Friday, January 12, 2018

You Said It

Since no one who has been following the news for the last couple of years was surprised in the least that Trump called Haiti and El Salvador and other places with a majority of non-white citizens “shithole countries,” the fun part was watching TV or reading online and finding out which commentators or journals would actually use the word “shithole” on the air or in print.

The Washington Post, which broke the story, shocked some readers by putting the vulgar word in its headline — a rare occurrence in the paper’s 141-year history.

“When the president says it, we’ll use it verbatim. That’s our policy,” said Martin Baron, The Post’s executive editor. “We discussed it, quickly, but there was no debate.”

Such a comment made by the president, especially in front of several witnesses, is newsworthy, no matter how reprehensible it may be, said Ben Zimmer, a linguist and lexicographer who writes a language column in The Wall Street Journal.

“It was incumbent on media outlets to present what he said without extradition or euphemization,” he said.

That’s exactly what many of them did. In an unusual move, the word “shithole” was repeated in print and on air Thursday evening, in capital letters on the CNN and MSNBC headlines that appear on the lower part of the screen. Fox News censored the word with asterisks.

Lester Holt on NBC Nightly News warned viewers that the story would not be appropriate for younger viewers, while ABC World News Tonight anchor David Muir said the president used “a profanity we won’t repeat.”

But CNN’s Phil Mudd embraced the expletive in condemning the president’s language, citing his Irish and Italian ancestry and the slurs once used against immigrants from those countries.

“I’m a proud shitholer!” he told Situation Room anchor Wolf Blitzer. “In the 1940s, we called people traitors because they came from a shithole country we call Japan. And we’re ashamed.”

For those who write dictionaries, the repetition of “shithole” on television and on the Internet was “the sort of thing we call a party,” wrote Kory Stamper, a lexicographer at Merriam Webster.

You could actually see that the network news broadcasters were getting a bit of adolescent glee out of being able to say the word on the air without fear of reprisal from the FCC; it’s like they’re actually enjoying it.  (The folks on cable TV did too, but they don’t have to worry about government oversight.  They just had fun with it.)

As for the newspapers, even the New York Times, ever the Aunt Pittypat of decorum, allowed the word to be used full-tilt in the body of the story but kept it out of their headlines.  Oh my stars and garters.  (The New York Daily News didn’t use the exact word in their headline, but a picture is worth a thousand asterisks.)

It’s also fun to see how quickly he blew up all the carefully choreographed message from the White House that he was both in control and a stable genius.  The mad scramble came from people checking their betting slips on how soon he would do something to torpedo that meme: who had under 24, 48, or 72 hours?  (Meanwhile, Eric Greitens, the governor of Missouri, is sending a box of candy and a dozen roses to the White House for knocking his sex scandal into the “In Other News” abyss.)

Since it’s not a news flash that Trump is a bigot and a racist, the only thing left now is gauging the reaction to the fact that even his staunchest supporters can’t hide behind the dog whistles that he’s been hardly using since long before he emerged as a presidential candidate. He was sued for racial discrimination in housing in the 1970’s, so it’s not like we didn’t know.  Now we get to see how all the Trumpistas, especially the ones who railed about character counting during the Clinton years, explain to the rest of us that labeling entire nations as shitholes is “shocking” without alienating the base of the voters who agree wholeheartedly with him.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

You Were Saying?

Trump wants to strengthen libel laws.

“On a separate front, we are going to take a strong look at our country’s libel laws, so that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts.”

This from someone who rode down the golden escalator on the lie about Barack Obama’s birthplace and now has scored his 2,000 demonstrable lie in less than a year.

By the way, as upyernoz points out, libel laws are a matter for the states so the president can’t do anything about them anyway.

What’s A Little “Light Bondage” Between Friends?

Apparently it’s enough to lead to blackmail and the possible change in the governorship in Missouri.

Missouri politics was rocked late Wednesday night when Gov. Eric Greitens (R) admitted to an extramarital affair amidst allegations that he blackmailed a woman with a naked photo he took during one of their sexual encounters. The news broke just hours after the Governor delivered his second annual State of the State address. Greitens admitted to the affair in response to a report by KMOV News 4 in St. Louis. He also released a joint statement with his wife Sheena in which the two say they have moved on from the affair. The affair reportedly occurred in 2015, more than a year before he was elected Governor in November 2016.

Politicians are frequently able to weather scandals based on extra-marital affairs. But the allegation of blackmail makes the story considerably more serious and politically perilous.

According to the KMOV report, the story emerged from the now ex-husband of the woman Greitens was involved with. The husband confronted his wife with his suspicions of infidelity days after the encounter in question and then surreptitiously recorded her confession. Almost three years later he shared that recording a reporter from KMOV.

According to the wife, who remains unnamed in the story, she was originally Greitens hair stylist. A flirtation escalated until Greitens persuaded the woman to come to his house where they had a consensual sexual encounter involving light bondage. At least some of the encounter frightened her, according to what she later told her then-husband. “I knew he was being sexual and I still let him. And he used some sort of tape, I don’t what it was, and taped my hands to these rings and then put a blindfold on me … I didn’t even know. I feel like I don’t even know. I was just numb. I just stood there and didn’t (expletive) know.”

It was while she was blindfolded and bound to a piece of exercise equipment that Greitens allegedly he took a photograph of her and threatened that he would make it public if she ever revealed their encounter. “He stepped back, I saw a flash through the blindfold and he said: “You’re never going to mention my name, otherwise there will be pictures of [you] everywhere.”

That puts a whole new kink in the idea of the “Show-Me” state, doesn’t it?

Coastal Disturbances

Via the Washington Post:

The Trump administration’s decision to exempt Florida from expanded offshore drilling kicked off a frenzy Wednesday in other coastal states, with governors from both political parties asking: Why not us?

“We cannot afford to take a chance with the beauty, the majesty and the economic value and vitality of our wonderful coastline,” South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R), who backed President Trump in his state’s competitive 2016 primary, said in a statement.

“Not Off Our Coast,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) wrote in a tweet. “We’ve been clear: this would bring unacceptable risks to our economy, our environment, and our coastal communities.”

The Florida carve-out, announced Tuesday by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, created new doubts about the fate of the entire offshore drilling decision — and immediately became another challenge for Republicans as they work to hold off Democrats in the midterm elections. Nine of the 11 states that opposed the drilling order have gubernatorial races this year, and many of the most competitive contests for the House of Representatives will unfold in districts that touch coastline.

By Wednesday afternoon, state attorneys general, joined by environmental groups, were suggesting that Zinke had undermined the entire drilling rule with his high-profile visit to Tallahassee, where he heaped praise on “straightforward, easy to work for” Gov. Rick Scott (R) — a political ally whom Trump has repeatedly urged to run for the U.S. Senate.

“The Administrative Procedure Act requires there to be a reasonable rationale behind agency decisions, and that they can’t be arbitrary and capricious,” said Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, referring to a 1946 law governing major regulatory changes. “So, saying Florida is exempt because Rick Scott is straightforward and trustworthy? That Florida’s coastlines are unique? That seems to be the definition of arbitrary and capricious.”

This may actually accomplish two good things: keep oil drilling off the coast of the rest of America and completely blow up Scott’s attempt to run for the Senate by depicting him as less a guardian of the environment and more a tool of Trump so that Mar-a-lago doesn’t end up with tarballs on the beach.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

What Passes For Presidential Now

Trump had a bunch of senators, representatives, and other people over to the White House to discuss immigration and it was all on TV.  After it was all over, the chattering heads were swooning about how “presidential” he was even though he didn’t seem to understand what the hell they were talking about.

For example, Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) asked for a “clean DACA bill,” which would prevent some 800,000 people from being in jeopardy of being deported.  Trump said, “Sure, that’s fine.”  That brought a swift response from Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) who wanted something completely different, to which Trump said, “Sure, that’s fine,” and then Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) chimes in with something else on a different tangent, and Trump said, “Sure, that’s fine.”  At the end of the televised portion he declared, “I want whatever you all come up with,” or words to that effect.

That resulted in this from CNN’s Dana Bash:

This is the presidency that a year ago we all thought Donald Trump was capable of… Just the notion of him being in command .. This is what people who had high hopes for the Trump presidency thought it would be, meeting after meeting like this.

Oh, for Dog’s sake.  Just because he didn’t stand up and throw paper towels doesn’t make him presidential.  This wasn’t leadership.  This was some old fart nodding and smiling through something he doesn’t understand at all because he’s more concerned about when he’s going to get his pudding.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Family Values

Via the Washington Post:

The Trump administration announced Monday that it will terminate the provisional residency permits of about 200,000 Salvadorans who have lived in the country since at least 2001, leaving them to face deportation.

The administration said it will give the Salvadorans until Sept. 9, 2019, to leave the United States or find a way to obtain a green card, according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security. After earthquakes hit the country in 2001, Salvadorans were granted what is known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, and their permits have been renewed on an 18-month basis since then.

This means that they will be deporting American citizens — a lot of the Salvadoreans had children born here — and sending them back to a country they’ve never been to.

There are shameful examples in our history of turning on immigrants, usually by those who were one generation removed from being immigrants themselves, and in the last 100 years we saw the consequences of turning away people and sending them back, many to their death.

Even if there is a legal hold put on this, and I can’t imagine that there won’t be, it is still an attack on the basic American value and tradition of providing a safe haven for those seeking refuge from disaster, either natural or political.  It is a large part of the reason this country exists in the first place.  At least it used to be.

Hardly Working

According to Axios, Trump has a quiet day every day.

Trump is starting his official day much later than he did in the early days of his presidency, often around 11am, and holding far fewer meetings, according to copies of his private schedule shown to Axios. This is largely to meet Trump’s demands for more “Executive Time,” which almost always means TV and Twitter time alone in the residence, officials tell us.

[…]

On Tuesday, Trump has his first meeting of the day with Chief of Staff John Kelly at 11am. He then has “Executive Time” for an hour followed by an hour lunch in the private dining room. Then it’s another 1 hour 15 minutes of “Executive Time” followed by a 45 minute meeting with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. Then another 15 minutes of “Executive Time” before Trump takes his last meeting of the day — a 3:45pm meeting with the head of Presidential Personnel Johnny DeStefano — before ending his official day at 4:15pm.

I did more work last week when I was on vacation.

On the other hand, can you imagine what chaos he’d cause if he was actually working?  Thank Dog for laziness.

You Lucky People

ABC News quotes Trump as telling the audience at the farm convention:

Oh, are you happy you voted for me. You are so lucky that I gave you that privilege.

I think I know what he meant; that if he hadn’t run, they’d have to vote for some other loser.  At least that’s what I hope he meant and not that he was the one who granted them the right to vote.

Monday, January 8, 2018