“At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice, he is the worst.” – Aristotle
“This test is important, take it immediately.”
“Huh. George Washington, apparently. Let’s face it, could be much worse.
“Amazing and…accurate? I got JFK because I’m basic af.”
“God, we are both hilariously predictable sometimes because…yeah…totally accurate for me. I like them principled and relatively scandal free.”
“And all I want is the drama and the glamour and the tragedy and exceptional, inaccessible privilege.”
“You like the guy who dies dramatically after a couple of years in office, I like the guy who retires quietly to set a historic precedent…and then goes back to his/our ridiculous estate. Fine with this.”
“We did pick the two wealthiest presidents, so…”
“We may be predictable/basic af but we are not cheap.”
– Katarina and C.
But also remember that this is the third made up tragedy the administration seems to have referenced in a single month in office. And remember that the nearest thing to successful terror attacks in Sweden recently was a conspiracy of anti-immigration neo-Nazis.
“You can never be overdressed or overeducated.” ― Oscar Wilde
Woof. I compile these posts throughout the week, updating it to make sure that news links are as current as they can be, and that notes of levity and enjoyment are liberally scattered throughout. I know things have gotten a bit heavy around here lately and I had every intention of a links post thick with Fashion Week highlights and apolitical links to lighten things up. I’ve got those too, but it’s also been a big week for news, which led me towards doing separate post on the big story.
Thus far I still haven’t put words together to speak intelligently about the presidential press conference–apt, since neither did the president in many ways. To date, he’s sowed the seeds to blame one branch of government if something terrible should happen (if committed by a Muslim of course, white people shooting up mosques seems to be fine), a second branch of government seems to be in some kind of grim Faustian pact to go along with him as long as he signs their legislation, and he’s on a tear of a campaign to delegitmize the fourth estate who scrutinizes his actions. So things are going great, guys!
To make up for the emotional roller coaster that is Western democracy at the moment, here is an extra large dose of links for you, kittens. Never say I don’t do anything for you!
This piece by Andrew Sullivan for New York Magazine is important reading and discusses the unfortunate fact that we have a president who seems to throw out countless lies and mistruths weekly–usually in the face of empirical evidence–and thus far does not seem to have retracted or apologized for any of them. He is not being held accountable in any way. He also gave an interview to CNN that’s worth viewing. When, “No error is ever admitted. Any lie is usually doubled down by another lie — along with an ad hominem attack,” what is at stake for government and the citizenry? His position, somewhat daringly, is that the president is outright mentally unstable, which is the source of a decent amount of debate-including whether or not it’s even appropriate for people to speculate on the matter. This letter, for instance is a nice and effective rebuke. To the comments, kittens, and lend me your thoughts.
After all the hullabaloo about privacy and securing information on Secretary Clinton’s part, this is just ridiculous.
Well, now we’re totally safe… To be clear, there are plenty of images of past “football” carriers. But none that I’m aware of that have posed for pictures.
This is a pretty good breakdown of the legal quagmire that is the executive order on immigration as it stands at time of writing. (Things may change. As should be abundantly obvious by now.)
I loved this piece at The Everygirlabout Beyonce and Adele at the Grammy’s last weekend, which speaks bluntly about black artists losing to white ones consistently and how what could have been a twitter war between the stans was prevented by the genuine positivity of women loving and supporting other women.
It took less than a month for a scandal to bring down a major player in the administration which, while in line with my predictions, does not bode well. All I will say is that given the layers to the Gen. Flynn story (most notably the fact that now-former Acting Attorney General Yates apparently alerted the White House to the potential threats and was fired only days later due to her stance on the immigration ban, and the fact that timelines being put forward by various staff simply isn’t matching at time of writing), I expect the press, government officials, and voting public to give at least as much scrutiny and attention to claims of foreign interference in our government as they did to Secretary Clinton’s emails.
“Why were you lurking under our window?” “Yes – yes, good point, Petunia! What were you doing under our windows, boy?” “Listening to the news,” said Harry in a resigned voice. His aunt and uncle exchanged looks of outrage. “Listening to the news! Again?” “Well, it changes every day, you see,” said Harry.” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
As mentioned in an earlier post, I intentionally consume a lot of news; but occasionally I do try to step back and consider my habits. At this particular moment in British and American geopolitics there is so much happening and at such a fast pace that I have found myself trying to read more and more news on an increasing number of (vetted) platforms and relying on feeds to keep up instantaneously on coverage of a number of issues.
I don’t actually think this is healthy. For some people, perhaps, but right now, not for me. It’s not good for my focus, my productivity, or my heart rate. As someone who normally allows not a single notification alert option to be activated on any of her devices (with the exception of professional ones), I’m developing a curious compulsion to be kept up to the minute.
But more critically, at this moment I don’t think it’s good at supporting my intention to be informed. Not every flashing “breaking new” graphic (and goodness, aren’t those causing heart palpitations) denotes a fully fleshed and well sounded story. I’m trying an experiment for the next few days where I’m going to be checking in on the news once in the morning and once in the evening and going cold turkey betwixt. My theory is that not only will this free up quite a bit of emotional energy it will give the media landscape time to present more and better connected facts to me. I’m curious to see if this will turn out to be the case or not.
But this left me wondering: how do you, faithful SDS loyalists, consume your news? Do you rely on feeds, paper subscriptions, digital subscriptions, emails from well meaning elderly relatives, or water cooler chatter? How often a day do you check in with your information streams? Have you dialed up your intake of news lately, or intentionally scaled back?
“The problem with political jokes is that they get elected.” – Henry Cate
This latest news story requires its own post, otherwise the Weekend Links update will be unreadably long. The still-breaking story about Gen. Flynn’s leaving the administration after an unprecedented 24 days is ongoing but at the moment…it’s a mess. It’s a bonkers, ridiculous, upsetting mess.
Getting the timeline right still isn’t easy. By my count thus far…Kellyanne Conway has said Gen. Flynn resigned, but Press Secretary Spicer then said President Trump asked for his resignation. Spicer said Gen. Flynn was an internal issue for weeks, but President Trump last week told reporters he knew nothing of the DOJ’s or any report to the White House that the general was a potentially serious liability. Conway speaking yesterday for the WH says that the problem is that Gen. Flynn lied to VP Pence, but just two days ago said that the President had complete trust in the general, and Spicer again is now claiming that the WH knew about this issue (with the exception of the VP, apparently, who found out he was either deceived or misinformed following the story breaking). At the last press briefing, Spicer seemed to claim that no team member had contact with Russia during the campaign, which news sources seem to be contradicting this morning.
But in summary, as far as I can make out, the fundamental options seem to be that either the then-President-elect directed Gen. Flynn to have a conversation with the Russian ambassador discussing the possibility of easing sanctions when the new administration came to power, or Gen. Flynn did this on his own volition. Either option is against the law. We’re only talking orders of magnitude at this point.
At the last press briefing, Spicer seemed to claim that no team member had contact with Russia during the campaign, which news sources seem to be contradicting this morning. CNN is now reporting that aides for the first candidate then President-elect have been in routine communication with Russian officials for months. While not wholly unprecedented during a transition period between governments, the frequency of communications seems to have raised enough red flags to have the intelligence community alert both the sitting and in-coming presidents to the fact.
In summary again, either candidate/President-elect Trump knew both that these communications were happening–and that it was illegal or at the very least wildly inappropriate–and allowed them to continue, or he knew that it was happening but didn’t understand that it was illegal/inappropriate. Our options here are malice or incompetence.
Elected officials in general and Republicans in particular, if you think you can wait this latest scandal out, you are wrong. If after eight years of obstructing and scrutinizing an administration’s actions out of “principle,” you are suddenly unwilling to do the same now in the face of blatant incompetence and dangerous allegations of foreign collusion, you are lost as a political group. If you believe it’s more important to maintain party and partisan power than have a functioning, trustworthy, and respected government, you are unfit for office.
Congressional leadership seems to be (finally, cautiously) starting to critique the White House, but overall the response thus far from the president’s own party has been craven. Some of my own representatives have been among the worst offenders–looking at you, Rep. Chaffetz–and no one seems to be willing to be the first to stand up and say, “In the face of this many allegations, this many procedural missteps in executive action, and this level of dysfunction, I demand investigations.”
I have said it before, I will say it again. I am not cheering for President Trump to fail; I did not and do not want the stability of my government undermined. But I did not vote for him because I believed that he was a fundamentally unsafe character with unsound plans and unformed opinions/goals, based on unconstitutional principles, who would put unqualified or unvetted people into power alongside him, to chaotic effect. It’s taken less than a month for him to prove me right.
“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” ― H.L. Mencken, On Politics: A Carnival of Buncombe
I quite literally cannot keep up with the sheer amount of news and bullshit this week. Believe it or not, I’m not rooting for President Trump to fail. I understand and accept that he won the election, I don’t dispute it and I don’t dismiss the millions of my countrymen who supported him. But policy and position are only part of the job, and the rest of it is procedure. Petulant chaos not only doesn’t impress me, and I can hand on heart say that from the vantage point of someone not living there, it’s also not improving America’s prestige or safety.
So with that ringing endorsement for the week’s news…here are your links, delivered with equal amounts of love and lady-rage from your friendly neighborhood C.!
This profile on a woman who creates customs suits for athletes was a nice and completely apolitical read.
This article from the New York Timesdescribing the first couple of weeks of the new administration is well worth a read, and I found the description of President Trump as a man of flexible ideology but fixed habits a fascinating observation, particularly (as the article explores) in light of what that means for a guy living in a new town, with a new job, and his first shot at public service.
A sobering opinion on why propaganda in the 21st century is different, and why it’s frightening. But also what its potential downfall might be.
I’m usually pretty strict on not allowing undue criticism of the First Lady or First Family to slide, but this lawsuit is infuriating. Newsflash, you’re not supposed to be enriching yourself off your elected position…that’s kind of the point.
Meanwhile, I’m totally sure that this use of his platform, in response to multiple companies dropping Ms. Trump’s fashion and accessories lines, is presidentially appropriate.
Relatedly, this piece candidly examining the media as co-equal unreliable narrator and what it might mean long term for its role in being one of our nation’s best checks to power is a thought provoking and important post. If both sides are seen as lacking credibility, who comes out on top? Historically, the guy in power.
“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
I’m a self-described news junkie who has followed several platforms and branches of the news media closely for my entire adult life. And as a current American expat, a former military brat with both current active duty and retired military family members, a staunch feminist, and someone who works in a field intimately influenced by the finance industry (to say nothing of international policy in dozens of countries on multiple continents)…there’s a lot to follow! I consume a lot of news and these days, as is well documented, a lot of it makes my angry, nervous, and downright pissed. As Solange put it, there’s “a lot to be mad about.”
That being said, one of the things that I’m really concerned about in the current American and British political moments is outrage fatigue. I’ve mentioned this in some comment conversations before, so I know I’m not alone in this worry. Anger is amazing fuel, it’s carried me through more than one challenge in my life. But I don’t believe it’s a perpetually sustaining source of power; it burns out. And it can occasional burn people out as well, when the burden of rising to every piece of bad news with rage simply becomes emotionally unsustainable and politically un-organize-able. I’m genuinely concerned that there are vested interests in the US who are betting that if they keep up a constant stream of conflict and splashy actions, people like me will eventually burn out–i.e., cease the opposition, allowing those vested interests to get away with much worse.
On the flip side, I also don’t believe that outraged reaction as a policy position is terribly effective–at least not in a permanent way, though I think it can be marvelously effective in the short term on the part of the citizenry! It may surprise some readers, but I am not in favor of single minded obstructionist strategies on the part of the left right now. By which I mean that if the president proposed policy broadly aligned with liberal principles, I’d expect leaders to support it (the trouble is that at the moment, the president has yet to put forward a policy I support, but I remain theoretically open to the notion). I railed against obstructionist behavior when conservative stoned walled President Obama, it would be hypocritical of me to support such behavior now. Being consistently against something is not the same thing as having a proactive platform of your own, something that I believe played out to Democratic disadvantage in the recent election. Anger fuels revolutions, but it’s usually taken cooler heads to turn revolt into civic progress rather than a short dive into tyranny or chaos. It’s not enough to emote in response to government actions we find immoral or unlawful, you have to mobilize. That takes organization, articulation of proactive positions and not just reactive ones, effort, and long term commitment…all of which can be difficult to sustain if you are operating from a place of near or actual burnout.
I know for a fact that I’m susceptible to outrage fatigue. And I also know that I plan on being more political involved and engaged than I have been heretofore. Meaning that I’m going to need a thicker skin, a longer battery life, and several recharging stations along the way. To that end, I’m more committed than ever to emotional self care practices and keeping my emotional energy well tended and focused. I’m still learning, but if like me you’ve stared responding to “BREAKING NEWS” signs with cringes and expletives, here are a few things that I’ve found that keep me even keeled when I want to panic or smash things.
Top Tips Thus Far From Someone Still Figuring it Out:
Don’t pick fights for the sake of fighting. Plenty of people are doing that already. If you feel so inclined to join the fray, have at it, but know that you’re expending emotional energy that may be better served elsewhere and that you may need later. Personally, at the moment I’ve given up trying to change a lot of people’s minds through arguing. Where I can find respectful conversations, I engage. Where I find flame wars, I avoid.
Don’t be afraid to enjoy frivolous things that bring your pleasure–and don’t let anyone shame you for it. Yes, there’s a lot of bad stuff happening all over the globe at the moment. That doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to enjoy and share small things that make you happy. I remember a criticism leveled at me waaaaaay back in the earlier days of my blogging where someone informed me that I couldn’t be a “real” feminist because I mostly wrote humor posts at the time. A couple of years later, I was called a “stupid/shallow” woman for talking about my love of fashion and beauty. At the time, these (fairly minor) critiques caused me a lot of self-doubt…which was precisely their intent. Today my response is a bellowing, “Nonsense!” As if it’s impossible to have a sense of humor, and like lipstick, and have thoughts about the wage gap, parental leave, and social constructs all at the same time. Everyday pleasures are important and people interested in shaming you do not have your best interests at heart.
Avoid toxicity. Sometimes we need to engage in hard conversations and go to tough places, usually because there is a reward to earn or a morally good fight to be undertaken. Sometimes, there is no discernible good in exposing yourself to certain platforms or people–sometimes being in those places can cause you damage. In those cases, do not give those people or platforms your time, attention, or money.
Maintain your internal bullshit barometer. We live in a consumer media world largely based on provocation and reaction, it takes effort to maintain a critical eye and perspective. Do not get worked up over, much less share information without vetting it first. If and when you find your control over your own perspective shifting to all-to-easily agree with the last article you read or pundit you listened to, it’s time for a break.
Actively seek out things that make you feel happy. Legal and innocuous, I stress! Whether that’s time with your partner or friends, reading a book, exercise, stand up comedy, podcasts, puppy videos…no matter. It’s ridiculously easy to feel like the world is a terrible place and the only logical course of action is to ball up in a corner by ourselves somewhere. Just remember, that’s the argument that got us into our current political predicament! Go find things that spark joy and make them a part of your daily routine.
Unplug from time to time. Barring nuclear disaster (which, depending on your point of view at the moment may in fact be a credible threat), there will be more bad news coming down the pike shortly and, if you are committed to your cause, you will be required to act in some way in response. Allocate your attention accordingly.
Conserve your energy where you can. Not every tweet, pronouncement, or even action is a Defcon 1 level threat. In fact, some of the news right is laugh out loud ridiculous. Find the humor where possible, and allocate your energy where it’s needed.
What about you? What emotional habits have you had to cultivate in the 21st century news and political climate? What works for you and what doesn’t?