrical, scatological writing this this piece. How the hell do I find this stuff…
Yes, Michael Cohen was Trump’s personal lawyer, but more recently he was Deputy Finance Chair of the Republican National Committee. The Deputy Finance Chair of the RNC was just sentenced to 3 years in prison for felonies committed during the 2016 presidential election campaign.
— Matt McDermott (@mattmfm) December 12, 2018
Hm. Giulianni seems like he’s looking for his next gig.
Not great for Ivanka. I mean, not surprising, but not great.
“Ah! There is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort.”
― Jane Austen
In a word, or rather three: on the couch.
It was great!
There is something so nice about doing very little in the dead of winter. Jeff and I had a few ideas about trying to travel for Christmas but after honestly assessing our bank account and savings goals, we binned that notion and opted for a staycation instead. I thought we we would be pleasantly lazy as a result but even I was surprised at how busy we weren’t. Full disclosure, there were multiple days when we didn’t even leave the house. In a row.
It was ridiculously good for me, I haven’t been that relaxed in a very long time.
It’s easy to vilify laziness, but I’m learning how important it can be to me as a type A person. I very, very seldom manage (much less give myself the opportunity) to switch off and I’ve written before on the toll this has taken on my physical and mental health in the past; I have more than once literally worked myself sick. I’m determined not to do that this year.
Are you good at switching off or do you struggle with it like me? Lend me your best relaxation techniques in the comments and help a girl maintain her newfound chill!
“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,’ returned the nephew. ‘Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”
― Charles Dickens,