Notes and Comment Blog

Feminists do not police patriarchal gender norms

Dec 8th, 2018 11:07 am | By

Jane Clare Jones offers a list of 30 propositions on ontological totalitarianism. I will share a few by way of appetizer.

2. Human beings have a right to their own perceptions.

10. Resisting coercion is not bullying.

12. Recognition must be freely given if it is to meaningfully function as validation.

Good one. Yes it must. If it’s forced…well it’s not really recognition, is it, it’s just a mouthing of words.

15. Trans people who are visibly gender non-conforming are subject to violence as a result of the policing of patriarchal gender norms.

16. Feminists do not police patriarchal gender norms.


21. People refusing to validate your identity may be painful.

22. Something being painful is not conceptually identical to it being a moral harm, structural violence, or an act of oppression.

23. Not getting our needs met is sometimes painful.

24. Sometimes our needs don’t get met because other people also have needs, beliefs, and interests.

25. Thinking you must always have you needs met and refusing to understand why other people may not meet your needs, is narcissistic entitlement.

And you know what? Narcissistic entitlement does not make for progressive politics. Progressive politics is pretty much all about rejecting narcissistic entitlement.

Nobody and nothing can save him

Dec 8th, 2018 9:39 am | By

Paul Waldman at the Post says Trump is cooked.

One of the remarkable things about the discussion we’ve been having lately is that the president still seems to think that he can be saved from whatever this investigation uncovers. He just announced that William Barr will be his next attorney general, and the New York Times reported that in private, “Mr. Trump has also repeatedly asked whether the next pick would recuse himself from overseeing the special counsel investigation into whether his campaign conspired with Russia in its interference in the 2016 election.” It’s as though he thinks this investigation is in its early stages and can be quashed by a properly loyal underling.

But at this point it doesn’t matter. It’s far too late. Trump’s former aides have cooperated, they’ve conducted their interviews with the special counsel, they’re being sentenced, the documents have been reviewed, the connections have been traced, and the full picture is soon to be revealed.

This scandal can’t be hidden away. Republicans in Congress can’t save Trump, his attorney general can’t save him, and no amount of desperate tweets can save him. Accountability is on its way, and it’s arriving very soon.

But…if he tweets many times every day, in all caps? Will that save him?

One of the more livid denunciations

Dec 8th, 2018 9:24 am | By

Ken White (aka Popehat) at the Atlantic walks us through yesterday’s prosecutorial briefs.

In the first one, the Special Counsel’s Office explains how Manafort blew his cooperation agreement by lying, and it does so with great confidence; it’s clear that they have the receipts.

In the second, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York responds to Cohen’s lawyers’ brief last week requesting no prison time.

The prosecutors’ rebuttal of Cohen’s sentencing brief is one of the more livid denunciations I’ve seen in more than two decades of federal criminal practice. The Southern District concedes that Cohen provided some information to it, to the Special Counsel, and to the New York Attorney General. But Cohen refused to cooperate fully; he declined to engage in a full debriefing about everything he knew or commit to ongoing meetings, and he only spilled about the things he’d already admitted in his plea. That’s not how cooperation works. In this game, you either cooperate fully or you shut up; there is no middle ground.  It’s not surprising that Cohen’s stance angered the notoriously proud Southern District prosecutors.

The New York prosecutors blast Cohen’s “rose-colored view of the seriousness of his crimes,” accusing him of a “pattern of deception that permeated his professional life.” Prosecutors portray Cohen as stubbornly obstructing his own accountant to cheat at taxes, even refusing to pay for accounting work that raised inconvenient issues he wanted suppressed. When it comes to Cohen’s campaign finance violations, the prosecutors’ fury leaps off the page.  Cohen, they say, schemed to pay for two women’s stories (Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, we now know) in violation of campaign finance laws to influence the 2016 election, and did so “in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1” – that is, the president of the United States.  As the brief puts it:

While many Americans who desired a particular outcome to the election knocked on doors, toiled at phone banks, or found any number of other legal ways to make their voices heard, Cohen sought to influence the election from the shadows. He did so by orchestrating secret and illegal payments to silence two women who otherwise would have made public their alleged extramarital affairs with Individual-1. In the process, Cohen deceived the voting public by hiding alleged facts that he believed would have had a substantial effect on the election.

Legal writing can be a joy. Remember the Kitzmiller ruling? That is one hell of a good read. This one right here is another goody.

Maddow highlighted that same passage last night, with her very best intensity and clarity. It brings it all into focus, doesn’t it. Dirty Cohen used Dirty Trump’s money to silence two women whose stories could have sunk Trump’s campaign, and what happened? Trump did indeed win the election (though not the popular vote) and so now here we are stuck with this terrible, monstrous, destructive pig-man who is dragging the US into the sewer he lives in. Cohen’s intervention may have been decisive in the sense that without it Trump would have lost.

And it was a felony. And he did it at Trump’s direction. Trump committed a felony.

Back to Ken White:

If the Southern District’s fury at Cohen is notable, its explicit accusation that President Trump directed and coordinated campaign finance violations is simply stunning. The prosecutors’ openness suggests they are sure of their evidence and have mostly finished collecting it. It’s a sign of a fully-developed, late-game investigation of the president’s role, one that may soon make its way to Congress.

And last there’s Mueller’s sentencing brief in Cohen’s lying-to-Congress case.

Mueller discloses that Cohen has “taken significant steps to mitigate his criminal conduct” by pleading guilty to lying to Congress and meeting with the Special Counsel seven times to discuss his own conduct and other “core topics under investigation.” That includes information about multiple contacts between other Trump campaign officials and the Russian government, and about Cohen’s contact with the White House in 2017 and 2018, suggesting an ongoing inquiry into obstruction of justice. Most significant, the Special Counsel indicates Cohen “described the circumstances of preparing and circulating his response to the congressional inquiries, while continuing to accept responsibility for the false statements within it.”  That statement suggests that the Special Counsel believes that someone in the Trump administration knew of, and approved in advance, Cohen’s lies to Congress. That’s explosive, and potentially impeachable if Trump himself is implicated.

Maddow leaned on a key point in that one, which is that Cohen’s lies to Congress were public, and that that means that they functioned (and perhaps were intended) as instructions for others who might have to talk to Congress on the subject. It also means Russia knew about them, which means Cohen was compromised.

Neal Katyal’s take is also interesting.

Clinton’s emails for heaven’s sake

Dec 7th, 2018 3:39 pm | By

Comey has emerged from the absurd closed-door questioning the Republicans insisted on in the last few days before the Democrats bump them. He tells us they talked about Hillary Clinton’s emails for heaven’s sake – his words. He says it was stupid and didn’t need to happen. He says he can’t talk about current investigations.

Don the Con is pitching a fit.

Quite extraordinary

Dec 7th, 2018 12:08 pm | By

He got our attention.

Good question.

Also, the two go together, don’t they. He doesn’t read, he doesn’t like detail, he goes with his gut – all of which means he most likely has no idea what’s legal and what isn’t. He goes with his gut, and his gut always tells him that if he wants to do it, it must be legal, because hey, what else would his gut tell him? You’re not saying his gut is a disloyal traitor to him are you??! His criterion for what’s true is whether he believes it or not, so all he has to do is believe that what he wants to do is legal, and it becomes true that what he wants to do is legal.

Update needed already. He’s seen it; he’s steaming.

He really is trying to act on his instincts

Dec 7th, 2018 11:58 am | By

At the Post, more on Tillerson’s observations of Trump:

“What was challenging for me coming from the disciplined, highly process-oriented ExxonMobil corporation,” Tillerson said, was “to go to work for a man who is pretty undisciplined, doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read briefing reports, doesn’t like to get into the details of a lot of things, but rather just kind of says, ‘This is what I believe.’ ”

Not even “kind of”; that’s exactly what he says. He said it just the other day in response to a question about the climate change report. “I don’t believe it,” he said, like an idiot. He doesn’t not believe it for reasons, he just “doesn’t believe it” as in he wants to ignore it so he does.

Also: I just want to underline the point here: a man who is pretty undisciplined, doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read briefing reports, doesn’t like to get into the details of a lot of things, is not someone who should be president.

Tillerson said Trump believes he is acting on his instincts rather than relying on facts. But Tillerson seemed to suggest that it resulted in impulsiveness.

“He acts on his instincts; in some respects, that looks like impulsiveness,” Tillerson said. “But it’s not his intent to act on impulse. I think he really is trying to act on his instincts.”

Yes, we know. He thinks his “gut” is reliable. He’s wrong. If he knew more, if he were capable of reading and understanding and paying attention and thinking critically, he would realize that an unaided gut is not an adequate tool for the job he’s taken on.

At about 1:50, the bit where he says “But Mr President that would violate the law,” there is nervous laughter from the audience.

Trump would get very frustrated

Dec 7th, 2018 11:36 am | By

Last night Rex Tillerson did his first public gig since being so abruptly dropped nine months ago.  He talked to a reporter at the event and said some intriguing things.

The honeymoon didn’t last long, Tillerson said. The relationship between him and Trump became strained after the president grew tired of the former Exxon Mobil CEO telling him that he could not do things the way he wanted.

Tillerson said the two had starkly different styles and did not share a common value system.

“So often, the president would say here’s what I want to do and here’s how I want to do it and I would have to say to him, Mr. President I understand what you want to do but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law,” Tillerson said.

Trump would get very frustrated when they would have those conversations, he said.

Aw. That wrings my heart. Poor marginalized Donnie, not respected by the elites and not allowed to do things that violate the law. Will somebody please think of the Donnie?

We are tired of the abuse

Dec 7th, 2018 10:46 am | By

There’s that saying, “no man is a hero to his valet.” Miriam Jordan at the NY Times has talked to Trump’s housekeeper at Bedminster.

During more than five years as a housekeeper at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., Victorina Morales has made Donald J. Trump’s bed, cleaned his toilet and dusted his crystal golf trophies. When he visited as president, she was directed to wear a pin in the shape of the American flag adorned with a Secret Service logo.

Quite an achievement for an undocumented immigrant housekeeper.

Ms. Morales’s journey from cultivating corn in rural Guatemala to fluffing pillows at an exclusive golf resort took her from the southwest border, where she said she crossed illegally in 1999, to the horse country of New Jersey, where she was hired at the Trump property in 2013 with documents she said were phony.

I got nervous when I read that yesterday, wondering why the Times was putting her at risk this way, but in fact Morales is going public on purpose and with legal assistance.

She said she was not the only worker at the club who was in the country illegally.

Sandra Diaz, 46, a native of Costa Rica who is now a legal resident of the United States, said she, too, was undocumented when she worked at Bedminster between 2010 and 2013. The two women said they worked for years as part of a group of housekeeping, maintenance and landscaping employees at the golf club that included a number of undocumented workers, though they could not say precisely how many. There is no evidence that Mr. Trump or Trump Organization executives knew of their immigration status. But at least two supervisors at the club were aware of it, the women said, and took steps to help workers evade detection and keep their jobs.

All while Trump rants and raves about “illegals” invading our precious lily-white Nayshun.

Ms. Morales said she has been hurt by Mr. Trump’s public comments since he became president, including equating Latin American immigrants with violent criminals. It was that, she said, along with abusive comments from a supervisor at work about her intelligence and immigration status, that made her feel that she could no longer keep silent.

“We are tired of the abuse, the insults, the way he talks about us when he knows that we are here helping him make money,” she said. “We sweat it out to attend to his every need and have to put up with his humiliation.”

Ms. Morales and Ms. Diaz approached The New York Times through their New Jersey lawyer, Anibal Romero, who is representing them on immigration matters. Ms. Morales said that she understood she could be fired or deported as a result of coming forward, though she has applied for protection under the asylum laws. She is also exploring a lawsuit claiming workplace abuse and discrimination.

They gave the Times hours of interviews about their work at Trump’s club and their interactions with supervisors. They say Trump is both demanding and kind, often giving generous tips.

She said she washed and ironed Mr. Trump’s white boxers, golf shirts and khaki trousers, as well as his sheets and towels. Everything belonging to Mr. Trump, his wife, Melania, and their son, Barron, was washed with special detergent in a smaller, separate washing machine, she said.

“He is extremely meticulous about everything. If he arrives suddenly, everyone runs around like crazy” because Mr. Trump inspects everything closely, Ms. Diaz said.

She recalled a nervous moment in 2012, when Mr. Trump approached her and asked her to follow him to the clubhouse, a renovated 1930s Georgian manor, where he proceeded to run his fingers around the edges of frames on the wall and over table surfaces to check for dust.

“You did a really great job,” she said he told her, and handed her a $100 bill.

That same year, she said, Mr. Trump had an outburst over some orange stains on the collar of his white golf shirt, which Ms. Diaz described as stubborn remnants of his makeup, which she had difficulty removing.

But the orange makeup is worth it, because he looks gorgeous in it.

After Trump became president, she had to get new fake documents.

The next day, she said, the maintenance worker brought her a new Social Security card and a realistic-looking green card to replace the one that had “expired.” She said the manager made copies of them for files kept at the club’s administrative headquarters.

Now that Mr. Trump was president, there was more than the usual excitement whenever he arrived. Ms. Morales was still asked to clean Mr. Trump’s residence on occasion, and had to wear a Secret Service pin whenever the president was on site, she said, most likely identifying her as an employee, though the pins did not mean employees had a security clearance.

As the months went on, she and other employees at the golf club became increasingly disturbed about Mr. Trump’s comments, which they felt demeaned immigrants from Mexico and Central America. The president’s tone seemed to embolden others to make negative comments, Ms. Morales said. The housekeeping supervisor frequently made remarks about the employees’ vulnerable legal status when critiquing their work, she said, sometimes calling them “stupid illegal immigrants” with less intelligence than a dog.

The president’s tone seemed to embolden others to make negative comments.

Indeed. That’s the world we live in now.

The new ambassador

Dec 7th, 2018 9:31 am | By

In other personnel news, there’s the Fox News personality who is currently the State Department spokesperson and is now going to be the US ambassador to the UN.

The United Nations came into existence to vanquish Germany, as 26 nations jointly pledged in 1942 not to surrender to “savage and brutal forces seeking to subjugate the world.”

To vanquish Nazi Germany, rather than Germany as such, which continued to exist after Hitler did away with himself in the bunker. Germany was and is bigger than Nazism, as the US is bigger than Trumpism. (Not enough bigger, and getting less so all the time, but still bigger.)

Three-quarters of a century later, the woman who would soon become President Trump’s pick to represent the United States at the United Nations cited the D-Day landings — a cornerstone of this unwavering Allied pledge and the basis of the Nazi defeat on the Western Front — to showcase the strength of German-American relations.

“When you talk about Germany, we have a very strong relationship with the government of Germany,” Heather Nauert, the State Department’s spokeswoman, said in June. She added: “Tomorrow is the anniversary of the D-Day invasion. We obviously have a very long history with the government of Germany, and we have a strong relationship with the government.”

Remember D-Day? When the US and Germany joined hands to defeat the villainous Norwegians? We were tight then, man.

The D-Day comment raised eyebrows over the summer, when some suggested it demonstrated a lack of historical understanding from the former “Fox & Friends” presenter who gained prominence on television during the Monica Lewinsky scandal but has no diplomatic experience.

No no, she has more historical understanding than anyone else, so much more that she sees a deeply hidden friendship beneath the superficial appearances of, say, the Battle of the Bulge, not to mention Auschwitz.

She also has a wealth of experience as a talking head on Fox and Friends.

She has broadcast just about every right-wing talking-point under the sun, as documented extensively by the liberal watchdog group Media Matters.

In 2014, she warned that immigrant children arriving in the United States were bringing “disease.” In 2015, she attackedthe Environmental Protection Agency by suggesting that a grant to college students working on a device allowing hotels to track water usage by guests was a “Big Brother move.”

Nauert has referred to immigrants in the United States without status seeking to obtain an education as “illegals.” She has spread conspiracies about the 2012 Benghazi attacks.

Couldn’t they have found someone even more qualified though? One of the real housewives of Palm Springs or Atlantic City or Las Vegas?

An expansive view of presidential power

Dec 7th, 2018 9:06 am | By

The NY Times reports that Trump has decided on Barr as Attorney General.

Mr. Barr has criticized aspects of the Russia investigation, including suggesting that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, hired too many prosecutors who had donated to Democratic campaigns. Mr. Barr has defended Mr. Trump’s calls for a new criminal investigation into his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, including over a uranium mining deal the Obama administration approved when she was secretary of state.

“There is nothing inherently wrong about a president calling for an investigation,” Mr. Barr told The New York Times last year. “Although an investigation shouldn’t be launched just because a president wants it, the ultimate question is whether the matter warrants investigation.”

Mr. Barr added then that he saw more basis for investigating the uranium deal than any supposed conspiracy between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia. “To the extent it is not pursuing these matters, the department is abdicating its responsibility,” he said.

Mr. Barr has assembled a “generally mainstream G.O.P. and corporate” reputation, Norman L. Eisen, who served as special counsel for ethics and government overhaul under President Barack Obama, said on Thursday. But he predicted that Mr. Barr would be vigorously vetted because of what he saw as blots on Mr. Barr’s record, including his push for scrutiny of the mining deal, involving a company called Uranium One.

Mr. Barr “has put forward the discredited idea that Hillary Clinton’s role in the Uranium One deal is more worthy of investigation than collusion between Trump and Russia,” Mr. Eisen wrote in a text message. “That is bizarre. And he was involved in the dubious George H.W. Bush end of term pardons that may be a precedent for even more illegitimate ones by Trump.”

One of his claims to fame is a sweeping justification of presidential power.

In July 1989, shortly after his appointment to the Office of Legal Counsel, Mr. Barr sent an apparently unsolicited 10-page memo to top agency and department lawyers across the executive branch urging vigilance in pushing back against ways in which Congress might try to intrude on what he saw as the rightful powers of the president. It covered topics such as “attempts to gain access to sensitive executive branch information” and efforts to limit a president’s power to fire a subordinate official without a good cause.

“It is important that all of us be familiar with each of these forms of encroachment on the executive’s constitutional authority,” Mr. Barr wrote. “Only by consistently and forcefully resisting such congressional incursions can executive branch prerogatives be preserved.”

Yes, let’s make sure to protect one-person rule at the expense of the more diffuse power of the legislative branch. What could go wrong?

Years later, in 2005, after the leaking of a secret George W. Bush administration memo blessing the torture of terrorism detainees despite anti-torture laws and treaties, Neil Kinkopf, a Georgia State law professor who worked in the Office of Legal Counsel during the Clinton administration, pointed back to Mr. Barr’s 1989 memo as a precursor to the torture memo’s vision of unfettered executive power.

“Never before had the Office of Legal Counsel, known as the O.L.C., publicly articulated a policy of resisting Congress,” Mr. Kinkopf wrote in a Legal Affairs essay. “The Barr memo did so with belligerence, staking out an expansive view of presidential power while asserting positions that contradicted recent Supreme Court precedent.”

And that will be why he is Trump’s choice.

One for you and seventeen for me

Dec 6th, 2018 5:41 pm | By

It’s all so…Hitleresque. Emily Badger in the Times:

In much of Wisconsin, “Madison and Milwaukee” are code words (to some, dog whistles) for the parts of the state that are nonwhite, elite, different: The cities are where people don’t have to work hard with their hands, because they’re collecting welfare or public-sector paychecks.

Da big city, where all the Jews are.

That stereotype updates a very old idea in American politics, one pervading Wisconsin’s bitter Statehouse fights today and increasingly those in other states: Urban voters are an exception. If you discount them, you get a truer picture of the politics — and the will of voters — in a state.

Thomas Jefferson believed as much — “the mobs of great cities add just so much to support of pure government,” he wrote, “as sores do to the strength of the human body.”

Wisconsin Republicans amplified that idea this week, arguing that the legislature is the more representative branch of government, and then voting to limit the power of the incoming Democratic governor. The legislature speaks for the people in all corners of the state, they seemed to be saying, and statewide offices like governor merely reflect the will of those urban mobs.

We have the same split here in Washington state: east of the mountains is where the real people are and over here on the west side it’s all granola-munching libbruls.

Robin Vos, the Republican speaker of the Wisconsin Statehouse, drew this distinction even more explicitly after the midterm election.

“If you took Madison and Milwaukee out of the state election formula, we would have a clear majority,” he said. “We would have all five constitutional officers and we would probably have many more seats in the Legislature.”

Hmm, yes, and if you took California and New York state out of the US you would have far fewer cities; if you took Chicago and Detroit out, white people would be a bigger majority; if you took every city over 100,000 people out probably everyone left would believe in god. Or something. But we don’t take cities out, because guess what, cities are not frivolous extras or plots against pale people, they’re places where a lot of useful activity happens, alongside a lot of nonsense but there is nonsense everywhere.

Republican gerrymandering in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and North Carolina have pushed the limits of how much the urban voter can be devalued.

In Wisconsin, Democratic candidates for the State Assembly won 54 percent of the vote statewide. But they will hold only 36 of 99 seats. They picked up just one more seat than in the current Assembly, a result of a gerrymander drawn so well that it protected nearly every Republican seat in a Democratic wave election.

That’s a jaw-dropping set of numbers: 54% of the vote but 36 of 99 seats. That is some heavy-duty cheating the Republicans did. And they did it so well it will never be undone, apparently.


Dec 6th, 2018 1:58 pm | By

Now there’s a shock – men wildly underestimate how much women are harassed. You don’t say!

The survey was carried out after the #MeToo campaign – first ignited by the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexually abusive behaviour towards female actors – spread worldwide with women sharing their experiences online.

In Denmark, where a 2012 survey found 80% of women had experienced some form of sexual harassment since the age of 15, the average answer among men was 31%.

In the Netherlands – where a prominent conductor was recently fired due to allegations of sexual harassment – 73% of women reported being affected yet the average answer among men was 38%.

French men put the figure at 41% whereas the 2012 survey found that 75% of French women had been harassed. The survey was carried out just months after footage of Marie Laguerre being struck on a Paris street for responding to sexual harassment went viral.

France previously introduced legislation which include fines in an effort to combat sexual violence in the country.

In the US, where a 2018 poll found that 81% of women had experienced sexual harassment at some point in their lives, American men’s average answer was 44%.

Meanwhile we get a Yale philosopher – a man – expressing bewilderment that there are feminist women who are gender critical.

That other pardons furor

Dec 6th, 2018 1:18 pm | By

Let’s go back in time, back to December 1992, courtesy of the New York Times archive:

Six years after the arms-for-hostages scandal began to cast a shadow that would darken two Administrations, President Bush today granted full pardons to six former officials in Ronald Reagan’s Administration, including former Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger.

Mr. Weinberger was scheduled to stand trial on Jan. 5 on charges that he lied to Congress about his knowledge of the arms sales to Iran and efforts by other countries to help underwrite the Nicaraguan rebels, a case that was expected to focus on Mr. Weinberger’s private notes that contain references to Mr. Bush’s endorsement of the secret shipments to Iran.

So he lied to Congress, so what. Wipe it all away!

In one remaining facet of the inquiry, the independent prosecutor, Lawrence E. Walsh, plans to review a 1986 campaign diary kept by Mr. Bush. Mr. Walsh has characterized the President’s failure to turn over the diary until now as misconduct.

Decapitated Walsh Efforts

But in a single stroke, Mr. Bush swept away one conviction, three guilty pleas and two pending cases, virtually decapitating what was left of Mr. Walsh’s effort, which began in 1986. Mr. Bush’s decision was announced by the White House in a printed statement after the President left for Camp David, where he will spend the Christmas holiday.

Mr. Walsh bitterly condemned the President’s action, charging that ‘the Iran-contra cover-up, which has continued for more than six years, has now been completed.’

Mr. Walsh directed his heaviest fire at Mr. Bush over the pardon of Mr. Weinberger, whose trial would have given the prosecutor a last chance to explore the role in the affair of senior Reagan officials, including Mr. Bush’s actions as Vice President.

But sainted Bush made that impossible. Respect for the rule of law? I guess that’s only for Democrats, eh?

Mr. Walsh hinted that Mr. Bush’s pardon of Mr. Weinberger and the President’s own role in the affair could be related. For the first time, he charged that Mr. Weinberger’s notes about the secret decision to sell arms to Iran, a central piece of evidence in the case against the former Pentagon chief, included ‘evidence of a conspiracy among the highest ranking Reagan Administration officials to lie to Congress and the American public.’

The prosecutor charged that Mr. Weinberger’s efforts to hide his notes may have ‘forestalled impeachment proceedings against President Reagan’ and formed part of a pattern of ‘deception and obstruction.’ On Dec. 11, Mr. Walsh said he discovered ‘misconduct’ in Mr. Bush’s failure to turn over what the prosecutor said were the President’s own ‘highly relevant contemporaneous notes, despite repeated requests for such documents.’

The notes, in the form of a campaign diary that Mr. Bush compiled after the elections in November 1986, are in the process of being turned over to Mr. Walsh, who said, ‘In light of President Bush’s own misconduct, we are gravely concerned about his decision to pardon others who lied to Congress and obstructed official investigations.’

Filthy, isn’t it. We hear a lot about Watergate in discussions of the Russia investigation, but Iran-Contra not so much. Maybe that will change.

Isn’t it interesting how it’s always Republicans? Watergate, Iran-Contra, Russia-WikiLeaks-sanctions?

In an interview on the ‘McNeil-Lehrer Newshour’ tonight, Mr. Walsh said for the first time that Mr. Bush was a subject of his investigation. The term ‘subject,’ as it has been used by Mr. Walsh’s prosecutors, is broadly defined as someone involved in events under scrutiny, but who falls short of being a target, or a person likely to be charged with a crime. In the inquiry into the entire Iran-contra affair, a number of Government officials have been identified as subjects who were never charged with wrongdoing.

Trump is a subject of the Mueller investigation.

The prosecutor said he would take appropriate action in Mr. Bush’s case, implying he might contemplate future legal action against the President for withholding relevant documents. But prosecutors have said in the past that charging a President or former President with wrongdoing would be highly unlikely without overwhelming evidence of a serious crime.

C. Boyden Gray, the White House counsel, said today that Mr. Bush had voluntarily supplied the disputed material to Mr. Walsh, asserting that the notes contained no new information about the affair. Mr. Gray said Mr. Bush wanted make the notes public, but did not say when.

President-elect Bill Clinton, at a news conference in Little Rock, Ark., to announce his remaining Cabinet selections, said he wanted to learn more about the pardons, adding, ‘I am concerned by any action that sends a signal that if you work for the Government, you’re beyond the law, or that not telling the truth to Congress under oath is somehow less serious than not telling the truth to some other body under oath.’

But then along came the blue dress.

But not since President Gerald R. Ford granted clemency to former President Richard M. Nixon for possible crimes in Watergate has a Presidential pardon so pointedly raised the issue of whether the President was trying to shield officials for political purposes. Mr. Walsh invoked Watergate tonight in an interview on the ABC News program ‘Nightline,’ likening today’s pardons to President Richard M. Nixon’s dismissal of the Watergate special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, in 1973. Mr. Walsh said Mr. Bush had ‘succeeded in a sort of Saturday Night Massacre.’

Democratic lawmakers assailed the decision. Senator George J. Mitchell of Maine, the Democratic leader, called the action a mistake. ‘It is not as the President stated today a matter of criminalizing policy differences,’ he said. ‘If members of the executive branch lie to the Congress, obstruct justice and otherwise break the law, how can policy differences be fairly and legally resolved in a democracy.’

The main supporters of the pardon were Vice President Quayle, the Senate Republican leader, Bob Dole, and Mr. Gray, one senior Administration official said today. The decision, discussed in private, seemed to coalesce in the last three weeks although Mr. Bush was said to believe that Mr. Weinberger had been unfairly charged ever since the former Reagan Cabinet officer was first indicted in June.

Throughout the deliberations, Mr. Bush consulted with Attorney General William P. Barr and Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser, who had sat on a Presidential review panel that examined the affair in early 1987.


News outlets are saying Barr is Trump’s current favorite for Attorney General.

Mull on that.

An unorthodox campaign

Dec 6th, 2018 11:51 am | By

This seems skeevy enough for anyone’s taste.

Lobbyists representing the Saudi government reserved blocks of rooms at President Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel within a month of Trump’s election in 2016 — paying for an estimated 500 nights at the luxury hotel in just three months, according to organizers of the trips and documents obtained by The Washington Post.

At the time, these lobbyists were reserving large numbers of D.C.-area hotel rooms as part of an unorthodox campaign that offered U.S. military veterans a free trip to Washington — then sent them to Capitol Hill to lobby against a law the Saudis opposed, according to veterans and organizers.

Hey, great, using military veterans to lobby for a law on behalf of Saudi fucking Arabia. While shunting money to Donald Trump.

The lobbyists spent more than $270,000 on Trump’s hotel.

Those bookings have fueled a pair of federal lawsuits alleging Trump violated the Constitution by taking improper payments from foreign governments.

During this period, records show, the average nightly rate at the hotel was $768. The lobbyists who ran the trips say they chose Trump’s hotel strictly because it offered a discount from that rate and had rooms available, not to curry favor with Trump.

“Absolutely not. It had nothing to do with that. Not one bit,” said Michael Gibson, a Maryland-based political operative who helped organize the trips.

Is that credible? No.

“It made all the sense in the world, when we found out that the Saudis had paid for it,” said Henry Garcia, a Navy veteran from San Antonio who went on three trips. He said the organizers never said anything about Saudi Arabia when they invited him.

He believed the trips were organized by other veterans, but that puzzled him, because this group spent money like no veterans group he had ever worked with. There were private hotel rooms, open bars, free dinners. Then, Garcia said, one of the organizers who had been drinking minibar champagne mentioned a Saudi prince.

“I said, ‘Oh, we were just used to give Trump money,’ ” Garcia said.

That and lobby against a law on behalf of the Saudis. Win-win.

These transactions have become ammunition for plaintiffs in two lawsuits alleging that Trump violated the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause by taking payments from foreign governments. On Tuesday, the attorneys general in Maryland and the District subpoenaed 13 Trump business entities and 18 competing businesses, largely in search of records of foreign spending at the hotel.

What’s the law the Saudis were so opposed to?

In late September [2016], Congress had overridden a veto from President Barack Obama and passed a law the Saudis vehemently opposed: the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, called JASTA. The new law, backed by the families of Sept. 11 victims, opened the door to costly litigation alleging that the Saudi government bore some blame. Of the 19 hijackers involved in the attacks, 15 were Saudi citizens.

Oh, that law.

In response, the Saudis tried something new. To battle one of America’s most revered groups — the Sept. 11 families — they recruited allies from another.

They went looking for veterans.

But they did it via a US lobbying firm and without telling the veterans what it was all about.

The lobbyist company (Quora) tells an absurd story in which for the first couple of jaunts they put the veterans up at a Westin in Crystal City, but then next time the Westin was all booked, everything was all booked, so “out of the blue” they decided to try the Trump hotel. Trump Hotel had vacancies; fabulous, do you give veterans discounts? Why yes we do, said Trump Hotel, so the deal was done and they stuck with Trump Hotel thereafter. I don’t believe a word of that. If Trump Hotel really averages $768 a night a discount that would get them close to the Westin would be one hell of a discount. Trump doesn’t give his money away, he puts it in his own pocket.

Veterans who attended these trips said a few things surprised them.

One was how good their group seemed to be at spending money.

“We’ve done hundreds of veterans events, and we’ve stayed in Holiday Inns and eaten Ritz Crackers and lemonade. And we’re staying in this hotel that costs $500 a night,” said Dan Cord, a Marine veteran. “I’d never seen anything like this. They were like, ‘That’s what’s so cool! Drink on us.’ ”

Because hey it all goes to Trump so what could be better?!

Also the lobbying was inept. It was the wrong time of year, they weren’t prepped, they were sent to talk to people like Grassley who had already made up their minds.

Another problem: In some cases, congressional staffers confronted them because they knew who was funding these trips.

Even if the veterans did not.

“We’d walk in there, and they’d go, ‘Are you the veterans that are getting bribed?’ ” Suesakul said.


Meanwhile, Trump continues to disbelieve reports that say the Saudis cut Jamal Khashoggi into pieces while he was still alive.

They took the money, they shut the school down

Dec 6th, 2018 8:01 am | By

Another for-profit chain of “universities” abruptly shuts down, leaving students with big debts and no degrees.

Birmingham, Alabama-based Education Corp. of America said it was closing schools operating as Virginia College, Brightwood College, Brightwood Career Institute, Ecotech Institute and Golf Academy of America in more than 70 locations in 21 states. The company said in October that it had more than 20,000 students, although more recent documents indicate the number may be closer to 15,000.

The company, backed by investors including private equity firm Willis Stein & Partners of Chicago, is the latest in a series of for-profit colleges to close after allegations that they were loading students up with debt while not providing them with marketable skills.

Well, they’re there to make a profit. Providing students with skills is farther down the list.

Like the recently shuttered Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute chains, Education Corporation of America was overseen by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, one of the watchdog groups the federal government appoints to ensure colleges offer a quality education.

The council, known as ACICS, wrote a Tuesday letter to Reed saying it was suspending accreditation immediately at all the institutions, citing “rapidly deteriorating financial conditions,” a failure to make required payments to the council and a wide variety of academic concerns.

ACICS was shut down by the Obama administration over allegations of lax oversight, but was later reinstated on Nov. 21 by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who found it was “substantially in compliance” with federal standards.

Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott, the top Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, urged DeVos to rethink her decision on ACICS after the Wednesday closure.

“We have repeatedly warned about the risks low-quality, for-profit education companies and irresponsible accreditors pose to students and taxpayers across the country,” Scott said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is another painful reminder of those risks.”

In many cases, students and teachers were in class when they got the news Wednesday. Melissa Zavala, who was studying to be a medical assistant at a San Antonio, Texas, campus of Brightwood, told KSAT-TV students were taken to an auditorium.

“The director was there and she was like, ‘I have bad news. The school is closing down,'” Zavala said. “Everyone was like, ‘What about our student loans? We’re almost done.'”

Zavala said campus officials couldn’t provide additional information and told them to look online for other colleges they could attend.

“They took our money, they shut the school down and that’s it for us,” Zavala said.

But hey: profit.


Dec 6th, 2018 7:11 am | By

Meanwhile in Canada reminds us:

29 years ago on December 6th, 14 lives were taken – because they were women.
We will remember.
🌹Geneviève Bergeron, civil engineering student
🌹Hélène Colgan, mechanical engineering student
🌹Nathalie Croteau, mechanical engineering student
🌹Barbara Daigneault, mechanical engineering student
🌹Anne-Marie Edward, chemical engineering student
🌹Maud Haviernick, materials engineering student
🌹Maryse Laganière, budget clerk in the École Polytechnique’s finance department
🌹Maryse Leclair, materials engineering student
🌹Anne-Marie Lemay, mechanical engineering student
🌹Sonia Pelletier, mechanical engineering student
🌹Michèle Richard, materials engineering student
🌹Annie St-Arneault, mechanical engineering student
🌹Annie Turcotte, materials engineering student
🌹Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, nursing student

No automatic alt text available.


Another power grab

Dec 5th, 2018 5:15 pm | By

In Wisconsin, the Republicans in the legislature strip power from the newly elected Democratic governor, because that’s how they do things now.

After a rancorous, sleepless night of debate, Republican lawmakers early Wednesday pushed through a sweeping set of bills that will limit the power of Wisconsin’s newly elected Democrats, including the incoming governor and attorney general.

The legislation, which Democrats vehemently opposed and protesters chanted their anger over, passed through the Republican-held State Legislature after hours of closed-door meetings and some amendments. The votes fell largely along party lines; no Democrats supported the measures.

To make it worse, the legislature shouldn’t even be Republican-held, because the Democrats got far more votes but legislative seats are carefully gerrymandered to guarantee Republican wins all over the state.

They had the gall to pretend it was about restoring “balance.”

Democrats scoffed at that explanation, noting that Republicans had seemed perfectly satisfied with the balance of power when Mr. Walker held the role.

Pure coincidence.

Harassment and abuse dished out

Dec 5th, 2018 11:51 am | By

A thread by Rosa Freedman:

Piss on her office door and inside on the floor. Threatened with rape, followed outside after dark, by men.

This is not any kind of liberation or progressive politics. This is disgusting male bullying of women.

It was 3:30 a.m…

It’s hateful malicious bullying, and you can’t build any kind of progressive politics on that. Harassing women is not in any way a form of talking truth to power, not least because women are not the sex that has monopolized power.

A host of little laws and some great big ones

Dec 5th, 2018 10:54 am | By

Rebecca Solnit notes that Trump’s crimes are so many and various that we lose track of them.

The current head of the federal government, the person who is supposed to somehow embody the rule of law, is in violation of a host of little laws and some major constitutional ones. USA Today reported in June 2016 that Trump and his businesses “have been involved in at least 3,500 legal actions in federal and state courts during the past three decades. Just since he announced his candidacy a year ago, at least 70 new cases have been filed, about evenly divided between lawsuits filed by him and his companies and those filed against them. And the records review found at least 50 civil lawsuits remain open even as he moves toward claiming the nomination.” The paper charted 1,450 cases in which he or his businesses were defendants along with his bankruptcies and mentioned the Trump University fraud lawsuit, which he eventually settled for $25m, finalized quietly this April. Our president steals from poor people: that’s what that lawsuit is about.

Yep; I’ve been making that point regularly all along. He stiffs contractors, he hires foreign workers so that he can pay them less, he charges his many golf weekends to us.

He has lived his life in a world without consequences – his father’s money smoothed the way for a life in which he made messes and others cleaned them up. He appears to be one of those people who was so rarely told that what he was saying was wrong, boorish, or inane that he has no sense of how he’s perceived or what people are thinking or, often, how things work. Feedback is what steers most of us straight, and power and privilege mean that you can avoid it if you want. When you’re a star they let you do stupid things, and he has done so many.

Maybe, but he’s also a massive narcissist. He hasn’t been able to avoid all feedback, but his narcissism distorts it into an illegitimate attack by very bad people on a very special person.

Summer Zervos sued Trump for defamation for remarks he made about her in 2016, when he suggested her allegations that he groped her were lies; lawyers suggest that his greatest risk in the lawsuit is that he will perjure himself. Another lawsuit for incitement to riot and negligence is moving forward in the sixth circuit court, by three young protesters who were attacked at a Trump rally in March of 2016 after Trump yelled: “Get ‘em out of here.” His former chauffeur is suing for unpaid wages.

All underlings, all people with far less power and money than he has. He’s a narcissist and a bully.

All this trouble exists in addition to whatever the Mueller investigation will bring as allegations and charges and perhaps grounds for impeachment. On 29 November, the Mueller investigation seized tax records from the law offices of Trump’s Chicago lawyer, Ed Burke. Maybe the most important new possible charge, a law professor noted to me, emerges from the report in BuzzFeed that Trump planned to offer Putin a $50m condo if he succeeded in building a Trump Tower in Moscow, while he was running for the presidency. If true, it is a spectacular violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. This 1977 law makes it “unlawful for certain classes of persons and entities to make payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business”. Trump seems to have admitted he was doing exactly that and apparently thinks that justifying it aloud was good enough.

He apparently thinks that about everything. All he has to do is say on Twitter that he “lightly looked at” the Trump Tower Moscow project and everyone including Mueller will say “Oh, ok then.”

There’s a big pile o’ stuff. Flynn is helping Mueller with at least three investigations. The waters are rising.

In which we are told we miss the WASPs

Dec 5th, 2018 9:47 am | By

Good god. Ross Douthat wrote a thing, and it’s so jaw-dropping I should just let it speak for itself. I won’t, but I should.

He starts by pretending that the “nostalgia” for George Bush the elder requires subtle explanation when in fact it’s just settled conventional routine: we have to pretend the newly deceased president was a gem, hidden or obvious. They did it with Nixon ffs so obviously they were going to do it with Shrub 1. But the fiction gives Douthat a pretext for quoting this bilge:

Franklin Foer described “the subtext” of Bush nostalgia as a “fondness for a bygone institution known as the Establishment, hardened in the cold of New England boarding schools, acculturated by the late-night rituals of Skull and Bones, sent off to the world with a sense of noblesse oblige. For more than a century, this Establishment resided at the top of the American caste system. Now it is gone, and apparently people wish it weren’t.”

Which people, kemosabe? That’s a tiny minority of rich white males there, and I strongly doubt the rest of us wish they still had a lock on all the levers of power.

But never mind, because Douthat was just clearing his throat for the real meat of his Big Idea:

I think you can usefully combine these takes, and describe Bush nostalgia as a longing for something America used to have and doesn’t really any more — a ruling class that was widely (not universally, but more widely than today) deemed legitimate, and that inspired various kinds of trust (intergenerational, institutional) conspicuously absent in our society today.

Put simply, Americans miss Bush because we miss the WASPs — because we feel, at some level, that their more meritocratic and diverse and secular successors rule us neither as wisely nor as well.

In other words, we long for the return of the talentless godbothering white male.

He goes on to make the not-new point that meritocracy is not egalitarianism, but he doesn’t make it well or very coherently.