Notes and Comment Blog

Punch and Bam Bam

Feb 8th, 2018 4:57 pm | By

Michelle Goldberg is forced to conclude that the Trump administration thinks violence against women just doesn’t matter all that much.

Even if you put aside questions of morality — which most people working for Donald Trump have already done — a staff secretary who can’t qualify for a security clearance because of his personal life is a serious security risk. Among other things, such a person could be subject to blackmail.

The staff secretary reads everything that goes to the president’s desk; it’s one of the most sensitive jobs in government. Rajesh De served as Barack Obama’s staff secretary from 2010 to 2012, after which he joined the National Security Agency as general counsel. “I was exposed to a far wider array of classified and sensitive information in the White House job than as the top lawyer at the National Security Agency,” he told me.

It’s hard to see why Kelly, who was supposed to be the disciplined adult in this administration, would cover for Porter. Unless, that is, he genuinely couldn’t grasp that domestic violence is a big deal.

He doesn’t think it’s a big deal to tell ugly lies about an African-American member of Congress and then refuse to withdraw or apologize for them after journalists document what lies they are. His moral compass points to Whatev.

To be fair to Kelly, this administration has made it clear that it’s not. Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, battery and dissuading a witness after a 1996 altercation with his second wife; the case was dismissed when she didn’t show up to testify against him. According to reporting by Politico’s Eliana Johnson, the abuse charges were the origin of Trump’s derisive nickname for Bannon: “Bam Bam.”

Hoho, isn’t that adorable. What’s Bannon’s nickname for Trump, Yanky?

Porter and both of his ex-wives are Mormons, and, speaking to The Intercept, Willoughby described confiding in a Mormon official about her husband’s fits of rage. She was told to think about how Porter’s career might suffer if she spoke out. Powerful people in Washington seem to have been similarly worried, first and foremost, about protecting the ambitious and pedigreed young man.

Porter once worked for Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, and in The Daily Mail, the senator categorically dismissed the accusations and, whether he meant to or not, the women making them. “Shame on any publication that would print this — and shame on the politically motivated, morally bankrupt character assassins that would attempt to sully a man’s good name,” he said.

Sullying a woman’s face with punches is apparently a much smaller infraction.

Our sacred liberty to grope

Feb 8th, 2018 4:38 pm | By

You know how libertarians often seem like callous ruthless shits? Politico reports:

Three former employees of the famed Cato Institute say they were sexually harassed by Ed Crane, the 73-year-old co-founder and president emeritus of the think tank and one of the most recognizable figures in the libertarian movement.

The invisible hand up the skirt.

One former employee said Crane asked her to take off her bra. Another said he compared her breasts to pornographic images on his computer. A third said he sent her an email on breast augmentation. Crane also settled an additional sexual harassment claim by a former employee in 2012, her lawyer confirmed to POLITICO.

Oh, I beg your pardon, the invisible hand down the shirt.

Three other former Cato employees described witnessing Crane making sexual and other inappropriate comments to young women at Cato both at work and during after-work events. Crane drank alcohol in his office during the day, according to multiple former employees. One male former employee said he saw Crane try to unsnap the bra of a female colleague at an office holiday party on a boat on the Potomac River.

Boobies! Can’t get enough of the boobies!

Former employees say Cato’s libertarian ideals extended to the workplace. A 1999 book on sexual harassment published as a “Cato Institute book” encouraged women to find avenues for dealing with sexual harassment that didn’t involve reporting incidents to management or using the legal system.

“Libertarians would believe in the right to ask” to proposition someone “and the right for someone to say no,” said Cinda Jones, a former Cato head of marketing who left the organization in 2001.

Uh huh, my point exactly. I’ve seen a lot of libertarians like that.

“Working at Cato, if you’re a young libertarian, is an enormous privilege,” said the former research assistant who said she received an email from Crane about breast augmentation in 2003. “People just sort of thought, ‘Well I’m a libertarian, Ed owns the place, I kind of believe in his right to run it the way he wants to.’”

Ownership is 900% of the law!

Kelly knew

Feb 8th, 2018 11:20 am | By

Kelly knew about Rob Porter. He knew and did nothing; he didn’t care. Porter was unable to get a security clearance because of the allegations of violence toward women. The job Porter was doing absolutely requires a security clearance, because the Staff Secretary sees everything – all the security briefings and all the everything. Porter was doing the job without the necessary clearance, which he couldn’t get because his two former wives said he punched them. Oh and also? Hope Hicks was dating him, and she helped write the White House statement about his firing yesterday.

All totally fine, folks, just walk on, keep the sidewalks clear. Today is National Prayer Breakfast day, so Trump duly stood up and told everyone how awesome God is.

Mr. Trump’s remarks came amid growing questions about how the White House handled allegations of domestic violence against one of the president’s closest aides.

The White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, steadfastly defended the aide, Rob Porter, right up until Mr. Porter resigned on Wednesday. Officials now say the White House was aware of the charges against Mr. Porter, which contributed to a delay in granting him a security clearance for his post as staff secretary.

Just brilliant. One, they knew the guy in this sensitive job was accused of hitting women, and two, they knew that was why he had no security clearance, and three, they had him doing the job anyway. Maybe four will turn out to be that Russia has been blackmailing him all along.

Still, the president seemed entirely at ease with his audience. If anything, he has strengthened his position with evangelicals in the last year, in part because of the Jerusalem decision. They have shown unshakable support for him, even after reports that one of his associates paid hush money to a porn star with whom Mr. Trump had an affair before he became president. Mr. Trump has denied the affair.

Melania Trump is reported not to believe his denial. The “affair” is reported to have taken place weeks after Melania gave birth.

To make Donald Trump feel big and strong

Feb 8th, 2018 10:50 am | By

More thoughts on Trump’s parade-envy.

We should note that while Trump was impressed with the Bastille Day parade he attended in France, he has been hoping for a military parade for a lot longer. As Trump told The Post before taking office a year ago:

“That military may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, D.C., for parades. I mean, we’re going to be showing our military.”

I remember that. I think I probably ranted about it here. I remember the disgust I felt.

The news of this urgent parade mobilization comes just after Trump complained at a rally that Democrats who failed to applaud sufficiently for him during the State of the Union address had committed a crime punishable by death. “Shall we call that treason? Why not? I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much,” he said.

It can be hard not to get inured to the stupid, appalling and despicable things that come out of Trump’s mouth, but linger for a moment on that. The president said that not applauding him is treason against America.

No doubt he thinks of the military as his personal set of soldiers, just as he thinks of the Justice Department as his Justice Department. None of it is ours, all of it is his.

This parade is surpassingly dumb for any number of reasons both practical and symbolic. It will not only cost millions of dollars, it will divert the participants and planners from their actual jobs defending the country. How many hours of practicing, how many personnel pulled from their duties to handle the logistics, how much in transport costs and cleanup costs and repairs to streets ripped up by tank treads will the whole thing involve?

Many many many hours of practicing – I saw a senior military dude pointing that out with emphasis on CNN last night. The troops hate parades, he said, because it takes endless practice to get it right, and they have things to do other than marching. Marching doesn’t actually accomplish anything, he noted.

We all know what the real purpose of a parade is: not to show that the American military is big and strong, but to make Donald Trump feel big and strong. Don’t be surprised to read afterward that Trump had to be talked out of appearing in a military dress uniform complete with decorative medals and a golden sash.

Talked out of it? Are we confident that he will be talked out of it?

n reality, like everything Trump orders, this will be about him, not about the troops or America or anything else. He is the most self-focused president we’ve ever had. This is a man who regularly refers to “my generals and my military” and says things such as “I’ve created over a million jobs since I’m president,” who slaps his name on everything in sight, who is so childishly self-centered that his national security briefers make sure to mention him every few paragraphs in any document they give him, knowing that’s the only way he’ll read it.

And many Republicans can’t get enough of it. They cheer his attacks on any media outlet that doesn’t give him glowing coverage, they join in the assault he launches on whoever he decides is his enemy today, they pretend it’s no big deal when a hostile foreign power meddles in our elections so long as it helps Trump, they proclaim him the great and noble leader America has been thirsting for. They do all this for a man who possesses not a single identifiable human virtue.

And so far it’s not even harming them all that much. Why? Partly, at least, because so many of us actually like that kind of thing.

This guy for instance.

Hello stranger

Feb 7th, 2018 3:13 pm | By

Let’s have another feel-good story. You can’t have too many in the Age of Trump.

Two minutes

Feb 7th, 2018 12:04 pm | By

It was reported last month that the Doomsday Clock has been moved up again.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced today that it has moved its Doomsday Clock to 2 minutes before midnight, citing North Korea’s recent tests of missiles and nuclear weapons and the world’s lack of progress in confronting climate change.

“In 2017, we saw reckless language in the nuclear realm heat up already dangerous situations and relearned that minimizing evidence-based assessments regarding climate and other global challenges does not lead to better public policies,” said Rachel Bronson, the Bulletin’s president and CEO in Chicago, Illinois. Last year the clock moved half a tick, from 3 minutes to 2.5 minutes before midnight; it has been in single digits since India and Pakistan staged back-to-back nuclear weapons tests in 1998.

In addition to a war of words between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board flagged steps by all of the world’s nuclear powers to enhance their nuclear arsenals. The lack of high-level negotiations between the United States and Russia on arms control, Russia’s activities in Crimea, and plans to strengthen the U.S. nuclear arsenal have also heightened tensions, said Sharon Squassoni, a board member and international affairs expert at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. “With U.S.-Russian relations so strained, there is little room for progress anywhere else,” she noted at a press briefing.

Trump bears blame for being “unable to develop, coordinate, and clearly communicate a coherent foreign, much less nuclear, policy,” said Robert Rosner, an astrophysicist at the University of Chicago. The panel cited a dearth of diplomats and Trump’s October 2017 decision not to certify that Iran was in compliance with an international agreement to throttle back its nuclear weapons program.

The Bulletin scientists said worsening effects from climate change have also increased the risk of global annihilation, citing destructive hurricanes in the Caribbean, heat waves around the globe, wildfires in the United States and Canada, rising greenhouse gas emissions, and declining Arctic ice cover.

Are things today as bad as in 1953, when both the United States and Russia exploded thermonuclear bombs? Comparisons are difficult, Bronson says, but there are more nuclear weapon states today than in the 1950s. “We’ve made the clear statement that we feel the world is getting more dangerous. … We present the clock not so much as doom and gloom, but as an opportunity to get government and the public discussing the important issues,” adds physicist Lawrence Krauss of Arizona State University in Tempe.

We could have been a contender.

Preparing for the fallout

Feb 7th, 2018 12:00 pm | By

The Trump administration doesn’t do a great job of vetting the people it hires. Maybe that’s because the Boss Man is such a rancid specimen himself that they want him to have company, or want him not to feel weird and out of step, or have no idea what a decent human being even is? Or maybe it’s because they prefer rancid specimens.

One of them has just quit because of embarrassing revelations.

A senior White House official announced Wednesday he is resigning following allegations by his two ex-wives of physical and emotional abuse.

The official, Rob Porter, served as the staff secretary and often controlled the paper flow to President Trump’s desk, along with his daily schedule. Porter also oversaw the White House’s policy implementation process and worked closely with Chief of Staff John F. Kelly to try to instill discipline in the chaotic West Wing. He spent hours of the day with Trump and frequently traveled with him on Air Force One.

Yeah well. Trump assaulted Ivana that time; Bannon beat up his wife; maybe they just think it’s normal.

Senior West Wing aides spent part of Wednesday morning preparing for the fallout from his departure. Many senior officials, including Kelly, urged Porter to stay, according to White House advisers.

The White House issued statements of support late Tuesday from Kelly, Sanders and Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), Porter’s previous boss in the Senate.

“Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor and I can’t say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him,” Kelly said Tuesday night, hours before pictures appeared that included Holderness’s blackened eye.

On Tuesday night, Hatch released a statement supportive of Porter.

“It’s incredibly discouraging to see such a vile attack on such a decent man,” he said. “Shame on any publication that would print this — and shame on the politically motivated, morally bankrupt character assassins that would attempt to sully a man’s good name. I know Rob. I’ve known him for years, both as a close friend and as a personal advisor. He is kind and considerate towards all. The country needs more honest, principled people like Rob Porter, which is why I hope that this cynical campaign to discredit his character ultimately fails.”

Wait a second. If he’s decent and kind and considerate towards all, why is he working for Trump? Why is he part of the administration of a man who is conspicuously and calculatedly none of those things?

Higher education

Feb 7th, 2018 10:55 am | By

Oh, hell.

The contestants — all pledges of Cornell’s Zeta Beta Tau fraternity — called their secret, fat-shaming sex game the “Pig Roast,” according to the Daily Sun, Cornell’s student newspaper.

The rules were simple: Would-be brothers allegedly earned points for having sex with overweight women. If there was a tie at the end of the game, the victory went to whoever had slept with the heaviest woman. New members were told not to inform the women about the contest, according to a university report.

I’m so sick of meanness. If we could just do away with this kind of recreational meanness that would get rid of a lot of utterly pointless misery in the world. We can’t banish every disease or prevent every accident, but there’s no physical reason we couldn’t just stop doing shit like that.

Ryan Lombardi, Cornell’s vice president for student and campus life, called the game “abhorrent,” the Daily Sun reported.

“Behavior that degrades and dehumanizes women contributes to a climate and culture of tolerance for sexual violence,” he said.

Here’s a wild thought: maybe universities don’t actually need fraternities (and sororities) at all. Maybe they’re not a benign institution. Maybe they should just go the way of the duel and the male-only suffrage.

They return

Feb 7th, 2018 9:56 am | By

I haven’t been paying attention to SpaceX and I had no idea they were doing this until Maddow showed us last night. I had a hard time believing what I was seeing.

Here’s how big they are:

Every time Elon Musk and SpaceX manage to land a used Falcon 9 rocket on one of the company’s two droneships, it’s a huge achievement. It’s pretty easy to see that getting anything into space and then back again is tough, let alone putting a tube-shaped rocket on a droneship the size of a football field in the middle of the ocean, but most of the pictures of SpaceX landings don’t give you a good sense of scale. It’s easy to look at them and forget that Falcon 9 rockets are really, really dang big.

The most recent version of the Falcon 9 is 230 feet high, or a little more than 70 yards — it’s basically two thirds of a football field standing on its end, or the same height as a fourteen or so story building in a big city.

Mind officially blown.

Updating to add: I was wrong when I said I’d had no idea – I did have any idea once but then I forgot about it. Back in 2015. Dave Ricks reminded me. That too is a fun watch!

Look, Mommy, I’m saluting

Feb 7th, 2018 9:22 am | By

Trump as seen from the other side of the pond department: Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian on Trump’s childish/despotic desire for a Big Parade of Guns n Tanks.

He’d been nagging the generals about this for a while but, according to the Washington Post, he gave the order at a meeting at the Pentagon last month.

No need for us to deconstruct the motive behind this instruction. It came after Trump was the guest at France’s Bastille Day parade, where he stood at Emmanuel Macron’s side and watched tanks, gun trucks and column after column of starchly uniformed soldiers. “We’re going to have to try and top it,” Trump said afterwards. (The actual order to military chiefs was phrased in the language of a spoiled child: “I want a parade like the one in France.”)

The whole thing is like a spoiled child. The being awestruck at a military parade; the gormlessly announcing how awestruck he was; that idiotic solemn salute when no one else was saluting and it’s not even his country –

Image result for trump saluting france

He looks like a giant toddler.

…the envy; the unembarrassed announcement of the envy; the demand for a Bigger and Better one – every bit of it is so spoiled child we don’t know whether to vomit or laugh-sob or start building a shelter.

Opponents can react to this in one of two ways. Mockery is the obvious response, seeing in Trump’s desire to display US tanks and rocket launchers on Pennsylvania Avenue the same transparent insecurity as the mid-life crisis neighbour who suddenly turns up with a Ferrari in the driveway.

Or we can be more sober, and regard this as just the latest and potentially most spectacular demonstration of Trump’s authoritarian instincts.

That’s just it, as it pretty much always is with Trump – he’s both at once, at all times – shockingly and hilariously/disgustingly childish, and horrendously destructive in more ways than we can list.

Just as he has repeatedly expressed admiration for strongmen in the Vladimir Putin mode, just as he regards the machinery of the state as his personal staff – casually referring to “my justice department” or “my generals” – and just as this week he suggested that those who refuse to applaud him are “treasonous”, so this is yet more proof that Trump’s instincts are those of the autocrat. Little wonder that he wants to take the salute at the kind of military display more associated with Moscow or Pyongyang than Washington DC.

And tried to take it in Paris, as if he were the local boss rather than a visitor.

But, Freedland goes on, lots of people here will love it. Yes, we know.

A message from women

Feb 6th, 2018 4:53 pm | By

More from the Daily Mash:

Women tell everyone to just fuck off

H/t Stewart

Of course he does

Feb 6th, 2018 4:45 pm | By

Oh christ.

Trump wants a military parade.

President Trump’s vision of soldiers marching and tanks rolling down the boulevards of Washington is moving closer to reality in the Pentagon and White House, where officials say they have begun to plan a grand military parade later this year showcasing the might of America’s armed forces.

Just like China! And Russia! And Nazi Germany!

Shows of military strength are not typical in the United States — and they don’t come cheap. The cost of shipping Abrams tanks and high-tech hardware to Washington could run in the millions, and military officials said it was unclear how they would pay for it.

And why would we do it? What for? It’s well known that we have a massive military, so what could the point possibly be? Just because Little Trumpy likes a spectacle and what baby wants baby gets?

[T]he official said Trump is determined to have a parade. “The president wants to do something that highlights the service and sacrifice of the military and have a unifying moment for the country,” the official said.

I can think of other, better, more meaningful, less militaristic ways of doing the first, and the second is just insulting coming from him. If he really wants a unifying moment he could stop being such a pig.

He wants one because he saw one for Bastille Day when he was in Paris last summer, and he’s jealous.

“It was one of the greatest parades I’ve ever seen,” Trump told reporters. “It was two hours on the button, and it was military might, and I think a tremendous thing for France and for the spirit of France.”

Couldn’t they just have a circus for him instead? Or he could go to the Winter Olympics? Or the opera? Does it really have to be about the guns and tanks and planes and bombs?

If he wanted all that he could have enlisted back in the day, bone spurs and all.

Even before he was sworn in as president, Trump was dreaming of America’s war machine on display for the country and the world in front of the White House or Capitol.

“We’re going to show the people as we build up our military,” Trump said in an interview with The Washington Post before his inauguration. “. . . That military may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, D.C., for parades. I mean, we’re going to be showing our military.”

Of course he was. He’s that stupid and childish and empty. “Ima be president, Ima have lotsa sojers marching in front of me alla time!”

With a few exceptions — such as President George H.W. Bush’s 1991 parade down Constitution Avenue celebrating victory in the Persian Gulf War — presidents have avoided displays of military hardware that are more associated in the American mind with the Soviet Union’s Red Square celebrations or, more recently, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s efforts to show off his Taepodong missiles.

“I don’t think there’s a lack of love and respect for our armed forces in the United States,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University. “What are they going to do, stand there while Donald Trump waves at them? It smacks of something you see in a totalitarian country — unless there’s a genuine, earnest reason to be doing it.”

Trumpy’s excitement about the big toys does not count as that genuine reason.

The White House official said a parade would have nothing to do with Trump’s feuds with Kim, but would be designed as a broad show of strength to send a warning to all of America’s adversaries.

Yeeeeeeeah those two things are pretty much the same.

One of George W. Bush’s biggest blunders as president came in 2003 when he landed on an aircraft carrier bearing a “Mission Accomplished” banner to claim victory in the Iraq War.

Former aides say Bush would have loved a big parade, but they recognized a problem: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan never ended. Such subtleties — the U.S. is now dropping bombs in seven countries — don’t seem to have factored into Trump’s calculations.

Trumpy doesn’t do subtleties. He wouldn’t recognize one if it bit him.

Image result for military parade

Welcome to womanhood!

Feb 6th, 2018 4:05 pm | By

How not to sexually harass.

Unpatriotic and servile

Feb 6th, 2018 3:26 pm | By

The first Roosevelt president, Theodore, in May 1918, when Woodrow Wilson was in the office:

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.

— The Kansas City Star, 7 May 1918

The bolded bit is popular right now, thanks for instance to Senator Tammy Duckworth:

The T word

Feb 6th, 2018 11:09 am | By

James Hohmann at the Post says why Trump’s constant cheapening of language matters.


Bigger picture, the president has a pattern of diluting the potency of language. Trump cheapens the value of significant words by overusing and misusing them.

He encouraged violence against protesters as a candidate. He welcomed chants of “lock her up” about Clinton, whom he routinely described as “crooked.” He attacked the intelligence community: “Are we living in Nazi Germany?”

After the election, he coopted the term “fake news” — which once described a real phenomenon of made-up stories online. Now, by Politico’s count, leaders or state media in at least 15 countries have adopted the president’s denunciation to quell dissent and question human rights violations.

Just what the world needed, yeah? A new way for despots to discredit the opposition with lies.

Many Republicans chalk all these quotes up to nothing more than Trump being Trump. They say he was joking. They believe he should be held to a lower standard because he’s not “politically correct” and still new to this.

Of course it’s Trump being Trump, and that’s the problem. Being Trump is a very bad thing.

Obama used the word “treason” only twice during his eight years in office. Not coincidentally, he was discussing the rise of Trump both times. As the Republican primaries raged on in March 2016 and the establishment tried to block Trump from securing the nomination, Obama said during a fundraiser in Austin that their party wouldn’t be in that position if elected Republicans had not looked the other way for years while Trump falsely accused him of being from Kenya.

“As long as it was directed at me, they were fine with it. … Now, suddenly, we’re shocked that there’s gambling going on in this establishment,” Obama said. “What’s happening in this primary is just a distillation of what’s been happening inside their party for more than a decade. The reason that many of their voters are responding is because this is what’s been fed through the messages they’ve been sending for a long time: that you just make flat assertions that don’t comport with the facts; … that compromise is a betrayal; that the other side isn’t simply wrong … but the other side is destroying the country or treasonous.

“So they can’t be surprised when somebody suddenly looks and says, ‘You know what, I can do that even better! I can make stuff up better than that! I can be more outrageous than that! I can insult people even better than that! I can be even more uncivil,’” Obama continued. “If you don’t care about the facts or the evidence or civility in making your arguments, you will end up with candidates who will say just about anything and do just about anything.”

The next day in Dallas, Obama lamented Trump’s proposed Muslim ban and his harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric. “We can have political debates without thinking that the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice,” the then-president said. “We can support candidates without treating their opponents as unpatriotic or treasonous or somehow deliberately trying to weaken America.”

In both those cases Obama used the word to disavow it, to say it’s wrong to call opponents treasonous. When Trump uses it he’s doing the thing Obama said not to do. Obama used it in a meta way, to cite the harm it does; Trump uses it on his one flat Trump level, “sincerely,” to brand his opponents. With Obama it was attribution, with Trump it’s always use.

This isn’t the first time Trump has used the T-word as president. Just last month, he accused FBI agent Peter Strzok of treason for sending negative text messages about him during the 2016 election to a lawyer at the FBI who he was having an affair with. “By the way, that’s a treasonous act,” the president told the Wall Street Journal. “What he tweeted to his lover is a treasonous act.”

No, it isn’t. Refusing to implement sanctions against Russia passed almost unanimously by Congress? Quite possibly, yes.

Because of the power of the bully pulpit, this rhetoric is rubbing off on other people who should know better. Presidents set the country’s tone. It’s not just children who listen and mimic them — but also congressmen.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) said last Friday, for example, that the memo written by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes showed “clear and convincing evidence of treason” by top law enforcement officials. “The full-throated adoption of this illegal misconduct and abuse of FISA by James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Sally Yates and Rod Rosenstein is not just criminal but constitutes treason,” Gosar said in a statement that called upon Attorney General Jeff Sessions to seek “criminal prosecution against these traitors to our nation.”

The “misconduct and abuse of FISA” that doesn’t exist. Nunes’s memo? It didn’t even get the basic claim right. The FISA application did point out that the Steele dossier was oppo research paid for by the Clinton campaign, only it said it in a footnote. Well guess what: judges don’t skip footnotes the way we amateurs can; judges have to read the whole thing with great care. The fact that it’s in a footnote does not mean that it’s not there or even that it’s hidden. The joke yesterday was that Nunes’s memo ended up amounting to: the font was too small. But on the basis of that garbage here’s a Republican legislator calling Comey, Yates, McCabe, and Rosenstein treasonous.

“You can’t throw the word rape around”

Feb 6th, 2018 10:10 am | By

Quentin Tarentino explained what rape is and what it isn’t.

That Tarantino’s apologia is disingenuous in the era of #MeToo could come as a surprise if you’re unfamiliar with the director’s love of depicting women having the shit kicked out of them on camera or if you’re unfamiliar with interviews he’s done in the past. Like, for example, this 2003 Howard Stern interview submitted to us by a reader in which he adamantly defends Roman Polanski’s sexual assault of a 13-year-old in 1977.

Asked by Stern why Hollywood embraces “this mad man, this director who raped a 13-year-old,” Tarantino replied:

“He didn’t rape a 13-year-old. It was statutory rape…he had sex with a minor. That’s not rape. To me, when you use the word rape, you’re talking about violent, throwing them down—it’s like one of the most violent crimes in the world. You can’t throw the word rape around. It’s like throwing the word ‘racist’ around. It doesn’t apply to everything people use it for.”

Fair point, very fair point. Polanski didn’t rape the 13-year-old, he simply took advantage of the fact that she was very young and her parents weren’t in the room with them.

Reminded by Robin Quivers that Polanski’s victim—who had been plied with quaaludes and alcohol before her assault—did not want to have sex with Polanski, Tarantino became riled up.

Tarantino: No, that was not the case AT ALL. She wanted to have it and dated the guy and—

Quivers: She was 13!

Tarantino: And by the way, we’re talking about America’s morals, not talking about the morals in Europe and everything.

Stern: Wait a minute. If you have sex with a 13-year-old girl and you’re a grown man, you know that that’s wrong.

Quivers: …giving her booze and pills…

Tarantino: Look, she was down with this.

Yeah. She was a 13-year-old hoor and Polanski did nothing wrong!

Character witnesses

Feb 5th, 2018 5:43 pm | By

The people at Lawfare have a must-read for us: FBI messages circulated in the wake of Comey’s firing. They’re all the more convincing for the fact that the FBI didn’t send them to Lawfare voluntarily; Benjamin Wittes had to sue to get them to cough up.

In the Knoxville field office, Special Agent in Charge Renae McDermott wrote to the staff she leads: “Unexpected news such as this is hard to understand but I know you all know our Director stood for what is right and what is true!!! . . . He truly made us better when we needed it the most.”

The following day, in an email with the subject line “Follow up with your squads,” she followed up: “I need for all of you to make sure our/your folks are doing OK. Check with them today, tomorrow ….you get the idea.”

McDermott sent that latter email as the White House was launching its public broadside against Comey’s performance. In a , the same day McDermott was asking her staff to make sure one another were “doing OK,” then-Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that the president had “lost confidence in Director Comey” and that “the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director.” She stated that the president had “had countless conversations with members from within the FBI” in the course of making his decision to fire Comey. , Sanders stated that she personally had “heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the president’s decision” and that the president believed “Director Comey was not up to the task…that he wasn’t the right person in the job. [Trump] wanted somebody that could bring credibility back to the FBI.”

Many suspected at the time that that was a pack of lies, but there weren’t a lot of FBI people running around confirming that for us. They’re not a burbly bunch.

Trump himself blasted Comey too, stating  that the former director was “a showboat. He’s a grandstander” and that the FBI “has been in turmoil. You know that, I know that, everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil—less than a year ago. It hasn’t recovered from that.” A few days later, the New York Times that Trump had told Russian officials visiting him in the Oval Office the day after Comey’s firing that Comey was a “nut job.”

Over the next few days,  to suggest that Trump and Sanders were playing fast and loose with the truth. But we now have the documents to prove that decisively. Their disclosure was not a leak but an authorized action by the FBI, which released to us under the Freedom of Information Act more than 100 pages of leadership communications to staff dealing with the firing. This material tells a dramatic story about the FBI’s reaction to the Comey firing—but it is neither a story of gratitude to the president nor a story of an organization in turmoil relieved by a much-needed leadership transition.

There were some people contradicting the Trump-Sanders version – Andrew McCabe, Nora Ellingsen at Lawfare who talked to about twenty former colleagues at the FBI…

The president of the FBI Agents Association, Thomas O’Connor,  a “gut punch.”

Resolving the inconsistency between the White House statements and accounts from within the bureau seemed like a good job for the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). When the head of an agency is abruptly fired, managers have to inform their teams, and those messages can speak volumes about the mood at the agency.

So Wittes filed a FOIA request.

On June 22, 2017, Wittes . One of them sought communications to the workforce from the senior FBI leadership regarding Comey’s firing. Another sought communications on the topic from all the assistant directors and special agents in charge at the FBI’s many components and field offices to their respective teams. When the FBI did not respond in a timely manner, Wittes sued—represented by the folks at —stating that his purpose was “to show conclusively that President Trump and his White House staff are lying about career federal law enforcement officers, their actions, and their attitudes.”

Maybe the FBI didn’t respond in a timely fashion so that Wittes would sue and the communications would appear that much more reliable. I would have if I were the FBI.

Over the weekend, we received 103 pages of records responsive to Wittes’s first two requests—messages from FBI leadership around the country and across the bureau regarding the firing of Director Comey. The bureau identified 116 pages of responsive material and withheld only 13 pages, so this material constitutes the overwhelming bulk of communications to staff on the subject of the firing.

What does it show? Simply put, it shows that Ellingsen nailed it when she described a reaction of “shock” and “profound sadness” at the removal of a beloved figure to whom the workforce was deeply attached. It also shows that no aspect of the White House’s statements about the bureau were accurate—and, indeed, that the White House engendered at least some resentment among the rank and file for whom it purported to speak. As Amy Hess, the special agent in charge in Louisville, put it: “On a personal note, I vehemently disagree with any negative assertions about the credibility of this institution or the people herein.”

The fact still remains that Comey is one of the reasons we have Trump, because of his bizarre and destructive actions over the Clinton emails. But that doesn’t make Trump’s reasons for firing him valid or Trump’s lies about him true.

Lawfare includes the whole set of messages, all 107 pages.

Ryan might not have read the whole article

Feb 5th, 2018 4:42 pm | By

Oh, oops, it turns out that the teacher who was “pleasantly surprised” by the extra $1.50 a week…


Uh oh, we’re traitors

Feb 5th, 2018 4:24 pm | By

Now Trump is saying it’s “treason” to refrain from applauding when he speaks.

President Trump on Monday accused Democrats who did not clap during his State of the Union address of being un-American and even treasonous. His remarks came in a rambling, discursive speech at a factory in Ohio, during which he celebrated his revival of the American economy as the stock market plummeted by more than 1,000 points.

“Can we call that treason?” Mr. Trump said of the stone-faced reaction of Democrats to his speech. “Why not? I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”

Stupid pile of hamburger and polyester. Despising Donald Trump is not at all the same thing as not loving our country. On the contrary, I think for most of us it’s because we value the good parts of our country (while we long to see the back of the bad parts, such as Donald Trump) that we despise The Orange Pretender so much.

But even more than that – how fucking dare he call it “treason” to choose not to applaud him. He could call it bad manners at a State of the Union if he liked (but then we could all point out his own instances of bad manners, which would clog all the communication pipes for a decade), but not treason. He doesn’t get to pretend that he and the country are one and the same, and he doesn’t get to pretend that worship of him is mandatory. He’d put us all in camps if he could but he can’t. Vile toad.

And by the way what about his “love” for our country? If he loved it would he blot its record the way he is? I think not.

Mr. Trump was speaking during a visit to a company near Cincinnati that makes pneumatic and hydraulic cylinders. The company, Sheffer Corporation, awarded each of its 126 employees a one-time bonus of $1,000 after the passage of the tax cut, and the White House clearly hoped to use it to drive home the message of economic health in last week’s State of the Union speech.

“Your paychecks are going way up,” a beaming president said to this more friendly audience. “Your taxes are going way down.”

Yeah right, factory workers’ paychecks are going “way up” because of the Republicans’ tax cut. It might be as much as 75 cents a week for the skilled workers.

As Mr. Trump patted himself on the back for the tax cut, he went after the Democrats for opposing the $1.5 trillion legislation. He delivered a lengthy digression on the State of the Union address, noting that Democrats sat on their hands as he ticked off one measure of success for the country after another.

“It got to a point where I really didn’t even want to look up too much during the speech over to that side because honestly, it was bad energy,” Mr. Trump said.

Poor guy. He’s always so full of positive energy for everyone around him and for all of us, yet what does he get in return? Stony faces and no applause. It breaks the heart.

“Even on positive news, really positive news like that, they were like death and un-American,” he said, repeating, “Un-American. Somebody said treasonous. I mean, yeah, I guess, why not.”

That “somebody” was Donald Trump, but whatevs.

Deeply disgusting Don

Feb 5th, 2018 11:45 am | By

The Times uses the normal restrained newspaper language to describe the infantile out of control disgusting president.

President Trump accused a top Democratic lawmaker on Monday of being “one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington,” calling Representative Adam Schiff of California “Little Adam Schiff” and accusing him of illegally leaking confidential information from the House Intelligence Committee.

In an early-morning tweet, Mr. Trump ominously said that Mr. Schiff “must be stopped,” though he did not elaborate.

The president’s insult came as Mr. Schiff is expected to call for a vote on Monday afternoon for the Intelligence Committee to release a Democratic rebuttal to the classified memo that the panel’s Republicans released on Friday, which accuses federal law enforcement officials of abusing their powers to spy on a former Trump campaign official.

Etc etc etc, as if it were all quite normal. It’s not normal. This disgusting childish spoiled-rotten bullying is not normal. This loathsome red-faced insult-spewing despot is not normal.