Notes and Comment Blog


Speaking of Jeff Sessions…

Jul 21st, 2017 5:18 pm | By

Yet another boom-story. Sessions talked about policy issues with Kislyak during the campaign, even though he swore up and down that he hadn’t.

Russia’s ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, according to current and former U.S. officials.

Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s accounts of two conversations with Sessions — then a top foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate Donald Trump — were intercepted by U.S. spy agencies, which monitor the communications of senior Russian officials both in the United States and in Russia. Sessions initially failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said that the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.

One U.S. official said that Sessions — who testified that he has no recollection of an April encounter — has provided “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.”

And what’s another word for that, children? Can you think of the other word? That’s right – perjury. It looks as if Mr Sessions committed per-jur-y.

Sessions has said repeatedly that he never discussed campaign-related issues with Russian officials and that it was only in his capacity as a U.S. senator that he met with Kislyak.

“I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign,” Sessions said in March when he announced that he would recuse himself from matters relating to the FBI probe of Russian interference in the election and any connections to the Trump campaign.

Quite a collection of shoes we have now.



Caligula appointed his horse

Jul 21st, 2017 4:12 pm | By

Why not just put dogs and cats in science jobs in the Trump administration?

President Donald Trump plans to nominate his longtime campaign aide Sam Clovis to head science at the US Department of Agriculture, despite the fact that Clovis lacks a background in science and a congressional rule maintains that the role must be filled “from among distinguished scientists.”

It’s all part of draining the swamp. Putting scientists in science-based jobs is very swampy.

[T]here’s a stipulation in the Farm Bill that was first added in 2008 that mandates that all nominees to the chief scientist role at the USDA be a scientist — something Clovis is not.

“The Under Secretary shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, from among distinguished scientists with specialized training or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics,” the statute reads.

But he’s the president, so he can just ignore statutes.

Clovis is a climate change denier, of course.

Clovis’ nomination to the USDA was met with some outrage.

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware said he was “extremely concerned” about the nomination.
“The person who serves as the USDA’s top scientist is required to actually be a scientist. This is not just my opinion, but also a statutory requirement,” Coons said in a statement.

The Union of Concerned Scientists responded to the nomination with outrage posting a statement online: “With no background in science, Clovis — who is also a vocal climate denier — is an unacceptable and illegal choice for this important role that affects farmers, rural communities, and the health and nutrition of all Americans.”

Clovis’ nomination will go through a hearing with the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry in order to be confirmed. A hearing date has not yet been set.

Maybe the Committee will block the confirmation hahahajustkidding.



Her own child

Jul 21st, 2017 1:18 pm | By

Alabama forced-pregnancy fanatics call a raped girl of 12 a murderer for having an abortion.

Two conservative lawyers in Alabama held a press conference this week to denounce a court’s ruling allowing an abortion for a 12-year-old who was raped, AL.com reported.

The attorneys — Win Johnson and Lorie Mullins — argued that the girl was not mature enough to make such a “life or death” decision.

She wasn’t mature enough to be raped, either, nor was she mature enough to carry a pregnancy to term, let alone to take care of a baby.

Johnson, a former legal director under controversial Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, said it was ridiculous that the court would rule that the tween “was mature enough — and I’m going to put this in its starkest terms — to decide to murder her own child in her womb.”

“Now, nobody has said that to her, I bet you, in any of her counseling,” Johnson added. “Nobody has explained that to her in its starkest, rawest form, like that. But what if it was, what if she really thought through it, even as a 12-year-old and said, ‘Gosh, I don’t want that on my conscience.’”

Here’s another starkest rawest way to put it: it was also the fetus – not the “child” – of her rapist. If she let the pregnancy continue she would eventually give birth to the infant of the guy who raped her. Maybe she didn’t want that on her conscience – or inside her body. Maybe she didn’t want to combine her DNA with that of her rapist and see what intriguing mix that would turn out to be. Maybe she didn’t want to carry a baby that was forced on her. Maybe she didn’t want to let an act of violence and hatred result in a person after 9 months inside her body. Maybe she didn’t want her not yet mature body ripped up by giving birth to a rapist’s baby.

Maybe.



Brink

Jul 21st, 2017 1:06 pm | By

Brian Beutler at the New Republic sums it all up chillingly: it’s an authoritarian crisis waiting to happen.

The scope of that crisis is much clearer now that the Washington Post is reporting that Trump is discussing the possibility of pardoning himself, his family, and his closest aides to short-circuit the sprawling investigation of his campaign’s complicity in Russia’s subversion of the 2016 election. Trump’s team is also, according to the Post and another Times story, digging up dirt on the special counsel investigators in an attempt to discredit them.

It’s not Sessions, he says, it’s Mueller, and Trump’s telling the Times he thinks Mueller’s investigating his financial doings crosses a line.

In a more rule-bound environment, Mueller’s interest in opening Trump’s books would probably be checkmate for the president. Quite apart from the question of whether his campaign conspired with Russian intelligence to sabotage Hillary Clinton’s campaign, it is widely suspected that a peek under the hood of the Trump organization will reveal serious financial crimes. Assuming that informed speculation is correct, and assuming our system of checks hasn’t broken down, Mueller would uncover the wrongdoing and bring down a president, or Trump would fire Mueller and Congress would step in to edge Trump out.

But at the moment there are no reliable sources of accountability. None.

The sources of accountability are all contingent on political power. That’s no good.

Should Trump fire Mueller, with the tacit assent of Republicans in Congress and the DOJ leadership, there will be little recourse. It is feasible (though difficult) to imagine a GOP House and Senate passing an independent counsel statute to restore Mueller to his job; it is nearly impossible to imagine them doing so by veto-proof margins. And should Trump pardon himself and his inner circle, it is dispiritingly easy to imagine Republicans reprising their familiar refrain: The president’s power to pardon is beyond question.

So we could be living under a complete Trump takeover in a matter of weeks.



Even if it damages relations with Saudi Arabia

Jul 21st, 2017 12:21 pm | By

The UK government commissioned a report on Saudi funding of Islamist groups, but is keeping the contents secret.

It was commissioned by the Coalition government, after Liberal Democratic pressure, but must be held back on “national security” grounds, Amber Rudd said.

An exclusive poll for The Independent revealed that most people want to see the facts about foreign funding of Islamist extremism in Britain, even if it damages relations with Saudi Arabia.

It found that 64 per cent of the public wants the report to be made “publicly available in full”, with only 11 per cent backing its suppression.

The same survey found Britain must end arms sales to Saudi Arabia while the country is accused of the large-scale slaughter of civilians in Yemen’s civil war.

The results laid bare the public’s deep unease about Britain’s close relationship with an autocracy embroiled in a devastating war in neighbouring Yemen.

Not to mention a war on people in Saudi Arabia, especially women, dissenters, secularists, and foreign workers.



Homeopathy is so much cheaper

Jul 21st, 2017 12:05 pm | By

The NHS has finally decided to stop prescribing homeopathic “remedies.”

Announcing the plans, Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, said homeopathy is “at best a placebo and a misuse of scarce NHS funds”.

Besides homeopathy, the plans highlight 17 other items that will no longer be available on prescription for reasons ranging from low clinical effectiveness to low cost-effectiveness. These include herbal medicines, Omega-3 fatty acid compounds, rubs and ointments used to relieve muscle pain known as rubefacients…

And offerings to Asklepios.

“Homeopathy is based on implausible assumptions and the most reliable evidence fails to show that it works beyond a placebo effect. It can cause severe harm when used as an alternative to effective treatments,” said Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter. “Therefore, it is high time that the NHS stops funding it and instead employs our scarce resources on treatments that are backed by sound science.”

The view was echoed by Michael Marshall, project director of the Good Thinking Society, an organisation that previously threatened the Department of Health with a judicial review if it failed to put complementary and alternative therapies on the blacklist for prescriptions.

“This is very welcome news,” said Marshall. “Every credible medical body certainly knows that homeopathic remedies are just not effective for any conditions at all and it is great to see this strong statement from NHS England officially acknowledging the fact.”

The response from the other side is classic.

 Cristal Sumner, chief executive of the British Homeopathic Association said the NHS plans were “bad for its already overstretched budget and for patients” and criticised the report used to draw up the new guidelines.

“This recommendation is not cost effective as patients will be prescribed more expensive conventional drugs in place of homeopathy, which defeats the object of the exercise,” she said.

Oh certainly, because cheaper nothing is much more cost effective than more expensive actual medicine that actually works.



After denouncing chaos in the West Wing

Jul 21st, 2017 11:18 am | By

Spicey has had enough.

 Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, resigned on Friday morning, after denouncing chaos in the West Wing and telling President Trump he vehemently disagreed with the appointment of the New York financier Anthony Scaramucci as communications director

Mr. Trump offered Mr. Scaramucci the job at 10 a.m. The president requested that Mr. Spicer stay on, but Mr. Spicer told Mr. Trump that he believed the appointment was a major mistake, according to person with direct knowledge of the exchange.

Scaramucci is a finance person and a commentator on Fox News.

His resignation is a serious blow to the embattled White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, the former Republican Party chairman who brought Mr. Spicer into the West Wing despite skepticism from Mr. Trump, who initially questioned his loyalty.

He was not alone. Mr. son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has grown critical of both Mr. Spicer and Mr. Priebus, whom he regards as party establishment figures who operate out of self-interest.

I like the “Mr. son-in-law” – it sums him up. Why on earth does he have a job in the White House, given his complete lack of relevant education and experience? Because he’s Mr. son-in-law.

The appointment of Mr. Scaramucci, a favorite of Mr. Trump’s earliest campaign supporters, was backed by the president’s daughter Ivanka, his son-in-law and adviser Mr. Kushner and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the officials said.

I hope we can stop hearing about Ivanka as one of Trump’s more reasonable advisers now.



Loyalty

Jul 21st, 2017 10:14 am | By

The Times reports high anxiety in the White House.

The effort to investigate the investigators is another sign of a looming showdown between Mr. Trump and Mr. Mueller, who has assembled a team of high-powered prosecutors and agents to examine whether any of Mr. Trump’s advisers aided Russia’s campaign to disrupt last year’s presidential election.

Some of the investigators have vast experience prosecuting financial malfeasance, and the prospect that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry could evolve into an expansive examination of Mr. Trump’s financial history has stoked fears among the president’s aides. Both Mr. Trump and his aides have said publicly they are watching closely to ensure Mr. Mueller’s investigation remains narrowly focused on last year’s election.

Yes well see this is why it’s not such a great idea to elect a sleazy real estate marketer and scam artist to the presidency. Mr. Trump’s financial history is also Mr. Trump’s gigantic tangle of overlapping conflicts of interest.

CNN points out that it’s always hard to tell with Trump if he’s deliberately testing boundaries or just blissfully unaware that they exist.

The Washington Post and the Times ran stories Thursday night suggesting Trump’s lawyers are working on ways to undercut the probe by special counsel Robert Mueller into whether any of the President’s campaign aides colluded in Russian election meddling. The two papers reported that Trump’s legal team is examining potential conflicts of interest in Mueller’s outfit, in what appears to be evolving into an unavoidable showdown between the White House and the special counsel.

The quickly building drama is prompting discussion about the potential reach of presidential power and Trump’s willingness to test the boundaries of his authority, in possibly unprecedented ways.

It is often difficult to be sure whether the President is pursuing a deliberate strategy to stretch his powers or is simply unfamiliar with their limits.

In speculating on the parameters of the investigation by Mueller, and in rebuking Sessions, Trump appeared to be either confusing, or deliberately discounting, traditions that offer the Justice Department a high degree of insulation from politics and the White House itself.

The complaint about Sessions reveals at a minimum that he’s indifferent to the fact that Sessions recused himself on the grounds that not to do so would cause a conflict of interest since he was a key member of Trump’s campaign team.

The President’s comments caused consternation in Washington among Democrats who spoke out publicly and Republicans who expressed their concern in a more private fashion.

“It would be unprecedented in American history for a President to be successful in removing that special counsel and dictating the terms of an investigation into possibly him and his family and his associates,” said Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro on CNN.

Delaware Democratic Sen. Chris Coons said that Trump’s attempt to brush back Mueller and his anger at Sessions were both inappropriate.

“I think the President is confusing what the role is of the Department of Justice,” Coons told CNN. “Officials who lead of the Department of Justice take an oath to uphold the Constitution — not a loyalty oath to the President.”

CNN makes the connection between these demands for loyalty and Trump’s mobster-like attempts to get Comey to swear loyalty to him.

The President’s expansive view of the deference he is owed is not confined to his dealings with the Justice Department and the FBI. It is ingrained in his approach to politics and the Republican Party on Capitol Hill as well.

When the Senate Republican majority first admitted defeat in the bid to repeal and replace Obamacare, Trump took it as a personal insult.

“Most Republicans were loyal, terrific & worked really hard,” Trump tweeted, implying that those GOP senators who opposed the bill were disloyal.

On Wednesday Trump “jokingly” threatened a Republican senator with losing his seat if he didn’t Get Onside.

Trump also seems to view the presidency as a justification for loyalty that only goes in one direction — in a departure from the way most recent presidents have kept the confidence of those who often make great sacrifices to work for them.

His harsh criticism of Sessions in the New York Times interview further buckled morale in the West Wing, since Sessions, who gave up a safe Senate seat from Alabama to serve in the administration, showed early, and consistent, loyalty to Trump during the campaign.

CNN’s Jeff Zeleny reported that the episode has a “chilling” effect in the West Wing among officials who thought if Sessions could come under fire, they could face Trump’s wrath next.

White House deputy spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied that Trump was hurting his own Cabinet.

Of course she did; she’s one of the Loyal ones.

Spicey on the other hand just quit.



The President believes that law enforcement should be at his personal beck and call

Jul 20th, 2017 6:11 pm | By

Benjamin Wittes analyzes Trump’s horrifying interview with the Times.

He says Sessions should resign, because he shouldn’t stay in the office with Trump’s naked disdain for him on the record.

The president is evidently distraught at Sessions’s recusal from the Russia investigation “right after he gets the job.” (Sessions recused himself on March 2—three weeks after his swearing-in and fifteen weeks after his nomination.) The Attorney General gave the president “zero” heads up, Trump says. In Trump’s view: “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.” He twice describes Sessions’s decision as “unfair to the president,” seemingly unaware that his recusal was almost surely compelled by Justice Department recusal rules. That is, the President is openly expressing bitterness toward his attorney general for following the rules—because the rules don’t favor Trump’s interests. He wants an attorney general who will actively supervise the Justice Department, and the Russia investigation, in a fashion congenial to his interests, and he has no compunction about saying so explicitly. He made perfectly clear that he regrets appointing Sessions. He made equally clear that Sessions’s job is, in his mind, a personal service contract to him and that if Sessions couldn’t deliver on service to Trump, he shouldn’t have taken the position.

Trump seems to think, literally, that the members of his cabinet work for him in the same sense that employees of his business work for him. He seems to have no idea that they work for the country, not for him.

Sessions has hardly shrouded himself in glory over the past few months, but it is wildly improper for the President to talk about the attorney general in this fashion. The attorney general serves at his pleasure. If he is dissatisfied with Sessions’s performance, Trump can remove him. Unlike the FBI director, Sessions does not have a ten-year term that creates some normative expectation of retention. It would be, of course, inappropriate to fire the attorney general for having the temerity to follow Justice Department recusal policies on the advice of career lawyers, but it’s also inappropriate to whine publicly about his conduct without removing him. For those who need a reminder, the proper thing for a President to say publicly about a recusal in a live investigative matter—one that involves him directly and personally—is nothing whatsoever.

But Trump thinks he’s there to defy any notion of what’s proper, and instead do whatever his id prompts him to do.

Trump also dissed Rosenstein, and then there is Mueller.

The president declares bluntly, “I have done nothing wrong. A special counsel should never have been appointed in this case.” And he regards Mueller as conflicted because he was briefly considered to replace Comey.

Trump describes his meeting with Mueller while interviewing him for the job of FBI Director as “wonderful” and says that “of course … he wanted the job.” And he seems to regard this as some kind of conflict of interest on Mueller’s part. Trump does not seem to understand or even be able to imagine that Mueller might have been talking to him out of a sense of public service, not personal interest, with respect to an agency he had led for a long time and treasures and which Trump had plunged into crisis.

That’s because he has a tiny, sordid, empty mind. There’s nothing in there. There’s only Self, which dwells more in the intestines than in the mind. A guy with a a tiny, sordid, empty mind thinks everyone is as sordid and empty as he is.

And to top it off, the President apparently feels no compunction either about commenting on the proper scope of Mueller’s investigation substantively. When asked whether a potential investigation of the Trump family finances “unrelated to Russia” would constitute a “red line” in the investigation, Trump stated, “I think that’s a violation.” And he didn’t say no when asked whether such conduct would lead him to fire Mueller; rather, he hedged, stating that “I can’t answer that question because I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

He thinks he can tell them all what to do at any moment – even when they’re investigating his potential corruptions and crimes.

If, on reading this, it sounds like the President believes that law enforcement should be at his personal beck and call, that’s because that is, in fact, exactly what he believes. We know this because he made this belief perfectly clear in the interview as well. At one point, he offered an extraordinary account of the history of the FBI and its relationship to the Justice Department. He indicated that around the time of the Nixon administration, “out of courtesy, the F.B.I. started reporting to the Department of Justice.” He continued: “But there was nothing official, there was nothing from Congress. There was nothing — anything. But the FBI person really reports directly to the president of the United States, which is interesting. You know, which is interesting.”

Indeed.

Trump’s logic isn’t easy to follow here, but his core claim is unmistakeable—and “interesting” is a generous word for it: the FBI director serves the president. As a matter of constitutional hierarchy, this is of course true. But in investigative matters, the FBI director does not, or should not, serve the president by reporting to him. He serves the president by leading law enforcement in an independent and apolitical fashion. And it is fundamentally corrupt for any president to be asking him to do otherwise.

Yes but as he likes to tell us, he’s the president and we’re not.

In a foundational 1978 speech that has shaped subsequent Department policy, Jimmy Carter’s attorney general, Griffin Bell, affirmed the independence of the Justice Department and its constituent entities, including the FBI. Bell declared, “it is improper for any Member of Congress, any member of the White House staff, or anyone else, to attempt to influence anyone in the Justice Department with respect to a particular litigation decision, except by legal argument or the provision of relevant facts.”

The astonishing implication of Trump’s view is that he believes the president may shut down an FBI investigation that displeases him. Indeed, Trump went so far as to say that too: when explaining why it would not be a problem even if he had told Comey to drop the Flynn investigation, he stated, “other people go a step further. I could have ended that whole thing just by saying—they say it can’t be obstruction because you can say: ‘It’s ended. It’s over. Period.’”

In an environment in which the President of the United States, in a single interview, expresses no-confidence in the attorney general, the deputy attorney general, the special counsel, the acting FBI director, and the special counsel’s staff, and in which he makes clear that the FBI should be his personal force and that all of law enforcement should be about serving him, the principle protection is having people with backbone who are willing to do their jobs and stand up for one another in the elevation of their oaths of office over political survival.

But Rosenstein is not acting as if he’s one of those people.

We are in a dangerous moment—one in which the President, with his infinite sense of grievance, feels entitled publicly to attack the entire federal law enforcement apparatus, and that apparatus, in turn, lacks a single person with the stature, the institutional position, and the fortitude to stand up to him. Sessions has not done so. While Rosenstein did the country an enormous service when he appointed Mueller, he acted as an enabler of the Comey firing in the first instance and did not do himself credit yesterday. Mueller certainly has the stature, but by the nature of his position he cannot say anything publicly; he is investigating the President and thus cannot also confront him. And McCabe, who has been both able and courageous in the aftermath of Comey’s firing, is in an acting capacity.

The man who had the stature, the institutional position, and the moral fiber to confront the President on such matters was Comey, who is no longer there and whom the President also slimed in his interview yesterday.

The result is an environment in which the President can say these things without obvious consequence, at least for now.

So we descend more steps down into the muck.



It’s a date

Jul 20th, 2017 1:59 pm | By

Trump told the Times that he simply went to say hi to Melania at that dinner, and then had a few words with Putin who just happened to be sitting there too oh gee Vlad I didn’t even know you were there.

Starting at 47 seconds you can watch Trump signaling to someone – witnesses say it was Putin – in schoolboy gesture language: You, me, we talktalk? You want to? Me, you? Ok?



The concern is not hypothetical

Jul 20th, 2017 1:16 pm | By

There’s also Deutsche Bank.

Most banks steer clear of Trump; Deutsche Bank is the big exception.

Regulators are reviewing hundreds of millions of dollars in loans made to Mr. Trump’s businesses through Deutsche Bank’s private wealth management unit, The New York Times reported, citing three people briefed on the review. The regulators are examining whether the loans might expose the banks to heightened risks.

New York regulators have paid particular attention to personal guarantees Mr. Trump made to obtain the loans.

There is no formal investigation of the bank, and personal guarantees are often required for big loans from wealth managers. The regulators are focused on whether these guarantees could create problems for Deutsche Bank should Mr. Trump fail to pay his debts, leaving it with a choice of suing him or risking being seen to have cut him a special deal. The concern is not hypothetical: Mr. Trump sued the bank to delay paying back an earlier loan.

You’d think that would make them want to terminate the relationship, wouldn’t you.

Separately, Deutsche Bank has been in contact with federal investigators, and it is likely eventually to have to provide information on the Trump accounts to the special counsel in the Russia inquiry, Robert S. Mueller III.

I’m sure he’ll find that everything is on the up and up.



He didn’t go to Russia that night

Jul 20th, 2017 12:20 pm | By

Linda Qiu points out some of Trump’s lies and buffoonish errors in his interview with the “failing” Times. My favorite is the last item, to do with Napoleon and Paris.

Mr. Trump may have been confusing Napoleon Bonaparte with his nephew, Louis Napoleon or Napoleon III, when he claimed that Napoleon “designed Paris.” In 1853, about 30 years after the first Napoleon died, Napoleon III appointed Georges-Eugène Haussman to carry out his reconstruction project, envisioned to accommodate rapid population growth and to discourage future revolutions, according to the Museum of the City.

“His one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death,” Mr. Trump continued.

Quite right! He was with some French floozie that night so they all froze to death so that was the end of his brilliant plan to conquer Russia in an evening.

While he identified the correct Napoleon, his version of the 18th century conqueror’s failed attempt to invade Russia is garbled. Napoleon’s 1812 campaign into Russia lasted about six months, not, as Mr. Trump suggested, one night. And the French emperor did take Moscow in September, before withdrawing a month later as food supplies began to dwindle. Of nearly half a million men under his command, about 6,000 returned home from a combination of battle, disease and the weather.

Well yeah okay but Trump’s version is much funnier.



He shoulda told him

Jul 20th, 2017 11:31 am | By

Oof, he’s landed us with a whole new plateful of headlines.

He sat down for a cozy chat yesterday with the “failing” “fake news” New York Times. He said he was very very mad at Jeff Sessions for recusing himself, and that he never would have given him the job if he’d known he was going to recuse himself for cryin out loud. He seems to think Sessions knew all along that he’d be recusing himself, that it was a plan, like planning to go to Hawaii on vacation next year.

In a remarkable public break with one of his earliest political supporters, Mr. Trump complained that Mr. Sessions’s decision ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel that should not have happened. “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Mr. Trump said.

It was very unfair to him, Trump said mournfully.

In a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times, the president also accused James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director he fired in May, of trying to leverage a dossier of compromising material to keep his job. Mr. Trump criticized both the acting F.B.I. director who has been filling in since Mr. Comey’s dismissal and the deputy attorney general who recommended it. And he took on Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel now leading the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election.

See, it wasn’t like this on The Apprentice. On The Apprentice Trump was the Top Dog and that was the end of it – there weren’t all these people getting in his way and investigating him and recusing themselves. The presidency should be like that too. It should be The Donnie Show, on which Donnie gets whatever he demands, and everyone jumps when he says jump, and there are frequent opportunities for everyone to gather round and say how awesome Donnie is. That’s how a presidency should be. Except when it’s Obama of course, but that’s a whole other thing.

Instead there’s all this annoying policy and procedure, all these rules and constraints, all these people cluttering up Donnie’s photo ops. It’s such a crappy third-rate loser kind of presidency when it should have been so golden and awesome.

Asked if Mr. Mueller’s investigation would cross a red line if it expanded to look at his family’s finances beyond any relationship to Russia, Mr. Trump said, “I would say yes.” He would not say what he would do about it. “I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia.”

It should be up to Don to decide what gets investigated. Not this underling guy Mueller. Don is president and they’re not. Nobody else is. Everybody should be doing what Don tells them to do, but they just won’t.

While the interview touched on an array of issues, including health care, foreign affairs and politics, the investigation dominated the conversation. He said that as far as he knew, he was not under investigation himself, despite reports that Mr. Mueller is looking at whether the president obstructed justice by firing Mr. Comey.

“I don’t think we’re under investigation,” he said. “I’m not under investigation. For what? I didn’t do anything wrong.”

His self-knowledge is as impressive as ever.

Mr. Trump left little doubt during the interview that the Russia investigation remained a sore point. His pique at Mr. Sessions, in particular, seemed fresh even months after the attorney general’s recusal. Mr. Sessions was the first senator to endorse Mr. Trump’s candidacy and was rewarded with a key cabinet slot, but has been more distant from the president lately.

“Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself, which frankly I think is very unfair to the president,” he added. “How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair — and that’s a mild word — to the president.”

Because that’s all that matters – the president: the glorious sanctified all-important president. That’s the criterion for everything: is this good or bad for the president, from the point of view of the president.

He also said Comey informed him about the Russian dossier – the golden shower one – in order to blackmail Trump into letting him keep his job. Projection much? That sounds like something Trump would do, a thousand times over; it doesn’t sound like something Comey would do.

Mr. Trump rebutted Mr. Comey’s claim that in a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office on Feb. 14, the president asked him to end the investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn. Mr. Comey testified before Congress that Mr. Trump kicked the vice president, attorney general and several other senior administration officials out of the room before having the discussion with Mr. Comey.

“I don’t remember even talking to him about any of this stuff,” Mr. Trump said. “He said I asked people to go. Look, you look at his testimony. His testimony is loaded up with lies, O.K.?”

Oh, well then. That’s definitive.

He expressed no second thoughts about firing Mr. Comey, saying, “I did a great thing for the American people.”

Oh right, he did it for us. He’s very noble that way.

He also kvetched about Mueller, and he also kvetched about Rosenstein.

The president also expressed discontent with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, a former federal prosecutor from Baltimore. When Mr. Sessions recused himself, the president said he was irritated to learn where his deputy was from. “There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any,” he said of the predominantly Democratic city.

So now Baltimore is code for “Jew” too?

In his first description of his dinnertime conversation with Mr. Putin at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Hamburg, Germany, Mr. Trump played down its significance. He said his wife, Melania, was seated next to Mr. Putin at the other end of a table filled with world leaders.

“The meal was going toward dessert,” he said. “I went down just to say hello to Melania, and while I was there I said hello to Putin. Really, pleasantries more than anything else. It was not a long conversation, but it was, you know, could be 15 minutes. Just talked about things. Actually, it was very interesting, we talked about adoption.”

He noted the adoption issue came up in the June 2016 meeting between his son and Russian visitors. “I actually talked about Russian adoption with him,” he said, meaning Mr. Putin. “Which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don had in that meeting.”

But the president repeated that he did not know about his son’s meeting at the time and added that he did not need the Russians to provide damaging information about Mrs. Clinton.

“There wasn’t much I could say about Hillary Clinton that was worse than what I was already saying,” he said. “Unless somebody said that she shot somebody in the back, there wasn’t much I could add to my repertoire.”

True, but not in the sense he means. It’s true because he told so many hyperbolic lies about her, not because she’s actually committed every crime short of shooting someone in the back.



Joining the chorus of hatreds

Jul 19th, 2017 4:04 pm | By

George Monbiot wrote a thing about Julien Benda in 2013.

In 1927 the French philosopher Julien Benda published a piercing attack on the intellectuals of his day. They should, he argued in La Trahison des Clercs (the treason of the scholars), act as a check on popular passions(1). Civilisation, he claimed, is possible only if intellectuals stand in opposition to the demands of political “realism” by upholding universal principles. “Thanks to the scholars,” Benda maintained, “humanity did evil for two thousand years, but honoured good.” Europe might have been lying in the gutter, but it was looking at the stars.

But those ideals, he argued, had been lost. Europe was now lying in the gutter, looking in the gutter. The “immense majority” of intellectuals, artists and clergy had joined “the chorus of hatreds”: nationalism, racism, the worship of power and war. In doing so, they justified and magnified political passions. Across Europe, scholars on both the left and the right had become “ready to support in their own countries the most flagrant injustices”, to abandon universal principles in favour of national exceptionalism and to proclaim “the supreme morality of violence”.

In 1927. Things got a whole lot worse after that, then worse again, and again, until they finally came to an exhausted depleted halt.

Intellectuals need to stay out of those choruses of hatred.



He has a master’s degree, IN SCIENCE

Jul 19th, 2017 11:38 am | By

*goes to visit Goop site*

Gee that looks familiar. It looks like Ivanka. They should team up – Gwyneth and Ivanka, GI for short. Government Issue or GastroIntestinal, whatever.

There are photos of very thin very clean very blond very pale ladies all over, along with photos of the shoes and tops and bags they might like to buy purchase.

There’s a piece on the Illuminati, and another on Ancient Civilizations. There’s an ad for magical fruit juice.

There’s a “detox” section.

Within that section, there’s a section for Detox Shops. Of course there is.

There’s also a very sciency page where a guy called Bruce Lourie answers all the questions about is detox really not bullshit at all are you sure?

Bruce holds a B.Sc. in Geology and a Master’s in Environmental Studies.

Close enough!



How it’s done

Jul 19th, 2017 11:19 am | By

Ars Technica calls the Goop attempt to bully Jen Gunter “a perfectly crafted reference guide for how to sell snake oil.”

In case you’re unfamiliar—or just need an empowering refresher—Goop is a site directed mostly toward affluent women that peddles pricey products and overuses the word “empower” while dabbling in many forms of pseudoscience and quackery—everything from homeopathy to magic crystals and garden-variety dietary-supplement nonsense.

And it’s flourishing. It’s making big bucks. It’s even going into publishing.

This year, the Goop group teamed up with Condé Nast to begin publishing a quarterly print magazine as well as digital content. (Condé Nast also owns Ars, by the way.)

It’s Prince Charles all over again – using fame to market high-priced bullshit as “healthy” and “healing” – from detox socks to jade eggs up the twat.

People who know more about the subject than Paltrow does have been writing about why her claims are wrong so finally they took a deep breath and murmured some incantations and issued a Statement.

As the Internet collectively grabbed popcorn, Paltrow herself tweeted the post, writing, “When they go low, we go high.”

But Goop didn’t go high. Going high would be providing data to back health claims and dubious products. Going high would be denouncing bad products and consulting with evidence-based doctors on effective remedies—or at least discussing potential harms of unproven ones. Even adding clear warnings on products and practices that lack evidence on effectiveness and safety would be inching upward. In general, going high would be clearly putting the health and well-being of customers ahead of profits.

Instead, the Goop team went low—basically not changing position. It defended its evidence-free and sometimes potentially harmful products while personally attacking one specific medical blogger, Dr. Jen Gunter, an Ob/Gyn who has knocked back many of Goop’s products and claims.

I first became aware of Jen Gunter when I was writing about the death of Savita Halappanavar; she wrote a beautifully clear explanation of what happens in an incomplete miscarriage of that kind and thus how horrific Galway University Hospital’s refusal to complete Halappanavar’s was. She’s terrific, and it’s revolting that Paltrow is using movie star celebrity to attack and insult her. (Paltrow didn’t write the statement but it’s her company, she’s responsible.)

Ars Technica describes some of Goop’s expensive bullshit and reckless advice – the jade egg, the vaginal steam cleaning, the “medicine bag,” the “energy healing” stickers, the line of luxury dietary supplements and vitamins, a mere $90 for a month’s supply.

Then it goes through the marketing steps revealed in the Statement.

In its latest post, the Goop team wanders through all the steps. I’ve brought them out and reordered them here for a more coherent interpretation.

Step 1. Assure the customer that you are there for them and can care for them—especially when no one else is or can, including the heartless, mainstream medical community. As Goop puts it:

Our primary place is in addressing people, women in particular, who are tired of feeling less-than-great, who are looking for solutions—these women are not hypochondriacs, and they should not be dismissed or marginalized.

Ya!! Right on! Iz feminism!

2. Explain that you just have more answers than those stuffy evidence-based doctors because you look at things from a fresh, holistic perspective.

Western and Eastern modalities doncha know.

3. Say you don’t know everything; ass covered. 4. Say but at the same time you are The Best, with degrees and all. 5. You are not crazy!!

6. At this point, note that you are the victim of Meany McCriticFaces, who don’t know what they’re talking about and are just trying to sell stuff and promote their own brands, unlike you, who have the customers’ backs (see step 1).

There are third parties who critique Goop to leverage that interest and bring attention to themselves. Encouraging discussion of new ideas is certainly one of our goals, but indiscriminate attacks that question the motivation and integrity of the doctors who contribute to the site is not.

7. Twist the facts to suggest that any critics of you are actually critics of the customer. You’re in this together!

Some of the coverage that Goop receives suggests that women are lemmings, ready to jump off a cliff whenever one of our doctors discusses checking for EBV, or Candida, or low levels of vitamin D—or, heaven forbid, take a walk barefoot. As women, we chafe at the idea that we are not intelligent enough to read something and take what serves us, and leave what does not. We simply want information; we want autonomy over our health.

Ya!! Right on! Iz feminism!



Looka my thumb

Jul 19th, 2017 9:44 am | By

Honestly. Just look at that.

Photo published for Dearth of a Salesman: Trump Failed to Persuade on GOP Health Bill



Donnie and Vlad

Jul 18th, 2017 5:34 pm | By

Trump had a second, secret conversation with Putin at the G20 meeting.

The hourlong conversation in Hamburg, Germany, took place at a private dinner among world leaders at a concert hall on the banks of the Elbe River during the Group of 20 economic summit meeting, with only a Kremlin interpreter present to listen to the exchange. It followed a formal meeting between the two presidents that lasted more than two hours earlier in the day, and included their foreign ministers for a fraught discussion about Moscow’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 American elections.

Only a Kremlin interpreter – so it’s like when Trump had the private meeting with Kislyak and Lavrov in the Oval Office…only more so, because this is Putin, and there was no one else there except the Kremlin interpreter.

This guy. I swear.

But the intimate dinner conversation, of which there is no official United States government record, because no American official other than the president was involved, is the latest to raise eyebrows. Foreign leaders who witnessed it later commented privately on the oddity of an American president flaunting such a close rapport with his Russian counterpart.

“Pretty much everyone at the dinner thought this was really weird, that here is the president of the United States, who clearly wants to display that he has a better relationship personally with President Putin than any of us, or simply doesn’t care,” said Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, a New York-based research and consulting firm, who said he heard directly from attendees. “They were flummoxed, they were confused and they were startled.”

I wonder what he gave away. Did he tell Putin to help himself to the Baltics? Say the US really doesn’t care what he does to his own people? Offer him a few spare nukes?

In a statement, a White House official on Tuesday described the meeting as routine and brief, and explained the lack of an American translator by noting that the president was accompanied by a Japanese interpreter who did not speak Russian. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that any insinuation that the White House has tried to hide the encounter was false.

A second White House official confirmed that the meeting had occurred but did not offer any details, and insisted on anonymity because the discussion was private.

Private?? What do they mean private? He doesn’t get to go having “private” secret just-him meetings with Putin. They’re not lovers, they’re heads of rival states.

Russia specialists said such an encounter — even on an informal basis at a social event — raised red flags because of its length, which suggests a substantive exchange, and the fact that there was no American interpreter, note taker or national security or foreign policy aide present.

“We’re all going to be wondering what was said, and that’s where it’s unfortunate that there was no U.S. interpreter, because there is no independent American account of what happened,” Stephen Pifer, a former ambassador to Ukraine who also specializes Russia and nuclear arms control.

“If I was in the Kremlin, my recommendation to Putin would be, ‘See if you can get this guy alone,’ and that’s what it sounds like he was able to do,” added Mr. Pifer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Because Trump is that stupid…or treasonous.



But it’s empowering and healing

Jul 18th, 2017 10:52 am | By

Goop fights back, aka A Word from Our Doctors responding to evidence-based criticisms of the woo peddled by Paltrow and the goop team.

As goop has grown, so has the attention we receive. We consistently find ourselves to be of interest to many—and for that, we are grateful—but we also find that there are third parties who critique goop to leverage that interest and bring attention to themselves. Encouraging discussion of new ideas is certainly one of our goals, but indiscriminate attacks that question the motivation and integrity of the doctors who contribute to the site is not.* This is the first in a series of posts revisiting these topics and offering our contributing M.D.’s a chance to articulate theirs, in a respectful and substantive manner.

We always welcome conversation. That’s at the core of what we’re trying to do. What we don’t welcome is the idea that questions are not okay. Being dismissive—of discourse, of questions from patients, of practices that women might find empowering or healing, of daring to poke at a long-held belief—seems like the most dangerous practice of all. Where would we be if we all still believed in female hysteria instead of orgasm equality? That smoking didn’t cause lung cancer? If every nutritionist today saw the original food pyramid as gospel?

Uh huh, and they laughed when Beethoven sat down at the piano, but that doesn’t mean that all people who sit down at the piano are geniuses as long as somebody laughed. Some innovators are dismissed at the start; it does not follow that all innovators are right.

Plus describing evidence-based medicine as “a long-held belief” in contrast to the rational innovations of goop is not altogether honest. They’re framing EBM as the Ancient Superstion and woo as the Brave New Rational Discovery.

And then lumping together “empowering” and “healing” is a cheat. Anyone can find anything “empowering,” because that word doesn’t mean much and is infinitely adaptable, but “healing” is another matter. Sometimes healing can just mean feeling better, and psychology can play a big part in that, and some kinds of woo can be useful. In general, though, healing is a matter of technical knowledge, such as how to reduce inflammation or how to deal with bacterial infections or a bunch of other things that take several years to learn to professional standard.

Last January, we published a Q&A with Shiva Rose about her jade egg practice, which has helped her (and legions of other women who wrote to us in response) feel more in touch with her sexuality, and more empowered.

There. Like that. What the fuck is that even supposed to mean? And what does it have to do with medicine?

A San Francisco-based OB-GYN/blogger posted a mocking response on her site, which has the tagline: “Wielding the Lasso of Truth.” (We also love Wonder Woman, though we’re pretty sure she’s into women taking ownership of female sexual pleasure.)

There was a tremendous amount of press pick-up on the doctor’s post, which was partially based on her own strangely confident assertion that putting a crystal in your vagina for pelvic-floor strengthening exercises would put you in danger of getting Toxic Shock Syndrome—even though there is no study/case/report which links the two—and also stating with 100 percent certainty that conventional tampons laden with glyphosate (classified by the WHO as probably carcinogenic) are no cause for concern. Since her first post, she has been taking advantage of the attention and issuing attacks to build her personal platform—ridiculing the women who might read our site in the process.

And that’s just garbage – the doctor they’re talking about so slyly is Jen Gunter, and she was well known long before that post, and she doesn’t do this to “build her personal platform” – she does it to warn people about dangerous nonsense.

Gwyneth Paltrow should be ashamed of this.

*Note the contradiction.

Updating to add Jen Gunter’s response.



Ding ding ding

Jul 18th, 2017 10:02 am | By

This time it’s a fire truck. A made in America fire truck. Boop boop.

Image result for trump fire truck