Notes and Comment Blog

The deification

Jan 21st, 2017 7:22 am | By

The Sunday Times:

The Times had a wrap around photo of First Lady Melania and Deputy Mike Pence, along with some of Trump’s family

So Trump is God now?

TIME just goes with the full frontal fascist:

Time magazine published this special edition showing Trump punching the air after he finished his inauguration speech

The New Zealand Herald also likes the scowl with the puny fist:

The New Zealand Herald ran an image of Trump punching the air with the headline: “Hello Mr President”

Trump lied about that whole thing

Jan 21st, 2017 6:50 am | By

Trump said he would transfer his companies to a family trust by the 20th. Of course he lied. He hasn’t done it. It wouldn’t be nearly good enough if he had, but he hasn’t even done it. That thing he said he was going to do. Pro Publica looked into it.

To transfer ownership of his biggest companies, Trump has to file a long list of documents in Florida, Delaware and New York. We asked officials in each of those states whether they have received the paperwork. As of 3:15 p.m. today, the officials said they have not.

Trump and his associates “are not doing what they said they would do,” said Richard Painter, the chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush. “And even that was completely inadequate.”

ProPublica’s questions to the transition team were referred to an outside public relations firm, Hiltzik Strategies, which declined to comment. The president’s team did not allow reporters to view documents, which they said were legal records separating Trump from his eponymous business empire. Dillon’s law firm, Morgan Lewis, has not released the records and they declined further comment, saying it doesn’t comment on client issues.

None of that is ok. They shouldn’t be using a PR firm for this. The PR firm shouldn’t be refusing to comment. They shouldn’t be hiding what’s in the “documents” (which is probably nothing). Trump’s lawyer’s firm should not be stonewalling.

ProPublica looked at more than a dozen of Trump’s largest companies, which are registered or incorporated in three states. Officials in New York and Delaware said documents are logged as soon as they are received. In Florida, officials told us there is typically a day or two before documents are logged into the system.

Here is what we found:

  • Business filings for Trump Organization LLC, Trump’s primary holding company, had not been changed, according to New York’s Department of State. Wollman Rink Operations LLC, which runs the Wollman Rink in Central Park through an agreement with New York City, hasn’t been updated either. Trump is listed as the sole authorized representative of the company.

Read on.

An abundance of caution

Jan 21st, 2017 6:11 am | By

The selflessness and public spirit of the new administration, along with its dignity and good taste:

Visitors to the newly revamped White House website get more than a simple rundown of first lady Melania Trump’s charitable works and interests — they also get a list of her magazine cover appearances and details on her jewelry line at QVC.

Her biography starts with traditional details, such as her date of birth in her native country of Slovenia and information about her background as a model. That’s when the brief backgrounder takes a promotional turn. The website includes a lengthy list of brands that hired her as a model and several of the magazines in which she appeared, including the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

It is not uncommon for the White House to note the accomplishments of the first lady in her official biography, but Trump’s decision to include a detailed list of her media appearances and branded retail goods is unusual.

Well, and let’s get real: being photographed is not an “accomplishment.” It’s just being photographed.

Early on Friday, the website listed the brand names of Trump’s jewelry lines sold on QVC. But the website was updated after the publication of this story to remove any mention of QVC.

The original passage read: “Melania is also a successful entrepreneur. In April 2010, Melania Trump launched her own jewelry collection, ‘Melania™ Timepieces & Jewelry,’ on QVC,” the site read.

The updated version of the site now says: “Melania is also a successful entrepreneur. In April 2010, Melania Trump launched her own jewelry collection.”

My god they are so stupid – they just cannot get it right. Remember when Ivanka Trump promoted the bracelet she wore in a 60 Minutes interview? When there was an uproar they said it was just some underling at the company. Cue hollow laughter. I suppose in a day or two they’ll be selling their unwashed bed sheets on eBay.

The changes come at a time when questions have been raised by critics about the ethical implications of the family’s business entanglements. A spokesperson for the First Lady said the reference to her jewelry line was intended as a factual statement, not an endorsement and the website was updated out of an abundance of caution.

An abundance? They call that an abundance? They call it an abundance of caution to refrain from advertising jewelry on the White House website?

It’s the empire of sleaze, along with everything else that’s wrong with it.

Hail to the furious sullen bully

Jan 21st, 2017 5:43 am | By

Trump thinks this is a good photo to post on Twitter:

Just look at him – that horrible angry sullen scowling face. His profile photo is also the horrible angry sullen scowling face. Clearly he thinks that’s a good look. What is wrong with him?

The discriminatory intent argument

Jan 21st, 2017 4:44 am | By

Jessica Huseman at Pro Publica tells us what they’re doing about that voting rights case in Texas.

Hours after President Donald Trump was inaugurated, the Department of Justice filed to postpone a hearing on the Texas Voter ID law. The request was granted. The DOJ had previously argued that the law intentionally discriminated against minority voters, but told the court it needed additional time for the new administration to “brief the new leadership of the Department on this case and the issues to be addressed at that hearing before making any representations to the Court.”

Chad Dunn, attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, expects Trump’s Department of Justice to reverse course. “I figure the government will spend the next 30 days figuring out how to change its mind,” he said, adding that now he expects the DOJ to argue on behalf of the state of Texas, which has held that there was no intent to discriminate against minorities. “The facts did not change – just the personnel.”

We now have an administration that favors voter suppression. Of course we do. Jeff Sessions will head the DOJ. Make voting hard for those pesky brown people!

The voter law, known as SB 14, sets strict requirements for what ID one must have to vote. While it includes such things as a driver’s license and a passport and a concealed handgun license, it leaves out things like student IDs. It is partially in effect now, and was in effect on Nov. 8.

In July, the Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans ruled that the law violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act because it disproportionately affected minorities. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi subsequently approved a compromise that allowed voters without appropriate ID to fill out an affidavit stating why they could not reasonably obtain one, which is how the Nov. 8 elections were carried out. The Court of Appeals remanded the discriminatory intent argument back to Judge Ramos for further review, and this was the argument that was set to happen on Tuesday.

In a previous 147-page ruling in October 2014, Ramos had written, “The Court holds that SB 14 creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose.”

The DOJ had previously argued that the law violated the Voting Rights Act and was intended to directly impact the abilities of minorities to vote, as more than 600,000 of them lacked the ID necessary under state law to vote. Dunn now expects the agency to reverse course.

We now have an openly segregationist federal government.

Guest post: Business people usually don’t understand public goods

Jan 21st, 2017 4:27 am | By

Originally a comment by ctygesen on Check your criteria.

Business people usually don’t understand public goods. Success in public administration can’t be accurately measured solely by cost reductions or (worse) some kind of profit/ROI. Most of them have no idea how interconnected a lot of public spending is, so that “efficiencies” realized in one area usually turn into costs in other.

They’re also usually completely rubbish at the kind of long-horizon thinking necessary for most social programs and infrastructural investment.

And then there’s the absolute worst kind who do understand, for example, that if we gut funding for public education and aggressively prosecute a war against some drugs then our prisons earn a tidy profit for us. These are the kind of people Trump has tapped to run his administration with him.

Check your criteria

Jan 20th, 2017 3:48 pm | By

And another thing. What’s this crap about how Trump has “continually set the standards of business and entrepreneurial excellence, especially with his interests in real estate, sports, and entertainment”? Nonsense.

We don’t think of “entrepreneurial excellence” that way (assuming we think of it at all, but that’s another subject). We think of it in connection with some kind of innovation or improvement, of a kind that benefits a lot of people (or the planet or the environment and the like). Fast food, for instance – however crappy the food is, it’s still been a benefit in convenience and cheapness for a lot of people.

We don’t think of building luxury apartment buildings as “entrepreneurial excellence,” nor do we think of building casinos and golf courses that way. We don’t think of toys for rich people as a benefit for the masses.

Trump has made himself very rich, yes, but that’s not “excellence.” It’s especially not in his case, given how much cheating and stealing took place on the way.

Also putting what reads like heavy-handed advertising copy on the official White House website is toe-curlingly tacky.

If you really want to make a positive impression

Jan 20th, 2017 3:10 pm | By
If you really want to make a positive impression

The Genius of Portland sings again:


Peter Boghossian

Protesters, if you *really* want to make a positive impression tomorrow, dress well, avoid vandalism, & respect the police.

Also eat everything on your plate, hang up your jacket, do your homework, and kiss the boss’s ass.

The very definition

Jan 20th, 2017 12:20 pm | By

Adam Raymond at New York mag on what’s gone from the White House website.

We know about the climate change section already.

Also gone from the site are the LGBT, civil rights, and health-care sections. Separately, the Labor Department’s report on LGBT workplace rights is no longer online.

If you click on the links you get bounced to a transitional page, with Trump and Pence leering into the distance.

Here is the archived LGBT page. I couldn’t find the other two by adding “obama” and “archive” the same way.

Added is a bio of The Great Man himself.

“From this day forward, it’s only going to be America first”

Jan 20th, 2017 11:32 am | By

Andrew Rosenthal at the Times on Trump’s inaugural address.

There was no soaring rhetoric in his inaugural speech, no real effort to heal the wounds of the 2016 campaign, and really only one real, coherent defining theme for his coming administration – the only thing that counts is America.

On this day, he said, there will be “a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital and in every hall of power.”

“From this day forward a new vision will govern our land,” he said. “From this day forward, it’s only going to be America first, America first.”

It’s a hideous slogan, even without the pro-Nazi background. He might as well have shouted, “We need to be more selfish!” It’s a bullies’ battle-cry.

Trump’s vision of America on his Inauguration Day was as it has been throughout his campaign – dark and angry.

“For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost,” he said, shouting that the “establishment protected itself” at the expense of “struggling families across our land,” as though he himself were not a representative and beneficiary of that very establishment.

An extreme beneficiary of that very establishment, who benefits largely by cheating. A good many struggling families are struggling partly because he cheated them – out of tuition for his bogus “university,” out of money he owes them for work done or services provided, out of health insurance they will lose under his administration.

But like everything the new president has ever said, the speech was as much about him as about anything else. He declared his Electoral College victory (which was not nearly matched by the popular vote) to have been a movement “the likes of which the world has never seen before.”

Greater, of course, than Christianity, or Islam, or Hinduism. Greater than the Renaissance or the Reformation. More powerful than the revolutions that created and destroyed Communism. Greater, of course, than the establishment of this very nation.

The whole point of all of it was to produce the glory that is Trump.


Jan 20th, 2017 10:56 am | By

We (we in the US) now live in a country whose head of state is a very bad man.

It’s a dirty feeling.

It feels dirty having a mean vengeful angry belligerent bully as head of state.

It feels dirty having a corrupt lying cheating fraud as head of state.

It feels dirty having a misogynist racist pussygrabbing monster as head of state.

It feels dirty having an ignorant incurious stupid illiterate as head of state.

It’s a bad day.

Look here upon this picture, and on this

Jan 20th, 2017 10:49 am | By

PBS wondered how the crowds for Trump’s inauguration compared to those for Obama’s, so they compared photos:

A view of the National Mall during Barack Obama's first inauguration in 2009 and for Donald Trump's inauguration in 2017. Photos by Reuters and Pool Camera. Image has been updated to include time taken.

The hiding under the blankets solution

Jan 20th, 2017 10:43 am | By

So now it’s reality.

First stop: the erasure of climate change:

All References to Climate Change Have Been Deleted From the White House Website

Cool. That means there no longer is such a thing, and Trump’s children and grandchildren won’t have to deal with it in the next several decades.

At 11:59 am eastern, the official White House website had a lengthy information page about the threat of climate change and the steps the federal government had taken to fight it. At noon, at the instant Donald Trump took office, the page was gone, as well as any mention of climate change or global warming.

It’s customary for to flip over to the new administration exactly at noon, but the only mention of climate on President Trump’s new website is under his “America First Energy Plan” page, in which he vows to destroy President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which is a government-wide plan to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change.

Cool, because climate change is of course 100% political and therefore will respond to political actions. There is no such thing as natural processes that happen independently of what indignant human beings say about them, so all we indignant human beings have to do is erase all mention of climate change and IT WILL GO AWAY.

“President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule,” the site says. A search of the website found no mention of “global warming,” and the only mentions of “climate change” were archived pages that, after clicking on the links, led to scrubbed pages.

The magic is under way, and it will save us all. What a relief.

Trump wants to play with the tanks

Jan 19th, 2017 5:34 pm | By

Of course. Idiot Trump thought the right way to celebrate his inauguration would be with a brutalist display of tanks and missile launchers.

The military “may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue,” Trump told the Washington Post in an interview published Wednesday. “That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, D.C., for parades. I mean, we’re going to be showing our military.”

Trump spoke about his vision of military parades in vague terms, suggesting it was something he might oversee in the future. But according to several sources involved in his inaugural preparations, Trump has endeavored to ensure that his first day as commander-in-chief is marked by an unusual display of heavy military equipment.

During the preparation for Friday’s transfer-of-power, a member of Trump’s transition team floated the idea of including tanks and missile launchers in the inaugural parade, a source involved in inaugural planning told The Huffington Post. “They were legit thinking Red Square/North Korea-style parade,” the source said, referring to massive military parades in Moscow and Pyongyang, typically seen as an aggressive display of muscle-flexing.

Kill the arts and humanities, but get those missile launchers out there where people can see them.

If this is our last night on earth – so long, it’s been real.

Wham wham wham

Jan 19th, 2017 5:28 pm | By

Trump and his gang are going to take an axe to federal programs.

The departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding, with programs under their jurisdiction either being eliminated or transferred to other agencies. The departments of Transportation, Justice and State would see significant cuts and program eliminations.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely.


At the Department of Justice, the blueprint calls for eliminating the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Violence Against Women Grants and the Legal Services Corporation and for reducing funding for its Civil Rights and its Environment and Natural Resources divisions.

Burn it all down, says the invading barbarian.

This man has the grabbing hands

Jan 19th, 2017 5:22 pm | By

Right now at the Convention Center in DC: Upsetting Rape Culture is projecting survivor stories on the wall of the Convention Center with the hashtags #wewillnotbesilent and #intheman, talking about how Trump reminds women of their abusers.

Image may contain: night and outdoor

Hail to the sleaze

Jan 19th, 2017 5:09 pm | By

Trump is partying up his inauguration…and he’s doing it at his hotel. That means he’s profiting while he parties, which is sleazy as fuck. Tomorrow at 12:01 Eastern it will become more than sleazy.

With sirens blaring, a fleet of limousines and security personnel raced down Pennsylvania Avenue twice in less than the last 24 hours to deliver Donald J. Trump to inauguration events.

But he was not heading to the White House. He was going to Trump International Hotel.

The hotel he leases from the federal government, and runs as a profit-making venture.

Conflicts that for months have been theoretical are now about to become real — most immediately a possible challenge by the federal government. It owns the building that houses Mr. Trump’s hotel and has granted him a 60-year lease. From the moment he is sworn in as president at noon Friday, Mr. Trump may be in violation of that lease, given a provision that appears to prohibit federal elected officials from renting the Old Post Office building, the Pennsylvania Avenue landmark that houses the hotel, from the government.

Guests at the hotel include foreign diplomats and politicians who could be looking to curry favor with Mr. Trump — but even the act of paying their bills as they check out after the inauguration may open Mr. Trump to a challenge that he has violated the United States Constitution, which prohibits federal government officials from taking payments or gifts from foreign governments.

Maybe the whole thing – Trump, the Old Post Office, all 50 states – will slide down into a crack in the earth’s crust tomorrow and vanish with a fearsome roar. I hope Canada and Mexico will be unharmed.

Members of Mr. Trump’s new cabinet are also staying there this week, as are dozens of big-ticket donors to his presidential election campaign and inauguration. The hotel will also be the site of a prayer breakfast on Friday before Mr. Trump is sworn in. All these bookings mean payments to the Trump Organization for the hotel rooms, meals and other accommodations.

Well at least he’s probably giving them a discount, right?

The minimum nightly rate at the hotel will be $735. One suite during inauguration week was offered for $500,000, with various perks. On Thursday, the president-elect attended a lunch with Republican leaders of Congress, cabinet members and hundreds of others in the hotel’s enormous Presidential Ballroom, which features nine glass chandeliers and gold and white walls. “This is a gorgeous room,” Mr. Trump told the gathering. “A total genius must have built this place.”

Yeah, Donnie from Queens the total genius.

Sean Spicer, Mr. Trump’s press secretary, defended Mr. Trump’s continued close ties to the hotel. “That he’s going to his own hotel? I mean, I think that’s pretty smart,” Mr. Spicer said. “I think the idea that he’s going to his own hotel shouldn’t be a shocker. It’s a beautiful place. It’s a place that he’s very proud of.”

Mr. Spicer added: “It’s an absolutely stunning hotel. I encourage you all to go there if you haven’t been by.”

They’re making us all proud.

Ruining the brand

Jan 19th, 2017 1:26 pm | By

The Times addresses the question of why Putin wanted Trump; what’s in it for him?

Brendan Nyhan, a professor of government at Dartmouth and a contributor to The Upshot, made the case succinctly:

Trump has flouted the norms of American elections and governance at every turn, including calling for the jailing of an opposing candidate, encouraging violence against protesters, endorsing the torture of prisoners, suggesting he might not respect the results of the election, falsely claiming that millions of illegal votes were cast, failing to resolve unprecedented conflicts of interest or to even disclose his tax returns, and attacking a federal judge based on his ethnicity (and that’s of course a highly incomplete list). I can’t directly assess the IC report, but it’s fair to say that the liberal democratic order is being disrupted both in the U.S. and around the world.

Putin doesn’t like the liberal democratic order, because it’s not his kind of order. He’d rather have a kind of order that favors authoritarian strongmen like him. Breaking the legs of the liberal democratic order helps with that.

Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, sent me his thoughts:

One, the Russians have known for a long time that Trump was susceptible to flattery, especially from major authority figures. Two, he had a significant following in the US as a mega-celebrity. Three, if he got engaged in politics, it would be divisive — a good early example being his birther efforts. Four, he would perplex, frustrate and divide Republican establishment figures, most of whom were hostile to Russia, but a divided major party serves to disrupt the democracy. I doubt they thought he would win, but he would encourage or exacerbate divisions in the society, challenge many fundamental norms over his own narcissistic sociopathic views of himself and his entitlements, and break a lot of crockery without a second’s misgiving. His victories, with the GOP nomination and the election were unexpected icing on the cake.

It’s a tiny bit reassuring that even someone at the AEI can see that.

Another scholar put it as a matter of weakening “the West’s desirability, credibility and moral authority.” It’s an effective way of doing that, for sure. I’ve lost a huge amount of trust in our desirability, credibility and moral authority since last July. I still have no desire to move to Pakistan or Somalia, but the gap is closing. That’s no good. Pakistan and Somalia need to get better; we don’t need to get worse.

David Leege, a professor emeritus of political science at Notre Dame, wrote me:

Trump was a willing but unwitting accomplice because he loved the flattery, saw it only as a business opportunity, and had so little understanding of international relations to recognize how affairs of state could be caught up in it.

Along similar lines, Sandy Maisel, a political scientist at Colby, argued that Trump’s

ego is such that he never asked, nor does he ask yet, what playing into the Russians needs and desires meant for our system. An unwitting — ego-driven — tool of Putin’s goal to undermine faith in our system and in the Clinton candidacy.

Gary Jacobson, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, was outspoken in his response to my question asking why the Russians favored Trump:

His shameless mendacity, narcissism, authoritarian instincts, inability to tolerate opposition or criticism, hostility to formal institutions and the media, vast ignorance of foreign and domestic issues, indifference to constitutional restraints and eagerness to whip up and exploit xenophobia and (barely disguised) racism. We might add his affection for authoritarian leaders and other tough guys. Have I left anything out? Probably. All of these characteristics lead him to say things and propose actions antithetical to democratic norms and standards.

Trump is so terrible it’s difficult to give an exhaustive account of his terribleness.

Freedom shouldn’t have to be stealthy

Jan 19th, 2017 12:18 pm | By

I know some Ex-Muslims who are not impressed by the idea that wearing hijab is a good way to stand up for religious freedom, contrary to what People magazine suggests.

Actress Kathy Najimy Wants People to Wear Headscarves on Inauguration Day in Support of Religious Freedom

I get why she thinks that’s a good idea, but she’s still wrong. Hijab is a religious “obligation” imposed on women and women only. That’s not any kind of freedom.

One group, led by actress Kathy Najimy, is encouraging people to support “our about-to-be-disenfranchised Muslim sisters” by wearing headscarves on Inauguration Day.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Scarves — with the support of the Muslim Women’s PAC — is putting out a nationwide call for people to don headscarves in the style of an hijab.

But then what of My Stealthy Freedom? Those women take their hijab off in support of women’s freedom. Putting one on is a slap in the face to them, and to all the women who would like to ditch theirs but can’t, because of social and religious pressure including outright violence.

Najimy emphasizes that the purpose of this movement is to support religious freedom.

“We by no means are endorsing or aligning with ANY religious doctrine,” she says. “Simply stand for freedom. It’s easy, creates solidarity and puts some hope into the hearts of Americans who feel unjustly threatened.”

But they are endorsing a particular religious doctrine, whatever she says. They can’t help it. If people put on big ol’ crosses they would be endorsing a particular religious doctrine, whether they intended to or not.

Let’s get us a buncha outsiders up in here

Jan 19th, 2017 11:09 am | By

Charles Pierce on the Betsy DeVos hearing. (Not really a hearing, more of a façade of a hearing.)

As nearly as I can tell, the nominees for the president-elect’s Cabinet fall into several different categories. There are the people you’d pretty much expect from any Republican administration. (James Mattis, Michael Flynn, Ryan Zinke). There are the people who understand the mission of their departments and have spent their lives undermining it. (Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, Rick Perry at Energy, Andrew Puzder at Labor). And there are the people who are fundamentally clueless about the general nature of public service. (Rex Tillerson at State.) On Tuesday night, DeVos demonstrated that she is that rarest of Trump administration fauna: Someone who fits capably into all three categories.

Cool. Standard (so hooray free market, to hell with losers) Republican, underminer, and clueless. There’s also the bribery aspect: can we count that as a fourth classification?

Her ignorance about the field she is nominated to be Secretary of which was particularly displayed when Al Franken questioned her:

Franken: I’m talking about the debate between proficiency in growth, what your thoughts on that?

DeVos: I was just asking the senator to clarify…

Franken: This is a subject that has been debated in the education community for years. I have advocated growth as the chairman, and every member of this committee knows, because with proficiency teachers ignore the kids of the top who are not going to fall below proficiency, and they ignore the kid at the bottom who they know will never get to proficiency. I have been an advocate for growth. But it surprises me that you don’t know this issue, and Mr. Chairman, I think this is a good reason for us to have more questions. This is a very important subject — education, our kids’ education. I think we are selling our kids short by not being able to have a debate on it.

As I may have mentioned, my father was a teacher and an administrator in the public high schools for over 35 years. He explained the essential difference between proficiency and growth to me 40 years ago. That a prospective Secretary of Education hadn’t the faintest idea what Franken was talking about should have been enough to make the committee adjourn itself in helpless laughter.

Or to Google yet again “emigration.”