Notes and Comment Blog

How do you FEEL

Feb 21st, 2017 5:24 pm | By

The theocrats are still trying to silence Maryam.

When I spoke at an event organised by the LSE Human Rights Society on 27 January, the restrictions imposed were absurd. Initially I was meant to debate “whether human rights is possible under Sharia/Islamic Law” but those approached refused to debate me or pulled out at the last minute. One of those approached, Omer El Hamdoon, the president of the Muslim Association of Britain, asked to do a solo talk instead, which he did in November 2016. The stark difference in the way he and I were treated at LSE speaks volumes. Despite speaking on the very same topic (making the usual response of “what can you expect when you discuss Sharia” irrelevant), Hamdoon came and went without any concerns being raised nor any restrictions placed on his talk.

In contrast, my talk, which was initially meant to be a public event, was restricted to LSE students and staff due to “security concerns”, LSE followed “special procedures”, referred it to the “Communications Division” and imposed a chair whilst none of these were demanded of Hamdoon. When I arrived at the LSE on the night in question with a number of colleagues, the security told me I had to enter alone – instructions from the “very top” (the university eventually allowed me to enter with two of my colleagues).

It does make one wonder how I am the “security concern” (with instructions issued from the “very top”) whilst Hamdoon who has defended the shunning of ex-Muslims and death by stoning in an ideal Islamic state (audio available here) faces no restrictions whatsoever?

I think it’s probably the way black people are “security concerns” at Trump rallies – because the racists might attack them. Maryam’s a “concern” because Islamists might attack her or tear the place up. That kind of “security concern.”

She’s scheduled Tariq Modood on Secularism and Diversity at Westminster University on 24 February. The university hasn’t told her to stay away; instead it has invited the theocrats to do so:

The Islamic Society of Westminster is aware of the number of students who got in contact with us, expressing their frustration regarding Maryam Namazie being allowed to speak at our university for a ‘debate’.

Their frustration – that Maryam is allowed to speak. That’s theocracy for you. It thinks only theocrats should be allowed to speak.

Slaves looked to the US as the promised land of universal freedom

Feb 21st, 2017 4:34 pm | By

Trump went to a place today, and he said words there. Some words. Very very words. The White House wrote them down for us, so that we.

He was at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

It’s amazing to see.  I went to — we did a pretty comprehensive tour, but not comprehensive enough.  So, Lonnie, I’ll be back.  I told you that.  Because I could stay here for a lot longer, believe me.  It’s really incredible.

I’m deeply proud that we now have a museum that honors the millions of African American men and women who built our national heritage, especially when it comes to faith, culture and the unbreakable American spirit.  My wife was here last week and took a tour, and it was something that she’s still talking about.  Ivanka is here right now.  Hi, Ivanka.  And it really is very, very special.  It’s something that, frankly, if you want to know the truth, it’s doing so well that everybody is talking about it.

Yep. It’s all about the unbreakable American spirit. It’s very very special. It’s incredible. American spirit, unbreakable.

Etched in the hall that we passed today is a quote from Spottswood Rice, a runaway slave who joined the Union Army.  He believed that his fellow African Americans always looked to the United States as the promised land of universal freedom.  Today and every day of my presidency, I pledge to do everything I can to continue that promise of freedom for African Americans and for every American.  So important.  Nothing more important.

Oh certainly. Runaway slaves most definitely always looked to the United States as the promised land of universal freedom. Where else would they look? Places that didn’t have slavery? No no no. They looked to the slave-owning United States as the promised land of universal freedom. So important.

This tour was a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms.  The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful, and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.

Well, that would have to start with the guy mouthing those pious words. That would have to start with hate-mongering crowd-working racism-inciting Donald Trump. Donald Trump is all about hate and prejudice and evil, so he looks pretty ridiculous talking platitudes about needing to root it out. Start with yourself, Donnie.

HUD has a meaning far beyond housing.  If properly done, it’s a meaning that’s as big as anything there is, and Ben will be able to find that true meaning and the true meaning of HUD as its Secretary.  So I just look forward to that.  I look forward to watching that.  He’ll do things that nobody ever thought of.

I also want to thank Senator Tim Scott for joining us today.  Friend of mine — a great, great senator from South Carolina.  I like the state of South Carolina.  I like all those states where I won by double, double, double digits.  You know, those states.  But South Carolina was one, and Tim has been fantastic how he represents the people.  And they love him.

And freedom-loving slave states.

So with that, we’re going to just end this incredible beginning of a morning.  But engraved in the wall very nearby, a quote by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.  In 1955, he told the world, “We are determined…to work and fight until justice runs down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

And that’s what it’s going to be.  We’re going to bring this country together, maybe bring some of the world together, but we’re going to bring this country together.  We have a divided country.  It’s been divided for many, many years, but we’re going to bring it together.

Says the hate-mongering divider.

Guest post: No ugly demonstration of hatred for different ideas

Feb 21st, 2017 3:03 pm | By

Originally a comment by iknklast on At a Trump rally.

I once had the same opportunity, the chance to take my son and my nieces to see a sitting president and his wife. It was in Oklahoma, on the anniversary of the bombing, when Clinton came to attend the ceremony. He took time to stop by my small regional college to speak to what turned out to be a very large crowd. As a student I was entitled to tickets for up close, but the kids (old enough for it at the time) had to remain back further with the general public (us elevated coastal elites of Oklahoma City got to see him closer).

It was a truly inspiring day. Now, I disagree with a lot that Clinton did, and do not see him as a perfect president, but he handled this event perfectly. He spoke to a large crowd, and a lot of the people there were Republicans who probably didn’t like him much. Hillary stood beside him, holding herself with dignity and grace. He spoke for probably close to an hour, or at least that’s how I remember it, and everyone listened politely. There was no chanting, there was no booing or cheering, there certainly was no ugly demonstration of hatred for different ideas. It was the sort of place where ideas could be exchanged.

My son has a fond memory of that day. He wanted to see the president, and he was inspired to become interested in politics. He has remained interested and aware ever since. I wish the author’s daughter could have had a similar experience. But our country has shifted, and there is now a sense that shouting is better than nuance, that hatred is better than understanding or compromise, and that slogans are real while policy is fake news and lies.

I don’t share his view of Trump voters, either. I know a few who are very ‘nice’ when you talk to them, but when you get down into why they voted for Trump, most of them are wanting a better world, but by that they mean a whiter world, a straighter world, a more masculine world, a more selfish and narcissistic world.

Such neediness

Feb 21st, 2017 12:23 pm | By

Joan Smith is brilliant.

[T]he 45th president of the US invited on stage a man who later revealed he has a 6ft cardboard model of his hero and talks to it every day.

Let’s just pause and think about that. This is a leader whose ego is so fragile, he wants to appear on stage with someone most of us would change seats to avoid if he sat next to us on a train. I should point out that Trump chose this particular supporter to appear beside him after he saw him being interviewed on TV before the rally. Ignoring the advice of his security officials: “He said, ‘I love Trump’ … Let him up. I’m not worried about him. I’m only worried he’s going to give me a kiss.”

It is an alarming insight into how Trump (though, not just Trump) operates. Few politicians, no matter how thin-skinned, have displayed such neediness nor demanded such displays of unconditional love from their supporters. Neediness is not usually considered attractive in men who like to be thought of as tough, but Trump is rewriting the rulebook on masculinity.

I’m not sure he’s rewriting that rulebook so much as he’s hiding it for the duration. I don’t think he’s going to establish a fashion for weird sculpted multi-directional dyed combovers, or for long flapping red neckties, or for talking through pooched lips like a goldfish.

Adulation is a dangerous drug for politicians, sometimes affecting those who should in theory be immune to it. Jeremy Corbyn spent years as an obscure Labour backbencher, and the transformation, when he unexpectedly found himself addressing adoring rallies during a couple of leadership contests, has been astonishing to behold.

Corbyn never looks more relaxed than when he arrives to address a theatre full of cheering supporters, coming alive on stage in a way he never does in TV interviews or at press conferences. He shares Trump’s irritation towards even mildly critical questions, instantly reverting to talking about his “mandate” in the same way that the president still boasts about how many votes he got in the electoral college.

This is as much about a type of masculinity – wounded, self-pitying, quick to anger – as it is right or left.

As much or more. I detest Trump as a human at least as much as I hate him politically.

I sometimes wonder if we couldn’t build a theme park where Trump is president for life, presiding in a replica Oval Office and flying in a pretend version of Air Force One that never actually leaves the ground. And I’m sure Corbyn would be happier in a fictional Labourland, holding as many Cuba Solidarity meetings as he likes, than leading the party into the next general election. We would have to pay for busloads of extras to provide cheering crowds, but it would be cheaper in the long run.

A horrible combination of circumstances – reality TV, distrust of politicians, a fightback against feminism – has landed us in this unenviable situation. The danger of treating politics as therapy for emotionally needy men is too enormous to allow it to last.

Emotionally needy and also furiously angry.

At a Trump rally

Feb 21st, 2017 11:31 am | By

Joel Tooley, a pastor in Melbourne, Florida, went to Trump’s rally on Friday and was horrified by the experience. He wrote a long and detailed post about it. There’s a lot of religious language in it, but you know what? It turns out that’s a lot less grating when it comes from someone who connects religion to kindness as opposed to someone who does that other thing.

He’s not a fan of Trump’s, but he wanted to go see him anyway.

The tickets were being given away by the Trump-Pence campaign; I found it odd that the tickets indicated that this was not a government/White House event & that this was a campaign event. I have, of course, posted a joking post about that earlier. What I discovered was that by hosting this as a campaign event, Mr. Trump could determine who was and was not allowed in the venue. If he came on an official visit, they could not prohibit anyone from entering and he couldn’t sell his campaign merchandise.

So, in essence, he was only allowing his supporters in the room. Well, with a few exceptions…

I talked my 11-year-old daughter into coming with me. After all, how many times do you get to see the President of the United States in person – let alone in your hometown? I was eager for her to have this experience. It has to be a pretty cool thing, as a kid to see Air Force One, the President and the First Lady.

Music was playing loudly throughout the venue as it filled up with hundreds of people. I would guess there were eventually at least 3000 people in the room. It was nowhere near full, but there certainly were a lot of people there. From my view, the crowd was 99.9% white folk. I did see a row of about 10-12 supporters who were black, wearing T-shirts that said, “Trump and Republicans are not racist” – they were positioned in the seating area directly behind the podium.

We were about three rows of people from the very front and had a very good position to view the President and the platform. As people were coming in, there was a lot of excitement and a strong sense of patriotism. Approximately every 15 minutes, the music would be a little more enthusiastic and party-like. I posted my play-by-play feedback of “God bless the USA!” in an earlier post…it was almost church-like. People sang along, raising their hands and were emotionally moved by this anthem. It was intriguing to watch.

People were being ushered into a deeply religious experience…and it made me completely uncomfortable.

I love my country; I honor those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom and I respect our history and what we stand for, but what I experienced in that moment sent shivers down my spine. I felt like people were here to worship an ideology along with the man who was leading it. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t the song per se – it was this inexplicable movement that was happening in the room. It was a religious zeal.

A couple of local politicians got up to bring greetings followed by state representative, followed by one of our Congress representatives. A soloist sang, “God bless America” and there was a strong sense of patriotism in the room. A pastor got up to pray and repeatedly prayed throughout his prayer, “Thank you for making this the greatest nation on earth…in Jesus’ name.”

Uh-uh. No. No way, josé.

Pastor, this is not the greatest nation on earth. The greatest nation on earth does not exist. Are we a great nation? Definitely. But there are many other great nations as well. Pastor, you have your eyes on a different kind of “greatness” and certainly a different kind of kingdom. Shame on you for praying those words in Jesus’ name!

You see what I mean about the religious language. It’s not my language, but I have a certain sympathy with what he says there.

Then Air Force 1 arrived, and it was an exciting spectacle.

The First Lady approached the platform and in her rich accent, began to recite the Lord’s prayer.

I can’t explain it, but I felt sick. This wasn’t a prayer beseeching the presence of Almighty God, it felt theatrical and manipulative.

People across the room were reciting it as if it were a pep squad cheer. At the close of the prayer, the room erupted in cheering. It was so uncomfortable. I observed that Mr. Trump did not recite the prayer until the very last line, “be the glory forever and ever, amen!” As he raised his hands in the air, evoking a cheer from the crowd, “USA! USA! USA!”

Just as the President begin to speak, a short grandmotherly lady in front of us asked me if I would help hold her walker – the kind that has a seat built into it. She said, “I need to climb up on it and hold something up.” Such an odd request at such an odd place at such an odd time. So, I helped her.

She held a pillowcase that had something written on the front of it, words I could not see. She climbed up onto the seat, wobbly-legged and held the sign up above her head. People in front of her turned around and started jeering and yelling at her. After holding her sign up for about 10 seconds, she climbed back down and thanked me. I asked her what her sign said – it read, “You had your chance, now resign!”

The very first words out of the President’s mouth were the words of a bully. That is not simply one person’s perspective, it is factual. He immediately began badgering and criticizing the media; like a bully inciting a crowd.

Now, do I think the media needs to be held to a high standard and be able to be held accountable? Absolutely! The media as a whole has become sadly non-journalistic and more entertainment, in my opinion.

Call it what you will, but I was completely dumbfounded as the most powerful leader in the world began his speech by badgering the media. The crowd began screaming angrily at the entire press corps that was present.

He could have said something inspiring and worthy of a Tweet or Facebook post, instead he emerged as an overly powerful bully. Literally, everything that he began speaking about evoked this angry response from the crowd. Immediately following the words of prayer that Jesus taught his followers…

It was then that I heard two ladies off to my left chanting, not yelling or screaming but chanting, “T-R….U-M-P; that’s how you spell – bigotry!” They repeated the rhyme over and over.

Two ladies in front of them began seething and screaming in their face while shaking their Trump signs at them. Another couple standing behind them started screaming at them as well. One of the chanting ladies had her eight-year-old daughter on her back; the other had a severely disabled child in a wheelchair in front of her. As they continued chanting, the people around them became violently enraged. One angry man grabbed the lady’s arm – that’s when I went into action. I barged through the crowd and yelled at them to back off. My heart wasn’t racing; I just instinctively became a protector.

I didn’t actually want a Trump sign, but one of the volunteers had shoved it into my hands as I walked through the door earlier; “Make America Great Again!” That sign probably saved someone from getting hurt. I held the sign close to my chest as I positioned myself between the chanting protesters and the angry mob. My 11-year-old daughter was clinging to my arm, sobbing in fear.

The two angry, screaming ladies looked at me, both of them raised their middle finger at me in my face and repeatedly yelled, “F*#% YOU!” Repeatedly.

There’s more. There was no violence, but it was an ugly scene.

I’m trying to separate how I actually feel about this man and his campaignisms. I know why people voted for him; I know why people voted against his opponent. But, at the end of the day, what I felt from his leadership in this experience was actually horrifying. There was palpable fear in the room. There was thick anger and vengeance. He was counting on it. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that it would not have taken very much for him to have called this group of people into some kind of riotous reaction.

Now, not everyone in the room was a part of the angry mob mentality – I looked around the room and saw many people who could quite easily be folks from my neighborhood, folks from my church, folks who were planning to go grab a bite to eat at Cracker Barrel afterwards. Folks who truly wanted to see America “great.” The people who support the Republican Party want to see some needed changes in the government – the people that were there for that reason, are by and large good folks. But those are not the people the President was inciting – they are not the people he was leading. He was rallying the angry, vigilant ones.

As we began to leave, I knew my daughter could not possibly care less about Air Force One or the fact that she saw the President of the United States and his wife, in the flesh. I truly had hoped that she could have had that sentimental experience.

What she WILL remember is the angry, violent man screaming demonic vitriol at a child and her mother. She will remember the two ladies screaming at her Dad, her pastor – flipping the middle finger and using the F word repeatedly.

Now, I know there are people who are convinced that I am jaded and cannot fairly give this man a fair chance. Perhaps that’s true. But please remember, especially those of you who know me well, I am a student of culture and human behavior. I am not a stubborn, close minded individual who likes to stick to the status quo. I know there are people who long for me to see the good things about this President and to talk about THOSE things. I know there are people who want me to realize that not everything he is doing is bad and that every President has their strengths and weaknesses and…

I know there are people who, when they see these words and hear my thoughts will feel badly because perhaps they can’t like me as much as they once did because they don’t agree with me. They want me to like the President that they like – they want me to see him the way they see him.

I’m sorry. I cannot. You see, the angry, F-word-spewing man is what has been depended on throughout this campaign and is the one who is still being counted on to sustain the message. I tried.

Read the whole thing. There are also photos.

Flashy, provocative – and steeped in misogyny

Feb 21st, 2017 10:31 am | By

Helen Lewis on Yiannopoulos and the populist right:

Alas, poor Milo Yiannopoulos, we hardly knew ye. Well, actually, that’s not true. I first encountered Yiannopolous in 2012, when he tried to slut-shame a friend of mine, sex blogger Zoe Margolis, after she criticised his tech site, the Kernel.  “We write about how tech is changing the world around us,” he tweeted. “You write about how many cocks you’ve sucked this week. Back off.”

It was a typical Milo performance. Flashy, provocative – and steeped in misogyny.

Misogyny was his chief claim to fame for years.

Helen’s take on the claims about his rise and fall is the same as mine.

What changed CPAC’s mind? On 18 February, the organisation had tweeted that “free speech includes hearing Milo’s important perspective”.

Milo’s important perspective on what was left unanswered, because it is unanswerable. Does anyone, really, think that Milo Yiannopoulos has deep and rigorously researched convictions? That his statements on feminism, on transgender people, or his criticisms of Ghostbusters actor Leslie Jones, spring from some deep well of evidence and sincerity?

My point exactly. He has no important perspective, he has only the habits of a bully. The two are not the same. CPAC invited him to “speak” because it likes that kind of bullying.

For those on the left, the overwhelming reaction to all this has been: why now? Why these comments, not the ones about “preening poofs“, or lesbians faking hate crimes, or the danger of Muslims, or the harassment campaign against Leslie Jones which got him permanently banned from Twitter? (Do you know how consistently and publicly awful you have to be to get banned from Twitter???)

There’s only one answer to that, really: yesterday marked the moment when Milo Yiannopoulos ceased being an asset to the mainstream right, and became a liability.

Why yesterday and not before? Because, frankly, misogynist bullying just doesn’t count.

The strangest part of yesterday was seeing Milo Yiannopoulous’s increasingly sincere Facebook posts, as the awful realisation dawned on him – as it dawned on Nigel Farage during the referendum – that the sweet shelter of the mainstream right was being withdrawn from him. When he had attacked his female peers in the London tech scene, when he attacked transgender people for being “mentally ill”, when he attacked an actor for the temerity to be black, female and funny in a jumpsuit, he was given licence. He was provocative, starting a debate, exercising his free speech. But yesterday he found out that there is always a line. For the right, it’s child abuse – because children, uniquely among people who might be sexually abused, are deemed to be innocent. No one is going to buy that a 13-year-old shouldn’t have been out that late, or wearing that, or brought it on himself.

Unless maybe the 13-year-old is black and wearing a hoody.

I would not be surprised if this isn’t the end of Milo Yiannopoulos’s career, and I will watch with keen interest what strategies he will use for his rehabilitation. He’s still got his outlaw cachet, and there are still plenty of outlets where the very fact that people are objecting to a speaker is assumed to mean they have something that’s worth hearing. And there are plenty more ideas that some on the right would be happy to see pushed a little further into the mainstream – with plausible deniability, of course. If that’s the extreme, then the mainstream shifts imperceptibly with every new provocation. Because he’s not one of us, oh no. They’re not, either. But you see, they must be heard. And provocateurs are useful, until they’re not. But it’s not the left who decides when that is. Only the mainstream right can stop the extremists on their flanks.

Which is too bad, because most of them seem to have no intention of it.

That’s $250 k gone

Feb 20th, 2017 5:15 pm | By

Now Yiannopoulos has lost his book deal.

Publisher Simon & Schuster announced Monday it cancelled Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos’s book deal, the latest development in the growing backlash over resurfaced videos of the far-right provocateur criticizing age-of-consent laws.

A statement from the publishing house offered little explanation: “After careful consideration, Simon & Schuster and its Threshold Editions imprint have cancelled publication of ‘Dangerous’ by Milo Yiannopoulos.”

After careful consideration of what, one wonders. Not his notorious extended career as a Twitter bully, certainly, because that’s how he became pseudo-famous, and that’s why Simon and Schuster wanted his “book” in the first place. Not his provocations since then, for the same reason. Not the fact that he’s obviously a nasty shit. So, what, then?

I suppose the fact that the water got too hot once even CPAC disavowed him. Yesterday they thought he was worth a quarter of a million bucks, and today they decided he’s not, because oh gee gosh look, he’s not a nice guy. Who knew?!

Simon & Schuster faced a flurry of criticism from the literary worldlate last year when word got out that the publishing house paid Yiannopoulos a $250,000 advance for a forthcoming book.

Known for inflammatory comments about women and Muslims, Yiannopoulos is an openly gay and self-described “free-speech fundamentalist” who has declared that “feminism is cancer” and was blocked on Twitter after sending tweets targeting  “Saturday Night Live” cast member Leslie Jones, who is black.

“Free speech fundamentalist” my ass. He’s a professional troll, and nothing else. I blame the BBC for inviting him to talk on its news shows on the basis of nothing other than his history of trolling.

Now even Breitbart is edging away…which is pretty ridiculous, really.

By late Monday afternoon, there were ongoing discussions at Breitbart about Yiannopoulos’s future at the company, according to two people familiar with the organization who were not authorized to speak. Inside the newsroom, several staffers made clear to senior leadership that they felt uncomfortable and may decide to leave if he stays, the people said.

A bit late for that, I think.

In a Facebook update Monday, Yiannopoulos conceded responsibility for the way some have interpreted his comments.

“I’m partly to blame,” he wrote. “My own experiences as a victim led me to believe I could say anything I wanted to on this subject, no matter how outrageous. But I understand that my usual blend of British sarcasm, provocation and gallows humor might have come across as flippancy, a lack of care for other victims or, worse, ‘advocacy.’ I deeply regret that. People deal with things from their past in different ways.”

Ha. He deeply regrets nothing. He likes drawing emotional blood. All he regrets is misjudging what his buddies would put up with.

Still standing by

Feb 20th, 2017 4:18 pm | By

More on Yiannopoulos:

Milo Yiannopoulos, the Breitbart senior editor and right-wing provocateur, has been profiting from a feedback loop of predictable outrage for some time now, and the alt-right’s takeover of the Republican Party has helped him take his trolling to an even bigger audience.

His trolling. Not his writing, not his ideas, not his thought – his trolling. He’s not a writer or thinker, he’s just a troll. He’s just a smartass who enjoys bullying people until they squeak, because that’s what trolls do. That’s all there is to him, and that’s why he’s not any kind of poster boy for free speech. Free trolling, yes, but then free trolling isn’t the same thing as free speech.

On Saturday, Yiannopoulos scored his biggest prize yet (aside from, perhaps, this Trump tweet): an invitation to speak at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference. “An epidemic of speech suppression has taken over college campuses,” said CPAC chairman Matt Schlapp. “Milo has exposed their liberal thuggery and we think free speech includes hearing Milo’s important perspective.”

Utter bullshit. He has no “important perspective.” He’s a troll. That smelly kid in the back row who keeps throwing used kleenexes at people has no “important perspective” either; he’s just a bully. There’s no important principle or freedom at stake when it’s trolls or bullies. Trolls and bullies can be told to go away and not come back, and nothing of value is lost.

Then a couple of conservative groups started circulating videos of Yiannopoulos saying good things about sex with young boys. There was outrage. Outrage was merited, but there should have been outrage years ago. CPAC shouldn’t have invited a notorious trolling bully to “speak” in the first place. It’s revolting that overt public bullying is not enough reason to avoid him.

CPAC chairman Matt Schlapp was still standing by Yiannopoulos on Sunday night, though he did not address the videos directly. He said in an exchange with National Review’s Jonah Goldberg:

He is “fighting back” by bullying people. That doesn’t work out well.

A nod to the free speech issue on college campuses

Feb 20th, 2017 12:04 pm | By

Huh. It turns out that it is possible for Milo Yiannopoulos to say something that will motivate conservatives to de-platform him. Nothing to do with the public humiliation and bullying of women, of course, oh god no, that could never possibly be a reason to tell him to fuck right off.

Milo Yiannopoulos lost his keynote speaking slot at the Conservative Political Action Conference after tapes surfaced of the right wing provocateur and senior Breitbart editor advocating for sexual relationships between “younger boys and older men.”

“Due to the revelation of an offensive video in the past 24 hours condoning pedophilia, the American Conservative Union has decided to rescind the invitation,” said Matt Schlapp, chairman of the group which sponsors CPAC, in a statement Monday afternoon. The group called Yiannopoulos to “further address these disturbing comments,” but defended its original decision to invite him as a nod to “the free speech issue on college campuses.”

Ah yes, yes indeed – because when it’s a matter of bullying women off social media, that’s free speech, and the consequences to women are just way too trivial to notice. But then when it’s revealed that yes he really is a shit who does bad things to male people too – then the “nod to the free speech issue on college campuses” is no longer worth nodding.

The statement went on to declare that CPAC does not endorse “everything a speaker says or does.”

But it does make judgments about which things a speaker says and does constitute a reason to rescind an invitation. Relentless systematic harassment of women, no; advocacy of child sexual abuse, yes.

Some prominent conservatives seemed to suggest that CPAC had provoked the maelstrom by tying itself to such a controversial figure.

“The Milo Test,” wrote Charlie Sykes, a conservative former radio host who has written critically of the Republican Party since the rise of Trump. “Anti-Semitism, ok. Racism, ok. Alt Right, ok. Advocacy of pedophilia? Is THAT the bridge too far?”

Notice he doesn’t even mention the misogyny and harassment.

Yiannopoulos is aggrieved.

If it’s on Twitter it’s true

Feb 20th, 2017 11:38 am | By

Donnie from Queens is still insisting on his tv-sourced claim that Sweden is in tragic disarray because of the Foreign Hordes, even as everyone in sight tries to explain to him that Fox News isn’t the best place to get intel.

Officials in both countries expressed alarm and dismay on Monday at Mr. Trump’s remarks. Senator Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said the president should get his information from intelligence agencies and not from television.

Right?? I told him that myself yesterday, but I doubt he manages to read all the responses to his tweets. (I’m kidding. I know damn well he doesn’t read any of them. If he did how would he find time to watch Fox News?)

The Swedish Embassy in Washington offered the Trump administration a briefing on its immigration policies. Sweden’s prime minister, Stefan Lofven, said he was surprised by Mr. Trump’s comments, and noted that Sweden ranks highly on international comparisons of economic competitiveness, human development and income inequality.

“We have challenges, no doubt about that,” he allowed, adding: “We must all take responsibility for using facts correctly and for verifying anything we spread.”

Yet even before the prime minister spoke, Mr. Trump pursued his attack. On Twitter, he suggested that the news media was covering up problems related to migration in Sweden.

In other words, not all immigrants are perfect. Who knew?!

Also it’s kind of funny how Trump’s grandfather was an immigrant, and his mother was an immigrant, and two of his wives are immigrants. His children are the children of immigrants!!

A formal process

Feb 19th, 2017 5:26 pm | By

I still say people are confused about this.

Campaigners have welcomed a decision by a private girls’ school to allow students to use boys’ names and wear boys’ clothes should they wish under a new “gender identity protocol”.

Oh golly, a girl can wear jeans and call herself Jack. Couldn’t she do that before? Perhaps the school had a very narrow uniform policy which meant she couldn’t wear jeans, and now the school has made it less narrow. Good, but that’s not “a new gender identity protocol.” It’s just wearing trousers instead of skirts.

St Paul’s girls’ school in west London, whose former pupils include the MP Harriet Harman and the actor Rachel Weisz, will now consider requests from students from the age of 16 to go through a formal process to be known within the school either as boys or as gender-neutral.

Thus making it seem as if girls who don’t go through “a formal process” are girly-girly all the way down. I’m still not convinced that’s a gain.

The move is a response to pupils questioning gender identity and an attempt to ensure the safety and wellbeing of pupils who “don’t want to identify as one gender or another”, the high mistress Clarissa Farr told the Sunday Times.

But it’s not questioning gender identity – it’s reinforcing it.

Sue Sanders, chair of Schools Out UK, called it a “sensible and smart” move. While enabling students to decide which gender they wanted to be should automatically be protected under the Equality Act, it was a positive move to be welcomed – particularly as it came in LGBT History month, she added.

“The gender fluidity of young people has become more pronounced in the last three to four years; there is a growing confidence in young people to challenge binary constraints,” she said. “This is really about organisations keeping up with how people are perceiving themselves – this is part of the whole process of exploding those gender boxes.”

But it isn’t. It’s the opposite. Saying girls who don’t want to wear skirts are therefore not girls is the opposite of challenging gender constraints. Making girls who prefer to wear trousers – and calling that “wearing boys’ clothes” – is not “exploding those gender boxes,” it’s locking people into them and throwing away the key.

It was on teevee

Feb 19th, 2017 4:43 pm | By

Trump explained on Twitter that his random remark about last night in Sweden was actually about this thing he saw on tv last night. So he’s like those people who prattle artlessly about what Joanie said as if everybody knows who Joanie is when nobody knows who Joanie is. I’ve always said his Theory of Mind was shit, and this is an excellent illustrations of that. We were supposed to understand “Sweden last night” as “that stupid thing on Fox News that Donald Trump watched last night.”


So here is that story.

Scholarly stuff, for sure.

Be för Sverige

Feb 19th, 2017 3:57 pm | By


SO MANY IKEA jokes, and no Volvo jokes, no ABBA jokes, no Wallander jokes, no Stieg Larsson jokes? Sad.

Mandatory “respect” for religion

Feb 19th, 2017 3:36 pm | By

The National Secular Society via Spiked:

University administrations are becoming increasingly “censorious”, with 43% of universities censoring speech that might “offend” religious people, according to online magazine Spiked.

The magazine’s Free Speech University Rankings (FSUR) claims that 63.5% of UK universities “actively censor speech”.

Launching its third annual analysis of campus censorship, Spiked said: “The fight for the freedom to criticise religion, to blaspheme, was at the very heart of the historic fight for free speech. Yet it seems some universities, terrified of offending students of faith, are turning the clock back.”

It highlighted London South Bank University’s Code of Practice for Freedom of Speech, which warns students that one definition of an ‘unlawful meeting’ is one “at which there is a likelihood that the speaker(s) may… commit blasphemy”. In 2014 the University removed posters from their student atheist society for being “religiously offensive”. Following criticism the University removed the policy with a version that did not mention blasphemy, the document was hosted at the same address and gave no indication of when it was issued.

That’s a little confusing – I think it means the university tweaked its code after Spiked (or others) criticized it, but without saying it had tweaked, or when it had done so. But anyway – I have to wonder why they ever had such a code in the first place. Blasphemy? A mere likelihood of blasphemy? Was “unlawful”? That’s pathetic. I suppose some religious fanatic drew up the code and no one else read it carefully.

Warwick University’s Student Union Policy is also criticised for stating that speakers ‘must seek to avoid insulting other faiths or groups’. In 2015 the University’s student union barred Iranian-born secularist and human rights activist Maryam Namazie from speaking, claiming she was “highly inflammatory and could incite hatred” if allowed to take up secularist society invitation.

Trump isn’t helping. People are going to be even more defensive about any and all criticism of Islamism and Islam now, thanks to him. Islam, like all religions, should and must be wide open to criticism, because it makes such large claims on people’s loyalty, and gives such flimsy reason for those claims.

Nottingham University’s Student Union policy on “respecting religion” opposes “provocative” organisations and “certain groups with known antireligious views”.

We’re allowed to be anti-religion. This isn’t the 14th century.

No checks, no balances

Feb 19th, 2017 12:09 pm | By

Don’t worry, we have checks and balances.

Except that we don’t.

We have them provided various conditions apply…but otherwise, we don’t. So they’re not really checks and balances in the sense we’ve always understood, are they.

Brian Beutler at The New Republic points out this obvious problem.

Donald Trump’s Thursday press conference was so meandering and deranged that it brought the basic ebb and flow of all politics to a halt, as power brokers across Washington, including Republicans on Capitol Hill, stopped what they were doing to watch along in amazement.

Amazement at what? It’s been obvious all along how mindless and malevolent he is, hasn’t it? So amazement at what? I guess the fact that no one stopped him, that he didn’t make any attempt to restrain himself, that he went on that way for so long, that it kept getting worse and worse? Something like that, I guess. I was amazed myself, despite the obviousness all along. I don’t really know why – maybe it’s just something about human psychology.

But as surreal as the spectacle was, it wasn’t disturbing enough to shake Republicans out of their determined obliviousness to the chaos of the Trump administration. We’ve seen the pattern repeat itself so many times, it’s grown tiresome: Trump becomes unhinged; Republicans pretend they didn’t see it, or say they won’t comment on every offhanded Trump comment, or just chuckle about his “unconventional” presidency; and everyone moves on.

Oh, no, it’s been tiresome all along – or rather, not tiresome, but disgusting.

Their ostrich-like reflexes have been a running joke in politics for months now. But in this case, a great deal of reporting indicates Republicans awoke to the frightening implications of letting an unstable man have free reign over the government, yet remained committed to the course they’ve chosen nevertheless…

Because he’ll do a lot of things they want done. That’s all. All we can do is try to make it so costly that they’ll draw some lines.

[T]he unexpected, and abrupt, transition between completely divided and completely unified government has revealed a fatal weakness in our systems of political checks, which Republicans are placing under great strain.

These systems and processes—congressional oversight, Justice Department autonomy, and legislative independence—weren’t designed to withstand a vengeful, lawless, id-driven madman taking over one party, and then the government, without popular support.

Weren’t they? Then they should have been. It’s not as if the founding dudes were not familiar with monarchy.

If congressional Republicans were going to use their power to check Trump, the way they would a non-partisan political or national security threat, we have a pretty decent sense of what they’d do.

In the policy realm, they might restrain his Muslim ban and deportation force designs; in the oversight realm, they would force him to sell off his assets, or at least release some of his tax returns, as well as launch a full inquiry into whether his campaign colluded with Russian intelligence to disrupt the presidential election. As a matter of basic governing competence, they would try to sideline reckless advisers like Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and the now-deposed Michael Flynn. Republicans probably can’t stop Trump from holding destabilizing press conferences, but they could make life uncomfortable for him and his team unless and until they started to show some semblance of control.

Instead they choose to whine anonymously to the press.

In other words, they’re shits. Like this shit:

Representative Jason Chaffetz, the GOP’s chief investigator, has asked the Department of Justice to pursue criminal charges against a former Hillary Clinton aide who helped set up her private email server. The same man who continued issuing subpoenas at an impressive clip after the FBI shelved its Clinton investigation believes the appropriate number of subpoenas the scandal-plagued Trump administration should face is zero. And Attorney General Jeff Sessions—who called on his predecessor, Loretta Lynch, to recuse herself from the Clinton investigation for extremely flimsy reasons—is resisting demands, based on clear-letter rules, that he recuse himself from federal investigations of Trump’s aides and their potential ties to the Russian hackers who disrupted the election.

Kakistocracy as far as the eye can see.

Last Night in Sweden

Feb 19th, 2017 10:45 am | By

You have your Last Year at Marienbad, your Last Tango in Paris or Halifax, your Last Week in Kidderminster – and your Last Night in Sweden. What happened on that Last Night? We don’t know, but we know it was bad.

During a campaign-style rally on Saturday in Florida, Mr. Trump issued a sharp if discursive attack on refugee policies in Europe, ticking off a list of places that have been hit by terrorists.

“You look at what’s happening,” he told his supporters. “We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?”

This is how he actually said it:

“You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. [pause] Sweden! [pause] Who would believe this?”

Or to put it another way:

“You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden.


Who would believe this, Sweden!?”

Believe what? He didn’t say, and there was nothing he could have said.

“Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound,” Carl Bildt, a former prime minister and foreign minister, wrote on Twitter.

Mr. Trump did not state, per se, that a terrorist attack had taken place in Sweden.

But the context of his remarks — he mentioned Sweden right after he chastised Germany, a destination for refugees and asylum seekers fleeing war and deprivation — suggested that he thought it might have.

“Sweden,” he said. “They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible. You look at what’s happening in Brussels. You look at what’s happening all over the world. Take a look at Nice. Take a look at Paris. We’ve allowed thousands and thousands of people into our country and there was no way to vet those people. There was no documentation. There was no nothing. So we’re going to keep our country safe.”

It is of course a stark staring lie to say there was no vetting. There was vetting.

As the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet noted, Twitter users were quick to ridicule Mr. Trump’s remark, with joking references to the Swedish Chef, the “Muppets” character; Swedish meatballs; and Ikea, the furniture giant.

Others speculated that Mr. Trump might have been influenced by a Fox News interview of Ami Horowitz, a filmmaker who asserts that migrants in Sweden have been associated with a crime wave, by the correspondent Tucker Carlson. “They often times try to cover up some of these crimes,” Mr. Horowitz said, arguing that those who try to tell the truth about the situation are shouted down as racists and xenophobes.

So Trump managed to remember the word “Sweden” but nothing else.

Not the Enemy

Feb 18th, 2017 5:06 pm | By


The first thing dictators do is shut down the press

Feb 18th, 2017 4:44 pm | By

John McCain points out that Trump’s constant spittle-flecked rages at the news media are the short road to dictatorship.

Sen. John McCain spoke out Saturday in defense of the free press after President Trump lashed out against the news media several times over the past week, at one point declaring it “the enemy of the American People!

Such talk, McCain (R-Ariz.) said on NBC News in an interview set to air Sunday, was “how dictators get started.”

“In other words, a consolidation of power,” McCain told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd from Munich. “When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press. And I’m not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I’m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.”

He’s not not trying to be a dictator. I think he’d be delighted to be a dictator if he could manage it. I don’t know that that’s what he’s trying to do though. In all fairness I think he’s too stupid to think about it that clearly.

Nothing to see here

Feb 18th, 2017 4:24 pm | By

Donnie wasn’t happy about the latest cover of TIME.

by artist Tim O'Brien. (courtesy of TIME 2017)

The Donald’s prayer

Feb 18th, 2017 3:55 pm | By