Notes and Comment Blog

“We don’t know what freedom tastes like”

Jan 11th, 2019 10:19 am | By

The BBC on Rahaf al-Qunun’s escape to Canada:

The UN’s refugee agency has said it considers her to be a legitimate refugee.

Refugee status is normally granted by governments, but the UNHCR can grant it where states are “unable or unwilling to do so”, according to its website.

Thai immigration officials told Reuters that Canada had “granted her asylum”, however Canadian officials told the BBC they currently have “nothing to confirm” on the issue.

I didn’t know the UNHCR can grant refugee status on its own; that’s useful.

The BBC talked to another Saudi woman.

Rahaf is an inspiration. But she’s not the first one who did this and definitely not the last one.

What we are going through is awful. We think about this every day because us women here do not know what it feels like to go out. We don’t know what freedom tastes like.

Dad keeps my passport with him all the time, we go to hotels and he puts it next to him when he sleeps.

Unfortunately it’s not a revolution. Every girl that is tweeting about this, it’s either that she has already escaped or she’s using a fake account like me. Some people tweeted me or DMed me to tell me to use my real account, for me to be brave.

We do not want the guardianship any more. I want to go out of the house and drink coffee from Starbucks. I don’t have to take my whole family. This is just way too harsh on us.

Living this life is exhausting.

Don’t let anyone tell you MBS is “reforming” anything.

The only massacre the Burmese government has admitted

Jan 11th, 2019 10:12 am | By

Meanwhile in Burma:

A court in Myanmar has rejected an appeal by two Reuters reporters jailed for breaking a state secrets act.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were sentenced to seven years in September in a case condemned around the world.

They exposed the summary execution of 10 Muslim Rohingyas by the security forces during the military’s anti-Rohingya operation in 2017.

State murder shouldn’t be protected by state secrets acts.

When arrested the two were investigating a mass execution of Rohingyas, hundreds of thousands of whom have been forced to flee destruction and persecution in the northern Rakhine province of Myanmar (also called Burma).

UN investigators have called for top Myanmar generals to be investigated for genocide, and criticised the country’s de facto leader Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for failing to stop the attacks.

The massacre the reporters were investigating is the only one the Burmese government has admitted. Myanmar’s military – which says its operations targeted militant or insurgent threats – had until then insisted its soldiers carried out no unlawful killings.

Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen J Adler called the court’s rejection “yet another injustice” against the pair.

“Reporting is not a crime, and until Myanmar rights this terrible wrong, the press in Myanmar is not free,” he said in a statement.

I don’t suppose the Trump administration will apply any pressure.

In Palmer Square

Jan 11th, 2019 8:59 am | By

White nationalists marching in Princeton:

A white supremacist group — the New Jersey European Heritage Association — plans to host a march in Princeton Saturday, a move that local officials say they don’t condone, but can’t stop.

Now look here – that’s my hometown, and that’s no good. (It’s also quite surprising, because Princeton is frankly very up itself…but then come to think of it that’s probably why they chose it. “Take that, you exurban preppy elleetist snobs.”)

The Princeton Police Department was notified that flyers were posted around town advertising the march, which is happening in Palmer Square. The department will have a strong presence in the area Saturday, Chief Nick Sutter said.

“We want everybody to be able to demonstrate peacefully and (get) their voices heard,” Sutter said. “We don’t want any provocations or altercations to take place.”

Sutter also encouraged any groups or people who may be planning counter-protests to register with the police department so they can obtain a permit and police can ensure everyone has a space.

Fight fiercely Harvard, fight fight fight
Impress them with your prowess, do.

In November, a group held an “It’s OK to be white” march on Nassau Street. Similar racist and anti-Semitic posters have also been found hanging at Princeton University.

The Princeton I grew up in was so genteel about its racism.

Another step

Jan 11th, 2019 8:47 am | By

Good news:

The AP has more:

Thailand’s immigration police chief says a Saudi woman who fled alleged abuse by her family will leave Bangkok for Canada.

Police Chief Surachate Hakparn says the 18-year-old woman, Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, is leaving on a flight late Friday evening. He gave no other details.

He earlier said that several countries including Canada and Australia were in talks with the U.N. refugee agency on accepting Alqunun.

Well done Canada.

This doesn’t mean she has refugee status now, but it’s a step in a good direction.

Let’em drown

Jan 10th, 2019 5:28 pm | By

Now here’s an excellent plan.

President Donald Trump has been briefed on a plan that would use the Army Corps of Engineers and a portion of $13.9 billion of Army Corps funding to build 315 miles of barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the briefing.

The money was set aside to fund projects all over the country including storm-damaged areas of Puerto Rico through fiscal year 2020, but the checks have not been written yet and, under an emergency declaration, the president could take the money from these civil works projects and use it to build the border wall, said officials familiar with the briefing and two congressional sources.

And that plan is completely disgusting and outrageous, so obviously that’s what he’ll do.

He could do it if he declares an emergency, and word is he’s going to do just that.

Under the proposal, the officials said, Trump could dip into the $2.4 billion allocated to projects in California, including flood prevention and protection projects along the Yuba River Basin and the Folsom Dam, as well as the $2.5 billion set aside for reconstruction projects in Puerto Rico, which is still recovering from Hurricane Maria.

Sure, great. Let people in Puerto Rico and California (brown people and Democrats!) drown in order to put up a wheel wall to tell brown people “We hate you, you can’t come here.”

City on a hill, man.

Image result for shining city on a hill

Two to tango

Jan 10th, 2019 5:06 pm | By


The rapist’s demand for the woman to spread her legs is one reason for the rape. The woman’s refusal to comply is another.

The wheels on the bus

Jan 10th, 2019 2:15 pm | By

Oh god oh god oh god he did say it

Talking into his mashed potatoes

Jan 10th, 2019 2:09 pm | By

Gail Collins addresses something I wondered about after watching a fragment of Trump’s attempted speech the other night:

Maybe all this wall obsessing makes Trump tired. He certainly seemed low-energy during his Oval Office address. “He makes Jeb Bush look like a combination of Mighty Mouse and Bruce Springsteen,” a friend of mine said after the president finished his nine-minute speech to the American people.

For every viewer whose response to the talk was “Wow, we should do something about immigration!” there must have been a hundred whose first reaction was “Why does this man keep sniffing?” Deviated septum? Nasal polyps? Trump’s breathing has actually sounded strange for a long time, but most of us have chosen to ignore it rather than engage in a national conversation about the president’s nose.

If you watched the address — and really, you could have, it was only about as long as it takes to microwave popcorn — you saw a 72-year-old guy squinting at the teleprompter and making rather alarming breathing sounds while reading a speech about how we need a wall to protect women who are “sexually assaulted on the dangerous trek up through Mexico.”

This is not a man who should wrap his arguments around the idea of protecting women from sexual assault. But also, gee, he sounded like Uncle Fred who you haven’t seen for a while and suddenly he shows up for Thanksgiving with weird colored hair and vacant eyes and he’s talking into his mashed potatoes.

Now we know why Trump never made a speech from the Oval Office before. He’s a guy whose great political talent is yelling applause lines to a howling mob of supporters. If they cheer, he goes back again and again.

That’s what I was wondering about – how he manages to draw those howling mobs of supporters when he is so bad at talking. I guess it’s because of the howling mobs of supporters? They inspire him? He’s not more reasonable or coherent or interesting in front of the mobs but at least he doesn’t look and sound like a store dummy hideously brought to life.

Image result for trump oval office speech

Consider THE WHEEL

Jan 10th, 2019 1:51 pm | By

Really? REALLY?? REALLY???


Jan 10th, 2019 12:23 pm | By

Trump has gone to Texas, even though he didn’t want to, so that he can…look studly on the border? Or something?

He does look hawt, you gotta admit.

CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

President Trump arrived in this border town Thursday on a trip that he did not want to take to discuss a crisis that Democrats say does not exist.

He’s helpless. If they tell him to go to this border town in Texas, he has to go.

But as the government shutdown neared the end of its third week, the president left Washington with no additional negotiations scheduled with congressional leaders. In remarks to reporters on Thursday, Mr. Trump left open the possibility of declaring a state of emergency, which could allow him to bypass Congress to fund the wall.

Asked if he would make such a declaration, an action that would likely face legal challenges, Mr. Trump said: “If this doesn’t work out, probably I will do it. I would almost say definitely.”

If what doesn’t work out? His trip to the border in Texas? He expects that to “work out”? Meaning, to convince the Democrats to agree to spending 5 billion dollars building his racist wall? Why would it do that? How could it?

In a meeting with network anchors on Tuesday ahead of his address to the nation, the president dismissed his trip to McAllen, a border community where crime is near a 30-year low, as a “photo op” that he was doing because his top communications advisers counseled him to.

I bet they didn’t advise him to tell network anchors that though.

In Texas, a crowd of supporters with flags and “build the wall” signs gathered near the Rio Grande before Air Force One landed on Thursday. While in Texas, Mr. Trump is expected to meet with Border Patrol officials who are being forced to work without pay because of the funding impasse.

Meet with them to do what? Tell them to hold garage sales? To make adjustments? To take up dog-walking?

To bolster his campaign for the wall, the president has also scheduled an interview with the Fox host Sean Hannity, who will broadcast his show Thursday night from McAllen. Mr. Hannity is one of the president’s highest-profile supporters and is highly influential among his political base.

Ah, great, that’s definitely the person we want running the country: Sean Hannity.

The logic of this performance of outsiderness

Jan 10th, 2019 11:03 am | By

Justin E. H. Smith on the higher bullshit:

Derrida means nothing without his Parisian institutional setting, but once that setting comes into focus, he continues to mean nothing, though now in a different way: he means nothing, individually, because the tricks he was encouraged to perform that so dazzled the crowds at Johns Hopkins and Irvine were taught to many others just like him, who would all of course insist on their own uniqueness, would claim they were always outsiders to the true French intellectual elite, but only because you cannot enter the tightest nucleus of this elite if you do not claim to be an outsider to it, all the while, all of them, yielding up only minor variations on the same recipes.

The logic of this performance of outsiderness is the same as in many genres of popular music, where the whole delicate game is to appear to maintain your street cred as a bad boy who disdains the major record labels and the award shows, all the while clamouring for such distinctions.

I like that because it describes so much of what passes for lefty politics right now, especially the union of ferocious policing and punishment with proud displays of awesome rad woke specialness.

Better for some, then, to go far away, where the rules of the game are not so transparent, where you’ve got no Bourdieu hounding you and exposing your every move as really nothing more than the species-specific behaviour of Homo academicus francogallicus. Like top chefs who travel far to ply their trade, Derrida found that the crowds at his distant destinations could not make any distinction between what was inspired in his words, and what was inherited, what was the product of a singular mind, and what the generic template of an earlier acculturation. The most conventional dishes will get French chefs raving reviews if they go and open a restaurant, perhaps calling it ‘Ooh-La-La’, in a strip mall in Orange County (an example drawn from my true memory of a suburban California childhood). That is the whole secret of Derrida’s decades-long mystification of the Anglophone world.

It helps a lot that Americans are so far away and so very provincial. It apparently never occurred to the smitten-by-Derrida even to ask how his colleagues saw him, let alone to suspect that he was nowhere near as groundbreaking as his Anglophone reputation made him seem.

It is, moreover, nothing short of the highest species of farce that the likes of Ronell were permitted for so long to use university offices as their deconstructionist romper rooms, to develop their tiny cults of personality and have their imagined French romances, only because administrators, unable to understand what the lit professors were talking about, assumed that it was just very difficult and profound philosophy, and saw that whatever it was all about was economically useful for the cultivation of institutional prestige.

While it lasted.

Change of policy

Jan 10th, 2019 10:33 am | By

The BBC tells us:

Victims of forced marriages overseas will no longer have to take out loans to pay for their return to the UK.

It emerged last week in an investigation by The Times that those unable to cover flights, food and shelter were made to take out an emergency loan.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the policy was changing as victims “may have endured particular suffering”.

Existing loans will be written off and the women’s passports returned.

The Foreign Office is going to try to get the money back from the people who arranged the forced marriage, which seems only fair.

When he said “pay for it” he obviously didn’t mean “pay for it”

Jan 10th, 2019 9:45 am | By

This one will lose him some MAGA fans, because he’s playing them for suckers.

President Donald Trump claimed Thursday that his oft-made 2016 campaign promise that he would build a wall and Mexico would pay for it didn’t mean it would be a direct payment, despite outlining just that scenario during his campaign.

Yeah, they’re not going to like that, because he said it to them and they know that and nobody likes being played for a sucker.

“When during the campaign, I would say ‘Mexico is going to pay for it,’ obviously, I never said this, and I never meant they’re gonna write out a check, I said they’re going to pay for it. They are,” he said as he prepared to depart the White House for the southern border.

We’re not that stupid, Don. We’re not your kids.

But in April 2016, Trump’s campaign outlined the steps he would take to compel Mexico to pay the US “$5-10 billion” to fund a border wall — a plan that relies largely on threatening to bar undocumented Mexican immigrants in the United States from wiring money to relatives in Mexico.
“It’s an easy decision for Mexico: make a one-time payment of $5-10 billion to ensure that $24 billion continues to flow into their country year after year,” the memo said.

Don’t insult us, Don. Nobody likes being insulted that way.

You there, go to the end of the line

Jan 10th, 2019 5:28 am | By

Deutsche Welle reports that the Trump administration has downgraded the diplomatic status of the EU delegation to the US.

The unannounced move by the US State Department, which has not previously been reported, downgraded the EU delegation’s diplomatic status in Washington from member state to international organization.

“We don’t exactly know when they did it, because they conveniently forgot to notify us,” an EU official who is familiar with the matter told DW in an interview.

“I can confirm that this has not been well received in Brussels,” the person said, adding that the issue and an official EU response was still being discussed.

Welllll who needs Europe when we can have Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia? Europe is for what Trump calls elleetissts.

A Washington-based diplomat of an EU member state also confirmed the downgrade and denounced the move.

“This is clearly not simply a protocol issue, but this is something that has a very obvious political motive,” the person said. The diplomat added that the negative view of the EU mission downgrade was shared by the majority of member states.

After discovering the downgrade, EU diplomats in Washington reached out to the State Department, which is responsible for diplomatic affairs, for clarification. “They have told us that they forgot to notify us and that this is a decision they have taken because that is apparently what the chief of protocol thinks is the proper thing to do,” the person said.

Meaning, it’s what the Trumpies told them to do.

The diplomatic downgrade of the EU’s mission in Washington appears to be in line with what is widely being perceived as an anti-EU stance by the Trump administration.

Trump was an avid supporter of Britain’s exit from the European Union during his presidential campaign, and as president has repeatedly lashed out at the European Union on issues such as trade and defense.

Europe isn’t authoritarian enough for Trump’s tastes.

It constitutes involuntary servitude

Jan 9th, 2019 4:49 pm | By

Russell Berman in the Atlantic:

Eric Young is the president of the union that represents the approximately 30,000 employees of the Federal Bureau of Prisons who are working during the government shutdown.

Young’s members, scattered at 122 facilities located in largely rural areas across the country, aren’t being paid and don’t know when their next paycheck will come. Like the leaders of virtually every federal-employee union during the past three weeks, he has condemned the shutdown and its toll on innocent workers as “unconscionable.”

“My personal opinion,” Young told me over the phone from his office in Arkansas, “is that it constitutes involuntary servitude.”

Neither Young nor any of his partners in union leadership, however, will urge their members to do the one thing that would seem most natural for employees facing the same treatment in the private sector: If they don’t pay you, stay home.

“We can’t call or advocate for a strike,” Young said.

Why? Because of the highly regressive Taft-Hartley act of 1947, which made it illegal for federal employees to go on strike. As far as I know it’s also illegal to force people to work for no pay, but heads the bosses win, tails the workers lose.

The current shutdown is a partial one affecting roughly 800,000 federal employees. Roughly half of them are on furlough, while the other half, whose jobs are considered essential to public health and safety, must report to work even though Congress has not appropriated the funds to pay them. This category includes the Secret Service agents who protect the president and his family, the Transportation Security Agents, pilots, and air-traffic controllers who keep the aviation system running, the corrections officers who staff federal prisons, and, yes, the Border Patrol agents who guard the southern divide with Mexico along which Trump wants to build a wall.

If they don’t show up, “they’d be considered absent without leave,” said Jacque Simon, the policy director for the American Federation of Government Employees, by far the largest union representing federal employees. “When they’re told to come to work, they are required to come to work.” An awol designation could lead to disciplinary action, including termination. For longtime government employees, that could put in jeopardy a federal pension they’ve spent a career accruing, union leaders said.

Trump doesn’t care. He said last weekend that they will “make an adjustment,” which is meaningless, but he doesn’t care. He’s not having to do without, and neither is Princess Ivanka, and that’s all he cares about.


Jan 9th, 2019 3:24 pm | By

Meanwhile this vehicle we’re trapped in is racing toward the cliff.

President Trump slammed his hand on a table and stormed out of a White House meeting with congressional leaders on Wednesday after Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said she would not fund a wall along the southern border, dramatically escalating the confrontation over the government shutdown.

Stunned Democrats emerged from the White House meeting declaring that Mr. Trump had thrown a “temper tantrum.” The president’s allies accused Democrats of refusing to negotiate. Then he tweeted that the meeting was “a total waste of time.”

As opposed to rage-tweeting, and withdrawing emergency aid to victims of wildfires, and watching Fox News for 8 hours a day? Those are valuable uses of time are they?

Moderate Republicans who entered the room confident that senators were coalescing around the idea that the government should be reopened while the border security debate continues left disappointed, convinced that for now, the party would follow Mr. Trump perilously further into a shutdown with an uncertain end.

A handful of them, including Cory Gardner of Colorado, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine and James Lankford of Oklahoma, pressed Mr. Trump on the mounting impact on federal workers and related industries in their states. His response was consistent.

Of course it was, because he’s a selfish stubborn piece of crap who doesn’t care how much misery and desperation he is causing as long as he gets his own way.

Related image

Well done all

Jan 9th, 2019 2:51 pm | By

But, in much better news –


Jan 9th, 2019 2:35 pm | By

Make America demonic again.

Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

Impulsive, reckless, and uninformed

Jan 9th, 2019 11:44 am | By

The Fire fighters’ union responds:

As Californians struggle to recover from a series of devastating wildfires, the president of the United States has launched another impulsive, reckless and uninformed tweet threatening to halt federal funding dedicated to helping fire fighters keep their communities safe.

“This is yet another unimaginable attack on the dedicated professionals who put everything on the line, including their own homes, to protect their neighborhoods,” says Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters. “While our president is tweeting on the sidelines in DC, our fellow Americans 3,000 miles to the west are mourning loved ones, entire communities have been wiped off the map and thousands of people are still trying to figure out where they are going to call home.”

“The president’s tweet is disgraceful at a time when the government is under a self-imposed shutdown and the citizens of Paradise haven’t even been at their home sites in 30 days,” says President of the California Professional Firefighters Brian Rice. “This important funding would go toward literally helping this city rise from the ashes. To withhold it in a game of politics is insulting to the people of Paradise.”

President-elect of CAL FIRE Local 2881 Tim Edwards says, “A more responsible president, Theodore Roosevelt, realized the uniqueness of the West and the complex geography of our wildlands. The fire fighters who protect these precious forests, at the risk to their lives, safety and their own homes, understand that drought and climate change have made our task more difficult. Now is the time for us to work collaboratively for solutions, not to make unfair, dangerous assessments.”

Last year, unprecedented wildfire destruction in California burned an area larger than the state of Rhode Island — the Camp Fire, with 48 dead, is the deadliest wildfire in California history.

Wildfire season has now become a year-round event, with short-staffed departments and exhausted fire fighters spending weeks at a time on the frontline doing their best to keep communities safe. Further reduction of resources will only make things more dangerous for fire fighters and the citizens they have sworn to protect.

Can he undeclare a state of disaster?

Jan 9th, 2019 11:34 am | By

Yes, Trump really did say he has “ordered FEMA to send no more money” – not will order but has ordered.

Whether the president even has the authority to rescind FEMA funding that has already been approved remains unclear. Guidelines for the way federal dollars flow after the president declares a national disaster, [as] he did after devastating wildfires in California this year, are outlined in the Stafford Act, said Rafael Lemaitre, the former director of public affairs for FEMA under the Obama administration.

“I’m not aware of any mechanism where you can say, ‘I’m undeclaring a state of disaster,” Lemaitre said.

Or, probably, of any president who would want to, until now.

Individual assistance dollars help victims find temporary housing, pay for repairs to their homes or help them buy groceries, clothes or new furniture. The window to apply for this aid closes Jan. 31.

It is unknown if Trump’s threat to stop FEMA funding could threaten those still seeking undistributed money.

“FEMA individual assistance is a real lifeline for people in their greatest time of need,” Lemaitre said, “and to use the plight of survivors to push your political agenda is draconian.”

It’s evil, sadistic, cruel, unconscionable, psychopathic.

“It’s absolutely shocking for President Trump to suggest he would deny disaster assistance to communities destroyed by wildfire,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “Attacking victims is yet another low for this president.”

And to do it apropos of nothing, in a fit of petulant narcissistic rage – it’s just stunning. He’d bite all our heads off if he could.

Last night he was on tv pretending to be all broken up about victims of violent crimes, and this morning he takes time out of watching tv to tell us he’s taking disaster relief funding away from victims of violent wildfires.