Notes and Comment Blog


The noose tightens

Aug 21st, 2018 6:00 pm | By

The CREW guys and another lawyer explain some things about the Manfort convictions.

The conviction conclusively and publicly demonstrates what many of us have said since the start of the investigation: This is no “witch hunt.” It instead is one of the most successful special counsel investigations in history. Coming alongside the guilty plea by Michael Cohen, the president’s former lawyer, implicating the president in campaign finance violations, it was a very bad day for Mr. Trump.

Mr. Manafort’s conviction cannot be diminished by arguing, as Mr. Trump and his coterie are fond of doing, that the misconduct was unrelated to the Trump campaign or Russian “collusion.” On the contrary, the trial evidence included Mr. Manafort’s close ties to pro-Russia forces and his desperate financial straits as he “volunteered” his time for the next president. The trial revealed how willing Mr. Manafort was to corruptly leverage his position of influence over Mr. Trump during the campaign for his own personal benefit. He offered briefings to a pro-Russia Ukrainian oligarch and dangled a position in the Trump administration in front of a banker who provided him a loan for which he would not otherwise have qualified.

That in particular is useful – I’ve been unclear on what use Manafort made of his internship with the Trump campaign.

Mr. Manafort’s conviction should also send chills down the spines of other potential defendants, possibly including the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. and his informal adviser Roger Stone. As far as we know, they have been excluded from the hundreds of witnesses the special counsel has interviewed. That fact, and the public evidence about their conduct, signals that they may be facing Mr. Mueller’s scrutiny.

Oh really. Interesting.

The conviction is also bad news for the president because it increases the pressure on Mr. Manafort to cooperate with investigators. He has a second trial coming shortly in Washington, D.C., which could add even more time to what will likely be a substantial sentence — and Mr. Mueller reportedly has much more evidence to present to jurors in that trial than he did in the trial that just concluded.

Nor can Mr. Manafort simply wait for a presidential pardon. Mr. Trump hinted at one in his inappropriate tweets while the jury was deliberating, and has otherwise signaled his readiness to use his pardon pen. But should Mr. Trump pardon him, Mr. Manafort should expect state attorneys general to pick up under applicable state laws the threads of corruption and tax fraud that Mr. Mueller has already woven together. Unlike the federal crimes for which he has been convicted, state crimes cannot be wiped away with a presidential pardon. The risk of state charges maintains the pressure on Mr. Manafort to cooperate — especially after Tuesday’s conviction revealed what jurors think of his questionable business practices and other activities.

Bad day for Trump; good day – at last!! – for us.



Oops we broke it

Aug 21st, 2018 5:03 pm | By

Uh oh.

The oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic has started to break up, opening waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen, even in summer.

This phenomenon – which has never been recorded before – has occurred twice this year due to warm winds and a climate-change driven heatwave in the northern hemisphere.

One meteorologist described the loss of ice as “scary”. Others said it could force scientists to revise their theories about which part of the Arctic will withstand warming the longest.

In other words it’s happening much faster than the most pessimistic predictions.

The sea off the north coast of Greenland is normally so frozen that it was referred to, until recently, as “the last ice area” because it was assumed that this would be the final northern holdout against the melting effects of a hotter planet.

Oops.

As well as reducing ice cover, the ocean intrusion raises concerns of feedbacks, which could tip the Earth towards a hothouse state.

Freakish Arctic temperatures have alarmed climate scientists since the beginning of the year. During the sunless winter, a heatwave raised concerns that the polar vortex may be eroding.

This includes the Gulf Stream, which is at its weakest level in 1,600 years due to melting Greenland ice and ocean warming. With lower circulation of water and air, weather systems tend to linger longer.

A dormant hot front has been blamed for record temperatures in Laplandand forest fires in Siberia, much of Scandinavia and elsewhere in the Arctic circle.

As they say…scary.

H/t Acolyte of Sagan in Miscellany Room

 



Yell at THEM

Aug 21st, 2018 4:40 pm | By

Bill Donohue, president and sole member of what he hilariously calls “The Catholic League,” has written a “they do it too!!!” piece to explain why it’s no big deal for priests to rape children and the church to cover it up.

No one is calling for an investigation of Hollywood perverts, even though over 400 Hollywood executives and employees have been named for sexual misconduct in the past year-and-a-half. That’s over 100 more than the number of Pennsylvania priests implicated in sexual abuse over the past 70 years.

But many people are calling for investigations of Hollywood rapists, plus some investigations are already in print, like those of Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker and Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey in the Times.

But also, a central point: Hollywood is in the entertainment business; it doesn’t pretend to be a holy moral arbiter for all of humanity. The Catholic church, on the other hand, does.

It’s back-to-school time, and that means more kids will be sexually molested. Fortunately for the public school teachers, they will be protected by their union chiefs. More important, no one will call for a grand jury investigation. As for the victims, if they don’t file notice of a claim within 90 days, they are out of luck, and nobody will do anything about it.

They do it too, they do it too!!! Cardinal Timothy Dolan made the same point during a previous explosion of coverage of rapist priests.

The Catholic church is a moral sewer.



In another court

Aug 21st, 2018 3:36 pm | By

Meanwhile, in Indonesia:

An Indonesian court has sentenced a Buddhist woman to 18 months in prison for blasphemy after she was accused of insulting Islam.

Meiliana, a 44-year-old ethnic Chinese woman, had complained the Muslim call to prayer, which is repeated five times a day, was being played too loudly at the mosque near her house in North Sumatra.

She burst into tears as the presiding judge, Wahyu Prasetyo Wibowo announced her sentence on Tuesday and she was taken from the court in handcuffs.

Damn I hate religion sometimes. This is one of those times. People shouldn’t be persecuted by any “call to prayer” in the first place, much less one that’s electronically amplified, much less five times a day every day starting at dawn.

In July 2016, mobs burned and ransacked at least 14 Buddhist temples throughout Tanjung Balai, a port town on Sumatra, following reports of Meiliana’s complaint about a mosque’s noisy loudspeakers.

Her lawyer, Ranto Sibarani, said they would appeal the verdict.

“We will appeal the verdict because the judges could not prove that our client has committed blasphemy,” he told The Jakarta Post.

Another reason to hate religion. Muslims persecuting Buddhists in Indonesia, Buddhists persecuting Muslims in Burma.

Responding to the sentencing, Usman Hamid, Amnesty International Indonesia’s executive director, said: “Making a complaint about noise is not a criminal offence. This ludicrous decision is a flagrant violation of freedom of expression.

“Sentencing someone to 18 months in prison for something so trivial is a stark illustration of the increasingly arbitrary and repressive application of the blasphemy law in the country.”

It’s also a flagrant violation of people’s right to sleep, work, read, think, talk without amplified yammerings about religion disturbing them five times a day every day. A pox on religion.



Guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty guilty

Aug 21st, 2018 3:20 pm | By

Well well well. How about that.

A jury has found former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort guilty on tax and bank fraud charges — a major if not complete victory for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as he continues to investigate the president’s associates.

The jury convicted Manafort on eight of the 18 counts against him and said it was deadlocked on the other 10. U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis declared a mistrial on those charges.

What do you know.

President Trump reacted to the verdict by denouncing Mueller’s investigation.

“It doesn’t involve me … it’s a very sad thing,” the president said after arriving in West Virginia for a political rally, adding that the Manafort case “has nothing to do with” Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Sad.

Manafort’s possible prison sentence wasn’t immediately clear, but legal experts said he likely faces more than a decade in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.

The verdict comes as President Trump has stepped up his criticism of Mueller’s investigation, publicly criticizing it on a weekly basis. As the Manafort trial began, Trump called for the probe to be shut down immediately.

Weekly? Is that all? Not alternate daily?

The 18 charges in the Manafort trial centered around Manafort’s personal finances, and had little to do with the special counsel’s mandate of probing Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether any Trump associates conspired with those efforts.

But the trial was the first to emerge from Mueller’s probe, and as such it marked a significant public test of his work.

The jury deliberated for four days before announcing its verdict.

Manafort faces a second trial in September in Washington D.C., on charges he failed to register as a lobbyist for the Ukraine government, and conspired to tamper with witnesses in that case. Manafort has been in jail since June as a result of the witness tampering charges.

What he did in Ukraine is truly awful.



Plea but no co-operation

Aug 21st, 2018 11:57 am | By

Michael Cohen has made a plea agreement.

Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, on Tuesday reached a plea agreement with prosecutors investigating payments he made to women on behalf of Mr. Trump, a deal that does not include cooperation with federal authorities, two people familiar with the matter said.

Even though Mr. Cohen is not cooperating with prosecutors, his decision to plead guilty is a political blow to Mr. Trump. Mr. Cohen had been the president’s longtime fixer, handling his most sensitive business and personal matters. He once said he would take a bullet for Mr. Trump.

Now, not so much.



Cover thy sinful hair

Aug 21st, 2018 11:37 am | By

Wait a minute.

The premier of Alberta:

I’m all for politicians being welcoming and affirming and all that, especially of groups who are targets of hatred and scorn…but putting on hijab to do it? Women are targets of hatred and scorn, and one version of that is forcing them to wear uncomfortable stifling concealing layers of cloth, often on pain of violence or even death. I don’t see why Notley couldn’t send a friendly Eid Mubarak without putting on a Modesty Garment to do it.



His lack of integrity and his dishonesty

Aug 21st, 2018 11:08 am | By

Today Trump is mad at (and lying about) the New Yorker.

So I found the offending piece: Adam Entous on Brennan’s choice to be publicly critical of Trump.

Naturally, Trump lied about the piece. Entous doesn’t say Trump was going to, he says some advisers wanted to.

As Trump stepped up his public and private attacks on Obama, some of the new President’s advisers thought that he should take the extraordinary step of denying Obama himself access to intelligence briefings that were made available to all of his living predecessors. Trump was told about the importance of keeping former Presidents, who frequently met with foreign leaders, informed. In the end, Trump decided not to exclude Obama, at the urging of McMaster.

See? That does not say he was going to. A president ought to be careful to get his accusations right, if he’s going to make accusations on Twitter at all.

So, to the Entous piece. It starts with Brennan joining intel friends to watch Trump’s inauguration.

As Trump delivered his Inaugural Address, the mood at the viewing party darkened to “one of great worry,” one participant recalled. Brennan found the President’s message “disgraceful,” a view that he thought, as a career intelligence professional, he would keep to himself.

The next day, Trump delivered a campaign-style speech at C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and Brennan’s phone lit up with text messages and e-mails from former agency colleagues who, like him, were outraged. After going to the gym to burn off steam, Brennan drafted a statement decrying Trump’s “despicable display of self-aggrandizement,” which Nick Shapiro, his former deputy chief of staff at the C.I.A., e-mailed to news organizations.

He’d meant to stay out of it but Trump made it impossible. Brennan had always considered himself apolitical…until Trump.

The first public clash between the two men occurred the week before Trump was sworn in as President. In a tweet, Trump falsely blamed U.S. intelligence agencies for leaking Christopher Steele’s dossier to the press and asked, “Are we living in Nazi Germany?” In an interview on Fox News, Brennan said, “What I do find outrageous is equating an intelligence community with Nazi Germany. I do take great umbrage at that, and there is no basis for Mr. Trump to point fingers at the intelligence community for leaking information that was already available publicly.” Trump, in turn, attacked Brennan on Twitter: “Was this the leaker of Fake News?”

Trying to ignore Trump is like trying to ignore a bear that is tearing your front door apart.

A turning point for Brennan was a tweet from the President on March 4, 2017, in which Trump falsely claimed, “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” A friend said Brennan was appalled that Trump would use the word “sick” to describe the former President. It was a moment that Brennan told me he remembered “very, very vividly” as he weighed going public with his views about Trump.

At the time, some of Trump’s most fervent supporters in the White House saw former Obama Administration officials as powerful enemies who threatened the new President’s rule, and they agitated for punishing them by revoking their security clearances. The idea was rebuffed by the national-security adviser at the time, H. R. McMaster, who signed a memo extending the clearances of his predecessors at the N.S.C., Republicans and Democrats alike.

That’s where the bit about some advisers wanting to revoke Obama’s comes in.

In September that year Brennan took a deep breath and made himself a Twitter account.

“What I decided to do is not just limit my criticism to his policy choices,” Brennan said. The former C.I.A. director wanted to zero in on what he saw as Trump’s “lack of character,” adding, of his choice, “I really have taken great offense at his personal demeanor, his lack of integrity and his dishonesty.”

What I keep saying. It’s not even necessarily political: he’s a terrible human being.

On December 21, 2017, Brennan tweeted for the first time, about a subject that he cared deeply about—the Lockerbie bombing. When he served as Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, Brennan met with the families of those killed in the terrorist attack, in 1988. “May the 270 innocent souls lost in the PanAm 103 bombing 29 years ago today never fade from our national memory,” he wrote.

Minutes later, Brennan fired off his first Twitter attack on Trump, in reaction to the President’s threat to punish countries at the United Nations that opposed his decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. (Earlier that month, Brennan issued a written statement calling the decision “reckless” and warning that it would “damage U.S. interests in the Middle East for years to come.”) In the tweet, Brennan compared Trump to a “narcissistic, vengeful” autocrat who “expects blind loyalty and subservience from everyone.”

Brennan told me that he made a conscious decision to make his attacks personal in nature. “I did it knowingly and I did it being aware that it was going to have certain repercussions about how I was going to be perceived,” he said. Brennan said that his goal was to “call out” Trump for being “small, petty, banal, mean-spirited, nasty, naïve, unsophisticated . . . a charlatan, a snake-oil salesman, a schoolyard bully . . . an emperor with no clothes.”

Exactly. That’s certainly why I do it. Of course it’s easy for a blogger who doesn’t have to appease any institutions, but my point is that it needs doing. All the better that someone like Brennan is willing to do it.

As Brennan’s rhetoric escalated in the spring of 2018, Trump complained to senior advisers about his tweets, officials said. McMaster, who opposed revoking the clearances of his predecessors, ended his tenure as national-security adviser in April. And as time passed Trump felt increasingly embittered and less restrained, former aides told me. One former Trump adviser said that Brennan’s rhetoric fed into the President’s narrative. “He has a tremendous sense of being wronged already, just in general. This is part of it,” the former adviser told me.

It’s amazing how narcissists can invert things, isn’t it.

After trading attacks on Twitter with Trump for months, Brennan, on the morning of August 13th, submitted an Op-Ed that he wrote for the Times to the publication-review board at the C.I.A. Former intelligence officers are required to submit their articles and books to the board before they are published so C.I.A. officers can remove any classified information. Brennan’s Op-Ed was particularly critical of Trump, dismissing his frequent claims about there being “no collusion” with the Russians as “hogwash.”

A few hours after Brennan submitted the article to the publication-review board, the White House announced that Trump had decided to strip Brennan of his security clearance. Two U.S. officials called the White House’s timing “a coincidence,” but others said they believed Trump found out about Brennan’s Op-Ed and decided that it was time to act against him.

And here we are.



A ruthless campaign of voter suppression

Aug 21st, 2018 9:42 am | By

Mark Joseph Stern has a very useful backgrounder at Slate on the move to stifle the black vote in Georgia.

Because of its history of racist voting laws, Randolph County was once required to seek federal permission before altering its election procedures. But after the Supreme Court gutted this oversight in 2013, the county was freed to crack down on the franchise. It is no coincidence that its election board chose this moment to shutter most of its polls: In November, the popular Democrat Stacey Abrams will compete for the governorship against Republican Brian Kemp, the current Georgia secretary of state. Kemp, who has devoted his time in office to a ruthless campaign of voter suppressioncalled upon Randolph County to abandon the plan when it spurred widespread outrage. That being said, the key figure in the Randolph County controversy is a Kemp ally who was handpicked by the secretary of state to close polls throughout Georgia.

Emphasis added.

To understand the brazen attack on black suffrage now occurring in Randolph County, it’s important to remember that Georgia is in the midst of a seismic demographic shift. As whites cease to be the majority in more and more counties, Republicans have clung to power by disenfranchising minority voters. Kemp’s opposition to the Randolph County plan marks the first time that he has adopted an affirmatively pro-suffrage stance. During his nearly eight years as secretary of state, Kemp engaged in mass voter purges, removing hundreds of thousands of voters from the rolls. State officials appear to have singled out black voters in targeted purges.

Perhaps most egregiously, Kemp launched an investigation into Abrams’ efforts to register more minority voters despite no evidence of fraud. He used the probe to harass and intimidate voting rights advocates. Later, he refused to register 40,000 would-be voters who had signed up through the drive. Speaking to Republicans behind closed doors, Kemp explained the stakes: “Registering all these minority voters that are out there … if they can do that, they can win these elections.” During Kemp’s tenure, Georgia’s population has increased substantially—yet the number of registered voters has actually gone down.

And Kemp seems to have played a big part in the Randolph County closures, even though he backed away once people noticed.

At the meeting on Thursday night, the election board revealed that the move had been encouraged by Mike Malone, an associate of Kemp’s. Malone, who attended the meeting, explained that Kemp—who now claims that the poll closures are a bad idea—had asked him to go around the state and “recommend polling place closures” to various counties. Ten Georgia counties have already taken Malone’s suggestions and closed polling places. All of those counties have large black populations.

Emphasis added again.

Kemp doesn’t need to continue shuttering polling places to disenfranchise minority voters in November. He has spent eight years purging black voters from the rolls and canceling their registrations. Last-minute chicanery may be helpful to Kemp, but it probably isn’t worth the publicity nightmare. It’s possible he’s already suppressed enough to votes to win himself four years in the governor’s mansion, a perch he’d doubtless use to continue his erosion of democracy in Georgia.

I recommend reading the whole piece; it’s shockingly informative.



Just big loudmouths

Aug 20th, 2018 4:31 pm | By

Trump at his most graceful:

Speaking before agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection officers, Trump lashed out at opponents of ICE and CBP (which Trump repeatedly referred to as CBC) who have blocked access to ICE offices and called for abolition of the agency over the administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents and strict enforcement of immigration laws.

“The vast majority, they’re all with you,” Trump said, calling opponents a small group that gets a lot of publicity.

“They have no courage, they have no guts, just big loudmouths. We don’t want to put up with that.”

Ah that reminds me of someone, who can it be. Oh yes, chickenshit  big loudmouth Trump, that’s who.

Trump singled out several ICE and Border Patrol agents during his remarks, including Border Patrol agent Adrian Anzaldua, who was responsible for discovering a trailer truck containing nearly 80 immigrants in Laredo, Texas.

Trump asked Anzaldua to come up to the stage to recount his actions, saying “He speaks perfect English.”

Geddit? Geddit? Despite the weird creepy foreign name that sounds like somebody brown from Down There, he speaks perfect English.

Too bad Trump doesn’t.



If I want

Aug 20th, 2018 3:59 pm | By

Jeff Mason of Reuters:

“I could jump over the garage if I want. I could beat you up if I want. I could go into the bank and take all their money if I want. I could…I could…I could eat all the chocolate in the world if I want.”



At a conference on preventing cyberbullying

Aug 20th, 2018 3:39 pm | By

Today Melania Trump told people not to be abusive on social media.

Melania Trump warned that social media can be used in a “destructive and harmful” manner during remarks Monday at a conference on preventing cyberbullying. On the morning that she attended the event in Rockville, Md., her husband ripped into his adversaries on Twitter.

“In today’s global society, social media is an inevitable part of our children’s daily lives,” the first lady said. “It can be used in many positive ways but can also be destructive and harmful when used incorrectly.”

After the first lady spoke, she listened to a panel titled “Perspectives From Social Media Industry: Existing Efforts to Support Youth.” One of the speakers was Lauren Culbertson, Twitter’s public policy manager.

“We have strong rules against abusive behavior, and we’ve leveraged technology to help us enforce those rules,” Culbertson said during the session.

No, they don’t. They really don’t. Their “rules” are no more effective against abusive behavior than Melania’s bleats about using social media “correctly.”

President Trump had already spent part of his morning on Twitter calling special counsel Robert S. Mueller III “disgraced and discredited.” After the first lady’s speech, the president was again on Twitter, calling John Brennan “the worst CIA Director in our country’s history.”

Which, in a president, is about as abusive as it gets.

Trump’s use of Twitter to target his real and perceived enemies is well known. Only last week he prompted an uproar by referring to former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman as “that dog” — a term many found to be racist and misogynistic.

While many didn’t? Come on. Of course it’s racist and misogynistic to call a black woman “that dog.”

Anyway, the point is, it borders on insulting for Melania Trump to be lecturing us on not using social media to abuse when she’s married to the world’s biggest abuser and recently saw fit to announce that she really doesn’t care.



Such a starkly disproportionate impact

Aug 20th, 2018 12:22 pm | By

That Georgia county that’s planning to close 7 of its 9 polling places is getting a lot of attention from civil rights groups.

The closures would come just before a high-stakes midterm election in which Stacey Abrams, a black woman, is the Democratic nominee for governor.

“This is nothing more than a racially motivated, voter suppression scheme that aims to lock Black voters out of a historic election cycle,” Kristen Clarke, who leads the Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights Under Law, tweeted on Sunday. The Lawyers’ Committee, representing three Georgia civil rights groups, sent a letter to the Randolph County Board of Elections and Registration threatening legal action if the plan moves forward.

It’s a rural county, with no public transportation, and a majority-black population.

Some residents would have to travel more than 10 miles to vote in a county that lacks public transportation. According to the Census Bureau, the county is more than 60 percent black, and 30 percent of residents live in poverty, nearly twice Georgia’s 16 percent statewide poverty rate.

Last week, the Georgia chapter of the ACLU likewise threatened legal action against the county. In a letter, the group pointed out that the transportation difficulties of reaching a polling location would fall disproportionately on the county’s poor, black, rural voters. “When polling place configurations or closures have such a starkly disproportionate impact on racial minorities or lower-income rural voters without transportation, such closures almost certainly constitute a violation of the Voting Rights Act or the United States Constitution,” the letter warned.

That kind of crap used to be absolutely routine in the South, and that’s why Johnson pushed for the Voting Rights Act.

The election board defended its plan at two contentious public meetings last week, according to the local Fox affiliate. A consultant hired by the board explained that the seven locations slated for closure are not compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, and the board doesn’t have time to fix the problem before the election. The Lawyers’ Committee, finding the justification unreasonable, submitted a public records request in order to acquire information about how the board reached its decision. Georgia’s secretary of state, Brian Kemp, who is also the Republican nominee for governor, issued a statement urging the county to abandon the plan; Abrams likewise announced her opposition.

The plan to close these precincts was made possible by the Supreme Court, which in 2013 struck down a provision of the Voting Rights Act that required jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to clear changes to voting procedures with the federal government. In his decision, Chief Justice John Roberts said that the South had changed since the law passed in 1965, and that the burden of clearing changes with the government was no longer necessary.

Ha. Ha ha ha fucking ha.



His cis, straight, liberal parents

Aug 20th, 2018 11:57 am | By

Oh good god.

Staggered by the malevolent stupidity of that opening I rushed to find the source: “The ‘Nanette’ Problem.”

It took me a while to write a critique of Nanette, the Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby’s universally praised one-woman Netflix special that premiered in June, because I couldn’t quite figure out what I hated about it.

But when my cis, straight, liberal parents told me how much they loved it, the reason for my dislike coalesced: In order to make straight, cis viewers feel comfortably woke, Gadsby shits on an entire language of comedy developed over decades largely by Jews and queers. The greatest trick Gadsby pulls is convincing those who have little interest in actual gender, sexuality, or political radicalism — and apparently little knowledge of comedy — that they are watching something new and radical.

“Little interest in gender,” says a man about a feminist lesbian. I guess this man simply assumes that people he calls “cis” have little interest in gender, because of being “cis” and all? That it’s only people who declare themselves trans or queer or nonbinary who have lotta interest in gender? Needless to say, Peter takes care to let us know he’s nonbinary.

Comedy, Gadsby says, cannot hold her trauma — and so she spends the last half of her show explicating her trauma, saying that she actually cut off a true story at the halfway point earlier in the set, because in truth it ended with her being beaten up for being gay, and that no one would laugh at that.

Gadsby is good at relaying these powerful and heartbreaking stories of trauma. They’re important to tell. As a nonbinary person with trans and queer friends who have been harassed and assaulted for who they are, they resonated with me. But it’s in her analysis of comedy that Gadsby lost me.

So apparently it’s only nonbinary, trans, and queer people who understand about being harassed and assaulted for who they are? Lesbians aren’t good enough? Women aren’t good enough? They’re all way too old hat and wrong wave and “cis” and parent-like?

Comedy can be radical; it’s just that when it is, it’s not typically on Netflix. Queer and trans people have been performing comedy that transgresses how we traditionally think of the form: sets without easy punchlines that are weird and often unreadable unless you’ve been deep into the lexicon of queerness for years. There’s new, fresh, and interesting queer comedy being performed in basements and clubs in New York and elsewhere (see: here and here ) — but it’s comedy that is written and performed in a self-referential vernacular built over years that makes it mostly accessible only to fellow queers (and less-covered by the mainstream media).

In other words, Peter Moskowitz is cooler than any of us can dream of being, and obviously way cooler than that boring lesbian Hannah Gadsby.

In a few lines, Gadsby completely lets her audience off the hook, transforming justified queer rage (whether it comes in the form of outward anger or inwardly facing self-deprecating humor) that is often ignored by the mainstream press and the rest of society because it can be so challenging to power structures, into a fault within herself, and by extension all of us.

As a queer person, I want my anger to be heard. I believe my anger constructive, even if it’s self-deprecating, and even if you don’t get it. By telling us we need to challenge our anger, sublimate it into love and understanding lest we destroy the world, Gadsby is not challenging her audience, she’s challenging her fellow queers to be more respectful, more civil, to display our pain in ways that cis, straight people can appreciate, in ways that get us called groundbreaking by those who have broken no ground, and have no interest in listening to us when we speak in ways that are unreadable. Gadsby hasn’t changed comedy, she’s just let cis and straight people in on the joke. And there’s nothing radical about that.

Seriously. The whole point is to exclude cis and straight people.



To try to prevent these abuses in the future

Aug 20th, 2018 11:19 am | By

Brennan says he’s willing to take Trump to court to prevent him from taking any more security clearances away for personal vindictive reasons.

“I am going to do whatever I can personally to try to prevent these abuses in the future, and if it means going to court, I will do that,” Brennan said in an appearance on NBC News’s “Meet the Press.”

Brennan voiced his eagerness to challenge Trump on the same day that national security adviser John Bolton floated the idea of a sweeping review of all security clearances held by those both inside and outside the government. Such a review could affect more than 4 million Americans.

A review overseen by Bolton and Trump? Not a good plan.

Brennan, who is among Trump’s most outspoken critics, was abruptly stripped of his clearance by the White House last week. Brennan said Sunday that since then, a number of lawyers have contacted him to offer advice on pursuing an injunction to prevent Trump from taking similar actions in the future.

I imagine a great sea of restive lawyers out there, driven to near madness by a president with such a thoroughgoing disdain for the rule of law.

“If my clearances — and my reputation, as I’m being pulled through the mud now — if that’s the price we’re going to pay to prevent Donald Trump from doing this against other people, to me, it’s a small price to pay,” Brennan said.

He did not elaborate on what such a legal move would entail.

Asked during an appearance on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures” about a possible lawsuit by Brennan, Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, described it as a welcome opportunity.

“I would volunteer to do that case for the president. I would love to have Brennan under oath,” Giuliani said. “We will find out about Brennan, and we will find out what a terrible job he did.”

What a sack of shit Giuliani is.

As furor over Trump’s actions has intensified, the president has shown no signs of backing down. According to senior administration officials, the White House is preparing paperwork to strip the clearances of several other current and former officials who have either sharply critiqued Trump or have played a role in the Russia probe.

That last one looks like yet more obstruction of justice.

H/t Rob at Miscellany Room



An epithet too many

Aug 20th, 2018 10:44 am | By

Steve Benen at Maddow Blog gives some details on why it’s so absurd for Trump to scream about “McCarthyism.”

First, Trump might want to read his first book. In “The Art of the Deal,” his ghostwriter wrote, “Tough as he was, Roy Cohn had a lot of friends, and I’m not embarrassed to say I was one. He was a truly loyal guy.”

In a more recent interview with the Washington Post, Trump said of Cohn, “Some people didn’t like him, and some people were offended by him. I mean, they would literally leave a dinner. I had one evening where three or four people got up from a table and left the table because they couldn’t stand the mention of his name. But with all of that being said, he did a very good job for me as a lawyer. I get a kick out of winning, and Roy would win.”

Trump’s morality in a nutshell – he likes to win and he doesn’t give the tiniest damn about how he does it.

Also, Trump’s gang love McCarthy. Of course they do.

And third, if anyone in contemporary politics can credibly claim the mantle to McCarthyism, it’s the president who’s now asking us to “study” the late senator’s tactics. To understand anything about McCarthyism is to recognize the fact that the GOP demagogue relied on baseless allegations and conspiracy theories to generate fear. When pressed for evidence to support his incendiary accusations, McCarthy always refused, lashing out at those who asked.

Aka reversing victim and offender. Trump does it all the time.



Hiding in plain sight

Aug 20th, 2018 10:35 am | By

A new book says Trump may be a Russian asset compromised by billions of laundered dollars in shady real estate deals.

In House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia, veteran journalist and author Craig Unger names 59 Russians as business associates of Trump (who has claimed he has none) and follows the purported financial links between them and the Trump Organization going back decades.

Newsweek asked Unger some questions.

You call this the greatest intelligence operation of our time. What do you mean by that?
It started out as a simple money-laundering operation at Trump Tower in 1984, when a Russian mobster came to Trump Tower with $6 million in cash and bought five condos. This is the template for what begins to unfold. At least 1,300 of Trump condos in the United States have been sold similarly. All cash purchases through anonymous sources. Those numbers reflect only domestic property. After the demise of the Soviet Union, the KGB decided to create multibillion-dollar companies to survive. The use of the term mafia state is not just a metaphor. It really explains how Russia works. The mafia essentially reports to Putin.

But, Newsweek says, the Trumps have always talked about this openly, so how does the government not know about it? Unger says the real estate industry has terrible regulation.

Which of your findings do you think Americans would find most shocking?
There is a Russian asset in the White House. He is an asset. I believe he is an agent, but it’s hard to prove he is knowledgeable. When you look at the 59 Russians, some live in Trump Tower. The Russian mafia is a state actor, and it has direct ties to Russian intelligence, and they have been located in the home of the president of the United States!

And not only is he an asset, he is also a very obedient asset. Helsinki.



A scramble on Saturday

Aug 20th, 2018 9:46 am | By

Oopsie. Trump’s lawyers don’t know exactly what McGahn told the Mueller team.

The president’s lawyers said on Sunday that they were confident that Mr. McGahn had said nothing injurious to the president during the 30 hours of interviews. But Mr. McGahn’s lawyer has offered only a limited accounting of what Mr. McGahn told the investigators, according to two people close to the president.

That has prompted concern among Mr. Trump’s advisers that Mr. McGahn’s statements could help serve as a key component for a damning report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, which the Justice Department could send to Congress, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

But that’s ok, because Trump is telling us on Twitter that Mueller is “disgraced” so naturally nobody will care about his stinky old report.

Or, even more likely, the Republicans will just bury it…unless they’re outnumbered.

Trump’s lawyers realized they had this little problem once they read the Times story about McGahn. I’m sure that made for a jolly weekend.

The article set off a scramble on Saturday among Mr. Trump’s lawyers and advisers. The president, sequestered at his private golf club in Bedminster, N.J., solicited opinions from a small group of advisers on the possible repercussions from the article. The president ordered Mr. Giuliani to tell reporters that the article was wrong, but Mr. Giuliani did not go that far in his television appearances.

Donnie ordered Rudy to lie for him but Rudy told slightly fewer lies than Donnie ordered him to tell. This is the state of things.

Mr. Trump was rattled by the Times report, according to people familiar with his thinking. The president, who is said to be obsessed with the role that John W. Dean, the White House counsel to President Richard M. Nixon, played as an informant during Watergate, was jolted by the notion that he did not know what Mr. McGahn had shared.

I hope he’s miserable. I hope he’s stressed all to fuck and climbing the walls.



The enemies list

Aug 19th, 2018 3:24 pm | By

Heads of government aren’t supposed to punish their critics. That may be normal in Saudi Arabia, but it’s not normal in putative democracies.

Nixon did it anyway.

Nixon’s Enemies List, officially called his “Opponents List,” was a document that was initially compiled by presidential advisor George T. Bell for Charles Colson, the infamous “hatchet man.” Colson turned over the list to White House Counsel John Dean on September 9, 1971. The list, which at first included 20 names, was a compilation of figures from all walks of life, ranging from the actor Paul Newman (“Radic-Lib causes … Heavy McCarthy involvement ’68”) to journalists such as Mary McGrory and Daniel Schorr (a “real media enemy”) to politicians like the African American legislators Ron Dellums and John Conyers (“a leading black anti-Nixon spokesman”), to the labor leader Leonard Woodstock, president of the United Auto Workers. The New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath even made the document.

The goal of the Enemies List was to highlight and target some of the president’s most pesky critics. The document described “how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.”

The White House attempted to use numerous tactics to go after these figures. The Internal Revenue Service turned to audits as a method of harassment, while federal contracts became a tool to punish other perceived enemies of the state.

Enemies of the Nixon, rather.

The list remained hidden from public view. In the early 1970s, the president and his advisers assumed that doing any of this out in the open would be devastating. There was still a sense of norms that restrained an administration from publicly abusing its power in this way. Americans only learned of the list on June 27, 1973, when Dean informed the Senate Watergate Committee about what his colleagues had done. Dean told the panel that “There was also maintained, what was called, an Enemies List, which was rather extensive and continually being updated.”

The Enemies List became yet one more piece of evidence that Nixon had abused his power. In the path toward Nixon’s resignation, the shocking news that a president was willing to act in this fashion against citizens who were legitimately doing their business fueled the feeling of anger and betrayal that played into a bigger narrative of how he misused the office. Colson went to visit Senator Lowell Weicker, a Connecticut Republican, to deny compiling the list. But when Colson admitted authoring the memo about Gibbons, Weicker exploded with anger and ordered Colson out of his office.

The list made it into Article II of the impeachment charges drawn up against Nixon: “He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavored to obtain from the Internal Revenue Service, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, confidential information contained in the income tax returns for purposes not authorized by law, and to cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner.”

But that was then. Now? Trump has Fox News, and Putin, and Twitter, and a pack of craven Republicans in Congress. He also has a psychopathic level of indifference to norms and rules; he does what he wants until someone can stop him.



They blame Canada first

Aug 19th, 2018 2:54 pm | By

I guess some people are saying Trudeau should apologize to the Saudis, because a former Canadian ambassador to the UN says he should not.

Urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to jump on a plane to Riyadh to apologize for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s tweet on Saudi human rights abuses is bad advice. Suggesting that we should seek U.S. President Donald Trump’s intervention with the Saudis is no better. And portraying Saudi Arabia as a friend and ally is preposterous.

Apologists for the Saudis need to give their heads a shake. Saudi Arabian authorities continue to subject peaceful dissidents to arbitrary arrests, trials and convictions. Human rights defenders are imprisoned and tortured into confessing.

Saudi authorities continue to discriminate against religious minorities and women. Without a man’s permission, women cannot marry, open a bank account, get major medical treatment, obtain a passport or travel. Nor can women dress as they please in public; black head-to-foot garb is the standard, even in the sizzling heat of a Saudi summer.

According to Human Rights Watch, judges routinely sentence defendants to floggings consisting of hundreds of lashes. Raif Badawi, whose wife and children are Canadian, was convicted in 2013 and sentenced to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes – for doing nothing more than blogging. His sister, prominent women’s rights activist Samar Badawi, was recently arrested, possibly for urging for his release. All this while Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman enthusiastically promotes his liberal Vision 2030 plans abroad.

And there’s the way they treat foreign domestic workers (hint: extremely badly and racist-ly).

Ms. Freeland’s tweet did not come out of the blue. The Trudeau government has been engaging in quiet diplomacy with the kingdom to release Mr. Badawi since it came to office three years ago. The tweet came after the regime’s arrest of Samar Badawi, which itself followed a phone conversation between Mr. Trudeau and King Salman. Quiet diplomacy has accomplished nothing so far. The language used in the tweet was consistent with past press releases by successive Canadian governments. Ms. Freeland’s detractors should focus their attention on the threatening language about Canada promoted on Saudi television and the aggressive style of governance of the inexperienced Crown Prince. But they blame Canada first.

Where would you prefer to live, Canada or Saudi Arabia? Especially if you’re a woman, an atheist, African, Malaysian, Sri Lankan…

As for asking for Mr. Trump’s intervention with Riyadh, the only thing worse than his rejection would be his acceptance. The last thing we need in the NAFTA context is to undermine Ms. Freeland, a very capable chief negotiator. Further, owing the U.S. President a favour would hand him another stick to beat us with.

Ms. Freeland was right to speak up. Canada has the wherewithal to let the chips fall where they may.

No apologies.