Notes and Comment Blog

“If you’re too sorry or lazy”

Dec 11th, 2017 3:41 pm | By

Speaking of Alabama, and voting, and voting rights, and Shelby v Holder, and voting rights, and voting rights, and voting rights

This time last year, Alabama’s chief elections official landed in the national spotlight for delivering a screed against nonvoters that many people interpreted as an attack on African Americans in the state, who have long faced barriers to voting. “If you’re too sorry or lazy to get up off of your rear and to go register to vote, or to register electronically, and then to go vote, then you don’t deserve that privilege,” Republican John Merrill said in an interview with documentary filmmaker Brian Jenkins. Jenkins had asked why he opposed automatically registering Alabamians when they reach voting age, and his response sizzled with anger toward people who “think they deserve the right because they’ve turned 18.” So he made a pledge: “As long as I’m secretary of state of Alabama, you’re going to have to show some initiative to become a registered voter in this state.”

“If you’re too sorry or lazy to get up off of your rear”…yeah that’s about as clear a dog whistle as you could ask for. That’s not meant to conjure up a mental image of sorry lazy white people.

And he’s been doing what he promised, too.

When the votes are tallied Tuesday night, what won’t be counted is how many people might have voted if not for the restrictive voting laws in place in the state. In a close election, the actions of Merrill and the GOP could help elect Moore.

Well that’s the point, isn’t it. Exclude as many black people as possible and elect racist shitheads.

In recent years, Alabama Republicans have taken steps to protect their grip on power by making it harder for African Americans and Latinos to vote. They passed a law requiring voters to show a government-issued photo ID, a measure that has been found to disproportionately disenfranchise African Americans and Latinos, who are more likely to lack such an ID and face impediments to getting one. The ID law also applied to absentee voting, which is used by many elderly black voters in rural counties, who now must mail in copies of their photo IDs with their ballots. 

In rural counties, where there aren’t shops with copy machines on every corner – where, in fact, the nearest copy machine is probably a long drive away. That’ll block a lot of votes!

They reformed campaign finance laws to weaken the political organizations that mobilize African American voters. They closed 31 DMV offices across the state, disproportionately affecting rural majority-black counties.

Since Shelby v Holder Alabama has closed about 200 voting precincts, making it a bigger pain to vote in the ones that remain.

White supremacy isn’t dead yet.

Guest post: There has to be some slack in the system

Dec 11th, 2017 12:23 pm | By

Guest post by Maureen Brian, originally a comment on a Guardian piece about National Health Service funding problems.

First a bit from the Guardian piece by Bob Kerslake, for context:

I have this weekend decided to stand down from my role as chair of King’s College hospital, London.

This was not a decision that I took lightly. I love King’s and have the highest regard for the people who work there. But in the end I have concluded that the government and its regulator, NHS Improvement, are simply not facing up to the enormous challenges that the NHS is currently facing. This is especially true in London where the demands of a rapidly growing population are not being matched by the extra resources we need.

King’s is a big teaching hospital that serves a population of more than one million people in south-east London. It provides world-class services such as neurosciences, haematology, liver, diabetes and cardiovascular, where it is a centre of excellence. King’s is also one of four major trauma centres and played a key role in the response to the Westminster and London Bridge attacks and the fire at Grenfell Tower. But most of all, it is the local hospital to a diverse and often deprived community.

Maureen’s informed and informative comment:
No-one seems able to persuade politicians that all change costs money. Properly planned and researched change costs money – collecting data, planning the process, retraining staff, extra management time, etc – before it starts to happen. However good the idea was it is going to take time to implement and even more time to bed in and all that is costing all the time. As any fule no.

With something as vast and complex as the NHS we should be thinking of the whole process taking something like 10 years for a major change in management structures and lines of accountability. We are just about to move onto major change number 4 since the Tories came back in 2010! Drawn up by politicians, of course, on the back of the proverbial fag packet and with little or no consultation with the people doing the actual work.

Those people know that you cannot plan to the date and the hour when there will be black ice on a ten-mile stretch of motorway or a small outbreak of measles in Cardiff. There has to be some slack in the system. There has to be a system which allows the local hospital to call in a recently retired orthopaedic surgeon or to open up an extra ward and staff it within 24 hours.

Don’t get me wrong. I still believe the NHS is among the best in the world but it could be better if the medically qualified people did not spend half their lives pushing water up hill against the massed ranks of politicians and accountants.

Bob Kerslake is a good man. He did not do this lightly.

They have every right to speak up

Dec 11th, 2017 11:31 am | By

Oddly enough, the women who reported that Trump sexually assaulted them haven’t since then decided it was all a big fuss about nothing. They still wonder why the hell he was elected (sort of elected) anyway.

It was “heartbreaking” for women to go public with their claims against President Trump last year, only to see him ascend to the Oval Office, said Samantha Holvey, a former Miss USA contestant who in October 2016 said Trump inappropriately inspected pageant participants.

“I put myself out there for the entire world, and nobody cared,” Holvey said Monday on NBC’s “Megyn Kelly Today” show.

Not nobody – but for sure not enough to stop the pinchy-hand vulgarian.

During the television appearance and a news conference, Holvey sat alongside Jessica Leeds, a New York woman who said Trump groped her on a plane, and Rachel Crooks, who said he kissed her on the lips at Trump Tower, to renew their allegations against the president.

The women also called for Congress to investigate these allegations amid the dramatic shift happening nationwide in response to charges of sexual misconduct against men from Hollywood to Capitol Hill. Claims have erupted across industry after industry, against lawmakers and movie stars alike, as the country has shown a sudden, newfound willingness to take such accusations seriously.

I’d like to point out that some of us – feminists, mostly – took them seriously all along.

A day before the women spoke, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that women who have accused Trump “should be heard.”

Haley’s comments were a sharp break from the White House’s position, and they were particularly notable coming from one of the most high-profile women serving in Trump’s administration.

“They should be heard, and they should be dealt with,” Haley said when asked on CBS’s “Face the Nation” about the allegations other women have made against Trump. “And I think we heard from them before the election. And I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, on the other hand, simply repeated the White House assertion that they’re all lying.

Seldom, if ever

Dec 11th, 2017 10:57 am | By

Trump wants us to know that he doesn’t squander his valuable time watching tv. Instead he squanders it telling us he doesn’t squander it watching tv.

Cool story, but the Post rudely points out that the timing doesn’t back him up.

President Trump tweeted on Monday morning that he does not watch as much television as a recent New York Times report claimed, adding that he “seldom, if ever,” tunes in to CNN or MSNBC.

The tweet posted just 28 minutes after MSNBC wrapped up a segment about the Times report and 30 minutes after CNN did the same.

I guess he thought the 28 minutes would be enough to throw us off the scent.

The timing could be a coincidence. Or it could mean that Trump was doing the very thing he denied — watching CNN and MSNBC — shortly before he tweeted.

Short time?! It was 28 minutes! Long long time, no possible connection between the two.

One of the Times journalists who reported the story, Peter Baker, appeared on “Morning Joe” on Monday to discuss the president’s TV habit.

“He likes this jolt of television he doesn’t agree with,” Baker said of Trump…

Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio appeared on CNN around the same time that Baker was on MSNBC and said that “people who have been around the president for any real period of time know that he is a television addict. He’s probably watching us right now.”

Image result for waving

What’s one more child molester in the Senate?

Dec 11th, 2017 9:49 am | By

Evangelicals have some very odd priorities.

Penny Young Nance, CEO of the evangelical group Concerned Women for America, told NPR on Monday that the most important issue in the Alabama Senate race is Democratic candidate Doug Jones’ support of abortion, and not whether Republican candidate Roy Moore is a pedophile.

I realize that evangelicals have decided to pretend to think that a fertilized egg is a thinking feeling planning hoping human being as opposed to a process that will become a thinking feeling planning hoping human being, but still. It seems pretty odd to be that indifferent to the well-being of thinking feeling planning hoping young girls.

NPR’s Steve Inskeep asked Nance on Monday if Moore is “worthy of being in the Senate” after eight women came forward to accuse Moore of sexual misconduct when they were as young as 14.

“That’s a question for the people of Alabama,” Nance opined. “Unfortunately, the Democrats could have won this handily if they had been willing to put forward a pro-life Democrat.”

If only the Democrats had been willing to force women to continue unwanted pregnancies, they could have had that fun trip to Disneyland, but no, they had to go and spoil it.


Dec 10th, 2017 5:36 pm | By

In Goteborg last night:

Three people have been arrested for allegedly throwing firebombs at a synagogue in the Swedish city of Goteborg, the second anti-Jewish attack in the Nordic nation in two days. Jewish groups condemned the attacks as “unconscionable” and demanded that authorities take action.

The attack took place after some 200 people rallied late Friday in the southern city of Malmo, yelling anti-Jewish slogans and waving Palestinian flags to protest U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Nice work, Don.

On Saturday, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom tweeted that those who called for Jews to be killed did something “totally unacceptable.”

The European Jewish Congress said Sunday it was “unconscionable that Jews are under attack on the streets of Europe” and urged Swedish and other European governments to take “strong punitive action” against perpetrators.

Don’t worry, nice Mr Trump will fix everything.

The MAN who

Dec 10th, 2017 12:04 pm | By

Oh will you look at that now.

The MAN who took down WEINSTEIN the headline shouts.

It’s in the Times, the one in London, the one Murdoch owns.

The one in New York, the one Murdoch does not own, broke the story before Ronan Farrow did. Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey broke the story, after months of investigation. All three of them took down Weinstein.

There were at least 10 billion people there

Dec 10th, 2017 10:40 am | By

Meanwhile Trump is still frantically rubbing his narcissism in full public view.

President Trump on Saturday called for a Washington Post reporter to be fired over a misleading tweet about the size of the crowd at a rally for the president on Friday in Pensacola, Fla.

The reporter, Dave Weigel, posted a picture of an arena with many empty seats. He deleted the tweet after learning that the venue had not yet filled up.

On Saturday night, the president posted a screenshot of Mr. Weigel’s tweet and other photos that showed a crowded arena. “Demand apology & retraction from FAKE NEWS WaPo!” he wrote.

But it was a tweet – not an article in the Post, a tweet.

The president of the US, whining on Twitter about one guy posting one tweet. The president of the US, targeting one guy on Twitter for mass harassment. What will he do next, start throwing toddlers into federal prison for sucking their thumbs?

Trump demanded an apology and got it.

Trump responded by saying he should be fired.

Fired from his job for a personal tweet.

I guess before long it will be a capital crime to say Trump’s audience was very very very very small?

Mr. Trump’s outburst on Saturday was not the first time he had expressed anger at the news media for its coverage of attendance at his rallies and other events.

After taking office in January, he accused journalists of deliberately understating the size of the crowd at his inauguration and said that up to 1.5 million people were in attendance, a claim that photographs disproved. Analyses of news footage showed that fewer people attended Mr. Trump’s inauguration than President Barack Obama’s in 2009.

Don’t ever say Trump has a tiny audience.

Image result for nuremberg rally

A more lenient approach

Dec 10th, 2017 10:17 am | By

An important part of making the rich richer, of course, is doing away with all those pesky regulations on pollution and the environment and stupid liberal crap like that.

Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. administrator, has said the Trump administration’s high-profile regulatory rollback does not mean a free pass for violators of environmental laws. But as the Trump administration moves from one attention-grabbing headline to the next, it has taken a significant but less-noticed turn in the enforcement of federal pollution laws.

An analysis of enforcement data by The New York Times shows that the administration has adopted a more lenient approach than the previous two administrations — Democratic and Republican — toward polluters…

The Times built a database of civil cases filed at the E.P.A. during the Trump, Obama and Bush administrations. During the first nine months under Mr. Pruitt’s leadership, the E.P.A. started about 1,900 cases, about one-third fewer than the number under President Barack Obama’s first E.P.A. director and about one-quarter fewer than under President George W. Bush’s over the same time period.

The fines were significantly smaller too. Making companies fix the problem? Also down.

The E.P.A., turning to one of its most powerful enforcement tools, also can force companies to retrofit their factories to cut pollution. Under Mr. Trump, those demands have dropped sharply. The agency has demanded about $1.2 billion worth of such fixes, known as injunctive relief, in cases initiated during the nine-month period, which, adjusted for inflation, is about 12 percent of what was sought under Mr. Obama and 48 percent under Mr. Bush.

New policies – elections have consequences ya know! Including elections in which the winner actually lost the popular vote by almost 3 million. Great system we have.

Confidential internal E.P.A. documents show that the enforcement slowdown coincides with major policy changes ordered by Mr. Pruitt’s team after pleas from oil and gas industry executives.

The documents, which were reviewed by The Times, indicate that E.P.A. enforcement officers across the country no longer have the authority to order certain air and water pollution tests, known as requests for information, without receiving permission from Washington. The tests are essential to building a case against polluters, the equivalent of the radar gun for state highway troopers.

At at least two of the agency’s most aggressive regional offices, requests for information involving companies suspected of polluting have fallen significantly under Mr. Trump, according to internal E.P.A. data.

In the last two complete fiscal years of the Obama administration, the E.P.A.’s office in Chicago sent requests for testing that covered an average of 50 facilities per year, or about 4.2 each month. By comparison, after the policy changes, one such request for a single facility was made in the subsequent four-month period. There was a similar decline in the Denver regional office, according to the data.

Oh well, who needs clean air or safe drinking water. Let them drink Diet Coke.

The march to zero

Dec 10th, 2017 9:53 am | By

The cover story is that cutting taxes on the rich will cause an explosion of prosperity and profits and productive investment that will almost instantly flood down to the workers and make them rich and happy and patriotic.

That, of course, is just the cover story. The real reason for cutting taxes on the rich is that it diverts more money to rich people, making them even richer. The end. That’s the goal, that’s the glorious project, that’s what they want – ever-richer rich people, period.

Meanwhile, Kansas offers a snapshot of what actually happens when Republicans slash taxes on the rich.

After a failed economic experiment meant to boost economic growth blew a hole in the Kansas budget as big as a prairie sky (a $350m deficit in the current fiscal year and nearly $600m in the next) state jobs and services have been slashed.

Prisons are badly overcrowded and understaffed.

Next year, the state faces a school shutdown after the supreme court found its educational spending was unconstitutionally low. Some of those schools have already had to shorten the school year in order to save cash.

To make ends meet, money that was earmarked for roads has been diverted to the general fund. A state that used to maintain 1,200 miles of road a year is now repairing 200 miles a year. Even in the capital, Topeka, potholes are everywhere.

The crisis follows the 2012 passage of a tax plan by Kansas governor Sam Brownback that he dubbed “the march to zero”.

He said it would give a big healthy jolt to the economy, but the jolt turned out to be the sickly kind.

Instead, the state’s revenues collapsed. Rich people who had been paying high taxes became “pass-through entities”. The state’s coffers emptied and the promised economic miracle failed to materialize.

Lisa Ochs, president of the American Federation of Teachers-Kansas, said Brownback’s plan is a scale model of Trump’s plans. He, too, intends to cut taxes for businesses and give big breaks to the rich in a plan he says will provide “rocket fuel” for the American economy.

“There never was a shot of adrenaline. If anything, that shot put the state on life support,” she said. “It’s the same thing that Trump is saying: there’s going to be tremendous job growth. Well, that didn’t happen either. It’s going to take an entire generation to undo this damage.”

Whatever; the point is, rich people will be richer! That’s the goal; that’s what matters.

Sarah LaFrenz Falk, president of the Kansas Organization of State Employees ,who recently spoke to Congress about her fears about the Republican tax plan, said she sees an agenda in the Brownback plan – one that is mirrored in Trump’s plan: give huge tax breaks to super-rich donors [the rightwing, union-bashing Koch brothers are Kansas’s richest residents], then hand them a second win by cutting services, waiting for those services to buckle under the strain and then argue the private sector can do it better.

More profits! More $$$ for rich people! More badly-paid jobs for poor people! More poverty, more crime, more for-profit prisons, more $$$ for rich people. Utopia here we come.

Very big phrases, very big words

Dec 9th, 2017 4:46 pm | By

He really did say it. Go to 2:20 and see for yourself; he really said it. “That’s big stuff. That’s big stuff. Those are very big phrases, very big words.”

He’d just gotten through saying them – oppression, cruelty, injustice, inflicted – and he managed it without stumbling. Ooooooh Mommy I said the big big words.

It should have been John Lewis. John Lewis stayed away because Trump was there – so instead of John Lewis who actually understands and feels the words because he lived them, they got Trump who thinks they’re meaningless, and couldn’t care less.

Editing to add a photo from March 2015:

Image result for obama edmund pettus bridge

Meanwhile backstage

Dec 9th, 2017 12:53 pm | By

Who wanted to grab some of that Bears Ears land?

A uranium company launched a concerted lobbying campaign to scale back Bears Ears National Monument, saying such action would give it easier access to the area’s uranium deposits and help it operate a nearby processing mill, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and top Utah Republicans have said repeatedly that questions of mining or drilling played no role in President Trump’s announcement Monday that he was cutting the site by more than 1.1 million acres, or 85 percent.

No role, no role at all, it was a matter of principle.

“This is not about energy,” Zinke told reporters Tuesday. “There is no mine within Bears Ears.”

But the nation’s sole uranium processing mill sits directly next to the boundaries that President Barack Obama designated a year ago when he established Bears Ears. The documents show that Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc., a subsidiary of a Canadian firm, urged the Trump administration to limit the monument to the smallest size needed to protect key objects and areas, such as archaeological sites, to make it easier to access the radioactive ore.

And hey, a uranium mine or two never hurt anybody, right?

The idea of uranium mining is particularly sensitive among members of the Navajo Nation, who have a reservation near Bears Ears and played a key role in pressing for its creation. More than 500 uranium mines have been left near or on their lands, and most of these designated Superfund sites have not been cleaned up. Contamination still affects drinking-water wells, springs and storage tanks.

Navajo Nation Council delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty, who represents several communities near Bears Ears, said Friday that the nation opposes any additional uranium development. “We felt the full brunt of uranium contamination and lost a whole generation of men who were mining or milling uranium,” she said.

Oh. Well, maybe if Trump makes enough Pocahontas jokes that will all just blow over.

Truth is in the bubble

Dec 9th, 2017 12:35 pm | By

And then – more from the Times piece – there’s Trump’s way of evaluating fact claims.

In almost all the interviews, Mr. Trump’s associates raised questions about his capacity and willingness to differentiate bad information from something that is true.

Monitoring his information consumption — and countering what Mr. Kelly calls “garbage” peddled to him by outsiders — remains a priority for the chief of staff and the team he has made his own. Even after a year of official briefings and access to the best minds of the federal government, Mr. Trump is skeptical of anything that does not come from inside his bubble.

The hardcore Trumpists of course think that’s a good thing. His bubble is the best bubble, the only true bubble, the MAGA bubble, the swamp-draining bubble.

Other aides bemoan his tenuous grasp of facts, jack-rabbit attention span and propensity for conspiracy theories.

Or, to put it another way, they bemoan his profound stupidity, his ignorance, his childish frivolity…as well they might.

Jeanine Pirro, whose Fox News show is a presidential favorite, recently asked to meet about a deal approved while Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state that gave Russia control over some American uranium, which lately has become a favorite focus of conservatives.

Mr. Trump, Mr. Kelly and Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, met for more than an hour on Nov. 1 as Ms. Pirro whipped up the president against Mr. Mueller and accused James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, of employing tactics typically reserved for Mafia cases, according to a person briefed on the meeting.

The president became visibly agitated as she spoke.

That’s disgusting – a Fox News hack telling lies about Comey to a credulous childish president.

Mr. Trump is an avid newspaper reader who still marks up a half-dozen papers with comments in black Sharpie pen, but Mr. Bannon has told allies that Mr. Trump only “reads to reinforce.” Mr. Trump’s insistence on defining his own reality — his repeated claims, for example, that he actually won the popular vote — is immutable and has had a “numbing effect” on people who work with him, said Tony Schwartz, his ghostwriter on “The Art of the Deal.”

“He wears you down,” Mr. Schwartz said.

Indeed he does. Everyone I know is worn down.

Trains trains and trains

Dec 9th, 2017 12:10 pm | By

This is an ad (aka advert) but it’s a scenic ad full of Seattle and Seattle-area goodness plus trains so I like it. It includes those neon-green fuselages I’ve mentioned I frequently see rolling past.

H/t Dave Ricks

He dominates the landscape like no other

Dec 9th, 2017 11:34 am | By

Another huge Times piece – Maggie Haberman, Glenn Thrush, and Peter Baker on day-to-day Trump.

As he ends his first year in office, Mr. Trump is redefining what it means to be president. He sees the highest office in the land much as he did the night of his stunning victory over Hillary Clinton — as a prize he must fight to protect every waking moment, and Twitter is his Excalibur. Despite all his bluster, he views himself less as a titan dominating the world stage than a maligned outsider engaged in a struggle to be taken seriously, according to interviews with 60 advisers, associates, friends and members of Congress.

Interesting. He’s right about that – he is a maligned outsider. But why? Sure, it’s always been partly because he’s a vulgar upstart from Queens, despised by snobs from the Upper East Side…but it’s only partly been that, and that part keeps steadily shrinking as it’s displaced by much less invidious reasons. If he were a vulgar upstart from Queens with a passion for justice and a good heart and a lifelong thirst for learning, he wouldn’t be a maligned outsider now. He gives us all a superfluity of reasons to hate him and want to keep him at a distance in the way he treats people. His hateful mean bullying tweets are enough reason all by themselves for us to see him as a bad, poisonous, cruel man who should be nowhere near any levers of power.

Before taking office, Mr. Trump told top aides to think of each presidential day as an episode in a television show in which he vanquishes rivals. People close to him estimate that Mr. Trump spends at least four hours a day, and sometimes as much as twice that, in front of a television, sometimes with the volume muted, marinating in the no-holds-barred wars of cable news and eager to fire back.

“He feels like there’s an effort to undermine his election and that collusion allegations are unfounded,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina who has spent more time with the president than most lawmakers. “He believes passionately that the liberal left and the media are out to destroy him. The way he got here is fighting back and counterpunching.”

Again – he’s not wrong that we want to at least get him out of office. What he’s probably wrong about is why we want that.

His approach got him to the White House, Mr. Trump reasons, so it must be the right one. He is more unpopular than any of his modern predecessors at this point in his tenure — just 32 percent approved of his performance in the latest Pew Research Center poll — yet he dominates the landscape like no other.

He does – he dominates it by the sheer horror of his character and behavior.

The ammunition for his Twitter war is television. No one touches the remote control except Mr. Trump and the technical support staff — at least that’s the rule. During meetings, the 60-inch screen mounted in the dining room may be muted, but Mr. Trump keeps an eye on scrolling headlines. What he misses he checks out later on what he calls his “Super TiVo,” a state-of-the-art system that records cable news.

Watching cable, he shares thoughts with anyone in the room, even the household staff he summons via a button for lunch or one of the dozen Diet Cokes he consumes each day.

But he is leery of being seen as tube-glued — a perception that reinforces the criticism that he is not taking the job seriously. On his recent trip to Asia, the president was told of a list of 51 fact-checking questions for this article, including one about his prodigious television watching habits. Instead of responding through an aide, he delivered a broadside on his viewing habits to befuddled reporters from other outlets on Air Force One heading to Vietnam.

“I do not watch much television,” he insisted. “I know they like to say — people that don’t know me — they like to say I watch television. People with fake sources — you know, fake reporters, fake sources. But I don’t get to watch much television, primarily because of documents. I’m reading documents a lot.”

Sure. Four to eight hours a day isn’t much, especially for a president.

Mr. Trump’s difficult adjustment to the presidency, people close to him say, is rooted in an unrealistic expectation of its powers, which he had assumed to be more akin to the popular image of imperial command than the sloppy reality of having to coexist with two other branches of government.

So he bossed everyone around like the bully he is, and you’ll never guess what happened next.

During his early months in office, he barked commands at senators, which did not go over well. “I don’t work for you, Mr. President,” Mr. Corker once snapped back, according to a Republican with knowledge of the exchange.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader, likewise bristled when Mr. Trump cut in during methodical presentations in the Oval Office. “Don’t interrupt me,” Mr. McConnell told the president during a discussion of health care.

Imagine how galling it must be for people who’ve been doing this work for decades to have Mr Real Estate Tycoon bounce in and tell them how to do it. (Do I think it serves McConnell right? Oh, yes.)

“At first, there was a thread of being an impostor that may have been in his mind,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, who has tried to forge a working relationship with the president.

“He’s overcome that by now,” she said. “The bigger problem, the thing people need to understand, is that he was utterly unprepared for this. It would be like you or me going into a room and being asked to perform brain surgery. When you have a lack of knowledge as great as his, it can be bewildering.”

Yes of course, which is why he never should have done it.

Big stuff

Dec 9th, 2017 10:40 am | By

Trump went to Jackson. Trump read the words they wrote for him, and then added his own, more stupid ones.

In his remarks to assembled guests, Trump said: “The civil rights museum records the oppression, cruelty and injustice inflicted on the African-American community, the fight to bring down Jim Crow and end segregation, to gain the right to vote and to achieve the sacred birthright of equality.”

He said: “And it’s big stuff. That’s big stuff.”

Uh uh uh, big stuff, uh uh.

He doesn’t, of course, mean a word of the first paragraph. He likes the oppression, cruelty and injustice inflicted on the African-American community, and has done what he can to add to it. He has no quarrel with Jim Crow, he likes segregation, he’s doing his best to take away the right to vote, and he doesn’t for one second believe in the sacred birthright of equality.

That’s why he shouldn’t have gone. The governor shouldn’t have asked him and he shouldn’t have gone. His vulgar addendum to the speech they wrote for him only underlines that.

Punishable beliefs

Dec 8th, 2017 3:30 pm | By

Sometimes, I hear, people get reported to their employers for “transphobia” – but what exactly is “transphobia”? And why is it reportable? People don’t get reported to employers for misogyny do they? Not that I ever heard of. There has to be an action. People get reported for sexual harassment, but not for misogyny.

So, puzzling over these ambiguities, I hit the Google machine and found the Cambridge Student Union explanation of what transphobia is.

Transphobia has been defined by the Crown Prosecution Service as “the fear of or a dislike directed towards trans people, or a fear of or dislike directed towards their perceived lifestyle, culture or characteristics, whether or not any specific trans person has that lifestyle or characteristic. The dislike does not have to be so severe as hatred. It is enough that people do something or abstain from doing something because they do not like trans people.”

I still don’t see why that’s something that can be reported to an employer. It describes what’s in people’s heads as opposed to what they do, and how can the contents of our heads be reportable to employers?

As with all other prejudices, transphobia is based on misconceptions and negative stereotypes about a group of people (in this case the trans community or those who are perceived to be trans) that are used to “justify” discrimination, harassment and even hate crimes.

That may be, but that still doesn’t make it reportable in the absence of any action.

But don’t worry, they go on to give examples.

The following are a few examples of transphobic attitudes:

  • The belief/insistence that trans women are not “real women”
  • The belief/insistence that trans men are not “real” men
  • The belief/insistence that non-binary genders are invalid
  • The belief/insistence that transsexual people are gay people in denial and wish to have sex reassignment surgery to attempt to restore ‘heteronormativity’

So it really is a matter of making “beliefs” subject to reporting and presumably sanctions.

What makes that worse is the extreme poverty and flimsiness of ‘not “real women”’ and ‘not “real” men’ and ‘non-binary genders are invalid.’ That’s a caricature of the subject which skips over all the important questions, which are questions which we should all be allowed to ask and discuss. They should not be treated like red-hot stove burners that no one should go near, much less something that should get people punished or fired.

That’s just Harvey being Harvey

Dec 8th, 2017 11:29 am | By

The Times ran an immense piece Tuesday (really immense, it goes on for pages in the hard copy) on Harvey Weinstein’s complicity machine. Jaw-droppers abound. He had an elaborate web of people who threatened harm to any woman who dared try to report what he did to her. He befriended people high up in the Sleaze Media, who would pour sleaze on Weinstein’s victims. It’s bottomlessly disgusting.

Executives at Mr. Weinstein’s film companies who learned of allegations rarely took a stand, cowed by their volatile boss or worried about their careers. His brother and partner, Bob, participated in payoffs to women as far back as 1990. Some low-level assistants were pulled in: They compiled “bibles” that included hints on facilitating encounters with women, and were required to procure his penile injections for erectile dysfunction. His lawyers crafted settlements that kept the truth from being explored, much less exposed.

Emphasis added. His assistants had to both pimp for him and make sure his dick was in working order.

Agents and managers across Hollywood, who wanted in on Mr. Weinstein’s star-making films, sent actresses to meet him alone at hotels and advised them to stay quiet when things went wrong. “That’s just Harvey being Harvey,” more than one agent told a client. At C.A.A., for example, at least eight talent agents were told that Mr. Weinstein had harassed or menaced female clients, but agents there continued to arrange private meetings.

Agents there continued to pimp for him without the knowledge or consent of the women they were sending to Weinstein’s hotel room.

The studio chief once paid a gossip writer to collect juicy celebrity tidbits that Mr. Weinstein could use to barter if other reporters stumbled onto an affair he was trying to keep quiet.

That right there. That’s just one quiet sentence in the middle of a paragraph – and it’s a horror. A studio chief paid someone to provide Weinstein with blackmail material.

He was so close to David J. Pecker, the chief executive of American Media Inc., which owns The Enquirer, that he was known in the tabloid industry as an untouchable “F.O.P.,” or “friend of Pecker.” That status was shared by a chosen few, including President Trump.

The Enquirer – the filthy supermarket rag. The Enquirer buddies up with Weinstein and Trump. Rich abusive sexist cruel men get special protection from the supermarket rag, while people without those flaws are fair game.

Minutes before The New York Times published the first allegations about Mr. Weinstein this fall, he called the reporters who wrote it. Swinging between flattery and threats, he said that he had ways of knowing who had cooperated with the investigation and the means to undermine it.

“I am a man who has great resources,” he warned.

That’s one installment of jaw-droppers. There are a lot more.

Bannon the shameless

Dec 8th, 2017 10:24 am | By

Bannon campaigning for – of course – Roy Moore a couple of days ago:

“Judge Roy Moore has more honor and integrity in that pinkie finger than your entire family has in its whole DNA,” Bannon said in his 30-minute speech at Oak Hollow Farm. “You hid behind your religion. You went to France to be a missionary while guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam. Do not talk to me about honor and integrity,” he said, referencing Romney’s Mormon faith.

What? What?

I saw the clip on the news that evening, and was duly amazed. “While guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam”? Really? Did he simply forget that he worked for President Bone Spurs? Who stayed in New York to be a sleazy real estate tycoon while guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam?

Well he did say “Do not talk to me about honor and integrity.” Indeed.

Even though we had slavery

Dec 8th, 2017 9:41 am | By

Roy Moore has a history of running his mouth.

In 2005, Moore was interviewed by journalist Bill Press. During that interview, he argued that homosexuality should be illegal.

“Homosexual conduct should be illegal, yes,” he told Press when asked about his views on a contemporaneous Supreme Court decision. At the time, nearly half the country agreed; his campaign has not clarified whether he still holds this position.

But grown men perving on 14-year-old girls – that’s just fine. Fresh meat is the best, am I right?

A year ago, after Donald Trump’s election, Moore was askedat an event whether he believed that Obama was born in the United States.

“My personal belief is that he wasn’t,” Moore replied, “but that’s probably over and done in a few days, unless we get something else to come along.”

But what is the source of a “personal belief” of that kind? The location of Obama’s birth is a straightforward factual matter, not a fuzzy opinion-based metaphysical view. It’s a yes or no, here or there; it’s not ambiguous. There are official records that state where he was born; “belief” doesn’t come into it, personal or impersonal.

No, the only reason to claim to have a “personal belief” that Obama wasn’t born in the US is malice of the racist variety. It’s both anti-rational and racist; win-win.

In August of this year, Moore was interviewed by the Guardian. CNN excerpted part of the discussion.

The interviewer noted that Ronald Reagan once said that the Soviet Union was the focus of evil in the modern world.

“You could say that very well about America, couldn’t you?” Moore replied.

“Do you think?” the interviewer replied.

“Well, we promote a lot of bad things,” Moore said. Asked for an example, Moore replied, “Like same-sex marriage.” It was Moore’s refusal to uphold the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage that led to his second ouster from Alabama’s court.

That’s a moral black hole right there; no light can escape. He thinks sex between consenting adults is “the focus of evil” and sexual creeping by an adult male on pubescent children is A-ok. And he’s a judge. He apparently has no sensitivity to the question of harm, and is guided only by his own internal Squick dial.

In September, Moore held a rally in Florence, Ala. One of the members of the audience, an African American, asked Moore when he thought America was last great.

“I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another,” Moore replied, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Our families were strong, our country had a direction.”

Well…mind you…slave families were not always united. Slave owners had a nasty habit of selling individual slaves away from their families.

When these comments resurfaced this week, many people noted that, in 2002, Republican Senate leader Trent Lott had made comments looking back favorably at the segregated South — which ended up costing him his position. Moore was looking back further, to a time before the Civil War, expressing that America was last great at a time when black people were enslaved.

Well he said even though. Be fair.

At Moore’s rally in Florence, he made other racially insensitive comments.

“Racially insensitive” is mediaese for “racist.”

“We were torn apart in the Civil War — brother against brother, North against South, party against party,” he said. “What changed?”

“Now we have blacks and whites fighting, reds and yellows fighting, Democrats and Republicans fighting, men and women fighting,” he continued. “What’s going to unite us? What’s going to bring us back together? A president? A Congress? No. It’s going to be God.”

Roy Moore’s god? Nope, that’s not going to work.

But he’ll probably be elected to the Senate next week.