Notes and Comment Blog

This will help rile up the base

Oct 25th, 2016 6:06 pm | By

Obama is reminding the Republicans that he warned them.

On the stump, Obama now regularly links Trump’s candidacy, and the bind he’s created for down-ballot Republicans, to a greater theory about the way the right has practiced politics throughout his presidency.

“For years,” Obama said in Las Vegas, “Republican politicians and the far-right media outlets have pumped up all kinds of crazy stuff about me, about Hillary, about Harry [Reid]. They said I wasn’t born here. They said climate change is a hoax. They said that I was going to take everybody’s guns away.”

Obama went on:

[T]here are a lot of politicians who knew better. There are a lot of senators who knew better. But they went along with these stories because they figured, you know what, this will help rile up the base, it will give us an excuse to obstruct what [they’re] trying to do, we won’t be able to appoint judges, we’ll gum up the works, we’ll create gridlock, it will give us a political advantage. So they just stood by and said nothing. And their base began to actually believe this crazy stuff.

So Donald Trump did not start this. Donald Trump didn’t start it. He just did what he always did, which is slap his name on it, take credit for it, and promote it. That’s what he does. And so now when suddenly it’s not working, and people are saying, wow, this guy is kind of out of line, all of a sudden, these Republican politicians who were okay with all this crazy stuff up to a point, suddenly they’re all walking away. “Oh, this is too much.” … Well, what took you so long? What the heck?

The reality-based community. Ron Suskind, The New York Times magazine, October 2004.

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn’t like about Bush’s former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House’s displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend — but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

The senior adviser was Karl Rove.

Obama’s hope is that the public responds to his barnstorming by defeating Trump in a landslide and taking down as many of his enablers as possible along with him. That may be the only way for the Republicans who survive 2016 to internalize the message that the politics of backlash they’ve practiced aren’t just dangerous, but contrary to their own interests. They’ve been blinding themselves to this same argument for years, after all. Now it will cost some of them their jobs, in an election they could have won, and Obama’s “I told you so” will be the door hitting them on the way out.

Mind you, if the reason they lie so much is because they know the truth wouldn’t appeal to the voters…they’re not very likely to stop lying so much.

H/t G Felis

Guest post: The party where facts don’t matter

Oct 25th, 2016 2:04 pm | By

Originally a comment by Screechy Monkey on Trump and framing.

Here’s my armchair theorizing about the rise of Trump:

1. Republicans became the party that refuses to compromise. Explaining why is probably a whole separate argument itself, but here are a few contributors. (a) The tyranny of 40% — hard-core conservatives don’t have an actual majority among the population as a whole, but they can control the Republican Party, and they make up enough of the public that they don’t think they need non-conservative allies. In part they’re right: they vote in higher numbers (especially in midterms), and aren’t “wasting” their votes by being concentrated in urban areas. (Progressives, by contrast, have generally learned to accept that they need to do business with squishy left-center moderates if they want to get something done.); (b) They’ve promoted an ideology that strong leaders don’t ever ever compromise, they just stand firm and wait for their opponents to capitulate. Some of them really believed that Obama would give up his signature piece of legislation (Obamacare) if faced with a government shutdown, while others just promoted that idea for personal gain (hi, Ted Cruz!), but it’s stuck; (c) their increasingly dramatic rhetoric makes it hard to compromise: it’s one thing to cut a deal with a president who is just another American who happens to be more liberal than you care for, but cutting a deal with a president who is a socialist Muslim atheist communist tyrant bent on destroying the country is practically treason. So everything in the Republican race became a competition to see who could outflank the others — “you say you want to close the borders? Well, I want to build a wall! And make Mexico pay for it! Beat that!”

2. Republicans became the party where facts don’t matter. Global warming is a liberal hoax! Tax cuts totally do reduce the deficit! Obamacare is failing! Ignore the crime statistics, you know in your gut that the country is more dangerous. Ignore the unemployment statistics, they’re rigged. The media are all liberals, experts are lying, data is faked. How can, say, Jeb Bush show that Trump’s tax plan doesn’t add up, when Jeb Bush’s plan doesn’t, either? Who cares what the factcheckers at the NY Times and WaPo say about Trump, given that we know they’re lying liberal media stooges?

3. Since facts don’t matter, it’s about appealing to the emotions of Republicans. And Trump won that game, “bigly,” because he recognized that restraint and dignity and looking “presidential” are secondary, if not counterproductive, to showing that you share their anger. Sure, all 17 candidates are anti-immigrant, but I called them rapists and murderers! They all say Hillary’s a crook, but I’m the one threatening to lock her up! They whine about the liberal media, but I’m going to sue the fuckers!

Trump and framing

Oct 25th, 2016 9:32 am | By

George Lakoff on Trump last July:

Donald J. Trump has managed to become the Republican nominee for president, Why? How? There are various theories: People are angry and he speaks to their anger. People don’t think much of Congress and want a non-politician. Both may be true. But why? What are the details? And Why Trump?

He gives an extended answer that he says is based on his research…but his sample of the theories above is too short: he leaves out the simple fact of Trump’s celebrity, which is surely much too important to leave out. An unknown guy from East Jesus, Oklahoma who did exactly what Trump did would not, I think, have had the success Trump had.

Lakoff explains Trump’s success with his story about the nation as a family.

In the 1900’s, as part of my research in the cognitive and brain sciences, I undertook to answer a question in my field: How do the various policy positions of conservatives and progressives hang together? Take conservatism: What does being against abortion have to do with being for owning guns? What does owning guns have to do with denying the reality of global warming? How does being anti-government fit with wanting a stronger military? How can you be pro-life and for the death penalty? Progressives have the opposite views. How do their views hang together?

The answer came from a realization that we tend to understand the nation metaphorically in family terms: We have founding fathers. We send our sons and daughters to war. We have homeland security. The conservative and progressive worldviews dividing our country can most readily be understood in terms of moral worldviews that are encapsulated in two very different common forms of family life: The Nurturant Parent family (progressive) and the Strict Father family (conservative).

Meh. I’m sure that’s true to some extent, but I’m not the least bit convinced it’s the Key to All Mythologies, and I dislike the way Lakoff always presents it as if it is. His “realization” is his interpretation, and I don’t think it explains as much as he seems to think it does.

And then Trump…What the hell kind of father figure is he?!! He brags about never playing any active part at all in rearing his own children. He cheated on all his wives. He abuses women and brags about it. (To be fair, Lakoff wrote the above long before the Access Hollywood tape appeared.) He’s rude and pugnacious and unpleasant and hostile to women – he’s hardly a Jimmy Stewart or Tom Hanks type. The Strict Father is not supposed to be a greedy violent rapey asshole. So, no, I don’t find Trump convincing in the part.

Lakoff is interesting but not, to me, very convincing…which is amusing in a way, since he “frames” himself as an expert on how to be convincing.

H/t Dave Ricks

He is the son of Fred Trump, not an orangutan

Oct 24th, 2016 5:26 pm | By

Oh look, a detailed examination of Trump’s SLAPP suits, sweetly titled Donald J. Trump Is A Libel Bully But Also A Libel Loser. The author is Susan E. Seager.

Donald J. Trump is a libel bully. Like most bullies, he’s also a loser, to borrow from Trump’s vocabulary.

Trump and his companies have been involved in a mind-boggling 4,000 lawsuits over the last 30 years and sent countless threatening cease-and-desist letters to journalists and critics.[1]

But the GOP presidential nominee and his companies have never won a single speech-related case filed in a public court.

He had all the fun of bullying people though.

This article examines seven speech-related cases brought by Trump and his companies, which include four dismissals on the merits, two voluntary withdrawals, and one lone victory in an arbitration won by default. Media defense lawyers would do well to remind Trump of his sorry record in speech-related cases filed in public courts when responding to bullying libel cease-and-desist letters.

Or they could just say we look forward to discussing it with you in court.

Trump filed his first and crankiest libel lawsuit in 1984 against the Chicago Tribune and the newspaper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic, Paul Gapp. Trump filed his libel lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York.[3] Trump claimed he suffered $500 million in damages.[4]

Gapp, who won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1979, dared to publish a “Design” column in the Sunday Tribune Magazine on August 12, 1984 ridiculing Trump’s proposal to build the tallest building in the world: a 150-story, nearly 2,000-foot tall skyscraper on a landfill at the southeast end of Manhattan.[5]

Gapp wrote that Trump’s planned office tower was “one of the silliest things anyone could inflict on New York or any other city” and a kind of “Guinness Book of World Records architecture.” Gapp’s column said the “only remotely appealing aspect” of Trump’s planned office tower was that it would “not be done in the Fence Post Style of the 1970s.” The architect critic slammed the already-built Trump Tower as a “skyscraper offering condos, office space and a kitschy shopping atrium of blinding flamboyance.” Gapp wrote that Trump’s claim that the 150-story skyscraper would architecturally balance the two World Trade Center towers on the opposite side of lower Manhattan was mere “eyewash.”[6]

Gapp also gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal, telling a reporter that Trump’s plan was “aesthetically lousy” and complaining that the central part of Chicago “has already been loused up by giant-ism.”

Trump filed a libel lawsuit in New York, claiming that Gapp’s criticisms in the Tribune and the Journal were false and defamatory.

From the description his criticisms sound like criticism, which is legal.

(Oh – it’s just occurred to me. I wonder if that’s why Michael Nugent has been defending Trump – maybe he feels rapport with a guy who likes to sue people for defamation because they criticized him in public.)

The Tribune and Gapp filed a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss on the grounds that Gapp’s statements and the artist’s rendering were protected opinions, and U.S. District Judge Edward Weinfeld agreed, granting the motion to dismiss.[8]


Judge Weinfeld gave Trump a lesson in the First Amendment and politics: “Men in public life … must accept as an incident of their service harsh criticism, ofttimes unfair and unjustified – at times false and defamatory – and this is particularly so when their activities or performance may … stir deep controversy” …. “De gustibus non est disputandum, there is no disputing about tastes.”[9]

Judge Weinfeld, then 84, reaffirmed the First Amendment rule that “[e]xpressions of one’s opinion of another, however unreasonable, or vituperative, since they cannot be subjected to the test of truth or falsity, cannot be held libelous and are entitled to absolute immunity from liability under the First Amendment.”[10]

Judge Weinfeld explained that opinions expressed in the form of “rhetorical hyperbole,” “rigorous epithets,” and “the most pejorative of terms” are protected from liability, so long as the opinions do not veer to into factual accusations, such as accusing someone of a crime, unethical conduct, or the lack of professional integrity in a manner that would be proved true or false.[11]

Then there’s the one where Trump sued a writer for saying he wasn’t a billionaire. There’s a hilarious sample of his testimony:

Q: Now Mr. Trump, have you always been completely truthful in your public statements about your net worth of properties?

A: I try.

Q: Have you ever been not truthful?

A: My net worth fluctuates, and it goes up and down with markets and with attitudes and feelings, even my own feelings but I try.

Q: Let me just understand that a little bit. Let’s talk about that for a second. You said that the net worth goes up and down based on your own feelings?

A: Yes ….[29]

Then there’s one he filed against Bill Maher for saying he was fathered by an orang utan…

It’s a treasure-trove.

Nice guys

Oct 24th, 2016 4:19 pm | By

Surprise surprise – Julian Assange and Donald Trump have things in common – and not just the predilection for sexual assault.

Julian Assange isn’t a Russia spy, but he is taking revenge on Hillary Clinton, and “if an anonymous or pseudonymous group came offering anti-Clinton leaks, they’d have found a host happy not to ask too many awkward questions,” James Ball, who worked with WikiLeaks when it made its biggest splash, in 2010, writes at BuzzFeed News.

Anti-Clinton animus isn’t the only thing driving Assange in 2016, after four years of self-imposed exile in a tiny apartment in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, Ball writes: Assange thinks himself “the equal of a world leader,” and the leak of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails “is his shot at reclaiming the world stage, and settling a score with Hillary Clinton as he does so.” Yes, Donald Trump, the main beneficiary of this hack, is now praising WikiLeaks, as are many of his supporters, while Assange has lost many fans on the liberal left, Ball says, but “neither Assange nor WikiLeaks (and the two are virtually one and the same thing) have changed — the world they operate in has.”

I’ve never admired Assange.

Trump and Assange have quite a bit in common, Ball says: Like Trump, “Assange is a gifted public speaker with a talent for playing the media, struggling with an inability to scale up and professionalize his operation, to take advice, a man whose mission was often left on a backburner in his efforts to demonize his opponents.” Neither seems bothered by Russia’s authoritarianism. And then there’s Trump and Assange’s insistence on getting everyone to sign nondisclosure agreements — the thing Ball says led to his estrangement with Assange:

Those working at WikiLeaks — a radical transparency organization based on the idea that all power must be accountable — were asked to sign a sweeping nondisclosure agreement covering all conversations, conduct, and material, with Assange having sole power over disclosure. The penalty for noncompliance was £12 million. I refused to sign the document, which was sprung on me on what was supposed to be a short trip to a country house used by WikiLeaks…Given how remote the house was, there was no prospect of leaving. I stayed the night, only to be woken very early by Assange, sitting on my bed, prodding me in the face with a stuffed giraffe, immediately once again pressuring me to sign. It was two hours later before I could get Assange off the bed.

The stuffed giraffe is a nice touch.

Your innate, invisible gender identity

Oct 24th, 2016 9:57 am | By
Your innate, invisible gender identity

When beliefs about “gender” topple into full-on woo bullshit.

It’s a reply to a comment at the Huffington Post (which provides a link to the comment but not the reply, go figure):


Vanessa Sheridan ·

With respect, I would suggest that how the world relates to you has nothing to do with your femininity. Femininity comes from within, not from without. How others may or may not perceive you has nothing to do with your innate, invisible gender identity. That identity is self-determined (at least in an emotionally healthy person), and external forces are simply that: external and, for the most part, extraneous. Oh, it’s nice when other people validate and affirm your femininity, to be sure, but other people don’t deserve to be allowed to determine it for you. Your femininity is a direct result of an innate and very personal awareness. The influence of others in this regard is only relevant to the degree that you permit it to be. Speaking only for myself, no one but me gets to determine the extent of my femininity. What other people think about it is irrelevant–because it’s my life, my body, and my identity, not theirs.

No. That’s completely wrong. It’s nonsensical.

How the world relates to you has everything to do with your gender, because gender is social. It’s not a magical inner feeling, it’s the hierarchy that frames women as subordinate to men. There is no such thing as “innate, invisible gender identity” – you might as well talk about fairies and goblins. Gender is not self-determined, because it is, again, social. It’s imposed. It would be lovely to be able to say the imposition is external and extraneous and have it be true, but it isn’t true: women are socially constructed as the subordinate inferior sex, and that’s why we’re still arguing about it after all this time.

This is the politics of idiots, in the Greek sense – a private person who lacked the skills to participate in public life aka politics – the affairs of the polis. Claiming that gender is just a thought in the gender-haver’s head, independent of other people, is idiotic in that solipsistic way.

Trump’s vocabulary exercise

Oct 24th, 2016 8:32 am | By

The Times has compiled a massive collection of Trump’s Twitter insults of various people and institutions. Each item is a link. That’s a lot of work!

Let’s look at the list under Elizabeth Warren:

Convicted felon and mean asshole

Oct 24th, 2016 7:42 am | By

More from the Moral Vacuity Files – Dinesh D’Souza on Twitter:

Erratic, empty, cruel, intolerant, and corrupt

Oct 24th, 2016 7:26 am | By

The New Yorker has a lo-o-o-ng editorial endorsing Clinton and dis-endorsing Trump. Some highlights:

…the Democratic nominee has ended up playing a sometimes secondary role in a squalid American epic. If she is elected, she will have weathered a prolonged battle against a trash-talking, burn-it-to-the-ground demagogue. Unfortunately, the drama is not likely to end soon. The aftereffects of this campaign may befoul our civic life for some time to come.

If the prospect of a female President represents a departure in the history of American politics, the candidacy of Donald J. Trump, the real-estate mogul and Republican nominee, does, too—a chilling one. He is manifestly unqualified and unfit for office. Trained in the arts of real-estate promotion and reality television, he exhibits scant interest in or familiarity with policy. He favors conspiracy theory and fantasy, deriving his knowledge from the darker recesses of the Internet and “the shows.” He has never held office or otherwise served his country, never acceded to the authority of competing visions and democratic resolutions.

And, I would add, with all that, he considers himself good enough for the job. That error in judgment all by itself should be enough to disqualify him. It’s peak Dunning-Kruger, and you don’t want that in someone with power.

Worse still, he does not accept the authority of constitutional republicanism—its norms, its faiths and practices, its explicit rules and implicit understandings. That much is clear from his statements about targeting press freedoms, infringing on an independent judiciary, banning Muslim immigration, deporting undocumented immigrants without a fair hearing, reviving the practice of torture, and, in the third and final debate, his refusal to say that he will accept the outcome of the election. Trump has even threatened to prosecute and imprison his opponent. The American demagogues from the past century who most closely resemble him—Father Coughlin and Senator Joseph McCarthy among them—were dangers to the republic, but they never captured the Presidential nomination of a major political party.

The comparison to Father Coughlin pleases me. I’ve made it too.

Trump really does represent something singular. The prospect of such a President—erratic, empty, cruel, intolerant, and corrupt—represents a form of national emergency.

Empty and cruel – well-chosen words.

It is not merely narcissism that leads him to speak about grabbing women’s genitals or to endorse the “Lock Her Up!” chants directed at his opponent. It is his temperamental authoritarianism—a trait echoed in his admiration of Vladimir Putin.

The combination of free-form opportunism, heroic self-regard, blithe contempt for expertise, and an airy sense of infallibility has contributed to Trump’s profound estrangement from the truth.

They write well at that place.

All worked up on adrenaline

Oct 23rd, 2016 5:12 pm | By

Rebecca Solnit shared a discouraging story of random misogynist aggression from Mary Diaz:

Driving through the back roads this morning I was enjoying the energy of this pack of road bikers in front of me taking up 2/3 of the lane. Until one of them yelled into my open window “You fucking stupid cunt!” I was driving slow as I passed on the left and there were at least 30 men in this group – wasn’t sure how to navigate around them so I’d slowed down as I passed. A mile or so later I pulled over when I realized his comment had left me shaking. Then there they were pulled up across the street stopping for a break…

So she went over to talk to the leader about the random misogynist aggression.

The pack leader interjected “aww come on hon…don’t get emotional…didn’t mean anything by it… just a bunch of guys…all worked up on adrenaline….wasn’t personal…” And there it was my anger and it was clear and sharp. I pointed at him and said “YOU do not call me ‘hon.’ YOU do not tell me not to be emotional. You think you’re allowed to get emotional and verbally assault a stranger and then deny them the right to react?” He stammered dumbly but I kept going not quite as shaky “Whoever said that…you hurt me. I want you to know that your words had an impact.” I felt completely ridiculous right then but he tried once again muttering about guys and their egos and getting caught up in the intensity (of the ride)…competition and anyway it was just a joke…

Nope, calling a woman “You fucking stupid cunt!” out of the blue is not a joke. Between friends it could be, but between total strangers passing on a road it could not. She told him that and some more and went back to her car.

As I pulled out one of the men peddled up grabbing my open window and looked me all the way in the eyes. “It was me…who said it. I’m sorry. Thank you for slowing down…I get worked up sometimes. I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.” And he was. So I said thank you awkwardly and drove away.

What I find so discouraging about that is the utter randomness and lack of motivation. People on my wall are saying he was angry, but that’s not in the story – they’re reading it in. In the story he simply shouted it at her for no reason. Maybe he was tired and hitting a wall, so he called a random passing woman a fucking stupid cunt. Or maybe it was something else in his head, but whatever it was is not in the story. All we have in the story is a man exploding with misogynist loathing at a total stranger for no reason. That kind of thing makes me think we’re all doomed. Melting glaciers, and misogyny that will never die.

Then came Donald Trump — liar, thief, bully

Oct 23rd, 2016 11:59 am | By

Even Mort Zuckerman doesn’t like Trump. The Daily News is all over him.

When the Daily News Editorial Board strives to identify the person who offers the greatest promise to brighten the futures of Americans and to safeguard the national security.

Never have we questioned a candidate’s fitness to serve.

Then came Donald Trump — liar, thief, bully, hypocrite, sexual victimizer and unhinged, self-adoring demagogue.

If even the Daily News can see it, everyone can see it.

The 16-month campaign since Trump vaingloriously entered the race has horrifyingly revealed that the Big Lie brazenly told — built on smaller falsehoods and spread by social media and a lust for TV ratings — can bring the United States to the brink of electing an aspiring strongman with no moral bearing or self-control.

But, now, with his defeat all but certain, Trump is conjuring for his followers demons that conspire to destroy them and the nation.

Chillingly, he refused in Wednesday night’s debate to commit to honoring the results of the November election. Doing so, he questioned the fundamental soundness of America’s democracy.

Trump’s reckless willingness to damage trust in the electoral process — in order to save face and hold leadership of the paranoid wing of U.S. politics — is the most pressing reason why voters must defeat him in a landslide.

To take full stock of Trump must be to understand the urgency of barring him from the White House, as well as to reckon with how an authoritarian fabulist has gotten so close to leading the globe’s beacon of democracy.

History will mark the presidential contest of 2016 for demagoguery that distorted America’s electoral process from a competition of ideas into, on the one hand, a reach for power based on a cultish thirst for vengeance, and, on the other, a bipartisan drive to save the American presidency itself.

Ok then.

A place where there is need for her kind of writing

Oct 23rd, 2016 10:50 am | By

Taslima talked to a reporter about life “at home in exile.”

India, Nasrin reiterates, articulating feelings she has expressed often, is “closest to home, to my bhasha, my culture. I relate to this society, feel I belong here”. It’s necessary to her very raison d’etre as a writer. “I am not a writer of romances. I am a socially committed writer; my writing is for freedom of expression, for women’s rights. I cannot live in a place where everything is ideal, where there is freedom of expression, human rights for all. I am a citizen of such a country (Sweden). I have to live near the oppressed, to see them up close, to meet them, a place where there is need for my kind of writing. I have chosen India for this reason – because I cannot go to Bangladesh.”

That’s Taslima. She’s a lion.

For all her conviction, however, it’s an isolating existence. “The fact that I tell the truth isolates me, but I know my message resonates with the oppressed, especially women. Only they don’t speak out in my support out of fear.”

Taslima however goes on speaking out.

Amazingly, her travails haven’t blunted her strident defence of women’s rights or moderated her words against Islamic fundamentalists. Last week, she was in the news for tweeting “FO” to the Muslim personal law board, which opposes the government’s move to repeal triple talaaq. Nasrin is unapologetic: “It’s laughable – that in a long standing democracy such as India, these ridiculous misogynists are being taken seriously. Institutions such as the Muslim law board are useless and exist only to oppress women. They speak of minority rights, but it is they who do not respect the rights of minorities – Muslim women. They should be told to FO,” she says.

However, she’s optimistic about the general conditions for women’s rights and against religious intolerance in South Asia. “I was the only one writing about these issues in the 1980s. But now we can talk about them openly, the media can criticise Islam debate religious law,” she says. Some of the credit for that goes to Nasrin herself.

Quite a lot of it.

Actual flaws

Oct 23rd, 2016 10:35 am | By
Actual flaws

Speaking of Trump, I found this pretty hilarious –


Michael Nugent

The Al Smith Dinner helped to humanise Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, who are both demonised beyond their actual flaws.

Hahaha yes the two are exactly equivalent.

No but seriously – it’s beyond me how anyone who’s not as awful as Trump is himself can say that. Trump puts his actual flaws on display at all times. He makes it quite impossible to overlook them.

Nugent was also tweeting up a storm about how it doesn’t matter that Trump has refused to say he’ll accept the election results if he loses. Easy for him to say from the other side of the Atlantic.

“What do you want? How much?”

Oct 23rd, 2016 10:23 am | By

Another woman for Trump to threaten to sue.

Adult-film star and sex educator Jessica Drake is the latest woman to accuse Donald Trump of moving on her sexually without consent. At a live Los Angeles press-conference Saturday with lawyer Gloria Allred, Drake accused the Republican presidential nominee of “uncontrollable misogyny, entitlement, and being a sexual assault apologist,” and claimed he kissed her and two other women without their consent upon meeting them in 2006. Drake also said Trump offered to pay her for sex.

According to Drake, she and the other women were invited by Trump back to his Lake Tahoe hotel suite after meeting him at a golf tournament. Once there, Trump allegedly grabbed each of them tightly and kissed them. Later, a Trump representative called and invited Drake back to the suite alone, she said, but she declined—after which Trump personally called to extend the invitation. “What do you want? How much?” Trump allegedly said before offering her $10,000, which she rejected.

Such a nice man.

Another obligation

Oct 22nd, 2016 5:22 pm | By

The WHO has a new plan.

Single men and women without medical issues will be classed as “infertile” if they do not have children but want to become a parent, the World Health Organisation is to announce.

In a move which dramatically changes the definition of infertility, the WHO will declare that it should no longer be regarded as simply a medical condition.

Why not just call them unwillingly childless or similar, instead of hijacking a perfectly good word that means something different?

Because hijacking the existing word will create a new right.

The authors of the new global standards said the revised definition gave every individual “the right to reproduce”.

Oh yes? Sounds like a rapists’ charter, to me.

Until now, the WHO’s definition of infertility – which it classes as a disability – has been the failure to achieve pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sex.

But the new standard suggests that the inability to find a suitable sexual partner – or the lack of sexual relationships which could achieve conception – could be considered an equal disability.

If men have a right to reproduce, that implies that women have an obligation to do the actual reproducing for them, whether they want to or not.

Dr David Adamson, one of the authors of the new standards, said: “The definition of infertility is now written in such a way that it includes the rights of all individuals to have a family, and that includes single men, single women, gay men, gay women.

“It puts a stake in the ground and says an individual’s got a right to reproduce whether or not they have a partner. It’s a big change.

“It fundamentally alters who should be included in this group and who should  have access to healthcare. It sets an international legal standard.  Countries are bound by it.”

This is a very bad idea. It ignores the drastic asymmetry – that reproduction requires the very physically demanding work of gestation and birth from a woman’s body. If men have a “right” to that then they have the right to force women to do that work. That’s not a good idea. The fact that women get pregnant is one of the roots of, or pretexts for, their subordination. If men now have a “right” to reproduce, that just subordinates women further.

All of these liars

Oct 22nd, 2016 11:50 am | By

So Trump gave a talk today in Gettysburg – as one does, hoping some of the cred that Lincoln picked up there will transfer. Slate chose a nice photo to show Trump in Lincoln mode:



After weeks of scandal after scandal, Donald Trump was meant to focus on policy. His Saturday address in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was billed as the chance for Trump to show why voters should choose him over Hillary Clinton. The speech would “set the tone” for the final weeks of the campaign as Trump would make the case for why he is “the change-agent our country needs,” Stephen Miller, Trump’s national policy director said before the speech.

Right at the beginning of the address though, Trump seemingly couldn’t help himself and mentioned all the women who have come forward to accuse him of sexual assault, straight up calling [them] liars and vowing to take them to court.

“Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign. Total fabrication, the events never happened — never,” he said. “All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”

Well, if he does, that Access Hollywood tape will hurt him.

That means Trump is vowing to file at least 10 lawsuits against women who have accused him of wrongdoing, regardless of whether he wins the election.

Just like Lincoln.


Oct 22nd, 2016 10:40 am | By

Don’t go thinking Canada is perfect.

The Federal Standing Committee on Finance heard from a variety of speakers about economic disparities, including gender inequality, Tuesday in Charlottetown.

The only problem? The committee didn’t have any female members present.

Because women are such a tiny minority that such a committee can’t possibly be expected to represent them?

Jenny Wright, executive director of the St. John’s Status of Women Council, posted a tweet Tuesday highlighting the irony of the fact that she was about to speak in front of an all-male government panel about income inequality for women.

Nine members; nine men. Marvelous, isn’t it?

“Any standing committee like this needs to go for gender parity,” Wright told Yahoo Canada News after the presentation, adding the diversity of presentations called for a diversity of panelists. 

Other speakers included representatives for not just groups like hers but also small businesses and provincial governments, she said.

She addressed the committee members about the importance of using gender analysis tools when creating budgets, she said, and the need to include measures like national childcare programs and a national minimum wage in order to reduce gender wage disparity.

“I was urging them to listen to the World Health Organization and other organizations who have been calling on all governments to use gender assessment tools when they’re putting together budgets,” Wright said. She was disappointed that none of the panel members had any follow-up questions or comments on the matter when given the chance to respond.

That’s ok. They can speak for women.

The committee met on Persons Day, which celebrates the 1929 court decision that legally defined women as persons under law. It’s also one day after an Oxfam report highlighted the income inequality women still experience in Canada and around the world.

It’s astonishing, isn’t it? Less than a century ago, women were not persons under law. Women were like dogs and cats, pots and pans, goods and chattels. Stuff that men owned.

Other organizations and governments have provided frameworks that can be used by our government to implement budgetary measures that can help reduce these disparities, Wright said.

“The policies have to ensure that women are less reliant on services and contributing more to the economy,” she said. 

“What I got from that committee was absolute crickets. It was really frustrating to see that they couldn’t find a question for how economic policy relates to half the population.”

Half, yes, but the half that doesn’t count.

These debates should be heard, not silenced

Oct 22nd, 2016 8:13 am | By

Meghan Murphy says why she will no longer write for

This has been a long time coming for a number of reasons, but I chose to stay on in the past because I knew that if I left, never again would we see an abolitionist or radical feminist voice or analysis there, and I felt it important to ensure a feminist analysis existed in a space that claims to be a progressive and leftist one.

Recently, I felt I had no choice but to draw a line due to a decision made by a number of editors to publish, then remove (about seven hours after publication), a piece I wrote that was critical of the dehumanizing language Planned Parenthood has adopted to discuss women, reproductive rights, and women’s reproductive capacities.

Women’s rights exist because women are discriminated [against] on the basis of sex — because they are the only people on the planet who can get pregnant. Erasing that reality poses a serious risk to hard-fought-for protections women have and to our ability to claim discrimination on a legal basis.

After my piece was removed from the site, I waited for an editor to contact me to explain, 1) That this had happened, and 2) Why this had happened. No one contacted me, so I emailed the then-news editor (who had removed the piece) and the blogs editor, asking what was going on. The editor who removed the piece never responded to my query or accounted for her decision/actions, instead, the male blogs editor responded to me saying only, “Your article was removed because it contained transphobic language and violated our journalistic policy.” I responded, asking what specific “transphobic language” was contained in the article. I looked over the journalistic policy numerous times (and was, of course, already familiar with it) to see if something had changed within it, but could not find anything that defined any of the the language used in my article as “transphobic.” My follow up question was ignored by both the news editor and the blogs editor. To date, I have not heard from a single editor at rabble about this issue or my question.

I find that horrifying, but unpleasantly familiar.

This is censorship. As far as journalistic ethics go, editors should not remove already published pieces unless there is a libel or legal issue. Beyond that, many feminists and many progressives find various aspects of the current/popular discourse around “gender identity” troubling for numerous reasons. These debates should be heard, not silenced.

Historical revisionism and baseless accusations of “phobia” (which, in the current context of this debate, is a term equated with some form of “bigotry”) have no place on the left or in our so-called progressive, self-proclaimed “feminist” publications. Women are allowed to speak about their own realities and oppression. It is not our job to accommodate men in our movement, nor is it our job to validate the chosen “identities” of a few individuals.

It’s especially not  our job to validate the chosen “identities” of a few individuals at a time when the meaning of the word is so unsettled and contested and just plain incoherent. People like to say “anyone can identify however they choose” but that’s not actually true, unless by “identify” we mean just “think of inside one’s own head.” Sure, internally, we can all “identify” i.e. fantasize any way we like. Inside our heads we can be Elizabeth Tudor one minute and a fighter pilot the next. But can we “identify” any old way we like in the external world? No. Crossing borders we can’t do that, showing photo ID in various situations we can’t do that, on the job we can’t do that – and so on. I can identify as French inside my head if I like, but if I try it outside my head my French will be way too halting and clumsy to fool anyone. Donald Trump can identify as presidential, and many people will validate his identity, but more people won’t. External identity is social, and it just is not true that we all have to validate any and every identity other people might choose. It’s not even close to true.

I hope my decision to push back and to speak out publicly about this will lead rabble and other progressives/progressive organizations/media outlets to consider what they want political debate to look like. Perhaps nothing will change. Either way, I consider this response to and treatment of my work to be unacceptable and unethical and I will not stand idly by while women are erased, while feminist activism and theory is silenced and marginalized, and while history is rewritten in order to avoid offending a small minority of people and to avoid controversy.

The so-called left is failing badly when it comes to critical thought and analysis, but also when it comes to upholding principles and ethics that are imperative to ensuring political discourse is rigorous, honest, and rooted in a genuine desire to create a better, more equitable society, free from violence and oppression. I will not stand by and watch censorship and silencing replace critical thought and while women — the group of people who remain at the bottom of the social hierarchy, raped and beaten and murdered daily by men — are made to shut up about their own oppression and the source of that oppression.

My politics and work have never been determined by what makes others feel comfortable. Liars and cowards are aplenty. And if that’s who the left wants speaking for them, we are destined for failure.

The feminist movement has never shied away from speaking the truth, and we are not about to start now.

It’s so interesting, in a sickening way, that women are the one subordinated group that the left is willing to throw under the bus.

Valentina Milluzzo

Oct 21st, 2016 4:46 pm | By

Another Savita Halappanavar, this time in Italy.

Italian prosecutors have begun an inquiry into the death after a miscarriage of a woman of 32 who was pregnant with twins.

The family of Valentina Milluzzo said the doctor treating her refused to abort the foetuses because he was a “conscientious objector” to abortion.

The hospital involved has categorically rejected the family’s claims.

Milluzzo was admitted to Cannizzaro hospital in the Sicilian city of Catania on 29 September after suffering complications and going into premature labour in her 19th week of pregnancy. She had had fertility treatment at another health centre.

She was in a stable condition in hospital for more than a fortnight but on 15 October her blood pressure and temperature dropped and her condition worsened.

According to the family’s lawyer, one of the foetuses was suffering breathing problems. The lawyer alleges that the gynaecologist refused to abort the foetuses in order to save the mother and said: “As long as it’s alive, I will not intervene.”

No action was taken while the troubled foetus was still alive and hours later both had died, the lawyer said.

Overnight, the mother’s condition deteriorated and she contracted an infection. On 16 October she was transferred to intensive care, where she died.

Apparently all the doctors in that hospital refuse to perform abortions.

A senior doctor at the hospital, Paolo Scollo, told the Corriere website that all the doctors in his department were “objectors”, and external doctors were called in when necessary. “However, in this case we’re talking about a spontaneous miscarriage, no external help was needed. So we do not think the doctor was negligent,” he said.

But sometimes a miscarriage does need external help – as in the case of Savita Halappanavar, for instance.

70% of doctors in Italy refuse to perform abortions.

An arc of understanding

Oct 21st, 2016 11:34 am | By

Here’s Timothy Dolan. He’s the former archbish of Milwaukee who protected the church’s money from those greedy plaintiffs the church allowed to be raped for all those years.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, while archbishop of Milwaukee, moved $57 million off the archdiocesan books into a cemetery trust fund six years ago in order to protect the money from damage suits by victims of abuse by priests.

Cardinal Dolan, now the archbishop of New York, has denied shielding the funds as an “old and discredited” allegation and “malarkey.” But newly released court documents make it clear that he sought and received fast approval from the Vatican to transfer the money just as the Wisconsin Supreme Court was about to open the door to damage suits by victims raped and abused as children by Roman Catholic clergy.

That’s the guy who sat between Clinton and Trump last night.

The release of about 6,000 pages of documents provided a grim backstage look at the scandal, graphically detailing the patterns of serial abuse by dozens of priests who were systematically rotated to new assignments as church officials kept criminal behavior secret from civil authority.

It is disturbing that the current Milwaukee leader, Archbishop Jerome Listecki, said last week that the church underwent an “arc of understanding” across time to come to grips with the scandal — as if the statutory rapes of children were not always a glaring crime in the eyes of society as well as the church itself.

Cardinal Dolan was not a Milwaukee prelate during most of the abuse cases, but he faced a costly aftermath of troubles and warned the Vatican in 2003: “As victims organize and become more public, the potential for true scandal is very real.” The documents showed how the Vatican slowly took years to allow dioceses to defrock embarrassing priests. Yet the same bureaucracy approved Cardinal Dolan’s $57 million transfer just days after the Wisconsin court allowed victims’ damage suits.

That’s Timothy Dolan. Never forget it.