Notes and Comment Blog

Cosmopolitan bias

Aug 3rd, 2017 5:06 pm | By

Down into the muck they go.

On Wednesday, for reasons known only to whatever critters inhabit the ravines and gullies of the presidential cortex, they trotted [Stephen] Miller out to talk about the administration’s new proposal to limit legal immigration. Miller is not equipped to be the public face of a phony real estate scam, let alone the executive branch of the government of the United States. Jim Acosta of CNN asked him a question. It did not go well.

Transcript via Adweek:

Acosta: This whole notion of they have to learn English before they get to the United States, are we just going to bring in people from Great Britain and Australia?

Miller: I have to say, I am shocked at your statement that you think that only people from Great Britain and Australia would know English. It reveals your cosmopolitan bias to a shocking degree that in your mind — this is an amazing moment. That you think only people from Great Britain or Australia would speak English is so insulting to millions of hardworking immigrants who do speak English from all over the world. Have you honestly never met an immigrant from another country who speaks English outside of Great Britain and Australia?

Ah yes your “cosmopolitan bias”…you dirty Jew. That’s what “cosmopolitan” means in the mouths of the Stephen Millers of the world.

The way Miller leaned into the word “cosmopolitan” while answering Acosta has a long and ignoble history in 20th century authoritarianism, especially the anti-Semitic variety. During World War II, for example, the Soviet government under Stalin used to rail regularly at “rootless cosmopolitanism,” especially in the arts. The Nazis were fond of tossing it around, too. There is no context in which Miller’s use of the word against Acosta makes sense except as a historical signaling device.

The muck is rising around us.

Important White House ethics rule

Aug 3rd, 2017 1:51 pm | By

Here we go:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Special counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington to investigate allegations of Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, the Wall Street Journal said on Thursday, citing two unnamed people familiar with the matter.

The grand jury began its work in recent weeks and is a sign that Mueller’s inquiry into Russia’s efforts to influence the election and whether it colluded with President Donald Trump’s campaign is ramping up, the Journal said.

The late lamented Voting Rights Act

Aug 3rd, 2017 1:15 pm | By

Sierra Gray at the ACLU writes:

On the shoulders of my grandfather Dilmus Agnew, my mother watched Martin Luther King, Jr. give his renowned “I Have a Dream” speech in our nation’s capital in 1963. “We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote,” exclaimed Dr. King, as my mother watched on. “No, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Because of the work of Dr. King and other civil rights advocates, two years later the Voting Rights Act of 1965 ushered in a new era for the rights of people of color. The road to passing the VRA was not an easy one. But it was the product of the blood, sweat, and tears of many fighting for basic civil rights, culminating in the events of March 7, 1965. The painful sting of tear gas and the piercing sounds of guns from Alabama State troopers turned a peaceful protest in Selma organized by Dr. King into what we know today as Bloody Sunday.

Just five months after “Bloody Sunday,” the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law on August 6 in the presence of Martin Luther King, Jr. and other prominent civil rights activists. The VRA outlawed literacy tests, poll taxes, and other discriminatory barriers that were used to keep African-Americans from voting. In addition, it provided checks and balances on state policies in places with a history of discrimination.

President Johnson’s claim that voting rights are an American issue was exemplified through the bipartisan support the act received. There has been widespread bipartisan support of the VRA since its inception to its subsequent reauthorizations. Most recently in 2006, Congress reauthorized, nearly unanimously, the act for another 25 years.

But the question is, now, 52 years later, has the “dream” been fulfilled? Has justice rolled down like waters and righteousness like a stream as Martin Luther King, Jr. hoped it would?

We have seen great progress over the past half-decade thanks to the VRA. By the end of 1965, 250,000 new African-American citizens were registered to vote. The number of African-Americans holding elected offices has grown nationwide. Representation in the House and Senate increased from five legislators before the VRA was passed to 50 in 2017.

Progress, however, has been interrupted.

In 2013, the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby v. Holder removed the heart of the Voting Rights Act. In a five to four decision, the court struck down the key provision of the law that required states with a history of voter discrimination to preclear changes to their voting laws and practices with the Department of Justice to ensure their fairness. The majority made this decision even as they acknowledged that voter suppression and discrimination still occur.

As a result, the flood gates opened with17 states introducing restrictive laws affecting over 110 million people and their right to vote. The new laws range from Texas’ voter ID laws that prohibit students to use their school identification to vote while accepting gun licenses to North Carolina’s “monster voter suppression” bill that a federal appeals court found to be “targeting African Americans with almost surgical procession.”

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was one of the most successful civil rights laws in our nation’s history. We must honor and never forget those that fought inside and outside the court room, and even paid with their lives to ensure that all people have the right to vote. That’s why we have to keep up the fight to end voter suppression laws and efforts.

Congress must pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act to fully restore the Voting Rights Act. The Advancement Act would restore and update the requirements for states with a history of discrimination to get pre-approval before voting changes take effect, combatting the modern forms of voter suppression we see today.

The responsibility is now ours to honor the trailblazers of the past through action that will ensure an even brighter future for all Americans.

We’d better not hold our breaths on that one.

Well no the phone calls didn’t actually happen but

Aug 3rd, 2017 12:15 pm | By

Sanders was forced to admit that those fantasy “phone calls” of Trump’s were not real, actual, happened in real life phone calls, but phantasmagoria from his distracted brain.

Has President Trump told you about the time the head of the Boy Scouts called to say his was the best speech ever delivered to the more than century-old organization? What about when the president of Mexico picked up the telephone to let him know that his tough enforcement efforts at the border were paying off handsomely?

The anecdotes, both of which Mr. Trump told over the last week, were similar in that they appeared to be efforts to showcase broad support for the president when his White House has been mired in turmoil. But they also had another thing in common, the White House conceded on Wednesday: Neither was true.

Of course they weren’t. It’s become child’s play to recognize his boastful lies. He provides fresh examples every day on Twitter, so we’d be pretty dense if we hadn’t picked up the pattern by now.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, confirmed at her daily briefing what the Boy Scouts and the Mexican government had already asserted publicly, which is that neither phone call that Mr. Trump referred to had occurred.

But they weren’t lies, she wants you to understand. Lots of people did like his Boy Scouts rant, and he has actually spoken to Peña Nieto, so they weren’t lies, just slight exaggerations about specifics like time, place, medium, content, upshot, and the like.

The nonexistent phone calls added to questions about Mr. Trump’s credibility and that of his White House, already in doubt given shifting explanations on matters large and small, including the size of the crowd at Mr. Trump’s inauguration and his involvement in drafting a statement about why his son Donald J. Trump Jr. had met with a Kremlin-connected lawyer during the campaign. The calls appeared to be the latest evidence that the president, who prefers impromptu storytelling to a fact-checked script, is willing to shade or even manufacture events to suit his preferred narrative — even when the story is easily disprovable and of little consequence.

Ok here’s a conundrum: is that more because he’s a self-serving liar, or because he’s stupid? Serious question. That impromptu storytelling thing is a big favorite with people who aren’t all that sharp. It goes with having no interesting thoughts or analyses. Trump’s head is pretty empty. It does have a lot of clutter in the form of slogans and prejudices, but there isn’t much more than that. Who knows whether or not he even realizes it when he’s making shit up?

“He’s been lying his whole life, almost reflexively, and it’s almost as if he finds it more satisfying and easier than to speak with precision,” said Michael D’Antonio, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who later wrote a biography of Mr. Trump, “The Truth About Trump.” “When he was a kid, he lied about whether he hit a home run or not, and when he was a young man, he lied about how tall Trump Tower is — how many floors it is and the actual floors in feet — and he lied about which beautiful women were interested in him.”

Narcissism & dishonesty=a bad recipe.

Putin was a pleasant call. This is ridiculous.

Aug 3rd, 2017 10:37 am | By

The Washington Post got its hands on transcripts of two of the much-discussed phone conversations Trump had during his first week as Top Dude, the one with Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico and the one with Malcolm Turnbull of Australia.

In the call with Turnbull the issue was an existing agreement with the Obama administration to accept some refugees Australia was holding on Nauru and Manus Islands and whether or not Trump would honor it. This was the day after Trump’s initial travel ban, that went down so smoothly…and he was not in the mood to honor that agreement.

Trump: Well, actually I just called for a total ban on Syria and from many different countries from where there is terror, and extreme vetting for everyone else – and somebody told me yesterday that close to 2,000 people are coming who are really probably troublesome. And I am saying, boy that will make us look awfully bad. Here I am calling for a ban where I am not letting anybody in and we take 2,000 people. Really it looks like 2,000 people that Australia does not want and I do not blame you by the way, but the United States has become like a dumping ground. You know Malcom, anybody that has a problem – you remember the Mariel boat lift, where Castro let everyone out of prison and Jimmy Carter accepted them with open arms. These were brutal people. Nobody said Castro was stupid, but now what are we talking about is 2,000 people that are actually imprisoned and that would actually come into the United States. I heard about this – I have to say I love Australia; I love the people of Australia. I have so many friends from Australia, but I said – geez that is a big ask, especially in light of the fact that we are so heavily in favor, not in favor, but we have no choice but to stop things. We have to stop. We have allowed so many people into our country that should not be here. We have our San Bernardino’s, we have had the World Trade Center come down because of people that should not have been in our country, and now we are supposed to take 2,000. It sends such a bad signal. You have no idea. It is such a bad thing.

Turnbull patiently explains that they’re all subject to vetting and the US can accept whatever number it chooses, including zero.

Turnbull: Every individual is subject to your vetting. You can decide to take them or to not take them after vetting. You can decide to take 1,000 or 100. It is entirely up to you. The obligation is to only go through the process. So that is the first thing. Secondly, the people — none of these people are from the conflict zone. They are basically economic refugees from Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. That is the vast bulk of them. They have been under our supervision for over three years now and we know exactly everything about them.

Trump: Why haven’t you let them out? Why have you not let them into your society?

Turnbull: Okay, I will explain why. It is not because they are bad people. It is because in order to stop people smugglers, we had to deprive them of the product. So we said if you try to come to Australia by boat, even if we think you are the best person in the world, even if you are a Noble [sic]Prize winning genius, we will not let you in. Because the problem with the people —

Trump: That is a good idea. We should do that too. You are worse than I am.

Point missed. He apparently didn’t listen to the part about people smugglers, because later he asks why the focus on boats, whatcha got against boats? He heard the “we will not let you in” and it drove the “people smugglers” right out of his head.

They went back and forth some more until Trump let the angry bear all the way out:


Turnbull: The given number in the agreement is 1,250 and it is entirely a matter of your vetting. I think that what you could say is that the Australian government is consistent with the principles set out in the Executive Order.

Trump: No, I do not want say that. I will just have to say that unfortunately I will have to live with what was said by Obama. I will say I hate it. Look, I spoke to Putin, Merkel, Abe of Japan, to France today, and this was my most unpleasant call because I will be honest with you. I hate taking these people. I guarantee you they are bad. That is why they are in prison right now. They are not going to be wonderful people who go on to work for the local milk people.

This despite the fact that Turnbull had repeatedly clearly explained to him that that was not why they were detained on the islands.

Trump got angrier and angrier.

Well, maybe you should let them out of prison. I am doing this because Obama made a bad deal. I am not doing this because it fits into my Executive Order. I am taking 2,000 people from Australia who are in prison and the day before I signed an Executive Order saying that we are not taking anybody in. We are not taking anybody in, those days are over.

Turnbull: But can I say to you, there is nothing more important in business or politics than a deal is a deal. Look, you and I have a lot of mutual friends.

Trump: Look, I do not know how you got them to sign a deal like this, but that is how they lost the election. They said I had no way to 270 and I got 306. That is why they lost the election, because of stupid deals like this. You have brokered many a stupid deal in business and I respect you, but I guarantee that you broke many a stupid deal. This is a stupid deal. This deal will make me look terrible.

Turnbull: Mr. President, I think this will make you look like a man who stands by the commitments of the United States. It shows that you are a committed —

Trump: Okay, this shows me to be a dope. I am not like this but, if I have to do it, I will do it but I do not like this at all. I will be honest with you. Not even a little bit. I think it is ridiculous and Obama should have never signed it. The only reason I will take them is because I have to honor a deal signed by my predecessor and it was a rotten deal. I say that it was a stupid deal like all the other deals that this country signed. You have to see what I am doing. I am unlocking deals that were made by people, these people were incompetent. I am not going to say that it fits within the realm of my Executive Order. We are going to allow 2,000 prisoners to come into our country and it is within the realm of my Executive Order? If that is the case my Executive Order does not mean anything Malcom [sic]. I look like a dope. The only way that I can do this is to say that my predecessor made a deal and I have no option then to honor the deal. I hate having to do it, but I am still going to vet them very closely. Suppose I vet them closely and I do not take any?

Turnbull points out that that’s what he’s been saying. Trump asks more repetitive questions and delivers a final angry outburst:

I have no choice to say that about it. Malcom [sic], I am going to say that I have no choice but to honor my predecessor’s deal. I think it is a horrible deal, a disgusting deal that I would have never made. It is an embarrassment to the United States of America and you can say it just the way I said it. I will say it just that way. As far as I am concerned that is enough Malcom [sic]I have had it. I have been making these calls all day and this is the most unpleasant call all day. Putin was a pleasant call. This is ridiculous.

The transcript has them saying bye-bye and thanks, but I think the staff invented those.

Activities that are likely to cause loss of life

Aug 2nd, 2017 4:21 pm | By

There’s a campaign to save Europe.

Or rather, that’s what a group of far-right activists believe they’ll be doing in the coming days when they plan to set off in a 422-ton vessel with a 25-member crew from Sicily, hoping to block rescue boats saving the lives of migrants on the Mediterranean Sea.

In recent months, European far-right groups have targeted the nongovernmental organization rescue efforts between Italy and Libya. At least 90,000 migrants and refugees — mostly from sub-Saharan Africa — have crossed the route, and at least 2,300 have died, in 2017 so far. In May, far-right activists disrupted a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) search-and-rescue boat from disembarking at the Sicilian port of Catania. Then, on June 26, the activists announced they had obtained a vessel (called C-Star) and headed to Catania, where they hoped to “intervene” in NGO search-and-rescue missions during what they said would be a “summer of disturbances.”

You know, like the way activists used to go to sea to try to disrupt whalers. Or not so much like that as the inversion of that, since the activists then were trying to save whales while the activists now are trying to prevent people from saving drowning migrants.

Last Wednesday, Defend Europe activists were photographed spending time with Katie Hopkins, the British Mail Online columnist. Hopkins is best known for once describing refugees as “cockroaches” in a national newspaper and for being fired from her LBC radio show after calling for a “final solution.”

Ah yes Katie Hopkins, whom “Last Liberal” Dave Rubin boasted of interviewing yesterday.

But let’s be clear: Their aim to interfere with boats is completely illegal. The Defend Europe activists are paranoid, embroiled in chaos and have no real plan. They’re disguising themselves by wearing wigs because they believe the police are trailing them. What’s more, their boat has been held up in Cyprus, where its captain was arrested, allegedly over false documents.

In June, I boarded a rescue mission with MSF, one of the same boats the activists are hoping to stop. On board, many of the people who had been rescued had escaped indefinite detention in Libya, where conditions are described as “inhumane.” Others had fled forced labor, sexual violence and even modern-day slave markets. A few weeks earlier, activists had blocked one of MSF’s boats in Catania — the rescue team was not amused, but nor were its members threatened. Instead, they’ve grown weary: They want to get on with their work, not play games with people who are putting vulnerable people’s lives at risk.

Because of these “games,” Patreon dropped Lauren Southern.

Lauren Southern, a right-wing Canadian blogger and YouTuber who works with Generation Identity, said Patreon “essentially eviscerat[ed] the majority of my income” when the crowdfunding site banned her earlier this month. In a YouTube video uploaded July 21, Southern shows an email from Patreon that reads: “It appears you are currently raising funds in order to take part in activities that are likely to cause loss of life. We have therefore decided to remove your page.”

Southern was recently involved in a viral stunt obstructing a refugee search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean and had made plans to do it again on a larger scale. Jack Conte, a cofounder of Patreon, took to YouTube on July 28 to confirm and explain the decision. He said that Patreon’s trust and safety team judges accounts by their “manifest observable behavior … what a camera has seen, what an audio device has recorded.” He pointed to Southern’s video of herself directing her coconspirators to veer in front of a rescue ship and her plans for a second such excursion as evidence.

Of course she’s now being hailed as a martyr for free speech.

Greatest ever ever ever ever

Aug 2nd, 2017 12:59 pm | By

Another entry in the Great Book of Donald’s Lies:

On Tuesday, Politico got its hands on a previously unpublished transcript of Trump’s July 25 interview with the Wall Street Journal. In that interview, Trump makes a bold claim about his controversial Boy Scouts speech the day before. After someone from the Journal suggested that Trump got a “mixed” reaction to his speech, Trump — as he often does — seemed to overcompensate.

“I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful,” Trump said. “So there was — there was no mix.”

Except a source for the Scouts said this doesn’t appear to have happened at all.

“We are not aware of any call from national BSA leadership to the White House,” the source said.

Cautiously worded. Maybe the head of Scouts did unofficially call Don to lick his bum? If so he apparently hasn’t claimed credit.

 Trump delivered the speech in West Virginia on the evening of July 24, and the Scouts appeared to rebuke him the next day, saying the organization is “wholly nonpartisan and does not promote any one position, product, service, political candidate or philosophy.”

That was the same day — July 25 — that Trump spoke with the Journal. Two days later, July 27, the Scouts issued a fuller effort to distance themselves from Trump’s speech. In a letter posted online, the Scouts apologized.

“I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree,” said Michael Surbaugh, the chief scout executive for the Boy Scouts of America. “That was never our intent.”

Come on now. It was Trump. What else was he going to do? Give a thoughtful grown-up idealistic speech in a thoughtful grown-up manner? Please.

This, of course, wouldn’t be the first time Trump has inflated the reception his speeches have received. To wit:

Which is more repellent, the lying or the boasting? It’s so hard to choose.

To strike good deals for the American people

Aug 2nd, 2017 12:38 pm | By

Trump reluctantly signed the Russia sanctions bill.

Trump’s reluctant signing of the legislation came nearly a week after it was approved by an overwhelming, bipartisan majority in the Senate and after a similarly large majority in the House. The president issued two statements outlining his concerns with the bill, which he called “seriously flawed,” primarily because it limits his ability to negotiate sanctions without congressional approval.

“By limiting the Executive’s flexibility, this bill makes it harder for the United States to strike good deals for the American people, and will drive China, Russia, and North Korea much closer together,” Trump said in a statement on Wednesday morning.

“Deals” – as if they’re arguing over the price of a set of golf clubs Trump want to sell on eBay.

The signing statement, long a controversial tool of president, expresses the president’s concern with legislation but it does nothing to halt or amend it. The president had the ability to veto it, but it would likely have been overridden by majorities in Congress.

Bush junior used those extensively by way of saying he was going to ignore the legislation – hence the “controversial” label.

Lawmakers’ solidarity in tying Trump’s hands on this issue reflects a deepening concern about the administration’s posture toward Russia, which critics have characterized as naive. The new Russia sanctions expand on measures taken by the Obama administration to punish the Kremlin for its alleged efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. But Trump has continued to doubt that Russia was responsible and he has called the investigations in Congress and by the special counsel into Russian meddling a “witch hunt.”

Is it naïve, or is it corrupt, or is it blackmailed?

Trump said that he signed the bill despite his reservations for the sake of “national unity.” In a second statement accompanying his signing of the legislation, Trump called some of the provisions in the legislation “clearly unconstitutional.”

Trump of course has no clue what’s constitutional and what isn’t.

According to constitutional law experts, Congress rightfully asserted its own constitutional powers to serve as a check on the executive branch, even on matters of national security.

Constitutional and national security expert Michael Glennon from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy said that Trump’s statement was “gross misreading” of the case law he cited in his signing statement to bolster his claim that the congressional review provision had unconstitutionally robbed him of the power to negotiate.
“That’s obviously a misguided interpretation of his constitutional authority,” Glennon said. “Congress has very broad authority over foreign commerce — it’s explicitly given the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations.
“It could have, if it desired, imposed those sanctions without giving the president any waiver authority whatsoever,” he added.
Well ok but Trump is president and you’re not.

Which twin has the dump?

Aug 2nd, 2017 7:06 am | By

The BBC asks, slyly, is the White House really a dump?

Why no, who said it was? Bette Davis?

Haha just kidding; of course not, it was Our Donnie, chatting to fellow bozos on one of his golf courses.

According to, Mr Trump has explained his frequent appearances at various courses across America to patrons by saying: “That White House is a real dump.”

It led Chelsea Clinton, who is more than a little familiar with the interior of the White House, to tweet: “Thank you to all the White House ushers, butlers, maids, chefs, florists, gardeners, plumbers, engineers & curators for all you do every day.”

So, is it really a dump?

Well, it certainly doesn’t look like that in photographs released by Architectural Digest in July.

Yes but does Architectural Digest meet Donald Trump’s high standards?

Image result for trump penthouse

Now that is tasteful elegance.

If the current president is displeased by his new residence, it may be due to a clash of personal taste.

After all, Architectural Digest described the private rooms at the White House as “an oasis of civility and, yes, refined taste”.

But how about Mr Trump’s personal home? His penthouse in New York’s Trump Towers certainly has a different aesthetic.

Yes, that different aesthetic is the style known as “really globbing it on.”

“At one level, [the decor is] aspirational, meant to project the wealth so many citizens can only dream of,” author Peter York wrote in Politico. “But it also has important parallels – not with Italian Renaissance or French baroque, where its flourishes come from, but with something more recent. The best aesthetic descriptor of Trump’s look, I’d argue, is dictator style.”

According to Mr York, who has written a book called Dictator Style, the apartment screams “I am tremendously rich and unthinkably powerful” – which is more than a little at odds with Washington’s more understated style. After all, its ” neoclassical public buildings” are supposed to “evoke stability and trustworthiness through their restraint”, he wrote.

Dictator Really Globbing It On.

By that standard the White House no doubt does look very restrained and minimalist, aka a dump.


Aug 1st, 2017 6:03 pm | By

Politico has the full transcript of Trump’s interview with the adoring Wall Street Journal. The Journal published excerpts, but the transcript was [gasp] leaked.

Trump, as always, babbles and thrashes from subject to subject and repeats himself repeats himself. He also gets very stroppy when anyone says anything hinting he’s not universally beloved.

WSJ: We were in West Virginia yesterday.

TRUMP: Oh, you did? Was that a scene, though? Huh?

WSJ: That was a scene, yes. (Laughter.)

TRUMP: Biggest crowd they’ve ever had. What did you think?

WSJ: I thought it was an interesting speech in the context of the Boy Scouts.

TRUMP: Right.

WSJ: They seemed to get a lot of feedback from former scouts and –

TRUMP: Did they like it?

WSJ: It seemed mixed.

TRUMP: They loved it. [Laughter.] It wasn’t — it was no mix. That was a standing –

WSJ: In the — you got a good — you got a good reaction in –

TRUMP: I mean, you know, he writes mostly negative stuff. But that was a standing ovation –

WSJ: You got a good reaction inside the arena, that’s right.

TRUMP: … from the time I walked out on the stage — because I know. And by the way, I’d be the first to admit mixed. I’m a guy that will tell you mixed. There was no mix there. That was a standing ovation from the time I walked out to the time I left, and for five minutes after I had already gone. There was no mix.

WSJ: Yeah, there was a lot of supporters in the arena.

TRUMP: And I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful. So there was — there was no mix.

But he’d be the first to admit mix. The very first. He’d admit it up one side and down the other. He’s a guy that will tell you mixed. But this was not mixed.

He’s been learning that some places have many people. He did not know that before. It’s amazing the things you learn.

TRUMP: Well, you know, we’re going for 15 [percent]. We’re going to see, and we’ll see. But, you know, I don’t want to say anything about negotiation. I mean, we are asking for 15 percent, and we think we’re going to grow tremendously.

So I deal with foreign countries, and despite what you may read, I have unbelievable relationships with all of the foreign leaders. They like me. I like them. You know, it’s amazing. So I’ll call, like, major — major countries, and I’ll be dealing with the prime minister or the president. And I’ll say, how are you doing? Oh, don’t know, don’t know, not well, Mr. President, not well. I said, well, what’s the problem? Oh, GDP 9 percent, not well. And I’m saying to myself, here we are at like 1 percent, dying, and they’re at 9 percent and they’re unhappy. So, you know, and these are like countries, you know, fairly large, like 300 million people. You know, a lot of people say — they say, well, but the United States is large. And then you call places like Malaysia, Indonesia, and you say, you know, how many people do you have? And it’s pretty amazing how many people they have. So China’s going to be at 7 [percent] or 8 percent, and they have a billion-five, right? So we should do really well.

There’s the tragedy of Sessions.

WSJ: You can fire him.

TRUMP: Look, Jeff – I could. But we’ll see what happens. But I was – I appointed a man to a position. And then shortly after he gets the position, he recused himself. I said, what’s that all about? Why didn’t you tell me that you were going to do that, and I wouldn’t have appointed you? But I appointed him. And shortly thereafter, he recused himself. So I think that is a –

BAKER: You also suggested in Cleveland today they should be going – or, yesterday – they should be going after Hillary Clinton. Is that –

TRUMP: Well, I didn’t – I wouldn’t have wanted to. But I see the way they go after us on a witch hunt, you know? The Russian – the Russian story’s all an excuse for the Democrats losing.

Therefore he should “go after” her – as if it were grade school as opposed to a government.

They divert to other things for awhile but by golly it comes back to Sessions. Ssssesssssionssssss.

WSJ: Just on Sessions, just one thing. Would you like to see him step aside? Would you like to see him resign? Would it be in the country’s best interest just –

TRUMP: I’m just very disappointed in him. I’m disappointed in, you know, a number of categories. I told you, the leakers. He should have – he should be after them. So many people say to me: Why are they going after you on nothing and they leave Hillary Clinton alone on, you know, really major things? And it is – so I’m disappointed in him. And don’t forget, when they say he endorsed me, I went to Alabama. I had 40,000 people, you may have been there, remember, in Mobile?

WSJ: I remember.

TRUMP: I had 40,000 people. He was the senator from Alabama. I won the state by a lot, massive numbers. A lot of the states I won by massive numbers. But he was a senator. He looks at 40,000 people and he probably says, what do I have to lose, and he endorsed me. So it’s not like a great, loyal thing about the endorsement. But I’m very disappointed in Jeff Sessions.

But about that other matter, Mr President?

WSJ: Are you willing for the status quo to continue, though? At what point do you say enough?

TRUMP: I’m just looking at it. I’ll just see.

WSJ: What about Bob Mueller?

TRUMP: It’s a very important, very important thing.

WSJ: I mean, but, Bob Mueller is also really the one leading this investigation. It’s his job to see –

TRUMP: Well, we’re going to see.

BAKER: And he’s investigating Russia – your Russian connection –

WSJ: He’s the Russian guy. So Sessions has recused himself, but is Bob Mueller’s job safe? There is speculation –

TRUMP: No, we’re going to see. I mean, I have no comment yet, because it’s too early. But we’ll see. We’re going to see. Here’s the good news: I was never involved with Russia. There was nobody in the campaign. I’ve got 200 people that will say that they’ve never seen anybody on the campaign. Here’s another – he was involved early. There’s nobody on the campaign that saw anybody from Russia. We had nothing to do with Russia. They lost an election and they came up with this as an excuse. And the only ones that are laughing are the Democrats and the Russians. They’re the only ones that are laughing. And if Jeff Sessions didn’t recuse himself, we wouldn’t even be talking about this subject.

WSJ: Would you consider –

TRUMP: You know, it was very interesting. Trey Gowdy said today – again, he’s a very straight shooter, he’s a good guy – he said, no, I understand the president. He was on Fox. He said: I understand the president. You put a man in office who really wanted that job. I actually said to him – and you know some of my lawyers, it’s not – you know, off the record, it’s not exactly – right? You know some of them.

BAKER: I know Marc quite well.

TRUMP: Well, but a lot of them. But I put a man in office – and he said this. And he goes in office, then he immediately recuses himself. I fully understand the president. You know, and a lot of people do, a lot of people. He – you know, I don’t go to loyalty. I think it’s disloyal to the office of the presidency, not necessarily me. I think it’s very disloyal to the office of the presidency. And if he didn’t do that, you wouldn’t have all this stuff. You know, you wouldn’t have it.

Yup yup yup that’s it, it’s all about the office of the presidency, that’s what he cares about. Not about himself at all.

Who We Are

Aug 1st, 2017 4:52 pm | By

Benjamin Wittes quotes the Wall Street Journal:

The nation’s top narcotics officer repudiated President Donald Trump’s remarks about police use of force, issuing a memo saying Drug Enforcement Administration agents must “always act honorably” by maintaining “the very highest standards” in the treatment of criminal suspects.

Chuck Rosenberg, who as acting DEA chief works for the president, told agency personnel world-wide in a Saturday memo to disregard any suggestion that roughing up suspects would be tolerated. The memo came a day after Mr. Trump told a crowd of law-enforcement officers they shouldn’t be “too nice” when arresting “thugs.”

“The president, in remarks delivered yesterday in New York, condoned police misconduct regarding the treatment of individuals placed under arrest by law enforcement,” begins the memo, titled “Who We Are” and marked “Global Distribution.”

Mr. Rosenberg wrote that although he is certain no “special agent or task force officer of the DEA would mistreat a defendant,” Mr. Trump’s comments required a response.

The White House, the Justice Department and the DEA, which is an arm of the Justice Department, declined to comment on the Rosenberg memo.

“I write to offer a strong reaffirmation of the operating principles to which we, as law enforcement professionals, adhere,” the memo says. “I write because we have an obligation to speak out when something is wrong. That’s what law enforcement officers do. That’s what you do. We fix stuff. At least, we try.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if more people who work for the president did that? Like for instance, as Wittes says, Sessions and Rosenstein?

Wittes comments:

This is what it looks like when a law enforcement agency head is willing to speak seriously in response to Trump’s abusive treatment of law enforcement and abusive vision of it.

And it’s actually not the first time Rosenberg has spoken publicly about agency values over the past few months. Back in April, he testified before a congressional committee about the DEA’s “Core Values program,” which he iniated in 2015. The values he articulated are worth pausing over in relation to Trump’s engagement with law enforcement generally. In his testimony, Rosenberg described that “these values reflect what it means to be a DEA employee” and said that “these Core Values . . . form the cornerstone for our Compliance Program, geared towards holding ourselves accountable and maintaining our integrity and reputation for future generations.” Notably, he lists the core values explicitly in his email, which I quote in full below.

What are DEA’s Core Values?

  1. Dedication to upholding the Constitution of the United States and the Rule of Law.
  2. Respect and compassion for those we protect and serve.

Ok let’s stop there and think about that one. It covers everyone, you know, including suspects. It should and I hope in Rosenberg’s mind does also cover convicted perps. It covers everyone; it doesn’t carve out big exceptions for people who should have their heads slammed into cars before they’re even questioned, or for people in the wrong political party, or for women, or for immigrants, or for losers.

Isn’t that what we want? Just in general? Mutual respect and compassion as the default? Not mockery and cruelty and bullying as the default?

This is what’s so horrendous about living in Trump world, this is what’s bringing us all down so hard. It’s this sudden total abandonment of that core principle or value. It makes everything seem hopeless and disappointing and awful. Being governed by a mean callous bully of a man is a terrible situation.

These lists are valuable in the present moment because they help explain the deep clash that is taking place between President Trump and his senior law enforcement officials. Take a moment and ask yourself which of Rosenberg’s core values President Trump might even plausibly be said to be adhering to.

Dedication to upholding the Constitution of the United States and the rule of law? Nope.

Respect and compassion? Pulease.

Exactly. How horrible is that?

She was shoved out of the room

Aug 1st, 2017 11:53 am | By

The State Department is sinking into a slough.

On the first Friday in May, Foreign Affairs Day, the staff gathers in the flag-bedecked C Street lobby of the State Department beside the memorial plaques for the 248 members of foreign affairs agencies who have lost their lives in the line of duty. A moment of silence is observed. As president of the American Foreign Service Association, Barbara Stephenson helps organize the annual event. This year, she was set to enter a delegates’ lounge to brief Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on its choreography before appearing alongside him. Instead, she told me, she was shoved out of the room.

Stephenson, a former ambassador to Panama, is not used to being manhandled at the State Department she has served with distinction for more than three decades. She had been inclined to give Tillerson the benefit of the doubt. Transitions between administrations are seldom smooth, and Tillerson is a Washington neophyte, unversed in diplomacy, an oilman trying to build a relationship with an erratic boss, President Trump.

Still, that shove captured the rudeness and remoteness that have undermined trust at Foggy Bottom.

Tillerson’s a neophyte but he gives no visible sign of humility or willingness to be educated.

An exodus is underway. Those who have departed include Nancy McEldowney, the director of the Foreign Service Institute until she retired last month, who described to me “a toxic, troubled environment and organization”; Dana Shell Smith, the former ambassador to Qatar, who said what was most striking was the “complete and utter disdain for our expertise”; and Jake Walles, a former ambassador to Tunisia with some 35 years of experience. “There’s just a slow unraveling of the institution,” he told me.

The 8,000 Foreign Service officers are not sure how to defend American values under a president who has entertained the idea of torture, shown contempt for the Constitution, and never met an autocrat who failed to elicit his sympathy. Trump seems determined to hollow out the State Department in a strange act of national self-amputation.

I read somewhere, earlier today, that we don’t even have a goddam ambassador to South Korea. Trump hasn’t even bothered to nominate one.

The president signaled early on that military might, not diplomatic deftness, was his thing. Soft power was for the birds. This worldview (in essence no more than Trump’s gut) has been expressed in a proposed cut of about 30 percent in the State Department budget as military spending soars; a push to eliminate some 2,300 jobs; the vacancy of many senior posts, including 20 of the 22 assistant secretary positions requiring Senate confirmation; unfilled ambassadorships — roughly 30 percent of the total — from Paris to New Delhi; and the brushoff of the department’s input in interagency debate and in pivotal decisions, like withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. Days are now marked by resignations, unanswered messages and idled capacity.

It’s really horrifying.

Tillerson, who declined my request for an interview and whose spokesman never responded to calls and an email, insists he knows what he’s about.

Yeah see that’s what I mean. So does Trump, and look how well that’s going.

The former chief executive of Exxon Mobil is a methodical man. He’s an engineer; nuance is not his forte. “What’s the rush?” he’s been heard to say, apparently oblivious to the storm brewing. At Exxon, he occupied the so-called God Pod, known for its remoteness. At the State Department, his chief of staff is widely seen as having walled him off. His well-regarded deputy, John Sullivan, has initiated some much-needed outreach, but top leadership is still so depleted that communication stalls.

Olympian aloofness may work at an oil company. It won’t at a government agency whose leader is the nation’s face to the world.

Tillerson has plans to streamline and slash.

“The unanswered question with the cuts is: to what end?” McEldowney said. Another senior official, who has since left, pressed Tillerson for direction and was told: “It’s very simple. End terrorism. End radicalization. Deal with China.”

Oh yes, it’s very simple. You just give this screw a half-turn and all your troubles are over.

On May 3, in his one town-hall meeting (if an event where he refused to take questions may be called that) with the department staff, Tillerson declared, “If we condition too heavily that others must adopt this value that we’ve come to over a long history of our own, it really creates obstacles to our ability to advance our national security interests, our economic interests.”

This suggested Tillerson’s acquiescence to the valueless, transactional foreign policy emerging from the White House, a zero-sum game in which “Pay up” is the constant admonition to allies — and forget about any shining city on a hill. It’s hard to overstate how disturbing this is for many in the State Department. They know diplomacy is a tough business built around sometimes ugly compromise. But human rights are not some bargaining chip in the quest for the ultimate deal.

It’s not even just us bleeding-hearts libbruls who are appalled.

Asked about the situation at the State Department, Colin Powell, the former secretary of state, told me: “Our interests in the end rest on our values. I am concerned because the country seems to be veering away from values that are so foundational for us.” David Rank, the top American diplomat in China who quit last month over Trump’s decision to leave the Paris climate agreement, echoed that: “It’s disturbing to have an administration so nakedly uninterested in our values.”

It’s horrifying is what it is.

It’s so, Joe

Aug 1st, 2017 10:26 am | By

Joe Arpaio has been found guilty of criminal contempt of court.

Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio committed a crime by defying a court order to stop detaining suspected undocumented immigrants, a judge ruled on Monday, in the latest rebuke for a once-popular politician who was voted out of office last year.

United States District Judge Susan R. Bolton found Mr. Arpaio, 85, guilty of criminal contempt of court, a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail. Mr. Arpaio’s lawyers said he would appeal.

The conviction comes as sheriffs are under pressure to play a major role in the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown. The president has threatened to withhold federal funds from local governments that do not cooperate by holding jail inmates for deportation, and immigrant advocates have pushed back with lawsuits charging that such detentions violate constitutional rights.

Arpaio is a terrible, cruel man who was a terrible cruel sheriff.

Mr. Arpaio, who once called himself “America’s toughest sheriff,” made jail inmates wear pink underwear and served food that some prisoners called inedible. He regularly held undocumented immigrants past their court-ordered release dates to ensure that they would be picked up by immigration agents, and vowed to investigate President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.

He also housed prisoners in tents in the desert, with (of course) no air conditioning. He didn’t house them that way because he had to, he did it as cruel and unusual punishment. He’s a mean devil.

They wanted to be truthful

Aug 1st, 2017 8:42 am | By

What did he lie and when did he lie it?

Last night, Ashley Parker, Carol D. Leonnig, Philip Rucker and Tom Hamburger broke the latest blockbuster story in this scandal, in which the president dictated a misleading statement about the nature of the fateful meeting his son Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and his then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort had with a group of Russians during the campaign:

On the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Germany last month, President Trump’s advisers discussed how to respond to a new revelation that Trump’s oldest son had met with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign — a disclosure the advisers knew carried political and potentially legal peril.

The strategy, the advisers agreed, should be for Donald Trump Jr. to release a statement to get ahead of the story. They wanted to be truthful, so their account couldn’t be repudiated later if the full details emerged.

But within hours, at the president’s direction, the plan changed.

Flying home from Germany on July 8 aboard Air Force One, Trump personally dictated a statement in which Trump Jr. said that he and the Russian lawyer had “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children” when they met in June 2016, according to multiple people with knowledge of the deliberations.

That’s interesting. They had enough sense to realize that a gross lie could bite them in the ass, but clueless psychopathic narcissistic Trump said no no we have to lie about it, no one will ever know.

This latest story is clearly one of the most significant developments in this scandal to date, for two reasons. First, it describes an organized effort to mislead the public — not to spin, or minimize the story, or distract from it, or throw out wild accusations about someone else, but to intentionally fool everyone into believing something false. Second, it implicates the president himself. Indeed, the most extraordinary part of the picture this story paints is that while other people involved were recommending some measure of transparency on the assumption that the truth would come out eventually, they were overruled by the president, who personally dictated the misleading statement.

Yes, it is interesting, but it’s not the smallest bit surprising.

And it gets worse. Once the story broke, Trump’s own lawyer went to the media and denied that the president was involved in the drafting of the misleading statement. In two televised interviews, Jay Sekulow said “the president was not involved in the drafting of the statement,” “The president didn’t sign off on anything,” and “The president wasn’t involved in that.” While it’s theoretically possible that Sekulow would make emphatic statements of fact like those about what his client did or didn’t do without actually asking Trump, that seems almost impossible to believe. Sekulow is a prominent attorney who knows exactly what kind of trouble that could bring, both to himself and his client. So the only reasonable conclusion is that he was repeating what Trump told him.

So, to put this together: The president of the United States personally wrote a statement about this meeting with the Russians, a statement that everyone involved knew to be false. Going further, he then either lied to his own lawyer about his involvement so that the lawyer would repeat that lie publicly (highly likely) or was candid with his lawyer and persuaded him to lie to the media on his behalf (much less likely).

And this isn’t a lie about blow jobs in that little room off the Oval Office. This is a lie about something rather more significant – colluding with a hostile foreign power to cheat the election.

The fact that Trump assumed that he could engineer this mini-coverup and the truth would never get out, both about the meeting itself and about his role in misleading the public about it, shows just how deluded he is about how his own White House works.

And the fact that he thought he had the right to do it shows just how psychopathic and narcissistic he is.

Cetacean physics

Jul 31st, 2017 5:26 pm | By

Dolphins making bubble-rings.

H/t Dave Ricks

Not through freedom but through bondage?

Jul 31st, 2017 4:55 pm | By

The Freethinker editor Barry Duke shared with me this passage from E. L. Doctorow’s Ragtime:

The scene is a New York meeting held by Emma Goldman:

Love in freedom! Goldman cried. Those who like Mrs. Alving have paid with blood and tears for their spiritual awakening, repudiate marriage as an imposition, a shallow empty mockery. Some of the audience, including Tateh, shouted No! No! Comrades and brothers, Goldman said, can you socialists ignore the double bondage of one-half of the human race? Do you think the society that plunders your labor has no interest in the way you are asked to live with women? Not through freedom but through bondage? All the reformers talk today of the white slavery problem. But if white slavery is a problem, why is marriage not a problem? Is there no connection between the institution of marriage and the institution of the brothel? At mention of this word cries of Shame!

Here’s me column in the Freethinker.

Freedom to starve

Jul 31st, 2017 4:34 pm | By

I’m reading a book by Cass Sunstein that starts by talking about “The Myth of Laissez Faire” (chapter 2): there is no such thing because property itself is based on a system of laws and enforcement, so the whole idea that government is an intrusion is nonsensical. I’ve always thought that, so I’m not finding much to argue with so far.

In the process he talks about a couple of Supreme Court rulings. The first is Adkins v Children’s Hospital of DC:

Facts of the case

In 1918, Congress enacted a law which guaranteed a minimum wage to women and children employed in the District of Columbia. This case was decided together with Children’s Hospital v. Lyons.


Did the law interfere with the ability of employers and employees to enter into contracts with each other without assuring due process of law, a freedom guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment?


The Court found that upholding the statute would dangerously extend the police power of the state and, thus, found it unconstitutional. Justice Sutherland recognized that the freedom of individuals to make contracts is not absolute and curtailments of this right may be justified in the face of “exceptional circumstances.” However, in this case, the statute’s implementation procedures were overly vague and did not act to regulate the character or method of wage payments, or the conditions and hours of labor, areas in which regulation to protect the public welfare were legitimate. The Congress simply had enacted a “price-fixing law.”

That was 1923. The second case was 1937, West Coast Hotel Company v Parrish.

Facts of the case

Elsie Parrish, an employee of the West Coast Hotel Company, received sub-minimum wage compensation for her work. Parrish brought a suit to recover the difference between the wages paid to her and the minimum wage fixed by state law.


Did the minimum wage law violate the liberty of contract as construed under the Fifth Amendment as applied by the Fourteenth Amendment?


In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court held that the establishment of minimum wages for women was constitutionally legitimate. The Court noted that the Constitution did not speak of the freedom of contract and that liberty was subject to the restraints of due process. The Court also noted that employers and employees were not equally “free” in negotiating contracts, since employees often were constrained by practical and economic realities. This was found to be especially true in the case of women. This case explicitly overruled the Court’s decision in Adkins v. Children’s Hospital (1923).

Or, as Anatole France put it:

La majestueuse égalité des lois, qui interdit au riche comme au pauvre de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans les rues et de voler du pain.

In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.

It takes a lot of social arranging to make it possible for a Donald Trump to lie and cheat his way into the big piles of money.

Guest post: Cooking the stats

Jul 31st, 2017 3:23 pm | By

Originally a comment by iknklast on Men work harder.

Number of hours worked does not necessarily correlate with how hard one works. And another thing – those numbers are very close together – it seems very likely that the variation around the mean is such that it may not be significant. Although I realize this is anecdotal evidence, I have never been in a job where the men worked more hours than the women. And my ex (as well as my current husband before he retired) put in substantially fewer hours per day/week/month than I did.

As for women taking off more time, that might be, but again, my own experience suggests that there may be more to this story. I suspect it is noticed more when women take off any significant amount of time. At one job, I was chastised for “abuse of leave”. I took off an hour early three times during my seven month tenure because I had surgery right before I began working there, and had to have physical therapy; occasionally I could not get an appointment either before or after work hours. On those days I had to leave early, I came in early. When my boss was counting up my absences, she counted each of those hours as an entire day. Meanwhile, my male colleague, who had a heart problem, was frequently absent for doctor appointments, and would be absent sometimes for a half day, which got counted by the boss as a couple of hours. Our boss magnified every absence for the females employees, and minimized every absence for the males. If this sort of thing is common (and it has happened at most of my jobs, though not usually as blatant), it could be skewing the results of the survey. In fact, my boss at my current job required me to sign out a half day absence if I left 15 minutes early; it wasn’t until I spoke with one of the males, who told me that our contract did not require us to sign for absence unless we were gone more than 2 hours (and the men knew this; the women did not). And you couldn’t sign out for 15 minutes of leave; it was half a day. So my absences, which are almost non-existent, were magnified to look like I was taking off an entire day a semester instead of leaving 15 minutes early twice (and working through my lunch, so the work got done).

And yes, women are doing more of the childcare. When I was going to the hospital in labor, my husband was informed he should come in as soon as I gave birth; since that ended up being 8 hours later, he actually did get to take the full day. When we made an agreement that we would alternate taking care of our son when he was sick with the chicken pox, he was told by his boss that he could not take off for that – it was his wife’s job. I had to take off.

And when I got home, like most women, I had another shift to work. I picked the son up at the day care. I stopped at the grocery store. I cooked dinner. I washed the dishes. I put the dishes away. I did the laundry, dusted, and swept. Meanwhile, my husband and son sat in front of the TV together. (And I was working 2 hours a day more at work than he was, too). Then he complained to everyone he knew that he was tired of doing half the housework! His only real chores consisted of making the bed in the morning (because he was still in it when I left for work) and dropping off the son at daycare (because it wasn’t open yet when I left for work).

Again, I realize this is all anecdotal, but I also realize that many of these facts may be skewed by perceptions. I get suspicious whenever I see a study that flies in the face of everything I have known, and what I have known is women working just as long as men, and usually longer, and doing as much work in an hour as many of the men did in two. So I have to look at the data and ask the hard questions – how did they compile it? Who compiled it? What is the reality behind the single numbers given – variations on the mean, range, etc – and what assumptions were built in.

Sorry for the tirade. I’m currently spending my entire summer vacation working long hours, and this sort of BS irks me.

Five Stages of White House Employment

Jul 31st, 2017 1:11 pm | By

Can you summarize the turmoil?

Jul 31st, 2017 12:56 pm | By

Amy Wang at the Post talked to an expert about what Kelly needs to do to make Trump’s operation less shambolic. This of course was before the news broke that Kelly has kicked Scaramucci out, so they had to add a bracketed update.

President Trump jolted the White House yet again Friday when he announced that he was ousting embattled chief of staff Reince Priebus, instead bringing into the role Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly. Immediately, Washington insiders contrasted Priebus with Kelly, a retired four-star general and reported disciplinarian who “won’t suffer idiots and fools.”

Oh yes? But he accepted a job working for the biggest idiot and fool most of us have ever encountered.

First of all, can you summarize the turmoil in the White House now as it relates to the chief of staff — and did you foresee any of this as your book was nearing publication?

While the timing of the book was obviously impossible to forecast, it didn’t take a genius to figure out that Donald Trump was headed for trouble. I wrote an epilogue in December, before Trump took office. I essentially predicted that if Trump tried to run the White House the way he ran his campaign — based on seat-of-the-pants decisions without an empowered White House chief of staff — that it would be disastrous. This could not work. And that’s what we’ve seen over the last six months.

This White House is broken, perhaps beyond repair. It can’t do anything right. It can’t issue executive orders that are enforceable. It can’t pass legislation. It can’t prioritize the president’s agenda. It can’t get anybody on the same page. In a normal White House, all of those things flow from an empowered White House chief of staff who can execute the president’s agenda and most importantly tell him what he does not want to hear. And none of that is happening.

What should Kelly do first to have hope of being successful?

The first thing he has to do is make sure that there are conditions. That would be the definition of insanity if John Kelly took this job with the same authority that Reince Priebus had. What he needs to do on Day One, if not well beforehand, is insist that he is first among equals in the White House and that everybody, with the exception of family, goes through him to get to the president.

Look, it’s possible that Stephen K. Bannon can have direct access to the Oval and he can pretend to be in charge of policy. I think everybody else has to report through Kelly. He has to be in charge of executing the president’s agenda. Somebody like [new White House communications director Anthony] Scaramucci, he shouldn’t be within 100 miles of a functioning White House. He cannot report directly to Trump or it will be a complete disaster. (Note: Shortly after this interview, news broke that Scaramucci had been ousted as White House communications director just 10 days after he was named to the job.)

Of course, we don’t actually want the Trump White House to function smoothly. On the other hand we also don’t want it to function so roughly that Trump ends up throwing all the nukes.