Notes and Comment Blog

The ruling elites have enriched themselves through corruption

Jul 23rd, 2018 10:19 am | By

Pompeo was ranting at Iran yesterday a few hours before Trump’s late-night all caps threat.

Pompeo’s remarks Sunday reprised his criticism of the Iranian government, but on a deeply personal level that is likely to be repeated in the U.S. government broadcasts into Iran.

He lit into what he called Iran’s “hypocritical holy men,” saying the ruling elites have enriched themselves through corruption, and called out officials by name who he said had plundered government coffers through embezzlement or by winning lucrative contracts.

I wonder if any thoughts of his boss occurred to him while he did all that.

He cited “the billionaire general,” Interior Minister Sadegh Mahsouli; Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, the “Sultan of Sugar”; and Sadeq Ardeshir Larijani, the head of Iran’s judiciary, whom he said had embezzled $300 million in public money.

“Call me crazy,” Pompeo said, “but I’m a little skeptical that a thieving thug under international sanctions is the right man to be Iran’s highest-ranking judicial official.”

And yet, he works for a thieving thug. He plays Secretary of State for a thieving thug.

It’s a religious requirement

Jul 23rd, 2018 9:39 am | By

Carving up girls like so much deli meat is “culture” in Somalia (and elsewhere).

The father of a 10-year-old girl who died after undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM) in Somalia has defended the practice.

Dahir Nur’s daughter died of blood loss on 17 July, two days after being taken to a traditional circumciser.

But he told Voice of America (VOA) “people in the area are content” with FGMeven considering the dangers, adding it is the country’s “culture”.

Cultures can change, though. It’s possible to examine particulars of a culture and decide that some of them are bad and have to go.

Efforts to criminalise FGM in Somalia have been stalled by politicians, who fear it will alienate voters who believe it is a religious requirement, while girls who have not undergone it are reportedly taunted for not being cut.

These “religious requirements” that are supposed to originate from a god who can not now be asked to explain or justify or reform or terminate said requirements are one of the worst inventions humans have come up with.

Be cautious my dude

Jul 23rd, 2018 9:17 am | By

More extreme crazy.

We’ll just ignore for now the absurdity of Trump yelling at someone else for “demented words of violence and death” and go directly to wtf.

The Times:

Mr. Trump’s message was apparently in response to a speech on Sunday by Mr. Rouhani, who warned the United States that any conflict with Iran would be the “mother of all wars.”

Mr. Rouhani had earlier threatened the possible disruption of regional oil shipments if its own exports were blocked by United States sanctions.

On Saturday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said he supported Mr. Rouhani’s suggestion, an indication that Iran’s leadership was in accord over the apparent threat. Mr. Rouhani has long been considered a more pragmatic leader who was seen as tolerable to moderates.

Mr. Trump’s emphatic tweet about Iran, with its reminders of the enormous military power the United States projects in the Persian Gulf, had echoes of his treatment of North Korea last summer. He would often denounce the regime as corrupt. In the president’s mind, these threats destabilized the North and forced it into negotiations over its nuclear weapons and missile programs.

So, maybe it’s step 1 toward the apocalypse, maybe it’s a step in one of Trump’s peculiar games of I Am Smart Diplomat, maybe it’s a venting of steam over Russia-Manafort-Cohen, maybe it’s a late night brain fart. Who knows.

Look out, look out, don’t lose your minds

Jul 22nd, 2018 6:05 pm | By

Not your call, dude.

First of all…please. When do Democrats ever rush to the left of any kind, let alone socialist? Democrats never do anything but drag us ever farther to the right, in the name of exactly that kind of “oooh everybody wants to be in The Center” bullshit. Voting for one socialist in one primary in New York is not “rushing to the socialist left” let alone losing anyone’s mind.

Second, it’s not his job to tell us not to move to the left. Granted his real job got yanked away from him in the rudest way possible, but that doesn’t free him up to be a freelance private unofficial cop of all our politics. I doubt that anyone asked him for advice on which direction to rush in, and if anyone did that’s anyone’s problem, not ours.

Third, G-man doesn’t like the left; well knock me down with a 2 by 4. We know: the FBI thinks the left is demonic. That’s probably a big part of why we’re in this mess: all those decades of treating the left like a fatal highly contagious virus.

Fourth, “America’s great middle” my ass – that sounds like Trump crooning over the flag. There’s nothing especially great about the middle. Many lefty policies would be great for this country, and treating them as akin to a disease is old news and stupid.

Fifth…if it weren’t for Comey we wouldn’t be in this mess.

Sixth, it’s obnoxious (and, again, kind of Trumpish) to assume all the sense and balance and ethics are in the middle.

Seventh, the middle is way to the right of where the middle was ten, twenty, thirty, fifty years ago. It’s not as if “the middle” is some kind of Platonic essence of immutable perfectness; it’s just a label, and a way of saying “don’t change anything.”

Eighth, we’re not “losing our minds.” That’s just rude. One election in one city isn’t “losing our minds.” Comey isn’t our daddy and we don’t need him telling us to get a shave and do our homework.

Ninth who even asked him?

I have a feeling I could go on this way indefinitely so I’ll just stop abruptly now.

Amen, Ed

Jul 22nd, 2018 2:33 pm | By

Berman wrote about Kavanaugh and voting rights in Mother Jones a couple of days before the Times piece (perhaps inspiring the Times to commission the later piece), and in that one he provided this piquant detail:

Kavanaugh downplayed the racially charged origins of South Carolina’s voter ID law and its impact on voters of color. Members of the South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus walked out of the Legislature when the bill was first considered. After the law passed, Ed Koziol, a Republican supporter of the law, wrote an email to the bill’s author, Rep. Alan Clemmons of Myrtle Beach, saying that if African Americans were offered a $100 award for obtaining voter ID, “you would see how fast they got voter ID cards with their picture. It would be like a swarm of bees going after a watermelon.”

“Amen, Ed,” Clemmons responded. “Thank you for your support of voter ID.”

Though Kavanaugh said he was “troubled” by that racist email, he wrote that “one legislator’s failure to immediately denounce those views in his responsive email, as he later testified he should have done—do not speak for the two Houses of the South Carolina Legislature, or the South Carolina Governor.”

Oh well as long as he was troubled.

The threat of voter disenfranchisement

Jul 22nd, 2018 2:09 pm | By

Ari Berman in the Times July 13 on Brett Kavanaugh as a threat to voting rights:

In late 2011, the Obama administration blocked a South Carolina law that required voters to show a photo ID before casting their ballots, finding that it could disenfranchise tens of thousands of minority voters, who were more likely than whites to lack such IDs.

But when South Carolina asked a federal court in Washington to approve the law, Brett Kavanaugh wrote the opinion upholding it. He ruled that the measure was not discriminatory, even though the Obama administration claimed that it violated the Voting Rights Act.

Kavanaugh pointed to a 2008 Supreme Court decision upholding Indiana’s voter ID law.

“Many states, particularly in the wake of the voting system problems exposed during the 2000 elections, have enacted stronger voter ID laws, among various other recent changes to voting laws,” he noted in approval.

In other words many states have made it harder to vote. Given American history, that’s not such a great move.

In addition to voter ID laws, these “recent changes to voting laws” include polling place closings, new hurdles to voter registration, and cutbacks in early voting days. Since 2011, some 22 states, mostly controlled by Republicans, have passed laws to restrict access to the ballot, which disproportionately target Democratic constituencies such as people of color.

And the working class.

In 2013, the court tore out the heart of the Voting Rights Act,ruling that mostly Southern states with a long history of voting discrimination no longer needed to have their election changes approved by the federal government beforehand.

And the next presidential election after that was the one that got us into this scalding poisonous soup.

The result was a lower black turnout in key swing states like North Carolina and Wisconsin. This year, in a devastating term for voting rights, the court upheld voter purging in Ohio and racial gerrymandering in Texas, while refusing to curtail partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin and Maryland.

The threat of voter disenfranchisement will get worse if Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed to the court. His opinion in the South Carolina case and his record in civil rights matters suggests that he will join with the court’s conservative justices to further roll back voting rights protections and other civil rights laws. If Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed, Chief Justice John Roberts will become the new swing voter. That’s terrible news for voting rights.

Justice Roberts, who wrote the 2013 opinion gutting the Voting Rights Act, has a long history of antipathy toward civil rights laws, voting laws in particular. As a lawyer in Ronald Reagan’s Justice Department in the early 1980s, he led the effort to weaken Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits voting practices that discriminate on the basis of race or color and remains in place. He argued in a 1981 memo that the provision should block only those voting laws that were found to be intentionally discriminatory, which is much more difficult to establish than showing that a voting law has a discriminatory outcome. “Violations of Section 2 should not be made too easy to prove,” Justice Roberts wrote.

It’s no skin off his ass, because his ass is lily white.

Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination signals a disturbing shift in the historic role of the court. In the 1950s and 1960s, the civil rights movement looked to the Supreme Court for help in dismantling the architecture of white supremacy. And the court responded by desegregating public schools, upholding the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act and legalizing interracial marriage, to name a few landmark decisions. Representative John Lewis of Georgia described the court in those days as a “sympathetic referee.”

That era of strong civil rights enforcement is over. With Judge Kavanaugh on the bench, this will be the most extreme court on civil rights issues since the days of Jim Crow.

So don’t be telling us that concerns about voter suppression are overblown.

Voter suppression

Jul 22nd, 2018 11:45 am | By

Rachelle Hampton at The New Republic last year:

new Mother Jones report on voter suppression in 2016 found that as many as 45,000 people in Wisconsin were deterred from voting due to the state’s voter ID law, possibly costing Hillary Clinton the election. In the majority-black city of Milwaukee alone, voter turnout decreased by 41,000 for the 2016 election. “I would estimate that 25 to 35 percent of the 41,000 decrease in voters, or somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 voters, likely did not vote due to the photo ID requirement,” said Neil Albrecht, Milwaukee’s election director.

An MIT study found that 12 percent of all voters—an estimated 16 million people—encountered at least one problem voting in 2016. There were more than 1 million lost votes, the study estimates, because people ran into ID laws, long lines at the polls, and registration problems. And overall 14 states had new voting restrictions in place for the first time in 2016, many of them instituted in the wake of the gutting of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court in 2013. As Mother Jones’s Ari Berman writes:

A month after the Supreme Court ruling, North Carolina passed a sweeping rewrite of its election laws, requiring voter IDs, cutting early voting, and eliminating same-day registration, among other changes, before the law was struck down in a federal court for targeting black voters “with almost surgical precision.” Ohio repealed the first week of early voting, when African Americans were five times likelier than whites to cast a ballot. Florida barred ex-felons from becoming eligible to vote after serving their time, preventing 1.7 million Floridians from voting in 2016, including 1 in 5 black voting-age residents. Arizona made it a felony for anyone other than a family member or caregiver to collect a voter’s absentee ballot, disproportionately hurting Latino and Native American voters in the state’s rural areas.

The problem is only likely to get worse with Jeff Sessions at the helm of the Department of Justice and Kris Kobach, the “Javert of voter fraud,” leading Trump’s voting commission.

The good news is that that “election integrity commission” Kobach was in charge of is gone. The bad news is everything else.

Shocked shocked

Jul 22nd, 2018 9:51 am | By

Aaron Blake at the Post appears to be shocked by what he calls the “tribalism” of what he calls “liberals” – that is, by the fact that people who dislike Trump dislike him a lot.

Liberals don’t just hate President Trump; lots of them don’t even like the idea of being in the company of his supporters.

That’s the big takeaway from a new Pew Research Center survey, which is just the latest indicator of our remarkably tribal and partisan politics. And when it comes to Trump, it’s difficult to overstate just how tribal the left is and how much distaste he engenders. Indeed, that distaste apparently extends even to people who decided they would like to vote for Trump.

There’s so much wrong with that.

It’s not just “liberals” who hate Trump. Has Aaron Blake not noticed Bill Kristol, Richard Painter, George Will? A great many Republicans detest him.

We have pretty good reasons for not wanting to be in the company of people who support him, which are not so much political as moral. Supporting him is supporting bullying, cruelty, corruption, treason…it’s supporting a whole slew of strikingly horrible personal qualities. It’s not all that eccentric to feel unmotivated to be around people who endorse the package.

For the same reasons, it’s not “our remarkably tribal and partisan politics.” It’s not exclusively politics at all. It’s way deeper than that. He’s a conspicuously dreadful human being and he’s disgracing us all. I would say that if he were a Democrat. And it’s not “the left” – profound disgust at Trump’s personal qualities is far from exclusive to the left. Aaron Blake is being weirdly insulting to the right in implying it is.

The poll shows almost half of liberal Democrats — 47 percent — say that if a friend supported Trump, it would actually put a strain on their friendship.

Why the italics? Why is that so horrifying? Of course it would put a strain on a friendship – why wouldn’t it? How could it help it? Trump is a bad man. I don’t know how it’s possible to support him without endorsing his bad qualities and his complete lack of good qualities. Why is it shocking that that matters to people?

And while partisanship and tribalism are pretty bipartisan things in American politics today, Democrats are actually substantially less able to countenance friends who supported the wrong candidate: Just 13 percent of Republicans say a friend’s support of Hillary Clinton would strain their relationship.

But, again, that’s not purely a matter of “partisanship and tribalism.” Hillary Clinton is not a horrible human being in the way Trump is.

The prevalent belief on the left that Trump isn’t just a bad president or person, but is also racist, xenophobic and misogynistic is undoubtedly at play here too.

Oh come on – it’s not just a “prevalent belief” – it’s an obvious documented fact. Trump helpfully documents it himself on Twitter nearly every day.

[I]t’s noteworthy just how many people think supporting the nominee of a major American political party reflects poorly upon the people they know. Fully 46 percent of Americans who voted for president chose Trump, and that isn’t really an acceptable position for a friend to take for half of liberal Democrats.

Yes, we think supporting the nominee of a major American political party reflects badly on people when that nominee is Trump, for reasons that are so many and detailed and far-reaching that it would take me days just to write up a passable account of them. It’s not shocking that that’s the case, it’s shocking that the repudiation is not universal.

Buckle your tinfoil hat

Jul 22nd, 2018 8:56 am | By

News world is abuzz over the release of documents related to the surveillance of Carter Page, with Trump screeching that it all shows how right he is about everything and rational people saying no it doesn’t.

President Trump claimed without evidence on Sunday that his administration’s release of top-secret documents related to the surveillance of a former campaign aide had confirmed that the Justice Department and the F.B.I. had “misled the courts” in the early stages of the Russia investigation.

“Looking more & more like the Trump Campaign for President was illegally being spied upon (surveillance) for the political gain of Crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.

In a series of early-morning tweets, Mr. Trump left unmentioned how the documents laid out in stark detail why the F.B.I. was interested in the former campaign adviser, Carter Page: “The F.B.I. believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government.” They also said Mr. Page had “established relationships with Russian government officials, including Russian intelligence officers,” and had been “collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government.”

But 13 Angry Democrats! Plus four! Add one, carry the six, divide by nine, what day is it?

Those assessments were included in an October 2016 application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to wiretap Mr. Page. The New York Times and other news outlets obtained the application and several renewal documents through Freedom of Information Act lawsuits. The president had declassified their existence last year.


The materials revealed that the Federal District Court judges who signed off on the wiretapping of Mr. Page were all appointed by Republican presidents.

Well that just shows how cunning they are. Deep State. All those Republican presidents were actually moles, and this is their plan coming to fruition.

Sunday eloquence

Jul 22nd, 2018 8:38 am | By

Today Trump is combining noisy vituperation aimed at the government he supposedly leads and passionate glorification of violence. That’s a good look.

They’re all crooks and liars! Says the president!

Guns, bombs, force, violence – they LOVE them! Violence is THE BEST THING.

Scare quotes on “Justice” when talking about the Department of Justice…from the president.

Does he sound scared?

“Great” in what sense? How are we supposed to know when the meeting was closed and no one took notes? “Great” from whose point of view? Great for the world, great for the US and Russia, great for Trump? We don’t know, we have no way of knowing, but this notorious liar expects us to take his word for it.

Trump frustrated with that nice talented Mr Kim

Jul 21st, 2018 7:12 pm | By

Oh my what a surprise, North Korea is being difficult.

U.S. negotiators have faced stiff resistance from a North Korean team practiced in the art of delay and obfuscation.

Diplomats say the North Koreans have canceled follow-up meetings, demanded more money and failed to maintain basic communications, even as the once-isolated regime’s engagements with China and South Korea flourish.

Meanwhile, a missile-engine testing facility that Trump said would be destroyed remains intact, and U.S. intelligence officials say Pyongyang is working to conceal key aspects of its nuclear program.

Other than that everything’s marvelous.

The lack of immediate progress, though predicted by many analysts, has frustrated the president, who has fumed at his aides in private even as he publicly hails the success of the negotiations.

Why didn’t anyone warn him this would happen? Why??

Trump and his senior team “haven’t given up entirely” on the goal of full denuclearization, but they are worried, said one person familiar with the discussions.

Climbing down from earlier soaring rhetoric, Trump told CBS this week that “I’m in no real rush. I mean whatever it takes, it takes,” he said.

That more patient approach stands in contrast to earlier Trump administration demands for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program within a year.

In other words he’s telling brazen lies in an attempt to save face.

Many of the president’s top security and intelligence officials have long doubted that North Korea would live up to any of its commitments. But given the lack of options outside of the diplomatic realm, some analysts said a tolerant approach still provides the best outlook.

“I worry that Trump might lose patience with the length and complexities of negotiations that are common when dealing with North Korea, and walk away and revert back to serious considerations of the military option,” said Duyeon Kim, the Korea scholar. “Getting to a nuclear agreement takes a long time, and implementing it will be even harder.”

Trump lose patience with complexities? Surely not.

Another wall

Jul 21st, 2018 3:39 pm | By

Is Trump’s malign influence spreading?

A prominent international human rights activist has no idea if she’ll be able to attend an international conference in Auckland following lengthy delays with her visa.

Critics say Immigration New Zealand’s slow response to keynote speaker Gulalai Ismail’s application is shocking and embarrassing.

Why yes, it is – Gulalai Ismail of all people. She does brilliant work, she’s received international awards, she’s a star.

The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU)  is meeting in Auckland in early August to discuss projects and policy. It campaigns against human rights abuses, particularly from religious influences, and has representatives at the European Union and United Nations.

Gulalai Ismail from Pakistan has been campaigning since she was 14 for girls’ rights to education and women’s rights. She has faced death threats and been attacked more than once, but continued her work from outside the country, Humanist Society of NZ president Sara Passmore said.

One of the girls whose rights to education she has campaigned for is Malala Yousufzai. I learned of her existence via Twitter the day Malala was shot – they were close and she was distraught. What on earth is NZ doing?

Ismail’s visa application was made after mid-April, but has not had confirmation it has been granted, and two Immigration offices had given contradictory answers about its status. Another board member had been denied entry, one was still awaiting an answer, and another was initially denied and only granted a visa after a lawyer interceded.

That last one was Leo Igwe.

All four do work to make their countries and the world a better place, and were all “heroes” in their own right. The response from Immigration NZ was a shock, and “embarrassing for New Zealand”, she said.

The Humanist Society of New Zealand will host the international assembly and has planned its own conference alongside, so union members can take part and be speakers.

A woman who campaigns for sex education in Uganda was denied entry because Immigration NZ deemed her at risk of overstaying, and a man who is part of a group starting schools in Uganda is still waiting to find out if he will be granted entry, months after applying. The idea the members would overstay here, when they were heavily invested in projects overseas was laughable, Passmore said.

Nigerian Leo Igwe​ just finished a PhD in Germany, and arrived in the country this week. He said he was not given a reason his visa was declined initially, but after doing extensive international travel it was a surprise, and he believes it is likely because he holds a passport from a poor country.

What Donald Trump elegantly calls a “shithole country.” He, a criminal and grifter, considers poverty contemptible.

“One of the major issues the world is facing today is religious extremism, and no other organisation I know has a mission that can help the entire world tackle this issue,” he said.

“I’m surprised that New Zealand has a policy that would be applied this way. Countries like New Zealand should not undermine the goals and mission of IHEU which is for the good of the world, by making it difficult for humanists from throughout the world to attend.”

Indeed. I seriously do hope Trump’s influence is not spreading.

His spiritual side

Jul 21st, 2018 11:56 am | By

Trump, it turns out, is a medium.

A few weeks ago, while posthumously honoring a World War II hero, Trump gave the man’s family a report on their departed loved one. He was “looking down from Heaven, proud of this incredible honor, but even prouder of the legacy that lives on in each of you. So true.”

A few weeks before that, at what was billed as a celebration of patriotism at the White House, Trump reported to the crowd that fallen soldiers are pleased with his economic policies and increases in the stock market. “Many of them are looking down right now at our country, and they are proud,” he said.

Sometimes, Trump pinpoints the location of the deceased, using some psychic GPS. At an outdoor Medal of Honor ceremony in May for soldiers lost at a battle in Afghanistan, Trump pointed at a location in the sky and said, “They are looking down right now.” A week before that, outside the Capitol, Trump pointed to a point in the sky over his head and told the family of a slain police detective: “So she’s right now, right there. And she’s looking down.”

Well, it’s scientific. They’re in a spot in the sky where they can hear Trump. Naturally they’re not in the sky above Indonesia or something – that would be silly.

Occasionally, something must get lost in the cloud and Trump receives a heavenly miscommunication. Speaking to a steelworker at the White House in March, Trump informed the man: “Your father, Herman, he’s looking down, and he’s very proud of you right now.”

“Oh, he’s still alive,” the steelworker said.

“Then he’s even more proud of you,” Trump said.

Wait what? He’s less proud when he’s dead? Is that orthodox theology? It seems kind of sad.

After a column of mine mentioned one of Trump’s conversations with the dead, I was contacted by Karen Park, a professor of theology and religious studies at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis. “My sense is that this is what passes for spirituality for Trump — a world where imaginary dead white people take an elevator to a heavenly penthouse where they look down on him with approval,” she told me.

With approval and just a bit of envy, because his penthouse is nicer than theirs, heavenly or no heavenly.

Trump does allow that some people may not land in that gauzy heaven. In 2016 in Iowa, he threw a group of farmers a theological curveball after telling them they would be looking down happily after death. “We hope you’re looking down, anyway,” he amended.

Do we? Do we? Do we not rather hope they have better things to do than look down at Trump?

It’s the sense of entitlement

Jul 21st, 2018 10:55 am | By

Obama says men are just getting on his damn nerves now, ok?

Barack Obama thinks that more female leadership when it comes to social movements and governance will improve policies.

The former president of the United States said that “men have been getting on my nerves lately” and suggested that the solution might be to empower women, in a speech during a town hall meeting with young African leaders at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa.

“Everyday I read the newspaper and just think like ‘Brothers, what’s wrong with you guys? What’s wrong with us? We’re violent, we’re bullying. Just not handling our business,’” Obama said. “I think empowering more women on the continent, that… is going to lead to some better policies.”

He’s not wrong.

Executive time

Jul 21st, 2018 9:28 am | By

Trump’s exciting week was exciting.

Executive time began early on Thursday, just after sunrise.

Feeling exasperated and feisty as he awoke in the White House residence, President Trump fired off his grievances on Twitter about how the media had been covering his Helsinki summit. And, refusing to be cowed, Trump gave national security adviser John Bolton an order: to schedule a second summit and officially invite Putin to visit Washington.

Because that’s what it’s all about – Trump’s mood, Trump’s need to ignore all advice and expertise, Trump’s image of himself as a dictator. They don’t like the way Trump dealt with Putin? Well he’ll show them: he’ll invite Putin over to do it even more so.

The trouble started Monday in Helsinki, though the magnitude did not set in for Trump for several hours. He stepped offstage after his 46-minute, freewheeling news conference alongside Putin — in which he seemed to accept Putin’s denial of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election campaign over the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies — delighted with his own performance. The president felt he had shown strength, an impression buoyed by two friendly interviews he did with Fox News Channel personalities before boarding Air Force One to return home from the Nordic capital.

Because that’s how dumb he is – he thinks it’s a performance, like The Apprentice. He didn’t tremble or cry while standing next to Putin, but instead smirked and gloated, therefor he “showed strength” – and that was his one job. The substance of the meeting? What means this word “substance”? It’s not about the substance, it’s about the two dudes, and how they interact, and what Trump thinks their “relationship” is.

But roughly an hour into the flight, Trump’s mood darkened and grim reality set in as he consumed almost universally negative cable news coverage and aides began reviewing pages upon pages of printed-out statements from fellow Republicans lambasting the president.

So…he went into the thing having no idea that nearly everyone thought he was doing a rash stupid dangerous thing? Even though that was all over the news for weeks before the meeting? How is that possible? Does he clean out his brain with a fire hose every few seconds to make sure nothing stays there?

He called Reince Priebus to whine, he huddled with Sarah Sanders to plan a strategy.

Much of the initial scrutiny focused on Trump taking the side of Putin over his own intelligence community, so Trump and his aides first settled on the president’s sending a tweet that reiterated, “I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people.”

So…he didn’t realize when he said it that it would not go down well to say on the one hand the intel people and on the other hand Putin? He didn’t understand that until he got on the plane? Again: how is that possible? It’s been under discussion almost since he took office, plus it’s kind of a core aspect of the job – working for the US government and people as opposed to working for Putin – so how could he have been confused about it?

Trump himself was flummoxed. He waxed on babbled about his impressions of Putin up close — strong, smart and cunning, in Trump’s assessment — and told associates that he viewed the Russian as a formidable adversary with whom he relishes interactions.

As if it’s a sport or a friendly competition. “Cool, he’s strong, smart, and cunning, just like me, so we can have a really fun match.” Great Russian Bakeoff.

He also was furious with the negative media coverage of a summit that he felt had been a clear success.

Based on what? The fact that the pee didn’t run down his leg and form a visible pool on the floor? The fact that Putin masked his contempt, sort of?

Or maybe he thinks they made Excellent Agreements in their 2+ hours alone together, but how can he expect anyone else to know that when there are no witnesses?

Well it’s the usual thing – he has no theory of mind. He’s more than dense enough to pride himself on holding a closed sekrit meeting with a murderous dictator and blame us for not knowing what went on in the meeting.

Trump further grumbled about the tough question he was asked by Jonathan Lemire, an Associated Press correspondent, wondering why that reporter had been called on rather than someone who might have asked an easier question.

Yeah, why didn’t they call on someone who would have asked what they had for their snack?

The president still was not satisfied. Later in the week, he told CNBC, “I had some of these fools from the media saying, ‘Why didn’t you stand there, look him in the face, walk over to him, and start shouting at him?’ I said, ‘Are these people crazy? I want to make a deal.’ ”

What deal? What deal? WHAT DEAL?

On Tuesday morning, Trump told friends he did not understand what the big fuss was about.

Which is why we didn’t want him doing it in the first place. He does not understand anything.

Then there was his cheerful enthusiasm for the plan to send Michael McFaul to Russia for questioning.

The episode revealed a naivete on the part of the president. White House aides fretted that Trump did not recognize the massive diplomatic and security implications of turning Americans over to an autocratic regime that jails and kills dissidents.

As well they might. He doesn’t understand even that, yet he holds a meeting with Putin alone.

All in all, a thrilling week for the novice president.


Jul 20th, 2018 6:00 pm | By

Kaiser Wilhelm II sounds familiar:

One of the few things that Kaiser Wilhelm II, who ruled Germany from 1888 to 1918, had a talent for was causing outrage. A particular specialty was insulting other monarchs. He called the diminutive King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy “the dwarf” in front of the king’s own entourage. He called Prince (later Tsar) Ferdinand, of Bulgaria, “Fernando naso,” on account of his beaky nose, and spread rumors that he was a hermaphrodite…

…One of the many things that Wilhelm was convinced he was brilliant at, despite all evidence to the contrary, was “personal diplomacy,” fixing foreign policy through one-on-one meetings with other European monarchs and statesmen. In fact, Wilhelm could do neither the personal nor the diplomacy, and these meetings rarely went well. The Kaiser viewed other people in instrumental terms, was a compulsive liar, and seemed to have a limited understanding of cause and effect…

…Wilhelm was a compulsive speechmaker who constantly strayed off script. Even his staff couldn’t stop him, though it tried, distributing copies of speeches to the German press before he’d actually given them. Unfortunately, the Austrian press printed the speeches as they were delivered, and the gaffes and insults soon circulated around Europe. “There is only one person who is master in this empire and I am not going to tolerate any other,” Wilhelm liked to say, even though Germany had a democratic assembly and political parties. (“I’m the only one that matters,” Trump has said.) The Kaiser reserved particular abuse for political parties that voted against his policies. “I regard every Social Democrat as an enemy of the Fatherland,” he said, and he denounced the German Socialist party as a “gang of traitors.”…

…When Wilhelm became emperor, in 1888, at twenty-nine years old, he was determined to be seen as tough and powerful. He fetishized the Army, surrounded himself with generals (though, like Trump, he didn’t like listening to them), owned a hundred and twenty military uniforms, and wore little else. He cultivated a special severe facial expression for public occasions and photographs…

…Wilhelm didn’t accomplish very much. The general staff of the German Army agreed that the Kaiser couldn’t “lead three soldiers over a gutter.” He had neither the attention span nor the ability. “Distractions, whether they are little games with his army or navy, travelling or hunting—are everything to him,” a disillusioned former mentor wrote. “He reads very little apart from newspaper cuttings, hardly writes anything himself apart from marginalia on reports and considers those talks best which are quickly over and done with.” The Kaiser’s entourage compiled press cuttings for him, mostly about himself, which he read as obsessively as Trump watches television. A critical story would send him into paroxysms of fury.

Wilhelm changed his position every five minutes. He was deeply suggestible and would defer to the last person he’d spoken to or cutting he’d read—at least until he’d spoken to the next person. “It is unendurable,” a foreign minister wrote, in 1894. “Today one thing and tomorrow the next and after a few days something completely different.” Wilhelm’s staff and ministers resorted to manipulation, distraction, and flattery to manage him. “In order to get him to accept an idea you must act as if the idea were his,” the Kaiser’s closest friend, Philipp zu Eulenburg, advised his colleagues, adding, “Don’t forget the sugar.” (In “Fire and Fury,” Michael Wolff writes that to get Trump to take an action his White House staff has to persuade him that “he had thought of it himself.”)

Spoiler: it didn’t end well.

More shunning

Jul 20th, 2018 3:38 pm | By

Max Dashu isn’t even the only one in the past week or so. There’s also for instance Nina Paley:

As a small business in Urbana, Arcadia has made the decision to cancel the Art Salon with Nina Paley event. We do this not to silence Nina’s art or her artistic voice but because this event is no longer about Nina’s art. There are many divided opinions regarding the topics that have arisen from Nina’s personal stances on certain issues. Our small business is not in a position to hold the forum for such a debate over these issues. Arcadia was formed to provide a unique and thoughtful space for families, creative exploration, and events in our Urbana community. It is regrettable that we must make this decision in this manner and we thank those of you who have come in and bought a coffee or drink and enjoyed the space with us and will continue to do so despite the issue at hand.

They don’t do it to silence Nina’s art or her artistic voice but they do it anyway. That is not, they imply, their goal, which is nice to know but it doesn’t change the fact that canceling her event does silence her art and her artistic voice in that particular place at that particular time.

And Ms Magazine joined the fad by deplatforming Meghan Murphy from an article for which they’d already interviewed her.

Why did they? Because Marina Watanabe told them of her putative “history of transphobia” and they squawked in fear and did what they were told.

Makes you wonder if Putin’s behind it.

Bit of a bizarre situation

Jul 20th, 2018 2:22 pm | By

Sian Norris explains that no, “fundamentally decent” men don’t murder women. You’d think that wouldn’t need explaining, but…

I’ve just killed my wife […] bit different for you tonight I expect. Happy New Year.”

These were the words of former Ukip-councillor Stephen Searle during a 999 call. Searle, 64, was this week found guilty of killing his wife, Anne. She was 62 years old.

He then quipped: “Bit of a bizarre situation but you know, never mind.”

How fundamentally decent of him.

The joke is even less funny when you realise that domestic abuse and fatal male violence are anything but bizarre in the UK.

Across the country, just under two women a week are murdered by their former or current partner. The National Crime Surveyrecorded that, in England and Wales, there are 1.2 million incidents of domestic abuse every year. The vast majority (89 per cent) of victims who endure sustained abuse (four or more incidents) are women. And the Counting Dead Woman project has so far estimated that 73 women have been killed by men in 2018 (this includes non-domestic violence related killings).

Well, look at it from the fundamentally decent guys’ point of view. Don’t these stats just show how annoying women are? Doesn’t that make it all explicable, however sad? Doesn’t it make it almost kind of…normal?

During the call, Searle went on to reassure the phone operative that it was safe for officers to enter his house, as “I’m not violent.”

Only to women he’s married to, which doesn’t count, because *cue annoying wife joke*

Fatal male violence isn’t a dispute that gets out of control. It’s a great myth that domestic abusers have no control over their behaviour. The very fact that women are most vulnerable at the point of leaving shows that it is losing control that abusers most fear. Murdering your partner is the ultimate act of control — not a loss of it.

And it’s not decent, either fundamentally or superficially.


Jul 20th, 2018 11:40 am | By

One ray of light in the stinking murk:

President Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, secretly recorded a conversation with Mr. Trump two months before the presidential election in which they discussed payments to a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump, according to lawyers and others familiar with the recording.

The F.B.I. seized the recording this year during a raid on Mr. Cohen’s office. The Justice Department is investigating Mr. Cohen’s involvement in paying women to tamp down embarrassing news stories about Mr. Trump ahead of the 2016 election. Prosecutors want to know whether that violated federal campaign finance laws, and any conversation with Mr. Trump about those payments would be of keen interest to them.

And the rest of us want to know all the “embarrassing” i.e. rapey or unfaithful or both news stories Trump used $$$ to conceal.

The recording’s existence further draws Mr. Trump into questions about tactics he and his associates used to keep aspects of his personal and business life a secret.

Doesn’t it just. This is what I want to know about. I want to see all the lying and concealment exposed, and all the pussy-grabbing and wife-abandoning made public.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, confirmed in a telephone conversation on Friday that Mr. Trump had discussed payments to Ms. McDougal with Mr. Cohen on the tape. He said the recording was less than two minutes long, said Mr. Trump did not know he was being recorded and claimed that the president had done nothing wrong.

It depends how we’re understanding “wrong.” Fucking around isn’t inherently wrong, but if it’s on the sly it arguably is. If Melania is and was and always has been fine with Trump using his penis on women who aren’t Melania (as it’s hard not to think she must be) then maybe he didn’t do anything wrong, but then why was he hiding it?

The Cohen investigation began with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is investigating the Trump campaign’s links to Russia. But as the Cohen case became increasingly focused on Mr. Cohen’s personal business dealings and his campaign activities unrelated to Russia, Mr. Mueller referred it to federal prosecutors in Manhattan, who are now leading the investigation.

Trump can’t pardon his way out of that.

American embassy told to ostracize Obama

Jul 20th, 2018 10:51 am | By

This one is just breathtaking in its petty vicious mean loathsomeness. Brian Sokutu in The Citizen:

The Mandela 100 commemoration became a mini battlefield in the ongoing US political war this week, as the Trump administration ordered that Barack Obama not be given any assistance other than security arrangements by the American embassy in South Africa.

The high-profile visit by the former president was mainly arranged and coordinated by the Nelson Mandela and Obama foundations, with no assistance from the US embassy in Pretoria – a break from the diplomatic tradition of offering support to any visiting American leader.

None of the US embassy staff had to play any role due to “instructions by Washington” that Obama should not be provided any assistance, according to a highly placed source.

In the past, the US embassy has always provided full support to any visiting American leader regardless of party affiliation.

That hideous gas-filled bladder of a man isn’t good enough to serve Obama lunch.