Notes and Comment Blog

Dress like a wooomannnnnn

Feb 3rd, 2017 4:11 pm | By

Some #DressLikeAWoman.

More dirt, more corruption, more secret bribery

Feb 3rd, 2017 3:41 pm | By

Streams? Oh who needs streams. Streams are just some hippy crap like candles and home-made bread and bicycles.

The Republicans have rushed to make sure that streams don’t end up being too clean.

Using an obscure law that allows Congress to review regulations before they take effect, the Senate voted to reverse the Stream Protection Rule, which seeks to protect the nation’s waterways from debris generated by a practice called surface mining. The Interior Department had said the rule would protect 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests by keeping coal mining debris away from nearby waters.

The Senate vote was 54 to 45, following a House vote for repeal on Wednesday.

“Make no mistake about it, this Obama administration rule is not designed to protect streams,” Representative Bill Johnson, a Republican from Ohio who sponsored the move to reverse the rule, said on Wednesday. “Instead, it was an effort to regulate the coal mining industry right out of business.”

For what purpose? Why would the Obama administration and Congress have wanted to regulate the coal mining industry right out of business? Just random trouble-making?

The Senate also moved to reverse a separate rule requiring publicly traded oil, gas and mineral companies to disclose payments to foreign governments for licenses or permits. The disclosure rule was aimed at curbing bribery and at helping resource-rich developing countries hold fossil-fuel companies, and their governments, accountable.

That’s hippy shit too. It’s much better to have universal corruption and bribery, because that way we all know where we are.

The staggering number

Feb 3rd, 2017 12:01 pm | By

Jeezus. More than 100 thousand visas have been revoked under Trump’s loathsome ban.

At least 100,000 visas have been revoked in a single week in response to President Trump’s executive immigration order, a lawyer for the Justice Department revealed in court Friday.

The number came to light in a Virginia courtroom as a federal judge granted the state’s motion to join a lawsuit challenging the immigration ban that caused chaos at airports over the weekend.

“The number 100,000 really sucked the air out of my lungs,” said Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg of the Legal Aid Justice Center, who represents two brothers from Yemen who were detained after arriving at Dulles Airport on Saturday and filed the original lawsuit that Virginia just joined.

Attorney Erez Reuveni, from the DOJ’s Office of Immigration Litigation, announced the staggering number after Judge Leonie Brinkema pressed for the number of people who were detained and sent back from airports.

Fortress America. White people welcome to visit; brown people…welllllll we’re going to need to ask you a lot of questions first.

The State Department quickly disputed the Justice Department’s numbers, issuing a statement claiming the amount of revoked visas was far lower.

“Fewer than 60,000 individuals’ visas were provisionally revoked to comply with the Executive Order,” said William Cocks of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs in an email to NBC News. “We recognize that those individuals are temporarily inconvenienced while we conduct our review under the Executive Order. To put that number in context, we issued over 11 million immigrant and non-immigrant visas in fiscal year 2015. As always, national security is our top priority when issuing visas.”

In light of the President’s order — which banned Syrian refugees indefinitely, all other refugees for 120 days, and residents of seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days — multiple court orders have been issued that rolled back some of the ban’s heavier restrictions.

Are the camps being built as we speak?

Treats for the rich

Feb 3rd, 2017 11:25 am | By

Two weeks in, and the greedy lying corrupt plutocrat wants to shred what financial regulations we have. Bernie Madoff was framed! Let’s have more and bigger recessions! Let’s see if we can top the Great Depression!

President Trump mounted an all-out assault on financial regulation on Friday, announcing an array of steps to tear down safeguards enacted to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis and turning to the Wall Street titans he had demonized during his campaign for advice.

After a White House meeting with the business executives on Friday, Mr. Trump signed a directive calling for a rewriting of major provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, crafted by the Obama administration and passed by Congress in response to the 2008 meltdown, the White House said. A second directive he signed is expected to halt and possibly require an overhaul of an Obama-era Labor Department rule that requires brokers to act in a client’s best interest, rather than seek the highest profits for themselves, when providing retirement advice.

Because why shouldn’t brokers fuck over their clients if doing so will make the brokers richer? This is America, god damn it. It’s only those stinking coastal elites who think brokers should work for their clients rather than for themselves; the good salt of the earth people in flyover country know better. Power to the people. Drain the swamp.

Taken together, the actions constitute a broad effort to loosen regulations on banks and other major financial companies, put into motion by a president who campaigned as a champion of working Americans and a harsh critic of global elites. Those elites include Wall Street companies like Goldman Sachs, whose alumni now populate his Cabinet and economic advisory teams.

No he’s still totally a champion of working Americans. Brokers are working Americans!

“We expect to be cutting a lot out of Dodd-Frank because frankly, I have so many people, friends of mine that had nice businesses, they can’t borrow money,” Mr. Trump said in the State Dining Room during his meeting with business leaders. “They just can’t get any money because the banks just won’t let them borrow it because of the rules and regulations in Dodd-Frank.”

Well that’s just awful. Trump’s friends should totally be able to take out risky loans, the feds can just step in when the loans go bad, and everything will be fine.

People who lose their jobs and can’t pay their rent, on the other hand, should be evicted without delay.

The president had praise for Jamie Dimon, whose bank, JPMorgan Chase, was often a target of regulatory actions by the Obama administration.

“There’s nobody better to tell me about Dodd-Frank than Jamie, so you’re going to tell me about it,” Mr. Trump said.

The meeting underscored the degree to which the architects of Mr. Trump’s economic strategy are now some of the very people he lambasted in his campaign, which ended with a commercial that described “a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations.”

Funnily enough, he never meant a word of that, and funnily enough, it was always obvious that he never meant a word of it. Isn’t life a hoot.

While the president cannot unwind Dodd-Frank with the stroke of a pen, his orders set the tone for the regulatory agencies enforcing the rules, including the Securities and Exchange Commission. And the orders, which Democrats and consumer groups immediately denounced as gifts to the Wall Street companies that ignited the 2008 crisis, could portend even more executive actions that direct the regulators to halt financial regulation.

The actions are the latest sign that Mr. Trump, despite striking a populist tone during the campaign, is working to accommodate Wall Street and other corporations.

Of course he is. He fooled people. He’s a shameless misogynist racist who loves to shout about “political correctness” – but that’s not actually the same thing as being on the side of the working class, however much some working class people may love complaints about “political correctness.”

Following the new president’s lead, congressional Republicans on Friday started chipping away at Dodd-Frank, one of Mr. Obama’s signature achievements. The Republicans used an unusual parliamentary procedure to repeal a rule that stems from the law with only a majority of votes rather than the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.

The Senate voted 52 to 47 to void the rule, which requires oil companies to publicly disclose payments they make to governments when developing resources around the world. The rule, which Dodd-Frank assigned to the Securities and Exchange Commission to enforce, was tangential to Dodd-Frank’s mission of reforming Wall Street, but lawmakers included it anyway with the hope of exposing bribes and corruption.

The swamp rises.

Two machetes

Feb 3rd, 2017 10:48 am | By

A guy – un mec – attacked soldiers guarding The Louvre and they shot him.

Police in Paris say a man attacked soldiers when they told him he couldn’t enter an underground shopping mall beneath the sprawling Louvre Museum with his bags.

Yves Lefebvre, a police union official, says the man tried to stab one of the soldiers. The attacker was shot five times.

Lefebvre says police found two machetes on the man.

There were about 1000 people in the museum; they were hustled into safer areas without windows if they weren’t already there. They were allowed to leave after a couple of hours.

Trump, of course, is overjoyed. He takes this to be a vindication of his cunning plan to Prevent All The Mooslims.

It’s bad. It’s horrible. It’s horrible that there’s that kind of hatred and ill-will brooding away and exploding into violence at intervals. What it’s not, however, is a serious threat to people in general. It’s nothing like the threat presented by, for instance, cars. It’s not even close to a reason to start banning refugees from Mooslim countries.

How to get noticed

Feb 2nd, 2017 5:55 pm | By


Jesse Singal points out that Milo Yiannopoulos is not nearly as edgy and interesting as he pretends to be.

A lot of people fail to recognize this, but Milo Yiannopoulos, the Breitbart senior editor and right-wing provocateur, is much closer to being Sean Hannity than to being Adolf Hitler. It’s a bit of a secret, in part because Yiannopoulos devotes a great deal of time and effort to a form of ideological dress-up, pretending to be more edgy and out-there than he actually is. His college tour is called the “Dangerous Faggot” and his upcoming book is called Dangerous because Yiannopoulos wants to position himself as an incendiary liberal bête noire. He profits off of it — it’s his brand.

The uproar at Berkeley last night is just what he wants.

Yiannopoulos preened and joked and harassed his way into public-enemy-number-one status among some left-leaning folks despite the fact that his actual beliefs are, by the standards of mainstream reactionary conservatism, fairly boring and predictable. Just look around at his Breitbart author page: If you ignore the overheated headlines and constant references to his own greatness, it’s clear that Yiannopoulos is, for the most part, serving up microwaved portions of mass-market right-wing goonery.

Same goes for his college speeches. The transcript of one is headlined “MILO at Cal Poly State University: ‘No More Dead Babies.’” “Can you imagine, and I don’t think this is a stretch, the senior leaders of Planned Parenthood sitting in a conference room discussing the best timing for an abortion, to maximize their profits from the dead baby’s body?” he told his Cal Poly audience. “It’s horrifying, and it’s what feminists want more of.” It’s also the same argument you’ve heard on a Fox News segment.

That’s similar to what I’ve been saying, which is that he’s a big nothing, whose internet fame developed because of his passion for harassing people, not because he’s clever or interesting or informed. He’s random.

Yiannopoulos capitalizes on the fact that his youngest fans and detractors (and it’s not an accident his most ardent fans and detractors tend to be young) are typically only familiar and comfortable with a pretty narrow discourse — precisely what one finds on college campuses at the moment. Academic communities tend to be places where the bounds of acceptable expression and thought are significantly different than they are on, for example, right-wing AM radio. Ideas that are unfortunately commonplace in a nation of 350 million people, and especially among older demographics, seem more singular and uniquely dangerous (to use Yiannopoulos’s chosen term) on college campuses — especially when they’re coming from such a flamboyant, gleefully bellicose figure. The fact that Yiannopoulos has a tendency to harass people, both online and off-, only acts to further mask the staleness of his actual beliefs. His Leslie Jones tweets are the most famous examples, but there are plenty of others. During two of his recent talks, for example, he showed pictures of and denigrated members of the communities where he was speaking — one involving a sociology professor, whom he called a “Fat Faggot” onscreen, and the other a trans student — in a way that seems geared at inciting harassment. (Yiannopoulos is himself gay and once wrote an article giving his fans “permission” to call other people “fags.”)

Yiannopoulous’s fans also misconstrue his shtick as new or uniquely edgy, and from their point of view it’s a good thing. Since he first got famous stoking the anti-feminist fires of Gamergate, he has attracted an audience of resentful young people frustrated with “political correctness,” many of whom believe they aren’t “allowed” to say various offensive things. Now, it is plainly false that reactionary speech is severely restricted in the U.S.: Anyone who listens to the aforementioned talk-show hosts knows that there’s a huge market for misogynistic and racially dog-whistling language. This is a common conservative falsehood, that in a country that elected Donald Trump people are getting fired or blacklisted left and right simply for “tellin’ it like it is.” But again, if you’re a young person who hasn’t been exposed to that side of the discourse, and you’re suspicious of the liberal discourse that prevails on many campuses, Yiannopoulous is a shock to the system. He feels new and important, despite the fact that he isn’t.

But he’s making a nice living at it because people pay attention to him.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported yesterday:

UC Berkeley officials are warning the hosts of a Wednesday night event featuring right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos that his campus speech may be used to target individual students in the country without documentation.

“We are deeply concerned for all students’ safety and ability to pursue their education here at Cal beyond Milo’s speech,” the university’s Office of Student Affairs said in a letter Tuesday to the Berkeley College Republicans, the students hosting the event. “Milo’s event may be used to target individuals, either in the audience or by using their personal information in a way that causes them to become human targets to serve a political agenda.”

The letter expressed concerns that Yiannopoulos — a British writer for the right-wing opinion site Breitbart News — will use his appearance to kick off a campaign “targeting the undocumented student community on our campus,” and linked to an article published Tuesday on the site.

The article begins: “Milo and the (conservative think tank) David Horowitz Freedom Center have teamed up to take down the growing phenomenon of ‘sanctuary campuses’ that shelter illegal immigrants from being deported.”

I read the Breitbart article. It doesn’t talk about plans to target particular students. I’d like to think even Yiannopoulos isn’t a big enough shit to do that – but he really is an awful shit, so maybe he would have.


Feb 2nd, 2017 1:46 pm | By

John McCain has sent Trump a letter pointing out that Putin is testing him (Trump) and that he needs to not fail the test.

Russia is testing President Donald Trump with a surge of violence in eastern Ukraine and the U.S. president should give Ukraine the lethal aid it needs to defend against the attacks, Senator John McCain said in a letter to Trump on Thursday.

Renewed violence flared this week between Moscow-backed rebels and Ukraine government forces that has caused the highest casualty rate since mid-December and cut off power and water to thousands of civilians on both sides of the frontline.

“That this surge of attacks began the day after he talked with you by phone is a clear indication that Vladimir Putin is moving quickly to test you as commander in chief. America’s response will have lasting consequences,” McCain said in a letter to Trump released by his office.

How will Trump respond? By calling McCain to scream at him? With a torrent of furious tweets? By going on Fox News to explain his deep love for Putin?

McCain urged Trump to use his authority under an existing defense policy law to provide lethal assistance to Ukraine.

“Vladimir Putin’s violent campaign to destabilize and dismember the sovereign nation of Ukraine will not stop unless and until he meets a strong and determined response,” McCain wrote.

Some of the most prominent Republican lawmakers in Congress have called for Ukraine to receive lethal arms.

But Putin is Trump’s good buddy. He’s said nice things about Trump, and he’s a fabulous guy. Big league. Tremendous.

McCain also called Australia’s ambassador to here to say Trump is an asshole so just ignore him.

Mr. Trump’s blustery phone call with Australia’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, was enough to pull the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee into the diplomatic breach.

In a remarkable statement, Mr. McCain, Republican of Arizona, announced that he had called Australia’s ambassador to the United States, Joe Hockey, to assure him of an “unwavering support for the U.S.-Australia alliance.”

“I asked Ambassador Hockey to convey to the people of Australia that their American brothers and sisters value our historic alliance, honor the sacrifice of the Australians who have served and are serving by our side, and remain committed to the safer, freer and better world that Australia does far more than its fair share to protect and promote.”

In other words: disregard the petulant child in the baggy blue suit.

Know it when you see it

Feb 2nd, 2017 1:04 pm | By

Milo. Why do we keep having to talk about Milo? Milo is ridiculous and we should never have to talk about him.

But we keep having to.

A speech by the divisive right-wing writer Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California, Berkeley, was canceled on Wednesday night after demonstrators set fires and threw objects at buildings to protest his appearance.

The university announced the cancellation on Twitter around 6 p.m. local time, about an hour after a section of the campus erupted in protest.

Look, he’s not “right-wing” – that’s not the right way to name him. He is right-wing, of course, but that by itself isn’t why people don’t want him giving speeches. “Divisive” doesn’t name him either – that’s a silly word, an empty euphemism for “sadistic” or similar.

The point about Yiannopoulos isn’t that he’s right-wing, much less conservative, it’s that he’s a nasty bully. It’s entirely possible to be conservative without being a nasty bully. Trump doesn’t have to be the loathsome bully he is, and the same applies to Yiannopoulos.

There are thousands of conservatives who could give good talks at universities, good talks appropriate for universities – reasoned, argued, informed. Milo is just a troll – a troll is all he is. Trolling is his one and only claim to fame. Universities should not be elevating trolls.

I don’t think he should be “no-platformed,” because there’s too much no-platforming about and most of it is way too mindless. But what I do think is that universities should refrain from inviting him to give speeches.

Conservative doesn’t mean belligerent or hateful or proudly sexist and racist. There’s no need to foster a range of views by welcoming belligerent sexists and racists to spew their sexism and racism at universities. There’s a difference between views and abuse. Universities should skip the abusive types.

That of course would include our shiny new president, sad to say.

Section 1504

Feb 2nd, 2017 12:13 pm | By

More corruption, more bribery, more secrecy, more fuck everything in the name of corporate Success. More filth.

Back in 2010, ExxonMobil’s then-CEO, Rex Tillerson, was deeply worried about Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms, a bipartisan amendment that required drilling and mining companies to disclose any payments they make to foreign governments. So Tillerson and one of his lobbyists paid a half-hour visit to the amendment’s Republican co-author, then-Senator Richard Lugar, to try to get it killed.

Tillerson argued that forcing U.S. oil firms to reveal corporate secrets—such as paying foreign governments—would put them at a competitive disadvantage. He also explained that the provision would make it especially difficult for Exxon to do business in Russia, where, as he did not need to explain, the government takes a rather active interest in the oil industry. But Lugar believed greater transparency could help alleviate the “resource curse” of corruption that plagues so many mineral-rich countries, so he told Tillerson they would have to agree to disagree. Section 1504 stayed in the bill, the bill became law, and the disclosure requirement became an international example: France, Canada and the United Kingdom all went on to use it as a model for similar rules.

Good stuff. Well done Richard Lugar. Badly attempted Rex Tillerson – and that alone should have disqualified him to be Secretary of State.

But you know what’s coming next.

[T]he GOP is preparing to try to kill the disclosure rule created under Section 1504, despite warnings from international aid groups that the move would provide a wink-and-nod blessing to hidden corporate payments to petro-thugs. The House is expected to act this afternoon, and since the move relies on a special mechanism for reversing rules enacted late in a presidential term, Senate Republicans will need a mere majority rather than a filibuster-proof 60 votes to follow suit.

So after all of Trump’s promises to drain the swamp, an anti-anti-corruption bill pushed by Big Oil and his own top diplomat might be the first policy legislation to reach his desk.

“It would be a real tragedy for democracy and human rights,” says Lugar, the former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who now leads a center in his name focusing on global issues.“It’s hard to believe this would be such a high priority right now.”

I find it all too easy to believe. The party of corruption and crony capitalism is wasting no time.

The so-called resource extraction rule is not one of President Obama’s most prominent legacies, but one reason getting rid of it is such a high Republican priority is that it’s one of his most vulnerable legacies. That’s because it was finalized only last June, two weeks too late to avoid scrutiny under the Congressional Review Act, a law allowing Congress to strike down end-of-term regulations with simple majorities. The CRA has been used only once before, when Congress erased a Clinton-era workplace ergonomics rule in 2001. But now that the Republicans have control of both houses of Congress and the White House, they hope to use the CRA to wipe out a variety of Obama rules, starting today with this and another measure opposed by extractive industries, a “stream protection” rule restricting discharges from mining operations.

Great. That’s what this country needs: more polluted streams.

“Why would Congress want to take a stand for facilitating corruption?” asked Jana Morgan, director of Publish What You Pay USA, a coalition of groups focused on accountability in the extractive industries. “Why would anyone want to help the oil industry hide payments to kleptocracies?”

Because that’s how they roll?

Damned out of his own mouth

Feb 2nd, 2017 11:15 am | By

Trump also used the National Prayer Rice Krispies to tell the assembled multitude not to worry about his belligerent phone calls to heads of state who have the bad taste not to be Putin.

Mr. Trump also went off topic in his address to the National Prayer Breakfast. He told the audience not to worry about reports that he had held tempestuous phone calls with the leaders of allies Australia and Mexico, saying a tough approach was long overdue.

“When you hear about the tough phone calls, don’t worry,” he said. “We’re being taken advantage of by countries around the world. It’s time for us to be a little tough. It’s not going to happen anymore.”

Yeah, that Australia, man – robbing us blind, they are.

Mr. Trump talked about the influence of faith in his own life, referring to the family Bible, which was used when he took the oath of office at his inauguration. His mother, he said, read to him from that Bible during his childhood.

“America is a nation of believers,” he said. “The quality of our lives is not defined by our material success, but by our spiritual success.”

Is that right? Well then I hate to break it to you, Donnie from Queens, but the quality of your life is in the toilet. You are the emptiest human being I have ever observed.

Without sufficient intelligence

Feb 2nd, 2017 10:20 am | By

Good god – how has this flown under the radar so long? Trump approved that commando raid in Yemen without due diligence.

The U.S. military said on Wednesday it was looking into whether more civilians were killed in a raid on al Qaeda in Yemen on the weekend, in the first operation authorized by President Donald Trump as commander in chief.

U.S. Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens was killed in the raid on a branch of al Qaeda, also known as AQAP, in al Bayda province, which the Pentagon said also killed 14 militants. However, medics at the scene said about 30 people, including 10 women and children, were killed.

U.S. Central Command said in a statement that an investigating team had “concluded regrettably that civilian non-combatants were likely killed” during Sunday’s raid. It said children may have been among the casualties.

Central Command said its assessment “seeks to determine if there were any still-undetected civilian casualties in the ferocious firefight.”

U.S. military officials told Reuters that Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations.

Emphasis added.

He what???

Can we take this seriously now?

Bad hombres down there

Feb 2nd, 2017 9:42 am | By

Then there’s the part about how he blustered at Mexico some more.

President Donald Trump warned in a phone call with his Mexican counterpart that he was ready to send U.S. troops to stop “bad hombres down there” unless the Mexican military does more to control them, according to an excerpt of a transcript of the conversation obtained by The Associated Press.

The excerpt of the call did not detail who exactly Trump considered “bad hombres,” nor did it make clear the tone and context of the remark, made in a Friday morning phone call between the leaders. It also did not contain Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s response. Mexico denies that Trump’s remarks were threatening.

The White House today says the “remarks” were “light-hearted.” That sounds so familiar…what does it remind me of…oh yes: everything. Trump’s MO, and trolls, and bullies in general. It’s what they always say. I was just teasing, can’t you take a joke, he does that because he has a crush on you.

Trump’s “jokes” are the jokes of an angry narcissistic bully. They’re sexist or racist or xenophobic according to target; sometimes they’re all three at once – like calling Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas.” Yammering at Enrique Peña Nieto about “bad hombres” fits that pattern. The “jokes” are entirely inappropriate, to put it mildly.

The phone call between the leaders was intended to patch things up between the new president and his ally. The two have had a series of public spats over Trump’s determination to have Mexico pay for the planned border wall, something Mexico steadfastly refuses to agree to.

“You have a bunch of bad hombres down there,” Trump told Pena Nieto, according to the excerpt given to AP. “You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.”

A person with access to the official transcript of the phone call provided only that portion of the conversation to The Associated Press. The person gave it on condition of anonymity because the administration did not make the details of the call public.

The Mexican website Aristegui Noticias on Tuesday published a similar account of the phone call, based on the reporting of journalist Dolia Estevez. The report described Trump as humiliating Pena Nieto in a confrontational conversation.

But but but his remarks were “light-hearted” humiliations.

Then he slammed the phone down

Feb 2nd, 2017 9:21 am | By

Donnie from Queens is confused again. (I do wish someone would speak to him. I wish someone would give him a little guidebook to study. Flash cards. A short video. Something.) He thinks we’re at war with Australia. No no no, Donnie, Australia is an ally. Can you say “ally”? “Al” rhymes with pal – “ly” rhymes with lie (your favorite thing!): ally. Australia is an ally. That means they’re on our side. We’re not at war with them.

It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief — a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America’s staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week.

Instead, President Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refu­gee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.

At one point, Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day — including Russian President Vladi­mir Putin — and that “this was the worst call by far.”

President Putin, who has stepped up his attack on Ukraine – that was a fun call. Putin’s a stand-up guy who doesn’t put up with any guff from the serfs. That Ozzie guy is a whole other story. Worst ever.

Trump’s behavior suggests that he is capable of subjecting world leaders, including close allies, to a version of the vitriol he frequently employs against political adversaries and news organizations in speeches and on Twitter.

Tactful way of putting it. Trump’s behavior makes it shamefully obvious that he is rash and stupid and conceited enough to be a raging asshole to heads of state who are close allies as well as to senators, newspapers and tv news stations, women, and anyone else he feels like attacking.

“This is the worst deal ever,” Trump fumed as Turnbull attempted to confirm that the United States would honor its pledge to take in 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention center.

Trump, who one day earlier had signed an executive order temporarily barring the admission of refugees, complained that he was “going to get killed” politically and accused Australia of seeking to export the “next Boston bombers.”

He was rude and belligerent as only he knows how to be, waving his Malignant Narcissism around as if it were a badge of honor.

25th Amendment.

National Prayer Oatmeal

Feb 2nd, 2017 8:53 am | By

Where to begin…

Trump made his debut at a ludicrous institution called “the National Prayer Breakfast” – which is obviously something secular governments should ignore. He covered all the bases by attending the theocratic nightmare, and then insulting it and everyone present by talking about…Arnold Schwarzenegger and Celebrity Apprentice? I don’t know, that sounds like a joke, but the Post is reporting it as fact.

The comments were an unusual start to the bipartisan breakfast. But they were not so unusual for a president who prides himself on putting on a good show and garnering good ratings.

He has taken Schwarzenegger to task in the past for low ratings and accused the former California governor of siding with his political opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Schwarzenegger fired back on Twitter with a video responding directly to the president’s comments.

“Hey Donald, I have a great idea. Why don’t we switch jobs,” Schwarzenegger said. “You take over TV, because you’re such an expert in ratings and I take over your job and Then people can finally sleep comfortably again.”

Or we could find someone with actual education and training in a field relevant to the job. Zany, I know, but it’s a thought.

Eventually he cut to the chase and promised to make the US even more theocratic than it already is.

The president also declared that he would work to repeal the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits some tax-exempt groups from endorsing political candidates. And he pledged to protect religious freedom.

“I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution,” Trump said. “I want to express clearly today to the American people that my administration will do everything in its power to defend and protect religious liberty in our land.”

Nope. Religious freedom includes freedom from religion, which requires secular government.

Also, presidents don’t have the power to “get rid of and totally destroy” existing legislation. He doesn’t have dictatorial powers, yet.

Trump understands nothing

Feb 1st, 2017 4:48 pm | By

The Independent has the transcript and video of Trump’s miniature “speech” on Black History Month. The combination of ignorance, idiocy and narcissism is like a blow between the eyes.

Well, this is black history month, so this is our little breakfast, our little get-together. And just a few notes. During this month, we honour the tremendous history of the African-Americans throughout our country. Throughout the world, if you really think about it, right. And their story is one of unimaginable sacrifice, hard work, and faith in America.

Stop right there. No. That is exactly wrong. Their story is not one of “sacrifice.” Sacrifice entails agency and choice. If I hit you over the head and take all your stuff, that’s not you “sacrificing” for me, that’s me assaulting and robbing you. Their story is one of oppression and exploitation, of violence and enslavement, of kidnapping and torture and dehumanization. I could go on. Slavery is not about slaves sacrificing for the criminals who claim to “own” them, it’s about a long-term crime against humanity.

And the “hard work” was extorted from them by violence and torture. And shut the fuck up about “faith in America” when the majority of America’s history is the history of a slave state.

He could hardly have gotten it more insultingly wrong if he’d tried for a year.

Then he talked at much more length about himself and the statue of King.

Then he talked about himself some more. The end.

Then there’s a speech by Obama at the opening of the African American History Museum in September. It’s rather different. It will depress you if you read it, because of how different it is. Just one little extract…

What we can see of this building — the towering glass, the artistry of the metalwork — is surely a sight to behold.  But beyond the majesty of the building, what makes this occasion so special is the larger story it contains.  Below us, this building reaches down 70 feet, its roots spreading far wider and deeper than any tree on this Mall.  And on its lowest level, after you walk past remnants of a slave ship, after you reflect on the immortal declaration that “all men are created equal,” you can see a block of stone.  On top of this stone sits a historical marker, weathered by the ages.  That marker reads:  “General Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay spoke from this slave block…during the year 1830.”

I want you to think about this.  Consider what this artifact tells us about history, about how it’s told, and about what can be cast aside.  On a stone where day after day, for years, men and women were torn from their spouse or their child, shackled and bound, and bought and sold, and bid like cattle; on a stone worn down by the tragedy of over a thousand bare feet — for a long time, the only thing we considered important, the singular thing we once chose to commemorate as “history” with a plaque were the unmemorable speeches of two powerful men.

And that block I think explains why this museum is so necessary.  Because that same object, reframed, put in context, tells us so much more.  As Americans, we rightfully passed on the tales of the giants who built this country; who led armies into battle and waged seminal debates in the halls of Congress and the corridors of power.  But too often, we ignored or forgot the stories of millions upon millions of others, who built this nation just as surely, whose humble eloquence, whose calloused hands, whose steady drive helped to create cities, erect industries, build the arsenals of democracy.

It certainly depresses me.

H/t Kausik

No exit from Brexit

Feb 1st, 2017 3:56 pm | By

So that’s appalling.

Brexit: MPs overwhelmingly back Article 50 bill

Well shame on those MPs.

MPs have voted by a majority of 384 to allow Prime Minister Theresa May to get Brexit negotiations under way.

They backed the government’s European Union Bill, supported by the Labour leadership, by 498 votes to 114.

But the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats opposed the bill, while 47 Labour MPs and Tory ex-chancellor Ken Clarke rebelled.

Two nationalist parties opposed the hyper-nationalist Brexit – ain’t life strange. But then they’re minority-nation nationalist, so it’s not so strange after all. Ironic though? Yes I think we get to call it ironic.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had imposed a three-line whip – the strongest sanction at his disposal – on his MPs to back the bill.

Shadow cabinet members Rachael Maskell and Dawn Butler quit the party’s front bench shortly before the vote, in order to defy his orders.

UK friends of mine are in despair.

Sell all this useless federal land

Feb 1st, 2017 12:03 pm | By

Another sub-radar item – Republicans moving to sell of public lands.

House bill H.R. 621, introduced last week by Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), would direct the Secretary of the Interior to sell off 3.3 million acres of federal land.

“The long overdue disposal of excess federal lands will free up resources for the federal government while providing much-needed opportunities for economic development in struggling rural communities,” Chaffetz said in a press release Tuesday.

The federal lands that would be sold encompass less than .5% of all federal lands, according to Chaffetz. However, 3.3 million acres is roughly the same size as the state of Connecticut (3.5 million acres). The lands have not been identified yet and the formal text for the bill has not yet been submitted to the site.

The bill calls for: “responsible disposal of 3.3 million acres of land identified by the Clinton Administration as being suitable for sale to non-federal entities … these lands have been deemed to serve no purpose for taxpayers.”

Well “purpose” tends to have a different meaning for Republicans from the one it has for the rest of us. We tend to think of purpose as being broader than monetary profit.

Chaffetz introduced the federal lands disposal bill along with bill H.R. 622 which would eliminate the law enforcement duties of the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service. The responsibility of enforcement on Forest Service and BLM land would then fall on local law enforcement.

And the Bundy gang would throw a huge party.

Fox News being “nice”

Feb 1st, 2017 11:44 am | By

Fox News – the one good news source we have, according to Trump, because they treat him “nice.” Fox News is not such a good news source as Trump claims it is. Canada had to tell it to stop lying about the Quebec murderer.

The office of the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has forced Fox News to apologise and retract a “false and misleading” tweet that inaccurately described the suspect in the Québec City mosque shooting as a man of Moroccan origin.

Kate Purchase, the director of communications for the prime minister’s office, sent a letter to Fox News objecting to misinformation it had put out after the attack on the Québec City Islamic cultural center.

Oh well, all they did was say the wrong guy did it. No biggy.

Shortly after the attack police arrested two men. Police did not release their names, but local media cited police sources to identify them as a French Canadian and a Moroccan-born Quebecer. By midday on Monday, police had clarified that only one was a suspect, and they had released the other – who was now being treated as a witness – without charge.

Fox News later sent out a tweet on Monday afternoon – shortly after the police clarification – suggesting there was just one suspect in the attack who was of Moroccan origin.

The Fox News tweet made no mention of the other man arrested, French-Canadian Alexandre Bissonnette, who now faces six charges of first-degree murder and five of attempted murder. Those who know Bissonnette have described him as pro-Donald Trump, anti-immigration and sympathetic to the far right.

No wonder Fox News forgot to update its tweet.

Hours after it was made clear that Bissonnette was the only suspect in the case, the “false and misleading” tweet was still on the Fox News Twitter account and remained in circulation, said Purchase.

While the Fox News story linked to the tweet had been corrected, the erroneous tweet had been retweeted more than 900 times and had racked up 1,600 likes.

In a letter to a top official at the network, Purchase asked Fox News to retract or update the tweet to reflect the suspect’s identity as a 27-year-old French-Canadian.

“These tweets by Fox News dishonour the memory of the six victims and their families by spreading misinformation, playing identity politics and perpetuating fear and division within our communities,” she wrote.

Identity politics??!!! It’s only the left that plays identity politics!! Everybody knows that – just ask Breitbart.

Milwaukee to Donnie from Queens: stay home

Feb 1st, 2017 11:20 am | By

Hmmm, so it turns out that Trump, friend of manufacturing companies and friend of Wisconsin, is not all that welcome at the Milwaukee Harley-Davidson plant after all. Why not? It’s nothing personal, it’s just that he has these…critics.

An administration official told CNN that President Trump was set to visit a Harley-Davidson factory in Milwaukee on Thursday, but the trip was called off after the company decided it didn’t want to deal with a planned protest.

The White House announced the visit to Milwaukee on Monday, but did not give a specific location. Technical Sergeant Meghan Skrepenski, with the 128th Air Refueling Wing of the Air National Guard in Milwaukee, confirmed to the AP on Tuesday that the trip was canceled.

Trump was expected to sign executive orders related to manufacturing during the trip. The group Milwaukee Coalition Against Trump said it organized a call-in protest to Harley-Davidson after learning that Trump would tour the company’s plant in Menomonee Falls. By Tuesday afternoon, 1,200 people said on the group’s Facebook page that they were planning to protest outside the plant on Thursday.

Trump’s people are denying it. He was never planning to go to Milwaukee. It wasn’t the protests that made him decide not to go – he has to do some laundry that day. Milwaukee is coming to him, not the other way around. Milwaukee is not a real place, it’s fake news. Milwaukee is the opposition party and should shut its mouth. Milwaukee needs to show us its long-form birth certificate. Milwaukee is guilty guilty guilty, no matter what the DNA evidence says, and should be executed. Milwaukee is bad people.

Many for-profit universities went under

Feb 1st, 2017 11:10 am | By

The Times’s daily Trump briefing includes an item that should not fly under the radar.

It also turns a sarcastic eye on Trump’s name-check of Frederick Douglass:

Trump: That Frederick Douglass “has done an amazing job.”

Yes, that Frederick Douglass, former slave, abolitionist and statesman who died in 1895.

Meeting with African-American supporters at the White House on Wednesday, the president let it be known that Mr. Douglass, an important figure in American history, had come to his attention.

“Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice,” Mr. Trump said. “Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and millions more black Americans who made America what it is today. A big impact.”

Yes, he said that.

He’s just that good.

But the must not go under the radar item – it’s that Trump wants to undo regulations that hinder the ability of for-profit “universities” to rip off people who can least afford it. Gee, I wonder where that came from.

The Obama administration’s efforts to regulate the once flourishing for-profit university system did not get a lot of attention, but they had big consequences.

Critics of the universities saw fake diploma mills that recruited students with advertising on buses, on subways and even in homeless shelters, and then helped them get guaranteed student loans from the federal government. Money in hand, the for-profits often left the students to their own devices. If they dropped out, or got degrees that proved worthless in the work world, so be it: The taxpayer would pay off the loans if the students couldn’t.

The Obama-era regulations tightened up recruiting rules and tied loans to the schools’ records of getting their students the jobs they were promised. Many for-profit universities went under.

Now, President Trump — who just settled a fraud suit against his Trump University — has asked Liberty University’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr., a stern critic of accreditation rules, to head a White House task force on higher education, assigned to focus on “overregulation and micromanagement,” a Liberty spokesman told NBC News.

Yeah – “overregulation and micromanagement” that keep ruthless shitbags like Trump from cheating poor people out of the little money they have and pushing them into debt. Trump wants to restore the freedom of ruthless shitbags like him to rob people blind.

Of course it’s not at all “overregulation and micromanagement” for Trump to run around banning all citizens of an assortment of majority-Muslim countries from entering the US – oh hell no, that’s “keeping our country safe.”