Notes and Comment Blog


We read these books all the time where women are in the kitchen

Jul 16th, 2017 12:42 pm | By

Being outspoken, honest, independent-minded is one thing; being a bitch, a nag, a fanatic is another. The Atlantic on a study of teenage girls:

A number of girls from different middle and high schools reported similar experiences. One girl, Rory, 13, told them, “I was trying out for basketball and I got up to sign the sheet and everyone was like, ‘Oh get back in the kitchen!’” Rory’s initial response was anger—but then it turned to acceptance. “Guys are like that, and you get over it. It doesn’t bother me, it’s stereotypical. We read these books all the time where women are in the kitchen,” she said. (Pomerantz and Raby used pseudonyms to protect the girls’ identities.)

Pomerantz and Raby have both written various books on girl culture and knew that girls’ lives didn’t just amount to the beautiful, perfectly crafted sound bites portrayed in the media. While the authors heard plenty of alpha-girl stories—a girl who was the only female player on a boys’ hockey team, a girl who worried about balancing her popularity and her academics, a girl who stayed up until 1 a.m. checking her schoolwork—the articles made it sound as if society had transitioned into a post-feminism climate. But while they expected to hear about uncomfortable dynamics between boys and girls, they weren’t necessarily anticipating overly sexist commands reminiscent of the 1950s. Both Pomerantz and Raby gasped when they heard the “Go make me a sandwich” comment.

A few girls surveyed pushed back against the sexist statements and were able to clearly delineate what is and isn’t a joke. But more of the girls were reluctant to call out boys for their sexist behavior. They didn’t want to appear bitchy or outspoken or unsexy. It would make them look like a feminist, and feminism was a potentially damaging label. It had too many implications: that you were a prude, that you couldn’t take a joke, that you were a “man-hater” or a “bitch.” It was much cooler to say nothing. To laugh it off.

That. It’s fine to be a rebel, an activist, a fist-waver…but you can’t make other people see you that way. They can decide to see you as a prude and a bitch instead. It’s never easy.



Hint: it’s north of South Korea

Jul 16th, 2017 12:31 pm | By

The Times reports that Americans who know where North Korea is on a map are more likely to favor diplomacy over military responses. Makes sense. If you don’t know where North Korea is on a map you probably don’t know much of anything, and if you don’t know much of anything, violence can seem like a good solution to problems and also an awesome afternoon out.

An experiment led by Kyle Dropp of Morning Consult from April 27-29, conducted at the request of The New York Times, shows that respondents who could correctly identify North Korea tended to view diplomatic and nonmilitary strategies more favorably than those who could not. These strategies included imposing further economic sanctions, increasing pressure on China to influence North Korea and conducting cyberattacks against military targets in North Korea.

They also viewed direct military engagement – in particular, sending ground troops – much less favorably than those who failed to locate North Korea.

If you know where it is you might have some idea of how bad it would be to send troops there.

Geographic knowledge itself may contribute to an increased appreciation of the complexity of geopolitical events. This finding is consistent with – though not identical to – a similar experiment Mr. Dropp, Joshua D. Kertzer and Thomas Zeitzoff conducted in 2014. They asked Americans to identify Ukraine on a map and asked them whether they supported military intervention. The farther a respondent’s guess was from Ukraine, the researchers found, the more likely he or she was to favor military intervention.

Then again there is such a thing as rational ignorance.

In “Why Geography Matters,” Harm de Blij wrote that geography is “a superb antidote to isolationism and provincialism,” and argued that “the American public is the geographically most illiterate society of consequence on the planet, at a time when United States power can affect countries and peoples around the world.”

This spatial illiteracy, geographers say, can leave citizens without a framework to think about foreign policy questions more substantively. “The paucity of geographical knowledge means there is no check on misleading public representations about international matters,” said Alec Murphy, a professor of geography at the University of Oregon.

While Americans could be better at geography, they cannot be expected to follow every twist and turn of foreign policy. “People don’t invest in policy information, but that’s rational,” said Elizabeth Saunders, a political science professor at George Washington University who studies foreign policy and international relations. Instead of exhaustively researching foreign policy options for a host of nations, Americans are “rationally ignorant,” effectively outsourcing their foreign policy views to elites and the news media.

That system breaks down when you have a complete fool and ignoramus running the show.



Best known for representing mobsters

Jul 15th, 2017 5:20 pm | By

Trump’s re-election campaign has been paying Junior’s legal bills.

About two weeks before the release of emails showing Donald Trump Jr. seeking opposition research from attorneys representing the Russian government, his father’s reelection campaign began paying the law firm now representing Trump Jr. in the ensuing political and legal fallout.

new filing with the Federal Election Commission shows that President Trump’s reelection campaign paid $50,000 to the law offices of Alan Futerfas on June 26. That was around the time, Yahoo News reports, that the president’s legal team learned of a June 2016 email exchange in which Trump Jr., through an associate, solicited damaging information about 2016 election rival Hillary Clinton.

Isn’t that…illegal? Isn’t it illegal to use campaign money for personal expenses? Isn’t it also kind of obviously fraudulent?

When the New York Times revealed the email, and the meeting it set up, last week, Trump Jr. hired Futerfas, who is best known for representing four of New York’s major Italian mob families. The announcement of the hire came not from the Trump campaign but from the president’s company, where Trump Jr. remains a trustee.

So they do realize they’re basically mobsters.

It was not immediately clear whether the campaign expenditure was renumeration for Futerfas’s representation of Trump’s son, on Russia-related or other matters. But the payment sticks out on a presidential campaign’s expenditure list: Futerfas’s expertise is in white collar criminal defense, not political and election law.

The Trump campaign’s FEC filing shows significant expenditures on legal representation as it wades through scrutiny involving alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election. As part of that investigation, the FBI is examining whether the Trump campaign guided Russian disinformation efforts aimed at key voting precincts.

The consulting firm owned by Brad Parscale, the former Trump campaign digital director at the center of that controversy, received more than $2 million in payments from the campaign in the second quarter.

According to the FEC filing, which was released on Saturday, 15% of the more than $4.3 million spent by the Trump campaign from April through June went towards legal representation.

And here was me thinking they had to spend it on campaign expenses, not just whatever expenses they happen to have on the same planet where they also have a campaign.

That included the payment to Futerfas’s firm and more than half a million dollars to the powerhouse Washington law firm Jones Day, which has represented the Trump campaign since early in the 2016 election cycle.

But the campaign also settled on a new vendor for legal consulting services: the Trump Corporation itself. The FEC filing shows that the campaign paid the company nearly $90,000 three days after its payment to Futerfas.

The campaign has steered millions of dollars to Trump companies since 2015, but that appears to be the first time it paid a Trump entity for legal services.

Oh perfect. They’re not only using campaign money to pay their legal bills, they’re also using campaign money to pay themselves for legal services.

Classy, classy, classy.



The end of “women”

Jul 15th, 2017 4:41 pm | By

There’s a piece by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha about emotional labor. The title is

A MODEST PROPOSAL FOR A FAIR TRADE EMOTIONAL LABOR ECONOMY
(CENTERED BY DISABLED, FEMME OF COLOR, WORKING CLASS/POOR GENIUS)

I have no idea what the second line, the one in parentheses, is supposed to mean.

Whatever it’s supposed to mean, I’m staggered before the piece even begins, by a throat-clearing that prefaces it:

Editor’s note: In this piece you may notice some departures from Bitch’s house style. This piece was edited according to the author’s specifications.

Femme: A person who has one of a million kinds of queer femme or feminine genders. Part of a multiverse of femme gendered people who have histories and communities in every culture since the dawn of time. A queer gender that often breaks away from white, able bodied, upper middle class, cis ideas of femininity, remixing it to harken to fat or working class or Black or brown or trans or non-binary or disabled or sex worker or other genders of femme to grant strength, vulnerability and power to the person embodying them. A revolutionary gender universe.

In other words…a person who for some reason thinks the word “woman” is some kind of obscenity or blasphemy or admission of guilt, and is therefore to be shunned…in favor of the word “woman” in another language. That’ll fix it.

But French – my dear, isn’t that terribly elitist? It’s only snobby people who sip their lattes in coastal bubbles who know French. Surely it should be mujer.

But more to the point – fuck that.

I’m so sick of this constant drip-drip-drip insistence that actually women have to be kicked out of feminism now because women are not oppressed at all but rather the source of oppression, because they’re such white cis able-bodied upper middle class bitches. There’s no such thing as “femme gendered people” who are a category apart from women, and being fat or working class or black or brown does not make you not a woman. I’m so sick of this stupid malevolent woman-hating bullshit. There is no “revolutionary gender universe” that excludes women – that right there is just plain old vanilla patriarchy, and I say the hell with it.

But she goes with it. Everything is femme.

The thing about being a working class or poor and/or disabled and/or parenting and/or Black, Indigenous or brown femme is that people are going to ask you to do stuff for them. Oh, are they ever…And because: your life as a working class or poor and/or sex working and/or disabled and/or Black or brown femme person has taught you that the only damn way you or anybody survives is by helping each other…It’s maybe what hippies mean when they talk about the gift economy, it’s just a million times more working class, femme, Black and brown, and sick in bed.

Do not say women; never say women; women are the enemy.

We live in a white capitalist colonialist cissexist ableist patriarchy that oppresses in many ways, including by reviling all that is femme. In the queer communities I’ve been part of since the ’90s, I’ve witnessed how femmephobia, sexism, and transmisogyny act together to view femininity and femmeness as weak, less than, not as smart or competent, “hysterical,” “too much,” not worthy of praise or respect, enforcing rape culture and political, economic and social disenfranchisement of femmes. Forget femme invisibility; the thing most femmes I know are impacted by is lack of femme respect. Femmephobia and transmisogyny infuse queer and mainstream cultures in a million ways, from the ways in which femme genders are seen as inherently less radical (i.e., assuming money spent on makeup or femme clothing is somehow more capitalist than that spent on bowties and butch wax) to the ways in which, as writer Morgan M. Page notes, “Any minor slip of language or politics and [trans women] are labeled “crazy trans women,” resulting in trans women being expelled from queer communities.

Yeah. It’s all femmephobia and transmisogyny; no sexism or misogyny at all. Women are shit; it’s only femmes that are any good.

Generations of femmes have written and organized about misogyny and transmisogyny in queer and trans communities, and I’m alive because of this work. But I remain, with many other femme/feminine people, harmed by misogynist ideas about care labor, where endless free emotional labor is simply the role our communities have for femme and feminine people. As a newly physically disabled, working class femme of color in the ’90s, I often felt how the queer and prison justice communities I was part of looked down on my gender, especially when I was sick and broke and surviving abuse and needing support. Then I really sucked—I was just another needy, weak girl, huh? The one place femme people could receive respect in those communities was if we were tough, invulnerable, always “on,” and never needing a thing.

And if they carefully said “femme” instead of “women” because…no, I still don’t know why. To be better than those bitches, clearly, but why she sees that as somehow an advance on feminism I do not know.



Even a woman could do it

Jul 15th, 2017 11:09 am | By

Updating to add: it’s now being reported that there are rumors this is a falsehood, originating perhaps with Boris Johnson.

Some more banal sexism:

Philip Hammond has provoked bewilderment and anger with his suggestion that driving a train is so easy that “even a woman could do it”. Theresa May has done little for women’s rights but even she was shocked, slapping down her Chancellor with a curt remark.

Yet egregious as these ministerial reflections were – and we’ve had a few, in these grim Brexit times – they are not as out of tune with the age as we like to think.

[T]ake Wimbledon. Female players have complained that men are more likely to be put on show courts, while Andy Murray had to correct a reporter who said that an American had not reached a Grand Slam semi-final since 2009 – overlooking the dozen major trophies placed on the mantelpiece since then by a certain Serena Williams.

Oh but he said “an American.” Serena Williams is an American woman – whole different category. There are Americans, and there are American women. Let’s not get confused here.

It is, of course, easy to dismiss this as trivial. Certainly anyone who complains of sexism is marked down as humourless. But the Conservatives can sometimes resemble the lower sixth of a 1950s public school. David Cameron told a female MP to “calm down, dear”, while Tory MPs have been accused of cupping their hands and mouthing the word “melons” when female MPs rise to speak. Nicholas Soames even described the “woof woof” noises he felt moved to make at a female MP as a “friendly canine salute”.

In part this is offensive because no one in 2017 should have to work in an environment where sexism is apparently tolerated. But more importantly, politicians making these remarks are also making the rules for how the entire female population is treated.

Because women are too stupid to do it, plus melons, phwoarrrr.



Embedded in the routines and language of everyday life

Jul 15th, 2017 9:50 am | By

Deborah Cameron suggests a category of “banal sexism” for the background noise of stale jokes and insults about women that most people don’t even notice.

Sexism also has ‘hot’ forms, and those are the ones mainstream discourse finds it easiest to recognise and condemn. The western media have no difficulty in recognising the sexism of the Taliban and Boko Haram; the more liberal parts of the western media have no difficulty in recognising the sexism of Gamergaters and Donald Trump.  But what you might call ‘banal sexism’—ordinary, unremarkable, embedded in the routines and the language of everyday life—is a different story. It does often go unnoticed, and when feminists draw attention to it they’re accused of taking offence where none was intended or embracing ‘victim culture’. These knee-jerk defences are often delivered with an air of surprise—as if the people responsible hadn’t realised until that moment that anyone could possibly dissent.

Dear Muslima innit – except it’s not irritable celebrity science dude on Twitter but nearly everybody all the time.

Banal sexism doesn’t provoke outrage. It occupies the part of the spectrum that runs from ‘seen but unnoticed’ (like the ‘default male’ convention which I discussed in an earlier post) through to ‘annoying but not worth getting all fired up about’. You might shake your head, roll your eyes, post a photo with a scathing comment on Facebook, but most people wouldn’t bother to make a formal complaint.

But we can also collect the photos with scathing comments on Facebook – and on blogs – and that’s a little more effective than just shouting at the tv. On the other hand there are also anti-feminists collecting their photos with scathing comments on Facebook and blogs, and at the moment they seem to be winning.



Where’s your sense of humor?

Jul 15th, 2017 9:14 am | By

Today in everyday misogyny:

Ahaha. Haha. So funny.

Woman 1: How can I get my stalker to lose interest in me?

Woman 2: Marry him.

Ahaha. Funny. Marriage=boredom; so funny, so fresh, so worth making a joke of stalking and its attendant terrorizing and violence.



Threat insult threat

Jul 14th, 2017 5:56 pm | By

Trump’s people.

The House Intelligence Committee has postponed the scheduled July 24 closed-door testimony of former Donald Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone in its probe of Russian meddling in the presidential election, Stone’s lawyer said Friday.

The lawyer, Grant Smith, said his client was notified by the committee late Thursday that his testimony would be delayed until after Congress’s August recess because the panel wasn’t ready.

Stone hurled insults at two Democratic members of the intelligence panel — threatening to sue one and calling another a “yellow-bellied coward” — during an appearance aired Thursday on Buffalo, New York-area radio station WBEN. Also on the program was former Trump campaign communications adviser Michael Caputo, who is scheduled to testify before the House panel Friday afternoon.

That’s nice. That’s elevating.

During Thursday’s broadcast, Stone predicted that “most committee Democrats wouldn’t attend his and Caputo’s closed-door appearances before the panel. He contended that one Democrat on the committee, Jackie Speier of California, had said he was on the Kremlin payroll.

“OK, congresswoman. You have two choices — apologize or I’ll see you in U.S. District Court in California,” said Stone. “You see, members of Congress can be sued when they say things outside the floor. She said that on television. And therefore I will be suing her.”

Caputo egged Stone on: “Oh, will you please do that. Please do that. She needs a lawsuit.”

Stone went on to say he thinks another Democratic member of the House committee won’t show up for Stone’s testimony.

“I mean, have you seen this guy, Eric Swalwell? The lightweight, mannequin, pretty-boy from California?” Stone said. “I think he’s a yellow-bellied coward. And I don’t think he will show. But if he does show, he will regret it for the rest of his life.”

Even nicer. Threaten and insult, because Congress is (slowly) doing its job.

Speier, in an interview, declined to say whether she was among those seeking a delay in Stone’s testimony, though she said, “I, for one, want to make sure we have all the information in front of us to ask the right questions.”

As for Stone’s claims he wants an apology from her or he will sue, she said, “He doesn’t understand, you know, the speech and debate clause, either.” The Constitution protects members of Congress from being sued over their actions in conducting legislative business.

But Stone got to make his bully noises.



Home addresses, phone numbers and places of employment

Jul 14th, 2017 4:48 pm | By

Superb.

The White House on Thursday made public a trove of emails it received from voters offering comment on its Election Integrity Commission. The commission drew widespread criticism when it emerged into public view by asking for personal information, including addresses, partial social security numbers and party affiliation, on every voter in the country.

It further outraged voters by planning to post that information publicly.

Voters directed that outrage toward the Trump White House and the voter commission, often using profanity-laced language in the 112 pages of emails released this week.

Unfortunately for these voters and others who wrote in, the Trump administration did not redact any of their personal information from the emails before releasing them to the public. In some cases, the emails contain not only names, but email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers and places of employment of people worried about such information being made available to the public.

The Washington Post is not publishing any of this information because in most cases it does not appear that the individuals were aware their comments would be shared by the White House. The emails were sent to the Election Integrity Commissions’ email address that the administration asked U.S. secretaries of state to send data files to.

“These are public comments, similar to individuals appearing before commission to make comments and providing name before making comments,” said Marc Lotter, Press Secretary to Mike Pence, in an email. “The Commission’s Federal Register notice asking for public comments and its website make clear that information ‘including names and contact information’ sent to this email address may be released.”

The Federal Register notice soliciting comments was published on July 5. The White House page was published on July 13.

Approximately half of the emails published by the White House were dated prior to July 5.

That’ll teach them to complain.



Table for 4, no 5, no 6, make that 8

Jul 14th, 2017 4:04 pm | By

Now we’re up to eight (8) people at that convivial meeting in Trump Tower last year.

The revelation of additional participants comes as The Associated Press first reported Friday that a Russian-American lobbyist named Rinat Akhmetshin said he also attended the June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr. CNN has reached out to Akhmetshin for comment.
So far acknowledged in attendance: Trump Jr., Kushner, Manafort, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, Akhmetshin and publicist Rob Goldstone, who helped set up the meeting. A source familiar with the circumstances told CNN there were at least two other people in the room as well, a translator and a representative of the Russian family who had asked Goldstone to set up the meeting. The source did not provide the names.

Oh really – so there was yet another interested party. Veselnitskaya, Akhmetshin, and a representative of this “Russian family” who wanted Trump to win the election. Fascinating.

Earlier this year, Sen. Charles Grassley had written a letter to John Kelly, the secretary of Homeland Security, describing Akhmetshin as “a Russian immigrant to the United States who has been accused of acting as an unregistered agent for Russian interests and apparently has ties to Russian intelligence.” Grassley was requesting “all information” on Akhmetshin’s immigration history.

Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who has been lobbied by Akhmetshin, told CNN earlier this year that the lobbyist is someone with “an ulterior motive” who is “involved with people who’ve got an agenda” and has “international connections to different groups in Russia.” When asked if he thought Akhmetshin was connected to the Russian security services, Rohrabacher said: “I would certainly not rule that out.”

Curiouser and curiouser.

H/t Claire



Simply oblivious

Jul 14th, 2017 12:38 pm | By

David Brooks (“not always wrong”) on the moral vacuum of Trumps:

The Donald Trump Jr. we see through the Russia scandal story is not malevolent: He seems to be simply oblivious to the idea that ethical concerns could possibly play a role in everyday life. When the Russian government offer came across his email, there doesn’t seem to have been a flicker of concern. Instead, he replied with that tone of simple bro glee that we remember from other scandals.

“Can you smell money?!?!?!?!” Jack Abramoff emailed a co-conspirator during his lobbying and casino fraud shenanigans. That’s the same tone as Don Jr.’s “I love it” when offered a chance to conspire with a hostile power. A person capable of this instant joy and enthusiasm isn’t overcoming any internal ethical hurdles. It’s just a greedy boy grabbing sweets.

And Big Don is exactly the same, as we’ve seen a million times by now.

Once the scandal broke you would think Don Jr. would have some awareness that there were ethical stakes involved. You’d think there would be some sense of embarrassment at having been caught lying so blatantly.

But in his interview with Sean Hannity he appeared incapable of even entertaining any moral consideration. “That’s what we do in business,” the younger Trump said. “If there’s information out there, you want it.” As William Saletan pointed out in Slate, Don Jr. doesn’t seem to possess the internal qualities necessary to consider the possibility that he could have done anything wrong.

That to me is the central takeaway of this week’s revelations. It’s not that the Russia scandal may bring down the administration. It’s that over the past few generations the Trump family has built an enveloping culture that is beyond good and evil.

The Trumps have an ethic of loyalty to one another. “They can’t stand that we are extremely close and will ALWAYS support each other,” Eric Trump tweeted this week. But beyond that there is no attachment to any external moral truth or ethical code. There is just naked capitalism.

It’s the central takeaway, but it’s not new. We see it in Ivanka, we see it in Jared, we see it in all of them. They’re morally empty.



Somebody said

Jul 14th, 2017 12:23 pm | By

Trump again casually told a random lie about a public official, for no apparent reason apart from floating malice and aggression. The Times put it more politely, as “falsely blames” and “wrongly blamed,” but what they mean is he lied and defamed.

Defending his son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 presidential campaign, President Trump wrongly blamed former Attorney General Loretta Lynch for admitting the lawyer to the United States in the first place.

“Somebody said that her visa or her passport was approved by Attorney General Lynch,” Mr. Trump said Thursday at a joint news conference with President Emmanuel Macron of France. “She was here because of Lynch.”

And that “somebody” was Donald Trump, lying again.

Anderson Cooper was blistering about that “Somebody said” last night, pointing out that if reporters tried to cite “somebody said” as a source they’d be fired. He does that all the time, Trump does – somebody said, everybody says, people are saying, I just learned, I heard, everybody knows – variations on the theme of generic nameless meaningless placeholder where a source should be. That’s ok in conversation when it’s a matter of information whose source you can’t remember, but it’s not at all ok when it’s a matter of claiming Real Person With Name did something illegal or immoral – it’s not at all ok but it’s habitual with Trump. It’s a good signal to the nature of the man, that it comes so easily to him. That right there is a man with no scruples or conscience or sense of decency whatsoever – a psychopath perhaps, but at any rate a selfish immoral shit.

Veselnitskaya entered the US in June 2016 through a visitor’s visa issued by the State Department. Loretta Lynch was not the Secretary of State, she was the Attorney General.



Just another ex-spy

Jul 14th, 2017 10:54 am | By

Oh by the way there was someone else at that meeting.

The Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. and others on the Trump team after a promise of compromising material on Hillary Clinton was accompanied by a Russian-American lobbyist — a former Soviet counterintelligence officer who is suspected by some U.S. officials of having ongoing ties to Russian intelligence, NBC News has learned.

The lobbyist, first identified by the Associated Press as Rinat Akhmetshin, denies any current ties to Russian spy agencies. He accompanied the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, to the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower attended by Donald Trump Jr.; Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law; and Paul Manafort, former chairman of the Trump campaign.

Huh. Interesting. Don Junior was being so transparent and innocent and good boy and all, yet he didn’t tell us that.

[G]iven the email traffic suggesting the meeting was part of a Russian effort [to] help Trump’s candidacy, the presence at the meeting of a Russian-American with suspected intelligence ties is likely to be of interest to special counsel Robert Mueller and the House and Senate panels investigating the Russian election interference campaign.

Yes, that seems pretty likely.

The Associated Press quoted Akhmetshin saying that Veselnitskaya brought with her to the meeting a plastic folder with printed-out documents that detailed what she believed was a flow of illicit funds to the Democratic National Committee.

The lobbyist said Veselnitskaya presented the contents of the documents to the Trump team, suggesting it could help the Trump campaign, he said.

“This could be a good issue to expose how the D.N.C. is accepting bad money,” The AP quoted Akhmetshin recalling her saying.

Nothing to see here, all a witch hunt, how about that electoral college win, MAGA.

Contacted by NBC News, representatives for Kushner and Manafort declined to comment.

On April 4, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter to the Homeland Security department seeking information about Akhmetshin, saying that Akhmetshin admitted to being a Soviet counterintelligence officer.

Grassley said Akhmetshin had failed to register as a foreign agent even though he had been lobbying in the U.S. for Russian interests. Grassley also charged that Akhmetshin had been working with Fusion GPS, an opposition-research firm that had compiled a highly disputed dossier on Donald Trump.

Fusion GPS has also worked on the campaign to raise questions about the story behind the Magnitsky Act.

Never mind that, Don Junior is a good boy, a good boy, a good boy.



You know, there are a lot of things

Jul 14th, 2017 10:33 am | By

On the plane over to Paris Trump talked to the reporters. They thought it was off the record until the White House asked why they hadn’t reported it. The Times shares the White House transcript along with some bits the White House left out.

Q When were you last in Paris? When were you last in France?

THE PRESIDENT: So I was asked to go by the President, who I get along with very well, despite a lot of fake news. You know, I actually have a very good relationship with all of the people at the G20. And he called me, he said, would you come, it’s Bastille Day — 100 years since World War I. And I said, that’s big deal, 100 years since World War I. SO we’re going to go, I think we’re going to have a great time, and we’re going to do something good. And he’s doing a good job. He’s doing a good job as President.

I wonder if he thinks “Bastille Day” is French for 100 years since World War I.

How about that China place, huh?

A big thing we have with China was, if they could help us with North Korea, that would be great. They have pressures that are tough pressures, and I understand. And you know, don’t forget, China, over the many years, has been at war with Korea — you know, wars with Korea. It’s not like, oh, gee, you just do whatever we say. They’ve had numerous wars with Korea.

They have an 8,000 year culture. So when they see 1776 — to them, that’s like a modern building. The White House was started — was essentially built in 1799. To us, that’s really old. To them, that’s like a super modern building, right? So, you know, they’ve had tremendous conflict over many, many centuries with Korea. So it’s not just like, you do this. But we’re going to find out what happens.

Apparently Trump has only just learned that some countries in the world are more than 200 years old.

Well, yeah, when I say reciprocal — you make reciprocal deals, you’re talking about hundreds of billions of dollars. But before I did that, I wanted to give it a good shot. Let’s see. And they helped us. I have a very good relationship with him. I think he’s a tremendous guy. But don’t forget. He’s for China. I’m for the U.S. So that’s always going to be.

So he could be a tremendous guy, but he’s going to do what’s good for China. And he doesn’t want 50 million people pouring across his border. You know, there are a lot of things. I understand the other side. You always have to understand the other side.

He’s doing an awesome job of understanding the other side, by belatedly grasping the fact that other heads of state don’t put America First. It’s awkward that he thinks no one else knew that either, but whatever.

They ask if he was joking about a solar wall.

No, not joking, no. There is a chance that we can do a solar wall. We have major companies looking at that. Look, there’s no better place for solar than the Mexico border — the southern border. And there is a very good chance we can do a solar wall, which would actually look good. But there is a very good chance we could do a solar wall.

One of the things with the wall is you need transparency. You have to be able to see through it. In other words, if you can’t see through that wall — so it could be a steel wall with openings, but you have to have openings because you have to see what’s on the other side of the wall.

Ohhh, that’s what they think “transparency” means. Well no wonder then.

Q Are you mad that Putin lied about the meeting that you had with him, especially about —

THE PRESIDENT: What meeting?

Q At the G20, when he said that you didn’t — you know, you accepted that the hacking wasn’t real.

THE PRESIDENT: He didn’t say that. No. He said, I think he accepted it, but you’d have to ask him. That’s a big difference. So I said, very simply — and the first 45 minutes, don’t forget, most of the papers said I’d never bring it up. Had to be the first 20 to 25 minutes.

And I said to him, were you involved with the meddling in the election? He said, absolutely not. I was not involved. He was very strong on it. I then said to him again, in a totally different way, were you involved with the meddling. He said, I was not — absolutely not.

He said it in a totally different way. I long to know how it was different. Standing on his head, yodeling, rhyming couplets? I want to know.

I also wouldn’t mind knowing how he manages to think Putin’s denials are genuine while the Times, the Post, and CNN are all fake.

They wanted to know how it was different too.

Q Do you remember what the different way was that you asked —

THE PRESIDENT: Somebody said later to me, which was interesting. Said, let me tell you, if they were involved, you wouldn’t have found out about it. Okay, which is a very interesting point.

Q But did you say, okay, I believe you, let’s move on?

THE PRESIDENT: What I said, I asked him, were you involved? He said, very strongly — said to him a second time — totally different — were you involved? Because we can’t let that happen. And I mean whether it’s Russia or anybody else, we can’t let there be even a scintilla of doubt when it comes to an election. I mean, I’m very strong on that.

And I’m not saying it wasn’t Russia. What I’m saying is that we have to protect ourselves no matter who it is. You know, China is very good at this. I hate to say it, North Korea is very good at this. Look what they did to Sony Studios. They were the ones that did the whole deal to Sony. You know, we’re dealing with highly sophisticated people.

So, China is very good. You have many countries. And you have many individuals that are very good at this. But we can’t have — and I did say, we can’t have a scintilla of doubt as our elections and going forward.

Q Have you told him that?

THE PRESIDENT: I told him. I said, look, we can’t — we can’t have — now, he said absolutely not twice. What do you do? End up in a fistfight with somebody, okay?

He’d make one hell of a prosecutor.

Then he says he has a great relationship with everyone in the G20, which of course is nonsense.

Then he says yes he would invite Putin to the White House, because it would be stupid not to.

And, by the way, I only want to make great deals with Russia. Remember this, I have built up — we’re getting $57 billion more for the military. Hillary was going to cut the military. I’m a tremendous fracker, coal, natural gas, alternate energy, wind – everything, right? But I’m going to produce much much more energy than anyone else who was ever running for office. Ever. We’re going to have clean coal, and Hillary wasn’t. Hillary was going to stop fracking. She was going to stop coal totally. Hey, in West Virginia I beat her by 42 points. Remember, she went and sat with the miners and they said get the hell out of here. So, I was going to — if Hillary got in, your energy prices right now would be double. You’d be doing no fracking. You’d be doing practically no fossil fuels.

So Putin, everything I do is the exact opposite. I don’t believe — in fact, the one question that I didn’t ask him that I wish I did — but we had so many other things going, and really the ceasefire was a very complicated talk, it was a very important talk to me because I wanted to see if we could start a ceasefire.

Later he explains about the witch hunt.

What pressure? I didn’t — I did nothing. Hey, now it’s shown there’s no collusion, there’s no obstruction, there’s no nothing. Honestly, the whole thing, it is really a media witch hunt. It’s been a media witch hunt. And it’s bad for the country. You know, when you talk about Russia, if Russia actually did whatever they want to do, they got to be laughing, because look at what happens — how much time. . . .

They feel it’s a witch hunt, the people. There are a lot of people. And those people vote. They don’t stay home because it’s drizzling. We proved that. But every single party chairman said that my base is substantially stronger than it was in November. That’s a big compliment. That’s a big compliment. And I feel it.

And I think what’s happening is, as usual, the Democrats have played their card too hard on the Russia thing, because people aren’t believing it. It’s a witch hunt and they understand that. When they say “treason” — you know what treason is? That’s Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for giving the atomic bomb, okay? But what about all the congressmen, where I see the woman sitting there surrounded by — in Congress.

Happy Bastille Day.



Sessions preaches

Jul 13th, 2017 5:44 pm | By

The Federalist posted a transcript of Sessions’s theocracy please speech. It’s the usual collection of uninteresting bromides.

And of course it was faith that inspired Martin Luther King Jr. to march and strive to make this country stronger yet. His was a religious movement. The faith that truth would overcome. He said that we “must not seek to solve the problem” of segregation merely for political reasons, but “in the final analysis, we must get rid of segregation because it is sinful.” It undermined the promise, as he described it, that “each individual has certain basic rights that are neither derived from nor conferred by the state…they are gifts from the hands of the Almighty God.”

But of course Sessions himself resisted King’s movement, and still does to this day.

To an amazing degree, the value of religion is totally missed by many today. Our inside-the-beltway crowd has no idea how much good is being done in this country every day by our faith communities. They teach right behavior, they give purpose to life, and they support order, lawfulness, and personal discipline while comforting the sick, supporting families, and giving support to those in need. They are there at birth and death.

Says a man who works in the administration of Donald Trump, that paragon of right behavior, lawfulness, and giving support to those in need. In short he’s a massive hypocrite and a phony.

In all of this litigation and debate, this Department of Justice will never allow this secular government of ours to demand that sincere religious beliefs be abandoned. We will not require American citizens to give intellectual assent to doctrines that are contrary to their religious beliefs. And they must be allowed to exercise those beliefs as the First Amendment guarantees.

We will defend freedom of conscience resolutely. That is inalienable. That is our heritage.

So if that means preventing women from getting birth control by god that’s what it means – it’s inalienable – it’s their heritage.

The president has also directed me to issue guidance on how to apply federal religious liberty protections. The department is finalizing this guidance, and I will soon issue it.

The guidance will also help agencies follow the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Congress enacted RFRA so that, if the federal government imposes a burden on somebody’s religious practice, it had better have a compelling reason. That is a demanding standard, and it’s the law of the land. We will follow it just as faithfully as we follow every other federal law. If we’re going to ensure that religious liberty is adequately protected and our country remains free, then we must ensure that RFRA is followed.

RFRA is a crap law.



Sessions wants more theocracy please

Jul 13th, 2017 5:18 pm | By

Jeff Sessions gave a speech at the conservative Christian law firm the Alliance Defending Freedom, in which he promised new guidelines on “religious freedom.” We know what that means when someone like Jeff Sessions says it.

When the speech at Alliance Defending Freedom’s Summit on Religious Liberty appeared on the Attorney General’s public schedule, it was cause for concern among LGBTQ advocacy groups and Democrats — many of whom issued statements questioning why Sessions would speak to what some call an anti-LGBTQ hate group due to its history of litigating against LGBTQ rights.

But after reading the transcript and learning of the Justice Department’s plans to create a new federal policy on protecting religious liberties and doubling down on enforcing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, advocates suggested Sessions was more interested in protecting the right to discriminate than the freedom of religion.

Or both. They may be inextricably tangled together. He may think that’s what freedom of religion means.

The Trump administration has promised several times to enact some form of increased religious liberty protections. During the campaign, Trump said he would sign the First Amendment Defense Act, a bill that would allow businesses to turn away LGBTQ people as well as unmarried couples and single mothers.

Before being confirmed as Attorney General, then-senator Sessions was a sponsor of the First Amendment Defense Act.

In May, President Trump signed an executive order on religious liberty that allows companies to reject the Affordable Care Act’s mandate on birth control coverage.

Thus violating the religious freedom of women who need birth control and think their health insurance should cover it.

Sessions has also faced criticism from LGBTQ rights advocates. In a January interview, the mother of slain gay college student Matthew Shepard told NBC News that Sessions fought against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Act when it was being debated in 2009. In a lengthy speech decrying the legislation designed to help victims, Sessions said that “gays and lesbians have not been denied access” to anything, and that hate crimes were “thought crimes.”

In his senate career, Sessions displayed strong anti-LGBTQ leanings. According to a report issued by the Human Rights Campaign, then-senator Sessions argued in favor of anti-sodomy laws used to imprison gay men, opposed same-sex marriage, sought to terminate National Endowment for the Arts funding because it once went to black lesbian filmmaker Cheryl Dunye, opposed repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy keeping lesbian and gay service members in the closet, and tried to block federal funding for HIV-prevention programs if they appear to “promote sexual activity and behavior” among “homosexual men and women.”

Apparently only straight people get to have religious freedom.



Tough guy

Jul 13th, 2017 4:59 pm | By

Oh, well, Marc Kasowitz should have no trouble getting a security clearance now. Pro Publica follows up its own article:

Marc Kasowitz, President Trump’s personal attorney on the Russia case, threatened a stranger in a string of profanity-laden emails Wednesday night.

The man, a retired public relations professional in the western United States who asked not to be identified, read ProPublica’s story this week on Kasowitz and sent the lawyer an email with the subject line: “Resign Now.’’

Kasowitz replied with series of angry messages sent between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Eastern time. One read: “I’m on you now.  You are fucking with me now Let’s see who you are Watch your back , bitch.”

Just what you want in someone seeking a security clearance – good judgement, maturity, a responsible attitude,  discipline, even temper.

The exchange began after the man saw our story featured last night on the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC. We reported that Kasowitz is not seeking a security clearance even though the Russia case involves a significant amount of classified material.

Experts said Kasowitz could have trouble getting a security clearance because of what multiple sources described as a recent history of alcohol abuse. Former employees also said Kasowitz had engaged in behavior that made them uncomfortable.

Since the story was published, his spokesman issued a statement disputing several parts of the story: “Marc Kasowitz has not struggled with alcoholism,” Sitrick wrote. “He has not come into the office intoxicated, attorneys have not had to go across the street to the restaurant during the workday to consult Kasowitz on work matters.”

The rigorous background investigation that goes into getting security clearance also considers “any information relevant to strength of character, honesty, discretion, sound judgment, [and] reliability.”

So, telling a stranger, “watch your back, bitch!” should be immensely helpful with that.

The exchange of emails Wednesday began at 9:28 p.m. Eastern when the man sent the following message to Kasowitz’s firm account.

Kasowitz responded with ‘F*ck you.” Then he stewed for fifteen minutes, and sent a more expansive message:

The man thank him politely, and Kasowitz sent two more ragers, the second being:

I call that a threat.

The man told us that the email exchange disturbed him so greatly he forwarded it to the FBI so there would be a written record in case Kasowitz followed through on the threat.

Experts in the laws on harassment and online threats differed on whether Kasowitz’s emails could put him in legal jeopardy.

When considering whether words constitute a true threat versus protected speech, “the threat has to be credible and the person has to intend to make the victim fear imminent physical harm,’’ said Danielle Citron, a University of Maryland law professor and author of a book on online harassment.

But the victim can’t know what the sender intends, and sometimes when people make threats they carry them out. I don’t think enraged threats should be protected speech.

Kasowitz later told Pro Publica he was sorry.

Update, July 13, 2017: A spokesman for Marc Kasowitz sent ProPublica this statement:

“Mr. Kasowitz, who is tied up with client matters, said he intends to apologize to the writer of the email referenced in today’s ProPublica story. While no excuse, the email came at the end of a very long day that at 10 p.m. was not yet over.  ‘The person sending that email is entitled to his opinion and I should not have responded in that inappropriate manner,’ Mr. Kasowitz said.  ‘I intend to send him an email stating just that.  This is one of those times where one wishes he could reverse the clock, but of course I can’t.’”

He should see some of the mail we get.



He don’t need no stinkin security clearance

Jul 13th, 2017 11:45 am | By

Pro Publica reports that Trump’s lawyer for the Russia inquiries, Marc Kasowitz, doesn’t have a security clearance and doesn’t plan to get one. The trouble with that is that the investigation involves masses of classified material, which Kasowitz can’t see without a security clearance.

Several lawyers who have represented presidents and senior government officials said they could not imagine handling a case so suffused with sensitive material without a clearance.

“No question in my mind — in order to represent President Trump in this matter you would have to get a very high level of clearance because of the allegations involving Russia,” said Robert Bennett, who served as President Bill Clinton’s personal lawyer. Like many Washington lawyers, Bennett has held security clearances throughout his career.

As the spotlight on Russia intensifies with new email disclosures that his son, son-in-law, and then-campaign manager met in June 2016 with a Russian attorney who promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton, Kasowitz’s lack of a security clearance could hinder the president’s legal and political response to the scandal.

And why isn’t he seeking a clearance? Well, because he might have a hard time getting one. He’s had recent problems with alcohol. The people at the Security Clearance Store don’t like that.

Experts on federal security reviews told ProPublica that recent episodes of alcohol abuse are a major barrier to receiving clearance, a process that involves government agents poring over a person’s past and interviewing family, friends and colleagues. Investigators typically raise flags about behaviors that might make someone vulnerable to blackmail or suggest poor judgment.

Trump doesn’t always pick the best people for the job, does he.



A decision of courage and fortitude

Jul 13th, 2017 11:11 am | By

Scott Pruitt wants to stage a “debate” about climate change, on the grounds that nobody has discussed the things that in fact many many people have been discussing in great detail for decades. Exactly like Trump, Pruitt is stupid and uninformed enough to think that if he is unaware of X that means X doesn’t exist. That takes profound stupidity and ignorance. It’s a pity that someone that stupid and ignorant, as well as ideologically opposed to environmental protections, is head of the Environmental PROTECTION Agency.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is in the early stages of launching a debate about climate change that could air on television – challenging scientists to prove the widespread view that global warming is a serious threat, the head of the agency said.

The move comes as the administration of President Donald Trump seeks to roll back a slew of Obama-era regulations limiting carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels, and begins a withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement – a global pact to stem planetary warming through emissions cuts.

“There are lots of questions that have not been asked and answered (about climate change),” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told Reuters in an interview late on Monday.

No there aren’t. There are likely plenty of questions that haven’t been answered definitively, but that’s the nature of science and of inquiry in general. Definitive answers are often not possible, and definitive answers that never change are even more often not possible, because as conditions change they render existing answers incomplete or wrong. But of course Pruitt is just bullshitting; what he means is that there aren’t enough answers of the form “Everything is fine and we don’t need to change our practices at all.”

While acknowledging the planet is warming, Pruitt says he questions the gravity of the problem and the need for regulations that require companies to take costly measures to reduce their carbon footprint.

“It is a question about how much we contribute to it. How do we measure that with precision? And by the way, are we on an unsustainable path? And is it causing an existential threat?” he said in the interview.

And we’re meant to think that no one has asked those questions? Give me a break.

Since taking up his role at EPA, he has emerged as one of the more prolific Trump cabinet appointees, taking steps to undo more than two dozen regulations, and influencing Trump’s decision to pull the United States from the Paris climate change deal, agreed by nearly 200 countries in 2015.

Pruitt rejected global criticism of the United States for pulling out of the climate deal, which Trump has said would have cost America trillions of dollars without benefit.

“We have nothing to be apologetic about,” Pruitt said. “It was absolutely a decision of courage and fortitude and truly represented an America First strategy with respect to how we are leading on this issue.”

Here’s a news flash: you can’t “lead” by saying “Me First.” That’s a non-starter. If the US is going to be the land of “we do what’s good for us and fuck all the rest of you” then it’s not going to “lead” anything, because the fuckees are going to go their own way.



Alone and in pain

Jul 13th, 2017 10:30 am | By

In western Nepal:

Alone and in pain, Tulasi Shahi encountered a poisonous snake.

The Nepali woman had been banished to her uncle’s cowshed as per the “chaupadi” tradition, a centuries-old practice common among Hindus in the western regions of Nepal, though it was outlawed in 2005. Some communities there consider women “impure” while they are menstruating. These women are prohibited from daily activities and left isolated in sheds with straw floors for the duration of their periods.

The snake bit her on the head and leg.

Her family members tried to treat her with home remedies before taking Tulasi Shahi to a clinic near Dailekh, which did not have antivenin. Recent monsoon rains have flooded the area, making a trek to a distant hospital difficult.

She died seven hours later, CNN reported.

“If she was given proper treatment, she would have survived,” said Shahi’s cousin Kamala Shahi, a government health worker, according to the New York Times. “She died because of superstition.”

Superstition that takes the form of finding women creepily disgusting.

Shahi, whose age has been reported as 19 by CNN and 18 by the Times, is the latest Nepali woman to die from events related to the chaupadi practice, which has been condemned by the United Nations and global health organisations as cruel treatment of women, often in unsanitary conditions.

Roshani Tiruwa, a 15-year-old girl, died in December from smoke inhalation after she lit a fire in the hut where she was banished while menstruating.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal had called for an end to chaupadi a month earlier, after the death of a 21-year-old woman.

Chaupadi has survived global outcry. A 2015 US State Department report on human rights in Nepal, citing a government survey from 2010, found that 50 per cent of women ages 15 to 49 in the midwestern and far-western regions of the country practice chaupadi. One in five women in the country as a whole reported the practice.

All because of the stuff that provides nutrition to a fetus if the woman gets pregnant.

The Times of India reported on a 2011 survey that found that barely 1 in 10 women in India used sanitary pads during their periods, while others used alternatives such as ashes and sand.

The survey found that nearly 1 in 4 Indian women dropped out of school after they began to menstruate.

H/t Rob