Notes and Comment Blog


The woman targeted

Dec 9th, 2018 4:57 pm | By

Lesbians not welcome on Baltimore’s LGBTQ Commission’s Law and Policy Committee:

The Baltimore LGBTQ Commission’s Law and Policy Committee recently held an emergency meeting aimed at eliminating lesbian representation on the Commission. Several women who are longtime residents of the region attended on the evening of December 4, 2018, to support the woman targeted by the meeting, twenty-five year-old Julia Beck. Julia has stated that her reasons for seeking this advisory role are unequivocally and unapologetically woman-centered: “I joined Baltimore’s LGBTQ Commission to represent lesbians in local government,” and to “defend the rights of lesbians as homosexual women.” Julia is the only lesbian on the Law and Policy Committee, and possibly the only woman on the entire Commission willing to publicly state that lesbians are female homosexuals.

As the meeting progressed, however, it quickly became clear that anyone who expresses this view is explicitly unwelcome on Baltimore’s LGBTQ Commission. Although the question of Julia’s role on the Commission is not yet resolved, the writing is on the wall: women who love women might be entitled to representation on the Mayor’s LGBTQ Commission, but only if they pledge adherence to the belief that males have a right to define themselves as “lesbian” and as “women” for all legal and policy purposes.

In which case maybe women who love women would not be entitled to representation on the Mayor’s LGBTQ Commission after all because there was already representation, in the form of men who define themselves as women and lesbians. Head they win tails you lose.

The emergency meeting was scheduled in reaction to Julia’s views about policing and detention policies for women and trans-identified males. Julia had expressed the view that trans-identified males in correctional facilities deserve a safe separate space away from the general population, but that they should not have the right to be incarcerated in women’s facilities (where women may be forced to shower and sleep with them), or to force a guard who is a woman to handle their male genitals in a strip-search. In the meeting she reiterated this position, citing the horrific case of Karen White, an admitted rapist and trans-identified male who was allowed by UK prison authorities to be housed in a women’s prison based on his self-declared “gender identity,” then harassed, intimidated, and sexually assaulted several vulnerable women.

Who initiated the move to push Julia out?

Ava Pipitone, a male trans activist who dates women and identifies as a “female,” “lesbian,” and “transbutch.”

Transbutch. Transbutch. But if you’re “transbutch” then…you’re just a guy. Being female or male isn’t a style or color preference, it’s just a fact.

The nice butch lady who wants to push the one lesbian on the LGBTQ Commission out:

Ava claimed that “trans-inclusion” does not hold back women’s liberation, but at no point did Ava acknowledge that the female bodies of incarcerated women make them vulnerable to rape and violation of bodily privacy when forced to be in intimate settings with male prisoners. In fact Ava refused to acknowledge that females have any distinct interests worthy of consideration. Instead, Ava simply erased those distinct interests by declaring that males who self-identify as “women” and “female” must be treated as such for every conceivable purpose—even sexual orientation.

Women are being pushed out and shut up everywhere we look.



UP you go

Dec 9th, 2018 4:06 pm | By

Oh dear, this is hilarious.



A perversion of a democratic election

Dec 9th, 2018 12:36 pm | By

The narrative is becoming clearer.

In the narrative that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and New York prosecutors are building, Mr. Trump continued to secretly seek to do business in Russia deep into his presidential campaign even as Russian agents made more efforts to influence him. At the same time, in this account he ordered hush payments to two women to suppress stories of impropriety in violation of campaign finance law.

The prosecutors made clear in a sentencing memo filed on Friday that they viewed efforts by Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, to squelch the stories as nothing less than a perversion of a democratic election — and by extension they effectively accused the president of defrauding voters, questioning the legitimacy of his victory.

The Republicans are trying to paint it as a nothingburger, and to convince us that Trump didn’t know it was illegal.

But if Trump didn’t know it was illegal…what was his understanding of why Cohen kept the hush money a secret? To put it another way, did Cohen pretend to Trump that it was all legal and aboveboard? If so, why? Why would he put himself in jeopardy to keep Trump out of it?

The exposure on campaign finance laws poses a challenge to Mr. Trump’s legal team, which before now has focused mainly on rebutting allegations of collusion and obstruction while trying to call into question Mr. Mueller’s credibility.

“Until now, you had two different charges, allegations, whatever you want to call them,” Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the incoming Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in an interview on Saturday. “One was collusion with the Russians. One was obstruction of justice and all that entails. And now you have a third — that the president was at the center of a massive fraud against the American people.”

And not just any old fraud but one that put him in all his corruption and incompetence in the White House. The fraud in question gave him the power to destroy the planet.

(Not for the first time, I feel the need to point out that a country that has weapons that can destroy the planet should have much better filters to keep corrupt egomaniacs from having the sole power to launch them.)



An appallingly treacherous term

Dec 9th, 2018 12:14 pm | By

Lobster guy has a funny one today.

Ok not really funny, exactly; more like sinister. Of course it’s not “appallingly sinister” to talk of climate change denial and to call particular people deniers. There is such a thing as denial, and there are deniers; the words are not confined to the Holocaust.

Look at Trump for one example. He doesn’t bother to read anything or learn anything or ask anyone, he just shouts “I don’t believe it!” and keeps on walking to the helicopter. He denies that the Mueller investigation has found anything when it has issued multiple indictments.

Look at the tobacco executives who told Congress under oath that they didn’t “believe” nicotine is addictive. Look at Mohammed bin Salman who told Trump several times that he Didn’t Do It. Look at a lot of things. We are not wanting for examples of people who just blindly deny deny deny no matter what the evidence or argument. Those people are deniers, and they engage in denial. It’s a thing.

I’m questioning Jordan Peterson’s ethics right now.



The bromance

Dec 9th, 2018 10:12 am | By

The NY Times has an explainer on how Jared Kushner got so cozy with the murderous Mohammed bin Salman.

Senior American officials were worried. Since the early months of the Trump administration, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser, had been having private, informal conversations with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the favorite son of Saudi Arabia’s king.

Given Mr. Kushner’s political inexperience, the private exchanges could make him susceptible to Saudi manipulation, said three former senior American officials. In an effort to tighten practices at the White House, a new chief of staff tried to reimpose longstanding procedures stipulating that National Security Council staff members should participate in all calls with foreign leaders.

That all by itself is stunning and enraging (even though we already knew it). The tightly woven noose of nepotism and pig-ignorance will choke us all. Jared Kushner is a real estate marketer; that’s all he is; he has no ghost of any kind of qualification for running US foreign affairs. Trump might as well give Barron the job.

Anyway Jared and Mo stayed besties despite the staff members, including after the murder of Khashoggi.

As the killing set off a firestorm around the world and American intelligence agencies concluded that it was ordered by Prince Mohammed, Mr. Kushner became the prince’s most important defender inside the White House, people familiar with its internal deliberations say.

Mr. Kushner’s support for Prince Mohammed in the moment of crisis is a striking demonstration of a singular bond that has helped draw President Trump into an embrace of Saudi Arabia as one of his most important international allies.

“A singular bond” aka a weird sinister probably-corrupt collaboration with a murderous authoritarian member of a crime family. I guess that’s the source of the “bond”? They’re both pointless clueless worthless sons of crime families?

But it’s also, the Times underlines, something that was carefully arranged by the Saudis.

A delegation of Saudis close to the prince visited the United States as early as the month Mr. Trump was elected, the documents show, and brought back a report identifying Mr. Kushner as a crucial focal point in the courtship of the new administration. He brought to the job scant knowledge about the region, a transactional mind-set and an intense focus on reaching a deal with the Palestinians that met Israel’s demands, the delegation noted.

My point exactly. He knows nothing and he has the outlook of a marketer, aka “a transactional mind-set,” along with a father-in-law stupid and corrupt enough to give him power he shouldn’t have.

“The inner circle is predominantly deal makers who lack familiarity with political customs and deep institutions, and they support Jared Kushner,” the Saudi delegation wrote of the incoming administration in a slide presentation obtained by the Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar, which provided it to The Times. Several Americans who spoke with the delegation confirmed the slide presentation’s accounts of the discussions.

Sigh. They know it, we know it, the Trumpers don’t care.

Just a few months into the Trump administration Prince Jared managed to slide MBS into a formal lunch with Trump after Merkel had had to cancel due to weather. This was not protocol but White House people put out statements saying oh sure it was, everything’s fine, this is all totally normal.

“The relationship between Jared Kushner and Mohammed bin Salman constitutes the foundation of the Trump policy not just toward Saudi Arabia but toward the region,” said Martin Indyk, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former Middle East envoy. The administration’s reliance on the Saudis in the peace process, its support for the kingdom’s feud with Qatar, an American ally, and its backing of the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, he said, all grew out of “that bromance.”

Well, as long as the boys are happy.



Rebecca, Wendi, Gerald, Rob, John

Dec 8th, 2018 3:36 pm | By

Heartrending.



A unicorn

Dec 8th, 2018 3:22 pm | By

Hold the phone – the Post says Trump has no plans to humiliate Kelly.

How can that be when Kelly’s leaving and Trump is a bully and coward? But the Post says it is so.

Kelly’s departure is anticlimactic, after months of the president’s musing about replacing him and complaining about his chief of staff to some advisers, even discussing possible successors. Still, the president did not diminish Kelly as he prepares to leave the White House, as he has done in other firings, and has no plans to humiliate Kelly, officials said. Current and former officials said Trump continues to respect Kelly, no matter how often the two men clashed.

I’m floored. He should get some kind of award, don’t you think? No plans to humiliate Kelly – it’s like a Christmas miracle.

Kushner and Ivanka Trump have battled for some time to replace Kelly, and the firing showed their continued influence in a West Wing where the president’s family members often have the last say.

The couple told others privately that Kelly shared damaging stories about them and had not always served the president well. For his part, Kelly joked that the couple was “playing government” and said they should never have been brought into the White House — and that the pair thought they did not have to follow the traditional rules.

Joked? That’s not a joke, it’s the straight-up truth. Of course they’re playing at government, because they have zero education or experience that would qualify them for even a low-level job in government, let alone senior adviser to the president. Playing at it is exactly what they’re doing.

The chief of staff has told others in the White House that Trump is ignorant of the workings of much of the government — including military operations, immigration laws and Congress — and that he is obsessed with his news coverage.

To “military operations, immigration laws and Congress” add everything else; he knows nothing about any of it. He’s a stupid, ignorant, lazy man with the intellectual curiosity of a flatworm.



Nailing Trump as a felon

Dec 8th, 2018 12:29 pm | By

Laurence Tribe thinks it’s serious for Trump.

“nailing Trump as a felon who directed a criminal conspiracy to steal the 2016 election” – that’s not a parking ticket.



An especially narrow vision of womanhood

Dec 8th, 2018 11:29 am | By

Journalist writes piece about the putative “transphobia” of Mumsnet, in which of course “transphobia” is taken to mean not insults and bile aimed at trans people but simply failure to agree that men who identify as women literally are women. (And men who etc, except that gets far less attention. Male entitlement scores another win.)

Anyway, there’s a paragraph that sums up the bizarro-world belief system nicely.

But if, as Roberts and Pedersen assert, the community’s influence is a result of its engaged membership, Mumsnet finds itself at the political whims of a very particular membership base. When it comes to Mumsnet’s reputation for transphobia, it seems that the very demographics to which Pedersen attributes its success may have resulted in an especially narrow vision of womanhood—one that specifically excludes trans women.

Ah yes, it’s such an especially narrow vision of womanhood that doesn’t include men as women.

The journalist is a woman, by the way. We’ve grown accustomed to seeing women catering to male entitlement and shitting on feminist women this way, but it’s still disgusting.

It doesn’t get better.

Since 2016, Mumsnet—specifically its Feminism board—has increasingly found itself on the receiving end of criticism from trans people and their allies.

Found itself? Receiving end? Criticism? In other words trans activists, mostly male, have increasingly taken to bullying women at Mumsnet.

“When I started using Twitter and engaging in the trans sphere in mid-2017, Mumsnet was constantly referenced both on my timeline and in DMs,” says Joss Prior, a trans woman who is part of a sizable trans community that monitors and discusses Mumsnet regularly.

That monitors – because women can’t be allowed to talk about things without male monitoring.

“The whole of the Feminism board was like a spectre hanging over the daily trans discourse.”

Ooooh a spectre is haunting Europe, only now it’s the evil TERF.



Feminists do not police patriarchal gender norms

Dec 8th, 2018 11:07 am | By

Jane Clare Jones offers a list of 30 propositions on ontological totalitarianism. I will share a few by way of appetizer.

2. Human beings have a right to their own perceptions.

10. Resisting coercion is not bullying.

12. Recognition must be freely given if it is to meaningfully function as validation.

Good one. Yes it must. If it’s forced…well it’s not really recognition, is it, it’s just a mouthing of words.

15. Trans people who are visibly gender non-conforming are subject to violence as a result of the policing of patriarchal gender norms.

16. Feminists do not police patriarchal gender norms.

 

21. People refusing to validate your identity may be painful.

22. Something being painful is not conceptually identical to it being a moral harm, structural violence, or an act of oppression.

23. Not getting our needs met is sometimes painful.

24. Sometimes our needs don’t get met because other people also have needs, beliefs, and interests.

25. Thinking you must always have you needs met and refusing to understand why other people may not meet your needs, is narcissistic entitlement.

And you know what? Narcissistic entitlement does not make for progressive politics. Progressive politics is pretty much all about rejecting narcissistic entitlement.



Nobody and nothing can save him

Dec 8th, 2018 9:39 am | By

Paul Waldman at the Post says Trump is cooked.

One of the remarkable things about the discussion we’ve been having lately is that the president still seems to think that he can be saved from whatever this investigation uncovers. He just announced that William Barr will be his next attorney general, and the New York Times reported that in private, “Mr. Trump has also repeatedly asked whether the next pick would recuse himself from overseeing the special counsel investigation into whether his campaign conspired with Russia in its interference in the 2016 election.” It’s as though he thinks this investigation is in its early stages and can be quashed by a properly loyal underling.

But at this point it doesn’t matter. It’s far too late. Trump’s former aides have cooperated, they’ve conducted their interviews with the special counsel, they’re being sentenced, the documents have been reviewed, the connections have been traced, and the full picture is soon to be revealed.

This scandal can’t be hidden away. Republicans in Congress can’t save Trump, his attorney general can’t save him, and no amount of desperate tweets can save him. Accountability is on its way, and it’s arriving very soon.

But…if he tweets many times every day, in all caps? Will that save him?



One of the more livid denunciations

Dec 8th, 2018 9:24 am | By

Ken White (aka Popehat) at the Atlantic walks us through yesterday’s prosecutorial briefs.

In the first one, the Special Counsel’s Office explains how Manafort blew his cooperation agreement by lying, and it does so with great confidence; it’s clear that they have the receipts.

In the second, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York responds to Cohen’s lawyers’ brief last week requesting no prison time.

The prosecutors’ rebuttal of Cohen’s sentencing brief is one of the more livid denunciations I’ve seen in more than two decades of federal criminal practice. The Southern District concedes that Cohen provided some information to it, to the Special Counsel, and to the New York Attorney General. But Cohen refused to cooperate fully; he declined to engage in a full debriefing about everything he knew or commit to ongoing meetings, and he only spilled about the things he’d already admitted in his plea. That’s not how cooperation works. In this game, you either cooperate fully or you shut up; there is no middle ground.  It’s not surprising that Cohen’s stance angered the notoriously proud Southern District prosecutors.

The New York prosecutors blast Cohen’s “rose-colored view of the seriousness of his crimes,” accusing him of a “pattern of deception that permeated his professional life.” Prosecutors portray Cohen as stubbornly obstructing his own accountant to cheat at taxes, even refusing to pay for accounting work that raised inconvenient issues he wanted suppressed. When it comes to Cohen’s campaign finance violations, the prosecutors’ fury leaps off the page.  Cohen, they say, schemed to pay for two women’s stories (Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, we now know) in violation of campaign finance laws to influence the 2016 election, and did so “in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1” – that is, the president of the United States.  As the brief puts it:

While many Americans who desired a particular outcome to the election knocked on doors, toiled at phone banks, or found any number of other legal ways to make their voices heard, Cohen sought to influence the election from the shadows. He did so by orchestrating secret and illegal payments to silence two women who otherwise would have made public their alleged extramarital affairs with Individual-1. In the process, Cohen deceived the voting public by hiding alleged facts that he believed would have had a substantial effect on the election.

Legal writing can be a joy. Remember the Kitzmiller ruling? That is one hell of a good read. This one right here is another goody.

Maddow highlighted that same passage last night, with her very best intensity and clarity. It brings it all into focus, doesn’t it. Dirty Cohen used Dirty Trump’s money to silence two women whose stories could have sunk Trump’s campaign, and what happened? Trump did indeed win the election (though not the popular vote) and so now here we are stuck with this terrible, monstrous, destructive pig-man who is dragging the US into the sewer he lives in. Cohen’s intervention may have been decisive in the sense that without it Trump would have lost.

And it was a felony. And he did it at Trump’s direction. Trump committed a felony.

Back to Ken White:

If the Southern District’s fury at Cohen is notable, its explicit accusation that President Trump directed and coordinated campaign finance violations is simply stunning. The prosecutors’ openness suggests they are sure of their evidence and have mostly finished collecting it. It’s a sign of a fully-developed, late-game investigation of the president’s role, one that may soon make its way to Congress.

And last there’s Mueller’s sentencing brief in Cohen’s lying-to-Congress case.

Mueller discloses that Cohen has “taken significant steps to mitigate his criminal conduct” by pleading guilty to lying to Congress and meeting with the Special Counsel seven times to discuss his own conduct and other “core topics under investigation.” That includes information about multiple contacts between other Trump campaign officials and the Russian government, and about Cohen’s contact with the White House in 2017 and 2018, suggesting an ongoing inquiry into obstruction of justice. Most significant, the Special Counsel indicates Cohen “described the circumstances of preparing and circulating his response to the congressional inquiries, while continuing to accept responsibility for the false statements within it.”  That statement suggests that the Special Counsel believes that someone in the Trump administration knew of, and approved in advance, Cohen’s lies to Congress. That’s explosive, and potentially impeachable if Trump himself is implicated.

Maddow leaned on a key point in that one, which is that Cohen’s lies to Congress were public, and that that means that they functioned (and perhaps were intended) as instructions for others who might have to talk to Congress on the subject. It also means Russia knew about them, which means Cohen was compromised.

Neal Katyal’s take is also interesting.



Clinton’s emails for heaven’s sake

Dec 7th, 2018 3:39 pm | By

Comey has emerged from the absurd closed-door questioning the Republicans insisted on in the last few days before the Democrats bump them. He tells us they talked about Hillary Clinton’s emails for heaven’s sake – his words. He says it was stupid and didn’t need to happen. He says he can’t talk about current investigations.

Don the Con is pitching a fit.



Quite extraordinary

Dec 7th, 2018 12:08 pm | By

He got our attention.

Good question.

Also, the two go together, don’t they. He doesn’t read, he doesn’t like detail, he goes with his gut – all of which means he most likely has no idea what’s legal and what isn’t. He goes with his gut, and his gut always tells him that if he wants to do it, it must be legal, because hey, what else would his gut tell him? You’re not saying his gut is a disloyal traitor to him are you??! His criterion for what’s true is whether he believes it or not, so all he has to do is believe that what he wants to do is legal, and it becomes true that what he wants to do is legal.

Update needed already. He’s seen it; he’s steaming.



He really is trying to act on his instincts

Dec 7th, 2018 11:58 am | By

At the Post, more on Tillerson’s observations of Trump:

“What was challenging for me coming from the disciplined, highly process-oriented ExxonMobil corporation,” Tillerson said, was “to go to work for a man who is pretty undisciplined, doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read briefing reports, doesn’t like to get into the details of a lot of things, but rather just kind of says, ‘This is what I believe.’ ”

Not even “kind of”; that’s exactly what he says. He said it just the other day in response to a question about the climate change report. “I don’t believe it,” he said, like an idiot. He doesn’t not believe it for reasons, he just “doesn’t believe it” as in he wants to ignore it so he does.

Also: I just want to underline the point here: a man who is pretty undisciplined, doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read briefing reports, doesn’t like to get into the details of a lot of things, is not someone who should be president.

Tillerson said Trump believes he is acting on his instincts rather than relying on facts. But Tillerson seemed to suggest that it resulted in impulsiveness.

“He acts on his instincts; in some respects, that looks like impulsiveness,” Tillerson said. “But it’s not his intent to act on impulse. I think he really is trying to act on his instincts.”

Yes, we know. He thinks his “gut” is reliable. He’s wrong. If he knew more, if he were capable of reading and understanding and paying attention and thinking critically, he would realize that an unaided gut is not an adequate tool for the job he’s taken on.

At about 1:50, the bit where he says “But Mr President that would violate the law,” there is nervous laughter from the audience.



Trump would get very frustrated

Dec 7th, 2018 11:36 am | By

Last night Rex Tillerson did his first public gig since being so abruptly dropped nine months ago.  He talked to a reporter at the event and said some intriguing things.

The honeymoon didn’t last long, Tillerson said. The relationship between him and Trump became strained after the president grew tired of the former Exxon Mobil CEO telling him that he could not do things the way he wanted.

Tillerson said the two had starkly different styles and did not share a common value system.

“So often, the president would say here’s what I want to do and here’s how I want to do it and I would have to say to him, Mr. President I understand what you want to do but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law,” Tillerson said.

Trump would get very frustrated when they would have those conversations, he said.

Aw. That wrings my heart. Poor marginalized Donnie, not respected by the elites and not allowed to do things that violate the law. Will somebody please think of the Donnie?



We are tired of the abuse

Dec 7th, 2018 10:46 am | By

There’s that saying, “no man is a hero to his valet.” Miriam Jordan at the NY Times has talked to Trump’s housekeeper at Bedminster.

During more than five years as a housekeeper at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., Victorina Morales has made Donald J. Trump’s bed, cleaned his toilet and dusted his crystal golf trophies. When he visited as president, she was directed to wear a pin in the shape of the American flag adorned with a Secret Service logo.

Quite an achievement for an undocumented immigrant housekeeper.

Ms. Morales’s journey from cultivating corn in rural Guatemala to fluffing pillows at an exclusive golf resort took her from the southwest border, where she said she crossed illegally in 1999, to the horse country of New Jersey, where she was hired at the Trump property in 2013 with documents she said were phony.

I got nervous when I read that yesterday, wondering why the Times was putting her at risk this way, but in fact Morales is going public on purpose and with legal assistance.

She said she was not the only worker at the club who was in the country illegally.

Sandra Diaz, 46, a native of Costa Rica who is now a legal resident of the United States, said she, too, was undocumented when she worked at Bedminster between 2010 and 2013. The two women said they worked for years as part of a group of housekeeping, maintenance and landscaping employees at the golf club that included a number of undocumented workers, though they could not say precisely how many. There is no evidence that Mr. Trump or Trump Organization executives knew of their immigration status. But at least two supervisors at the club were aware of it, the women said, and took steps to help workers evade detection and keep their jobs.

All while Trump rants and raves about “illegals” invading our precious lily-white Nayshun.

Ms. Morales said she has been hurt by Mr. Trump’s public comments since he became president, including equating Latin American immigrants with violent criminals. It was that, she said, along with abusive comments from a supervisor at work about her intelligence and immigration status, that made her feel that she could no longer keep silent.

“We are tired of the abuse, the insults, the way he talks about us when he knows that we are here helping him make money,” she said. “We sweat it out to attend to his every need and have to put up with his humiliation.”

Ms. Morales and Ms. Diaz approached The New York Times through their New Jersey lawyer, Anibal Romero, who is representing them on immigration matters. Ms. Morales said that she understood she could be fired or deported as a result of coming forward, though she has applied for protection under the asylum laws. She is also exploring a lawsuit claiming workplace abuse and discrimination.

They gave the Times hours of interviews about their work at Trump’s club and their interactions with supervisors. They say Trump is both demanding and kind, often giving generous tips.

She said she washed and ironed Mr. Trump’s white boxers, golf shirts and khaki trousers, as well as his sheets and towels. Everything belonging to Mr. Trump, his wife, Melania, and their son, Barron, was washed with special detergent in a smaller, separate washing machine, she said.

“He is extremely meticulous about everything. If he arrives suddenly, everyone runs around like crazy” because Mr. Trump inspects everything closely, Ms. Diaz said.

She recalled a nervous moment in 2012, when Mr. Trump approached her and asked her to follow him to the clubhouse, a renovated 1930s Georgian manor, where he proceeded to run his fingers around the edges of frames on the wall and over table surfaces to check for dust.

“You did a really great job,” she said he told her, and handed her a $100 bill.

That same year, she said, Mr. Trump had an outburst over some orange stains on the collar of his white golf shirt, which Ms. Diaz described as stubborn remnants of his makeup, which she had difficulty removing.

But the orange makeup is worth it, because he looks gorgeous in it.

After Trump became president, she had to get new fake documents.

The next day, she said, the maintenance worker brought her a new Social Security card and a realistic-looking green card to replace the one that had “expired.” She said the manager made copies of them for files kept at the club’s administrative headquarters.

Now that Mr. Trump was president, there was more than the usual excitement whenever he arrived. Ms. Morales was still asked to clean Mr. Trump’s residence on occasion, and had to wear a Secret Service pin whenever the president was on site, she said, most likely identifying her as an employee, though the pins did not mean employees had a security clearance.

As the months went on, she and other employees at the golf club became increasingly disturbed about Mr. Trump’s comments, which they felt demeaned immigrants from Mexico and Central America. The president’s tone seemed to embolden others to make negative comments, Ms. Morales said. The housekeeping supervisor frequently made remarks about the employees’ vulnerable legal status when critiquing their work, she said, sometimes calling them “stupid illegal immigrants” with less intelligence than a dog.

The president’s tone seemed to embolden others to make negative comments.

Indeed. That’s the world we live in now.



The new ambassador

Dec 7th, 2018 9:31 am | By

In other personnel news, there’s the Fox News personality who is currently the State Department spokesperson and is now going to be the US ambassador to the UN.

The United Nations came into existence to vanquish Germany, as 26 nations jointly pledged in 1942 not to surrender to “savage and brutal forces seeking to subjugate the world.”

To vanquish Nazi Germany, rather than Germany as such, which continued to exist after Hitler did away with himself in the bunker. Germany was and is bigger than Nazism, as the US is bigger than Trumpism. (Not enough bigger, and getting less so all the time, but still bigger.)

Three-quarters of a century later, the woman who would soon become President Trump’s pick to represent the United States at the United Nations cited the D-Day landings — a cornerstone of this unwavering Allied pledge and the basis of the Nazi defeat on the Western Front — to showcase the strength of German-American relations.

“When you talk about Germany, we have a very strong relationship with the government of Germany,” Heather Nauert, the State Department’s spokeswoman, said in June. She added: “Tomorrow is the anniversary of the D-Day invasion. We obviously have a very long history with the government of Germany, and we have a strong relationship with the government.”

Remember D-Day? When the US and Germany joined hands to defeat the villainous Norwegians? We were tight then, man.

The D-Day comment raised eyebrows over the summer, when some suggested it demonstrated a lack of historical understanding from the former “Fox & Friends” presenter who gained prominence on television during the Monica Lewinsky scandal but has no diplomatic experience.

No no, she has more historical understanding than anyone else, so much more that she sees a deeply hidden friendship beneath the superficial appearances of, say, the Battle of the Bulge, not to mention Auschwitz.

She also has a wealth of experience as a talking head on Fox and Friends.

She has broadcast just about every right-wing talking-point under the sun, as documented extensively by the liberal watchdog group Media Matters.

In 2014, she warned that immigrant children arriving in the United States were bringing “disease.” In 2015, she attackedthe Environmental Protection Agency by suggesting that a grant to college students working on a device allowing hotels to track water usage by guests was a “Big Brother move.”

Nauert has referred to immigrants in the United States without status seeking to obtain an education as “illegals.” She has spread conspiracies about the 2012 Benghazi attacks.

Couldn’t they have found someone even more qualified though? One of the real housewives of Palm Springs or Atlantic City or Las Vegas?



An expansive view of presidential power

Dec 7th, 2018 9:06 am | By

The NY Times reports that Trump has decided on Barr as Attorney General.

Mr. Barr has criticized aspects of the Russia investigation, including suggesting that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, hired too many prosecutors who had donated to Democratic campaigns. Mr. Barr has defended Mr. Trump’s calls for a new criminal investigation into his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, including over a uranium mining deal the Obama administration approved when she was secretary of state.

“There is nothing inherently wrong about a president calling for an investigation,” Mr. Barr told The New York Times last year. “Although an investigation shouldn’t be launched just because a president wants it, the ultimate question is whether the matter warrants investigation.”

Mr. Barr added then that he saw more basis for investigating the uranium deal than any supposed conspiracy between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia. “To the extent it is not pursuing these matters, the department is abdicating its responsibility,” he said.

Mr. Barr has assembled a “generally mainstream G.O.P. and corporate” reputation, Norman L. Eisen, who served as special counsel for ethics and government overhaul under President Barack Obama, said on Thursday. But he predicted that Mr. Barr would be vigorously vetted because of what he saw as blots on Mr. Barr’s record, including his push for scrutiny of the mining deal, involving a company called Uranium One.

Mr. Barr “has put forward the discredited idea that Hillary Clinton’s role in the Uranium One deal is more worthy of investigation than collusion between Trump and Russia,” Mr. Eisen wrote in a text message. “That is bizarre. And he was involved in the dubious George H.W. Bush end of term pardons that may be a precedent for even more illegitimate ones by Trump.”

One of his claims to fame is a sweeping justification of presidential power.

In July 1989, shortly after his appointment to the Office of Legal Counsel, Mr. Barr sent an apparently unsolicited 10-page memo to top agency and department lawyers across the executive branch urging vigilance in pushing back against ways in which Congress might try to intrude on what he saw as the rightful powers of the president. It covered topics such as “attempts to gain access to sensitive executive branch information” and efforts to limit a president’s power to fire a subordinate official without a good cause.

“It is important that all of us be familiar with each of these forms of encroachment on the executive’s constitutional authority,” Mr. Barr wrote. “Only by consistently and forcefully resisting such congressional incursions can executive branch prerogatives be preserved.”

Yes, let’s make sure to protect one-person rule at the expense of the more diffuse power of the legislative branch. What could go wrong?

Years later, in 2005, after the leaking of a secret George W. Bush administration memo blessing the torture of terrorism detainees despite anti-torture laws and treaties, Neil Kinkopf, a Georgia State law professor who worked in the Office of Legal Counsel during the Clinton administration, pointed back to Mr. Barr’s 1989 memo as a precursor to the torture memo’s vision of unfettered executive power.

“Never before had the Office of Legal Counsel, known as the O.L.C., publicly articulated a policy of resisting Congress,” Mr. Kinkopf wrote in a Legal Affairs essay. “The Barr memo did so with belligerence, staking out an expansive view of presidential power while asserting positions that contradicted recent Supreme Court precedent.”

And that will be why he is Trump’s choice.



One for you and seventeen for me

Dec 6th, 2018 5:41 pm | By

It’s all so…Hitleresque. Emily Badger in the Times:

In much of Wisconsin, “Madison and Milwaukee” are code words (to some, dog whistles) for the parts of the state that are nonwhite, elite, different: The cities are where people don’t have to work hard with their hands, because they’re collecting welfare or public-sector paychecks.

Da big city, where all the Jews are.

That stereotype updates a very old idea in American politics, one pervading Wisconsin’s bitter Statehouse fights today and increasingly those in other states: Urban voters are an exception. If you discount them, you get a truer picture of the politics — and the will of voters — in a state.

Thomas Jefferson believed as much — “the mobs of great cities add just so much to support of pure government,” he wrote, “as sores do to the strength of the human body.”

Wisconsin Republicans amplified that idea this week, arguing that the legislature is the more representative branch of government, and then voting to limit the power of the incoming Democratic governor. The legislature speaks for the people in all corners of the state, they seemed to be saying, and statewide offices like governor merely reflect the will of those urban mobs.

We have the same split here in Washington state: east of the mountains is where the real people are and over here on the west side it’s all granola-munching libbruls.

Robin Vos, the Republican speaker of the Wisconsin Statehouse, drew this distinction even more explicitly after the midterm election.

“If you took Madison and Milwaukee out of the state election formula, we would have a clear majority,” he said. “We would have all five constitutional officers and we would probably have many more seats in the Legislature.”

Hmm, yes, and if you took California and New York state out of the US you would have far fewer cities; if you took Chicago and Detroit out, white people would be a bigger majority; if you took every city over 100,000 people out probably everyone left would believe in god. Or something. But we don’t take cities out, because guess what, cities are not frivolous extras or plots against pale people, they’re places where a lot of useful activity happens, alongside a lot of nonsense but there is nonsense everywhere.

Republican gerrymandering in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and North Carolina have pushed the limits of how much the urban voter can be devalued.

In Wisconsin, Democratic candidates for the State Assembly won 54 percent of the vote statewide. But they will hold only 36 of 99 seats. They picked up just one more seat than in the current Assembly, a result of a gerrymander drawn so well that it protected nearly every Republican seat in a Democratic wave election.

That’s a jaw-dropping set of numbers: 54% of the vote but 36 of 99 seats. That is some heavy-duty cheating the Republicans did. And they did it so well it will never be undone, apparently.