Notes and Comment Blog

There are enablers all over the place

Oct 13th, 2017 11:33 am | By

Harvey Weinstein wasn’t just a groper or rapist. He had a system.

A storyline stretching over 20 years with a rotating cast of actors, multiple locations across the US and Europe, a disciplined crew of assistants, producers and fixers, savvy dealmaking, and a publicity machine like no other.

But this was not The English Patient, Pulp Fiction, Shakespeare in Love, The King’s Speech or any other of his films that earned more than 300 Oscar nominations.

It was a shadow production, an inverted version of Hollywood that leveraged entertainment industry might into an alleged spree of sexual harassment and assaults, including rape, and into a methodical way of hushing it all up with payments, threats and non-disclosure agreements.

Facilitators included colleagues and associates who set up meetings under false pretences and teams of lawyers and publicists who suppressed complaints.

That’s a lot of people.

“There are enablers all over the place,” said Jeff Herman, an attorney who represents sex abuse victims and is investigating options for some of Weinstein’s alleged victims. Predators’ companies often facilitated abusive encounters masquerading as work meetings, he said. “Sending limousines to pick up the victim, making flight arrangements. These guys aren’t making their own plans, making reservations.”

Oh well, it’s only women.

And make you smile my dear

Oct 13th, 2017 11:26 am | By

Boys will be boys.

Polly Toynbee was on Radio 4’s Today with a pompous bloviating Tory commentator –

If you didn’t hear Today, you can imagine what transpired. He took a swing at “our new establishment”, the “new elite … schmoozing and networking”, the “mass of people forever wagging fingers” and “telling us how to live our lives”. And as he did so, he betrayed again that curious paranoia of those who hold power, wealth and influence, and their defenders in the Tory press, pretending that they are the victims. For most of my life, the Tories have been in power, with brief social democratic interludes showing that democracy still functions, if intermittently. They are the captains of just about every commanding height – except, maybe, the most senior figures in the arts. That’s why they are Letts’ great bete noire.

Same old same old; just like filthy rich Trump pretending to be on the side of the workers.

He was losing the argument. So what does the right do next, what does a Mail man do next? He turned personal and patronising: “Do you know, whenever I’m on with Polly I wish I could just pin her to the ground and tickle her under the armpits and make you smile my dear!” It was creepy, disgusting. In the panic of the live radio moment I cringed and simpered a bit. “I do smile!” I said, falling for the trope of the “miserable humourless Guardian old girl can’t even take a joke!” (Old girl is what he called the prime minister on the Mail’s front page last week). And then I kicked myself a thousand times for all the things I might have said. Pin me down? Tickle me? Can you imagine him saying that to Simon Jenkins or Jonathan Freedland?

There was no harm done: I’m not vulnerable. But on Twitter there was anger at another wearying reminder of the extent to which contempt for women informs the Mail culture. This isn’t pussy-grabbing or masturbating in front of actresses. Letts isn’t Trump or Weinstein – but his twee, over-physical little put-down comes from an adjacent place. Men are men and women forever silly girls – old or young.

It isn’t pussygrabbing but it’s all part of the same shit: the same seeing women as other, lesser, empty, an afterthought, there only for the fucking.

I guess that this week all women my age have been mentally re-running the bum-pinching, grabbing, intimidating humiliations from men in power of our youth. I remember as a gauche and inadequate 22-year-old reporter, that interview with the author Saul Bellow. Bored, bullying, he ordered me to walk ahead of him in the park so he could look at my legs as they were better than my questions. And shamingly, I did. Mordecai Richler, the Canadian novelist, assumed a fixer had set me up for the night with him on his publicity tour in exchange for an interview. He was outraged when I ran off. I never wrote those things into my interviews, as now we would.

Ick about Bellow. No wonder Martin Amis idolizes him – Mart is another who can’t see women as real people. They’re everywhere.

A good time to remember each one

Oct 13th, 2017 10:53 am | By

Judd Legum:









End of list. Those are the women who have gone public.

Pious hopes

Oct 13th, 2017 10:34 am | By

Think Progress on a new report from Brookings on Trump’s likely probable apparent obstruction of justice:

[T]he Brookings report — authored by Barry H. Berke, Noah Bookbinder, and Norman L. Eisen — argues that same wheeler dealer attitude coupled with Trump’s demands for loyalty, which helped make him famous on The Apprentice, could also land him in the hot seat and lead to obstruction of justice charges down the road.

The report outlines the many ways in which Trump could find himself faced with such charges, due to his many alleged attempts to influence federal investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election, as well as an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Notably, the report explains, those charges do not hinge on whether or not the president was successful in his alleged attempts.

“Attempts to stop an investigation represent a common form of obstruction,” the report reads. “While those defending the president may claim that expressing a ‘hope’ that an investigation will end is too vague to constitute obstruction, we show that such language is sufficient to do so.”

One would hope that such a claim would be too absurd to get any traction.

Efforts to impede an investigation fall squarely within three U.S. Obstruction of Justice Statutes (18 U.S.C, Sections 1503, 1505 and 1512), all of which were drafted “with an eye to ‘the variety of corrupt methods by which the proper administration of justice may be impeded or thwarted’”, the report explains. In other words, Trump didn’t need to directly ask Comey to drop his investigations to be breaking the law, and vague expressions of “hope”, and of coming to a mutual understanding, do not override his intent.

What’s more, the authors argue, it is essential to take into account the president’s position of power. “When a supervisor tells her direct report that she ‘hopes’ the employee finishes a task over the weekend…it is a directive,” the authors write. “Similarly when the president of the United States clears the room and tells the FBI director that he ‘hopes’ the director can ‘let go’ an investigation he has repeatedly disparaged…would appear to convey more than just the president’s idle fancies.”

It seems to me that Comey made it very clear that that’s how he understood Trump’s “hopes.”

Courts have repeatedly found the word “hope” does not excuse defendants from obstruction of justice charges. During the case of Jose Luis Bedoy, a corrupt Dallas Police detective, the court found that his statement to a prostitute of, “I’m just hoping that you haven’t told anyone anything…Like ya know, talking or anything like that”, was an attempt to impede an investigation into the officer’s corruption. In U.S. v.s McDonald, 1999, an obstruction of justice charge stuck when a defendant told his co-defendant “I hope and pray to God you did not say anything about a weapon when you were in Iowa.”

The theory Trump is obstructing justice by “hoping” charges get dropped is further reinforced by his continual demands for loyalty, as well as his allusions to a quid pro quo with Comey (“We had that thing you know”).

“Courts have held that statements emphasizing loyalty and urging it in return can constitute obstruction,” the paper reads. “Where a person suggests a benefit to someone for the purpose of impeding an investigation, or otherwise alludes to a quid pro quo relationship, it can be a contributing fact to determining whether conduct constitutes obstruction.”

Meanwhile, though, the best HOPE is that Trump will be removed as unfit long before Mueller’s investigation is complete.

Trump orders us to say “Christmas”

Oct 13th, 2017 9:25 am | By

President Pussygrabber spent his morning at a thing called the “Values Voter Summit.” So I guess the Values in question include sexual assault, bragging about sexual assault, lying about bragging about sexual assault, lying about everything, ensuring that only the rich will be able to afford health insurance, calling people rude names in public, shoving people, bullying, fraud, cheating, theft, corruption, bribery, treason?

Trump dove into America’s culture wars on Friday, touting his administration for “returning moral clarity to our view of the world” and ending “attacks on Judeo-Christian values.”

Moral clarity. Moral clarity. That guy. That guy who insults and attacks – in full public view – anyone who challenges him or criticizes him or simply annoys him. That guy who lied all over tv for years about Obama’s birth certificate. That guy who said the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville included good people. That guy who picked a fight with the mayor of San Juan during a natural disaster. That guy who told Puerto Rico FEMA would be withdrawn. That guy who lies about everything. That guy who talks about himself and his grievances and his awesomeness when he’s supposed to be talking about a hurricane or racist violence or nuclear war or any of a thousand things a president is expected to talk about. Moral clarity.

And the audience at the Values Voter Summit, an annual socially conservative conference, didn’t fail to deliver.

Why? Why didn’t they fail to deliver? Even as social conservatives, why would they cheer that man? That moral cesspool?

Because Christmas.

“We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values,” Trump said to applause, before slamming people who don’t say “Merry Christmas.”

“They don’t use the word Christmas because it is not politically correct,” Trump said, complaining that department stores will use red and Christmas decorations but say “Happy New Year.” “We’re saying Merry Christmas again.”

The comment drew thunderous applause.

Well. One, that’s idiotic, because it’s so trivial and so irrelevant to morality or Moral Clarity.

Two, it’s cynical, for the same reason.

Three – he’s simply lying again. No, they are not “stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values.” They can’t. They don’t have the authority to do that; the Constitution doesn’t allow them to do that. Pussygrabber Trump can’t force department stores to put up Merry Christmas signs, and he can’t force us to say it. He can’t prevent us from saying we hate Christianity if we feel like it, or from explaining why. He can’t stop our thoughts and words cold.

Editing to add a helpful screengrab to document his threat to abandon Puerto Rico:

Image may contain: 3 people

Not pressed on what she’d done

Oct 13th, 2017 8:25 am | By

Here we foolishly thought Harvey Weinstein was at fault for three decades of (allegedly) sexually harassing and assaulting women, but it turns out it was Emma Thompson’s fault for not stopping him.

Guest post: Misogynist men as cool bros

Oct 12th, 2017 5:53 pm | By

Originally a comment by Bjarte Foshaug on An ordinary, malignant symptom of systemic sexism.

It’s hardly surprising that Hollywood, or the movie industry in general, should be such a hotspot of misogyny and sexism when you look at some (most?) of the stuff it produces. A while back (inspired by Anita Sarkeesian) I went through my own movie collection (not a vast one, but not exactly tiny either) and tried to identify all the problems (from a feminist perspective) I could find. Unsurprisingly most of my movies failed to pass the Bechdel test. Objectification/sexualization of female characters etc. was obviously a recurring theme. The Damsel in Distress as well as the even darker Woman in Refrigerator trope* were depressingly common. I also identified several instances of what Sarkeesian has called the Evil Demon Seductress trope and a few that, as far as I’m aware, don’t have names at all.

But by far the most common problem I found was sympathetic portrayal of sexist and misogynist men. Whereas overt racists are almost universally (with perhaps one or two exceptions, mostly from some of the older movies) depicted as the scum of the Earth and deserving of nothing but contempt, when it comes to sexism, the general tone seems to be that being a sexist or misogynist in no way makes you a bad person. At best it’s portrayed as a minor flaw or “quirk” that only makes the male character more “human” (and hence likable), and at worst it’s one of the very things we’re supposed to find cool about him **. Sure smells like self-serving bias to me.

* I.e. the one where a female character is killed as a pretext for the male hero to seek revenge and kick some ass.

** We see something similar with rock stars, many of whom who are/were notorious sleazebags. I can no longer listen to some of the rock songs I used to enjoy because the lyrics sound like the stuff that people tweet at Anita Sarkeesian.

The pressure was “nail the story”

Oct 12th, 2017 5:26 pm | By

Jodi Kantor, one of the Times reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein story, was on Maddow last night. She also talked to Isaac Chotiner at Slate.

Isaac Chotiner: Tell me a little bit about how you got on this story. When did you start and what was the impetus?

Jodi Kantor: The Times has made a real commitment to sexual harassment reporting this year. My colleagues Emily Steel and Michael Schmidt did the Bill O’Reilly story and Katie Benner had done some really startling reporting on women in Silicon Valley. So basically we said as investigative journalists we can look at the whole pattern here, and not just focus on one individual woman’s experience. Let’s see if there is a pattern of allegations over time.

And Harvey Weinstein fit the bill. They spent about four months on the story.

If you look at the two big stories we have done so far, which were the initial investigation that we published last Thursday, and then the story that we published [Tuesday] about the casting couch with these well-known actresses going on the record, they have a variety of forms of evidence. They do have on-the-record accounts from women, and those are really important, but they also have settlement information. There is the financial trail of the money that was paid out over the years. And then also there are internal company documents, which was a really important element of the first story, because we were able to show that these were live issues at the Weinstein Company. There is a woman named Lauren O’Connor who was a junior executive and in 2015 she wrote a stem-winder of a memo documenting sexual harassment allegations at the company. These were really upsetting incidents. She had a colleague who was forced, she says, to give Harvey Weinstein a massage in his hotel room when he was naked. The memorable line from that memo is, “The balance of power is me: 0, Harvey Weinstein: 10.”

It was good to have that kind of evidence because it took some of the pressure off the women.

And I say that with very mixed feelings as a reporter. Because on the one hand, of course I believe in women coming forward. That is in many ways what this entire project has been about. But on the other hand, there is something really unfair in sexual harassment reporting. In the course of reporting the story, some of the alleged victims would say to me, “How come it’s my job to address this? I was the victim. I don’t necessarily want to go public. I didn’t do anything wrong. Why do I have to do this?”

That’s one reason it’s so infuriating to see people demanding why the women didn’t come forward immediately. They’re not the ones who did something wrong here.

So why did some talk to the Times?

I will tell you what they said because I think their reasons are more important than mine. Some of them were really heartened by the fact that the Times had such a strong recent record of sexual harassment reporting—that the O’Reilly story had worked and the Silicon Valley story had worked, and in all of those cases the women were believed and there was a lot of impact and a lot of accountability. And that made them feel, I hope, like we had the playbook and we had the experience to handle these stories right. Another reason they gave was, yeah, they did feel that the culture had changed somewhat, and the days of women being slimed for allegations, they hoped, at least, were over.

To be honest I think some of it is that Weinstein was a lot less powerful in Hollywood than he was years before. So many, many people were still afraid of him and I don’t want to understate that. But there was more of a feeling that he was at the end of his career.

And then I have to tell you one more thing if I am being honest: A couple of sources said they spoke to us because we are women reporters with a long history of reporting on women. There were sources who had never spoken to any other journalist who said things like, “Every other journalist who has approached me is a man and I want to speak to a woman about this.”

It was all so systematic.

Megan Twohey and I had a version of one of those journalistic “aha” moments where you have been putting all these puzzle pieces together and then you begin to grasp that there is a larger mechanism that you are looking at. What we became convinced of, and then very committed to documenting, was that this wasn’t a case of a producer hitting on some women at a bar, right? This was much more organized than that. What I think we have now been able to prove, both through interviews with actresses, but also the assistants and the executives, is that there was a lot of facilitation here. Weinstein’s MO, as far as we understand the allegations, is that he lured women to private places, usually hotel rooms, with the promise of work. He would say, “I want to discuss a script with you,” or “I want to discuss your Oscar campaign for this movie,” which for an actress is like—who isn’t going to go to the hotel room to have that conversation? Those meetings were set up like work meetings. If you listened to Gwyneth Paltrow’s story, she says of course I went to the hotel suite because the meeting was set up on a fax from CAA. It was my agent telling me to show up at that suite, so it really did seem like a normal work thing.

And then once he had the women alone, that is when they say the tables were turned and they realized the work was just a pretext and they felt very lured and manipulated, and they were really there for him to make advances on. And all of that demanded support and facilitation. There were logistics with the hotels, assistants who set it up, there were travel agents, there were people who arranged the meetings.

Not just a casual grab.

It ends on a high note.

Can you say, when you were reporting the story, was there any pressure brought to bear on the Times that was then communicated to you by any people at the Times?

Yeah, I will tell you what the pressure from the Times was. The pressure was “nail the story.” The pressure was Dean Baquet saying, “Deliver the goods. Go get it.” The pressure was seeing the publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, in the cafeteria and knowing that he was protecting us, and knowing the institution was standing by us. So Megan Twohey and I felt enormous pressure to deliver the best, strongest story we could. And it was so meaningful when we were talking to the alleged victims to say, “The New York Times is so committed to this. This institution is willing to lose advertising and this institution is willing to stand up to this guy who can be a very intimidating figure.” Anyway, I should leave it there, but there was a tremendous amount of pressure, but the pressure was to get the story, not to abandon the story.

Trump to Puerto Rico: drop dead

Oct 12th, 2017 12:37 pm | By

Trump is also bullying Puerto Rico again, because why wouldn’t you bully 3 million people on an island devastated by a hurricane? What’s it all for if you can’t have that kind of fun?

President Trump suggested again on Thursday that Puerto Rico bore some of the blame for its current crisis following twin hurricanes, and warned that there were limits to how long he would keep troops and federal emergency workers on the island to help.

Mr. Trump, who has been criticized for a slow and not always empathetic response to the storms that ravaged the United States territory, sounded off in a series of early-morning Twitter posts. Angry about the criticism, he has sought to refocus blame to where he believes it belongs — the leadership of the island itself, which in his view mismanaged its affairs long before the winds blew apart its infrastructure.

“‘Puerto Rico survived the Hurricanes, now a financial crisis looms largely of their own making.’ says Sharyl Attkisson,” he wroteciting the host of a public affairs show on Sinclair Broadcast Group television stations. “A total lack of accountability say the Governor. Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes. Congress to decide how much to spend. We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”

Yeah yeah yeah – but really it’s because they’re brown and Spanish-speaking. He can’t be doing with people who aren’t pale and English-speaking.

While some sort of normalcy has been restored in San Juan, residents of the more isolated interior municipalities were still struggling with a precarious health situation and problems with aid distribution. Although 86 percent of supermarkets are now open, the government could not ensure that they were fully stocked with food and water.

Despite Mr. Trump’s tweets, administration officials said the federal government would be helping Puerto Rico recover from storm damage for years. The Federal Emergency Management Agency posted its own message on Twitter: “.@FEMA will be w/Puerto Rico, USVI, every state, territory impacted by a disaster every day, supporting throughout their response & recovery.”

It’s a fine thing when FEMA has to correct a president who claims we’re going to abandon people in peril after a hurricane.

Other agencies were committed to long-term efforts as well. The United States Army Corps of Engineers, for example, is helping rebuild the electrical grid badly damaged by the storm, a construction effort that could take years. In addition, other agencies helping in recovery efforts, like the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection, have a permanent presence on the island and are unlikely to go anywhere.

As for Mr. Trump’s assertion that he could not keep “first responders” on the island forever, one official called it nonsense. Such responders include police officers, firefighters and paramedics from localities around the United States who are not under the control of the president.

Well maybe Trump can pass some kind of emergency decree to get them all sent home.

Mr. Trump’s tweets left his advisers in the awkward position of trying to explain what he meant or distancing themselves from his apparent meaning. At a House hearing on Thursday, Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development, seemed deeply uncomfortable under questioning from Representative Maxine Waters of California, a Democrat who pressed him on whether he agreed with the president.

“So you don’t agree that it should be abandoned, is that right?” she asked.

“Of course it should not be abandoned,” he replied.

“Should they be shamed for its own plight?” she asked.

“I don’t think it is beneficial to go around shaming people in general,” he said.

Tell your boss.

Hounded relentlessly in every conceivable way

Oct 12th, 2017 12:18 pm | By

Twitter has a terrible record of dealing with long-term systematic harassment and abuse. I know this from personal experience; most of the people I know know it from personal experience. Hannah Jane Parkinson knows it.

It was a great development when Twitter introduced inline gifs and videos, but not so great when Jewish women routinely receive messages such as “go back to the gas chambers” and it somehow doesn’t violate their terms of service. Some 2.6 million antisemitic tweets were sent last year. One woman was even suspended for reporting a tweet that told her: “Welcome to Trump’s America. Welcome to the camps!”

Rose McGowan, however, the actor at the forefront of calling out Harvey Weinstein’s alleged decades of sexual harassment and abuse – just one of the women whose stories are only now coming out because of the aggressively patriarchal culture of fear that has rendered them silent – has been temporarily banned from the platform on which she had found her voice.

It is possible that whichever specific tweet triggered the 12-hour suspension has been automatically removed (as is often the case) – and Twitter has since said it was down to the posting of a phone number – but it seems hugely over the top and counterproductive to take McGowan’s account offline at a critical time of debate.

Remove the tweet with the phone number and explain it to McGowan, but don’t suspend her account.

I haven’t spoken much about this, but for nine months a couple of years ago, my life was made a living hell by a group who objected to a report I wrote about an enterprise of theirs that was scamming people after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks. I was hounded relentlessly in every conceivable way online. Some of the methods are more known about now, but back then they were not.

Fake news sites – populated with otherwise real content and respectable-looking domain names – were set up with hoax stories about me being corrupt, being mentally unstable, and even being an ex-porn star. The SEO was gamed so that they appeared at the top of Google searches for my name. Mass emails were sent out to journalists across the industry, warning people against me. Social mediaaccounts were combed for personal information about my family and friends to spook me. But perhaps the most consistently disruptive aspect was this one: this group flooded my Twitter account with bots, and also bot-retweeted every tweet I sent. This made it impossible to use a medium that I relied on as part of my job. As well as this, my friends and colleagues were soon also targeted.

If making someone’s life a misery in this way does not violate Twitter’s terms of service then clearly there is something not working about Twitter’s terms of service.

Quite a lot of something, actually.

Eminently reportable

Oct 12th, 2017 11:28 am | By

And this is interesting. Apparently Ronan Farrow took his story first to NBC and they said no thanks. Why? Pressure.

An ordinary, malignant symptom of systemic sexism

Oct 12th, 2017 11:15 am | By

Harvey Weinstein as symbol of Hollywood sexism and misogyny.

It is the perverse, insistent, matter-of-factness of male sexual predation and assault — of men’s power over women — that haunts the revelations about Mr. Weinstein. This banality of abuse also haunts the American movie industry. Women helped build the industry, but it has long been a male-dominated enterprise that systematically treats women — as a class — as inferior to men. It is an industry with a history of sexually exploiting younger female performers and stamping expiration dates on older ones. It is an industry that consistently denies female directors employment and contemptuously treats the female audience as a niche, a problem, an afterthought.

Still. After all this time. Feminism might as well not have bothered as far as the movie industry is concerned.

It’s greatly encouraging that women like Gwyneth Paltrow have gone public about Mr. Weinstein. But he is not an aberration. He is an ordinary, malignant symptom of systemic sexism, as is everyone who facilitated him, shrugs it off now or offensively asks why women didn’t say something sooner. What largely separates Mr. Weinstein from other predators, within and without the entertainment world, is that he was once powerful, he got caught and a number of gutsy women are on the record. Together, their voices are creating a forceful rejoinder to an industry that runs on fear and in which silence is at once a defense and a weapon as well as a condition of employment.

But will the forceful rejoinder make any difference?

Jenni Konner, the co-showrunner for the HBO series “Girls,” has said that the revelations about Mr. Weinstein are a tipping point: “This is the moment we look back on and say, ‘That’s when it all started to change.’” I hope she’s right. One problem is that the entertainment industry is extraordinarily forgiving of those who have made it a lot of money, as Mel Gibson can tell you. It might glance at the fallen comrade on the floor, but only so it can step over the body en route to the next meeting. And if that comrade somehow gets on his feet again, the industry will ask if he has a new project. This forgiveness is often ascribed to the familiar line that the only thing the business cares about is money.

Well, money plus abundant opportunities to grab them by the pussy.

Although the allegations against Mr. Weinstein may not prove to be the necessary tipping point, they are part of growing feminist pressure to change the industry. Activists inside and outside the entertainment bubble are calling out its biases — and showing how those biases affect employment, which in turn affects representations and audiences. (According to The Los Angeles Times, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — spurred to action by the American Civil Liberties Union — began contacting female film and TV directors in 2015 to see what issues they’re facing.)

I hope real change comes soon, especially for the women working in the industry who each day are forced to fight sexism just so that they can do their jobs. I hope change comes because the movies need new and different voices and visions, something other than deadening, damaging stereotypes and storybook clichés. And I hope change comes for those of us who love movies. I’ve spent a lifetime navigating the contradictions of that love, grappling with the pleasures movies offer with the misogyny that too often has informed what happened behind the camera and what is onscreen. The movies can break your heart, but this isn’t the time only for tears. It is also the time for rage.

We need change to come not just because we love the movies but also because the movies are part of what shapes us.

In order to demean and denigrate

Oct 12th, 2017 10:01 am | By

So now the narcissistic no theory of mind jackass is actually complaining that the news media are demeaning and denigrating him. He of all people!

“Such hatred!” Exclaims the biggest hater who has ever held that office – the shame of the nation – the meanest man I for one have ever encountered anywhere, let alone as president.

It’s so repellent, this bleating and whining from the Chief Bully.

  • “Crooked Hillary”
  • “Pocahontas”
  • “Cryin’ Chuck”
  • “Liddle Bob Corker”
  • Alicia Machado
  • Jeff Sessions
  • James Comey
  • Duško Marković

To name only a few.

Action shot:

NPR has a story from his past that illustrates further.

Trump bought a golf course in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, in 2002.

A year after he arrived in Rancho Palos Verdes, Trump sued the local public school district over a land dispute. The Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District had essentially been leasing part of its land to the previous owner of the golf course. When Trump took ownership of the property — and thus took over that agreement — he fought the district over how much that land was worth, and when the golf course would start paying fees. In late 2003, Trump sued.

Ira Toibin, the superintendent of the school district at the time, says the district worried about the lawsuit’s effect on its budget, especially when the schools needed to make repairs to aging facilities. After almost a year, Toibin says, the lawsuit had cost the district at least $100,000 in legal fees — the equivalent of two teachers’ annual salaries.

Trump could of course have decided not to sue a school district, because hey, school district.

Attorney Milan Smith, who represented the school district in the lawsuit, “just rubbed [Trump] the wrong way,” Toibin says.

Smith also had some choice words for the future president.

In an interview at the time with the Easy Reader News, a small Southern California news outlet, Smith called Trump “pompous” and “arrogant.”

“I have never had any contact with any human being who appears to be so self-absorbed and so impressed with himself,” Smith said, according to the Easy Reader. “He’s kind of like a big bag of wind.”

Interesting, isn’t it? Because that’s how he strikes most of us now, too.

They settled eventually.

The money was settled, but for Trump, the grievance with attorney Milan Smith was not. And when Trump had a chance to revisit the lawsuit in front of the media, residents and local officials, he took it.

It was supposed to be a day of celebration on Jan. 14, 2005: Trump was hosting a ribbon-cutting for new luxury homes at the golf club. About a half-dozen TV cameras from outlets like CNBC and E! Entertainment Television stood in the back of a packed room, their lenses on Trump, who sat alongside the hopeful and excited local mayor and members of City Council.

Then Trump started talking about the old lawsuit and called Smith “an obnoxious asshole.”

Again – that from him. Donald Trump calling someone else an obnoxious asshole.

There was a debate over the size of the 70-foot-tall flagpole that Trump erected at the golf course in 2006 to fly the American flag. A year later, Trump grew 10-foot ficus trees to block houses he thought were ugly. Those plants blocked residents’ views of the ocean, which [affect] property values in the area.

In an effort to mediate the shrubbery dispute, members of the City Council went with Trump to visit one of the homeowners. According to a former City Council member, who was not there but heard about the meeting through colleagues, Trump walked in, “looks around the place and he looks at [the homeowner] and he says, ‘This looks like shit.’ “

“And then he’s doing this, by the way, in order to get these people to accept his offer of putting up his ficus trees and being OK,” former councilman Steve Wolowicz says. “Gives you a little insight to the kind of person that he — he appeared to be.”

Appeared to be, and was, and still is.

They’re simmering over there

Oct 11th, 2017 5:00 pm | By

Robert Reich on Facebook:

This morning I phoned my old friend, a Republican former member of Congress.

Me: So what’s up? Is Corker alone, or are others also ready to call it quits with Trump?

He: All I know is they’re simmering over there.

Me: Flake and McCain have come pretty close.

He: Yeah. Others are thinking about doing what Bob did. Sounding the alarm. They think Trump’s nuts. Unfit. Dangerous.

Me: Well, they already knew that, didn’t they?

He: But now it’s personal. It started with the Sessions stuff. Jeff was as loyal as they come. Trump’s crapping on him was like kicking your puppy. And then, you know, him beating up on Mitch for the Obamacare fiasco. And going after Flake and the others.

Me: So they’re pissed off?

He: Not just that. I mean, they have thick hides. The personal stuff got them to notice all the other things. The wild stuff, like those threats to North Korea. Tillerson would leave tomorrow if he wasn’t so worried Trump would go nuclear, literally.

Me: You think Trump is really thinking nuclear war?

He: Who knows what’s in his head? But I can tell you this. He’s not listening to anyone. Not a soul. He’s got the nuclear codes and, well, it scares the hell out of me. It’s starting to scare all of them. That’s really why Bob spoke up.

Me: So what could they do? I mean, even if the whole Republican leadership was willing to say publicly he’s unfit to serve, what then?

He: Bingo! The emperor has no clothes. It’s a signal to everyone they can bail. Have to bail to save their skins. I mean, Trump could be the end of the whole goddam Republican party.

Me: If he starts a nuclear war, that could be the end of everything.

He: Yeah, right. So when they start bailing on him, the stage is set.

Me: For what?

He: Impeachment. 25th amendment.

Me: You think Republicans would go that far?

He: Not yet. Here’s the thing. They really want to get this tax bill through. That’s all they have going for them. They don’t want to face voters in ’18 or ’20 without something to show for it. They’re just praying Trump doesn’t do something really, really stupid before the tax bill.

Me: Like a nuclear war?

He: Look, all I can tell you is many of the people I talk with are getting freaked out. It’s not as if there’s any careful strategizing going on. Not like, well, do we balance the tax bill against nuclear war? No, no. They’re worried as hell. They’re also worried about Trump crazies, all the ignoramuses he’s stirred up. I mean, Roy Moore? How many more of them do you need to destroy the party?

Me: So what’s gonna happen?

He: You got me. I’m just glad I’m not there anymore. Trump’s not just a moron. He’s a despicable human being. And he’s getting crazier. Paranoid. Unhinged. Everyone knows it. I mean, we’re in shit up to our eyeballs with this guy.

Unbelievable. They’re freaked out because hey the idiot toddler is likely to start a nuclear war any minute, but they won’t do anything about it because tax bill, because their careers, because the voters might get mad at them.

Profiles in courage, I tell you what.

Forgot to say: H/t Sackbut.

He hates us, precious

Oct 11th, 2017 4:00 pm | By

Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair says the wheels are coming off. It’s seemed that way all along, but at the same time it’s also been steadily getting worse.

He says Corker’s interview with the Times

brought into the open what several people close to the president have recently told me in private: that Trump is “unstable,” “losing a step,” and “unraveling.”

The conversation among some of the president’s longtime confidantes, along with the character of some of the leaks emerging from the White House has shifted. There’s a new level of concern…

In recent days, I spoke with a half dozen prominent Republicans and Trump advisers, and they all describe a White House in crisis as advisers struggle to contain a president who seems to be increasingly unfocused and consumed by dark moods. Trump’s ire is being fueled by his stalled legislative agenda and, to a surprising degree, by his decision last month to back the losing candidate Luther Strange in the Alabama Republican primary. “Alabama was a huge blow to his psyche,” a person close to Trump said. “He saw the cult of personality was broken.”

I hope it’s true. He has no theory of mind, though, so I’m not sure he’s capable of seeing that the cult of personality is broken. He thinks he’s awesome so he thinks everyone thinks he’s awesome, because everyone thinks what he things, because what else is there?

According to two sources familiar with the conversation, Trump vented to his longtime security chief, Keith Schiller, “I hate everyone in the White House! There are a few exceptions, but I hate them!” (A White House official denies this.)

Could be a new ratchet – or could just be more of the same.

It’s frankly disgusting

Oct 11th, 2017 3:46 pm | By

Press conference, Oval Office. Justin Trudeau and the fucking moron answered questions. Trump said he thinks it’s frankly disgusting that the press gets to say whatever it wants to – you know, what the rest of us call freedom of the press, as spelled out in the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Q: Do you want to increase the nuclear arsenal?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, I never discussed increasing it. I want it in perfect shape. That was just fake news by NBC, which gives a lot of fake news, lately. No, I never discuss — I think somebody said I want ten times the nuclear weapons that we have right now. Right now, we have so many nuclear weapons. I want them in perfect condition, perfect shape. That’s the only thing I’ve ever discussed. General Mattis put out a statement, or is putting out a statement, saying that that was fake news — that it was just mentioned that way. And it’s, frankly, disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write. And people should look into it. No, I want to have absolutely perfectly maintained — which we are in the process of doing — nuclear force. But when they said I want ten times what we have right now, it’s totally unnecessary. Believe me. Because I know what we have right now.

Bolding mine.

Q: Mr. President, do you think there should be limits on what the press should write?

TRUMP: No, the press should speak more honestly. I mean, I’ve seen tremendously dishonest press. It’s not even a question of distortion, like the question that was just asked before about ten times the nuclear capability. I know the capability that we have, believe me, and it is awesome.

He’s bragging about knowing the secrets. “I know, believe me, because I’m that important.

It is massive. And so when they make up stories like that, that’s just made up. And the generals will tell you that. And then they have their sources that don’t exist. In my opinion, they don’t exist. They make up the sources. There are no sources. Any other question?

Yet Trump is a habitual liar, so why should we believe him here? Aaron Blake annotates the claim that Mattis put out a statement “saying that was fake news”:

Mattis’s denial isn’t as complete as Trump leads us to believe. Mattis said Trump never “called for” the nuclear arsenal increase. NBC reported that Trump “said he wanted” such an increase, but that it was never acted upon.

Quibbling, in other words.

Q: Are you on the same page on North Korea?

Meaning, as Tillerson.

TRUMP: I think I have a little bit different attitude on North Korea than other people might have.

Q: And your Secretary?

TRUMP: And I listen to everybody, but ultimately my attitude is the one that matters, isn’t it? That’s the way it works. That’s the way the system is.

There he is again, the toddler narcissist. Iym thuh bawss!

But I think I might have a somewhat different attitude and a different way than other people. I think perhaps I feel stronger and tougher on that subject than other people, but I listen to everybody.

He’s so unusual and fascinating, don’t you find?

Maybe we need to explain the whole world

Oct 11th, 2017 10:16 am | By

Ah so that’s why Tillerson said Trump is a fucking moron – it’s because he was shown a graphic of the reduction in the US nuclear arsenal and he promptly said ew that’s no good we need MOAR. I guess he’s not aware of the nuclear arms reduction treaty we have with Russia. Seems pretty basic for a president, but whatever.

President Donald Trump said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest-ranking national security leaders, according to three officials who were in the room.

Trump’s comments, the officials said, came in response to a briefing slide he was shown that charted the steady reduction of U.S. nuclear weapons since the late 1960s. Trump indicated he wanted a bigger stockpile, not the bottom position on that downward-sloping curve.

“Line go up, not down. UP. BIG UP.”

According to the officials present, Trump’s advisers, among them the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, were surprised. Officials briefly explained the legal and practical impediments to a nuclear buildup and how the current military posture is stronger than it was at the height of the buildup.

Yes, I bet they were surprised.

The July 20 meeting was described as a lengthy and sometimes tense review of worldwide U.S. forces and operations. It was soon after the meeting broke up that officials who remained behind heard Tillerson say that Trump is a “moron.”

Just because he pointed at the graphic and screamed that he wanted MOAR?

The president’s comments during the Pentagon meeting in July came in response to a chart shown on the history of the U.S. and Russia’s nuclear capabilities that showed America’s stockpile at its peak in the late 1960s, the officials said. Some officials present said they did not take Trump’s desire for more nuclear weapons to be literally instructing the military to increase the actual numbers. But his comments raised questions about his familiarity with the nuclear posture and other issues, officials said.

They say, putting it as gently as possible. Trump of course is pitching a fit and threatening them on Twitter.

Any increase in America’s nuclear arsenal would not only break with decades of U.S. nuclear doctrine but also violate international disarmament treaties signed by every president since Ronald Reagan. Nonproliferation experts warned that such a move could set off a global arms race.

But, sadly for all of us, Trump is too stupid to understand that. The military people were unnerved to discover just how stupid.

Details of the July 20 meeting, which have not been previously reported, shed additional light on tensions among the commander in chief, members of his Cabinet and the uniformed leadership of the Pentagon stemming from vastly different world views, experiences and knowledge bases.

Moreover, the president’s comments reveal that Trump, who suggested before his inauguration that the U.S. “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability,” voiced that desire as commander in chief directly to the military leadership in the heart of the Pentagon this summer.

Some officials in the Pentagon meeting were rattled by the president’s desire for more nuclear weapons and his understanding of other national security issues from the Korean Peninsula to Iraq and Afghanistan, the officials said.

That meeting followed one held a day earlier in the White House Situation Room focused on Afghanistan in which the president stunned some of his national security team. At that July 19 meeting, according to senior administration officials, Trump asked military leaders to fire the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and compared their advice to that of a New York restaurant consultant whose poor judgment cost a business valuable time and money.

Two people familiar with the discussion said the Situation Room meeting, in which the president’s advisers anticipated he would sign off on a new Afghanistan strategy, was so unproductive that the advisers decided to continue the discussion at the Pentagon the next day in a smaller setting where the president could perhaps be more focused. “It wasn’t just the number of people. It was the idea of focus,” according to one person familiar with the discussion. The thinking was: “Maybe we need to slow down a little and explain the whole world” from a big-picture perspective, this person said.

Dear god. Dear sweet baby Jesus on toast. Maybe we need to slow down a little and explain the whole world to this fucking toddler who is somehow the head of state.


This piece of shit human has very fine taste in cinema

Oct 11th, 2017 9:38 am | By

Scalzi on Harvey Weinstein:

4. While we’re on the topic, let’s dispense of some other nonsense. Weinstein tried to imply that coming of age in the 60s and 70s meant his moral compass was pointed a few degrees off true. Well, that’s bullshit; I know lots of people who came of age in the 60s and 70s who know perfectly well sexual coercion and rape is immoral. Pretty much all of them, in fact.

Well, not quite, or yes but. There are also lots of people who came of age in the 60s and 70s (and 80s and 90s and 00s and teens) who think men are somehow entitled to access to women’s bodies and thus don’t see sexual coercion and rape as sexual coercion and rape but rather as men doing what they have to do to get the access that’s rightfully theirs.

7. Anyone who voted for an admitted sexual predator for president who is now blaming women for not knowing or not confronting Harvey Weinstein: Sit the fuck down. You don’t even have the veil of plausible deniability to cover the fact that you helped make Mr. “Grab ‘Em By the Pussy” the President of the United States. You knew and you didn’t care. To go after Clinton because she knew Weinstein after you cast your vote for Trump, well, shit. Got a Bible passage for you, son.

And, not that I’ve seen it, but in case it’s out there (and it probably is, somewhere): Anyone defending Weinstein on the basis of his ostensible politics or because of the great art he’s helped produce, you can sit the fuck down, too. The correct politics and the ability to spot good films and filmmakers isn’t a pass for being sexually coercive and a rapist. I’m happy to cede this piece of shit human has very fine taste in cinema. He’s still a piece of shit human.

8. I’m all for condemning both Trump and Weinstein, and any other man who uses his power to sexually coerce other people. Weinstein is a liberal and Trump is, well, whatever the hell he is (white supremacist authoritarian populist masquerading as a conservative), but both are men who have decided that they get to force themselves on women, and women should be happy or at least quiet about it. There’s no political angle to it; or more accurately, certain men of any political stripe seem happy to be predatory pieces of shit. Nor should there be any political separation to the solution to this problem: Kick all that shit to the curb.

Yes see that’s what I’m saying – they decided that they get to force themselves on women. That decision overrides any knowledge they may have had that sexual coercion and rape is immoral. They feel entitled, and they act on that feeling. Lots of men feel entitled to unquestioned access to women, and the culture at present does a great deal to confirm them in that feeling.

H/t Sackbut

Go back to Lake Wobegon and stay there

Oct 11th, 2017 9:07 am | By

Garrison Keillor is a jackass.

I am off lingonberries for the time being and Volvos and flat white furniture from Ikea. No meatballs, thank you. Once again the humorless Swedes have chosen a writer of migraines for the Nobel Prize in literature, an author of twilight meditations on time and memory and mortality and cold toast by loners looking at bad wallpaper. It’s not a prize for literature, it’s a prize for nihilism. The Swedes said he’s like Jane Austen combined with Kafka with some of Proust, three other writers you’d never invite to a party.

Jesus, where to begin. I guess at the end. Hello? The point of writers isn’t whether you would invite them to a party or not, it’s what they write. Especially once they’re dead. Also I damn well would invite Austen to a party if I could, although I’d rather invite her to lunch so that we could really talk.

At any rate if he really thinks those three are unbearably dreary and prone to meditations on cold toast, he vies for the philistine prize with Trump.

And that doesn’t describe Ishiguro either.

Finally – that from a boring folksy hack like Garrison fucking Keillor.

The words “Swedish” and “comedy” seldom appear in the same sentence except as a joke. All the Swedes with a sense of humor came to America and so what the Nobel judges recognize is bleak, cramped, emotionally stunted, enigmatic, pretentious. Millions of people around the world understand the concept of reading books for pleasure, but the Swedes think of it as a form of colonoscopy.

Does he think the Nobel in literature is for comedy?

Wait – does he think he should have won?

Meanwhile, it is a beautiful October day and I’m sitting in the kitchen, enjoying a hearty licorice tea and looking at my lovely wife. I don’t recall anyone doing anything like that in Mr. Ishiguro’s books.

Oh well then, there’s no more to be said. Clearly Mr Ishiguro should pull himself together and be a sound, healthy, outgoing, cheerful, married American man who writes about kitchens and looking at one’s lovely wife. Mr Ishiguro sounds like some kind of subversive – has anyone told the FBI about this? The FBI of 1954?

The man who should’ve won the prize goes by the name Philip Roth and what disqualifies him are the many rich descriptive passages revealing a love of the physical world and the elements of storytelling such as conversation, some of which is, since the speakers are American, way too funny, way too connected to the world.

I wonder how Garrison Keillor knows that’s what disqualifies him, as opposed to for instance his misogyny. For that matter I wonder how Garrison Keillor knows it’s a matter of disqualification at all, when there’s only one winner per year and there are a lot of writers of literature in the world. The fact that he thinks Philip Roth should have a Nobel doesn’t make that a fact about the world.

In their long-standing campaign against comedy, the Swedish Academy is doing almost as much damage as old man Nobel did with his hard work developing better rockets, cannon and explosives. They are leading young writers to aspire to vacuity.

Because young writers decide how to write based on planning to win the Nobel?


Garrison Keillor is a self-satisfied anti-intellectual folksy droning bore – and an asshole.

Where he was been superb

Oct 10th, 2017 4:28 pm | By

The BBC is also asking.

Question: How often does President Trump talk about IQ?

Answer: All the time.

When Mr Trump recently boasted that his IQ was higher than Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s, it fit a pattern.

In 2013, he tweeted that his IQ was “much higher” than Barack Obama and George W Bush.

He has also claimed a higher IQ than comedian Jon Stewart and British star of The Apprentice, Lord Sugar.

Despite this, Mr Trump has never revealed his own IQ. So can we work it out?

Sure. We can work it out by watching him in action. We can compare him to other people in the same line of work. We can compare him to Clinton for instance, to Corker, to Warren, to Schumer. We can compare how they think on their feet, what they say in response to questions, how they behave in public situations.

We can think back to the debates. The contrast was stark, and at the root of it was comparative intelligence. He can’t talk like an intelligent person; it’s that simple.

Who were the smartest presidents?
“I don’t recall ever coming across a list of presidents and their IQs,” says Dr Barbara A Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia.

“But you can easily find a list of presidents inducted into Phi Beta Kappa in their universities.”

Founded in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa honours “the best and brightest liberal arts and sciences undergraduates from 286 top schools across the nation”.

Of the 44 presidents, 17 have been Phi Beta Kappa members. Bill Clinton, George H W Bush, and Jimmy Carter were the most recent.

Phi Beta Kappa counts? And Trump isn’t? Cool, then we know I’m smarter than Trump. Neener.

Professor Fred I Greenstein, professor of politics emeritus at Princeton University, lists six qualities that bear on presidential performance.

They are: public communication, organisational capacity, political skill, vision, cognitive style, and emotional intelligence.

There; that’s a much better framework to talk about it than “IQ.” Trump is abysmal on the first and last. The ones in between…I guess are debatable.

“Trump scores low on emotional intelligence, cognitive style, vision, and organisational capacity,” says Dr Perry.

“Where he was been superb, in order to win the presidency, is public communication and political skill.”

Mmmmmmmno. Political skill, ok, but public communication, no. He succeeded with that not because he’s intelligent at it but because there are so many people who like the other kind. I don’t think it can really be called intelligent public communication when he can appeal only to angry racists and fails utterly at trying to talk to the rest of the world.