Notes and Comment Blog

Andreea Cristea

Apr 7th, 2017 8:59 am | By

The Romanian woman who was knocked off Westminster Bridge has died. The BBC reports:

Andreea Cristea is the fifth victim of the attack on 22 March, in which Khalid Masood drove into crowds on Westminster Bridge then stabbed a policeman to death, before being shot dead himself.

Ms Cristea, 31, who was on holiday with boyfriend Andrei Burnaz, had been in hospital since the attack.

She was an architect.

The couple were in London to celebrate Mr Burnaz’s birthday and he had been planning to propose to Ms Cristea that day, Romania’s UK ambassador Dan Mihalache told the BBC.

He said it was thought Masood’s car had mounted the pavement and hit Mr Burnaz, before pushing Ms Cristea into the Thames.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he was “deeply saddened to hear of the death of Andreea Cristea”.

He tweeted: “Londoners hold her & her loved ones in our thoughts today.”

Homo homini lupus.


Friendships in trouble

Apr 7th, 2017 8:54 am | By

So I guess Trump and Putin are no longer BFFs. Sad.

Russia on Friday froze a critical agreement on military cooperation with the United States in Syria after an American military strike, warning that the operation would further corrode already dismal relations between Moscow and Washington.

Syria, Russia’s ally, condemned the American strikes as “a disgraceful act.”

Mr. Peskov said that the cruise missile strikes on Friday represented a “significant blow” to American-Russian ties, and that Mr. Putin considered the attack a breach of international law that had been made under a false pretext. “The Syrian Army has no chemical weapons at its disposal,” Mr. Peskov said.

The American strikes on an airfield in Al Shayrat, which were aimed at Syrian fighter jets and other infrastructure, ignored the fact that “terrorists” had also used chemical weapons, Mr. Peskov said, without naming specific instances.

Iran is also peeved, while Saudi Arabia is enthusiastic.

The British defense secretary, Michael Fallon, expressed support for the American missile strikes. “One of the purposes of this very limited and appropriate action was to deter the regime from using gas in this appalling way,” he told the BBC.

In a joint statement, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President François Hollande of France said that Mr. Assad, the Syrian president, “bears sole responsibility.”

Erdoğan also gave a thumbs up.

“Several times a day we were taken out and beaten”

Apr 6th, 2017 6:11 pm | By

Tom Parfitt in The Times (the London one) today:

Victims of a violent campaign against gay men in Chechnya have described being beaten, tortured and held in a secret prison.

At least three people were allegedly killed and dozens abused after police rounded up more than 100 men, including religious figures, a hairdresser and a television host.
Some of those detained over the past two months were struck with pieces of wood, made to sit on bottles or subjected to electric shocks, according to testimony collected by Novaya Gazeta, the independent Russian newspaper.

One unidentified victim said that he had been taken to a secret detention facility where dozens of gay men were held alongside suspected Islamists who had fought in Syria.

“Several times a day we were taken out and beaten,” he said. “Their main aim was to find out your circle of contacts — in their minds if you are a suspect then your circle of contacts are all gay. They kept our phones switched on. Any man who called or wrote was a new catch. They attached an electro-shocker to our hands and turned the handle to produce a current. It was painful.”

The men were also beaten with plastic pipes, the victim said. “They always hit us below the waist — on the thighs, the buttocks, the loins. They said we were dogs who had no right to life.”

Another man said he had fled abroad after police in Chechnya beat him repeatedly and extorted money from him in exchange for not telling his relatives about his sexual orientation.

But Kadyrov says it’s all lies.

An anonymous man told a helpline run by LGBT activists that he had been held at a barracks near the town of Argun, along with 15 other people.

Chechnya is ruled by President Kadyrov, 40, a supporter of President Putin. When Novaya Gazeta published its initial report of the abuse on Saturday Mr Kadyrov’s spokesman, Alvi Karimov, said it was “absolute lies”.

“You cannot detain and persecute people who do not exist in the republic,” he said. “If there were such people in Chechnya, their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.”

So they’re not being tortured and killed, because they don’t exist, because their relatives killed them all. That’s ok then.

The request exceeded Homeland Security’s authority

Apr 6th, 2017 5:42 pm | By

American Oversight put out a press release:

American Oversight Investigates DHS Attempt to Stifle Online Criticism

On April 6, Twitter filed a lawsuit alleging the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had attempted to use a customs summons to unmask the identity of an anonymous Twitter user critical of the administration. In its complaint, Twitter alleged that the request exceeded Homeland Security’s authority and infringed on the constitutional rights of Twitter’s users to engage in political speech.

“Homeland Security’s effort to stretch an obscure customs regulation to stifle political dissent is deeply troubling,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. “This raises serious questions about the new administration. We have a right to know whether this action was ordered by political leadership or even the White House. While government officials don’t have the right to expose the identities of people who criticize them, the American people do have the right to identify government officials who try to abuse their power.”

That’s how that works, see. We do get to criticize the government. The government doesn’t get to punish or silence us for doing that.

American Oversight has put in a FOIA request and will let us know what it finds out.

Alt Immigration

Apr 6th, 2017 5:34 pm | By

The government is demanding what?

Twitter filed a lawsuit Thursday against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, asking the court to prevent the department from taking steps to unmask the user behind an account critical of the Trump administration.

The tech company said that allowing DHS access to that information would produce a “grave chilling effect on the speech of that account,” as well as other accounts critical of the U.S. government. The case sets up a potential showdown over free speech between Silicon Valley and Washington.

According to Twitter’s court filings, Homeland Security is “unlawfully abusing a limited-purpose investigatory tool” to find out who is behind the @ALT_USCIS account. Its Twitter feed has publicly criticized the administration’s immigration policies, particularly the actions of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) division of Homeland Security.

Of course I immediately sprinted off to Twitter and followed @ALT_USCIS.

Homeland Security refused to answer the Washington Post’s questions.

In the filing, Twitter said that DHS officials delivered an administrative summons to the social networking site on March 14, via a Customs and Border Protection agent, demanding that the company provide records that would “unmask or likely lead to the unmasking” of the person or people behind the account.

Twitter opposes the order on two main points. First, it maintains that the CBP does not have jurisdiction to demand such information, which includes “names, account login, phone numbers, mailing addresses, and I.P. addresses,” associated with the account.

But its primary objection, the company said, is that allowing the government to unmask Twitter critics is a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment right to free speech. Twitter has long defended its users’ rights to free expression — a position it has held for years, notably during the widespread “Arab Spring” protests in 2011. That right, the company said, is particularly important when discussing political speech.

It’s a good deal less important, I would argue, when bullying people. One Twitter account is not in a position to bully the DHS.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the user in this case, also said that it’s concerned the order is an attempt to infringe on free speech. “To unmask an anonymous speaker online, the government must have a strong justification. But in this case the government has given no reason at all, leading to concerns that it is simply trying to stifle dissent,” said ACLU attorney Nathan Freed Wessler in a statement.

The @Alt_USCIS account is one of many “alternative government” accounts that have been popping up since President Trump’s election. Accounts apparently run by employees (or former employees) of the National Park Service, National Weather Service, Labor Department and other agencies have all appeared to question the Trump administration’s policies and fact-check its assertions on a variety of topics.

Twitter said it also feared that the government wants to punish the person or people responsible for the account. The summons, the company said, “may reflect the very sort of official retaliation that can result from speech that criticizes government officials and agencies.”

Ya think?

I hope Twitter prevails on this one.

Love-bombing the dictator

Apr 6th, 2017 10:50 am | By

A Times editorial Tuesday took issue with Trump’s lovefest with Sisi…

…a man responsible for killing hundreds of Egyptians, jailing thousands of others and, in the process, running his country and its reputation into the ground.

The expressions of mutual admiration that permeated the Oval Office were borderline unctuous. Mr. Trump praised Mr. Sisi for doing a “fantastic job” and assured him he has a “great friend and ally in the United States and in me.” In return, Mr. Sisi, who had been barred from the White House during the Obama administration, and who craved the respect such a visit would afford, expressed his “deep appreciation and admiration” for Mr. Trump’s “unique personality.”

Trump all but crawled into Sisi’s lap. So unlike the reception he gave Angela Merkel, including boorishly ignoring her invitation to shake hands for the cameras.

Mr. Trump acknowledged that the two countries “have a few things” they don’t agree on, but he pointedly did not mention the abysmal human rights record of Mr. Sisi’s government, which the State Department and human rights groups have accused of gross abuses, including torture and unlawful killings.

Because he prides himself on not giving a shit about human rights.

Mr. Sisi first cracked down on the Islamists, including a 2013 massacre that killed more than 800 people, then turned his sights on secular opponents and nongovernmental groups. The United States suspended delivery of a modest amount of military aid and asked for improvements in human rights and democracy, which never happened.

Mr. Trump has now made it transparently clear that human rights and democracy are not his big concerns and that he places more value on Egypt as a partner in the fight against the Islamic State. What he does not grasp is that, while Egypt is an important country, it cannot be a force for regional stability nor the partner Mr. Trump imagines on counterterrorism or anything else if Mr. Sisi does not radically change his ways. Mr. Sisi’s repression against enemies real and imagined, his management of the economy and inability to train, educate and create jobs for his nation’s youth can only fuel more anger and unrest.

Sorry, that’s too complicated for Donnie from Queens.

So much for a culture of respect for the dignity of every human being

Apr 6th, 2017 10:05 am | By

Rebecca Traister has thoughts on Trump’s endorsement of the goodness of Bill O’Reilly.

Where even to begin, except with a reminder that we are now five days into April, a month Trump has designated “National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month”? The decree he signed on March 31 read in part: “We recommit ourselves this month to establishing a culture of respect and appreciation for the dignity of every human being.”

More like National Sexual Assault Promotion Month, or Year or Presidency.

Trump’s commitment to public, performed displays of white-male dominance is so complete that he seems to view even fake nods to respecting women as some kind of sign of weakness. When he’s forced to offer one — like the Sexual Assault Awareness Month decree — he has to make up for it by holding a meeting surrounded by the other white guys in his inner circle and defending his friend Bill O’Reilly, a man whose job it has been, as part of his work at Fox News, to make Trump’s presidency, and contemporary victories by the right wing, possible.

If Fox News had never existed, neither would the Trump presidency.

Women colleagues are “bimbos,” according to Trump’s top advisor Steve Bannon, who was accused of referring to a former co-worker as such in a suit that also alleged that he openly discussed his female colleagues’ “titties” and once promised to take a safety report written by a female co-worker and “ram it down her fucking throat.”

“Good” people.

Donnie defends his bro

Apr 6th, 2017 9:23 am | By

Trump adds another item to his scumbag-CV by defending serial harasser and bully Bill O’Reilly.

Speaking in the Oval Office, Donald J. Trump praised Mr. O’Reilly as “a good person” and declared, “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong,” days after The New York Times reported that five women had received settlements after making harassment claims against him.

Of course he doesn’t. He doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with sexually assaulting women. He does it himself and boasts about it to friendly bros, so of course he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with it.

Few have spoken out publicly in support of the Fox star. The president had no qualms.

“Personally, I think he shouldn’t have settled,” Mr. Trump told Times reporters in a wide-ranging interview. “Because you should have taken it all the way; I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”

“I think he’s a person I know well,” Mr. Trump said. “He is a good person.”

What is a “good person” in Trump-brain? Someone who flatters Trump, and bullies women. Sterling character!

The president is a well-documented fan of Fox News, sitting for interviews with its prime-time hosts and conferring privately by phone with Rupert Murdoch, the network’s executive chairman.

Mr. Trump has bragged to associates that he now refers to Mr. Murdoch, one of the world’s most powerful media moguls, by his first name, according to a person who is friendly with both men.

With both autocrats.

But the president has a particular rapport with Mr. O’Reilly, whose hectoring braggadocio and no-apologies nostalgia for a bygone American era mirror Mr. Trump’s own.

The hectoring braggadocio is why I hate both of them with a passion.

O’Reilly on the other hand is not stupid, so he and Trump don’t have that in common.

It is remarkable for a sitting president to weigh in on sexual harassment allegations from the Oval Office, especially allegations at the center of a churning controversy. But Mr. Trump’s advice to his friend on Wednesday — that Mr. O’Reilly “shouldn’t have settled” — was consistent with the never-back-down ethos of a president, and former real estate magnate, who relishes the counterattack.

Well…it’s consistent with being a terrible narcissistic asshole who can never ever admit to being wrong either factually or morally. It’s consistent with being a shallow unthinking empty suit who thinks no one in the world matters as much as he does.

Fox News has often provided cover for Mr. Trump as the president navigated a host of early controversies. Mr. Trump’s kind words for Mr. O’Reilly on Wednesday seemed a reciprocal gesture of sorts, from a leader who values loyalty.

Loyalty to him. He doesn’t care about loyalty to anyone else.

Death by doughnut

Apr 5th, 2017 4:02 pm | By

There’s another one.

A 42-year-old man in Colorado died after he choked on a giant doughnut during an doughnut-eating contest, KUSA-TV in Denver reported.

Travis Malouff was taking part in the contest sponsored by Voodoo Doughnut on Sunday. Two people tried to give Malouff the Heimlich until paramedics could arrive. He died before they got to him.

It was an outsized doughnut, about six times the size of an ordinary one. The goal was to eat it in under 80 seconds to win a button and a free meal.


Rhetoric and imagery which is pure and simple Jew hatred

Apr 5th, 2017 3:38 pm | By

My UK friends are disgusted with Corbyn and Labour. The refusal to sack Ken Livingstone is not a good move.

In an escalation of the controversy, nine senior members of Labour Friends of Israel, including Joan Ryan, Louise Ellman and Rachel Reeves, wrote to Corbyn urging him to call publicly for Livingstone to be expelled and to press the national executive committee to review its decision.

Around 100 Labour MPs, among them shadow cabinet ministers such as Barry Gardiner and Angela Rayner, also signed a statement saying saying the Labour decision “was not done in our name and we will not allow it to go unchecked”.

“This week the institutions of the Labour party have betrayed our values. We stand united in making it clear that we will not allow our party to be a home for antisemitism and Holocaust revisionism. We stand with the Jewish community and British society against this insidious racism,” they said.

Within Labour, Watson, the deputy leader, led criticism of the panel’s decision, saying it brought “shame on us all”. “I am ashamed that we have allowed Mr Livingstone to cause such distress,” he said. “It isn’t just Jewish people who feel disgusted and offended by what Mr Livingstone said and by the way he has conducted himself over this matter, and it isn’t just Jewish Labour members who feel ashamed of any indulgence of his views anywhere in the Labour party.”

Miliband said: “I am appalled that even now Ken shows no real remorse. His status should be revisited in the light of his continuing offensive behaviour.”

There were a string of reports that Jewish Labour members were leaving the party, with Lord Levy, the chief fundraiser under Tony Blair, among those saying he was considering his future as a member. Tulip Siddiq, Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, warned Corbyn that Jewish constituents were contacting her in despair and terminating their membership.

Livingstone said it was all a move to undermine Corbyn. That didn’t go down well either.

Livingstone’s claim that the charges against him were part of a move against Corbyn were challenged by Ivan Lewis, a Jewish Labour MP and former minister, who said: “Those who claim that these concerns are part of some ‘rightwing conspiracy’ against Jeremy Corbyn should be reminded that no one forced Ken Livingstone to go into a radio studio to speak about Nazi support for Zionism. They must also confront the reality that a minority who claim to be progressive seem to think that their opposition to the policies of the Israeli government entitles them to use rhetoric and imagery which is pure and simple Jew hatred.

“Equally, those socialists who seek to justify or deny antisemitism whenever it rears its ugly head are nothing more than apologists for racism. Enough is enough.”

So that’s more bad news.

Their softness

Apr 5th, 2017 3:10 pm | By

A recent Jesus and Mo celebrating International Women’s Day:


It made me laugh raucously.

Helping to do bad things

Apr 5th, 2017 2:37 pm | By

Ivanka Trump sells clothes. That’s her job experience. She now officially works for the Trump administration, complete with a large office in the White House. She doesn’t know what the word “complicit” means.

In an interview with Gayle King on CBS, Ivanka Trump addressed critics who said she and her husband, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, are “complicit” with President Trump.

“I don’t know what it means to be complicit, but you know, I hope time will prove that I have done a good job, and much more importantly, that my father’s administration is the success that I know it will be,” she said.

“Success” at what? What does she mean by that? Success at throwing millions of people off health insurance? Success at making our air and water dirtier? Success at making it harder or impossible to get an abortion? Success at stirring up racism? Success at encouraging sexual assaults? Success at pretending to drive a big truck? Success at insulting journalists, politicians, activists, scholars, judges, immigrants, Democrats, women…?

Merriam-Webster stepped in to help.

Ivanka Trump told King that in her case complicit could mean the following: “If being complicit is wanting to… be a force for good and to make a positive impact then I’m complicit,” she said.

That’s not what it means. And yes she is complicit.

A general rift

Apr 5th, 2017 12:28 pm | By

Eiynah at Nice Mangos tells the story of the targeted bullying she’s been subjected to lately. It’s a very full record so not something you can read in a couple of minutes, but it’s good to have details.

For those asking over the past few days, wtf happened to start these mob attacks on me: Well…I’m not entirely sure, because they sort of came out of the blue. There’s a general rift in left-leaning atheists and right-leaning atheists. And ‘right-leaning’ is seen as some sort of slur, when it’s just an observation based on the politics coming from some of these types. If you’re anti-left on everything, and rarely ever anti-right…it says something. Especially today. Oh  – and there’s no gold star for seeing the most obvious flaws on the right, like Trump or Alt Right nationalists.

However, this split continues to become more pronounced in these times of the rising far right. While lefties are looking to focus some of their criticism there, others are trying to resist and silence that criticism. 

That general rift between left-leaning and right-leaning atheists (and skeptics) has been widening since at least 2011. Six long sweaty often unpleasant years.

The latest explosion started with a disagreement over “Taqiya” and whether it’s a big deal or not. (Spoiler: it’s not.)

The Nitty Gritty

Gather round peeps, I’m gonna share a really absurd tale about supposed ex-muslim allies, supposed critics of sjw style ‘oppression olympics’ and sjw ideological purity tests…but who are now furious because an ex-muslim they disagree with ideologically/politically in their minds was not oppressed ENOUGH.A fellow ex-muslim, that I have personally promoted, jumped in happily to weigh-in on the drama and attempt to negate my lived experience by claiming I just *dabbled in oppression*, haven’t truly experienced it or anything… My life was like a 5 star resort apparently…and everyone else seems to be a good judge on what kind of life I had in sharia-land.

There’s this bizarre idea that growing up in a compound for foreigners, in which there is a lot of freedom, is growing up free of oppression. Wut? Another word for “compound” is “ghetto”…or “prison.”

Mostly, people on both ends have an issue with me because I refuse to pick a team. I think criticizing both Islamic far right and western far right is important. And I think in Trumpian times, It’s vital to focus *some* of my critique on the western right and its apologists. When that toxic stuff overlaps with criticism of Islam, it does nothing but muddy the waters, and hold back valid criticisms from resonating with the mainstream.

Let me emphasize that one bit: I think criticizing both Islamic far right and western far right is important.

Same here.

The employer contends she tried to help

Apr 5th, 2017 10:56 am | By

In Kuwait:

Last week, a horrifying of an Ethiopian domestic worker falling from what media reports say is the seventh floor of an apartment building in Kuwait went viral. The video appears to have been filmed by the worker’s employer inside the flat with the woman dangling outside the window. The employer tells the woman to come back inside. The panicked woman calls out for her to grab her, but within 12 seconds of the recording starting, the dangling woman loses her grip and falls.

The Kuwaiti daily al-Seyassah reported that the domestic worker is being treated at a hospital for a broken hand, as well as nose and ear bleeding. Al-Seyassah also reported that the authorities arrested her employer, on Wednesday, and charged her for failing to assist her worker. The employer contends she tried to help.

Too bad the video shows otherwise.

I wonder how the video became public. Maybe the employer (the enslaver) shared it with her friends.

This is not the first time a domestic worker – someone hired to clean, cook, and care for a household – attempted a dangerous escape or suicide. The Kuwaiti press often report such stories as “attempted suicides,” as with this recent incident. They don’t usually question whether these were suicide attempts or, rather, attempts to escape. In 2009, Human Rights Watch spoke to eight women who were reported as having “attempted suicide,” but who said they had really fallen from buildings trying to escape abuse or were pushed by their employers. No one has suggested that the employer in this incident was responsible for such abuse.

Other sources are today reporting that the domestic worker says she was trying to escape.

I have interviewed hundreds of domestic workers in the Gulf region. Many said their employers locked them inside, forced them to work excessive hours, and beat them. Some scrambled down or jumped off buildings to escape.

In 2015, Kuwait took steps to provide migrant domestic workers with labor rights, but it has not reformed the notorious kafala system, under which migrant workers cannot leave or change their employer without the employer’s permission. As a result, while domestic workers now have rights to a weekly day off, daily limits to their working hours, and overtime compensation – they can still be arrested for “absconding” if they escape from their employers, even abusive ones.

So that’s a form of slavery then. They can’t quit without the employer’s permission: that is slavery.

Fewer women out in public today than 20 years ago

Apr 5th, 2017 10:39 am | By

Women in Pakistan push back, and have a nice bike ride in the process.

Dozens of women in Pakistan took part in female-only bike races in major cities on Sunday, in an event organized to challenge male dominance of public spaces in the country.

“Our strategy is simply to be visible in public spaces,” said Meher Bano of Girls at Dhabas, a feminist group which organized the races after a woman from Lahore was pushed off her bicycle by a group of men last year for not responding to catcalls.

If she had responded she would have been attacked for being a whore.

The bike race was one of many events organized in the last few years by Girls at Dhabas – the name given to roadside restaurants in Pakistan – to promote female participation in public events, fight restrictions faced by women in public places and increase awareness.

“I drive on these roads all the time but this was maybe the first time I got to experience them while biking,” said Humay Waseem, one of the riders on the 5-kilometre race around Pakistan’s leafy capital Islamabad.

“I loved the feeling of freedom with the breeze in my hair.”

It’s a good feeling.

Though there is a small but vocal liberal movement in Pakistan, most noticeable in sections of the media, women who push feminist ideals often face a barrage of abuse and are portrayed as being infected with Western or un-Islamic ideals.

After the race in Islamabad on Sunday, the riders, mostly aged in their 20s, swapped stories about being gawped at or catcalled when they go out. They also talked of the need to fight growing conservatism on Pakistan’s streets, saying there are fewer women out in public today than 20 years ago.

“We are letting that space go and society is getting more narrow-minded,” said one of riders.

That’s happening in a lot of places.

He thinks it’s going to be the biggest story

Apr 5th, 2017 10:26 am | By

Donnie did an interview with the New York Times this morning – the failing New York Times as he genially calls it. I wonder why he bothers giving interviews to failing newspapers. I think I would stick to nonfailing newspapers if I were prezeedent.

The interview is as stupid as you’d expect, and stupider. I wonder what it’s like being Maggie Haberman or Glenn Thrush and trying to ask him questions as if he were a reasonable adult.

President Trump said on Wednesday that he thought that the former national security adviser Susan E. Rice may have committed a crime by seeking the identities of Trump associates who were mentioned on intercepted communications and that other Obama administration officials may also have been involved.

See what I mean? He just casually says that stupid shit as if it were normal.

“I think it’s going to be the biggest story,” Mr. Trump said in an interview in the Oval Office, declining repeated requests for evidence for his allegations or the names of other Obama administration officials. “It’s such an important story for our country and the world. It is one of the big stories of our time.”

It’s as if they’d interviewed a toddler. They solemnly quote his ridiculous babbling, because they have to.

Mr. Trump criticized media outlets, including The New York Times, for failing to adequately cover the Rice controversy — while singling out Fox News and the host Bill O’Reilly for praise, despite reports this week that the veteran conservative commentator settled five lawsuits filed by women claiming sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior. The president then went on to defend Mr. O’Reilly, who has hosted him frequently over the years.

“I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person,” said Mr. Trump…

“I think he shouldn’t have settled; personally I think he shouldn’t have settled,” said Mr. Trump. “Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”

Of course he doesn’t. He thinks big shouty rude men have an absolute right to sexually assault women.


De-operationalizing the operation

Apr 5th, 2017 9:41 am | By

Another shakeup in Trumpland. Hey they’ve been there more than two months now, it’s totally normal to have 47 shakeups in such a long period of time. Bannon is out of that job he should never have been in in the first place.

President Trump reshuffled his national security organization on Wednesday, removing his chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, from a top policy-making committee and restoring senior military and intelligence officials who had been downgraded when he first came into office.

The shift was orchestrated by Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who was tapped as Mr. Trump’s national security adviser after the resignation of Michael T. Flynn, who stepped down in February after being caught misleading Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador.

See? Totally normal. Everything going very very smoothly, smoothlier than any president you’ve ever seen before, very very very smoothly.

General McMaster inherited an organizational scheme for the National Security Council that stirred protests because of Mr. Bannon’s role. The original setup made Mr. Bannon, the former chairman of Breitbart News, a member of the principals committee that typically includes cabinet-level officials like the vice president, secretary of state and defense secretary.

Hey look, just because Bannon is a total flake and alt-right tool and wifebeater doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be a big noise in National Security. It’s all part of the swamp-drainage project.

A new order issued by Mr. Trump, dated Tuesday and made public on Wednesday, removes Mr. Bannon from the principals committee, restores the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and intelligence director and also adds the energy secretary, C.I.A. director and United Nations ambassador.

A senior White House official presented the move as a logical evolution, not a setback for Mr. Bannon.

Oh a “logical evolution” is it – you mean from doing something completely crazy and dangerous to not doing that? Usually presidents skip the doing something completely crazy and dangerous part but whatever, I’m sure they know best.

He had originally been put on the principals committee to keep an eye on Mr. Flynn and to “de-operationalize” the N.S.C. after the Obama administration, this official said on condition of anonymity to discuss internal dynamics. This official said that process had been completed.

To keep an eye on Flynn? Then why was Flynn there? If he needed an eye kept on him, why was he there? Oh and also, who is keeping an eye on Trump?

I have no idea what “de-operationalize the N.S.C.” is supposed to mean.

With drunks at the wheel, it’s a matter of chance whether or not we run into a tree.

Shouty handsy guy in trouble

Apr 4th, 2017 5:55 pm | By

Bill O’Reilly is hemorrhaging advertisers. Something about not wanting to promote a serial sexual harasser, apparently.

At least nine more marketers said they were withdrawing ads from “The O’Reilly Factor,” making a total of at least 11 that have suspended their sponsorship in the last 24 hours. Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai announced their decisions Monday night, and on Tuesday they were joined by BMW of North America; GlaxoSmithKline; T. Rowe Price; Mitsubishi; Allstate; Bayer; Constant Contact, an online marketer; Untuckit, a men’s clothing distributor; and Sanofi Consumer HealthCare, which advertised products like ACT mouthwash on Mr. O’Reilly’s show.

Mouthwash. Too much like those Tic-Tacs that Trump popped because he wanted to grab that one woman and kiss her without asking first.

The decisions came after The New York Times published an investigation last weekend that found that five women who had accused Mr. O’Reilly of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior received settlements totaling about $13 million.

Yes but Hillary! Emails!! Susan Rice!!!

Also on Tuesday, the legal troubles for Fox News continued. Monica Douglas, a black Fox News employee, joined a lawsuit that was filed last week against Fox News by two other women, asserting that they were subjected to racial harassment at the network. The suit was filed in State Supreme Court in the Bronx. Fox News dismissed the executive named in the suit, Judith Slater, the longtime controller, on Feb. 28. It said in a statement “there is no place for conduct like this at Fox News, which is why Ms. Slater was fired.”

Racism at Fox News?! I’m flabbergasted!

They arrived at the intersection to find it empty

Apr 4th, 2017 5:11 pm | By

So Templeton is still doing this.

Religion News Foundation has received a two-year $210,000 grant from the West Conshohocken, Pa.-based John Templeton Foundation to help inform the public about how science and religion intersect.

Hey, I can do that for nothing:

They don’t.

You’re welcome.

Stories will investigate the religious, spiritual, ethical and philosophical implications of today’s most talked about developments in science, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, genetic engineering, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and deep-space exploration.

Why not just investigate the ethical and philosophical implications and leave the empty buzzwords out of it? Ethical and philosophical issues are much better discussed and investigated in secular terms; religion adds nothing.

The Religion News Foundation will also produce four ReligionLink source guides to enhance journalistic coverage of complex issues surrounding science and religion on such topics as religion’s role in the search for extraterrestrial intelligent life, the religious and moral implications of artificial intelligence, neuroscience and religion, and animal faith.

Animal faith? Give me a break. Only humans are afflicted with that particular kind of stupidity.


Apr 4th, 2017 4:43 pm | By

The Washington Post finds more sleaze:

The United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladi­mir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to U.S., European and Arab officials.

The meeting took place around Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean, officials said. Though the full agenda remains unclear, the UAE agreed to broker the meeting in part to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria, a Trump administration objective that would be likely to require major concessions to Moscow on U.S. sanctions.

Though Prince had no formal role with the Trump campaign or transition team, he presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump to high-ranking Emiratis involved in setting up his meeting with the Putin confidant, according to the officials, who did not identify the Russian.

That’s…not how these things are done.

U.S. officials said the FBI has been scrutinizing the Seychelles meeting as part of a broader probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and alleged contacts between associates of Putin and Trump. The FBI declined to comment.

The Seychelles encounter, which one official said spanned two days, adds to an expanding web of connections between Russia and Americans with ties to Trump — contacts that the White House has been reluctant to acknowledge or explain until they have been exposed by news organizations.

Spicey said he knows nothing about it. Not a thing. Do we believe him? No we do not.

Flynn and Kushner were joined by Bannon for a separate meeting with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who made an undisclosed visit to New York later in December, according to the U.S., European and Arab officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

In an unusual breach of protocol, the UAE did not notify the Obama administration in advance of the visit, though officials found out because Zayed’s name appeared on a flight manifest.

Officials said Zayed and his brother, the UAE’s national security adviser, coordinated the Seychelles meeting with Russian government officials with the goal of establishing an unofficial back channel between Trump and Putin.

And we totally trust both Trump and Putin, right? Right.