Notes and Comment Blog


More fleeing than arriving

Mar 21st, 2018 4:41 pm | By

Uh oh. Crops rotting in the fields.

Vegetable prices may be going up soon, as a shortage of migrant workers is resulting in lost crops in California.

Farmers say they’re having trouble hiring enough people to work during harvest season, causing some crops to rot before they can be picked. Already, the situation has triggered losses of more than $13 million in two California counties alone, according to NBC News.

Mind you, when I see those claims I always think they’re leaving something out: Farmers say they’re having trouble hiring enough people at low enough wages. But still, this is also a wholly foreseeable consequence of Trump’s racist war on immigrants.

The ongoing battle about U.S. immigration policies is blamed for the shortage. The vast majority of California’s farm workers are foreign born, with many coming from Mexico. However, the PEW Research Center reports more Mexicans are leaving the U.S. than coming here.

To make the jobs more attractive, farmers are offering salaries above minimum wage, along with paid time off and 401(k) plans, but even that’s not proving enough.

“Even”? The work is backbreaking and often hazardous, and “above the minimum wage” isn’t exactly wealth. But still, for many people it’s both a step up and a ladder up and out for their children. Anyway – this is Trumpland now, so get used to it.



Under ethical obligation

Mar 21st, 2018 4:18 pm | By

Kris Kobach really doesn’t want to stop suppressing votes.

A Kansas federal judge had sharp words for Republican Secretary of State [of Kansas] Kris Kobach during a contempt hearing Tuesday, accusing him of misleading the court and failing to inform voters whose registrations were previously suspended that they are eligible to vote.

In May 2016, Judge Julie Robinson issued a preliminary injunction ordering Kobach “to register for federal elections all otherwise eligible motor voter registration applicants,” whether or not they have shown a documentary proof of citizenship. The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit challenging Kobach’s proof of citizenship law, argued that Kobach was failing to add voters to the rolls, making eligible voters cast provisional ballots, and failing to send voters affected by the preliminary injunction a postcard that would notify them of their registration status.

He didn’t send them or tell the counties to send them; the judge rebuked him for this; he said “But you didn’t tell me to!”

“Why would I order something you told me you’d take care of?” the judge said, according to ProPublica’s Jessica Huseman, who was in the courtroom. “You are under ethical obligation to tell me the truth… that’s why lawyers are licensed.”

And they can be de-licensed aka disbarred if they don’t.



Not as they do

Mar 21st, 2018 3:11 pm | By

Melania Trump campaigns against cyberbullying.

The jokes write themselves, and so do the exclamations of outrage. If she can’t persuade that monstrosity she’s married to, what sense does it make for her to try to persuade anyone else?

With a particular focus on social media, Melania Trump, the first lady, has long said she wants to curb online bullying and harassment as part of a nascent effort to improve the lives of American children. There’s one problem: Mrs. Trump’s efforts often clash with the president’s longtime habit of using social media to insult people.

A habit which continues even now that he is president of the US, and thus automatically has more power and clout and influence than anyone he insults on social media. He’s a bully three times over.

On Tuesday, Mrs. Trump invited representatives from Facebook, Snap, Google, Amazon and Twitter to the White House for a round-table discussion on the topic. In a speech, she said that she had received letters from children who have been bullied or feel threatened on social media.

“I am well aware that people are skeptical of me discussing this topic,” Mrs. Trump said on Tuesday. “I have been criticized for my commitment to tackling this issue, and I know that will continue. But it will not stop me from doing what I know is right. I am here with one goal: helping children and our next generation.”

Does she know why people are skeptical of her discussing this topic? It’s not random or arbitrary, let alone unfair, so saying it won’t stop her misses the point. Her husband is the world’s single worst cyberbully, and she hasn’t left him, so she’s kind of forfeited the high ground on this subject.



The downside of freelance diplomacy

Mar 21st, 2018 11:52 am | By

Aaron Blake reminds us of other reasons – other than the danger of Putin – to be very afraid of Trump’s confidence that he knows what he’s doing without any help from pesky adults.

The episode crystallizes Trump’s tendency to eschew basically any expert guidance — even on issues of huge import. That certainly has implications for U.S. relations with Russia and for efforts to combat Russian interference in U.S. elections. On the latter, Trump has declined to take a harsh tone and has even suggested that he believes Putin’s denials. But, more immediately, it has huge implications for Trump’s impending meeting with Kim.

Immediately the blood temperature drops.

Trump’s penchant for off-the-cuff diplomacy and policymaking has been on full display during his presidency. High-profile meetings with nuclear-weapon-wielding dictators with questionable states of mind, though, tend to require intensive preparation and adherence to scripts. Experts generally tell you that you should go into such meetings knowing how they will turn out, one way or another. Failure to anticipate and successfully guide the conversation could have dire consequences, both from propagandistic and militaristic standpoints.

Existential standpoints – whether everything goes boom or not.

[G]iven that Trump has essentially accepted Putin’s denials of interference in the 2016 election, there is little guarantee that he will actually press Putin on the Skripal poisoning. Trump’s rhetoric has been pretty measured thus far, and he has apparently ignored his national security team’s desire to get him to broach the topic directly with Putin. As with the conversation about Russian interference, it seems Trump simply doesn’t want to press Putin in the way those around him wish he would, and he apparently can’t be persuaded to abide by even a very basic strategy.

There is basically no reason to believe that he wouldn’t freelance in a similar way with Kim — whether because of chutzpah or a complete inability to stay disciplined. And whatever hope there might be for a breakthrough from the meeting with Kim, this should severely temper everyone’s expectations.

Or just plain convince us we’re doomed.



He spent the morning at home

Mar 21st, 2018 11:18 am | By

Yesterday it was the leak from the White House that Trump ignored what the security people told him and high-fived Putin for the stolen election and refrained from asking him about that pesky nerve agent thing in Salisbury. Today it’s the outrage over the leak.

The leak was rather striking. CNN says Trump was still at home in his jammies (i.e. “in the residence” having “executive time”) when he made the call.

Trump was fuming Tuesday night, asking his allies and outside advisers who they thought had leaked the information, noting that only a small group of staffers have access to those materials and would have known what guidance was included for the Putin call, the source said.

So it’s probably someone who doesn’t mind being fired, as well as someone who thinks the phone call was bad enough to take the risk.

“If this story is accurate, that means someone leaked the President’s briefing papers. Leaking such information is a fireable offense and likely illegal,” another senior White House official told CNN Wednesday.

Yes but what about when the president is so corrupt and so lunatic that he appears to be handing us over bound and gagged to Putin’s Russia? Who’s committing the real crimes here?

The President often makes calls to foreign leaders while he is still in the residence during what has been dubbed “executive time.” National security adviser H.R. McMaster has been known to join Trump in the residence during these calls, and was present during his Tuesday morning call with Putin. According to the public schedule released by the White House Tuesday, the President was not scheduled to be in the West Wing until noon, when he greeted the Saudi crown prince.

So, CNN delicately hints, maybe it was McMaster.

It is still unclear if Trump actually read the guidance that was given to him by his advisers. Multiple officials have noted that he often follows his own path during his calls with world leaders. The substance of the call was not seen as a major deal by national security staffers, but the leak certainly was.

Another White House official didn’t dispute to CNN Tuesday the language on the notes provided by members of Trump’s National Security Council, but said Trump didn’t read or see the notecard. The official added that Trump often disregards advice in calls with foreign leaders.

Yeeeeaah, that doesn’t make it any better. Trump shouldn’t disregard advice, because Trump has no clue. He’s no more qualified to be talking to foreign leaders than his fashion-marketer daughter is. He’s unqualified and he appears to be corrupt or compromised or both.

Back to Aaron Blake at the Post:

Leaks are something of a self-perpetuating, vicious cycle within the Trump White House. The more Trump does highly questionable things against his advisers’ advice, the more it seems to leak out, the more Trump believes the deep state has penetrated his White House, and the more he disregards his advisers.

But there is an alternate explanation: What if the leakers are trying to help rather than embarrass Trump?

Sure, this could be about retribution against a president who refuses to listen to the Very Smart Experts around him. Those advisers are liable to take that personally and grow frustrated at being so casually and regularly disregarded. Imagine having that situation with your boss.

When your boss is a random unqualified but opinionated and also corrupt numpty. Imagine it then.

These leakers’ efforts might have been in vain, but it’s possible that they were legitimately trying to shift the course of Trump’s actions. Ignoring or disregarding key talking points while on a call with an antagonistic foreign leader such as Putin must be cause for concern. We forget how bonkers that is because everything about this presidency has been so bonkers and unprecedented.

Hey, I don’t. I think it’s as bonkers as it gets.



Discrimination against which party?

Mar 21st, 2018 10:07 am | By

The old “human right” switcheroo:

When Roger Severino tells his story, discrimination is at its heart.

“I did experience discrimination as a child. And that leaves a lasting impression,” he tells me.

Severino directs the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. When I meet with him at his office in the shadow of the Capitol, he talks about his childhood as the son of Colombian immigrants growing up in Los Angeles.

“I remember a white kid coming up, as I was in the pool, [who] said a racial epithet,” Severino recalls. “My response as a kid was — I was confused, in a way. Why would they say such a thing?”

In high school he was steered toward vocational training but he said no thank you, honors classes for me, and on he went to Harvard Law.

But now he’s using civil rights talk as a screen for imposing conservative Catholic dogma on all of us.

Severino — a devout Catholic and political conservative — has put the right to religious freedom front and center in his fight against discrimination in health care.

In public appearances he refers to religious freedom as “the first freedom.” Since coming to HHS he has issued a rule that allows employers to refuse to cover birth control as part of their employee health insurance plans, if employers have a religious or moral objection to contraception.

Rights can be in tension with each other, of course. Rights to equal treatment are in tension with “rights” to treat people unequally. That’s what’s going on here: Severino wants to create and protect a “right” to deny people medical treatment on religious grounds.

And earlier this year he created an entirely new division within the civil rights office — the Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom. Its mission, he says, is to ensure that health care workers and health care companies, are never forced to participate in particular medical services — such as abortion, assisted suicide or gender reassignment surgery — if they object.

Just a few weeks after he started at HHS, Severino met with representatives from several different advocacy groups — including Judith Lichtman, senior advisor to the National Partnership for Women and Families.

She says Severino billed the meeting with about 20 people as a “listening session.”

“He opened the meeting telling us his heartfelt story about knowing and understanding discrimination,” she says. “And, frankly, stories will get you just so far.”

Because he was “listening,” Lichtman says, Severino declined to answer questions about his own positions on specific issues. But she believes his actions since then — including creating the religious freedom office — point to a desire to limit women’s access to reproductive health services.

“Abortion is a legal health care service in this country,” Lichtman says. “And if, indeed, what Mr. Severino is intending to do is to undermine protections for women who are seeking a legal health care service, I’d say that’s pretty abhorrent.”

Well, maybe abortion won’t be a legal health care service for much longer. Problem solved?



DO NOT CONGRATULATE

Mar 20th, 2018 5:06 pm | By

Oh there’s more. Trump was actually specifically told not to congratulate Putin on the election. By people who do actually know what’s in the security briefings, unlike Trump who refuses to read them or listen to them read by others. But he was elected King and Emperor and God so he can do whatever he wants to.

President Trump did not follow specific warnings from his national security advisers when he congratulated Russian President Vladi­mir Putin Tuesday on his reelection, including a section in his briefing materials in all-capital letters stating “DO NOT CONGRATULATE,” according to officials familiar with the call.

Brief shmief. He used to be a tv star, he don’t need no stinkin brief.

Trump also chose not to heed talking points from aides instructing him to condemn Putin about the recent poisoning of a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom with a powerful nerve agent, a case that both the British and U.S. governments have blamed on Moscow.

“It’s blatantly obvious that he has just an inexplicable level of support for President Putin,” said Julie Smith, a European security expert who served as deputy national security adviser for former vice president Joe Biden. “You keep thinking it will change as he sees his own administration take action — that this never-ending well of support for Putin will some how subside. It’s disheartening at a time when our trans-Atlantic partners really need a boost. Europe is looking to us for leadership on Russia in particular and they’re not getting it.”

Thomas Wright, director of the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution, said Trump’s actions were “a sign he wants a pro-Russia foreign policy,” which conflicts with the harder line from his administration.

Trump’s applause of Putin’s victory was in line with other congratulatory calls he has made, including to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for winning a much-disputed referendum that increased his already autocratic powers and to China’s President Xi Jinping for his “extraordinary elevation” after Xi last month engineered the Communist Party’s elimination of presidential term limits.

He likes the tough guys. He wants to be like them.



One ringy-dingy

Mar 20th, 2018 4:31 pm | By

People expect so much of Trump – he can’t even make a damn personal phone call without kibitzers turning up to list all the things he didn’t talk about.

President Trump on Tuesday congratulated President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on his recent re-election victory, but failed to ask him about either the fairness of the Russian vote, which Mr. Putin won with a lopsided margin, or about allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Trump also did not raise Russia’s apparent role in a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter on British soil — an act that prompted the United States to join with Britain, France and Germany in denouncing the Russian government for violating international law.

Yeah, so? He wanted to talk to his friend Volodya, not interrogate a head of state about his crimes. Can’t a president talk to a friend?

“We had a very good call,” Mr. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, where he was meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. “We will probably be meeting in the not-too distant future to discuss the arms race, which is getting out of control.”

If Putin wants to, that is. It’s up to him. Trump will do whatever Volodya asks. Meet? Cool. Not meet? Whatever you say, buddy.

The White House said Tuesday it was not the place of the United States to question how other countries conduct their elections — a contention that runs counter to years of critical statements by presidents and other officials about elections in Russia and many other countries.

“We don’t get to dictate how other countries operate,” the press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said. “We can only focus on the freeness and fairness of our elections.”

Oh yes, Sarah Sanders, anti-imperialist activist, rejecting all that colonialist thinking about Great Powers telling Lesser Powers what to do.

Sen. John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was quick to criticize Mr. Trump’s call to Mr. Putin.

“An American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections,” Mr. McCain said in a statement issued by his office. “And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin’s regime.”

Well they’re not his friends. Vlad is his friend. They’re close.

In his remarks, Mr. Trump noted that Mr. Putin has expressed concern about the escalating arms race between the United States and Russia.

He noted that his administration was spending $700 billion to upgrade the American military, and said he would never allow Russia, or any other country, to approach its military might.

“We will never allow anybody to have anything even close to what we have,” Mr. Trump said.

AMERICA FIRST!!! TRUMP FIRST!!! ME ME ME ME ME



Not immune

Mar 20th, 2018 11:35 am | By

The New York Post reports an exclusive:

President Trump must face a defamation suit filed by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos after a Manhattan Supreme Court judge denied him immunity through his job as the nation’s commander-in-chief.

“In Clinton v Jones the United States Supreme Court held that a sitting president is not immune from being sued in federal court for unofficial acts,” Justice Jennifer Schecter wrote in a ruling released Tuesday, citing the sexual harassment suit that led to the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton for lying under oath about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

This means that Zervos can pursue her defamation case against Trump for saying she made up the story that he groped her and pushed his dick against her in 2007.

Donk donk.



Bro lunch

Mar 20th, 2018 11:27 am | By

Oh look, no women. No women at all.



I can haz test toob

Mar 20th, 2018 11:15 am | By

While Prince Jared is wondering if he’s really in deep doo-doo over those falsified building permits, Princess Ivanka is off pretending to be A Scientist.

She’s a fashion marketer, so what she has to offer anyone on subjects like infrastructure or wtf is in this tube-thing, god only knows. #Nepotism baby!



Oops there goes the cachet

Mar 20th, 2018 10:59 am | By

Poor Don. No sooner does the Post report that he’s hoping to add an actual grown-up lawyer to his legal team than it has to update with the news that no he won’t, because the actual grown-up lawyer said hell no.

President Trump’s legal team has at times rivaled its client when it comes to unforced errors and strange behavior. And the team became even more colorful Monday when it added Joseph E. diGenova, a former U.S. attorney who has spent recent months detailing a deep-state conspiracy against Trump on Fox.

But the latest potential addition to Trump’s team could take things in a totally different — and more disciplined — direction.

The Washington Post’s Robert Costa and Carol D. Leonnig report Trump is trying to bring well-known and well-regarded GOP attorney Theodore B. Olson onboard in a move that would seriously up the cachet of Trump’s legal team.

Potential but not actual. Could but didn’t. Trying but failed. Would but won’t, cachet but no.

There is an actual downside to being a posturing bullying clown. Maybe now that Trump really seriously needs some serious lawyers, he will find out what that downside is.



Dirty business

Mar 20th, 2018 10:29 am | By

The Kushner Company is in the spotlight.

The New York City Council and a local tenants rights group announced on Monday that they would launch a joint investigation into the real estate company formerly headed by Jared Kushner, a top aide to President Donald Trump, over alleged falsification of building permits.

The group and a city councilman said at a press conference that they had uncovered evidence that Kushner Companies, the developer headed by Kushner until early last year, had falsified more than 80 work permits involving 34 buildings in New York.

Aaron Carr, executive director of Housing Rights Initiative, said the company failed to disclose the existence of rent-stabilized units in buildings, a move that allowed it to skirt tighter oversight during renovations and harass tenants.

For what? For More Money. For the lofty goal of getting rid of non-rich people and replacing them with rich people in order to make Lots More Money. For the one and only goal the Trump-Kushner axis seems to have, which is piling up the millions.

That’s all this is about. It’s about Kushner-Trump’s taste for expensive real estate and concomitant distaste for everything and everyone below that level. Money is their only value, their only morality. People who don’t have massive amounts of it are Losers.

Following the news of the announcement, Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu said Kushner should step down from his White House role as senior adviser.

“This is fraud,” Lieu tweeted Monday. “Jared Kushner was head of Kushner Cos at the time. Kushner should have his downgraded security clearance stripped right now until investigation completed. He should be nowhere near the White House.”

Ritchie Torres, who chairs a city council committee on public housing, said at the press conference that there was a direct link between the falsification of permits and the decline in affordable housing in New York.

The rich get richer and the poor get evictions.



Congratulations on your glorious triumph

Mar 20th, 2018 9:43 am | By

Trump has called Putin to congratulate him on stealing another election.

President Trump congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin on his reelection victory in a phone call on Tuesday, the Kremlin said.

At the White House, Trump confirmed the call and said he congratulated Putin “on the victory.” Trump said they would get together “in the not too distant future.”

Yes, the “victory” which he “won” by imprisoning or otherwise hobbling all the other candidates.

Some world leaders have hesitated to congratulate Putin, since his reelection occurred in an environment of state control of much of the news media and his most prominent opponent was barred from the ballot.

Picky picky picky.

Putin won a fourth presidential term in Sunday’s Russian election, allowing him to serve until 2024. He took 77 percent of the votes, with 68 percent turnout, the government said. But Putin barely campaigned, opposition activist Alexei Navalny was barred from the ballot, and reports of ballot-stuffing and people being ordered to vote by their employers rolled in throughout election day.

Idle gossip! Fake news! The FBI! It was Andrew McCabe with a candlestick in the library.



Guest post: Once the opportunities are there, women are interested

Mar 19th, 2018 5:31 pm | By

Originally a comment by Screechy Monkey on They can’t see what they can’t see.

I get frustrated with the way this debate gets framed. It’s not that the “ideas” that Damore and his ilk promote are “off limits,” as Coyne would have it. It’s that they are such inferior ideas when it comes to explaining our present reality.

I have no quarrel with the abstract notion that women and men may differ, whether biologically or for culture-driven reasons that we don’t wish to change, in ways that mean that not every profession will end up with a 50/50 split of men and women even when we have achieved complete and utter Gender Equality Utopia. Call this the Gender Differences Hypothesis.

What I do quarrel with is the claim (sometimes explicit, sometimes implied) that all observable deviations from a 50/50 split can be explained by the GDH, and therefore we can declare that discrimination is trivial or non-existent and that we are already in Gender Equality Utopia. Not when virtually all of those deviations from a 50/50 split seem, curiously, to fall in such a way that men are disproportionately represented in those professions that are most powerful, well-compensated, and respected. Not when we have all sorts of scientifically rigorous, peer-reviewed research that show that (e.g.) the same behavior that is perceived as strong leadership from a man is seen as bitchy and pushy from a woman, that women somehow got hired more often for symphonies when auditions were made gender-blind, that women professors are discriminated against on student evaluations.

You know — the sort of hard scientific evidence that critical thinking scientists claim to value over feelings and anecdotes and folk legends. Unless those folk legends involve speculation about how women like pink because their evolutionary forebears handled the berry-picking.

Back when the United States passed Title IX and required that colleges receiving federal funds provide equal access to athletic programs for women, there were many who declared that this was absurd because women just weren’t as interested in sports as men, it was obvious, and trying to force it to be otherwise was an exercise in “social engineering.” Well, it turns out that women and girls were a lot more interested in sports than they were generally given credit for. Once those opportunities were provided, college women were interested. And younger girls, given something to aspire to, got interested, too.

Twenty years ago, if asked about these things, I probably would have agreed with the Damores and Blackfords and Coynes of the world. The reason I changed my mind isn’t because I decided to put feelings or abstract utopian goals ahead of cold hard facts; it was that I looked at the cold hard facts and realized that some of my assumptions were wrong.

To circle back to the original point (finally!): the GDH isn’t “off limits” any more than “God did it” is “off limits” as an explanation of the creation and diversity of life forms on this planet. It just comes up short as an explanation.



They can’t see what they can’t see

Mar 19th, 2018 4:17 pm | By

I wrote a post on Facebook a bit ago:

You know what I’m sick of? I’ll tell you what I’m sick of. I’m sick of men writing think pieces explaining why women should be perfectly happy to see men writing think pieces about how women just happen not to be suited to all those careers in which they’re a minority, because it’s their temperament to be too nurturing and cuddly to be suited for [desirable job X].

I’m sick of seeing those men never pause for one second to take into account the fact that being seen as unsuited for [desirable job X] IS ITSELF AN OBSTACLE and that they themselves are adding to the obstacle by lecturing us on why we shouldn’t be “offended” by such claims but just smile acceptingly and take it all on board.

That’s what I’m sick of.

Then I decided to talk about it here including saying what the source irritant was. It was a pair of articles, by Russell Blackford and then by Jerry Coyne linking to Russell, on the Damore memo and how reasonable it was and how mistaken it is to think otherwise.

Russell first:

In August 2017, James Damore, a Google software engineer, was fired for writing an internal memo that offered views about sex-related differences in interests and emotions.

Damore had suggested that part of the over-representation of men in software engineering at Google might be due to psychological differences between women and men: not intellectual differences, but differences in what activities the sexes find attractive and enjoyable. He argued that Google should focus on equality of opportunity for individuals, without necessarily expecting equality of outcomes across its workforce.

Damore’s firing from Google was an example of an increasing intolerance of inconvenient or controversial ideas within democratic societies. Here, then, is one great moral challenge of our time. Once an issue becomes politically toxic, we may reject inconvenient viewpoints out of hand. We may reject opponents – viewing them as ill-disposed people – without listening to them, and we may even try to punish them for their views.

But this wasn’t a disinterested discussion at a think tank. It was a non-supervisory male employee writing up his unsolicited opinions on why there are fewer women than men in jobs like the ones at Google – in other words a contribution to a hostile work environment. It’s not just a matter of “oh my god this man’s valuable academic opinion on a completely random abstract subject has been suppressed!!” – it’s also a matter of person from favored group explaining to disfavored group that it’s disfavored because of its own psychological quirks, in the workplace. If one put it in racial or ethnic terms it would probably be more obvious how grotesque and discriminatory that is – “Oh you see it’s just that Indians are mystical and contemplative so they don’t want coding jobs, it’s quite natural” – but when it’s women, the dudes just don’t see it.

Damore explained that these are statistical differences, discernible at the level of populations, and that there is a large overlap in the distribution curves for the respective sexes. For example, many individual men might be more oriented to feelings and people than most women. Thus, he emphasised, these findings should not be used to stereotype or prejudge individuals.

No indeed, they should simply be used to explain why there are so few women at Google and there’s no need to do anything about it, especially not telling dudes to quit telling women why they won’t like working at Google.

Now Coyne’s:

As a scientist, I’m appalled when certain ideas that may be true, but offend some group or other, are considered off limits, even when those ideas—like global warming—must be accepted and discussed if we’re to save the planet. Psychological differences between men and women aren’t as dangerous to the welfare of Earth as a whole, but if we’re to figure out the reasons for sex disparity in professions, we have to take them seriously and figure out what effect, if any, they have on gender parity.

But the point isn’t that the ideas “offend”; the point is that they can contribute to an environment perceived as hostile. They certainly don’t have to; research and inquiry into the reasons for sex disparity in professions can obviously be a feminist and a feminist-compatible project; but random coder guy putting out a memo explaining it’s because women would rather stay home with the babies is not that inquiry. Yes, that’s hyperbole; I find the refusal to see this extremely annoying. The point is that Damore is not a researcher or scholar in evo psych or the reasons for sex disparity in professions, and there are sound and compelling reasons to ask why he thought he needed to put out a memo on the subject the upshot of which was “it’s because they don’t want to, not because we don’t let them, so there’s no need to do anything about it.”

Again: I think this would be blindingly obvious to them if it were about race, and I find it infuriating that they can’t see it when it’s about women.



A very long-term and secretive relationship

Mar 19th, 2018 2:32 pm | By

About Cambridge Analytica

Senior executives at Cambridge Analytica – the data company that credits itself with Donald Trump’s presidential victory – have been secretly filmed saying they could entrap politicians in compromising situations with bribes and Ukrainian sex workers.

In an undercover investigation by Channel 4 News, the company’s chief executive Alexander Nix said the British firm secretly campaigns in elections across the world. This includes operating through a web of shadowy front companies, or by using sub-contractors.

In one exchange, when asked about digging up material on political opponents, Mr Nix said they could “send some girls around to the candidate’s house”, adding that Ukrainian girls “are very beautiful, I find that works very well”.

If law enforcement does that it’s entrapment, and it’s not permissible. If freelancers do it…I guess it’s blackmail? Which is illegal.

They also talked about offering bribes, filming it and putting it on the internet.

Offering bribes to public officials is an offence under both the UK Bribery Act and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Cambridge Analytica operates in the UK and is registered in the United States.

It’s also nothing to do with Cambridge University.

The admissions were filmed at a series of meetings at London hotels over four months, between November 2017 and January 2018. An undercover reporter for Channel 4 News posed as a fixer for a wealthy client hoping to get candidates elected in Sri Lanka.

Mr Nix told our reporter: “…we’re used to operating through different vehicles, in the shadows, and I look forward to building a very long-term and secretive relationship with you.”

We’re bit players in someone else’s drama.



He was framed!

Mar 19th, 2018 10:59 am | By

Trump decides to hire another wack job for his legal team, because things aren’t weird enough yet.

President Trump has decided to hire the longtime Washington lawyer Joseph E. diGenova, who has pushed the theory on television that Mr. Trump was framed by F.B.I. and Justice Department officials, to bolster his legal team, according to three people told of the decision.

Good idea; that’s what Don needs: more wack jobs on his “legal team.”

Mr. diGenova is not expected to take a lead role but will instead serve as a more aggressive player on the president’s legal team. Mr. Trump broke over the weekend from the longstanding advice of some of his lawyers that he refrain from directly attacking the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, a sign of his growing unease with the investigation.

Aka his sweating panic about the investigation, along with his total lack of filter and complete inability to evaluate anyone or anything according to reasonable criteria.

The plan isn’t official though, so he may change his mind, especially if Fox News gives it the thumbs down.

Mr. diGenova has endorsed the notion that a secretive group of F.B.I. agents concocted the Russia investigation as a way to keep Mr. Trump from becoming president. “There was a brazen plot to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and, if she didn’t win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime,” he said on Fox News in January. He added, “Make no mistake about it: A group of F.B.I. and D.O.J. people were trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely created crime.”

Yep that’s the ticket, more paranoia and fantasy, that’s just what Trump needs.



More death penalty

Mar 18th, 2018 5:21 pm | By

Trump plans to kill more people.

President Donald Trump will roll out new plans to tackle the country’s opioid epidemic on Monday in New Hampshire, the White House said Sunday. The plan will include stiffer penalties for high-intensity drug traffickers, including the death penalty for some dealers, Andrew Bremberg, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, told reporters Sunday.

The concept of the death penalty for certain drug traffickers is something Trump has been outspoken about, but this will be the first time it will be part of an official administration plan.

“The Department of Justice will seek the death penalty against drug traffickers when it’s appropriate under current law,” Bremberg told reporters during a phone call Sunday evening.

rump called for the death penalty to drug dealers earlier this month at a rally in Pennsylvania. His plan is expected to focus on sentencing reforms for drug dealers that would stiffen penalties for high-intensity drug dealers while “other people languishing in prison for these low-level drug crimes,” a senior administration official said.

“The President thinks that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime,” the official said, adding that these penalties would be for dealers who bring large quantities of opioids — particular fentanyl — into the United States, not the people that are “are growing pot in the backyard or a friend who has a low-level possession crime.

“His plan will address, and he will address, the stiffening of penalties for the people who are bringing the poison into our communities,” the official added.

The stiffening – geddit? They’ll be stiffs. If you kill people you turn them into stiffs. He’s such a joker.

On Sunday’s call with reporters, administration officials would not get into specifics on Trump’s death penalty proposal and referred all questions to the Department of Justice. When asked if the death penalty would be an appropriate punishment for some traffickers, a senior administration official again referred the question to the department but said capital punishment would be fitting in some instances.

The official said the death penalty proposal would be something the Justice Department will be “examining to move ahead with to make sure that’s done appropriately” and not wait for Congress to propose possible legislation on the matter.

Yes let’s hurry up and kill people.



When people are chosen by a man

Mar 18th, 2018 3:56 pm | By

Ruth Marcus on Trump’s efforts to control what people say about him:

[Robert] Costa [in April 2016]: “One thing I always wondered, are you going to make employees of the federal government sign nondisclosure agreements?”

Trump: “I think they should. . . . And I don’t know, there could be some kind of a law that you can’t do this. But when people are chosen by a man to go into government at high levels and then they leave government and they write a book about a man and say a lot of things that were really guarded and personal, I don’t like that. I mean, I’ll be honest. And people would say, oh, that’s terrible, you’re taking away his right to free speech. Well, he’s going in.”

Comes with the job though. It’s a public service job.

In the early months of the administration, at the behest of now-President Trump, who was furious over leaks from within the White House, senior White House staff members were asked to, and did, sign nondisclosure agreements vowing not to reveal confidential information and exposing them to damages for any violation.

Some tried to say no but Priebus leaned on them so they gave in, figuring it was unconstitutional anyway.

Moreover, said the source, this confidentiality pledge would extend not only after an aide’s White House service but also beyond the Trump presidency. “It’s not meant to be constrained by the four years or eight years he’s president — or the four months or eight months somebody works there. It is meant to survive that.”

This is extraordinary. Every president inveighs against leakers and bemoans the kiss-and-tell books; no president, to my knowledge, has attempted to impose such a pledge. And while White House staffers have various confidentiality obligations — maintaining the secrecy of classified information or attorney-client privilege, for instance — the notion of imposing a side agreement, supposedly enforceable even after the president leaves office, is not only oppressive but constitutionally repugnant.

But also very very Trump-like. He has a hugely inflated opinion of himself and a correspondingly low opinion of everyone else. He thinks he’s entitled to own people for life.

“This is crazy,” said attorney Debra Katz, who has represented numerous government whistleblowers and negotiated nondisclosure agreements. “The idea of having some kind of economic penalty is an outrageous effort to limit and chill speech. Once again, this president believes employees owe him a personal duty of loyalty, when their duty of loyalty is to the institution.”

He thinks everyone in the world owes him loyalty, or at least deference. He thinks no one has any right to point out what an empty sack of wind he is.

In the draft agreement, which is all Marcus has seen, they were demanding $10 million for

each and any unauthorized revelation of “confidential” information, defined as “all nonpublic information I learn of or gain access to in the course of my official duties in the service of the United States Government on White House staff,” including “communications . . . with members of the press” and “with employees of federal, state, and local governments.”

$10 million plus a gallon of ice cream.

As outlined in the document, this restriction would cover Trump aides not only during their White House service but also “at all times thereafter.”

The document: “I understand that the United States Government or, upon completion of the term(s) of Mr. Donald J. Trump, an authorized representative of Mr. Trump, may seek any remedy available to enforce this Agreement including, but not limited to, application for a court order prohibiting disclosure of information in breach of this Agreement.”

Also, if you slip up, they’ll kill your children.