Notes and Comment Blog

Step back

Feb 13th, 2017 10:07 am | By

Oh god, poor Justin Trudeau.

Ew ew ew right up in his face, and the nasty little hands all over him. Ew.

The powers of the president will not be questioned

Feb 13th, 2017 10:00 am | By

Aaron Blake at the Post on Stephen Miller’s attempt to bully us all into silence:

Senior White House policy adviser Stephen Miller made the rounds on the Sunday talk shows over the weekend, and his comments about voter fraud have earned him justifiably dim reviews. The Washington Post’s Philip Bump and Fact Checker Glenn Kessler dealt with those claims in depth.

But amid all the baseless and false statements about electoral integrity, Miller did something even more controversial: He expanded upon his boss’s views of whether judges are allowed to question President Trump’s authority. And at one point, Miller even said Trump’s national security decisions “will not be questioned.”

Blake provides the transcript:

Here’s the key exchange, with “Face the Nation’s” John Dickerson (emphasis added):

DICKERSON: When I talked to Republicans on the Hill, they wonder, what in the White House — what have you all learned from this experience with the executive order?

MILLER: Well, I think that it’s been an important reminder to all Americans that we have a judiciary that has taken far too much power and become, in many cases, a supreme branch of government. One unelected judge in Seattle cannot remake laws for the entire country. I mean this is just crazy, John, the idea that you have a judge in Seattle say that a foreign national living in Libya has an effective right to enter the United States is — is — is beyond anything we’ve ever seen before.

The end result of this, though, is that our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.

Does nobody in Trump’s administration even know what the judiciary is?

“Will not be questioned.” That is an incredible claim to executive authority — and one we can expect to hear plenty more about. Trump has beaten around this bush plenty, yes. But Miller just came out and said it: that the White House doesn’t recognize judges’ authority to review things such as his travel ban.

Oh well I don’t think Trump was beating around any bushes; I think he came right out and said it too. “So-called judge” is pretty clear.

Miller clarified the threats somewhat though:

And on “Fox News Sunday”: “This is a judicial usurpation of the power. It is a violation of judges’ proper roles in litigating disputes. We will fight it. And we will make sure that we take action to keep from happening in the future what’s happened in the past.”

So…that will be a coup then? That’s what they’re telling us? On the Sunday talk shows?

Miller seemed to be serving notice Sunday that the administration thinks the courts should play no role in reviewing any of Trump’s decisions related to national security.

That makes even some Republicans uneasy.

“I mean, obviously, the president wants to keep the country safe. I recognize that. I think everybody does, and I applaud him for trying to do so,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said on “Face the Nation” after Miller’s appearance. “But, obviously, it needs to be constitutional, and it needs to be wise.”

Miller is basically arguing that it doesn’t need to be constitutional — or, more specifically, that anything Trump decides to do when it comes to national security is inherently constitutional, regardless of whether it targets a specific religion or anything else.

That is a massive claim to power. And it apparently won’t be the first time Trump’s White House attempts to claim it.

I think he meant it won’t be the last time – and it clearly won’t.

Guest post: Because governments don’t exist to make a profit

Feb 12th, 2017 5:35 pm | By

Guest post by Robert Ahrens.

A remark made on one of my posts, last night I think it was, caused me to stop and think about what your average American knows about being a government employee.

To start out, for those who don’t know me or haven’t checked my profile yet, I was a Federal employee for 42 years and 4 months. I served the US Army for four years, and the Food and Drug Administration the rest of the time, starting out as a mail & file clerk and ending up as a senior IT tech overseeing a group of contractors who kept the FDA desktops updated and secure.

Along the way, I worked with scientists, lab people, investigators, inspectors, medical personnel, lawyers, contracting officers, instructors, administrators, and in one capacity or another, others from almost every Center in FDA.

Many of those people had worked in other major Departments, including a supervisor who had once worked for the Justice Department, and a Branch chief whose former intelligence agency employer was so classified, he still was prevented by law from disclosing that to us.

As many of you know from the private sector, each organization, private or public, has its own culture. Much of that culture comes from the top down and is informed by its mission – what it does as a primary function.

But governments, whether local, State or Federal, are different than private companies, large or small.

Why? Because governments don’t exist to make a profit.

Private companies do. That is the very reason they exist! If they cannot make a profit, eventually, they are forced to close and have their assets sold off to satisfy their debts.

Governments don’t go bankrupt. At the worst, they have their credit ratings cut to nothing, forcing them to “live” and operate from cash receipts obtained through statutory incomes, like taxes or receipts from licensing activities, fines, etc.

Their mission is to provide for the safety, welfare, public peace and security of the American people.

That’s a whole lot different from making filthy lucre to fill the bosses’ pockets. That’s why they operate differently, and that’s why Republicans are wrong to try and make the US Government run like a business.

Because it isn’t one.

That’s why the culture of each governmental Department is different, and why each has its own take on transparency.

Yeah, Transparency. Believe me, that’s a tightrope each and every supervisor in the government has to weigh on a regular basis.

Some agencies, by their mission’s demands, cannot be transparent. Intelligence agencies are a good example. We cannot allow foreign governments to know if, when, or how we may or may not be spying on them. We want them to be guessing, constantly, and we want them to guess wrong, every time.

Others, like the military, have inherent activities and equipment that by their nature, need to be secret. Otherwise, their effectiveness in combat is greatly lessened. Enemies who have to guess about what you may bring to the table in a conflict will be cautious and very careful before committing themselves.

Civilian agencies which are by nature enforcing various Federal laws are bound to be secretive in some ways for two reasons: First, they are bound by law to protect proprietary information belonging to the companies they need to inspect as part of that law enforcement activity. Second, they don’t want their enforcement activities to be publicly revealed, because sometimes a surprise inspection is what you need to catch someone who is willfully violating the law. Give them a chance to clean up, and you’ve got nothing for your efforts!

But other agencies have a tougher row to hoe regarding that word transparency. They have to balance letting the public know how they are operating in making policy vs. allowing either political opponents or foreign opponents know secrets that may allow them to counter those policies in ways harmful to the public.

Sometimes, getting that balance right is hard.

One of the things that turned me aside from being a republican early in my government career was their constant ragging on us for being lazy, or corrupt, or leaches sucking at the “government teat”.

I’ve known hundreds if not thousands of people in my career, and with the exception of one or two, not a damn one of them was lazy, or corrupt or anything approaching the description of a leach. They all worked hard for their paychecks. Many of them could have gone outside and gotten much bigger paychecks working for large corporations.

But they stayed, most of them, and they do because they CARE. The mission of the FDA is, among other things similar, to keep your food, your drugs, your cosmetics, your radiation emitting devices, your medical devices, safe, effective and the best American companies can make them to be. Every single FDA employee I’ve worked with cared about that single mission, cared about how their job, whether it was leading a Center, running a computer, or inspecting Mexican produce crossing the border, and how their job impacted the primary mission of the Agency.

I cannot imagine anyone in any other governmental agency feeling any less, whether they are working for the Federal government or a State or local government.

So, folks, when you hear the Republicans continuing to belittle public employees, whether they are US Park Service Rangers, or EPA scientists, or federal Judges, remember this post. Remember that these people CARE – they care about you, me, and their neighbors. They are there, doing their jobs, probably making less money than they could on the outside, because they give a damn about OUR COUNTRY.

They each took an oath, which is very similar to the one Trump just took, to protect and defend the Constitution. Not an oath of loyalty to a President, or to an Agency, or to a boss. To the Constitution of the United States of America.

To serve YOU. That also includes Congress, by the way.

It’s up to you to determine which of those public servants are upholding that oath.

And which are, very publicly, not.

From Howdy Doody to Bill O’Reilly

Feb 12th, 2017 4:29 pm | By

Trump still watches lots of tv, and no matter how often his people tell him it’s not a great idea, he goes on watching. I suspect he has to – I suspect it’s his life source. Not watching, for him, would be like a vampire seeing direct sunlight. He would fade fade fade fade pop – gone.

In the heat of the 2016 campaign, “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd asked Donald Trump whom he spoke to for military advice.

“Well, I watch the shows,” Trump responded. “I mean, I really see a lot of great — you know, when you watch your show and all of the other shows, and you have the generals.”

“I watch the shows.”

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It’s where he gets his material.

Take this example from Sunday morning. At 6:25 a.m., Fox News showed a graphic claiming that 72 percent of all refugees admitted into the United States since Trump’s travel ban was put on ice by the courts hail from the seven countries that were on the no-admittance list of the executive order. Thirty minutes later, Trump tweeted: “72% of refugees admitted into U.S. (2/3 -2/11) during COURT BREAKDOWN are from 7 countries: SYRIA, IRAQ, SOMALIA, IRAN, SUDAN, LIBYA & YEMEN.” (Thanks to CNN’s Brian Stelter for documenting it!)

That’s the only one I blogged about today. I didn’t realize he’d gotten his “facts” from Fox News. Like a fool, I assumed he was looking at some special government source.

In fact, it has become something of a cottage industry to try to link Trump’s early-morning tweets to something he has seen on television in the very recent past. An Associated Press article this past week detailed Trump’s difficult transition to the White House and included this remarkable paragraph.

“The president’s advisers have tried to curb his cable news consumption during the workday. But there are no limits when the president returns to the residence. During another recent telephone conversation, Trump briefly put down the phone so he could turn up the volume on a CNN report. When he returned to the call, he was complaining about ‘fake news.’ ”

Angela Merkel? Malcolm Turnbull? Theresa May? “Hang on for a sec, I wanna hear this…FAKE NEWS.”

Strong words

Feb 12th, 2017 4:11 pm | By

Bernie Sanders today mentioned that Trump’s pants are on fire. Al Franken suggested he’s a hot dog short of a picnic.

Sanders made the charge on NBC’s “Meet the Press” as he attacked Trump’s travel ban — which faces a federal court challenge — and Republican plans to revamp the Affordable Care Act.

“We have a president who is delusional in many respects, a pathological liar,” Sanders said.

“Those are strong words,” moderator Chuck Todd interjected while asking Sanders whether he can work with a liar.

Yes of course they’re strong words, but seeing as how they’re obviously true, since Trump barfs out blatant lies on Twitter daily, so what if they’re strong words? Why should we tiptoe around the truth while Trump lies himself blue? Why is the onus on everyone else instead of on him? It’s not our duty to use a euphemism, it’s his duty to stop lying.

“It makes life very difficult. It is very harsh, but I think that’s the truth,” Sanders replied. “When somebody goes before you and says that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally … nobody believes that. There is not a scintilla of evidence to believe that, what would you call that remark? It’s a lie. It’s a delusion.”

Well, lie and delusion aren’t the same thing. But a head of state has a responsibility not to blurt out whatever pops into his head or whatever he reads on some deranged alt-right blog. Trump’s total lack of responsibility makes his delusions into lies. He has no right to assume they’re true without doing any work to see if they are or not. He has no right to say things that people have repeatedly told him have no evidence to back them up.

Franken first raised questions about the president’s mental health Friday night on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” saying Republican senators privately express “great concern” about Trump’s temperament. The senator doubled down Sunday morning, telling CNN’s “State of the Union” that “a few” Republican senators feel that way.

“In the way that we all have this suspicion that — you know, that he’s not — he lies a lot, he says things that aren’t true, that’s the same thing as lying, I guess,” Franken told moderator Jake Tapper, mentioning the president’s repeatedly false claims of voter fraud.

“You know, that is not the norm, uh, for a president of the United States or, actually, for a human being,” Franken said.

Exactly. It’s not for a human being, and especially not for a president. A president’s lies can make things happen, and they can be very bad things. Gulf of Tonkin. Japanese internments.

Elsewhere, Democratic lawmakers called for investigations into White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who last week used a national television interview to encourage viewers to buy items from a clothing line designed by Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter. The comments appeared to violate a key ethics rule barring federal employees from using their public office to endorse products.

Hours after Conway’s interview, members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee called on the Office of Government Ethics to recommend discipline, given that Trump, who is Conway’s “agency head,” holds an “inherent conflict of interest” because of the involvement of his daughter’s business.

Conway’s comments were “a textbook case of a violation of the law,” Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), the committee’s top Democrat, told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.

“You cannot go out there as an employee of the government and advertise for Ivanka Trump or anyone else, their products. You can’t do that. And anybody else would be subject to a minimum, probably, of a reprimand, or they could literally lose their job over this,” he said.

Cummings added that Conway’s promotional message was “very blatant” and “intentional,” and said the Office of Government Ethics should “take a thorough look” at the situation before recommending a potential punishment.

It was as blatant as it would be possible to be – telling the people in tv land to buy Ivanka’s trash.


The White House has not provided “enormous evidence”

Feb 12th, 2017 11:50 am | By

Trump and his puppets are still telling lies about voter fraud.

White House adviser Stephen Miller doubled down on the Trump administration’s groundless claims of voter fraud in New Hampshire — and across the nation — during in an interview on ABC’s This Week on Sunday.

Earlier this week President Trump claimed, with no evidence, that voters from Massachusetts were bused to New Hampshire to vote illegally.

That’s not a thing you just do – it’s not normal. It’s Hitlery. It’s what aspiring dictators do – they announce the whole thing is broken and corrupt and Only They can fix it.

On This Week, host George Stephanopoulos asked Miller, a senior White House policy adviser, to provide that evidence. In fact, he asked three times.

Miller said the show was “not the venue” to supply evidence, but repeated the baseless claim multiple times. He said in part:

“I can tell you that this issue of busing voters into New Hampshire is widely known by anyone who’s worked in New Hampshire politics. It’s very real. It’s very serious.”

New Hampshire’s secretary of state has said there is no proof of buses appearing at polling places, and that a large number of voters arriving like that would have attracted attention.

The New Hampshire voting fraud claims are a variant on a frequently repeated Trump claim of nationwide voter fraud — which is also unfounded.

It’s a red flag. It’s one of many, which makes it hard to focus on all of them, but that is what it is – he’s calling various elections fraudulent. That’s dictator territory.

It’s possible that he doesn’t even realize that, because he doesn’t realize much, but we can be sure Bannon does.

But Miller stood by those claims too, saying in part:

“The White House has provided enormous evidence with respect to voter fraud, with respect to people being registered in more than one state, dead people voting, noncitizens being registered to vote. … I’m prepared to go on any show, anywhere, anytime, and repeat it and say the President of the United States is correct 100 percent.”

The White House has not provided “enormous evidence” of massive nationwide voter fraud.

So, Miller lied.

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The new Spicey

Feb 12th, 2017 11:30 am | By

The Times kindly collected their neighbors’ Trump-related segments in one article. Go New Yawk.

Rejoice therefore: there’s more Spicer.

Trump is horrified that many refugees are from Syria

Feb 12th, 2017 11:20 am | By

He doesn’t get it.

That’s because they are refugees. Refugees don’t come from Sweden and Canada and Japan.

Let’s consult the UNHCR on this point.

A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.

Things are a little bit tough in Syria right now. That’s why there’s a Syrian refugee crisis. That’s why Syrians are a high proportion of refugees.

The Alwaleed bin Talal Chair

Feb 11th, 2017 6:39 pm | By

Meet Jonathan AC Brown – the Alwaleed bin Talal Chair of Islamic Civilization in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and the Director of the Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim Christian Understanding.

Sarah Brown (no relation, I’m pretty sure) at Harry’s Place tells us what he’s been doing lately:

Brown has recently hit the headlines for defending the practices of slavery and concubinage in a lecture.  Like many apologists he borrows from discourses more usually associated with secular liberalism to soothe his listeners’ ears.  Some use the language of human rights and liberalism to defend illiberal practices. Brown disingenuously invokes postmodern relativist uncertainty to trivialise rape.  Here are some excerpts from his justification (taken from this piece at the Daily Banter).

It’s very hard to have this discussion because we think of, let’s say in the modern United States, the sine qua non of morally correct sex is consent. We think of people as autonomous agents. Everybody’s an autonomous agent and it’s the consent of that autonomous agent that makes a sexual action acceptable. Correct?

You can tell what’s coming next – oh gosh it’s way more complicated than that, hurble burble – all in the most general terms, as if this had nothing to do with men forcing sex on women, and with women’s subordination by men, and with patriarchy as a system that sees to it that men have autonomy while women do not. Easy for him, in short.

Sarah goes on:

With horrible sophistry, in a calm and chatty tone, Brown presents the fact that we cannot do exactly what we feel like all the time (or will pay a price if we try to do so) as a justification for rape.  Here, via Tom Holland, is another statement on the topic (from 2015).

“But it’s not possible to say that slavery is inherently, absolutely, categorically immoral in all times and places, since it was allowed by the Quran and the Prophet.”

Excuse me?

On the contrary – it’s the other way around. It’s entirely possible to say that the Quran and the Prophet were dead wrong to allow slavery, and contemporary academics who say otherwise are both wrong and immoral.

What It’s Felt Like

Feb 11th, 2017 4:14 pm | By

What It’s Felt Like Since The Election, by Michael Feldman:

Vancouver Illiteracy Project

Feb 11th, 2017 3:04 pm | By

Meghan Murphy reports that:

The same anti-feminists who harassed, threatened, and intimidated women at the opening of the Vancouver Women’s Library last Friday came back last night and vandalized the building, which is a space shared by many local artists and artisans. These people are not only harming the library, as irrational and hateful as that is in and of itself, but they are jeopardizing the livelihoods of dozens and dozens of people, many of whom are working class and/or marginalized people.

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Old school lefties used to call this kind of thing adventurism. By now it’s more like adventure tourism. It’s not any kind of politics, it’s just a pretext for being noisy belligerent assholes and, best of all, bullying women. It is disgusting.

An infinite diversity

Feb 11th, 2017 12:11 pm | By

This is hilarious. It’s incoherent nonsense, but it’s also hilarious.

The modest title is:

What Does Multigender Mean? 10 Questions You May Be Afraid to Ask – Answered

Questions answered! Hooray! It’s always good to have an expert around.

There is an infinite diversity of genders in the world.

Each person has a totally unique interpretation and relationship with any gender they inhabit, and there are at least as many genders as there have been humans who have lived.

That’s drivel. It’s like saying each person has a totally unique interpretation and relationship with any soul they inhabit. It’s just a pointlessly elaborated version of the bromide “everyone is different” – which isn’t even all that true. Everyone is a little different, different enough so that we can have conversations, but everyone is a good deal more the same than different. It’s an illusion of youth that one’s precious self is Unique and so is everyone else’s precious self.

But calling it “gender” apparently disguises the banality and supernaturalism. “Gender” has become a mystical concept, a portentous way of glamorizing one’s tastes and habits. “My gender is zombie movies and sushi.”

Genders can overlap and negate one another, they can be positive or negative, fixed or in flux, and they can coalesce in any number of combinations.

Whooooooo, deep!

Or in other words, meaningless. Genders can ________. You can just fill in the blank with any damn thing you like, then add its opposite, then go on doing that all day until you fall asleep. It’s empty babble.

With that in mind, here are the answers to some basic questions about what it means to be multigender.

1. Is Being Multigender Different From Being Transgender?

No, it isn’t. People who are multigender (or polygender), fall under the umbrella of trans.

*takes notes*

No but seriously – who says? What’s the source of all this? Where does the author, Jenny Crofton, get her authority? Why should we take her word for it? How does she know?

She doesn’t, obviously. It’s just some currently-approved bullshit padded out with whatever she pulls out of her head – or perhaps I should say gender.

Being multigender doesn’t necessarily mean that you will make any physical transition. It also doesn’t necessarily mean that you disidentify with your assigned gender.

Multigender people can identify with – and even present as – their assigned gender, but because they also identify with one or more other genders, they are still included as transgender.

So in other words, it’s totally unfalsifiable. It can be X and it can be notX – and it can be both at once, if that’s what floats your boat. Unless, of course, you’re cis. In that case you can’t have any of this.

4. Can Multigender Identities Include Neutral, Negative, or Partial Genders?

Yes. With the exception of genders that are appropriated from marginalized groups (see below), multigenders can include any type of gender imaginable.

This extends to identities such as agender or neutrois, which refer to having no gender; demigender, which refers to having partial gender; and antigender, which is the opposites of another gender (like antigirl).

Except in the case of genders that are appropriated from marginalized groups – my god who would do such a thing!

Only…doesn’t that contradict “Each person has a totally unique interpretation and relationship with any gender they inhabit”? If my interpretation is totally unique how can it make sense to say I’m “appropriating” anything? It’s my interpretation. You can’t appropriate what’s yours.

A note on gender neutral pronouns: I have noticed a certain trend in group settings that I feel is detrimental to non-binary and multigender people. It happens when openly cis folks introduce themselves with binary pronouns, and with they/them pronouns as well.

Some of these people undoubtedly feel a connection to they/them pronouns, and there’s nothing about being cis that precludes their use. But for others, it seems to be a way of showing support for non-binary genders, or of communicating to the group that they would not be offended if someone referred to them gender neutrally.

Uh oh. I have a feeling there’s trouble coming.

Cis people who claim they/them pronouns are often not very diligent about using them, with themselves or with others; and as a result, the group becomes more willing to assume that forgetting a person’s “additional” pronouns is permissible.

Similarly, I sometimes hear cis people respond to the question of pronouns using phrases such as “Whatever works,” “I don’t care,” and “They’re all good.”

Maybe it’s all the same to you, but it isn’t to me, nor to many others. Consider the privilege that goes into being blasé on this topic.

God cis people are horrible. Don’t you agree?

There are people who are too afraid to ever come out as who they are, let alone to assert their multiple identities. Hearing dismissive language just makes it that much harder.

Cis people: Be specific when relaying your pronouns, and don’t intrude on identities that don’t really resonate with you.

Don’t be afraid to come out as who you are though.

8. Is Having Multiple Genders Appropriative?
That depends on the specific multigender identity in question. Many genders are culturally specific, including some multigenders.

A prominent example of a culturally specific multigender is the Two-Spirit genders of some North American Indigenous groups. Because it’s impossible to access these genders without being part of a specific cultural context, it’s inappropriate for outsiders to claim any Two-Spirit gender.

Multigender identities can encompass many gender identities at once. If any one of the genders included is culturally appropriated, then the overarching identity also becomes problematic.

Pangender people, in a literal sense, identify as all genders. The problem is that “all genders” includes culturally specific genders that must not be appropriated.

Many pangender folks are sensitive to this, however, and identify only as “all available genders.” Some have even moved away from the term toward the word maxigender (maxi- as in “maximum”).

Outside the realm of culture and ethnicity, some gender identities are exclusive to intersex people, such as intergender.

Other identities are only available to neuroatypical people, such as gendervague. This term that describes being unable to discern their gender due to neurodivergence. Two other examples are autigender and fascigender, which are exclusive to people with autism.

Always look into an identity before claiming it as your own.

And never forget: Each person has a totally unique interpretation and relationship with any gender they inhabit, and there are at least as many genders as there have been humans who have lived.

You are both alive and dead – finite and infinite – maxigender and fascigender – possible and impossible.

Neatly capturing the blithe, criminal ignorance

Feb 11th, 2017 11:22 am | By

Albert Burneko translates Politico’s somewhat tactful language about Trump’s surprise and distress about realizing being president is a hard job into language that is less tactful and more honest.

“Being president is harder than Donald Trump thought,” begins the article, neatly capturing the blithe, criminal ignorance that characterizes both Trump himself and the many dozens of millions of morons who thought he should be the leader of the free world.

Exactly what I thought. How could he not know it’s a hard job? How dare he go for it without knowing? How dare he be so reckless and so lazy and so entitled?

Our new president occupies a wild outer range of blundering, arrogant stupidity, far beyond that typically euphemized in newspaper-ese, and the effort to describe the former truthfully and accurately—but without using such frank and impolite words as “stupid” and “ignoramus” and “spray-tanned fart balloon”—very nearly breaks the latter.

It’s one of the joys of blogging, that you don’t have to euphemize such things if you don’t choose to.

I love this article so much. Nearly every sentence contains some marvel of delicacy. The new president “often asks simple questions about policies, proposals and personnel.” When confronted with details, he “has been known to quickly change the subject” or direct questions to one of his chief advisers. His aides “joke that they wish their boss would spend more time at his Mar-A-Lago estate.” How many ways can you avoid saying that the president is a bumbling, pillow-fisted shit-for-brains, in a story about that exact fact?

Here’s the most incredible example. We learn that after unflattering details (what other kind could there be? He’s Donald Trump!) of his phone conversations with other foreign leaders were leaked to the press, Trump grew paranoid about National Security Council staffers and launched an investigation into the source of the leaks. We also learn this (emphasis added):

In turn, some NSC staff believe Trump does not possess the capacity for detail and nuance required to handle the sensitive issues discussed on the calls, and that he has politicized their agency by appointing chief strategist Bannon to the council.

The President of the United States of America is too stupid to participate in discussions held expressly for his benefit. That is what “some NSC staff” have said, here. Talking to him is a waste of time, because he’s literally incapable of grasping what is being talked about, and he just gets mad, like a baby. Like a big red baby with a sensitive heinie.

It’s a doozy all right. Oh, he lacks the capacity for detail and nuance? Yet he’s the president? Oh. Uh…oops.

A jaunt for Eric

Feb 11th, 2017 10:11 am | By

Interesting – Eric Trump gets a publicly funded security detail when he travels to promote his profit-making business interests.

When the president-elect’s son Eric Trump jetted to Uruguay in early January for a Trump Organization promotional trip, U.S. taxpayers were left footing a bill of nearly $100,000 in hotel rooms for Secret Service and embassy staff.

It was a high-profile jaunt out of the country for Eric, the fresh-faced executive of the Trump Organization who, like his father, pledged to keep the company separate from the presidency. Eric mingled with real estate brokers, dined at an open-air beachfront eatery and spoke to hundreds at an “ultra exclusive” Trump Tower Punta del Este evening party celebrating his visit.

And we had to pay for it. (What, by the way, was embassy staff even doing there? Why was embassy staff there and billing us for their hotel rooms? Surely it’s not the embassy’s job to help the president’s kid flog their merchandise? And bill us for expenses?)

The Uruguayan trip shows how the government is unavoidably entangled with the Trump company as a result of the president’s refusal to divest his ownership stake. In this case, government agencies are forced to pay to support business operations that ultimately help to enrich the president himself. Though the Trumps have pledged a division of business and government, they will nevertheless depend on the publicly funded protection granted to the first family as they travel the globe promoting their brand.

Eric Trump ignored the Post’s questions about the trip.

The bill for the Secret Service’s hotel rooms in Uruguay totaled $88,320. The U.S. Embassy in Montevideo, the capital city of Uruguay, paid an additional $9,510 for its staff to stay in hotel rooms to “support” the Secret Service detail for the “VIP visit,” according to purchasing orders reviewed by The Washington Post.

“This is an example of the blurring of the line between the personal interest in the family business and the government,” said Kathleen Clark, an expert on government ethics and law professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

How and why does embassy staff need to “support” the Secret Service? Especially on commercial junkets by the president’s adult offspring?

Despite the use of public funds, government agencies would not provide key details connected to the trip, including the duration of the stay, the name of the hotel or the number of booked rooms. A spokesman from the Secret Service, citing security concerns, declined to comment.

Telling the Post the duration of the stay and the number of rooms after the junket would not mess with their security concerns.

The money for the hotel rooms was paid through the State Department, but a spokesman there declined to comment on the trip. He instead referred reporters to the White House and back to the Secret Service, whose spokesman once again declined to comment. The White House also did not respond to requests for comment.

Why in hell was the money for the hotel rooms paid through the State Department?! This was not a diplomatic visit – Eric Trump is not a diplomat and he was there to promote his profit-making business…while his Daddy is president of the US. The State Department should have nothing to do with it.

“There is a public benefit to providing Secret Service protection,” Clark said. “But what was the public benefit from State Department personnel participating in this private business trip to the coastal town? It raises the specter of the use of public resources for private gain.”

To put it mildly. Trumps selling their tacky glittery sleazy trashy shit on our dime is not any kind of public benefit.

“The Secret Service does not have an option as to when it is, where it is, nor as to how much it costs, and whether it’s domestic or international,” said W. Ralph Basham, former director of the service. “Think about the consequences of something happening to one of the children. The security of it outweighs the expenses of it.”

Therefore Trumps should not go on profiteering junkets. They should stay the fuck home.

“Having refused to sever his own personal financial interests, [the president] is now sending his emissaries, his sons, out to line his own pockets, and he’s subsidizing that activity with taxpayer dollars,” said Norm Eisen, a former Obama administration ethics adviser who is part of a lawsuit accusing Trump of violating a constitutional provision barring presidents from taking payments from foreign governments.

Sleazy sleazy sleazy.

Not that again

Feb 11th, 2017 9:16 am | By

Trump still has trouble staying on-topic.

On Thursday, during a meeting with 10 senators that was billed as a listening session about Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, the president went off on a familiar tangent, suggesting again that he was a victim of widespread voter fraud, despite the fact that he won the presidential election.

As soon as the door closed and the reporters allowed to observe for a few minutes had been ushered out, Trump began to talk about the election, participants said, triggered by the presence of former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who lost her reelection bid in November and is now working for Trump as a Capitol Hill liaison, or “Sherpa,” on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch.

The president claimed that he and Ayotte both would have been victorious in the Granite State if not for the “thousands” of people who were “brought in on buses” from neighboring Massachusetts to “illegally” vote in New Hampshire.

According to one participant who described the meeting, “an uncomfortable silence” momentarily overtook the room.

Yes, it must be awkward to be trapped in a closed room with such a droning fantasist who thinks he’s The Boss of Everything.

During the meeting, Trump also reacted to Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren being silenced on the Senate floor while trying to read a 1986 letter by Coretta Scott King and in objection to Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions before he was confirmed as attorney general. According to participants in Thursday’s meeting, Trump referred to Warren several times as “Pocahontas,” the moniker he gave her during his campaign, and told the Democrats he was glad Warren is becoming the face of “your party.”

He calls her Pocahontas. Still. On the job. To her fellow senators.

That’s not a “moniker,” by the way, it’s a sneering reductionist insult to all Native Americans – it’s like calling an African American “Aunt Jemima” or “Sambo.” It reveals how his tiny little mind works – he hears the phrase “Native American” and translates it to “Pocahontas” as if they were interchangeable.

It was horrendous during the campaign. It’s mind-boggling that he’s still doing it now.

Verb tenses

Feb 10th, 2017 12:33 pm | By

Trump’s bonehead mistake about the New York Times article:

Oh Donnie Donnie Donnie. That’s not what it said. You changed one crucial letter, and it changes everything.

Here’s what the Times article actually said:

The concession was clearly designed to put an end to an extended chill in the relationship between China and the United States. Mr. Xi, stung by Mr. Trump’s unorthodox telephone call with the president of Taiwan in December and his subsequent assertion that the United States might no longer abide by the One China policy, had not spoken to Mr. Trump since Nov. 14, the week after he was elected.

HAD not spoken. The pluperfect. That’s the verb tense you use when you’re talking about more than one past event, and you need to distinguish the earlier from the later. It’s a sophisticated concept, yes, but most native speakers manage to pick it up. That’s what’s going on in that final sentence – Mr Xi HAD not spoken to Mr. Trump since Nov. 14…until yesterday’s conversation, which is the entire subject of the article. Dense Donnie somehow managed to interpret that as the Times saying, in an article about his conversation with Xi, that they had no conversation.

And he has the nuclear codes.

Hey this is hard work!

Feb 10th, 2017 12:17 pm | By

Politico reports – in the least surprising news ever – that Trump is finding it all a bit of a struggle.

Being president is harder than Donald Trump thought, according to aides and allies who say that he’s growing increasingly frustrated with the challenges of running the massive federal bureaucracy.

How dumb do you have to be to think it would be an easy job?

And, for that matter, how dumb do you have to be not to look into the matter before deciding to go for the job?

In interviews, nearly two dozen people who’ve spent time with Trump in the three weeks since his inauguration said that his mood has careened between surprise and anger as he’s faced the predictable realities of governing, from congressional delays over his cabinet nominations and legal fights holding up his aggressive initiatives to staff in-fighting and leaks.

Very, very dumb, is the answer.

The administration’s rocky opening days have been a setback for a president who, as a billionaire businessman, sold himself to voters as being uniquely qualified to fix what ailed the nation. Yet it has become apparent, say those close to the president, most of whom requested anonymity to describe the inner workings of the White House, that the transition from overseeing a family business to running the country has been tough on him.

Well duh.

Trump often asks simple questions about policies, proposals and personnel. And, when discussions get bogged down in details, the president has been known to quickly change the subject — to “seem in control at all times,” one senior government official said — or direct questions about details to his chief strategist Steve Bannon, his son-in-law Jared Kushner or House Speaker Paul Ryan. Trump has privately expressed disbelief over the ability of judges, bureaucrats or lawmakers to delay — or even stop — him from filling positions and implementing policies.

Oh and not just privately – he’s been braying about it on Twitter ever since he got there.

Most of those interviewed for this story requested anonymity to describe the inner workings of a White House where they say the tension has been intensified by the president’s propensity for knee-jerk micromanaging when faced with disappointment, and jockeying among aides to avoid blame or claim credit when possible.

The interviews paint a picture of a powder-keg of a workplace where job duties are unclear, morale among some is low, factionalism is rampant and exhaustion is running high. Two visitors to the White House last week said they were struck by how tired the staff looks.

In Washington circles, talk has turned to whether a staff shake-up is in the works.

One person close to Trump said: “I think he’d like to do it now, but he knows it’s too soon.”

Those closest to the president are unnerved by that prospect, which they say would be a tacit acknowledgment that their team is struggling.

Oh, hon, we know that already.

If the opening days of Trump’s presidency have been rocky and unconventional, many of his admirers aren’t bothered by it.

“I’m not disappointed in the President’s work so far – he operates like many great CEO’s I know – and I hope he continues to manage the country in a manner worlds apart from the way we’ve seen in the past,” said Michael Caputo, who was a Trump campaign aide. “It’s about time.”

Yeah, cool – just do something different, no matter how stupid it is.

You’re invited for a visit while no one is home

Feb 10th, 2017 12:08 pm | By

Now Theresa May is hoping Trump’s state visit to the UK can be sneaked in over a quiet weekend at the dog-end of summer so that no one will notice.

The US president’s controversial visit is now expected to run from a Thursday to a Sunday in late summer or early autumn, with officials trying to ensure that Trump is not in London at a time when parliament is sitting, in order to avoid a formal snub.

According to Westminster sources, a weekend visit at the very end of August or in September is now under discussion between the government, Buckingham Palace and the White House. A source described such a plan as “the preferred option at our end”. Parliament will be in summer recess until 5 September and adjourns again for the party conferences on 15 September for nearly a month.

Should work. Everyone will be in Tuscany or the Dordogne or St Ives or Margate, so Donnie can just dash in, do some shopping at Harrods, visit a pub, maybe take in a cricket match, and off home again. No fuss no muss.

The real and grave threat Trump poses

Feb 10th, 2017 10:43 am | By

The Washington Post draws the link between Trump’s constant relentless lying and the obstacles he’s beginning to encounter in the courts.

(Three weeks in. It’s taken him only three weeks to get to this point.)

Trump’s defiance might work well as political theater, and there’s no denying that it made for an effective presidential campaign. But as a legal strategy, it’s already hitting roadblocks.

The first came last week, when a federal judge froze his controversial executive order shutting U.S. borders to refugees and migrants from seven mostly Muslim countries.

But the real blow came Thursday, when an appeals court upheld that freeze. In a unanimous opinion, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit found that the government had failed to show why the travel ban needed to be immediately reinstated, as The Washington Post’s Matt Zapotosky reported.

And that’s because they can’t, and that’s because there is no such why. They don’t have an explanation for why they chose those seven countries and were in such a mad tearing hurry about it – other than “wull we figure if we show them how tufff we are they’ll be scared and stop, plus also the unemployed coal miners love it when we do that.”

In court papers, the government argued that the president’s authority to suspend immigration was “unreviewable,” meaning the court couldn’t check his power. That seemed to alarm the judges.

“There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability,” the opinion read, “which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy.”

And that’s a very big deal. Determined authoritarians can break down structures of that kind, so Trump must be stopped.

The Trump administration says the travel ban is necessary to protect national security and defend the country against terrorism. Trump has even gone so far as to assert on Twitter that if a terrorist attack did happen, the judiciary would be to blame.

While language like that might play well with the base, it didn’t impress the court, suggested Mary Fan, an immigration and refugee law professor at the University of Washington School of Law.

“The court can’t abdicate responsibility in the face of fear-filled words like ‘terrorism’ or terms of deference like ‘national security.’ These are, of course, important interests, but you have to have substance behind the words,” Fan told The Post.

“You can’t just play upon these fears without giving the court a substantial reason to justify extreme exercises of power,” Fan said.

Indeed you can’t. We’ve been here before. The deployment of fear-filled words is how the Japanese internments happened.

Trump’s attacks on the judiciary will likely continue, but he’ll have a hard time bashing individual judges on the appeals court because the opinion was unanimous and unsigned, said Jonathan Hafetz, a constitutional law professor at Seton Hall University School of Law. Writing on the legal blog Balkinization, Hafetz described the 9th Circuit’s ruling as an “important moment in the defense of judicial independence.”

“President Trump, from his reckless implementation of the Executive Order to his flagrant attacks on the integrity of federal judges hearing these challenges, has transformed the case into an early — and critical — showdown over the independence of the judiciary in the United States,” Hafetz wrote. The judges, he added, may have penned the opinion unanimously because they “recognize the real and grave threat Trump poses to the foundations of the constitutional order.”

He’ll do it if we let him. Make no mistake about that.

Remarkably, Trump did not bother even to read the article

Feb 10th, 2017 10:13 am | By

Meanwhile Trump is using Twitter to appeal the court’s ruling.

Yesterday, right after the ruling:

This morning:

Och the puir wee bairn – he didn’t understand the thing he quoted. Elliott Lusztig elucidates:

Yes. Yes it is. It has been all along, and that only gets clearer every hour. He is not in any way competent to do this job.

He retweeted this one by Benjamin Wittes who wrote the piece Trump failed to understand:

Then Donnie got a Times article wrong and tweeted that