Notes and Comment Blog


The scale of the president’s mendacity

Dec 30th, 2018 10:17 am | By

Linda Qiu takes a look at The Year in Trump Lies.

Here at The New York Times, we have also fact-checked countless campaign rallies, news conferences, interviews and Twitter posts. After nearly two years of assessing the accuracy of Mr. Trump’s statements, we can draw some conclusions not just about the scale of the president’s mendacity, but also about how he uses inaccurate claims to advance his agenda, criticize the news media and celebrate his achievements.

One, he repeats his lies instead of admitting they are lies.

Examples abound. He has falsely characterized the December 2017 tax cuts as the “largest” or the “biggest” in American history over 100 times (several others were larger). He has misleadingly said over 90 times that his promised wall along the southern border is being built (construction has not begunon any new section). He has falsely accused Democrats of supporting “open borders” over 60 times (Democratic lawmakers support border security, but not his border wall). And he has lobbed over 250 inaccurate attacks on the investigation into Russian election interference.

Two, he embellishes and amplifies his lies.

Take his repeated fabrication about the construction of new steel mills. After his administration announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports in March, the president claimed in June that United States Steel was “opening six new plants.” A month later, the number rose to seven. He has also occasionally cited eight, possibly nine or a vague “many plants,” and he claimed once that plants were “opening up literally on a daily basis.” To date, United States Steel has yet to open or build one new plant, though the company has restarted idled components of some plants.

On the one hand, a plant every day; on the other hand, zero plants. That’s quite a gap.

Three, he adapts his claims as new evidence becomes public.

Four, he deploys the army of straw men.

The usual target of this particular strain of falsehoods is the news media, which Mr. Trump suggests purposely underestimates or misinterprets him.

Mr. Trump often lauds strong job growth under his watch and says that the “fake news” would have deemed such numbers “impossible” or “ridiculous” during the 2016 campaign. Yet he neglects to mention that the number of jobs added in the 22 months after his inauguration — 4.2 million — is lower than the 4.8 million jobs added in the 22 months before he took office, undermining the premise of his retrodiction.

Well he knows his fans aren’t going to look it up.



They all want to subordinate women

Dec 29th, 2018 4:20 pm | By

Peter Beinart says the authoritarian nationalist wave has one commonality:

[B]esides their hostility to liberal democracy, the right-wing autocrats taking power across the world share one big thing, which often goes unrecognized in the U.S.: They all want to subordinate women.

To understand global Trumpism, argues Valerie M. Hudson, a political scientist at Texas A&M, it’s vital to remember that for most of human history, leaders and their male subjects forged a social contract: “Men agreed to be ruled by other men in return for all men ruling over women.” This political hierarchy appeared natural—as natural as adults ruling children—because it mirrored the hierarchy of the home. Thus, for millennia, men, and many women, have associated male dominance with political legitimacy. Women’s empowerment ruptures this order.

But then you pause to ask why “the hierarchy of the home” seemed natural. Maybe it’s just because of the dimorphism: male humans dominate female humans just as male gorillas dominate female gorillas. Then again humans aren’t gorillas, and bonobos do things somewhat differently, so maybe it’s not that simple.

Because male dominance is deeply linked to political legitimacy, many revolutionaries and counterrevolutionaries have used the specter of women’s power to discredit the regime they sought to overthrow. Then, once in power themselves, they have validated their authority by reducing women’s rights. In a 1995 paper, Arthur Gilbert and James Cole of the University of Denver observed that French revolutionaries made Marie Antoinette a symbol of the immorality of the ancien régime and that Iranian revolutionaries did the same to Princess Ashraf, the “unveiled and powerful” sister of the shah. After toppling the monarchy, the French revolutionaries banned women from holding senior teaching positions and inheriting property. Ayatollah Khamenei made it a crime for women to speak on the radio or appear unveiled in public.

And the Arab spring “revolutions” went the same way.

In their book, The Hillary Doctrine, Valerie Hudson and Patricia Leidl note that when the Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi replaced the longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Morsi quickly announced that he would abolish the quota guaranteeing women’s seats in parliament, overturn a ban on female circumcision, and make it harder for women to divorce an abusive husband. After Muammar Qaddafi’s ouster, the first law that Libya’s new government repealed was the one banning polygamy.

On the one hand women must be kept away from any kind of power, on the other hand their fathers and husbands must be empowered to treat them like shit. No to seats in parliament, yes to female genital mutilation.

Commentators sometimes describe Trump’s alliance with the Christian right as incongruous given his libertine history. But whatever their differences when it comes to the proper behavior of men, Trump and his evangelical backers are united by a common desire to constrain the behavior of women.

To be honest, that’s putting it too mildly. Trump doesn’t want to just constrain the behavior of women, he wants to degrade them, grind them into the dirt, monster them, put targets on them. His contempt for women is visceral and intense.

Beinart concludes that to break this pattern it’s necessary to start with the hierarchy at home.

Compare the United States, the Philippines, Brazil, Hungary, and Poland with the countries of northern Europe, where women’s political power has become more normal. In 2017, women made up 48 percent of Iceland’s parliament. In Sweden, the share was 44 percent; in Finland, 42 percent; and in Norway, 40 percent. In the countries that have recently elected gender-backlash authoritarians, the rates are lower, ranging from Italy’s 31 percent to Hungary’s 10 percent. This doesn’t mean a Nordic Orbán or Bolsonaro is impossible: Northern Europe has its own far-right parties. But it’s harder for those parties to use gender to delegitimize the existing political order, because women’s political empowerment no longer appears illegitimate.

It no longer appears illegitimate, in large measure, because gender equality has become more normalized in the home. In 2018, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development published the amount of time per day that women and men spent doing unpaid household chores such as cleaning, shopping, and child care. If you calculate the gender gap in each country, a pattern emerges. There is a striking correlation between countries where women and men behave more equally in the home and countries where women are more equally represented in government.

Feminists have always known that.



The future participants are the wrong sort

Dec 29th, 2018 12:30 pm | By

Errr…what?

News from northern California:

The organizers of the annual Women’s March have decided not to hold a rally in Eureka on Jan. 19, as previously planned, because they say participants do not represent the diversity of the area.

Excuse me? How can they possibly know that? People at a march can just show up, and the organizers can’t know in advance how “diverse” they are or aren’t.

“This decision was made after many conversations between local social-change organizers and supporters of the march,” organizers said in a press release.

They said organizers will continue to meet and discuss how to broaden representation to create an event that represents Humboldt County.

“Up to this point, the participants have been overwhelmingly white, lacking representation from several perspectives in our community,” the press release went on to say. “Instead of pushing forward with crucial voices absent, the organizing team will take time for more outreach. Our goal is that planning will continue and we will be successful in creating an event that will build power and community engagement through connection between women that seek to improve the lives of all in our community.”

Or they could just go ahead with the march and see who shows up.

On the other hand, this source is a Sinclair tv station, and all the other sources I found are extreme-right (Breitbart, Free Republic, etc). I can’t find the press release itself, only extreme-right outlets quoting from it. I can’t find the march on Facebook, although last year’s is there. I’m not sure how reliable or accurate this is. If it is, I remain curious how they can know a march is too white before the march happens.



Ideological fitness tests are applied for political purposes

Dec 29th, 2018 11:51 am | By

People tried hard to de-platform Caroline Norma but they didn’t quite get there.

Five days before I was scheduled to speak at a conference on Historical Materialism at the University of Sydney, I received an email from the organizers, explaining that they had refunded my registration fee and struck me from the conference program. They told me that comments I’d made in an online opinion piece three years earlier made my attendance inconsistent with “the commitment of the Historical Materialism Sydney conference organizers to creating an inclusive space for people with diverse gender identities.” In the greatest of ironies, my piece had criticized leftists for playing wedge politics in order to purge radical feminists from progressive circles. The conference was certainly a leftist one: its title, “Historical Materialism,” refers to a Marxist view of history as emerging out of social relations and their contradictions, rather than out of enlightened progress. In keeping with this politically structuralist theme, and as an historian who has written books from a similar standpoint, I’d proposed the talk, “Keeping alive the myth of property in the person: Prostitution in today’s capitalism.”

It’s almost funny that organizers of a conference on historical materialism tried to shoo away a scheduled speaker because she doesn’t genuflect to magical claims about “gender.”

Dr Norma did give her talk, but she was the only person on the panel, because the two other women skunked.

They might have been influenced by an “open letter” posted to social media demanding I be no-platformed from the event and encouraging attendees to boycott my presentation. Indeed, it was mostly boycotted. To date, I have received no word of apology from either the University of Sydney or conference organizers for this slight on my professional reputation, or for their breach of principles of academic good conduct…

Well, reputation, principles, academic good conduct…they’re not materialist enough. Gender, on the other hand…

We know from the history of left organizing that ideological fitness tests are applied deliberately for political purposes. They are applied for the benefit of the people whose interests a movement is seeking to advance. How they are applied clearly signals who is being prioritized.

As to whose interests the Australian left is pursuing, the antics over my attendance at the Historical Materialism Sydney conference gave the game away. Questioning the notion that gender is a matter of how we feel about ourselves, rather than a matter of how we have been systematically treated throughout our lives, was turned into a crime more serious than ignoring tens of thousands of Asian women in brothels on every street corner of Australia’s cities. But the comedic disproportion of this scenario wasn’t accidental. It was manufactured in service of male interests that are now coming under pressure from feminist challenge.

Over the last few years, the Australian left has seen the #MeToo and violence against women movements become entrenched causes of its constituents — young female ones in particular. This growing movement poses a threat to the interests of the male left, which have always ignored violence against women and been sexually libertarian in nature.

Gender bollocks as cover for male sexual violence…but then why do so many women sign up? Massive social pressure is one reason, but I’m not sure that’s all. The history remains to be written.



Let them eat surplus cheese

Dec 29th, 2018 9:38 am | By

Of course he did.

President Donald Trump issued an executive order Friday freezing federal workers’ pay for 2019, following through on a proposal he announced earlier in the year.

The move, which nixes a 2.1% across-the-board pay raise that was set to take effect in January, comes as hundreds of thousands of federal employees are expecting to begin the new year furloughed or working without pay because of a partial government shutdown.

Trump told lawmakers he planned to scrap the 2019 pay bump for federal workers in August, saying the federal budget couldn’t support it. In addition to the 2.1% pay increase, the executive order also cancels a yearly adjustment of paychecks based on the region of the country where workers are posted, called the “locality pay increase,” that was due to take effect in January.

Right; the federal budget can support a giant tax cut for the rich, and it can support paying for Trump to swan off to Florida nearly every weekend and Secret Service for his kids’ business trips, but it can’t support a tiny pay rise for federal workers at a time when housing costs and medical costs and education costs are soaring way beyond what we are told is the official inflation rate.

About 380,000 federal employees are on furlough and 420,000 are working without pay as the new year approaches.

In a letter to House and Senate leaders in August, Trump described the pay increase as “inappropriate.”

“We must maintain efforts to put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and Federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases,” the President wrote.

But it can sustain reckless tax cuts on the rich and reckless spending on the military and Wall. Sure.



Taking a wrecking ball to decorum

Dec 28th, 2018 4:34 pm | By

Well that’s one way to put it.

In his first two years in office, President Donald Trump has rewritten the rules of the presidency and the norms of the nation’s capital, casting aside codes of conduct and traditions that have held for generations.

In Trump’s Washington, facts are less relevant. Insults and highly personal attacks are increasingly employed by members of both parties. The White House press briefing is all but gone, international summits are optional, the arts are an afterthought and everything — including inherently nonpartisan institutions and investigations — is suddenly political.

The thing is, though, Trump hasn’t actually rewritten any rules; he hasn’t done anything that thoughtful, and he couldn’t if he wanted to, because he doesn’t have the equipment. He doesn’t rewrite rules, he simply ignores them and does what he wants to do. He really is that stupid and headlong and childish. A bull in a china shop hasn’t rewritten the rules, he’s simply barged around the way a bull does. That’s Trump.

Taking a wrecking ball to decorum and institutions, Trump has changed, in ways both subtle and profound, how Washington works and how it is viewed by the rest of the nation and world.

Yes, that’s much closer.

I’m being picky but I think we need to be very careful not to attribute planning or forethought or any kind of thought to what Trump does, because we need to keep constantly in mind just how vacant his mind is. Know the enemy.

“He’s dynamited the institution of the presidency,” said Douglas Brinkley, presidential historian at Rice University. “He doesn’t see himself as being part of a long litany of presidents who will hand a baton to a successor. Instead, he uses the presidency as an extension of his own personality.”

Not “litany”; that’s the wrong word. Line. But anyway dynamited, yes. Tear up the drawing of Trump rewriting rules and substitute the drawing of a huge explosion.

Trump’s tweets often trade in public insults that modern presidents just don’t share in public: The Senate minority leader is “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer.” The media are “the enemy of the people.” His own former secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, is “dumb as a rock.”

And that level of insult, at times veering into the coarse and the crass, has bled into the dialogue of official Washington. Outgoing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, weeks before he resigned in a cloud of ethics scandals, tweeted that a Democratic congressman had struggled “to think straight from the bottom of a bottle.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told fellow Democrats this month that the border wall was a “manhood” issue for the president.

Oh come on. You can’t compare Trump’s Twitter insults, including “little Adam Schitt,” to Pelosi telling colleagues the wall is a manhood issue. She didn’t tweet it, and it’s not remotely as crass and childish.

He’s trashed the place like a drunken frat boy. The rules remain unrewritten.



And I’m Marie of Romania

Dec 28th, 2018 3:54 pm | By

Do women actually act like this? I don’t mean aren’t all women naturally gentle and benevolent at all times, because of course we’re not, but do we act like this? In my experience no, we don’t, not ever, because we can’t. We just can’t. We wouldn’t get away with it, it wouldn’t work, no one would put up with it for a second, no one would be intimidated by it, no one would keep saying “I apologize, ma’am,” no one would just stand there while we kicked a display to the floor.

Men, though? Even some men who are not bad guys, but…they nevertheless let themselves lose their temper that way, and shout that way, and intimidate everyone in sight that way.

Shouty Guy in Store Tantrum is doing what too many guys do. It’s kind of a giveaway, “ma’am.”



Her role saw her patrol parks in Mosul

Dec 28th, 2018 12:28 pm | By

Some people have a very strange idea of “morality.” The BBC reports:

A female Islamic State group member accused of letting a five-year-old girl die of thirst in scorching sunlight is facing war crimes charges in Germany.

The 27-year-old German, identified as Jennifer W, and her husband bought the child as a house “slave” in the IS-occupied Iraqi city of Mosul 2015.

Her husband chained the girl up outside after she fell ill and Jennifer W did nothing to save her, prosecutors say.

The five-year-old girl was among a group of prisoners-of-war when Jennifer W and her husband bought her.

German media say the child may have been a member of the Yazidi minority, many of whom were captured and enslaved by IS as the militant group swept across northern Iraq in 2014.

“After the girl fell ill and wet her mattress, the husband of the accused chained her up outside as punishment and let the child die in agony of thirst in the scorching heat,” prosecutors said in a statement.

“The accused allowed her husband to do so and did nothing to save the girl.”

Jennifer W travelled to Iraq in 2014, where she became a member of IS’s self-styled morality police, the allegations against her say.

Her role saw her patrol parks in Mosul and another IS-occupied city, Fallujah, armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a pistol and an explosives vest, prosecutors said.

“Her task was to ensure that women comply with the behavioural and clothing regulations established by the terrorist organisation,” said the statement.

So “morality” is forcing women to wear tent-like garments that render them effectively invisible. “Morality” is not giving water and shade to a sick child chained up in the sun, nor is it abstaining from “buying” a child as a slave in the first place. “Morality” has nothing to do with compassion and kindness, it’s all about the systematic forcible violently-enforced concealment of women.



A criminal attempt by the president to obstruct justice

Dec 28th, 2018 11:20 am | By

Matthew Miller and Mimi Rocah explain why Trump’s deployment of Whitaker is his worst breach of the wall between president and Justice Department yet.

The SDNY’s case has already netted one guilty plea for a felony crime of violating campaign finance laws. In his guilty plea and sentencing allocution, Mr. Cohen stated that he worked “in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1,” who is widely understood to be the president. In addition, it is clear from the charging documents against Mr. Cohen that the Trump Organization, which was owned and controlled by Mr. Trump and his children at the time of the conduct, is likely implicated in this criminal scheme as well.

Taken together, these facts make clear that President Trump, the Trump Organization, and at least one current executive (likely one of Mr. Trump’s sons, who together manage his company today) are subjects and possibly targets of the Southern District’s investigation. In other words, depending on the course of that probe, the president, his children, and his company may all still be charged for the same crime as Cohen, as well as other possible violations of law.

In pressuring Whitaker, who as acting attorney general oversees the investigation, the president was unquestionably trying to coerce him into blocking prosecutors in New York from either looking at or implicating him or his family members in criminal conduct.

In our view, that action clearly constituted a criminal attempt by the president to obstruct justice, one that is even more clear-cut than the president’s prior attempts to thwart the federal investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference.

His attempts to muscle Comey and then his firing of Comey can, just barely, be explained as within the law, but the muscling of Whitaker cannot.

His intervention in this case can only be understood as an attempt to protect himself, his family, or his business from criminal liability.

Or all three.



The theology of Santa Claus

Dec 28th, 2018 11:08 am | By

The New Yorker posts a cartoon by Emily Flake on Facebook.

Image may contain: one or more people

Our old friend the intersection between god and Santa again…but many commenters instead saw anti-Semitism.

–I agree this smacks of Anti-Semitism. At the very least a typically erroneous Christian stereotype of Jewish scripture.

–This is antisemitic. And it’s sparking hateful comments.

–This would be funny, if it wasn’t anti-semitic!

–That feels really antisemitic. And not funny.

–One anti-semetism from your increasing pathetic magazine. Shame on you..

Etc. There’s even a whole essay on it at Religion News Service!

The idea of an “Old Testament Santa” is anti-Judaism 101.

First of all, the very term “Old Testament.”

“Old Testament” is an unconscious piece of anti-Judaism. “Testament” means “covenant.”

To say that the Jewish Bible, or the TANAKH, is the old testament implies that the covenant that God made with Israel is old — as in, outmoded, out of step, out of style. To put it in computer terms, the old covenant needs an upgrade — to a new covenant, a new testament — through Jesus.

For that reason, many sensitive Christians no longer refer to our Bible as the Old Testament. Some refer to it as the “first testament.” Some even respectfully call it what we call it — the TANAKH.

Second, Santa wielding a whip. Here we have the following implication — that the God of the so-called Old Testament is a cruel, vengeful God — and that the God of the Christian New Testament is a loving God. God of justice vs. god of love.

The idea is very powerful, and very old.

It dates back to the first century Christian theologian, Marcion.

And so on and so on, for many words…all as if the cartoon had appeared in a Christian magazine and were making a Christian argument when any fule kno Santa was invented by the Coca Cola company.

H/t Dave Ricks



Guest post: It started with that little sparrow

Dec 28th, 2018 10:44 am | By

Originally a comment by Your Name’s not Bruce? on The Covenant.

When I learned Santa Claus was definitely just a story (I’d had my suspicions for a while,) I did think of God, and while I didn’t turn into a baby atheist immediately, I’m quite sure a seed of skepticism was planted.

My seeds of doubt were planted in public school, when there was still a fair amount of religious stuff (particularly songs we sang during daily “opening excersizes.”) One of those songs, “God Sees the Little Sparrow Fall,” was one of the things that started me on the road to doubt:

God sees the little sparrow fall,

It meets His tender view;

If God so loves the little birds,

I know He loves me, too.

I wanted to know why God didn’t catch the sparrow. It was not obvious to me that his seeing the falling sparrow he failed to catch meant that he had any regard for me. Catch the sparrow, then we’ll talk. I’m sure that kindly Mrs. Luke would have been saddened that teaching this children’s song of childlike (or childish?) faith had a result directly opposite to the one she had intended. This was grade three, so I would have been around eight years old. I know maybe the year before I’d tried staying up late in Christmas Eve in my oldest brother’s room, to listen for Santa. (His room was closest to the chimney, so it was a natural place for a Santa stakeout). I don’t ever recall trying the milk and cookies thing; sleigh bells on the roof would have been enough. God was much less inspiring of empirical investigation or hypothesis testing. God drove no reindeer.

So I learned about God and Christianity. I remember thinking very seriously about it all, and trying to read the Bible (I was an early reader.) I also remember thinking it all sounded a bit unlikely, a bit like a story, but grownups believed it and said it was true, so…

Atheism took a lot longer than Santa letdown, but I’d given up on traditional Christianity by the time I got to high school. I’d read the Gospels, and was rather impressed with some of Jesus’s ideas. But I had no interest in Paul’s letters or Acts or any of the other bits of the New Testament. I noticed some of the variations and discrepancies between the Gospels, and learned a bit about their origins in specific times and places, for particular audiences (and much later, learning that each had their own theological axes to grind).

I came up with my own set of rules or guidelines as to what a fair, just god should and should not be and most traditional religions missed most of the boxes I needed or ticked the ones that were deal breakers. In the course of this progression into disbelief, I never sat up on a stakeout for god. God was never going to be that “real” or corporeal; I’d already absorbed enough theological cop outs that I knew that such a being wasn’t going to be knocking on the door or coming down the chimney… I would tell people I was agnostic or atheist depending on what kind of day I was having. Oddly enough I tended to ascribe my “better days” to my agnostic phases while on a bad day There Was No God. It was my early thirties when the final, attenuated flickers of deistic ideation finally guttered out.

And it started with that little sparrow.



Other than that it went well

Dec 27th, 2018 3:41 pm | By

Like Basil Fawlty, Trump just can’t get anything right, can he.

President Trump has an uncanny knack for making a mess of simple, traditional functions every other president has managed to carry out with ease. Talk to a child about Christmas? Yikes — a “marginal” disaster. Go to Europe to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I? He skips one event rather than wilt in the rain and sulks through another. The worst anti-Semitic massacre in U.S. history? He whines about getting his hair wet and keeps campaigning. Visit the troops (finally) in Iraq? Oh boy.

What, just because he compromised their security? Picky picky.

So on his belated, first visit to a war zone, Trump once more flubbed a routine presidential task, politicizing his speech(complete with partisan attacks on Democrats on his favorite topic, the border) and even signing “Make America Great Again” hats for the troops, despite regulations prohibiting military personnel from engaging in political events.

There was also that awkward thing where he talked to some soldiers on Christmas day but instead of really talking to them he ranted about…Comey and the “witch hunt” – in other words himself. “Hi thanksforyourservice now let’s talk about me.”

To make matters worse, he lied to the military men and women in attendance about the raise they received. ABC News reports:

“Is anybody here willing to give up the big pay raise you just got?” he surveyed the crowd. “Raise your hand please. Oh, I don’t see too many hands.”

He continued, citing numbers that have since been debunked and declared untrue.

“You haven’t gotten [a raise] in more than ten years,” he said. “And we got you a big one. I got you a big one.”

As the independent fact-checking site PolitiFact noted, the military has received a routine pay raise every year since at least 1961. The 2.4 percent increase that went into effect in 2018 was the largest since 2010, but they have continued apace every year.

Trump then falsely asserted that the pay increase was actually 10 percent, recounting phony conversations in which “plenty of people” tried to impose a smaller raise.

Hey, it’s called morale-boosting.



Let them eat cactus

Dec 27th, 2018 3:16 pm | By

Kirstjen Nielsen issued a statement yesterday:

Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen Statement on Passing of Eight Year Old Guatemalan Child

Murderous, callous, and chickenshits. The word is death. Nielsen’s statement is on the death of the eight year old Guatemalan child.

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen today released the following statement on the eight year-old Guatemalan national who passed away shortly before midnight on December 24 at Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, New Mexico:

“In the evening hours of December 24th, a child who had been apprehended with his father by the Border Patrol attempting to illegally enter the United States, died at an El Paso hospital after being taken for emergency treatment for the second time in less than 12 hours.  This tragedy, the death of a child in government custody is deeply concerning and heartbreaking. In the last 24 hours, I have a directed a series of additional actions to care for those who enter our custody.”

Then she gets to the “they’re swarming our border” part.

“Our system has been pushed to a breaking point by those who seek open borders. Smugglers, traffickers, and their own parents put these minors at risk by embarking on the dangerous and arduous journey north. This crisis is exacerbated by the increase in persons who are entering our custody suffering from severe respiratory illnesses or exhibit some other illness upon apprehension.  Given the remote locations of their illegal crossing and the lack of resources, it is even more difficult for our personnel to be first responders.”

Yes, it’s all their fault. They come here solely to get on our nerves and to get publicity when their children die.

Related image

That’s the St Louis. They weren’t on that ship for the fun of it.



He has to be SO POLITE

Dec 27th, 2018 11:58 am | By

That’s…quite astoundingly creepy.



Sorry, can’t, government shutdown

Dec 27th, 2018 11:31 am | By

No wonder Trump forced the government shutdown.

Lawyers for President Donald Trump are invoking the government shutdown to seek a delay in a court case over claims that Trump is illegally profiting from business his Washington hotel does with foreign countries.

Justice Department attorneys representing Trump asked a federal appeals court on Wednesday to postpone indefinitely all further filings in an appeal related to a suit that the governments of Maryland and Washington, D.C., filed over Trump’s alleged violation of the Constitution’s ban on foreign emoluments.

Convenient, isn’t it. If you get sued for abusing your presidency to fill your pockets, you just shut down the government so that the case can’t proceed. Heads he wins, tails we lose.



The covenant

Dec 27th, 2018 11:14 am | By

So close, and yet

Hey, kids under 8 years old, thanks for reading The New York Times. But this time, please don’t. Maybe go play Minecraft or something instead.

… O.K., are they gone now? Cool. Here’s what President Trump said to a child about Santa Claus on Monday: “Are you still a believer in Santa? Because at 7, it’s marginal, right?”

“Yes, sir,” the child, Collman, responded twice. She had spoken with the president for at least 10 seconds before he suggested that her parents had been lying to her all her life.

Ah, are we going to talk about that?

No; the next paragraph is about Collman putting out cookies for Santa.

Whatever. But the thing is, if she does think Santa Claus is real then her parents have been lying to her all her life, and she will find that out before long. Is the idea that that would be bad at age 7 but it’s fine at age 8? If so, why?

Mr. Trump’s faux pas was roundly mocked on social media, where he was criticized for breaking the covenant in which we have all agreed to deceive our children.

I think that is one strange covenant.

I wrote a somewhat sarcastic column for The Freethinker about it.



The cliché that wasn’t

Dec 27th, 2018 10:52 am | By

There’s the big picture, and then there are the details. One detail is the town of Fergus Falls, Minnesota.

Claas Relotius, who spent weeks reporting in Fergus Falls last year for one of Europe’s most respected publications, could have written about the many residents who maintain friendships across partisan lines, about the efforts to lure former residents back to west-central Minnesota or about how a city of roughly 14,000 people maintains a robust arts scene.

To give a sense of the place, he could have described local landmarks like the giant statue of Otto the Otter. Or the Minnesota-shaped welcome sign next to the Applebee’s. Or the expansive prairie that surrounds the town.

But he did not.

Instead, Mr. Relotius invented a condescending fiction. On the venerated pages of Der Spiegel, a German newsmagazine, Mr. Relotius portrayed Fergus Falls as a backward, racist place whose residents blindly supported President Trump and rarely ventured beyond city limits. He made up details about a young city official. He concocted characters, roadside signs and racially tinged plotlines.

A bit like Sinclair Lewis, except that Sinclair Lewis was straightforwardly writing fiction; Relotius was supposed to be writing and researching journalism.

“We’re taking the high road,” Mayor Ben Schierer said in an interview, in which he praised his city’s artsparks and schools, which mostly seemed to escape Mr. Relotius’s notice. “We’ve moved on.”

Indeed, amid the heartache and hassle, some in Fergus Falls have seized an opportunity to tell the world what their city is really like. Sure, it has its struggles and tensions. But on the whole, residents get along, there is plenty to do, people enjoy living there.

Not all small towns are hotbeds of racism (and few or none are 100% populated by racists); not all Minnesotans are Trumpers.

Because the article was published only in German, its readership in Minnesota was limited. But civic leaders commissioned a professional translation, the text of which circulated around town in a shared online document. Outrage simmered.

The article’s fabrications ranged from the trivial (an account of a foreboding forest that does not exist and a Super Bowl party that did not happen) to the personally devastating (the city administrator was falsely portrayed as a gun-obsessed, romantically challenged man who had never seen the ocean) to the downright inflammatory (Mr. Relotius claimed there was a sign that said “Mexicans Keep Out” at the entrance to town).

No no, that’s the Oval Office.

The Times took some photos.

Credit Tim Gruber for The New York Times

It doesn’t exactly look like a shithole, does it.

The county did heavily vote for Trump (64%) but that’s not all there is to say about it.

“What happened, I think, was that he was trying to look for a cliché of a Trump-voting town and he simply didn’t find it,” said Christoph Scheuermann, the Der Spiegel correspondent who visited Fergus Falls last week to apologize and write about the town’s true story.

Mr. Scheuermann said the Fergus Falls he encountered was “almost the opposite” of the one Mr. Relotius described.

“I felt a lot of warmth,” he said. “Everybody was welcoming.”

You know, if you’re a journalist looking for a cliché of a Trump-voting town and the one you’re in isn’t it, you can always go find another town…or you could write about expecting a cliché and not finding it. Just a thought.



No you’re the fake news

Dec 26th, 2018 5:31 pm | By

SpiegelOnline a few days ago:

It has now become clear that Claas Relotius, 33 years old, one of DER SPIEGEL’s best writers, winner of multiple awards and a journalistic idol of his generation, is neither a reporter nor a journalist. Rather, he produces beautifully narrated fiction. Truth and lies are mixed together in his articles and some, at least according to him, were even cleanly reported and free of fabrication. Others, he admits, were embellished with fudged quotes and other made-up facts. Still others were entirely fabricated. During his confession on Thursday, Relotius said, verbatim: “It wasn’t about the next big thing. It was the fear of failure.” And: “The pressure not to fail grew as I became more successful.”

That crude mishmash, which looked like masterful works of feature writing, transformed him into one of the most successful journalists in Germany in recent years. It earned Relotius the German Reporter Prize on four different occasions, the Peter Scholl Latour Prize and the Konrad-Duden, the Kindernothilfe and the Catholic and Coburger media awards. He was named CNN “Journalist of the Year,” he was honored with the Reemtsma Liberty Award, the European Press Prize and he even landed on the Forbes magazine list of the “30 under 30 – Europe: Media.” One wonders how he could endure the praise at the award ceremonies without running out of the hall in shame.

Well, there are people like that. I constantly wonder how Trump isn’t curled into a ball on the floor in shame, but I also know it’s foolish to keep wondering. It’s who he is.

So now the Trump ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, is making hay with the story.

Since the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel disclosed a fabrication scandal that has sent tremors through the news world at a tense time for journalists globally, Grenell has taken aim at the company.

He has tweeted about Der Spiegel, often harshly, and retweeted the criticism leveled by others, more than a dozen times in the past week.

“Spiegel hasn’t answered as to how this fraud happened,” he wrote, for example, on Dec. 23, apparently dissatisfied with the company’s somewhat extensive efforts to publicize the wrongdoings of the reporter, Claas Relotius. “It’s absurd for them to pretend this is only about one reporter.”

Yes, that’s definitely how ambassadors to friendly countries are supposed to behave.

Grenell wrote an incendiary letter to Der Spiegel, which it published on its site, in which he asked the company to arrange for an outside organization to conduct a thorough investigation of what went wrong.

“These fake news stories largely focused on U.S. policies and certain segments of the American people,” Grenell wrote. “While Spiegel’s anti-American narratives have expanded over the last years, the anti-American bias at the magazine has exploded since the election of President Trump.”

Surprise surprise. Trump is a crook, a liar, a sadist, a bully, and an empty sack of wind, so a country that puts him at the top of government has something badly wrong with it. It’s not “anti-American bias” to pay a lot of attention to Trump.

Trump, who has made undermining otherwise credible news reporting a central effort of his presidency, has often claimed, without evidence, that reporters make up their sources.

Against this backdrop, the Relotius affair has predictably fueled a long-standing right-wing campaign to criticize media whose reporting is not friendly to Trump.

Shawn Steel, the committeeman of the Republican National Committee in California, tweeted about it on Christmas, calling it the “German Fake News” that was guilty of “hating” Trump and America.

Home of Fox News and Breitbart.



The president’s video did not blur the faces

Dec 26th, 2018 4:33 pm | By

Newsweek reports that “oops he revealed the location of a SEAL team on Twitter” item:

President Donald Trump and the White House communications team revealed that a U.S. Navy SEAL team was deployed to Iraq after the president secretly traveled to the region to meet with American forces serving in a combat zone for the first time since being elected to office.

While the commander-in-chief can declassify information, usually the presence of a special operations unit, to include, showing their faces would not be revealed to the American public, especially while the U.S. service members were still deployed. Current and former Defense Department officials told Newsweek that the information is almost always classified and is a violation of operational security.

Something went wrong with that middle sentence, but the gist is apparent – usually if a president meets with a special operations unit, it’s not the done thing to show their faces in a fucking tweet.

A pool report during Trump’s visit said the details of the trip were embargoed until the president finished giving his remarks to a group of about 100 mostly U.S. special operation troops engaged in combat operations in Iraq and Syria.

The pool report went on to say that Trump paused to take a selfie with U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Kyu Lee, who said he was the chaplain for SEAL Team Five, based out of Coronado, California. The chaplain said Trump told him: “Hey, in that case, let’s take a picture.”

After Trump left Iraqi airspace, the president posted a video to his Twitter account of his time spent with American forces during his visit to Iraq. Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA,” plays over the video and shows the president and the first lady posing for pictures with service members that appear to be from SEAL Team Five. The special warfare operators are dressed in full battle gear and wearing night vision goggles.

The video cuts to team members shaking the president’s hand before cutting to other special operations personnel and support troops.

Gee, brilliant. I haven’t seen the video because I’d rather gouge my eyes out than watch Trump playing Big Boy with the soldiers.

Malcolm Nance, a former U.S. Navy intelligence specialist with experience in Iraq told Newsweek on Wednesday that posting the video was a break from traditional procedures that are usually strictly enforced and designed to safeguard the identities of U.S. special operation forces, especially when deployed to a combat zone.

“Operational security is the most important aspect of personnel deployments. The real names, faces, and identities, of personnel involved in special operations or activities, are usually a closely held secret in a combat zone,” Nance said. “Revealing them casually, through an unusual media exposure even if it’s the commander in chief, would prove a propaganda boom if any of this personnel are detained by a hostile government or captured by a terrorist group. There would be no denying who you are and what you do.”

Newsweek asked the Pentagon for comment but the Pentagon said talk to him, he says he’s the boss.

“The deployments of special operation forces, including Navy SEALs are almost [always] classified events, [so] as to protect those men and women that are on the front lines of every overt and covert conflict the United States is involved in,” a Defense Department official told Newsweek on condition of anonymity.

“Even during special operation demonstrations for congressional delegations or for the president or vice president, personnel either have their faces covered or their face is digitally blurred prior to a release to the general public,” the official said.

The president’s video did not blur the faces of special operation forces.

“I don’t recall another time where special operation forces had to pose with their faces visible while serving in a war zone,” the Pentagon official said.

So…yeah.



Oopsies

Dec 26th, 2018 4:19 pm | By

I looked for confirmation that Secret Service agents protecting Princess Ivanka and Princeling Jared are unpaid and couldn’t find any, but if that’s true…oy.

Wo.

What next – “Oops I tripped and launched the nukes”?