Notes and Comment Blog


We had that thing you know

Jun 9th, 2017 6:04 pm | By

Ana Marie Cox notes that some people think of John Dean as the parallel to Comey but she has been thinking of Anita Hill.

To be completely honest, I didn’t just think of Hill’s experience, either. I thought of mine. Indeed, anyone who has been the target of sexual harassment or sexual abuse would have trouble not hearing echoes of their own story in what Comey had to say about the president. When I noted on Twitter that Trump’s behavior with Comey sounded a lot like that of a sexual predator, my timeline exploded with grim confirmation. And I wasn’t the only one making that connection.

The president went out of his way to let Comey know he was being watched, under the thin excuse of calling “just to tell me I was doing an awesome job.” Trump was persistent and intentionally obtuse in his requests, cloaking his predation in false familiarity and phrases that could be taken as jokes or as threats (“Because I have been very loyal to you,” Trump allegedly told Comey, “very loyal; we had that thing you know.”)

Comey’s responses to this campaign of harassment were disturbingly familiar as well: In order to keep his job and not make the situation even more awkward, Comey let Trump think he was getting his way. “It is possible we understood the phrase ‘honest loyalty’ differently, but I decided it wouldn’t be productive to push it further,” Comey testified in his written statement, even though, as he added today, what “[my] common sense told me is he’s looking to get something for granting my request for staying in the job.”

At the hearing he was asked why he didn’t Just Say No. Of course he was.

There is always something obscene about the abuse of power, even if it isn’t sexual. Authoritarians count on their subjects to internalize this obscenity and feel reluctant to comment on it. We sometimes giggle about the violations when we should be shouting. It was easy to joke about similarities before the details emerged: Headlines such as “Comey asked Sessions not to leave him alone with Trump” practically begged for a lighthearted “Same. —Women” response.

But the richness of Comey’s specific recollections should force us to grapple with the dark reality before us: We elected a sexual predator to the highest office in the land, and he is continuing to act like one.

When you’re a star they let you.



Put a hold on the glitterpants

Jun 9th, 2017 5:33 pm | By

Scalzi:

Do you still think James Comey wasn’t very good at his job?

Kind of? I think what his testimony solidified for me is that James Comey was probably pretty good at the day to day minutiae of his former gig, and also that within the context of that gig he was pretty ethical. But I also think he made some high-profile bad calls, and that very same desire for ethical action caused him to exacerbate rather than mitigate some of those bad calls.

At this point I’ve gotten used to thinking of Comey as something of a tragic figure, whose greatest virtue — a desire to act ethically and above the usual boundaries of politics in the execution of his duties — ended up precipitating a national and global crisis. Because make no mistake that we have a President Trump in large part because of him. I suspect that eats at him even if he believes all his actions during 2016 were ultimately correct and appropriate, as the head of the FBI.

Yeah. I keep having to remind myself that Trump is his own damn fault.

The House is as likely to vote to impeach Trump on this or indeed any other illegal/unethical thing he’s actually currently doing as I am to sprout a peach tree out of my tailbone. This is your occasional reminder that today’s GOP has no moral or ethical center, and apparently works under the belief that the entire point to the life of the average American citizen is to fork over their progressively declining wages to large companies to make the very rich that much richer. Trump’s helping with that goal, so why would they get in the way with that?

So, yeah. Don’t pick out your glittery impeachment pants just yet.

Damn.



Guest post: Reading Whipping Girl 6

Jun 9th, 2017 3:52 pm | By

Guest post by Lady Mondegreen.

Chapter 6 of Julia Serano’s Whipping Girl begins thusly:

“As a transsexual woman, I am often confronted by people who insist that I am not, nor can I ever be, a ‘real woman.’ One of the more common lines of reasoning goes something like this: There’s more to being a woman than simply putting on a dress.” I couldn’t agree more.

So what does Serano think a woman is? We’ll have to skip ahead to the end of the chapter to find anything like an answer:

The one thing that women share is that we are all perceived as women, and treated accordingly. As a feminist, I look forward to a time when we finally move beyond the idea that biology is destiny, and recognize that the most important differences that exist between women and men in our society are the different meanings that we place onto one another’s bodies.

So “women” refers to the class of people perceived as women and treated accordingly. (Why are they “perceived as” women? Never mind.)

So is that why trans women transition? So they can be perceived as women and treated accordingly?

But Serano insists that women—including trans women—are more than the “social meanings that we place onto one another’s bodies”. Yes, of course, but so then what besides those social meanings makes trans women “women”?

Serano doesn’t say. She does say, though, that not all trans women are–

…on a quest to make ourselves as pretty, pink, and passive as possible. While there are certainly some trans women who buy into mainstream dogma about beauty and femininity, others are outspoken feminists and activists fighting against all gender stereotypes. But you’d never know it by looking at the popular media, which tends to assume that all transsexuals are male-to-female, and that all trans women want to achieve stereotypical femininity

Point taken. Nevertheless, a big part of Serano’s aim in this book is to tell us that feminism should embrace “femininity” and everyone who is feminine-presenting. In Chapter 19, Putting the Feminine Back into Feminism, she writes

…[F]eminine self-presentation is often framed as though it solely exists to entice or attract men. This assumption denies any possibility that those who are feminine might wish to adorn themselves for their own benefit or pleasure.(Page 327.)

The existence of transsexuals—who transition from one sex to the other and often live completely unnoticed as the sex “opposite” to the one we were assigned at birth—has the potential to challenge the conventional assumption that gender differences arise from our chromosomes and genitals in a simple, straightforward manner.

How do trans people challenge those norms any more than gender-nonconforming non-trans people do? (Don’t bother asking.)

We can wreak havoc on such taken-for-granted concepts as woman and man, homosexual and heterosexual. These terms lose their cut-and-dried meaning when a person’s assigned sex and lived sex are not the same

And we know how much Julia Serano hates cut-and-dried meanings. Or even coherent ones.

If you don’t have the actual physical equipment, I don’t know how you can claim to “live” the sex you aren’t. You can live as if you were the other sex by imitating them in appearance. If your definition of a given sex is “people perceived and treated as such,” that should be enough, I suppose. No word here from Serano on the ontological status of trans women who don’t pass.

Again. Look. If “sex” is not about the body, it must be about…something else. I can’t think of a better word for the something else than “gender.” But gender, for Serano, means whatever she wants it to mean

So once again, we’re swimming in a sea of vague assertions.

But because we are a threat to the categories that enable traditional and oppositional sexism, the images and experiences of trans people are presented in the media in a way that reaffirms, rather than challenges, gender stereotypes. (pg 36)

Gee, I wonder why. Maybe if popular trans activists like Julia Serano offered us a definition of trans people that isn’t utter genderbabble, we would have a better way of understanding the phenomenon, one that doesn’t endlessly refer back to common societal gender signals. But they haven’t. And so the media focus on gender signals like lipstick and high heels when portraying trans women, and Julia Serano—despite her insistence later in the book that such things are all about strength, empowerment, and we-do-it-for-ourselves-not-for-men—doesn’t like that one bit:

Pgs 43-44:

Mass media images of “biological males” dressing and acting in a feminine manner could potentially challenge mainstream notions of gender, but the way they are generally presented in these feminization scenes ensures that this never happens. The media neutralizes the potential threat that trans femininities pose to the category of “woman” by playing to the audience’s subconscious belief that femininity itself is artificial

How? By portraying trans women applying makeup and such. The dastards!

After all, while most people assume that women are naturally feminine, they also (rather hypocritically) require them to spend an hour or two each day putting on their faces and getting all dressed up in order to meet societal standards for femininity (unlike men, whose masculinity is presumed to come directly from who he is and what he does). In fact, it’s the assumption that femininity is inherently “contrived,” “frivolous,” and “manipulative” that allows masculinity to always come off as “natural,” “practical,” and “sincere” by comparison.*

Yes, Julia, makeup and such—which you champion—is a big part of contemporary femininity—of being perceived as feminine. And of course it is artificial. It is artificial by fucking definition—it’s makeup. It’s artifice.

If you understand that “femininity” is not synonymous with “womanhood” you should not have a problem acknowledging that. But if your ideology leads you insist that femininity is somehow an inherent part of some people’s identity, and moreover that identity is all there is to womanhood, admitting the artifice involved gets…tricky.

Julia Serano wants us to pay no attention to the person behind the curtain. The one with $200 worth of Lancome spread out in front of them.

Thus, the media is able to depict trans women donning feminine attire and accessories without ever giving the impression that they achieve “true” femaleness in the process.

Note the scare quotes. Let’s skip for the moment the interesting implication that femaleness is something to be “achieved.” What is this true femaleness that Serano complains the media don’t grant to trans women? She doesn’t say. Doesn’t say how the media could depict trans women “achieving” it, either.

…[T]he media tends not to notice—or to outright ignore—trans men because they are unable to sensationalize them they do trans women without bringing masculinity itself into question….

Once we understand how media coverage of transsexuals is informed by the different values our society assigns to femaleness and maleness, it becomes obvious that virtually all attempts to sensationalize and deride trans women are built on a foundation of unspoken misogyny.

This is why trans women like myself, who rarely dress in an overly feminine manner and/or who are not attracted to men, are such an enigma to many people. By assuming that my desire to be female is merely some sort of femininity fetish or sexual perversion, they are essentially making the case that women have no worth beyond the extent to which they can be sexualized.

Well, no. The theory that some men transition in order to attract male sexual partners, and that others transition because they are autogynephiles, is not a mere “assumption.” Scientific theories, right or wrong, are more than assumptions. Serano is priming her readers to reject Blanchard and Bailey’s theory, which she will address in chapter 7.

Be that as it may, “they are essentially making the case that women have no worth beyond the extent to which they can be sexualized” is a non sequitur. “Women’s only/primary worth is as sex objects,” is a belief that causes untold harm, but it does not follow from the contentious claim that “some males’ desire to be female is due to a paraphilia.”

* Feminists have long recognized the way that masculinity tends to be perceived as more “natural” than femininity, and pointed out that masculinity also involves contrivance.

For a sad-funny glimpse of how artificial masculinity – trans and otherwise – can be, see here.



A very close friend of Putin’s

Jun 9th, 2017 3:32 pm | By

Trump’s lawyer Marc Kasowitz:

Kasowitz worked for the law firmMayer Brown. In 1993 Kasowitz, 18 lawyers and two clients left Mayer Brown to establish the Kasowitz Benson Torres law firm.[4][12]

He has also defended Bill O’Reilly from allegations of sexual harassment,[13] and is defending Sberbank of Russia. Additionally, Kasowitz represents a company run by a Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who is a very close friend of Vladimir Putin and who employed Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort for several years.[14]

I think we’re done here.



The bad man talks back

Jun 9th, 2017 2:48 pm | By

The lying sack of shit is fighting back. He threw a news conference this afternoon along with another hapless head of state, and seized the opportunity to say Comey lied under oath.

President Trump on Friday accused James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, of lying under oath to Congress in testimony that the president dismissed as a politically motivated proceeding.

“Yesterday showed no collusion, no obstruction,” Mr. Trump said in the White House Rose Garden, during a news conference with the visiting Romanian president, Klaus Iohannis.

“That was an excuse by the Democrats, who lost an election they shouldn’t have lost,” he said. “It was just an excuse, but we were very, very happy, and, frankly, James Comey confirmed a lot of what I said, and some of the things that he said just weren’t true.”

Yeah who ya gonna believe, a former FBI director and Deputy Attorney General and prosecutor, or a real estate huckster and fraudulent “university” figurehead and tv star? Which one has a long documented history of fraud, wage theft, bankruptcies, sexual assault accusations, racist housing practices and the like? Gee I just can’t tell which one is more likely to be telling the truth.

Mr. Trump’s comments prompted swift action by congressional investigators participating in the Russia inquiry. Representative K. Michael Conaway, Republican of Texas, and Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California, announced that they had written to Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, requesting that any recordings or memos about Mr. Trump’s conversations with Mr. Comey be furnished to the intelligence committee within two weeks. They also made a formal request to Mr. Comey for copies of the memos he testified about on Thursday or notes reflecting the meetings.

Mr. Trump denied that he had ever asked Mr. Comey to drop the F.B.I. investigation into ties of his former national security adviser and Russia, or asked for a pledge of loyalty, as Mr. Comey asserted Thursday. Those conversations are reflected in memos Mr. Comey wrote, and now are in the possession of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel in the Russia investigation who was named after Mr. Comey’s firing.

“I didn’t say that,” Mr. Trump said of the request regarding the former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn. “And there’d be nothing wrong if I did say it.”

Ah that’s so Trump. I didn’t do it, plus it wasn’t that bad, plus other people do it too, plus I probably won’t do it again.

It’s disgusting that he would say there would be nothing wrong if he did say it. Yes, Donald, there is something wrong with obstruction of justice. You’re not a dictator, you’re a head of state who is accountable to the law and the people.

About the loyalty pledge from Mr. Comey, Mr. Trump said, “I hardly know the man; I’m not going to ask him to pledge allegiance.”

Non sequitur, dude.

Mr. Trump’s team, led by his personal lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz, on Friday was preparing a counterattack on Mr. Comey based in part on his admission that he arranged the leak of his account of the conversation with Mr. Trump in which he says the president suggested the F.B.I. halt its investigation into Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser.

The president’s lawyers plan to file a complaint with the Justice Department inspector general next week arguing that Mr. Comey should not have shared what they call privileged communications, according to two people involved in the matter.

Privileged semi-criminal communications that Trump forced on Comey – yeah that should go well for him.



Because he’s a beastly minotaur and no chains can bind him

Jun 9th, 2017 12:03 pm | By

Benjamin Wittes on the Comey hearing as a matter of honor and dishonor:

It is a clarifying moment whenever an honorable person speaks plainly in public about a person he or she evidently regards as dishonorable on a matter of public moment. And today, a nation not normally riveted by congressional hearings got a chance to see what I was talking about. In three hours of testimony characterized by well-controlled but palpable anger, Comey attacked what he described as “lies” about the FBI and “defam[ation]” about himself; he accused the President of the United States of implicitly directing him to drop a major criminal investigation of a former senior official; he described a pattern of disrespect for the independence of the law enforcement function of the FBI; he alleged that the President made repeated misstatements of fact in his public accounts of their interactions; and he stated flatly that he believed that the President had fired him because of something related to the Russia investigation—an investigation that directly involves the President’s business, his campaign, his subordinates in the White House, and his family.

Throughout it all, the sense that he had spent four months dealing with people who were not honorable was, once again, written on every line of his face and evident in the tone he took when describing the President.

So what do we do with this, Wittes asks.

Remember that Comey was not just speaking publicly. He was speaking under oath. Remember also that he was speaking about matters in which he was a first-hand participant. Remember also that the only person who can meaningfully contest his allegations is Donald Trump.

Which is exactly why I find it surprising and absurd that Trump’s lawyer doesn’t hesitate to contest his allegations by flat-out saying Trump never did. He can’t meaningfully say that because he wasn’t there. Unless there are indeed tapes and they are untampered with and they show that Trump never did. That’s a very big unless.

Marc Kasowitz, President Trump’s lawyer in the Russia matter, has already declared that Comey “admitted that he unilaterally and surreptitiously made unauthorized disclosures to the press of privileged communications with the President”—as though the President has a reasonable expectation that he can fire someone and lie about the reasons and expect that person’s confidence in the exercise.

And as though the President has a reasonable expectation that he can trap Comey into an unwanted and inappropriate one-on-one meeting and then demand respect for the privacy of the meeting.

Talking about Comey and his choices won’t change the fundamental problem, which is about the Trump presidency, not about the former FBI director. And infantilizing the President won’t help either, because the office is no place for infants.

At the end of the day, the problem we face is stark. It is not okay to have a president who—as Jack Goldsmith put it last night—”does not remotely understand his role, status, and duties as President and Chief Executive” and for whom “this failure infects or undermines just about everything he does.” It is not okay to have a President who has so little regard for his oath of office that he cannot appreciate his deficiencies, has no desire to remedy them, and is thus prone consistently to behave in fashions repugnant to the very nature of the presidency. Comey said in his testimony today that he began taking notes immediately after meeting privately with Trump for the first time because of the “nature of the person” he was speaking to. It is not okay to have a president whose FBI director so mistrusts his “nature” on first meeting him that he feels compelled immediately to begin writing memos to file to have a permanent record of his interactions with the man.

Indeed it is not.

The greatest Onion news video ever made parodies the debate over interrogation in the Bush administration. It depicts a panel discussion of whether housing detainees in a labyrinth with a violent minotaur constitutes torture. At one point, the spoof former Bush administration official delivers the immortal line: “Even if the Minotaur did act inappropriately, and I’m not saying it did, the United States cannot be held responsible for its actions, because it is a beastly minotaur and no chains can bind it.”

This is the Trump presidency. There is no evidence that any chains can bind this president: not lawyers, not norms, not procedures, not repeated screw-ups of the sort that educate other leaders, and certainly not the mere expectations of decent public servants. But the problem is that the United States is responsible for his actions—and we are paying daily the price for them, particularly in our international relations but also in our domestic governance. It simply will not do any more for politicians to shield their eyes and say the equivalent of, “even if Trump did act inappropriately, and I’m not saying he did, it’s not my problem because he’s a beastly minotaur and no chains can bind him.”

It’s time to engineer the chains that can indeed bind him.



Comey set so many perjury traps for them

Jun 9th, 2017 10:31 am | By

Another thing I’ve been wondering is how reckless it is or is not for Trump’s lawyer to make sweeping assertions of fact that he can’t possibly know. The Times yesterday:

Before firing Mr. Comey, Mr. Trump was dogged by the F.B.I. inquiry into his campaign’s ties to Russia. But he was never personally under investigation.

Now, he faces the prospect of an obstruction investigation, inquiries by emboldened congressional officials and questions from both parties about whether he tried inappropriately to end the F.B.I. inquiry into Michael T. Flynn, his former national security adviser.

Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz, flatly denied any obstruction. “The president never, in form or substance, directed or suggested that Mr. Comey stop investigating anyone,” he said.

How can he possibly know that? It’s an absurd claim. Some in Trump’s circle apparently think so too:

Gradually, however, the concerns of any single news cycle are giving way to longer-term worries about the course of the investigation, and several West Wing aides have expressed concern about the possibility of being blindsided by new revelations.

Several current and former Trump aides said they were especially concerned about Mr. Kasowitz’s unqualified assertion that the president had “never told Mr. Comey, ‘I need loyalty, I expect loyalty,’” as Mr. Comey said on Thursday.

“I can’t believe they are worried about public opinion on a day like this, when Comey set so many perjury traps for them,” said Jennifer Palmieri, a veteran Democratic operative who served as Mrs. Clinton’s communications director during the 2016 campaign.

Is Kasowitz walking straight into the traps?

I’m not a lawyer so I don’t know. I’ll be interested to find out.



Behind closed doors

Jun 9th, 2017 9:39 am | By

The Times reported yesterday that Trump is feeling all happy and fighty about the Comey hearing.

President Trump dipped in and out of the small dining room off the Oval Office on Thursday to monitor a television as James B. Comey, the ousted F.B.I. director, told a tortured tale — and to insist to his huddled legal team, “I was right.”

Many Democrats and some legal analysts predicted big trouble for the president after Mr. Comey’s blow-by-blow description to the Senate Intelligence Committee of Mr. Trump’s efforts to steer the investigation of his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, behavior they think amounted to obstruction of justice.

But Mr. Trump and many of his aides believe that Mr. Comey’s unexpected admission that he leaked details of private Oval Office discussions to the news media, along with questions he raised about the conduct of Loretta Lynch, President Barack Obama’s second attorney general, has given them fresh ammunition for a political counterattack that Mr. Trump badly wants to wage.

Set aside the Loretta Lynch part. I’m interested in the other one. I’m interested in this “admission that he leaked details of private Oval Office discussions to the news media.” How is it an admission? How is it leaking? How were the details private?

Trump forced Comey into those “private” discussions.

First he sprang a surprise same-day dinner invitation on him, by calling him at lunchtime and saying “Are you free for dinner?” Comey didn’t feel able to decline. Trump also tricked him by not saying it would be just the two of them. Comey did not willingly and cheerfully agree to a private dinner with Trump in January.

And then he forced a private Oval Office discussion on him by telling everyone but Comey to leave after a meeting. Comey in no way consented to the privacy of that discussion, and later implored the Attorney General never to let it happen again.

So how does Comey have any obligation to keep those forcibly-private discussions private? It doesn’t work that way. If you kidnap someone, you don’t get any expectation of “privacy” for your shared discussions.

And another thing. Does that sound at all familiar, that invitation to dinner that the underling doesn’t feel able to decline? Does it sound at all like generations of male bosses who invite the female underling for a drink after work? Does it sound at all like priests who get that one choirboy to stay behind after the others have gone home?

The fact that Trump made his Oval Office conversation with Comey private is the very thing Comey cited as the chief reason for taking Trump’s “I hope” as a directive, even though he agreed to RubioRisch’s point that Trump didn’t say “I order you to drop the investigation.” The privacy itself is a smoking gun. It could be a bit stupid for Trump and his people to make a big fuss about the “private” Oval Office discussions that Comey never wanted to have.

Privacy has been a wall concealing abuse of children and women since forever. Mustn’t betray the family secrets! Must be loyal! An exhibitionist narcissist like Trump has only one use for privacy, and that’s nothing to do with executive privilege.



Meet the DUP

Jun 9th, 2017 8:39 am | By

Adam Ramsay at Open Democracy guesses people might want to know more about the DUP along about now.

The Democratic Unionist Party now look like the Tories preferred coalition partners. The DUP, which is the biggest Unionist (ie pro-UK) party in Northern Ireland, are often treated as though they are just the same as the other Unionist party they have essentially replaced – the Ulster Unionists. But while the UUP have a long running relationship with the Tories, and are a centre right party, the DUP are another thing entirely. The idea that they are near power in Westminster should worry us all. Here are some things you need to know.

Theresa May’s new partners in government have strong historical links with Loyalist paramilitary groups. Specifically, the terrorist group Ulster Resistancewas founded by a collection of people who went on to be prominent DUP politicians. Peter Robinson, for example, who was DUP leader and Northern Ireland’s first minister until last year, was an active member of Ulster Resistance. The group’s activities included collaborating with other terrorist groups including the Ulster Volunteer Force, to smuggle arms into the UK, such as RPG rocket launchers.

Of course, Northern Ireland has moved towards peace, and the DUP, like their opponents in Sinn Fein, have rescinded violence. As part of that normalisation, the fact that parties which include people who have rescinded violence can be brought into the democratic process is a good thing. But for the Tories to end an election campaign which they spent attacking Corbyn for his alleged links to former Northern Irish terrorists by going into coalition with a party founded by former Northern Irish terrorists would be a deep irony.

Kind of the presence of Steve Bannon in the White House.



Total and complete vindication

Jun 9th, 2017 7:44 am | By

He’s back, unimproved by his day off from the tweet-machine.

He accuses Comey of lies – he does, the guy who lies to our faces about stuff we’ve watched him do and say.

And it’s not “leaking” to share your own unclassified notes.

Yeah, great reporting by the most dishonest major “news” outlet we’ve got.

After that he retweeted Dershowitz:

Apparently he overlooked the bit about political sins, probably because he doesn’t understand the concept.



Repeal all the rules!

Jun 8th, 2017 5:20 pm | By

Meanwhile the House Republicans have done their bit to take us back to the fun roller coaster ride of 2008.

The House approved legislation on Thursday to erase a number of core financial regulations put in place by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, as Republicans moved a step closer to delivering on their promises to eliminate rules that they claim have strangled small businesses and stagnated the economy.

Because everything was so much better in 2008.

Apparently it’s not likely to pass the Senate though.

Yet the bill’s passage in the House, by 233 to 186, keeps alive the Republican Party’s dream of unwinding one of President Barack Obama’s signature accomplishments. The vote quickly drew the ire of Democrats who argued that Republicans were giving a handout to Wall Street while putting everyday investors at risk.

The bill has maintained a low profile compared with Republican plans on health care and taxes, but rolling back Dodd-Frank represents a major part of the Republican agenda. The Trump administration hopes that by unshackling businesses from burdensome regulations, renegotiating trade deals and cutting tax rates, it can help the economy grow faster and well-paying jobs will become more plentiful.

Because that worked so well in the years just before the crash. If we can do that and then jump off just before the crash – we’ll survive and everything will be awesome.

“Ultimately the Financial Choice Act is a jobs bill,” Speaker Paul D. Ryan said on the House floor on Thursday.

Or you could say it’s a bankruptcies bill,  a good bye life savings bill, a wow look at all these derelict houses bill. It’s a bill for people who look forward to paying off a mortgage on a house that is worth far less than the mortgage because the bottom dropped out.

In addition, the legislation would weaken the powers of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Under the proposed law, the president could fire the agency’s director at will and its oversight powers would be curbed.

The bill would also eliminate the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule, which requires brokers to act in the best interest of their clients when providing investment advice about retirement. The first parts of the rule are scheduled to go into effect on Friday. The rule was completed last spring under Mr. Obama after years of development.

Awesome. Less protection for consumers, more freedom for people who want to take all their cash. Why should brokers have to work in the best interest of their clients instead of stuffing their own pockets with cash? This is America!

On the floor of the House on Thursday, as Democrats in lock step expressed their opposition to the bill they have nicknamed the Wrong Choice, they argued that Republicans had forgotten the lessons of the 2008 financial crisis.

“These are not the choices that the American people want,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, the minority leader. “House Republicans are feeding American families to the wolves on Wall Street.”

Oh well. The next crash is probably ten years off, so why worry about it?



It was a suggestion

Jun 8th, 2017 4:43 pm | By

The Times is understandably proud of the part it played.

James B. Comey, the recently fired F.B.I. director, said Thursday in an extraordinary Senate hearing that he believed that President Trump had clearly tried to derail an F.B.I. investigation into his former national security adviser and that the president had lied and defamed him.

Mr. Comey, no longer constrained by the formalities of a government job, offered a blunt, plain-spoken assessment of a president whose conversations unnerved him from the day they met, weeks before Mr. Trump took office. His testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee provided an unflattering back story to his abrupt dismissal and squarely raised the question of whether Mr. Trump tried to obstruct justice.

Answering that falls to the Justice Department special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. Comey revealed that he gave all of the memos he wrote on his interactions with the president to Mr. Mueller’s investigators, the first suggestion that prosecutors would investigate Mr. Comey’s firing last month.

The first suggestion? I thought everyone had been suggesting that from the second the news of the firing came out. How could they not investigate that? Especially after Trump so artlessly confided to a journalist that he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation.

Republicans who came to Mr. Trump’s defense argued that he had been making a suggestion, not ordering Mr. Comey to drop the investigation into the former adviser, Michael T. Flynn. Mr. Comey demurred on whether the president’s actions had amounted to a felony, but said the intent was clear: “I took it as a direction.” If Mr. Trump had had his way, Mr. Comey said, “We would have dropped an open criminal investigation.”

Sure, just a suggestion, one that Comey was entirely at liberty to take or to ignore. The fact that he didn’t take it and was fired weeks later is neither here nor there.

In the month since he fired Mr. Comey, Mr. Trump has faced a crush of damaging news stories about the nature of their private conversations. During his testimony on Thursday, Mr. Comey revealed that he had helped feed that coverage.

Two days after Mr. Comey was ousted, The New York Times reported that Mr. Trump had asked him to pledge loyalty to him. The president then tweeted that Mr. Comey had “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’” of their meetings.

That post inspired Mr. Comey, who responded by allowing a friend to read portions of a memo about his interactions with the president to The Times. Mr. Comey said Thursday that he had hoped to spur the appointment of a special counsel. He succeeded. A day after The Times revealed the contents of that memo, which described the conversation about Mr. Flynn, the Justice Department appointed Mr. Mueller to take over the investigation.

That’s the Times taking a bow. Fair enough.



A glimmer of hope

Jun 8th, 2017 4:21 pm | By

Oh look, the Tories may lose their majority.

Following a tumultuous, unpredictable snap election, Prime Minister Theresa May, a Conservative, appeared on the verge of losing her overall parliamentary majority, according to a national exit poll released just after voting ended on Thursday night.

If confirmed by the actual vote count, the result would be a major setback for Mrs. May. She called this election three years early, expecting to cruise to a smashing victory that would win her a mandate to see Britain through the long and difficult negotiations with the European Union about withdrawing from the bloc.

According to the exit poll, Mrs. May may have lost the extraordinary gamble she made in calling the election — and Britain may be headed for a hung Parliament, in which no party has a majority.

The Guardian’s live update:

Labour is starting to feel more confident about the exit poll. It has just put out this statement, from a spokesperson.

If this poll turns out to be anywhere near accurate, it would be an extraordinary result. Labour would have come from a long way back to dash the hopes of a Tory landslide.

There’s never been such a turnaround in a course of a campaign. It looks like the Tories have been punished for taking the British people for granted.

Labour has run a positive and honest campaign – we haven’t engaged in smears or personal attacks.

Labour’s poll standing and Jeremy Corbyn’s standing surged as people were able to hear our message, policies and Jeremy directly.

Labour poured energy and resources into voter registration – and an extra 3 million people registered in the five weeks between the election being called and the deadline.

It looks like their voice has been heard.

Better than a complete Tory shellacking.



Bedoy told Sysy

Jun 8th, 2017 1:07 pm | By

Can an “I hope” statement be obstruction of justice? Why yes, yes it can.

Also



A sample

Jun 8th, 2017 11:46 am | By

Politico has done a transcript already; thanks, Politico.

Comey’s introductory remarks, starting after he went home as a private citizen after being fired:

But then the explanations, the shifting explanations, confused me and increasingly concerned me. They confused me because the president and I had had multiple conversations about my job, both before and after he took office, and he had repeatedly told me I was doing a great job, and he hoped I would stay. And I had repeatedly assured him that I did intend to stay and serve out the years of my term. He told me repeatedly that he had talked to lots of people about me, including our current Attorney General, and had learned that I was doing a great job, and that I was extremely well-liked by the FBI workforce.

So it confused me when I saw on television the president saying that he actually fired me because of the Russia investigation, and learned again from the media that he was telling privately other parties that my firing had relieved great pressure on the Russian investigation.

Oh  yes. Those other parties were Kislyak and Lavrov in the Oval Office with American press banned but Russian photographers welcomed. Remember that? Time flies so fast with this prez.

I was also confused by the initial explanation that was offered publicly that I was fired because of the decisions I had made during the election year. That didn’t make sense to me for a whole bunch of reasons, including the time and all the water that had gone under the bridge since those hard decisions that had to be made. That didn’t make any sense to me. And although the law required no reason at all to fire an FBI director, the administration then chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader. Those were lies, plain and simple. And I am so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them, and I’m so sorry that the American people were told them.

I’m sorry too. I don’t like having a chronic shameless liar as president.

Warner asked why he felt the need to write a memo on his first chat with Don.

WARNER: Now you’ve had extensive experience at the department of justice and at the FBI. You’ve worked under presidents of both parties. What was about that meeting that led you to determine that you needed to start putting down a written record?

COMEY: A combination of things. I think the circumstances, the subject matter, and the person I was interacting with. Circumstances, first, I was alone with the president of the United States, or the president-elect, soon to be president. The subject matter I was talking about matters that touch on the FBI’s core responsibility, and that relate to the president, president-elect personally, and then the nature of the person. I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting so I thought it important to document. That combination of things I had never experienced before, but had led me to believe I got to write it down and write it down in a very detailed way.

“And then the nature of the person.” Quite so. He’s a flagrant, public, active liar.

WARNER: And so in all your experience, this was the only president that you felt like in every meeting you needed to document because at some point, using your words, he might put out a non-truthful representation of that meeting.

COMEY: That’s right, senator. As I said, as FBI director I interacted with President Obama, I spoke only twice in three years, and didn’t document it. When I was Deputy Attorney General I had a one one-on-one with President Bush been I sent an email to my staff but I didn’t feel with president bush the need to document it in that I way. Again, because of the combination of those factors, just wasn’t present with either President Bush or President Obama.

Trump is special in that way.

WARNER: Again, we ail understand, I was a governor, I had people work for me but this constant requests and again quoting you, him saying that he, despite you explaining your independence, he said “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” Have you ever had any of those kind of requests before from anyone else you’ve worked for in the government?

COMEY: No, and what made me uneasy at that point I’m the director of the FBI. The reason that Congress created a 10-year term is so that the director is not feeling as if they’re serving at, with political loyalty owed to any particular person. The statue of justice has a blindfold on. You’re not supposed to peek out to see whether your patron was pleased with what you’re doing. That’s why I became FBI director to be in that position. That’s why I was uneasy.

You’re not supposed to have a patron at all. Elegantly put.



A very open and candid discussion

Jun 8th, 2017 10:08 am | By

The hearing.

I missed the first hour, and turned it off while Cornyn was questioning because I was getting restless. The hour+ I did see was interesting.

Comey sat grim-faced at a witness table before the Senate Intelligence Committee shortly after 10 a.m. as the committee chairman, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), began the hearing by calling for a “very open and candid discussion’’ about the “strained relationship’’ between the president and Comey. Comey’s written account of those discussions, made public on Wednesday, have fueled the debate over whether the president may have attempted to obstruct justice by pressuring the FBI director about a sensitive investigation.

Comey began his testimony by saying he became “confused and increasingly concerned’’ about the public explanations by White House officials for his firing on May 9, particularly after the president said he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he decided to fire him.

He wasted little time repudiating White House statements that he was fired in part because of low morale among FBI employees, and those employees’ supposedly soured attitude toward his leadership.

“The administration then chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led,’’ Comey said. “Those were lies, plain and simple. And I’m so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them, and I’m so sorry the American people were told them.’’

It’s interesting that Trump and his people feel justified in doing that. Usually Republicans are pretty loyal to the FBI.

In connection with that, it’s interesting how Comey explained his thinking when he briefed Trump about the “salacious” dossier: he was thinking of the Hoover FBI and he wanted to assure Trump that he wasn’t doing a Hoover: telling him about this scuzzy material as a not very subtle kind of blackmail. He wanted to make it very clear that he wasn’t doing that, hence volunteering the information that they weren’t investigating him personally.

After his January dinner when the two discussed loyalty, Comey and the president had another discussion in February at the White House. A number of senior officials met in the Oval Office on Feb. 14 to discuss terrorism. At the end of the meeting, according to Comey, the president asked everyone to leave but Comey.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions lingered behind until the president told him, too, to leave, Comey said.

“My sense was the attorney general knew he shouldn’t be leaving which is why he was lingering,’’ said Comey. “I knew something was about to happen which I should pay very close attention to.’’

Later someone asked him – I think it was Kamala Harris, another former prosecutor and AG – a question I’d wanted to ask: what happened when he implored Sessions not to leave him alone with Trump ever again and Sessions didn’t reply. Comey said he wasn’t sure he remembered accurately but he thought there was some kind of body language or expression conveying “what can I do?” Harris said “A shrug?” and Comey acted out a little eyeroll head twitch version of a shrug, while still underlining how uncertain he was about the memory. He mentioned that uncertainty repeatedly throughout the questioning. It’s reassuring when people are aware of the fallibility of their own memories, especially people in law enforcement.



This failure infects or undermines just about everything he does

Jun 8th, 2017 5:59 am | By

Jack Goldsmith at Lawfare Blog:

consider one of French’s* best points about what the Comey statement reveals:

Overall, one gets the impression that the president views himself less as the president of a constitutional republic and more as the dictatorial CEO of a private company. This is understandable, given his long experience in the private sector, but it’s unsustainable. President Trump has to better understand not just the separation of powers but also the constitutional and legal obligations of governance, or the turmoil surrounding Comey’s termination will be but the first of a series of controversies that could well shake his presidency to its foundation.

This analysis echoes points that Bob Bauer has made on this site.  And it is right.  Trump does not remotely understand his role, status, and duties as President and Chief Executive, and this failure infects or undermines just about everything he does.   It is an amazing state of affairs: A President of the United States who does not at all grasp the Office he occupies, and who thus entirely lacks the proper situation sense, or contextual knowledge, in which a President should exercise judgment or act.

This is what I keep saying. He has no idea, and he has never bothered to find out. It’s horrifying. David French is right in a way that it’s “understandable,” in the sense that we can see how stupid and obstinate and intellectually lazy Trump is, but it’s not understandable in the colloquial sense of “and thus forgivable.” It’s outrageous and appalling and not forgivable at all. As I also keep saying, this is not a game, it’s not A Fun Project for Donnie, it’s the god damn country and to a large extent the world.

*David French at National Review



Shan’t

Jun 8th, 2017 4:38 am | By

Michelle Goldberg suggests why the four intel officials refused to answer Senators’ questions about Trump’s attempts to mess with the Russia inquiry yesterday.

Officially, the hearing was about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. But all the Democratic senators, and some of the Republican ones, used the opportunity to question the men under oath about whether Donald Trump had tried to quash the investigation into his administration’s Russia ties, as the Washington Post and others have reported.

To the senators’ mounting frustration, the intelligence officials repeatedly refused to answer their questions. Those refusals, however, tell us a lot. It appears they couldn’t defend Trump without committing perjury. Nor could they tell the truth without dramatically undermining Trump’s administration. So, in a series of increasingly contentious exchanges, they simply defied the lawmakers tasked with overseeing their agencies.

Yes but it’s my understanding that the fact that the truth would undermine Trump’s administration is in no way a valid reason for their refusing to answer Senators’ questions. Those refusals look to me like what people call a Constitutional Crisis – a situation in which one branch of the government defies another branch. I don’t think Trump’s people get to just say “No, don’t want to.”

Tuesday night, the Post reported that Coats told associates that Trump had asked him to intervene with then–FBI Director James Comey to get the bureau to back off its investigation of fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. (The Post had previously reported that Trump asked both Coats and Rogers to publicly deny that there was any evidence of collusion between the president’s campaign and Russia.) Grilled about these conversations with Trump, both men simply refused to answer, over and over again.

Instead they talked about their fee-fees.

In his opening statement, Coats said that he had “never felt pressure to intervene or interfere in any way with shaping intelligence in a political way.” But the senators weren’t interested in how Coats felt—they wanted to know what, if anything, Trump had asked him to do.

What they “felt” is subjective. What Trump actually said is factual. Dodging the factual question by talking about subjective feelings is not what they’re supposed to be doing.

The legal basis for these demurrals was unclear. The White House has not invoked executive privilege, and the information at issue doesn’t appear to be classified—these officials initially described them as “confidential” conversations with the president, then seemed to switch to characterizing them as “classified” midway through the hearing. Several senators seemed infuriated at their stonewalling. “Why are you not answering these questions?” asked Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine.

“Because I feel it is inappropriate,” replied Rogers.

“What you feel isn’t relevant, admiral,” King shot back, reminding Rogers that when he was confirmed, he’d taken an oath before the Armed Services Committee to give the committee the full truth. Rogers still wouldn’t budge.

Then King turned to Coats, who started to echo Rogers’ answer about appropriateness. King cut him off. “I’m not satisfied with, ‘I do not believe it is appropriate’ or ‘I do not feel I should answer,’ ” he said. “I want to understand the legal basis. You swore that oath, to tell us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And today you’re refusing to do so. What is the legal basis for your refusal to testify to this committee?”

In an extraordinary moment, a stumbling Coats replied, “I’m not sure I have a legal basis.”

So that happened.



Training

Jun 7th, 2017 4:34 pm | By

Helen Lewis notes how regularly it turns out that the latest mass murderer got his training by beating up the nearest women.

But if we don’t care to talk about the role that maleness and masculinity has in such cases, then we definitely don’t want to talk about them in relation to Islamic terrorism. But yesterday – Day Three – here it was, a story about one of the London Bridge killers’ history of wife-beating and manipulation.

Rachid Redouane kicked and slapped his wife, tried to make her wear the hijab, prevented her from drinking and smoking. He got her pregnant even though it appears that, for him, the marriage was more about getting residency in the UK than love. His control took the form of trying to make her more devout – whereas someone like Lance Hart, with a different set of cultural values behind him, controlled his wife by withholding money and refusing to let her see her friends.

It’s the bullying and control of women that’s the real point, and the reward; the ideology behind it is just superstructure.

Redouane is far from the only Islamist terrorist to have a background like this. Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who drove a truck into crowds in Nice, had a criminal record for domestic violence. After Omar Mateen killed 49 people in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, his ex-wife said: “He beat me. He would just come home and start beating me up because the laundry wasn’t finished or something like that.”

Like Mateen, the Westminster Bridge attacker Khalid Masood does not seem to have any formal contact with Islamic State or other terror groups. His attack was “inspired” rather than “directed” by jihadi groups such as IS. Masood was also a convert to Islam (as many Islamic terrorists are), appears to have been radicalised in prison, and – surprise, surprise – he also had a history of domestic violence and coercive control. “He was very violent towards her, controlling in every aspect of her life – what she wore, where she went, everything,” a friend told the Mirror.

The connection is not even a little bit surprising. Religious hatred of women is ferocious and entrenched. It’s not a side issue, not a coincidence, not an accident: it’s central.

Despite this, talking about male violence in the context of terrorism is treated like derailing – like you’ve mounted your feminist hobby horse when the grown-ups were talking. The people who control the discussion of Islamist terrorism don’t want to talk about this stuff. They see discussion of foreign policy, religion and “our values” like old-fashioned teachers saw Maths and English: proper, respectable subjects. Talking about male violence is a bit . . . film studies. Sociology. You know. Softer, girly, less rational, all the ways we dismiss anything associated with women. And of course elevating it in our discourse would mean ceding some ground in the conversation to the experts in the field – who are largely women.

Good, let’s do that then.



We have received tweets and emails

Jun 7th, 2017 4:09 pm | By

Drawn & Quarterly posts an apology:

This past spring, our editorial department accepted a submission from the cartoonist Berliac. The graphic novel was Sadbøi, which was seen as a statement on the treatment of immigrants—the challenge of being expected to conform to a society’s ideals in a world that prematurely condemns outsiders.

We neglected to research the author beyond the submitted book, which we now realize to be a disservice to both the public and the author. We were not familiar with Berliac’s body of work, both written and drawn, including a previously published essay comparing cultural appropriation and transgender people and the consequent public discussion about it in 2015. We do not agree with the essay, its defense, nor the tone and aggression he displayed in this and subsequent debates.

In the past 48 hours, we have received tweets and emails, and read posts telling us we are wrong to publish this book. Not everyone discussing Berliac and his work had the same opinions, but each of them made us reflect, and conduct the research we should have conducted when considering the submission. We asked ourselves if we would have acquired this book knowing what we know now, and we would not have. An author deserves the full support of their publisher. We can no longer provide that full support. Therefore, we have decided that D+Q will not be publishing Sadbøi.

We do not expect everyone to like or agree with everything we publish—this is an important part of a vibrant publishing landscape—but we are revising our acquisition practices so that we can ensure we better support our public, our authors, and our staff going forward.

We apologize for not doing our due diligence and for our mistakes. We are sorry. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to us: we value your input.

Peggy Burns on Friday, June 2, 2017 – 3:55pm.

They received all those tweets and emails, you see.