Sunday Breakfast

This is a quick diary because I’ve got other things to do, so I’m only doing English-language sources.

But it was a remarkable week, because POUTS was temporarily deposed from the top slot in America’s Least Wanted by one Harvey Weinstein.

Let’s see what a couple of women have to say about the affair. First, Sarah Caden:

As everyone rightly condemned the behaviour of Harvey Weinstein last week, the hope was expressed that this scandal might serve not only to shake up the Hollywood system but the worldwide attitude to secrecy around sexual impropriety, harassment and assault. We’ll see. The various reactions still speak of a certain degree of people tiptoeing carefully for fear of destroying their lives and careers.

There have been suggestions that Weinstein is only one predator and that the film business is filled with similarly harassing heavy-hitters. They may be quaking in their boots, wondering and worrying will they be next, or they may not. It could be the case that Weinstein – no longer the power broker he was when Gwyneth Paltrow was “coerced” into giving up Thanksgiving – was an expendable casualty who will take the hit for everyone.

Behind the scenes, it’s possible that they’re allowing Weinstein to be the scapegoat, while the system makes clear to anyone who wants to keep working – not the older actresses, not the women who were already pariahs – but those who are forging their careers, that this needs to be contained for the greater good. Weinstein is over, but the show must go on.

What remains to be seen is whether everyone continues dancing to what is an age-old tune and not just Weinstein-specific.

Ayesha Hazarika is even more pessimistic:

Some will think this is all a big fuss over nothing; that the casting couch happens all the time; that the girls were asking for it; and my favourite – why didn’t they speak out about it?
Someone (a chap) I genuinely respect somehow thought this was all Emma Thompson’s fault for not storming into Miramax HQ, rugby tackling Weinstein to the floor and making a citizen’s arrest. Why? Because she’s famous. Ahh. But is she really that powerful in ­Hollywood? Of course she isn’t. Who has the real power? Who are the money-men? (big clue there). Who can make or break careers? Are there scores of leading female movie moguls?
Most big name female talent in Hollywood are actresses struggling to make sure no carbohydrate passes their lips, that they stave off the ageing process as long as is medically possible so they can get work. Once they do, they battle to get paid what their male co-stars get. The idea that they are going to tear down the system is for the birds.
Men do this kind of behaviour because they have power and they can. Many see it as a perk. It comes with the corner office, the big bonus and the title. That’s why people like me bang on about why it’s so important to have more women in positions of real power across all parts of our society. Until that changes, Harvey Weinstein’s story will have many sequels.

Alison Rowat disagrees a bit, and also comments on POUTS about something else:

UNUSUALLY in these short attention span times, the Harvey Weinstein story is sticking around.
Women from different industries have spoken about being sexually harassed, showing that the problem is not just to be found in film. The revelation that it had happened to Sir Tom Jones was a reminder that men can be victims too, and that abuse is always about power, with sex the sleazy cover story.
Sir Tom, interviewed by the BBC, said he had been left feeling “terrible” after the incident early in his career. The #MeToo movement on social media shows there are a lot of people who can second that emotion.

Still on that same long “to do” list, and this is one for parents in particular, we could stop encouraging girls and young women to be so ****** nice all the time.
Apologies for the asterisks, but if women had a pound for all the times they were told while growing up to be nice, play nice, act nice, oh don’t you look nice, we could all afford to have lawyers on speed dial. Niceness is, well, nice. Society would be poorer without it. But too much of it can have undesirable consequences. Chief among them is turning girls into people pleasers, always putting someone else’s needs before their own.
Heaven forbid that the person who says or does something dreadful should be called out on it and made to take the blame. Instead, it is the nice person who is consumed with embarrassment. It is up to the nice person, or so they have been led to believe, to fix things. And if that doesn’t work, there are only too many folk willing to dump the blame on the nice person’s shoulders.  Maybe the nice person  misunderstood. Was it something they said, did, wore? No, no, a million times no. But wouldn’t it be awful to cause a scene, to stamp and shout and risk making others feel bad?

Perhaps this is a generational thing. One would like to think that we are getting better at lifting the duty – make that the curse – of niceness from our daughters, nieces, younger friends and colleagues. That we have poured such confidence into them, put such bravery in their hearts, that they are able to handle this rough old world better than we sometimes did.
I ****** hope so.

At Mr Trump’s inauguration it was plain that the Obamas and Bushes have become friends, with Michelle Obama and Mr Bush particularly hitting it off. “She kind of likes my sense of humour,” he once said.
Somehow, I cannot see the Trumps and Obamas ever creasing each other up. Come to think of it, it is hard to recall Mr Trump laughing with, rather than at, anyone.

Which is how I segue into the stuff about the bum in the Orange House.

As it happens, Nash Riggins (an American now living in Scotland) is none too impressed with Dubya’s intervention:

This has been a tough year for America. Over the last ten months, we’ve been forced to contend with a merciless wave of mass shootings, natural disasters, riots and political ineptitude. Public institutions are being dismantled, rights are being stripped from ordinary citizens and hatred is being catapulted into the mainstream.

This country is crying out for strong, level-headed leadership. We need somebody – literally anybody with half a brain – to help us find and restore our collective moral compass. We need somebody to take the helm and lead by example. Unfortunately, we’re stuck with an orange social media troll and a gaggle of spineless yes-men.

But let’s not get too nostalgic, here. After all, by hopping on-board the anti-Trump express, it almost looks like Dubya is trying to whitewash history. He wants us to forget it was his administration that laid the groundwork for Donald Trump and his narrow-minded agenda.

In fact, Bush totally paved the way.

Trump’s seedy attempts to ban Muslims from setting foot on American soil would never have gained traction without the Bush administration’s ham-fisted wars in the Middle East. Sure, there were a few bad apples kicking about Iraq and Afghanistan – but al Qaeda was nothing but an ostracised loony bin that’d been expelled from the global Muslim community before America stormed in and tore apart the region.

In return, we got the so-called Islamic State, a bloody but short-lived caliphate and a fresh blast of Islamophobia across America’s heartland that Donald Trump was able to package up and carry under his arm all the way to the White House.

Then there’s Trump and his pledge to build a “beautiful” border wall to keep all of those pesky Mexican “rapists” out. Bush was all for building barriers, too. Although the Texan was relatively decent when it came to immigration reform, but he was only too keen to greenlight the construction of the 700-mile border fence that inspired Trump’s ambitions.

Still, that doesn’t mean we should just ignore the guy, either. The former president’s voice remains a strong addition to an increasingly loud chorus of political dissent that’s bubbling, brewing and inspiring people all across America. If he wants to hop onto the right side of history, speak out against bigotry and remind us what leadership looks like, then let him. With the state our country is in, we need all the help we can get.

Who knows? We might even be able to forgive him for this horrible mess he helped landed us in – but we sure as hell better not forget.

Dubya also crops up in Lizzie Dearden’s piece about Hillary’s appearance on the Graham Norton Show (sort of like Letterman/Corden but only once a week):

The former Secretary of State also told how she tried to avoid attending Mr Trump’s inauguration alongside other former first ladies and presidents.

Ms Clinton said she and her husband contacted the Bush and Carter families before confirming their attendance.

“I wanted him to rise to the occasion of being our President and a President for everybody…that didn’t happen,” she added, calling Mr Trump’s inaugural speech “a dark and divisive…cry from the white nationalist gut”.

George W Bush was also said to be unimpressed, reportedly calling summing up the speech with the verdict: “That was some weird s**t.”

The POUTS scandal du jour is the phone call to La David Johnson’s mother and who said what. Former Marine Peter Lucier thinks people are missing the point:

We call it the “Forever War”. Waged for 16 years, from Afghanistan and Pakistan, to Iraq, Syria, Yemen, North Africa and beyond, it’s been going on so long that it’s become mere background noise in American civil society. This latest debacle involving the phone call of President Trump to a widow whose husband had been killed in Niger is about more than a short-tempered narcissist at the helm of the most powerful military in the history of humankind. It signals what has been a long erosion of the bridge between civil society and the military.

To make meaning of violent death in the name of something service members can’t see, smell or touch, we wrap the deaths of friends and brothers in layers upon layers of ritual – the battlefield cross, the codes of behaviour in transporting the body, the roll call, the passing of the flag to the family.

For civilians, the process is also wrapped in ritual – we imagine the death of our sons and daughters in uniform as a redemptive, sacrificial act.

In the aftermath of the deaths in Niger, public criticism of the President for not calling the family members of the slain quickly snowballed, reaching a new flashpoint on the night of 17 October, when a democratic Congresswoman, Frederica Wilson, claimed that the President said “he knew what he signed up for” when speaking with the widow of the fallen soldier in Niger.

Perhaps the President was trying to sincerely console the mother. Perhaps he is as oblivious to the power of his words as Commander-in-Chief as he seems. What his lack of tact reveals isn’t so much his intent, malice, or incompetence as a public that lacks the ability to process and make sense of the true cost of a Forever War.

I see a public that is deeply and disturbingly disconnected from the wars fought in its name in 2017. I see a military that has turned inward, away from criticism and oversight. I see a President – a man who sits at the head of both American civil society and the military – who doesn’t understand the job he has, nor why he was elevated to the position he holds.

As a marine, and now as a civilian, I’ve struggled to make meaning of war-time deaths. To find purpose in them. The rituals I participated in as a marine helped me bridge the gaps in my own understanding.

What I hope comes from an atrocious handling of what should have been a moment of national unity is an increased public awareness of the Forever War, and a rebuilding of the bridge of understanding between the US military and the society it protects, which has been so deeply and fundamentally eroded.

NAFTA is currently in trouble as negotiations run into the sand, as David Usborne explains:

Last week, all three sides admitted the goal of revising the 1994 pact by year’s end is beyond their grasp for the simple reason that the US is making demands the other two countries can’t possibly swallow. The talks will now drag on into next year. While not surprising, this is alarming news. Peña Nieto’s term is almost over. With a new presidential election set for July and a populist candidate of the left, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, leading all the polls, the time to surrender to American’s trenchant demands will not be then.

That Trump’s posturing on Nafta – he continues to express a willingness to kill it off entirely – could end up propelling a leftist to power in Mexico for the first time in modern memory is an inconvenience he either doesn’t see or doesn’t care about. Even the arguments from a multitude of quarters – including from some of his economic advisors in the White House – that the economic costs could be severe aren’t getting through.

A document reportedly circulated by Peter Navarro, director of the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, said declining US manufacturing, which the administration repeatedly links to its unhappiness with Nafta and the US-South Korea trade deal, also now in jeopardy, has led to jumping rates in America of divorce, spousal abuse, drug abuse and murder.

This is the easy language of populist nincompoopism. If Nafta kills unborn babies, Nafta is bad. If Nafta makes husbands beat wives, bad too. If it means an annual trade deficit with Mexico of $60 billion, again, bad. The problems with this approach should be self-evident. First it means you enter negotiations expecting the other parties to accept they will be cast as the losers when it’s all over. It doesn’t work like that; they have political calculations to make too. The linear fixation with surpluses and deficits is equally misleading and unhelpful. There are other considerations. In spite of that deficit, are there overall benefits to the US economy? To national security, even?

It’s bad enough Trump is risking the livelihoods of precisely the blue collar Americans he purports to champion. But he is also turning his back on what has been a central tenet of the Republican Party for decades: open engagement with other nations, including trading with them freely, makes the world a peaceful place. It is a prerequisite for global stability. Trump has a quite different approach: pick fights and relish conflict, even with your closest neighbours.

Lastly, let’s take in Sean O’Grady’s splenetic view:

Who does Donald Trump think he is?

Whoever that may be, he has that rare and most unblessed of political gifts – an uncanny ability to unite enemies (think Iran and North Korea forming an informal nuclear alliance), and divide and alienate friends. Now it is again the turn of America’s staunchest ally, Britain, who he seems to think is some sort of jihadi sewer in a civil war with Isis.

The President of the United States declared on Twitter: “Just out report: ‘United Kingdom crime rises 13 per cent annually amid spread of Radical Islamic terror.’ Not good, we must keep America safe!”

Official figures show a 13 per cent increase in crime in England and Wales. The figures have, of course, been mostly attributed to an increase in sex and knife crimes, possibly with higher incidence of the reporting of certain offences. It is not down to terror, as common sense would tell anyone who cared to engage their brain before they got to work on an instant tweet. “Must keep America safe,” says Trump. “Keep”? False news, you might say. If only. For it is already an extremely unsafe place.

For the British, like so many Americans, Trump is turning from an embarrassment and source of innocent amusement into a clear and present danger to America’s internal and external security. In an unprecedented episode, both his immediate predecessors have said as much. Barack Obama and George W Bush have made coded but precise criticisms of the damage this man is doing. It is not difficult to believe that the other surviving presidents – Jimmy Carter, George HW Bush and Bill Clinton share those deep concerns. In fact every president since the War of 1812 would be astonished by Trump’s anti-British insults.

So America’s friends and allies across the world are feeling let down, to say the least, while its enemies are actually getting the better of the West. From Japan and South Korea to the UK and Germany, alliances are being strained by Trump’s boorishness (you recall the massive personal disrespect he showed to Angela Merkel when the German Chancellor visited Washington, refusing to shake her hand. Or the even greater pain to the Japanese premier when he nearly dislocated his wrist). They do not think they can rely on Donald Trump for anything. We cannot even rely on him not to insult or patronise us as we mourn our dead (something we share with the families of fallen American heroes, it seems).

How bad can things get before he has to leave office? How long do we have to endure the Trump nightmare? Who will he insult next?

Survive Sunday.

  5 comments for “Sunday Breakfast

  1. WYgalinCali
    October 22, 2017 at 10:43 am

    Good morning, Meese, and thanks, Michael, for another filling breakfast. As always, a great roundup. Even using ‘just’ English newspapers, it’s quite an assortment. I commented at the 🍊but wanted to acknowledge your support of the Moose with your triple post. It’s 45 degrees right now so I shall grab a cup and contemplate my day.

  2. bfitzinAR
    October 22, 2017 at 11:48 am

    {{{Michael}}} – thanks for the breakfast – I can’t stay to read it right now, but did want to recognize your work. I’ll be back when I can. moar {{{HUGS}}}

  3. Philly76
    October 24, 2017 at 11:47 am

    Great Piece Michael

    • bfitzinAR
      October 24, 2017 at 12:55 pm

      {{{Philly}}} – great to see you. moar {{{HUGS}}}

  4. bfitzinAR
    October 24, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    I did manage to get back to read it – and yes, very good if not surprising roundup – just keep being interrupted whether at home or at work. Thanks again. moar {{{HUGS}}}

Comments are closed.