Notes and Comment Blog


Trump is horrified that many refugees are from Syria

Feb 12th, 2017 11:20 am | By

He doesn’t get it.

That’s because they are refugees. Refugees don’t come from Sweden and Canada and Japan.

Let’s consult the UNHCR on this point.

A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.

Things are a little bit tough in Syria right now. That’s why there’s a Syrian refugee crisis. That’s why Syrians are a high proportion of refugees.



The Alwaleed bin Talal Chair

Feb 11th, 2017 6:39 pm | By

Meet Jonathan AC Brown – the Alwaleed bin Talal Chair of Islamic Civilization in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and the Director of the Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim Christian Understanding.

Sarah Brown (no relation, I’m pretty sure) at Harry’s Place tells us what he’s been doing lately:

Brown has recently hit the headlines for defending the practices of slavery and concubinage in a lecture.  Like many apologists he borrows from discourses more usually associated with secular liberalism to soothe his listeners’ ears.  Some use the language of human rights and liberalism to defend illiberal practices. Brown disingenuously invokes postmodern relativist uncertainty to trivialise rape.  Here are some excerpts from his justification (taken from this piece at the Daily Banter).

It’s very hard to have this discussion because we think of, let’s say in the modern United States, the sine qua non of morally correct sex is consent. We think of people as autonomous agents. Everybody’s an autonomous agent and it’s the consent of that autonomous agent that makes a sexual action acceptable. Correct?

You can tell what’s coming next – oh gosh it’s way more complicated than that, hurble burble – all in the most general terms, as if this had nothing to do with men forcing sex on women, and with women’s subordination by men, and with patriarchy as a system that sees to it that men have autonomy while women do not. Easy for him, in short.

Sarah goes on:

With horrible sophistry, in a calm and chatty tone, Brown presents the fact that we cannot do exactly what we feel like all the time (or will pay a price if we try to do so) as a justification for rape.  Here, via Tom Holland, is another statement on the topic (from 2015).

“But it’s not possible to say that slavery is inherently, absolutely, categorically immoral in all times and places, since it was allowed by the Quran and the Prophet.”

Excuse me?

On the contrary – it’s the other way around. It’s entirely possible to say that the Quran and the Prophet were dead wrong to allow slavery, and contemporary academics who say otherwise are both wrong and immoral.



What It’s Felt Like

Feb 11th, 2017 4:14 pm | By

What It’s Felt Like Since The Election, by Michael Feldman:



Vancouver Illiteracy Project

Feb 11th, 2017 3:04 pm | By

Meghan Murphy reports that:

The same anti-feminists who harassed, threatened, and intimidated women at the opening of the Vancouver Women’s Library last Friday came back last night and vandalized the building, which is a space shared by many local artists and artisans. These people are not only harming the library, as irrational and hateful as that is in and of itself, but they are jeopardizing the livelihoods of dozens and dozens of people, many of whom are working class and/or marginalized people.

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Image may contain: people standing and indoor

Old school lefties used to call this kind of thing adventurism. By now it’s more like adventure tourism. It’s not any kind of politics, it’s just a pretext for being noisy belligerent assholes and, best of all, bullying women. It is disgusting.



An infinite diversity

Feb 11th, 2017 12:11 pm | By

This is hilarious. It’s incoherent nonsense, but it’s also hilarious.

The modest title is:

What Does Multigender Mean? 10 Questions You May Be Afraid to Ask – Answered

Questions answered! Hooray! It’s always good to have an expert around.

There is an infinite diversity of genders in the world.

Each person has a totally unique interpretation and relationship with any gender they inhabit, and there are at least as many genders as there have been humans who have lived.

That’s drivel. It’s like saying each person has a totally unique interpretation and relationship with any soul they inhabit. It’s just a pointlessly elaborated version of the bromide “everyone is different” – which isn’t even all that true. Everyone is a little different, different enough so that we can have conversations, but everyone is a good deal more the same than different. It’s an illusion of youth that one’s precious self is Unique and so is everyone else’s precious self.

But calling it “gender” apparently disguises the banality and supernaturalism. “Gender” has become a mystical concept, a portentous way of glamorizing one’s tastes and habits. “My gender is zombie movies and sushi.”

Genders can overlap and negate one another, they can be positive or negative, fixed or in flux, and they can coalesce in any number of combinations.

Whooooooo, deep!

Or in other words, meaningless. Genders can ________. You can just fill in the blank with any damn thing you like, then add its opposite, then go on doing that all day until you fall asleep. It’s empty babble.

With that in mind, here are the answers to some basic questions about what it means to be multigender.

1. Is Being Multigender Different From Being Transgender?

No, it isn’t. People who are multigender (or polygender), fall under the umbrella of trans.

*takes notes*

No but seriously – who says? What’s the source of all this? Where does the author, Jenny Crofton, get her authority? Why should we take her word for it? How does she know?

She doesn’t, obviously. It’s just some currently-approved bullshit padded out with whatever she pulls out of her head – or perhaps I should say gender.

Being multigender doesn’t necessarily mean that you will make any physical transition. It also doesn’t necessarily mean that you disidentify with your assigned gender.

Multigender people can identify with – and even present as – their assigned gender, but because they also identify with one or more other genders, they are still included as transgender.

So in other words, it’s totally unfalsifiable. It can be X and it can be notX – and it can be both at once, if that’s what floats your boat. Unless, of course, you’re cis. In that case you can’t have any of this.

4. Can Multigender Identities Include Neutral, Negative, or Partial Genders?

Yes. With the exception of genders that are appropriated from marginalized groups (see below), multigenders can include any type of gender imaginable.

This extends to identities such as agender or neutrois, which refer to having no gender; demigender, which refers to having partial gender; and antigender, which is the opposites of another gender (like antigirl).

Except in the case of genders that are appropriated from marginalized groups – my god who would do such a thing!

Only…doesn’t that contradict “Each person has a totally unique interpretation and relationship with any gender they inhabit”? If my interpretation is totally unique how can it make sense to say I’m “appropriating” anything? It’s my interpretation. You can’t appropriate what’s yours.

A note on gender neutral pronouns: I have noticed a certain trend in group settings that I feel is detrimental to non-binary and multigender people. It happens when openly cis folks introduce themselves with binary pronouns, and with they/them pronouns as well.

Some of these people undoubtedly feel a connection to they/them pronouns, and there’s nothing about being cis that precludes their use. But for others, it seems to be a way of showing support for non-binary genders, or of communicating to the group that they would not be offended if someone referred to them gender neutrally.

Uh oh. I have a feeling there’s trouble coming.

Cis people who claim they/them pronouns are often not very diligent about using them, with themselves or with others; and as a result, the group becomes more willing to assume that forgetting a person’s “additional” pronouns is permissible.

Similarly, I sometimes hear cis people respond to the question of pronouns using phrases such as “Whatever works,” “I don’t care,” and “They’re all good.”

Maybe it’s all the same to you, but it isn’t to me, nor to many others. Consider the privilege that goes into being blasé on this topic.

God cis people are horrible. Don’t you agree?

There are people who are too afraid to ever come out as who they are, let alone to assert their multiple identities. Hearing dismissive language just makes it that much harder.

Cis people: Be specific when relaying your pronouns, and don’t intrude on identities that don’t really resonate with you.

Don’t be afraid to come out as who you are though.

8. Is Having Multiple Genders Appropriative?
That depends on the specific multigender identity in question. Many genders are culturally specific, including some multigenders.

A prominent example of a culturally specific multigender is the Two-Spirit genders of some North American Indigenous groups. Because it’s impossible to access these genders without being part of a specific cultural context, it’s inappropriate for outsiders to claim any Two-Spirit gender.

Multigender identities can encompass many gender identities at once. If any one of the genders included is culturally appropriated, then the overarching identity also becomes problematic.

Pangender people, in a literal sense, identify as all genders. The problem is that “all genders” includes culturally specific genders that must not be appropriated.

Many pangender folks are sensitive to this, however, and identify only as “all available genders.” Some have even moved away from the term toward the word maxigender (maxi- as in “maximum”).

Outside the realm of culture and ethnicity, some gender identities are exclusive to intersex people, such as intergender.

Other identities are only available to neuroatypical people, such as gendervague. This term that describes being unable to discern their gender due to neurodivergence. Two other examples are autigender and fascigender, which are exclusive to people with autism.

Always look into an identity before claiming it as your own.

And never forget: Each person has a totally unique interpretation and relationship with any gender they inhabit, and there are at least as many genders as there have been humans who have lived.

You are both alive and dead – finite and infinite – maxigender and fascigender – possible and impossible.



Neatly capturing the blithe, criminal ignorance

Feb 11th, 2017 11:22 am | By

Albert Burneko translates Politico’s somewhat tactful language about Trump’s surprise and distress about realizing being president is a hard job into language that is less tactful and more honest.

“Being president is harder than Donald Trump thought,” begins the article, neatly capturing the blithe, criminal ignorance that characterizes both Trump himself and the many dozens of millions of morons who thought he should be the leader of the free world.

Exactly what I thought. How could he not know it’s a hard job? How dare he go for it without knowing? How dare he be so reckless and so lazy and so entitled?

Our new president occupies a wild outer range of blundering, arrogant stupidity, far beyond that typically euphemized in newspaper-ese, and the effort to describe the former truthfully and accurately—but without using such frank and impolite words as “stupid” and “ignoramus” and “spray-tanned fart balloon”—very nearly breaks the latter.

It’s one of the joys of blogging, that you don’t have to euphemize such things if you don’t choose to.

I love this article so much. Nearly every sentence contains some marvel of delicacy. The new president “often asks simple questions about policies, proposals and personnel.” When confronted with details, he “has been known to quickly change the subject” or direct questions to one of his chief advisers. His aides “joke that they wish their boss would spend more time at his Mar-A-Lago estate.” How many ways can you avoid saying that the president is a bumbling, pillow-fisted shit-for-brains, in a story about that exact fact?

Here’s the most incredible example. We learn that after unflattering details (what other kind could there be? He’s Donald Trump!) of his phone conversations with other foreign leaders were leaked to the press, Trump grew paranoid about National Security Council staffers and launched an investigation into the source of the leaks. We also learn this (emphasis added):

In turn, some NSC staff believe Trump does not possess the capacity for detail and nuance required to handle the sensitive issues discussed on the calls, and that he has politicized their agency by appointing chief strategist Bannon to the council.

The President of the United States of America is too stupid to participate in discussions held expressly for his benefit. That is what “some NSC staff” have said, here. Talking to him is a waste of time, because he’s literally incapable of grasping what is being talked about, and he just gets mad, like a baby. Like a big red baby with a sensitive heinie.

It’s a doozy all right. Oh, he lacks the capacity for detail and nuance? Yet he’s the president? Oh. Uh…oops.



A jaunt for Eric

Feb 11th, 2017 10:11 am | By

Interesting – Eric Trump gets a publicly funded security detail when he travels to promote his profit-making business interests.

When the president-elect’s son Eric Trump jetted to Uruguay in early January for a Trump Organization promotional trip, U.S. taxpayers were left footing a bill of nearly $100,000 in hotel rooms for Secret Service and embassy staff.

It was a high-profile jaunt out of the country for Eric, the fresh-faced executive of the Trump Organization who, like his father, pledged to keep the company separate from the presidency. Eric mingled with real estate brokers, dined at an open-air beachfront eatery and spoke to hundreds at an “ultra exclusive” Trump Tower Punta del Este evening party celebrating his visit.

And we had to pay for it. (What, by the way, was embassy staff even doing there? Why was embassy staff there and billing us for their hotel rooms? Surely it’s not the embassy’s job to help the president’s kid flog their merchandise? And bill us for expenses?)

The Uruguayan trip shows how the government is unavoidably entangled with the Trump company as a result of the president’s refusal to divest his ownership stake. In this case, government agencies are forced to pay to support business operations that ultimately help to enrich the president himself. Though the Trumps have pledged a division of business and government, they will nevertheless depend on the publicly funded protection granted to the first family as they travel the globe promoting their brand.

Eric Trump ignored the Post’s questions about the trip.

The bill for the Secret Service’s hotel rooms in Uruguay totaled $88,320. The U.S. Embassy in Montevideo, the capital city of Uruguay, paid an additional $9,510 for its staff to stay in hotel rooms to “support” the Secret Service detail for the “VIP visit,” according to purchasing orders reviewed by The Washington Post.

“This is an example of the blurring of the line between the personal interest in the family business and the government,” said Kathleen Clark, an expert on government ethics and law professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

How and why does embassy staff need to “support” the Secret Service? Especially on commercial junkets by the president’s adult offspring?

Despite the use of public funds, government agencies would not provide key details connected to the trip, including the duration of the stay, the name of the hotel or the number of booked rooms. A spokesman from the Secret Service, citing security concerns, declined to comment.

Telling the Post the duration of the stay and the number of rooms after the junket would not mess with their security concerns.

The money for the hotel rooms was paid through the State Department, but a spokesman there declined to comment on the trip. He instead referred reporters to the White House and back to the Secret Service, whose spokesman once again declined to comment. The White House also did not respond to requests for comment.

Why in hell was the money for the hotel rooms paid through the State Department?! This was not a diplomatic visit – Eric Trump is not a diplomat and he was there to promote his profit-making business…while his Daddy is president of the US. The State Department should have nothing to do with it.

“There is a public benefit to providing Secret Service protection,” Clark said. “But what was the public benefit from State Department personnel participating in this private business trip to the coastal town? It raises the specter of the use of public resources for private gain.”

To put it mildly. Trumps selling their tacky glittery sleazy trashy shit on our dime is not any kind of public benefit.

“The Secret Service does not have an option as to when it is, where it is, nor as to how much it costs, and whether it’s domestic or international,” said W. Ralph Basham, former director of the service. “Think about the consequences of something happening to one of the children. The security of it outweighs the expenses of it.”

Therefore Trumps should not go on profiteering junkets. They should stay the fuck home.

“Having refused to sever his own personal financial interests, [the president] is now sending his emissaries, his sons, out to line his own pockets, and he’s subsidizing that activity with taxpayer dollars,” said Norm Eisen, a former Obama administration ethics adviser who is part of a lawsuit accusing Trump of violating a constitutional provision barring presidents from taking payments from foreign governments.

Sleazy sleazy sleazy.



Not that again

Feb 11th, 2017 9:16 am | By

Trump still has trouble staying on-topic.

On Thursday, during a meeting with 10 senators that was billed as a listening session about Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, the president went off on a familiar tangent, suggesting again that he was a victim of widespread voter fraud, despite the fact that he won the presidential election.

As soon as the door closed and the reporters allowed to observe for a few minutes had been ushered out, Trump began to talk about the election, participants said, triggered by the presence of former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who lost her reelection bid in November and is now working for Trump as a Capitol Hill liaison, or “Sherpa,” on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch.

The president claimed that he and Ayotte both would have been victorious in the Granite State if not for the “thousands” of people who were “brought in on buses” from neighboring Massachusetts to “illegally” vote in New Hampshire.

According to one participant who described the meeting, “an uncomfortable silence” momentarily overtook the room.

Yes, it must be awkward to be trapped in a closed room with such a droning fantasist who thinks he’s The Boss of Everything.

During the meeting, Trump also reacted to Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren being silenced on the Senate floor while trying to read a 1986 letter by Coretta Scott King and in objection to Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions before he was confirmed as attorney general. According to participants in Thursday’s meeting, Trump referred to Warren several times as “Pocahontas,” the moniker he gave her during his campaign, and told the Democrats he was glad Warren is becoming the face of “your party.”

He calls her Pocahontas. Still. On the job. To her fellow senators.

That’s not a “moniker,” by the way, it’s a sneering reductionist insult to all Native Americans – it’s like calling an African American “Aunt Jemima” or “Sambo.” It reveals how his tiny little mind works – he hears the phrase “Native American” and translates it to “Pocahontas” as if they were interchangeable.

It was horrendous during the campaign. It’s mind-boggling that he’s still doing it now.



Verb tenses

Feb 10th, 2017 12:33 pm | By

Trump’s bonehead mistake about the New York Times article:

Oh Donnie Donnie Donnie. That’s not what it said. You changed one crucial letter, and it changes everything.

Here’s what the Times article actually said:

The concession was clearly designed to put an end to an extended chill in the relationship between China and the United States. Mr. Xi, stung by Mr. Trump’s unorthodox telephone call with the president of Taiwan in December and his subsequent assertion that the United States might no longer abide by the One China policy, had not spoken to Mr. Trump since Nov. 14, the week after he was elected.

HAD not spoken. The pluperfect. That’s the verb tense you use when you’re talking about more than one past event, and you need to distinguish the earlier from the later. It’s a sophisticated concept, yes, but most native speakers manage to pick it up. That’s what’s going on in that final sentence – Mr Xi HAD not spoken to Mr. Trump since Nov. 14…until yesterday’s conversation, which is the entire subject of the article. Dense Donnie somehow managed to interpret that as the Times saying, in an article about his conversation with Xi, that they had no conversation.

And he has the nuclear codes.



Hey this is hard work!

Feb 10th, 2017 12:17 pm | By

Politico reports – in the least surprising news ever – that Trump is finding it all a bit of a struggle.

Being president is harder than Donald Trump thought, according to aides and allies who say that he’s growing increasingly frustrated with the challenges of running the massive federal bureaucracy.

How dumb do you have to be to think it would be an easy job?

And, for that matter, how dumb do you have to be not to look into the matter before deciding to go for the job?

In interviews, nearly two dozen people who’ve spent time with Trump in the three weeks since his inauguration said that his mood has careened between surprise and anger as he’s faced the predictable realities of governing, from congressional delays over his cabinet nominations and legal fights holding up his aggressive initiatives to staff in-fighting and leaks.

Very, very dumb, is the answer.

The administration’s rocky opening days have been a setback for a president who, as a billionaire businessman, sold himself to voters as being uniquely qualified to fix what ailed the nation. Yet it has become apparent, say those close to the president, most of whom requested anonymity to describe the inner workings of the White House, that the transition from overseeing a family business to running the country has been tough on him.

Well duh.

Trump often asks simple questions about policies, proposals and personnel. And, when discussions get bogged down in details, the president has been known to quickly change the subject — to “seem in control at all times,” one senior government official said — or direct questions about details to his chief strategist Steve Bannon, his son-in-law Jared Kushner or House Speaker Paul Ryan. Trump has privately expressed disbelief over the ability of judges, bureaucrats or lawmakers to delay — or even stop — him from filling positions and implementing policies.

Oh and not just privately – he’s been braying about it on Twitter ever since he got there.

Most of those interviewed for this story requested anonymity to describe the inner workings of a White House where they say the tension has been intensified by the president’s propensity for knee-jerk micromanaging when faced with disappointment, and jockeying among aides to avoid blame or claim credit when possible.

The interviews paint a picture of a powder-keg of a workplace where job duties are unclear, morale among some is low, factionalism is rampant and exhaustion is running high. Two visitors to the White House last week said they were struck by how tired the staff looks.

In Washington circles, talk has turned to whether a staff shake-up is in the works.

One person close to Trump said: “I think he’d like to do it now, but he knows it’s too soon.”

Those closest to the president are unnerved by that prospect, which they say would be a tacit acknowledgment that their team is struggling.

Oh, hon, we know that already.

If the opening days of Trump’s presidency have been rocky and unconventional, many of his admirers aren’t bothered by it.

“I’m not disappointed in the President’s work so far – he operates like many great CEO’s I know – and I hope he continues to manage the country in a manner worlds apart from the way we’ve seen in the past,” said Michael Caputo, who was a Trump campaign aide. “It’s about time.”

Yeah, cool – just do something different, no matter how stupid it is.



You’re invited for a visit while no one is home

Feb 10th, 2017 12:08 pm | By

Now Theresa May is hoping Trump’s state visit to the UK can be sneaked in over a quiet weekend at the dog-end of summer so that no one will notice.

The US president’s controversial visit is now expected to run from a Thursday to a Sunday in late summer or early autumn, with officials trying to ensure that Trump is not in London at a time when parliament is sitting, in order to avoid a formal snub.

According to Westminster sources, a weekend visit at the very end of August or in September is now under discussion between the government, Buckingham Palace and the White House. A source described such a plan as “the preferred option at our end”. Parliament will be in summer recess until 5 September and adjourns again for the party conferences on 15 September for nearly a month.

Should work. Everyone will be in Tuscany or the Dordogne or St Ives or Margate, so Donnie can just dash in, do some shopping at Harrods, visit a pub, maybe take in a cricket match, and off home again. No fuss no muss.



The real and grave threat Trump poses

Feb 10th, 2017 10:43 am | By

The Washington Post draws the link between Trump’s constant relentless lying and the obstacles he’s beginning to encounter in the courts.

(Three weeks in. It’s taken him only three weeks to get to this point.)

Trump’s defiance might work well as political theater, and there’s no denying that it made for an effective presidential campaign. But as a legal strategy, it’s already hitting roadblocks.

The first came last week, when a federal judge froze his controversial executive order shutting U.S. borders to refugees and migrants from seven mostly Muslim countries.

But the real blow came Thursday, when an appeals court upheld that freeze. In a unanimous opinion, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit found that the government had failed to show why the travel ban needed to be immediately reinstated, as The Washington Post’s Matt Zapotosky reported.

And that’s because they can’t, and that’s because there is no such why. They don’t have an explanation for why they chose those seven countries and were in such a mad tearing hurry about it – other than “wull we figure if we show them how tufff we are they’ll be scared and stop, plus also the unemployed coal miners love it when we do that.”

In court papers, the government argued that the president’s authority to suspend immigration was “unreviewable,” meaning the court couldn’t check his power. That seemed to alarm the judges.

“There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability,” the opinion read, “which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy.”

And that’s a very big deal. Determined authoritarians can break down structures of that kind, so Trump must be stopped.

The Trump administration says the travel ban is necessary to protect national security and defend the country against terrorism. Trump has even gone so far as to assert on Twitter that if a terrorist attack did happen, the judiciary would be to blame.

While language like that might play well with the base, it didn’t impress the court, suggested Mary Fan, an immigration and refugee law professor at the University of Washington School of Law.

“The court can’t abdicate responsibility in the face of fear-filled words like ‘terrorism’ or terms of deference like ‘national security.’ These are, of course, important interests, but you have to have substance behind the words,” Fan told The Post.

“You can’t just play upon these fears without giving the court a substantial reason to justify extreme exercises of power,” Fan said.

Indeed you can’t. We’ve been here before. The deployment of fear-filled words is how the Japanese internments happened.

Trump’s attacks on the judiciary will likely continue, but he’ll have a hard time bashing individual judges on the appeals court because the opinion was unanimous and unsigned, said Jonathan Hafetz, a constitutional law professor at Seton Hall University School of Law. Writing on the legal blog Balkinization, Hafetz described the 9th Circuit’s ruling as an “important moment in the defense of judicial independence.”

“President Trump, from his reckless implementation of the Executive Order to his flagrant attacks on the integrity of federal judges hearing these challenges, has transformed the case into an early — and critical — showdown over the independence of the judiciary in the United States,” Hafetz wrote. The judges, he added, may have penned the opinion unanimously because they “recognize the real and grave threat Trump poses to the foundations of the constitutional order.”

He’ll do it if we let him. Make no mistake about that.



Remarkably, Trump did not bother even to read the article

Feb 10th, 2017 10:13 am | By

Meanwhile Trump is using Twitter to appeal the court’s ruling.

Yesterday, right after the ruling:

This morning:

Och the puir wee bairn – he didn’t understand the thing he quoted. Elliott Lusztig elucidates:

Yes. Yes it is. It has been all along, and that only gets clearer every hour. He is not in any way competent to do this job.

He retweeted this one by Benjamin Wittes who wrote the piece Trump failed to understand:

Then Donnie got a Times article wrong and tweeted that



None dare call it treason

Feb 10th, 2017 9:49 am | By

So Mike Flynn chatted with the Russians weeks before he was part of the US administration.

Weeks before President Trump’s inauguration, his national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, discussed American sanctions against Russia, as well as areas of possible cooperation, with that country’s ambassador to the United States, according to current and former American officials.

Throughout the discussions, the message Mr. Flynn conveyed to the ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak — that the Obama administration was Moscow’s adversary and that relations with Russia would change under Mr. Trump — was unambiguous and highly inappropriate, the officials said.

The accounts of the conversations raise the prospect that Mr. Flynn violated a law against private citizens’ engaging in diplomacy, and directly contradict statements made by Trump advisers. They have said that Mr. Flynn spoke to Mr. Kislyak a few days after Christmas merely to arrange a phone call between President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Mr. Trump after the inauguration.

But current and former American officials said that conversation — which took place the day before the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia over accusations that it used cyberattacks to help sway the election in Mr. Trump’s favor — ranged far beyond the logistics of a post-inauguration phone call. And they said it was only one in a series of contacts between the two men that began before the election and also included talk of cooperating in the fight against the Islamic State, along with other issues.

And that’s not how that’s supposed to go, the Times says.

Prosecutions in these types of cases are rare, and the law is murky, particularly around people involved in presidential transitions. The officials who had read the transcripts acknowledged that while the conversation warranted investigation, it was unlikely, by itself, to lead to charges against a sitting national security adviser.

But, at the very least, openly engaging in policy discussions with a foreign government during a presidential transition is a remarkable breach of protocol. The norm has been for the president-elect’s team to respect the sitting president, and to limit discussions with foreign governments to pleasantries. Any policy discussions, even with allies, would ordinarily be kept as vague as possible.

But perhaps protocol and norms – like rules about conflicts of interest, and emoluments, and not using the office to flog merchandise – are all part of the swamp they are draining?



The Government has pointed to no evidence

Feb 9th, 2017 4:57 pm | By

The ruling.

Go to page 26. Read:

The Government has not shown that a stay is necessary to avoid irreparable injury. Nken, 556 U.S. at 434. Although we agree that “the Government’s interest in combating terrorism is an urgent objective of the highest order,” Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, 561 U.S. 1, 28 (2010), the Government has done little more than reiterate that fact. Despite the district court’s and our own repeated invitations to explain the urgent need for the Executive Order to be placed immediately into effect, the Government submitted no evidence to rebut the States’ argument that the district court’s order merely returned the nation temporarily to the position it has occupied for many previous years.

The Government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the Order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States.7 Rather than present evidence to explain the need for the Executive Order, the Government has taken the position that we must not review its decision at all.8 We disagree, as explained above.

Just imagine – they want explanations and evidence. It’s almost as if we don’t live under an absolute ruler after all. It’s almost as if we’re a nation of laws, not of overbearing tv personalities.

 



His no good day

Feb 9th, 2017 4:32 pm | By

Via



Donnie has a bad day

Feb 9th, 2017 4:20 pm | By

Donnie lost, and he’s screaming about it on Twitter.

No. It is not. Mass killings are horrible, but they don’t endanger the entire country – and Trump’s random ban wasn’t The Fix to prevent mass killings anyway. Trump’s ban was just a dopy arbitrary Show of Force.

A three-judge federal appeals panel on Thursday unanimously refused to reinstate President Trump’s targeted travel ban, delivering the latest and most stinging judicial rebuke to his effort to make good on a campaign promise and tighten the standards for entry into the United States.

The ruling was the first from an appeals court on the travel ban, and it was focused on the narrow question of whether it should be blocked while courts consider its lawfulness. The decision is likely to be quickly appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

That court remains short-handed and could deadlock. A 4-to-4 tie in the Supreme Court would leave the appeals court’s ruling in place.

In written submissions and at Tuesday’s argument, lawyers for the administration said the president’s national security judgments should not be second-guessed by the courts. They added that both the Constitution and a federal law gave the president broad power to decide who may enter the United States.

Lawyers for the two states challenging the ban, Washington and Minnesota, along with their allies, told the appeals court that the ban was motivated by religious discrimination, endangered rather than enhanced the nation’s safety[,] and threatened the economy.

Other than that, it’s good stuff.



“Pssst – what’s New START?”

Feb 9th, 2017 1:43 pm | By

Reuters has an exclusive:

In his first call as president with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump denounced a treaty that caps U.S. and Russian deployment of nuclear warheads as a bad deal for the United States, according to two U.S. officials and one former U.S. official with knowledge of the call.

When Putin raised the possibility of extending the 2010 treaty, known as New START, Trump paused to ask his aides in an aside what the treaty was, these sources said.

Trump then told Putin the treaty was one of several bad deals negotiated by the Obama administration, saying that New START favored Russia. Trump also talked about his own popularity, the sources said.

So that’s worrying. I know he’s made similar noises before, but now he can put them into action.

Two Democratic members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, senators Jeanne Shaheen and Edward J. Markey, criticized Trump for deriding what they called a key nuclear arms control accord.

“It’s impossible to overstate the negligence of the president of the United States not knowing basic facts about nuclear policy and arms control,” Shaheen said in a statement. “New START has unquestionably made our country safer, an opinion widely shared by national security experts on both sides of the aisle.”

Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, a Washington-based advocacy group, said: “Unfortunately, Mr. Trump appears to be clueless about the value of this key nuclear risk reduction treaty and the unique dangers of nuclear weapons.”

It didn’t help that he wasn’t briefed before he picked up the phone.

The phone call with Putin has added to concerns that Trump is not adequately prepared for discussions with foreign leaders.

Typically, before a telephone call with a foreign leader, a president receives a written in-depth briefing paper drafted by National Security Council staff after consultations with the relevant agencies, including the State Department, Pentagon and intelligence agencies, two former senior officials said.

Just before the call, the president also usually receives an oral “pre-briefing” from his national security adviser and top subject-matter aide, they said.

Trump did not receive a briefing from Russia experts with the NSC and intelligence agencies before the Putin call, two of the sources said. Reuters was unable to determine if Trump received a briefing from his national security adviser Michael Flynn.

I guess he doesn’t need briefings, because he understands things better than almost anyone. He says so himself.



Now let them enforce it

Feb 9th, 2017 1:11 pm | By

Dan Rather on Trump’s outrageous attacks on a federal judge:

When James Robart, who was appointed by George W. Bush and approved for the bench by a 99-0 vote in the Senate, had the audacity to rule against the Trump Administration’s immigration ban, you knew a tweet was coming.

And the President lived up (or down) to expectations:
“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”

This reminded me of another statement from a former president who was previously considered our most autocratic and controversial, and who also swept to office on a populist wave – Andrew Jackson. When Chief Justice John Marshall ruled against him in a case involving Native American rights, President Jackson was quoted as quipping – “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!” You can only imagine what Jackson would do on Twitter.

The reality is of course that our courts do not possess an army or law enforcement organization. They gain their power through our legal and democratic traditions. These are under attack. And this is deeply worrisome. Are we going to allow the very basis for our democracy to be threatened in this manner? Every one of us, regardless of political persuasion, must think hard on the answer to that question. Either we step up to defend our judges and courts from this type of intimidation or we do not. This is not the first time Donald Trump has lashed out in this manner and it won’t be the last. This is not a matter of policy but the future of our Constitutional form of government.

We have separation of powers for a reason. It is the bedrock of our nation. These attacks are unconscionable, intolerable, and we as a people are in the process of deciding whether or not they will be normalized.

That’s the issue, isn’t it. Like, I imagine, a lot of people, I didn’t realize how entirely unenforceable that separation of powers is. I did think people who said “checks and balances” would mean Trump couldn’t be all that terrible were being delusional, but I didn’t realize there was just nothing.



Better than almost anyone

Feb 9th, 2017 12:18 pm | By

Yesterday Trump talked to a law enforcement conference in DC yesterday, and seized the opportunity to set the assembled law enforcement people straight about the law.

Trump kicked off his remarks by reading out loud the Immigration and Nationality Act, the law that gives the president authority to stop the flow of classes of aliens entering the U.S. The Trump administration has used that law as its legal standing for a controversial order temporarily banning all immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations, a policy that created mass chaos at America’s airports and drew criticism even from some Republicans.

“It’s sad, I think it’s a sad day. I think our security is at risk today. And it will be at risk until such time as we are entitled and get what we are entitled to as citizens of this country,” Trump said. “It was done for the security of our nation. The security of our citizens. So that people come in who aren’t going to do us harm. And that’s why it was done. And it couldn’t have been written any more precisely. It’s not like, ‘Oh gee, we wish it were written better.’ It’s written beautifully.”

Whoa, go easy with the technical language there, dude, have a little compassion for us non-experts.

Despite the prior rulings against him, Trump argued Wednesday that the law is clearly and unequivocally in his favor. But his order could still be undone by constitutional concerns, which would supersede what is written in the statute, if courts find that Trump’s action was done for improper religious reasons or deprives individuals of legitimate rights without due process.

“You could be a lawyer, or you don’t have to be a lawyer. If you were a good student in high school or a bad student in high school, you can understand this, and it’s really incredible to me that we have a court case that’s going on so long,” Trump told his audience. “I was a good student. I understand things. I comprehend very well, OK? Better than, I think, almost anybody. And I want to tell you, I listened to a bunch of stuff last night on television that was disgraceful. It was disgraceful because what I just read to you is what we have. And it just can’t be written any plainer or better and for us to be going through this.”

Did you see it? I’ll play it again, with emphasis.

I was a good student. I understand things. I comprehend very well, OK? Better than, I think, almost anybody.

That’s one of those instant self-undermining things. Nobody who “understands things” would ever say that in a million years. Nobody. Nobody who had the most minimal understanding of how the world works would ever claim to have more cognitive firepower than “almost anybody.” Making that claim neatly demonstrates its own falsity.

And he doesn’t. He doesn’t comprehend anything.

He doesn’t understand, for instance, that the fact that he can understand the wording of a law does not mean that there is no room left for hearings and appeals. He doesn’t understand that that’s not how the law works. He doesn’t understand anything.