Notes and Comment Blog


Look out, sex will end!

Dec 17th, 2017 6:01 pm | By

The Federalist explains that women are destroying trust between women and men. Yes that’s right, women are.

The breakdown of trust between the sexes is the tragic legacy of the modern feminist movement, but it has taken on a new fervor with the #MeToo campaign and the growing accusation that masculinity is vile, toxic, and inherently predatorial. Fear of men is legitimized, as accusation is treated as fact. Men are seen as “the enemy,” an embodied deviance that must be remolded into the image of a woman. Their sexuality is assumed to be naturally brutal, a threat to be controlled and reduced for the individual man to be considered “safe.”

Noticing anything wonky about her reasoning? (Yes, D. C. McAllister is a woman; probably an acolyte of Sommers.) Notice the neglect of a particular aspect of this subject? The fact that men did a lot to destroy trust between women and men, and that it’s pretty peculiar to blame women for objecting rather than men for doing?

Whether it’s in the workplace, church, or home, the interaction between a man and a woman is unique and primary to all other relationships.

Oh really. More so than that between parents and children, children and parents? Among siblings? Among friends? Universally?

That’s a silly and unsupported generalization, more suitable for a soppy Hallmark card than an argumentative essay.

Essential to the relationship between men and women is the sexual dynamic. For trust to flourish, this reality can’t denied, and it must be handled with respect, care, and honesty. It can’t be shut down.

She’s just making it up, and not thinking very hard while doing it. The “sexual dynamic” (whatever that is) is not essential to all relationships between women and men; that’s kind of the whole point. Ok that’s the point she’s objecting to, but she’s full of shit. Does she want the male editors at The Federalist to throw her article aside and tell her to get her tits out? It’s ridiculous and also wildly stultifying and smothering to claim that women and men can’t interact without sex at the center. That would mean the theocrats are right and women and men can’t work together. To hell with that.

If women believe that all men with their masculine sexuality intact are dangerous, there can be no trust between the sexes. Men are not going to become eunuchs, change and become like women, abandoning their natural masculinity just because women are afraid of it. It’s impossible, because this is their identity—it’s their nature and it can’t be expunged without destroying who they are as free individuals, as men.

It’s their identity? Being unable to work with or talk to women without bringing their dicks into it is part of their identity? That’s more insulting than any feminist claim I know of. Men like sex and think about it a lot; yes, we know; that doesn’t mean they can’t leave their willies alone for a few hours and get some work done, or even some interesting conversation.

I won’t bother with any more of this piece, it’s too crude and stupid. I had an idea that The Federalist was above this kind of dreck.



Trump über alles

Dec 17th, 2017 2:48 pm | By

Max Boot at Foreign Policy also lines up the sinister portents hinting at a near future in which a criminal overturns the US government and takes dictatorial power.

There is the claim that Mueller is biased because he is friends with fired FBI Director James Comey, who is anti-Trump even though Comey did as much as anyone to elect Trump. That members of Mueller’s staff have made campaign donations to Democrats. That the FBI erred in showing interest in the dossier on Kremlin-Trump links compiled by a respected former MI6 officer. That FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s wife received money from Hillary Clinton (in fact, she received campaign funds from the Democratic Party of Virginia and a political action committee associated with Virginia’s Democratic governor when she ran for a state Senate seat in 2015).

Based on such flimsy reasoning, Trump besmirches not just Mueller’s team but the whole FBI, tweeting: “After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters – worst in History!” At his Pensacola rally on Friday, held to promote the Senate candidacy of an accused child molester, Trump decried the entire American government for being biased against him: “This is a rigged system,” he said. “This is a sick system from the inside. And you know there’s no country like our country but we have a lot of sickness in some of our institutions.” It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out which “institutions” he is talking about.

Naturally, the most fervent Trumpkins have gone even farther than Trump himself; in fact, they are said to be frustrated by the “restraint” he has shown in his war against Mueller. Listen to what the talking heads at state TV, aka Fox News, are saying. Sean Hannity calls Mueller “a disgrace to the American justice system” and “the head of the snake.” Jeanine Piro, sounding very much like a budding commissar, claims: “There is a cleansing needed in the FBI and the Department of Justice. It needs to be cleansed of individuals who should not just be fired, but who need to be taken out in handcuffs.” Greg Jarrett compares the FBI to the KGB, as if the G-men were running gulags in Alaska: “I think we now know that the Mueller investigation is illegitimate and corrupt,” he says . “And Mueller has been using the FBI as a political weapon. And the FBI has become America’s secret police. Secret surveillance, wiretapping, intimidation, harassment and threats. It’s like the old KGB that comes for you in the dark of the night banging through your door.”

Republicans and the far-right trashing the FBI in order to protect the power of a dimwitted corrupt real estate tycoon with a habit of insulting women. Republicanism has morphed into nihilism as if overnight.

[G]iven how unfounded and outrageous the attacks are, it is striking and dismaying how few Republicans are rushing to defend Mueller and his team. That is an ominous sign of what will happen if and when Trump tries to fire the special counsel. The GOP has made clear that it is committed not to the rule of law but to the rule of Trump.

Indeed it has, so what do we do next? What do we do when Trump does fire Mueller and Rosenstein and replaces them with Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow while the Republicans in Congress applaud? What do we do then?

I would love to be able to think that’s far-fetched but I’m not.



If it ends in .gov

Dec 17th, 2017 11:12 am | By

Speaking of dicks – Trump’s gang is pretending Mueller did a bad.

A lawyer representing President Trump’s transition team claimed Saturday that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III improperly obtained a trove of transition emails as part of the inquiry into Russian influence in the 2016 election and other matters.

The batch of emails totaling thousands of pages of communications was provided to Mueller by the federal General Services Administration, a lawyer representing the organization known as Trump for America said in a letter delivered to congressional investigators.

Blah blah blah unauthorized blah blah private blah.

Mueller’s people said nah we didn’t.

The letter from Langhofer is the latest in a series of legal and public relations moves by Trump’s allies to attempt to undermine Mueller’s investigation and portray it as politically motivated.

With many Republicans in Congress willing and eager to help. Will the US continue as a somewhat valid liberal democracy or will it collapse in a squalid pile of moldy corruption? Nobody knows.

Randall Eliason, a former federal prosecutor who teaches white collar crime at George Washington University Law School, said it was not at all surprising that Mueller’s team sought Trump transition emails. “It would be almost prosecutorial misconduct for them not to,” he said. He said it was also not surprising that Mueller would ask GSA for emails sent using government accounts.

“It’s not your personal email. If it ends in .gov, you don’t have any exception of privacy,” he said.

But he said if Trump’s team had a valid legal claim, there is a standard avenue to pursue — they would file a sealed motion to the judge supervising the grand jury and ask the judge to rule the emails were improperly seized and provide a remedy, like requiring Mueller’s team to return the emails or excluding their use in the investigation.

“You go to the judge and complain,” he said. “You don’t issue a press release or go to Congress. It appears from the outside that this is part of a pattern of trying to undermine Mueller’s investigation.”

You put it together with Fox News and you’ve got yourself a winning strategy.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the senior Democrat on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the 1963 Presidential Transition Act “simply does not support withholding transition team emails from criminal investigators.”

“The President’s lawyers have said they want to fully comply with Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, so it is odd that they now suggest they would have withheld key documents from federal investigators,” Cummings said in a statement.

Well, by “fully comply” they meant “unless we can find a loophole, however tenuous.”



Iced out by Harvey’s dick

Dec 17th, 2017 10:51 am | By

So that’s pretty stunning:

Film director Peter Jackson has admitted to blacklisting actors Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino in response to a “smear campaign” orchestrated by accused sexual predator Harvey Weinstein.

“I recall Miramax telling us they were a nightmare to work with and we should avoid them at all costs,” Jackson said, referencing the production company Weinstein ran with his brother Bob. As a direct result, he said, both women fell out of the running for parts in his Lord of the Rings series.

“At the time, we had no reason to question what these guys were telling us. But in hindsight, I realize that this was very likely the Miramax smear campaign in full swing. I now suspect we were fed false information about both of these talented women.”

He Weinstein not only perved on them, he also deliberately damaged their careers. A twofer: harm people and then punish them for being harmed by you.

Sorvino and Judd have both claimed they refused Weinstein’s pressure to have physical relationships, and Sorvino has said she felt “iced out” of the industry after rejecting his advances.

On seeing Jackson’s interview, Sorvino tweeted on Friday: “I burst out crying. There it is, confirmation that Harvey Weinstein derailed my career, something I suspected but was unsure. Thank you Peter Jackson for being honest. I’m just heartsick.”

That’s so awful.

The New York Times and the New Yorker previously reported that Weinstein cultivated a far-reaching network of entertainment professionals, spies, and media allies to help him deflect potential exposure or retaliate against the source of those threats.

Weinstein is alleged to have told multiple women he could enhance their careers or ruin them depending on how they responded to his sexual advances. One actor, Annabella Sciorra, has accused Weinstein of violently raping her and suspects him of ruining her reputation.

“From 1992, I didn’t work again until 1995,” she told the New Yorker. “I just kept getting this pushback of ‘We heard you were difficult; we heard this or that.’ I think that that was the Harvey machine.”

One guy. One twisted dick-driven bully of a guy.

[Edited to remove an unintentional ambiguity]



What abuse is like on a daily level

Dec 17th, 2017 9:58 am | By

Minnie Driver isn’t having it.

The actor Minnie Driver has told the Guardian that men “simply cannot understand what abuse is like on a daily level” and should not therefore attempt to differentiate or explain sexual misconduct against women.

And why can’t they understand it? Because they’re not on the receiving end of it.

Driver was discussing comments by Matt Damon, whom she once dated and with whom she starred in the Oscar-winning 1997 film Good Will Hunting. In an interview with ABC News this week, Damon said alleged sexual misconduct by powerful men involved “a spectrum of behaviour”.

Blah blah blah pat on the butt blah blah rape blah.

He added that society was in a “watershed moment” and said it was “wonderful that women are feeling empowered to tell their stories and it’s totally necessary”. But he said: “We live in this culture of outrage and injury, that we’re going to have to correct enough to kind of go, ‘Wait a minute. None of us came here perfect.’”

Who’s “we,” Kemosabe? Who’s this “we” that’s going to have to correct? Where was this “we” when Harvey and Louis and Charlie were doing their thing?

In her first response to Damon, Driver wrote on Twitter: “Good God, seriously?

“Gosh it’s so interesting (profoundly unsurprising) how men with all these opinions about women’s differentiation between sexual misconduct, assault and rape reveal themselves to be utterly tone deaf and as a result, systemically part of the problem.”

Tone deaf and…maybe a little anxious? Possibly worried about their own position on that “spectrum of behavior”?

On Saturday, Driver told the Guardian: “I felt I desperately needed to say something. I’ve realised that most men, good men, the men that I love, there is a cut-off. They simply cannot understand what abuse is like on a daily level.

“I honestly think that until we get on the same page, you can’t tell a woman about their abuse. A man cannot do that. No one can. It is so individual and so personal, it’s galling when a powerful man steps up and starts dictating the terms, whether he intends it or not.”

It’s not his call, is it. It’s not Matt Damon’s call how “not perfect” Louis CK’s actions were.

Speaking to ABC, Damon compared allegations against Weinstein, Al FrankenKevin Spacey and the comedian Louis CK, whom he commended for his remorseful response.

“That’s the sign of somebody who – well, we can work with that,” Damon said, adding: “I don’t know Louis CK. I’ve never met him. I’m a fan of his, but I don’t imagine he’s going to do those things again. You know what I mean? I imagine the price that he’s paid at this point is so beyond anything … ”

Ah there’s that “we” again. Who can work with that? Matt Damon can, apparently – well goody for him, but he’s not the only person who would have to “work with that,” is he. It’s nice that he doesn’t imagine Louis CK will do those things again, but he’s not one of the people LCK would be doing it to if he did do it again, is he. It’s touching that he thinks the price LCK has paid is so beyond anything, but on the other hand has he given much thought to the price LCK’s targets have paid without having creeped on anyone? Has he given any thought to that?

Driver argued that men should not be granted the power to interpret abuse inflicted on women without the risk of redoubling an injustice they can scarcely understand.

“I felt that what Matt Damon was saying was an Orwellian idea, we are all equal except that some us are more equal than others,” she said. “Put abuse in there … that all abuse is equal but some is worse.”

And men get to make the call.

“There is not a woman I know,” Driver said, “myself included, who has not experienced verbal abuse and sexual epithets their whole fucking life, right up to being manhandled and having my career threatened several times by men I wouldn’t sleep with.”

Let’s ask Matt Damon exactly how much that matters.



Happy holidays

Dec 16th, 2017 4:09 pm | By

Jennifer Rubin on the intensifying efforts to disrupt the Russia investigation.

Nadler told me Friday morning in an email that it’s obvious the GOP’s tactic of choice in running interference for the president is now to smear the FBI. “The outlandish and irresponsible attacks by Republicans and Conservative media on the Department of Justice pose a significant threat to our national security and our fundamental democratic principles,” he said. “The Deputy Attorney General said unequivocally in our hearing that there is no good basis to fire the Special Counsel or to terminate his investigation. House Judiciary Republicans, on the other hand, certainly are enablers of President Trump’s worst instincts — attacks on the Justice Department, attacking the reputation of the FBI, disregarding statute, regulation, and common sense to try to force the Special Counsel to back off as the walls close in on the President.”

Some of them understand how terrible Trump is, and all of them ought to. The Republican party is for rich people and theocracy (an uneasy combination at times) but it’s not normally for open corruption and criminality, let alone corrupt criminal dictators of other countries fiddling our elections.

I hope they step back from the brink.



Serious alarms

Dec 16th, 2017 3:37 pm | By

Walter Shaub, the ethics guy, put out a statement yesterday:

Walter Shaub, senior director, ethics at the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) warned the administration, its surrogates, and its allies to back off their attempt to undermine the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. President Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, has publicly called for a second special counsel in a transparent effort to muddy the waters and impede Mueller’s investigation. In response, Shaub gave the following statement:

“The coordinated effort by President Trump and his surrogates to discredit the Mueller investigation raises serious alarms. Rather than making themselves complicit in this assault on the rule of law, Members of Congress should send a clear message to the President that firing Mueller is a red line he must not cross.”

They are of course doing the opposite, hinting broadly that they will support him if he fires Mueller.



Russia, if you’re listening

Dec 16th, 2017 3:15 pm | By

Get a load of this headline at Reuters:

Trump allies say Mueller unlawfully obtained thousands of emails

You what? Trump’s friends say Mueller got emails unlawfully? Are they drunk?



Confirmicated

Dec 16th, 2017 2:40 pm | By

Kevin M. Folta is here to help:

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Damaging, insidious and difficult to root out

Dec 16th, 2017 11:53 am | By

And then there’s Matt Taibbi.

There’s more than one way to harass women. A raft of men in recent weeks have paid for accusations of sexual harassment with their companies, their jobs, their plum political posts. But one point has been overlooked in the scandals: Men can be belittling, cruel and deeply damaging without demanding sex. (Try sloughing off heaps of contempt with your self-esteem intact.) We have no consensus — and hardly any discussion — about how we should treat behaviors that are misogynist and bullying but fall short of breaking the law.

Short of breaking the law but not short of a reason to say Go away and don’t come back. Misogynist bullying is not a trivial matter.

Twenty years ago the author of the piece, Kathy Lally, was Moscow correspondent for the Baltimore Sun and Matt Taibbi and Mark Ames ran an Anglophone tabloid there called the eXile. Their self-presentation was the usual bad boy convention-defying crap.

A better description is this: The eXile was juvenile, stunt-obsessed and pornographic, titillating for high school boys. It is back in the news because Taibbi just wrote a new book, and interviewers are asking him why he and Ames acted so boorishly back then. The eXile’s distinguishing feature, more than anything else, was its blinding sexism — which often targeted me.

We can imagine what it was like all too easily, after so many years of seeing the kind of thing clogging up Twitter like hair in the bathtub drain. There were male reporters around who were happy to say it was misogynist and also awesome. Easy for them.

Taibbi still writes for Rolling Stone; Ames, too, works in journalism, running a podcast on war and conflict.

I remember the eXile as a mishmash of nightclub listings (rated on how easily a man could get sex), articles on lurid escapades (sex with a 15-year-old girl, an account Ames now says was a joke), political pieces (“Why Our Military Shopping Spree Has Russia Pissed Off”) and press reviews savaging mainstream Western journalists. It ridiculed one female reporter as a “star spinster columnist” and mentioned women’s “anger lines” and fat ankles. The paper even had a cartoon called the Fat Ankle News , about a woman who tweezes her nose hairs and gorges on doughnuts while editing a story. Some male reporters came in for scorn as toadies or morons or liars. But their outrages concerned their minds and not their bodies.

What I’m saying. It’s so drearily familiar.

She didn’t admire the eXile and once said so in public, so they went after her in the way guys like them do go after women.

When I wrote an article about advertisements that used sex to sell cigarettes — new for Russia — Taibbi addressed my Baltimore Sun editors in his eXile column: “Lally’s article is pathological, illogical, inaccurate, makes no point, and is insulting and hypocritical besides. . . . Lally’s gaffes may be comic, the wild meanderings of an aging woman nearing derangement.” Once, the eXile declared me the winner of its “Gnarliest Elephantine Ass on a Journalist With No Ethics Award.” Another time, it published a cartoon showing me in bed with my editor.

I wondered if I should write a story about the eXile, and I started asking Western correspondents what they knew about it. Taibbi had accused a friend of mine of being paid by Russian oligarchs to write favorable stories, so I thought it was worth asking about the eXile’s connections. Do you think any oligarchs are financing them? As a reader, can you tell the difference between what they are making up and what they are not? Are they here on journalist visas? Who are their journalistic role models? I never pursued it, but Taibbi found out about my queries. In the eXile, he described “a full frontal attack by, of all things, a matronly middle-aged American print journalist.”

Middle-aged – why had no one had her euthanized yet?

When “The eXile: Sex, Drugs and Libel in the New Russia” came out, the memoir had a few more surprises in store. “We dragged . . . Lally’s charred [corpse] through the dust-and-fly-infested streets of our newspaper for all to have a laugh,” Ames wrote. In the most unexpected anecdote, Taibbi said that another reporter, Fred Weir, described in great detail how the eXile had made me cry. “Good!” Taibbi describes himself shouting. I was aware of Weir; probably we had bumped into each other at news conferences. But I didn’t know him. I couldn’t imagine why I would ever have wept in front of him.

They’d be right at home with darling Milo, not to mention Steve Bannon.

I didn’t think about Taibbi and Ames for years; my self-esteem remained intact and my life moved along. Then, just as more and more men were being drummed out of public life for long-ago behavior, Taibbi landed in the news, bringing Ames along with him. Taibbi recently published a book about the death of Eric Garner, “I Can’t Breathe,” and in an interview about it, an NPR host asked him about the eXile years and a passage, written by Ames, in their memoir that described routine sexual harassment of women.

He apologized; he wrote a couple of Facebook posts apologizing (sort of). But, you know, once you know that kind of shit is in someone’s head, apologies don’t really do anything. They don’t have the power to persuade you that the someone doesn’t still think that way.

It doesn’t work to say oh that was then. Yes, it was then, it was twenty years ago, but they were like that then. Being like that is, frankly, about the worst way people can be. It doesn’t go away even if they later repudiate it.

Ames recently told reporters that the eXile was obviously satire and complained that he is being smeared for that satire.

But so many of their sins were real. Taibbi once wrote in the eXile that women had no business wearing “painter’s pants and sneakers” when they ought to be more like Russian women, with “their tight skirts, blowjob-ready lips, and swinging, meaty chests.” Ames described going to the senior prom of an international high school with a 17-year-old date he called his “Jew-broad”; he was 34. Back home she would be “jailbait,” he wrote in the eXile , but Russia “permits sex with a fourteen-year-old, so long as you had reason to believe she was sixteen, the legal statutory age.” A photo shows Ames in the front row with his date.

They told lies about another woman reporter, saying she relied on a translator when she didn’t.

I got in touch with Taibbi and Ames, neither of whom has ever met or spoken to me. Ames did not reply to requests for comment. He has, however, described his stories of sex with 15-year-olds as satire. In a Facebook exchange with me, Taibbi gave some ground. “I certainly would not go about things now the way I did back then,” he wrote. “And I apologize for the physical descriptions. That was gratuitous and uncalled for.” But before he stopped answering my questions, he took some jabs, complaining about the “efforts to get us removed from the Johnson’s list.”

Finally, we are confronting men who have abused and sexually harassed women for years. That reckoning has been too long coming. But you don’t have to grope a woman or force a kiss on her to humiliate her, to make her doubt herself, to silence and diminish her. Bullying, treating women with contempt, freezing them out of the lunches and meetings that build networks and authority: All are damaging, insidious and difficult to root out. That will take time — and more women who call men out. That’s why I’m saying #MeToo.

Damn right.



Won’t someone please think of the bottled water industry?

Dec 16th, 2017 9:48 am | By

Jonathan Freedland at the Guardian reminds us (as do many) that while we’re fuming at Trump’s misogynist insults he’s doing damage that will last for decades.

Freedland starts with the murder of net neutrality and the blizzard of judicial appointments.

Needless to say, 91% of Trump’s nominees are white and 81% are male, re-stacking the judiciary with white men at a rate unseen for 30 years, reversing decades of steady progress towards a bench that resembles the society it judges.

That’s truer still of his record on the environment, which seems to have no purpose beyond vandalism, erosion of the Obama legacy and the enrichment of his corporate pals. One of Trump’s first acts was lifting the ban on mining companies dumping waste in rivers and streams. Since then he has told national parks they have to resume selling bottled water at sites including the Grand Canyon, even though the ban had prevented the dumping of up to 2m plastic bottles.

Oh has he. I missed that one. Jessica Glenza in the Guardian September 26.

A ban on bottled water in 23 national parks prevented up to 2m plastic bottles from being used and discarded every year, a US national park service study found. That is equivalent to up to 326 barrels of oil worth of emissions, 419 cubic yards of landfill space and 111,743lb of plastic, according to the May study.

Despite that, the Trump administration reversed the bottled water ban just three months later, a decision that horrified conservationists and pleased the bottled water industry.

More money for people who sell bottled water and shareholders who invest in bottled water companies; that’s the important thing.

(I remember once grumbling about paper cups for water in a workplace and a co-worker grumbling back about lost jobs if people stopped using a paper cup once then throwing it out. So then why not just buy whole shipments of paper cups and throw them out unused? Or use a separate cup for each sip? Why not set fire to everything as a job creation scheme?)

The plan to curb pollution in America’s most famous wilderness areas was spurred when arguably its most famous park, the Grand Canyon, banned the sale of plastic water bottles in its gift shops, according to the report. Approximately 331 million people visit US national parks each year.

The program was meant to support a “life cycle” approach to plastic, which activists say is the largest global threat to the environment behind climate change. One million plastic bottles are sold per minute, according to a Guardian analysis. The top six drink companies in the world use an average of just 6.6% recycled plastic.

At the same time, new research has shown that plastics which find their way into the sea have entered the food supply. Scientists have found plastic particles in sea salthoneyfishbeer and tap water.

But what is all that compared to profits? Who cares about long term damage when there is short term money to be made?

The agency started allowing parks to ban bottled water in 2011. Since then, the bottled water industry argued that the ban was unfair and eliminated a healthy beverage option, even though hydration stations with free water were installed in parks.

When the National Park Service ended the ban in August, it echoed an industry argument: “It should be up to our visitors to decide how best to keep themselves and their families hydrated during a visit to a national park, particularly during hot summer visitation periods,” said the acting service director, Michael Reynolds.

Freedom freedom freedom! Plus expensive bottled water in wasteful harmful plastic bottles. Freedom bottles!



Correction of language

Dec 16th, 2017 8:32 am | By

Now they’re micromanaging the words civil servants can use. They’ve made a List of forbidden words.

The Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases — including “fetus” and “transgender” — in any official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.

Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden words are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

That’s…ridiculous.

Especially the last four. With the first three I can sort of see what they’re objecting to, I think – the words are emotive, even manipulative, as opposed to technical or scientific…or, to put it another way, they’re somewhat political. It still seems ludicrous to forbid them, but I could see a nudge to use more neutral language. But the last four? The government body responsible for disease monitoring and prevention is being told to stop using those? That’s deranged.

In some instances, the analysts were given alternative phrases. Instead of “science-based” or ­“evidence-based,” the suggested phrase is “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,” the person said.

Uh. That’s more political rather than less…also incoherent. Maybe they meant “in consultation with community standards and wishes”? Because “in consideration with” isn’t even English. But then if that is what they mean it’s grotesque. No, “community standards” shouldn’t overrule or compete with science and evidence. That thought is what has brought the Republicans to the place they are now.

At the CDC, the meeting about the banned words was led by Alison Kelly, a senior leader in the agency’s Office of Financial Services, according to the CDC analyst, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly. Kelly did not say why the words are being banned, according to the analyst, and told the group that she was merely relaying the information.

Other CDC officials confirmed the existence of a list of forbidden words.It’s likely that other parts of HHS are operating under the same guidelines regarding the use of these words, the analyst said.

Don’t mention The Fetus.

At the CDC, several offices have responsibility for work that uses some of these words. The National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention is working on ways to prevent HIV among transgender people and reduce health disparities. The CDC’s work on birth defects caused by the Zika virus includes research on the developing fetus.

Quite so. Having political hacks telling them to stop using necessary words is…I don’t even know what to call it. They keep exhausting my supply of words, without even needing to ban any of them.

The longtime CDC analyst, whose job includes writing descriptions of the CDC’s work for the administration’s annual spending blueprint, could not recall a previous time when words were banned from budget documents because they were considered controversial.

Controversial? “Evidence-based” is considered controversial in the department that deals with disease? Do we prefer random guesses in disease control?

The CDC has a budget of about $7 billion and more than 12,000 employees working across the nation and around the globe on everything from food and water safety, to heart disease and cancer, to infectious disease outbreak prevention. Much of the CDC’s work has strong bipartisan support.

Welp, I guess the Trump people have a soft spot for disease.



Don disappointed

Dec 15th, 2017 5:16 pm | By

Trump really really wants to make it more difficult and expensive for women to get contraception because that’s the kind of guy he is, but he’s hit a roadblock.

A federal court on Friday blocked Trump administration rules that made it easier for employers to deny insurance coverage of contraceptives for women.

Judge Wendy Beetlestone of the Federal District Court in Philadelphia issued a preliminary injunction, saying the rules contradicted the text of the Affordable Care Act by allowing many employers to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage if they had religious or moral objections.

In the lawsuit, filed by the State of Pennsylvania, the judge said the rules would cause irreparable harm because tens of thousands of women would lose contraceptive coverage.

Aw. Poor Don. He would have loved that. He takes such pleasure in seeing other people fucked over thanks to him.

“A simple hypothetical illustrates the insidious effect of the moral exemption rule,” Judge Beetlestone wrote. “It would allow an employer with a sincerely held moral conviction that women do not have a place in the workplace to simply stop providing contraceptive coverage.”

It is, she said, difficult to imagine a rule that “intrudes more into the lives of women.”

Yes, well, that’s the point. That’s what makes it so much fun.

In her opinion, Judge Beetlestone said Pennsylvania was likely to succeed in its challenge to the birth control rules. In issuing the rules, she said, the Trump administration did not follow “proper procedure.” Federal officials, she said, flouted the Administrative Procedure Act, which generally requires agencies to seek public comment before adopting regulations that have the force of law.

Public comment!! But Trump is the boss. He’s the top guy! He can fire anyone he wants to! He’s like a king, he’s like Putin. Public gots nothing to do with it; public does what he tells it to do.

For its part, the Trump administration said that the contraceptive coverage mandate imposed a “substantial burden” on the exercise of religion by certain employers. The new rules, relaxing the mandate, fulfilled a campaign pledge by President Trump, who said that employers should not be “bullied by the federal government because of their religious beliefs.”

But of course employees should be bullied by the Trump administration because of their failure to be men.



Guest post: A form of obedience/submissiveness to the authority of the perceived majority

Dec 15th, 2017 5:04 pm | By

Originally a comment by Bjarte Foshaug on The rot at the core.

To borrow another useful distinction from Margaret Heffernan it’s not just about authority, but also conformity. Unlike obedience/submissiveness to authority conformity feels voluntary (or “voluntary”) and doesn’t presuppose any imbalance in formal rank or status (hence the expression “peer pressure”), only the normal fear of conflict, embarrassment, or social isolation. And even female bosses are not immune to the influence of their male peers as well as patriarchal society at large.

On a deeper level I guess conformity can be understood as a form of obedience/submissiveness to the authority of the perceived majority. I say “perceived” because the people “setting the standard” don’t even have to be in a real majority. One of the concepts I remember from my old bachelor’s degree in media studies is the Spiral of Silence in which people who, whether or not it’s true, feel like they’re in a minority tend to self-censor, thus making their own views seem even more marginalized and on the fringe, when they may not actually be fringe at all. All it takes [1] is for a few loud and assertive people (and as we all know the male sex has more than its fair share of those) to make their opinions known at an early stage without being contradicted, and everyone else tends to just accept their views as representative of the group as a whole.

There’s also a lot of slippery slope-type dynamics going on: On the spectrum from sexist jokes to all-out sexual assault we never cross an obvious “boundary” where things abruptly and instantaneously change from “definitely OK” to “definitely not OK”. If you have already accepted steps a,b,c as normal and acceptable it’s very difficult to make a consistent argument that steps d,e,f are “crossing the line”. By the same logic once you have accepted steps d,e,f as normal and acceptable it’s very difficult to make a consistent argument that steps g,h,i etc… etc… This is why there is no “safe level” of sexism. The “jokes”, the “banter”, and the “locker room talk” are all part of the enabling apparatus allowing the Trumps and Weinsteins of the world to go all the way to x,y,z.

_______________________________

1. Actually it doesn’t even take that much. All it takes is the (perfectly reasonable) assumption that the group in question isn’t radically different from the rest of society.



Nobody owns a culture

Dec 15th, 2017 3:58 pm | By

Kenan Malik has a wonderful essay at Art Review on “cultural appropriation” and why it’s a pernicious concept.

The very term ‘cultural appropriation’ is inappropriate. Cultures work not through appropriation but through messy interaction. Writers and artists, indeed all human beings, necessarily engage with the experiences of others. Nobody owns a culture, but everyone inhabits one (or several), and in inhabiting a culture, one finds the tools for reaching out to other cultures.

Cultural interaction is necessarily messy because the world is messy. Some of that messiness is good: the complexity and diversity of the world. Some of it is damaging: the racial, sexual and economic inequalities that disfigure our world.

Such damaging messiness will not be cleaned up by limiting cultural interaction, or by confining it within a particular etiquette. In reframing political and economic issues as cultural ones, or as issues of identity, campaigns against cultural appropriation obscure the roots of racism, and make it harder to challenge it. In constraining what Adam Shatz called ‘acts of radical sympathy, and imaginative identification… across racial lines’, they make such challenges more difficult still.

The campaigns against cultural appropriation are bad for creative art. And they are bad for progressive politics. They seek to police interaction and constrain imagination. For the sake of both of art and politics we need less policing and constraints, more interaction and imagination.

That’s what I think. I get how borrowings can be done badly, but I think it’s a terrible impoverishing mistake to go from that to the insistence that all borrowing and interaction is a trespass.



A different path

Dec 15th, 2017 12:48 pm | By

There’s this fella interviewing for an exciting new job as a Federal District Court judge in the District of Columbia, who turned out to know not very much about the judging.

Matthew S. Petersen, a member of the Federal Election Commission, was one of five of President Trump’s judicial nominees being questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday when Senator John N. Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, singled him out for an interrogation.

Thus commenced what appeared to be an excruciating five minutes of ignorance on Mr. Petersen’s part, as he answered most of Senator Kennedy’s questions in the negative.

No, he had not ever handled a jury trial, or even a bench trial. In fact, he had not handled any civil or criminal trials at all, in either state or federal court.

No, he had never argued a motion in state court.

No, he could not define the Daubert standard, a well-known standard (among lawyers, anyway) for admitting expert testimony. Nor could he explain a motion in limine, a formal request to exclude certain kinds of evidence.

Mr. Petersen, who practiced election law at a firm before joining the government, and who has been nominated to the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, attempted to justify his inability to answer the questions. “I understand that the path that many successful district court judges have taken has been a different one than I’ve taken,” he said.

Ah yes, a different path; let a thousand flowers bloom, march to the beat of a different drummer, be a little bit quirky and unusual.



Let’s see

Dec 15th, 2017 12:32 pm | By

He also hinted he plans to pardon Flynn.

“I don’t want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet,” Mr. Trump said. “We’ll see what happens. Let’s see. I can say this: When you look at what’s gone on with the F.B.I. and with the Justice Department, people are very, very angry.”

There’s that theory of mind problem again. He watches Fox and translates that into “people” in general. His people are a minority, at this point a quite small minority.



Trump pretends to know what “disgraceful” means

Dec 15th, 2017 12:02 pm | By

Trump is attempting to convince us all that he gets to fire Mueller and pardon Flynn and go on his way rejoicing.

President Trump said Friday there is tremendous anger over what he called the FBI’s “disgraceful’’ behavior, taking aim at the bureau just before he appeared at its training facility to praise the nation’s police officers.

“It’s a shame what’s happened with the FBI,’’ the president told reporters as he prepared to depart the White House for a ceremony at the FBI’s National Academy in Quantico, Va., where more than 200 law enforcement officers graduated from a program that imparts FBI expertise and standards.

“We’re going to rebuild the FBI, it’ll be bigger and better than ever, but it is very sad when you look at those documents, and how they’ve done that is really, really disgraceful, and you have a lot of very angry people that are seeing it,’’ Trump said.

Nah. Far more people think Trump is disgraceful.

Mind you, the FBI has plenty of disgrace in its history. But what Trump is talking about? Nah.

Trump appeared on a stage there alongside FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whointroduced the president by calling him “our nation’s highest law enforcement official.’’ That title carries possible implications for the ongoing criminal probe into whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice leading up to the firing of FBI Director James B. Comey in May.

The president’s defenders say that, as the nation’s top law enforcement official, he cannot obstruct justice by firing the head of the FBI. However, in past administrations that phrase has been used to describe the attorney general, not the president.

Plus lawyers have been lining up to say no that claim is ludicrous and wrong.

Just another routine day in Trump.



The rot at the core

Dec 14th, 2017 1:28 pm | By

It’s not so much about sex as it is about work, Rebecca Traister points out.

[I]n the midst of our great national calculus, in which we are determining what punishments fit which sexual crimes, it’s possible that we’re missing the bigger picture altogether: that this is not, at its heart, about sex at all — or at least not wholly. What it’s really about is work, and women’s equality in the workplace, and more broadly, about the rot at the core of our power structures that makes it harder for women to do work because the whole thing is tipped toward men.

It’s like dogs pissing on the shrubbery. “This is ours.” You can leave the house if you insist, but then we’re gonna piss on you. These recent accounts have been about the workplace.

We got to where we are because men, specifically white men, have been afforded a disproportionate share of power. That leaves women dependent on those men — for economic security, for work, for approval, for any share of power they might aspire to. Many of the women who have told their stories have explained that they did not do so before because they feared for their jobs. When women did complain, many were told that putting up with these behaviors was just part of working for the powerful men in question — “That’s just Charlie being Charlie”; “That’s just Harvey being Harvey.” Remaining in the good graces of these men, because they were the bosses, the hosts, the rainmakers, the legislators, was the only way to preserve employment, and not just their own: Whole offices, often populated by female subordinates, are dependent on the steady power of the male bosses.

In workplaces like that, a sexual overture is never just a sexual overture. It can’t be.



Bang, another target down

Dec 14th, 2017 12:16 pm | By

Say goodbye to net neutrality in the US.

The Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to dismantle landmark rules regulating the businesses that connect consumers to the internet, granting broadband companies power to potentially reshape Americans’ online experiences.

The agency scrapped so-called net neutrality regulations that prohibited broadband providers from blocking websites or charging for higher-quality service or certain content. The federal government will also no longer regulate high-speed internet delivery as if it were a utility, like phone services.

The action reversed the agency’s 2015 decision, during the Obama administration, to better protect Americans as they have migrated to the internet for most communications.

Ajit Pai, the chairman of the commission, said the rollback of the rules would eventually help consumers because

blah blah blah the usual shit but we know he doesn’t mean a word of it.

The five commissioners were fiercely divided along party lines. In front of a room packed with reporters and television cameras from major networks, the two Democratic commissioners warned of consumer harms to come from the changes.

Mignon Clyburn, one of the Democratic commissioners who voted against the action, presented two accordion folders full of letters in protest to the changes, and accused the three Republican commissioners of defying the wishes of millions of Americans.

“I dissent, because I am among the millions outraged,” said Ms. Clyburn. “Outraged, because the F.C.C. pulls its own teeth, abdicating responsibility to protect the nation’s broadband consumers.”

Tough, because Trump.