Notes and Comment Blog


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Dec 12th, 2016 4:56 pm | By

The Triumph of the Will tour is still going on. He’s blowing off his intelligence briefings in favor of holding more fascist rallies. He’s doing four this week. He stole the election, he’s going to be president, yet he’s still whipping up the crowds.

Heil Trump.



What to do with that horrifying knowledge

Dec 12th, 2016 4:28 pm | By

Paul Krugman on what an illegitimate election this was.

The C.I.A., according to The Washington Post, has now determined that hackers working for the Russian government worked to tilt the 2016 election to Donald Trump. This has actually been obvious for months, but the agency was reluctant to state that conclusion before the election out of fear that it would be seen as taking a political role.

Meanwhile, the F.B.I. went public 10 days before the election, dominating headlines and TV coverage across the country with a letter strongly implying that it might be about to find damning new evidence against Hillary Clinton — when it turned out, literally, to have found nothing at all.

Did the combination of Russian and F.B.I. intervention swing the election? Yes. Mrs. Clinton lost three states – Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania – by less than a percentage point, and Florida by only slightly more. If she had won any three of those states, she would be president-elect. Is there any reasonable doubt that Putin/Comey made the difference?

So this was a tainted election. It was not, as far as we can tell, stolen in the sense that votes were counted wrong, and the result won’t be overturned. But the result was nonetheless illegitimate in important ways; the victor was rejected by the public, and won the Electoral College only thanks to foreign intervention and grotesquely inappropriate, partisan behavior on the part of domestic law enforcement.

The question now is what to do with that horrifying knowledge in the months and years ahead.

It is. Most of the people I know are trying desperately to figure out an answer, with little success.

Krugman notes that the response of many in the news media is to try to normalize it.

This might — might — be justified if there were any prospect of responsible, restrained behavior on the part of the next president. In reality, however, it’s clear that Mr. Trump — whose personal conflicts of interest are unprecedented, and quite possibly unconstitutional — intends to move U.S. policy radically away from the preferences of most Americans, including a pronounced pro-Russian shift in foreign policy.

In other words, nothing that happened on Election Day or is happening now is normal. Democratic norms have been and continue to be violated, and anyone who refuses to acknowledge this reality is, in effect, complicit in the degradation of our republic. This president will have a lot of legal authority, which must be respected. But beyond that, nothing: he doesn’t deserve deference, he doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Not normalizing it is one thing to do with the horrifying knowledge. Trump makes that unpleasantly easy by acting like such a terrible human being at all times.



The gross normalization of genocidal language

Dec 12th, 2016 3:34 pm | By

Shaun King at the Daily News (sorry) has more on Allen West and Trump.

The Facebook post evidently wasn’t a problem for President-elect Donald Trump.

West — who previously met with Vice President-elect Mike Pence and a team of Trump’s top national security appointees — visited Trump Tower on Monday for additional meetings.

Of course it wasn’t a problem. Trump isn’t “politically correct.” That’s all we need to know about such things. It’s “politically correct” to refrain from saying Muslims should be exterminated. It’s “politically correct” to look askance at people who say Muslims should be exterminated. It’s bravely defiant and un”politically correct” to do such things and to reward others who do them.

Even if Allen West did not post the graphic, his staff posted it because they apparently thought it accurately represented his views. Not only that, but it was an immensely popular post. Before Facebook deleted it, it was shared 10,000 times and liked nearly 50,000 times. In other words, the message of Trump hiring “Mad Dog” Mattis to exterminate Muslims was a popular one with West’s audience.

What we have here is the gross normalization of genocidal language and threats. Before genocide itself ever begins somewhere, what must first happen is the casual public conversation about it to normalize what is truly being said. Of course, everything about this election and this time that we are living in is immensely different, but what is happening right now with the statement made from Allen West’s Facebook page, and Trump’s public embracing of him, is a dangerous degradation. We should all be deeply troubled.

I am. That’s why I can’t shut up about Trump for a single day, and why he’s distracting me from almost every other subject. I think we’re tumbling into a disaster, and we should at least register our protest, and record the stops along the way.



The E word

Dec 12th, 2016 3:18 pm | By

This appeared on Facebook:

FIRED BY OBAMA TO PLEASE THE MUSLIMS

[Mad Dog Mattis]

HIRED BY TRUMP TO EXTERMINATE THEM

If you go to Allen West’s Facebook page to see it, as I did, you won’t find it. You’ll find nasty stuff, but not that. Instead you’ll find an explanation of why it’s gone:

Message to our followers: Hello everyone. This is Michele Hickford, Editor-in-Chief of allenbwest.com.

On Friday night, without Allen West’s knowledge or consent, a meme was posted to this Facebook page which was reprehensible in its message.

As editor in chief, I must take full responsibility for this, although I was not the one who posted it, and it was posted without my knowledge. I neither condone nor support the message included in the meme.

This meme was not created by me or any of our writers. It was reposted from another source.

The image has been removed. Its message was despicable, offensive to many, and a terrible error in judgement by the person who posted it. Furthermore, it does not reflect Col. West’s beliefs, principles and values.

I (Michele Hickford) am deeply sorry for the distress this has caused so many people.

I suppose it was the part about extermination they decided was too much. People aren’t ready for that yet.

Who is Allen West? A retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, a one-term Republican congressional representative from Florida, a Fox News commentator. He’s been meeting with Trump.



McConnell gives in

Dec 12th, 2016 10:31 am | By

Mitch McConnell has stopped trying to block the investigation into Russia’s interference with the election.

Mr. McConnell, a senator from Kentucky, backed an investigation on Monday into United States intelligence conclusions that Russia tried to get Mr. Trump elected through tampering and hacking.

Mr. McConnell faced bipartisan pressure, led by Senator McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida.

And Mr. McConnell talked tough.

“The Russians are not our friends,” he said.

Mr. McConnell said he wanted the Senate Intelligence Committee to lead the efforts. Senator Richard Burr, Republican of North Carolina and a vocal supporter of Mr. Trump’s, is that committee’s chairman. But Mr. McConnell welcomed the involvement of Mr. McCain, who is pressing for an investigation of his own.

Meanwhile Trump is of course blowing smoke on Twitter.

The Times is scathing.

That second tweet is a head scratcher. The United States government formally accused Russia of trying to sow discord in the democratic process through its hacking in early October. It stopped short of saying the goal was to elect Mr. Trump.

And forensic analysis does allow experts to trace the source of a hack.

McCain weighs in.

Mr. McCain said on Monday that there was “no doubt about the hacking” by Russian intelligence services into Democratic campaign accounts, which he called “another form of warfare.”

Appearing on “CBS This Morning” with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the next minority leader, Mr. McCain said the wide-ranging investigation of Russian meddling in the election would include his committee as well as the Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees.

He said a Senate investigation would be necessary despite President Obama having already ordered up an inquiry, as that one would not be completed before the end of the Obama administration. The implication was that the new Trump administration would not follow through.

Because the new Trump administration will be compromised and tainted from the start. We’re not talking blow jobs from interns here.

And finally the Times ends this Transition Update with a joke.

Speaking of roles, the former Texas governor, Rick Perry, who wanted to eliminate the Department of Energy but could not remember its name on live television, has emerged as a leading candidate for energy secretary.

Although Texas is rich in energy and Mr. Perry is big on extracting it, he cannot afford too many “oops moments” if he is named to that post. The Energy Department’s primary role is to design nuclear weapons and ensure the safety and reliability of the nation’s aging nuclear arsenal — through a constellation of scientific laboratories. The two men who served as President Obama’s energy secretaries were scientists, one with a Nobel Prize, the other from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Trump does love his jokes.



Down with personhood

Dec 12th, 2016 9:22 am | By

But never mind WW3, never mind food and medicine, never mind global warming, never mind the minimum wage – how about that political correctness, huh? Like TIME magazine? “Person” of the year? Am I right? For years it was “Man of the Year.” It should obviously just stay that, right? Am I right?



The downside of electing an imbecile

Dec 12th, 2016 8:46 am | By

There’s just nothing quite as exhilarating as having a complete novice and intentional ignoramus elected president so that he can amble around provoking war with tiny weak little countries like China.

President-elect Donald J. Trump, defending his recent phone call with Taiwan’s president, asserted in an interview broadcast on Sunday that the United States was not bound by the One China policy, the 44-year diplomatic understanding that underpins America’s relationship with its biggest rival.

Mr. Trump, speaking on Fox News, said he understood the principle of a single China that includes Taiwan, but declared, “I don’t know why we have to be bound by a One China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade.”

He doesn’t know, which is not surprising since he doesn’t know anything, but then his way of dealing with his lack of knowledge leaves a lot to be desired. Musing about it on Fox News in wording that sounds exactly like a threat is not ideal.

A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Monday that the government had “serious concern” about Mr. Trump’s remarks, renewing a debate that erupted nine days ago when he took a congratulatory phone call from President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan.

At first, Mr. Trump played down the implications of the call, saying he was just being polite. Later, his aides said he was well aware of the diplomatic repercussions of speaking to Taiwan’s leader. Lobbyists for Taiwan, including the law firm of former Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, spent months laying the groundwork for the call.

Wouldn’t it be funny if paid lobbyists for Taiwan, Bob Dole among them, triggered a war between China and the US? No, it wouldn’t.

An editorial on Monday in The Global Times, a Chinese state-run tabloid, said that Mr. Trump was “like a child in his ignorance of foreign policy.”

“The One China policy cannot be bought and sold,” the editorial said. “Trump, it seems, only understands business and believes that everything has a price.”

Mr. Trump, however, did not appear worried about inflaming Beijing. He repeated in the Fox News interview many of the criticisms he has made about China, emphasizing what he said was its unwillingness to help curb the nuclear ambitions of its neighbor North Korea — an issue that foreign policy experts believe could confront Mr. Trump as the first geopolitical crisis of his presidency.

The president-elect said he would not tolerate having the Chinese government dictate whether he could take a call from the president of Taiwan. He reiterated that he had not placed the call, and described it as “a very short call saying, ‘Congratulations, sir, on the victory.’”

Of course he didn’t, and of course he did. That’s Trump all over – he thinks he’s infallible, and he thinks knowledge is irrelevant to (his) decision-making.

China scholar Steven Goldstein says in the Washington Post that Trump’s blowharding will risk war with China.

In other words, the One China policy isn’t a big deal — it’s a bargaining issue, like many other issues. So is Trump right?

No. The big deal is this: The relationship between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Taiwan is an ambiguous one, where the People’s Republic claims Taiwan as part of its national territory but is prepared for the present to let Taiwan continue in existence, while Taiwan also has an interest in not clarifying its relationship with the People’s Republic too precisely. Both the PRC and the United States adhere to the notion of One China, but they mean very different things by it. Undermining the status quo could lead to full-scale military conflict between the United States and China over an island that both see as vital to their national interests and whose unique status they have managed well up to this point.

He gives a very useful explanation of the current situation, the different understandings of Taiwan, and the careful, tricky balance that’s been working since Nixon. The US has more of a relationship with Taiwan than China would like, and less than Taiwan would like. It’s one of those “nobody breathe” things.

While the U.S. position is driven by a variety of political interests, China’s position is driven by a desire for national unity that China’s leadership has defined as existential and nonnegotiable. This means that the U.S. approach flouts essential elements of the Chinese position. Moreover, not only is Washington maintaining a relationship that contravenes China’s One China policy, but it has apparently put itself in a position of setting the conditions for the resolution of the conflict. The reason this has not led to overt hostilities is because all sides have behaved with restraint to maintain a very fragile peace. They know full well how sensitive these differences are.

Enter a conceited, ignorant blowhard who thinks he knows everything.

This is why Trump’s suggestion that One China is another bargaining chip, which the United States can play or not play as it likes, is both misleading and risky. On the one hand, it apparently misses the subtle, but extremely significant, differences between the American “one China policy” and the Chinese “one China principle.” On the other, it endangers the central tenet of American policy in the area — the maintenance of the status quo. The Trump transition team has already referred to Tsai Ing-wen as “President of Taiwan.” This publicly undermines the only aspect of the One China issue where the United States and China actually agree — that Taiwan is not a state, while starkly exposing the reality of the quasi state-to-state relationship that the American One China policy obscures. By using Taiwan’s status as a negotiating ploy, Trump is doubling down on this dangerous strategy. China’s vital national interests are in conflict with U.S. policy, and stable relations are fragile, because all the parties are unhappy with the present situation. If the incoming administration persists in its apparent careless indifference, it runs the risk of grossly destabilizing U.S.-China relations, and even risks war.

Oh well. At least Wyoming and Montana weren’t silenced by all those pesky millions of people in California and New York.



A mosquito in charge of the blood supply

Dec 11th, 2016 4:18 pm | By

What kind of person do you want running the Food and Drug Administration? A scientist who has a good understanding of food and drug safety and a commitment to ensure both for the citizenry.

Oops! Joke’s on you! Trump wants the other kind – the kind who thinks the citizenry should take care of itself and not expect some government bureaucrat to do it, god damn it.

President-elect Donald Trump is weighing naming as Food and Drug Administration commissioner a staunch libertarian who has called for eliminating the agency’s mandate to determine whether new medicines are effective before approving them for sale.

Sure. Just throw them out there and see what happens.

“Let people start using them, at their own risk,” the candidate, Jim O’Neill, said in a 2014 speech to a biotech group.

O’Neill has also called for paying organ donors and setting up libertarian societies at sea—and has said he was surprised to discover that FDA regulators actually enjoy science and like working to fight disease.

A source close to the Trump transition team told STAT that Peter Thiel, the billionaire Trump donor who is helping shape the new administration, is pushing for the FDA appointment for O’Neill, his managing director at Mithril Capital Management.

Oh well, it’s only food and medicine.



Let her count the ways

Dec 11th, 2016 3:51 pm | By

The opening of this video seems to me to reflect a rather crude understanding of “intersectionality.” Kat Blaque of Everyday Feminism talks to Riley Jay Dennis, also of Everyday Feminism, on the subject.

I stopped at 52 seconds and didn’t watch any more, so I don’t know what else they said, but the first 52 seconds are…underbaked.

Kat Blaque: In what ways do you [inaudible] yourself intersectional?

Riley Jay Dennis: I’m trans and non-binary, and a woman, an atheist, and polyamorous.

Kat Blaque: Wow, nice!

It’s as if it’s a contest – how many boxes can you tick? But that was never the point, was it? It was never supposed to be a competition, surely. Imagine:

Person 1: In what ways do you see yourself as intersectional?

Person 2: I’m poor and disabled, an undocumented immigrant, a high school dropout, and a woman.

Would person 1 say “Wow, nice!”? No, so why did Kat Blaque say it to Riley Jay Dennis? Why does she seem to see it as a win to have a lot of points?

I don’t know.



A chandelier over a toilet

Dec 11th, 2016 3:19 pm | By

Patton Oswalt yesterday:

This fucking election. Fucking Trump.

These newest revelations, that Russia hacked the election. Piles of evidence, teetering up to the sky. That Russia ALSO hacked the RNC and are holding them over a barrel because of what they know. Which would be hilarious if it wasn’t so frightening.

And the boiling chaos that’s resulting from it. I’ve got conservative friends actually DEFENDING Russia on this. I’ve got progressive friends gloating that we’ve finally had done to us what we’ve done to other countries. That Hillary somehow deserves this. That WE somehow deserve this. That infuriating cliche about, “It’s actually GOOD ifTrump destroys everything it’ll start a revolution BLAH BLAH BLAH FUCKING BLAH…”

And in the middle of it all is Trump — bloated, grinning, oblivious, wearing his cheap baseball cap and ruining people’s lives with his Twitter. While all around him — smarter, better, exhausted people scramble around, trying to sweep up a china shop he keeps stumbling through, laughing the whole time at these stupid nerds picking up the broken pieces on the ground. Losers. Weak.

Trump doesn’t spread evil. He doesn’t even spread chaos. Evil and chaos are beyond his abilities.

He spreads MEDIOCRITY. And anyone who gets near him gets dragged into the same sloppy, tossed-off, first-draft shitscape he lives in.

Except this time, it’s the entire country who got too close to him. We’re about to become, as a nation, as garish and pathetic as one of his hotel suites. Balsa wood under gold spray paint. A chandelier over a toilet. Knock-off Haviland and Parlon china on which to serve a Big Mac. And the people MAKING the Big Macs getting screwed, stripped and exploited while the predators high-five on their private jets.

In nine days the electors make their choice. Let’s hope they choose to save us from our grope-y, racist uncle who just won $50,000 playing scratch-offs.



Ne N’yu-Dzhersi

Dec 11th, 2016 12:00 pm | By

Via Gnu Atheism:



The simmering distrust

Dec 11th, 2016 11:48 am | By

Furthermore, the relationship between Donnie from Queens and the intelligence professionals is tanking. That could be a problem.

The simmering distrust between Donald Trump and U.S. intelligence agencies escalated into open antagonism Saturday after the president-elect mocked a CIA report that Russian operatives had intervened in the U.S. presidential election to help him win.

The growing tensions set up a potential showdown between Trump and the nation’s top intelligence officials during what some of those officials describe as the most complex threat environment in decades.

Trump’s reaction will probably deepen an existing rift between Trump and the agencies and raised questions about how the government’s 16 spying agencies will function in his administration on matters such as counterterrorism and cyberwarfare. On Friday, members of Trump’s transition team dismissed the CIA’s assessments about Iraq’s stockpile of weapons of mass destruction.

“Given his proclivity for revenge combined with his notorious thin skin, this threatens to result in a lasting relationship of distrust and ill will between the president and the intelligence community,” said Paul Pillar, former deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center.

Oh well. It’s not as if we need accurate intelligence on who is stockpiling what kinds of weapons.

U.S. intelligence officials described mounting concern and confusion about how to proceed in an administration so openly hostile to their function and role. “I don’t know what the end game is here,” a senior U.S. intelligence official said. “After Jan. 20,” the official said, referring to Inauguration Day, “we’re in uncharted territory.”

Pillar added: “Everything Trump has indicated with regard to his character and tendencies for vindictiveness might be worse” than former president Richard Nixon, who also had a dysfunctional relationship with the intelligence community.

He’s almost certain to be worse. He has Nixon’s flaws along with a lot of flaws of his own. He’s more nakedly aggressive, more entitled, more conceited, more used to getting his own way and trampling on everyone else – more ignorant, more stupid, more unwilling to learn anything.

Intelligence agencies are tracking Russia’s military interventions in Syria and Ukraine, Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal, North Korea’s nuclear weapons testing and China’s maritime challenges in Asia and theft of trade secrets. The CIA is operating a covert program to arm and train moderate rebels in Syria to overcome the brutal rule of President Bashar al-Assad, even as Trump has praised Russia’s approach to backing Assad.

Since his electoral triumph last month, Trump has attended only a limited number of intelligence briefings, and he appointed as his national security adviser retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, who was forced out of his job as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency by Obama administration officials.

Mavericks! They’re all a buncha mavericks, fixing the intelligence agencies by getting all mavericky up in there.

Or, to put it another way, this isn’t going to go well.



Let Mikey do it

Dec 11th, 2016 11:11 am | By

More on Trump the smart person who doesn’t need to read intelligence briefings, from the Atlantic.

Trump complained that his briefings are repetitive, and insisted he’s receiving the information he needs, even he takes the briefings only once a week. “I get it when I need it,” Trump told Chris Wallace. “First of all, these are very good people that are giving me the briefings. And I say, ‘If something should change from this point, immediately call me. I’m available on one-minute’s notice.’”

Trump also pointed out that Vice-President-elect Mike Pence receives the daily briefings he declines, although he did not explain why Pence—like every recent president—finds value in receiving the daily assessments while he does not. “And I’m being briefed also,” he told Wallace. “But if they’re going to come in and tell me the exact same thing that they tell me—you know, it doesn’t change, necessarily. Now, there will be times where it might change. I mean, there will be some very fluid situations. I’ll be there not every day, but more than that. But I don’t need to be told, Chris, the same thing every day, every morning, same words. ‘Sir, nothing has changed. Let’s go over it again.’ I don’t need that.”

Allow me to gloss that. He doesn’t want to. It’s boring. It’s boring and it’s also kind of scary – what’s he gotten himself into? But it’s ok because Pence is there to do the actual work, so whew. And it’s boring boring boring, so let Pence do it. The Donald is busy working up the crowds and tweeting insults at union guys and teenage girls.

Trump is the first person elected president without having held prior military or public office. Intelligence officials have stressed that, given his lack of prior experience, the daily briefings may be particular important in ensuring that he is fully up to speed by the time he takes the oath of office.

No, see, he doesn’t need to be, because there’s Pence. That was always the deal, see. He does the fun stuff and Pence does the hard work. That was the deal.



The Times on Trump’s insistent lying

Dec 11th, 2016 10:46 am | By

The Times editorial board has a think piece on what to do about Trump’s relentless lying. They use that word a lot. As I mentioned a week or two ago, newspapers don’t do that lightly – they don’t do it at all unless they’re very sure they can back it up. This piece treats Trump’s lying as not even in doubt.

Mind you, they start with an odd claim.

Donald Trump understood at least one thing better than almost everybody watching the 2016 election: The breakdown of a shared public reality built upon widely accepted facts represented not a hazard, but an opportunity.

The institutions that once generated and reaffirmed that shared reality — including the church, the government, the news media, the universities and labor unions — are in various stages of turmoil or even collapse.

Including the church? First of all, what church? There is no singular “the church” here. But much more to the point, what do churches and other religious institutions have to do with a shared public reality built upon widely accepted facts? Nothing. Churches & co are about myths, or stories, or fictions, or lies. They’re also about rituals and community and the like, but they rest on a shared story.

But that’s a side issue.

The rise of social media has been great in many ways. In a media environment with endless inputs and outlets, citizens can inform and entertain one another, organize more easily and hold their leaders accountable. But it also turns out that when everyone can customize his or her own information bubble, it’s easier for demagogues to deploy made-up facts to suit the story they want to tell.

That’s what Mr. Trump has done. For him, facts aren’t the point; trust is. Like any autocrat, he wins his followers’ trust — let’s call it a blind trust — by lying so often and so brazenly that millions of people give up on trying to distinguish truth from falsehood. Whether the lie is about millions of noncitizens voting illegally, or the crime rate, or President Obama’s citizenship, it doesn’t matter: In a confusing world of competing, shouted “truths,” the simplest solution is to trust in your leader. As Mr. Trump is fond of saying, “I alone can fix it.”

If the solution is trust…then why trust a nasty bully like Trump? It’s not as if he’s good at putting on a convincing performance of trustworthiness. He performs anger and belligerence. That’s what seems to draw people, not trust.

He is not just indifferent to facts; he can be hostile to any effort to assert them. On Tuesday, Chuck Jones, a union boss at Carrier Corporation, toldThe Washington Post that Mr. Trump was wrong when he claimed to have saved 1,100 of the company’s jobs from moving to Mexico — the real number will be closer to 730. Rather than admit error, the president-elect instead attacked Mr. Jones, a private citizen, on Twitter, saying he had done a “terrible job representing workers.”

In other words, Mr. Trump’s is a different kind of lying, though it has been coming for some time.

Sure; it’s a different kind of lying because he’s a different kind of guy. He’s exceptional in so many ways – ignorance, pugnacity, rudeness, cruelty, corruption, greed – it’s no surprise that he’s exceptionally dishonest and proud of it, too.



He’s like a smart person

Dec 11th, 2016 9:53 am | By

Today in Trump:

President-elect Donald J. Trump said in an interview broadcast on Sunday that he did not believe American intelligence assessments that Russia had intervened to help his candidacy, casting blame for the reports on Democrats, who he said were embarrassed about losing to him.

“I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse,” Mr. Trump said in the interview, on “Fox News Sunday.” “I don’t believe it.”

Except the intelligence people who made the assessments are civil servants, not political appointments.

He also indicated that as president, he would not take the daily intelligence briefing that President Obama and his predecessors have received. Mr. Trump, who has received the briefing sparingly as president-elect, said that it was often repetitive and that he would take it “when I need it.” He said his vice president, Mike Pence, would receive the daily briefing.

“You know, I’m, like, a smart person,” he said. “I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years.”

Thus demonstrating that he’s not “a smart person.” A genuinely smart person would never say that on national tv on such a subject in such a situation. A genuinely smart person would not refuse to read intelligence briefings, and would not boast of doing so on national tv.

Also, he’s not going to be there for eight years.

He added that he had instructed the officials who give the briefing: “‘If something should change from this point, immediately call me. I’m available on a one-minute’s notice.’”

Oh, how big of him. Of course he’s available on short notice: that’s his job! The level of stupidity is hard to believe.

Mr. Trump’s seeming dismissal of the importance of that daily interaction with intelligence agencies, as well as his claims of politically tainted intelligence reports on Russia, widened a remarkable breach between a president-elect and the agencies he will have to rely on to carry out priorities like fighting terrorism and deterring cyberattacks.

No doubt he’s thinking of it as just more of what he’s used to – he’s The Honcho and everyone else is an undifferentiated mass of underlings, whom he can fire the instant they irritate him.



Evidence of enormous vitriol

Dec 10th, 2016 4:52 pm | By

Jack Halberstam on intersectionality at Reed College.

In 1999, just six years after the rape and murder of a young gender variant person, Brandon Teena, and two friends in a small town in Nebraska, Kim Peirce released her first film, a dramatic account of the incident. The film, Boys Don’t Cry, which took years to research, write, fund, cast and shoot, was released to superb reviews and went on to garner awards and praise for the lead actor, Hilary Swank, and the young director, Kim Peirce, not to mention the film’s production team led by Christine Vachon. The film was hard hitting, visually innovative and marked a massive breakthrough in the representation of gender variant bodies. While there were certainly debates about decisions that Peirce made within the film’s narrative arc (the omission of the murder of an African American friend, Philip DeVine, at the same time that Brandon was killed), Boys Don’t Cry was received by audiences at the time as a magnificent film honoring the life of a gender queer youth and bringing a sense of the jeopardy of gender variant experiences to the screen. It was also seen as a sensitive depiction of life in small town USA. Kim Peirce spoke widely about the film in public venues and explained her relationship to the subject matter of gender variance, working class life and gender based violence.

In recent screenings of the film, some accompanied by Peirce as a speaker, others just programmed as part of a class or a film series, younger audiences have taken offence to the film and have accused the filmmaker of making money off the representation of violence against trans people. This at least was the charge made against Kim Peirce when she showed up to speak alongside a special screening of the film at Reed College in Oregon, just days after the Presidential election. Unbeknownst to the organizers, student protestors had removed posters from all around campus that advertised the screening and lecture and they formed a protest group and arrived early to the cinema on the night of the screening to hang up posters.

They removed posters that let people know about the screening and lecture, so they deprived Peirce of a potential audience and they deprived the potential audience of the screening and lecture. I remember Boys Don’t Cry as a very powerful movie, and certainly not one that was hostile to trans people.

These posters voiced a range of responses to the film including: “You don’t fucking get it!” and “Fuck Your Transphobia!” as well as “Trans Lives Do Not Equal $$” and to cap it all, the sign hung on the podium read: “Fuck this cis white bitch”!! The protestors waited until after the film had screened at Peirce’s request and then entered the auditorium while shouting “Fuck your respectability politics” and yelling over her commentary until Peirce left the room. After establishing some ground rules for a discussion, Peirce came back into the room but the conversation again got out of hand and finally a student yelled at Peirce: “Fuck you scared bitch.” At which point the protestors filed out and Peirce left campus.

Fuck this cis white bitch??? Because she made a sympathetic indie movie about a young trans man 17 years ago? That seems…hostile.

This is an astonishing set of events to reckon with for those of us who remember the events surrounding Brandon Teena’s murder, the debates in the months that followed about Brandon Teena’s identity and, later, the reception of the film. Early transgender activism was spurred into action by the murder of Brandon Teena and many activists showed up at the trial of his killers. There were lots of debates at the time about whether Brandon was “butch” or “transgender” but queer and transgender audiences were mostly satisfied with the depiction of Brandon Teena in Boys Don’t Cry. The film appealed to many audiences, queer and straight, and it continues to play around the world.

The accounts given of these recent protests at Reed College give evidence of enormous vitriol, much of it blatantly misogynist (the repeated use of the word “bitch” for example) directed at a queer, butch film maker and they leave us with an enormous number of questions to face about representational dynamics, clashes between different historical paradigms of queer and transgender life and the expression of queer anger that, instead of being directed at murderous enemies in the mainstream of American political life, has been turned onto independent film makers within the queer and LGBT communities.

Is this how intersectionalism should work? I don’t think so.



A big stake

Dec 10th, 2016 12:53 pm | By

Today in Trump News –

Yesterday’s fascist rally in Michigan:

Again: this isn’t what presidents-elect do. They work hard to get up to speed on the job, they read intelligence briefings, they learn as much as they can. They don’t bounce around the country working up their fans.

Another thing presidents-elect and presidents don’t do: produce tv shows. The NY Times reports that Donnie from Queens will be executive producer of The Apprentice starting in January (funnily enough, the same month he takes over that other job).

President-elect Donald J. Trump is entering office with financial entanglements that are exotic and far-flung: a condominium project in Manila, a luxury furniture maker in Istanbul, golf courses in Scotland and Ireland, and a hotel in Azerbaijan.

But starting next month, Mr. Trump’s most visible business interest will be beamed directly into millions of American living rooms: “The Celebrity Apprentice” is back, and the president-elect is coming with it.

Just weeks before Inauguration Day, Mr. Trump will resume his role as an executive producer of the NBC reality show, an unlikely side project for a commander in chief, and one that is poised to bring him hundreds of thousands of dollars in income.

“Unlikely” is putting it gently. Wholly inappropriate would be a start.

“I think it’s weird,” said Newt Gingrich, a close campaign ally of Mr. Trump, holding back chuckles during a Fox News interview. “Donald J. Trump is going to be the executive producer of a thing called the American government. He is going to have this huge TV show called ‘Leading the World.’”

Added Mr. Gingrich: “I think he’s still going through some transition things here, where it hasn’t quite sunk in.”

Hmmm no. That level of not quite sinking in has to be called what it is: mind-numbingly stupid.

On Twitter though, Trump explained that he has nothing to do with The Apprentice, nothing at all, apart from a couple of tiny insignificant details.

He has nothing to do with it other than having a big stake in it. Oh well then, that’s different.



Meanwhile in a basement in New Jersey

Dec 10th, 2016 11:59 am | By

It’s disconcerting for the Republicans to have Trump jeering at the intelligence agencies.

Though Mr. Trump has wasted no time in antagonizing the agencies, to carry out priorities like combating terrorism and deterring cyberattacks he will have to rely on them for the sort of espionage activities and analysis that they spend more than $70 billion a year to perform.

At this point in a transition, a president-elect is usually delving into intelligence he has never before seen and learning about C.I.A. and National Security Agency abilities. But Mr. Trump, who has taken intelligence briefings only sporadically, is questioning not only analytic conclusions, but also their underlying facts.

“To have the president-elect of the United States simply reject the fact-based narrative that the intelligence community puts together because it conflicts with his a priori assumptions — wow,” said Michael V. Hayden, who was the director of the N.S.A. and later the C.I.A. under President George W. Bush.

Wow, yes, but it’s what he’s done all along. He’s a liar and a denialist. He makes up his own facts, and disparages other people’s evidence-based fact claims. That’s Trump epistemology in a nutshell.

Mr. Trump’s team lashed out at the agencies after The Washington Post reported that the C.I.A. believed that Russia had intervened to undercut Mrs. Clinton and lift Mr. Trump, and The New York Times reported that Russia had broken into Republican National Committee computer networks just as they had broken into Democratic ones, but had released documents only on the Democrats.

What to do? Blow smoke.

Mr. Trump casts the issue as an unknowable mystery. “It could be Russia,” he recently told Time magazine. “And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”

That’s what he said in that debate – it was some guy in a basement. Jersey, basement – it’s all the same thing.

Even one of Mr. Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters, Representative Devin Nunes, a California Republican, said on Friday that he had no doubt about Russia’s culpability. His complaint was with the intelligence agencies, which he said had “repeatedly” failed “to anticipate Putin’s hostile actions,” and with the Obama administration’s lack of a punitive response.

Mr. Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said that the intelligence agencies had “ignored pleas by numerous Intelligence Committee members to take more forceful action against the Kremlin’s aggression.” He added that the Obama administration had “suddenly awoken to the threat.”

Like many Republicans, Mr. Nunes is threading a needle. His statement puts him in opposition to the position taken by Mr. Trump and his incoming national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who has traveled to Russia as a private citizen for RT, the state-controlled news operation, and attended a dinner with Mr. Putin.

Now that that pesky communism is dead, they like Russian authoritarianism. I bet they wish they had some Cossacks too.



The arrogant young woman

Dec 10th, 2016 11:22 am | By

Trump didn’t just start bullying individuals via Twitter yesterday. Oh no. More than a year ago, for instance, he went on Twitter to attack a college student for daring to ask him a question at a political forum.

In October 2015, then-18-year-old Lauren Batchelder asked Trump a question at a political forum in New Hampshire. “So, maybe I’m wrong, maybe you can prove me wrong, but I don’t think you’re a friend to women,” she said. Trump defended himself, and Batchelder took the mic again, asking if she’d get equal pay and access to abortion with Trump as president. Trump answered: “You’re going to make the same if you do as good of a job, and I happen to be pro-life, okay?”

Batchelder thought that was the end of it, but when she woke up the next day, she realized that the current president-elect had sent out a series of tweets about her. “The arrogant young woman who questioned me in such a nasty fashion at No Labels yesterday was a Jeb staffer!” he tweeted. (Batchelder is not, and has never been, a staffer for Jeb Bush, though she did volunteer for his campaign.) His followers replied with screenshots of Batchelder and posted her phone number and other personal information online.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/653897939933364224

He’s every bit the Twitter bully that any fan of Breitbart is, but multiplied by several million because of who he is. Bullying is exploiting some form of advantage to attack and dominate people. Bullying is the opposite of a fair competition. It’s shocking and revolting that Trump has zero inhibitions about exploiting his enormous advantages to attack and dominate, and threaten, harm, intimidate, and silence ordinary citizens.

Within hours, her phone began to ring, and her email inbox and Facebook account filled with threatening messages. “I didn’t really know what anyone was going to do,” Batchelder, now 19, told the Washington Post. “He was only going to tweet about it and that was it, but I didn’t really know what his supporters were going to do, and that to me was the scariest part.”

She said the abuse has continued, prompting one Trump supporter to send her a Facebook message five days before the election that read, “Wishing I could fucking punch you in the face. id then proceed to stomp your head on the curb and urinate in your bloodied mouth and i know where you live, so watch your fucking back punk.”

Batchelder’s case illustrates what happens when Trump, who has more than 17 million Twitter followers, goes after a private citizen online.

It illustrates what happens when he does that before he’s the President-elect. It’s not getting better now that he is.



Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear

Dec 10th, 2016 10:26 am | By

So, yeah, apparently it is the case that we have this rampaging idiot monster preparing to destroy everything because Putin put his elbow on the scale.

American intelligence agencies have concluded with “high confidence” that Russia acted covertly in the latter stages of the presidential campaign to harm Hillary Clinton’s chances and promote Donald J. Trump, according to senior administration officials.

They based that conclusion, in part, on another finding — which they say was also reached with high confidence — that the Russians hacked the Republican National Committee’s computer systems in addition to their attacks on Democratic organizations, but did not release whatever information they gleaned from the Republican networks.

In the months before the election, it was largely documents from Democratic Party systems that were leaked to the public. Intelligence agencies have concluded that the Russians gave the Democrats’ documents to WikiLeaks.

I remember that. I remember it vividly. Especially after the “grab them by the pussy” video came out – it looked as if that had cooked his goose to charcoal, then along came WikiLeaks, drip drip drip.

Mr. Trump’s transition office issued a statement Friday evening reflecting the deep divisions that emerged between his campaign and the intelligence agencies over Russian meddling in the election. “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” the statement said. “The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’”

The election didn’t end “a long time ago.” November 8 is not “a long time ago.” It wasn’t one of the biggest EC victories in history. It’s not “time to move on” if Russia interfered with the election. What Trump is doing is not going to make America great, again or for the first time or at all.

One senior government official, who had been briefed on an F.B.I. investigation into the matter, said that while there were attempts to penetrate the Republican committee’s systems, they were not successful.

But the intelligence agencies’ conclusions that the hacking efforts were successful, which have been presented to President Obama and other senior officials, add a complex wrinkle to the question of what the Kremlin’s evolving objectives were in intervening in the American presidential election.

What could the objectives possibly have been? To weaken a rival power, obviously. To make a rival power a laughingstock to the world. To render the US basically irrelevant for at least four years.

It is unclear how many files were stolen from the Republican committee; in some cases, investigators never get a clear picture. It is also far from clear that Russia’s original intent was to support Mr. Trump, and many intelligence officials — and former officials in Mrs. Clinton’s campaign — believe that the primary motive of the Russians was to simply disrupt the campaign and undercut confidence in the integrity of the vote.

The Russians were as surprised as everyone else at Mr. Trump’s victory, intelligence officials said. Had Mrs. Clinton won, they believe, emails stolen from the Democratic committee and from senior members of her campaign could have been used to undercut her legitimacy. The intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia tried to help Mr. Trump was first reported by The Washington Post.

I suppose we could view it as the revenge of Mossadegh and Allende and quite a few others.

Intelligence officials and private cybersecurity companies believe that the Democratic National Committee was hacked by two different Russian cyberunits. One, called “Cozy Bear” or “A.P.T. 29” by some Western security experts, is believed to have spent months inside the D.N.C. computer network, as well as other government and political institutions, but never made public any of the documents it took. (A.P.T. stands for “Advanced Persistent Threat,” which usually describes a sophisticated state-sponsored cyberintruder.)

The other, the G.R.U.-controlled unit known as “Fancy Bear,” or “A.P.T. 28,” is believed to have created two outlets on the internet, Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks, to make Democratic documents public. Many of the documents were also provided to WikiLeaks, which released them over many weeks before the Nov. 8 election.

Make America great again.