Notes and Comment Blog

Democratic deconsolidation

Nov 29th, 2016 5:58 pm | By

A disquieting bit of research via the NY Times: democracies may not be as good at building in their own stability as we thought.

Political scientists have a theory called “democratic consolidation,” which holds that once countries develop democratic institutions, a robust civil society and a certain level of wealth, their democracy is secure.

For decades, global events seemed to support that idea. Data from Freedom House, a watchdog organization that measures democracy and freedom around the world, shows that the number of countries classified as “free” rose steadily from the mid-1970s to the early 2000s. Many Latin American countries transitioned from military rule to democracy; after the end of the Cold War, much of Eastern Europe followed suit. And longstanding liberal democracies in North America, Western Europe and Australia seemed more secure than ever.

But since 2005, Freedom House’s index has shown a decline in global freedom each year. Is that a statistical anomaly, a result of a few random events in a relatively short period of time? Or does it indicate a meaningful pattern?

Mr. Mounk and Mr. Foa developed a three-factor formula to answer that question. Mr. Mounk thinks of it as an early-warning system, and it works something like a medical test: a way to detect that a democracy is ill before it develops full-blown symptoms.

The first factor was public support: How important do citizens think it is for their country to remain democratic? The second was public openness to nondemocratic forms of government, such as military rule. And the third factor was whether “antisystem parties and movements” — political parties and other major players whose core message is that the current system is illegitimate — were gaining support.

Brexit and Trump provide very grim data on the third item.

Trump is also a distortion, though, because he has that tv celebrity-name recognition factor. Maybe he won because fascists are significantly more popular, or maybe he won because he was an asshole on tv for years.

But that’s very weak comfort.

According to the Mounk-Foa early-warning system, signs of democratic deconsolidation in the United States and many other liberal democracies are now similar to those in Venezuela before its crisis.

Across numerous countries, including Australia, Britain, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States, the percentage of people who say it is “essential” to live in a democracy has plummeted, and it is especially low among younger generations.

I have to go have nightmares now.


Nov 29th, 2016 3:58 pm | By

Aaron Blake at the Washington Post also says no we shouldn’t ignore Trump’s tweets.

Undergirding the idea that Trump’s tweets shouldn’t be big news is the theory that he’s manipulating the media into focusing on small things to cover up less sexy but more important things — conflicts of interests and possible corruption, in particular.

I’m skeptical any such plan exists, given that Trump’s thin-skinned tweeting is pretty indiscriminate. But this idea has returned with a vengeance given the latest tweetstorm, and it’s likely to perk up again after Trump on Tuesday morning suggested revoking the citizenship or jailing of people who burn the American flag.

What we’re basically talking about here is treating Trump like a social media troll with an egg for an avatar who can be blocked or ignored and hopefully loses the will to keep harassing us.

But this is the president-elect of the United States. The job comes with the so-called bully pulpit, and what he says matters and will be the subject of debate no matter what the mainstream media does. Everything he says reverberates. It doesn’t matter if he says it on Twitter or at a news conference; either way it’s going to be consumed by tens of millions of people, and the media has an important role to play when it comes to fact-checking and providing context.

Plus it matters. It matters that he’s that reckless and irresponsible, that petty and vain, that rage-driven and out of control, that wholly unfit for the job he’s taken on.

ProPublica senior reporting fellow Jessica Huseman nailed it in an interview with The Fix’s Callum Borchers on Monday.

“If he had said something similar in a press conference, no one would be concerned that journalists are getting distracted by his absurd language,” Huseman said. “But because it was a tweet, that’s somehow different? Unfortunately, this president-elect has decided to make Twitter his main means of communicating with the American public, and the American public listens deeply to things that he says on Twitter.”

We can’t ignore any of it.

A fire lit to hypnotize us

Nov 29th, 2016 3:14 pm | By

Rex Huppke at the Chicago Tribune also called Trump a liar.

On Sunday, the man who will soon lead this country tweeted a lie — a big, fiery one. It read: “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

That statement is based on nothing. Actually, it’s based on less than nothing. Its origin is, roughly, this: A nobody Republican with zero credibility or evidence tweeted that 3 million people voted illegally; a conspiracy theory website reported on that tweet, taking it as fact; the president-elect, in need of a distraction, tweeted that information as fact with no citation, not that a citation would have made it any less false.

Let’s pause for a moment and consider the staggering level of irresponsibility Trump showed in tweeting that lie. It’s akin to: My crazy uncle told me the world is flat; I reported that on my blog; the president of the United States then declared the world flat and banned boats so nobody would sail off the edge of the Earth.

And the staggeringly irresponsible liar is the next president.

Huppke says it’s a distraction, though, and that we should ignore it. Lots of people say that about Twitter-Trump, but I think they’re wrong – I think we need to pay attention to what a horrifying reckless monster the next president is on Twitter, because that is who he is. We should also of course pay attention to all the other horrors, and that’s hard to do because they’re so copious, but I don’t think Trump’s narcissistic public displays are a distraction or side show.

There is reason to be irritated — and maybe even terrified — by the soon-to-be president of the most powerful country in the world sharing false information that draws the legitimacy of our electoral process into question. But, sadly, that’s the least of our concerns.

It’s just a fire lit to hypnotize us, set by an arsonist who knows how to burn a narrative to the ground.

No, sorry, we have to do it all.

H/t Freemage

Trump v the Constitution

Nov 29th, 2016 1:10 pm | By

The Times also reports on Trump’s jolly tweet about how he’d like to punish people who burn flags.

“Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag — if they do, there must be consequences — perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!” Mr. Trump wrote in a 6:55 a.m. Twitter post.

Mr. Trump wrote the post shortly after Fox News aired a segment about a dispute at Hampshire College in Massachusetts, which removed the American flag from its campus flagpole after protests over his election victory; during one demonstration, someone burned a flag.

Ah, so that’s what he’s doing – watching Fox News and blurting out tweets in response to what he sees.

Even if Mr. Trump could persuade Congress to enact a criminal statute, a dramatic shift in the balance between government power and individual freedom, anyone convicted and sentenced under it could point to clear Supreme Court precedents to make the case for a constitutional violation.

The obstacles include the precedent that the Constitution does not allow the government to expatriate Americans against their will, through a landmark 1967 case, Afroyim v. Rusk. They also include a 1989 decision, Texas v. Johnson, in which the court struck down criminal laws banning flag burning, ruling that the act was a form of political expression protected by the First Amendment.

Well, sure, but what’s that got to do with Trump? He’s just been elected absolute dictator, hasn’t he? He certainly seems to think so.

David D. Cole, a Georgetown University law professor who co-wrote the Supreme Court briefs in the flag-burning case and who is about to become national legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, said he wondered if Mr. Trump’s strategy was to goad people into burning flags in order to “marginalize” the protests against him. But he also called Mr. Trump’s proposal “beyond the pale.”

“To me it is deeply troubling that the person who is going to become the most powerful government official in the United States doesn’t understand the first thing about the First Amendment — which is you can’t punish people for expressing dissent — and also doesn’t seem to understand that citizenship is a constitutional right that cannot be taken away, period, under any circumstances,” he said.

“Troubling” is putting it mildly.

Reporting on the L word

Nov 29th, 2016 12:40 pm | By

I mentioned that newspapers like the Times don’t call people liars lightly. For corroboration, here’s the Independent reporting on the very fact that the Times called Trump a liar.

The headline is: New York Times brands Donald Trump a liar

The New York Times has publicly accused Donald Trump of lying after he claimed millions of people had voted illegally in the US presidential election.

The New York Times used an editorial on Monday to attack Mr Trump’s claims.

In the piece, published under the byline of the paper’s Editorial Board, it said: “This is a lie, part of Mr. Trump’s pattern, stretching back many years, of disregard for indisputable facts.

“There is no evidence of illegal voting on even a small scale anywhere in the country, let alone a systematic conspiracy involving ‘millions’.

“In addition to insulting law-abiding voters everywhere, these lies about fraud threaten the foundations of American democracy. They have provided the justification for state voter-suppression laws around the country, and they could give the Trump administration a pretext to roll back voting rights on a national scale.”

Just a week ago Trump told Sulzberger to phone him when he got something wrong. Sulzberger of course did not agree to do that, because it would be grotesquely inappropriate. The Times – the whole Times, not a single commentator – is making it clear that it will report on his lies rather than coaxing him like a wayward child.

Mr Trump has repeatedly attacked the New York Times, which endorsed Mrs Clinton for President. A week after his election he claimed the newspaper was “failing” and said its writers “looked like fools”.

He had earlier said it was “losing thousands of subscribers because of [its] very poor and highly inaccurate coverage of the ‘Trump phenomena’”. The paper responded saying it had actually seen a rise in subscriptions.

The row is the latest of Mr Trump’s attacks on US media outlets. On Tuesday he criticised news station CNN, tweeting: “I thought that CNN would get better after they failed so badly in their support of Hillary Clinton however, since election, they are worse!”

“CNN is so embarrassed by their total (100%) support of Hillary Clinton, and yet her loss in a landslide, that they don’t know what to do.”

Our own little Hitler.

On the road again

Nov 29th, 2016 12:27 pm | By

He’s really doing it. He really is doing more rallies, even though the election is over – because that’s where he gets the instant gratification of people cheering him right in his face. It’s all he wants, along with the many many opportunities to boost his profits.

Donald Trump will once more feel the love that unexpectedly propelled him to victory over Hillary Clinton three weeks ago with a so-called ‘Thank You Tour’ of public appearances starting with a giant rally in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Thursday night.

While there is so far no published tour schedule, the director of Mr Trump’s advance planning team, George Gigicos, has said that that the president-elect will be traveling “obviously to the states that we won and the swing states we flipped over”.

This…isn’t a thing. This isn’t something presidents do right after they are elected. They have too much other stuff to do, for one thing, and it’s probably a tad too obviously self-gratifying for people with an ounce of adult awareness. It takes a case of narcissism as severe as Trump’s to think this is an ok and reasonable thing for a president-elect to do.

While some will see it as Mr Trump looking to indulge in a victory lap around the country, Mr Gigicos insisted that it was about giving thanks to those voters who helped him on his way to his Electoral College victory on 8 November, against the expectations of nearly all the main polling organisations and of the Clinton campaign as well.

Yeah that doesn’t change anything, because “giving thanks” isn’t part of the routine. It’s like when the local public radio station thanks me for listening – I don’t do it as a favor, I do it when and because there’s something I want to hear. But even the local public radio station doesn’t set up rallies to thank the listeners.

Certainly it is an unusual project. Mr Trump already has a full plate completing his choices for his cabinet and other top positions in Washington and keeping his transition from descending into chaos, as it has already threatened to in recent days, not least the tug of war that has erupted over his courtship of Mitt Romney as a possible Secretary of State.

And learning the basics of the job, and indeed learning the basics of American history and world affairs. Oh he has a lot he could usefully be doing.

And even if Mr Trump believes he can spare the time to return to the hustings even though the election is over, it is unclear who would be paying the costs of renting spaces as large as the US Bank Arena and covering all the other associated costs of major rallies.

I’m sure he’ll just send us the bill.

The L word

Nov 29th, 2016 9:51 am | By

The Times again says Trump has been telling lies, which is something newspapers don’t do lightly.

On Sunday, President-elect Trump unleashed a barrage of tweets complaining about calls for recounts or vote audits in several closely contested states, and culminating in this message: “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

This is a lie, part of Mr. Trump’s pattern, stretching back many years, of disregard for indisputable facts. There is no evidence of illegal voting on even a small scale anywhere in the country, let alone a systematic conspiracy involving “millions.” But this is the message that gets hammered relentlessly by right-wing propaganda sites like InfoWars, which is run by a conspiracy theorist who claims the Sandy Hook school massacre was a hoax — and whose absurdities Mr. Trump has often shouted through his megaphone, which will shortly bear the presidential seal.

That’s an appalling fact all by itself – the fact that the next president treats InfoWars as a reliable source.

In addition to insulting law-abiding voters everywhere, these lies about fraud threaten the foundations of American democracy. They have provided the justification for state voter-suppression laws around the country, and they could give the Trump administration a pretext to roll back voting rightson a national scale.

Could and doubtless will. If there’s a bad thing he can do, he will do it.

The M word

Nov 29th, 2016 8:55 am | By

An unedifying protracted conversation on Twitter, started by someone I don’t know from Adam.


There is no getting better

Nov 28th, 2016 6:27 pm | By

N Ziehl on coping with an apparent narcissist in the White House.

I want to talk a little about narcissistic personality disorder. I’ve unfortunately had a great deal of experience with it, and I’m feeling badly for those of you who are trying to grapple with it for the first time because of our president-elect, who almost certainly suffers from it or a similar disorder. If I am correct, it has some very particular implications for the office. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1) It’s not curable and it’s barely treatable. He is who he is. There is no getting better, or learning, or adapting. He’s not going to “rise to the occasion” for more than maybe a couple hours. So just put that out of your mind.

I should probably pay attention to that. I’ve never expected him to rise to the occasion, but I suppose I have been thinking he might realize what a fucking fool he is if everyone told him so. I should just put that out of my mind.

2) He will say whatever feels most comfortable or good to him at any given time. He will lie a lot, and say totally different things to different people. Stop being surprised by this. While it’s important to pretend “good faith” and remind him of promises, as Bernie Sanders and others are doing, that’s for his supporters, so they can see the inconsistency as it comes. He won’t care. So if you’re trying to reconcile or analyze his words, don’t. It’s 100% not worth your time. Only pay attention to and address his actions.

Well I’m not doing it because he will care but because others care. We have to keep track – for the prosecution if nothing else. Plus it’s a kind of coping mechanism itself. Decline and fall sort of thing.

4) Entitlement is a key aspect of the disorder. As we are already seeing, he will likely not observe traditional boundaries of the office. He has already stated that rules don’t apply to him. This particular attribute has huge implications for the presidency and it will be important for everyone who can to hold him to the same standards as previous presidents.

So that’s another reason we should keep track.

5) We should expect that he only cares about himself and those he views as extensions of himself, like his children. (People with NPD often can’t understand others as fully human or distinct.) He desires accumulation of wealth and power because it fills a hole. (Melania is probably an acquired item, not an extension.) He will have no qualms at all about stealing everything he can from the country, and he’ll be happy to help others do so, if they make him feel good. He won’t view it as stealing but rather as something he’s entitled to do. This is likely the only thing he will intentionally accomplish.

I have suspected as much. Good to have it spelled out.

Makeup to cover the bruises

Nov 28th, 2016 12:30 pm | By

News from Morocco:

Women in Morocco have reacted in horror after a programme on state television demonstrated how they could use makeup to cover up evidence of domestic violence.

The segment in the daily programme Sabahiyat, on Channel 2M, showed a smiling makeup artist demonstrating how to mask marks of beating, on a woman with her face made up to appear swollen and covered with fake black and blue bruises.

“We hope these beauty tips will help you carry on with your daily life”, the host said at the end of the segment, broadcast on 23 November – two days before the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Have the clip:

Lipstick on a pig bruise.


Nov 28th, 2016 12:06 pm | By

There’s a thing called the Goldwater Rule which applies to members of the American Psychiatric Association; it says they can’t diagnose someone they haven’t personally evaluated.

The Goldwater Rule is published as an annotation in the Principles of Medical Ethics with Annotations Especially Applicable to Psychiatry. I encourage you all to read the full text of the rule below, and keep it in mind during this election cycle, and other events of similarly intense public interest.

The “Goldwater Rule:”

On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.”

Principles of Medical Ethics with Annotations Especially Applicable to Psychiatry

You know, people who go into the military get evaluated first. They get screened. Some candidates are rejected. But candidates for president are not evaluated or screened in any such way. There is no procedure for blocking a candidate who is just plain unfit for the job.

Trump should have been screened out long ago. There’s a terrible mismatch between what the president has the ability to do – like starting wars and deploying nuclear weapons – and the total lack of a system for insuring that the president is not a raging narcissist.

Aren’t all politicians?

Nov 28th, 2016 11:38 am | By

The Washington Post asked in late July Is Trump a textbook narcissist?

For the four days of the Republican convention, the word “narcissism” was never more in vogue, but what does the word actually mean? More importantly, what would it mean for America if one of the nominees for president of the United States is a narcissist? Aren’t all politicians?

The way Trump is? No, certainly not.

Arguably they can’t be, because politics doesn’t work that way. Trump’s election is an anomaly. People who put their own ego ahead of everything else are going to put people off, and their political careers won’t get off the ground. Trump is an “outsider,” which means he didn’t do any political work to get to this point. He’s always been at the top of his own ladder, giving orders, so he’s never had to learn to get along with people, so he’s never been forced to stop putting himself first.

A simple narcissist is someone who is self-absorbed, says Peter Freed, a psychiatrist at the Personality Studies Institute in New York City. On the other hand, people with narcissistic personality disorder are so self-absorbed that they are indifferent, even oblivious, to how they appear to others.

That’s our boy, wouldn’t you say?

Pathological narcissism is not, strictly speaking, a mental illness. Rather, it is classified as a personality disorder, afflicting someone whose behavior and beliefs lie far outside the norm. Unlike many mental illnesses, the origins of personality disorders are generally considered more familial and environmental than genetic.

Freed thinks narcissism is the “great, undiagnosed character pa­thol­ogy of the modern age,” even though few in psychiatry want to even use the word narcissism, he says, because of its pejorative connotation. The American public “is hampered by a lack of education about a syndrome that is real” and causes “real suffering.”

Ultimately, he said, regarding highly successful people, narcissism works — until it doesn’t. Usually those who suffer most are not the narcissists, Freed says, but those around them, the people who have to cope with the “mood swings, walking on egg shells, the demand to be sycophantic.”

“Right now Trump is not having a hard time” he said. “The hard time will come if he loses.”

Or, it turns out, if he wins but many people continue to say he’s a terrible human being.

If he’s that out of control

Nov 28th, 2016 10:09 am | By

The Washington Post edges up to the task of discussing Trump’s pathological narcissism.

Trump’s frustration that he’ll be inaugurated despite having less demonstrated support than his opponent is the most likely explanation for his tweets. He’s clearly annoyed that Clinton agreed to participate in Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein’s efforts to review balloting in Wisconsin and other Midwestern states (an annoyance also made clear on Twitter). It’s remarkably similar to what happened when he lost the Iowa caucuses to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.): At first, he accepted the result as it was. Within a day or two, though, he began lashing out at Cruz, accusing him of stealing the vote in the state.

Of course, there’s no evidence that Cruz did anything that could be identified as “stealing” the election. But that wasn’t the point. The point was that Trump was mad. (Incidentally, this was also the genesis of “Lyin’ Ted.”)

There has been some social-media speculation that Trump is laying the groundwork for federal efforts to curtail voting access. That’s probably backward. It’s more likely that Trump is leveraging long-standing, unfounded murmurs of rampant voter fraud as a way to assuage his ego, just as he claimed that Cruz stole the election to save face.

This has to be carefully explained to us, because it’s (still) so hard to believe that a grown man who has just been elected president of the US has that little self-control and discipline. It’s hard to believe and it’s also terrifying to believe. If he’s that out of control, maybe he’ll send a pilot to drop a nuclear weapon on our house because we sent him a rude tweet. If he’s that out of control, maybe he’ll speed up climate change even more out of sheer spite. If he’s that out of control, maybe there’s nothing we can do to limit the destruction.

Verified? Really?

Nov 28th, 2016 9:47 am | By

The Washington Post dug into the likely source of Trump’s wild claim that millions of people voted illegally.

On Nov. 13, Gregg Phillips, a former Texas Health and Human Services Commission deputy commissioner, tweeted about there being 3 million votes that were cast by noncitizens.

Phillips hasn’t provided any evidence for that claim. InfoWars and Drudge picked it up, but Drudge labeled it a “claim.”

When Matt Drudge qualifies something with “Claim:,” it’s worth treating it with skepticism.

The rumor-debunking site Snopes looked at Phillips’s claim and found no evidence for it. (It also noted that Phillips has a history of implying that Obamacare will lead to the registration of millions of immigrants here illegally.) Phillips replied on Twitter, “One might imagine someone would have called me.” That’s easier said than done; when I was looking at this earlier this month I couldn’t find a way to contact Phillips. An email to True the Vote, a conservative group focused on the issue of voter fraud (for which Phillips claims to be a board member), did not receive a reply.

Phillips has said that he will release evidence of his claims at some point in the future — but not to the media. As of writing, there simply isn’t any data to that effect.

Yet Trump – who will be president in a few weeks – is happy to blat out the accusation all the same. He’s the same reckless malevolent narcissist he’s always been.

Live above the rest

Nov 27th, 2016 5:50 pm | By

New details on the conflicts of interest.

On Thanksgiving Day, a Philippine developer named Jose E. B. Antonio hosted a company anniversary bash at one of Manila’s poshest hotels. He had much to be thankful for.

In October, he had quietly been named a special envoy to the United States by the Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte. Mr. Antonio was nearly finished building a $150 million tower in Manila’s financial district — a 57-story symbol of affluence and capitalism, which bluntly promotes itself with the slogan “Live Above the Rest.” And now his partner on the project, Donald J. Trump, had just been elected president of the United States.

After the election, Mr. Antonio flew to New York for a private meeting at Trump Tower with the president-elect’s children, who have been involved in the Manila project from the beginning, as have Mr. Antonio’s children. The Trumps and Antonios have other ventures in the works, including Trump-branded resorts in the Philippines, Mr. Antonio’s son Robbie Antonio said.

Isn’t that just cozy. Antonio is a special envoy to the US, and Trump is the next president of the US. How pleasant for both of them and their children.

Mr. Antonio’s combination of jobs — he is a business partner with Mr. Trump, while also representing the Philippines in its relationship with the United States and the president-elect — is hardly inconsequential, given some of the weighty issues on the diplomatic table.

Among them, Mr. Duterte has urged “a separation” from the United Statesand has called for American troops to exit the country in two years’ time. His antidrug crusade has resulted in the summary killings of thousands of suspected criminals without trial, prompting criticism from the Obama administration.

Situations like these are already leading some former government officials from both parties to ask if America’s reaction to events around the world could potentially be shaded, if only slightly, by the Trump family’s financial ties with foreign players. They worry, too, that in some countries those connections could compromise American efforts to criticize the corrupt intermingling of state power with vast business enterprises controlled by the political elite.

“It is uncharted territory, really in the history of the republic, as we have never had a president with such an empire both in the United States and overseas,” said Michael J. Green, who served on the National Security Council in the administration of George W. Bush, and before that at the Defense Department.

Or such a corrupt, self-serving, defiant president. The combination is going to be lethal.

a review by The Times of these business dealings identified a menu of the kinds of complications that could create a running source of controversy for Mr. Trump, as well as tensions between his priorities as president and the needs and objectives of his companies.

In Brazil, for example, the beachfront Trump Hotel Rio de Janeiro — one of Mr. Trump’s many branding deals, in which he does not have an equity stake — is part of a broad investigation by a federal prosecutor who is examining whether illicit commissions and bribes resulted in apparent favoritism by two pension funds that invested in the project.

Several of Mr. Trump’s real estate ventures in India — where he has more projects underway than in any location outside North America — are being built through companies with family ties to India’s most important political party. This makes it more likely that Indian government officials will do special favors benefiting Mr. Trump’s projects, including pressuring state-owned banks to extend favorable loans.

There’s Turkey. Will Trump look the other way while Erdogan keeps arresting dissidents and academics in exchange for favors to Trump’s business interests there?

What is clear is that there has been very little division, in the weeks since the election, between Mr. Trump’s business interests and his transition effort, with the president-elect or his family greeting real estate partners from India and the Philippines in his office and Mr. Trump raising concerns about his golf course in Scotland with a prominent British politician. Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who is in charge of planning and development of the Trump Organization’s global network of hotels, has joined in conversations with at least three world leaders — of Turkey, Argentina and Japan — having access that could help her expand the brand worldwide.

What is that? Why was she even allowed to do that? Why is any of this being allowed?

Then there’s that hotel in Rio, and the investigation by a federal prosecutor into why two pension funds invested so heavily in the hotel when it’s not even finished and is a risky investment?

And a lot more.

With no evidence

Nov 27th, 2016 5:27 pm | By

The Times basically says that Trump is lying.

President-elect Donald J. Trump said on Sunday that he had fallen short in the popular vote in the general election only because millions of people had voted illegally, leveling his claim — despite the absence of any such evidence — as part of a daylong storm of Twitter posts voicing anger about a three-state recount push.

That’s a cautious way of putting it, of course, but their meaning is pretty clear.

The series of posts came one day after Hillary Clinton’s campaign said it would participate in a recount effort being undertaken in Wisconsin, and potentially in similar pushes in Michigan and Pennsylvania, by Jill Stein, who was the Green Party candidate. Mr. Trump’s statements revived claims he made during the campaign, as polls suggested he was losing to Mrs. Clinton, about a rigged and corrupt system.

The Twitter outburst also came as Mr. Trump is laboring to fill crucial positions in his cabinet, with his advisers enmeshed in a rift over whom he should select as secretary of state. On Sunday morning, Kellyanne Conway, a top adviser, extended a public campaign to undermine one contender, Mitt Romney — a remarkable display by a member of a president-elect’s team. She accused Mr. Romney of having gone “out of his way to hurt” Mr. Trump during the Republican primary contests.

Professionalism in action.

More Twitter lies from Trump

Nov 27th, 2016 4:33 pm | By

Trump has lit up social media again.

In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.

I offered him my quick thought on the subject:

What if we add the millions of people whose votes were suppressed in defiance of the Voting Rights Act? You lying bastard.

Ezra Klein points out that he can’t keep track of his own arguments.

Trump has lost the thread of his own argument. The point of Trump’s tweets was to dismiss those questioning the legitimacy of the vote.

Yes but that’s true only if you regard his tweets as an argument. I consider them blurts, instead; it saves a lot of time.

This perhaps goes without saying, but it’s unnerving that the president-elect can’t restrain himself from making a bad situation worse on Twitter, or even hold himself to the logic of the argument he intended to make and the outcome he wanted to achieve.

Yes. Yes it is. It’s very unnerving that he is that stupid, and undisciplined, and narcissistic, and impulsive. It’s shocking that someone like that can get elected to such a powerful office. I’m unnerved by it multiple times every day. It’s hard to say enough about how terrible it is.

This tweet is an example of Trump’s most dangerous quality: his tendency to mobilize against a threatening, sometimes imaginary Other whenever he himself is under siege.

Most dangerous and possibly most disgusting. His constant lashing out is a revolting thing to see in a head of state.

This tweet is an example of one of Trump’s other dangerous qualities: his tendency to believe what he wants to believe about the world, facts be damned.

To believe it and to try to force it on everyone else. Another bad quality in a head of state.

It has been weeks since Donald Trump won the presidential election, and here is what we can say: he is still just himself. He is governing like he promised. He is appointing the loyalists, lackeys, and extremists he surrounded himself with during the campaign. He is tweeting the same strange, crazed missives, pursuing the same odd and counterproductive vendettas. His conflicts of interest have proven, if anything, worse than expected, and he has shown no shame, restraint, or interest in addressing them.

He will always be just himself. That’s painfully clear. Nothing can shift him.

Springtime for Putin and Rusheeyaaa

Nov 27th, 2016 1:13 pm | By

And speaking of those zany Russians…there’s the Holocaust-themed ice dance.

The wife of Vladimir Putin’s powerful spokesman has provoked outrage by performing a Holocaust-themed ice skating routine on Russian TV reality show.

Tatiana Navka, the wife of Dmitry Peskov, appeared on Russian reality show Ice Age and performed in the striped uniform of concentration camp victims complete with the yellow Star of David which Jewish people were forced to wear by the Nazis.

She and her ice skating partner, actor Andrei Burkovsky, smiled at the audience during the performance and appeared to mime shooting each other in one sequence.

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Trump is an honorary Cossack

Nov 27th, 2016 12:55 pm | By

Jeff Sharlet on Facebook:

Since Trump’s been made an honorary Cossack — by the St. Petersburg-area Irbis group — I thought I’d re-share my own encounter with a St. Petersburg Cossack — and his whip, and his gun.

This was in November 2013, at a secret meeting of Russian fascists to organize anti-LGBT violence to which I’d been invited by accident. I was reporting for GQ.

The Cossack will begin, he says, with history. “God sends Cossack souls through our blood,” he says. A voice that seems cultivated for menace. A barrel of dread. God sends Cossacks, yes, he says. They are his warriors.

Do not be frightened, he says. Cossacks are just. For instance: We will not rape Muslim women, for it would be unjust to the half-Cossack child born damned by Muslim blood. And we are creative. “We are famous for our humor,” he says. For instance: By rights homosexuals should be slaughtered. This is tradition. He recounts some of the ways Cossacks murder homosexuals. “Of course,” he explains, “I cannot say this officially.” He cracks his first smile. But there is something he can speak of. Shit—the medium of Cossack humor. “They like to put their cocks in the ass, so we put the shit on their cocks for them. We smear them.” He chortles, waits for me to laugh, glares. Do I not think this is funny?

I try to change the subject. “Tell me about your outfit,” I say brightly. He shows me his whip, weighted with a sharp lead block. He puts its thick wooden grip in my hand. “Feel,” he says. He unsheathes a wide black blade as long as my forearm. He says nothing about the handgun at his side.

“What kind of gun is that?” I ask.

“A good one,” he says. He releases the clip, to show me it’s loaded. He pushes the clip back in. He points the gun at me. Very casual. Just in my direction. Cossack humor. Do I not think this is funny? I lift my notebook off the table. He reaches across to thump it down. “Pishi,” he says. “Write.”

We live in bully-world now.


Nov 27th, 2016 10:12 am | By

Trump gets angry at the news media when they publish unbecoming photos of him. In general I think people should not be attacked on the basis of how they look, but the thing about Trump is that he’s so very often making horrible faces in aid of making some horrible point. I don’t think the news media are stooping or being cruel when they publish photos of that kind.

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