Notes and Comment Blog


Dec 6th, 2018 1:58 pm | By

Now there’s a shock – men wildly underestimate how much women are harassed. You don’t say!

The survey was carried out after the #MeToo campaign – first ignited by the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexually abusive behaviour towards female actors – spread worldwide with women sharing their experiences online.

In Denmark, where a 2012 survey found 80% of women had experienced some form of sexual harassment since the age of 15, the average answer among men was 31%.

In the Netherlands – where a prominent conductor was recently fired due to allegations of sexual harassment – 73% of women reported being affected yet the average answer among men was 38%.

French men put the figure at 41% whereas the 2012 survey found that 75% of French women had been harassed. The survey was carried out just months after footage of Marie Laguerre being struck on a Paris street for responding to sexual harassment went viral.

France previously introduced legislation which include fines in an effort to combat sexual violence in the country.

In the US, where a 2018 poll found that 81% of women had experienced sexual harassment at some point in their lives, American men’s average answer was 44%.

Meanwhile we get a Yale philosopher – a man – expressing bewilderment that there are feminist women who are gender critical.

That other pardons furor

Dec 6th, 2018 1:18 pm | By

Let’s go back in time, back to December 1992, courtesy of the New York Times archive:

Six years after the arms-for-hostages scandal began to cast a shadow that would darken two Administrations, President Bush today granted full pardons to six former officials in Ronald Reagan’s Administration, including former Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger.

Mr. Weinberger was scheduled to stand trial on Jan. 5 on charges that he lied to Congress about his knowledge of the arms sales to Iran and efforts by other countries to help underwrite the Nicaraguan rebels, a case that was expected to focus on Mr. Weinberger’s private notes that contain references to Mr. Bush’s endorsement of the secret shipments to Iran.

So he lied to Congress, so what. Wipe it all away!

In one remaining facet of the inquiry, the independent prosecutor, Lawrence E. Walsh, plans to review a 1986 campaign diary kept by Mr. Bush. Mr. Walsh has characterized the President’s failure to turn over the diary until now as misconduct.

Decapitated Walsh Efforts

But in a single stroke, Mr. Bush swept away one conviction, three guilty pleas and two pending cases, virtually decapitating what was left of Mr. Walsh’s effort, which began in 1986. Mr. Bush’s decision was announced by the White House in a printed statement after the President left for Camp David, where he will spend the Christmas holiday.

Mr. Walsh bitterly condemned the President’s action, charging that ‘the Iran-contra cover-up, which has continued for more than six years, has now been completed.’

Mr. Walsh directed his heaviest fire at Mr. Bush over the pardon of Mr. Weinberger, whose trial would have given the prosecutor a last chance to explore the role in the affair of senior Reagan officials, including Mr. Bush’s actions as Vice President.

But sainted Bush made that impossible. Respect for the rule of law? I guess that’s only for Democrats, eh?

Mr. Walsh hinted that Mr. Bush’s pardon of Mr. Weinberger and the President’s own role in the affair could be related. For the first time, he charged that Mr. Weinberger’s notes about the secret decision to sell arms to Iran, a central piece of evidence in the case against the former Pentagon chief, included ‘evidence of a conspiracy among the highest ranking Reagan Administration officials to lie to Congress and the American public.’

The prosecutor charged that Mr. Weinberger’s efforts to hide his notes may have ‘forestalled impeachment proceedings against President Reagan’ and formed part of a pattern of ‘deception and obstruction.’ On Dec. 11, Mr. Walsh said he discovered ‘misconduct’ in Mr. Bush’s failure to turn over what the prosecutor said were the President’s own ‘highly relevant contemporaneous notes, despite repeated requests for such documents.’

The notes, in the form of a campaign diary that Mr. Bush compiled after the elections in November 1986, are in the process of being turned over to Mr. Walsh, who said, ‘In light of President Bush’s own misconduct, we are gravely concerned about his decision to pardon others who lied to Congress and obstructed official investigations.’

Filthy, isn’t it. We hear a lot about Watergate in discussions of the Russia investigation, but Iran-Contra not so much. Maybe that will change.

Isn’t it interesting how it’s always Republicans? Watergate, Iran-Contra, Russia-WikiLeaks-sanctions?

In an interview on the ‘McNeil-Lehrer Newshour’ tonight, Mr. Walsh said for the first time that Mr. Bush was a subject of his investigation. The term ‘subject,’ as it has been used by Mr. Walsh’s prosecutors, is broadly defined as someone involved in events under scrutiny, but who falls short of being a target, or a person likely to be charged with a crime. In the inquiry into the entire Iran-contra affair, a number of Government officials have been identified as subjects who were never charged with wrongdoing.

Trump is a subject of the Mueller investigation.

The prosecutor said he would take appropriate action in Mr. Bush’s case, implying he might contemplate future legal action against the President for withholding relevant documents. But prosecutors have said in the past that charging a President or former President with wrongdoing would be highly unlikely without overwhelming evidence of a serious crime.

C. Boyden Gray, the White House counsel, said today that Mr. Bush had voluntarily supplied the disputed material to Mr. Walsh, asserting that the notes contained no new information about the affair. Mr. Gray said Mr. Bush wanted make the notes public, but did not say when.

President-elect Bill Clinton, at a news conference in Little Rock, Ark., to announce his remaining Cabinet selections, said he wanted to learn more about the pardons, adding, ‘I am concerned by any action that sends a signal that if you work for the Government, you’re beyond the law, or that not telling the truth to Congress under oath is somehow less serious than not telling the truth to some other body under oath.’

But then along came the blue dress.

But not since President Gerald R. Ford granted clemency to former President Richard M. Nixon for possible crimes in Watergate has a Presidential pardon so pointedly raised the issue of whether the President was trying to shield officials for political purposes. Mr. Walsh invoked Watergate tonight in an interview on the ABC News program ‘Nightline,’ likening today’s pardons to President Richard M. Nixon’s dismissal of the Watergate special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, in 1973. Mr. Walsh said Mr. Bush had ‘succeeded in a sort of Saturday Night Massacre.’

Democratic lawmakers assailed the decision. Senator George J. Mitchell of Maine, the Democratic leader, called the action a mistake. ‘It is not as the President stated today a matter of criminalizing policy differences,’ he said. ‘If members of the executive branch lie to the Congress, obstruct justice and otherwise break the law, how can policy differences be fairly and legally resolved in a democracy.’

The main supporters of the pardon were Vice President Quayle, the Senate Republican leader, Bob Dole, and Mr. Gray, one senior Administration official said today. The decision, discussed in private, seemed to coalesce in the last three weeks although Mr. Bush was said to believe that Mr. Weinberger had been unfairly charged ever since the former Reagan Cabinet officer was first indicted in June.

Throughout the deliberations, Mr. Bush consulted with Attorney General William P. Barr and Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser, who had sat on a Presidential review panel that examined the affair in early 1987.


News outlets are saying Barr is Trump’s current favorite for Attorney General.

Mull on that.

An unorthodox campaign

Dec 6th, 2018 11:51 am | By

This seems skeevy enough for anyone’s taste.

Lobbyists representing the Saudi government reserved blocks of rooms at President Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel within a month of Trump’s election in 2016 — paying for an estimated 500 nights at the luxury hotel in just three months, according to organizers of the trips and documents obtained by The Washington Post.

At the time, these lobbyists were reserving large numbers of D.C.-area hotel rooms as part of an unorthodox campaign that offered U.S. military veterans a free trip to Washington — then sent them to Capitol Hill to lobby against a law the Saudis opposed, according to veterans and organizers.

Hey, great, using military veterans to lobby for a law on behalf of Saudi fucking Arabia. While shunting money to Donald Trump.

The lobbyists spent more than $270,000 on Trump’s hotel.

Those bookings have fueled a pair of federal lawsuits alleging Trump violated the Constitution by taking improper payments from foreign governments.

During this period, records show, the average nightly rate at the hotel was $768. The lobbyists who ran the trips say they chose Trump’s hotel strictly because it offered a discount from that rate and had rooms available, not to curry favor with Trump.

“Absolutely not. It had nothing to do with that. Not one bit,” said Michael Gibson, a Maryland-based political operative who helped organize the trips.

Is that credible? No.

“It made all the sense in the world, when we found out that the Saudis had paid for it,” said Henry Garcia, a Navy veteran from San Antonio who went on three trips. He said the organizers never said anything about Saudi Arabia when they invited him.

He believed the trips were organized by other veterans, but that puzzled him, because this group spent money like no veterans group he had ever worked with. There were private hotel rooms, open bars, free dinners. Then, Garcia said, one of the organizers who had been drinking minibar champagne mentioned a Saudi prince.

“I said, ‘Oh, we were just used to give Trump money,’ ” Garcia said.

That and lobby against a law on behalf of the Saudis. Win-win.

These transactions have become ammunition for plaintiffs in two lawsuits alleging that Trump violated the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause by taking payments from foreign governments. On Tuesday, the attorneys general in Maryland and the District subpoenaed 13 Trump business entities and 18 competing businesses, largely in search of records of foreign spending at the hotel.

What’s the law the Saudis were so opposed to?

In late September [2016], Congress had overridden a veto from President Barack Obama and passed a law the Saudis vehemently opposed: the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, called JASTA. The new law, backed by the families of Sept. 11 victims, opened the door to costly litigation alleging that the Saudi government bore some blame. Of the 19 hijackers involved in the attacks, 15 were Saudi citizens.

Oh, that law.

In response, the Saudis tried something new. To battle one of America’s most revered groups — the Sept. 11 families — they recruited allies from another.

They went looking for veterans.

But they did it via a US lobbying firm and without telling the veterans what it was all about.

The lobbyist company (Quora) tells an absurd story in which for the first couple of jaunts they put the veterans up at a Westin in Crystal City, but then next time the Westin was all booked, everything was all booked, so “out of the blue” they decided to try the Trump hotel. Trump Hotel had vacancies; fabulous, do you give veterans discounts? Why yes we do, said Trump Hotel, so the deal was done and they stuck with Trump Hotel thereafter. I don’t believe a word of that. If Trump Hotel really averages $768 a night a discount that would get them close to the Westin would be one hell of a discount. Trump doesn’t give his money away, he puts it in his own pocket.

Veterans who attended these trips said a few things surprised them.

One was how good their group seemed to be at spending money.

“We’ve done hundreds of veterans events, and we’ve stayed in Holiday Inns and eaten Ritz Crackers and lemonade. And we’re staying in this hotel that costs $500 a night,” said Dan Cord, a Marine veteran. “I’d never seen anything like this. They were like, ‘That’s what’s so cool! Drink on us.’ ”

Because hey it all goes to Trump so what could be better?!

Also the lobbying was inept. It was the wrong time of year, they weren’t prepped, they were sent to talk to people like Grassley who had already made up their minds.

Another problem: In some cases, congressional staffers confronted them because they knew who was funding these trips.

Even if the veterans did not.

“We’d walk in there, and they’d go, ‘Are you the veterans that are getting bribed?’ ” Suesakul said.


Meanwhile, Trump continues to disbelieve reports that say the Saudis cut Jamal Khashoggi into pieces while he was still alive.

They took the money, they shut the school down

Dec 6th, 2018 8:01 am | By

Another for-profit chain of “universities” abruptly shuts down, leaving students with big debts and no degrees.

Birmingham, Alabama-based Education Corp. of America said it was closing schools operating as Virginia College, Brightwood College, Brightwood Career Institute, Ecotech Institute and Golf Academy of America in more than 70 locations in 21 states. The company said in October that it had more than 20,000 students, although more recent documents indicate the number may be closer to 15,000.

The company, backed by investors including private equity firm Willis Stein & Partners of Chicago, is the latest in a series of for-profit colleges to close after allegations that they were loading students up with debt while not providing them with marketable skills.

Well, they’re there to make a profit. Providing students with skills is farther down the list.

Like the recently shuttered Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute chains, Education Corporation of America was overseen by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, one of the watchdog groups the federal government appoints to ensure colleges offer a quality education.

The council, known as ACICS, wrote a Tuesday letter to Reed saying it was suspending accreditation immediately at all the institutions, citing “rapidly deteriorating financial conditions,” a failure to make required payments to the council and a wide variety of academic concerns.

ACICS was shut down by the Obama administration over allegations of lax oversight, but was later reinstated on Nov. 21 by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who found it was “substantially in compliance” with federal standards.

Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott, the top Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, urged DeVos to rethink her decision on ACICS after the Wednesday closure.

“We have repeatedly warned about the risks low-quality, for-profit education companies and irresponsible accreditors pose to students and taxpayers across the country,” Scott said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is another painful reminder of those risks.”

In many cases, students and teachers were in class when they got the news Wednesday. Melissa Zavala, who was studying to be a medical assistant at a San Antonio, Texas, campus of Brightwood, told KSAT-TV students were taken to an auditorium.

“The director was there and she was like, ‘I have bad news. The school is closing down,'” Zavala said. “Everyone was like, ‘What about our student loans? We’re almost done.'”

Zavala said campus officials couldn’t provide additional information and told them to look online for other colleges they could attend.

“They took our money, they shut the school down and that’s it for us,” Zavala said.

But hey: profit.


Dec 6th, 2018 7:11 am | By

Meanwhile in Canada reminds us:

29 years ago on December 6th, 14 lives were taken – because they were women.
We will remember.
🌹Geneviève Bergeron, civil engineering student
🌹Hélène Colgan, mechanical engineering student
🌹Nathalie Croteau, mechanical engineering student
🌹Barbara Daigneault, mechanical engineering student
🌹Anne-Marie Edward, chemical engineering student
🌹Maud Haviernick, materials engineering student
🌹Maryse Laganière, budget clerk in the École Polytechnique’s finance department
🌹Maryse Leclair, materials engineering student
🌹Anne-Marie Lemay, mechanical engineering student
🌹Sonia Pelletier, mechanical engineering student
🌹Michèle Richard, materials engineering student
🌹Annie St-Arneault, mechanical engineering student
🌹Annie Turcotte, materials engineering student
🌹Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, nursing student

No automatic alt text available.


Another power grab

Dec 5th, 2018 5:15 pm | By

In Wisconsin, the Republicans in the legislature strip power from the newly elected Democratic governor, because that’s how they do things now.

After a rancorous, sleepless night of debate, Republican lawmakers early Wednesday pushed through a sweeping set of bills that will limit the power of Wisconsin’s newly elected Democrats, including the incoming governor and attorney general.

The legislation, which Democrats vehemently opposed and protesters chanted their anger over, passed through the Republican-held State Legislature after hours of closed-door meetings and some amendments. The votes fell largely along party lines; no Democrats supported the measures.

To make it worse, the legislature shouldn’t even be Republican-held, because the Democrats got far more votes but legislative seats are carefully gerrymandered to guarantee Republican wins all over the state.

They had the gall to pretend it was about restoring “balance.”

Democrats scoffed at that explanation, noting that Republicans had seemed perfectly satisfied with the balance of power when Mr. Walker held the role.

Pure coincidence.

Harassment and abuse dished out

Dec 5th, 2018 11:51 am | By

A thread by Rosa Freedman:

Piss on her office door and inside on the floor. Threatened with rape, followed outside after dark, by men.

This is not any kind of liberation or progressive politics. This is disgusting male bullying of women.

It was 3:30 a.m…

It’s hateful malicious bullying, and you can’t build any kind of progressive politics on that. Harassing women is not in any way a form of talking truth to power, not least because women are not the sex that has monopolized power.

A host of little laws and some great big ones

Dec 5th, 2018 10:54 am | By

Rebecca Solnit notes that Trump’s crimes are so many and various that we lose track of them.

The current head of the federal government, the person who is supposed to somehow embody the rule of law, is in violation of a host of little laws and some major constitutional ones. USA Today reported in June 2016 that Trump and his businesses “have been involved in at least 3,500 legal actions in federal and state courts during the past three decades. Just since he announced his candidacy a year ago, at least 70 new cases have been filed, about evenly divided between lawsuits filed by him and his companies and those filed against them. And the records review found at least 50 civil lawsuits remain open even as he moves toward claiming the nomination.” The paper charted 1,450 cases in which he or his businesses were defendants along with his bankruptcies and mentioned the Trump University fraud lawsuit, which he eventually settled for $25m, finalized quietly this April. Our president steals from poor people: that’s what that lawsuit is about.

Yep; I’ve been making that point regularly all along. He stiffs contractors, he hires foreign workers so that he can pay them less, he charges his many golf weekends to us.

He has lived his life in a world without consequences – his father’s money smoothed the way for a life in which he made messes and others cleaned them up. He appears to be one of those people who was so rarely told that what he was saying was wrong, boorish, or inane that he has no sense of how he’s perceived or what people are thinking or, often, how things work. Feedback is what steers most of us straight, and power and privilege mean that you can avoid it if you want. When you’re a star they let you do stupid things, and he has done so many.

Maybe, but he’s also a massive narcissist. He hasn’t been able to avoid all feedback, but his narcissism distorts it into an illegitimate attack by very bad people on a very special person.

Summer Zervos sued Trump for defamation for remarks he made about her in 2016, when he suggested her allegations that he groped her were lies; lawyers suggest that his greatest risk in the lawsuit is that he will perjure himself. Another lawsuit for incitement to riot and negligence is moving forward in the sixth circuit court, by three young protesters who were attacked at a Trump rally in March of 2016 after Trump yelled: “Get ‘em out of here.” His former chauffeur is suing for unpaid wages.

All underlings, all people with far less power and money than he has. He’s a narcissist and a bully.

All this trouble exists in addition to whatever the Mueller investigation will bring as allegations and charges and perhaps grounds for impeachment. On 29 November, the Mueller investigation seized tax records from the law offices of Trump’s Chicago lawyer, Ed Burke. Maybe the most important new possible charge, a law professor noted to me, emerges from the report in BuzzFeed that Trump planned to offer Putin a $50m condo if he succeeded in building a Trump Tower in Moscow, while he was running for the presidency. If true, it is a spectacular violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. This 1977 law makes it “unlawful for certain classes of persons and entities to make payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business”. Trump seems to have admitted he was doing exactly that and apparently thinks that justifying it aloud was good enough.

He apparently thinks that about everything. All he has to do is say on Twitter that he “lightly looked at” the Trump Tower Moscow project and everyone including Mueller will say “Oh, ok then.”

There’s a big pile o’ stuff. Flynn is helping Mueller with at least three investigations. The waters are rising.

In which we are told we miss the WASPs

Dec 5th, 2018 9:47 am | By

Good god. Ross Douthat wrote a thing, and it’s so jaw-dropping I should just let it speak for itself. I won’t, but I should.

He starts by pretending that the “nostalgia” for George Bush the elder requires subtle explanation when in fact it’s just settled conventional routine: we have to pretend the newly deceased president was a gem, hidden or obvious. They did it with Nixon ffs so obviously they were going to do it with Shrub 1. But the fiction gives Douthat a pretext for quoting this bilge:

Franklin Foer described “the subtext” of Bush nostalgia as a “fondness for a bygone institution known as the Establishment, hardened in the cold of New England boarding schools, acculturated by the late-night rituals of Skull and Bones, sent off to the world with a sense of noblesse oblige. For more than a century, this Establishment resided at the top of the American caste system. Now it is gone, and apparently people wish it weren’t.”

Which people, kemosabe? That’s a tiny minority of rich white males there, and I strongly doubt the rest of us wish they still had a lock on all the levers of power.

But never mind, because Douthat was just clearing his throat for the real meat of his Big Idea:

I think you can usefully combine these takes, and describe Bush nostalgia as a longing for something America used to have and doesn’t really any more — a ruling class that was widely (not universally, but more widely than today) deemed legitimate, and that inspired various kinds of trust (intergenerational, institutional) conspicuously absent in our society today.

Put simply, Americans miss Bush because we miss the WASPs — because we feel, at some level, that their more meritocratic and diverse and secular successors rule us neither as wisely nor as well.

In other words, we long for the return of the talentless godbothering white male.

He goes on to make the not-new point that meritocracy is not egalitarianism, but he doesn’t make it well or very coherently.

Trump’s unfitness doesn’t hang on what Mueller uncovers

Dec 4th, 2018 4:05 pm | By

Asha Rangappa on what’s really at stake:

Cohen’s guilty plea on Thursday demonstrates that Trump’s behavior is fundamentally incompatible with the vision of government expressed by the Constitution itself. To wit, Trump not only believes it’s OK to profit from the presidency, but he’s also willing to put the U.S. under a foreign adversary’s thumb to do it.

Candidate Trump’s secret attempt to enrich himself through a business deal with a hostile foreign adversary is the embodiment of the twin evils the Constitution seeks to prevent. That the deal didn’t materialize is immaterial from a constitutional point of view: They may still have influenced Trump’s weirdly favorable view of Russia, or the inexplicable change in the Republican Party platform on Ukraine. And by keeping it secret, President Vladimir Putin’s ability to expose Trump, at any time, gave the Russian government leverage over the highest public office in the country even after the deal fizzled out. Even if Trump began these negotiations while he was a private citizen, its impact on our relations with Russia has continued into the presidency—making it a matter of public concern that required transparency from the outset.

Instead what it got from the outset was a long string of attempts to obstruct justice (remember, he was pushing Comey to protect Flynn just days in) and lies and concealments. Transparency was there none.

And we don’t even know all of it.

The public still hasn’t seen Trump’s tax returns, and what other liabilities he might have in Russia or elsewhere. The president is also facing three lawsuits—from members of Congressthe attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia, and the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington—over potential violations of the emoluments clause. And without knowing what financial interests Trump has in Saudi Arabia, the public is in the dark regarding the United States’ failure to take action—at Trump’s direction—over the murder in October of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul.

He could have multiple corrupt interests all over the planet.

[W]hat makes Trump’s actions egregious is not just what he did, but the position he was running for—and now holds—while doing it. For example, Trump’s business entanglements in Saudi Arabia matter because as president, he holds almost sole authority over the Unites States’ foreign policy decisions with that country.

And look at what he’s doing with that authority.

By continuing to lie, Trump has prevented Congress from being able to effectively utilize the Constitution’s Plan B: impeachment. With the Cohen plea, however, it’s time to acknowledge that Trump’s unfitness doesn’t hang on what Mueller uncovers. It’s demonstrated by his disregard for the basic premise of the Constitution he’s sworn to uphold.


Fundamental misunderstanding

Dec 4th, 2018 3:36 pm | By

Oh good god, Trump thinks climate change is a matter of local clean air and water.

He’s telling us he wants clean air and water! As if that’s the (whole) issue! He has no idea what climate change is! He has no clue that it’s a global issue!

There aren’t enough exclamation points in the world…

Let’s just ignore the size differences

Dec 4th, 2018 11:30 am | By

Oh gawd I’m listening to today’s Woman’s Hour, the segment about trans women in women’s sport, and it’s excruciating. It starts around 11 minutes in, with a recorded discussion between the host Jane Garvey and an academic, Beth Jones. Jones starts with burble about estrogen and testosterone and uses the word “cis” so Garvey asks her to explain it. It means people who are satisfied with or don’t question their gender, Jones says. So that would be hardly anyone then. Garvey points out that 99% of women are not trans and Jones is all “Oooooooh I wouldn’t say that, we don’t know, wibble wibble.” Garvey says at any rate the vast majority of women don’t call themselves cis; Jones says yes that’s right, most women are cis. Jones is not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Around 14:30 Garvey says should we just do away with sport divided by sex? Jones says in a perfect world that would be great but it’s probably not “feasible” now…but she doesn’t say why and Garvey doesn’t ask. Why isn’t it “feasible” now, though? What’s the obstacle?

Jones says we have mixed sport already, people on weekends in parks and things play together, it works a treat. Garvey says but in professional sport surely women would be pushed out, and Jones pretends to think there is no reason to think so at all, she just can’t imagine what Garvey means. She is thick as two planks.

An open display of obstruction and witness tampering

Dec 4th, 2018 10:27 am | By

Barry Berke and Norman Eisen spell out how Trump’s tweets yesterday are evidence of his obstructing justice.

Monday, Trump edged closer to an open display of obstruction and witness tampering: He urged potential witnesses against him to refuse to cooperate with law enforcement — and implied threats against those who do.

Trump began by publicly attacking Michael Cohen, his former attorney and fixer, who pleaded guilty last week to lying to Congress about a Trump real estate project in Moscow and who has been cooperating with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Trump suggested in a series of tweets not only that Cohen is lying but also that he should receive no benefit for cooperating, as Cohen’s lawyers have requested: “‘Michael Cohen asks judge for no Prison Time.’ You mean he can do all of the TERRIBLE, unrelated to Trump, things having to do with fraud, big loans, Taxis, etc., and not serve a long prison term? … He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence.”

I keep wondering if Trump actually understands that these tweets are or look like or flirt with obstruction of justice, and that that’s a crime, and that slapping them out there the way he does could potentially (though by no means certainly) get him in legal trouble. Is it that he understands that but thinks Republicans will save him? Or that he does but thinks his adoring fans will save him? Or that he does but he thinks They Wouldn’t Dare? Or does he just not grasp it at all? I don’t know, and it’s a puzzle.

Obstruction and witness-tampering law prohibits retaliation by the subject of a criminal probe against those testifying against him. Trump is, of course, an identified subject of the relevant investigations. But as president, he is also ultimately responsible for the federal prosecution power — and he is openly attacking Cohen, who soon faces sentencing, with federal prosecutors who ultimately report to Trump given an important say.

And it doesn’t get much more sleazy than that. He’s a subject and he has the power to meddle. Brilliant.

Then Trump heaped praise on Roger Stone for refusing to squeal like Cohen.

So where he threatened a stick against Cohen, Trump offered a carrot to Stone, signaling where their allegiances should lie. This proof of potential witness tampering and obstruction of justice is made even stronger by the fact that the messaging is from the person who holds the most powerful get-out-of-jail-free card: a presidential pardon.

Under normal circumstances, someone engaging in this type of behavior could be criminally charged. But in this case, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel has previously indicated that a sitting president should not be indicted. We disagree, and the issue is unresolved: Neither the Supreme Court nor any lower court has yet addressed it. Still, Mueller is unlikely to defy the department’s guidance.

Maybe that’s the answer to the puzzle – maybe Trump thinks the Office of Legal Counsel has given him blanket permission to commit crimes in full view.

That makes it all the more important that Congress examine whether the pattern of evidence constitutes an abuse of power or criminal obstruction of justice. That has proved a forlorn hope with Congress in the hands of Trump’s party. But with the House about to change hands, there is reason to hope that will occur once Mueller issues his long-awaited report on obstruction.

The president’s frenzied tweets suggest he recognizes that threat. Perhaps that’s why a later tweet in Monday’s tirade was directed at the special counsel: “Bob Mueller (who is a much different man than people think) and his out of control band of Angry Democrats, don’t want the truth, they only want lies. The truth is very bad for their mission!” Quite the opposite is the case: Congress, and all of America, await Mueller’s report on Trump’s deeply troubling behavior.

Personally, I would like to see Trump dragged away in handcuffs kicking and screaming.

“Why should I lose lots of opportunities?”

Dec 4th, 2018 10:00 am | By

The emoluments case is going ahead.

A U.S. district court judge has now ruled that discovery can proceed in a lawsuit that the attorneys general of Maryland and the District have filed against Trump. The president had tried to stall the lawsuit, but failed.

This discovery process will now entail an effort to peer into the finances of the Trump International Hotel in D.C., which has become a magnet for spending by foreign governments and dignitaries. The lawsuit alleges that by profiting in this way, Trump — who declined to divest himself of his business holdings as president — is violating the emoluments clause, which bars federal officials from taking such benefits from foreign (or state) governments unless Congress okays it.

To grasp the real significance of this, we need to look at why the court has allowed this lawsuit to move forward. In July, the court denied Trump’s motion to dismiss the suit. Trump had tried to define “emoluments” very narrowly. But the judge instead accepted the plaintiffs’ argument that they constitute “profit,” “gain” or “advantage,” i.e., the sort of profits that go to Trump’s businesses.

Importantly, in so doing, that ruling affirmed the idea that the goal of the constitutional ban on emoluments is to remove any doubt that a federal official is letting his private profiteering influence his decision-making on behalf of the public. The framers “made it simple,” the ruling said. “Ban the offerings altogether.”

The thing about Trump, of course, is that he couldn’t possibly care less about that. The money is almost the whole point for him. I say almost because there’s also the narcissistic reward, but the money is key. Being president is a golden opportunity to make big bucks, and any ideas about putting the country ahead of his personal profit might as well be the tooth fairy as far as Donnie Two-scoops is concerned.

[T]his case goes directly to the core of Trump’s blending of private and public interests, which this presidency has taken to an extraordinary degree. For instance, we have no clear idea of just how much money his family made off the corporate tax cuts he signed. Meanwhile, in recent days, questions have mounted on other fronts. We cannot dismiss the possibility that Trump’s refusal to hold the Saudi crown prince responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is related to his financial entanglements with the Saudis, something that Democrats will separately be investigating.

I’d call it the likelihood rather than the possibility.

Meanwhile, in this context, it’s worth looking back at Trump’s response to Cohen’s admissions. Trump blithely conceded that he pursued the Moscow project, and said there was nothing wrong with it:

“I was running my business while I was campaigning,” Trump told reporters Thursday. “There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won, in which case I would have gone back into the business and why should I lose lots of opportunities?”

That. That idiot corrupt question has been haunting me since last week. Why should you lose lots of opportunities, you greedy sack of shit? Because you’re supposed to be working for the country now, not for your bank account. Because a president needs to be free from direct financial motivations, that’s why.

(It would be nice if they could also be required to be free of indirect financial motivations too. I think both Clintons were way too keen to make rich and powerful friends while they were in the White House, but that’s a kind of corruption that would probably be impossible to legislate out.)

For Trump, it’s simply not part of the equation that American voters might have been entitled to know that he was pursuing a lucrative real estate deal that required Kremlin approval, even as he campaigned on a promise to pursue better relations with Russia — and even as he publicly absolved Russia of the direct assault it was wagingon our democracy on his behalf. Of course, Trump was aware that revealing this would be bad for him, so he lied to keep it concealed.

But steady, insistent inquiry by news organizations and law enforcement — and, now, via the advancing of the emoluments lawsuit — is cracking the fortress. And the cracks are only likely to widen.

Here’s hoping.

Women should try harder

Dec 4th, 2018 9:29 am | By

Women and sport is a theme today.

Because domestic violence is a man’s problem

Dec 4th, 2018 8:50 am | By

Anna Moore at the Guardian:

Patrick Stewart was five years old when his father returned from the second world war to wage his own war on his wife. On weekend nights, Stewart would lie in bed, alert, awaiting his father’s return from the pub, ready for his rage, braced to throw himself between his parents to protect his mother.

Two years ago, Luke and Ryan Hart’s father shot dead their mother, Claire, and their 19-year-old sister, Charlotte, before turning his gun on himself. This happened days after Charlotte and Claire had left the family home in Lincolnshire in a bid for freedom. Until then, Lance Hart had exercised total control over his family.

The three of them were on a panel organized by a domestic violence group called Refuge.

“Because domestic violence is a man’s problem,” Stewart tells me before the event. “We are the ones who are committing the offences, performing the cruel acts, controlling and denying. It’s the men.”

And yet – as always – the people listening are almost entirely women. Among the journalists, activists and supporters in the packed audience, I count five men.

And of the men who do attend, some are there to ask “what about the men??”

The US educator and speaker Jackson Katz has made this message* his life’s work. The author of The Macho Paradox, Katz teaches the “bystander approach”, in which communities are encouraged to take ownership of the problem of relationship abuse and men are encouraged to challenge sexist comments and unacceptable behaviour. His programme has been delivered in the military and at colleges, sports teams and businesses across the US.

*that men should not look away

Katz keeps wondering why more men don’t get involved.

One obstacle, Katz believes, is men’s fear of judgment from other men. “They worry that they’ll be seen as soft or insincere or ‘not a real man’.” Another is a lack of role models. “There haven’t been a whole lot of men in a public space who’ve spoken out,” he says.

If that first reason is true it’s pretty pathetic, and also telling. It’s pretty pathetic for men to fail to be in solidarity with women because other men might think they’re too gurrrrrly. It’s also telling that being thought too gurrrrrly is so aversive and so powerful.

This next bit is painful.

For the Harts, public speaking has been equally transformative. “For the first year after it happened, it was Groundhog Day,” says Ryan, an engineer who took a year off work after the murders. “Wake up, walk the dog, eat some food, go to bed. We were waiting for time to heal – and it doesn’t.

“Then Surrey police asked us to speak to them about coercive control. We were quite nervous, but found that speaking gave us a purpose. For our entire lives, Mum and Charlotte had been our purpose – freeing them from our father, moving them away and giving them a good life was all we wanted. When we lost them, each day became meaningless. Now we’re creating something in their name, living a life that would make them proud.”

Pause to pull ourselves together.

Before long, the brothers moved beyond recounting their personal experiences to addressing its causes. “To tackle domestic abuse, you need to look at masculinity,” says Luke. “Our father’s need for control came from his beliefs on what it means to be a man. I think most men – like me, before this happened – don’t realise how dangerous it is.”

This is where feminism can be so useful, provided it’s allowed to be feminism and not hijacked to be a cheering squad for Hannah Mounceys. Feminism can explain why setting up a polarity of powerful aggressive dominant people on the one hand and feeble submissive subordinate people on the other will of course foster violence in the doms toward the subs. It’s not just kink, it’s the whole damn social order.

If a woman won’t even twerk when asked…

Dec 3rd, 2018 5:28 pm | By


Woman wins major sports prize. Man tells her to shake her booty.

What should have been a historic moment in football was ruined when Ada Hegerberg was asked to twerk on stage at the sport’s night of nights in Paris today.

Norwegian Hegerberg, who plays for Olympique Lyonnais in France, won the inaugural Ballon d’Or award for the best female player in the world, beating out 14 other nominees including Australia’s Sam Kerr.

Normally reserved for the men throughout its 62-year history, the 2018 Ballon d’Or finally recognised football’s best women and Hegerberg was rewarded for her outstanding international and club form before the man next to her put a dampener on her big moment.

DJ Martin Solveig, who was a guest host at the awards ceremony, asked the 23-year-old striker to twerk after she received her prize. Hegerberg promptly shut him down, saying “no” and turning her back on him.

While he issued a great braying laugh. I guess we should be grateful he didn’t grab her skirt and yank it over her head?

A variety of undesirable legal and societal implications

Dec 3rd, 2018 5:07 pm | By


Dutch motivational speaker Emile Ratelband may feel like a 49-year-old but according to Dutch law he is still 69.

A Dutch court on Monday rejected Ratelband’s request to shave 20 years off his age in a case that drew worldwide attention.

Well he can’t literally shave any years off his age; he was asking to change his records – to lie officially about how old he is.

“Mr. Ratelband is at liberty to feel 20 years younger than his real age and to act accordingly,” Arnhem court said in a press statement . “But amending his date of birth would cause 20 years of records to vanish from the register of births, deaths, marriages and registered partnerships. This would have a variety of undesirable legal and societal implications.”

Plus…it would be false. This idea that we get to erase the truth in favor of our fantasies about ourselves is a bad stupid mistake.

The court said it acknowledged “a trend in society for people to feel fit and healthy for longer, but did not regard that as a valid argument for amending a person’s date of birth.”

Ratelband also insisted his case did have parallels with requests for name and gender changes.

“I say it’s comparable because it has to do with my feeling, with respect about who I think … I am, my identity,” he said.

Yes, and that’s one of the aspects of the “I am what I identify as” craze I hate the most. I hate the idiot narcissism of it, and the dualism (the body is nothing, the imagination is everything), and the denial of reality.

A clear refusal to follow the law

Dec 3rd, 2018 4:52 pm | By

It turns out doctors can’t just fling meds around like so much potato chips. There are regulations.

The GP prosecuted for failing to register her online advice services for transgender patients with a health regulator in Wales says she has moved her service to England.

But Helen Webberley admits she has still not registered with inspectors there either.

She was fined £12,000 by a district judge who called the offence “serious”.

Webberley was also told to pay £11,307 costs and her company, Online GP Services, has been fined £2,000 at the court hearing in Merthyr Tydfil.

The Abergavenny GP started a private service for transgender patients online in 2015, and said she has treated thousands of patients in that time because waits for NHS services are so long.

But is what she does actually “treatment”? Does it cure a disease?

But a complaint was made to the General Medical Council (GMC) after she prescribed cross-gender hormones to a 12-year-old child.

Is that treatment, or is it something else?

District Judge Neil Thomas said: “In this case there seems to be a clear refusal to follow the law and that is a significant aggravating factor.

“Webberley was a doctor of considerable experience. The court has to regard this offence as serious.”

After the hearing she said she had never set out to break the law, adding: “My work, which so many of my patients have called life-saving, has now resulted in a criminal record and this is absolutely devastating for me.”

Last year the GMC put restrictions on Webberley while they investigated her work.

It could be true both that patients call her work life-saving and that it has risks. Patients don’t always know what they need, which is why doctoring is a technical profession with several years of training. Patients could think her work is good for them and be wrong.


Dec 3rd, 2018 3:47 pm | By

Oh look, the Asian Women’s Handball Federation Championship yesterday.

Guess who was in Group A.

Image may contain: 1 person, playing a sport, standing and shorts

It’s our old pal Hannah Mouncey!

I thought rugby was Hannah’s sport, but no, handball is Hannah’s real favorite.

I have always been a handball player first. It’s the one constant I’ve had in my life from the age of 18 up until now, almost 30, and all the changes that have happened in between. As much as I’ve tried to get that across, it has somehow always got lost in the media’s obsession with football and the mainstream sporting codes.

I played football last year in Canberra with my mates, just to enjoy it. This year, with Darebin in the VFL, it became a bit more serious but while I’m still aiming for the AFLW draft in October, there’s an event not long after which in many ways holds more personal significance.

After three years, I’ll finally be representing Australia again.

I’ve been selected in the Australian women’s handball team for the Asian Championships in Japan at the start of December.

Let’s have a big round of applause for brave Hannah.