Human Rights

Jim and the Buried Lede (Mattis Matters for America)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President-elect Donald Trump shakes hands with retired United States Marine Corps general James Mattis after their meeting at Trump International Golf Club, 19 November 2016, in Bedminster Township, N.J. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

It seems worth noting that we are actually through a particular looking glass:

One tense moment came last May as officials grew increasingly concerned about aggressive Iranian behavior.

For weeks, Mattis had been resisting requests from the White House to provide military options for Iran. Now Trump made clear that he wanted the Pentagon to deliver a range of plans that included striking Iranian ballistic missile factories or hitting Iranian speedboats that routinely harassed U.S. Navy vessels.

“Why can’t we sink them?” Trump would sometimes ask about the boats.

National security adviser H.R. McMaster and his staff laid out the president’s request for Mattis in a conference call, but the defense secretary refused, according to several U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal deliberations. At that point, McMaster took Mattis off speakerphone, cleared his staff from the room and continued the conversation.

“It was clear that the call was not going well,” one official said. In the weeks that followed, the options never arrived.

(Jaffe and Ryan)

Something about buried ledes might go here, but, to be explicit: We are nine months into the period during which the National Security Advisor, a retired Marine Corps general, keeps the peace by refusing or ignoring the president.



Everyday, Easy Cowardice (Palmetto Virtue Edition)

#rapeculture | #WhatTheyVotedFor

House Benghazi Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC04) speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, 6 January 2016, before the start of the committee's closed-door hearing. The House committee is looking into the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya and is interviewing former CIA director David Petraeus as the investigation enters its third calendar year, and a presidential election year. (Susan Walsh/AP Photo)

The report from Griffin Connolly, for Roll Call, might not be surprising—

Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, will not initiate an investigation into allegations of sexual assault against President Donald Trump, he signaled in a letter Tuesday.

—but it seems worth pointing out that Republicans are not even trying. Nor is this a new phenomenon; it just seems especially relevant.


A Moment in re a Moment

Sometimes it’s a quick rethinking:World Health Organization [WHO]

The World Health Organization rescinded Zimbabwe’s controversial longtime President Robert Mugabe’s status as a goodwill ambassador on Sunday.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus issued a statement announcing the removal of Mugabe’s goodwill ambassador status after he conferred with international health groups.

“Over the last few days, I have reflected on my appointment of H.E. President Robert Mugabe as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for NCDs in Africa,” Tedros said. “As a result I have decided to rescind the appointment.”



A Moment from the World Today

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe during a meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma, at the Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria, South Africa, 3 October 2017.  (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe/File)

The headline from Associated Press is itself something of a wonder to behold: “WHO chief now ‘rethinking’ Mugabe ‘goodwill ambassador’ post”. The detail, then, is about what we might expect.

After widespread shock and condemnation, the head of the World Health Organization said Saturday he is “rethinking” his appointment of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe as a “goodwill ambassador.”

In a new tweet, WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus said that “I’m listening. I hear your concerns. Rethinking the approach in light of WHO values. I will issue a statement as soon as possible.”

As condemnation poured in from around the world, well, yes, it would seem the decision needed rethinking. Still, we should remember that there is in fact something of an international custom of reaching out to pariah states by giving them seemingly absurd chairs on important panels and committees in the international discourse. Perhaps the time for this, as with many other nod and wink accommodations of bad behavior, has come to an end. If so, call it progress.


Image note: Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe during a meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma, at the Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria, South Africa, 3 October 2017. (Themba Hadebe/AP Photo)

Associated Press. “WHO chief now ‘rethinking’ Mugabe ‘goodwill ambassador’ post”. 21 October 2017.

Cheap Sarcasm (w/Apologies to The Hill)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President Donald Trump speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., 28 June 2017. (Evan Vucci/AP Photo/File)

Would someone please correct me, as I’m wrong?

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied Friday that former Presidents Obama and George W. Bush were referring to President Trump when they warned in separate speeches Thursday about politicians sowing anger and division in the country.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)“Our understanding is that those comments were not directed towards the president and, in fact, when these two individuals, both past presidents, have criticized the president, they’ve done so by name and very rarely do it without being pretty direct, as both of them tend to be,” Sanders said. “So we will take them at their word that these actions and comments were not directed at the president.”


The thing is, I’m loath to pick on The Hill, this time around, but perhaps someone accidentally edited out the part where White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders actually quoted or cited former Presidents Bush and Obama when claiming to “take them at their word”.

That is to say, she didn’t just make it up, right?


Even More (Rape Culture)


Fight: Mikasa awakens ― Detail of frame from Attack on Titan episode 6, 'The World the Girl Saw: The Struggle for Trost, Part 2'.

The lede from Reuters:

Amazon Studios chief Roy Price was put on an immediate leave of absence Thursday, the company said, following allegations that he harassed a producer and ignored an actress’s claim of a sexual assault by producer Harvey Weinstein.

Prognostication being more or less the art of capricious but not quite arbitrary projection, a certain obvious question arises: How many entertainment execs are about to fall? One of the interesting questions becomes whether Tinseltown is about to explode into a million billion tiny, glittering pieces; Hollywood, after all, is a town that has long needed more than just an enema.

There is an alternative at least as obvious as the question itself, that maybe one or two more high-profile entertainment executives might fall from grace, and then society will decide that we have discovered and weeded out the few bad seeds, and get on with show business as usual.

And, hey, maybe the next round can be in the music industry, so we can finally free Kesha, but society probably needs a couple years off, first. You know, only a few at a time. I mean, there are only a few bad seeds, y’know, at any one time.


Just compared to shattering Hollywood, which itself seems unlikely, what, really, is the chance this is the beginning of a chain reaction lashing severely through the halls of American financial and commercial power tearing away significant chunks of institutionalized rape culture?



Image note: Detail of frame from Attack on Titan episode 6, “The World the Girl Saw”.

Reuters Staff. “Amazon Studios chief Roy Price suspended following harassment allegation”. Reuters. 12 October 2017.

Obvious (Rape Culture)


"All of a sudden, I could do anything." ― Mikasa Ackerman

To the one, it’s not Harvey effing Weinstein. To the other, that fact is only distally or, perhaps, if proximal, tangentially related to anything. The important point about systemic or habitual abuse is that it requires system and habit.

A former teacher at a Catholic school in Queens who said she had reported the sexual abuse of seven female students by a priest in 1991 now claims that the Diocese of Brooklyn covered it up for more than a decade, allowing more girls to be abused.

Ms. Porcaro, 63, said that at the end of 1990, seven fifth-graders told her that Father Prochaski was sexually abusing them. Most were Polish immigrants whose families had been brought to America with the help of the priest, to whom they felt beholden.

She said she reported the abuse to the principal, a nun from the Sisters of the Holy Family order. She said the nun laughed and said, “Oh, everybody knows about Father Adam,” she recalled. “And I had tears in my eyes.”

The New York Times article from Sharon Otterman closes with the note that a fund for Brooklyn Diocese survivors has seen sixty settlements accepted, of seventy-six offers from two hundred-eleven claims.

Let us be clear:

… it was not until 2002 that the Brooklyn Diocese notified law enforcement about the allegations. That was the year American bishops passed the Dallas Charter, requiring that dioceses report all allegations of sexual abuse of minors to public authorities. By then, none of the allegations against Mr. Prochaski were within the statute of limitations for prosecution, the spokeswoman for the Queens district attorney said.

This is, by definition, rape culture.


Image note: Composite — Details of frames from Attack on Titan, episode 6, “The World the Girl Saw”.

Otterman, Sharon. “23 Women Accuse Former Queens Priest of Abusing Them as Children”. The New York Times. 12 October 2017.

Required Reading (Justice and Dissent)

[#kneelbeforeJustice]Colin Kaepernick (r.) and Eric Reed kneel during the national anthem before a 2016 NFL game. (Photo: Associated Press)

“Donald Trump took time out from comparing missiles with Kim Jong Un and ignoring Puerto Rico to declare that the athlete who takes a knee is a ‘son of a b***h’ who should be fired for disrespecting America. He was harder on the athletes than on the neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville.”

Leonard Pitts, Jr.

This is not one of those things where I get to say something like, “What he said!” or, “Plus one!” More directly, we can rest assured my part has something to do with paying the fuck attention.

Dear black people:

I guess we’ve messed up again. Seems like we’re never going to learn how to properly protest, no matter how hard conservatives try to teach us.


A Note on Impetus

#SomethingTerrific | #WhatTheyVotedFor

A portion of the U.S. Capitol dome. (Detail of photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images, 2013)

There is always this:

Sen. John Kennedy, a Republican freshman from Louisiana, said yesterday that he likes the idea of turning health care over to the states—the core rationale behind the pending Graham-Cassidy proposal—but he’s not entirely comfortable with the direction some blue states might take.

“If you give California and New York a big chunk of money, they’re gonna set up a single-payer system,” the GOP senator said. “And I wanna prevent that.”

It’s curious. Republicans only seem to like turning over authority to states and local governments when they’re confident states and local governments will govern in a conservative way.


Perhaps a bit more directly:

Perhaps the oddest thing about the last-ditch Republican plan to repeal Obamacare is that it is being sold not as a repeal of Obamacare—which is popular—but instead as a rebuke to a law that does not yet exist. “If you want a single-payer health-care system, this is your worst nightmare,” Lindsey Graham has boasted of his plan. “Hell no to Berniecare.” Graham’s weird promise that his plan “ends single-payer health care” has somehow taken hold, to the point where Republicans appear to believe it would foreclose even public debate on left-wing alternatives. The bill “stops us from having conversation in the future about Medicare for all,” claims Senator Tim Scott.