Notes and Comment Blog


Free to pretend to be you or me

Oct 7th, 2019 9:04 am | By

It’s wrong from the headline on.

I was harassed at an In-N-Out bathroom for being a black trans woman

No. Not for being either black or trans, and not exactly harassed either, although that bit is tricky.

Subhead:

Ahead of a crucial supreme court decision, LeahAnn Mitchell writes about her experience with discrimination

That is, a guy who calls himself LeahAnn writes about his experience of using a women’s toilet.

“Is there a man in the bathroom?”

I was seated on the toilet in the stall of a women’s restroom of an In-N-Out when I heard the manager yell.

I had stopped at the burger restaurant in the Bay Area for a late lunch last spring, and was alone in the bathroom when the manager entered. “Sir, sir – you’re not supposed to be in here,” she said.

“Ma’am, it’s just me in here,” I responded.

I thought she would leave and that would be it. But I’m a black transgender woman, and people don’t just let us live our lives.

 

But just living your life is one thing, and using the toilets / restrooms / bathrooms designated for the opposite sex is another.

On the other hand if it’s true that Mitchell was alone in there, the manager could have just waited for him to leave…But then again how could she be confident of what he was doing in there? How could she be confident he wasn’t lurking to take photos under the partition or to stand on the toilet and peer over it? It does seem intrusive to yell at him when there’s no one else in there, until you remember that other customers, including little girls, could join him at any time.

But Mitchell doesn’t pause for a single second to think about that. It’s not part of his story at all. His story is all about him and how persecuted he is…because not everyone is thrilled to see him use the women’s toilets.

The manager came up to the stall door, and started looking through the cracks. She appeared to be scanning my body up and down. I got very scared. I clenched my purse to cover myself. I felt she was trying to look at my genitals, attempting to determine my gender. I asked her to leave while she continued to ask whether I was a man.

If that really happened, it does sound creepy, but the claim that he got very scared is ludicrous, and insulting. He’s a man, and the manager is a woman. He didn’t get scared.

After that it’s endless blah blah blah about how traumatized he was.

I’m a musician and was preparing to be a headliner at a Utah pride festival, I had just been featured in Billboard. I was signing a deal to compose for a ballet. I wanted to focus on my career.

But what had happened exacerbated my anxiety, stress and paranoia. For a while, I wasn’t leaving the house – fearful of being harassed. I grew increasingly depressed, to the point that I was dropping the ball on my life. I started waiting to get home to use the bathroom, because I felt like it was the safest thing to do. I had regressed and had to rebuild my strength just to walk in and use a bathroom.

 

If you’re a woman, welcome to Tuesday.

Newsflash: women get harassed, a lot. Women have experiences forced on them that make them nervous about using public toilets, changing rooms, elevators, trains, buses, shops, the street…pretty much all public territory, and sometimes private as well. And LeahAnn Mitchell, whether he knows it or not, has a very good chance of being a source of some of that nervousness. We don’t know how big or muscular he is, but in any case encountering a man in an isolated place where only women are supposed to be is not automatically rendered unalarming by the fact that he’s wearing a dress. Quite the contrary in fact. I find Mitchell’s complete indifference to all that repellent. He never so much as mentions it.

 

Discriminating against a person simply because you don’t like who they are should be against the law. No one is asking for special accommodations.

Yes they are. Demanding to be allowed to use the toilets reserved for the opposite sex is indeed asking for special accommodations.

I know my rights. California’s laws are very clear: I can use the bathroom that matches my gender identity.

So a 6’6″ football player can use the women’s toilets if he says the magic words “my gender identity”? What if he has a string of convictions for sexual assault? Still ok?

So I filed a discrimination complaint against In-N-Out. I wanted changes in policies. I wanted the company to learn and understand. They will have other LGBT customers.

Lumping it all together as “LGBT” confuses the issue. LGB customers don’t have issues with which restroom door to push open (apart from the occasional confusion over very butch lesbians or very femme gay men). This “I demand to be allowed to use the opposite toilets” item is strictly a trans demand, which is in tension with existing rights. It’s really not obvious that the trans demand should override those existing rights.

In a recent mediation, In-N-Out’s lawyers made it clear that they do not feel the company did anything wrong. It felt as if they told me I was worth nothing. They offered me a settlement that I found offensive. I said no.

“Felt as if” doesn’t cut it. “Felt as if” is not a legal argument. “Felt as if” is how we got in this ridiculous mess. Saying “No we aren’t going to let men pee in the women’s toilets” is not saying “men who want to pee in the women’s toilets are worth nothing.” The two statements are quite different. Dressing this garbage up in the language of civil rights struggles is just a cheat…just one more cheat in a long line of them.

But I won’t be silent. When it comes to black and brown trans folks, it feels like we don’t matter. Why can’t we exist in peace and have the same rights other people have?

They aren’t the same rights other people have. That’s the whole point. They’re inversions of the rights other people have. Women have the right to safe, private places to pee, and men who identify as trans want to get rid of that right and replace it with their right to be in women’s safe, private places to pee.

Why should somebody else’s opinion of what I should be get to dictate what my existence is?

Well, let’s see…because that’s just how it is? For everyone? We are what we are, and not something else. We’re free to fantasize that we’re better than what other people see of us, but we’re not free to force other people to share our fantasies. But here’s the good part of that: it means that none of us can be forced to share other people’s fantasies about themselves – including LeahAnn Mitchell!



Their aims were profit

Oct 6th, 2019 5:44 pm | By

Oh and by the way also

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — As Rudy Giuliani was pushing Ukrainian officials last spring to investigate one of Donald Trump’s main political rivals, a group of individuals with ties to the president and his personal lawyer were also active in the former Soviet republic.

What were they doing? Relief work? Technical advice? Helping?

Their aims were profit, not politics. This circle of businessmen and Republican donors touted connections to Giuliani and Trump while trying to install new management at the top of Ukraine’s massive state gas company. Their plan was to then steer lucrative contracts to companies controlled by Trump allies, according to two people with knowledge of their plans.

They were in Ukraine to trick or strongarm Ukraine into letting them take control of Ukraine’s massive state gas company so that they could have more money. That’s what they were in Ukraine for. That’s what they were “active” in.

The wrong guy won the election so their plan fizzled.

But the effort to install a friendlier management team at the helm of the gas company, Naftogaz, would soon be taken up with Ukraine’s new president by U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, whose slate of candidates included a fellow Texan who is one of Perry’s past political donors.

Rick Perry was there to help Trump’s friends and donors profiteer off Ukraine. Drain the swamp much?



The spear for a political vendetta

Oct 6th, 2019 4:59 pm | By

William Barr is dropping his heavy hand on the shoulder of various foreign countries, seeking their assistance on finding something to make Trumpkraine go away.

Attorney General William Barr has been tugging on the sleeve of various foreign intelligence officials. He has asked authorities in at least three countries — Australia, Italy and the United Kington — for help.

He reportedly wants their assistance in reviewing how the CIA and the FBI went about investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

Barr’s apparent role in all of this is alarming to some former law enforcement officials.

No kidding. He’s acting like Trump’s personal fixer, not the Attorney General of the [whole, entire] United States. He’s also apparently seeking to help Trump get away with breaking laws.

Barr’s apparent role in all of this is alarming to some former law enforcement officials. That includes David Laufman, a former CIA analyst who worked in counterintelligence for the Justice Department.

Laufman served Republican and Democratic administrations, and he was involved in the early stages of the Russia investigation. He spoke with The World’s host Marco Werman about why Barr’s request for foreign help is so unusual.

You served as a political appointee in Republican administrations. Do you think all of this is beyond partisanship?

This is beyond partisanship. This is beyond the consequences of elections. You know this isn’t a matter about changing, tweaking antitrust policy with respect to mergers and acquisitions, you know, the sorts of distinctions that we see when an administration from a different party comes to power. This is about acting as the tip of the spear for a political vendetta that this president is carrying out, and putting the Department of Justice at the head of that spear to accomplish that is stunning. It’s extremely disturbing and it is completely not in keeping with the mission and history of the Department of Justice.

And Barr doesn’t give a shit.



What Orwell did not predict

Oct 6th, 2019 11:27 am | By

Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, and Max Wilbert on Orwell and Big Brother and who saw Big Sister on the horizon?

You also showed us the way out of this insane “sanity”:

“Being in a minority, even in a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.”

But you also wrote, “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.” You said a boot. You did not say a men’s size twelve Christian Louboutin Hot Chick Patent Leather Pump stamping on a human face — forever. You, who predicted Big Brother would force us to say two plus two equals five and to say war is peace and to say we have always been at war with Eastasia, did not quite predict that we would also have to say that Big Brother has always been Big Sister, that the penis can be a female organ (and has always, when the owner chooses, been a female organ), and that males can give birth. You did not predict that “Transwomen are women” would be the pledge of allegiance — the oath of loyalty — we would all have to swear, hands over our non-binary chests.

He didn’t, but he did give us a lot of useful metaphors for the situation.

The authors of this article have written a book called Bright Green Lies, which is not about queer or transgender issues at all, but about how wind and solar power will not stop the murder of the planet. Our previous publishers refused to look at it. We shopped the book, and another publisher offered us a contract. Less than a week later we received the email we knew was coming — the one demanding we explain our “transphobia.” The publisher didn’t even bother to wait for our response before sending the next email: the one voiding the contract.

Well. Be fair. Which is more important, the planet or trans ideology?

In The Politics of Experience, psychiatrist R.D. Laing describes how one person can control another’s perception of reality. If Jack succeeds in forgetting something, this is of little use if Jill continues to remind him of it. He must induce her not to do so. The safest way would be not just to make her keep quiet about it, but to induce her to forget it also. Laing writes:

“Jack may act upon Jill in many ways. He may make her feel guilty for keeping on ‘bringing it up.’ He may invalidate her experience. This can be done — more or less radically. He can indicate merely that it is unimportant or trivial, whereas it is important and significant to her. Going further, he can shift the modality of her experience from memory to imagination: ‘It’s all in your imagination.’ Further still, he can invalidate the content. ‘It never happened that way.’ Finally, he can invalidate not only the significance, modality and content, but her very capacity to remember at all, and make her feel guilty for doing so into the bargain.

This is not unusual. People are doing such things to each other all the time. In order for such transpersonal invalidation to work, however, it is advisable to overlay it with a thick patina of mystification. For instance, by denying that this is what one is doing, and further invalidating any perception that it is being done, by ascriptions such as ‘How can you think such a thing?’ ‘You must be paranoid.’ And so on.”

That is a fine and useful passage.

When the invalidation, the impingement, and the guilt don’t suffice to shut Jill up, Jack can also call her a bigot, de-platform her, get her fired, have her book contracts voided, have her kicked out of public spaces like bars and Pride Marches, and punch her. Big Sister can do his damnedest to destroy her career. Big Sister can threaten rape and murder. Big Sister can threaten and commit other acts of violence, like nailing a dead rat to the door of a rape crisis shelter. In Canada, the United Kingdom, and some other places, he can sic the police on her and haul her into court. He can even murder her, her lesbian partner, and their son.

So, they sum up, we need to speak up and fight back. They’re not wrong.



If they step out of line

Oct 6th, 2019 10:19 am | By

Trump’s rage-tweets about Mitt Romney may be intended as an Awful Warning for any other Republicans thinking of failing to back Trump no matter what he does or says.

The acrimonious exchange is the latest turn in the up-and-down relationship between the two men, who share a party but are miles apart on questions of style, propriety, and adherence to institutional norms.

The vehemence of Trump’s tweets also served as a signal to other GOP lawmakers that Trump is willing to direct his ire at them if they step out of line and offer a hint of support to Democrats’ impeachment efforts against him.

It’s not as if they don’t already know that though. Everybody knows that. Everybody knows that Trump will turn on anyone, no matter how loyal for how long.

It’s also possible (though not likely, given their crawling thus far) that the bully signal might backfire. A few of them might get sick of being threatened by this horrible talentless bag of wind, and decide to do what he’s trying to stop them doing.



Is multiple more than several?

Oct 6th, 2019 9:45 am | By

Multiple whistleblowers now.

The attorneys representing the whistleblower who filed a complaint about President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine said they are representing “multiple whistleblowers” in connection to the case, including one with “first hand knowledge” of events.

“I can confirm that my firm and my team represent multiple whistleblowers in connection to the underlying August 12, 2019, disclosure to the Intelligence Community Inspector General,” attorney Andrew Bakaj tweeted Sunday. “No further comment at this time.”

Mark Zaid, another member of the first whistleblower’s legal team, also said the team is representing a second official with first-hand knowledge of events, as first reported by ABC News. The original whistleblower had not heard or seen a transcript of the phone call between Mr. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the center of the August 12 complaint.

And so Republicans have been squawking “secondhand!” for days.

“I can confirm this report of a second #whistleblower being represented by our legal team,” Zaid tweeted. “They also made a protected disclosure under the law and cannot be retaliated against. This WBer has first hand knowledge.”

“Multiple” is more than two, I think, so there are two plus ???

Anyway, Trump’s skin is getting crisper by the minute.



Young Greens support all identities

Oct 6th, 2019 9:11 am | By

Hmm. Young Greens (youth and student branch of the UK party) tweet:

“Trans men are men, trans women are women, and non-binary identities are valid” – @rosierawle setting the record straight, Young Greens support all identities ⚧️
#gpconf @LGBTIQAGreens

What does it mean to “support all identities”? What can it mean?

What if someone’s identity is “Nazi trans woman”? Or just plain Nazi? Or dog, or toaster, or flying nun, or Marge Simpson, or Jupiter?

This is the hole we’ve fallen into by making such a fetish of “identity.” The claims about sacred identity keep ratcheting upward and upward, such that now we’re required to agree that identifying as=being. It’s a charter for frauds and tricksters and lying cheating goons like Trump.



Guest post: Rally at the Supreme Court Tuesday

Oct 5th, 2019 5:54 pm | By

Guest post by Dave Ricks.
In the 1964 Civil Rights Act (CRA), the word “sex” was clearly intended to remedy a history of discrimination based on “sex” meaning female (i.e. a dictionary definition, biologically, XX chromosomes, etc.).

But recent legal actions conflate “sex” with “gender identity”.  For example, the way the Democrats wrote the Equality Act (EA) as changes to the CRA (PDF here), they replace the word “sex” with the phrase “sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity)“.  A civil rights lawyer wrote three blog posts here that show how this conflation will undo 50 years of case law, spawn 50 years of new cases to interpret the conflation, and be a disaster for the sex-based rights of females who were intended to benefit from the CRA originally.

Another example is the Harris Funeral Homes case at the Supreme Court (Tuesday, Oct 8).  Aimee Stephens worked at a funeral home and came out to their employer as a transwoman.  Stephens lost their job for wearing a dress, which is against the dress code of the employer who considers Stephens to be a man.  If this was simply a dress code problem, I would not be alarmed, but this case uses CRA Title VII (about employment) to argue that — under the protected category of “sex” — an employer must accept the employee’s “gender identity”.

The Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) filed an amicus brief with the court (PDF here) that explains legal problems with this.  Natasha Chart of WoLF talks about it for about 30 minutes here.  I could write more, but she speaks for herself, so I’ll stop here.

WoLF will rally at the court Tuesday, and I should go to support them.  WoLF will be vastly outnumbered by Trans Rights Advocates (TRAs) who think only evil people could disagree with them.  That could get interesting.



Nobody knows more

Oct 5th, 2019 5:42 pm | By

Better than anybody.



A pompous “ass”

Oct 5th, 2019 5:35 pm | By

Trump has been raging at Mitt Romney most of the day, with some raging at Adam Schiff by way of refreshment.

Ten hours ago:

Somebody please wake up Mitt Romney and tell him that my conversation with the Ukrainian President was a congenial and very appropriate one, and my statement on China pertained to corruption, not politics. If Mitt worked this hard on Obama, he could have won. Sadly, he choked!

Mitt Romney never knew how to win. He is a pompous “ass” who has been fighting me from the beginning, except when he begged me for my endorsement for his Senate run (I gave it to him), and when he begged me to be Secretary of State (I didn’t give it to him). He is so bad for R’s!

Seven hours ago:

“Schiff is a FRAUD!” @dbongino

Five hours ago:

Not only are the Do Nothing Democrats interfering in the 2020 Election, but they are continuing to interfere in the 2016 Election. They must be stopped!

Wut? How do you interfere in an election three years in the past?

I’m hearing that the Great People of Utah are considering their vote for their Pompous Senator, Mitt Romney, to be a big mistake. I agree! He is a fool who is playing right into the hands of the Do Nothing Democrats! #IMPEACHMITTROMNEY

Oh and by the way

So Crooked Hillary Clinton can delete and acid wash 33,000 emails AFTER getting a Subpoena from the United States Congress, but I can’t make one totally appropriate telephone call to the President of Ukraine? Witch Hunt!

An hour ago:

Mitt, get off the stage, you’ve had your turn (twice)!

Schiff and the Do Nothing Dems have lost all credibility…but the corrupt Media is working hard to keep them in the game!

All very normal.



In every irony meter on the continent

Oct 5th, 2019 4:46 pm | By

Pliny the in Between:



He then threw Perry into the mix

Oct 5th, 2019 4:34 pm | By

Breaking news: it wasn’t Trump’s idea at all, it was Rick Perry’s!

President Trump told House Republicans that he made his now infamous phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the urging of Energy Secretary Rick Perry — a call Trump claimed he didn’t even want to make.

Behind the scenes: Trump made these comments during a conference call with House members on Friday, according to 3 sources on the call.

  • Per the sources, Trump rattled off the same things he has been saying publicly — that his call with Zelensky was “perfect”and he did nothing wrong.
  • But he then threw Perry into the mix and said something to the effect of: “Not a lot of people know this but, I didn’t even want to make the call. The only reason I made the call was because Rick asked me to. Something about an LNG [liquified natural gas] plant,” one source said, recalling the president’s comments. 2 other sources confirmed the first source’s recollection.

Well that completely changes everything. It wasn’t his idea, plus he’s a great guy who does what people ask him to do because he’s such a great guy. Heart as big as all outdoors!

Trump also said he would be talking about this a lot more in the coming days. I just bet he will. Dude doesn’t believe in saying things once; dude believes in saying things a billion times.

The proliferating explanations and justifications are the object of mirth on Twitter.

Walter Shaub:

Rick Perry, puppet master. Also, no puppet. He made me make the call, which I didn’t want to make for obvious reasons. Also the call was fine, it was perfect. This is all made up, a hoax. They made it up. But it was perfect. And Perry made me do it. Is it, um, hot in here?

Brian Klaas:

This is that hilariously depressing moment in Trump scandals when the sycophants who have been claiming it was a “perfect call” now switch to saying it was Rick Perry’s fault. Logical consistency just isn’t a part of the Trump universe.

Judd Legum:

Trump says his call with the Ukrainian President was “perfect” and he did absolutely nothing wrong and also he didn’t want to do the call and the whole thing is Rick Perry’s fault.

Peter Gleick:

Day 1. It never happened.
Day 2. Maybe it happened.
Day 3. It wasn’t me.
Day 4. Yes, it was me but it wasn’t wrong.
Day 5. I’d do it again, and ask China too.
Day 6. Rick Perry made me do it.

Jeet Heer:

Trump: This is bad.
Pence: We’re fucked.
Pompeo: We need a fall guy
Pence: But who?
Pompeo: It has to be some really stupid.
Trump: Don Jr.?
Pompeo: No. Someone in loop. Someone really stupid.
[Pause]
Everyone: Rick Perry!!!!



Guest post: Completely uninterested in the complaints from women

Oct 5th, 2019 4:13 pm | By

Originally a comment by Artymorty on Not so much an annoyance as a burning social injustice.

That sounds ridiculous. I’ve not heard of that before.

I know it’s not the same thing, but sanitary napkin disposal boxes became an issue at the concert venue I used to manage. Our toilets went “all-gender” a few years ago due to demands from our young hyper-woke employees. (This consisted of replacing the “Men’s/Women’s” signs with ones that read “Washroom with Urinals/Washroom with Stalls”.) The employees wanted us to install a pad/tampon disposal box in the former men’s washroom (like we have in every stall in the former women’s), since it was expected that women would start using the men’s stall. Naturally, no one got around to installing it, because naturally, women never want to use the washroom that consists of a wall of urinals and one not-very-private stall next to them. In practice, the men’s room is still the men’s room, and the women’s room is a spillover extra men’s room when the venue gets busy. Many men use the former women’s room even when it’s not busy — in some kind of gesture of progressiveness, or just to be jerks, I don’t know. In the end, what it means is women now have to wait twice as long to use the washroom, because of men. Great job, woke kids!

My board of directors asked me if I had been receiving any complaints from men since the bathrooms went all-gender. I told them there were none from men, but there had been tons from women right from the start: complaints about increased wait times, complaints about mess on the seats, complaints about discomfort, complaints from feminists. The board seemed completely uninterested in the complaints from women. (Which was extra surprising because the most active board members were women.)



Too many women getting educated emergency

Oct 5th, 2019 11:25 am | By

It appears that women are getting too educated.

The gender imbalance in educational attainment is getting larger every year. That may spell good news, ultimately, for income and employment equality—but it presages increasingly problematic social conditions for generations of men and women.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 57% of the class of 2018 who graduated with bachelor’s degrees were female. The gap for master’s degrees was even wider: 59% to 41%.

In terms of economic justice this is good news, Gerard Baker admits, but what about The Mate Quest?

Most studies of human heterosexual attraction suggest both that intellectual capacity and achievement is an important attractor and that people tend to gravitate toward a partner with roughly the same level of attainment.

But every year, the pool of eligible male graduates is getting smaller relative to the number of women.

What about when it was the other way around?

Well it’s like this. When it was the other way around, it was fine, because women aren’t supposed to be clever or educated.



Not so much an annoyance as a burning social injustice

Oct 5th, 2019 10:57 am | By

Rosa Silverman on why toilets are a feminist issue:

Discussing “the tyranny of the toilet queue” on Emma Barnett’s BBC Radio 5 Live show this week, the feminist campaigner Caroline Criado Perez made a spirited and well-founded argument for why toilets are a feminist issue; not so much an annoyance as a burning social injustice.

“Everyone knows that women have to queue for the toilet and men tend to just walk in and out, and that’s because we have traditionally given equal floor space for men and women for their toilets,” she told listeners.

It might seem fair on the face of it but, she contended, it isn’t: “For a start, male toilets tend to have urinals in them, which take up less space and immediately mean men have more provision than women with equal floor space. On top of that there are all sorts of reasons why women both will need to go more often and also may take longer when they’re in there.”

As Criado Perez, author of Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, went on to explain, women need to go more often when they’re pregnant; women are eight times more likely to suffer urinary tract infections, which means they will be going more often; they are more likely to be accompanied by young children (a time-consuming process indeed); and on any given day, a proportion of women will be menstruating. (Meanwhile, on any given day, some men can be found effortlessly relieving themselves behind trees or, in extremis, in the street.) So how can it be fair that the same amount of floor space be devoted to men and women’s facilities?

There’s also the anatomy aspect, which was perhaps awkward to cite on live radio, but it does add to the time women take.

Toilets are a feminist issue. As a blog post on the website of the charity WaterAid warned in 2017, “There are many times in a woman’s life when she particularly needs a safe, private toilet. When she doesn’t have one, the consequences are serious. Having a loo can mean the difference between living in dignity or shame, health or illness, between getting an education, or dropping out of school.”

Toilets are a feminist issue for the same reason period poverty is a feminist issue: because lack of provision holds girls and women back and affects both their health and their prospects.

Toilets are a feminist issue in this country too because we have had to fight for them. In Victorian Britain, the public sphere was for men, while the home was the woman’s domain. Since most public conveniences were for use by men only, women had to plan trips out of the house carefully. The Ladies Sanitary Association campaigned for women’s toilets from the 1850s onwards, and a few were duly installed.

When women entered the workforce in large numbers after the First World War, toilets were again a big issue, as workplaces had been designed for men, and therefore lacked women’s facilities. Some employers were reluctant to change this, fearful women were stealing men’s jobs.

I’ve posted some news stories about girls or women who were raped and/or murdered because of the lack of a safe, private toilet.



Yes, Ivanka is worse; and?

Oct 5th, 2019 10:37 am | By

Kate Aronoff says what I’ve been saying:

The standard lines from Democrats about Hunter Biden and his business dealings in China and Ukraine have been consistent: Donald Trump has abused the office of the president by asking foreign leaders to investigate Biden’s son, and there is absolutely no proof that either Joe or Hunter Biden have done anything to break the law. Any questionable dealings by Biden’s son also pale in comparison to ethical breaches on the part of Ivanka, Eric or Donald Trump Jr, who have routinely blurred the lines between the extended Trump Organization – the family’s business empire –and their presence in the White House.

This is all true, and arguably these are the right lines vis-a-vis the long overdue impeachment proceedings. What’s harder to shake is the fact that Hunter Biden’s career is undeniably shady in the way that only the son of a longtime Washington insider could muster, failing upwards into positions of influence and power on the merits of his last name.

And that matters. Saying that Ivanka and Don Junior are worse is hardly an all clear. Hunter Biden failed upwards into a 50 grand a month seat on the board of a Ukrainian company because he’s Joe Biden’s son. We don’t need that. The fact that he was Obama’s VP is nowhere near reason enough to cling to him despite the shady doings.



Amor patriae

Oct 5th, 2019 10:18 am | By

I have a column in the current Free Inquiry and it’s one of the non-paywalled items this time.

It’s about Trump’s patriotism theater. It was fun to write.

Even if we can figure out exactly what we’re being ordered to love, it’s not actually the case that we’re legally obliged to do so. We’re not required to feel amorous toward “it” as a condition of being allowed to go on living here as citizens. We’re not made to undergo regular “love it” inspections to gauge whether our affection levels are above the red line. We don’t have to send monthly reports on our patriopassion on pain of expulsion. If we were born here, we get to live here, no questions asked. If we become citizens, same deal: we get to live here.

Granted there have been some feints toward the idea in the past. The House Un-American Activities Committee was a kind of “Do you really love us?” exercise, but even then, the outcome was not expulsion from the country. The Civil War was a serious attempt at divorce, and from that we got the anxieties about allegiance that led to the wretched custom of making children swear a solemn oath every school day as if we were hoping to create a robot army. But even then, allegiance is not the same as love.

It is true that adults who immigrate here do have to undergo a ceremony in which they renounce previous loyalty and shift it to this one. But that’s once; when it’s done it’s done. The government doesn’t phone the new citizens every day to ask, “Do you still love me? Do you really love me? What do you love about me most? Why were you making eyes at that other country yesterday?”

Dulce et decorum est, yeah?



Mister Congeniality

Oct 5th, 2019 10:01 am | By

There could be a second whistleblower.

A second intelligence official is reportedly considering filing a whistleblower complaint about Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine as the Democrats’ impeachment investigation into the president and his administration continues to escalate.

The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, also failed to meet a subpoena deadline to turn over documents related to the investigation, as House Democrats broadened their subpoena request to the White House, demanding documents after the executive branch ignored requests to provide them voluntarily.

Pompeo had a math test and a history paper due this week.

The second official considering filing a whistleblower complaint about the president’s dealings with Ukraine has more direct information about the events in question than the initial whistleblower and was interviewed by an intelligence watchdog to corroborate the first report, the New York Times reported late Friday, citing two anonymous sources.

Elsewhere, the Washington Post reported accounts of a number of Trump’s calls with foreign leaders, citing an anonymous former White House official. The paper said in one of his first calls with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, Trump fawned over him, and in a call with the former UK prime minister Theresa May, Trump questioned British intelligence’s conclusion that Putin’s government was behind an attempt to kill a former Russian spy on British soil with a nerve agent.

So, naturally, he was on Twitter calling the Post and the Times corrupt and “fixed” (scare quotes his) this morning. Pure fiction, he yelled; totally dishonest reporting.

The president has defended his open calls for foreign governments to investigate a political rival by repeating that there was “no quid pro quo”.

But one, there was, and two, it’s a crime with or without the quid pro quo.

Few congressional Republicans or commentators have spoken against Trump after the president urged two foreign governments, Ukraine and China, to investigate a political rival this week.

Among those that have are Senator Mitt Romney, of Utah, who said Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and China were “wrong” and “appalling”.

Trump’s tweets on Saturday targeted Romney saying: “Somebody please wake up Mitt Romney and tell him my conversation was a congenial and very appropriate one.”

“Congenial” – that’s not in Trump’s vocabulary. Credit: Scavino.



Goodbye constitutional right to abortion access

Oct 4th, 2019 5:53 pm | By

1950 here we come.

The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to hear June Medical Services v. Gee, a challenge to Louisiana’s stringent abortion restrictions. There is very little doubt that the conservative majority will use this case to overrule 2016’s Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, allowing states to regulate abortion clinics out of existence. In the process, the Republican-appointed justices will set the stage for the formal reversal of Roe v. Wade. The court’s decision to hear June Medical Services came with the alarming announcement that it will also consider whether to strip doctors of their ability to contest abortion laws in court. These aggressive moves augur an impending demise of the constitutional right to abortion access.

Oh well, it’s only women.

 



ATTN Ruth

Oct 4th, 2019 12:32 pm | By

Also…Maddow had a good deal of innocent fun night before last with a large envelope that sported a weirdly baroque address (Secretary Pompeo attn Ruth – the “attn Ruth” was pretty hilarious too). Now I understand, via Josh Rogin:

Rudy admits to CNN he passed the packet of Ukraine conspiracy theories and attacks on a U.S. ambassador to Pompeo. “They (the State Department) told me they would investigate it.”

By the way, Rudy is admitting to manufacturing White House logos and sticking them on non-White House documents and pushing the real government to act on them.

Walter Shaub:

Josh, are you inferring that from his statement that he’s responsible for the packet, or is he literally saying he sat down and drew “White House” in the upper left?

Rogin:

He’s admitted to passing the packet to Pompeo. I don’t know who exactly worked the photoshop, but the presidents lawyer gave it the Secretary of State and this was not an official WH document.

Shaub:

Thanks! I asked because it doesn’t look Photoshopped to me, it looks hand drawn (which is insane). It’ll be interesting to see if he specifically says he created the fake logo. Compare the Pompeo package to an actual White House envelope.

Image

Giuliani sent a package of conspiracy theories about the ambassador to Ukraine, to the Secretary of State, in a pink envelope with Gorgeous Scrolly Writing and a fake THE WHITE HOUSE in the corner.

In our wildest dreams we couldn’t…