Notes and Comment Blog


He thinks the people would revolt

Dec 12th, 2018 4:30 pm | By

Trump told Reuters yesterday that it’s all fine, it’s all legal, it’s nothing, it’s peanuts, oh look a squirrel.

“It’s hard to impeach somebody who hasn’t done anything wrong and who’s created the greatest economy in the history of our country,” Trump told Reuters in an Oval Office interview.

“I’m not concerned, no. I think that the people would revolt if that happened,” he said.

Nope. Some of “the base” might, but “the people” no. Most of us hate him and hate being under the thumb of a criminal.

“Michael Cohen is a lawyer. I assume he would know what he’s doing,” Trump said when asked if he had discussed campaign finance laws with Cohen.

“Number one, it wasn’t a campaign contribution. If it were, it’s only civil, and even if it’s only civil, there was no violation based on what we did. OK?”

Asked about prosecutors’ assertions that a number of people who had worked for him met or had business dealings with Russians before and during his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump said: “The stuff you’re talking about is peanut stuff.”

He then sought to turn the subject to his 2016 Democratic opponent.

“I haven’t heard this, but I can only tell you this: Hillary Clinton – her husband got money, she got money, she paid money, why doesn’t somebody talk about that?” Trump said.

And what about the Lindbergh baby? And that guy who shot Lincoln? And Guy Fawkes? Why doesn’t somebody talk about that?

Jennifer Rubin is not impressed.

We have gone from “hoax” and “witch hunt” to “Well, tax fraud, lying to the FBI and campaign violations are penny ante stuff.” That’s essentially President Trump’s newest line of defense: He and others didn’t break the law. But if they did, it’s no big deal.

Plus Hillary Clinton and Guy Fawkes.

What makes Trump’s blithe dismissal of felony crimes doubly horrifying is as chief executive Trump took an oath to “execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” not to “execute the Office of President of the United States — except when it comes to ‘peanut stuff.’”

Trump’s party is no better. When Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) says he doesn’t care if Trump broke the law, it’s time to question whether he or any other Republican congressional apologists for Trump, who took an oath as well, is fit for office. (This is the same crowd who wants to lock up migrants for the misdemeanor of entering the country illegally. Silly them — if only they’d obstructed justice or committed some “peanut stuff,” they’d be in fine shape.)

Orrin Hatch doesn’t care if the president committed crimes. Funny world we’re in, isn’t it.

Trump’s declaration that “the people would revolt” if he were impeached, if not an implicit threat to stage a civil uprising, represents a perfect distillation of his authoritarian outlook. Ultimately, nothing matters in his mind because he controls the streets. If he sounds like thuggish autocrats like Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey or Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, you can understand why he embraces such characters. He is one of them.

We can be sure it is a threat – he’s telling us he’ll call on “the people” to stage a coup for him. Yay populism.



Guest post: Conservatives have been discovering their outrage

Dec 12th, 2018 4:07 pm | By

Originally a comment by Screechy Monkey on But they didn’t tell him he shouldn’t lie.

I’m not a big crusader for the rights of criminal defendants, but it’s amazing how, throughout this whole process, conservatives have been discovering their outrage at stuff that they couldn’t be bothered to bat an eye about before.

Investigators tried to lull a non-custodial* suspect into a false sense of security instead of warning that they were in legal jeopardy and should get a fucking lawyer? SHOCKING! (*-If you’re not in custody, i.e., free to leave, then Miranda doesn’t apply. Cops like to be very vague on that point — they want you to think that you have to stay and answer their questions, but they don’t want to have to give you a Miranda warning.)

Investigators asked questions they already knew the answers to just to see if they could generate some “lying to investigators” charges? OUTRAGEOUS!

A search warrant was issued on a mere affidavit from a law enforcement official containing hearsay? UNBELIEVABLE!

Authorities show up in full force to execute a warrant and seize every document or computer in sight? JACKBOOTED THUGS!

The government seizes a defendant’s assets as fruits of criminal activity and ties them up in civil forfeiture, even if it impairs the defendant’s ability to fund his defense? IS THIS REALLY AMERICA?

Prosecutors threaten criminals with maximum penalties unless they flip on their co-conspirators? CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S LEGAL!

All of the above happens all the time and is perfectly legal? YEAH, BUT THIS TIME IT’S HAPPENING TO PEOPLE WHO MATTER. NOT, YOU KNOW, THUGSTHOSE PEOPLE. C’MON, DON’T MAKE ME SAY IT….



So what did this guy do for a living?

Dec 12th, 2018 3:03 pm | By

What I’m saying. Did he think they’d be cool with it if he lied to them?!

Ask not for whom the bell tolls, bub.



A personal and mental incarceration

Dec 12th, 2018 12:39 pm | By

Natasha Bertrand and Russell Berman on Cohen’s paying the price for loyalty to Trump:

The sentencing marked the culmination of a months-long saga that began in April with a dramatic FBI raid on Cohen’s home and office and ended with Trump’s most loyal lieutenant and fixer—who once said he would take a bullet for his boss—turning against the president and implicating him directly in criminal misconduct. In Manhattan federal court on Wednesday, Cohen apologized to his family and to “the people of the United States.”

As well he might, since he did his bit to get Trump elected president. Maybe without his bit Trump wouldn’t have been elected? It was very close. Some 50 thousand votes or so in 3 states? So close.

“Today is the day that I am getting my freedom back,” he said in a prepared statement. “I have been living in a personal and mental incarceration ever since the day that I accepted the offer to work for a real-estate mogul whose business acumen I deeply admired.” He said that his “blind loyalty” to Trump led him “to take a path of darkness instead of light.”

Much of Trump’s “business acumen” was fraud, theft, and exploitation. That’s personal and mental incarceration for you.

Cohen still poses a significant threat to the president in the investigation into a potential conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. He has taken Mueller deep inside the Trump Organization, describing how he helped Trump pursue a real-estate deal in Russia well into the election campaign, and provided the first in-court evidence that Trump may have been compromised by Russia while President Vladimir Putin was waging a direct attack on the United States. Cohen has committed to continuing his cooperation with Mueller, even after being sentenced in the Southern District, according to the special counsel’s filing.

Have a nice day, Donnie.



Never forget

Dec 12th, 2018 12:24 pm | By



One by one, the prosecutors are removing possible Trump defenses

Dec 12th, 2018 12:05 pm | By

Oh look, what’s this.

Press release today from the SDNY:

Michael Cohen Sentenced To 3 Years In Prison

U.S. Attorney’s Office Also Announces Non-Prosecution Agreement with American Media, Inc., Related to Its Payment of $150,000 to a Woman to Influence 2016 Presidential Election

Robert Khuzami, Attorney for the United States, Acting Under Authority Conferred by 28 U.S.C. § 515, announced that MICHAEL COHEN was sentenced today to three years in prison for tax evasion, making false statements to a federally insured bank, and campaign finance violations.  COHEN pled guilty on August 21, 2018, to an eight-count information before U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III, who imposed today’s sentence.  In a separate prosecution brought by the Special Counsel’s Office (“SCO”), COHEN pled guilty on November 29, 2018 to one count of making false statements to the U.S. Congress and was also sentenced on that case today, receiving a two-month concurrent sentence.

According to the allegations in Information 18 Cr. 602 (WHP), filed by the United States States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (the “Office”), as well as previous court filings and statements in public court proceedings:

Between 2012 and 2016, COHEN concealed more than $4 million in personal income from the Internal Revenue Service, avoiding more than $1.3 million in income tax.  COHEN also made false statements to a federally insured financial institution to obtain a $500,000 home equity loan.  Finally, in 2016, COHEN made or caused two separate payments to women to ensure that they did not publicly disclose their alleged affairs with a presidential candidate in advance of the election.  In one instance, COHEN caused American Media, Inc. (“AMI”), which was identified in previous court filings as “Corporation-1,” to make a $150,000 payment to one woman; in the other, COHEN made a $130,000 payment to another woman through an LLC he incorporated for the purpose of making the payment.  COHEN was reimbursed for the latter payment in monthly installments disguised as payments for legal services performed pursuant to a retainer, when in fact no such retainer existed.  COHEN made or caused both of these payments in order to influence the 2016 election and did so in coordination with one or more members of the campaign.

He also has to pay out a bunch of money, including the back taxes.

And then the AMI thing:

The Office also announced today that it has previously reached a non-prosecution agreement with AMI, in connection with AMI’s role in making the above-described $150,000 payment before the 2016 presidential election.  As a part of the agreement, AMI admitted that it made the $150,000 payment in concert with a candidate’s presidential campaign, and in order to ensure that the woman did not publicize damaging allegations about the candidate before the 2016 presidential election.  AMI further admitted that its principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.

Assuming AMI’s continued compliance with the agreement, the Office has agreed not to prosecute AMI for its role in that payment.  The agreement also acknowledges, among other things, AMI’s acceptance of responsibility, its substantial and important assistance in this investigation, and its agreement to provide cooperation in the future and implement specific improvements to its internal compliance to prevent future violations of the federal campaign finance laws.  These improvements include distributing written standards regarding federal election laws to its employees and conducting annual training concerning these standards.

I wouldn’t want to be working in the White House today.



But they didn’t TELL him he shouldn’t lie

Dec 12th, 2018 11:18 am | By

Yesterday’s late news was weird – Michael Flynn is complaining that the FBI agents who interviewed him didn’t tell him he shouldn’t lie to them.

Wut?

Did he think the FBI would be cool with it if he lied to them? Did he think they were interviewing him just for practice?

Lawyers for Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s first national security adviser, asked a federal judge late Tuesday to spare him prison time for misleading investigators, and they suggested that the F.B.I. agents who interviewed him last year at the White House had tricked him into lying.

But the lawyers offered no explanation for why Mr. Flynn lied to agents about conversations he had during the presidential transition in late 2016 with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak. And even in accepting blame, Mr. Flynn portrayed himself as a victim of F.B.I. tactics to trap him. His lawyers highlighted details from the interview that played into an unfounded theory that Mr. Flynn’s demeanor during questioning was potential evidence that he did not lie to investigators.

Mr. Flynn’s lawyers singled out Andrew G. McCabe, the former F.B.I. deputy director, and Peter Strzok, a senior counterintelligence agent who interviewed Mr. Flynn. Both men were fired from the F.B.I. this year, and the president and his allies have attacked them as enemies bent on undermining Mr. Trump. They also have accused Mr. McCabe, Mr. Strzok and other former F.B.I. officials of unfairly targeting Mr. Flynn.

What, it’s unfair because he didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to lie to the FBI, and he didn’t know because the FBI agents who interviewed him didn’t tell him so? I’m just a civilian and an outsider, but I would think it’s the responsibility of people in jobs like that to know what the rules are. I would also think not lying to the FBI would be a natural default, even if they hadn’t memorized an actual rule spelling it out.



A veritable smorgasbord of crimes

Dec 12th, 2018 11:00 am | By

So anyway – Cohen was sentenced today; three years.

Judge William H. Pauley III said Mr. Cohen had committed a “veritable smorgasbord” of crimes involving deception and “motivated by personal greed and ambition,” each of which “standing alone warrant serious punishment.”

But he added that Mr. Cohen’s crimes — breaking campaign finance rules, tax evasion and lying to Congress — “implicated a far more insidious harm to our democratic institutions.”

“As a lawyer, Mr. Cohen should have known better,” the judge said.

Before he was sentenced, a solemn Mr. Cohen, standing at a lectern, sounded emotional but resolved as he told the judge he had been tormented by the anguish and embarrassment he had caused his family.

“I blame myself for the conduct which has brought me here today,” he said, “and it was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man” – a reference to Mr. Trump – “that led me to choose a path of darkness over light.”

If you’re going to be blindly loyal to someone…don’t choose Donald Trump.

Mr. Trump last week weighed in with his own sentencing recommendation, tweeting angrily, “He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence.”

Extra ice cream for lunch today.



Critical legal theory

Dec 12th, 2018 10:50 am | By

Fox News headline right now:

Trump did NOT violate campaign finance law, despite what prosecutors say

You have to laugh. “Who ya gonna believe, some prosecutors or Fox News??!”



At some point you have to be willing to walk away from a lousy deal

Dec 11th, 2018 4:48 pm | By

Via Screechy at the Miscellany Room: frat boy gets stern “tsk tsk” for four counts of sexual assault.

Even though Jacob Walter Anderson was indicted on four counts of sexual assault, the ex-fraternity president won’t spend a single day in prison.

Instead, a plea agreement allowed the former Baylor University student to plead no contest to a lesser charge of unlawful restraint.

That means if the 24-year-old successfully completes three years of deferred probation and pays a $400 fine, his criminal record will be wiped clean of the charge, CNN affiliate KWKT said.

Wow, a whole four hundred dollar fine. That should keep the prosecutors in paper towels for a good three months.

The plea agreement between Anderson’s defense team and the district attorney’s office in McLennan County infuriated the victim.

“I have been through hell and back and my life has been forever turned upside down,” the victim wrote in a letter to her attorney.

“This guy violently raped me multiple times, choked me, and when I blacked out, he dumped me face down on the ground and left me to die. When I woke up aspirating up my own vomit, my friends immediately took me to the hospital.”

Read the whole thing; it’s hair-raisingly awful.

The prosecutor says she took the plea because she lost a previous rape case.

I’m going to let Screechy take over here:

“Please remove any sharp objects from your vicinity before reading this enraging story of a white male fraternity boy getting a sweetheart plea bargain in a rape case. He will spend no time in prison, not have to register as a sex offender, and his criminal record will be wiped clean if he can manage not to get through three entire years of probation.

Why such a great deal? Because the prosecutor recently lost a rape case, and god forbid a prosecutor should have to go through that trauma again. Why, it might mess up that ADA’s “conviction rate”* that she’ll brag about when she runs for elected office some day.

Oh sorry, of course it isn’t that, it’s that an acquittal would mean that the defendant gets to avoid punishment, whereas under the plea deal he… uh…. shit.

Ok, I don’t actually know if this particular ADA has political ambitions. And many prosecutors’ offices are overworked (and underpaid) and pressured to clear cases, and trials do take up a lot of resources. But at some point you have to be willing to walk away from a lousy deal, and risk losing a trial, or else what good are you doing? Frankly — and I don’t like this kind of reasoning, because it treats the flaws of the system as if they are virtues, but in this case it might be true — an acquittal at least would have been expensive for this defendant and his family.

*Here’s a little tip from your pal Screechy. Lawyers who brag about their “win rates” are almost always full of shit. Most criminal cases plead out, and most civil cases settle, so what counts as a “win”? Well, a lot of prosecutors count pleas like this as “wins” because, hey, they secured a conviction.”



Did you order the code wall?

Dec 11th, 2018 3:57 pm | By

Pelosi dissed him.

Moments after returning to Capitol Hill after an Oval Office standoffwith President Trump, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi questioned Trump’s manhood and said the border wall was a matter of masculine pride.

“It’s like a manhood thing for him. As if manhood could ever be associated with him. This wall thing,” said the California congresswoman.

Wall! Yooge wall! Yooge throbbing wall!

She told colleagues that she was “trying to be the mom” in the room while Trump and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) bickered about the coming funding showdown.

But she described Trump’s admission during the 17-minute on-camera tete-a-tete that he would be “proud” to shut the government as a political triumph.

“The fact is, we did get him to say, to fully own, that the shutdown was his,” she said, according to the aide. “That was an accomplishment.”

Image result for colonel jessup



More bangs

Dec 11th, 2018 3:41 pm | By

Not this again.

At least two people have been killed and 12 others wounded in a shooting in the eastern French city of Strasbourg.

The gunman, known to security services, is on the run and is being hunted by police. He had been injured in an exchange of gunfire with a soldier, police said.

The shooting happened close to a Christmas market near one of the central squares, Place Kléber.

France’s counter terrorism prosecutor has opened an investigation.

Go to a place where people are having a nice time – a festive winter market, a dance hall, a tourist site, a bicycle path – and open fire. The world will be a better place.

Local journalist Bruno Poussard wrote on Twitter that there had been a dozen shots fired on his street in the city centre – one or two to begin with, then in bursts.

Emmanuel Foulon, a press officer for the European Parliament, wrote that there was “panic” in the centre following the sound of gunfire and that police with guns were running through the streets.

A shopkeeper told BFM TV: “There were gun shots and people running everywhere. It lasted about 10 minutes.”

They will have learned their lesson.



Trumpride

Dec 11th, 2018 11:14 am | By

And then there’s Trump’s self-declared pride at shutting down the government.

“I am proud to shut down the government,” he announces in his dopy shouty petulant scratchy voice.



Uh oh, she’s saying words again

Dec 11th, 2018 10:38 am | By

This is maddening to watch, along many axes – but the most maddening to me is the way Trump shouts Pelosi down seconds after she starts talking, every time, along with slapping his hand at her in the “shut up I want to do all the talking” signal*…while he sits sullenly still and quiet while Schumer talks. His feels of dominance toward her and submission toward Shumer are painfully, infuriatingly obvious.

*Updating: found a picture of the shut up gesture at Pelosi.



Let them drink Roundup

Dec 11th, 2018 9:41 am | By

Meanwhile Trump wants us to have dirtier water – dirtier in the sense of more toxic, not muddier – and he’s putting his want into action. Thanks, Don!

The Trump administration is expected on Tuesday to unveil a plan that would weaken federal clean water rules designed to protect millions of acres of wetlands and thousands of miles of streams nationwide from pesticide runoff and other pollutants.

Because why shouldn’t we have to drink pesticide?! We can always buy Perrier by the case. If we can’t do that it’s our own damn fault for being so lazy and shiftless and not corrupt, so we deserve the pesticide in our water.

Environmentalists say the proposal represents a historic assault on wetlands regulation at a moment when Mr. Trump has repeatedly voiced a commitment to “crystal-clean water.” The proposed new rule would chip away at safeguards put in place a quarter century ago, during the administration of President George H.W. Bush, who implemented a policy designed to ensure that no wetlands lost federal protection.

“They’re definitely rolling things back to the pre-George H.W. Bush era,” said Blan Holman, who works on water regulations with the Southern Environmental Law Center. Wetlands play key roles in filtering surface water and protecting against floods, while also providing wildlife habitat.

Blah blah blah, no they don’t, they just make socialists happy; pave them all!

The proposed water rule, scheduled to be announced Tuesday morning at the Environmental Protection Agency, is designed to replace an Obama-era regulation known as Waters of the United States. Tuesday’s unveiling of the proposal is expected to coincide with its publication in the federal register. After that, the administration will take comment on the plan for 60 days, and it could then revise the plan before finalizing it next year.

The Obama rule, developed jointly by the E.P.A. and the Army Corps of Engineers under the authority of the 1972 Clean Water Act, was designed to limit pollution in about 60 percent of the nation’s bodies of water, protecting sources of drinking water for about a third of the United States. It extended existing federal authority to limit pollution in large bodies of water, like the Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound, to smaller bodies that drain into them, such as tributaries, streams and wetlands.

Which, of course, means more rules about what farmers whose land drains into those small bodies have to do to prevent pollutants from draining into the streams.

Mr. Trump won cheers from rural audiences on the presidential campaign trail when he vowed to roll back the Obama rule. Real estate developers and golf course owners (industries in which Mr. Trump worked for decades) were also among the chief opponents of the earlier rule. One of Mr. Trump’s first actions in office was to sign an executive order directing his E.P.A. chief to repeal and replace the rule.

Trump is the savior of farmers and golf course owners! Everybody else, however, can go to the wall.



Trump’s got the loomies

Dec 10th, 2018 5:12 pm | By

Interesting. Republicans are said to be chatting about dropping Donnie Two-scoops. Impressive that it only took them three years.

Donald Trump is facing “looming problem” as Republicans contemplate abandoning the president as more evidence of wrongdoing comes to light, Los Angeles Times White House reporter Eli Stokols explained on MSNBC’s “Deadline: White House” on Monday.

Host Nicolle Wallace played a clip of Trump supporter and former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie wondering what additional evidence special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in Manhattan have obtained.

Oh don’t worry about it, just let this criminal sack of shit go on destroying the country and the world for another couple of years. What could go wrong?

“Republican lawmakers who are — have a huge role to play in this if it goes forward — are starting to tell me privately, some of them, that, you know, if there’s obvious evidence, the bottom is going to fall out,” he explained.

“They’re not going to be able to stand by this White House and that’s a looming problem for the president,” he concluded.

Trump may even face a greater threat from the Southern District of New York investigations.

“It’s much harder to stop what’s happening in that office as opposed to with the special counsel’s investigation,” Stokols noted. “This train has left the station, there’s really nothing that this White House can do about it.”

“I think that’s a source of frustration to the president. Also, it’s difficult to politicize, it’s difficult to go out and demonize that office because, as you pointed out already, that’s a Trump appointee running that office,” he added.

Oops.



Just make shit up why don’t you

Dec 10th, 2018 4:44 pm | By

Good people on both sides. On both sides.

After the Republican-dominated legislature in Wisconsin passed a package of bills to strip power from the incoming Democratic governor for nakedly partisan purposes, NBC’s Meet the Press host Chuck Todd spuriously claimed that such maneuvers were not unprecedented because Democrats had done the same thing to Republican governors in the past.

There is no evidence of that — and Todd offered none.

On December 9’s Meet The Press, after detailing some of the changes that Republicans are making — in both Wisconsin and Michigan — and describing them as “a couple of end runs around the November election results,” Todd said: “Now, this has happened before in many a legislature. Democrats, in fact, have done this in the past to Republican governors in lame-duck sessions in other states.”

But Todd failed to provide a single example of Democrats taking comparable action, simply shifting to start his interview with incoming Wisconsin Gov.-elect Tony Evers.

It’s been my impression that North Carolina was the first time any legislature has done that, and the ledge in question was definitely Republican. Maybe Todd is thinking of an incident in…I don’t know, 1810 maybe? Or a dream he had?

The obvious precedent for this situation is North Carolina in 2016. Republicans there used a special session for the sole purpose of pushing bills “to undermine [incoming Democratic Gov. Roy] Cooper by stripping him of his ability to make key appointments to state and local boards and mandating, for the first time, legislative approval of his cabinet.” At the time, Todd discussed the matter on Meet The Presssaying that what the Republicans were doing was “perfectly legal …but it doesn’t feel in the spirit of ending an election.” In the years since, some of these changes that Todd deemed “perfectly legal” have been rolled back following court challenges.

This is all symptomatic of a larger problem: The mainstream media, and Meet The Press in particular, are ignoring growing GOP contempt for democracy itself. As Eric Levitz noted in the New York magazine, the root cause of what is happening in Wisconsin is not one party passing a law, but rather GOP fearing that the party that received the most votes in an election would actually have a chance to govern. In that sense, Todd declaring this power grab normal is no different than Meet The Press inviting an oil-industry funded guest who pushed climate change denial or a conspiracy theorist who talked about the need for civility.

Speaking of conspiracy theorists and the need for civility, I see Jerome Corsi is suing Robert Mueller. Takes brass nerve.



The march of identificationism toward the sea

Dec 10th, 2018 11:41 am | By

Daniel A. Kaufman at the Electric Agora thinks we may be witnessing the beginning of the end of civil rights, as traditionally understood.

The fight for civil rights was born with the original women’s movement of the late 19th century and may very well may die with the contemporary gender-identity movement that has engulfed both feminist and gay and lesbian activism.  If allowed to continue and become even more generalized (and I don’t see why it wouldn’t, given its current trajectory), this “identificationism” will absorb the black, Latino, and other racial and ethnic justice movements as well.  What a bitter irony it is that after surviving more than a century under the relentless assault of the forces of reaction, the fight for civil rights may very well end in the name of progressivism.

I know exactly what he means. If it works for sex [“gender”] why wouldn’t it work for race and class too? If enough people believe it works for race and class too, and are enraged and venomous enough about it, why wouldn’t those people too be able to bully all their opponents off the public stage?

The modern conception of the self, Kaufman argues,

entails a rejection of the pre-modern idea that a person is defined entirely in terms of his or her position in a social framework that is governed by a normatively thick conception of natural law, in favor of the notion that (to a substantial degree) who we are is a matter of our internal consciousness and thus, is determined by us.  It was an idea whose ultimate aim was to ground the moral and political autonomy of the individual necessary for life in a modern, democratic polis.

We can see where this is going. We’ve been around this tree many many times. Yes liberalism relies on ideas about autonomy and self-making, but that doesn’t mean it thinks of the self as a magical sparkling soul.

What the reasonable version of this conception never entailed, however (substance dualism and noumenal selves aside), was a complete rejection of material or social reality, but this is precisely what contemporary identificationism does, maintaining that the individual is entirelyself-made; that who and what I am is a matter of my own consciousness and will alone, irrespective of nature or social consensus.  The result is an incoherent, unstable ground, on which identity and civil rights as traditionally understood can no longer be sustained.

Yep. That, plus there’s the fact that it’s such bullshit, and some of us have selves that dislike bullshit and really dislike being bullied and punished for not believing other people’s bullshit. Ya know? Be a Star Wars nerd all you like but don’t try to force me to be one too. Identify with Spock if you don’t want to but don’t try to force me to call you Spock in public outlets.

He explains about the bullying campaigns against “cis” lesbians yadda yadda.

You might think this little more than a weird fight, at the farthest reaches of radical politics, but you’d be wrong.  All of the major feminist and gay rights organizations have jumped on the identificationist bandwagon with aplomb, apparently oblivious to the fact that it entails the wholesale erasure of heterosexuality and homosexuality, as human phenomena.  And it is worldwide.  Consider, for example, the announcement for next year’s Lesbian Lives conference, at the University of Brighton, which indicates that:

The Lesbian Lives Conference is open to all genders and any political and sexual orientations. There is an ethos of welcome and accessibility. We particularly want to extend a welcome to bi and trans communities. The Lesbian Lives Conference has considered and signed a comprehensive statement of support for ‘Feminists Fighting Transphobia’ (2)

The statement laments those feminists who believe that women have been oppressed as a sex and that the feminist movement should remain a sex-focused one and brands them as bigots, akin to racists:

There has been a noticeable increase in transphobic feminist activity this summer: the forthcoming book by Sheila Jeffreys from Routledge; the hostile and threatening anonymous letter sent to Dallas Denny after she and Dr. Jamison Green wrote to Routledge regarding their concerns about that book; and the recent widely circulated statement entitled “Forbidden Discourse: The Silencing of Feminist Critique of ‘Gender,’” signed by a number of prominent, and we regret to say, misguided, feminists have been particularly noticeable.

I read that thing yesterday, with much disgust.

Identificationism presents itself under a progressive banner, but is essentially a form of hyper-individualism and is thus an extreme variety of liberal, rather than progressive politics. If one follows the logic of contemporary gender-identificationism, according to which there literally are scores upon scores of self-identified genders, then there really aren’t any men or women or anything else, but only self-defined individuals. (6) Apply this logic to race or ethnicity and one gets the same result, and it becomes hard to see what a civil rights movement, as traditionally conceived, would be about. I think it’s fair to say that taken to its logical conclusion and stripped of all of its civil rights trappings, contemporary identificationism is essentially a form of liberal utopianism, for it denies that material realities place us into groups, the rights and prerogatives of which may need to be fought for in civil and political society, and insists instead that the only groups to which we belong are those of our choosing and that the only realities impinging upon those choices are those existing within the consciousness of each individual.  Ultimately, this is a rejection of the very basis on which the need for civil rights movements rests, with the only remaining “cause” being that of getting people to accept other peoples’ self-identifications.  Now, perhaps we have reached the point at which we no longer need the traditional civil rights movements.  Perhaps, we have reached the point that Martin Luther King hoped we would one day reach, at which every individual is judged solely on the basis of the content of his or her character, rather than on his unchosen, material condition, but it seems to me that before we jettison the traditional conception of civil rights, we should probably have a serious, public conversation about whether that is, in fact the case.

It’s not. Conversation had.



Noted

Dec 10th, 2018 10:51 am | By

Meanwhile

The United States joined a controversial proposal by Saudi Arabia and Russia this weekend to weaken a reference to a key report on the severity of global warming, sharpening battle lines at the global climate summit in Poland aimed at gaining consensus over how to combat rising temperatures.

The US, Saudi Arabia, and Russia. That’s who we are now: Team Evil.

Arguments erupted Saturday night before a United Nations working group focused on science and technology, where the United States teamed with Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to challenge language that would have welcomed the findings of the landmark report, which said that the world has barely 10 years to cut carbon emissions by nearly half to avoid catastrophic warming.

The US didn’t want to “welcome” the report, it wanted to “note” it.

The U.S. position lines up with the views of the Trump administration, which is plowing ahead with a raft of aggressive policies on coal power and oil exploration that are likely to worsen the effects of climate change — steamrolling over dire environmental warnings issued by the administration’s own team of experts in a major report just two weeks ago.

I wouldn’t call that “views” so much as murderously selfish determination to do the wrong thing.

“The fact that nations are spending this much time on minor wording issues while the science finds increasing risk of catastrophe has to be seen as a metaphor for how inadequate the global response to the climate challenge has been,” said Paul Bledsoe, a former Clinton climate adviser who is in Poland. “It also shows that the lack of U.S. leadership has massive costs to global ambition.”

Yes but at least we’re onside with Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Ignoring the climate assessment of experts within their own administration, released the day after Thanksgiving, U.S. officials in recent days cleared a path to build more highly polluting coal-fired power plants, authorized seismic studies in the Atlantic Ocean that could harm marine animals, and opened millions of acres of land in the West to mining and fracking, stripping protections for a near-threatened species of bird.

White House officials said that the rollback of Obama-era regulations had been in the works for months and that the timing of the announcements just days after the Nov. 23 release of the National Climate Assessment was coincidental. But experts said the Trump administration has clearly accelerated its energy agenda this year as the president seeks to lock in the rule changes, which can take months to finalize, before the end of his first term.

At least he’ll accomplish something, right?



Not as simple as all that

Dec 10th, 2018 10:16 am | By

Philip Bump at the Post:

President Trump’s day began Monday, as many of his days do, with watching Fox News. A guest on “Fox and Friends First” — the version of the show that airs in the pre-dawn hours — argued that former FBI director James B. Comey’s Friday testimony left Democrats without a smoking gun on the question of coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign in 2016. (It wasn’t intended to; it had been demanded by congressional Republicans.) Trump seized on the comment in a pair of typo-marred tweets.

“Democrats can’t find a Smocking Gun tying the Trump campaign to Russia after James B. Comey’s testimony,” he wrote on Twitter. “…So now the Dems go to a simple private transaction, wrongly call it a campaign contribution, which it was not (but even if it was, it is only a CIVIL CASE, like Obama’s — but it was done correctly by a lawyer and there would not even be a fine. Lawyer’s liability if he made a mistake, not me). [Trump’s former personal attorney Michael] Cohen just trying to get his sentence reduced.”

There’s a lot in there, but the main message is worth picking out: Trump is actively trying to rebut questions about possible campaign finance violations in which he has been implicated.

The payments to McDougal and Daniels, he explains, violated campaign finance laws only if they had to do with the campaign.

Trump’s argument, in short, is that these payments weren’t related to the campaign. Instead, they were “a simple private transaction.”

That could be true, but we’ve learned a lot that makes it look unlikely.

In his agreement in August, Cohen testified under oath that the payments he made were undertaken “in coordination with, and at the direction of” Trump, with the goal of protecting “information that would be harmful to the candidate and to the campaign to keep the individual from disclosing the information.” Of course, this is the same Cohen who, late last month, admitted to lying under oath to Congress. (Hence Trump’s “just trying to get his sentence reduced.”)

Maybe Trump never said a word to Cohen about protecting the campaign! But then why were the prosecutors so confident in that filing?

They offer some insights in the filing itself.

“Cohen deceived the voting public by hiding alleged facts that he believed would have had a substantial effect on the election,” the filing reads, going on to note that, “[a]fter making the payment to [Daniels], and after [Trump] was elected President, Cohen privately bragged to friends and reporters, including in recorded conversations, that he had made the payment to spare [Trump] from damaging press and embarrassment.” Cohen admitted in August to coordinating the payment with AMI and the government notes that he took credit for the payment in a secretly recorded conversation with Trump.

Ah. Bit of a smocking gun perhaps? Just a wisp of smock?

There’s more, too.