Notes and Comment Blog


Client confidences

Mar 28th, 2017 9:40 am | By

The Trump gang tried to stop Sally Yates testifying.

According to letters The Post reviewed, the Justice Department notified Yates earlier this month that the administration considers a great deal of her possible testimony to be barred from discussion in a congressional hearing because the topics are covered by the presidential communication privilege.

Yates and other former intelligence officials had been asked to testify before the House Intelligence Committee this week, a hearing that was abruptly canceled by the panel’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).

Who worked on Trump’s transition team. That Devin Nunes.

Yates and another witness at the planned hearing, former CIA director John Brennan, had made clear to government officials by Thursday that their testimony to the committee probably would contradict some statements that White House officials had made, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The following day, when Yates’s lawyer sent a letter to the White House indicating that she still wanted to testify, the hearing was canceled.

Sleazy enough yet?

In a March 23 letter to Acting Assistant Attorney General Samuel Ramer, Yates’s attorney David O’Neil described the government’s position. O’Neil, who declined to comment, noted in the letter that Yates is willing to testify, and that she will avoid discussing classified information and details that could compromise investigations. The correspondence was later shared with the Intelligence Committee.

“The Department of Justice has advised that it believes there are further constraints on the testimony Ms. Yates may provide at the [Intelligence Committee] hearing. Generally, we understand that the department takes the position that all information Ms. Yates received or actions she took in her capacity as Deputy Attorney General and acting Attorney General are client confidences that she may not disclose absent written consent of the department,’’ the lawyer wrote.

Client confidences. So they’re arguing that the Deputy Attorney General was Trump’s personal lawyer and Trump and his administration were her clients? Is that normal? Is that an accepted principle, that US AGs are presidents’ lawyers and presidents are the clients of AGs? It sounds bizarre as hell to me.

“We believe that the department’s position in this regard is overbroad, incorrect, and inconsistent with the department’s historical approach to the congressional testimony of current and former officials,’’ the letter continues. “In particular, we believe that Ms. Yates should not be obligated to refuse to provide non-classified facts about the department’s notification to the White House of concerns about the conduct of a senior official. Requiring Ms. Yates to refuse to provide such information is particularly untenable given that multiple senior administration officials have publicly described the same events.’’

So is the Secretary of Defense Trump’s personal bodyguard?



Not a gaffe

Mar 27th, 2017 5:12 pm | By

Photos like this?

They’re not “gaffes.” They’re “suck it up, buttercup.”

Jill Filipovic comments:

For liberals, the photo seemed like an inadvertent insight into the current Republican psyche: Powerful men plotting to leave vulnerable women up a creek, so ensconced in their misogynistic world they don’t even notice the bad optics (not to mention the irony of the “pro-life” party making it harder for women to afford to have babies). Political analysts treated the photo as a gaffe, the kind of rookie mistake we’re used to seeing from the Trump White House.

Ah no. They’re just restoring the world to the way it’s supposed to be.

This isn’t the first celebratory photo the White House has released of men cutting health care for women. When Mr. Trump signed the global “gag rule,” which pulls United States funding from organizations abroad that so much as mention the word “abortion” (even organizations that don’t provide abortions), he did it flanked by a half-dozen white men in suits. The rule is an order that primarily affects women in developing countries, who will see their access to contraception and even basic services like malaria treatment constrained by funding cuts that politicize global health. That image was similar to one of President George W. Bush surrounded entirely by grinning men as he signed a ban on a rare abortion procedure.

I bet I blogged about that at the time too. I’ve been doing this since 1835.

Filipovic says maybe it’s not a gaffe but a message to their right-wing buddies. Well of course it is; that’s who they are. Not necessarily in the sense that they go out of their way to make sure there are no women in the frame, but in the sense that if you reminded them they were telling women what to do with their bodies without consulting any women at all, they would tell you to stop being so PC.

President Trump ran a campaign of aggrieved masculinity, appealing to men who felt their rightful place in society has been taken from them by a stream of immigrants stealing their jobs, women who don’t need husbands to support them, and members of minority groups who don’t work as hard but still get special treatment.

Also appealing to men who think women are sluts and bitches. That’s a very large constituency.

Mr. Trump oozes male entitlement, from his brash insistence that he’s the best at everything despite knowing very little about anything to his history of crass sexism…

Mr. Trump promised he would make America great again, a slogan that included the implicit pledge to return white men to their place of historic supremacy. And that is precisely what these photos show. The same kind of men who have been in charge of the United States since its founding, so very proud of themselves for trying to ax the rights that make it possible for women to chart their own futures — and to compete with men.

The more women forced to remain pregnant when they don’t want to, the less competition for men.



Nonstop meetings

Mar 27th, 2017 4:00 pm | By

But at least he’s working hard!

Or is he.

The alert from Fox News went out at 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

“PRESIDENT TRUMP SPENDING WEEKEND WORKING AT THE WHITE HOUSE,” the chyron announced, under an image of the White House presumably captured just minutes before.

The timing of the tweet alert was curious: After all, the weekend was nearly over.

Also…how is that news? Presidents are expected to put in a lot of hours.

But also also, of course, it’s not even true. How he really spent the weekend: furtively playing golf and watching golf on tv while his minions told the press he was in “meetings.” Yeah meetings with a golf ball.

According to pool reports, the president spent Saturday visiting the Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, Va., just outside Washington.

Trump arrived at the golf club at 11:01 a.m. Saturday, wearing a suit, a white shirt with no tie and a red hat with “USA” emblazoned on the front, a pool reporter noted. Though the traveling press pool asked multiple times about the president’s activities, Trump’s team did not provide answers, the report stated.

The press pool was told that Trump had “meetings” at the golf club. The presidential motorcade returned to the White House shortly after 4 p.m. Saturday, the pool report said.

By then, pictures had emerged on social media of Trump riding a golf cart and dressed in golf attire, still wearing a red hat, at Trump National Golf Club.

They were golf cart meetings. Everybody holds meetings in a golf cart! It’s totally normal procedure. There’s ample room for two people in a golf cart, along with their beverages of choice.

On Sunday morning, Trump once again returned to the Trump National Golf Club in Virginia, arriving at 11:04 a.m. A half-hour later, reporters were informed that the president was “wrapping up last of three meetings shortly,” a pool report stated. The motorcade arrived back at the White House at 12:36 p.m. Sunday.

An Instagram post from another user showed Trump appearing to watch the Golf Channel with two unidentified people on Sunday.

Hi trump

A post shared by @fwesdock_56 on


That is totally a meeting! Look, three people: even more of a meeting than the Saturday meetings in golf carts. Serious, busy, governmenty work going on here. Nose to the grindstone. Worky McWorkface.

This weekend marked Trump’s 13th and 14th visits to a golf course since becoming president, according to The Washington Post’s Philip Bump.

Well hey it’s only been um eight weeks so…um…that’s only more than one per week so…um…it’s not that much. It’s not every single day.

In addition, Bump broke down Trump’s schedule since the inauguration, showing that for nearly 1 out of every 3 days Trump has been president, he has visited a Trump-branded property.

It’s product placement. You can’t expect him to stop promoting his businesses just because he’s president can you?!



Unnecessary, job-killing rules against wage theft and hazardous conditions

Mar 27th, 2017 3:45 pm | By

Of course he did.

President Donald Trump on Monday signed new legislation repealing a regulation protecting workers from wage theft. The new law undercuts the Obama-era policy that encouraged businesses to follow workplace safety guidelines and pay their workers fairly by terminating federal contracts with companies that accrued too many violations. The new Trump-era legislation, however, undoes those employee protections, as Republicans in Congress said the Obama rules were restrictive and job-killing. Trump referenced the bill in a Monday tweet: “Today I’m signing 4 bills under the Congressional Review Act that cancels regulations & eliminates unnecessary, job-killing rules,” he wrote. “#MAGA”

Yeah, because what worker doesn’t want a dangerous job working for a boss who steals her wages?



Another pocket of infection

Mar 27th, 2017 12:04 pm | By

Hmm.

Senate investigators plan to question Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and a close adviser, as part of their broad inquiry into ties between Trump associates and Russian officials or others linked to the Kremlin, according to administration and congressional officials.

The White House Counsel’s Office was informed this month that the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, wanted to question Mr. Kushner about meetings he arranged with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, according to the government officials. The meetings, which took place during the transition, included a previously unreported sit-down with the head of Russia’s state-owned development bank.

Ah. Previously unreported, eh. The head of Russia’s state-owned development bank, eh.

Until now, the White House had acknowledged only an early December meeting between Mr. Kislyak and Mr. Kushner, which occurred at Trump Tower and was also attended by Michael T. Flynn, who would briefly serve as the national security adviser.

Later that month, though, Mr. Kislyak requested a second meeting, which Mr. Kushner asked a deputy to attend in his stead, officials said. At Mr. Kislyak’s request, Mr. Kushner later met with Sergey N. Gorkov, the chief of Vnesheconombank, which the United States placed on its sanctions list after President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia annexed Crimea and began meddling in Ukraine.

Hm.

Mr. Kislyak’s contacts with Trump administration officials have proved problematic: Mr. Flynn was fired for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of the conversations he had with the Russian envoy, claiming he had not discussed the sanctions against Russia when communications intercepts showed he had.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to recuse himself from any Russian inquiries led by the Justice Department after he failed to disclose at his Senate confirmation hearing that he had met with Mr. Kislyak during the campaign.

I’m sensing a pattern here.

Mr. Gorkov is a graduate of the academy of Federal Security Service of Russia, a training ground for Russian intelligence and security forces. And as the head of Vnesheconombank, Mr. Gorkov presides over a bank whose supervisory board is controlled by members of Mr. Putin’s government, including Prime Minister Dimitri A. Medvedev. It has been used to bail out oligarchs favored by Mr. Putin, as well as to help fund pet projects like the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Hm.

Mr. Kushner had not yet stepped aside as chief executive of Kushner Companies, his family’s real estate empire, which was trying to attract investment for the company’s crown jewel, an overleveraged Manhattan office tower on Fifth Avenue. The company was in the midst of negotiations to redevelop the building with Anbang Insurance Group, a Chinese company with ties to the Beijing government.

Senate investigators plan to ask Mr. Kushner if he discussed ways to secure additional financing for the building during his meeting with the Russian banker, a government official said.

Hm.

The extent of Mr. Kushner’s interactions with Mr. Kislyak caught some senior members of Mr. Trump’s White House team off guard, in part because he did not mention them last month during a debate then consuming the White House: how to handle the disclosures about Mr. Flynn’s interactions with the Russian ambassador.

Oh, he didn’t mention them then either. Intersting.

Ms. Hicks said that Mr. Trump had authorized Mr. Kushner to have meetings with foreign officials that he felt made sense, and to report back to him if those meetings produced anything of note. She said that because in Mr. Kushner’s view the meetings were inconsequential, it did not occur to him to mention them to senior staff members earlier.

Sure, that’s the right way to do things – casual as fuck. Just tell your son-in-law to go chat with foreign officials at his own discretion, and report back if there’s anything interesting. That’s how all of this works. Sure it is.



Guest post: Topics in Everyday Bullshit

Mar 27th, 2017 11:51 am | By

Guest post by Natasha Chart.

“How liberal feminism became all about the D, and therefore not any kind of feminism.”

“Why narcissists aren’t oppressed, and why you should dislike them harder if you have any sense.”

“The left never stopped hating women, they’re just trying to get into your votes.”

“Perverts and abusers feel no shame: learn to spot and reject their open-air mendacity.”

“Women are male, biology is fiction, and other stupid things I got told on social media.”

“How the sex industry bought mainstream feminism while liberal men cheered.”

“Rich men buy poor men by giving them women: you shouldn’t stand for it.”

“The Lexus and the Knowledge Tree: How feminism got replaced by pastiche and no one noticed.”

“Is ‘this’ feminist? No. Go take over your city government.”

“I identify as a Sequoia: A beginner’s guide to securing Forest Service protection.”



The midnight ride of Devin Nunes

Mar 27th, 2017 10:51 am | By

More skulduggery:

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee was on his way to an event in Washington late Tuesday when the evening’s plans abruptly changed. After taking a brief phone call, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) swapped cars and slipped away from his staff, congressional officials said. He appears to have used that unaccounted-for stretch of time to review classified intelligence files brought to his attention by sources he has said he will not name.

The next morning, Nunes stepped up to a set of microphones in the Capitol complex to declare that he had learned that U.S. spy agencies had “incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.”

Trump promptly burst into tweets about how right he was when he said Obama wiretapped him.

Last year, Nunes repeatedly skirmished with intelligence leaders over assessments that Russia sought to help Trump win. He has sought to help the White House knock down news stories alleging close ties between Trump associates and the Kremlin. And Nunes has pushed his panel to focus on lines of inquiry — including hunting the sources of damaging news leaks — that seem more favorable to Trump.

Nunes’s latest move came Friday, when he made a flurry of announcements that on the surface signaled promising new investigative paths, including an agreement to hear testimony from Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. But to Democrats, Nunes’s actions again seemed to show the hidden agenda of the White House.

Most immediately, Nunes canceled an open hearing that had been scheduled for Tuesday with former senior officials who have battled Trump. Among them is former acting attorney general Sally Q. Yates, who was fired by Trump; former director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., who publicly disputed Trump’s wiretapping claim; and former CIA director John Brennan, who has said that Trump should “be ashamed of himself” over his behavior toward U.S. spy agencies.

He didn’t postpone it, he canceled it – on his own, without consulting the committee. He’s an ally of Trump’s. You do the math.

Schiff also implied he suspects a White House hand in what he called Nunes’s “dead-of-night excursion” to view classified documents. Several congressional officials said they were told about the phone call and swapped cars by members of Nunes’s staff.

Jack Langer, a spokesman for Nunes, disputed the depiction. “That account is inaccurate,” Langer said. He declined to elaborate.

To review classified files without breaking the law, Nunes would have needed to do so at a secure facility. Congressional officials said that the director of National Intelligence, the FBI and National Security Agency had all indicated that they got no late-night visit from Nunes, a trip that probably would have been entered in security logs.

Nunes has repeatedly refused to say where he went or whether the documents were provided by the White House, including when confronted by committee members during a closed-door meeting on Thursday, officials said.

Is that sleazy and compromised enough yet?



Trump is an international embarrassment

Mar 27th, 2017 10:29 am | By

Robert Reich on Trump’s “billing” of Germany:

It turns out Trump’s meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last weekend was even worse than we thought. According to London’s Sunday Times, Trump handed Merkel a bill for more than $300 billion that Germany supposedly owed NATO — supposedly calculated by adding the amounts by which Germany has fallen short on annual payments to NATO since 2002, and adding interest.

That’s absurd. The United States has a huge stake in a strong NATO, and has no authority “collect” what’s “owed” by other nations.

Besides, German spending on global defense isn’t limited to NATO. “There is no account where debts are registered with NATO,” German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement. “Defense spending also goes into U.N. peacekeeping missions, into our European missions and into our contribution to the fight against ISIS terrorism.”

Trump is an international embarrassment. I want to assure our allies around the world that he doesn’t represent the views of most Americans, and we’re doing everything we can.

He does however represent the views of far too many of us. His brand of shit is a popular brand here: that nasty combination of anti-intellectualism and brutality and hatred is a wide streak in our coat. That’s the real embarrassment.



Did he really?

Mar 27th, 2017 9:59 am | By

Seriously? He really did that?

Donald Trump reportedly gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel a bill for £300bn when the pair met recently to cover contributions he believes are owed to Nato.

The US president made the demand during private talks when the pair met in Washington DC, the Sunday Times reported.

Surely he didn’t. Surely even he can’t be that crude and stupid and inappropriate.

Nato countries pledged in 2014 to spend two per cent of their GDP on defence, something only a handful of nations – including the UK, Greece, Poland and Estonia – currently do.

The sum being demanded by the US has been backdated to 2002, the year Mrs Merkel’s predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, pledged to spend more on defence, according to the report.

Backdated, eh. On what pretext does he get to backdate such a thing? And how does he justify turning pledges by countries into sums owed, and owed to him in person at that?

Mr Trump reportedly instructed aides to calculate how much German spending fell below two per cent over the past 12 years, then added interest.

He’s shaming us all.

[The] White House press secretary has denied reports that Mr Trump gave Ms Merkel a bill during their meeting, telling Business Insider: “No, this is not true.”

And Spicey never lies.

German defence minister Ursula Von der Leyen has rejected the notion the European nation owed the US or Nato.

She issued a statement following Mr Trump’s tweets saying: “There is no debt account at Nato.

“Defence spending also goes into UN peacekeeping missions, into our European missions and into our contribution to the fight against [Isis] terrorism.”

Her comments were backed by Ivo Daalder, permanent representative to Nato from 2009 to 2013 under the Obama administration, who queried the President’s understanding of the organisation.

He tweeted: “Sorry Mr President, that’s not how Nato works. The US decides for itself how much it contributes to defending Nato.

“This is not a financial transaction, where Nato countries pay the US to defend them. It is part of our treaty commitment.”

Sorry, that’s too complicated for Donnie from Queens. He thinks he’s the universal landlord, and everyone owes him rent.

More on the denials:

White House press secretary Sean Spicer attempted to pour cold water on the rumour when questioned on Sunday.

“No, this is not true,” he said. Michael Short, a White House spokesperson, also said the report was “false”.

While solid proof of the bill has yet to emerge, the allegation appears to fit with Mr Trump’s long-standing criticism of countries he says are not paying their fair share of the military alliance’s budget.

It fits with his criticism, but the question is whether it fits with his level of crude trashy inappropriate behavior. Would even he do a thing like that?

I don’t know.



I believe Democrats & fake news

Mar 26th, 2017 4:19 pm | By

The Trump people decided to take the nation’s pulse. They sent out an email Thursday with the subject line “Vindicated.”

It went like this:

Since even before Inauguration Day, Democrats, the media, and the entire opposition have tried to take down President Trump by resorting to nasty attacks and spreading fake news.

But President Trump has fought back and been vindicated time and time again – and he will KEEP FIGHTING to deliver on the promises he made to you, the American people.

Then it asked a super-serious important question:

What happens if you click on the second option, the one for bad stupid people?

They send you here:

Heads they win, tails we lose. We can give them money, or we can give them money. Very scientific poll! Or actually not a poll but just a “give us money” email.

You’d think the inflated profits on the Old Post Office hotel and Taco del Mar would be enough.



Walk along Tverskaya

Mar 26th, 2017 3:36 pm | By

Navalny has been arrested:

Russia’s main opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, has been arrested at an anti-corruption protest he organised in the capital, Moscow.

Thousands of people joined rallies nationwide, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev over corruption allegations.

At least 500 other protesters were detained in the capital and across the country.

Most of the marches were illegal, organised without official permission.

It’s lose-lose, isn’t it. If they ask for permission, the answer is no. If they don’t, they get locked up.

Alexei Navalny was detained as he arrived to join the rally in central Moscow. Protesters then tried to prevent a police van from taking him away.

In a tweet after his detention, he urged fellow protesters to continue with the demonstration.

“Guys, I’m fine. No need to fight to get me out. Walk along Tverskaya [Moscow main street]. Our topic of the day is the fight against corruption,” he said (in Russian).

I hope so. I hope we don’t hear tomorrow that he very suddenly and unexpectedly fell off a high place.



Hello, failing New York Times? Donnie here.

Mar 26th, 2017 10:25 am | By

Hmm. So Trump uses “failing” as his standard epithet for the New York Times, the way a poet might talk of Brave Achilles and Wily Odysseus – and yet when his health care repeal goes belly-up, he phones the Times for a chat.

Just moments after the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act was declared dead, President Trump sought to paint the defeat of his first legislative effort as an early-term blip.

The House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, was preparing to tell the public that the health care bill was being withdrawn — a byproduct, Mr. Trump said, of Democratic partisanship. The president predicted that Democrats would return to him to make a deal in roughly a year.

“Look, we got no Democratic votes. We got none, zero,” Mr. Trump said in a telephone interview he initiated with The New York Times.

He initiated it. He calls them the failing New York Times almost daily on Twitter, yet he calls them up to talk about his latest failure. He’s a funny guy.

Mr. Trump said that “when they come to make a deal,” he would be open and receptive. He singled out the Tuesday Group moderates for praise, calling them “terrific,” an implicit jab at the House Freedom Caucus, which his aides had expressed frustration with during negotiations.

Even so, he tried to minimize the deep divisions within his own party that prevented Mr. Ryan from securing passage of the bill, and maintained that they were six to 12 votes away from getting it across the finish line.

As Mr. Trump spoke, his voice was flatly calm and slightly hoarse, his manner subdued. He talked on a speaker phone from his desk in the Oval Office, with a coterie of aides drifting by. At one point, he welcomed his daughter Ivanka back from a ski trip.

He was missing those happy minutes spent in The Big Truck the day before. Those were the good times.

Mr. Trump described his first major legislative experience as not terribly different than what his previous negotiations as a real-estate developer had been like.

He emphatically did not fault Mr. Ryan.

“I don’t blame him for a thing, I really don’t,” Mr. Trump said. He added: “Even during the midst of negotiations I said the best thing that could happen was just to back off. I said, I’ll do it now because I’m a team player.” He said that Mr. Ryan did not apologize to him, adding: “Look, he tried. He tried very hard.”

“I’m not disappointed,” he insisted. “If I were, I wouldn’t be calling you.”

Wut?

God what a weirdo.



Social parasites speak up

Mar 26th, 2017 9:49 am | By

Meanwhile in Belarus –

Belarus has defended the mass arrests on Saturday during protests against a tax on those seen as under-employed.

Hundreds were arrested and some beaten up as thousands took to the streets of the capital, Minsk, and other cities.

The foreign ministry said the demonstrations were not peaceful as “petrol bombs and arms-laden cars” were found near the Minsk protest.

How near? A few hundred miles perhaps?

Defending the government, foreign ministry spokesman Dzmitryy Mironchyk said the “actions of law enforcement agencies were completely appropriate” on Saturday.

He said the rallies had been unauthorised, which “bears specific consequence in any country of the world”, and noted that no tear gas or water cannons were used.

Not true about the consequence actually. For instance in the US:

In some cases, government can require a permit as a condition of protest on public property. For example, government often can require a permit for parades in the streets, given the impact on vehicle traffic. Likewise, government often can require a permit for large protests in public parks and plazas, in order to ensure fairness among the various groups seeking to use the site.

On the other hand, the First Amendment generally bars government from requiring a permit when one person or a small group protest in a park, or when a group of any size protest on a public sidewalk in a manner that does not burden pedestrian or vehicle traffic.

There’s a big difference between requiring a permit for disrupting traffic and requiring one for expressing dissent in public. The state can of course claim to be doing the first while really doing the second, but that can backfire.

The authorities are reported to have jailed more than 100 opposition supporters for terms of between three and 15 days in the lead-up to Saturday’s demonstration.

The weekend’s events follow weeks of sporadic protests against a $230 (£185) levy on those unemployed for six months, dubbed a “social parasites” tax.

Isn’t that lovely? Fining people for being unemployed. Nobody tell Trump, he’ll want to do it too.

 



Unsanctioned rallies

Mar 26th, 2017 9:37 am | By

A Russian spring, maybe?

A wave of unsanctioned rallies swept across Russia on Sunday to protest corruption in the government of President Vladi­mir Putin, in a nationwide show of defiance not seen in years, and one the Kremlin had tried in vain to prevent with bans and warnings.

Too angry to be cowed, they poured into the street, fed up with their country’s wide-reaching corruption and a government unwilling, or unable, to stop it. Police responded with barricades, tear gas and mass arrests in cities across Russia.

By Sunday evening, riot police in body armor and helmets hauled in more than 700 demonstrators in central Moscow, as the crowd, numbering in the tens of thousands, cheered and whistled and chanted, “Shame! Shame!”

New Russia, just like the old Russia. No you may not protest, you may not object, you may not dissent. No wonder Trump loves Putin so much.

One of the first detained in Moscow was the chief architect of the rallies, Alexei Navalny, who called on people to come to protest in the wake of his allegations that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has amassed vineyards, luxury yachts and lavish mansions worth more than $1 billion.

Authorities charged Navalny and other members of his Moscow-based Anti-corruption Foundation with extremism; one of his group was charged with broadcasting the rally illegally. If that’s the case, a lot of people are going to be in trouble; thousands of iPhones recorded as police closed off central Pushkin Square, lined major streets and hauled anyone carrying signs into large buses. Also among the detained was American Alec Luhn, an accredited reporter for the Guardian.

Donnie is fuming with envy.

Good luck, people of Russia!



Resolve

Mar 26th, 2017 8:46 am | By



Solidarity hair

Mar 25th, 2017 5:19 pm | By

Time for a feel-good story.

A Brazilian teacher has come up with a unique way to help a schoolgirl who was being bullied because of her hair.

Ana Barbara Ferreira, from Sao Paulo, said her student was “sad” after being ridiculed by a boy, who had said her hair was “ugly”.

“At that moment, the only thing I could tell her was that she was wonderful and shouldn’t care about what he was saying,” she wrote in a Facebook post that went viral.

That would be this post.

That was all she could do at that moment, but the next day she did more.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, child and closeup

 



It was frankly unbelievable

Mar 25th, 2017 9:14 am | By

Fran and Dan Keller are out of prison, after 21 years.

Among the atrocities that Frances and Dan Keller were supposed to have committed while running a day care center out of their Texas home: drowning and dismembering babies in front of the children; killing dogs and cats in front of the children; transporting the children to Mexico to be sexually abused by soldiers in the Mexican army; dressing as pumpkins and shooting children in the arms and legs; putting the children into a pool with sharks that ate babies; putting blood in the children’s Kool-Aid; cutting the arm or a finger off a gorilla at a local park; and exhuming bodies at a cemetery, forcing children to carry the bones.

Hm. Something a bit off there? Wouldn’t that kind of thing be noticed rather quickly? So quickly that no one could actually do all of it? Even if anyone wanted to do all of it, which seems…unlikely

It was frankly unbelievable—except that people, most importantly, a Texas jury, did believe the Kellers had committed at least some of these acts. In 1992, the Kellers were convicted of aggravated sexual assault on a child and each sentenced to 48 years in prison. The investigation into their supposed crimes took slightly more than a year, the trial only six days.

Hm. Seems a bit off. You’d think the weirdness of many of the charges would hint that the others might be unreliable too.

Anyway they’re out now, because the doctor who testified at their trial recanted his testimony.

The Keller case is typical of the satanic ritual abuse panic and the dozens of cases that popped up in breathless media reports. The trouble started when Christy Chaviers, a 3-year-old girl who was an infrequent visitor to the day care during the summer of 1991, told her mother that Dan had spanked her. With coaxing from her mother and her therapist, Donna David-Campbell, whom Christy had been seeing to deal with acting-out issues, an incident of spanking turned into something much worse—Dan Keller, the little girl said, had defecated on her head and raped her with a pen. From there, the stories Christy told David-Campbell became wilder: The Kellers “had everyone take off their clothes and had a parrot that pecked them in the pee-pee,” they made her smoke a cigarette, they “came to her house with a chainsaw and cut her dog Buffy in the vagina until it bled.” David-Campbell concluded not that Christy was an imaginative child having trouble with her parents’ divorce, but that she was the victim of ritual abuse.

Hm. Doesn’t law enforcement normally recognize that very young children can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality?

The panic began in earnest with the McMartin Preschool trial, an investigation that began 30 years ago. The owners of a California preschool and several teachers were accused of molesting a 2½-year-old boy; before it was over, hundreds of children, usually after lengthy sessions with coercive therapists, came forward to say that they, too, had been taken to a church to watch the beheading of a baby, then forced to drink its blood or flown by plane to random cities for sexual abuse, or countless other bizarre stories.

While that investigation and trial unfolded, other cases surfaced. Media poured attention on the claims, which made great fodder for a newly created 24-hour news cycle (CNN Headline News launched in 1982). As televangelists prayed for deliverance from Satan’s scourge, talk show “experts” claimed that every imaginable form of abuse was happening on a massive scale in America and that networks of Satanists had infiltrated schools, the police, and local government.

Now that was “fake news” if you like.

“It sounds laughable,” says Debbie Nathan, an investigative reporter who co-wrote Satan’s Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt about the panic and is now a director for the National Center for Reason and Justice, which took up the Kellers’ cause. But there is certainly historical precedent, going back even further than the Salem witch trials: Ancient Romans, for example, claimed that Christians ate babies; Christians later claimed that Jews used Christian babies’ blood in religious rituals.

“Children symbolize the good things about culture, the innocence and purity, the future of the culture,” says Nathan. When a culture feels under threat in some way, fear and anxiety focus on the safety of children. America was experiencing upheavals in gender roles, child-rearing practices, and social expectations, and more and more people were embracing fundamentalist religion and belief in the devil. The fear of satanic ritual abuse was perpetuated by both ends of the political spectrum. “In the right wing, you had that kind of preoccupation with Satan, and on the left, you had a lot of concern with the well-being of children, and women going back to work, and I think it was a perfect storm of fear and anxiety,” says Nathan. Most if not all of those involved believed they were acting in the best interests of the children—which meant that any healthy skepticism was interpreted as anti-child.

We’re seeing that again.

Though satanic ritual abuse cases are virtually unheard of now, the panic hasn’t entirely subsided. A number of groups and people still very much believe in satanic and other ritual abuse; Randy Noblitt, the expert witness called by the prosecution in the Kellers’ trial, is one of them (and he’s still on faculty at Alliant International University).

Even if most of us don’t believe Satan is lurking in day care centers, we’re not immune to the panic people felt. Nathan points to the outsize concern (disproportionate to their rarity) over child “predators” or the epidemic of teen sexting as potential modern panic candidates: “One of the hallmarks of a panic is that you don’t realize it’s a panic when you’re in the middle of it.”

Well, some of you do.



Guest post: As history books have showed

Mar 25th, 2017 8:11 am | By

Originally a comment poem by Lady Mondegreen on Brothas from anotha motha.

The world has held great heroes

As history books have showed

But never a name to go down in fame

Compared with that of Toad Trump.

The clever men at Oxford

Know all that there is to be knowed

But they none of them know one half so much

As intelligent Mr. Toad Trump.



Brothas from anotha motha

Mar 24th, 2017 3:11 pm | By

Related image

Jonathan Barry

Image result for trump truck



Never mind

Mar 24th, 2017 2:58 pm | By

So that didn’t happen.

House Republican leaders abruptly pulled a rewrite of the nation’s health-care system from consideration on Friday, a dramatic acknowledgment that they were unable to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“We just pulled it,” President Trump told The Washington Post in a telephone interview.

The decision came a day after Trump delivered an ultimatum to lawmakers — and represented multiple failures for the new president and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.).

Good.

In the interview, Trump deflected any responsibility for the setback and blamed Democrats instead.

“We couldn’t get one Democratic vote and we were a little bit shy, very little, but it was still a little bit shy so we pulled it,” he said.

I should hope not. Democrats don’t want to do away with universal health insurance, so it’s stupid to reproach them for not voting for doing away with it.

Trump said he had no problem waiting for Democrats to seek cooperation with Republicans on health-care.

“I never said I was going to repeal and replace in the first 61 days,” he said.

In fact, Trump said repeatedly as a candidate and before his inauguration that he would work to repeal the ACA on his first day in office. And congressional Republicans have spent the last seven years campaigning to undo the law.

Well yeah he said on his first day. But that’s not the first 61 days! Totally different.

The dramatic decision stunned legislators who have spent the last several years crafting proposals to repeal former president Barack Obama’s top domestic policy victory. Some were near tears exiting a meeting where Ryan announced his decision.

Awwwwwwww. Frustrated in their burning desire to yank health care insurance away from poor people.

Trump had personally lobbied 120 lawmakers, either in person or on the phone, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on Friday.

The president had “left everything on the field,” Spicer said.

But he failed. He failed. He’s a loser. LOSER.