Notes and Comment Blog

Hey gang, let’s re-open the black sites!

Jan 26th, 2017 12:45 pm | By

One of the little items he’s trying to hustle through while no one is looking –

[T]he draft of a Trump administration executive order that spilled into public view early Wednesday — a document that raised the prospect of reviving C.I.A. “black site” prisons like those where terrorism suspects were once detained and tortured — has the potential to further fracture a national security team already divided over one of the most controversial policies of the post-9/11 era.

The White House disclaimed the document, which was leaked to The New York Times and other news organizations, but three administration officials said the White House had circulated it among National Security Council staff members for review on Tuesday morning. And many of its proposals — which also include halting transfers out of the Guantánamo Bay prison and sending new detainees there, which President Barack Obama refused to do — echo years of Republican national security policy and President Trump’s own speeches.

If there’s something evil that can be done, Trump will want to do it. That’s apparently who he is. He always errs on the side of sadism, violation of rights, brute force, violence, punishment, revenge. It’s what attracts him.

Mr. Trump said on Wednesday, as he had several times during the presidential campaign, that he thought torturing terrorism suspects was justified. But in an interview with ABC News, the president also said he would defer to Mr. Mattis and Mr. Pompeo.

“I will rely on Pompeo and Mattis and my group,” Mr. Trump said. “And if they don’t want to do, that’s fine. If they do want to do, then I will work toward that end. I want to do everything within the bounds of what you’re allowed to do legally. But do I feel it works? Absolutely, I feel it works.”

He “feels” it works – based, I’ll wager, on nothing. It’s what he “feels,” off the top of his head, and he’s confident that that’s good enough. He’s never had to justify his own claims, and he has no idea either how to do it or that it’s necessary.

Asked about the draft order during a press briefing on Wednesday, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said that it was “not a White House document” and that he had “no idea where it came from.” He complained about “reports’ being published attributing documents to the White House that are not White House documents.”

But the three administration officials familiar with the document, who discussed internal deliberations on the condition of anonymity, portrayed that account as false. They said the White House had circulated the draft order among national security staff members in the same way that a flurry of other pending executive orders had been distributed for review: with no warning and scant time to provide comments.

So they’re still sticking with the “tell lies” approach.

On Wednesday, some Republicans and many Democrats reacted angrily to the draft executive order, saying they would not stand for any attempt to circumvent or weaken laws against torture.

“Even the suggestion that we may bring back these discredited policies does serious damage to our international standing and will make our allies in the fight against terror wary about cooperating with us,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. “I will do everything in my power to ensure that these grievous mistakes of the past are never repeated.”

Thanks, Donnie.


Jan 26th, 2017 12:12 pm | By

Trump complains that the media choose unflattering photos of him – he complained about it in that interview with David Muir of ABC – yet he chose this photo to tweet:


Big boy now

Jan 26th, 2017 11:18 am | By

You know how tv news shows use a photo to signal a break for commercials, right? Last night CNN used this one for the purpose, causing me to laugh myself breathless:

Image result for trump signing

Well chosen.


Jan 26th, 2017 10:57 am | By

No automatic alt text available.
Rick Baldwin

The biggest standing ovation since Peyton Manning

Jan 26th, 2017 10:27 am | By

Aaron Blake at the Post does another annotated transcript, this time of the interview Trump did yesterday with ABC News, his first interview from Inside The House. It is, of course, astonishing. I saw a few clips of it last night, and was duly astonished.

This is one choice bit:

DAVID MUIR: Let me just ask you, you did win. You’re the president. You’re sitting …


DAVID MUIR: … across from me right now.


DAVID MUIR: Do you think that your words matter more now?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yes, very much.

DAVID MUIR: Do you think that that talking about millions of illegal votes is dangerous to this country without presenting the evidence?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, not at all.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: Not at all because many people feel the same way that I do. And …

DAVID MUIR: You don’t think it undermines your credibility if there’s no evidence?


PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, not at all because they didn’t come to me. Believe me. Those were Hillary votes. And if you look at it they all voted for Hillary. They all voted for Hillary. They didn’t vote for me. I don’t believe I got one.

Emphasis added. You think it’s dangerous to announce made-up “facts” now that you’re in the boss job? No, not at all. NO, NOT AT ALL.

This is one of the snippets I saw last night:

DAVID MUIR: Mr. President, I just have one more question on this. And it’s — it’s bigger picture. You took some heat after your visit to the CIA in front of that hallowed wall, 117 stars — of those lost at the CIA. You talked about other things. But you also talked about crowd size at the inauguration, about the size of your rallies, about covers on Time magazine. And I just wanna ask you when does all of that matter just a little less? When do you let it roll off your back now that you’re the president?


PRESIDENT TRUMP: Okay, so I’m glad you asked. So, I went to the CIA, my first step. I have great respect for the people in intelligence and CIA. I’m — I don’t have a lot of respect for, in particular one of the leaders. But that’s okay. But I have a lot of respect for the people in the CIA.

That speech was a home run. That speech, if you look at Fox, okay, I’ll mention you — we see what Fox said. They said it was one of the great speeches. They showed the people applauding and screaming and — and they were all CIA. There was — somebody was asking Sean — “Well, were they Trump people that were put–” we don’t have Trump people. They were CIA people.

That location was given to me. Mike Pence went up before me, paid great homage to the wall. I then went up, paid great homage to the wall. I then spoke to the crowd. I got a standing ovation. In fact, they said it was the biggest standing ovation since Peyton Manning had won the Super Bowl and they said it was equal.

I laughed. I admit it. I howled with laughter. Look, we’re doomed, so we might as well get some laughs out of it.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: People loved it. They loved it. They gave me a standing ovation for a long period of time. They never even sat down, most of them, during the speech. There was love in the room.You and other networks covered it very inaccurately. I hate to say this to you and you probably won’t put it on but turn on Fox and see how it was covered. And see how people respond to that speech.

That speech was a good speech. And you and a couple of other networks tried to downplay that speech. And it was very, very unfortunate that you did. The people of the CIA loved the speech. If I was going to take a vote in that room, there were, like, 300, 350 people, over 1,000 wanted to be there but they couldn’t. They were all CIA people. I would say I would’ve gotten 350 to nothing in that room. That’s what the vote would’ve been. That speech was a big hit, a big success — success. And then I came back and I watched you on television and a couple of others.

DAVID MUIR: Not me personally.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: And they tried to demean. Excuse me?

DAVID MUIR: Not me personally.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Not you personally but your network — and they tried to demean the speech. And I know when things are good or bad. A poll just came out on my inauguration speech which was extraordinary that people loved it. Loved and liked. And it was an extraordinary poll.

DAVID MUIR: I guess that’s what I’m getting at. You talked about the poll, the people loving your inaugural speech and the size of your …

PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, because you bring it up.

DAVID MUIR: I’m asking, well, on day one you …

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, you just brought it up. I didn’t bring it up. I didn’t wanna — talk about the inauguration speech. But I think I did a very good job and people really liked it. You saw the poll. Just came out this morning. You bring it up. I didn’t bring it up.

Except at the CIA. And on Twitter. And all those other places.

Then Trump does a neat little bit of jiu-jitsu, by identifying the size of the crowd with the scorned masses.

DAVID MUIR: See, I — I’m not interested in the inaugural crowd size. I think the American people can look at images side by side and decide for themselves. I am curious about the first full day here at the White House, choosing to send the press secretary out into the briefing room, summoning reporters to talk about the inaugural crowd size. Does that send a message to the American people that that’s — that’s more important than some of the very pressing issues?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Part of my whole victory was that the men and women of this country who have been forgotten will never be forgotten again. Part of that is when they try and demean me unfairly ’cause we had a massive crowd of people. We had a crowd — I looked over that sea of people and I said to myself, “Wow.”

And I’ve seen crowds before. Big, big crowds. That was some crowd. When I looked at the numbers that happened to come in from all of the various sources, we had the biggest audience in the history of inaugural speeches. I said the men and women that I was talking to who came out and voted will never be forgotten again. Therefore I won’t allow you or other people like you to demean that crowd and to demean the people that came to Washington, D.C., from faraway places because they like me. But more importantly they like what I’m saying.

DAVID MUIR: I just wanna say I didn’t demean anyone who was in that crowd. We did coverage for hours …


PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, I think you’re demeaning by talking the way you’re talking. I think you’re demeaning. And that’s why I think a lot of people turned on you and turned on a lot of other people. And that’s why you have a 17 percent approval rating, which is pretty bad.

That’s the ticket! It’s the pesky latte-drinking media people who are the exploiters, and Trump the billionaire working stiff who is the defender of those honest flyover people who drink only Bud Light.

Another snippet I heard last night – this one did not make me laugh.

DAVID MUIR: Mr. Trump, let’s talk about many of the things that have happened this week. Chicago. Last night you tweeted about the murder rate in Chicago saying, “If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible carnage going on I will send in the feds.”


DAVID MUIR: You will send in the feds? What do you mean by that?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: It’s carnage. You know, in my speech I got tremendous — from certain people the word carnage. It is carnage. It’s horrible carnage. This is Afghanistan — is not like what’s happening in Chicago. People are being shot left and right. Thousands of people over a period — over a short period of time.

This year, which has just started, is worse than last year, which was a catastrophe. They’re not doing the job. Now if they want help, I would love to help them. I will send in what we have to send in. Maybe they’re not gonna have to be so politically correct. Maybe they’re being overly political correct. Maybe there’s something going on. But you can’t have those killings going on in Chicago. Chicago is like a war zone. Chicago is worse than some of the people that you report in some of the places that you report about every night …

“Politically correct.” He’s calling the rules and restrictions that govern how law enforcement goes about its job “politically correct.” So it’s “politically correct” to say cops should not shoot people out of hand? It’s “politically correct” to insist that there are and must be limits on what kind of force cops use under what circumstances? It should just be “whatever you feel like in the moment because hey do it to them before they do it to you”?

Stupid question. Of course it is.

Oh well, it’s only the State Department

Jan 26th, 2017 9:26 am | By

Breaking news – senior people flee the State Department leaving it empty at the top.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s job running the State Department just got considerably more difficult. The entire senior level of management officials resigned Wednesday, part of an ongoing mass exodus of senior foreign service officers who don’t want to stick around for the Trump era.

Tillerson was actually inside the State Department’s headquarters in Foggy Bottom on Wednesday, taking meetings and getting the lay of the land. I reported Wednesday morning that the Trump team was narrowing its search for his No. 2, and that it was looking to replace the State Department’s long-serving undersecretary for management, Patrick Kennedy. Kennedy, who has been in that job for nine years, was actively involved in the transition and was angling to keep that job under Tillerson, three State Department officials told me.

Then suddenly on Wednesday afternoon, Kennedy and three of his top officials resigned unexpectedly, four State Department officials confirmed. Assistant Secretary of State for Administration Joyce Anne Barr, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele Bond and Ambassador Gentry O. Smith, director of the Office of Foreign Missions, followed him out the door. All are career foreign service officers who have served under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

It’s not difficult to imagine why senior career foreign service officers would not want to work for Trump, whatever party he belonged to.

In addition, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Gregory Starr retired Jan. 20, and the director of the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations, Lydia Muniz, departed the same day. That amounts to a near-complete housecleaning of all the senior officials that deal with managing the State Department, its overseas posts and its people.

“It’s the single biggest simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can remember, and that’s incredibly difficult to replicate,” said David Wade, who served as State Department chief of staff under Secretary of State John Kerry. “Department expertise in security, management, administrative and consular positions in particular are very difficult to replicate and particularly difficult to find in the private sector.”

Yeeeeah, the private sector doesn’t handle that kind of work. Yet.

Ambassador Richard Boucher, who served as State Department spokesman for Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, said that while there’s always a lot of turnover around the time a new administration takes office, traditionally senior officials work with the new team to see who should stay on in their roles and what other jobs might be available. But that’s not what happened this time.

The officials who manage the building and thousands of overseas diplomatic posts are charged with taking care of Americans overseas and protecting U.S. diplomats risking their lives abroad. The career foreign service officers are crucial to those functions as well as to implementing the new president’s agenda, whatever it may be, Boucher said.

“You don’t run foreign policy by making statements, you run it with thousands of people working to implement programs every day,” Boucher said. “To undercut that is to undercut the institution.”

The fall is accelerating.

Coral reefs and sandstone formations

Jan 25th, 2017 5:45 pm | By

And then there’s BadHombreNPS. (There’s a long list of them. Long and growing.)

Redwoods and internees

Jan 25th, 2017 5:32 pm | By

More rogues on Twitter:

Ka-ching ka-ching

Jan 25th, 2017 5:12 pm | By

Lying corrupt president announces plans to exploit his office to expand his business.

Only days after Donald Trump took the oath of office, the head of his hotel-management company outlined hopes for an ambitious expansion across the U.S., raising new questions about potential conflicts between his business and the presidency.

Trump Hotels Chief Executive Officer Eric Danziger suggested the company’s broad U.S. ambitions while saying it shelved plans for expansion in China, where the president’s comments have already led to rocky diplomatic relations.

“There are 26 major metropolitan areas in the U.S., and we’re in five,” Danziger said after a panel discussion Tuesday at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit in Los Angeles. “I don’t see any reason that we couldn’t be in all of them eventually.”

Especially when the Oval Office is such a good place for doing infomercials!

Meanwhile, new membership fees at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago club have doubled to $200,000, Bernd Lembcke, its managing director, said in a Wednesday e-mail, first reported by CNBC. The Palm Beach, Florida resort, which Trump has called “The Winter White House,” was the location of the president’s New Year’s Eve celebration with family and supporters. He tweeted a photo of himself writing his inaugural speech at the resort last week.

Well of course they have. After all, it’s now the President’s club, so membership naturally has to be a lot more expensive, or else why did he bother? If he can’t sell the celebrity-value of his job then what’s it all been for??

Even if his business activities are considered legal, they certainly heighten the perceived conflict, according to Wendy Patrick, who teaches business ethics at San Diego State University.

“Although he is now officially the leader of the free world, Donald Trump remains both a businessman and a brand,” Patrick said in an e-mail. “The fact that the hotel chain that bears his name is seeking to expand within the United States raises questions of both law and ethics.”

There is too much filth to keep up with.


Jan 25th, 2017 4:39 pm | By

The maquis is forming. There is a growing list of rogue Twitter accounts to do what the official ones can’t. The AltUSNatParkService one for instance:

The Unofficial “Resistance” team of U.S. National Park Service. Not taxpayer subsidised! Come for rugged scenery, fossil beds, 89 million acres of landscape

The Palmer Report explains why Trump can’t do anything about this:

In his first days in office, Donald Trump has made a point of censoring and restricting what the National Park Service can and cannot say on its various official Twitter accounts. After the NPS tweeted photos of Trump’s small inauguration crowd, he temporarily suspended its Twitter privileges. And when the Badlands tweeted about climate change today, those tweets were then deleted. But now some unnamed individuals within the National Park Service have created an unofficial Twitter account that Trump can’t touch.

Trump doesn’t have the ability to shut down a Twitter account, or to suspend it from being usable; only Twitter the company would be able to do that. Instead he’s been sabotaging the National Park Service Twitter accounts by presumably threatening to fire people if they dare to tweet things he doesn’t like, or if they tweet during times when he’s put them in the penalty box. But he can only do that if he knows who’s tweeting.

When it comes to official Park Service accounts like @NatlParkService or @BadlandsNPS, specific employees have access to those accounts, so it’s easy for Trump to know who’s posting any tweets he doesn’t like — and whom to punish. So instead, Park Service employees whose identities are unknown have created an unofficial Twitter account at @AltNatParkSer.

Twitter can be poisonous, and it can be…this kind of thing.

The unofficial National Park Service account started six hours ago by reposting the Badlands tweets that had been deleted. It’s since continued posting all the climate change data it can find, and it’s been documenting Trump’s strange attempts at cracking down on the official accounts. This unofficial Twitter account has quickly gained ninety thousand followers (likely a lot more by the time you’re reading this), as Americans are flocking to the account to keep up with the real National Park Service news.

Welcome to our new, terrifying reality

Jan 25th, 2017 12:00 pm | By

Phil Plait on Trump’s censorship of the science agencies:

Welcome to our new, terrifying reality: According to reports, President Donald Trump’s administration has ordered a media blackout of people who work at the Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Department of Agriculture.

He adds that he wants to be careful, and that this could be just a transitional move while the new administration gets sorted.

This may be true. BuzzFeed and the Associated Press, however, obtained internal emails from the EPA and USDA that indicate the new administration is gagging people at the two government agencies, forbidding them [to tweet], going on any social media, or issuing press releases about their science. The only news they are allowed to issue must be vetted first. Also, in the case of the EPA, a Trump administration order has frozen grants and any new business. Note that the EPA has been under heavy attack by the GOP for years.

It appears that Trump wants to keep these groups under the thumb of the White House, and to make sure the only news that gets out aligns with what the new administration approves.

If true, this is no media blackout. It’s censorship.

Again, this seems like an extreme conclusion, but we now live in a time of extreme circumstances. Just days ago we saw Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s first press meeting, where he blatantly lied about the size of Trump’s inauguration audience, then abruptly left without taking questions. Then Trump spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway dismissed criticism of Spicer, saying he was presenting “alternative facts.”

In short, brazen lying is their MO.

The trend here is clear. Trump has been lying and saying provably false things since the early days of his campaign; his entire rise to the top of the GOP presidential candidate heap was based on his birtherism. He has also fervently denied any science that goes against his ideology, picking and choosing what he wishes to believe (or disbelieve). Hence his denial of the reality of human-induced climate change and his courting of the worst of the anti-vaccination promoters like RFK Jr. and Andrew Wakefield—the latter is the father of the modern anti-vax movement, even though he has been struck off the U.K. General Medical Council’s register and his original findings have been retracted and branded as fraudulent.

Ordering the EPA to take down its climate change pages is appalling. As Reuters says,

The page includes links to the EPA’s inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, which contains emissions data from individual industrial facilities as well as the multiagency Climate Change Indicators report, which describes trends related to the causes and effects of climate change.

The Trump administration’s recently appointed team to guide the post-Obama transition has drawn heavily from the energy industry lobby and pro-drilling think tanks, according to a list of the newly introduced 10-member team.

So yeah, that’s very, very worrisome.

So no, we don’t have to just shrug and say “Well he has absolute power so whatever.”

We’ve seen this happen before in recent times; when Stephen Harper became Canada’s prime minister, his anti-science right-wing administration did much the same thing, gagging scientists, including climate scientists, from talking to the media or public. Scientists rebelled and created their own site where they could announce their results, but the gag order wasn’t rescinded until Harper’s party was voted out of power. Besides it being a national embarrassment, the gag order meant that news articles about scientific research could report it incorrectly and the scientists could not issue corrections. It also allowed Harper to prevent the public knowing about research that went against his own anti-climate agenda.

Don’t think it can happen here? It already has, back in the George W. Bush administration, when for just one example a PR flack was put in place at NASAwho meddled with their science communication efforts.

And now, it seems, it’s happening here once again.

This is extremely worrying. In the absence of scientific autonomy and open discussion, the administration is free to make up whatever reality serves it best. Given that Trump signed an executive order making it easier to build the Dakota Access Pipeline—a colossal conflict of interest, since Trump has stock in the company that would build it—we can see very clearly what reality that will be. Massive corruption, suppression of free speech and the freedom of the press, oppression of minorities, the complete reversal of women’s rights, and the literal sickening of America.

In short we’re in deep trouble and must fight back every way we know how.

Maybe they will, maybe they won’t

Jan 25th, 2017 11:13 am | By

In newer news – the Jaipur Literary Festival says it has not decided not to invite Taslima in future. It’s hedging. It hasn’t decided not to, it hasn’t decided not to not to – it hasn’t decided. Good that it hasn’t, I suppose, but really it shouldn’t be hedging. It should have told the “protesters” to take a hike.

Late on Monday evening, Festival producer Sanjoy Roy said in a statement: “They expressed their anger… I heard them out. Explained we supported minorities in every way. Underscored that we are a platform for all points of view. Agreed that we should consider their request not to reinvite them (Taslima Nasrin and Salman Rushdie).”

This led to speculation on the social media that the popular literary event will not be inviting Nasrin again.

So they put out a statement.

The organisers stepped in to defuse the situation. A tweet from the official Twitter handle of the event said: “Reports of us ‘banning’ @taslimanasreen from future editions of the festival are not true. No statement to this effect has been made.”

On Wednesday morning, Roy tweeted: ” @PTI_News an erroneous statement saying JLF has banned Taslima has been issued by PTI. We have not said this. @taslimanasreen.”

In another tweet, quoting what the organisers said, Nasrin wrote: “Why did @PTI_News publish false news that #jlf has banned me? So good to hear #jlf believes in freedom of expression.”

Festival insiders told IANS that Sanjoy Roy met with the protesters and assured them that their demand will be considered.

“It was done to control the situation and does not mean that we will never invite her again. JLF continues to be an open platform for all kinds of voices,” said an insider.

Nasrin had appeared on the concluding day of the festival in an impromptu session, not disclosed by the organisers earlier.

The session was themed around her latest memoir “Exile”, a cumulative chronicle of her days in Kolkata and the circumstances under which she was, in her own words, “hurriedly shifted, first to Jaipur and then to Delhi, confined to an obscure safe houses, and faced incessant pressure from senior officials and politicians to leave India” and is replete with dark imageries and repeated provocations.

I guess it’s nice of the organizers to give her new material…?

Taslima resists

Jan 25th, 2017 10:56 am | By

India Today has more detail on Taslima and the Jaipur Literary Festival.

After Bangladeshi writer and activist Taslima Nasreen’s impromptu session at the Jaipur Literature Festival drew a minor protest here, festival organisers said they will consider the protestors’ request of not reinviting her, a statement said.

“They expressed their anger…. I heard them out. Explained we supported minorities in every way. Underscored that we are a platform for all points of view. Agreed that we should consider their request not to reinvite them,” Sanjoy K Roy, Producer of JLF, said.

Protesting organisations including Rajasthan Muslim Forum, All India Milli Council, Jamaat-e-Islami and Muslim Personal Law Board, had said yesterday that the writer, who has been living in exile since 1994 after facing the ire of fundamentalists, was a “disputed” personality.

They demanded that no invitation must be extended to the writer again.

It’s pretty shocking that Sanjoy Roy saw fit to let them dictate to him in that way.

A furious Taslima Nareen took to Twitter to express her disdain over reports that she may not be invited to future Jaipur Literature Festival events.

She did, yes. Of course she did. This crap has been persecuting her for more than two decades now.

The struggle never ends.

But what do you mean by secularism?

Jan 25th, 2017 10:38 am | By

My dear friend Taslima showed up at the Jaipur Literary Festival on Monday, where the Times of India reported she woke things up.

Till Monday, the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) was a largely tame affair. And then exiled Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin made an impromptu appearance on the last day, immediately drawing protesting Muslim groups outside the venue.

Adding fuel to fire, the controversial author pledged her firm support for the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and underscored its importance in ensuring gender equality.

Nasrin questioned the secularism of Indian state which was sheltering fanatics who issued fatwas and set a prize for her head.

“Many Muslims do not want UCC but it’s urgently necessary for women’s rights,” said Nasrin, questioning why the ‘secular’ people of India were against UCC.

The UCC is the same idea as One Law For All: the law should be secular, and the same for everyone, with equal rights for everyone, not special non-rights for women and other outsiders.

The controversial writer slammed West Bengal chief minister Mamta Banerjee for paying lip-service to secularism. She alleged that Banerjee was in cahoots with the Kolkata-based Imam Syed Noor-ur-Rehman Barkati, who has issued a fatwa against her.

“We proudly say this country is secular. But what do you mean by secularism? Why do you encourage Muslim fanatics to issue fatwas against people? For Muslim votes, you throw secular people out of the country and encourage Muslim fanatics who don’t believe in democracy and human rights,” said Nasrin.

This session of the ‘controversial’ writer was not scheduled at the JLF. Many in the audience were surprised to see Nasrin on the dais. She argued that fundamentalism cannot be eradicated by killing people or punishing people but only through secular education.

Rejecting the idea of nationalism, Nasrin maintained her belief in freedom and one world. “I don’t believe in nationalism. I believe in humanism, rationalism, rights, freedom and one passport and one world,” added Nasrin.

So of course there were the usual protests.

JAIPUR: Exiled Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin, who participated in a session at the JLF on Monday, faced the ire of Muslim groups who protested outside the Diggi Palace venue.

Representatives of various organisations met the organisers of JLF and demanded that they should not invite ‘controversial’ writers such as Nasrin and Salman Rushdie in future.

At a closed door meeting, organiser Sanjoy K Roy has apparently assured them that they would be careful from next year.

They “demanded” – as if they had a right to keep Taslima and Salman out.

Since the picture of Nasrin was carried by some newspapers, Muslim groups held a meeting at Muslim Musafirkhana early in the day to demand the cancellation of the event.

On what grounds? It’s a literary festival, not a religious event. It’s nothing to do with “Muslim groups” so why are they demanding a veto?

As the news spread, representatives belonging to different socio-religious groups and political parties raised slogans and held a protest right outside the venue. Though the police did intervene, the protesters refused to back out.

Roy then invited them for a dialogue, which lasted for about 45 minutes. But he failed to convince them despite offering them a session next year on ‘why Taslima Nasrin and Salman Rushdie should not be called for the lit fest’. However, the groups were adamant and sought assurance on not inviting these two writers ever to the fest. They were later told that their sentiments would be considered while planning the sessions in future.

Which rather proves Taslima’s point, doesn’t it.

The Little Golden Book

Jan 24th, 2017 5:19 pm | By

Tim O’Brien made a thing:



Jan 24th, 2017 4:45 pm | By

I’m still in a rage about the gag orders, but there are still other matters to follow. There’s Eric Levitz on Trump staffers’ eagerness to report what a car crash their boss is.

The president is a 70-year-old child whose TV time must be closely monitored — because any news story that upsets his ego will trigger a temper tantrum followed by irrational demands that his indulgent, overwhelmed guardians will be helpless to refuse.

Or so Donald Trump’s aides keep confiding to the nearest available reporter.

On Sunday, one of the president’s confidantes told Politico that his staffers have to “control information that may infuriate him,” a task made difficult by the fact that the leader of the free world “gets bored and likes to watch TV.”

Couldn’t they get him to watch one of those Kardashian shows, or one of those “Real Housewives” shows, or wrestling, or something about tiny houses?

That same day, some Trump aides provided the New York Times with a portrait of the president as a moody adolescent.

Mr. Trump grew increasingly angry on Inauguration Day after reading a series of Twitter messages pointing out that the size of his inaugural crowd did not rival that of Mr. Obama’s in 2009. But he spent his Friday night in a whirlwind of celebration and affirmation. When he awoke on Saturday morning, after his first night in the Executive Mansion, the glow was gone, several people close to him said, and the new president was filled anew with a sense of injury.

“The lack of discipline troubled even senior members of Mr. Trump’s circle,” the paper wrote, “some of whom had urged him not to indulge his simmering resentment at what he saw as unfair news coverage.”

Didn’t they know he’s like that? I knew he’s like that just from checking his Twitter every day. That’s what he’s like. He gets in a huge snit if anyone disses him.

Ultimately, though, the most astounding sentence in the Post’s write-up might be the following:

This account of Trump’s tumultuous first days in office comes from interviews with nearly a dozen senior White House officials and other Trump advisers and confidants, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations and moments.

Nearly a dozen of Trump’s closest confidantes helped plant an embarrassing news story about how their boss can’t handle embarrassing news stories. Which is to say: A president who prizes loyalty in his subordinates has already been betrayed by a huge swath of his inner circle.

It isn’t hard to understand why Trump’s aides would want to distance themselves from the mogul’s decision to begin his presidency by shouting self-aggrandizing delusions at CIA employees, congressional leaders, and the Fourth Estate. But we aren’t in the late days of a losing campaign, when it’s normal for advisers to start leaking dirt on the boss to save their reputations. We’re less than four full days into the Trump presidency, with (barring death, impeachment, resignation, or coup) at least 1,461 to go.

Yes I was marveling at that this morning when I read the Post story – his gang are ratting him out already.

But he believes

Jan 24th, 2017 3:55 pm | By

Trump the lying silencing liar claims to “believe” millions of people voted illegally, but since he’s a chronic liar, that’s not very plausible – and it’s also beside the point.

President Donald Trump believes millions of votes were cast illegally in last year’s election, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Tuesday, but he wouldn’t provide any concrete evidence for the claim, which has long been debunked.

“The President does believe that, I think he’s stated that before, and stated his concern of voter fraud and people voting illegally during the campaign and continues to maintain that belief based on studies and evidence people have brought to him,” Spicer said.

Pressed for what evidence exists, Spicer would say only that Trump “has believed that for a while based on studies and information he has.”

In other words somebody wrote it down on a yellow pad and showed it to him.

A number of studies have found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

The Truth About Voter Fraud, a report written by experts at The Brennan Center for Justice, found voter fraud rates were between 0.00004% and 0.0009%.

That’s…not 3 million people.

Trump tells everyone in reach to shut up

Jan 24th, 2017 3:38 pm | By

This is the worst yet. He’s imposing a gag order on federal agencies.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has moved to curb the flow of information from several government agencies whose mandate impacts environmental issues since last week, in actions that appeared designed to tighten control and discourage dissenting views.

Employees at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have seen directives from the newly minted leadership seeking to limit how they communicate to the public, according to multiple sources.

Who the FUCK does he think he is? What makes him think he gets to do that? What makes him think he has a mandate to do that? What makes him think he gets to make himself a dictator?

On Tuesday, a source at the EPA said that staff had been told by members of the Trump administration not to speak to reporters or publish any press releases or blog posts on social media. EPA staff have also been asked not to publicize any talks, conferences, or webinars that had been planned for the next 60 days, the staffer said, asking not to be named.

The agency also was asked by the White House on Monday to temporarily halt all contracts and grants pending a review, according to multiple sources. The EPA awards billions of dollars worth of grants and contracts every year to support programs around environmental testing, cleanups and research.

Environmental groups reacted with outrage. New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, said in reaction to the freeze that his office “will examine all legal options to ensure the EPA meets its obligations to keep our state’s air and water safe.”

The Department of Agriculture also has seen efforts to curb communication. On Tuesday, employees were informed in a memo seen by Reuters that all communications with the media should be approved by the administration, and social media posts should be reviewed by managers “to remove references to policy priorities and initiatives of the previous Administration.”

The department, meanwhile, disavowed an email sent on Monday to its scientific research unit ordering the suspension of releasing “any public-facing documents,” including news releases and photos, saying it was sent without permission and should not include a ban on publication of peer-reviewed scientific papers.

Officials at HHS also received a memo ordering them not to send “any correspondence” to other public officials.

Instead, they must refer any requests for information to senior leaders, who are not to do anything until they have received instructions from the White House staff on its policies, according to a source who read the memo.

He thinks he’s been given absolute powers.

On Tuesday, Badlands National Park, part of the Department of Interior, posted a series of Tweets about climate change: “Today, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years. #climate,” one of the tweets read. By Tuesday afternoon, the tweets were gone.

So everybody on Twitter should be sharing the content of that tweet.

Also the Trump gang needs to hurry up with the renaming, now that it’s the Environmental Destruction Agency.


Guest post: A handful of people with malignant personality disorders

Jan 24th, 2017 12:47 pm | By

Guest post by tiggerthewing.

It is not the trans community as such who is isolating and marginalising women. Most trans people just want to blend into the background, and not be noticed.

But not the TransNarcissists. Oh, no.

Like a lot of other mutual-support communities I’ve been involved in over the decades, a handful of people with malignant personality disorders have taken over the microphone and tried to make the whole thing about them.

This inevitably leads to the implosion of the community, because they are loud, and manipulative, and not remotely interested in supporting anyone else.

It happened in the autism communities, it happened in the atheism communities, it has happened in the trans communities, and now they are trying to bring down feminism and the women’s movement.

They are a cancer. The internet has been a wonderful tool for getting isolated people together into online communities. Unfortunately, it has also provided the perfect platform for narcissists to organise and compete – and everyone else gets to be collateral damage.

Has anyone read Interview With a Vampire? I couldn’t finish it, because it became too uncomfortable as I realised that the description of the vampire’s life was basically a metaphor for the way Cluster B personalities view and treat the rest of us.

We need to step in and support their victims. Reassure those being accused of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia that merely wearing a pink pussy hat and marching in solidarity with others isn’t any of those things. Point out that the accusers are being manipulative and abusive in order to undermine their resolve to make things better.

Some of us, thanks to talking with other victims of Cluster B vampires, have learned to recognise them by their behaviour. It’s not quite as simple as the mirror thing as shown in films – they do actually have a physical reflection; it is when they hold the mirror up to themselves that they see nothing. And *that* is why they suck the lives of those around them. Not our blood, our emotions and self-esteem.

The inspiring example

Jan 24th, 2017 12:34 pm | By

Via Gnu Atheism:

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