Notes and Comment Blog

Some people are happy

Jan 31st, 2018 11:42 am | By

Al Jazeera gently points out mash notes to Trump’s speech from white supremacists.

White supremacists quickly took to social media to comment on the president’s comments, with many of them praising the characterisation of Americans as “dreamers”.

In a Twitter post, David Duke, former leader of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), a racist organisation popular in the southern US for over a century after slavery ended in the 1860s, thanked the president.

Yes, some Americans Dream of a White Country.

During Trump’s electoral campaign in 2016, he came under fire for hesitancy to disavow Duke, who had pledged his support for the then Republican candidate.

In an interview with CNN, Trump had said of Duke and other white supremacists who endorsed him: “You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about.”

Correction: we wouldn’t want you running for political office while not knowing who David Duke is.

Mike Cernovich, a conspiracy theorist and far-right commentator, described Tuesday as “a good day for the good guys” in response to Trump’s address.

Cernovich is affiliated with the “alt-light”, a far-right, pro-Trump movement that avoids the open white supremacy of the alt-right and advocates civic nationalism.

Oh yes, there’s nothing like a puffy orange millionaire in a bad suit for projecting strength.

Wisdom digested

Jan 31st, 2018 11:20 am | By

John Crace at the Guardian does a Digested Read version of Jordan Peterson’s already brisk 12 rules for being like Jordan Peterson.

1 Stand up straight with your shoulders straight
Most lobsters are complete bastards left to their own devices. Most humans are complete bastards left to their own devices. This proves there is a God who wants us to have Order. Order is Masculine and Chaos is Feminine. Therefore to move towards Order, we all need to man up.

Order is Masculine and Chaos is Feminine except when it’s the other way around. Men are the rebels, the lone geniuses, the innovators, the disrupters, while women are the boring anal petty rule-followers and tidiers of messes who stay home lining up the forks. Only a man could be a Nawesome Genius like Jordan Peterson; women color inside the lines and suck up to Teacher.

11 Do not bother children while they are skateboarding
This is the rule that’s the real catnip for right-wingers everywhere. Want to know why the world is falling apart? It’s because liberals are turning boys into girlies with their namby-pamby ways. Let boys do boy things and girls do girl things.

See? Order is Masculine but on the other hand boys must be very unlike girls and girls are, let’s face it, kind of weak and worthless.

Meanwhile I’d rather read Seneca.

Immigrants bad, American bombs good

Jan 31st, 2018 10:36 am | By

Roger Cohen at the Times is scathing.

Trump portrayed a dark and menacing world in which immigrants, who stand at the heart of the American idea, were equated with gangs, murderous criminals and “horrible people.”

In his 80-minute speech, the word “woman” did not come up once. Other words or phrases never mentioned included “peace,” “human rights,” “equality,” “Europe,” “multilateral,” “civil rights” and “alliance.”

Those are all bad, liberal concepts, not fit for a Real Man™.

If there was a theme, it was the demonization of immigrants and of the rest of the world, combined with an exaltation of American might.

So pretty much a fascist-xenophobic type theme.

In perhaps his clearest signal of contempt for the views of allies, Trump announced that he had signed an executive order revoking President Barack Obama’s January 2009 order to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility. Trump’s order directs that “the United States may transport additional detainees to U.S. Naval Station Guantánamo Bay when lawful and necessary to protect the nation.”

Guantánamo, where detainees may be held indefinitely as “enemy combatants,” is widely viewed around the world as a facility incompatible with the American principles of fair trial, human rights and the rule of law.

Which is why fascist-xenophobic types like it.

This was “Volk und Vaterland” in American guise, stamped with his speechwriter’s clunky and cliché-ridden prose: “If there is a mountain, we climb it. If there is a frontier, we cross it. If there is a challenge, we tame it. If there is an opportunity, we seize it.”

And if there’s a border, we build a wall. And if there’s a chance to display bigotry, we seize it.

And until we get rid of him, we’re stuck with it. The nightmare continues.


Jan 31st, 2018 10:19 am | By

How did Trump’s big evening out go?

Greg Sargent at the Post says he lied a lot.

President Trump’s State of the Union speech is being widely described as an effort to move past the chaos, anger, polarization and divisiveness that have been unleashed by his first year in office.

Oh please. Don’t be ridiculous. If Trump wanted to move past the chaos, anger, polarization and divisiveness that he sprays all over us every day, he could just do that. He delivered a speech that Stephen Miller (no rose himself) wrote for him; it would be criminally credulous to treat anything conciliatory he said in it as meaningful.

The speech tried to “move past tumult,” proclaimed the front page of the New York Times. It was an “appeal to unity,” said the Times’s lead news story. His speech “attempted to suspend the polarizing realities of his presidency,” insisted CNN.

But this isn’t what Trump tried to do at all. Instead, Trump actually doubled down on pretty much every aspect of his presidency that large majorities of Americans have found so searingly polarizing and divisive. The real core of the speech was his effort to rhetorically recast the key elements of that approach as unifying and conciliatory without moving past them at all.

“I’m saying this in my best most politest voice: brown people who want to come here and eat all our ice cream are SCUM. Can we unify now?”

Trump’s speech had two major goals: First, to persuade working- and middle-class Americans that those [orthodox GOP] economic policies are good for them. Second, to reiterate his commitment to the most polarizing aspects of his approach in the eyes of the base voters who thrill to it while making conciliatory noises directed at the college-educated and suburban white swing voters who have been badly alienated by it — and who, as a result, may deliver control of at least one chamber of Congress to Democrats this year, hamstringing his presidency.

Pay no attention to the conciliatory noises behind the curtain. They mean nothing.

Trump didn’t back off his immigration agenda, or the toxic ideas and rhetoric undergirding it, in the slightest. He merely tried to repackage those things as conciliatory. Trump called for a deal protecting the “dreamers” that would, he said, give concessions to both sides. But he reiterated his demand for large cuts to legal immigration, even as he rehashed his ugliest demagoguery about undocumented immigrants by blaming fictional open borders for exaggerated levels of crime, hyping the MS-13 threat, and dissembling reprehensibly about the diversity visa lottery program and “chain migration.”

Let’s don’t waste any more time expecting a new improved Trump to jump out of a cake all of a sudden.

State of the Union for sale for $35 & up

Jan 30th, 2018 5:00 pm | By


President Trump is seeking to parlay his first State of the Union address Tuesday into cash for his reelection campaign by offering supporters a chance to see their name flashed on the campaign’s website during the speech.

In a fundraising solicitation Monday, Trump offered those willing to pay at least $35 the opportunity to see their name displayed during a live-streaming of the address on the website.

“This is a movement,” the solicitation says. “It’s not about just one of us. It’s about ALL of us. Which is why your name deserves to be displayed during Tuesday night’s speech.”

The Web page to which the solicitation links offers donors the opportunity to contribute as much as $2,700 — the maximum amount allowed per election.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, the pitch had generated $1 million in contributions from more than 75,000 individuals, according to Cassie Smedile, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. Money raised by solicitation will benefit not only Trump’s campaign but also the RNC and joint fundraising committee, she said.

New level of disgusting achieved. Well done.

H/t Ben

Cheat here, cheat there, cheat everywhere

Jan 30th, 2018 4:27 pm | By

Donnie the Grifter:

Donald Trump says the Trump National Golf Club in Florida is worth more than $50m. Palm Beach County property tax appraiser Dorothy Jacks disagrees, saying the Jupiter course, where Trump plays when he visits nearby Mar-a-Lago, is actually worth $19m.

Oh burn. She’s dissing his valuable golf club resort luxury escape.

The president’s lawyers are now suing Jacks, saying her estimate and the nearly $400,000 property tax bill it generates are too high, even if her appraisal is only 40% of what the president listed in his 2017 financial disclosure form.

Oh so he’s saying it’s worse less than 50 million…and less than 19 million too. Or I suppose that it changes value depending on whether we’re talking about taxes or selling price.

Trump’s company, Jupiter Golf LLC, does not say in the lawsuit how much it thinks the course is currently worth, but it sent the county nearly $300,000 as a good-faith estimate of what it believes the tax bill should be. That would make the course worth $15m.

Well that’s quite similar to 50. Less than a third of it, yes, but still quite similar.

Also? He cheats at golf.

Suzann Pettersen, the 15-time LPGA Tour winner and a golfing partner of Donald Trump, says the president “cheats like hell” on the golf course.

Pettersen, who has known Trump for a decade and says she is fond of the president even though she does not agree with his policies, was speaking to the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang.

“He cheats like hell … so I don’t quite know how he is in business,” said Pettersen. “They say that if you cheat at golf, you cheat at business. I’m pretty sure he pays his caddie well, since no matter how far into the woods he hits the ball, it’s in the middle of the fairway when we get there.”

Maybe God moves it.

Guest post: The females don’t stick around to make the Alpha sandwiches

Jan 30th, 2018 4:04 pm | By

Originally a comment by Anna Y on Top lobster.

Yet another guy who thinks he’s very “Alpha” spouting off about how all the feeeemales should be irresistibly attracted to him (and conveniently picking a species where this is the case; admittedly lobsters are a novel choice, normally this sort goes for lions; funny how no one talks about hyenas, or elephants, or bonobos, etc, with a female topped hierarchy). But, even accepting his premise that all women should be irresistibly (and exclusively) attracted to Alphas, I don’t think he’d like that in practice.

For one, in the animal kingdom, high status males don’t just magically spring forth full-formed: they rise up through the ranks by competing with other males, often violently, sometimes with deadly consequences. Once they’ve achieved the “top lobster” status, they continue to have to defend it against challengers. Eventually (which, in practice, can mean “almost immediately”) they are deposed (often fatally) by the next in line. The reward for this high-stress existence is also fairly fleeting: the Alpha gets to mate with the most females while holding the title. These females then lose all interest in him, once they received what they wanted: sperm from an ostensibly fit donor, that makes it more likely their offspring will have a better shot at survival. The females don’t then stick around to make the Alpha sandwiches, and listen to him endlessly prattle on while pretending to be utterly fascinated, and nodding in the right places. In fact, just as soon as he gets his ass handed to him by the next guy, his popularity is history: it’s brilliant strategy after all, for the females to move on to the best and brightest, not stick around to soothe the loser’s bruised ego. There’s also no mention whatsoever of beauty contests among the lobster females to get a shot with the top guy, so presumably our Alpha is happy to fertilize grandma lobster and morbidly obese lobster, or whatever passes for unattractive in lobster terms. In other words, the brightest females in the animal kingdom (according to Peterson), behave precisely like human gold-diggers: they zero in on the male with the most to offer, take him for everything he’s worth (in exchange for a little nookie, sure), and as soon as they get what they want from him, they move on to the up-and-comer. Brilliant strategy indeed, but I’m gonna bet Peterson has something unflattering to say about it when properly applied by members of his own species.

Also, I’m kind of curious how he squares the “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today” rule (which ostensibly invites a person to forgo competition and focus on fostering one’s personal virtue as an end in itself) with his ideas on dominance hierarchies (and their corollaries re: sex and reproduction).

A piety too many

Jan 30th, 2018 3:50 pm | By

No. I think this is completely wrong, however highminded it sounds.

Yes it does. The fact that the norms this POTUS flouts are the norms that say we should treat other people with respect and fairness and basic empathy does mean that we should not reward him with attention and deference. This POTUS is an evil bullying monster, and he should not be treated as normal or naughty-but-acceptable.

The state of the union address has been puffed into what now looks like a royal ceremony, which is embarrassing. The tv networks are giving it all the solemn awe and hype they bestow on the Oscars, another pseudo-royal ceremony hyped out of all recognition.

Plus there’s the fact that this POTUS has shown us all that the famous checks and balances are worthless, so what else are we supposed to do? What else are legislators supposed to do? Just go on acting as if he’s normal, and wrong but otherwise ok? He’s not in any way ok and we get to say so.

“Get legal!!”

Jan 30th, 2018 3:28 pm | By

The shithole Trump has made:

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include strong denials from pro-Trump protesters of allegations they singled out dark-skinned individuals, as well as video links showing their interactions during a protest at the Capitol on Jan. 25.

Supporters of President Donald Trump singled out dark-skinned lawmakers, legislative staffers and children at the Capitol on Jan. 25 as they protested congressional efforts to pass immigration reform, according to staffers of the Arizona Legislature and two Democratic legislators.

Waving large flags in support of Trump while standing between the House and Senate buildings, the protesters, who were also armed, asked just about anyone who crossed their path if they “support illegal immigration.”

They called some “illegal” and told them to “go home,” barbs they reserved for those with brown skin, according to the staffers.

Two women who said they were part of the protest against illegal immigration at the Capitol vehemently denied accusations that they singled out dark-skinned people and accused them of being illegal immigrants.

But Lisette Flores and Selianna Robles, policy advisors for Senate Democrats, said they were yelled at when they walked from the Senate to the House lawn, directly passing the Trump supporters, to get lunch at a farmers market. Three white coworkers offered to escort Flores, Robles, and Democratic staffer Dora Ramirez back to their offices, Robles said.

We’ve seen this before – groups of people whipping up hatred of other groups of people. Rwanda, Bosnia, Burma, Bangladesh…we’ve seen it before. Trump has awoken a monster.

Lawmakers said they were also questioned based on their appearance. Rep. Eric Descheenie, D-Chinle, said he was confronted by Trump supporters while helping defend a young student that he said was being harassed.

They asked Descheenie, a Navajo lawmaker, if he was in the United States illegally.

“I’m indigenous to these lands,” Descheenie said. “My ancestors fought and died on these lands. I just told them, ‘Don’t ask me that question.’”

A 14-minute video of yesterday’s protest uploaded on YouTube shows several interactions initiated by the anti-illegal immigration protesters. Near the beginning of the video, one protester could be heard assuming that members of a group are staying illegally in the U.S.

“No, they’re not legal. They’re illegal,” a woman can be heard saying.

“Yeah, we know they’re illegal. Get legal or get out of America … They’re illegal, see that?” another woman shouted at the group.

Mind you, it seems to be a tiny group of people, and from the way they talk they sound not right in the head…But without Trump they might be contentedly shouting at clouds instead of at other human beings.

Show your papers

Jan 30th, 2018 12:09 pm | By

Peak hate-mongering xenophobic immigrant-bashing racism?

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), an immigration hardlinerannounced this afternoon that he has asked the U.S. Capitol Police and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to check the identification of all State of the Union attendees and arrest any illegal immigrants.

Of all the places where the Rule of Law needs to be enforced, it should be in the hallowed halls of Congress. Any illegal aliens attempting to go through security, under any pretext of invitation or otherwise, should be arrested and deported.

— Rep. Paul Gosar

Why it matters: At least 27 members of Congress plan to bring immigrants with DACA or Temporary Protected Status as their guests to Trump’s address, per CNN.

He proudly posted on Facebook:

Today, Congressman Paul Gosar contacted the U.S. Capitol Police, as well as Attorney General Jeff Sessions, asking they consider checking identification of all attending the State of the Union address and arresting any illegal aliens in attendance. Additionally, Congressman Gosar asked that they arrest those using fraudulent social security numbers and identification to pass through security.

“Of all the places where the Rule of Law needs to be enforced, it should be in the hallowed halls of Congress. Any illegal aliens attempting to go through security, under any pretext of invitation or otherwise, should be arrested and deported,” said Congressman Gosar.

The Phoenix New Times:

On Twitter, outgoing senator Jeff Flake responded, “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

Though a number of Democrats are boycotting Trump’s State of the Union address, plenty of others are bringing guests intended to send a political statement. According to the Huffington Post, nearly 30 Democratic lawmakers plan to bring Dreamers.

That includes Arizona congressmen Ruben Gallego and Raul Grijalva.

Gallego will be bringing Antonio Valdovinos, a 27-year-old DACA recipient from Phoenix who was unable to join to the Marine Corps due to his legal status. Valdovinos went on to work in grassroots activism, leading get-out-the-vote efforts for Phoenix City Council candidates. He now owns his own business, La Machine Field Operations, which works to get progressive candidates elected in Arizona.

Grijalva plans to bring Arisaid, a Dreamer from Arizona who now attends Georgetown University, he wrote in a tweet.

This country has become a racist shithole.

Can we arrest him?

Jan 30th, 2018 11:06 am | By

NBC reports that Trump has A Plan.

Sources say that Trump has adopted a two-track strategy to deal with the Mueller investigation.

One is an un-Trumpian passivity and trust. He keeps telling some in his circle that Mueller — any day now — will tell him he is off the hook for any charge of collusion with the Russians or obstruction of justice.

But Trump — who trusts no one, or at least no one for long — has now decided that he must have an alternative strategy that does not involve having Justice Department officials fire Mueller.

“I think he’s been convinced that firing Mueller would not only create a firestorm, it would play right into Mueller’s hands,” said another friend, “because it would give Mueller the moral high ground.”

Instead, as is now becoming plain, the Trump strategy is to discredit the investigation and the FBI without officially removing the leadership. Trump is even talking to friends about the possibility of asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions to consider prosecuting Mueller and his team.

Again – that whole thing about the Justice Department in all its branches being independent of the White House? Such that a president “asking” an Attorney General to prosecute a Special Counsel for investigating said president is a grotesque violation of all the boundaries? Just pretend that’s not there, because as long as the Republicans in Congress remain corrupted, it might as well not be.

In short


Beautiful women that become a horror

Jan 30th, 2018 10:20 am | By

When you have an ego that blots out the sun, everything is for you and nothing is for anyone else. Other people owe you whatever you demand of them, and you owe no one anything. You are Just That Special.

Seven months before an alleged tryst with porn star Stormy Daniels, Donald Trump told radio host Howard Stern that he would give his pregnant wife, Melania, a couple of days — or maybe a week — to regain her model figure after giving birth.

“You know, Howard, she’s got the kind of a body and makeup where, about one day after the baby, it’s going to be the same as it was before,” Trump said during an appearance on Stern’s show on Dec. 7, 2005.

What a lovely way for a man to talk about the woman he’s married to, to another man, on a broadcast radio program. “I tell you, Howard, she’s got such a great rubber body that I’ll be able to poke it only 24 hours after she pushes out a baby. Is that awesome or what?!”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment. Speaking generally about his appearances on Stern’s show, Trump told The Washington Post in April 2016: “I never anticipated running for office or being a politician, so I could have fun with Howard on the radio, and everyone would love it. People do love it. I could say whatever I wanted when I was an entrepreneur, a business guy.”

He could grab them by the pussy. He could do whatever he wanted – and he still can, because you can’t stop him, so ha!

Trump also said in the 2005 interview that he had seen “beautiful women that for the rest of their lives have become [a] horror” after giving birth.

“You know, they gain like 250 pounds,” he told Stern. “It’s like a disaster.”

Seriously. Goddam sex dolls, what do they think they’re doing?

At the time of the interview, Melania Trump was five months pregnant with her first child, Trump’s fifth. Barron Trump was born March 20, 2006.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, told In Touch magazine that she had sex with Trump in July 2006 at a golf tournament in Nevada. The In Touch interview was conducted in 2011 but published for the first time this week.

Well you know how it is. Melania had snapped back in 24 hours all right, but still…she wasn’t new, and Trump wants his new. And he’s Trump, so he gets to have his new, because he can do anything.

Trump’s comments to Stern fit a pattern of public remarks and alleged behavior during and after Melania’s pregnancy. The infamous “Access Hollywood” video, in which Trump boasted about groping and kissing women without their consent, was recorded in September 2005, when Melania was about two months along.

Celebrity journalist Natasha Stoynoff claims that Trump pressed her against a wall and forcibly kissed her in December 2005, around the time of the Stern interview. At the time, Stoynoff was interviewing the Trumps at Mar-a-Lago for a People magazine feature. She wrote about the alleged encounter in October 2016.

He’s a manly, entrepreneurial kind of guy, who needs to slam women up against walls and grope them to keep his manly entrepreneuriality fresh and flowing.

Trump ignores another law

Jan 30th, 2018 9:46 am | By

The next item in the ongoing constitutional collapse here in the US is the Trump administration’s refusal to implement legislation that Congress passed by a massive majority.

The Trump administration has announced it will not impose additional sanctions on Russia, despite Congress passing a law allowing the President to do so.

With Monday the deadline for the White House to impose any new measures, the US State Department insisted the threat of sanctions was already acting as a deterrent.

The new sanctions would have required the US Treasury Department to penalise foreign governments and companies doing business with Russia’s defence and intelligence sectors.

The Trump admin says oh foreign governments and companies are already put off by the very mention of sanctions so we’re not going to actually impose any.

Congress voted almost unanimously to pass a bill last year that punished Russia for its alleged meddling in the 2016 US election and aggression in east Ukraine.

Mr Trump, who wanted warmer ties with Moscow and had opposed the legislation as it worked its way through Congress, signed it reluctantly in August, branding the bill “seriously flawed”.

And he’s simply refusing to carry it out.

The bill allowed sanctions to be delayed or waived, but any inaction would have to come with evidence to Congress that Russia was making progress in cutting back on cyber meddling.

And evidence means evidence, not just a Trump stooge uttering words.

The measure, known as the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA)”, also required the administration to list “oligarchs” close to Russia president Vladimir Putin’s government and issue a report detailing possible consequences of penalising Russia’s sovereign debt.

Monday’s deadline to release those reports was seen as a test of Trump’s willingness to clamp down on Russia. Critics condemned him for failing to announce any sanctions.

And for releasing a laughably bogus list of oligarchs.

Our loathing of Donald Trump is not “bias”

Jan 29th, 2018 4:57 pm | By

This miserable louse

The day after he fired James Comey as director of the FBI, a furious President Donald Trump called the bureau’s acting director, Andrew McCabe, demanding to know why Comey had been allowed to fly on an FBI plane from Los Angeles back to Washington after he was dismissed, according to multiple people familiar with the phone call.

McCabe told the president he hadn’t been asked to authorize Comey’s flight, but if anyone had asked, he would have approved it, three people familiar with the call recounted to NBC News.

The president was silent for a moment and then turned on McCabe, suggesting he ask his wife how it feels to be a loser — an apparent reference to a failed campaign for state office in Virginia that McCabe’s wife made in 2015.

McCabe replied, “OK, sir.” Trump then hung up the phone.

A White House official, who would not speak on the record, disputed the account, saying, “this simply never happened. Any suggestion otherwise is pure fiction.” The FBI declined to comment on the call.

Trump, enraged by TV footage of Comey boarding the government-funded plane hours after his firing, believed that Comey should not have been allowed to take the plane, that any privileges he had received as FBI director should have ceased the moment he was fired, the people familiar with the matter said.

That engorged piece of crap who milks his government job in every possible way, many of them illegal, thinks Comey should have been stranded in LA where he went while doing his job – stranded there and forced to get back whatever way he could at his own expense because Trump fired him without notice while he was on the far side of the country. Trump did not have to fire him that way, you may remember, and there was a lot of outrage about the way he did it – stranding Comey 3000 miles away and leaving him to learn the news from a tv set while he was talking to a room full of agents.

Then he calls up McCabe to rage at him and insult him for not making Comey walk home.

The disgustingness of him. It’s breathtaking.

In the past, Trump had also reportedly asked McCabe how he voted in the 2016 election and repeatedly made public references to campaign donations his wife had received from an ally of Hillary and Bill Clinton.

In an impromptu exchange last week with reporters who had been speaking with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Trump said he did not recall asking McCabe who he voted for in 2016. “I don’t think I did,” he said. “I don’t know what’s the big deal with that because I would ask you … who did you vote for?”

Stupid turd. Reporters are not federal employees. Also, he should not ask them either; he should not ask anyone.

In recent weeks the White House has agitated for McCabe’s exit, saying he is part of a broader pattern of bias against the president in the highest levels of federal law enforcement.

It’s not bias. It’s not bias. He’s an evil, monstrous, out of control, loathsome human being, and we can all see that. It’s not bias to see him for what he is.

The phone call between Trump and McCabe after Comey’s firing last May underscores the president’s continued fixation on the loyalties of people around him and his frustration with autonomous arms of the government — particularly ones involved in the Russia investigation. It’s also emblematic of his early and persistent distrust of top Justice Department officials.

The combination of those sentiments whipped the president into such a fury over Comey last year that he wanted his firing to abruptly strip him of any trappings that come with the office and leave him across the country scrambling to find his own way home.

Precisely. He wanted it that way, he did it on purpose, and then vomited his bile all over McCabe for not helping him do it.

McCabe detailed his conversation with Trump after Comey’s firing to several people at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter said.

And Trump’s people say it didn’t happen. Who ya gonna believe?

Still enigmatic

Jan 29th, 2018 4:26 pm | By

The Atlantic too is puzzled by McCabe’s abrupt departure…or defenestration, as the url but not the title calls it.

McCabe was expected to stick around until March. Instead, he abruptly departed Monday, though he’ll still be collecting those benefits. The deputy director is taking what is ominously known as “terminal leave”—he has accrued enough leave to depart his post now but not officially retire until benefits vest.The reasons for McCabe’s abrupt exit are not clear, though. It’s not even clear whether McCabe’s exit came as a surprise to FBI insiders or not. Some reports say yes, while others say no. For what it’s worth, NPR’s Carrie Johnson said in December that McCabe might use accrued leave to depart before March.

Maybe he just decided: fuck it, I’m off.

At Monday’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the president had not played any role in McCabe’s dismissal. This may be true in a narrow sense—Trump may have not ordered his terminal leave—but it’s preposterous in a broader sense. Trump has repeatedly tweeted attacks on McCabe, a move unprecedented before Trump, and according to The Washington Post demanded to know for whom McCabe voted during a meeting in May 2017…

NBC News also reported Monday that after Comey was fired, Trump called McCabe, furious that Comey had been allowed to return home from Los Angeles on a government plane. McCabe reportedly told the president that he had not been asked to approve the flight but would have done so:

The president was silent for a moment and then turned on McCabe, suggesting he ask his wife how it feels to be a loser — an apparent reference to a failed campaign for state office in Virginia that McCabe’s wife made in 2015.

McCabe replied: “OK, sir.” Trump then hung up the phone.

Wow. What an asshole.

As so often with Trump it makes me want to see someone, just once, be that frankly rude and contemptuous to him to his face on live television with the whole world watching.

Top lobster

Jan 29th, 2018 2:41 pm | By

Julian Baggini has a droll review of a new book by Jordan Peterson on the 12 eternal truths or something.

It’s not difficult to see why Peterson’s rules sold in the online marketplace, where attention spans are short and repackaged clichés pass for original insights. In headline form, most of his rules are simply timeless good sense. “Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)”; “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.” The problem is that when Peterson fleshes them out, they carry more flab than meat.

Actually I would say the problem comes before that, the problem is with his “rules” themselves. They’re too self-conscious, too composed, too pseudo-Chesterfieldish. Writing like that brings me out in a rash. He’s not some guy in the smoking room of a club in St James Square in 1875, he’s an internet-famous academic in 2018. He should relax and get over himself…or else go back to being a real academic who writes academic prose. Attempted aphoristic Wisdom is just embarrassing, though I have no doubt his fans will think it’s genius. They think Peter Boghossian is a genius after all.

Although he advocates a balance between the two, most of the time he argues that we need more order. In practice, this means a conservative return to tradition and what is “natural”. Dominance hierarchies, for example, are said to be “older than trees”, a “near-eternal aspect of the environment”. But since when has “natural” meant “good”, or “is” meant “ought”? If we cannot move beyond dominance hierarchies, then his apparently empowering advice to stand tall has the chilling corollary that others will have to stoop.

Peterson, who has become one of the most prominent critics of anything that can be labelled as “political correctness”, is especially conservative on gender and family roles. “Female lobsters . . . identify the top guy quickly, and become irresistibly attracted to him,” he writes. Generalising from the crustacean to the human he adds, “This is brilliant strategy, in my estimation.”

Ah so that’s why there are jokes about Peterson and lobsters. I’ve seen them around but not known why they were a thing. He fancies himself the top lobster.

Peterson has a knack for penning sentences that sound like deep wisdom at first glance but vanish into puffs of pseudo-profundity if you give them more than a second’s thought. Consider these: “Our eyes are always pointing at things we are interested in approaching, or investigating, or looking at, or having”; “In Paradise, everyone speaks the truth. That is what makes it Paradise.”

My point exactly, except for the part about sounding like deep wisdom at first glance; to me even at first glance they sound like someone trying to sound like deep wisdom.

Image result for lobster

The president’s interference with law enforcement

Jan 29th, 2018 12:30 pm | By

Jennifer Rubin says what we know, which isn’t much.

So what does this all mean? “If it turns out that McCabe was pressed to accelerate his planned early retirement by a month or so by Sessions or on behalf of Trump, this would strengthen the argument for a pattern of obstruction of justice,” constitutional law scholar Laurence Tribe tells me. “But without proof of such pressure, this development isn’t likely to have major significance.”

The main job for Congress now is to find out what happened. “It’s entirely possible that this was entirely McCabe’s decision, but given the president’s calls for his ouster and his constant meddling with the FBI and DOJ, we need to hear answers immediately,” says Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman. “Those answers need to come from Chris Wray, they need to come in person, and preferably they would come under oath to Congress. The president’s interference with law enforcement has infected the Justice Department, and we need to know whether this departure is a result of that interference.”

McCabe is still a witness in the Russia probe, she points out.

What she doesn’t touch on, and what I would like to know, is who will replace McCabe and who decides that.

Meanwhile the intolerable Donald Trump Junior is talking smack on Twitter.

A degrading day, all told.

Without any asterisks

Jan 29th, 2018 11:13 am | By

What about when artists have histories of abusing women? Should we care? Should museums care?

When the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery was preparing the wall text in 2014 to accompany an image of the boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., the museum decided to note that Mr. Mayweather had been “charged with domestic violence on several occasions,” receiving “punishments ranging from community service to jail time.”

Such context is common for controversial subjects in art. But far less so for artists themselves — centuries of men like Picasso or Schiele who were known for mistreating women, but whose works hang in prominent museums without any asterisks.

Now, museums around the world are wrestling with the implications of a decision, by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, to indefinitely postpone a Chuck Close exhibition because of allegations of sexual harassment involving potential portrait models that have engulfed the prominent artist in controversy. Mr. Close has called the allegations “lies” and said he is “being crucified.”

It’s a quandary. If the allegations are false, the postponement is unfair to Close. If they’re true…then what? Should we decide it’s just about what’s on the canvas?

It is a provocative moment for the art world, as the public debate about separating creative output from personal conduct moves from popular culture into the realm of major visual artists from different eras and the institutions that have long collected and exhibited their pieces.

“We’re very used to having to defend people in the collection, but it’s always been for the sitter” rather than the artist, said Kim Sajet, director of the Portrait Gallery, which has a large body of Mr. Close’s work. “Now we have to think to ourselves, ‘Do we need to do that about Chuck Close?’”

It partly depends on what the allegations are, I think. If we’re looking at paintings of people who were abused by the artist, I want to know that. (Balthus’s young neighbor in Paris for instance: we wondered what he did to her.)

“How much are we going to do a litmus test on every artist in terms of how they behave?” said Jock Reynolds, the director of the Yale University Art Gallery, which collects Mr. Close’s work. “Pablo Picasso was one of the worst offenders of the 20th century in terms of his history with women. Are we going to take his work out of the galleries? At some point you have to ask yourself, is the art going to stand alone as something that needs to be seen?”

But one is tempted to think that’s easy for him to say.

Whatever museums ultimately decide to do about Mr. Close, some say they can no longer afford to simply present art without addressing the issues that surround the artist — that institutions must play a more active role in educating the public about the human beings behind the work.

“The typical ‘we don’t judge, we don’t endorse, we just put it up for people to experience and decide’ falls very flat in this political and cultural moment,” said James Rondeau, the president and director of the Art Institute of Chicago, which has Close works in its collection.

Maybe so, but then again this political and cultural moment could have it all wrong – it could be a moment of moral panic and overreaction.

McCabe is out

Jan 29th, 2018 10:07 am | By

It’s getting scary now. McCabe has resigned, and CBS says he was forced to. It looks remarkably like a scenario in which a corrupt and criminal president kneecaps law enforcement.

FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is retiring from the FBI, CBS News’ Pat Milton has confirmed.  According to Milton, a source familiar with the matter confirms that McCabe was forced to step down. He is currently on leave and will official[ly] retire in March.

That’s bad. If Milton’s source is right that’s baaad.

McCabe was under considerable scrutiny from Republicans, as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling and any ties to Trump associates continued. McCabe took temporary charge of the FBI after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey earlier this year, and some skeptics viewed McCabe as too close to his former boss.

Too close for what? His former boss shouldn’t have been fired in the way and by the person he was. (For his actions in October 2016? Maybe he should have. But that’s not why Trump fired him.) “Too close” can only mean “for Trump’s comfort” and that should not be the criterion. If that is the criterion we’re living in an authoritarian state, officially.

The abuse was global

Jan 28th, 2018 4:44 pm | By

Anything for sport, right? Anything to win.

The Larry Nassar scandal is the biggest sexual abuse scandal in sports history. Nassar’s victims, who include some of the most famous female athletes around today, including Simone Biles and McKayla Maroney, outnumber the alleged victims of Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby combined. The abuse was global: he abused girls in London at the 2012 Olympics; at the Károlyi Ranch, USA Gymnastics’ training centre in Texas; at gymnastics meets in Rotterdam.

Over the course of the week-long sentence hearing, more than 150 women made impact statements in which they described lives crushed by trauma and shame. Shy little girls who briefly found self-confidence through sport became deeply self-loathing teenagers and adults because the man who was supposed to help them do the sport they loved instead molested them, over and over again.

The most obvious word this case sparks is “how”: how could this have ever been allowed to happen? How could USA Gymnastics have required hundreds of girls under its care to submit to mandatory treatment from a man who would give them “pelvic exams” in their hotel or dorm beds at night, wholly unsupervised? And how could the complaints about him have been dismissed for so long, as detailed by the gold medallist Aly Raisman in her unforgettably blistering testimony? “It’s easy to put out statements talking about how athlete care is the highest priority. But [USA Gymnastics] has been saying that for years, and all the while, this nightmare was happening,” Raisman said in court.

Because winning was all. Gold medals were all. The teenagers doing the winning didn’t matter.

“There is no other sport in which this could have happened but gymnastics,” says Joan Ryan, whose 1995 book, Little Girls in Pretty Boxes, about the physical and psychological toll gymnastics takes on girls and young women, is still regarded as one of the seminal books about the sport. “These girls are groomed from an incredibly young age to deny their own experience. Your knee hurts? You’re being lazy. You’re hungry? No, you’re fat and greedy. They are trained to doubt their own feelings, and that’s why this could happen to over 150 of them.”

Ryan’s excellent book is also about figure skaters – the other athletes who are dressed and made up like dolls to do their sport.

Ryan wrote about the notoriously brutal regime at the Károlyi Ranch, run by Béla and Márta Károlyi and where Nassar worked, detailing how girls were so deprived of food and water they would beg their male teammates to smuggle them snacks. Yet as long as the Károlyis brought in medals the media loved them.

Anything to win, baby.