Notes and Comment Blog


Their last day

Mar 21st, 2017 5:17 pm | By

A poignant memory:

 



Was Bharara getting too close?

Mar 21st, 2017 4:50 pm | By

Pro Publica tells us about some more possible (or likely) corruption in the Trump gang.

Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who was removed from his post by the Trump administration last week, was overseeing an investigation into stock trades made by the president’s health secretary, according to a person familiar with the office.

Tom Price, head of the Department of Health and Human Services, came under scrutiny during his confirmation hearings for investments he made while serving in Congress. The Georgia lawmaker traded hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of shares in health-related companies, even as he voted on and sponsored legislation affecting the industry.

Oh did he. Surely that’s a big no-no for legislators. I hope? Isn’t it? Are they just openly feathering their own nests now?

Price testified at the time that his trades were lawful and transparent. Democrats accused him of potentially using his office to enrich himself. One lawmaker called for an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, citing concerns Price could have violated the STOCK Act, a 2012 law signed by President Obama that clarified that members of Congress cannot use nonpublic information for profit and requires them to promptly disclose their trades.

The investigation of Price’s trades by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which hasn’t been previously disclosed, was underway at the time of Bharara’s dismissal, said the person.

I suppose soon Congress will be passing laws requiring us all to spend a certain minimum amount of money on our choice of

  • weekends at a Trump resort
  • outfits or jewelry from Ivanka’s collection
  • a condo in a Trump-brand building in any country, with a special recommendation for Baku

Bharara seems to think the firing was because he was getting too close.

When the Trump administration instead asked for Bharara’s resignation, the prosecutor refused, and he said he was then fired. Trump has not explained the reversal, but Bharara fanned suspicions that his dismissal was politically motivated via his personal Twitter account.

“I did not resign,” he wrote in one tweet over the weekend. “Moments ago I was fired.”

“By the way,” Bharara said in a second tweet, “now I know what the Moreland Commission must have felt like.”

Bharara was referring to a commission that was launched by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2013 to investigate state government corruption, only to be disbanded by the governor the next year as its work grew close to his office. In that case, Bharara vowed to continue the commission’s work, and eventually charged Cuomo associates and won convictions of several prominent lawmakers.

But the Trump people won’t let anything like that happen. They’re not wimps.

Pro Publica goes through some of the cases.

In a third case, reported by Time magazine, Price invested thousands of dollars in six pharmaceutical companies before leading a legislative and public relations effort that eventually killed proposed regulations that would have harmed those companies.

Louise Slaughter, a Democratic Congress member from New York who sponsored the STOCK Act, wrote in January to the SEC asking that the agency investigate Price’s stock trades. “The fact that these trades were made and in many cases timed to achieve significant earnings or avoid losses would lead a reasonable person to question whether the transactions were triggered by insider knowledge,” she wrote.

Wouldn’t it be nice if legislators just saw that kind of thing as unacceptable, and stayed well away from it?



Guest post: The reason we haven’t had a World War during NATO’s run

Mar 21st, 2017 4:26 pm | By

Originally a comment by Freemage on Rex has to get a haircut that day.

And Trump (and even Vladimir) fail to fully understand the reason for the US involvement in NATO. It’s not got anything to do with protecting Europe from Russian aggression–that’s a happy coincidence, frankly, though it’s one that gave a polite cover-story to the real benefit to the U.S. for the last almost-70 years.

To-wit: We’re there so that everyone else doesn’t need to protect themselves from Russia. It’s a subtle, nuanced difference, but it’s the reason we haven’t had a World War during NATO’s run. I’m sure Germany, France and England could all make themselves largely impossible to easily invade. Even most of the nations in Europe with less military experience and economic strength would be able to make themselves unattractive as invasion targets.

But achieving that on their own? Yeah, that would require a truly massive military build-up. Especially in Germany. Anyone remember what happened the last two times Germany built a massive war-machine? Even if they did so out of the most genteel and respectable intentions of self-defense this time around, there’s no way the other European powers would look at that and go, “Oh, hey, that’s cool.” No. They’d all build up their own military might. You know, ‘Just in case.”

And some of those smaller nations might just decide to, you know, forge an alliance with this or that larger power, in order to ensure they don’t have to deal with Russian aggression alone. And soon you’ve got a network of alliances and deals and such, many of which are under the table because nobody wants to make it TOO obvious just how much influence they’ve got.

And then some guy is sitting in a sandwich shop and suddenly sees his most hated enemy, and soon we’re all fooked.

We’re in Europe (and Japan and South Korea, for that matter), so that the local armed forces don’t get built up to the point where someone looks around and says, “Hey, now that we’ve got all these soldiers and tanks and things, shouldn’t we maybe use them?”



“This place is packed,” he exulted

Mar 21st, 2017 12:15 pm | By

Bozo took another restorative trip to The Heartland last night, to puff up his deflated ego again.

“This place is packed,” he exulted. “We’re in the heartland of America, and there is no place I would rather be.”

In the packed stands of Freedom Hall in Louisville, the swirl of questions back in Washington — about the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia or the president’s debunked assertions that he had been wiretapped by his predecessor — seemed a million miles away.

That was exactly the point. Mr. Trump’s aides have used these campaign-style events to buoy their boss and provide a respite from the pileup of pressures in Washington. Mr. Trump recycled many of his favorite lines from the aftermath of his election victory in November.

Of course it’s the point. It’s all he’s got. It’s all he knows how to do – stand in front of a crowd and preen, and then work the crowd up into a froth of rage. He’s an empty suit, with zero interest in the actual substantive work of the job he went after, and a bottomless need for adulation. I’ve never seen anyone so pathetic in my life.

The visit to a major coal-producing state also resonated in the context of Mr. Trump’s plans to lift emissions restrictions on coal-fired power plants, something he is expected to do with an executive order on climate issues that the administration has yet to release. Mr. Trump said he had already eliminated some regulations on the coal industry, and he promised that the executive order would do more.

“We are going to put our coal miners back to work,” he said. “They have not been treated well. But they are going to be treated well.”

Of course their children and grandchildren will have climate change to deal with, but oh well, that’s not Trump’s problem.



The new monarchy

Mar 21st, 2017 12:07 pm | By

Robert Reich last night:

Let me get this straight: Ivanka Trump — who has myriad business interests that overlap with her father’s – is now moving into the West Wing as a top White House advisor, getting a security clearance and government-issued communications devices. But she’s not being sworn in, will hold no official position, and so will not be a government employee who must by law adhere to official ethics rules.

Doesn’t the Trump administration have enough ethics problems? Aren’t there already enough conflicts of interest to sink a ship?

Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, is now an official senior adviser in the White House – but at least his status is an official government employee, he was sworn in, and he has to abide by ethics laws. Why can’t Ivanka do the same?

Ivanka still owns her eponymous fashion and jewelry brand, and is also publishing a book, “Women Who Work,” due out in May. But she says she’ll distance herself from the day-to-day operations of the Ivanka Trump brand and convey her interests to a trust that will be controlled by her brother-in-law, Josh Kushner, and her sister-in-law, Nicole Meyer.

Oh, sure.

It’s as if a coup has occurred, and the dictator’s family has now moved into the palace — and are about to the loot the country. The utter disdain of the Trumps for ethics is jaw-dropping.

It’s my understanding that there’s a law against presidents installing family in their administrations. Bill Clinton flouted it, but Trump is setting fire to it.

What conceivable relevant qualifications does Ivanka Trump have to do such a job?

 



Rex has to get a haircut that day

Mar 21st, 2017 11:25 am | By

Tillerson is snubbing Nato.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will miss a meeting of Nato foreign ministers next month, US officials say.

He will instead travel to a G7 meeting in Sicily, Italy, and then to Moscow to meet Russian leaders.

Under Secretary of State Tom Shannon will represent the US at the Western military alliance meeting in Brussels.

Correspondents say the move will add to concerns about US President Donald Trump’s commitment to Nato as he seeks better relations with Moscow.

Moscow of course hates Nato. Trump’s hatred of Nato seems to be linked to his servility toward Russia. I hope the FBI is including this in its investigation.

During his election campaign, Mr Trump expressed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and described Nato as “obsolete”.

Mr Tillerson had close links with the Russian government while he was CEO of Exxon Mobil and has questioned the sanctions imposed on Russia after its annexation of the Crimea region.

So we turn our back on the liberal democracies and suck up to the authoritarian kleptocracy. Go us.

 

 



But the current president of the United States lies

Mar 21st, 2017 10:14 am | By

David Leonhardt spells it out, starting with the stipulation that not all untruths are lies.

But the current president of the United States lies. He lies in ways that no American politician ever has before. He has lied about — among many other things — Obama’s birthplace, John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Sept. 11, the Iraq War, ISIS, NATO, military veterans, Mexican immigrants, Muslim immigrants, anti-Semitic attacks, the unemployment rate, the murder rate, the Electoral College, voter fraud and his groping of women.

He tells so many untruths that it’s time to leave behind the textual parsing over which are unwitting and which are deliberate — as well as the condescending notion that most of Trump’s supporters enjoy his lies.

So, what about Russia?

Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign was an attack on the United States. It’s the kind of national-security matter that a president and members of Congress swear to treat with utmost seriousness when they take the oath of office. Yet now it has become the subject of an escalating series of lies by the president and the people who work for him.

As Comey was acknowledging on Monday that the F.B.I. was investigating possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, Trump was lying about it. From both his personal Twitter account and the White House account, he told untruths.

A few hours later, his press secretary, Sean Spicer, went before the cameras and lied about the closeness between Trump and various aides who have documented Russian ties. Do you remember Paul Manafort, the chairman of Trump’s campaign, who ran the crucial delegate-counting operation? Spicer said Manafort had a “very limited role” in said campaign.

The House investigation will probably not be uncovering the truth behind Trump’s lies, because Republicans are in charge.

It fell to Adam Schiff, a Democratic representative from Southern California, to lay out the suspicious ties between Trump and Russia (while also hinting he couldn’t describe some classified details). Schiff did so in a calm, nine-minute monologue that’s worth watching. He walked through pro-Putin payments to Michael Flynn and through another Trump’s aide’s advance notice of John Podesta’s hacked email and through the mysterious struggle over the Republican Party platform on Ukraine.

“Is it possible that all of these events and reports are completely unrelated, and nothing more than an entirely unhappy coincidence? Yes, it is possible,” Schiff said. “But it is also possible, maybe more than possible, that they are not coincidental, not disconnected and not unrelated, and that the Russians used the same techniques to corrupt U.S. persons that they have employed in Europe and elsewhere. We simply don’t know, not yet, and we owe it to the country to find out.”

He was on Maddow’s show last night, and he’s my new favorite person. He’s a former prosecutor, so he has that forensic way of thinking that comes in so handy. He dissented from part of Maddow’s take, which she derived from Comey: the idea that the second documents dump was done “loudly” as opposed to covertly because the Russians wanted everyone to know they were doing it. Schiff offered a less dramatic interpretation as also plausible.

Leonhardt concludes:

Comey, as much as liberals may loathe him for his 2016 bungling, seems to be one of the few public officials with the ability and willingness to pursue the truth. I dearly hope that Republican members of the Senate are patriotic enough to do so as well.

Our president is a liar, and we need to find out how serious his latest lies are.

So that we can get rid of him.



Surprise discovery that Trump is not a nice man

Mar 21st, 2017 9:45 am | By

The disintegration proceeds.

The testimony of Mr. Comey and that of Adm. Michael S. Rogers, his National Security Agency counterpart, will most likely enervate and distract Mr. Trump’s administration for weeks, if not longer, overshadowing good news, like the impressive debut of Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, his Supreme Court nominee, on the first day of his confirmation hearings Monday.

But it’s the obsessiveness and ferocity of Mr. Trump’s pushback against the Russian allegations, often untethered from fact or tact, that is making an uncertain situation worse.

Mr. Trump’s allies have begun to wonder if his need for self-expression, often on social media, will exceed his instinct for self-preservation, with disastrous results both for the president and for a party whose fate is now tightly tied to his.

Ya think?

Let’s change the wording a little. People who were hoping to profit from Trump’s win are afraid his terrifying brew of rage, narcissism and stupidity will frustrate those hopes. Well yes, of course they are, but what did they expect? Did they think the monstrous ignorant bully we saw during the campaign was going to turn into a reasonable thoughtful adult on January 20th?

Over the past several weeks, Republicans in Congress and members of their staffs have privately complained that Mr. Trump’s Twitter comment on March 4 — the one where he called Barack Obama “sick” and suggested that the former president had ordered a “tapp” on his phone — had done more to undermine anything he’s done as president because it called into question his seriousness about governing.

People keep saying “several weeks” and similar. It’s not several, it’s a little over two. But anyway: yes, of course it did, and his continuing refusal to admit he simply made it up out of his own thick head has only underlined that. But then, again, did anyone ever really believe he had any seriousness about governing? Really? He certainly never gave any sign of such a thing. This seems like buying a bucket of rotting fish and expecting it to become fresh if you wait a few weeks.

So he barfed out those idiotic tweets yesterday morning.

People close to the president say Mr. Trump’s Twitter torrent had less to do with fact, strategy or tactic than a sense of persecution bordering on faith: He simply believes that he was bugged in some way, by someone, and that evidence will soon appear to back him up.

He “believes” that and, crucially, he has no understanding that “belief” is really beside the point. He has no awareness of the need to examine one’s own beliefs, in case they are wrong. He apparently thinks that his belief makes anything he says true.

Still, there’s some evidence that the president’s magic medium is losing its effectiveness, in part because Mr. Trump’s Twitter persona seems to have shifted from puckish to paranoid.

“Puckish”? When was it ever “puckish”? He used it to share his lies about birtherism, to rant about “Crooked Hillary” and “Pocahontas,” to call Alicia Machado “disgusting” and cite a sex tape that doesn’t exist. Racism and misogyny and targeted insults are not “puckish”; they’re evil.

Focus groups and polls conducted by two Democratic strategists this month have shown that many voters, even some who support Mr. Trump, have grown weary of his tweets as president. That was also borne out by a Fox News poll last week, showing that a mere 35 percent of Trump voters approve of his Twitter habits, and that only 16 percent of all voters approve of them. Some 32 percent said they “wish he’d be more careful” with his feed.

“His tweeting defines him, and not in a good way,” said Geoff Garin, a veteran Democratic pollster. “Voters not only think Trump’s use of Twitter is unpresidential, they also see the tone and content of his tweets as an indication that he is lacking in self-control.”

That, yes, but he’s also lacking in basic humanity.



When in doubt, hold a rally

Mar 20th, 2017 4:45 pm | By

Meanwhile, on a day when Trump’s lies have been discussed in Congress and all over the press, he’s off for yet another “rally” – to drink in the adoring cheers of the 27 people who still think he’s awesome.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/843961248811225089

Trump was resuming his campaign-style events at the start of a consequential week for his young presidency. Confirmation hearings for his nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch, opened Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The House was expected to vote Thursday on the GOP-backed healthcare bill.

Trump’s Louisville rally, his third since his inauguration, followed a daylong congressional hearing in which FBI Director James B. Comey acknowledged for the first time that the agency was investigating whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian officials seeking to influence the 2016 campaign.

MAGA, baby.



Donnie’s tweets did not hold up well

Mar 20th, 2017 4:33 pm | By

The Post’s fact-checker reports on Trump’s long day of telling lie after lie.

With the House Intelligence Committee on Monday prepared to hold hearings on Russian influence in the 2016 election, the president issued tweets that did not hold up well as the testimony unfolded.

But in his opening testimony, FBI Director James Comey announced that a criminal investigation into possible links between Russia and the Trump campaign was indeed active and ongoing:

“I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.”

In an unusual declassified report released in January, the CIA, the FBI and the National Security Agency had announced that they had “high confidence” that “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election” and that “Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.” Comey’s statement was the first official confirmation that activities of people associated with the Trump campaign also were being investigated.

Moreover, Comey firmly rejected Trump’s tweeted claim on March 4 that former president Barack Obama had ordered wiretaps of him in the Trump Tower. “I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” Comey said. “The Department of Justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same for the Department of Justice and all its components. The department has no information that supports those tweets.”

Comey made it clear that no president on his own could order a wiretap; such an action must be approved by a judge.

It goes on like that – comparing Trump’s tweets from the Donnie account and the POTUS one with what Comey said to the committee.

Grade: 4 Pinocchios



10 golf trips in 8 weeks

Mar 20th, 2017 1:16 pm | By

Brad Jaffy on Trump’s expensive golf weekends and his past rages at Obama for taking fewer shorter cheaper golf breaks.



He puts himself in the shoes

Mar 20th, 2017 12:57 pm | By

In case you missed Trump’s budget director saying the thing about coal miners and PBS, here’s CNN reporting it – starting with the fact that Mike Pence actually supported public tv not long ago:

But in 2014, Vice President Mike Pence, then Indiana’s governor also known for frugal budgets, made a passionate defense for the role of public television.

“I believe the state has the primary responsibility for educating our children and I will say from my heart through all of my life, one thing has been clear: Public television plays a vital role in educating all of the public, but most especially, our children,” he said during an acceptance speech at that year’s Public Media Summit.

Including, thank you very much, the children of coal miners and chicken processors, farm workers and janitors, fry cooks and factory hands – and all those people themselves.

But that’s not how Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney sees it.

“It’s a simple message by the way: I put myself in the shoes of that steelworker in Ohio, the coal-mining family in West Virginia, the mother of two in Detroit, and I’m saying, ‘OK, I have to go ask these folks for money, and I have to tell them where I’m going to spend it,’ ” he said during Thursday’s White House press briefing.

“Can I really go to those folks, look them in the eye and say, ‘Look, I want to take money from you, and I want to give it to the Corporation (for) Public Broadcasting.’ That is a really hard sell, and in fact, it’s something we don’t think we can defend anymore.”

So that’s what they think of working people then.



We have questions too

Mar 20th, 2017 12:37 pm | By

One of those items going the rounds on Facebook, original source unknown:

“Why should coal miners pay for PBS”? This was an actual question asked by the Trump administration yesterday. Obviously a blatantly stupid question. We have questions too. Why should a poor black family in Detroit pay for the President to go golfing? Why should a single mother of 3 who’s working 2 jobs in Louisiana be denied health-care so that the CEO of Etna can get a tax-break? Why is the guy washing dishes in Baton Rouge paying for the President’s wife’s secret service protection so she can live comfortably in NYC? We could do this all day. But here’s the real question the Trump administration and the Republicans who empower him need to answer: Do you have a heart? Did no one teach you to care about your neighbors? Do you know what “empathy” means? Did no one ever teach you to “share” when you were in kindergarten? Have you never heard the phrase “do unto others”? I can’t think of a group of people who need to watch Sesame Street MORE than the Republican party. Perhaps they would learn some common decency. Copy and paste folks. This shit is ridiculous.

But there’s another thing, which is how contemptuous it is to assume that coal miners can’t possibly like anything on PBS. Really? No science, no nature, no history? No dance, no music, no drama, no imported comedies and soaps? It’s not as if PBS pumps out a steady diet of Wittgenstein or Derrida, and it’s also not as if all coal miners want nothing but football and porn.

Coal miners, and chicken processors and strawberry pickers and truck drivers, get a lot more out of PBS than they do out of Donnie’s weekends in Palm Beach.



The road to the yellow star

Mar 20th, 2017 11:50 am | By

Diana Carillo shares an incident in Trump’s America:

A few friends and I went to Saint Marc’s in Huntington Beach today. My sister and my friend were seated first and the waiter asked them for their “proof of residency” when they ordered a drink. My friend in disbelief repeated what he said and his response was “yeah, I need to make sure you’re from here before I serve you.” Not knowing that this happened to them, my friend and I were then seated and he returned to the table and asked us for our “proof of residency.” After fully digesting what he said, we all got up and left to speak to the manager. For a few seconds I thought maybe he was being a smart ass or joking but the fact that he said “I need to make sure you’re from here before I serve you” was completely unacceptable. How many others has he said this to? I hope this employee is reprimanded for his actions. No establishment should tolerate discriminatory actions from their employees. PLEASE SHARE WITH YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS!

It has 1,541 shares to date.

 



Guest post: It’s hard to overstate what a disaster it is

Mar 20th, 2017 11:44 am | By

Originally a comment by Claire on Decline.

The US’s leading position in scientific research is what brought me to this country in the first place. I did my postdoctoral training at the NIH, and when I moved on to a faculty position, the recent years of tight budgets were a concern. As the Atlantic reporter notes, the funding lines have been very tight for many years. The leading research grant mentioned is called the R01, and it’s true that the average age of a first R01 awardee has been climbing for years too.

What is not appreciated is that because about 80% of extramural funding is already committed for grants awarded in previous years (the R01 is typically a 4 or 5 year grant, other mechanisms are also often multi-year affairs), so by slashing NIH’s budget so dramatically, it basically means no new grants will be funded and existing grants may even have to be cut.

There are other knock on effects of tighter funding. Every hour I spend writing grant applications is an hour not spent doing actual science or writing up work I’ve already done. I submitted a dozen grant applications last year. I’ll probably submit at least that many or more this year. And I’m one of the lucky ones, my university doesn’t require that I cover any proportion of my salary until I get tenure. Many of my friends are supposed to cover anywhere from 30-75% of their salary within 3 years of being hired. That’s always got the potential to be stressful, but in the current funding climate, it’s actively pushing good researchers out of academia and into the arms of industry. Nothing wrong with industry, but they don’t do a lot of the basic research that underpins each field.

If the NIH is unable to make any new grants over the next few years, it’s hard to overstate what a disaster that is. Private foundations and public charities cannot pick up the slack. Training programs that get cut are hard to restart because the infrastructure and the expertise goes away. And once training programs vanish, the jobs they supplied a trained workforce for has to recruit from other countries. Except if the Trump administration also cuts immigration, then maybe those posts will just go unfilled.

Some people may think that what I and my fellow scientists do is so removed from their everyday life that making our lives harder won’t affect them. I guarantee that it will. It might not be obvious, at least at first. But as the US falls behind in scientific research in all disciplines, a new powerhouse will emerge. And businesses who rely on that basic research for their applied research, may decide it’s easier to just move to whichever country comes out on top.



No information

Mar 20th, 2017 10:37 am | By

Comey has said what everyone outside of Trump’s pocket expected he would say.

FBI Director James B. Comey on Monday said there is “no information” that supports President Trump’s claims that his predecessor ordered surveillance of Trump Tower during the election campaign.

“I have no information that supports those tweets,’’ said Comey, testifying at the House Intelligence Committee’s first public hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. “We have looked carefully inside the FBI,’’ and agents found nothing to support those claims, he said.

Spicey is currently busy composing variations on the theme “But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” but everyone outside of Trump’s pocket knows that if there had been such evidence for Trump’s libelous assertion the FBI would have it. The fact that the FBI doesn’t have it is good reason to think Trump doesn’t have it either.

Of course Spicey could always just say Comey is lying, but that would have dangers of its own.

Under questioning from the top Democrat on the panel, Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), Comey said no president could order such surveillance. He added that the Justice Department had asked him to also tell the committee that that agency has no such information, either.

I wonder if Comey now wishes he hadn’t handed the election to Trump back in October.

Comey also acknowledged the existence of a counterintelligence investigation into the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, and said that probe extends to the nature of any links between Trump campaign associates and the Russian government.

Comey said the investigation is also exploring whether there was any coordination between the campaign and the Kremlin, and “whether any crimes were committed.”

The acknowledgment was an unusual move, given that the FBI’s practice is not to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations. “But in unusual circumstances, where it is in the public interest,” Comey said, “it may be appropriate to do so.”

Comey said he had been authorized by the Justice Department to confirm the wide-ranging probe’s existence.

Would that be the case if Sessions hadn’t recused himself?

The Republicans, the Post says, are more worked up about the leaks to the press. They’re especially bothered about the Post story reporting that Flynn talked about sanctions with Kislyak before Trump’s inauguration.

As the hearing was going on — in an apparent dig at Comey and carrying the suggestion that Obama administration officials were behind the leaks — Trump’s presidential Twitter account tweeted out “FBI Director Comey refuses to deny he briefed President Obama on calls made by Michael Flynn to Russia.”

Dignified and appropriate as always.



The many ways women have been kept quiet

Mar 19th, 2017 5:13 pm | By

Rebecca Solnit has a new book.

Rebecca Solnit has long been known as a pithy and wise writer, a feminist whose reach spans the personal and political. During the past several decades, she’s explored the ways language has been used and misused; the ways gender has been constructed to privilege men; the condescension of mansplaining; and the ways that all-too-many men have used their perceived dominance to belittle and marginalize women.

Her latest effort, The Mother of All Questions, continues this work. The book is a collection of 11 essays (many of them previously published in the Guardian, Harper’s and Literary Hub), that investigate the many means by which people are silenced. It’s a stellar collection, touching upon men’s burgeoning involvement in feminist movements; the never-funny rape joke; increased campus activism against sexual violence; literary and film representations of women; gun violence; and linguistic missteps.

In the title essay, first published in 2015, she sets the table for the rest of the intellectual buffet and channels “the angel in the house,” first described by poet Coventry Patmore in the 1850s to honor his self-sacrificing wife. “Man must be pleased; but him to please is women’s pleasure,” he wrote. Solnit further notes that like other feminists, Virginia Woolf found the description so offensive that she publicly decried it, writing in 1931 of the necessity of killing the angel and silencing that beleaguered inner voice that tells women to submissively devote their lives to men, whether bosses, colleagues, fathers, husbands, or other relatives.

Or clients, or guys on the street. One of the ways women are still expected to devote their lives to men is the hotness-mandate. Women are always subject to rebuke or harassment or outright violence for failure to be sexually and aesthetically pleasing enough to men. That expectation has grown and entrenched as expectations about dish-washing and shirt-ironing have receded. Ok, the deal seems to be, you don’t have to do more than your share of the domestic work, but you by god had better be fuckable, or the deal’s off.

Solnit’s look at silencing—she credits earlier feminists including Michelle Cliff, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Susan Griffin, Audre Lorde, Tillie Olsen, Muriel Rukeyser, Susan Sontag, and Virginia Woolf for their work on the subject—addresses the many ways that women have, and continue to be, kept quiet. She chronicles everything from women’s removal from history books to the denial of the vote; from a lack of educational access to the silencing that comes from fear of rape, sexual harassment, and molestation. Being denied a role in policy making, as well as being disbelieved when we testify about abuse, she concludes, can be as silencing as a literal muzzle and has a deleterious impact on girls and the women they become.

And now everything is so much worse than we ever thought possible.



Wasting police time

Mar 19th, 2017 4:58 pm | By

It turns out she wasn’t wasting police time after all.

A teenager who was found dead with her throat slit months after reporting her ex-boyfriend to police was issued with a fine for wasting police time, a murder trial has heard.

The body of Shana Grice, 19, was discovered in her bedroom in Portslade, East Sussex, following an attack last August. An attempt had been made to start a fire in two separate areas of her flat.

Her former boyfriend, Michael Lane, 27, is standing trial for her murder, which he denies.

She’d gone back to a previous boyfriend, Ashley Cooke.

She told police Lane was stalking her in February 2016, after he allegedly hid outside her house, left unwanted flowers and a note that read “Shona will always cheat on you” on Mr Cooke’s car.

One month later, Ms Grice reported that Lane had assaulted her, but he denied the allegation and provided texts that suggested she wanted to be in a relationship with him.

The court heard that Ms Grice was then charged with “having caused wasteful employment of police by making a false report” because she failed to disclose that Lane was her on-off boyfriend, and was issued with a fixed-penalty notice.

Lane stole her keys and broke into her house to watch her sleep, but the police said no big deal.

Then she turned up dead with her throat slashed.



Decline

Mar 19th, 2017 12:40 pm | By

Massive cuts to federal funding of science research? Not really such a great idea.

For about a decade, stagnant funding at the NIH was considered a serious impediment to scientific progress. Now, scientists say they are facing something much worse.

I asked more than a dozen scientists—across a wide range of disciplines, with affiliations to private schools, public schools, and private foundations—and their concern about the proposed budget was resounding. The consequences of such a dramatic reduction in public spending on science and medicine would be deadly, they told me. More than one person said that losing public funding on this scale would dramatically lower the country’s global scientific standing. One doctor said he believed Trump’s proposal, if passed, would set off a lost generation in American science.

But we’ll have a much much much bigger military than anyone else. That’s all that counts, right? Power, force, strength, violence?

And what happens to all the crucial basic science without billionaire backing—the kind of research with wide-ranging applications that can dramatically enhance human understanding of the world?  NIH funding is spread across all disciplines, several scientists reminded me, whereas private funding tends to be driven by the personal preferences of investors.

[I]n a privately-funded system, investor interest dictates the kind of science that’s pursued in the first place.

“Put simply, privatization will mean that more ‘sexy,’ ‘hot’ science will be funded, and we will miss important discoveries since most breakthroughs are based on years and decades of baby steps,” said Kelly Cosgrove, an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale University. “The hare will win, the tortoise will lose, and America will not be scientifically great.”

America’s enduring scientific greatness rests largely on the scientists of the future. And relying on private funding poses an additional problem for supporting people early in their careers. The squeeze on public funding in recent years has posed a similar concern, as young scientists are getting a smaller share of key publicly-funded research grants, according to a 2014 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In 1983, about 18 percent of scientists who received the NIH’s leading research grant were 36 years old or younger. In 2010, just 3 percent of them were. Today, more than twice as many such grants go to scientists who are over 65 years old compared with people under 36—a reversal from just 15 years ago, according to the report.

The proposed NIH cuts “would bring American biomedical science to a halt and forever shut out a generation of young scientists,” said Peter Hotez, the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. “It would take a decade for us to recover and move the world’s center of science to the U.S. from China, Germany, and Singapore, where investments are now robust.”

But we’ll always have college football.



Jersey Shore

Mar 19th, 2017 11:50 am | By

There are factions in the White House.

Inside the White House, they are dismissed by their rivals as “the Democrats.”

Outspoken, worldly and polished, this coterie of ascendant Manhattan business figures-turned-presidential advisers is scrambling the still-evolving power centers swirling around President Trump.

Led by Gary Cohn and Dina Powell — two former Goldman Sachs executives often aligned with Trump’s eldest daughter and his son-in-law — the group and its broad network of allies are the targets of suspicion, loathing and jealousy from their more ideological West Wing colleagues.

Of course this is all relative. “Worldly and polished” compared to Trump…which could mean not all that worldly and polished by most standards.

On the other side are the Republican populists driving much of Trump’s nationalist agenda and confrontations, led by chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, who has grown closer to Chief of Staff Reince Priebus in part to counter the New Yorkers.

Populist shmopulist. The unabashed misogynist racists, is what they mean. Bannon used to be a banker himself, and he can do “worldly and polished” if he chooses to.

For the most part so far, the ideologues are winning. One revealing episode came as Trump weighed where he would travel this past Wednesday following an auto industry event in Michigan.

Would he jet to New York at the invitation of Canada’s progressive hero, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to attend a Broadway performance of “Come From Away,” a musical that showcases the generosity of foreigners?

Or would he fly to Nashville to dip his head in reverence at the gravesite of Andrew Jackson and yoke himself to the nationalist legacy of America’s seventh president?

The nationalist racist genocidal legacy. The New York faction wanted him to do the less obnoxious thing, and of course he did the more obnoxious thing. He likes it.