Notes and Comment Blog

Off to Threadneedle Street

Sep 20th, 2017 9:57 am | By

The Guardian last week:

A campaigner who forced the Bank of England to have female representation on banknotes has pledged to donate her first Jane Austen tenner to a women’s shelter as the new plastic currency enters circulation.

Caroline Criado-Perez threatened to take the Bank to court for discrimination when the former governor Mervyn King announced that it was phasing out paper fivers featuring the prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, the only woman other than the Queen to feature on legal tender at that time.

They were replaced last year by the new £5 featuring Winston Churchill.

But on the new £10 note the bank backed down and on Thursday more than 1bn new tenners featuring Austen begin entering circulation. It ends a four-month period in which there has been no usable note featuring a woman other than the Queen.

Twitter today:

41 minutes of hell

Sep 19th, 2017 4:32 pm | By

The Guardian did an “as it happens” of the UN meeting, including Trump’s speech. It’s quite funny in places. Trump starts on page 3.

Trump speaks about protecting the rights given by God, emphasizing the word “God” and pausing before he continues.

“In America, we do not seek to impose our life on anyone,” he says but the US wants to shine as an example.

He says he was elected to give power to the people “where it belongs”.

“As president of the United States” he will always put America first, he says. He gets louder, saying that’s what all countries should do. He gets some claps for that remark.

“He gets louder” – of course he does. It’s all he knows: the pinch, the point, and getting louder.

Trump says the United States will no longer be taken advantage of in deals it makes with other countries.

“Our citizens have paid the ultimate price to defend our freedom,” he says. They have also fought to defend other countries represented in the room, he says.

“It is an eternal credit to the American character,” that we have fought wars abroad but have not “sought territorial expansion” and not imposed our way of life on other people.

Oh rilly? Mexico could point out that rather large chunk of its territory that we grabbed – you know, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Texas – odds and ends like that. Then there are the indigenous people who were living here when we bounced in and sought territorial expansion like billy-o.

“We want harmony and friendship, not conflict and strife,” he says.

He says, a few minutes before gloating at the prospect of destroying North Korea.

Trump’s speaks loudly again as he discusses the threat of international terrorism.

He says the US is working with its allies in the Middle East to “crush” terrorists.

“Our country has achieved more against Isis in the last eight months,” says Trump, then it has in the years before combined. It’s unclear what measure he is using for achievement.

He thanks Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon for hosting refugees.

“The United States is a compassionate nation,” he says, before launching into a defense of his government’s efforts to reduce the refugee cap in the US.

Yeah that’s the guy. Say something and then say the opposite. Nobody ever taught him what a contradiction is.

Trump briefly winds down his speech to speak about the need to empower “women entrepreneurs,” earning applause, before becoming angry again to talk about the US contributions to the UN.

He says the US carries an “unfair burden” with the resources it provides to the UN.

Trump then attacks Cuba and the government of Venezuela. He says people need to do more to address the situation there.

Nukes, maybe?

Trump speaks about the US middle class, saying they will be “forgotten no more”.

He heralds the importance of patriotism, again emphasizing that countries can only resolve global conflict if they protect themselves and their interests first.

“Now we are calling for a great reawakening of nations,” he says.

“We need to defeat the enemies of humanity and unlock the potential of life itself,” he says.

Trump thanks the audience and concludes, after about 41 minutes and 20 seconds, by saying: “God bless you, God bless the nations of the world, and God bless the United states of America”.

That’s disgusting. He threatens to destroy North Korea while talking about “Rocket Man” and then he goes into full-blown messianic bullshit.

The “righteous many” against the “wicked few”

Sep 19th, 2017 4:11 pm | By

Let’s see what they’re saying about Trump’s horrific speech outside the US. Let’s read the Guardian.

Donald Trump’s maiden address to the UN general assembly was unlike any ever delivered in the chamber by a US president.

There are precedents for such fulminations, but not from US leaders. In tone, the speech was more reminiscent of Nikita Khrushchev, Fidel Castro or Hugo Chávez.

And going back to pre-UN days it was reminiscent of Hitler. Yes, Hitler.

Like Bush, Trump offered the world a black-and-white choice between the “righteous many” against the “wicked few” – but his choice of language was far blunter than his predecessor. There can not have been many, if any, threats to “totally destroy” another nation at a UN general assembly. He did not even direct the threat at the regime, making it clear it was North Korea as a country that was at peril.

Trump issued the warning just minutes after the UN secretary general, António Guterres, had appealed for calmer rhetoric. “Fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings,” Guterres had said in his own first general assembly address, and it was clear who those remarks were directed towards.

But Trump thinks he’s a law unto himself, and that everyone else is beneath him. He won’t have given a rat’s ass what António Guterres said.

Venezuela was targeted for the socialist policies of the Nicolás Maduro government and the erosion of its democracy, but Trump did not attempt to distinguish Venezuela’s faults from other autocratic regimes with whom Trump has sought to cultivate.

Saudi Arabia was not mentioned. Nor was Russia, although there was, early on in the speech, a rare public expression of support for Ukrainian sovereignty.

Well they’re not socialist. There’s none of that pesky insistence that the wretched of the earth should get a share of the good things too.

Nor was there any explanation of how the castigation of these “rogue regimes” dovetailed with the dominant theme of the first half of Trump’s speech, which was devoted to the assertion of the undiluted sovereignty of the nation state.

Seeking to draw a sharp line between his view of international relations and those of his predecessors in the Oval Office, Trump stressed that diverse nations had the right to their own “values” and “culture” without the interference of outsiders. The UN was there as a forum for cooperation between strong and independent nations, not to impose “global governance” from on high.

In a briefing on the eve of the speech, a senior White House official had insisted that Trump had pondered long and hard over this “deeply philosophical” segment of his address, as it marked an important exposition of his approach to foreign policy, labelled “principled realism”.

Trump and his administration have frequently invoked such ideas to justify the absence of criticism for Saudi Arabia, Russia and other perceived partners for their appalling human rights records.

With Tuesday’s address, however, Trump punched yawning holes in his own would-be doctrine, singling out enemies, expressing horror at their treatment of their people and threatening interference to the point of annihilation.

What was left, when the muted applause died down in the UN chamber, was a sense of incoherence and a capricious menace hanging in the air.

He’s a toddler with nukes. He’s the stupidest man any of us have ever seen in that job, and he may well destroy everything.

In a better world

Sep 19th, 2017 11:30 am | By

I hear we need some furry beasts again.

Not the Templars again

Sep 19th, 2017 11:21 am | By

There’s a quirk in the white supremacist movement that I was unaware of: it likes to play Medieval.

White supremacists explicitly celebrate Europe in the Middle Ages because they imagine that it was a pure, white, Christian place organized wholesomely around military resistance to outside, non-white, non-Christian, forces. Marchers in Charlottesville held symbols of the medieval Holy Roman Empire and of the Knights Templar. The Portland murderer praised “Vinland,” a medieval Viking name for North America, in order to assert historical white ownership over the landmass: Vinlander racists like to claim that whites are “indigenous” here on the basis of medieval Scandinavian lore. Similarly, European anti-Islamic bigots dress up in medieval costumes and share the “crying Templar” meme. Someone sprayed “saracen go home” and “deus vult”—a Latin phrase meaning “God wills it” and associated with the history of the Crusades—on a Scottish mosque. The paramilitary “Knights Templar International” is preparing for a race war. In tweets since locked behind private accounts, University of Reno students reacted to seeing classmate Peter Cvjetanovic at the Virginia tiki-torch rally, saying they knew him as the guy who said racist things in their medieval history classes.

Mark Twain could have told us this would happen. He called it “Sir Walter disease” and he despised it.

I thought back to other, less explicit ways that I’ve observed white supremacists engaging with the Middle Ages. I’m not sure we’re as ready to handle the racism when it lurks in the subtext and context, rather than when a bigot picks up a Templar shield. It’s easy to overlook both the depths of white-supremacist celebration of the Middle Ages and the ease with which these groups pluck out appealing nuggets of white-supremacist ideology from any product that lacks an explicit rejection of same.

For example, before it was taken offline, I would regularly read the white-supremacist discussion boards at Stormfront, scanning for medieval history content so I could better understand this dynamic. The posters, predictably, spend time celebrating their understanding of the spirit of the Crusades (treating them as a heroic Lost Cause) and gleefully retelling narratives of Jewish expulsion while denying that there was ever a wholesale massacre.

It’s too bad they don’t all watch cooking shows instead.

And a little child shall barf on them

Sep 19th, 2017 10:08 am | By

Of course he does. Trump makes his debut at the UN by threatening to destroy North Korea while at the same time calling Kim Jong Un by a ridiculous childish nickname. We’re living in a serial titled The Giant Toddler Who Destroyed the Earth.

“We meet at a time of immense promise and great peril,” Trump said in his maiden address to more than 150 international delegations at the annual U.N. General Assembly. “It is up to us whether we will lift the world to new heights or let it fall into a valley of disrepair.”

Oops. That was “despair,” Don. Do more rehearsals. The world is not a car that needs repair; it’s a little more complicated than that.

“I will always put America first just like you, the leaders of your countries, should put your countries first,” Trump said, returning to a campaign theme and the “America First” phrase that has been criticized as isolationist and nationalistic.

And undermining the whole point of the UN, which was born out of the real-time observation that nationalism ends in war.

Trump praised the United Nations for enacting economic sanctions on Pyongyang over its nuclear and ballistic missile tests. But he emphasized that if Kim Jong Un’s regime continued to threaten the United States and to destabilize East Asia, his administration would be prepared to defend the country and its allies.

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump said, before calling Kim by a nickname he gave the dictator on Twitter over the weekend. “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself.”

And everyone present wished his nanny would come in and drag him back to the nursery.

You grab the eyeballs however you can

Sep 18th, 2017 4:53 pm | By

Frank Bruni is not amused by Sean Spicer’s gig at the Emmys.

[W]hat I and anyone else who tuned in to Hollywood’s latest self-congratulatory orgy on Sunday saw wasn’t good fun. It was bad news — a ringing, stinging confirmation that fame truly is its own reward and celebrity really does trump everything and redeem everyone.

Object of ridicule or object of reverence: Is there a difference? Not if you’re a household name, not if you’re a proven agent of ratings and not if you’re likely to deliver more of them. Our commander in chief took that crude philosophy to heart and rode it all the way to the White House. Sean Spicer took a page from the president and then a bow on the Emmys stage.

Not exactly a bow, and there are Emmys production folks and television industry figures who are telling themselves that during his fleeting appearance at the ceremony, Spicer was being slyly demeaned, not sanitized.

What bunk. The message of his presence was not only that we can all laugh at his service and sycophancy in the Trump administration, but that he’s welcome to laugh with us.

Well jeez, all he did was lie to us for five months. Aren’t they allowed to do that? Don’t we expect it?

Spicer came onto the stage behind the kind of podium that Melissa McCarthy used in her impersonations of him and told the Emmys host, Stephen Colbert, “This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period — both in person and around the world.”

His words alluded, obviously, to his fictitious claim — at his very first news conference as the White House press secretary — about the crowds for Trump’s inauguration. But that claim wasn’t merely ludicrous. It was precisely and perfectly emblematic of Trump’s all-out, continuing assault on facts and on truth itself. And it signaled Spicer’s full collaboration in that war, which is arguably the most dangerous facet of Trump’s politics, with the most far-reaching, long-lasting consequences.

Which is not any kind of joke. Remember how he tweeted that Obama had wiretapped him? Which was a libelous lie? Remember how he insisted there were good people “on both sides” in Charlottesville? Remember the birther lies that went on for years?

[A]t the Emmys, Colbert abetted Spicer’s image overhaul and probably upped Spicer’s speaking fees by letting him demonstrate what a self-effacing sport he could be. The moment went viral, and I suppose that’s the point. You grab the eyeballs however you can. Trump taught America that, too.

And that’s how we got into this mess.

Spicer and Anthony Scaramucci and Corey Lewandowski are all graduating to greater recognition and riches, never mind that they willingly promoted, ignored or sugarcoated actions and pronouncements by Trump that went well beyond the established norms of partisan politics.

Spicer and Lewandowski will be fellows at Harvard, never mind their volitional submission to someone whose lack of character, grace and basic maturity was just affirmed anew by his retweet of a video of him hitting a golf ball into Hillary Clinton and knocking her over.

He’s not politically correct! He’s tough! He’s rich! He’s famous! What more do we want?

Confidence is high

Sep 18th, 2017 4:04 pm | By

Republicans are hoping to be able finally at long last to take health insurance away from millions of people. They’re wetting themselves with excitement, because it’s looking good!

Democratic leaders in the U.S. Congress on Monday demanded that lawmakers wait to find out the budgetary and healthcare impacts of a new, last-ditch legislative effort by Republicans to repeal Obamacare before voting on it.

In their long-running war on former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, Senate Republicans are now proposing to replace it with a system that would give states money in block grants to run their own healthcare programs.

The Congressional Budget Office, a non-partisan fiscal analysis unit of Congress, said Monday it will make a preliminary assessment of the bill’s impact next week. But it said it won’t be able to estimate the impact on the deficit or changes in insurance coverage or premiums for several weeks.

Which you would think would be a reason not to pass it now, but that would be silly, because the point is to pass it, not to worry about what the consequences would be. That’s grown-up politics.

Past Republican proposals to dismantle Obamacare have been hampered, in part, by CBO estimates that showed the bills would have left millions more Americans without health insurance.

Obama’s healthcare reform provided health benefits to 20 million Americans. Since its passage, Republicans have sought to undermine it.

Because they want those 20 million Americans to lose those health benefits. That’s how they roll.

Lunch break

Sep 18th, 2017 12:31 pm | By

So that’s hilarious.

It is every Washington reporter’s dream to sit down at a restaurant, overhear secret stuff and get a scoop. It rarely happens.

Still, everyone in town important enough to have secrets worth keeping knows that secrets are not safe on the Acela train and in Washington restaurants.

This is especially true in eateries next door to a major newspaper.

Yes, Ty Cobb and John Dowd, lawyers for President Trump, we’re talking to you.

But it’s too late now.

*stops reading in order to laugh*

Really? Really? Trump’s lawyers went out for munchies and talked loudly enough to be overheard? Really?

Together, they went for what appears to have been a working lunch at BLT Steak, 1625 I St. NW in Washington. It’s close to the White House and very convenient.

It’s also next door to 1627 I St. NW, which happens to house the Washington bureau of the New York Times.

Walkies, see? Takes 1 (one) minute. They might as well have gotten takeout and gone and sat at a reporter’s desk.

But they basically did, because there was one at the next table. I guess he wasn’t wearing a big neon sign that said NEW YORK TIMES REPORTER so Trump’s lawyers felt safe discussing things at normal conversational volume.

Vogel overheard the lawyers talking about White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II and Jared Kushner, president Trump’s son-in-law, as well as the infamous Trump Tower meeting. Here’s a sample from the article bearing the bylines of Vogel and Peter Baker:

Mr. Cobb was heard talking about a White House lawyer he deemed “a McGahn spy” and saying Mr. McGahn had “a couple documents locked in a safe” that he seemed to suggest he wanted access to. He also mentioned a colleague whom he blamed for “some of these earlier leaks,” and who he said “tried to push Jared out …”

The White House Counsel’s Office is being very conservative with this stuff,” Mr. Cobb told Mr. Dowd. “Our view is we’re not hiding anything.” Referring to Mr. McGahn, he added, “He’s got a couple documents locked in a safe.”

… Mr. Cobb also discussed the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting — and the White House’s response to it — saying that “there was no perception that there was an exchange.”

The movie is probably in production as we speak, with Jim Carey and Seth Rogen playing the lawyers.
Plus…the reporter snapped a photo.

Apparently Kelly is not best pleased.

Shut up and laugh

Sep 18th, 2017 10:37 am | By

Oh, good, now we’re supposed to see Sean Spicer as a funny guy and his lying for Trump as just normal business.

When opponents of the president talk about “normalizing” an abnormal administration, they are talking about the sort of thing that took place onstage Sunday night at the Emmys: Sean Spicer, Donald Trump’s first White House press secretary, showed up and made a joke about one of his false claims.

The night otherwise had been a showcase of Hollywood’s liberal leanings as applied to 2017. Stephen Colbert’s intro song and monologue sounded the alarm about global warming, Russian meddling in American politics, and police violence in cute but cutting fashion. “I’d like to vote for Selina Meyer, she’s pretty foxy,” he sang, referencing Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s Veep character. “Imagine if your president was not beloved by Nazis.”

But soon after, Colbert posed the question of how many people were watching the Emmys. The answer came in the form of Spicer’s cameo. The Republican operative wheeled out a podium like the one Melissa McCarthy used in her SNL impression of him. In a mock-stern voice, he announced: “This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period, both in person and around the world!”

Isn’t that just adorable. Don’t worry, it’s all a comedy really, and in a few years everyone will look back and laugh.

CNN’s reporting also noted that the Spicer cameo was Colbert’s idea: “He and his producers knew there would be blowback. … But Colbert thought it would be funny and surprising, and that’s what mattered most.”

Well of course that’s what matters most if you see entertainment as the highest value, or the highest after money.

Last week, Spicer appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, leading my colleague David Frum to write, “As former Trump staff seek to integrate themselves into American civic and business life, it will be important to evaluate which of them can be rehabilitated—and which have compromised themselves in ways that cannot be redeemed.” Already, the short-lived White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci has landed gigs co-hosting The View and TMZ on TV, where he, no doubt, can be let in on the jokes about him.

Backstage after the Emmys, Alec Baldwin was asked about the propriety of Spicer’s appearance. “Spicer obviously was compelled to do certain things that we might not have respected, that we might not have admired, that we might have been super-critical of, in order to do his job,” Baldwin replied. “But I’ve done some jobs that are things that you shouldn’t admire or respect me for either. So he and I have that in common, I suppose.” The obvious truth about that comparison is that Baldwin is an entertainer and Spicer was a public servant, held to a different standard and capable of more significant lapses. Or maybe not, as it turns out.

Springtime for Hitler, eh?

Gauland’s German “we”

Sep 17th, 2017 6:14 pm | By

Stewart at Gnu Atheism on Facebook:

Image may contain: 1 person, text


Sep 17th, 2017 4:11 pm | By

If we wanted to have a white supremacy museum, where would we put it? Montgomery, Alabama would be a good choice.

It was at the statehouse in Montgomery that Jefferson Davis was first inaugurated as the president of the Confederacy in a bid to preserve the institution of slavery and in defense of the inferiority of the black race. It was here too, nearly a century later, that Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat, and a young Martin Luther King launched his first direct action campaign: The Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Indeed the official city seal tells some of this story in ironic juxtaposition, nesting its claim as “Cradle of the Confederacy” inside that of “Birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement”.

The Montgomery Alabama City Seal.

That is truly bizarre.

Montgomery was also for a time the central hub of the domestic US slave trade, and that’s part of why writer and activist Bryan Stevenson thinks is a perfect place for a “new kind of museum” entitled From Slavery to Mass Incarceration that will that will trace the untoward history of racial capital through generations and simultaneously shine a light on the legacy of US racial terrorism.

“It all begins with enslavement and the ideology of white supremacy and what follows is lynching, segregation, and many of the issues that we’re dealing with today,” Stevenson told the Guardian.

The museum itself will be situated at the site of a building that once warehoused enslaved people before they could be sold auction in the town square. “They used it for livestock, cotton and enslaved people,” Stevenson said.

“By 1860, warehouses, slave depots, and slave pens had sprung up all over the city of Montgomery. We had more slave pens, depots, and warehouses than banks, hotels, or commercial establishments,” said Stevenson, the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative which is headquartered in Montgomery and is spearheading the project.

Places to store and sell human beings. This is our history, just a century and a half ago – and still, if you look at mass incarceration as an offshoot of slavery.

The museum space, beyond slavery and lynching will also cover the rise of lend-lease, the practice by which many formerly enslaved blacks were resubjugated. Many Southern municipalities adopted nuisance laws that could legally detain blacks for no crime at all, and sentence them to hard labor as punishment. This, EJI argues, draws a direct line to the explosive rise in the US prison population through the later part of the 20th century that has become known as Mass Incarceration, and how it has preyed on communities of color.

This arc, from slavery through these more modern iterations of racial inequality speaks to the museum’s core mission. Rather than a focus on historical artifacts, Stevenson said the project intends to walk visitors through a comprehensive narrative of US racism. Drawing inspiration from the Apartheid museum in South Africa, which is similarly conceived, Stevenson said that the museum starts with a point of view, and one that he believes is necessary to amplify if the nation is ever to push meaningfully past its foundational racist demons.

“I do think our nation is a nation that needs truth and reconciliation, and incidents like Charleston and Charlottesville just reinforce that,” Stevenson said, but added that truth and reconciliation is not simultaneous, it’s sequential.

“You have to tell the truth before you can get to reconciliation, and culturally we have done a terrible job of truth telling in this country about our history of racial inequality. I see these projects as an effort to respond to the absence of truth and the silence that has haunted us – black, white and other – for too long.”

Some documentaries on the subject would be an idea too.

Putting on his big boy global pants

Sep 17th, 2017 12:31 pm | By

Trump is off to the UN in the morning, because it’s General Assembly time.

…when Mr. Trump attends the first United Nations session of his presidency this coming week, all eyes will be on him as counterparts from around the globe crane their necks and slide through the crowd to snatch a handshake — and, in the process, try to figure out this most unusual of American leaders.

“The world is still trying to take the measure of this president,” said Jon B. Alterman, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and author of the speed-dating analogy. “For a number of leaders, this is going to be their first chance to see him, to judge him, to try to get on his good side.”

In some places, there has been an instinct to dismiss Mr. Trump as a bombastic, Twitter-obsessed political and diplomatic neophyte. “But the fact is you can’t write off the American president,” Mr. Alterman said.

Hang on. That’s two different things. Obviously nobody can “write off” the US president, because he can do all kinds of damage. But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to note that he is in fact a bombastic, Twitter-obsessed political and diplomatic neophyte – not to mention a liar, cheat, fraud, sexual assaulter and more. He’s been a synonym for Terrible Asshole in the US for decades, and the fact that we’re now forced to pay attention to him does not alter that fact.

One of Mr. Trump’s primary tasks will be to define how his America First approach — which has led him to pull out of international agreements on free trade and climate change — fits into the world-first mission of the United Nations.

It will?

I don’t think he has any intention of defining any such thing. He couldn’t possibly care less about the world-first mission of the United Nations. He’s a stupid vain little peacock of a man and America First is his idea of wisdom.

Previewing the week, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the president’s national security adviser, said Mr. Trump would stress “sovereignty and accountability.” Sovereignty is a term that appeals to American conservatives skeptical about the United Nations. It is also a term, however, used by autocrats like Presidents Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela to reject interference by outside powers as they crush opposition.

That’s not a “however,” it’s an “and.” The conservative idea of sovereignty that’s skeptical about the UN is the same thing as rejecting interference by outside powers while one crushes opposition.

Anyway, it will doubtless be a train wreck one way or another.

Fuctupmind indeed

Sep 17th, 2017 10:45 am | By

Another low achieved.

President Trump retweeted a meme on Sunday morning that showed him hitting Hillary Clinton in the back with a golf ballprompting another round of outrage from critics who felt the president’s tweets had once again crossed the line.

The animated GIF spliced together a clip of Trump swinging a golf club with footage of Clinton falling, apparently edited to appear as though a golf ball had struck her down.

The image was originally posted as a reply to the president by a Twitter user named @Fuctupmind, whose bio consists of pro-Trump, anti-Clinton hashtags.

“Donald Trump’s amazing golf swing #CrookedHillary,” the user wrote in the caption.

Yes, that’s what the US head of state should be doing: sharing a tweet by one “Fuctupmind” showing said head of state knocking a woman down with a golf ball to the back. Yes, that’s the kind of thoughtful, reasonable, measured, adult thinking we want in a head of state.

The retweet immediately drew hundreds of Trump’s critics and supporters into a familiar vortex of debate, with many criticizing the GIF for seeming to encourage violence and others defending the president.

“You’re a child. Beneath the dignity of your office. Grow up. Be a man,” the actor James Morrison replied to Trump.

“The man is unfit,” declared Walter M. Shaub Jr., the former director of the independent Office of Government Ethics who resigned in July after clashing with the White House.

Trump’s love of Twitter and his propensity to post controversial tweets — often very late at night or first thing in the morning — is well known. The golf-swing repost, however, was part of an unusual retweet spree in which Trump shared at least half a dozen tweets from other accounts that showed him in a favorable light. Three were from an account called “Trumpism 5.0,” which included a train wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.

He shames us all.

Behold a cauldron of violent vitriol

Sep 16th, 2017 4:48 pm | By
Behold a cauldron of violent vitriol

Janice Turner was there when Maria Maclachlan was attacked by “activists.”

When is it OK to punch a woman? I’ve pondered this question since Wednesday evening when I watched a 60-year-old in specs and sensible shoes called Maria being smacked in the face. Yet I learn from her assailant’s defenders that it’s fine. Punch harder next time, guys! Because “acts of physical violence against those who are systemically violent are self-defence”.

I was at Speakers’ Corner waiting, along with about 80 others, to learn the secret location of a meeting entitled, “What is gender? The Gender Recognition Act [GRA] and beyond”. It was all very cloak and dagger because the original venue, a south London community centre, had cancelled the previous day on health and safety grounds. Which is one way of saying “trans rights activists harangued our staff and threatened, via various Facebook groups, to cause havoc if it went ahead”. Then, hearing of the Hyde Park rendezvous, they rang every conceivable venue within a mile radius to promise mayhem. Having failed to find it, about 15 of them arrived at Speakers’ Corner with placards saying “TERFs not welcome.”

Presumptuous, isn’t it. It’s not up to them who gets to gather at Speakers’ Corner. Granted, I might wave a placard like that if “TERFs” were replaced by “Fascists” and fascists were actually gathering, but this wasn’t that. We’ve been energetically coached to think a “TERF” is a very terrible person in some manner, but it’s applied to women who simply define “gender” in a way that some trans activists dislike. That’s really not a good reason to bully people, to prevent them from speaking, or to punch them in the face and steal their cameras and memory cards.

TERFs, according to trans activists, are evil. TERF is the new witch. Search on Twitter for “TERFs must die” or “burn in a fire, TERF” and behold a cauldron of violent vitriol. Before the meeting, a trans-woman posted: “Any idea where this is happening? I want to f*** some TERFs up, they are no better than fash [fascists].” Search “punch a TERF” and you will find crowing approval of what happened to Maria.

There’s still a strong delusion that this crap is somehow left-wing and progressive and good, but it’s not. It’s a mindless, venomous attack on women in general, cheered on by “allies” and thus making it clear yet again that women are always required to go to the back of the line.

So at Speakers’ Corner trans activists and feminists were chanting and taunting each other. Maria was taking photographs when an opponent grappled with her, snatched her camera and smashed it on the ground. Then a tall, male-bodied, hooded figure wearing make-up rushed over, hit her several times and as police arrived, ran away. I asked a young activist if she was OK with men smacking women: “It’s not a guy, you’re a piece of s*** and I’m happy they hit her”, came the reply.

Yes that’s the important thing – not “misgendering” the guy who hit a woman in the face because she thinks of gender in a way he dislikes.

I wouldn’t trouble Times readers, no doubt weary of reading daily about gender-fluidity and schoolboys in frocks, with this affair if it didn’t reveal such serious issues. Changes to the very definition of “man” and “woman” are being proposed, yet it is almost impossible to hold a public meeting to discuss them. Wednesday’s speakers were a lesbian academic and a trans woman. Two members of the LGBT group Stonewall initially agreed to take part in what was to be a debate, but dropped out. Winning arguments is far harder for the trans lobby than shutting them down.

Shutting them down and lying about them – Twitter is full of “activists” lying about the assault on Maria.


Maria held on to her camera when someone grabbed it – that’s the “violence” she perpetrated.

Miranda Yardley posted video of the assault:

“Intersectional” enough?

The lie of the pink and blue onesies

Sep 16th, 2017 1:04 pm | By

Hadley Freeman wonders, as so many of us do, why shops sell clothes with pink butterflies on them for Girls and blue spaceships for Boys.

Too often, discussions of gender today, rather than expanding boundaries, only contract them. When people say they’re “non-binary”, it sounds to me more like they swallowed the lie of the pink and blue onesies. Because the point is everyone, really, is non-binary – no one’s a wholly pink butterfly or blue car onesie. We are all, to varying degrees, purple spaceship onesies – and, yes, that is the scientific term.

Gender stereotypes are too often confused with biology, and you hear this mistake being made as much on the left as you do on the right. After all, it’s not that big a leap from saying boys wear car prints to Eddie Izzard saying he likes having manicures “because I’m trans”. Suggesting a man can’t possibly like having his nails done is a disappointingly reductive take on gender from Izzard, who was once so determined to tear down stereotypes about masculinity.

I don’t like having manicures (and have never had one); does that make me trans? I don’t like frills, but I do like colors, including raspberry and magenta and heather – does that make me so confusing I have to find a new label?

Uncontrolled abusive monster syndrome

Sep 16th, 2017 12:04 pm | By

It’s interesting how thoroughly terrible the protagonist of this character study is. The terribleness seeps everywhere and gets into all the corners and crevices and tiny little thumbtack holes. No possible terrible is overlooked.

Trump’s temper — honed over years as a public and political persona — hasn’t waned.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions bore the brunt of Trump’s most recently disclosed upbraiding. The New York Times reported this week that Trump, in front of multiple people, called his long-time supporter an “idiot.”

In the West Wing, Trump can be a temperamental commander-in-chief, prone to bursts of anger that dissipate as quickly as they came on. The rage is an extension of what many say they experienced on the campaign trail.

In other words, he’s abusive. He’s always been abusive – the piece starts with a fit of rage at employees in the 80s – and he carries on being abusive now that he’s in perhaps the single most responsible position in the world. A grown man who is “prone to bursts of anger” is abusive.

People who have been in meetings with the President describe a pattern for Trump’s outbursts. They arise without much warning — in keeping with Trump’s flair for the dramatic — making it difficult for those in the room to avoid situations where the businessman-turned-politician lets loose on his subordinates.

He’s not shy about singling out one particular aide for a lashing, even with others looking on. Fighting back rarely ends well, since there are few topics Trump won’t broach in his humiliating takedowns.

There. That’s the bit where every last crack is filled with terrible. He bursts into a rage unpredictably, he singles people out, he does it in front of others, and they can’t fight back because then he will just shame the victim. That right there describes a terrible human being.

It’s pathetic and shameful that no one has ever been able to tell him that adults don’t get to act like that; that money and money-power do nothing to make it ok for adults to act like that; that he has no right to treat people that way, period end of story.

One person who has been in meetings with Trump recalls the President displaying his “volcanic” temper when he “feels ganged up on” or when nobody tells him one of his ideas is good.

The tirades have, at times, left his staff shaken. After an angry phone call with the Australian prime minister in January, some of his staff were left white-faced after catching a first glimpse of his capacity for rage.

That’s a bad man. He enjoys making people feel afraid and shaken. That’s bad.

[A]s Trump developed an outsized persona as a real estate developer and later as a television celebrity, it wasn’t kindness that formed his reputation. It was anger in all its shades: the fury-filled executive, the high-maintenance billionaire, the pugnacious Twitter troll.

As Trump rants and raves through his first eight months in office, his penchant for outbursts has persisted. The isolation of the White House, paired with the enveloping cloud of the Russia investigations, have caused Trump to brood and bellow with unpredictable results.

Outbursts at his most loyal underlings have become commonplace. Multiple men of distinction, with long careers in public service, say the dressings-down that have sprung from Trump’s lips are the most demeaning they’ve enduring in their adult lives.

He’s abusive. That stuff he does is abuse.

He now thinks he was rushed into transitioning

Sep 16th, 2017 11:33 am | By

The Guardian shares a story of detransitioning.

Elan Anthony knows more than most about trans identity issues. Born a boy 42 years ago, he transitioned from male to female at 19 and then detransitioned to male three years ago. While his story is enlightening, it is also immensely challenging and it took him a long time and a lot of therapy to conclude that he had made a mistake.

He says – in the same paragraph – both that he believed he was female and that could never change, and that at times he wondered if he’d gotten it wrong and should actually be a man.

“I started to realise that I could have dealt with my own issues so much better without changing my body because that has brought so many more difficulties. Detransitioning isn’t as unusual as you might expect, but it is underground, for a number of reasons, and the trans community isn’t happy discussing this.”

He now thinks he was rushed into transitioning by well-intentioned but ultimately misguided people.

“I’m an only child and grew up in Ohio,” he says. “When I was young, I was bullied a lot, being very bright but physically weak, which singled me out as a super-nerd and resulted in a lot of violence. I started to fantasise about being a girl from about age six because that would make me safe and take me away from my place at the bottom of the male hierarchy.”

I at the same age spent a lot of time pretending to be a male character from one story or another, because the story spoke to me in some way and I wanted to play at being the protagonist. It’s not exactly the same as fantasizing being a boy, I think, because I didn’t do it all the time and because it was pretending, which requires less suspension of disbelief than fantasizing. But at any rate I think it’s an ordinary feature of childhood and not necessarily a symptom of gender dysphoria.

“As I reached puberty, these feelings became part of my sexuality and I experienced some gender dysphoria, but I was also attracted to women so it was confusing. When I was in high school I had several girlfriends and my gender dysphoria declined until I got to college. Initially, I didn’t meet any women so all my gender feelings came back. Looking back, I think that was because, as a freshman, I was back to being at the bottom of the heap, which affected my confidence.”

University counselling referred him to a gender clinic and it was then that he began to discover there were other people who felt the same way as him.

“It was a revelation – other people had these feelings too, and I could relate to them, so could be really happy.”

Yes – but what that also does is make one vulnerable to social contagion. Social contagion is not necessarily a bad thing; I wish more people were subject to for instance anti-racism via social contagion; it depends on the content. Having friends who think the rules of gender are bullshit is one thing, and having friends who think the rules of gender are awesome but they sometimes don’t match one’s personal body is another.

But he now sees that this is where things began to go wrong.

“I told the psychologist I wanted to be female but nothing about the other issues involved, such as being bullied. I wasn’t aware that bullying had anything to do with my gender issues, but he didn’t ask any deeper questions. So, I was just like, ‘This is who I am and this who I want to be’, and they were like, ‘That’s great!’, and after just two sessions I was given hormones, which was actually not good practice.”

Sometimes instant validation is not the right response.

Realising he had made a mistake was a gradual process. “I couldn’t bond with people and eventually started therapy to work on why I couldn’t have relationships and why my body was so tense. I eventually realised that a lot of this had to do with trying to present myself as female, which was unnatural for my body. I was holding my shoulders in and my butt out and doing all sorts of things that were outside the natural movement of my body. This was causing strain and stress on my body and that was when I realised that this whole transition was a problem. It was a long process and the big revelation was that the roots of my problem lay with the early bullying and feeling unsafe being a man. I stopped taking oestrogen and started on testosterone.”

And he lost some friends as a result.

Elan is studying psychology and aims to work towards a doctorate: “I’m interested in continuing to work on this subject, although I also do find it emotionally taxing, especially because there is a large movement towards promoting and supporting trans rights and trans issues in psychology right now. It sometimes can be difficult to be critical in any way of trans issues in that environment, but I am interested in helping people work with their dysphoria in whatever way possible.”

The tricky part of that is that “promoting and supporting trans rights” has evolved into meaning treating gender dysphoria as literally being the alternative sex, as opposed to meaning helping people work with their dysphoria in whatever way possible. The latter is obviously a more flexible and reasonable way of understanding GD.

He is very aware of the irony of his situation, transitioning originally at a time when there was minimal support and now detranstioning at a time when transitioning is totally acceptable, but detransitioning is less so.

“I don’t have much community around detransition and the overwhelming number of detransitioners are natal females who have their own community. I do know a few male detransitioners and have talked to them, and I think the next step for us is to have more of a community also.”

Detransitioning has brought its own pain, especially as he feels there is little leeway in offering any criticism about transitioning.

“Being critical about trans issues is definitely going against the grain right now in psychology. I have felt like I was fighting a constant battle for some time, but it feels like there are a lot more people speaking out about detransition, as well as more clinicians who are interested in looking at alternative ways to deal with dysphoria. In the beginning I felt like one of the very few people working on this but it feels different now.”

Being critical about trans issues is definitely going against the grain right now in politics, too, which is a very odd thing. It’s very odd to make a psychological state a matter of political loyalty, and so much so that it becomes a reason to beat up women who try to get together to talk about it.

Dallas yesterday, Richmond tomorrow

Sep 15th, 2017 5:48 pm | By

A statue of Lee was removed from an eponymous park in Dallas yesterday, without incident.

The 14 foot- (4.3 meter) tall statue in Dallas of Lee on horseback riding with an unnamed soldier has been at a city park since 1936, with then President Franklin D. Roosevelt on hand for its dedication.

Workers in yellow vests took down the Lee statue and hauled it away on a trailer pulled by a pick-up truck, during an operation lasting about four hours, according to a Reuters Witness. Dozens of bystanders watched while police, including some officers armed with rifles, stood guard.

The park may be renamed.

Earlier this month, a U.S. judge dismissed a lawsuit from the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who were seeking court protection to keep the statue in place in the park.

Opponents of Confederate memorials view them as an affront to African-Americans and ideals of racial equality. But supporters of such symbols argue they represent an important part of history, honoring those who fought and died for the Southern states that sought to secede in the Civil War.

Yes, and that’s the problem – we shouldn’t honor people who fought and died to preserve slavery. That would be like honoring SS guards who worked at Auschwitz.

White supremacists are heading to Richmond, Virginia for a rally tomorrow to “defend” Confederate monuments.

CSAII: The New Confederate States of America is planning an unpermitted “Heritage not Hate” rally to defend Richmond’s Robert E. Lee Monument following the deadly “Unite the Right” rally to defend Charlottesville’s Robert E. Lee statue.

“I hope nobody loses their lives tomorrow, on either side, I really do,” CSA II organizer and Three Percenter militia organizer Tara Brandau told WTVR. “That’s not why we are here.”

Friday morning, Brandau posted photos of her in a pickup truck, flashing a Three Percenter gang-sign while wearing a ‘POLICE’ hat and confederate fingerless gloves.

Two long rifles appear to be displayed in a rear window rack.

Just a good-will gesture.

Following the violence in Charlottesville, CSAII’s official statement said they would continue to defend “at all costs” confederate monuments, like the statues in Charlottesville and Richmond.

“We pride ourselves in honoring and protecting our Proud Confederate Heritage as well as our Confederate Monuments and Cemeteries to honor our past heros (sic) and not let their memory fade away as is being done by a lot of our government officials today,” the CSAII Commanding General wrote on Facebook. “CSA II® will continue to honor our heros (sic) memory by protecting our monuments to their memory at all cost and assisting our fellow members of the Heritage ~ Not Hate Movement to stop the oppressive tactics done by these above mentioned hate groups and government officials.”

The “heritage” is slavery and white supremacy, imposed and defended with force.

4 rules to help him not get fired

Sep 15th, 2017 4:21 pm | By

California Representative Ted Lieu wrote a memo to Steven Mnuchin.