Comey firing reveals that Sergei Lavrov has savage deadpan

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson takes a look at one beautiful SOB.

Maybe you heard about this, but President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey last night. I thought Comey had been fired to spend more time with his family, and Trump let him go as a reward for completing such a thorough investigation of any connections between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia. But apparently that investigation is ongoing, even though the president just fired the man in charge of it. Why he would do something that looks so bad at first glance—and at subsequent glances leading up to prolonged eye contact, until you’re just staring into the terrible optics of this thing and flicking your tongue a little—is unclear. It took everyone by surprise. But then along comes Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov:

Asked if Comey’s firing would cast a pall over his talks with Rex Tillerson, Lavrov responds, “Was he fired?” In this moment, his whole demeanor changes. He spent the last few seconds with downcast eyes, but now he draws himself up and looks straight at the reporter. “Was he fired?” he asks again. “You’re kidding!” Then he..scoffs? Rolls his eyes? Whatever it is, it’s an expression of knowing disdain any middle-school girl would be proud of, and he delivers it without mercy.

Why do I feel like a lot of Russians are good at the kind of joke where you pretend not to know something and then make the other person feel stupid for telling you about it? Russophobia, probably. But whether he has mastered a national pastime or just a useful technique of boss humor, Lavrov really sells it here. The first time I watched this footage, I thought he genuinely didn’t know.

That’s part of what makes this such a great response. Lots of people didn’t know Comey had been fired. According to the Times, Comey himself was delivering a speech in Los Angeles when the news appeared on video screens behind him. By convincingly acting like he, too, was shocked by the news and then showing that he played us, Lavrov sends a message: “Of course I knew.” Our stunning news is old hat to him. It’s an attitude that lets him neatly avoid the question, which was not “did you know Comey got fired” but “will Comey’s firing cast a shadow on these talks?”

“When will the Leningrad Soviet distribute heating oil for the winter?” the people demand. “Is it cold?”  young Precinct Director Lavrov responds. “Is it cold? You’re kidding?” He rolls his eyes and gets into his limo, which takes him to the airport for his flight to Sochi or wherever. Damned Russians—always one step ahead.

United issues statement after dragging passenger off overbooked flight

A seemingly unconscious passenger is dragged off UA flight 3411.

It’s a good thing United Airlines recently changed its slogan from “fly the friendly skies” to “get knocked unconscious and dragged off the plane,” or they might be vulnerable to ribbing. Last night, passengers on flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville were asked to volunteer f0r a later flight so that four members of another United flight crew could take their seats. Two passengers volunteered and received $800 vouchers. The airline randomly selected another passenger for removal: a man who said he was as a physician scheduled to see patients in Louisville the next day and refused. Eventually, security officers pulled the man screaming from his seat, apparently knocking him unconscious before dragging his limp body down the aisle. Seriously. Here’s a statement from United:

Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate. We apologize for the overbook situation. Further details on the removed customer should be directed to authorities.

Classic use of the passive voice here: The flight “was overbooked,” so law enforcement “was asked” to manhandle one of United’s customers. By whom we cannot know—probably the same disembodied forces that created the “overbook situation.” But perhaps the most thrilling part of this statement is its bold new use of the words “volunteer” and “voluntarily.” Close reading and fairly disturbing video after the jump.

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You like this riot-control bulldozer, right?

The Bozena Riot mobile crowd-control unit

The Bozena Riot is a 15,000-pound riot-control bulldozer whose frontal wall can expand to the width of city streets, raising and lowering to either protect or release dozens of police. It’s bullet- and fireproof, and it can be operated either from a cockpit behind the wall or by remote control. Its loudspeakers, cameras, and high-pressure tear gas nozzles just scream “consent of the governed.” As the manufacturer’s website puts it:

The system offers a solution for both protecting the law-enforcement units in action and controlling the situation whenever peace maintenance is required.

The primary use of the passive voice in English is to disguise whoever is doing something. This bulldozer system offers solutions for “whenever peace maintenance is required.” But who requires peace? If the Bozena Riot’s first role is to protect “law-enforcement units in action,” who endangers them by ordering action in the first place? The answer, in theory, is us. We pay the taxes that might purchase this thing, and we require the peace to be maintained. Right? You love the Bozena Riot and are glad someone manufactured it. I mean, what else could you love? Riots?

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Snoop shoots “clown resembling Donald Trump,” unleashes anarchy

Wednesday

In the annals of FoxNews.com headlines, “Snoop Dogg shoots clown resembling Donald Trump in new music video” is a low-key classic. You don’t hear about a lot of clowns that resemble Mahatma Gandhi, or clowns resembling the brave men and women who died in 9/11. And “resembling” is such a pleasingly circumspect word, in contrast with the absurdity of everything else in this headline. Now is a fun time to remember that Fox News shares a parent company with The New York Post, who seem not to have reported on this event but would probably have done it differently. Anyway, I want to emphasize that Snoop Dogg shot a clown resembling Donald Trump in a music video, not in real life. That makes it a symbolic act—a message, probably. This theory is supported by S.D. Dogg’s remarks to Billboard:

I feel like it’s a lot of people making cool records, having fun, partying, but nobody’s dealing with the real issue with this fucking clown as president and the shit that we dealing with out here. So I wanted to take time out to push pause on a party record and make one of these records for the time being.

Notice how he assures us he’s working on a party record, too. Snoop has been doing this for a long time. Also, he sucks now. Or does he? This clown video is actually pretty…okay, I’m not willing to say it’s good. But I’m glad I watched it. Video after the jump.

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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.