Montana senate prohibits courts from applying sharia law

Montana state senator Keith Regier on the day the capitol slid into Idaho

Sharia law: It’s out there, alternately oppressing women and strengthening terrorists, probably. Even as we speak, communities around the world in one part of the world apply this code of religious governance derived from the sacred texts of Islam. Imams and muftis use sharia law to resolve among their parishioners, much as rabbis and pastors do with the Judeo-Christian tradition. And in the same way that Lutherans who study abroad in China immediately begin trying to replace that country’s legal system with what their minister said, Muslims who immigrate to the United States set about enforcing sharia law. Take it from Gina Satterfield of Helena:

We as a nation and state do not have to wait as a forced host to witness the growing population for this foreign law to implement its totalitarian system.

That Markov chain of Palin-style main ideas came when Satterfield testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of SB97, a bill from Keith Regier (R–Kalispell) that would prohibit Montana courts from applying foreign law. The Senate passed it Friday. Wags might point out that Montana courts already apply a fixed body of law, the US Constitution and the code of Montana. But Regier’s bill will strengthen our resolve against replacing our existing legal system with the informal religious guidelines of literally several Muslim immigrants.

Either that or it’s stunt legislation that rallies bigotry to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. I guess it would depend on whether any Montana court had ever tried to apply sharia law, or if anyone in Montana had ever called for sharia law to be enforced, or if Montana were, as of 2012, the least Muslim state in America. Update: Only the last of these three conditions is true, and Regier’s bill is definitely an unnecessary public performance of Islamophobia. You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent, which comes with my own ideas for other laws to protect us from foreign customs and futuristic toasters. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links.

Why bother silencing Elizabeth Warren?

Yesterday, as the Senate heard testimony regarding the almost certain appointment of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R–AL) to the position of attorney general, a weird scuffle erupted between Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Home for Orphan Turtles.) Warren was attempting to read a 1986 letter from Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King, that accused Sessions of using “the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters” when he was US attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. McConnell moved to silence Warren under Rule XIX, which forbids senators from “ascribing to another senator…any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator” during debate. Here’s a video:

In this scene, the role of Frightened Lackey is played by Montana’s own Sen. Steve Daines, who looks like he has either eaten bad fish or does not want to adjudicate a rules dispute involving the leader of his caucus. Daines sided with McConnell, of course, and Republicans voted to formally silence Warren. Three questions seem relevant here:

  1. Does Rule XIX apply to quoted material? It was not Warren who ascribed to Sessions conduct unbecoming a senator, but rather Mrs. King, whose words Warren read. This might seem like a distinction without difference, but imagine if the Senate were conducting, say, a bribery investigation into one of its members. Would an affidavit from someone who claimed to have paid that senator a bribe violate Rule XIX, if it were read aloud by another senator?
  2. How is the Senate supposed to conduct a confirmation hearing regarding one of its own members without violating Rule XIX? Warren didn’t bring up this letter in a debate about farm subsidies. It speaks to Sessions’s fitness for office, and any debate on that subject is likely to impugn his motives or conduct at some point. At the moment the Senate begins to debate Sessions’s appointment as attorney general, he ceases to become a senator and becomes a candidate for that office. As a senator, he doesn’t get to participate in his own confirmation hearings. Why should he enjoy the other privileges of a senator in that context?
  3. So are Republicans just trying to make Warren’s career, or what?

In another world, Warren spends the next four years slipping from the national spotlight, as Republican control of all known branches of government denies her the forum to publicly grill bankers in the ways that have made her a progressive hero. Or they could martyr her. McConnell seems committed to the second course, even going so far as to furnish a title for her memoir by complaining that “she was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” This approach seems less than tactically astute. Sessions is going to be attorney general. If Betsy DeVos proved anything, it’s that none of Trump’s appointments will go unconfirmed. So why not let Warren read King’s letter to a mostly empty chamber and a couple thousand viewers on C-SPAN?

Instead, he contributed to her reel. As of this writing, the video of McConnell silencing Warren featured in this post has 350,000 views. That’s just this version; there are a dozen more on YouTube and floating around the internet. Is the majority leader really foolish enough to make a spectacle of Warren’s censure, when the action itself accomplishes so little?

Apparently, he is. The explanation that he is intentionally making Warren the face of the progressive Democratic Party, in the hopes that she will overplay her hand and tarnish that brand in the future, seems a little too 3-D chess to be plausible. Remember the poker player’s rule: don’t assume intelligence. It seems like McConnell has blundered here, possibly because there are no longer any checks on his power. This silver lining is itself mostly dark cloud, but perhaps Republicans will keep overplaying their hands.

Who does President Trump follow on Twitter?

Donald Trump has over 24 million Twitter followers, but he only follows 41 accounts. Who are these people? When the president takes up his phone after a long day of re-greatening America, whose tweets does he see? The people Trump follows on Twitter fall into five categories:

Other Trumps

Like many 70-year-old users of social media, Trump organizes his Twitter experience around members of his own family. Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Melania Trump, Vanessa Trump—whose profile specifies that “my children are my life” and who does, indeed, seem to only tweet photos of them—Lara Trump (wife of Eric), and Tiffany Ariana Trump. All told, members of Trump’s immediately family and their spouses make up 18% of the people he follows.

Trump brands

Trump is not just a person; he’s a brand. The Trump names means luxury, hospitality, and entertainment, along with barely-coded racism and the increasing likelihood of nuclear war. But mostly it means golf. Trump follows the Twitter accounts of three of his own golf courses, including @TrumpGolfLA, @TrumpGolfDC, and the Trump National Doral course in Miami, as well as the Trump Golf umbrella brand. He also follows Trump hotels in Chicago, Waikiki and Las Vegas. Eighteen percent of the Twitter accounts Trump follows are his own brands—the exact same portion as members of his family, although that’s probably a coincidence. Still, more than a third of the content Trump sees on Twitter comes with “Trump” right in the name.

Coworkers

No man is an island—even a man as expansive as Trump. Besides his family and his brands, Trump also follows a number of people he works with: his assistant and White House director of social media Dan Scavino Jr., his chief of staff Reince Priebus, his former national campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and Vice President Mike Pence. Trump also follows a few people he has worked with in a non-political capacity, if anything he does can be said to fit that rubric. He follows Mark Burnett, Celebrity Apprentice producer and president of MGM Television and Digital Group. He follows Katrina Campins, from the first season of The Apprentice. He follows WWE CEO Vince McMahon, whom he defeated in a hair match at Wrestlemania XXIII. He also follows his personal attorney Michael Cohen, whom he has not publicly wrestled. Employees, coworkers, and people with whom Trump has had business dealings compose 24% of the people he follows.

Media figures

Trump is a famously steady consumer of television, and he follows several Fox News personalities: Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Geraldo Rivera, Eric Bolling, Laura Ingraham. He follows the accounts of Fox Nationwhose bio reads “join the community that believes in the American dream”—and Fox & Friends. He also follows some non-Fox personalities, including Greta Van Susteren, Mika Brzezinksi and Joe Scarborough of Morning Joe, Ann Coulter of Satan’s twitching anus, and Drudge Report. Together, this assembly of people who provide news to your divorced uncle make up 32% of Trump’s Twitter feed.

People who are not media figures, other Trumps, Trump brands, or coworkers

This may be the most interesting subcategory of accounts Trump follows, because they give us a tantalizing glimpse of his inner life. Unfortunately, that glimpse is like when you think you see a person in a dark room but it turns out someone hung up a suit. Trump follows the pro golfer Gary Player, who is probably real but sounds made up. He follows Diamond and Silk, who describe themselves in their bio as “President Trump’s biggest supporters,” “biological sisters” and “public figures.” He also follows Roma Downey, executive producer of The Bible and other Christian-themed entertainments. She seems like an interesting lead at first, being neither a Trump nor a Trump employee nor a conservative news personality. It almost suggests he has some interest beyond TV and himself, but further investigation reveals she is married to Apprentice producer Mark Burnett. Still, she is not technically Trump’s coworker, family member, or property. This group of people whom Trump sees neither on television nor at Thanksgiving dinner constitutes 8% of the accounts he follows.

That’s it—Trump’s Twitter feed in a nutshell. You can visualize it with this handy pie chart:

Spencer Griffin gave me the idea for this post. Do you have an idea you’d like to pitch to Combat! blog? First be friends with me for 15 years, and then email me. Don’t call.

The president does not read books

Donald Trump takes a moment to savor his rich inner life.

The President of the United States does not like to read. Back in July, Donald Trump told the Washington Post he didn’t have time to read books. “I never have,” he said. “I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m more busy, I guess, than ever before.” According to that story, he mostly reads newspaper and magazine articles about himself. It’s hard to grudge him that, since if I were president I would probably either resolve to read absolutely no such coverage or wind up poring over it all the time. But it also seems like Trump is watching a lot of television. Two weeks ago, Maggie Haberman reported that the president gets up at 6am and watches TV until his first meeting at nine. In an alternately fascinating and terrifying behind-the-scenes story this weekend, she and Glenn Thrush found him retiring to the residence around 6:30 each evening to watch TV, tweet, and talk on the phone. If he goes to sleep at 10pm, that’s another three hours of television every night. I sympathize with his complaint that he is too busy for books, but the president appears to be spending 30 hours a week in front of the TV. Even if he only read ten pages an hour, he could use that time to knock off a novel, or at least something by Malcolm Gladwell.

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