Notes and Comment Blog


No checks, no balances

Feb 19th, 2017 12:09 pm | By

Don’t worry, we have checks and balances.

Except that we don’t.

We have them provided various conditions apply…but otherwise, we don’t. So they’re not really checks and balances in the sense we’ve always understood, are they.

Brian Beutler at The New Republic points out this obvious problem.

Donald Trump’s Thursday press conference was so meandering and deranged that it brought the basic ebb and flow of all politics to a halt, as power brokers across Washington, including Republicans on Capitol Hill, stopped what they were doing to watch along in amazement.

Amazement at what? It’s been obvious all along how mindless and malevolent he is, hasn’t it? So amazement at what? I guess the fact that no one stopped him, that he didn’t make any attempt to restrain himself, that he went on that way for so long, that it kept getting worse and worse? Something like that, I guess. I was amazed myself, despite the obviousness all along. I don’t really know why – maybe it’s just something about human psychology.

But as surreal as the spectacle was, it wasn’t disturbing enough to shake Republicans out of their determined obliviousness to the chaos of the Trump administration. We’ve seen the pattern repeat itself so many times, it’s grown tiresome: Trump becomes unhinged; Republicans pretend they didn’t see it, or say they won’t comment on every offhanded Trump comment, or just chuckle about his “unconventional” presidency; and everyone moves on.

Oh, no, it’s been tiresome all along – or rather, not tiresome, but disgusting.

Their ostrich-like reflexes have been a running joke in politics for months now. But in this case, a great deal of reporting indicates Republicans awoke to the frightening implications of letting an unstable man have free reign over the government, yet remained committed to the course they’ve chosen nevertheless…

Because he’ll do a lot of things they want done. That’s all. All we can do is try to make it so costly that they’ll draw some lines.

[T]he unexpected, and abrupt, transition between completely divided and completely unified government has revealed a fatal weakness in our systems of political checks, which Republicans are placing under great strain.

These systems and processes—congressional oversight, Justice Department autonomy, and legislative independence—weren’t designed to withstand a vengeful, lawless, id-driven madman taking over one party, and then the government, without popular support.

Weren’t they? Then they should have been. It’s not as if the founding dudes were not familiar with monarchy.

If congressional Republicans were going to use their power to check Trump, the way they would a non-partisan political or national security threat, we have a pretty decent sense of what they’d do.

In the policy realm, they might restrain his Muslim ban and deportation force designs; in the oversight realm, they would force him to sell off his assets, or at least release some of his tax returns, as well as launch a full inquiry into whether his campaign colluded with Russian intelligence to disrupt the presidential election. As a matter of basic governing competence, they would try to sideline reckless advisers like Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and the now-deposed Michael Flynn. Republicans probably can’t stop Trump from holding destabilizing press conferences, but they could make life uncomfortable for him and his team unless and until they started to show some semblance of control.

Instead they choose to whine anonymously to the press.

In other words, they’re shits. Like this shit:

Representative Jason Chaffetz, the GOP’s chief investigator, has asked the Department of Justice to pursue criminal charges against a former Hillary Clinton aide who helped set up her private email server. The same man who continued issuing subpoenas at an impressive clip after the FBI shelved its Clinton investigation believes the appropriate number of subpoenas the scandal-plagued Trump administration should face is zero. And Attorney General Jeff Sessions—who called on his predecessor, Loretta Lynch, to recuse herself from the Clinton investigation for extremely flimsy reasons—is resisting demands, based on clear-letter rules, that he recuse himself from federal investigations of Trump’s aides and their potential ties to the Russian hackers who disrupted the election.

Kakistocracy as far as the eye can see.



Last Night in Sweden

Feb 19th, 2017 10:45 am | By

You have your Last Year at Marienbad, your Last Tango in Paris or Halifax, your Last Week in Kidderminster – and your Last Night in Sweden. What happened on that Last Night? We don’t know, but we know it was bad.

During a campaign-style rally on Saturday in Florida, Mr. Trump issued a sharp if discursive attack on refugee policies in Europe, ticking off a list of places that have been hit by terrorists.

“You look at what’s happening,” he told his supporters. “We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?”

This is how he actually said it:

“You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. [pause] Sweden! [pause] Who would believe this?”

Or to put it another way:

“You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden.

Sweden!

Who would believe this, Sweden!?”

Believe what? He didn’t say, and there was nothing he could have said.

“Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound,” Carl Bildt, a former prime minister and foreign minister, wrote on Twitter.

Mr. Trump did not state, per se, that a terrorist attack had taken place in Sweden.

But the context of his remarks — he mentioned Sweden right after he chastised Germany, a destination for refugees and asylum seekers fleeing war and deprivation — suggested that he thought it might have.

“Sweden,” he said. “They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible. You look at what’s happening in Brussels. You look at what’s happening all over the world. Take a look at Nice. Take a look at Paris. We’ve allowed thousands and thousands of people into our country and there was no way to vet those people. There was no documentation. There was no nothing. So we’re going to keep our country safe.”

It is of course a stark staring lie to say there was no vetting. There was vetting.

As the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet noted, Twitter users were quick to ridicule Mr. Trump’s remark, with joking references to the Swedish Chef, the “Muppets” character; Swedish meatballs; and Ikea, the furniture giant.

Others speculated that Mr. Trump might have been influenced by a Fox News interview of Ami Horowitz, a filmmaker who asserts that migrants in Sweden have been associated with a crime wave, by the correspondent Tucker Carlson. “They often times try to cover up some of these crimes,” Mr. Horowitz said, arguing that those who try to tell the truth about the situation are shouted down as racists and xenophobes.

So Trump managed to remember the word “Sweden” but nothing else.



Not the Enemy

Feb 18th, 2017 5:06 pm | By

#NotTheEnemy



The first thing dictators do is shut down the press

Feb 18th, 2017 4:44 pm | By

John McCain points out that Trump’s constant spittle-flecked rages at the news media are the short road to dictatorship.

Sen. John McCain spoke out Saturday in defense of the free press after President Trump lashed out against the news media several times over the past week, at one point declaring it “the enemy of the American People!

Such talk, McCain (R-Ariz.) said on NBC News in an interview set to air Sunday, was “how dictators get started.”

“In other words, a consolidation of power,” McCain told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd from Munich. “When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press. And I’m not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I’m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.”

He’s not not trying to be a dictator. I think he’d be delighted to be a dictator if he could manage it. I don’t know that that’s what he’s trying to do though. In all fairness I think he’s too stupid to think about it that clearly.



Nothing to see here

Feb 18th, 2017 4:24 pm | By

Donnie wasn’t happy about the latest cover of TIME.

by artist Tim O'Brien. (courtesy of TIME 2017)



The Donald’s prayer

Feb 18th, 2017 3:55 pm | By

Wut.

https://twitter.com/Patriot_Drew/status/833091742568157184



Lugenpresse

Feb 18th, 2017 3:39 pm | By

Little Hitler is ranting about the media at his Nazi rally. I heard him squawk “But despite all their lies” before I turned the sound off. He’s a fascist piece of crap and he’s going to keep on with this shit until he gets it, or drops dead trying.

In his speech, Mr Trump said he wanted to speak to Americans “without the filter of fake news”.

Describing the media as “dishonest”, he repeated his assertion that some outlets “don’t want to report the truth” and were making up their stories about him.

“We will continue to expose them,” he said, pledging to “win, win, win”.

In his speech, the president also:

  • Repeated his campaign pledge to keep America “safe” and said the country would “have strong borders again”
  • Said Americans would have “a great healthcare plan” and Obama reforms would be repealed
  • Stressed that the White House was running “so smoothly”, dismissing claims that his administration was in disarray

It is unusual for a sitting president to hold a rally in the style of those held during election campaigns.

Yes, it’s unusual for a sitting president to carry on like a fucking Nazi.

Throughout the week, Mr Trump launched attacks on the media while indicating his excitement at facing crowds in Florida again.

On Thursday, he held a 76-minute press conference where he told reporters their level of dishonesty was out of control, citing coverage of his campaign’s alleged contacts with Moscow.

Because he’s a Nazi.



Nobody is hungry for the shit sandwich

Feb 18th, 2017 11:28 am | By

So Trump’s insatiable need for total, uncritical admiration, or worship, is messing up that “fine-tuned machine” in a very tangible sense: it’s making it impossible for them to fill their thousands of vacancies.

During President Trump’s transition to power, his team reached out to Elliott Abrams for help building a new administration. Mr. Abrams, a seasoned Republican foreign policy official, sent lists of possible candidates for national security jobs.

One by one, the answer from the Trump team came back no. The reason was consistent: This one had said disparaging things about Mr. Trump during the campaign; that one had signed a letter opposing him. Finally, the White House asked Mr. Abrams himself to meet with the president about becoming deputy secretary of state, only to have the same thing happen — vetoed because of past criticism.

That’s a massive obstacle. There aren’t many intelligent people who uncritically worship Donald Trump. They’re narrowing their hiring pool down to a vanishing point. And there are a lot of vacancies still.

In some cases, the Trump administration is even going in reverse. A senior political appointee at the housing department, who had already started the job, was fired this past week and marched out of the building when someone discovered his previous statements critical of Mr. Trump. The State Department laid off six top career officials in recent days, apparently out of questions about their loyalty to Mr. Trump.

“Many tough things were said about him and by him” before last year’s election, Mr. Abrams, who served as Ronald Reagan’s assistant secretary of state and George W. Bush’s deputy national security adviser, said in an interview. “I would have hoped he would have turned toward just hiring the most effective people to help him govern rather than looking back to what we said in that race.”

But that’s not the kind of human he is…which is another reason intelligent people won’t want to work for him…so the hiring pool shrinks again.

The ill will between Mr. Trump and much of the Republican establishment works both ways. Many Republicans who might have agreed to work for the president have been turned off by what they consider his sometimes erratic behavior and the competing power centers inside his White House. After firing his first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump found that his initial choice for a replacement, Robert S. Harward, a retired vice admiral, would not take the job without assurances that the president was ultimately unwilling to make.

Harward said it was a shit sandwich.

Contributing to the discomfort among potential officials was Mr. Trump’s rambling, disjointed news conference on Thursday, which several Republicans said made them worry about what life in the White House or agencies would be like.

Right? Can you imagine wanting to work in his administration? Even if you agreed with him politically? Nobody wants to work for a giant furious baby.



One criterion

Feb 18th, 2017 10:51 am | By

Life in the Trump administration – if they find out you wrote something critical of Trump in the past, they physically remove you from the premises.

A top aide to President Trump’s housing secretary nominee, Ben Carson, was fired and led out of the department’s headquarters by security on Wednesday after writings critical of Mr. Trump surfaced in his vetting, according to two people briefed on the matter.

Shermichael Singleton, who was one of the few black conservatives in the Trump administration, had been working at the Department of Housing and Urban Development since Jan. 23 as a senior adviser. He was preparing a cross-country tour for Mr. Carson, who is expected to be confirmed by the Senate this month.

But they hadn’t quite finished his background check yet. Oh no, oh no, what’s that – a deviation in thought.

Mr. Trump’s advisers turned up public writings by Mr. Singleton that appeared during the later stages of the campaign in which he was deeply critical of the candidate.

“My party in particular has allowed itself to be taken over by someone who claims to be a Republican but doesn’t represent any of our values, principles or traditions,” he wrote in The Hill in October 2016.

Call Security!!

The firing was reminiscent of the decision by the White House to block a senior Republican foreign policy adviser, Elliott Abrams, from becoming deputy secretary of state. The move came after Mr. Abrams’s anti-Trump writings came to the president’s attention. Mr. Abrams had been the choice of Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson.

This administration has one core belief: that Donnie Trump is the best human who has ever lived.



A chummy affair

Feb 18th, 2017 9:59 am | By

I do wish journalists would learn to stop portraying Milo Yiannopoulos as some sort of legit commentator or thinker or even forsooth fellow journalist. He’s a Twitter troll. That’s it. That’s all he is, that’s his only claim to fame, and it’s not something anyone should be taking seriously.

Despite a brief flare-up of controversy that preceded it, a conversation between Milo Yiannopoulos, the incendiary right-wing author and lecturer, and Bill Maher, the comedian and host of HBO’s “Real Time,” on that program Friday night was a largely docile, chummy affair. There was little conflict or cross-examination, as both men chided the political left for avoiding or drowning out Mr. Yiannopoulos’s views rather than engaging with them.

He’s not an author and lecturer. He’s a troll. He’s a verbal sadist who makes a career of bullying women. He is not any kind of substantive thinker. He doesn’t have “views”; he has a taste for bullying.

Introducing Mr. Yiannopoulos, 32, an openly gay editor at Breitbart News, Mr. Maher said: “I think you’re colossally wrong on a number of things. But if I banned everyone from my show who I thought was colossally wrong, I would be talking to myself.”

Blah blah blah they laughed when Beethoven sat down to play. Yes it would be foolish for Bill Maher to decide to talk only to people he thinks are right about everything, no it does not follow that he should talk to people whose only claim to fame is bullying women off the internet. That’s another thing I wish people would stop being so dense about. It’s generally good to interact with a wide range of ideas and people; that does not mean it’s generally good to seek out the worst, meanest, shallowest bullies on Twitter and interact with them.

Mr. Yiannopoulos began the interview by cracking jokes about gay people (whom he said he did not hire because they did not show up to work on time) and women, and telling Mr. Maher’s audience that they were “very easily triggered.”

“All I care about is free speech and free expression,” Mr. Yiannopoulos explained. “I want people to be able to be, do and say anything. These days, you’re right, that’s a conservative issue.”

Bullshit. Milo Yiannopoulos is not another Voltaire or Tom Paine or John Stuart Mill. Milo Yiannopoulos is another random shithead who gets his jollies from bullying women in public.

Describing himself as “a virtuous troll,” Mr. Yiannopolous said, “I hurt people for a reason.”

He said people “want to police humor” because “they can’t control it.”

“Because the one thing that authoritarians hate is the sound of laughter,” Mr. Yiannopolous said.

Milo Yiannopoulos is not Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator. Milo Yiannopoulos is a court jester for authoritarians.



From the Space Needle

Feb 17th, 2017 6:15 pm | By

The sunset this afternoon:

Image may contain: ocean, sky, cloud, twilight, outdoor, water and nature

Image may contain: ocean, sky, cloud, twilight, outdoor, water and nature



Maybe it’s the commentary you spike

Feb 17th, 2017 5:56 pm | By

Silencing of the press doesn’t have to be as crude as an actual armed shutdown. It can be just a constant stream of implicit threats of an actual armed shutdown.

Maybe it’s the story you decide against doing because it’s liable to provoke a press-bullying president to put the power of his office behind his attempt to destroy your reputation by falsely calling your journalism “fake.”

Maybe it’s the line you hold back from your script or your article because it could trigger a federal leak investigation into you and your sources (so, yeah, jail).

Or, maybe it’s the commentary you spike because you’re a publicly supported news channel and you worry it will cost your station its federal financing.

Or the commentary you never write in the first place, which I think is the case with public broadcasting. They are very timid.

A PBS station in San Antonio came very close.

The story began with a Jan. 24 speech that Representative Lamar Smith, Republican of Texas, gave on the House floor regarding what he described as the unfair way the national media was covering President Trump. He said for instance that the media ignored highs in consumer confidence, which of course it did not. And he ended with an admonition for his constituents: “Better to get your news directly from the president. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.”

His remarks caught the notice, and the ire, of a longtime San Antonio-area journalist and commentator, Rick Casey, who hosts a weekly public affairs program “Texas Week” on KLRN. He ends each week’s show with his own commentary, which also runs in The San Antonio Express-News.

Mr. Casey has been able to work for “40 years as a professional smart ass,” he told me, because “I’m not really a bomb thrower — I’ve watched politicians for so many years that I know how to be strong about something without being unfriendly.”

But Mr. Smith’s comments bothered him enough that he wrote up a stemwinder of a closing commentary. “Smith’s proposal is quite innovative for America,” it went. “We’ve never really tried getting all our news from our top elected official. It has been tried elsewhere, however. North Korea comes to mind.”

The station promoted the commentary before it aired. Lamar Smith’s office saw the promo and called the station.

Forty minutes before the show aired, the station’s president and chief executive, Arthur Rojas Emerson, left a message for Mr. Casey saying he was pulling the commentary and replacing it with an older one. Mr. Casey told me he missed the call, but saw what happened with his own eyes.

At a meeting the next Monday, Mr. Casey said, Mr. Emerson expressed concern “that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was under attack and that this would add to it.” The Corporation for Public Broadcasting provides financing for public stations, including KLRN, and Mr. Trump’s election has heightened fears that its financing will be cut.

It also happens that Mr. Emerson had left journalism for several years to run his own advertising firm and that Mr. Smith had at one point been a client.

Eeeeeeuccccccchhhhhhh. Sleaze piled on sleaze piled on sleaze.

But then:

when Mr. Casey’s commentary ran as planned in The San Antonio Express-News, astute readers noticed it was different than the previous night’s televised commentary. The story of what happened began traveling around San Antonio journalism circles, making its way to the Express-News columnist Gilbert Garcia, who shared the details last Friday.

Another titan of Texas journalism, Evan Smith, who co-founded The Texas Tribune and regularly appears on Mr. Casey’s program, noticed Mr. Garcia’s column while he was in Washington. “I had a hot coffee in my hand and I came very close to dropping it,” Mr. Smith told me. “Holding people accountable in public life is so fundamentally important that this idea that somehow we’re going to stop doing that because we’re worried about what the government’s going to do to us, I so unbelievably reject that.”

As it happened, Evan Smith was in Washington for a meeting of the PBS national board, on which he sits, and “I certainly got into the board room and talked to people in the system.” He also called Mr. Emerson, and told him “I didn’t see why The Tribune or I should continue to be associated with this show or this station.”

By late last week, Mr. Emerson had agreed to let Mr. Casey’s original segment run this Friday, as long as it included a new “commentary” label that will run with his opinion segments.

But in all the cases where there is no Evan Smith, the commentary will stay spiked.

Mr. Casey is satisfied with the result. But he acknowledged that it was a close call and that he was uniquely qualified to push back in a way others might not be. “I’m lucky to be in the position of being 70 years old, and not in the position of being 45,” he said, meaning that job security was not the same issue. “There’s no level of heroism here.”

In a week in which Congress is calling for a leak investigation into stories in The Washington Post, The New York Times and CNN that led to Michael T. Flynn’s forced resignation as national security adviser, heroism is what’s called for. Hopefully there’s enough of it to go around.

We’re in big trouble.



The result is to undermine the independence of the press

Feb 17th, 2017 5:40 pm | By

Robert Reich an hour ago:

Trump this morning escalated his attack on the free press: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” he tweeted.

Even if most Americans understand that a President of the United States calling the media the “enemy of the American people!” is unprecedented, delusional and dangerous, there will be some percentage of Americans who are becoming persuaded by his ever more strident attacks.

The result is to undermine the independence of the press in our society — making Trump the arbiter of truth in our society.

Last night, the Republican Party and Trump’s campaign websites posted a 25-question “Mainstream Media Accountability Survey,” asking: “Do you believe that the mainstream media has reported unfairly on our movement?” and then asking whether the survey-taker believes that MSNBC, CNN or Fox News “report fairly on Trump’s presidency,” allowing for answers of “yes,” “no” or “no opinion.

The survey formalized Trump’s attacks and his insinuation that media outlets are working against the American people.

The ads driving people to the survey are paid for by the “Trump Make America Great Again Committee,” a joint fundraising committee of Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee. People who fill out the questionnaire are taken to a donation page, which states: “President Trump is asking you to go the extra mile and make a contribution to help defend our movement from the outrageous attacks from the media coming our way. Contribute now to help us fight back against the media’s attacks and deceptions.”

Trump is dangerous.



Rush Limbaugh said

Feb 17th, 2017 4:15 pm | By

Today in TrumpOnTwitter.

Oh well if Rush Limbaugh said so.

Since then he’s been busy with stuff like that Rally at the Orlando airport. But then a couple of hours ago he went Full Fascist.

The press is the enemy of the people, according to him. Once again he’s inciting hatred and, potentially, violence.

Let’s go back to October 1933:

On October 4th 1933 the Reich Press Law stated that all journalism had to be “racially clean”. Any Jewish and liberal editors and journalists were sacked and all remaining editors had to take a Nazi citizenship test and prove that they were not married to a Jew. Any Jew who owned a newspaper was pressurised into selling out. If any Jewish owner refused to do this, the government banned the production of his newspaper for a few days that could then become weeks and months.

Trump would do that if he could. He wouldn’t hesitate.

He can’t, yet, and I don’t think it’s likely that he’ll be able to. But am I confident about that? No.


A value judgment can’t be “FAKE.” A value judgment isn’t the same as a fact claim.



More toxic mercury pollution please

Feb 17th, 2017 3:35 pm | By

Well then they should have the decency to rename it the Environmental Destruction Agency.

Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma’s attorney general spent years suing the Environmental Protection Agency over its efforts to regulate various forms of pollution, was confirmed Friday as the agency’s next administrator.

Pruitt cleared the Senate by a vote of 52-46, winning support from two Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Only one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, voted against him, saying he had “fundamentally different” views than she about the EPA’s role.

She probably thinks the P stands for protection, while he thinks it stands for…passivity? Poisoning? Polluting?

Pruitt has sued the EPA more than a dozen times during the Obama administration, challenging the agency’s authority to regulate toxic mercury pollution, smog, carbon emissions from power plants and the quality of wetlands and other waters. In Oklahoma, he dismantled a specialized environmental protection unit that had existed under his Democratic predecessor and established a “federalism unit” to combat what he called “unwarranted regulation and systematic overreach” by Washington.

And as the one-time leader of the Republican Attorneys General Association and the privately funded Rule of Law Defense Fund, he spearheaded a group of attorneys general that fought the Obama administration on such issues as the Affordable Care Act, Wall Street reforms and efforts to extend overtime pay to more workers.

And that is how you drain the swamp – you make sure poor people can’t get health insurance, you make sure bankers and hedge fund managers can destroy bankrupt millions of people, you make sure workers don’t get paid for working overtime. In short you make poor people poorer and sicker, and you make rich people richer. That’s the Republican political philosophy on a postage stamp.



$81 million a year

Feb 17th, 2017 11:49 am | By

Trump has gotten rid of that pesky rule that said coal companies couldn’t dump all their waste products into streams. Another victory for filthy water! The People, in all their glorious peoplehood, love filthy water; they thrive on it. It’s only coastal elites who look down on it from their spotless mansions in the sky.

President Donald Trump signed legislation repealing a regulation meant to protect streams from the effects of coal mining.

The congressional resolution killing the so-called Stream Protection Rule, which was issued in the waning days of the Obama administration, follows similar action by Trump overturning an anti-corruption rule that would have required oil companies to disclose payments to foreign governments.

We must protect corporations’ rights to make secret payments to foreign governments. It’s the American way. MAGA!

“In eliminating this rule I am continuing to keep my promise to the American people to get rid of wasteful regulations,” Trump said at a White House signing ceremony.

Companies such as coal producers Foresight Energy LP and Murray Energy Corp.stand to gain from repeal of the mining rule, which would have required those companies to monitor water quality and restore streams once their mining is complete.

So wasteful. It’s much more economical to dump the coal waste into the streams and let the locals die quietly up there in the hills.

The Interior Department, which spent seven years crafting the rule, had said the regulation, which updates 33-year-old regulations, will protect 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests, primarily in Appalachia. It is meant to stop the practice of dumping mining waste in streams and valleys during mountaintop mining. They estimated compliance with the regulation would cost $81 million a year, or 0.1 percent or less of aggregate annual industry revenues, it said.

“Leaders in Congress and the administration chose to put coal-mining profits over the health and safety of Appalachian communities,” said Deborah Murray, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Limiting the toxic waste coal companies can dump in our rivers and streams is not a burdensome government regulation; it is common sense and, quite frankly, the job of our federal government.”

What is the point of rivers and streams if it’s not waste disposal?



Unfounded

Feb 17th, 2017 11:14 am | By

The Toronto Globe and Mail has been doing a huge investigation into law enforcement’s handling of sexual-assault cases.

National policing data, compiled and reviewed by The Globe as part of its 20-month investigation, reveal that one of every five sexual-assault allegations in Canada is dismissed as baseless and thus unfounded. The result is a national unfounded rate of 19.39 per cent – nearly twice as high as it is for physical assault (10.84 per cent), and dramatically higher than that of other types of crime.

True unfounded cases, which arise from malicious or mistaken reports, are rare. Between 2 per cent and 8 per cent of complaints are false reports, according to research from North America, the United Kingdom and Australia. The Globe’s findings suggest that police in Canada are closing a disproportionate number of rape cases as unfounded, a phenomenon that distorts the country’s crime statistics.

It’s almost as if misogyny is a thing.

“What does unfounded mean to you? What does unfounded mean to anybody? It means ‘You’re lying,’.” says Ottawa criminologist Holly Johnson, who has extensively studied that city’s unfounded cases. She believes that high rates send a message that police don’t believe large numbers of complainants, “which reinforces damaging myths that women lie about sexual victimization, and could act as a deterrent to already low reporting.”

The 1980s and 1990s were watershed decades for sexual-assault legislation and jurisprudence in Canada. The crimes of rape and indecent assault were replaced with three tiers of sexual-assault offences, encompassing a fuller spectrum of sexual violence. Restrictions were put on the circumstances in which a victim’s sexual history could be introduced in court. The corroboration requirement was removed, meaning that a complainant’s word, even without third-party testimony or physical evidence, became enough to secure a conviction. And restrictions were put on a suspect’s ability to claim that he had “mistakenly believed” a complainant had consented to sexual activity. Alongside other changes, these decades gave Canada some of the most progressive sexual-assault laws in the world, in theory.

The handling of sexual assault has again become the subject of a vigorous public debate: The spectacle of Jian Ghomeshi’s sex-assault trial; the unprecedented public disciplining of an Alberta judge who questioned why a woman didn’t “keep your knees together” to prevent an attack; the cases of Bill Cosby and of Brock Turner, the Stanford student who was convicted of sexually assaulting a 23-year-old woman who lay unconscious on the ground.

And although discussion is often focused on the fact that fewer than one in 10 victims report their assault to police, and that fewer than half of the cases that do go to court end with a conviction – among the lowest conviction rates of any type of violent crime – The Globe’s reporting has shown there is an equally pressing statistic that has yet to enter the debate in Canada.

Every year, an average of 5,500 people are reporting sexual violence to Canadian police, but their cases are dropping out of the system as unfounded long before a Crown prosecutor, judge or jury has a chance to weigh in.

The result is a game of chance for Canadian sex-assault complainants, whose odds of justice are determined not only by the facts of their case, but by where the crime took place, which police force picks up their file, and what officer shows up at their door.

Misogyny never goes out of style.



Are they friends of yours?

Feb 17th, 2017 10:34 am | By

One of the worst bits of that “press conference” that was really just a therapy session for Donnie was when April Ryan asked him if he planned to collaborate with the Congressional Black Caucus.

Ryan asked Trump if he would include the CBC in discussions about his agenda for addressing urban policy. The CBC, for those unaware, is the Congressional Black Caucus, a group of African American legislators that is often a leading voice on the Hill for issues dealing with the black community. Trump appeared briefly to be unaware of what the initials stood for, and so Ryan asked more pointedly.

I didn’t recognize the initials either, partly because “the CBC” is also short for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, partly because it sounds so similar to the CDC, and partly because it’s not particularly standard if you’re not an insider. But that’s irrelevant to how Trump carried on.

“Am I going to include who?” he asked.

“Are you going to include the Congressional Black Caucus,” Ryan, who is black, asked, “and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus as well as …?”

“Well, I would,” Trump interrupted. “Tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting? Do you want to set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours? Set up a meeting.”

Ryan pointed out to the president that she is a journalist and that, while she does know members of the CBC, that’s not her role. “I’m sure some of them are watching right now,” she added.

That doesn’t capture what it was like. Trump asked those three rapid-fire questions in a rude, challenging, truculent way, as if she had done something wrong by asking her question. They were hostile questions, for no earthly reason other than the fact that he’s a prickly reactive asshole.

Notice, also, that he basically talked to her as if she were The Maid. “Set up a meeting.” She’s a reporter asking him a question, not his fucking servant. He does not get to bark out orders at her.

Trump went on to say that he had been trying to set up a meeting with Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee and a CBC member. He then claimed that Cummings had balked at following through, but the CBC tweeted its side of the story.


Trump lied about Elijah Cummings, too. He said Cummings had agreed to meet with him but then the White House “called called called” and Cummings totally stood them up. Then he embroidered the lie some more.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings swatted away President Trump’s claim that the Baltimore Democrat wouldn’t meet with him after repeated calls from the White House.

Trump made the comment during a wide-ranging news conferenceThursday and speculated that Cummings may have been dissuaded from coming to the White House for political reasons, perhaps by Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), whom Trump dismissed as a “lightweight.”

“I have no idea why President Trump would make up a story about me like he did today. Of course, Senator Schumer never told me to skip a meeting with the President,” Cummings said in a statement.

I have an idea why he did it. My idea is that he’s a defensive abusive asshole, and he was irritated by April Ryan’s question, so he proceeded to talk a lot of shit in response. Why was he irritated by her question? I don’t know…because she’s both black and a woman? Because it was a hard question? Because he wanted to talk more shit about the “carnage” in Chicago and he didn’t want to talk about the Black Congressional Congress? All those?

Trump said Cummings “was all excited and then he said, ‘Well, I can’t move, it might be bad for me politically. I can’t have that meeting.’ ”

Trump continued: “But he probably was told by Schumer or somebody like that — some other lightweight. . . . He was probably told: ‘Don’t meet with Trump. It’s bad politics.’ And that’s part of the problem with this country.”

The musings came in response to a question about whether Trump would meet with the Congressional Black Caucus — of which Cummings is a high-profile member — to discuss crime in poor, urban areas.

Ok maybe that’s what set him off. If he had to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss crime in poor, urban areas, he would be on the back foot, because they would know more about the subject than he does. That idea probably makes him go all wiggly inside, so he lashes out to show everyone who’s boss and make the wiggly feels go away.

I suspect this could be an ongoing problem.



Pricey

Feb 16th, 2017 6:09 pm | By

Trump’s eagerness to get away from the White House is going to cost us all hundreds of millions of dollars – hundreds of millions that could have gone to more urgent things than Trump’s ability to spend a lot of time at his Florida golf club.

On Friday, President Trump and his entourage will jet for the third straight weekend to a working getaway at his oceanfront Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla.

On Saturday, Trump’s sons Eric and Don Jr., with their Secret Service details in tow, will be nearly 8,000 miles away in the United Arab Emirates, attending the grand opening of a Trump-brand golf resort in the “Beverly Hills of Dubai.”

Meanwhile, New York police will keep watch outside Trump Tower in Manhattan, the chosen home of first lady Melania Trump and son Barron. And the tiny township of Bedminster, N.J., is preparing for the daunting prospect that the local Trump golf course will serve as a sort of northern White House for as many as 10 weekends a year.

Barely a month into the Trump presidency, the unusually elaborate lifestyle of America’s new first family is straining the Secret Service and security officials, stirring financial and logistical concerns in several local communities, and costing far beyond what has been typical for past presidents — a price tag that, based on past assessments of presidential travel and security costs, could balloon into the hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of a four-year term.

But in return we get…well, Trump.

Trump’s three Mar-a-Lago trips since the inauguration have probably cost the federal treasury about $10 million, based on figures used in an October government report analyzing White House travel, including money for Coast Guard units to patrol the exposed shoreline and other military, security and staffing expenses associated with moving the apparatus of the presidency.

Palm Beach County officials plan to ask Washington to reimburse tens of thousands of dollars a day in expenses for deputies handling added security and traffic issues around the cramped Florida island whenever Trump is in town.

In New York, the city is paying $500,000 a day to guard Trump Tower, according to police officials’ estimates, an amount that could reach $183 million a year.

This month, The Post reported that Secret Service and U.S. embassy staffers paid nearly $100,000 in hotel-room bills to support Eric Trump’s trip to promote a Trump-brand condo tower in Uruguay.

And bonus – a lot of that money goes to him!

The Defense Department and Secret Service, for instance, have sought to rent space in Trump Tower, where leasing a floor can cost $1.5 million a year — though neither agency has disclosed any details. In addition, Trump’s travel to his signature properties while trailed by a press corps beaming images to the world allows the official business of the presidency to double as marketing opportunities for his brand.

Jingle jingle jingle.



So he’s a bit of a Nazi, so what

Feb 16th, 2017 5:32 pm | By

A Trump goon bullshits Evan Davis on Newsnight.

“I’m sad to say that you and your colleagues have fallen into this trap of fake news,” the goon says.

Sebastian Gorka, his name is. He’s been news himself lately.

Donald Trump’s Deputy Assistant has angrily denied being anti-Semitic after he was spotted wearing a military medal associated with Hungarian Nazi sympathisers.

Sebastian Gorka, who is of Hungarian descent but was born and raised in the UK, was pictured wearing the controversial badge at an inaugural ball for Mr Trump and several other events.

According to the LobeLog blog, the medal was given to Mr Gorka’s father by the group Vitezi Rend – meaning Order of Heroes – that consisted of supporters of Miklos Horthy, the former ruler of Hungary, who collaborated with the Nazis during World War Two. The US State Department lists the group as being directed by Nazi Germany.

Gorka ranted at Evan Davis about talk of anti-Semitism at the White House, and used Kushner as his shield. Nope. There are women working for Trump, too; that doesn’t mean he’s not a misogynist pig. He is a misogynist pig, and women who work for him are working for a misogynist pig. Kushner is working for an ignorant bully who has no objection to anti-Semites working for him. So it goes.

Before joining Mr Trump’s team, Mr Gorka worked as a professor at the Institute of World Politics in Washington and as national security editor of Breitbart.

He was arrested in January 2016 after trying to board a plane with a 9mm pistol, charged with a weapons offence and is set to appear before a judge later this month.

Yes but Trump got 304 votes. Boom.