Notes and Comment Blog

Not a real catastrophe

Oct 3rd, 2017 10:51 am | By

Oh goddddddd. Bozo is in Puerto Rico. Bozo is talking.

President Trump on Tuesday told Puerto Rico officials they should feel “very proud” they haven’t lost thousands of lives like in “a real catastrophe like Katrina,” while adding that the devastated island territory has thrown the nation’s budget “a little out of whack.”

Silly silly silly Puerto Rico, inviting a hurricane to visit them without checking the nation’s budget first.

Trump’s remarks came as he touched down in San Juan amid harsh criticism of the slow federal response to the natural disaster and after he praised himself earlier in the day for the “great job” and “A-plus” performance he said his administration deserved for its response to Hurricane Maria.

He’s an awesome A-plus guy, with the world’s most gorgeous blonde hair and a brain second only to Isaac Newton’s.

“Every death is a horror, but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous — hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here, with really a storm that was just totally overpowering, nobody’s ever seen anything like this,” Trump said, before turning to a local official to ask how many people had died in storm. “What is your death count as of this moment? 17? 16 people certified, 16 people versus in the thousands.”

Yay! So so lucky. Puerto Rico didn’t have a storm surge that drowned thousands of houses, instead it had winds that smashed every bit of infrastructure on the island, so they get to die more slowly than the people of New Orleans. SO LUCKY.

The president also seemed to fault the small island for imperiling the United States’s budget by requiring hurricane relief funds, saying, “I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack.”

He’s such a lovely thoughtful compassionate tactful guy.

Before Trump’s impromptu remarks, the president’s visit was intended to be highly scripted…

Yeah well. Toddlers don’t know from scripted.

As the president, clad in a black windbreaker and khakis, departed the White House, he said Cruz has “come back a long way,” before returning to one his favorite topics — himself and his own performance.

“I think it’s now acknowledged what a great job we’ve done, and people are looking at that,” he said. “And in Texas and in Florida, we get an A-plus. And I’ll tell you what, I think we’ve done just as good in Puerto Rico, and it’s actually a much tougher situation. But now the roads are cleared, communications is starting to come back. We need their truck drivers to start driving trucks.”

Yes can we please stop talking about Puerto Rico now and talk about Trump instead? About how awesome Trump is? Can we stick to that please? Is that asking too much?

How not to write a speech for Trump to read

Oct 3rd, 2017 9:01 am | By

We should not have to hear Donald Trump talking like this:

Hundreds of our fellow citizens are now mourning the sudden loss of a loved one, a parent, a child, a brother or sister. We cannot fathom their pain, we cannot imagine their loss. To the families of the victims, we are praying for you and we are here for you. And we ask God to help see you through this very dark period.

Scripture teaches us the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. We seek comfort in those words, for we know that God lives in the hearts of those who grieve. To the wounded who are now recovering in hospitals, we are praying for your full and speedy recovery, and pledge to you our support from this day forward.

We all know he doesn’t believe a word of that, and it sounds ridiculous read by the guy we’ve heard bragging about grabbing them by the pussy.

In memory of the fallen, I have directed that our great flag be flown at half-staff. I will be visiting Las Vegas on Wednesday to meet with law enforcement, first responders, and the families of the victims. In moments of tragedy and horror, America comes together as one. And it always has.

We call upon the bonds that unite us, our faith, our family, and our shared values. We call upon the bonds of citizenship, the ties of community, and the comfort of our common humanity. Our unity cannot be shattered by evil, our bonds cannot be broken by violence, and though we feel such great anger, at the senseless murder of our fellow citizens, it is our love that defines us today. And always will. Forever.

That, from him, is completely disgusting. He doesn’t get to babble about bonds that unite us and how our unity cannot be shattered and the love that defines us when picking fights is his favorite activity and he’s constantly boiling over with hatred.

In times such as these, I know we are searching for some kind of meaning in the chaos, some kind of light in the darkness. The answers do not come easy. But we can take solace knowing that even the darkest space can be brightened by a single light and even the most terrible despair can be illuminated by a single ray of hope.

Jezus – that is some bad speechwriting. His speeches should fit him; they should be plausible. They should be written in such a way that they sound like him. That passage obviously sounds nothing like Donald Trump. It’s way way way too elevated and full of deepities for a Trump to read aloud.

Melania and I are praying for every American who has been hurt, wounded or lost the ones they loved so dearly in this terrible, terrible attack. We pray for the entire nation to find unity and peace, and we pray for the day when evil is banished and the innocent are safe from hatred and from fear.

May God bless the souls of the lives that are lost, may God give us the grace of healing and may God provide the grieving families with strength to carry on. Thank you. God bless America. Thank you.

Phony as a 3-dollar bill.

Not right now, children

Oct 2nd, 2017 4:23 pm | By

Yet another iteration of the “now right after a mass shooting is not the time to talk about gun control” bromide – the one that makes absolutely no sense. Why isn’t right after yet another mass shooting very much the time to talk about gun control? It’s like saying “now right after a horrific multi-car crash caused by a driver texting is not the time to talk about not texting while driving.” Yes it is, it’s exactly the time to talk about it, when the dire consequences are right on the front page.

This one of course is the strikingly out of her depth Huckabee Junior.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday repeatedly deflected reporters’ questions about gun control, saying “there will certainly be a time for that policy discussion to take place, but that’s not the place that we’re in at this moment.”

Why? Because we should wait until people have become numb and desensitized again? So that nothing will go on being done? Because there sure as hell isn’t any other sensible reason for that glib deflection.

During the same media briefing, however, Sanders weighed in on the exact “policy discussion” that she said the White House would not engage in on “a day of mourning.”

“I think one of the things that we don’t want to do is try to create laws that won’t create — or stop these types of things from happening,” Sanders said. “I think if you look to Chicago, where you had over 4,000 victims of gun-related crimes last year, they have the strictest gun laws in the country. That certainly hasn’t helped there. So, I think we have to, when that time comes for those conversations to take place, then I think we have to look at things that may actually have a real impact.”

This is the White House not talking about gun control.

It’s talking about not-gun control – which is a whole other thing.

“Again, I think before we start trying to talk about the preventions of what took place last night we need to know more facts,” Sanders continued. “And right now, we’re simply not at that point. It’s very easy for Mrs. Clinton to criticize and to come out, but I think we need to remember the only person with blood on their hands is that of the shooter.”

Mm. Ok – so we should let children run around with sharp knives on the grounds that if anyone gets cut it will be only the knife-holder with bloody hands? So then we shouldn’t have traffic lights, because if any crashes happen it’s only the drivers who are at fault. Liberty for all! Very short life, but lashings of liberty.


Prayers and $$$

Oct 2nd, 2017 3:27 pm | By

Rafi Schwartz at Splinternews lists some Congressional people who offered thoughtsandprayers on the Las Vegas slaughter and have taken money from the NRA.

So who is sending their NRA-sponsored well wishes to the victims of the Las Vegas massacre today? Let’s take a look, with a little help from the campaign contribution database at

Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt received $11,900 from the NRA during the 2016 election cycle.

Virginia Congresswoman Barbara Comstock received $10,400 from the NRA during the 2016 election cycle.

North Carolina Senator Richard Burr; Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman; Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley; Texas Congressman Will Hurd…and a lot more. It’s a long inglorious list.

The sums are so small, too. Surely not worth the corruption.

War, homicide, suicide, guns

Oct 2nd, 2017 11:38 am | By

I saw a tweet that staggered me.


Apparently so, yes. Politifact investigated and confirmed.

In a column published shortly after the on-air slayings of two TV journalists in southwestern Virginia, the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof offered some “data points” about the pervasiveness of gun violence in the United States.

One of them was: “More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 than on battlefields of all the wars in American history.”

That sounded familiar. Really familiar. As it turns out, the web version of Kristof’s column sourced a PolitiFact article from Jan. 18, 2013, that fact-checked commentator Mark Shields’ claim that since 1968, “more Americans have died from gunfire than died in … all the wars of this country’s history.” (Shields used the year 1968 because it was the year presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated by gunman Sirhan Sirhan.)

We rated the claim True.

Two and a half years later, we wondered whether the statistic still held up, so we took a new look at the data.

They show their sources and add up the columns.

So the statistic still holds up: There have been 1,516,863 gun-related deaths since 1968, compared to 1,396,733 cumulative war deaths since the American Revolution. That’s 120,130 more gun deaths than war deaths — about 9 percent more, or nearly four typical years worth of gun deaths. And that’s using the most generous scholarly estimate of Civil War deaths, the biggest component of American war deaths.

We’ll offer some added thoughts for context.

These figures refer to all gunfire-related deaths, not just homicides. In fact, homicides represent a minority of gun deaths, with suicides comprising the biggest share. In 2013, according to CDC data, 63 percent of gun-related deaths were from suicides, 33 percent were from homicides, and roughly 1 percent each were from accidents, legal interventions and undetermined causes.

That’s a lot of suicides.

From a great height

Oct 2nd, 2017 10:38 am | By

Another day in Crazyland.

A gunman on a high floor of a Las Vegas hotel rained a rapid-fire barrage on an outdoor concert festival on Sunday night, killing at least 58 people, injuring hundreds of others, and sending thousands of terrified survivors fleeing for cover, in one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history.

Online video of the attack near the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino showed the singer Jason Aldean’s performance at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, a three-day country music event, being interrupted by the sound of gunfire. The music stopped, and as victims fell bleeding, concertgoers screamed, ducked for cover, or ran.

The video clips show what a massive advantage the shooter had given himself – a huge open area on the ground packed with people, overlooked by a tall hotel, with the shooter on the 32d floor. There was nowhere to run to, no cover to take.

I have nothing intelligent to say about this.

I’ll just note that I read somewhere that the four worst mass shootings in US history all happened in this past decade – this one, Orlando, Sandy Hook, and Virginia Tech.

Meanwhile Congress keeps doing more to make guns easily available.

Trump says he won’t fail, doesn’t explain why

Oct 1st, 2017 5:40 pm | By

The Post on Trump’s gruesome undermining of his own Secretary of State.

“Humiliating for Tillerson, but worse, renders him useless. He’ll resign, today or after a brief face-saving interval,” predicted former Obama administration ambassador and National Security Council official Dan Shapiro, one of many foreign policy experts who tweeted about Trump’s Sunday comments, sent from his New Jersey golf club.

So I went to look at Shapiro’s Twitter and that was valuable. I decided to look at all this as an interesting learning opportunity until the moment the nukes burst overhead. Might as well, right?

Later in the day Trump expanded on his point.

“Being nice to Rocket Man hasn’t worked in 25 years, why would it work now? Clinton failed, Bush failed, and Obama failed. I won’t fail.”

Ah. Because he’s so much better at all this than Clinton and Obama.

Tillerson of course is a terrible secretary of state.

Tillerson, a former ExxonMobil chief executive with no previous diplomatic experience, has been under a broader cloud in office, with lawmakers and others criticizing the slow pace of diplomatic appointments, his acquiescence to massive budget cuts proposed by the White House, and the State Department’s lack of visibility on a number of issues.

Other than that…

Carl Benjamin aka Sargon of Akkad

Oct 1st, 2017 1:09 pm | By

Yesterday there was an atheoskeptic or skeptoatheist conference in Milwaukee that was the subject of a lot of ginned-up “controversy” beforehand because that’s what the organizers went for. They invited several notorious Twitter abusers, because Let All the Voices Be Heard; some people who didn’t want to share a stage with notorious Twitter abusers dropped out, and others went ahead anyway.

One who went ahead was Thomas Smith of Serious Inquiries Only, who did a conversation with one of the worst notorious Twitter abusers, Carl Benjamin who tweets as Sargon of Akkad. Friends of mine were talking about how badly that went yesterday.

Charone Frankel posted a clip of the worst moment on Facebook.

Editing to add: Here is a sharper and easier to hear version on Twitter.

Carl Benjamin is no surprise. The cheers from the audience are a surprise.

In late January 2016 Richard Dawkins retweeted a typically malicious and misogynist tweet by Carl Benjamin, one that mocks a specific woman who had long been a target of Twitter abuse. He was disinvited to speak at the Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism as a result, but there was more uproar over that so he was disdisinvited i.e. reinvited.

Things have not improved much since then.

Not a joke

Oct 1st, 2017 10:58 am | By

Tillerson is trying to talk to North Korea, which admittedly is not a project full of promise but when the alternative is nuclear war you kind of have to try, mk? But Trump doesn’t think so, and Trump also doesn’t think it’s a bad idea for a president to undercut his own Secretary of State on Twitter. Yes I said on Twitter. The history books of the future, if there is any future, will be full of lines like “war broke out on Snapchat in the autumn of that year…”

He should be

  1. removed from office
  2. arrested

The Times says it’s not clear if he’s a treasonous maniac or playing a fun game of good cop bad cop.

WASHINGTON — President Trump seemed to undercut his own secretary of state on Sunday as he belittled the prospect of a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear-edged crisis with North Korea even as the administration was seeking to open lines of communication.

In a fresh set of Twitter messages from his New Jersey golf club, where he was spending the weekend, Mr. Trump diminished Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson’s outreach to Pyongyang and its autocratic leader, Kim Jong-un, leaving the impression that he was focused on possible military action. On a visit to China, Mr. Tillerson acknowledged on Saturday that he was trying to open talks.

So what could be more productive than having Mr Clownshoe shouting on Twitter that it’s all for naught?

Negotiations with North Korea have long proved frustrating to American leaders. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both tried talks and granted concessions while ultimately failing to prevent North Korea from developing nuclear weapons. But national security analysts have said there is no viable military option at this point without risking devastating casualties.

White House officials have had no comment on Mr. Tillerson’s disclosure, and it was unclear whether Mr. Trump was aware of it in advance or was using his Twitter feed to play a diplomatic version of good cop, bad cop with his secretary of state. Mr. Trump plans to visit China, South Korea and Japan in November, among other destinations, to keep up regional pressure on Pyongyang.

Mr Trump should be locked up.

Mr. Tillerson, a former chief executive of Exxon Mobil with no prior government experience, has been deeply frustrated working for Mr. Trump, according to associates, who have said it is not clear how long he will choose to stay.

This was not the first time the secretary of state has been publicly contradicted by Mr. Trump. In June, the president launched a harsh broadside against the Persian Gulf state of Qatar barely an hour after Mr. Tillerson, trying to mediate a dispute among Arab neighbors, called for a “calm and thoughtful dialogue.”

The president has not shied away from undercutting other members of his own team during his eight months in office. The most sensational example came in July, when Mr. Trump spent days publicly castigating Attorney General Jeff Sessions as “very weak” and saying that he regretted appointing him.

The president’s tweets about Mr. Tillerson came on a day when he planned to attend the President’s Cup golf tournament and present the trophy to the winner at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, not far from his own golf club in Bedminster, N.J. He planned to return to Washington in the evening.

In other words his tweets came on a day when he’s busy corruptly using his office to promote his business.

He should be removed and arrested for treason.

It is what it looks like

Sep 30th, 2017 3:12 pm | By

Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight tells the media to quit rationalizing the monster.

I’m happy to acknowledge that Trump’s responses to the news are sometimes thought-out and deliberate. His criticisms of the media often seem to fall into this category, for example, since they’re sure to get widespread coverage and Republican voters have overwhelmingly lost faith in the media.

But at many other times, journalists come up with overly convoluted explanations for Trump’s behavior (“this seemingly self-destructive emotional outburst is actually a clever political strategy!”) when simpler ones will suffice (“this is a self-destructive emotional outburst.”). In doing so, they violate both Ockham’s razor and Hanlon’s razor — the latter of which can be stated as “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” One can understand why journalists who rely on having close access to Trump avoid explanations that portray Trump as being irrational, incompetent or bigoted. But sometimes they’re the only explanations that make sense.

Or, rather, irrational, incompetent and bigoted.

It isn’t complicated. What we see is what there is. He’s stupid, he’s malevolent, he has no impulse-control, he’s grotesquely narcissistic. He acts like an enraged toddler because he thinks and feels like an enraged toddler.



Sep 30th, 2017 2:57 pm | By

Speaking of people who want everything done for them…

Meanwhile the mayor of San Juan has been working around the clock.

He’s back

Sep 30th, 2017 2:40 pm | By

Six hours later the monster returns.

“Never mind about the lives of three million people in Puerto Rico, rant about “Fake News” and Democrats instead.”

“I like him but I don’t like her, she can’t come to my party.”

“They say we’re great! It’s all about us and how great we are! Me me me me me me me.”

“She’s a nice Spick Puerto Rican, not like that other one who had the nerve to beg for help.”

“To the people of Puerto Rico: this is all about me. You are thinking about me, aren’t you? In a good way? Don’t be fooled: I’m awesome. Have a nice afternoon!”

“Whew! I finally remembered to say something about the suffering! Close call there.”

“She’s such a whiny bitch.”

A significant step downward

Sep 30th, 2017 10:31 am | By

James Fallows is scathing – and James Fallows is not a guy who scathes easily.

[Trump’s] Twitter outburst this morning — as he has left Washington on another trip to one of his golf courses, as millions of U.S. citizens are without water or electricity after the historic devastation of Hurricane Maria, as by chance it is also Yom Kippur — deserves note. It is a significant step downward for him, and perhaps the first thing he has done in office that, in its coarseness, has actually surprised me. (I explained the difference, for me, between shock and surprise when it comes to Trump, in this item last week.) Temperamentally, intellectually, and in terms of civic and moral imagination, he is not fit for the duties he is now supposed to bear.

That’s been both true and obvious all along, but by god this Twitter outburst does underline the fact.

His first tweet [the one about the mayor being told by the Democrats to be mean to Trump] dramatized his inability to conceive of any event, glorious or tragic, in terms other than what it means about him. People are dying in Puerto Rico; they have lost their homes and farms; children and the elderly are in danger. And what he sees is, “nasty to Trump.”

What he sees, what he reacts to, what he cares about, what he takes deeply to heart.

Then there’s the one about “such poor leadership ability” in the mayor and others who can’t get “their workers” to help – you know, the workers who are struggling to survive and help people near them survive just like everyone else in PR, and who are cut off just like everyone else.

This is an outright attack on the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, whose passionate appeals for her people would evoke compassion and support from any normal person — and from other politicians would stimulate at least a public stance of sympathy. I can think of no other example of a president publicly demeaning American officials in the middle of coping with disaster. There were nasty “God’s punishment!” remarks about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina, but they did not come from the White House or George W. Bush.

And finally there’s the blockbuster about wanting everything done for them.

Want “everything to be done for them.” It is impossible to tell whether this is a conscious racist dog-whistle by Trump—these people! always looking for a handout—or whether it is instinctive. Either way, it is something that no other modern president would have said in public, and that no one who understood the duties of the office could have done.


A man who can say these things—from a golf course, while millions of his fellow citizens are in dire straits, and during an emergency that is worse because of his own narcissistic inattention—does not understand the job.

This has not happened before. It is not normal. It should not be acceptable. The United States is a big, resilient country, but a man like this can do severe damage to it and the world — and at the moment, he is leaving many Americans in mortal peril.

It is not acceptable. I can’t begin to express how not acceptable it is.

He should be removed from office.

He golfs while they die

Sep 30th, 2017 9:16 am | By

Some reactions to President Monster.

President Bully

Sep 30th, 2017 8:30 am | By

He didn’t. He didn’t. Even he can’t be that stupid and petty and egomaniacal. Can he?

Tss. Of course he can. There is no limit to how stupid and petty and egomaniacal he can be. He could run over a bunch of children and complain about the mess on his tires.

Trump responded Saturday morning to harsh critiques from San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz by targeting her personally. The president accused the mayor of playing politics and succumbing to pressure from fellow Democrats to attack his administration. He also, remarkably, directly attacked her and other Puerto Rican officials’ leadership.

“They want everything done for them.”

He typed, from his golf club in New Jersey where he is spending yet another weekend profiteering and playing golf while those pesky little brown people in Puerto Rico keep on being dehydrated and sick and in danger of heat stroke.

There has been anecdotal evidence that Trump doesn’t quite get it. He has repeatedly misstated the size of the hurricane that hit Puerto Rico. He has repeatedly talked about what a tough state the island was in to begin with — as if to shift blame. He has talked repeatedly about how Puerto Rico is an island “in the middle of the ocean” — as if to temper expectations. He has even talked about how Puerto Rico might be made to repay the cost of its recovery. And he’s decided to take a weekend at his golf club in New Jersey right now, even as the scope of the problems in Puerto Rico is growing.

Puerto Rico is, of course, not “in the middle of” the ocean at all – it’s one of a group of large and small islands near the coasts of North and South America. It’s an island, it’s surrounded by water, but it’s not in the middle of the ocean. It has near neighbors.

The man is a monster.

Have an aspirin and some baby Jesus

Sep 29th, 2017 4:56 pm | By

An organization called the American Life League was passing this around in 2014.

Image may contain: one or more people and text

Suffering is a grace-filled opportunity to participate in the passion of Jesus Christ. Euthanasia selfishly steals that opportunity.

But no. The point of laws allowing help in dying is to help people who ask for it. You can’t call suffering any kind of “opportunity” when it’s imposed on people against their will. That’s like saying we’re giving the people of Puerto Rico an “opportunity” to die of dehydration or disease by failing to respond to the hurricane damage promptly. People who want to avail themselves of the grace-filled opportunity to participate in the passion of Jesus Christ by suffering will still be able to do that even when euthanasia is an available option. It’s that simple. It’s not “selfishly” stealing anything to let people decide how much suffering they want to put up with.

Hefner’s natural enemy

Sep 29th, 2017 4:33 pm | By

A bit more on Hefner, by Liz Posner at AlterNet:

Hefner claimed to have been a leader in the sexual revolution, liberating Americans from their puritanical views of sex. At least, that was his moral justification for objectifying women, as he told Vanity Fair:

A new documentary entitled Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel makes a persuasive case for Hefner the liberal who not only agitated for sexual tolerance but, among many good, brave causes, also was an early protagonist for racial equality and gay rights. “But feminists still oppose you for treating women as objects,” I reminded him.

“They are objects!” he insisted. “Playboy fought for what became women’s issues, including birth control. We were the amicus curiae, friend of the court, in Roe v. Wade, which gave women the right to choose. But the notion that women would not embrace their own sexuality is insane.”

And “their own sexuality”=being objects?

But what did Playboy ever do to encourage female sexuality? How does a magazine published explicitly for the male gaze offer sexual liberation?

Defenders of Hefner and his Playboy lifestyle will say that the Playboy bunnies freely chose their destinies, were treated well and that Hefner provided Playboy’s Playmates with career-boosting exposure. But not all the models who appeared in Playboy went on to fame and fortune. A disproportionate number of Playmates have died young from drug overdose, suicide, homicide, or some other unnatural cause. When Gloria Steinem went undercover as a Playboy bunny in 1963, she found the models were forced into painful, body-contorting costumes, poorly compensated and generally treated as though they were disposable. Maybe the bunny costumes are a little looser in the 21st century, but they still promote a retrograde notion that women’s bodies look better when they’re forced into corsets.

Hefner, who is praised for promoting racial equality, hated feminists and pushed a heteronormative, 1950s view of gender division. In an internal memo in 1970, he wrote, “These chicks are our natural enemy. What I want is a devastating piece that takes the militant feminists apart. They are unalterably opposed to the romantic boy-girl society that Playboy promotes.”

Ahhh there it is.

What he means by “romantic boy-girl society” of course is the one in which boy is dominant and girl is subordinate, in which boy pokes and girl is poked, in which boy is any age from 12 to dead while girl is age 3 to 19, in which boy is an actual human being with an inner life while girl is a dolly with no brain. Yeah we are opposed to that understanding of women and men and how they can interact.

Remove the sliver, leave the beam in place

Sep 29th, 2017 3:39 pm | By

Tom “Air Miles” Price is out. If only he’d had the sense to hop on Amtrak he could have stuck around.

But don’t let them tell you this is Trump keeping his promise to drain that swamp.

Mr. Price’s job was on the line since the first of a string of reports by Politico on Sept. 19 about his extensive use of charter aircraft. Mr. Trump has fumed privately and publicly about Mr. Price’s actions, fearing that they undercut his promise to rid Washington of the sort of abuses that have soured the public on its political class. The president made clear on Friday that he also saw it as undermining his promise to save the government money, citing efforts to renegotiate contracts.

fearing that they undercut his promise to rid Washington of the sort of abuses that have soured the public on its political class.

Which is the more significant abuse – a Cabinet secretary chartering jets just because he can, or a president milking the job for every dime of profit he can get his tiny little hands on? Which is more genuinely corrupting? Which is more likely to skew the policies and actions of the government?

I leave it to your wisdom to determine.

Stand up, sit down, rah rah rah

Sep 29th, 2017 3:31 pm | By

Now US high schools are trying to force students to make the Approved Demonstration of Loyalty to a Song [or Piece of Cloth or Man With Strange Hair].

In Long Island, the Diocese of Rockville Centre, which runs a private Catholic school system, said students at its three high schools could face “serious disciplinary action” if they kneel during the anthem before sporting events.

Sean P. Dolan, a spokesman for the diocese, said on Friday that the letter, which was sent to principals, was intended to restate policy that the diocese already had in place.

But he added in an emailed statement: “Although the Diocese does not agree that demonstrations are appropriate in its schools during the playing of the National Anthem — which recognizes the tremendous sacrifices of Americans of all races, ethnicities and religions — it notes that students who seek to challenge racism and racial discrimination are firmly in accord with Catholic teaching.”

Which of course raises a separate question of whether or not education should be expected to conform to “Catholic teaching” in the first place, which I very strongly think it should not – but on the kneeling/standing question, I don’t buy this claim that playing a “national” song “recognizes the tremendous sacrifices of Americans of all races, ethnicities and religions.” I don’t buy the claim that that’s what it’s about. I think it’s a gesture of patriotism or nationalism, and nothing more than that. It’s far from confined to military contexts, so why should we think it’s about the military? Or maybe Dolan didn’t mean military sacrifices alone but sacrifices of any kind…but that would be an even more novel version of what singing a patriotic song is supposed to mean.

I think people are adding all these meanings to the song in order to justify trying to bully people over it. That makes it pretty circular.

“Respect the flag!”


“The war dead!”

“But it’s not about the war dead.”

“It is now!”


“Because respect the flag!”

In northwest Louisiana, Scott Smith, the superintendent of schools in Bossier Parish, said student athletes are expected to stand for the anthem. “It is a choice for students to participate in extracurricular activities, not a right, and we at Bossier Schools feel strongly that our teams and organizations should stand in unity to honor our nation’s military and veterans,” he said in a letter that was obtained by The New York Times.

But the supe’s personal feefees shouldn’t be a rule to the entire student body. Even his strong feefees shouldn’t. Schools are not the army, and students are not supposed to be under military discipline.

Waylon Bates, the principal of Parkway High School in Bossier City, La., a city of more than 60,000 people near Shreveport, outlined the punishment students would face at his school. He sent a letter on Thursday to athletes and parents saying athletes were required to stand “in a respectful manner” during the anthem.


Or they won’t be allowed to play.

“Failure to comply will result in loss of playing time and/or participation as directed by the head coach and principal,” the letter said. “Continued failure to comply will result in removal from the team.”

Just as Trump shouted on Twitter. Trump is controlling what high school athletes can do now.

When the issue is swept up into the public school system, as is happening in Louisiana, it runs up against students’ First Amendment rights and a Supreme Court ruling in 1943, which said public school students could not be forced to salute the American flag or recite the Pledge of Allegiance if it conflicted with their religious beliefs. That ruling involved a case of Jehovah Witnesses who were expelled from school for not reciting the pledge.

“The law does not permit schools to forbid students from to expressing their views, and all schools should be on notice that these policies are in fact unconstitutional,” Marjorie Esman, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, said in an interview on Friday.

The Supreme Court also touched on students’ right to peaceful protest during public school hours in 1969, when it ruled in favor of students who wanted to wear black armbands to protest the Vietnam War.

The 1969 ruling essentially said that students do not lose their constitutional rights to free speech at the schoolhouse gate, said Francisco Negrón Jr., the chief legal officer of the National School Boards Association. If a protest is not disruptive, public schools have to allow it.

Catholic and other goddy schools of course can be as authoritarian as they like. Since “god” is an authoritarian concept in itself, that’s often very authoritarian.

Nice little island you got here

Sep 29th, 2017 2:42 pm | By

Josh Marshall says it looks as if Trump wants to exploit the disaster in Puerto Rico in order to privatize everything. (Can’t you see it? Glorious golf resorts from one end of the island to the other?)

He keeps talking about Puerto Rico’s public debt.

Set aside the irony of someone who has made a career and a fortune out of skipping on his own debts pressing an embattled American territory on its debt obligations. This and other comments about the Puerto Rico crisis make it look very much like Trump plans to use the disaster as a wedge to enforce a massive wave of privatization on the Island. His comments, hints and overall attitude suggest he’s looking at the crisis not as a public emergency on US territory but more like the way a rival business looks at a distressed competitor that needs a rescue, with all the maximization of pressure and advantage that entails. For now, look at the comments collected together here. We’ll be discussing this more. This is a big, big deal, in addition to the obvious and immediate humanitarian crisis which is now unfolding.