Notes and Comment Blog


With each denunciation, the crowd jeered and screamed

Aug 3rd, 2018 8:38 am | By

Meanwhile Trump attacked the press again at his rally last night.

President Donald Trump is renewing his campaign against the media, claiming at a Pennsylvania rally that the media is the “fake, fake disgusting news” and casting journalists as his true political opponent.

Is he enough of a Hitler-clone yet?

Trump barnstormed Thursday night in a state that he swiped from the Democrats in 2016 and that is home to a Senate seat he is trying to place in the Republicans’ column this fall. But the race between GOP U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta and two-term incumbent Democratic Sen. Bob Casey took a back seat to Trump’s invectives against the media, which came amid a backdrop of antagonism to journalists from the White House and hostility from the thousands packed into a loud, overheated Wilkes-Barre arena.

“Whatever happened to the free press? Whatever happened to honest reporting?” Trump asked, pointing to the media in the back of the hall. “They don’t report it. They only make up stories.”

Time and time again, Trump denounced the press for underselling his accomplishments and doubting his political rise.

As an aspiring dictator would.

With each denunciation, the crowd jeered and screamed at the press in the holding pen at the back of the arena.

The inflammatory performance came just hours after White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to distance herself from Trump’s previous assertions that the media is the “enemy” of the American people. Pressed during a White House briefing on the issue, Sanders said Trump “has made his position known.”

In a heated exchange with reporters, she recited a litany of complaints against the press and blamed the media for inflaming tensions in the country.

I don’t see this ending well.



Repeated attacks on the free press

Aug 3rd, 2018 8:31 am | By

The UN comments on Trump’s rhetoric attacking the press:

UN and Inter-American experts on freedom of expression have condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on the free press and urged him and his administration to cease efforts to undermine the media’s role of holding government accountable, honest and transparent.

“His attacks are strategic, designed to undermine confidence in reporting and raise doubts about verifiable facts,” said David Kaye and Edison Lanza, the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression for the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, respectively.

The President has labelled the media as being the “enemy of the American people” “very dishonest” or “fake news,” and accused the press of “distorting democracy” or spreading “conspiracy theories and blind hatred”.

“These attacks run counter to the country’s obligations to respect press freedom and international human rights law,” the experts said. “We are especially concerned that these attacks increase the risk of journalists being targeted with violence.”

Kaye and Lanza said that, over the course of his presidency, Mr. Trump and others within his administration have sought to undermine reporting that had uncovered waste, fraud, abuse, potential illegal conduct, and disinformation.

“Each time the President calls the media ‘the enemy of the people’ or fails to allow questions from reporters from disfavoured outlets,” the experts added, “he suggests nefarious motivations or animus. But he has failed to show even once that specific reporting has been driven by any untoward motivations.

“It is critical that the U.S. administration promote the role of a vibrant press and counter rampant disinformation. To this end, we urge President Trump not only to stop using his platform to denigrate the media but to condemn these attacks, including threats directed at the press at his own rallies.

“The attack on the media goes beyond President Trump’s language. We also urge his entire administration, including the Department of Justice, to avoid pursuing legal cases against journalists in an effort to identify confidential sources, an effort that undermines the independence of the media and the ability of the public to have access to information.

“We urge the Government to stop pursuing whistle-blowers through the tool of the Espionage Act, which provides no basis for a person to make an argument about the public interest of such information.

“We stand with the independent media in the United States, a community of journalists and publishers and broadcasters long among the strongest examples of professional journalism worldwide. We especially urge the press to continue, where it does so, its efforts to hold all public officials accountable.”

The experts encouraged all media to act in solidarity against the efforts of President Trump to favour some outlets over others.

“Two years of attacks on the press could have long term negative implications for the public’s trust in media and public institutions,” Kaye and Lanza said. “Two years is two years too much, and we strongly urge that President Trump and his administration and his supporters end these attacks.”

Of course, negative implications for the public’s trust in media and public institutions are the whole point, so it’s an exercise in futility to tell Trump to stop attacking the press for that reason. But they’re not really addressing Trump, they’re talking to the rest of us.



Step right up, only $200 k per customer

Aug 2nd, 2018 5:35 pm | By

Another nice little angle for Trump, it appears – selling tours of Air Force One. Nothing at all tacky about that, no indeed.

Four Democratic senators are calling for an investigation into who has received Air Force One tours under the Trump administration, following reporting by BuzzFeed News that found that some members of the president’s private Florida clubs appeared to have received those tours.

In a letter to the inspectors general of the Air Force and Department of Defense, Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Tom Carper of Delaware, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island cite the BuzzFeed News report as “particularly troubling.”

“If true, these reports could mean that the President or his family have used government property for private gain — giving tours of Air Force One as a perk for club membership — or that some citizens have potentially been able to buy access to Air Force One via their personal payments to the President’s private club,” the letter states.

The whole thing is just a big Adventure Playground to them.

BuzzFeed News first reported last month that some Mar-a-Lago members appeared to have received Air Force One tours, based on heavily redacted records received through a Freedom of Information Act request.

A spokesperson for the White House previously said in an email, “It is common for friends/family of the President to receive tours of Air Force One,” pointing out that “Mar-a-Lago has been the President’s home for many years.”

But customers are not the same thing as friends (and I’m not sure I believe it is all that common).



No idling

Aug 2nd, 2018 2:03 pm | By

From the New Yorker:

For the past decade, an uptown mortgage broker named George Pakenham has been predicting that the scourge of engine exhaust caused by needless automobile idling will soon become as socially unacceptable as secondhand smoke. After years of rapping on the windows of passenger cars and delivery vans, reminding drivers that the law prohibits idling for longer than three minutes within the city limits, and only occasionally being rebuffed with remarks like “Go move to China” and “You are not human,” he felt like he had reason to be optimistic. He has produced a children’s book devoted to the subject, “Big Nose, Big City,” and also a documentary, “Idle Threat,” which has screened in Nevada City, California, and at Westfield High School, in New Jersey, where he was, as he recalls, “treated regally,” as a member of the class of ’68. He has FaceTimed with officials at the American Embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria—a city that is known, apparently, for its terrible air quality. In May, he visited P.S. 31, in Greenpoint, where students showed off anti-idling posters they’d made (the legal limit in a school zone is sixty seconds) and took turns wearing a gas mask that he’d brought. But the broader wave of concern about the wasted oil and smog produced by idling engines, Pakenham confessed recently, is “way behind schedule.”

This is something that’s been driving me crazy for years, and it’s gotten even worse lately. In my neighborhood there can be one or two people sitting in an idling car on every block.

Why do people do that?

Partly, I guess, it’s to have air conditioning or heat while you sit in your car…but why sit in your car? Especially if you need to keep it running in order to sit in it comfortably? I can see why electricians and plumbers and the like do it: they’re on the job and it costs time and money to drive somewhere for lunch. But everyone else? Why are they using up their gas, adding to their carbon footprint, and poisoning the local air, just to squat in a car playing with a phone?

It needs to stop.



Shameful

Aug 2nd, 2018 1:06 pm | By

Welllllll, this is appalling.

Jim Acosta apparently walked out at that point.



Press the BBC to catch up with the 21st century

Aug 2nd, 2018 12:45 pm | By

Rupert Read just said no.

ike most Greens, I typically jump at opportunities to go on air. Pretty much any opportunity: BBC national radio, BBC TV, Channel 4, Sky – I’ve done them all over the years, for good or ill. Even when, as is not infrequently the case, the deck is somewhat stacked against me, or the timing inadequate for anything more than a soundbite, or the question up for debate less than ideal.

But this Wednesday, when I was rung up by BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and asked to come on air to debate with a climate change denier, something in me broke, and rebelled. Really? I thought. This summerof all times?

So, for almost the first time in my life, I turned it down. I told it that I will no longer be part of such charades. I said that the BBC should be ashamed of its nonsensical idea of “balance”, when the scientific debate is as settled as the “debate” about whether smoking causes cancer. By giving climate change deniers a full platform, producers make their position seem infinitely more reasonable than it is. (This contributes to the spread of misinformation and miseducation around climate change that fuels the inaction producing the long emergency we are facing.)

This idea that they need to let “the other side” have a turn is like thinking hurricanes and earthquakes should get to present their case in the news. Deniers can’t stop climate change by skepticaling about it on the BBC, they can only bollix up attempts to delay and mitigate it. Is that part of the mission of journalism? I wouldn’t think so.

In the end, the broadcast went ahead without me. Much of it wasn’t bad. The scientists interviewed were excellent. But the framing of the debate was awful, and framing is everything, so far as the message that most listeners receive is concerned. The presenter introduced the segment by asking, “Is climate change real?” The journalist doing vox pops bombarded ordinary people with canards such as, “Maybe it’s just a natural cycle?” And, of course, a climate change denier was given a huge and undeserved platform on an equal basis to his opponent.

In August 2018, this is unacceptable and it seems that quite a lot of people agree with me.

However, here’s the exciting thing. If we get more momentum behind the idea of refusing to participate, it will force a change of coverage methods by the BBC, which experts have been calling for for years. For if we all refuse to debate with the climate change deniers on public platforms, and press the BBC to catch up with the 21st century, it will be forced to change its ways, because the BBC cannot defend the practice of allowing a climate change denier to speak unopposed. If we truly want to see change on this issue, we need to be willing to let it know exactly how we feel. So, now I’m going to get on with filing my official complaint to the BBC …

So spread the word. (Rupert Read asked people to do just that on Facebook, so seriously, spread the word.)



First and last appearance

Aug 2nd, 2018 12:24 pm | By

Skeletor told us “At least she’s meeting with local school kids and doing her best to garden with them” – she being Melania Trump.

No, she’s not. The Post this past April:

Thus far, the Trump administration has erred on the side of silence regarding the vegetable garden, mirroring the silence in Congress around the impending farm bill deadline. In February 2017, a news release from the Office of the First Lady confirmed the White House vegetable garden would not be removed. Come April, however, there was no spring planting event such as Michelle Obama had held; instead, the secretary of agriculture announced that he would “Make School Lunches Great Again” by relaxing Obama-era HHFKA nutrition and sourcing regulations. Public tours of the garden continued last summer, but the White House occupants kept their distance both legislatively and physically from local food production and childhood nutrition efforts.

Melania Trump finally made her first appearance in the garden on Sept. 22. (The Internet was quick to note that her ostensibly modest flannel shirt cost $1,380.) While the first lady harvested the turnips and kale she had declined to help plant, she encouraged children to “continue to eat a lot of vegetables and fruits, so you grow up healthy and take care of yourself,” while avoiding calls for structural change. Exactly a week later, however, the Trump administration pushed back deadlines for updating nutrition labels on packaged foods, which would have mandated disclosure of added sugars, the most common of which is high-fructose corn syrup, second only to ethanol and animal feed in importance to the U.S. corn industry.

This spring, planting dates have come and gone; visitors are invited to tour gardens again planted by Park Service staff. But it seems clear that by reducing their involvement, the Trumps are trying to erode the symbolism of the garden to placate their agribusiness allies. If those priorities carry over to a draft of a new farm bill, they will doom us to another round of partisan warfare.

It looks as if that photo-op appearance in the garden last September is the only time Queen Melania has been there, so no, that doesn’t count as an ongoing attempt to meet with local school kids and do her best to garden with them.



In Saudi Arabia there is no civic space left to shrink

Aug 2nd, 2018 11:58 am | By

Trump’s BFF Saudi Arabia is not behaving well.

The UN has expressed concern over the continuing and “apparently arbitrary” crackdown on Saudi human rights activists after two more prominent female campaigners were arrested in the kingdom.

Samar Badawi, an internationally recognised activist, and Nassima al-Sadah, a co-founding member of Al-Adalah Center for Human Rights, were detained earlier this week.

At least 15 prominent activists have been held as part of a government campaign that began in the run-up to the much publicised lifting of the ban on women driving. Many other cases are thought to remain unreported.

That’s interesting – so the “run-up” to the removal of one violation of women’s rights consisted of trashing other women’s rights. How does that work? Is there some principle of nature that Saudi Arabia has to keep the number of women’s rights below a certain threshold, so that if it restores one it has to take away others? “You wanna be allowed to drive, bitches? Ok then, we’re busting some of you. Enjoy your rides.”

Khalid Ibrahim, executive director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, said the crackdown was unprecedented.

“When you describe the human rights situation in other countries you say the space for civil society is shrinking. In Saudi Arabia there is no civic space left to shrink. They are putting every peaceful voice behind bars,” he said. “If you are a human rights defender you will be treated worse than a criminal.”

But that, remember, is the majority-Muslim country that Trump thinks is just wonderful and a friend and not at all a source of theocratic murderers.

Badawi, a recipient of the International Women of Courage award, was a prominent figure in the call to end the driving ban for women, a landmark reform passed in June and credited to Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Al-Sadah was barred from standing as a candidate in local elections in 2015, the first year in which women were allowed to run.

Both al-Sadah and Badawi had challenged the country’s male guardianship system, which requires women to obtain permission from their fathers, brothers, husbands or even sons for a range of basic life decisions.

How dare they expect to be treated as adults and equals?

More than 30 human rights groups have warned of a growing climate of fear among female campaigners in both Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

In a recent open letter to the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, the groups wrote: “Saudi authorities, government-aligned media, and troll accounts on social media launched a public smear campaign and labelled women human rights defenders as ‘traitors’ and a ‘danger to Saudi society and national security.’”

I guess that explains why Trump admires them.



Public confession of official misconduct

Aug 2nd, 2018 11:07 am | By

Max Boot at the Post explains how Trump is flouting the law right out in the open where we can watch.

There’s the tweet yesterday saying Sessions “should” stop the investigation.

Trump’s team, on cleanup duty, claimed the president is offering an opinion, not issuing a formal order. But when a boss tells a subordinate he “should” do something, it’s not just an innocent opinion like “that’s a nice shirt.” Last year, then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that the president’s tweets are “official statements.” Indeed, the president fired then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by tweet. If Trump was just expressing a nonbinding opinion, why isn’t Tillerson still on the job?

When the president tells his attorney general he “should” stop an investigation of his alleged misconduct, that is strong evidence of obstruction of justice. It doesn’t matter, from a legal perspective, whether the directive is whispered in secret or shouted for all to hear. It doesn’t even matter whether the investigation is actually stopped or not. A crime is still a crime even if it’s not carried out to a successful conclusion.

Boot collects several self-incriminating tweets.

Little wonder that Mueller is reportedly investigating Trump’s tweets, which form the most public confession of official misconduct in U.S. history. Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, may call “obstruction by tweet” a “bizarre and novel theory,” but what’s truly “bizarre and novel” is Trump’s behavior. The president is engaged in a cynical and all-too-successful campaign to diminish public support for the Mueller investigation, potentially setting the stage for Mueller to be fired and the inquiry terminated. On at least two occasions (in both June and December of 2017), Trump tried to fire Mueller, only for alarmed aides to dissuade him.

If the Republicans help him enough he could still get away with it.



Let’s get that dirt back into our god-given air

Aug 2nd, 2018 10:34 am | By

The Trump admin has been working hard for a long time on a plan to make sure we have dirtier more climate-damaging fuel economy standards. Thanks, Trump admin.

The Trump administration Thursday pushed ahead with plans to unravel the federal government’s most effective action to fight climate change — aggressive fuel economy standards aimed at getting the nation’s cars and trucks to average more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025.

After months of discussion and drafts, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration formally unveiled their plan to rewrite those rules and replace them with ones so lax even automakers are wary.

More dirt please, more smog, more carbon, more global warming.

The administration’s plan would freeze miles-per-gallon targets in 2020. It would also move to end California’s power to set its own, higher standards. The administration’s proposal asserts that “attempting to solve climate change, even in part” is “fundamentally different” from the Clean Air Act’s “original purpose of addressing smog-related air quality problems.”

The administration’s plan could set off a high-stakes legal battle with California and the 13 other states that follow its more stringent rules. Those states argue the Clean Air Act empowers them to keep the Obama-era fuel economy standards in place in their markets.

The admin claims that by saving money on those pesky fuel standards we can improve safety standards on cars and thus save lives.

Related image

 



His shameful career

Aug 2nd, 2018 9:42 am | By

A former federal prosecutor tells us what it’s like to watch Jeff Sessions be the Attorney General.

I guess I tried to put out of my mind that Jeff Sessions, the hand-picked Trump-appointed attorney general, lost his nomination for a federal judgeship in the 1980s because of racist remarks he’d made while working at the Alabama U.S. attorney’s office. And, it’s only recently that I learned of Sessions’ claim that the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP are “un-American,” and that he voted as a senator against hate crime bills, the Violence Against Women Act, and Loretta Lynch as attorney general because President Barack Obama’s nominees had “ACLU DNA.”

Against the backdrop of Sessions’ historical shame, I’ve tried to come to terms with the fact that he had contacts with members of the Russian government and then lied about those contacts to Congress during his confirmation hearing.

I’ve tried to put the best spin on that fact that Sessions left President Donald Trump in a room alone with then-FBI Director James Comey, likely knowing that Trump was going to try and extract an oath of loyalty from Comey and a promise to drop the investigation of national security adviser Michael Flynn. I tamped down my feelings of anger and injustice when Sessions directed DOJ attorneys to file a series of briefs and internal memos ensuring that raw discrimination is protected and encouraged when it is frosted with a claim of religious freedom.

And when Sessions supported the nomination of anti-civil rights attorney Eric Dreiband to be in charge of DOJ’s civil rights division and Brian Benczkowski, a former attorney for a Russian bank, to run the criminal division at DOJ, I bit my tongue — hard. When Sessions directed federal law enforcement officers to rip children from their parents, who were seeking legal asylum in this country, I did what I needed to do to hold back the tears.

Each of these daggers to the heart of DOJ made me question if the DOJ I knew and dedicated my professional career to still existed in some semblance of what I knew it to be. Then, a story hit the internet recently that the attorney general of the United States, while at a rally of right-wing high school students, chimed in with chants from students who were screaming “Lock her up.” And, according to reports, while repeating the mob-inspired anti-Clinton creed, Sessions laughed.

I didn’t believe it so I searched for the video and found it. There was the head of law enforcement in the United States laughing and joining the crazed chants of an angry gang of teenagers calling for Trump’s defeated political opponent to be locked up.

He felt sick, not figuratively but literally.

Don’t we all.



But his skillz

Aug 2nd, 2018 9:09 am | By

Now for some comic relief.

President Trump pushed his lawyers in recent days to try once again to reach an agreement with the special counsel’s office about his sitting for an interview, flouting their advice that he should not answer investigators’ questions, three people briefed on the matter said on Wednesday.

Mr. Trump has told advisers he is eager to meet with investigators to clear himself of wrongdoing, the people said. In effect, he believes he can convince the investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, of his belief that their own inquiry is a “witch hunt.”

That would be gratifying – if his own belief in his own awesome powers caused him to incriminate himself to Mueller’s team.

He fails to understand that what his awesome powers consist of is a knack for appealing to racist misogynist bullies and highly self-serving rich people, and that such a knack is useless for his situation with respect to the Mueller investigation.



How democracies die

Aug 2nd, 2018 9:00 am | By

Lawrence Tribe got my attention.

So let’s read that Times article:

In the back of a fairground auditorium in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday night, as President Trump presided over a rally dedicated to denigrating his enemies, the journalists dispatched to cover the proceedings attracted their own raucous crowd.

“Stop lying!” shouted a man in an American flag T-shirt, one of dozens of Trump supporters who hurled invective at the assembled press corps. Facing the reporters’ work space — and away from the stage where Mr. Trump was set to speak — they flashed middle fingers and chanted “CNN Sucks!” as Jim Acosta, a CNN White House correspondent, attempted to speak on-air.

The “hate the media” theme was already big during Trump’s campaign, but it’s been ratcheting up.

In Tampa, though, several journalists described an atmosphere of hostility that felt particularly hard-edge. And far from condemning these attacks on the press, the president and his team have endorsed them.

That night, Mr. Trump tweeted out a video of his supporters jeering Mr. Acosta, along with an approving comment from his son Eric: “#truth.” When the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was invited at Wednesday’s press briefing to condemn the menacing behavior, she declined.

“While we certainly support freedom of the press,” Ms. Sanders said, “we also support freedom of speech. And we think that those things go hand in hand.”

Without freedom of speech, how can fascists work up mass hatred of the media, the Jews, the blacks, the Mexicans, the Bosnians, the Tutsis, the Rohingya?

The president has recently revived his “enemy of the people” line about the mainstream news media, sprinkling the phrase into his public remarks. The new White House communications chief, Bill Shine, a former president of Fox News, signaled a tougher approach to press relations when he barred a CNN reporter from a public event last week in the Rose Garden. The reason? She asked questions of Mr. Trump in what the White House deemed an inappropriate manner for an event in the Oval Office.

The trouble with an independent news media is, they can and sometimes do expose the lies of the Beloved Ruler.

Sean Hannity, perhaps Mr. Trump’s most reliable defender on cable news, directly addressed Mr. Acosta on Tuesday night at the start of his program on Fox News.

“The people of this country, they’re screaming at you for a reason,” Mr. Hannity said. “They don’t like your unfair, abusively biased treatment of the president of the United States.”

The one who lies to us multiple times every single day.

Press freedom groups have long warned that Mr. Trump’s rhetoric — and the accompanying criticism from his supporters — is endangering journalists domestically and abroad, particularly under autocratic regimes that have adopted his language in cracking down on independent journalism.

Never mind that, the principle of absolute freedom of rhetoric makes warnings of that kind an infringement on our precious right to work up hatred and rage.

After Trump lied on Twitter about his conversation with Sulzberger, he opened a new front.

Ms. Sanders picked up on that theme at her briefing on Wednesday, the press secretary’s first question-and-answer session with reporters in nine days. (Ms. Sanders held only three formal news briefings in July, compared with nearly once a day in the early part of her tenure.)

“The media routinely reports on classified information and government secrets that put lives in danger and risk valuable national security tools,” Ms. Sanders told reporters, going on to cite a debunked story that a report about Osama bin Laden in the 1990s had harmed national intelligence efforts. (President George W. Bush has made the same claim, that a report about Bin Laden’s use of a satellite phone had tipped him off to surveillance; the information had been released by the Taliban two years earlier.)

Be careful out there.



I really don’t garden do u?

Aug 1st, 2018 5:07 pm | By

There’s this picture from last September of Queen Melania pretending to garden, kind of like Marie Antoninette at le Petit Trianon.

Image result for melania garden

Gee, that basket is awfully clean. So are her gloves, so are her sneakers, so are her pruners.

Heather Schwedel at Slate compares her to her predecessor in the gardening thing:

She doesn’t bother to put up her hair or exchange her designer sunglasses for a more practical wide-brimmed hat. In one hand, she holds a pair of pruning shears uneasily, as if ready not to trim an overgrowth but to snip off the ponytail of an invisible rival or a Barbie doll she is jealous of. Her other hand poses beatifically over an empty basket, providing gestural encouragement to the basket without actually deigning to make physical contact with it. She really doesn’t prune, do u?

Clothingwise, Teigen’s commentary focused on Trump’s shoes, and since we more often see her in stilettos, it’s easy to see why. Melania’s feet, trained on years of uncomfortable spikes, seem unaccustomed to such flat shoes. Maybe that’s what’s throwing her center of gravity off? But the shoes are hardly the only notable element of the first lady’s ensemble. Her plaid top, complete with four buttons on the cuff, is from Balmain and retails for $1,380. Her gloves, in bright red and closely tailored to her fingers, also seem more fit for attending galas than gardening.

You don’t wear a $1400 shirt to garden. You don’t.

Contrast them, meanwhile, to some of former first lady Michelle Obama gardening elsewhere and working in the same garden, which she started during her husband’s term, and weep. Once again, Michelle has been plagiarized, and once again, it’s been done very badly.

Image result for michelle garden

Not posing but gardening.



A bizarre and novel theory

Aug 1st, 2018 4:28 pm | By

Giuliani is telling reporters Don was just thinking aloud, obviously.

President Trump called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday to end the special counsel investigation, an extraordinary appeal to the nation’s top law enforcement official to halt an inquiry directly into the president.

We can never admire that tweet enough.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers quickly moved to contain the fallout, saying it was not an order to a member of his cabinet, but merely an opinion. An hour and a half after the tweet was posted, Mr. Trump’s lawyers contacted a reporter for The New York Times. In a subsequent telephone conversation, one of his lawyers, Rudolph W. Giuliani, dismissed the obstruction of justice concerns, calling it a “bizarre and novel theory of obstruction by tweet,” adding that it was “idiotic.”

Oh really. On what grounds? When Trump has done all kinds of things by tweet, including announce hirings and firings? When Trump’s tweets are by law part of the official archive of his presidency? When everyone knows Trump is a reckless lunatic and is perfectly capable of ordering Sessions to fire Mueller in a tweet? Of course it’s novel, since Twitter is relatively new and normal sane presidents who have presidented since the invention of Twitter don’t fire people in tweets, but Trump is not one of those normal sane presidents, so that’s beside the point.

Presidents typically do not weigh in on active Justice Department investigations, but Mr. Trump has been outspoken about his anger and frustration with the Russia inquiry.

Let’s nudge that sentence a little in the direction of truth.

Presidents typically do not weigh in on active Justice Department investigations, but Mr. Trump is a reckless moron who has never hesitated to barf out his rage at the inquiry into his criminal dealings with Russia.

Back to the actual Times.

The president’s lawyers, Jay A. Sekulow and Mr. Giuliani, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Trump was not ordering the inquiry closed but simply expressing his opinion.

“It’s not a call to action,” Mr. Giuliani said, adding that it was a sentiment that Mr. Trump and his lawyers had previously expressed publicly and that it was a statement protected by the president’s constitutional right to free speech.

“He doesn’t feel that he has to intervene in the process, nor is he intervening,” Mr. Sekulow said.

The president wanted the legal process to play out, his lawyers said. “He’s expressing his opinion, but he’s not talking of his special powers he has” as president, Mr. Giuliani said.

He wants the legal process to play out, yet he said Sessions should stop it. Does not compute.

Alfonse Capone? What is wrong with this guy? He refers to Lincoln as “Honest Abe Lincoln” like an idiot but Al Capone is Alfonse?

Also, what?

I guess Trump has been holding up that lamp in the boat too long, the fumes have gotten to him.

Urging Mr. Sessions to end the inquiry was unprecedented and amounted to Mr. Trump asking Mr. Sessions to “subvert the law,” said Matthew S. Axelrod, a longtime prosecutor who served in top roles in the Obama Justice Department.

“What he’s saying here is that there’s no one who ought to be able to investigate his actions and, if necessary, hold him accountable for those actions,” Mr. Axelrod said.

Mr. Axelrod said this request of Mr. Sessions was part of a larger pattern — one in which Mr. Trump attacked the integrity of the special counselattacked the press and attacked the courts, “all institutions designed to provide checks on executive authority and executive overreach,” he said.

Nah, it’s fine, he was just saying what he thought.



When you don’t change your pronouns but They still call you “him”

Aug 1st, 2018 3:58 pm | By

Step right up and read about the Existential Crisis of a Femme-Presenting Trans Man. You think I’m making it up but I’m not.

Since the day I came out as a trans man, people have assumed that I would drop my femininity like a bad habit.

I didn’t change my pronouns, but folks started referring to me as “him.” They started calling me “bro” and “dude,” when they hadn’t used those words to identify me before. While part of me felt validated by these things, since my masculinity had been erased and ignored for most of my life, another part of me felt pressured not to stay true to myself in favor of fulfilling the expectations of others.

Oh. Oops. But isn’t that what we’re told to do? With threats and menaces if we’re slow to comply? Also, what remedy is there for this ambivalence? Would coming out as non-binary solve the problem? Or would that just lead to a different kind of feeling pressured?

I retired my impressive makeup collection for a good stretch of time, with pain and the belief that I needed to perform one specific idea of manhood now. I looked in the mirror at myself in a skirt and grimaced with internalized transmisogyny. All I could see was a “man in a skirt,” as if that’s a bad thing.

My therapist told me the feelings I’m experiencing are natural, that it’s expected for me to be questioning what my relationship to femininity would be going forward on my path to transition. At first, I feared starting hormone therapy would mean giving up all things feminine. Was I to abandon my strong female role models, like The Halliwell Sisters, Malala and Lady Gaga, growing up? Was I going to stop binge-watching Sex and the City and painting my nails? And what was I going to do with all the lipstick I’ve acquired over the course of my beauty writing career??

A large part of me feels like saying yes, perfect, go on this way, because it is the logic of the whole thing and it will eventually end up with everyone giving up the latest social contagion and pretending it never happened.

But another part sighs heavily because it wants to point out that this is what we evil TERFs keep saying: just do the stuff you like to do, wear what you like, watch what tv you like, wear lipstick or don’t according to your preference, none of it changes what sex you are and nothing about what sex you are requires you to wear lipstick or not wear lipstick.

Also, thinking about something other than your Self would go a long long way to rescuing you from these quandaries, and, bonus, it would make you a less tedious and more useful person.



Secular marriage law

Aug 1st, 2018 3:20 pm | By

Good news for Muslim women in the UK:

A high court judge has decided that a couple’s Islamic marriage falls within the scope of English matrimonial law, in a ruling that could have implications for thousands of Muslims in the UK.

Nasreen Akhter wanted to divorce Mohammed Shabaz Khan, her husband of 20 years, but he blocked it, arguing that the couple were not married under English law.

Akhter and Khan underwent a religious marriage ceremony, known as a nikah, conducted by an imam in 1998.

This year Akhter, a solicitor, petitioned for divorce, saying the nikah constituted a valid marriage. Khan, a businessman, wanted to prevent Akhtar from bringing a case for a divorce settlement to court, and said they were married only under sharia or Islamic law.

In a written ruling, Mr Justice Williams, who heard the case in the family division of the high court in London, concluded that the marriage fell within the scope of the 1973 Matrimonial Causes Act.

He said the marriage was void under section 11 of the act because it was “entered into in disregard of certain requirements as to the formation of marriage. It is therefore a void marriage and the wife is entitled to a decree of nullity.”

There’s a difference between void and never a marriage in the first place, it seems.

Previous cases involving nikah marriages have concluded that they were legally non-existent, meaning spouses had no redress to the courts for a division of matrimonial assets such as the family home and spouse’s pension if a marriage broke down.

Hazel Wright, a family law specialist at Hunters Solicitors, said the ruling had “given heart to many who otherwise suffer discrimination”. She said it was vital for Akhter that the “English divorce court rule in her favour, that the marriage should be recognised as void and not a non-marriage. Otherwise she would not have any rights to make any financial claims for herself.”

And it’s now a precedent, and that’s good because there are a lot of Muslim women in the UK who have had only a nikah.

survey last November found that nearly all married Muslim women in the UK had had a nikah and almost two-thirds had not had a separate civil ceremony.

Aina Khan, a specialist in Islamic law, said last year: “My experience of 25 years as a lawyer specialising in Islamic marriage and divorce is that this is not only a major problem but a growing problem. My anecdotal evidence suggests that in the last five years the proportion of people under 40 having nikah-only marriages is as high as 80%.”

One law for all.



Limit the questions MOAR

Aug 1st, 2018 2:50 pm | By

Oh, so that’s why Trump went berserk on Twitter this morning.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office wants to ask President Donald Trump about obstruction of justice, sources close to the White House tell ABC News. According to sources, the president learned within the last day that the special counsel will limit the scope of questioning and would like to ask questions both orally and written for the President to respond to.

According to sources familiar with the President’s reaction Wednesday morning, that was the genesis for his early morning tweet storm. Trump took to twitter in one of his strongest attacks against the federal probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, saying: “This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further. Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!”

In other words he, Trump, the perp, should be allowed to get away with it, because he was sly enough and crooked enough and above all angry-racist enough to steal the election.

Negotiations over a potential presidential interview have gone on for months, through several different iterations of the Trump legal team. Current lead attorney, Rudy Giuliani, told ABC News a week ago that his team had submitted a response to Mueller asking to limit the scope of an interview with Trump especially as it relates to obstruction of justice.

Because he’s a busy busy busy man, what with all the Fox watching and the golf and the tweeting. Also because he doesn’t want to, and he’s rich, and he gets his name in the papers a lot. All compelling reasons.



Guest post: How the Nordic model protects the prostitute

Aug 1st, 2018 2:39 pm | By

Originally a comment by Freemage on Stop the woman who is speaking.

Axxyaan

August 1, 2018 at 12:56 am

@Freemage

As you explain the Nordic Model, my understanding of it, goes a bit as follows. The prostitute is allowed to accept money, and is allowed to let that influence her in being seduced by the person who tries to win her favors. However there isn’t any contract (not even a verbal one) involved, so he can’t buy her favors. She is never under any kind of legal obligation to perform any sexual service.

Also the handing over money to the prostitute is not illegal. It just doesn’t buy anything. (except maybe some good will)

Is this more or less correct?

Not quite. Under the Nordic model, classic prostitution still occurs. Clients (virtually all men) still give prostitutes (the vast majority of them women) money in exchange for sex. However, under the Nordic model, the prostitute has committed no crime–the procurer, and the pimp, if any, have. Now, as a practical matter, the prostitute usually makes no waves–the economic need to satisfy the customer still exists, as she most typically wishes to retain his custom in the future. But, if some cause arises that she does not wish to perform, then he has no legal claim against her, and indeed, cannot pursue her legally, since the initial transaction was not a legally binding contract. Furthermore, if he attempts to use force or other illegal means of coercion against her, she can go to the cops, say plainly what has occurred, and get the man arrested. She also has the right of self-defense.

Compare this to the effects of such a change of course under either prohibition or decriminalization:

Prohibition: While the man is just as confined in his response to her refusal (she cannot be taken to court for the money), he can escalate the encounter with threats of violence, without fear that she will alert the authorities, because to do so, she must first admit her own crime. Furthermore, since he is likely to be a first-time offender, while many prostitutes are arrested multiple times, it may very well be that she is sentenced under repeat-offender statutes, and end up facing a higher penalty than her attacker.

Decriminalization: Here, the prostitute is arguably unrestricted from seeking relief from the police if her attacker turns violent–but the customer’s ability to bring the force of the legal system against her is enshrined in standard contract law. In short, he can force her into court under suit for fraud, breach of contract, etc. In some cases, he might even be able to justify use-of-force in attempting to regain his money, on the grounds that the breach of contract is tantamount to theft. (As a point of reference, de facto decriminalization is the norm in many American cities–the cops only use laws against prostitution in cases where they are looking for an excuse to bust someone. In at least one case, the scenario I describe above led to the acquittal of the man who shot the escort in the back as she left with his money, because it was considered ‘robbery’, and thus self-defense. Weirdly, the defense centered around the fact that the incident occurred at night–under Texas law, that meant that her attempt to leave with his money constituted robbery, a crime that is considered justification of lethal force.)



One big reality show

Aug 1st, 2018 11:55 am | By

Trump’s attacks on the media are of course having their effect.

At the president’s Tampa rally Tuesday, Trump supporters surrounded CNN Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta while he was doing a live bit to boo, shout profanity and gesture toward him to show their level of disgust with him specifically and the media more generally.

While the degree of the vitriol might be surprising — one person held up a baby in a onesie wearing a “CNN sucks” button — those who tune into Trump’s tweets know that no media outlet has received more of the president’s ire than CNN.

For some, this may be one big reality show, but the idea that all involved share that state of mind is risky. With journalists being killed at work, attacked at rallies and harassed regularly on social media, safety is a real concern for those seeking to hold the president accountable for his words and actions. The dangerous outcomes many fear this rhetoric and behavior will lead to, like those New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger says he tried to convey in his meeting with Trump, would not at all reflect a great America.

None of this reflects a great America. None of it.