Notes and Comment Blog


Every other government regime in the world

Aug 21st, 2017 5:30 pm | By

So far Tillerson seems to be a dreadful Secretary of State.

He said some words on Friday about how we all condemn hate speech yadda yadda – of course without mentioning his foul-mouthed hate-spewing boss.

In a speech announcing a new effort to expand diversity at the State Department, Tillerson did not explicitly mention either Charlottesville or President Trump’s reactions to the presence of white supremacists and neo-Nazis there, but he said the events of the past week were on everyone’s mind.

“We do honor, protect and defend freedom of speech, First Amendment rights,” he said. “It’s what sets us apart from every other government regime in the world, in allowing people a right to expression. These are good things.”

That right there? That’s some terrible secretary of state-ing. He said only the US defends freedom of speech. Way to antagonize a great many allies who also defend freedom of speech, Rex.

“But we do not honor, nor do we promote or accept hate speech in any form. And those who embrace it poison our public discourse and they damage the very country that they claim to love. So we condemn racism, bigotry in all its forms. Racism is evil; it is antithetical to America’s values. It’s antithetical to the American idea.”

Well now there again – that’s just silly. Which of America’s values? What American idea? Racism has certainly not been antithetical to America’s values throughout its history, and indeed it was firmly entrenched in government until well into the 1960s. It took marches and broken heads and deaths to get a Civil Rights Act and a Voting Rights Act, and that barely scratched the surface. He makes himself less than convincing if he can’t even acknowledge the truth about the US.

But he did go on to talk about taking real steps to make the State Department less white, so that’s good.

Tillerson said he has ordered that at least one minority candidate be included for every ambassador post that comes open. That will help target future leaders, he said, so their careers can be nurtured.

“We need a more deliberate process to cultivate the abundance of minority talent we already have in the State Department,” he said.

Tillerson said the State Department will step up recruitment of African Americans at historically black colleges and universities. Colleges in Miami and Chicago with large Hispanic populations will also be seeing State Department recruiters, he said. And he said the recruitment and promotion drive should include women and members of the LGBT community.

Ok then.



WHITE MAN!

Aug 21st, 2017 4:01 pm | By

The message.

Image may contain: text

WHITE MAN!

Are you sick and tired of anti-white propaganda constantly being promoted by our universities, mainstream media, and government?

Are you sick and tired of being told that you have no right to exist because of alleged “historical wrong-doings”?

YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

No Radical Islam, No Cultural Marxism, No Zionism, No Radical Feminism

WE SAY NO MORE

Trump’s base.



Gorgeous, horny, crush, beautiful, secretary

Aug 21st, 2017 1:02 pm | By

Explorers find yet another cache of hostility to women.

A pathbreaking new study of online conversations among economists describes and quantifies a workplace culture that appears to amount to outright hostility toward women in parts of the economics profession.

Alice H. Wu, who will start her doctoral studies at Harvard next year, completed the research in an award-winning senior thesis at the University of California, Berkeley. Her paper has been making the rounds among leading economists this summer, and prompting urgent conversations.

The underrepresentation of women in top university economics departments is already well documented, but it has been difficult to evaluate claims about workplace culture because objectionable conversations rarely occur in the open. Whispered asides at the water cooler are hard to observe, much less measure.

But now water cooler conversations have moved to the internet, and new ways of finding patterns have been worked out.

This is what Ms. Wu did in her paper, “Gender Stereotyping in Academia: Evidence From Economics Job Market Rumors Forum.”

Ms. Wu mined more than a million posts from an anonymous online message board frequented by many economists. The site, commonly known as econjobrumors.com (its full name is Economics Job Market Rumors), began as a place for economists to exchange gossip about who is hiring and being hired in the profession. Over time, it evolved into a virtual water cooler frequented by economics faculty members, graduate students and others.

It now constitutes a useful, if imperfect, archive for studying what economists talk about when they talk among themselves. Because all posts are anonymous, it is impossible to know whether the authors are men or women, or how representative they are of the broader profession. Indeed, some may not even be economists. But it is clearly an active and closely followed forum, particularly among younger members of the field.

Ms. Wu set up her computer to identify whether the subject of each post is a man or a woman. The simplest version involves looking for references to “she,” “her,” “herself” or “he,” “him,” “his” or “himself.”

She then adapted machine-learning techniques to ferret out the terms most uniquely associated with posts about men and about women.

The 30 words most uniquely associated with discussions of women make for uncomfortable reading.

In order, that list is: hotter, lesbian, bb (internet speak for “baby”), sexism, tits, anal, marrying, feminazi, slut, hot, vagina, boobs, pregnant, pregnancy, cute, marry, levy, gorgeous, horny, crush, beautiful, secretary, dump, shopping, date, nonprofit, intentions, sexy, dated and prostitute.

I count three out of the thirty that are neither demeaning nor sexual: levy, nonprofit, intentions.

The words that deal with men betray no such pattern.

It includes words that are relevant to economics, such as adviser, Austrian (a school of thought in economics) mathematician, pricing, textbook and Wharton (the University of Pennsylvania business school that is President Trump’s alma mater). More of the words associated with discussions about men have a positive tone, including terms like goals, greatest and Nobel. And to the extent that there is a clearly gendered theme, it is a schoolyard battle for status: The list includes words like bully, burning and fought.

Wu points out that the anonymity of the posts removes social pressure to be something other than a shit. That of course is what I’ve been saying for years (so many years, way too many years): that the anonymity of Twitter and discussion boards and so on makes this kind of dreck possible.

Wu looked at themes as well as vocabulary.

This part of her analysis reveals that discussions about men are more likely to be confined to topics like economics itself and professional advice (with terms including career, interview or placement).

Discussions of women are much more likely to involve topics related to personal information (with words like family, married or relationship), physical attributes (words like beautiful, body or fat) or gender-related terms (like gender, sexist or sexual).

Men are complicated people who think and work; women are blobs who get poked and have babies.

To be sure, the online forum Ms. Wu studied is unlikely to be representative of the entire economics profession, although even a vocal minority can be sufficient to create a hostile workplace for female economists.

Janet Currie, a leading empirical economist at Princeton (where Ms. Wu works as her research assistant), told me the findings resonated because they’re “systematically quantifying something most female economists already know.” The analysis “speaks volumes about attitudes that persist in dark corners of the profession,” Professor Currie said.

And other professions, and intellectual interests, and fandoms, and and and…

Some economists say they find the discourse on econjobrumors.com to be a breath of fresh air. George Borjas, an economics professor at Harvard, wrote on his blog last summer that he found the forum “refreshing.”

Professor Borjas said: “There’s still hope for mankind when many of the posts written by a bunch of over-educated young social scientists illustrate a throwing off of the shackles of political correctness and reflect mundane concerns that more normal human beings share: prestige, sex, money, landing a job, sex, professional misconduct, gossip, sex. …” In an email sent on Wednesday, after he received a copy of Ms. Wu’s paper, Professor Borjas said his views had not changed.

Ah yes. It’s always so refreshing to throw off those shackles of political correctness and go back to calling women sluts and bitches. Thank you, Professor Borjas.



Pruitt’s EPA coup

Aug 21st, 2017 11:48 am | By

The EPA under the rule of Scott Pruitt:

When career employees of the Environmental Protection Agency are summoned to a meeting with the agency’s administrator, Scott Pruitt, at agency headquarters, they no longer can count on easy access to the floor where his office is, according to interviews with employees of the federal agency.

Doors to the floor are now frequently locked, and employees have to have an escort to gain entrance.

Some employees say they are also told to leave behind their cellphones when they meet with Mr. Pruitt, and are sometimes told not to take notes.

Mr. Pruitt, according to the employees, who requested anonymity out of fear of losing their jobs, often makes important phone calls from other offices rather than use the phone in his office, and he is accompanied, even at E.P.A. headquarters, by armed guards, the first head of the agency to ever request round-the-clock security.

Hmmm what does that remind me of…oh yes an armed coup. Apparently Pruitt has imposed martial law on the agency that is tasked with protecting the environment that we all depend on – including Trump and his Trumplets and Scott Pruitt and all. Why has he done that? I suppose because his entire purpose is to destroy the agency, and he wants to quell resistance by means of intimidation.

He’s also resorting to secrecy.

[A]s he works to roll back regulations, close offices and eliminate staff at the agency charged with protecting the nation’s environment and public health, Mr. Pruitt is taking extraordinary measures to conceal his actions, according to interviews with more than 20 current and former agency employees.

Allies of Mr. Pruitt say he is justified in his measures to ramp up his secrecy and physical protection, given that his agenda and politics clash so fiercely with those of so many of the 15,000 employees at the agency he heads.

Well that depends on first assuming that Pruitt is justified in destroying the agency he was appointed to direct. I don’t think he is justified in doing that, at least not morally.

It’s like putting a known crime boss in charge of the FBI, or an anti-vaxxer in charge of the NIH, or a flourishing tax cheat in charge of the IRS.

Mr. Pruitt’s penchant for secrecy is reflected not just in his inaccessibility and concern for security. He has terminated a decades-long practice of publicly posting his appointments calendar and that of all the top agency aides, and he has evaded oversight questions from lawmakers on Capitol Hill, according to the Democratic senators who posed the questions.

None of this should be allowed. I hope journalists are making FOIA requests by the ton.

His aides recently asked career employees to make major changes in a rule regulating water quality in the United States — without any records of the changes they were being ordered to make. And the E.P.A. under Mr. Pruitt has moved to curb certain public information, shutting down data collection of emissions from oil and gas companies, and taking down more than 1,900 agency webpages on topics like climate change, according to a tally by the Environmental Defense Fund, which did a Freedom of Information request on these terminated pages.

William D. Ruckelshaus, who served as E.P.A. director under two Republican presidents and once wrote a memo directing agency employees to operate “in a fishbowl,” said such secrecy is antithetical to the mission of the agency.

“Reforming the regulatory system would be a good thing if there were an honest, open process,” he said. “But it appears that what is happening now is taking a meat ax to the protections of public health and environment and then hiding it.”

Mr. Ruckelshaus said such secrecy could pave the way toward, or exacerbate, another disaster like the contamination of public drinking water in Flint, Mich., or the 2014 chemical spill into the public water supply in Charleston, W.Va. — while leading to a dearth of information when such events happen.

“Something will happen, like Flint, and the public will realize they can’t get any information about what happened or why,” he said.

But don’t worry. They have a lying hack in place to deny it all.

Liz Bowman, a spokeswoman for the E.P.A., categorically denied the accounts employees interviewed for this article gave of the secrecy surrounding Mr. Pruitt.

“None of this is true,” she said. “It’s all rumors.”

She added, in an emailed statement, “It’s very disappointing, yet not surprising, to learn that you would solicit leaks, and collude with union officials in an effort to distract from the work we are doing to implement the president’s agenda.”

I don’t believe her. I think she’s lying. Why? Because she works for Trump, and because the Times – Trump notwithstanding – is careful about what it publishes.

Let’s just look up Liz Bowman, shall we?

Ah – there she is. In a story on the industry insiders Pruitt hired for what used to be the EPA.

Liz Snyder Bowman, Acting Associate Administrator for Public Affairs

Bowman is the first of a few names on the list to come from the American Chemistry Council, a lobbying group for chemicals and plastics. Bowman was Director of Issue and Advocacy Communications for the firm, according to her LinkedIn profile. The American Chemistry Council members include Dow Chemical Corporation, Monsanto, DuPont, Exxon Mobil Chemical Company and Marathon Petroleum Corporation, among others.

Henhouse, meet fox.

Back to the Times.

Mr. Pruitt’s efforts to undo a major water protection rule are one example of his moves to quickly and stealthily dismantle regulations.

The rule, known as Waters of the United States, and enacted by the Obama administration, was designed to take existing federal protections on large water bodies such as the Chesapeake Bay and Mississippi River and expand them to include the wetlands and small tributaries that flow into those larger waters.

It was fiercely opposed by farmers, rural landowners and real estate developers.

The original estimate concluded that the water protections would indeed come at an economic cost to those groups — between $236 million and $465 million annually.

But it also concluded, in an 87-page analysis, that the economic benefits of preventing water pollution would be greater: between $555 million and $572 million.

E.P.A. employees say that in mid-June, as Mr. Pruitt prepared a proposal to reverse the rule, they were told by his deputies to produce a new analysis of the rule — one that stripped away the half-billion-dollar economic benefits associated with protecting wetlands.

“On June 13, my economists were verbally told to produce a new study that changed the wetlands benefit,” said Elizabeth Southerland, who retired last month from a 30-year career at the E.P.A., most recently as a senior official in the agency’s water office.

“On June 16, they did what they were told,” Ms. Southerland said. “They produced a new cost-benefit analysis that showed no quantifiable benefit to preserving wetlands.”

She and others say an abrupt backflip like that is highly unusual, especially since actual inquiries into costs and benefits normally take months or years.

“Typically there are huge written records, weighing in on the scientific facts, the technology facts and the economic facts,” she said. “Everything’s in writing. This repeal process is political staff giving verbal directions to get the outcome they want, essentially overnight.”

It’s akin to writing advertising copy rather than making a scientific inquiry.

Experts in administrative law say such practices skate up to the edge of legality.

While federal records laws prohibit senior officials from destroying records, they could evade public scrutiny of their decision-making by simply not creating them in the first place.

“The mere fact they are telling people not to write things down shows they are trying to keep things hidden,” said Jeffrey Lubbers, a professor of administrative law at American University.

Mr. Pruitt had a reputation for being secretive before he ever came to the E.P.A.

While serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general, he came under criticism for maintaining at least three separate email accounts, including one private account that he at times used for state government business.

But his emails!!!

He was asked about it at his Senate confirmation hearing, and he lied in response.

A subsequent lawsuit resulted in the release of some of these other emails, which Mr. Pruitt had asserted did not exist.

“He’s got a serious problem because of his emails down in Oklahoma — he’s burned himself,” said David Schnare, who worked at the agency from 1978 to 2011 and then on the Trump administration’s E.P.A. transition team. “He doesn’t want to take any risks.”

So he just orders the staff to make no notes and keep no records…which ought to be illegal.

Oh well. It’s only air and water and the future of the planet.



We don’t need no stinkin’ climate change panel

Aug 21st, 2017 9:26 am | By

Trump continues to do what he can to promote global warming.

Trump’s administration has disbanded a government advisory committee intended to help the country prepare for a changing climate.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration established the committee in 2015 to help businesses and state and local governments make use of the next national climate assessment. The legally mandated report, due in 2018, will lay out the latest climate-change science and describe how global warming is likely to affect the United States, now and in coming decades.

The advisory group’s charter expired on August 20, and Trump administration officials informed members late last week that it would not be renewed.

Sure. It’s part of the swamp, isn’t it. Let’s throw it all out and keep using more and more carbon so that everything will go wrong that much sooner. Trump won’t be around for the famines and mass migrations and wars, so what does he care?

Richard Wright, a retired engineer who is serving on a climate panel organized by the American Society of Civil Engineers, laments the Trump administration’s decision to disband the climate advisory committee. He says the panel has already become a valuable mechanism to bring together federal scientists and outside professionals who handle tasks such as managing water resources, setting standards for construction and establishing communications networks.

“We found this committee a very effective way of communicating with the climate and weather community,” Wright says. “It would be a pity not to have it.”

Pfffffff. It doesn’t make any money. It doesn’t build huge shiny towers. It doesn’t play golf. What good is it?

The decision to let the advisory committee’s charter lapse is not the first time that the Trump administration has dismissed scientific advisers. In May and June, the EPA came under fire for dismissing dozens of scientists who were serving on the its Board of Scientific Counselors, which advises the EPA’s research arm. And Trump has not chosen a presidential science adviser to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, where a number of positions remain empty.

Because scientists are losers. Only real estate profiteers know what needs to be done.



Admire his muscles

Aug 20th, 2017 4:30 pm | By

Family life alt-right style.

The same year Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique rocked American households by defining the dissatisfactions of housewives, Helen Andelin was on the other side of the country writing her own book, and coming to the exact opposite conclusion. Fascinating Womanhood would become the anti-feminist manifesto that galvanized a decades-long “family values” movement for conservative women.

Her marriage had gone kind of snoozy, you see; her husband just wasn’t that into it any more; as a Mormon with eight children she wasn’t about to take that lying down. She prayed, but God didn’t answer.

Andelin began scouring marriage manuals from the 1920s and came across one pamphlet in particular, “The Secrets of Fascinating Womanhood,” which counseled that female subservience was the way back into a husband’s heart. She followed the pamphlet’s advice, and her marriage experienced a miraculous recovery.

No kink-shaming, now.

As historian Julie Debra Neuffer explains in her 2015 book, Helen Andelin and the Fascinating Womanhood Movement, Andelin sought to teach women how to become good wives by reverting to traditional gender roles. The self-published Fascinating Womanhood is in equal parts a chatty self-help book, a religious text, and cultural criticism that uses the works of Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens to support a “family values” agenda. Like Friedan, Andelin recognized a “problem that has no name,” but Andelin claimed the problem wasn’t caused by domestic drudgery, but by a lack of love. “[O]ne need is fundamental,” Andelin writes. “She must feel loved and cherished by her husband. Without his love, her life is an empty shell.” The book sold more than 2 million copies and sparked what is known as the Fascinating Womanhood movement. The New York Times dubbed her “a self‐appointed spokesman for the ‘silent majority’ of American women who believe that women’s place in the home.” Today, the book has become a totemic text for women on the so-called “alt-right,” a sort of “trad wife” Bible.

So the argument is that women must feel loved and cherished by their husbands, and the only way for that to happen is for the woman to pretend they’re living in the 19th century?

But why would that be true? Don’t at least some men prefer women who can carry on a conversation and help with the responsibilities of adult life? Or do I just think that because I’m a crazy delusional feminist? Who knows.



Bonding over hatred

Aug 20th, 2017 11:40 am | By

David Futrelle points out that organized misogyny (aka men’s rights activism) is a gateway drug to white supremacy. Of course it is. Noisy vituperative hatred of women is congenial to noisy vituperative hatred of Other races and Other despised groups in general.

There are good reasons why men’s-rights activism has served for so many as a gateway drug to the alt-right: Both movements appeal to men with fantasies of violent, sometimes apocalyptic redemption — and, like Cantwell, a tendency to express these fantasies in bombastic prose. And both movements are based on a bizarro-world ideology in which those with the most power in contemporary society are the true victims of oppression.

In other words, if you can convince yourself that men are the primary victims of sexism, it’s not hard to convince yourself that whites are the primary victims of racism. And it’s similarly easy for members of both movements to see white men as the most oppressed snowflakes of all.

Or, more crudely – if your idea of a good basis for friendship and collaboration is hatred of all things progressive, aka “politically correct,” then naturally these combinations will be inevitable.

Call it Lenny Bruce syndrome. (Or it could be Hitchens or Dawkins or Ricky Gervais or you get the idea.) See yourself as a scalding contrarian telling the truth to Power, and away you go.



Marching on Jefferson

Aug 20th, 2017 10:13 am | By

Annette Gordon-Reed in the NYRB:

…the national tragedy that unfolded in Charlottesville last week struck at every aspect of my being—a black person, a friend, an American, and a scholar who has devoted many years to studying Jefferson, slavery at Monticello, and, by extension, Charlottesville. I knew instantly why the men holding tiki torches felt the need to make their case for white supremacy by walking toward the statue of Jefferson that stands in front of the Rotunda he designed for the university he dreamed about and then founded. I also knew instantly that there was a reason the much less remarked upon “counterprotesters” surrounded Jefferson’s statue to keep the tiki torchers from reaching it, staking a defiant claim, in the face of superior numbers, to ideas about human equality and progress that they correctly perceived were under siege that night.

On the one hand Jefferson was a slaveowner, one who never freed a single slave in his lifetime, and freed only five in his will; one who had at least one sexual slave, who had children of his, who were also slaves. She (Sally Hemings) was his wife’s half-sister: their mutual father was John Wayles, and Hemings’s mother was of course Wayles’s slave. Jefferson was deeply entwined with slavery and with the ideology that attempted to justify it.

On the other hand Jefferson wrote the words that undermined that ideology.

The Jefferson of the Declaration of Independence, with its words proclaiming self–evident truths about the equality of mankind and the pursuit of happiness, has inspired people the world over. Every marginalized group in the United States seeking inclusion looks first to Jefferson’s words to claim equal citizenship in the United States. Blacks have been in a dialogue with Jefferson and the Declaration from the beginning of the republic. It is not for nothing that the Declaration is called America’s creed—even when we know that is far more aspiration than reality.

Samuel Johnson was very harsh about that gap between the aspiration and the reality – more because he disliked the aspiration than because he abhorred the reality, but he was right all the same. (What he said: “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?”)

The day following the confrontation at Jefferson’s statue, the torch-bearers and their supporters went to another part of Charlottesville for the event that had brought them to the city: a rally to protest the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general who fought a war against the country Jefferson helped to found. Not surprisingly, there were mixed views about the Sage of Monticello even in the Confederacy. While some applauded his states’ rights philosophy, they abhorred the language of the Declaration, recognizing its inherent and destabilizing power.

Today, a time of intense focus on the personal and of misplaced faith in the importance of sincerity, we question whether Jefferson really believed the words “all men are created equal,” as if ideas are only as important and powerful as the personal will of the individual who utters them. The Confederates knew better than that. Ideas can have a power and life of their own. They weren’t taking any chances. They saw Jefferson as a public man who had put ideas into popular discourse that could be used in opposition to the society they hoped to build. The Confederates took him at his word, thinking it important to mention him by name and repudiate what they took to be his views. Alexander Stephens’s famous “Cornerstone Speech” said that Jefferson was wrong, insisting that blacks were not the equals of whites and, therefore, slavery was A-OK.

That’s the contradiction we’ve lived with for two and a half centuries. We’re a long way from resolving it.



The tactics are becoming increasingly aggressive

Aug 20th, 2017 9:18 am | By

The Washington Post editorial board says don’t forget about voter suppression.

[E]ven if all 1,500 Confederate symbols across the country were removed overnight by some sudden supernatural force, the pernicious crusade to roll back voting rights would continue apace, with voters of color suffering its effects disproportionately. Pushing back hard against those who would purge voter rolls, demand forms of voter ID that many Americans don’t possess, and limit times and venues for voting — this should be a paramount cause for the Trump era.

In statehouse after statehouse where Republicans hold majorities, the playbook is well established, and the tactics are becoming increasingly aggressive.

Mr. Trump’s voter fraud commission is at the vanguard of this crusade, and the fix is in. Its vice chairman, Kris Kobach, is the nation’s most determined, litigious and resourceful champion of voter suppression. Under his tutelage, the commission is likely to recommend measures whose effect will be that new obstacles to voting would be taken up in state legislatures. Millions of voters are at risk of disenfranchisement from this effort, and the knock-on effects of such a mass act of disempowerment are dizzying.

One, it’s racist disenfranchisement, and two, it results in the election of more conservatives and fewer liberals, which is not to the benefit of non-white people.



Demonstrations were boisterous but broadly peaceful

Aug 19th, 2017 5:36 pm | By

The Times reports a very different Saturday of protests from the one last week.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators, emboldened and unnerved by the eruption of fatal violence in Virginia last weekend, surged into the nation’s streets and parks on Saturday to denounce racism, white supremacy and Nazism.

Demonstrations were boisterous but broadly peaceful, even as tensions and worries coursed through protests from Boston Common, the nation’s oldest public park, to Hot Springs, Ark., and to the bridges that cross the Willamette River in Portland, Ore. Other rallies played out in Houston, Memphis and New Orleans, among other cities.

There were 40,000 just in Boston.

Boston, where officials had pledged to enforce a policy of zero tolerance for violence, faced dueling demonstrations, but a rally to promote “free speech” was brief and unamplified beyond the small bandstand where it was held. The event, whose participants appeared to number only in the dozens, was undercut by police planning and starved by an enormous buffer zone between the handful of protesters and the overwhelming numbers of their opponents.

Organizers of the speech rally had said they were appealing to “libertarians, conservatives, traditionalists, classical liberals, Trump supporters or anyone else who enjoys their right to free speech.”

“All of us here, in many ways, are true patriots because, in spite of that noise out there, we’re here to stand up for something very fundamental, which is called free speech,” Shiva Ayyadurai, an entrepreneur who is running a long-shot Republican campaign for Senate, told the rallygoers, according to a video posted on YouTube.

But thousands of others, fearing that the free speech event would be a platform for neo-Nazis and white nationalists, joined a robust counterprotest.

“This city has a history of fighting back against oppression, whether it’s dumping tea in the harbor or a bunch of dudes standing around with bandannas screaming at neo-Nazis,” said a 21-year-old protester who would identify himself only as “Frosty” and wore an American flag to obscure much of his face.

Some counterprotesters shouted down their opponents — “No Nazis! No K.K.K.! No fascist U.S.A.!” — as Massachusetts state troopers used their bikes to keep rival demonstrators apart.

Nothing bad happened, and the anti-racists far outnumbered the racists. This is good to know.



Tiny hands, tiny vocabulary

Aug 19th, 2017 5:03 pm | By
Tiny hands, tiny vocabulary

It’s tough and smart day in Donald’s brain.



and heel we will!

Aug 19th, 2017 3:00 pm | By

It took him three tries to spell “heal” correctly.

Also, this “our great country has been divided for decade” thing – what does he think he means? This is a guy who makes a huge point of playing only to his “base” while treating the rest of us, the large majority, as if we were criminals and traitors. It’s a guy who did more to amp up divisions than any presidential candidate most of us have ever seen. He wants us divided. He likes it like that.

Plus he can’t spell “heal.”



The rest of us

Aug 19th, 2017 12:10 pm | By

Ah now that’s good to see.

https://twitter.com/SethAbramson/status/898974872604422144

Top photo: the Pepes.

Bottom photos: everyone else.



The leader

Aug 19th, 2017 12:03 pm | By

Via the Post:



The mirror

Aug 19th, 2017 11:59 am | By

Image may contain: text



Monuments to crimes against humanity

Aug 19th, 2017 11:36 am | By

A former governor of Mississippi, Ray Mabus, is very blunt about all these Confederate statues.

Monuments to treason. That is exactly what blights nearly every courthouse square in the South, Confederate statutes and memorials celebrating those who took up arms against the United States in defense of slavery.

As a former Mississippi governor and a fourth-generation native, who grew up in the segregated South, I believe those monuments and statues and memorials never should have been erected in the first place, a view shared by Robert E. Lee, who wrote a few years after the Civil War that he thought it “wiser not to keep open the sores of war but to… commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.”

These symbols of unrepentant oppression — every single one — must be removed now and forever.

The truth is the vast majority of these Confederate monuments — like the addition of elements of the Confederate battle flag to some Southern state flags — came between the 1880s and the 1920s to re-establish white supremacy.

See? Blunt. I think a lot of non-Southern politicians hesitate to be that blunt.

Donald J. Trump and far too many others refuse to accept the pervasive and toxic impacts of our inability to deal honestly with race and its history. These are incontestable facts. The Confederacy was created to defend the abominable idea that one human being could own another and violently attempted to overthrow the legal, elected government of the United States, subverting the principles and meaning of our Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

Removing these memorials and symbols, like the Confederate battle flag element that remains sadly and shamefully part of my home state’s flag, is not an effort to sanitize our history nor erase some part of our culture. In fact, the myths of “magnolias and moonlight,” of the benevolent slave owner (an oxymoron if there ever was one), the romantic narratives of “The Lost Cause” and the distortions of Reconstruction are the real efforts to sanitize and erase. Confederates made perfectly clear that the “states’ rights” they sought to preserve was the right to own slaves. This was no War Between the States or War of Northern Aggression, it was an existential threat to the survival of the United States of America.

I wish more Southern governors and former governors were that blunt.



Don’s whoppers

Aug 19th, 2017 11:22 am | By

Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes write in Foreign Policy that there is now evidence demonstrating that Trump lied when he said the FBI rank and file had lost confidence in Comey.

The day after Comey’s dismissal, then-Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said:

The president, over the last several months, lost confidence in Director Comey. The [Justice Department] lost confidence in Director Comey. Bipartisan members of Congress made it clear that they had lost confidence in Director Comey. And most importantly, the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director.

At the time, a reporter challenged Sanders’s claim, reading her a quote from a special agent in the FBI who asserted, “The vast majority of the bureau is in favor of Director Comey. This is a total shock. This is not supposed to happen. The real losers here are 20,000 front-line people in the organization because they lost the only guy working here in the past 15 years who actually cared about them.” Sanders replied, “Look, we’ve heard from countless members of the FBI that say very different things.”

The next day, Sanders doubled down by claiming that she had personally “heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the president’s decision.” Underscoring the apparent extent of dislike for Comey at the bureau, Sanders said, “I certainly heard from a large number of individuals — and that’s just myself — and I don’t even know that many people in the FBI.”

Trump also pushed the line that Comey had lost the confidence of the rank and file, telling NBC’s Lester Holt that the FBI was in a state of turmoil. “You know that, I know that, everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil — less than a year ago. It hasn’t recovered from that,” he said.

Typical Trump – what he claims he knows (but doesn’t) is what everybody knows, because he is all there is.

Even as the White House said these things, evidence to the contrary was pouring out of the bureau. After the firing, some FBI agents reportedly changed their social media profile pictures to images of Comey in a display of support typically shown to colleagues killed in the line of duty. Pictures later emerged from FBI Family Day of employees wearing T-shirts that read “#ComeyIsMyHomey.”

Less than 48 hours after Comey’s firing, FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe contradicted the White House’s claims in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day,” he said.

And now the Times has reported on data it acquired via a FOIA request that back all that up. His scores are high.

Of course, the survey could mask substantial pockets of discontent — those “countless” individuals Sanders claims spoke to her against Comey and in support of Trump’s actions. The rest of the data Ben requested in his FOIA will shed additional light on the matter.

But these numbers clearly indicate that it is worth asking the newly minted press secretary to revisit her statements from back in May. Can she be more specific on whom she spoke to and when? Might the White House now admit that the president formed a dramatically mistaken impression of the state of morale at the FBI under Comey’s leadership — or that the state of morale actually had nothing to do with his action against the director at all? And is the president prepared to go on the record to correct his attacks on Comey in light of the evidence they were false?

Or perhaps the answers are too obvious to even bother asking.

Perhaps.



His dinner jacket will be at the cleaners

Aug 19th, 2017 9:40 am | By

Don is a no-show for the Kennedy Center awards this year, and he’s not throwing the usual White House party to celebrate it, either.

Past presidents and first ladies have hosted a reception for those given awards at the White House before the gala at the nearby Kennedy Center and sat with them at the televised event.

Two of the five stars due to receive the awards in art, music, dance, film, television and culture on 2 December, TV producer Norman Lear and dancer and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade, had already indicated they would boycott the reception the next day at the White House.

De Lavallade said: “In light of the socially divisive and morally caustic narrative that our current leadership is choosing to engage in, and in keeping with the principles that I and so many others have fought for, I will be declining the invitation to attend the reception at the White House.”

“Morally caustic” – that’s a good characterization.

Jimmy Carter, George HW Bush and Bill Clinton have all failed to attend due to presidential duties, but never due to a boycott by those being given awards.

Barack Obama received a standing ovation at last year’s event, held just after Trump’s election but before his inauguration. But there was unease among the arts community about whether they would turn up in 2017 if the new president was in attendance.

The Kennedy Center confirmed that this year’s White House reception would now not take place, although the awards themselves and gala celebration would still happen. The Center respected the president’s decision, which had ensured the gala “remains a deservingly special moment for the honorees”, chairman David M Rubenstein and president Deborah F Rutter said in a statement. “We are grateful for this gesture.”

Oh, that’s got to sting. That’s a frank “thank you for staying away.”

Trump ignited the most serious controversy over racism since his election campaign this week, with Republicans, business leaders, charities, sports stars and artists all denouncing him after he suggested that neo-Nazis whose protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, led to the death of a 32-year-old woman were morally equivalent to the anti-fascist activists opposing them.

The entire membership of the president’s Commission on the Arts and Humanities, appointed by Barack Obama, resigned on Friday in a letter that featured an acrostic spelling out the word “RESIST”.

I missed that when I blogged it yesterday. First letter of each paragraph.

The statement by the White House press secretary announcing the Trumps would not take part did not mention Charlottesville. But it said: “The president and first lady have decided not to participate in this year’s activities to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction.”

And since that explanation is unprecedented, it means they’re admitting there’s something special about this particular “political distraction.” What could that be? Could it be something to do with the fact that most people don’t like seeing the US president flattering white supremacists and abusing people who oppose them?



This is not rocket science in the ethical world

Aug 18th, 2017 4:14 pm | By

I guess Neil Gorsuch doesn’t have a very fine-tuned sense of ethics.

Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, President Trump’s Supreme Court appointee, is scheduled to address a conservative group at the Trump International Hotel in Washington next month, less than two weeks before the court is set to hear arguments on Mr. Trump’s travel ban.

Stephen Gillers, an expert on legal ethics at New York University, questioned the justice’s decision to speak at the hotel, which is at issue in lower-court cases challenging the constitutionality of payments to Mr. Trump’s companies.

“At this highly divisive political moment, especially as many Trump decisions are likely soon to reach the court’s docket, one just days later, a healthy respect for public confidence in the court should have led Justice Gorsuch to demur,” he said.

You’d think he would say no for a lot of reasons. He shouldn’t be snuggling up to Trump that way, and he shouldn’t be helping Trump violate ethical standards by profiting from his hotel almost next door to his official residence. It’s tawdry any way you look at it.

The Times found a lawyer to say it’s ok.

Deborah L. Rhode, a law professor at Stanford, disagreed.

“This is not rocket science in the ethical world,” she said. “It doesn’t get much more basic than this.”

“It’s a terrible signal for this group to be holding their meeting at the Trump International Hotel and for a Supreme Court justice to legitimate it by attending,” she said. “It just violates basic ethical principles about conflicts of interest.”

And it looks skeevy as hell.



Coffee money

Aug 18th, 2017 3:35 pm | By

Charities are ditching Mar-a-Lago.

The Cleveland Clinic, the American Cancer Society, and the American Friends of Magen David Adom all said on Thursday that they wouldn’t hold their 2018 galas at the resort. The organizations have held their annual events at Mar-a-Lago for several years.

On Friday, the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army said they would not host their events at Mar-a-Lago either. The Red Cross said in a statement that “it has increasingly become a source of controversy and pain for many of our volunteers, employees, and supporters.”

Susan G. Komen, the breast-cancer organization, also on Friday said it would not host its gala at the resort, according to The Washington Post.

It’s only pocket change though.

The events can net between $100,000 and $275,000 for the resort, The Post reported.

Big deal. He still owns that hotel a few blocks from the White House. He won’t even notice the dent in Mar-a-Lago profits.