Notes and Comment Blog

More compassion for trafficked children than for conservative scholars

Dec 17th, 2016 10:48 am | By

So let’s read those two “down with identity politics” pieces written by people who don’t need “identity politics.”

First Kristof May 7.

WE progressives believe in diversity, and we want women, blacks, Latinos, gays and Muslims at the table — er, so long as they aren’t conservatives.

Universities are the bedrock of progressive values, but the one kind of diversity that universities disregard is ideological and religious. We’re fine with people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us.

That’s a silly observation. It’s a category mistake. Progressives think women, blacks, Latinos, gays and Muslims and so on shouldn’t be systematically excluded from various societal goods simply on the basis of who they are. That has nothing to do with what kind of people progressives seek out as friends and/or political comrades. No, I don’t have to make a point of befriending conservatives or religious believers on the grounds that belief in equal rights entails it.

I’ve been thinking about this because on Facebook recently I wondered aloud whether universities stigmatize conservatives and undermine intellectual diversity. The scornful reaction from my fellow liberals proved the point.

That could be true, but the way he phrased it is again a mixing of categories. A point of view isn’t necessarily a stigmatization of the opposed view. “Intellectual diversity” isn’t necessarily a good thing, because it depends. There are standards in intellectual work, and those standards filter out people who don’t meet them. That’s as it should be. You don’t want to include charlatans and buffoons and conspiracy-mongers in your “intellectual diversity.” You don’t want to include hacks, either.

To me, the conversation illuminated primarily liberal arrogance — the implication that conservatives don’t have anything significant to add to the discussion. My Facebook followers have incredible compassion for war victims in South Sudan, for kids who have been trafficked, even for abused chickens, but no obvious empathy for conservative scholars facing discrimination.

Oh, my – that’s an unfortunate set of analogies. Yes, oddly enough, I do have more compassion for war victims and trafficked children than I have for conservative scholars facing purported discrimination. I hope everyone does, including conservative scholars.

The stakes involve not just fairness to conservatives or evangelical Christians, not just whether progressives will be true to their own values, not just the benefits that come from diversity (and diversity of thought is arguably among the most important kinds), but also the quality of education itself. When perspectives are unrepresented in discussions, when some kinds of thinkers aren’t at the table, classrooms become echo chambers rather than sounding boards — and we all lose.

No. Conservatives, yes, but evangelical Christians, no. Practicing evangelical Christians can’t contribute to intellectual or scholarly or educational discussion, because that’s not what they do. Diversity does not demand that they be represented on university faculties.

Conservatives can be spotted in the sciences and in economics, but they are virtually an endangered species in fields like anthropology, sociology, history and literature. One study found that only 2 percent of English professors are Republicans (although a large share are independents).

In contrast, some 18 percent of social scientists say they are Marxist. So it’s easier to find a Marxist in some disciplines than a Republican.

Sigh. Again, this is just silly. What if Marxists are more drawn to the social sciences than Republicans are? This isn’t a question of inborn characteristics, it’s a question of acquired tastes and interests.

He does go on to cite actual studies.

The scarcity of conservatives seems driven in part by discrimination. One peer-reviewed study found that one-third of social psychologists admitted that if choosing between two equally qualified job candidates, they would be inclined to discriminate against the more conservative candidate.

Yancey, the black sociologist, who now teaches at the University of North Texas, conducted a survey in which up to 30 percent of academics said that they would be less likely to support a job seeker if they knew that the person was a Republican.

The discrimination becomes worse if the applicant is an evangelical Christian. According to Yancey’s study, 59 percent of anthropologists and 53 percent of English professors would be less likely to hire someone they found out was an evangelical.

But that’s not discrimination in the pejorative sense. Evangelicals have an extra filter, and it’s a filter that screens out much of what is important to disciplines like anthropology and literature. I don’t think we should be treating literalist religion as a mere arbitrary marker when in fact it’s a very substantive view of the world, which can interfere with more thoughtful views of the world. It’s not ideal for an academic.

“Of course there are biases against evangelicals on campuses,” notes Jonathan L. Walton, the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard. Walton, a black evangelical, adds that the condescension toward evangelicals echoes the patronizing attitude toward racial minorities: “The same arguments I hear people make about evangelicals sound so familiar to the ways people often describe folk of color, i.e. politically unsophisticated, lacking education, angry, bitter, emotional, poor.”

Horseshit. That’s just manipulative. The two are not comparable and we’re not required to treat them as if they were.

Universities should be a hubbub of the full range of political perspectives from A to Z, not just from V to Z. So maybe we progressives could take a brief break from attacking the other side and more broadly incorporate values that we supposedly cherish — like diversity — in our own dominions.

Should they? Really? Should there be KKK perspectives, Nazi perspectives, ISIS perspectives, Opus Dei perspectives?

Won’t someone please think of the majority?

Dec 17th, 2016 9:40 am | By

A Nature editorial urges us to do the impossible – ” fight discrimination in all its forms” while not “excluding conservative voices from debate.”

How possible or impossible that is of course depends on what is meant by “excluding from debate.” That activity tends to be used in different senses depending on where the user is in the paragraph. It tends to mean one thing in its first appearance and another thing in the next sentence and a third in the one after that. Or, in other words, it tends to be deployed as a nice respectable goal in airy generalizations, without much effort to explain how it actually works.

Nature was prompted by a couple of Times think pieces, one by Nicholas Kristof in May and the other by Mark Lilla days after the election.

The article by Mark Lilla, a researcher at Columbia University in New York City who specializes in the history of Western intellectual, political and religious thought, called for an end to what he described as an overemphasis by liberals on racial, gender and sexual identity politics. He believes that this focus distracts from core fundamental concepts of democracy and so weakens social cohesion and civic responsibility.

That’s an article or book I’ve read many many times over the past twenty years or more. There’s usually something to it; it’s true that identity politics can get obsessive and narrow and unproductively hostile. On the other hand it’s so difficult not to notice that these things are so often written by people who are not in need of “racial, gender and sexual identity politics.” It’s so difficult not to notice that Mark Lilla and Nicholas Kristof are not subject to misogyny or racism or homophobia.

In short, [Lilla] asserted that many progressives live in bubbles; that they are educationally programmed to be attuned to diversity issues, yet have “shockingly little to say” about political and democratic fundamentals such as class, economics, war and policy issues affecting the common good. Of direct relevance to the US election, he argued that the excessive focus on identity politics by urban and academic elites has left many white, religious and rural groups feeling alienated, threatened and ignored in an unwelcoming environment where the issues that matter to them are given little or no attention.

Wait. How is it that class affects the common good but sex and race do not? How could that be the case? Class is about hierarchy, just as sex and race are. Some people benefit from class and others don’t; some people benefit from class by exploiting the people who don’t benefit from class. That’s what “class” is. Talking about it is “divisive” in exactly the same way talking about sex and race is. Economics also works differently for different classes, sexes, and races.

Also, white people and religious people are not the persecuted or neglected minority here. Rural people are to some extent, but that’s also what rural means to more than some extent. Rural means far fewer people around, and that means services much less densely provided. It’s not possible to provide the amenities of a city without the population density of a city. That fact is not the fault of the bubble-dwelling elites with their identity politics. It’s economics – that which Lilla wants the bubble-dwellers to pay more attention to.

Lilla argues, perhaps unconvincingly, that fixating on the concerns of particular groups has been divisive, and he calls instead for a focus on unifying issues that affect the majority of people in the United States, with highly charged narrower issues such as sexuality and race tackled with a more-measured sense of scale. But it need not be a trade-off.

Ah yes, good idea – let’s stop paying attention to the ways the majority can shit on minorities, and go back to treating the majority as all there is. Let’s go back to ignoring sex and race, and letting white men run everything unopposed.

The article comes at a time when many in science and academia are rightly worried that Trump’s odious racist, sexist and anti-intellectual remarks during his campaign risk unacceptably broadening the limits of acceptable discourse — and freeing and normalizing people’s worst base instincts and a rhetoric of hate. Not surprisingly, the column has been controversial and has sparked vigorous debate.

But the discussion echoes points made earlier this year by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, directed at academics. Kristof, who has long championed diversity issues and so can hardly be accused of conservative bias, argued in a column entitled ‘A confession of liberal intolerance’ that academics are often selectively tolerant, but are intolerant when it comes to considering conservative or religious viewpoints.

It’s shocking, isn’t it. All conservative and religious viewpoints have is everything, while the pesky lefty intellectuals have…each other.

Kristof also argued that the low and plunging representation of conservatives and evangelicals on US faculties, and bias against these groups, is itself impoverishing intellectual diversity and discourse. He pointed to an effort to change this state of affairs: the Heterodox Academy, a website set up by centrist social psychologist Jonathan Haidt of New York University to advocate tangible remedies. His column did not go down well with liberals. “You don’t diversify with idiots,” stated one of the most highly recommended comments.

Again, it depends how you define things. But it seems fatuous to me to lament a lack of evangelicals on university faculties. Evangelicals are by definition opposed to the fundamental approach to inquiry that universities are there to teach. People who are wedded to the literal truth of one “holy” book are disqualified from being competent academics. There’s no need for affirmative action to make sure biblical literalists are well represented on university faculties.

Academics must be vigilant and resist normalization of Trump’s crude vision of society, but must also look in the mirror. A significant chunk of the US population voted for Trump. Are some bigots and racists? Yes; but most aren’t, and progressive academic liberals can’t simply dismiss them as retrograde.

Yes they can, and so can we. It may be true that some Trump voters are not bigots and racists, but Trump’s open and insistent sexism and racism did not prevent them from voting for him. So yes, we damn well can dismiss people who voted for him as retrograde, because they are.

Something something rampant

Dec 16th, 2016 6:00 pm | By

You have got to be kidding.

WHAT IS THAT THING IN THE UPPER LEFT CORNER? With the rearing horses and the eagle and the tiny tiny ship? Is he declaring himself an aristocrat now? Earl of Queens? Marquis of 57th Street? Duke of Mar-a-Lago?

Norman Ornstein says Trump’s Florida rally was very Mussolini.

With a lighter heart

Dec 16th, 2016 10:28 am | By

A remark said to be by Hitler in Mein Kampf – although, oddly, when I look it up on Google I find it quoted (and attributed to Hitler in Mein Kampf) in a wide array of books but not in MK itself. I would think normally the original source would be the first result. So this is said to be Hitler:

The mass meeting is necessary if only for the reason that
in it the individual, who in becoming an adherent of a new
movement feels lonely and is easily seized with the fear of
being alone, receives for the first time the pictures of a greater
community, something that has a strengthening and encour-
aging effect on most people. The same man, in the frame of
a company or a battalion, surrounded by all his comrades,
would set out on an attack with a lighter heart than he
would if left entirely to himself. In the crowd he always
feels a little sheltered even if in reality a thousand reasons
would speak against it.

There’s a purpose to all these fascist rallies.

Regardless of the panto villain

Dec 16th, 2016 9:05 am | By

Today in Parliament:

MPs have voted to pass a bill to improve domestic violence support services and provision in the UK.

The bill has now passed its second reading and will be sent to committee for further consideration, before it can receive a third reading by MPs and then become law.

But there was opposition. Yes, really: actual opposition to a bill to improve domestic violence support services.

During the vote in parliament earlier today, anti-feminism MP Philip Davies attempted to block the bill by speaking for over an hour against it. Campaigners said that while he spoke, survivors of domestic violence who were present in the gallery above the chamber, stood up and turned their backs in protest. MP Eilidh Whiteford, who introduced the bill, accused Mr Davies of acting “like a panto villain”.

Well, we’re living in BrexoTrump World now, and acting like a panto villain is the new hip thing to do.

Mr Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, West Yorkshire, said the bill was too focused on women’s rights and did not do enough to address men’s rights. He said the bill was therefore “sexist” and “discriminatory” against men.

I hope he didn’t forget to say it was politically correct. That would be embarrassing.

Ratifying the Convention would mean support for domestic violence victims would be more robust. Survivors of abuse would be legally entitled to specialist support services such as refuges, counselling, and a 24-hour helpline for support. Age-appropriate education would also be implemented in schools to help pupils spot signs of abuse and seek help.

Gender-based violence can include female genital mutilation, forced marriage, and domestic or sexual abuse, as well as physical, emotional or sexual violence or harm.

And it hasn’t gone away yet.

The .01%

Dec 15th, 2016 5:11 pm | By

Here’s a striking fact:

The 17 people who US president-elect Donald Trump has selected for his cabinet or for posts with cabinet rank have well over $9.5 billion in combined wealth, with several positions still unfilled. This collection of wealth is greater than that of the 43 million least wealthy American households combined—over one third of the 126 million households total in the US.

Affluence of this magnitude in a US presidential cabinet is unprecedented.

Well that’ll show the coastal elites in their bubble a thing or two.

One law for all

Dec 15th, 2016 4:40 pm | By

Maryam yesterday:

Join us. #OneLawforAllBecause

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Guest post: The abused are taught to fear their abuser

Dec 15th, 2016 4:19 pm | By

Originally a comment by Acolyte of Sagan on When euphemisms won’t do.

Whether he’s (still?) fucking her or not, Trump certainly displays an unnatural obsession for Ivanka, first displayed (as far as I can tell) in that flesh-creepingly sinister photograph of them as the teenage child cups his chin and gazes at his face (not into his eyes, he’s leering straight at the camera), and with his left hand placed uncomfortably close to her pubic region.

The more I see that picture the worse it looks. There has always been something about it, apart from the obvious, that has bothered me that I could never quite put my finger on, but the penny has finally dropped – it’s Ivanka’s face.

As a former emergency foster carer I have worked closely with Social Services and other child protection agencies, but what I am about to say applies equally to adults in abusive relationships.

The abused are taught to fear their abuser, and part of that is to not show open contempt or hatred in public or else! When put in the position of having to be in public with their abuser the abused will try to pretend that all is well, but very few people possess the acting skills to carry this off perfectly, and photographs are often the best place to spot certain tells.

The abuser will be perfectly happy and natural in a posed picture with their victim, but the abused will not; their stance will often look rigid with the body held slightly away from the abuser, the smile -if there is one – will often look forced, and so-on.

In that famous photograph I look again at Ivanka and she looks uncomfortable; there’s no smile on her face, she looks frightened, ‘haunted’ almost. She certainly doesn’t look like a daughter happy to be posing with her daddy.

I’ve got a thousand photographs of me with my daughters – admittedly none posed like that one! – and I can guarantee that in none of those snaps are my children looking at me like Ivanka is looking at Donald.

I have, however, seen a lot of pictures of abused with abuser, whether the abuse is sexual, physical or otherwise, and whether the abuse is parent-child or partner-partner, and I have seen Ivanka’s face in so many of those pictures.

So, what is my point here? I’m not entirely sure. Was Donald abusing the young Ivanka? Maybe she has evidence and is using that to get whatever she wants from him, or he is keeping her close to him to keep an eye on her and keep her from spilling the beans. Hell, maybe she even managed to ‘normalise’ the abuse as so many victims do, and now a relieved daddy is throwing privileges at her.

Or maybe I’m just letting the horrors from my past cloud my judgement of the present.

When euphemisms won’t do

Dec 15th, 2016 12:52 pm | By

The Hill reports that Ivanka Trump is going to have an office in the White House that’s usually kept for “the First Lady.” Julia Ioffe, a political journalist who writes for Foreign Policy and until yesterday wrote for Politico, tweeted about the hint of skeeviness in the story:

View image on Twitter

Either Trump is fucking his daughter or he’s shirking nepotism laws. Which is worse?

Crude, but then it’s impossible to write honestly about Trump without crudity. Trump himself oozes crude from every pore, and that means that putting his words and actions into more genteel language is likely to misrepresent them. He is crude, he is a pig, he does see the world in such contemptuous and libidinous terms. He did, after all, agree with Howard Stern that his daughter is “a piece of ass,” on live radio. So yeah, we’re not going out of our way to be crude if we say maybe he’s fucking her, because maybe he is, and if he is that’s how he would put it.

Remember the Access Hollywood tape? It started with his failed attempt to fuck – his word – a married woman.

Donald J. Trump: You know and …

Unknown: She used to be great. She’s still very beautiful.

Trump: I moved on her, actually. You know, she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it.

Unknown: Whoa.

Trump: I did try and fuck her. She was married.

Unknown: That’s huge news.

That’s Trump. That’s who he is. He doesn’t have sex with women, he fucks them.

In my view, that’s why Ioffe worded her tweet that way – because it’s Trump she was talking about.

But Politico doesn’t see it that way.

The respected political journalist Julia Ioffe’s tenure at Politico has come to an endafter she posted an unfortunate — and straight-up vulgar — tweet about Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka. Ioffe was already wrapping up her time as a contributor to Politico and moving to a new job at The Atlantic when she posted the ill-advised tweet, but now Politico is accelerating the process, bringing her contract to a premature close.

The political news organization promptly ended Ioffe’s contract, sending a textbook strongly worded letter — which of course leaked — from editor-in-chief John Harris and editor Carrie Budoff Brown to its employees:

“Gratuitous opinion has no place, anywhere, at any time – not on your Facebook feed, your Twitter feed or anyplace else. It has absolutely zero value for our readers and should have zero place in  our work” – but it wasn’t gratuitous. It was pointed, and it had the kind of value that pointed opinion can have.

I think Politico is dead wrong about this, especially since she said it on Twitter, not in a piece for them that somehow no editor saw before publication.

Ioffe has long been a favorite target of the less-reputable segments of Trump supporters — if you have a high tolerance for poorly Photoshopped, stomach-churning anti-Semitic memes, just give her name a Google image search.

Since Ioffe was already on her way out at Politico the censure doesn’t really count as a firing, per se.

But it’s a censure, and a mistaken one.

Way down, big trouble, dead!

Dec 15th, 2016 10:07 am | By

Today in Trump on Twitter.

Has anyone looked at the really poor numbers of @VanityFair Magazine. Way down, big trouble, dead! Graydon Carter, no talent, will be out!

My, that’s random. No, Mister President-Elect, I haven’t looked at Vanity Fair’s numbers. Why would I? Why do you ask? What does this have to do with your demanding new job as chief executive OF THE FUCKING COUNTRY? Why are you frotting your personal trivial resentments at journalists who dare to see you as you are when you should be 1) doing your job and 2) acting like a god damn grownup?

Twitter told me why he asked: Vanity Fair published a hilariously harsh review of a restaurant in the lobby of his poxy Tower, bashfully called the Trump Grill or sometimes Grille. (Don’t we all wish we could.) I suspect I’ll have to revisit that. The Times says Trump’s hatred of Graydon Carter goes back years.

He may be about to become the leader of the free world, but Mr. Trump still holds a grudge against Graydon Carter that started in the days of Spy magazine and that continues with the magazine Mr. Carter now edits, Vanity Fair.

He still holds a grudge against Carter and he still sees fit to air it in public even now. He’s still that infantile. He’s still that grotesquely thin-skinned and disinhibited and vindictive. That’s just the kind of person we want 1) running the country and 2) able to launch the nukes at any moment.

Thank you to Time Magazine and Financial Times for naming me “Person of the Year” – a great honor!

Ah, good boy, Donnie. That’s better. You’re trying to self-soothe, and yes, that’s much better than tweeting your angry spite to the world. It’s a pity you didn’t try the self-soothing before and instead of tweeting your angry spite to the world, but oh well. Maybe next time. It took you four minutes to think of it and type the words this time; maybe if you keep at it you’ll speed up enough to forestall the vindictive tweets by 2018 or so.

It took him an hour to think up the next one.

The media tries so hard to make my move to the White House, as it pertains to my business, so complex – when actually it isn’t!

No no. That’s not it. The issue is not how complex it is, the issue is the many many many conflicts of interest. Sure, the many many many makes it complex in a sense, but that’s not the issue. The issue is how your lust to make ever more money will pervert your actions as president. The issue is that your many for-profit companies in many countries will interfere with your ability to do your job for the benefit of all of us as opposed to doing it for the benefit of you and your close relatives.

If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?

That’s an easy one. It didn’t. You’re lying. As usual.

The Times again:

In point of fact, virtually everything in the tweet is misleading — including the spelling of “wait.”

It was originally spelled “waite” – which has since been corrected. (Perhaps there’s a flunky whose sole job is to retropolish the Master’s tweets.)

On Oct. 7, the Obama administration formally accused Russia of being behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, of stealing emails from Democrats including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John D. Podesta, and of leaking them to the public through WikiLeaks and other outlets.

“We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities,” the statement said.

The complaints were loud enough that Mrs. Clinton brought them up in the debates, eliciting Mr. Trump’s famous response, “No puppet … no puppet … you’re the puppet.”

But that’s ok, because Trump fans will believe his tweet, because that’s how this works.

Today’s fascist rally is in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Heil Trump!


Dec 14th, 2016 5:06 pm | By

The bubble talks back.

This column is for Bernard Gibson, a good man from the state of Indiana. Late last month, NPR went out to Vigo County there to explain why it flipped from voting for Barack Obama in 2012 to Donald Trump in 2016. Gibson was one of those interviewed, and here is what he said: “These are real people here. These are not New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles. You know, these are real people that live every day from hand to hand, just have to work to make a living and everything else.”


Richard Cohen adduces some facts about his background – not privileged – and says life in the bubble wasn’t just handed to him (unlike a certain son of a certain Queens owner of apartment houses). He says he’s tired of being told he’s not real because he didn’t vote for Trump or because he lives on a coast.

Same here. It’s not the case that everybody who lives in a coastal city (and I guess Chicago counts as a coastal city because of the lake – which means so do Buffalo and Cleveland and Gary and Milwaukee) is unreal because upper class and effete. Cities have a lot of people in them, which means they have a lot of bus drivers and nurses and teachers and truck drivers in them. They have a lot of people who work their asses off and can’t afford to live near their jobs. It’s not all latte-wearing cashmere-sipping millionaires.

After the election, I was repeatedly told that I live in something called a “bubble” and, because of that, I know nothing about my fellow Americans. Well, in the first place, my bubble is bigger than theirs — size ought to matter in this instance — and in the second place, I know plenty. Among the things I know is that Trump voters were played for suckers. After lambasting Clinton as a tool of Wall Street, Trump has so far named four Wall Street figures to his administration — three from Goldman Sachs alone — and an oilman is under consideration. And for the Labor Department, Trump has chosen Andrew Puzder, a fast-food magnate (Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.) who is opposed to a decent minimum wage. This is fast shaping up as a Cabinet of billionaires and, just for leveling, the occasional millionaire.

We always get this. People are repeatedly tricked by the style into ignoring the substance. Trump is a vulgar malevolent asshole, so gullible people somehow decide that means he’s a working stiff, and the fact that he’s made millions by cheating and lying is somehow irrelevant.

Things suck for workers, but that doesn’t mean Trump is going to make them unsuck.

I will not concede that a greater wisdom exists in what is known as “flyover country.” It has voted for a charlatan, a blinged ignoramus who has promised the past as the future. Trump, who lives in a gilded bubble of his own, cannot reverse automation, replace robots with people or blunt American businesses’ compulsive search for the cheapest workforce.

Gibson is one thing. I understand. What I cannot understand is fellow bubble dwellers who tell me, with an air of impeccable condescension, that a vote for Trump was such proof of their own superior wisdom that it eclipsed all doubts about his qualifications, his temperament, his honesty in business and his veracity in speech. These people live in a bubble of their own. It is one that excludes the lesson of history and the demands of common sense. It will burst.

I hope sooner rather than later.

Russia’s revenge

Dec 14th, 2016 4:19 pm | By

It wasn’t just the presidential election that Russia hacked. It wasn’t just the Democratic candidate for president that Russia sabotaged. It was also Democratic candidates for Congress. We’re in for a reactionary shitstorm thanks to Russian hacking.

In south Florida for instance

a handful of Democratic House candidates became targets of a Russian influence operation that made thousands of pages of documents stolen by hackers from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington available to Florida reporters and bloggers.

“It was like I was standing out there naked,” said Annette Taddeo, a Democrat who lost her primary race after secret campaign documents were made public. “I just can’t describe it any other way. Our entire internal strategy plan was made public, and suddenly all this material was out there and could be used against me.”

The impact of the information released by the hackers on candidates like Ms. Taddeo in Florida and others in nearly a dozen House races around the country was largely lost in the focus on the hacking attacks against the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. But this untold story underscores the effect the Russian operation had on the American electoral system.

Oh well. It’s only health care, the environment, national parks, workers’ rights, women’s rights, immigration, prisons, diplomacy…

The intrusions in House races in states including Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Ohio, Illinois, New Mexico and North Carolina can be traced to tens of thousands of pages of documents taken from the D.C.C.C., which shares a Capitol Hill office building with the Democratic National Committee.

The document dump’s effectiveness was due in part to a de facto alliance that formed between the Russian hackers and political bloggers and newspapers across the United States. The hackers, working under the made-up name of Guccifer 2.0, used social media tools to invite individual reporters to request specific caches of documents, handing them out the way political operatives distribute scoops. It was an arrangement that proved irresistible to many news outlets — and amplified the consequences of the cyberattack.

“Look what we’ve got!”

Cybersecurity consultants believe the hacking of the D.C.C.C. took place around March or April of 2016 after a staffer clicked on a so-called phishing email. The D.C.C.C. shut down its computer system for a week — from the moment it learned of the attack in June. But it was already too late to close the door. The consequences started to become clear in August when the hackers released the home addresses, cellphone numbers and personal email addresses of Democratic House members.

“As you are aware, the D.C.C.C. and other Democratic Party entities have been the target of cybersecurity intrusions — an electronic Watergate break-in,” the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, wrote in an email the day after the personal information was released. The email continued, “It has been widely reported that this cybersecurity incident is part of a Russian cyberattack which appears to be an attempt to interfere with our elections. We take this troubling situation very seriously and have notified the appropriate authorities, including the F.B.I. and Sergeant-at-Arms.”

Who – let me guess – did nothing.

Guccifer 2.0 followed up on the release of lawmakers’ personal data with large caches of internal party documents, starting with some documents related to House races in Florida, including Ms. Taddeo’s contest.

The seats that Guccifer 2.0 targeted in the document dumps were hardly random: They were some of the most competitive House races in the country. In Ms. Taddeo’s district, the House seat is held by a Republican, even though the district leans Democratic and Mrs. Clinton won it this year by a large majority.

To prepare for the race, the D.C.C.C. had done candid evaluations of the two candidates vying in the primary for the nomination. Those inside documents, bluntly describing each candidate’s weaknesses, are considered routine research inside political campaigns. But suddenly they were being aired in public.

Another Democrat, Joe Garcia, defeated Taddeo in the primary using the hacked material. You’ll never guess what happened next.

After Mr. Garcia defeated Ms. Taddeo in the primary using the material unearthed in the hacking, the National Republican Campaign Committee and a second Republican group with ties to the House speaker, Paul Ryan, turned to the hacked material to attack him.

Two Democrats, Nancy Pelosi and Ben Ray Luján, wrote to Paul Ryan urging him not to use the hacked material.

Neither received a response. By October, the Congressional Leadership Fund, a “super PAC” tied to Mr. Ryan, had used the stolen material in another advertisement, attacking Mr. Garcia during the general election in Florida.

AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Mr. Ryan, said he did not control how the material was used in the ad, although she did not dispute that the material had been stolen as part of an act of Russian espionage. “Speaker Ryan has said for months that foreign intervention in our elections is unacceptable,” she said in a written statement.

But he took advantage of it anyway.

What a sewer.

Behold: a person

Dec 14th, 2016 3:41 pm | By
Behold: a person

Everyday Feminism is so reliably absurd. You know how they caption every single image with a tedious description, out of consideration for people who can’t see images? And how mostly it’s annoying because the image is just an illustration, not something crucial to understanding the content of the post? And there’s no point in giving a verbal description of a non-substantive image that is there solely to provide visual interest along with words? So describing it in words is just seriously futile and silly? Or maybe that’s just me. Anyway – here’s one:


A person sitting at a wooden table and chairs, with bookshelves lining the wall behind them. They are holding a sandwich in one hand and licking the fingers of their other hand.

They’re so keen to be helpful that they pointlessly provide verbal descriptions of images that are there just to break up the text as opposed to providing needed information…and yet…

…and yet…

They describe an image of a skinny dainty young woman with “a person” and “they”…thus leaving the people unable to see images in ignorance of what sex the person holding a sandwich is.

On a site that calls itself feminist.

Lordy lordy lordy.

Secretary of Oilstate

Dec 14th, 2016 10:09 am | By

Trump said about Tillerson yesterday:

The thing I like best about Rex Tillerson is that he has vast experience at dealing successfully with all types of foreign governments.

Yeahhhh. The Times explains that Tillerson does that in defiance of the State Department and its goals. Exxon has its own foreign policy and it doesn’t necessarily match that of the State Department.

Struggling to keep Iraq from splintering, American diplomats pushed for a law in 2011 to share the country’s oil wealth among its fractious regions.

Then Exxon Mobil showed up.

Under its chief executive, Rex W. Tillerson, the giant oil company sidestepped Baghdad and Washington, signing a deal directly with the Kurdish administration in the country’s north. The move undermined Iraq’s central government, strengthened Kurdish independence ambitions and contravened the stated goals of the United States.

Mr. Tillerson’s willingness to cut a deal regardless of the political consequences speaks volumes about Exxon Mobil’s influence. In the Iraq case, Mr. Tillerson and his company outmaneuvered the State Department, which he has now been nominated by President-elect Donald J. Trump to lead.

“They are very powerful in the region, and they couldn’t care less about what the State Department wants to do,” Jean-François Seznec, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a research group in Washington, said of Exxon Mobil’s pursuits in the Middle East.

So…that makes him a very dubious choice for the job, wouldn’t you think? Of course a new administration may well have a foreign policy that differs from that of the previous administration, but that’s not the same thing as having a 40+ year vested interest in a rival foreign policy driven by the drive for profits.

Exxon Mobil, the Times says, in some ways acts like a state.

While Mr. Tillerson has never officially been a diplomat, he has arguably left an American footprint on more countries than any nominee before him — with an agenda overseas that does not always mesh with that of the United States government.

Under Mr. Tillerson, Exxon Mobil has struck lucrative deals with repressive governments in Africa, clashed with China and befriended Vietnam over disputed territory in the South China Sea, learned from hard experience in Venezuela, and built a close rapport with Russia at a time of deepening mistrust between the Kremlin and the West.

So in a way he’s a member of a foreign government invited to take the top foreign policy job in this government.

Exxon Mobil executives said Mr. Tillerson was not available for an interview. But they argued that he and Mr. Putin are not friends, countering criticism in the United States that Mr. Tillerson is too close to Russia to take a strong stance against it. Mr. Putin awarded Mr. Tillerson a medal of friendship for concluding corporate deals in Russia.

Not long after, the United States imposed sanctions on Russia’s oil industry in 2014 over Moscow’s deadly intervention in Ukraine, leading American foreign policy and the company’s investment goals to diverge. Exxon Mobil now has billions of dollars in deals that will move forward only if the sanctions are lifted.

Some officials and executives argue that Mr. Tillerson’s business-minded approach to Russia could ease tensions, a view questioned by many diplomats, rights groups and advocates of disarmament.

Oddly enough, the drive for profits isn’t the solution to all problems.

In West Africa, Exxon Mobil has made lucrative deals with the government of Equatorial Guinea, which arbitrarily detains and tortures critics, disregards elections, and has faced international prosecution for using oil profits to enrich the president’s family.

But under Mr. Tillerson, Exxon Mobil has also been criticized for a lack of transparency in dealings with the Nigerian government. The country’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is investigating a 2009 license renewal deal for Exxon Mobil, after allegations that the company was significantly outbid by a Chinese competitor. Critics contend that the deal was done illegally.

“They were running a very corrupt and opaque renewal process,” Olanrewaju Suraju, the chairman of the Civil Society Network Against Corruption in Nigeria, said of the Nigerian government in power at the time.

Some analysts said that Exxon Mobil had a singular goal overseas.

“The one clear trend that runs through Exxon’s foreign policy is that they are really all about business and doing what is best for shareholders,” said Ben Van Heuvelen, the managing editor of Iraq Oil Report. “They are willing to look the other way in the face of a whole host of problems.”

Being all about business isn’t some magical path to perfection, to put it mildly.

Trump will be in breach of the lease agreement

Dec 14th, 2016 8:39 am | By

The General Services Administration has in fact told Trump that he has to sell that hotel in the Old GPO, blocks from the White House. Not hand the running of it over to his kids, but get rid of it altogether.

The G.S.A., which controls federal acquisition policy, has informed the president-elect that he must sell the Trump International Hotel he recently opened just blocks from the White House or be in breach of his lease with the government the moment he is sworn into office, senior House Democrats said Wednesday.

In a letter to the G.S.A., four ranking Democrats on the committees or subcommittee that oversee federal contracting and ethics rules said the agency was clear.

“G.S.A. assesses that Mr. Trump will be in breach of the lease agreement the moment he takes office on Jan. 20, 2017, unless he fully divests himself of all financial interests in the lease for the Washington, D.C., hotel. The deputy commissioner made clear that Mr. Trump must divest himself not only of managerial control, but of all ownership interest as well.”

There’s a reason for that.

Mr. Trump will soon be in charge of the agency that issued the lease for the Old Post Office Building, which the president-elect transformed unto a luxury hotel. He will also appoint the head of the G.S.A. To avoid such an obvious conflict, the lease that Mr. Trump signed states: “No … elected official of the government of the United States … shall be admitted to any share or part of this lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom[.]”

But Trump is just blowing them off. He thinks he was elected dictator and can do whatever he wants.

Guerilla archiving

Dec 13th, 2016 3:56 pm | By

Trump is what he is, therefore scientists are racing to copy government data onto servers where Trump can’t delete everything.

Alarmed that decades of crucial climate measurements could vanish under a hostile Trump administration, scientists have begun a feverish attempt to copy reams of government data onto independent servers in hopes of safeguarding it from any political interference.

The efforts include a “guerrilla archiving” event in Toronto, where experts will copy irreplaceable public data, meetings at the University of Pennsylvania focused on how to download as much federal data as possible in the coming weeks, and a collaboration of scientists and database experts who are compiling an online site to harbor scientific information.

It will be publicly available, but it won’t be destroyable by the gilded monster who is about to become president.

In recent weeks, President-elect Donald Trump has nominated a growing list of Cabinet members who have questioned the overwhelming scientific consensus around global warming. His transition team at the Department of Energy has asked agency officials for names of employees and contractors who have participated in international climate talks and worked on the scientific basis for Obama administration-era regulations of carbon emissions. One Trump adviser suggested that NASA no longer should conduct climate research and instead should focus on space exploration.

It’s always a good idea when there’s a possible or likely danger looming to do everything you can to ignore and conceal it. That way you’re happy right up to the end.

Oklahoma forces itself on women in public restrooms

Dec 13th, 2016 3:29 pm | By

Oklahoma really doesn’t like women.

Back in June, Oklahoma passed the Humanity of the Unborn Child Act, which includes a provision that requires public restrooms — for instance, those in restaurants, public schools, and hospitals — to feature anti-abortion signs that urge pregnant women to carry their fetus to term.

Along with a link to the Oklahoma Health Department’s website, the signs would read:

“There are many public and private agencies willing and able to help you carry your child to term and assist you and your child after your child is born, whether you choose to keep your child or to place him or her for adoption. The State of Oklahoma strongly urges you to contact them if you are pregnant.”

The state of Oklahoma really has no business telling women who happen to need to pee what to do about their pregnancies. There’s such a thing as “none of your fucking business,” and pregnancy is one example of that thing.

Also, of course, it’s a damn lie that there are many agencies willing and able to help you and your child after your child is born. If that were true, there would be dramatically less poverty in this country.

Also why should needing to pee be an invitation for a state to lecture women? And would the state do this to men? Has it ever? Or is it only women who are talked to as if they were children? I know what my guess is.

Much much much too busy

Dec 13th, 2016 12:33 pm | By

So yes Trump canceled that press conference scheduled for Thursday, where he was going to explain how he would tie a big string around his businesses so that they wouldn’t distract him from the presidenting. He’s too busy to do it now, his team said.

A spokesman for Trump said the delay is taking place so Trump can continue to focus on building his Cabinet. Trump is expected to announce the selection of ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson as his secretary of State on Tuesday.

Well, continue to focus on building his Cabinet and on holding a fascist rally every day this week. Oh and also on discussing life with Kanye West.

President-elect Donald Trump took time out from assembling his cabinet and otherwise mapping out his transition to discuss “life” with rapper, fashion impresario and Kim Kardashian husband Kanye West at Trump Tower on Tuesday morning.

“He’s a good man,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “We’ve been friends for a long time… We discussed life.”

He’s a good man. Not a bad hombre.

The visit with the eccentric international pop-star came soon after Mr. Trump canceled a press conference scheduled for Thursday, saying he was too busy organizing his cabinet.

He’ll be a fun president, no doubt about it. When North Korea or China or somebody accidentally drops a nuke on Seattle, he’ll call a press conference and then cancel it to play pool with Gary Busey.

Two Exxon consultants vouch for Exxon CEO

Dec 13th, 2016 12:21 pm | By

And then there’s the Exxon CEO Trump nominated for Secretary of State.

The Exxon CEO potentially faces difficulties getting confirmed in the Republican-controlled Senate. Some lawmakers worry about his links to Moscow and opposition to U.S. sanctions on Russia, which awarded him a friendship medal in 2013.

But several Republican establishment figures, including former secretaries of state James Baker and Condoleezza Rice, and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates vouched for Tillerson, 64, who has spent more than 40 years at the oil company.

Rice and Gates, who have worked for Exxon as consultants, both issued statements of support on Tuesday.

Oh well then – if they’ve worked for Exxon obviously that shows that they’re completely neutral and unbiased observers here.

(You know, there was a time during the campaign when Condoleezza Rice said enough is enough, and she she said it about Trump.

Enough! Donald Trump should not be President. He should withdraw.
As a Republican, I hope to support someone who has the dignity and stature to run for the highest office in the greatest democracy on earth.

October 8, that was. She should have stuck to it. Shame.)

By choosing Tillerson, Trump adds another person to his Cabinet and circle of advisers who may favor a soft line toward Moscow, which is under U.S. sanctions for its 2014 annexation of Crimea and at the center of allegations that it launched cyber attacks to disrupt the U.S. presidential election.

Republican foreign policy hawks in the Senate like John McCain and Lindsey Graham are likely to give Tillerson a rough time at a confirmation hearing in early January.

“It’s very well known that he has a very close relationship with (Russian President) Vladimir Putin,” said McCain, the Republican party’s 2008 nominee for president.

Exxon and Russia – why would we not want them running the State department?

There also has been controversy over alleged Russian interference in the Nov. 8 presidential election, with the CIA concluding that Moscow had intervened to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Tillerson’s “cozy ties to Vladimir Putin and Russia would represent an untenable conflict at the State Department,” Representative Eliot Engel, the ranking Democrat on the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, said in a statement.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Trump and Tillerson were “pragmatic people” who could help America and Russia build a mutually beneficial relationship.

A group of U.S. state attorneys general is investigating Exxon for allegedly misleading the public about climate change and some environmental groups are alarmed Exxon’s CEO could be America’s top diplomat.

Don’t worry. It’s all part of the drainage program.

The Galileo of Texas

Dec 13th, 2016 11:59 am | By

Another coyote named to oversee the rabbit house.

President-elect Donald Trump has picked Rick Perry to head the Energy Department, said two people familiar with the decision, seeking to put the former Texas governor in control of an agency whose name he forgot during a presidential debate even as he vowed to abolish it.

Perry, who ran for president in the past two election cycles, is likely to shift the department away from renewable energy and toward fossil fuels, whose production he championed while serving as governor for 14 years.

Let’s revert to putting more carbon into the atmosphere. Let’s do what we can to speed up global warming. Let’s really put the change in climate change.

[E]nvironmentalists take a dim view of Perry. The former governor has repeatedly questioned scientific findings that human activity is helping drive climate change. In 2011 during a presidential debate, he compared the minority of scientists who challenged this assumption to 17th-century astronomer Galileo, who was persecuted by the Catholic Church after suggesting that the Earth revolved around the Sun, rather than the reverse.

“The science is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans’ economy at jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet to me is just nonsense,” Perry said at the time. “Just because you have a group of scientists who stood up and said here is the fact. Galileo got outvoted for a spell.”

Therefore everyone who gets “outvoted” is correct. That’s logic.

In his 2010 book, “Fed Up!” Perry described the science showing that climate change was underway and caused by humans as a “contrived phony mess,” writing that those who embraced this idea “know that we have been experiencing a cooling trend, that the complexities of the global atmosphere have often eluded the most sophisticated scientists, and that draconian policies with dire economic effects based on so-called science may not stand the test of time.”

Who ya gonna believe, thousands of scientists or Rick Perry?