Notes and Comment Blog

He is taking the time to focus on his family

Oct 10th, 2017 12:39 pm | By

The Times has a new story to add more to the growing heap of Harvey Weinstein ordure.

Gwyneth Paltrow was one. Rosanna Arquette was one. Judith Godrèche, a leading French actress, has a story.

So does Angelina Jolie, who said that during the release of “Playing by Heart” in the late 1990s, he made unwanted advances on her in a hotel room, which she rejected.

“I had a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth, and as a result, chose never to work with him again and warn others when they did,” Ms. Jolie said in an email. “This behavior towards women in any field, any country is unacceptable.”

A New York Times investigation last week chronicled a hidden history of sexual harassment allegations against Mr. Weinstein and settlements he paid, often involving former employees, over three decades up to 2015. By Sunday evening, his entertainment company fired him.

On Tuesday, The New Yorker published a reportthat included multiple allegations of sexual assault, including forced oral and vaginal sex. The article also included accounts of sexual harassment going back to the 1990s, with women describing how intimidating Mr. Weinstein was.

Several days ago, additional actresses began sharing with The Times on-the-record stories of casting-couch abuses. Their accounts hint at the sweep of Mr. Weinstein’s alleged harassment, targeting women on the way to stardom, those who had barely acted and others in between.

It’s turning into a damn army.

The encounters they recalled followed a similar narrative: First, they said, Mr. Weinstein lured them to a private place to discuss films, scripts or even Oscar campaigns. Then, the women contend, he variously tried to initiate massages, touched them inappropriately, took off his clothes or offered them explicit work-for-sex deals.

In a statement on Tuesday, his spokeswoman, Sallie Hofmeister, said: “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances. He will not be available for further comments, as he is taking the time to focus on his family, on getting counseling and rebuilding his life.”

To “focus on his family”? A bit late, isn’t it? And as for rebuilding his life – fuck that. It’s not about rebuilding anything for him, it’s about the many many many women he has bullied and harmed.

His alleged behavior became something of a Hollywood open secret: When the comedian Seth MacFarlane announced Oscar nominees in 2013, he joked, “Congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.” The audience laughed.

Haw haw. Grab them by the pussy. Haw haw. Locker room talk. Haw haw.

Paltrow tells us something very telling.

When Mr. Weinstein tried to massage her and invited her into the bedroom, she immediately left, she said, and remembers feeling stunned as she drove away. “I thought you were my Uncle Harvey,” she recalled thinking, explaining that she had seen him as a mentor.

After she told Mr. Pitt about the episode, he approached Mr. Weinstein at a theater premiere and told him never to touch Ms. Paltrow again. Mr. Pitt confirmed the account to The Times through a representative.

Soon after, Mr. Weinstein called Ms. Paltrow and berated her for discussing the episode, she said. (She said she also told a few friends, family members and her agent.) “He screamed at me for a long time,” she said, once again fearing she could lose the role in “Emma.” “It was brutal.” But she stood her ground, she said, and insisted that he put the relationship back on professional footing.

He berated her for discussing it – yet he’s now claiming they were all consensual. Not very credible.

Five more women tell their stories. One of them is now an academic; she researches the objectification of women. She credits Weinstein for her interest in the subject.

They had the evidence

Oct 10th, 2017 12:10 pm | By

In the New Yorker, a long piece by – of all people – Ronan Farrow on the sexual bullying of Harvey Weinstein.

This has been an open secret to many in Hollywood and beyond, but previous attempts by many publications, including The New Yorker, to investigate and publish the story over the years fell short of the demands of journalistic evidence. Too few people were willing to speak, much less allow a reporter to use their names, and Weinstein and his associates used nondisclosure agreements, monetary payoffs, and legal threats to suppress these myriad stories.

And they weren’t kidding – women who said no or complained were punished.

In the course of a ten-month investigation, I was told by thirteen women that, between the nineteen-nineties and 2015, Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them, allegations that corroborate and overlap with the Times’ revelations, and also include far more serious claims.

Three women—among them Argento and a former aspiring actress named Lucia Evans—told me that Weinstein raped them, allegations that include Weinstein forcibly performing or receiving oral sex and forcing vaginal sex. Four women said that they experienced unwanted touching that could be classified as an assault. In an audio recording captured during a New York Police Department sting operation in 2015 and made public here for the first time, Weinstein admits to groping a Filipina-Italian model named Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, describing it as behavior he is “used to.” Four of the women I interviewed cited encounters in which Weinstein exposed himself or masturbated in front of them.

It’s worth listening to the recording to get a fuller sense of how Weinstein bullied.

Other employees described what was, in essence, a culture of complicity at Weinstein’s places of business, with numerous people throughout the companies fully aware of his behavior but either abetting it or looking the other way. Some employees said that they were enlisted in subterfuge to make the victims feel safe. A female executive with the company described how Weinstein assistants and others served as a “honeypot”—they would initially join a meeting, but then Weinstein would dismiss them, leaving him alone with the woman.

Virtually all of the people I spoke with told me that they were frightened of retaliation. “If Harvey were to discover my identity, I’m worried that he could ruin my life,” one former employee told me. Many said that they had seen Weinstein’s associates confront and intimidate those who crossed him, and feared that they would be similarly targeted. Four actresses, including Mira Sorvino and Rosanna Arquette, told me they suspected that, after they rejected Weinstein’s advances or complained about them to company representatives, Weinstein had them removed from projects or dissuaded people from hiring them. Multiple sources said that Weinstein frequently bragged about planting items in media outlets about those who spoke against him; these sources feared that they might be similarly targeted. Several pointed to Gutierrez’s case, in 2015: after she went to the police, negative items discussing her sexual history and impugning her credibility began rapidly appearing in New York gossip pages. (In the taped conversation with Gutierrez, Weinstein asks her to join him for “five minutes,” and warns, “Don’t ruin your friendship with me for five minutes.”)

Weinstein’s representative has put out a statement saying it was all consensual and he was a very naughty boy but it was all consensual and he’ll get help and maybe he can come back, because it was all consensual, really it was.

While Weinstein and his representatives have said that the incidents were consensual, and were not widespread or severe, the women I spoke to tell a very different story.

And we read some of the stories.

We learn of how that recording happened.

In March, 2015, Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, who was once a finalist in the Miss Italy contest, met Harvey Weinstein at a reception for “New York Spring Spectacular,” a show that he was producing at Radio City Music Hall. Weinstein introduced himself to Gutierrez, who was twenty-two, remarking repeatedly that she looked like the actress Mila Kunis.

Following the event, Gutierrez’s agency e-mailed to say that Weinstein wanted to set up a business meeting as soon as possible. Gutierrez arrived at Weinstein’s office in Tribeca early the next evening with her modelling portfolio. In the office, she sat with Weinstein on a couch to review the portfolio, and he began staring at her breasts, asking if they were real. Gutierrez later told officers of the New York Police Department Special Victims Division that Weinstein then lunged at her, groping her breasts and attempting to put a hand up her skirt while she protested. He finally backed off and told her that his assistant would give her tickets to “Finding Neverland,” a Broadway musical that he was producing. He said that he would meet her at the show that evening.

Instead of going to the show that night, Gutierrez went to the nearest N.Y.P.D. precinct station and reported the assault. Weinstein telephoned her later that evening, annoyed that she had failed to appear at the show. She picked up the call while sitting with investigators from the Special Victims Division, who listened in on the call and devised a plan: Gutierrez would agree to see the show the following day and then meet with Weinstein. She would wear a wire and attempt to extract a confession or incriminating statement.

The next day, Gutierrez met Weinstein at the bar of the Tribeca Grand Hotel. A team of undercover officers helped guide her through the interaction. On the recording, which I have heard in full, Weinstein lists actresses whose careers he has helped and offers Gutierrez the services of a dialect coach. Then he presses her to join him in his hotel room while he showers. Gutierrez says no repeatedly; Weinstein persists, and after a while she accedes to his demand to go upstairs. But, standing in the hallway outside his room, she refuses to go farther. In an increasingly tense exchange, he presses her to enter. Gutierrez says, “I don’t want to,” “I want to leave,” and “I want to go downstairs.” She asks him directly why he groped her breasts the day before.

“Oh, please, I’m sorry, just come on in,” Weinstein says. “I’m used to that. Come on. Please.”

“You’re used to that?” Gutierrez asks, sounding incredulous.

“Yes,” Weinstein says. He later adds, “I won’t do it again.”

After almost two minutes of back-and-forth in the hallway, Weinstein finally agrees to let her leave.

But the DA – Cyrus Vance, who dropped that fraud case against Ivanka and Don 2 Trump – decided not to prosecute, to the fury of (at least) one of the cops. (Will it be an episode of Law and Order SVU, or will they be too afraid of being sued?) And Weinstein shut the victim up.

“We had the evidence,” the police source involved in the operation told me. “It’s a case that made me angrier than I thought possible, and I have been on the force a long time.”

Gutierrez, when contacted for this story, said that she was unable to discuss the incident. According to a source close to the matter, after the D.A.’s office decided not to press charges, Gutierrez, facing Weinstein’s legal team, and in return for a payment, signed a highly restrictive nondisclosure agreement with Weinstein, including an affidavit stating that the acts Weinstein admits to in the recording never happened.

Weinstein’s use of such settlements was reported by the Times and confirmed to me by numerous sources. A former employee with firsthand knowledge of two settlement negotiations that took place in London in the nineteen-nineties recalled, “It felt like David versus Goliath . . . the guy with all the money and the power flexing his muscle and quashing the allegations and getting rid of them.”

Fantasy Island: Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump castaway on a tiny hot ugly island with enough supplies to survive but no luxuries.

H/t Screechy Monkey

Deals that assure him a win

Oct 10th, 2017 10:58 am | By

Forbes suggests we need to get a grip and understand President Pinhead. He’s a “dealmaker”; he’s in it for maximum payoff for himself, and nothing else. At first glance that sounds to me like just Capitalism, but of course it’s not that simple.

Donald Trump didn’t get rich building businesses, despite years of brand-burnishing via The Apprentice and millions of votes from people who craved exactly that experience. Instead, his forte lies in transactions–buying and selling and cutting deals that assure him a win regardless of the outcome for others. The nuance is essential. Entrepreneurs and businesspeople create and run entities that have any number of interested parties–shareholders and customers and employees and partners and hometowns–that in theory all share in success. Under Steve Jobs and Tim Cook, Apple has helped early shareholders multiply their investments nearly 400-fold, turned thousands of options-wielding employees into millionaires (swelling the local tax base), performed similar wonders for Taiwanese supplier Foxconn and made customers so deliriously happy that they wait all night to fork over hundreds of dollars for products that will be obsolete two years later.

Dealmakers rarely seek that kind of win-win-win-win-win. Whether it’s a stock trade, a swap of middle relievers or optioning a real estate parcel, a deal tends to involve just two parties and generally results in one coming out ahead of the other (so much so that a “win-win” is considered a noteworthy aberration). “Man is the most vicious of all animals,” Trump told People in 1981 (and it merited a mention the first time he appeared in Forbes , a year later). “Life is a series of battles ending in victory or defeat.” It’s a mentality that remains hard-wired in President Trump.

Nearly a year after the most stunning Election Day in many decades, pundits still profess to find themselves continually shocked by President Trump. They shouldn’t be: His worldview has been incredibly consistent. Rather than as an opportunity to turn ideology into policy, he views governing the way he does business–as an endless string of deals, to be won or lost, both at the negotiating table and in the court of public opinion.

And, furthermore, the win is for him, not for the country or the people or even for rich people. Just for him. Him is all he cares about.

This is why he loves numbers.

Numbers offer Trump validation. They determine the winner or loser of any deal and establish an industry hierarchy. It’s why Trump, more than any of the 1,600 or so people who’ve been on The Forbes 400, has spent more time lobbying and cajoling Forbes to get a higher valuation–and validation.

He’s similarly proud of the GDP. “So GDP last quarter was 3.1%. Most of the folks that are in your business, and elsewhere, were saying that would not be hit for a long time. You know, Obama never hit the number.”

When informed that his predecessor did, several times, Trump pivots immediately. “He never hit it on a yearly basis. Never hit it on a yearly basis. That’s eight years. I think we’ll go substantially higher than that. And I think this quarter would have been phenomenal, except for the hurricanes.”

For Trump, numbers also serve as a pliant tool. American business has fully embraced Big Data, Moneyball -style analytics and machine learning, where figures suggest the best course of action. But Trump, for decades, has boasted about how he conducts his own research–largely anecdotal–and then buys or sells based on instinct. Numbers are then used to justify his gut. He governs exactly that way, sticking with even his most illogical campaign promises–the kind other politicians walk back from once confronted with actual policy decisions, whether making Mexico pay for a border wall when illegal immigration is historically low or pulling the U.S. from the Paris climate accords, despite the fact that compliance is voluntary–citing whatever figures he can to justify his stances. When asked about Russian interference in the election, for example, he notes that he got 306 electoral votes and adds that the Democrats need “an excuse for losing an election that in theory they should have won.” For the greatest-ever American salesman (yes, including P.T. Barnum), statistics serve as marketing grist.

When at a loss, just mention a number, however irrelevant.

In any situation, Trump must be the alpha dog. Delegation isn’t his strong suit. Witness what happened when Tillerson apparently reopened a dialogue with the North Koreans. “He was wasting his time,” Trump now says. But doesn’t publicly upbraiding his top diplomat effectively neuter him? “I’m not undermining,” Trump says. “I think I’m actually strengthening authority.” It’s hard to see whose authority he’s strengthening, other than his own.

In Donald Trump’s orbit, clearly, no one is off-limits. A decade ago, Donald Trump Jr. told Forbes this story about his now-presidential father. “I’d be going to work with my dad when I was 5 or 6 years old… .

“Besides telling me again and again not to drink, not to smoke and not to chase women, he always told me: ‘Never trust anybody.’ Then he’d ask me if I trusted anybody. I’d say, ‘No.’ ‘Do you trust me?’ he’d ask. I’d say, ‘Yes.’ “

“And he’d say: ‘No! Don’t even trust me!’ “

What a hideous little story. (Notice he heeded the advice about trust but not about not chasing women.) What a loathsome cold affection-killing story.

All self, all numbers, no trust. Sums him up.

Temperamentally unable to exercise anything like mature judgment

Oct 9th, 2017 5:47 pm | By

Corker spelled out that nearly all the Republicans in Congress know Trump is unfit. James Fallows says ok so what are they going to do about it?

Senator Bob Corker, a Republican of Tennessee, deserves credit for saying in public this evening to The New York Times what most prominent Republicans have known and many have said (in careful privacy) over the past two years.

Namely: that Donald Trump is irrational, ill-informed, impulsive, unfit for command, and increasingly a danger to the country and the world. The man who has ultimate authority over the world’s most powerful military, including its nuclear weaponry, is recklessly issuing threats to North Korea and others that set the nation “on the path to World War III,” according to Corker—who, for the record, is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” he told Jonathan Martin and Mark Landler of the Times.

This situation is not normal. It is not safe. And the group which for now has a monopoly on legislative and investigative power in Washington, Corker’s own Republican Party, has an obligation to the country’s past and its future to do something about it.

It’s had that obligation all along, it had it during the campaign and after the election and after the inauguration, but it has it all the more with every hour of this maniac armed with nuclear weapons.

I have heard, first-hand, from Republican senators, representatives, and other dignitaries that they view Donald Trump as a menace in his current role. It’s not (just) that they disagree with some of what he does. It’s that they consider him intellectually unaware of the cliffs toward which he is steering the country, and temperamentally unable to exercise anything like mature judgment. In these and other ways, including his personal and financial ethics, they know that he is outside the range of suitability to hold this job.

Then they should remove him, without delay. I’m tired of seeing “But they never will, because their jobs.” The mismatch is grotesque. On the one hand a hopeless rage-prone lunatic in a position to destroy everything, on the other hand Their Careers. Come on now. Yes I know self-interest is a powerful drug, but come on now.

For congressional Republicans, this is your moment in history’s eye. One of your colleagues, who has chosen not to run for office again, and who also was the object of one of Trump’s intemperate attacks this morning, has decided that he might as well tell the truth. It turns out that this is often the right way to go! As the (slightly altered) line from Mark Twain put it, by telling the truth you will gratify some people and astonish the rest. Perhaps Corker’s motivations are not the purest or most glorious. He was nice to Trump last year, when Corker was in the mentioning-cloud as a possible secretary of state, and he was part of the “respectable” Republicans who disastrous enabled Trump. Corker’s retorts todayfollowed personal attacks from Trump. Still, he’s doing more than his colleagues have.  And Corker has moved toward a better place for himself in the annals of Senate history than he would have had only 24 hours ago.

This most definitely should not be the last step for Corker. If he believes what he says, then as the chairman of the relevant committee in the Senate he has important tools to use. He can issue subpoenas and summon executive branch witnesses as soon as he can get his colleagues back in town. He can draft legislation about the procedure, the grounds, and the justifications before the U.S. commits troops to war. He could urge his colleagues toward the next step through their stages-of-tragedy relationship with Trump. Stage one was carping and dismissal during the first half of 2016, when he was an entertaining long-shot. Stage two was Vichy-regime acquiescence to him during the campaign. Stage three was “support” early this year, toward the goal of the Gorsuch confirmation and the hope of a tax-cut bill. Now we see the inklings of stage four, with the dawning awareness of what Corker spelled out: that they have empowered something genuinely dangerous. It’s time for Corker to act on that knowledge, and his colleagues too.

Do it. This is not a joke, and it’s not a drill.


Oct 9th, 2017 5:13 pm | By

Saturday the white supremacists came back to Charlottesville.

The prominent white supremacist Richard B. Spencer was a featured speaker at a rally on Saturday in Charlottesville, Va., where demonstrators reprised their chant of “You will not replace us!” and asserted that the South would “rise again.”

The gathering, which occurred eight weeks after a “Unite the Right” rally resulted in the death of a 32-year-old woman, was considerably smaller than the one in August, instead resembling a group of protesters who descended on the park in May.

The Charlottesville Police Department said in a statement that Saturday’s rally began around 7:40 p.m., included 40 to 50 people and lasted no more than 10 minutes.

Good that it was small, but not good that Spencer and his friends feel entitled to keep throwing pro-racism demonstrations.

On Twitter, Mayor Mike Signer of Charlottesville urged the demonstrators to “Go home!”

Rallies for Racism aren’t really something the world needs.

So what were the president and vice-president doing yesterday? Making statements against racism? Oh hell no – they were making a huge fuss about black athletes protesting racist violence.

So that’s where we are.

H/t Eiynah

Emma called Harvey out

Oct 9th, 2017 4:09 pm | By

Harvey Weinstein didn’t just sexually harass women, he also [cough ALLEGEDLY cough] called them fat pigs. Emma Thompson tore a strip off him.

One film industry source told The New York Post that Weistein called then 24-year-old British-American actress Hayley Atwell she was a “fat pig on screen” while cast and crew were taking a break from filming Brideshead Revisited. The Hollywood veteran then allegedly told Atwell she should watch what she ate.

The unnamed source then went on to reveal that Atwell’s co-star Emma Thompson was furious with what happened.

“Emma called Harvey out for being a misogynist and a bully and really gave him a hard time,” the source said.

Hayley Atwell in Brideshead Revisited.

Hayley Atwell with (from left) Matthew Goode and Ben Whishaw in the 2008 film Brideshead Revisited.

Harvey Weinstein.

Harvey Weinstein is taking a leave of absence from his own company after The New York Times released a report alleging ...

I don’t call people fat pigs, because it’s disgusting, but if somebody threatened to pull my arms off if I didn’t agree that one of those people is a fat pig, I wouldn’t select the woman in the green frock.

Thompson has previously revealed she threatened to quit Brideshead Revisited because a co-star was told to lose weight. However, it was not known who allegedly made the insulting remarks until now.

Earlier this year, the Love Actually star told Swedish chat show Skavlan she was furious because her co-star already looked “exquisite” and there are too many people struggling with eating disorders.

“I said to them, ‘If you speak to her about this again, on any level, I will leave this picture. You are never to do that’,” she said. “It’s evil, what’s happening, what’s going on out there, and it’s getting worse.

Well done Emma. Live long and prosper.

He was a rock star

Oct 9th, 2017 12:59 pm | By

Trump told us over the weekend what fun he had in Puerto Rico. That’s nice. It’s always good to see the misery of millions provide a little entertainment for a head of state.

Over the weekend, President Donald J. Trump praised his response to the devastation caused to the island of Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria, which left dozens dead and thousands without power or potable water.

“I was having fun,” Trump said of his four-hour visit to San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital, last Tuesday. That visit, most memorably, had him throwing paper towels to an audience gathered to see him inside a church. “They had these beautiful, soft towels. Very good towels,” Trump said. He claimed that the people of Puerto Rico also had “fun” during his visit. As he usually does, Trump dismissed critics while offering himself exceedingly high marks.

“And I came in and there was a crowd of a lot of people. And they were screaming and they were loving everything,” Trump said of his visit to the Calvary Chapel, where the now-famous tossing of the paper towels took place.

The comments came in a Saturday interview with Mike Huckabee on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, which offers Christian-themed broadcasting.

Like for instance Donald “you can grab them by the pussy” Trump. Ok.

In Saturday’s interview, Huckabee said that everyone but presumably liberal media outlets had described Trump’s response to the hurricane as “pitch perfect.” Trump agreed with this assessment. He dismissed all criticism as “fake news” while detailing the high praise he’d received.

“We did a great job,” Trump said.

“You were a rock star,” Huckabee agreed.

Trump tweeted confirmation of these excellent reviews.


Pence’s pricey junket

Oct 9th, 2017 12:33 pm | By

How much did Pence’s flight from Las Vegas to Indianapolis in order to walk out of a football game cost us? CNN does the adding up.

Here is an estimate of just the air costs (which does not include costs of advance personnel, Secret Service or support on the ground):

According to the Air Force, flying a C-32, the model of plane used for Air Force 2, for one hour costs about $30,000. Pence’s flight from Las Vegas to Indianapolis Saturday took about three hours and 20 minutes, so it cost about $100,000
Pence then flew from Indianapolis to Los Angeles on Sunday, which took about four hours and 45 minutes, costing about $142,500.

The grand total: about $242,500.

A quarter of a million before you take the other expenses into account. All that just to march into a football stadium, wait a few minutes, and then march out again.

And what was the purpose of your journey? To whip up more hatred of black people.

Mr Nomanners

Oct 9th, 2017 12:03 pm | By

The Times has a Republican’s Guide to Presidential Etiquette that it has updated to take in recent incidents in correct behavior.

Republicans used to care a whole lot about how a president comported himself, and whether he acted at all times with the dignity his station demands.

“Is President Obama Disrespecting the Oval Office?” Fox News asked in 2010, with a link to images of Mr. Obama and his aides tossing a football, or eating apples just inches from the Resolute desk.

“Wear a suit coat and tie,” said Andrew Card Jr., President George W. Bush’s former chief of staff, in reaction to pictures of Mr. Obama in shirtsleeves in 2009.

I remember that shirtsleeves nonsense. I don’t think I knew there were complaints about eating apples. I have a feeling I blogged something about substance versus appearance, and the fact that wearing a tie at all times did nothing to disguise Bush’s lack of qualification for the job.

“I do expect him to send the message that people who are going to be in the Oval Office should treat the office with the respect that it has earned over history,” Mr. Card said.

But hey, that was then! In 2017, there’s a whole new bar for tolerable conduct by the commander in chief. Our original guide cataloged several dozen examples. Almost five months later, it’s clear that an update is necessary. This expanded list is meant to ensure that Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and other congressional Republicans never forget what they now condone in a president.

So, if you are the president, you may:

  • Call for the firing of “son of a bitch” athletes who choose to exercise their right to free speech

  • Deliver a speech to the Boy Scouts of America that includes mockery of a former president and winking references to sexual orgies, and then lie by claiming that the head of that organization called and told you it was the best speech ever delivered in Boy Scout history

And tweet tweet tweet, and lie lie lie. It’s a useful list.

La guerre est finie

Oct 9th, 2017 11:14 am | By

The war on coal is over; the war on the environment has intensified.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt told coal miners in Kentucky on Monday that he will move to repeal a rule limiting greenhouse-gas emissions from existing power plants, assuring them, “The war against coal is over.”

Awesome. Let’s have more and more and MORE greenhouse-gas emissions so that the environment can crash even faster and more destructively than it already is. Those fires racing through Sonoma and Napa counties in California right now? There will be more of those! Yay! And as for the hurricanes – they’ll be like this year only more so. Fun!

“Tomorrow, in Washington D.C., I’ll be a signing a proposed rule to withdraw the so-called Clean Power Plan of the past administration, and thus begin the effort to withdraw that rule,” Pruitt said.

The 43-page proposal, which was obtained by The Washington Post and other news outlets last week, argues that the agency overstepped its legal authority in seeking to force utilities to reduce carbon emissions outside their actual facilities to meet federal emissions targets. It does not offer a replacement plan for regulating emissions of carbon dioxide, which the Supreme Court has ruled that the EPA is obligated to do. Rather, the agency said it plans to seek public input on how best to cut emissions from natural-gas and coal-fired power plants.

And to the surprise of everyone the public input will universally urge voluntary personal dedication to turning the thermostat down a degree.

Il ne regrette rien

Oct 9th, 2017 10:49 am | By

Bob Corker, the Tennessee senator who’s been brawling with Trump lately, chatted with the Times yesterday. He apparently gets what a disaster Trump is yet he thinks it will all be ok somehow.

Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, charged in an interview on Sunday that President Trump was treating his office like “a reality show,” with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation “on the path to World War III.”

In an extraordinary rebuke of a president of his own party, Mr. Corker said he was alarmed about a president who acts “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something.”

“He concerns me,” Mr. Corker added. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.”

So then it’s a pity that Corker endorsed Trump during the election, isn’t it. It’s not as if Trump seemed ok until after the inauguration – he never seemed ok.

Trump was of course lying when he tweeted that Corker had begged for his support.

Mr. Corker flatly disputed that account, saying Mr. Trump had urged him to run again, and promised to endorse him if he did. But the exchange laid bare a deeper rift: The senator views Mr. Trump as given to irresponsible outbursts — a political novice who has failed to make the transition from show business.

Mr. Trump poses such an acute risk, the senator said, that a coterie of senior administration officials must protect him from his own instincts. “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” Mr. Corker said in a telephone interview.

Yes, but again, none of this is surprising. It was always clear what Trump is.

The deeply personal back-and-forth will almost certainly rupture what had been a friendship with a fellow real estate developer turned elected official, one of the few genuine relationships Mr. Trump had developed on Capitol Hill. Still, even as he leveled his stinging accusations, Mr. Corker repeatedly said on Sunday that he liked Mr. Trump, until now an occasional golf partner, and wished him “no harm.”

How can a reasonable person (and Corker seems reasonable) possibly like him? If you have a friend or acquaintance who has been friendly and charming to you but is also a noisy emphatic misogynist and racist and xenophobe and bully…doesn’t that curdle the liking? That’s not some wild hypothetical, I’m sure we’ve all had that experience in miniature and felt the tension. Trump makes it easy by skipping over any tension and just making it impossible to “like” him.

In a 25-minute conversation, Mr. Corker, speaking carefully and purposefully, seemed to almost find cathartic satisfaction by portraying Mr. Trump in terms that most senior Republicans use only in private.

The senator, who is close to Mr. Tillerson, invoked comments that the president made on Twitter last weekend in which he appeared to undercut Mr. Tillerson’s negotiations with North Korea.

“A lot of people think that there is some kind of ‘good cop, bad cop’ act underway, but that’s just not true,” Mr. Corker said.

Without offering specifics, he said Mr. Trump had repeatedly undermined diplomacy with his Twitter fingers. “I know he has hurt, in several instances, he’s hurt us as it relates to negotiations that were underway by tweeting things out,” Mr. Corker said.

Make America Great Again, yeah?

All but inviting his colleagues to join him in speaking out about the president, Mr. Corker said his concerns about Mr. Trump were shared by nearly every Senate Republican.

“Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here,” he said, adding that “of course they understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.”

Then they should invoke Article 25 without delay. The man is wholly unfit, he’s deranged, he’s reckless – why are they not removing him from office?

One of the most prominent establishment-aligned Republicans to develop a relationship with Mr. Trump, the senator said he did not regret standing with him during the campaign last year.

“I would compliment him on things that he did well, and I’d criticize things that were inappropriate,” he said. “So it’s been really the same all the way through.”

Well he should regret it. The Trump of now is the Trump of then. He should regret it.

In August, after Mr. Trump’s equivocal response to the deadly clashes in Charlottesville, Va., Mr. Corker told reporters that the president “has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.”

He said on Sunday that he had made all those comments deliberately, aiming them at “an audience of one, plus those people who are closely working around with him, what I would call the good guys.” He was referring to Mr. Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly.

“As long as there are people like that around him who are able to talk him down when he gets spun up, you know, calm him down and continue to work with him before a decision gets made, I think we’ll be fine,” he said.

That’s just incomprehensible to me.

Virtue signaling

Oct 8th, 2017 3:42 pm | By

And in between threatening new wars and teasing us with military surprises and attacking senators on Twitter, Trump and his people manage to find time to continue their ridiculous fight with football players who have the temerity to protest racism.

Vice President Mike Pence left a football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday after some players knelt during the National Anthem, saying he did not want to “dignify” the event.

“I left today’s Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem,” Pence wrote on Twitter.

Except that it doesn’t “disrespect our soldiers”; that’s why they kneel instead of sitting: it’s specifically to combine respect for our soldiers (many of whom, I might add, are black) with protesting police violence against black people. An administration with any decency and with any sense of duty to all the people would take that on board instead of constantly picking fights over it. Football players really are not doing anything wrong by refusing to follow a particular custom. It’s not as if they’re shitting in church. It’s just football. It’s just a song. Singing a patriotic song before a football game is not some kind of legal obligation. It’s not even a very old custom. It’s just some thing that somebody decided to do not that long ago; it’s not at all clear why players shouldn’t be free to reject or adapt the custom. People in other countries think we’re deeply weird for putting on a dumb patriotic display before getting down to smashing heads together. Presidents and their colleagues should have more important things to do than to make a fuss about it.

Donald Trump Jr., the President’s eldest son, tweeted his support for Pence’s decision.

Ahhhhhh that’s such a disgusting – and racist – thing to say. “Pride in our country” forsooth – that from the family that has been selling the country to Putin for years. God they are scum.

Bill Kristol is not impressed either. Yet again, weird to be in agreement with Bill Kristol.

The de facto chief cartoonist for alt-Twitter

Oct 8th, 2017 3:12 pm | By

I hadn’t heard of the cartoonist Ben Garrison until I was looking for something else a couple of hours ago and saw this masterpiece:

ThinkProgress wrote about him last month:

Spend any time on some of the internet’s more devoted pro-Trump sites and you’ll likely come across one of Ben Garrison’s cartoons. Instead of using his artwork to mock the president, he frequently depicts Trump as a young, muscular, all-American hero, standing up to the Deep State swamp monster or slaying the dragon of Political Correctness

Since 2015, Garrison has been the de facto chief cartoonist for right-wing communities online. His work regularly features at the top of the popular sub-reddit, r/The_Donald, and has been shared by Mike Cernovich and Julian Assange. Garrison now has nearly 100,000 followers on Twitter. He is also no stranger to controversy.  In 2016 he was accused of racism for drawing a cartoon that featured a pageant-ready Melania Trump next to a butch, unhappy-looking Michelle Obama.

Well accusing him of racism is just political correctness run mad, mk?

There’s more of his work on his Facebook wall:

Image may contain: 4 people, text

When did Trump ever observe a moment of silence? When did he ever look like that? But more to the point, which is more useful, a moment of silence, or trying to prevent mass shootings? Why are we supposed to think an empty pious gesture is a sacred good thing while actually trying to do something about the killings is rude and noisy and something only a horrible old witch would do?

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That’s not the Carmen Yulin Cruz we all saw last week.

On the other hand, the guy also posts nice photos of Montana landscapes on his wall.


Oct 8th, 2017 11:59 am | By

Of course he did.

Trump said on Saturday he had a good relationship with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson but that Tillerson could be tougher.

Trump, who made the comment to reporters at the White House, did not elaborate.

“Tougher” in Trumpspeak of course means a more heedless psychotic bully. Yes that’s just what we need more of.

Trump being tough this morning.

The scare quotes on “begged” are helpful. Corker didn’t really beg, Trump is just lying about it for effect. Thanks for the tip-off.

Yeah I don’t think that happened either.

Corker responded.

Given what we know about the lies that led up to the war

Oct 8th, 2017 10:14 am | By

No. False dichotomy. We don’t have to choose between highly specialized academic history written for other historians on the one hand, and Ken Burns on the other. The fact that most history is not written for a broad public is not a reason to be uncritical of tedious sentimental Ken Burns.

Historians aren’t very happy with Ken Burns. He’s a simplifier; we complicate. He makes myths; we bust them. And he celebrates the nation, while we critique it.

That’s the party line, anyway, among my fellow academics. And while I agree with some of their attacks on the recently concluded TV series about the Vietnam War that Burns co-created and co-edited with Lynn Novick, there’s something else at work here.

It’s called sour grapes. Put simply, Burns has managed to engage a huge public audience. And that makes him suspect among members of our guild, who write almost entirely for each other.

The criticisms are so vituperative and dismissive that they need an explanation beyond the substantive objections, Jonathan Zimmerman says.

Several scholars praised Burns for including multiple voices — especially Vietnamese ones — in his interviews. But most historians in the blogosphere took him to task for distorting the conflict, especially with regard to his quest for a shared national narrative that can bind Americans together.

That’s been Burns’s key theme since his blockbuster 1990 series on the Civil War. And yes, it can lead him astray. As many historians observed, his Civil War series seriously underplayed the ways that the postwar “reconciliation” reinforced white supremacy.

Well, that’s a big problem, isn’t it – all the more so because he’s so popular. Popularizing a sentimentalized and distorted version of the Civil War and its aftermath is a big deal. Americans seem to love to embrace a sentimental dishonest version of our history, and we see the unhappy results all around us.

And we see the same flaw in his portrayal of the Vietnam War, “begun in good faith, by decent people, out of fateful misunderstandings,” the narrator declares.

That probably wouldn’t pass muster around a university seminar table, given what we know about the lies that led up to the war. So what? Surely, these documentaries have engaged millions of Americans in dialogues about their past. And isn’t that what history is supposed to do?

So what? So what? So spreading sentimental bullshit about the Vietnam War is exactly that, that’s so what.

The problem, Zimmerman repeats, is the shortage of good history for the general public.

“I believe you have failed and lost touch absolutely in the communication of history to the public and that it has fallen to the amateur historians, if you will, to try to rescue that history,” Ken Burns told the Journal of American History — the flagship publication in our field — in 1994. “I would hope that the academy could change course and join a swelling chorus of interest in history for everyone.”

That never happened. To be sure, a small number of academic historians — think Eric Foner, or Jill Lepore — have published books that attract wide readerships. And many others have entered the public sphere via blogs and social media, as the reaction to the Vietnam series illustrates.

I did think Eric Foner, also David Oshinsky, David Brion Davis, Gordon Wood, Henry Mayer…It’s really not that hard to find accessible history by going to a library or a large bookstore.

But I agree with him that historians shouldn’t be rebuked or penalized for writing non-specialist history.

At almost every institution, however, historians are still evaluated and promoted based on their peer-reviewed scholarship rather than by their public engagement. If anything, writing for lay audiences counts against them. When I was a junior professor, a senior colleague advised me to stop publishing op-ed columns. They marked me as a glib and unserious scholar, she said, or even — gasp! — as a journalist.

Until our academic reward system changes, Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and their fellow popularizers will dominate the history that Americans actually consume. That makes historians jealous, and — even worse — it makes us irrelevant. Our research won’t matter until it becomes common knowledge. And the history that lies inert in unread books does no work in the world.

But Ken Burns does television. Eric Foner and Jill Lepore do books; Ken Burns does television. Maybe the solution here isn’t to stop criticizing Ken Burns, but rather to get people who work in public tv to get together with Eric Foner or Jill Lepore to do good documentaries. By “good” I do not mean ones in which we’re expected to stare at still photographs for a long long time while somebody drones sonorously on the soundtrack.

When all the rules

Oct 7th, 2017 5:17 pm | By

Harvey Weinstein sent the New York Times a statement after its story on him was published.

It begins:

I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.

I have since learned it’s not an excuse, in the office – or out of it. To anyone.

Oh come on. The rules about behavior and workplaces were not that different. They were not so different that everyone – women included – thought it was just fine for powerful men to make job-seeking women come to their hotel rooms only to jump out at them naked and demanding a “massage.”

That was not “the culture” then.

The culture then was very into getting rid of sexual inhibitions and shame, but oddly enough that is not the same thing as men forcing themselves on women. A great many men did think it was, that much is true, but funnily enough men are not the whole of the culture and not all men (yes, not all men) thought that way.

The renaissance of feminism was also part of the culture then, and feminists have the quirky idea that sex should be mutual rather than unilateral, and enthusiastically consensual as opposed to unilaterally imposed.

It doesn’t take 50 or 60 years to grasp that not very subtle point.

Wait and see

Oct 7th, 2017 4:11 pm | By

It’s Saturday afternoon; I guess Trump is bored with watching football.

“Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid … hasn’t worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, makings fools of U.S. negotiators. Sorry, but only one thing will work!” Trump tweeted in two messages on Saturday afternoon.

“Sorry, but I plan to blow up the world.”

“Soz, but I’m a reckless idiot who can’t find his own buttocks in the dark so I’m going to go to war with North Korea and its buddy China.”

“Sorry, but you laughed at me one time too many.”

The president’s latest tweets come as the world continues to try to decipher another cryptic message that Trump issued on Thursday night at the White House, as he posed for a photo with the country’s top military leaders.

“You guys know what this represents?” Trump asked reporters in the room that night. “Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”

When pressed to explain what he meant, Trump said: “You’ll find out.”

Oh, isn’t that adorable. He’s such a card.

More on that fun moment:

At 7:18 p.m., reporters were led into the lavish dining room where the military’s senior leaders and their spouses were lined up on either side of the president and first lady Melania Trump in preparation for a formal group photo.

“You guys know what this represents?” Trump said gesturing to the commanders surrounding him as he made looping motions with his right index finger.

He dramatically paused and then said: “Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”

“What’s the storm?” a reporter called out, as the officials and their spouses continued to pose, their faces frozen in toothy smiles, even as many of their eyes began to dart around the room.

“Could be the calm before the storm,” the president said.

It felt like the opening scene of an action movie — the president, stiffly rotating from side to side, surveying the country’s military leaders and providing an ominous hint that something would soon unfold. He wouldn’t say what, but it seemed clear that it wouldn’t be anything good. Maybe something involving North Korea or the Islamic State terrorist organization or Iran or who knows what else.

Who knows, who knows, because here is this stupid vain greedy man we’ve given possession of all the keys, and he’s toying with us. It could be anything – anything except a good idea.

On Thursday evening, reporters were only in the dining room for about a minute — and they kept asking the president to explain what he meant.

“What storm, Mr. President?” an NBC News reporter called out.

“We have the world’s great military people in this room, I will tell you that,” Trump said in a loud but calm tone, flanked by his generals, whom he then thanked for coming to the White House.

Again, a reporter asked: “What storm, Mr. President?”

He responded: “You’ll find out.”

That’s this reckless toad of a man playing games with the people he’s supposed to serve.

At the White House press briefing on Friday afternoon, about one quarter of the questions directed at press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders revolved around the president’s calm-before-the-storm remark. She did little to provide clarity to Americans worried that the country might be headed into war.

“We’re never going to say in advance what the president’s going to do,” Sanders said when first asked about the storm comment. “And, as he said last night. . .you’ll have to wait and see.”

As if we were talking about birthday presents or a surprise trip to who knows where. That’s how childish and incompetent they are.

Later in the briefing, another reporter noted that the president did give advance warning that he might do something by saying that there could be a storm coming.

“He, unprompted, dangled these hints,” the reporter said.

Sanders responded: “He didn’t talk about any specific actions at all.”

So she confirmed he was playing a stupid sadistic game. That makes sense.

Harvey Weinstein is a VICTIM

Oct 7th, 2017 12:15 pm | By

Oh I see. It’s women’s fault. It’s women’s fault that Harvey Weinstein is a sleazy harasser and that everyone in the business knew it and nobody did anything about it.

This one time I’m going to quote from a Breitbart piece, one by Daniel Nussbaum.

Several actresses who worked with Harvey Weinstein on critically-acclaimed films have come under fire from one of their fellow stars for refusing to speak out publicly after a bombshell report Thursday detailed decades of sexual harassment allegations against the Hollywood movie mogul.

Yeah! It’s their fault! Never mind Harvey Weinstein, never mind the way women are shut out of management jobs in Hollywood, never mind the long history of the “casting couch” and the haha jokes about it – talk about the women. Make it their fault! Why didn’t they risk their careers to stop this very powerful producer using his power to bully women?

Poor Harvey Weinstein. If women had just done their job of nurturing and protecting and taking care of everything, he wouldn’t be in this sad predicament. Goddam women!

White House press release on late night talk shows

Oct 7th, 2017 10:18 am | By

Lordy lordy lordy.

He thinks a “good story” is one that says nice things about him. I guess no one has ever explained to him that in journalism the criteria for “good” have more to do with accuracy and clarity and significance and the like than with whether or not they say nice things about belligerent stupid frauds who get themselves elected to high office.

He’s working hard for his donors. I guess no one has ever explained to him that he’s supposed to work hard for all of us, not just his donors.

All that’s going on in the world and the country, and the president of the US is yammering about late night talk show hosts.

More and more people are suggesting=Donald Trump is saying more and more times every hour.

A vicious public backlash

Oct 7th, 2017 9:27 am | By

Hungary is in a tragic mess.

When Zoltan Fenyesi offered a free holiday at his guesthouse to a group of refugees, he thought the act might become an example of Hungarian hospitality. By introducing them to his neighbours in Ocseny, a village of 2,300 in south-west Hungary, he hoped it might also prove the refugees posed no danger.

Instead his offer last month provoked a vicious public backlash. A fraught town hall meeting called to discuss the invitation was captured on camera by local media, Mr Fenyesi received death threats and the clashes sparked an anguished national debate over how far ordinary Hungarians should go in fending off foreigners. In the process, Ocseny has become a byword for racial fear.

Viktor Orban, in a very Trump-like move, supported the protest and brought it to national attention. Yeah, that’s what we need, more fear and hatred of foreigners!


the populist-nationalist Fidesz government is sending leaflets to every household in a “national consultation” over an alleged plan by George Soros, the Hungary-born billionaire investor, to flood Europe with refugees.

And poison the wells and make bread out of the blood of children.

Zoltan Fenyesi has been subject to threats, including threats to cut off his head.

“What happened [in Ocseny] was not civil disobedience or resistance, but the first step towards lynching,” wrote Andras Sztankoczy, a conservative columnist, in a Hungarian newspaper last weekend. Despite the threats against Mr Fenyesi, Mr Orban said there was “nothing wrong” with the protests.

Many sides, many sides.

Although he fears for his safety, Mr Fenyesi makes a point of continuing to live his life in Ocseny as before — frequenting the same pub and speaking with his neighbours. But something deep in Hungarian society has changed, he says, adding: “What our government is doing will leave a scar for generations.”

It’s like that here too. The hatred and contempt Donald Trump has stoked will be with us for generations.