Notes and Comment Blog

Poking the enraged bear suffering from gout and a migraine

Apr 17th, 2018 4:01 pm | By

The lawyers are not happy.

McConnell has said NO we’re not ever going to have a bill to protect the Mueller investigation, no no NO, now stop bothering him.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday thwarted a bipartisan effort to protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s job, saying he will not hold a floor vote on the legislation even if it is approved next week in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

McConnell said the bill is unnecessary because President Donald Trump will not fire Mueller.

That is such a grotesquely stupid excuse for a “reason.” He doesn’t know that; it’s highly unlikely to be true; Trump has planned to fire Mueller twice and been talked out of it, just barely; thinking something won’t happen is not a good reason to insure against it in any case.

It’s so stupid it’s like saying “because magic.” Where does he get off saying dogmatically that Trump will not fire Mueller? Given the hundreds of reasons Trump has given us to think that’s exactly what he’ll do? That’s like saying Trump won’t insult anyone on Twitter, or Trump will talk cogently and rationally at a meeting, or Trump cares more about the public good than about himself. What possible reason is there to be confident that Trump won’t fire Mueller?

In any case why not vote on the bill anyway? Why not just make sure?

His comments came amid widespread opposition to the bill among members of his caucus, with several GOP senators saying the bill is unconstitutional. Others said it’s simply not good politics to try and tell Trump what to do, likening the legislation to “poking the bear.”

If he’s a bear, he really shouldn’t be president. We’re not supposed to have bears as presidents. Bears are not good at presidenting. Bears will eat you.

To protect the institutions

Apr 17th, 2018 11:43 am | By

I think I’m approaching an understanding of what happened with Comey and the emails and the press conference and the letter. Basically it’s that the alternative wasn’t as much better as we (with the luxury of not living through it) may imagine. He says over and over that it was a choice between bad options. There was no good one. What would have been so bad about not saying anything when the FBI closed the investigation? The fact that Fox and Trump-fan Twitter would have been all over it like an oozing infectious skin disease.

He explains it (again) in that NPR interview.

Inskeep: Let me circle back to the Hillary Clinton case and the decisions that you made there. You mentioned it was a no-win situation. What would you say was your greatest concern when it became clear to you that that email case was going to at some point come down to a decision by you?

My greatest concern towards the end of that email investigation — it lasted about a year — towards the end was how does the Department of Justice, which includes the FBI, credibly close this investigation without charges and maximize public confidence that it was done in a just way. If it ends without charges. Because by the spring, if it continued on the same course and speed it was on, it looked to me like it was going to end without charges. And the credibility of the institution is important even in ordinary times. But all the more so when you’re investigating one of the two candidates for president of the United States. How are you able to maintain public confidence that you’re not a partisan, it’s not the Obama Justice Department trying to give a break to Hillary Clinton.

That sounds kind of abstract and conjectural if you don’t think about it much…but if you pause to think about it, and about what this whole discourse is like, you realize what he’s getting at. We would have been inundated in a crow-storm of lies…just as we were anyway. The storm of lies was going to happen no matter what…and it might have been even worse if he’d gone the other way.

Inskeep: That’s your concern. And so that I guess was behind your decision to make a public statement about the case. Just so the people understand, how would you have closed that case in the ordinary way? Suppose it was an ordinary investigation, you weren’t concerned about perceptions of the FBI or the Justice Department, what would the FBI normally have done at the end of this case?

In the ordinary case, we would most likely in writing prepare some sort of summary of what our investigation had determined and then send it over to the Justice Department, and they would in the ordinary case either say nothing, which is the most common case, or at most issue a letter to the target saying, or the subject saying it’s over, or some minimal statement about it.

Inskeep: So you decided to take another path, and decided independently of the attorney general to take another path, to speak in public about it.

That’s right. By the end of — by the beginning of July I made a decision that to protect the institutions — both the justice institutions, both the Justice Department and the FBI — the least bad alternative was to announce — the attorney general having said she would accept my recommendation rather than recuse herself — announce that recommendation and show transparency to the American people, to try to show them this was done in an independent, honest and competent way, rather than just do it in the normal fashion and just send it over to Justice.

In other words, if I understand this correctly, if they’d done it the normal way, the loonies would have screamed that the fix was in, it was a cover-up, it was corrupt, the FBI was a Democratic stooge (except they would have said Democrat stooge).

Inskeep: Here’s the thing that’s on my mind, director. You were hoping to demonstrate that the FBI was above political influence. Did you, in your course of action actually allow yourself to be politically influenced? Because you write first that you were concerned about criticism — essentially conspiracy theorizing — about the FBI, from Republicans that President Obama’s candidate for president would be cut a break. Later on you talk about this meeting between the Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Clinton. And you say you had no thought that there was any conspiracy there, but after it became a big thing on cable TV, it changed your mind. Were you actually being influenced by cable TV pundits in what you decided to do?

But is that being politically influenced, as opposed to factually or environmentally or socially or social media-ly? Is it political to take the media / social media environment into account?

I suppose it is in a way…but that way is probably part of a director’s job.

Comey’s answer:

Yeah, that’s a reasonable question, Steve. I don’t think so, and here’s why I say that: Even if cable TV punditry had never been born and there were no such thing, there would be intense public interest in a criminal investigation of one of the two candidates for president of the United States. So even if there weren’t wings in our politics, which there always have been, but even if there wasn’t that punditry, I think it would be an intense interest in knowing that this had been done in an honest, competent, independent way. And a number of things that occurred in the lead-up to that first week in July that led me to conclude, and reasonable people can disagree about this, but led me conclude that the best way to foster that confidence of an intensely interested public was to show transparency and do it separate from the attorney general.

I think I see what he’s getting at.

On the other hand there are the law types (I forget who they are – maybe Tribe is one?) point out that what he did is exactly what prosecutors are trained never to do.

It’s thorny. I guess that’s why it won’t lie down.

This is not some tin-pot dictatorship

Apr 17th, 2018 11:04 am | By

Comey does an interview with NPR, in which he points out that it’s not normal for a president to be ranting in public that private citizens should be in jail.

“This is not some tin-pot dictatorship where the leader of the country gets to say, ‘The people I don’t like go to jail,’” Comey told NPR in the latest in a series of interviews to promote his new book.

In tweets Sunday and Monday, Trump alleged, without citing evidence, that Comey had committed “many crimes” and deserves to be jailed for leaking classified information and lying to Congress — allegations Comey denies.

Also, allegations that are ironic coming from Trump, who is not the most law-abiding president we’ve ever had.

“The president of the United States just said that a private citizen should be jailed,” Comey said. “And I think the reaction of most of us was, ‘Meh, that’s another one of those things.’ This is not normal. This is not okay. There’s a danger that we will become numb to it, and we will stop noticing the threats to our norms.”

That wasn’t my reaction. I never think Trump’s rants are just another one of those things or normal or okay.

The White House and Republican National Committee have launched a widespread campaign to undermine Comey’s credibility as he conducts a media blitz to promote his book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” which is set to be released Tuesday.

Trump has tweeted more than a half-dozen times about Comey in recent days, including a retweet Monday night of a post promoting a new RNC website that refers to “Lyin’ Comey.”

Not normal. Not normal at all. Very very far from normal.

Sean Hannity reminds you

Apr 17th, 2018 10:49 am | By

Nice little free verse poem here:

Sean Hannity reminds you:
Michael Cohen wasn’t his lawyer
But he still expects attorney-client privilege.
And he has nothing to hide
But he ordered MC not to reveal him.
And He defended MC all week
But now MC’s a liar.
And that’s why Hillary Clinton must be stopped.


Such unworthy vessels

Apr 17th, 2018 10:35 am | By

Glosswitch looks askance at the breeding stock view of women.

Pregnancy and childbirth – where would we be without them? Essential to the continuation of our very species, everyday phenomena don’t get more miraculous. It’s a pity they’re entrusted to such unworthy vessels.

It works out ok if you think of it as a purely mechanical process, which can be easily replicated by any decent engineer. Of course if you do that you may have trouble tracking down that decent engineer and finding any women willing to perform the purely mechanical process. It’s been a human tragedy all along, that women are such garbage yet nobody can have any babies without them.

Just look at the evidence: if the class of humans responsible for bringing forth new life aren’t too old, they’re too young. If they’re not too stressed, they’re too lazy. If they’re not getting distracted by book-learning, they’re leaving it too late to get themselves impregnated at all. If only this all-important job had been left to someone responsible (like, say, a man).

Or a decent engineer.

A headline in today’s Metro tells us that “British women are ‘woefully unprepared for pregnancy’ because they’re so unhealthy”. The article states, “large numbers of young women smoke, drink too much alcohol, are overweight or obese, and consume inadequate amounts of fruits and vegetables”.

Oh dear, what could be done about that…I know! Put them all under house arrest, and monitor their intake.

Image result for handmaid's tale

A brick to the teeth

Apr 17th, 2018 10:10 am | By

Strange times.

The lyrics are helpfully provided.

Its not hard to use the right words
When your talking to people
And you know the ones the prefer
Its not that complicated
To use respectful language
Its the least you can do
if you don’t it shows the truth
About you and your loyalty
To the patriarchy
Your false feminism
Hides your misogyny

Terfs are trash
We won’t stand for trans exclusionary feminism
Theres nothing radical about traditional gender binaries

If you intentionally
misgender anybody
Your a sexist piece of trash
That deserves a brick to the teeth
Equality is for everybody
You gotta lot of nerve
coming round with that
Swerf talk terf talk
Gonna get that sidewalk
curb stomp

She was just kidding

Apr 16th, 2018 4:12 pm | By

I’m sure this is not at all sinister. Haley says there will be sanctions on Russia and Trump says nope there won’t.

Preparations to punish Russia anew for its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government over an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria caused consternation at the White House. Haley had said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” that sanctions on Russian companies behind the equipment related to Assad’s alleged chemical weapons attack would be announced Monday by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

But Trump conferred with his national security advisers later Sunday and told them he was upset the sanctions were being officially rolled out because he was not yet comfortable executing them, according to several people familiar with the plan.

Because…? Because Volodya has him by the short hairs? Because he loves Putin and Russia just that much? Because he wants to build Trump Hotels all over Russia?

Administration officials said Monday it was unlikely Trump would approve any additional sanctions without another triggering event by Russia, describing the strategy as being in a holding pattern.

Sometime after Haley’s comments on CBS, the Trump administration notified the Russian Embassy in Washington that the sanctions were not in fact coming, a Russian Foreign Ministry official said Monday.

And sent them a huge box of chocolates.


Apr 16th, 2018 3:54 pm | By

Erik Wemple at the Post says yes, it is sleazy for Hannity to be entangled with Cohen and Trump.

To understand from whom Hannity seeks legal advice, consider what Cohen once told a reporter who was preparing a hard-hitting story during the campaign on Trump and ex-wife Ivana Trump:

“I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we’re in the courthouse. And I will take you for every penny you still don’t have. And I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know,” Cohen said. “So I’m warning you, tread very f[–––]ing lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be f[–––]ing disgusting. You understand me?”

“You write a story that has Mr. Trump’s name in it, with the word ‘rape,’ and I’m going to mess your life up… for as long as you’re on this frickin’ planet… you’re going to have judgments against you, so much money, you’ll never know how to get out from underneath it,” he added.

Cohen also masterminded hush payments to women who’d allegedly had affairs with Trump. Meaning: His expertise lies in intimidation and the like.

So not so much a lawyer as an arm-breaker.

Whatever its nature, the association raises more questions about Hannity’s role at Fox News than can be addressed right here and now. Surely he and his backers will leap to the common defense that Hannity doesn’t claim to be a journalist and is thus not bound by the usual ethical considerations of the profession. Yet somehow, the “Fox News” logo remains in place during Hannity’s broadcasts:

“News” organizations employ journalists.

Whether formal or informal, the apparent legal relationship between Cohen and Hannity raises obvious issues. Would Hannity be able to report on wrongdoing by Cohen? Would he be able to report on advice from Cohen that led the president astray? Would he be able to report fairly on the actions of the Trump Organization?

Of course not. The relationship merely reduces whatever independence Hannity had preserved from his buddies in Trump World — which, as we already know, was pea-size to begin with. As reported by this blog, Hannity during the presidential election actually participated in a video promotion for the Trump campaign. He paid for a vice presidential candidate to be flown to an interview in Indiana. And he provided advice in his numerous phone chats with the president and his people.

So, it’s possible that this Cohen news is moot from an ethical perspective: Hannity is way too compromised to compromise himself further. With each revelation, though, it’s clear that Hannity’s programming is driven more by personal ties and loyalties than by whatever principles he may retain at this point.

Which is very Trump-like, and what Comey wrote a book to say is the wrong way to go.

“If he only defends Trump as a matter of opinion, that’s what editorial writers do,” says Stephen Gillers, a professor of legal ethics at NYU School of Law and author of the forthcoming “The Press under Fire: Protecting the Future of Investigative Reporting.” “If his opinion can be or seem to be influenced by an allegiance to Trump or Cohen, then he’s crossing a line.” Having long ago obliterated that line, though, Hannity can no longer see it.

Or he doesn’t care about it and never did.

Gasps in court

Apr 16th, 2018 3:24 pm | By

You couldn’t make it up.

Lawyers for Mr. Cohen, the president’s longtime personal lawyer and fixer, had sought to keep the identity of one of Mr. Cohen’s clients a secret in a court challenge of an F.B.I. search of Mr. Cohen’s office.

And the mystery client izzzzzzzzzzz

Sean Hannity.

[A]fter several minutes of back and forth between the government and Mr. Cohen’s lawyers, Kimba M. Wood, a judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, ordered that Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen Ryan, disclose in open court the name of a client in question, who turned out to be Mr. Hannity.

Before Mr. Hannity’s name was revealed in the courtroom, Mr. Ryan had argued that the mysterious client was a “prominent person” who wanted to keep his identity a secret because he would be “embarrassed” to be identified as a client of Mr. Cohen’s.

I didn’t know Sean Hannity could be embarrassed.

Robert D. Balin, a lawyer for various media outlets, including The New York Times, CNN and others, interrupted the proceedings to argue that embarrassment was not a sufficient legal argument to keep a client’s name secret, and Judge Wood agreed.

After Mr. Hannity was named, there were audible gasps in the courtroom.

Maybe Trump will make him Secretary of State.

Mr. Cohen is under criminal investigation by the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan. The F.B.I. raided Mr. Cohen’s office, home and hotel room on April 9, seizing business records, emails and documents related to several topics.

Without disclosing his relationship with Mr. Cohen, Mr. Hannity was fiercely critical of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and the F.B.I. during the April 9 broadcast of “Hannity” on Fox News.

Ahhhhh now isn’t that dishonest.

The Fox News host has long been one of Mr. Trump’s most zealous supporters. Before a nightly audience of more than three million viewers, the biggest in cable news, Mr. Hannity has regularly defended the president and excoriated his critics.

His close relationship with Mr. Trump goes back to the fraught final days of the 2016 presidential campaign. After The Washington Post published the so-called “Access Hollywood” tape, during which Mr. Trump was captured on a hot microphone boasting in vulgar terms of “grabbing” women, Mr. Hannity continued to support the candidate at a time when many other conservative commentators had turned against him.

He continued to support a man who talks about women in the most contemptuous dismissive terms possible, as if they were so much hamburger laid out on a slab.

Last summer, Mr. Hannity dined with Mr. Trump at the White House. As recently as last month, he was a guest of the president’s at his Florida retreat, Mar-a-Lago.

Isn’t that itself kind of sleazy? Do presidents normally do that – socialize with opinionators who can influence what the public thinks of the prez? Did Obama have Maddow over for din-dins? If he’d invited her would she have gone? I think normally journalists want to keep their distance, and presidents know it wouldn’t look good. Hitchens hated the White House correspondents’ dinner because it was way too cozy.

What a sewer.

A rogue element

Apr 16th, 2018 11:53 am | By

Nate Silver points out an aspect I would love to know more about. (I don’t suppose we ever will.)

Stephanopoulos doesn’t quite pose the “why not wait?” question directly to Comey, but Comey’s thinking seems to have been influenced by concerns that pro-Trump elements within the FBI would leak word of the Weiner emails to the media.

From the transcript where they’re talking about why he sent the letter about re-opening the emails investigation:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the reasons it was– you feared it was going to leak out is– ’cause you were dealing with a rogue element of FBI agents and former FBI agents up in New York who were really pushing to get this out there. Were you aware of that?

JAMES COMEY: I knew that there were leaks coming– or appeared to be leaks about criminal investigation of the Clintons coming out of New York. And I don’t know exactly where that was coming from. I commissioned an investigation to find out. I don’t know what the investigation found.

But, yeah, I was worried about– the– the team that had done the investigation was in the counterintelligence division at headquarters, of the emails. And there were no leaks at all, very tight. But the criminal folks in New York were now involved in a major way, and I don’t want to single anybody out ’cause I don’t know where it was coming from.

But there’d been enough up there that I thought there was a pretty reasonable likelihood that it would leak, and that’s what Loretta was reflecting.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You had your– your former boss, Rudy Giuliani, out there on television saying something big was coming.

JAMES COMEY: Yes, I saw that. And I don’t know whether that was– it’s part of what I ordered investigated. I don’t know whether that was part of a leak outta the– FBI office in New York that knew about the search warrant. But that was my concern, that once you start seeking a search warrant, especially in a criminal case– counterintelligence is different.

They’re so used to operating in a classified environment. They’re much tighter. But once you start involving people whose tradition is criminal, and in New York which has a different culture, there is a reasonable likelihood it was going to get out anyway.

Rogue elements in the criminal division in the New York branch of the FBI, who were Trump fans, who were thought to be about to leak.

Another reporter falls out the window

Apr 16th, 2018 11:20 am | By

Oh gee golly I wonder what happened here: a Russian investigative journalist dies after falling from his fifth-floor flat.

Maxim Borodin was found badly injured by neighbours in Yekaterinburg and taken to hospital, where he later died.

Local officials said no suicide note was found but the incident was unlikely to be of a criminal nature.

However, a friend revealed Borodin had said his flat had been surrounded by security men a day earlier.

Total coincidence I’m sure. They were there to pick up cigarette butts.

Vyacheslav Bashkov described Borodin as a “principled, honest journalist” and said Borodin had contacted him at five o’clock in the morning on 11 April saying there was “someone with a weapon on his balcony and people in camouflage and masks on the staircase landing”.

Kids playing. Or a fashion shoot. Or people the landlord sent to touch up the paint.

In recent weeks, the journalist had written about Russian mercenaries known as the “Wagner Group” who were reportedly killed in Syria on 7 February in a confrontation with US forces.

Last week, the outgoing head of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, said that “a couple hundred” Russian mercenaries died in the clash in Deir al-Zour province. The mercenaries were apparently taking part in an attack by pro-Syrian government fighters on the headquarters of a US ally, the Syrian Democratic Forces.

Weeks later Russia admitted that several dozen Russian citizens had been either killed or wounded, but stressed they were not regular soldiers.

But it’s all just a big coincidence.

Save domestic violence!

Apr 16th, 2018 11:08 am | By

Barry Duke at the Freethinker reports:

The Croatian Government voted on Friday to ratify the Council of Europe’s Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, widely known as the Istanbul Convention– and thousands, egged on by the Catholic Church, gathered to protest, saying the move would pave the way to same-sex marriage and will give rights to transgender people.

Because…families can’t beat up family members? So they want to preserve and protect domestic violence? I have to wonder what life is like in their families.

The Convention, agreed in 2011, has now been ratified by 29 countries, including 18 European Union member states. The treaty aims to be an instrument in combating domestic violence against women, protecting victims and prosecuting accused offenders. Among the forms of violence it seeks to counter are marital rape, stalking, forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

But if you think it’s God’s Will that men are superior to women and allowed to dominate and exploit them, then laws banning marital rape, stalking, forced marriage and female genital mutilation are blasphemous, I guess.

The Catholic Church in Croatia, to which nearly 90 percent of the country’s 4.2 million people belong, labeled the convention a “heresy.”

It is the official doctrine or dogma or policy of the Catholic church, spelled out in many papal letters, that women and men are Different, and that while women are very very very very nice and lovely and all that, they are Different, and subordinate. Recent letters lean heavily on the Different part, so as not to have to keep saying Inferior, but of course that’s what they mean.

A tremendous education

Apr 16th, 2018 9:06 am | By

Funny thing: I did a search of the Comey interview and the word “truth” appears 48 times. “Truth matters” appears 3 times.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Right at the beginning of your career, you’re involved in prosecution of major mafia figures. How does that form you?

JAMES COMEY: Well, it’s a tremendous education to get– a view inside La Cosa Nostra, the mafia, both in the United States and in Sicily. And to realize that the mafia is an organization like any other organization. Has a leader, has underlings, has values, has principles. They’re entirely corrupt. And it is the antithesis of ethical leadership.

But I didn’t know it at the time. But it was forming my view that the truth has to be central to our lives and that leadership has to be focused on important and ethical values. And not what’s good for the boss, how do I accomplish what’s good for the boss and get the boss what he wants.

And, I would imagine, his awareness of the tension between the two, and the importance of that tension. The mafia attitude to The Boss is a particular kind of attitude; it must have been deeply disconcerting to him to find it again in the new president of the US.

He talks about the Martha Stewart case, and his determination not to let it slide because she’s rich and famous.

“Why would I treat Martha Stewart differently than that guy?” And the reason would only be because she’s rich and famous and because I’ll be criticized for it. The truth matters in the criminal justice system. And if it’s going to matter, we must prosecute people who lie in the middle of an investigation.

Imagine what it’s like for people who work in the criminal justice system watching Trump in action.


Apr 16th, 2018 8:45 am | By

The Times has some highlights of The Interview.

Asked if he believes Mr. Trump is unfit for office, Mr. Comey was quick to say yes, but not for reasons of his mental state.

Instead, Mr. Comey called Mr. Trump “morally unfit.”

“A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they’re pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it — that person’s not fit to be president of the United States, on moral grounds,” Mr. Comey said.

The Guardian also has a sampling.

Life in the Comey household must have been awkward after the election

Early in the interview, Comey said he did not vote in the presidential election, explaining: “I’m the director of the FBI. I’m trying to be outside of politics so intentionally tried not to follow it a lot.” But he said his wife, Patrice, and his four daughters all wanted Clinton to win and took part in the 2017 women’s march in Washington the day after Trump’s inauguration.

Patrice told Stephanopoulos: “I wanted a woman president really badly, and I supported Hillary Clinton. A lot of my friends worked for her. And I was devastated when she lost.”

USA Today did its own interview.

Did Trump immediately strike Comey as a mob boss, to which he likens him in the book? The comparison hit Comey right away, he says, though he himself initially denied it. No, Comey doesn’t think Trump “is out breaking legs or shaking down shopkeepers,” but he says the leadership culture is similar: “You are judged entirely by your fealty, your loyalty, to that boss.”

Would Trump pardoning Scooter Libby — as he later did Friday — signal to Trump allies that they should stick with him? “There is a reason that George W. Bush refused to pardon Scooter Libby,” Comey says. “He examined that case really closely.”

ABC has the transcript.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You lay out qualities of an ethical leader. What are they?

JAMES COMEY: First and foremost, it’s someone who realizes that lasting values have to be at the center of their leadership. Whether they’re in government or in the private sector or leading a university, they have to focus on things like fairness and integrity and, most of all, the truth. That the truth matters.

Excuse me for just a second.

Why truth matters benson.jpg

Sorry. Back to transcript.

JAMES COMEY: I worry that the norms at the center of this country– we can fight as Americans about guns or taxes or immigration, and we always have. But what we have in common is a set of norms. Most importantly, the truth. “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” right? Truth is the fourth word of that sentence. That’s what we are. And if we lose that, if we lose tethering of our leaders to that truth, what are we? And so I started to worry. Actually, the foundation of this country is in jeopardy when we stop measuring our leaders against that central value of the truth.

Of course the irony there is that the truths in that sentence are not self-evident to everyone, and some of the people who signed up to them didn’t entirely put them into practice, and that anyway they said “all men” instead of “all people.” But it is still a resonant and memorable sentence.


Apr 15th, 2018 4:59 pm | By

This is…unsettling.

A BIT intimidating? She says in the next tweet it felt like a Sopranos Flashback moment.

Josh Marshall was amazed.

And today…

And she thought: “But they are all men!”

Apr 15th, 2018 4:33 pm | By
And she thought: “But they are all men!”

The Observer profiles the admirable Caroline Criado-Perez:

Two years ago, a young woman was running through London with her dog. Her route took her through Parliament Square, with the monuments of the establishment on all sides – legislature to the east, executive offices to the north, judiciary to the west and the church to the south. She ran past the bronze statues that lined her route, towering above her on their plinths: Nelson Mandela, Robert Peel, Disraeli, Edward Smith-Standley, Palmerston, Jan Smuts, David Lloyd George and the bronze of Winston Churchill. And she thought: “But they are all men!”

And because it was 8 March, International Women’s Day, and because the woman was the unstoppable feminist activist and campaigner Caroline Criado-Perezwho put Jane Austen on our £10 notes and for whom thinking and acting go hand in hand, an idea was born. And because Caroline Criado-Perez has a nature that is generously impulsive and also energetic, steadfast and remarkably tenacious, that idea has now been translated into a solid form. On 24 April Gillian Wearing’s statue of the suffragist Millicent Fawcett will be unveiled, to stand her ground among the group of men.

The algorithm that chooses ads gave me a somewhat telling one.


So who is Fawcett?

Millicent Fawcett (1847-1929) was Criado-Perez’s choice. She was a feminist, an intellectual, a political and union leader, and above all, a tireless lifelong campaigner for women to have the vote. Everyone’s heard of the Pankhursts – and Emmeline Pankhurst already has a statue just a stone’s throw from where we are sitting. “I wanted a woman without a statue – and she had been there from the very start.” Fawcett was just 19 when she organised petitions for women’s suffrage – too young to sign it herself. She went on to become the president of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. “If a man had done all she had done, there would be hundreds of statues to him.” It was also Criado-Perez’s decision how the suffragist would be portrayed. “I wanted her to be like the men she is with, not young and nubile.” Gillian Wearing’s Millicent Fawcett is 50, with a wrinkled face; her gaze is stern; she is a figure of authority. She holds a banner inscribed with the words: “Courage calls to courage everywhere.”

To be memorialised like this is no small thing; to place a female statue in a place that was for so many centuries a bastion of male power is a powerful gesture of defiance and revision. Criado-Perez has a genius for seeing things that the rest of us miss, and for bringing invisible women out of the shadows, directing our attention to history’s forgotten narratives. She has an unerring, unnerving sense of social and cultural blind spots and recognises absence, the space between the lines. For decades, for instance, I’ve seen these bronze statesmen in Parliament Square but not really seen them, just as I handled banknotes without really noticing what was on them (the faces of white men). We live in a world in which men are the default humans; we don’t realise women aren’t there because they’ve always been not-there and we’ve never known anything different.

I notice it constantly in media, but money and statues, true, not so much.

Symbols are not just symbols; this statue is not just a statue. It connects to the way we see ourselves in the world. By Criado-Perez’s rough calculation, less than 3% of public statues are of women – and of those, most are abstract, anonymous and very often naked. She shows me one of her favourite examples – a bust of the composer Arthur Sullivan, imposing on a tall pedestal; beneath him, leaning against the pedestal for support, is the muse of music, so distraught that most of her clothes are falling off. “Man and muse,” says Criado-Perez, wrinkling her nose in disgust. Representation, she says, “is what gets me worked up. It’s important. It’s about how women are valued and it is central to the discussion: if our stories are not told, then the governments making policy don’t think about us. And if women don’t see themselves represented then they don’t properly value themselves.”

And they think, without even realizing they think it, that women are…an afterthought, an also-ran, a second-best, a beside the point. We don’t notice what we’ve always seen and not seen, unless we know to make the effort to notice it. Habituation is powerful.

Criado-Perez came to feminism relatively late – and she came to it swiftly, as if without realising it she had been waiting for the moment, one turn of the dial, when her life would come into focus and she could see what had always been there. It was a book by the linguist Deborah Cameron that opened her eyes – or rather, a single paragraph of that book, in which Cameron discusses how the word “man” is used as the default for “human” and how this means that when women hear the word, they automatically and unconsciously see a male figure. So lawyers are men, doctors are men, philosophers and artists and professors are men. “And I thought, that’s what I do! Not questioning; always picturing men. I grew up with all those men in my head.” She acknowledges they are hard to get rid of (“say the word genius and who do I picture? Einstein!”) but at least she is now aware of them.

Deborah Cameron, like CCP, is stupendous.

A high likelihood of rampant criminality

Apr 15th, 2018 3:46 pm | By

Adam Davidson at the New Yorker says the investigation of Trump is in the final stage. Bottom line: he’s a crook and always has been.

I am unaware of anybody who has taken a serious look at Trump’s business who doesn’t believe that there is a high likelihood of rampant criminality. In Azerbaijan, he did business with a likely money launderer for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. In the Republic of Georgia, he partnered with a group that was being investigated for a possible role in the largest known bank-fraud and money-laundering case in history. In Indonesia, his development partner is “knee-deep in dirty politics”; there are criminal investigations of his deals in Brazil; the F.B.I. is reportedly looking into his daughter Ivanka’s role in the Trump hotel in Vancouver, for which she worked with a Malaysian family that has admitted to financial fraud. Back home, Donald, Jr., and Ivanka were investigated for financial crimes associated with the Trump hotel in SoHo—an investigation that was halted suspiciously. His Taj Mahal casino received what was then the largest fine in history for money-laundering violations.

Listing all the financial misconduct can be overwhelming and tedious. I have limited myself to some of the deals over the past decade, thus ignoring Trump’s long history of links to New York Mafia figures and other financial irregularities.

He’s not a genius negotiator who cut a few corners here and there; he’s just dirty, all the way through.

The narrative that will become widely understood is that Donald Trump did not sit atop a global empire. He was not an intuitive genius and tough guy who created billions of dollars of wealth through fearlessness. He had a small, sad operation, mostly run by his two oldest children and Michael Cohen, a lousy lawyer who barely keeps up the pretenses of lawyering and who now faces an avalanche of charges, from taxicab-backed bank fraud to money laundering and campaign-finance violations.

Cohen, Donald, Jr., and Ivanka monetized their willingness to sign contracts with people rejected by all sensible partners. Even in this, the Trump Organization left money on the table, taking a million dollars here, five million there, even though the service they provided—giving branding legitimacy to blatantly sketchy projects—was worth far more.

Oh that’s what they were doing. Duh. It’s always been presented as charging a high price for the bogus “glamor” of the name – when actually it was a low price for laundering sleaze with the name.

There are important legal questions that remain. How much did Donald Trump and his children know about the criminality of their partners? How explicit were they in agreeing to put a shiny gold brand on top of corrupt deals? The answers to these questions will play a role in determining whether they go to jail and, if so, for how long.

There is no longer one major investigation into Donald Trump, focussed solely on collusion with Russia. There are now at least two, including a thorough review of Cohen’s correspondence. The information in his office and hotel room will likely make clear precisely how much the Trump family knew. What we already know is disturbing, and it is hard to imagine that the information prosecutors will soon learn will do anything but worsen the picture.

Of course Trump is raging and furious and terrified. Prosecutors are now looking at his core. Cohen was the key intermediary between the Trump family and its partners around the world; he was chief consigliere and dealmaker throughout its period of expansion into global partnerships with sketchy oligarchs. He wasn’t a slick politico who showed up for a few months. He knows everything, he recorded much of it, and now prosecutors will know it, too. It seems inevitable that much will be made public. We don’t know when. We don’t know the precise path the next few months will take. There will be resistance and denial and counterattacks. But it seems likely that, when we look back on this week, we will see it as a turning point. We are now in the end stages of the Trump Presidency.

But only a little way into the shame of it.

A reprehensible outcome

Apr 15th, 2018 12:12 pm | By

The CEO of Starbucks has apologized.

The men, who have not been identified, were arrested on suspicion of trespassing. But Starbucks did not want to press charges and the men were later released, Commissioner Richard Ross Jr. of the Philadelphia Police Department said in a recorded statement on Saturday.

They were released at 1:30 in the morning. I think the arrest was about 5 p.m. – so that’s 8.5 hours sitting in jail.

The company apologized on Twitter Saturday afternoon. Later that day, while the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks was trending on Twitter, Kevin R. Johnson, the chief executive of Starbucks, released a statement in which he called the situation a “reprehensible outcome.”

Mr. Johnson said he hoped to meet them in person to offer a “face-to-face apology.”

He also pledged to investigate, and to “make any necessary changes to our practices that would help prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again.”

The thing is…if it were a regular restaurant with a high turnover, you can see why managers would ask people to leave if they’re not going to order anything. But Starbucks obviously has a de facto (at least) policy of allowing people to treat it as a living room and/or meeting place. People hang out there for hours. Everybody knows that. Singling out these two guys because oh noes they’re not white…it just doesn’t cut it.

The rabies miasm

Apr 15th, 2018 11:24 am | By

Dr Jen Gunter finds another jaw-dropper: a “naturopath” using “a remedy made from a rabid dog’s saliva” to fix aggression in a 4-year-old boy.

At first I asked if this was from The Onion, because honestly after reading I wasn’t sure.

But no, Dr. Zimmerman is really a naturopath and, well, this is how she summarized the problem…

This is a 4-year-old boy who is suffering from an inability to fall asleep at night, a fear of the dark, of wolves, werewolves, ghosts and zombies and who frequently hides under tables and growls at people. He is overly excitable and has a tendency to defiance. He was normal as a baby, not affected by sleep or temper problems.

Rabies-drool for him then!

Dr. Zimmerman’s diagnosis was a previous bite from a dog recently vaccinated with rabies thus affecting “the boy with the rabies miasm.”

I am totally sure that was first on every pediatrician’s list as well.

I had to look up “miasm” because it sounded like a totally made up word. A miasma is “the ghost of the disease state still rampant in the energy system.” So it’s a word for a totally made up illness. Rabies is a killed virus, so I guess the ghost of rabies walks among those who have been vaccinated just looking to infect victims? That sounds more like a zombie, but perhaps I’m splitting hairs.

No perhaps about it. You’re supposed to go with it, humming peacefully; otherwise it won’t work.

At first I thought, okay, she is some rogue homeopathy but, yeah, nope. HuffPost in Canada e-mailed the homeopathic board that oversees Dr. Zimmerman and as far as they are concerned DILUTE RABIES SALIVA IS A LEGIT HOMEOPATHIC TREATMENT.

The naturopathic board told HuffPost, “Lyssinum is not excluded from the pharmacopoeia for naturopathic doctors in B.C. Homeopathy, which includes the use of substances such as lyssinum, is a traditional modality with a long history in the naturopathic scope of practice; it is still used by some naturopathic doctors today.”

What tf is a “modality” in this context? Just an impressive-sounding word for “we’re making it up as we go”?

The thing that bothers me the most though is naturopaths also push Lyssin/Lyssinium as a way to vaccinate animals against rabies. Put aside the idea that they believe the vaccination of a dog and the treatment of a child’s behavior requires the exact same medicine and just think about the damage that could be done if more people stop vaccinating their dogs and cats against rabies, a disease with essentially a 100% mortality that is also essentially 100% preventable.

This whole idea would be ridiculous if it were not so enraging.

Or it’s both at the same time, like so many things right now.

When the stakes rise, self-examination diminishes

Apr 15th, 2018 10:27 am | By

Carlos Lozada at the Post reviews Comey’s book. He’s not besotted with him.

Running through the book, a sort of geek chorus, is Comey’s doctrine of “ethical leadership,” an often preachy and sometimes profound collection of principles that he believes should govern those who govern. “A Higher Loyalty” is the brand extension of James Comey: the upright citizen turned philosopher, the lawman as thought leader.

I’ve learned to be suspicious of people – or maybe I mean men – who need brand extensions or hope to be thought leaders.

Comey understands that side-by-side comparisons are not a true measure of leadership, that leaders should be assessed against their own best performances and highest aspirations. “Ethical leaders do not run from criticism, especially self-criticism,” he writes, “and they don’t hide from uncomfortable questions.”

So let’s pose one: Does Comey live up to the standards of ethics and leadership he outlines in this book?

Spoiler: Lozada says no.

Not entirely, at least.

When Comey cops to petty misdeeds, however, the self-criticism — and self-regard — is almost comical. At 6-feet-8, he used to lie about having played basketball for William & Mary, and he still feels bad about it. (After finishing law school, he reached out to friends and fessed up.) He once regifted a necktie to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. “Because we considered ourselves people of integrity,” Comey explains solemnly, “I disclosed it was a regift as I handed him the tie.” And he congratulates himself for not exercising director’s prerogative and cutting in line at the FBI cafeteria. “Even when I was in a hurry. . . . I thought it was very important to show people that I’m not better than anyone else.”

But when the stakes rise, self-examination diminishes. On his decision to publicly denounce Clinton’s handling of classified information in her private emails in July 2016, Comey’s misgivings are cosmetic. He wishes he had organized the statement differently and explained early that no charges were warranted, and he wishes he had not characterized Clinton’s actions as “extremely careless” — even if “thoughtful lawyers” could understand what he meant. (Too bad thoughtful lawyers weren’t his only audience.)

Pause to contemplate what a tiny fraction of his audience was made up of thoughtful lawyers.

Comey’s own ethical leadership suffers most in the book’s treatment of his one-time boss, former attorney general Loretta Lynch. He criticizes Lynch for asking him to describe the FBI’s Clinton investigation as a “matter” rather than investigation — an “overtly political” request, he explains. Fine. But then he says that his decision to excoriate Clinton’s actions resulted in part from some unverified classified materials that emerged in early 2016 and that, if publicly known, “would undoubtedly have been used by political opponents to cast serious doubt on the attorney general’s independence in connection with the Clinton investigation.” He insists that he personally never saw Lynch interfere, but he remains “bothered” by the existence of this classified information that someday could be used to “question the independence of the FBI.”

Of course, it is also bothersome that the former FBI director would cite vague information to imply wrongdoing by the nation’s top law-enforcement official, with the very nature of the information making it hard for her to respond. The Washington Post has reported that in 2016 the FBI received a Russian intelligence document citing an email in which Lynch supposedly assured the Clinton campaign that the investigation would not go too deep, but that the document was unreliable. For Comey to suggest that the attorney general “appeared politically compromised” without offering supportive evidence does not seem particularly ethical. And it does not seem like leadership.

And that makes one pause to notice that in this account the people Comey has done the most unjustified harm to are…women. Is it just random that Clinton and Lynch are women, women doing or aiming to do pinnacle-type male jobs? Maybe. I wonder though. Lozada’s point throughout is that Comey didn’t interrogate himself enough.

Comey isn’t just the kind of writer who quotes Shakespeare, but the kind who quotes himself quoting Shakespeare. He rejects the notion that “I am in love with my own righteousness” yet notes that “I have long worried about my ego.” (Consider the egotism of being preoccupied by your egotism.) …

For all his contempt for Trump — he decries “the forest fire that is the Trump presidency” — Comey concludes that the president’s behavior, while disturbing and dangerous, “may fall short of being illegal.” But he’s not here as a lawyer or investigator, this is Comey the philosopher. He laments Trump’s lack of self-reflection or self-awareness. “Listening to others who disagree with me and are willing to criticize me is essential to piercing the seduction of certainty,” Comey writes. “Doubt, I’ve learned, is wisdom. . . . Those leaders who never think they are wrong, who never question their judgments or perspectives, are a danger to the organizations and people they lead.”

Trump is the most severe example of that tendency in this book. But he is not the only one.

Oh well, all he did was hand the election to Trump.