Notes and Comment Blog

The ultimate disrupter

May 23rd, 2018 3:17 pm | By

Mark Leibovich at the Times talked to some press secretaries for the Golden Hitler.

“What’s true on Monday in terms of a process decision may change by Friday,” Sanders said. “And I can’t always know that things will be different.” It often does not take that long for a “process” to evolve, I said. Sometimes a 5 a.m. tweet generated from the White House residence amounts to a “process” in Trump’s presidency. Or an old friend of Trump’s who just joined his legal team might go to dinner and jump on Fox News for a few minutes, and then the “process” jumps again. Like many of her White House colleagues, Sanders is quick to suggest that some of the criticism the Trump White House has received is a product of a biased press.

Except that that’s less true of Trump than it is of other Republican presidents. There are many Republicans who detest his lies and bullying (the two are closely linked – lying is a kind of bullying, especially in someone as powerful as he is).

“It certainly bothers me,” she said of the “liar” rap. “Because one of the few things you have are your integrity and reputation.” She added that “there’s a difference between misspeaking or not knowing something than [and] maliciously lying.”

Integrity and reputation can’t survive working for Trump. It’s not humanly possible.

No one would argue that a person’s integrity isn’t of paramount importance, I said. But I asked Sanders if there is a danger in linking your integrity to a president who might not always be known for accuracy. There have been many instances where the president has not told the truth, I said.

“But you’re asking about me,” Sanders said, not challenging the premise.

True, I said, but she has to speak for him. I asked the question another way: “Is it possible to be factual if you’re speaking for someone who is trying to make a point that is not factual?”

“Uh, I don’t know,” Sanders said. “I’m not following totally.” But it was important for me to remember this: Donald Trump is president. “And I think one of the biggest reasons Donald Trump is president is because he is not scripted, not following your conventional playbook.” He is “the ultimate disrupter,” and people find his plain-spoken style “refreshing.” They like that he is unfiltered, she said, like that he “tells it like it is.”

Whoooosh, there goes her integrity and reputation, never to be seen again.

Yes, Trump is not “scripted,” not “following your conventional playbook” – that has rules about things like telling the truth and not using high office to enrich yourself. One could say that about anyone – murderers, rapists, Mafia bosses, genociders. Ultimate disruption is not always desirable, and a “refreshing” plain-spoken style that calls people animals and brags about grabbing women by the pussy is not a good thing, especially in a president.

By the way, Trump’s phones are insecure

May 23rd, 2018 11:47 am | By

But her emails.

President Donald Trump uses a White House cellphone that isn’t equipped with sophisticated security features designed to shield his communications, according to two senior administration officials — a departure from the practice of his predecessors that potentially exposes him to hacking or surveillance.

The president, who relies on cellphones to reach his friends and millions of Twitter followers, has rebuffed staff efforts to strengthen security around his phone use, according to the administration officials.

He doesn’t have time for that, he’s too busy tweeting. On his phone. The one without sophisticated security features designed to shield his communications.

The president uses at least two iPhones, according to one of the officials. The phones — one capable only of making calls, the other equipped only with the Twitter app and preloaded with a handful of news sites — are issued by White House Information Technology and the White House Communications Agency, an office staffed by military personnel that oversees White House telecommunications.

While aides have urged the president to swap out the Twitter phone on a monthly basis, Trump has resisted their entreaties, telling them it was “too inconvenient,” the same administration official said.

Because there could be a tweet-demanding emergency at any moment.

The president has gone as long as five months without having the phone checked by security experts. It is unclear how often Trump’s call-capable phones, which are essentially used as burner phones, are swapped out.

President Barack Obama handed over his White House phones every 30 days to be examined by telecommunications staffers for hacking and other suspicious activity, according to an Obama administration official.

Well there you go. He was born in Kenya, so obviously Trump is going to do the opposite of whatever he did.

Former national security officials are virtually unanimous in their agreement about the dangers posed by cellphones, which are vulnerable to hacking by domestic and foreign actors who would want to listen in on the president’s conversations or monitor his movements.

“Foreign adversaries seeking intelligence about the U.S. are relentless in their pursuit of vulnerabilities in our government’s communications networks, and there is no more sought-after intelligence target than the president of the United States,” said Nate Jones, former director of counterterrorism on the National Security Council in the Obama administration and the founder of Culper Partners, a consulting firm.

While the president has the authority to override or ignore the advice provided by aides and advisers for reasons of comfort or convenience, Jones said, “doing so could pose significant risks to the country.”

But what does that matter compared to Trump’s convenience?

[C]ybersecurity experts pointed to sophisticated adversaries like Russia and China as the biggest threats, and expressed shock over the president’s refusal to take measures to protect himself from them, particularly when engaged in delicate negotiations.

“It’s baffling that Trump isn’t taking baseline cybersecurity measures at a time when he is trying to negotiate his way out of a trade war with China, a country that is known for using cyber tactics to gain the upper hand in business negotiations,” said Samm Sacks, a China and technology expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

It’s not really baffling if you keep in mind how self-centered and stupid Trump is.

Hurry up with those boots

May 23rd, 2018 11:00 am | By

Lie often enough and shamelessly enough and you win the game.

James R. Clapper said something Tuesday that he maybe shouldn’t have. In the course of rebutting President Trump’s conspiracy theories about the FBI “spying” on his campaign, the former director of national intelligence momentarily conceded Trump’s premise.

“They were spying on — a term I don’t particularly like — but on what the Russians were doing,” Clapper said. Asked whether Trump should be happy the FBI was doing this, Clapper said, “He should be.”

“He should be” if he cared about US interests, or about how authoritarian and criminal Putin is, or both.

Trump’s response? Take that badly out of context.

And to be clear, this is a really important semantic point. Trump and his allies have launched a concerted effort to insert the word “spy” in this debate, despite there being no evidence that there was anything untoward about the FBI’s use of an informant, Stefan Halper, to look into contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. Trump included the word in ALL CAPS infourseparatetweets Wednesday morning — including christening the supposed scandal as “SPYGATE.” The word also appeared almost incessantly on his favorite morning show, “Fox & Friends.”

So they’ll win, by being willing and eager to repeat lies often enough and shamelessly enough.

Follow the money

May 23rd, 2018 10:37 am | By

From the Beeb:

Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, received a secret payment of at least $400,000 (£300,000) to fix talks between the Ukrainian president and President Trump, according to sources in Kiev close to those involved.

The payment was arranged by intermediaries acting for Ukraine’s leader, Petro Poroshenko, the sources said, though Mr Cohen was not registered as a representative of Ukraine as required by US law.

The meeting at the White House was last June.

Shortly after the Ukrainian president returned home, his country’s anti-corruption agency stopped its investigation into Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort.

Cash and carry diplomacy; what could go wrong?

A high-ranking Ukrainian intelligence officer in Mr Poroshenko’s administration described what happened before the visit to the White House.

Mr Cohen was brought in, he said, because Ukraine’s registered lobbyists and embassy in Washington DC could get Mr Poroshenko little more than a brief photo-op with Mr Trump. Mr Poroshenko needed something that could be portrayed as “talks”.

And for that you gotta pay actual folding money.

Be your best feminazi mother from hell

May 23rd, 2018 9:51 am | By

Glosswitch in the Staggers on bullshit about how to raise boys:

I suspect many of my fellow feminists have no idea just how truly awful the literature aimed at mothers raising sons has been. Think “misogynistic and essentialist” – Piers Morgan, perhaps – then times that by 1,000.

Of course, it doesn’t mean to be that way. Such literature is, we are told in that sad, regretful tone adopted by neurosexists and evolutionary misogynists everywhere, merely presenting the facts. No one wants to believe boys are naturally aggressive, girls naturally submissive, but you can’t argue with bullshit science. Just don’t blame the messenger, OK?

In 1997’s Raising Boys – a bestseller, still in print today – godfather of raising boys bullshit Steve Biddulph complains that “for 30 years it has been trendy to deny masculinity and say boys and girls are just the same”. And yes, if I’m honest, that was totally my experience of being a child of the Seventies and Eighties, providing you exclude the “reality” bits…

In other words, like hell it was. It was when

it was legal for husbands to rape wives, in which the nagging and shagging defence could excuse a man for killing his partner, in which judges could claim rape victims were guilty of “contributory negligence”? On such a planet, do you seriously believe scores of people were particularly arsed about getting their sons to play with Barbie? (Spoiler: they weren’t.)

And the boy-raising manuals still haven’t improved.

One constant throughout the traditional raising boys literature is the idea that boys have an innate, manly aggression that must find an outlet somewhere. There’s disagreement on whether it comes from their Stone Age past or their testosterone-fuelled present, but who cares, it’s there and if you don’t let boys engage in enough low-level violence, they’re bound to get embroiled in the big league version. “If there is a natural urge in little boys to fight,” writes Palmer, “banning it is rather like trying to crush something deep in their soul.” Indeed, banning it makes you a mean feminazi who will have only herself to blame – and not a massive violence-apologist, porn-soaked culture – when her soul-crushed sons have got a taste for causing pain.

Jordan Peterson territory, in short.

Gender is not simply a matter of who gets to play with cars and who with dolls; it’s about grooming those playing with cars to be dominant, those playing with dolls to be subordinate. You can take away the cars and replace them with dolls without questioning deeper assumptions about the player. If we want our children to be their true selves – whatever that means – we need to think hard about the relationship between what is believed about boys and girls and what is desired of them.

As Grayson Perry writes in The Descent of Man, with reference to global statistics for male violence against women, “gender may be a performance but it is not playing pretend”. While I can ridicule the books I’ve collected over the years, their basic, if incoherent, message – that we continue to condition our sons to be aggressive in order to make them less aggressive – is dangerous. The babies that were handed to me did not come with a hidden, seething cauldron of hate in their bellies.

Hence my advice to any fellow feminist mother of boys: ignore the books. Be your best feminazi mother from hell and treat your sons like the unique human beings they are.

It just might work.

You can feel the momentum shifting

May 23rd, 2018 9:00 am | By

This is part of what’s making me (and others) pessimistic:

I’m pessimistic because it seems it could easily happen that we get a long detailed account of crimes and corruption linked to Trump and/or the Trump campaign, and it won’t make any difference to anything.

Look, I have never understood why or how the Republicans got away with refusing to hold hearings on Merrick Garland, since even the majority party has to follow the rules (I had assumed), and the non-stop brute force violation of all norms has only gotten worse. Trump and Fox News are going to drag us all into the sewer and there we’ll stay until the rising seas devour the remnant.

A maniac at the helm

May 22nd, 2018 5:24 pm | By

John Cassidy at the New Yorker says it’s getting worse.

Since Donald Trump entered the White House, American democracy has sometimes been described as dangerously fragile, but that isn’t necessarily true. Having survived for two hundred and forty-two years, American democracy is more like a stoutly built ocean liner, with a maniac at the helm who seems intent on capsizing it. Every so often, he takes a violent tug at the tiller, causing the vessel to list alarmingly. So far, some members of the ship’s crew—judges, public servants, and the odd elected official—have managed to rush in, jag the tiller back, and keep the ship afloat. But, as the captain’s behavior grows more erratic, the danger facing the ship and its passengers increases.

Well if the ship is vulnerable to having a maniac at the helm then it is fragile, however sturdily built it may be. We haven’t had a president like Trump before so we haven’t been forced to realize how helpless we are to stop such a president. We’ve smugly talked about checks and balances because that’s what they told us in school, but nobody told us they don’t actually work if the president and Congress are of the same party. A system that can’t make Trump stop is very god damn fragile indeed.

More barriers crumble

May 22nd, 2018 4:16 pm | By


Press secretary Sarah Sanders said that the White House had brokered a meeting at which two key Republican chairmen would hear from the leaders of the Justice Department, FBI and the intelligence community following weeks’ worth of requests for the classified material.

No one from the White House is scheduled to be present, Sanders said — nor, at this point, are any senators or any Democrats, in defiance of a request from the Senate minority leader.

So it’s a Republican meeting to see secret documents from an ongoing investigation. Not a Congressional meeting but a Republican one.

“A lot of people are saying they had spies in my campaign,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday. “If so, that would be a disgrace to this country. I hope there weren’t, frankly … but some man got paid based on what I read in the newspapers.”

The White House and its supporters have been sandblasting the Justice Department and the FBI for months; the leaders of both law enforcement agencies have steadily been giving ground. Thursday’s meeting is the latest example, although it wasn’t clear precisely what documents Nunes and Gowdy are expecting and whether they will receive them then.

I think we’re doomed. I think they’re going to complete the coup before November.

“It’s really important that we conduct the proper oversight of the executive branch to make sure that power is not or has not or will not be abused,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters on Tuesday.

The House intelligence committee, Nunes, and other lawmakers threatened Rosenstein with contempt of Congress or, potentially, impeachment.

For a while, Rosenstein took a tough line, vowing that DOJ wouldn’t be “extorted,” but the battlefield shifted after the reports about the confidential informant.

Then Trump weighed in more strongly than ever with a “demand” for more information from the Justice Department, and Rosenstein acceded to it Monday. He traveled to the White House for a meeting with Trump, White House chief of staff John Kelly and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

One outcome was an acknowledgment by the Justice Department that its IG, Horowitz, will expand an inquiry he was already conducting into the ongoing Russia investigation to include its use of sources and surveillance.

The second outcome was the meeting on Thursday that Kelly has brokered between Hill leaders, the Justice Department and the FBI. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., had urged the Trump administration to include Democrats but none were included in the White House’s announcement.

“The only thing more outrageous than this meeting occurring at all is the fact that it’s now partisan,” Schumer said. “It is crystal clear that Chairman Nunes’ intent is to interfere with the investigation, and Speaker Ryan is allowing it to happen.”

They’re winning. Apparently nothing can stop them.

Shoved forcibly out of the building

May 22nd, 2018 11:56 am | By

Scott Pruitt really doesn’t want us to know what he’s doing.

The Environmental Protection Agency is barring The Associated Press, CNN and the environmental-focused news organization E&E from a national summit on harmful water contaminants.

The EPA blocked the news organizations from attending Tuesday’s Washington meeting, convened by EPA chief Scott Pruitt.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told the barred organizations they were not invited and there was no space for them, but gave no indication of why they specifically were barred.

Pruitt told about 200 people at the meeting that dealing with the contaminants is a “national priority.”

Guards barred an AP reporter from passing through a security checkpoint inside the building. When the reporter asked to speak to an EPA public-affairs person, the security guards grabbed the reporter by the shoulders and shoved her forcibly out of the EPA building.

That’s not how any of this works.

The DoJ works for HIM

May 22nd, 2018 11:23 am | By

How much does Trump understand about the institutions he’s damaging and the norms he’s defying? It doesn’t really matter, because he doesn’t care in any case. As has been regularly pointed out, his motivations are all entirely self-directed; he does what he considers good for him and is entirely indifferent to what’s good for other people or the country as a whole.

Greg Sargent at the Post:

[W]hat we now see happening is that Trump is directly pressuring Justice to conduct this investigation into his campaign in a certain way, and at least to some extent, it is complying. As Charlie Savage puts it, Trump is slowly eroding an “established constraint on executive power.”

Trump signaled in his own words that he was going to do this and more. Trump recently tweeted that “at some point” he will “use the powers granted to the Presidency and get involved!” Late last year, he said that “I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department.” On still another occasion, Trump revealingly admitted that he is “very frustrated” by the fact that he is “not supposed to be involved” with the Justice Department, meaning he recognizes there is a norm that dictates this limit on his power, but he sees it as an inconvenience and does not recognize that there are good institutional reasons for preserving it.

He recognizes that there is a rule (however tacit) that dictates this limit on his power, but he has worked out an ideology that lets him see rules of that kind as Children of the Swamp aka Artifacts of the Deep State, so that he is doing a fine and populist thing by smashing them for his own criminal purposes. He may well recognize that from the point of view of the FBI there are good institutional reasons for preserving the rule, but the fact that the rule is an obstacle to what he wants is far more salient. To the rest of us, the ability of the FBI to find out what Putin and Co did to our election is important, but to Trump it is as a bit of milkweed before his need to avoid prosecution. Who ya gonna take care of, the whole country or Trump? The question answers itself.

The Watergate scandal led some to propose isolating Justice entirely from the executive branch. But this, too, was seen as unworkable, because that would mean the Justice Department is not subject to political accountability. So Justice must be overseen by the executive branch. But that subjects it to presidential manipulation. The answer to this thorny problem is the norm of prosecutorial independence. The answer is the idea, as one senator put it during Watergate, that the Justice Department’s “client is not only the president of the United States but includes the people.” The president is their boss, but prosecutors are answerable to the law and to the people as well. That norm’s existence depends on it being observed by both prosecutors and the president alike.

But this is an idea that Trump plainly does not accept. He has said again and again and again in his own words that he views law enforcement as merely an instrument of his political will, to be turned loose on his political opponents at his whim and to be weaponized against itself when it tries to hold him accountable. This appears rooted in a uniformly corrupt impulse that also animates all of his profiteering off the presidency (as Adam Serwer writes), and is an extension of his long history of trampling rules and laws with impunity as a businessman (as Timothy L. O’Brien writes). As president, it’s not clear that Trump recognizes any institutional obligation of any kind to the law or to the people.

Or rather, it’s all too clear that he does not.

What’s the problem?

May 22nd, 2018 10:58 am | By

Jennifer Rubin explains the legal norms Trump is stamping on.

Former acting attorney general Sally Yates hit the nail on the head on Monday on “Morning Joe.” She explained, “I think what we’re seeing here is the president has taken his all-out assault of the rule of law to a new level and this time he is ordering up an investigation of the investigators who are examining his own campaign. You know, that’s really shocking.” And things got even worse as the day progressed.

Among the other things it is, it’s a massive abuse of power. The rest of us don’t get to order the Justice Department to investigate the people who are investigating us. But even more basically it’s the opposite of how this is supposed to work. Investigators are not supposed to collaborate with the suspects they’re investigating, for obvious reasons. Investigators look for evidence that the suspects don’t want them to find, so the two parties are kept separate. There is no expectation that investigators will share what they find with the suspects while the investigation is in progress. Trump and his people are pretending there is, and that it’s just normal and appropriate and Only Fair.

Now, President Trump orders up an investigation of investigators based on no evidence of impropriety and then meets directly with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray to discuss sharing and/or releasing such information. Yes, we are through the looking glass.

That’s the trouble with electing a criminal president. Let’s not do that again.

“Based on the meeting with the President, the Department of Justice has asked the Inspector General to expand its current investigation to include any irregularities with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s or the Department of Justice’s tactics concerning the Trump campaign,” the White House said in a written statement. “It was also agreed that White House Chief of Staff [John] Kelly will immediately set up a meeting with the FBI, DOJ, and DNI [Director of National Intelligence] together with Congressional Leaders to review highly classified and other information they have requested.” It’s far from clear what this entails, but it appears to be a wholly improper attempt to give Trump’s allies in Congress a peek at critical documents for Trump’s legal benefit.

Maddow pointed out with much emphasis that Nunes and his friends will instantly share any “highly classified and other information” they see with the White House.

Trump’s TV lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani blabbed to Politico the real reason for the request:

[He] said the documents requested by Trump will “indicate what the informant found.” He also said the memos “should be made available to us on a confidential basis,” he added. “We should be at least allowed to read them so we know this exculpatory evidence is being preserved.” It’s unclear if there were any arrangements made for the White House to view the documents.

This goes beyond obstruction to total disruption of an investigation, with an implicit request for Congress to turn over to a potential defendant classified materials. Trump’s lawyer asking for critical investigative documents in the press is about as blatant as one can get.

The normal separation between the White House and the Justice Department on investigative matters is being obliterated before our eyes — and worse, Trump is using his powers as president to aid in his own defense.

And nobody is stopping him. Just a couple of weeks ago Rosenstein said the Justice Department won’t be extorted, but oh look the Justice Department is being extorted.

She dreamed of being a diplomat

May 21st, 2018 5:30 pm | By

Sabika Sheikh’s funeral was yesterday.

Sabika, 17, dreamed of being a diplomat, of working to empower women. A Muslim exchange student from Karachi, Pakistan, she had come to the United States through a State Department-funded study program, excited to leave behind the dangers posed by extremists at home to experience a country that represented all that was possible.

Outside the mosque here, long before hundreds of people gathered to mourn, two men wondered what had become of America, their adopted homeland.

“I’m aghast,” said Abdul Khatri, 60. “People come here because they are told there is peace here. You have the right to be protected here. It’s why I came. But to have this happen not in India or Pakistan, but here? We have gotten off track. And it’s been going on too long.”

“Too long,” the other man lamented. “I agree. Too long. But what will we do?”

There it’s suicide bombers, here it’s suicide and non-suicide shooters. Neither one is a very appealing choice. Both are shameful.

The mourners poured into the Masjid Sabireen mosque in this small town about 35 miles from Santa Fe, removing their shoes before stepping inside. Several students from Santa Fe High made the trip. So did Houston’s mayor and two members of Congress. The mayor of tiny Stafford sat down and hurriedly pulled out his phone.

“Can you please make sure all flags in town are flown at [half-staff],” Mayor Leonard Scarcella said into his phone. “Tell him it’s urgent.”

Sabika’s host family from Santa Fe arrived, six children in tow, the mother covering her blond hair with the red prayer shawl she’d received as a Mother’s Day gift from Sabika.

Excuse me a minute. Dusty in here.

Earlier at Arcadia First Baptist Church of Santa Fe, with Abbott in attendance, pastor Jerl Watkins tried to comfort the members of his congregation by telling them that prayer and acceptance of Christian values are the things that will heal this community.

But they aren’t. Plenty of Christians are fanatically pro-gun. Now if by “Christian values” you mean what Bishop Michael Curry talked about on Saturday then – after I point out they’re secular values too – I can agree, but unfortunately not all Christians do see love as the all-important thing.

Then he went on to rant about abortion, so forget it.

Several parishioners told Abbott they were glad he’s not rushing to implement new laws or restrictions on firearms after the shooting, during which a 17-year-old student allegedly gunned down eight students and two teachers with a shotgun and a pistol that police said belonged to his father.

Yes, that’s the important thing, not restricting guns.

I wish Sabika Sheikh were alive and well and looking forward to going home in a few weeks.

Guest post: Women, Floods, Bodies

May 21st, 2018 4:25 pm | By

Guest post by Lady Mondegreen.

A little while ago, thinking of Jordan Peterson, I flashed on a book I read thirty years ago or so: Klaus Theweleit’s Male Fantasies.

Theweleit, a German sociologist with a Freudian bent, wrote about the men of the Freikorps, paramilitary bands of anti-Communists active in Germany between the World Wars. Many of them went on to be committed Nazis.

The Freikorps had their own subculture, including pulp fiction. Theweleit examined their novels, along with their letters and other documents, and found–brace yourselves for a surprise here–a profound fear of women and sexuality. The subtitle of the first volume of Mannerphantasien is “Women, Floods, Bodies.”

The Freikorps associated women with sex and sex with water and dirt. Rather, “bad” women, sexually liberated women, Red women, were associated with these things–the good German girl, the White Woman, was pure and sexless, Madonna to the Red Woman’s whore.

Theweleit saw in these men’s fantasies a desperate need to keep themselves under control, to fend off the personal dissolution they feared should they succumb to sexual ecstasy. (Via their diaries he found that many of them were sexually anhedonic.)

Jordan Peterson’s proto-fascism has striking similarities to that of the Freikorps men:

Obsession with Communism (Peterson’s house is decorated with Soviet propaganda) – Check

Association of women with chaos – Check

Fear of unregulated, nonmonogamous sex – Check

Preoccupation with Order: Clean your room. Get your life in order. Be CIVILIZED. – Check

And keep in mind these important facts kids:

Hierarchies are basic.

Ultimately, force is how MEN settle things.

It may become the template for dehumanization

May 21st, 2018 3:42 pm | By

This is blood-chilling.

On Monday morning, the White House press office released a remarkable statement detailing violent crimes allegedly committed by members of the criminal gang MS-13. That alone isn’t remarkable; President Trump has been railing against MS-13 for months, using it as a foil to bolster his rhetoric about the risk posed by immigrants to the United States.

What was remarkable about the statement was the White House’s enthusiastic embrace of the term “animals” to describe those alleged gang members. Over the course of 480 words, the subjects of the statement were described as gang members nine times and as “animals” 10 times. The statement was direct about its aim, titled, “What You Need To Know About The Violent Animals Of MS-13.”

In an official statement from the executive branch. What next? Calling them vermin?

This is not trivial stuff. This is what the Nazis did, what the Serbian nationalists did, what the Tutsis did, what the Khmer Rouge did. Words matter.

The opening paragraphs of the official White House statement:

WHAT: The violent animals of MS-13 have committed heinous, violent attacks in communities across America.

Too many innocent Americans have fallen victim to the unthinkable violence of MS-13’s animals.

At the State of the Union in January 2018, President Trump brought as his guests Elizabeth Alvarado, Robert Mickens, Evelyn Rodriguez, and Freddy Cuevas, the parents of Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas. Police believe these young girls were chased down and brutally murdered by MS-13 gang members on Long Island, New York, in 2016. Suffolk County Police Commissioner stated that the “murders show a level of brutality that is close to unmatched.”

In Maryland, MS-13’s animals are accused of stabbing a man more than 100 times and then decapitating him, dismembering him, and ripping his heart out of his body. Police believe MS-13 members in Maryland also savagely beat a 15-year-old human trafficking victim. The MS-13 animals used a bat and took turns beating her nearly 30 times in total.

“Oh, you object to Trump’s calling them animals? We’ll give you animals. Suck it up, pansy liberals!”

Image result for nazi roundup

We can all raise our voices to echo her “no”

May 21st, 2018 11:42 am | By

Glosswitch in the Independent:

If only Shana Fisher had said yes. This is the implication of countless headlines following Dimitrios Pagourtzis’ decision to slaughter her along with nine of her teachers and classmates.

According to a Facebook post by Fisher’s mother, Fisher “had four months of problems from this boy” where “he kept making advances on her and she repeatedly told him no. He continued to get more aggressive”. So a girl endures several months of harassment, until her harasser kills her. How are we supposed to see this?

Spurned advances spark Texas shooting.” “Texas school shooter ‘killed girl who turned down his advances’.” “Spurned advances provoked incident at Santa Fe high school.

What I’m saying. The Danish cartoonists who drew Mohammed didn’t “provoke” riots; the cartoonists and writers at Charlie Hebdo didn’t “provoke” their own murders; Salman Rushdie didn’t “provoke” the fatwa on him; my dear friend Taslima Nasreen didn’t “provoke” the riots and treats that target her; the atheist bloggers murdered in Bangladesh didn’t “provoke” their own murders; Shana Fisher didn’t “provoke” that murderous boy.

The message, in case you’ve missed it, is that Fisher’s rejection – her “spurning” – of Pagourtzis is what caused his murderous rampage…

There’s something truly depressing about finding the world view of a killer reflected in the reporting of his crimes. Then again, belief that women and girls exist to tend to the sexual and emotional needs of men and boys is everywhere. It does not confine itself to those murky message boards where incels, MRAs, PUAs or whatever the latest misogyny hate tribe call themselves have decided to congregate.

If it did it wouldn’t keep turning up in headlines.

Male pride rests on the delusion that females can always be dominated (or “persuaded”, as it is so often recast). It is a delusion that is poisoning the minds of boys, creating a sense of grievance – and actual pain – where there should be none. For all the bullshit we hear from the Jordan Petersons of this world, there is no possible social arrangement in which men and boys can be guaranteed the willing, uncontested sexual and emotional labour of women and girls. You can brainwash, harass and threaten girls all you want, but even in the most extreme of circumstances they will carry on having minds of their own. It’s far easier and kinder to change the expectations of boys.

I believe this can be done, but not in a world which seeks to guilt-trip dead girls for their failure to pander to the male ego. And what, one wonders, would have happened had Shana Fisher said yes? How long can a woman serve as a buffer to absorb male disappointment with the world? And when she starts to flag, isn’t she always the first to go?

There is nothing Shana Fisher could have given that would have been enough. We can, however, challenge the rage and entitlement she faced. We can all raise our voices to echo her “no”.


A sinister tchotchke

May 21st, 2018 11:26 am | By



Words matter

May 21st, 2018 10:24 am | By

Me, yesterday morning, in the post titled It’s all because she said no:

The people in charge of news headlines and first paragraphs and the like really need to stop doing this:

Spurned advances provoked Texas school shooting, victim’s mother says

“She provoked me so I killed her and nine other people.”

Also? Simply saying no to a guy’s invitation or request is not “spurning” anything. It’s just not accepting an offer you don’t want. Women are allowed to do that. Women are allowed to say no. Women are allowed to say no without being killed or raped or beaten up or blamed for it. Women are not walking talking merchandise that is there for the use of other, more important people called “men” – women are themselves people, and they are allowed to determine for themselves whether they want to be friends or lovers with Mr X.

Occasional drive-by commenter Skeletor commenting on the post:

Ophelia, I’m not actually sure what your objection to the specific word “spurned” is. I thought maybe my understanding of the word was incorrect, so I looked it up, and the first definition (“to reject with disdain”) seems to fit the mother’s description of what happened.

In general, spurning is definitely a thing. I’d guess most people know someone who asked someone out and got laughed at or ridiculed.

To be absolutely clear, even the worst spurning does not justify a mass shooting. And this guy sounds like he had a spurning coming if he couldn’t take a polite no for an answer.

And I certainly agree with your sentiment that writers should be careful not to blame others for inciting the killer.

Phil Plait on Twitter yesterday afternoon:

This headline/tweet is literally blaming women for men killing them. Words matter. Phrasing matters. This headline twists agency into a topological nightmare of social injustice.

It’s not just me, ok? It’s not some funny eccentric womany quirk of mine to have seen that headline as obnoxiously blaming the murdered high school girl for having turned down a boy’s advances. Even manly science men can see it. And they’re right. Thank you Phil Plait.

Gorsuch declares one for the ruling class

May 21st, 2018 9:59 am | By

Sometimes the rage and disgust is overwhelming.

In a case involving the rights of tens of millions of private-sector employees, the U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, delivered a major blow to workers, ruling for the first time that workers may not band together to challenge violations of federal labor laws.

Writing for the majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch said that the 1925 Federal Arbitration Act trumps the National Labor Relations Act and that employees who sign employment agreements to arbitrate claims must do so on an individual basis — and may not band together to enforce claims of wage and hour violations.

5 to 4. Guess which 5 and which 4. Mitch McConnell should burn in hell.

“The policy may be debatable but the law is clear: Congress has instructed that arbitration agreements like those before us must be enforced as written,” Gorsuch writes. “While Congress is of course always free to amend this judgment, we see nothing suggesting it did so in the NLRA — much less that it manifested a clear intention to displace the Arbitration Act. Because we can easily read Congress’s statutes to work in harmony, that is where our duty lies.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the four dissenters, called the majority opinion “egregiously wrong.” She said the 1925 arbitration law came well before federal labor laws and should not cover these arm-twisted, “take-it-or-leave it” provisions that employers are now insisting on.

The inevitable result, she warned, is that there will be huge underenforcement of federal and state statutes designed to advance the well-being of workers.

“[T]he edict that employees with wage and hours claims may seek relief only one-by-one does not come from Congress,” Ginsburg writes. “It is the result of take-it-or-leave-it labor contracts harking back to the type called ‘yellow dog,’ and of the readiness of this Court to enforce those unbargained-for agreements. The FAA demands no such suppression of the right of workers to take concerted action for their ‘mutual aid or protection.'”

She urged Congress to correct the court’s elevation of the arbitration act over workers’ rights.

Please tell us more about why the white working class is so in love with Trump.

The ruling came in three cases — potentially involving tens of thousands of nonunion employees — brought against Ernst & Young LLP, Epic Systems Corp. and Murphy Oil USA Inc.

Each required its individual employees, as a condition of employment, to waive their rights to join a class-action suit. In all three cases, employees tried to sue together, maintaining that the amounts they could obtain in individual lawsuits were dwarfed by the legal fees they would have to pay as individuals to bring their cases under the private arbitration procedures required by the company.

The employees contended that their right to collective action is guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act. The employers countered that they are entitled to ban collective legal action under the Federal Arbitration Act, which was enacted in 1925 to reverse the judicial hostility to arbitration at the time.

The NLRA was a hugely important piece of the New Deal, and a piece that enraged the employer class. It was after the act was passed that the CIO was formed and then the auto industry was unionized (over resistance, often of the violent kind). It’s disgusting to see us take another huge step backwards.

A study by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute shows that 56 percent of nonunion private-sector employees are currently subject to mandatory individual arbitration procedures under the 1925 Federal Arbitration Act, which allows employers to bar collective legal actions by employees.

The court’s decision means that tens of millions of private nonunion employees will be barred from suing collectively over the terms of their employment.

Please tell us more about liberal “elites” and how it’s all their fault.

Whether there was any impropriety or political motivation

May 20th, 2018 4:17 pm | By

The DoJ is jumping because Donald said “jump.”

In a statement, the Department of Justice said it would ask the Inspector General “to expand the ongoing review of the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] application process to include determining whether there was any impropriety or political motivation in how the FBI conducted its counterintelligence investigation of persons suspected of involvement with the Russian agents who interfered in the 2016 presidential election.”

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein added that “if anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action.”

Or maybe it’s not so much jumping as allowing Trump to make a fool of himself, because there is no infiltration or surveillance to find.

Where past presidents have rarely tread

May 20th, 2018 1:11 pm | By

The Times tries to talk it down:

President Trump on Sunday demanded that the Justice Department open an investigation into whether the department or the F.B.I. “infiltrated or surveilled” his campaign at the behest of the Obama administration, following through on his frequent threats to use his own government to target his political opponents.

Mr. Trump made the order on Twitter during a day of public venting about the special counsel investigation, which he charged had turned up no evidence of collusion with Russia and was now casting a worldwide net so that it could harm Republicans’ chances in midterm congressional elections this fall.

But in ordering up a new inquiry, Mr. Trump went beyond his usual tactics of suggesting wrongdoing and political bias by those investigating him, and crossed over into applying overt presidential pressure on the Justice Department to do his bidding, an extraordinary realm where past presidents have rarely tread.

Rarely? Isn’t it more like never? Or never apart from Nixon? It’s kind of a third rail.

The president’s call came two weeks after he publicly expressed frustration with the Justice Department for failing to give Republican lawmakers documents they are seeking about the basis and findings of the special counsel investigation into whether the Trump campaign worked with the Russians to sway the 2016 election. The president said then that “at some point, I will have no choice but to use the powers granted to the Presidency and get involved!”

But those powers aren’t granted to the presidency.

Legal experts said Mr. Trump’s promise of intervention had little precedent, and could force a clash between the sitting president and his Justice Department that is reminiscent of the one surrounding Richard M. Nixon during Watergate, when a string of top officials there resigned rather than carry out Nixon’s order to fire a special prosecutor investigating him.

“I can’t think of a prior example of a sitting president ordering the Justice Department to conduct an investigation like this one,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law. “That’s little more than a transparent effort to undermine an ongoing investigation.”

Into himself.

If Mr. Trump were to follow through with the demand, Mr. Vladek added, “it seems to me that the recipients of such an order should resign — and that we’re heading for another Saturday Night Massacre.”

But a confrontation between Mr. Trump and his Justice Department over the order was not a certainty. It was not clear whether Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, or Mr. Rosenstein could refer the president’s demand to the department’s inspector general, who is already investigating surveillance of a Trump campaign aide, Carter Page. Such a step could defuse the current crisis and perhaps satisfy Mr. Trump.

We look forward to finding out.