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Four years ago, the world greeted the centennial of the start of World War I with idle curiosity — a bygone catastrophe from a time of dukes and empires, dangerous grudges and doomed alliances.
On Friday, an angry and rattled President Trump, who himself has upended international alliances and made friends with dictators, headed to France for a weekend of ceremonies and parades marking the Great War’s end.
Heads up, wrote CNN’s Nic Robertson.
After seeing his party lose the House in the midterm elections, Trump arrived for the peace commemoration “having just opened new hostilities back home, where he threatened his adversaries – should they not conform to his desires – that he will take them down.” World leaders stayed silent and wary. They “have watched Trump’s downward drift from the democratic principles they hold sacrosanct,” he said, “and have learned to adjust their measure of Trump.”
As for the bromance between Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron, that’s over, wrote Samantha Vinograd. Trump trash-tweeted Macron upon arrival Friday and is skipping his Peace Forum. Macron, his popularity slipping, had a tricky task, Vinograd said. “If Macron openly attacks nationalism, he knows that he’ll also effectively be criticizing” the American President.
French activists planned to float the baby Trump blimp near the Arc de Triomphe.
But politics should not get in the way of serious reflection on Armistice Day, wrote historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat. From 1914 to 1918, “more than 65 million men from some 30 nations fought ‘total war.’ ” More than 9 million died, and 21 million were wounded in a conflict that reaches into our lives even today. Four empires fell. The world changed forever: Those dense and consequential years brought “advances in prosthetics, debates over collective guilt and women working in ‘male jobs,’ the use of chemical weapons, and the idea that language can never express war’s horrors.”
Today, “with many right-wing leaders in Europe mimicking the tactics and rhetoric of the war’s worst legacy – dictators,” she warned, the liberal world order needs to be on high alert.
What is hot-dog shaped, a half-mile long and hurtling strangely through space? Is it – an interstellar probe sent by aliens? A couple of well-regarded Harvard astronomers speculate about the mysterious object, called Oumuamua, in an upcoming paper. Don Lincoln, a senior scientist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, was skeptical. Just because we can’t explain the object’s gravity-defying speed doesn’t mean there isn’t a perfectly good reason for it, Lincoln wrote. He quoted the late astronomer Carl Sagan: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
President Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions the day after the midterm election “before the voting machines even had a chance to cool,” wrote former federal prosecutor Elie Honig. Trump defended his replacement pick, Matthew Whitaker, Sessions’ chief of staff and a Trump loyalist (“he will make an outstanding Acting Attorney General!” Trump tweeted–when he wasn’t denying he even knew him). But Neal K. Katyal and George T. Conway III, in The New York Times, called the promotion “unconstitutional” and “illegal,” because Whitaker didn’t go through the process of Senate confirmation when he joined the Justice Department. That means that “anything Mr. Whitaker does, or tries to do, in that position is invalid.”
And what might Whitaker try to do? Look no further than an August 2017 opinion piece Whitaker himself wrote for CNN about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Honig suggested. It’s titled “Mueller’s investigation of Trump is going too far.’”
David Cole, national legal director of the ACLU, wants you to shed no tears for Sessions, who “oversaw a Justice Department that systematically undermined civil liberties and civil rights.” But in recusing himself from overseeing Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Cole wrote in the Washington Post, Sessions did the right thing by standing up to the President on the constitutional principle that “no one is above the law.” It cost him.
Midterm wave came on slowly
It may not have been the tsunami that some were hoping for, but Shan Wu saw a “cleansing” blue wave in Democrats’ decisive recapturing of the House in the midterm elections, while Republicans tightened their grip on the Senate. A “huge breakthrough made by women,” marveled David Gergen, and the heartening engagement of millennials, is all good news for democracy.
Call it a “rainbow wave,” wrote Van Jones: “the beginning of a new Democratic Party: younger, browner, cooler; with more women, more veterans and the ability to contest and win races from the Deep South to the Midwest.”
Now to “Make America Normal Again,” wrote Nayyera Haq. But Democrats shouldn’t overplay their hand, warned Mark Bauerlein. Attempts to discredit Trump will “instead arouse conservatives of all kinds, who understand the annihilating intent of liberalism better than the Democrats and commentators think.”
Rather than just subpoena Trump’s tax returns, Edward McCaffery suggested, House Democrats should use their new power to propose a “real, and fiscally responsible, middle-class tax cut – one that gives real benefits to working Americans and is paid for by asking for some payments from the wealthiest, who can now, like Jared Kushner, avoid all taxes.”
Even at week’s end, there was no closure on the midterms. The Senate and governor’s races in Florida were headed for recounts. In Georgia, officials counted thousands of absentee ballots to determine whether Republican Brian Kemp’s vote total in his contest with Democrat Stacey Abrams would stay over 50%; if it doesn’t, the race would be headed for a runoff election. Kemp was dogged by accusations he suppressed the vote – “misconduct so brazen and unethical,” wrote Van Jones, “that UN monitors would likely declare a stolen election if the contest were held in another country.” Don’t let him get away with it, he pleaded.
Takeaways for 2020?
“The midterms have provided Democrats with a massive opening to take back the White House,” wrote Julian Zelizer. They should seek coalition candidates, look to the new Democratic governors to dismantle GOP-erected obstacles to minority voting, and think purple – don’t sweat the unflippable red states. And Robby Mook, who ran Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, offered tips of his own for taking on the President. One of them: “Your vision of change must be bigger than a rebuttal of Trump’s latest tweet.”
Spanking is just a euphemism for ‘hitting children’
It also doesn’t accomplish what you think it’s accomplishing, wrote Elizabeth Gershoff, a human development expert. “The more children are spanked, the more likely they are to be aggressive or to engage in delinquent behaviors like stealing.” That is why the American Academy of Pediatrics published a statement Monday saying: Don’t do it. Instead, says Gershoff, tell your child what you expect and praise good behavior.
Alexa, was the Amazon HQ2 a hype?
Amazon spent the last year making cities coast to coast jump through hoops for the (dubious, to some) honor of being chosen as the site of the company’s second headquarters. This week both the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported the possible winners: Long Island City, Queens, and the Washington suburb of Crystal City. “It’s telling,” writes Jill Filipovic, “how quickly most of the potential locations in red states fell out of the running.”
The hostility of conservatives to funding education and public transportation — both key to a young, techie workforce — was likely not lost on Amazon, she wrote: “Liberal cities in liberal states had a built-in advantage.” Bottom line: “GOP claims of business-friendliness, and Amazon’s own narrative of its progressive values” don’t scan.
Thousand Oaks massacre
“There are no safe places, no safe days, no safe times,” lamented LZ Granderson. On Wednesday night an ex-Marine gunman shot dead 12 people at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, a town west of Los Angeles. “If it’s a mental health issue, do you think we’ll address it?” he asked. “If it were about how he got or kept his gun, is there an obtainable solution readily available?”
As the parent of a college-age son, when Granderson sees “the pain and sense of helplessness of others during these tragedies, it registers.”
Alyssa Rosenberg, in the Washington Post, said she’s had it with politicians who “invoke the ‘good guy with a gun” as the solution to gun massacres. The truth is, cops are regularly killed as they rush in to stop mass shootings; in Thousand Oaks, it was Ron Helus, a sergeant in the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. Nevertheless, Hollywood has profited off the supercop image. “They should be ashamed,” she wrote. Cops know the difference between this “fairy story” and real life, she said. They want better gun laws.
And finally, Freddie
In 1985, the band Queen took the stage at Live Aid, where its force-of-nature front man, Freddie Mercury, proceeded to flatten Wembley Stadium. It was a resurrection for the band – some say the greatest live gig of all time, writes Holly Thomas, who was thinking about it because a new Freddie Mercury biopic is out. “By the time he sat down at the piano and hit the first few notes of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ he was the absolute master of the stadium,” she says. His spectacular performance that night “is just one part of his generous legacy.”