Notes and Comment Blog

You can’t always

Jul 23rd, 2016 11:35 am | By

Trump pissed off a lot of musicians.

Quite a few bands whose music has been used along Donald Trump’s campaign trail have made their unhappiness very public: The O’Jays. The surviving members of Queen. George Harrison‘s estate. Adele. Earth, Wind & Fire. REM’s Michael Stipe. The Turtles. Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler (though he said his objection was financial, not ideological). Neil Young (though he, like Tyler, eventually said he was concerned about money and permission). And perhaps most famously now, The Rolling Stones — more on them later.

Legally, however, the GOP and the Trump campaign can use all those songs, as Melinda Newman (a former colleague of mine at Billboard) explained in Forbes this week, as long as the rights holders are paid: “The sad truth is for many artists, they can not keep their songs from being used in this context even if they vehemently disagree with the politician who is using the song.”

They can keep their music out of paid political advertising, but this is not that.

As the balloons and confetti (eventually) began to rain down last night at the Quicken Loans arena, however, rock ‘n’ roll had the last word on Trump — or maybe exactly the inverse happened. The evening’s last musical selection was the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Commenters on Twitter last night made hay of the seeming disconnects in meaning between the song and the convention’s spectacle of unity. But Trump has long used that tune in particular as one of his campaign’s anthems, despite the band’s fury and a request the band sent to the GOP candidate’s team earlier this year to stop using it.

No one from the Trump campaign has explained exactly why “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” has become such a staple selection at his events — at one rally in Carmel, Ind. back in May, for example, the song was played at least four times at that single campaign stop.

He’s probably taunting us. We want a world where Trump is just a loud, vulgar real-estate profiteer. We’re Losers, and he’s taunting us.

Trump circled her photo and scrawled “The Face of a Dog!”

Jul 23rd, 2016 10:27 am | By

James Hamblin at the Atlantic has more details about Trump the man. I figure everybody should keep recycling them non-stop so that nobody will forget them.

Hamblin focuses on the question whether Trump is really a psychopath, and says let’s talk about NPD instead.

One psychologist, Ben Michaelis, called Trump “textbook Narcissistic Personality Disorder.” Psychologist George Simon called Trump “so classic that I’m archiving video clips of him to use in workshops because there’s no better example of his characteristics.”

Then he says no actually let’s talk about Antisocial Personality Disorder.

According to the DSM, Antisocial Personality Disorder should be diagnosed in a person who meets two criteria about the way they function in the world, and criteria about their personal traits. In the realm of the latter, the person must also demonstrate two other traits: antagonism and disinhibition.

That certainly fits Trump well, doesn’t it. That is in fact why he’s such a terrifying candidate.

As one recent example, Fox News debate moderator Megyn Kelly said that she “may have overestimated his anger management skills” when, in response to perceived unfair questioning, Trump called her a “bimbo” with “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”

In a much more prolonged example, writer McKay Coppins wrote a profile of Trump in which he called Mar-a-Lago a “nice, if slightly dated, hotel,” and incurred years of backlash. “He had tweeted about me frequently in the weeks following its publication—often at odd hours, sometimes multiple times a day—denouncing me as a “dishonest slob” and “true garbage with no credibility,” Coppins recalls. “For two years, Trump continued to rant about how I’m a scumbag, or a loser, or ‘just another phony guy.’”

And that is what a lot of people want to see in the White House – a schoolyard bully writ large.

Then there’s lying, callousness, impulsivity, irresponsibility – all terrible qualities for a president, surely. He aces them all, according to Hamblin.

The other domain of Antisocial Personality Disorder is personality functioning, which involves two criteria. First, either one of the following:

Identity: Ego-centrism; self-esteem derived from personal gain, power, or pleasure.

Self-direction: Goal-setting based on personal gratification; absence of prosocial internal standards associated with failure to conform to lawful or culturally normative ethical behavior.

Trump is rather candid about these points. He is rich and powerful, and his business endeavors are primarily undertaken to achieve that end. “I don’t lose! I’ve never been a loser. I like to win!”

And that’s how he sees the world – as winners and losers, with the winners deserving all the spoils and the losers deserving poverty, contempt, and banishment.

Then there’s dominance.

Using dominance or intimidation to control others, though, shows up time and again in Trump’s history. He has done this particularly to journalists, and entire newspapers and magazines. In one incident, he sent The New York Times’ Gail Collins a copy of her column, having circled her photo and scrawled “The Face of a Dog!”

That should be all anyone needs to know about him. Socially he’s another Milo Yiannopoulos, and he shouldn’t be allowed within a thousand miles of any political office.

He has unspooled one lie after another

Jul 22nd, 2016 5:20 pm | By

The Washington Post puts it all out there on Trump.

The real estate tycoon is uniquely unqualified to serve as president, in experience and temperament. He is mounting a campaign of snarl and sneer, not substance. To the extent he has views, they are wrong in their diagnosis of America’s problems and dangerous in their proposed solutions. Mr. Trump’s politics of denigration and division could strain the bonds that have held a diverse nation together. His contempt for constitutional norms might reveal the nation’s two-century-old experiment in checks and balances to be more fragile than we knew.

Apart from that, Mrs Lincoln, how did you like the play?

But seriously, they’re right. It takes incredible gall to run for the office when you’re as unqualified as Trump. That infuriated me about Bush Junior, too, but Trump is even more less qualified.

It has been 64 years since a major party nominated anyone for president who did not have electoral experience. That experiment turned out pretty well — but Mr. Trump, to put it mildly, is no Dwight David Eisenhower. Leading the Allied campaign to liberate Europe from the Nazis required strategic and political skills of the first order…

Skills that Trump shows zero evidence of having – that in fact he shows affirmative evidence of not having.

The lack of experience might be overcome if Mr. Trump saw it as a handicap worth overcoming. But he displays no curiosity, reads no books and appears to believe he needs no advice.

There, frankly, he’s no worse than Bush – but he doesn’t need to be: Bush was plenty bad enough.

He is desperate for affirmation but contemptuous of other views. He also is contemptuous of fact. Throughout the campaign, he has unspooled one lie after another — that Muslims in New Jersey celebrated after 9/11, that his tax-cut plan would not worsen the deficit, that he opposed the Iraq War before it started — and when confronted with contrary evidence, he simply repeats the lie. It is impossible to know whether he convinces himself of his own untruths or knows that he is wrong and does not care. It is also difficult to know which trait would be more frightening in a commander in chief.

The guy who co-wrote The Art of the Deal says the same thing – that he’s a prolific, shameless liar.

Mr. Trump has nothing positive to offer, only scapegoats and dark conspiracy theories. He launched his campaign by accusing Mexico of sending rapists across the border, and similar hatefulness has surfaced numerous times in the year since.

In a dangerous world, Mr. Trump speaks blithely of abandoning NATO, encouraging more nations to obtain nuclear weapons and cozying up to dictators who in fact wish the United States nothing but harm. For eight years, Republicans have criticized President Obama for “apologizing” for America and for weakening alliances. Now they put forward a candidate who mimics the vilest propaganda of authoritarian adversaries about how terrible the United States is and how unfit it is to lecture others. He has made clear that he would drop allies without a second thought. The consequences to global security could be disastrous.

It would be like Brexit but without the voting part.

And then there’s his mix of hostility and ignorance when it comes to the Constitution.

…he doesn’t seem to care about its limitations on executive power. He has threatened that those who criticize him will suffer when he is president. He has vowed to torturesuspected terrorists and bomb their innocent relatives, no matter the illegality of either act. He has vowed to constrictthe independent press. He went after a judge whose rulings angered him, exacerbating his contempt for the independence of the judiciary by insisting that the judge should be disqualified because of his Mexican heritage. Mr. Trump has encouraged and celebrated violence at his rallies. The U.S. democratic system is strong and has proved resilient when it has been tested before. We have faith in it. But to elect Mr. Trump would be to knowingly subject it to threat.

Let’s not do that.

H/t Stagamancer

The classic technology of the demagogue

Jul 22nd, 2016 11:30 am | By

Evan Osnos at the New Yorker says the scary thing about the Republican convention is that the Republican party seems to have fallen into line behind this terrible terrible man.

Four years after the previous Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, told delegates that “we are a nation of immigrants,” Trump connected killings of police officers, misperceptions of immigration levels, and distorted anecdotes about crime in order to employ the classic technology of the demagogue: he created a grave national threat that only he can solve. His opponent, he said, promises “mass amnesty, mass immigration, and mass lawlessness. Her plan will overwhelm your schools, your hospitals.”

For moderate Republicans, the Convention cemented a bewildering transformation at the top of their Party. There was no clamorous showdown, as some had predicted. The Party slid gently into a new incarnation.

We’re doomed.

As all would-be authoritarians do

Jul 22nd, 2016 11:03 am | By

People with more determination to look straight at unpleasant things than I have watched Trump’s acceptance speech last night, and reported that it was pure fascism, which by that time surprised no one.

The Times says about it:

In the most consequential speech of his life, delivered 401 days into his improbable run for the White House, Mr. Trump sounded much like the unreflective man who had started it with an escalator ride in the lobby of Trump Tower: He conjured up chaos and promised overnight solutions.

To an electorate that remains anxious about his demeanor, his honesty and his character, Mr. Trump offered no acknowledgment, no rebuttal, no explanation.

His demeanor, his honesty, his character and his politics. Let’s not leave that part out, Times. He has a form of politics, and we remain “anxious” about it, which is the understatement of the decade. He has the politics of conjuring up chaos and promising overnight solutions – the politics of racism and hatred and fear, the politics of macho contempt for women and macho love of violent rhetoric.

Inside the Quicken Loans Arena, a thicket of American flags behind him, he portrayed himself, over and over, as an almost messianic figure prepared to rescue the country from the ills of urban crime, illegal immigration and global terrorism.

“I alone,” he said, “can fix it.”

The “Quicken Loans Arena” is a nice touch. Profit is everything, human needs are for losers.

“I alone,” he said, “can fix it.”

But Mr. Trump made no real case for his qualifications to lead the world’s largest economy and strongest military. He is, he said, a very successful man who knows how to make it all better.

Why would that be, exactly? Why would knowing how to gouge out staggering amounts of money from building super-expensive real estate mean he knows how to “fix” the things he identifies as problems or any other national problems? Bernie Madoff built himself a huge fortune too, until the Ponzi scheme collapsed; so what?

The rest of the Times piece is just the same stupid shit Adam Gopnik excoriated in the New Yorker: analysis of what bad campaign strategy it was.

John Cassidy at the New Yorker is not so interested in giving helpful advice to Trump on how to campaign better:

As all would-be authoritarians do, Trump sought to portray himself as the defender of the little guy. “I have visited the laid-off factory workers and the communities crushed by our horrible and unfair trade deals,” he said. “These are people who work hard but no longer have a voice. I am your voice.” And again, toward the end, he used the same phrase after a riff on Clinton’s “I’m with her” slogan. “My pledge reads, ‘I’m with you, the American people. I am your voice,’ ” he said.

Right. The billionaire builder of expensive Manhattan towers is the voice of the working class. You bet.

I was standing next to the delegations from New York and Florida, both of which were Trump strongholds during the Republican primaries. The portions of the speech that received the loudest cheers were the most nativist and controversial bits. When he said, “We don’t want them in our country,” referring to people from Muslim nations with histories of terrorism problems, whom he would bar from the United States, he got perhaps the loudest cheer of the night. And when he said, “We are going to be considerate and compassionate to everyone, but my greatest compassion will be for our own struggling citizens,” the chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” were so vigorous that he joined in and gave the chanters a quick thumbs-up.

White people! White people!

Ultimately, Trump’s motivation doesn’t matter very much. The platform that he is running on is divisive and dangerous, and, despite the consensus in the media and political worlds that he is destined to be defeated, it still isn’t entirely clear that his strategy won’t work. After Trump had finished, I asked Congressman John Mica, who represents a district just north of Orlando, and who was standing with the Florida delegation, what he thought of the speech. “He ticked all the boxes,” Mica replied. “I thought he was great.” But weren’t Trump’s words perhaps too dark to appeal to the country at large? Mica thought not. “The emphasis on safety and security,” he said. “I think that is a message that will resonate.”

And if it does we’ll all be in deep deep shit.

What all forms of fascism have in common

Jul 21st, 2016 6:14 pm | By

Adam Gopnik pointed out a week ago how shockingly normalized Trump is being, by Republicans and by the media.

What is genuinely alarming is the urge, however human it may be, to normalize the abnormal by turning toward emotions and attitudes that are familiar. To their great credit, the editors of most of the leading conservative publications in America have recognized Trump for what he is, and have opposed his rise to power. Yet the habit of hatred is so ingrained in their psyches that even those who recognize at some level that Trump is a horror, when given the dangling bait of another chance to hate Hillary still leap at it, insisting on her “criminality” at the very moment when it’s officially rejected, and attempting to equate this normal politician with an abnormal threat to political life itself. They do this, in part, to placate their readership. In the so-called mainstream (call it liberal) media, meanwhile, the election is treated with blithe inconsequence, as another occasion for strategy-weighing. The Times, to take one example, ran a front-page analysis criticizing Trump for being insufficiently able to exploit a political opening given by the investigation into Clinton’s e-mail, with the complaint seeming to be that Trump just isn’t clever enough to give us a good fight—to be the fun opponent we want. If only he had some more skill at this! While the habits of hatred get the better of the right, the habits of self-approval through the fiction of being above it all contaminate the center.

Not to mention the center (and the media) passion for the political contest, as if it were another episode of MasterChef.

As I have written before, to call him a fascist of some variety is simply to use a historical label that fits. The arguments about whether he meets every point in some static fascism matrix show a misunderstanding of what that ideology involves. It is the essence of fascism to have no single fixed form—an attenuated form of nationalism in its basic nature, it naturally takes on the colors and practices of each nation it infects. In Italy, it is bombastic and neoclassical in form; in Spain, Catholic and religious; in Germany, violent and romantic. It took forms still crazier and more feverishly sinister, if one can imagine, in Romania, whereas under Oswald Mosley, in England, its manner was predictably paternalistic and aristocratic. It is no surprise that the American face of fascism would take on the forms of celebrity television and the casino greeter’s come-on, since that is as much our symbolic scene as nostalgic re-creations of Roman splendors once were Italy’s.

What all forms of fascism have in common is the glorification of the nation, and the exaggeration of its humiliations, with violence promised to its enemies, at home and abroad; the worship of power wherever it appears and whoever holds it; contempt for the rule of law and for reason; unashamed employment of repeated lies as a rhetorical strategy; and a promise of vengeance for those who feel themselves disempowered by history. It promises to turn back time and take no prisoners. That it can appeal to those who do not understand its consequences is doubtless true. But the first job of those who do understand is to state what those consequences invariably are. Those who think that the underlying institutions of American government are immunized against it fail to understand history. In every historical situation where a leader of Trump’s kind comes to power, normal safeguards collapse. Ours are older and therefore stronger? Watching the rapid collapse of the Republican Party is not an encouraging rehearsal. Donald Trump has a chance to seize power.

He’s succeeded this far – why should we think he won’t continue?

He mad

Jul 21st, 2016 5:55 pm | By

Trump of course is threatening Tony Schwartz over Jane Mayer’s New Yorker piece on what an empty shell of a human Schwartz says he is.

On Monday, July 18th, the day that this magazine published my interviewwith Schwartz, and hours after Schwartz appeared on “Good Morning America” to voice his concerns about Trump’s “impulsive and self-centered” character, Jason D. Greenblatt, the general counsel and vice-president of the Trump Organization, issued a threatening cease-and-desist letter to Schwartz. (You can read the full letter at the bottom of this post.) In it, Greenblatt accuses Schwartz—who has likened his writing of the flattering book to putting “lipstick on a pig”—of making “defamatory statements” about the Republican nominee and claiming that he, not Trump, wrote the book, “thereby exposing” himself to “liability for damages and other tortious harm.”

The guy’s a major party candidate for The One Who Can Launch the Nukes – the bar for “defamatory statements” has to be pretty high in his case. We need to be able to hear what someone who knows a lot about him thinks of his capabilities. The fact that what he thinks isn’t flattering to Trump is all the more reason we need to know.

On Thursday, reached by e-mail on an airplane, Schwartz said that he would continue to speak out against Trump, and that he would make no retractions or apologies. “The fact that Trump would take time out of convention week to worry about a critic is evidence to me not only of how thin-skinned he is, but also of how misplaced his priorities are,” Schwartz wrote. He added, “It is axiomatic that when Trump feels attacked, he will strike back. That’s precisely what’s so frightening about his becoming president.”

“I fully expected him to attack me, because that is what he does, so I can’t say I am surprised,” Schwartz noted. “But I’m much more worried about his becoming president than I am about anything he might try to do to me.”

It’s terrifying. Terrifying.


A rotten carcass of an issue

Jul 21st, 2016 5:29 pm | By

Hadley Freeman doesn’t find it a tragedy that Milo Yiannopoulos has been booted off Twitter after years of using it as a tool for abusing people.

Sensing a rotten carcass of an issue, the vultures soon arrived. Louise Mensch, a former MP, took a break from calling a man whose child was having an operation a “scumbag” and “loathsome tit”, desperately gripped on to Mr Loser’s coattailsand demanded that Congress “look at” this vital issue of someone not being able to log into their social media account. Poor Mensch, it must be so hard for her stuck in boring New York City when all she cares about is how many mentions she gets on Twitter. One day we will look in more detail at this strange new demographic of adults who confuse “becoming online hate figures” with “staying relevant”. Another time.

Ah Louise Mensch – she’s another who uses Twitter as a tool for abusing people.

For now, we’ll stick with the popular confusion between “constitutional rights” and “inciting harassment”. Jones has been accused of infringing Mr Loser’s freedom of speech, which I guess is true, if you believe a woman telling a bus driver that a fellow passenger is shouting abuse at her is a denial of free speech. “Why didn’t she just get off the internet?” sneered people who presumably would tell someone who was just mugged they should get off the street.

That’s the thing though, isn’t it – shouting abuse isn’t protected speech. You really have to be either a self-absorbed angry teenager or a fanatical libertarian to think it is. We don’t expect the cops to deal with rudeness, but that doesn’t mean that we welcome rudeness in all aspects of life.

He’s a living black hole

Jul 21st, 2016 1:45 pm | By

The guy who ghost-wrote Trump’s The Art of the Deal is regretting having done so. He regrets having helped shape the Trump image that has brought him so terrifyingly far.

But the prospect of President Trump terrified him. It wasn’t because of Trump’s ideology—Schwartz doubted that he had one. The problem was Trump’s personality, which he considered pathologically impulsive and self-centered.

Schwartz thought about publishing an article describing his reservations about Trump, but he hesitated, knowing that, since he’d cashed in on the flattering “Art of the Deal,” his credibility and his motives would be seen as suspect. Yet watching the campaign was excruciating. Schwartz decided that if he kept mum and Trump was elected he’d never forgive himself. In June, he agreed to break his silence and give his first candid interview about the Trump he got to know while acting as his Boswell.

“I put lipstick on a pig,” he said. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” He went on, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

If he were writing “The Art of the Deal” today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, “The Sociopath.”

So, that’s cheerful.

He had qualms about doing the book, but he needed money.

The book turned out to be harder to write than he expected, because Trump has a tiny tiny tiny

attention span. He couldn’t talk about his childhood at any length because he got bored and twitchy.

Week after week, the pattern repeated itself. Schwartz tried to limit the sessions to smaller increments of time, but Trump’s contributions remained oddly truncated and superficial.

“Trump has been written about a thousand ways from Sunday, but this fundamental aspect of who he is doesn’t seem to be fully understood,” Schwartz told me. “It’s implicit in a lot of what people write, but it’s never explicit—or, at least, I haven’t seen it. And that is that it’s impossible to keep him focussed on any topic, other than his own self-aggrandizement, for more than a few minutes, and even then . . . ” Schwartz trailed off, shaking his head in amazement. He regards Trump’s inability to concentrate as alarming in a Presidential candidate. “If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it’s impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time,” he said.

Oh well. It’s only the planet.

This year, Schwartz has heard some argue that there must be a more thoughtful and nuanced version of Donald Trump that he is keeping in reserve for after the campaign. “There isn’t,” Schwartz insists. “There is no private Trump.” This is not a matter of hindsight. While working on “The Art of the Deal,” Schwartz kept a journal in which he expressed his amazement at Trump’s personality, writing that Trump seemed driven entirely by a need for public attention. “All he is is ‘stomp, stomp, stomp’—recognition from outside, bigger, more, a whole series of things that go nowhere in particular,” he observed, on October 21, 1986.

Then there’s a section about how much Trump lies, and how cheerful he is about it – which makes him a psychopath.

In his journal, Schwartz wrote, “Trump stands for many of the things I abhor: his willingness to run over people, the gaudy, tacky, gigantic obsessions, the absolute lack of interest in anything beyond power and money.” Looking back at the text now, Schwartz says, “I created a character far more winning than Trump actually is.” The first line of the book is an example. “I don’t do it for the money,” Trump declares. “I’ve got enough, much more than I’ll ever need. I do it to do it. Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.” Schwartz now laughs at this depiction of Trump as a devoted artisan. “Of coursehe’s in it for the money,” he said. “One of the most deep and basic needs he has is to prove that ‘I’m richer than you.’ ” As for the idea that making deals is a form of poetry, Schwartz says, “He was incapable of saying something like that—it wouldn’t even be in his vocabulary.” He saw Trump as driven not by a pure love of dealmaking but by an insatiable hunger for “money, praise, and celebrity.” Often, after spending the day with Trump, and watching him pile one hugely expensive project atop the next, like a circus performer spinning plates, Schwartz would go home and tell his wife, “He’s a living black hole!”

No doubt the presidency thing is more of the same. I’ve never thought it was anything else.

Schwartz told me that Trump’s need for attention is “completely compulsive,” and that his bid for the Presidency is part of a continuum. “He’s managed to keep increasing the dose for forty years,” Schwartz said. After he’d spent decades as a tabloid titan, “the only thing left was running for President. If he could run for emperor of the world, he would.”

That’s what I mean.

Schwartz told me that he has decided to pledge all royalties from sales of “The Art of the Deal” in 2016 to pointedly chosen charities: the National Immigration Law Center, Human Rights Watch, the Center for the Victims of Torture, the National Immigration Forum, and the Tahirih Justice Center. He doesn’t feel that the gesture absolves him. “I’ll carry this until the end of my life,” he said. “There’s no righting it. But I like the idea that, the more copies that ‘The Art of the Deal’ sells, the more money I can donate to the people whose rights Trump seeks to abridge.”

Be careful what you ghost-write.


Spare us the nostalgia

Jul 21st, 2016 12:25 pm | By

A political cartoon last year at Indian Country Today:


It’s pretty clear that the takeaway is: what a falling off is there. Radicals in the 70s were strong and slim and heavily armed, and of course male. Now radicals are nerdy and weak and writers, and of course female.

So what we’re being invited to agree with is the idea that violence is better than discourse…and that weapons are better than keyboards, buff people are better than nerds in glasses, men are better than women.

Hi. Allow me to speak up for writing as being preferable to weapons. Weapons are just force. Writing is about presenting reasons. Explaining why your political views are better than your opponent’s is not weakness or cowardice – it’s the foundation of politics.

Down with guns, up with words.


Jul 21st, 2016 11:54 am | By

No, it really isn’t. It isn’t that simpleIt isn’t that simple.


If it really were that simple, then we should want more and more and more racist and anti-Semitic and misogynist commentary. There should never be enough, because we should always want more of it so that we can be free to say “wow, what a dick” in response.

If it really were that simple, there would be no problem with actual racists or anti-Semites or misogynists stirring up hatred of and violence against disfavored groups of people – and yet we know that racists and misogynists do stir up hatred of and violence against disfavored groups of people.

If it really were that simple, words would have no power at all to motivate people to do things.

If it really were that simple, the magic phrase “wow, what a dick” would neutralize all hate-speech, such that no violence or bullying would ever flow from it.

It really is not that simple.

Only 22?

Jul 21st, 2016 10:49 am | By

If only we could have the discussion without misogynist or racist or homophobic or xenophobic slurs. If only.

Like 6.5 hours worth on Monday night:

2016_07_19 MelaniaSexism r3 LM

Guest post: Some of the more common misconceptions about GMOs

Jul 20th, 2016 5:41 pm | By

Guest post by James Garnett, from a Facebook post inspired by yet another GMO fray on a friend’s wall.

This is off the cuff and not super organized, but I want to hit some of the more common misconceptions.

1. Monsanto does not “ruin farmers with lawsuits”. In the last ~20 years, Monsanto has gone to court only 11 times, in cases of overt lawbreaking. Moreover, the juries have found in Monsanto’s favor every single time.

2. Exactly one farmer was sued for replanting patented seeds in a lawsuit brought by Monsanto: Canadian Percy Schmeiser. He lost the case after being caught in an outright lie about his practices. However, the court awarded no damages to Monsanto because—bizarrely—Schmeiser didn’t even use herbicides on his herbicide-resistant plants grown from the patent-protected seeds.

3.. Monsanto does not preclude farmers from replanting seed from the previous year’s crop; nature, common sense, and financial reality do. Plants grown from the seed of F1 hybrids of the type that Monsanto sells do not grow true, and so the resulting crop cannot be sold. Anyone who has ever replanted their own seeds from hybrid plants knows this, even backyard gardeners.

4. Even if a farmer were confused enough today to want to replant the seeds grown from RoundUp Ready seed stock, Monsanto would not sue them–because the patent on that technology has expired.

5. Seed patents are not new. “Traditional” seeds as well as GMO seeds are covered by patents, and have been ever since people began experimenting with hybrids of any kind at all.

6. Farmers are not required to buy and plant patented seeds. There are plenty of seeds not under patent that they can use, including many sold by Monsanto.

7. The overwhelming majority of commercial large-scale farmers have no problems with Monsanto seed/technology contracts, because they ensure consistency and fairness.

8. Monsanto contracts do not require farmers to purchase their herbicides.

9. The infamous “Monsanto Terminator Seeds” don’t exist.

10. No farmer has ever been sued by Monsanto for “the wind blowing patented seeds” into their fields from a neighbor’s patented-seed crop or a passing truck.

11. Monsanto’s policies have not resulted in “thousands of Indian farmers committing suicide.”

12. Lateral gene transfer already happens in nature all the time. There are snake gene sequences in the bovine genetic code, for example.

13. GMO crops result in less pesticide use.

14. GMO crops have not been shown to cause allergies, cancers, or other health problems, despite thousands of studies over the last ~30 years. The scientific consensus is that GMO crops are no more or less risky than conventional crops.

15. If you say “GMO crops are not proven safe!”, then you fundamentally misunderstand how science works. Statistical studies do not “prove something safe”, they attempt to demonstrate specific correlations. That is, science of this kind does not generally demonstrate the _absence_ of something, but rather the _presence_ of something*. Consider the example of tobacco: did the many tobacco studies of the 20th century list all the conditions that tobacco use DOESN’T cause, or did they establish correlations between tobacco use and cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and COPD? (*Scientists reading this, yes, I know, that’s not strictly true. Hence the use of the word “generally”.)

16. GMO labeling laws do not work, if by “work” we mean “inform consumers about the presence of proteins derived from GMO crops in the food they are buying”. There is no active law on the books, or proposed bill in the works, that will inform you via a label that you’re about to consume GMO-derived food. The reason for this is political: in order to get these bills to a vote, too many exceptions must be incorporated into the bills, e.g. packaged foods must be labelled, but not prepared foods. Political special interests will always preclude these labels from having any real meaning.

Guest post: Very few people understand what a “right” is

Jul 20th, 2016 4:33 pm | By

Guest post by George Felis, from a discussion on the “right to insult people” issue elsewhere.

In addition to the obvious smug stupidity here, there’s a subtler level of plain old ignorance: Very few people understand what a “right” is. The word “right” does not necessarily always mean a civil right, legal right, or constitutional right. For one person to have a “right” simply means that some other person or persons has an obligation to do or refrain from doing something that affects that person. For example, children have a right to the love and care of their parents because their parents have a moral obligation to love and care for any children they create. Rights can be personal (an obligation owed by a particular person or persons) or universal (an obligation owed by everyone).

Since everyone has a moral obligation to refrain from heaping insults and abuse on people who have done nothing to deserve it — and, more generally, an obligation to refrain from inflicting any kind of undeserved harm on anyone — people do in fact have a moral right not to be insulted. I suppose someone might disagree with this very modest moral principle, but the principle is so transparently obvious and so widely shared that the burden of proof ought to fall on someone who rejects the principle rather than those who accept it.

Furthermore, whenever someone violates this obvious moral principle without offering any justification whatsoever for doing so, they have clearly done something objectionable and wrong. And if you do something obviously wrong (without being able to offer any justification, or indeed without even trying), your behavior deserves some sort of censure or punishment. Therefore, someone who called you an asshole for heaping abuse and insults on undeserving people would not be violating the principle that you one shouldn’t heap abuse and insults on undeserving people — because you would be deserving rather than undeserving.

Therefore, Milo Yiannopoulos and all his sycophantic man-boy cronies who attacked Leslie Jones for the horrible “offense” of being a successful black woman in a popular film are all worthless assholes. (Incidentally, the whole purpose of a sphincter is to keep defecation inside rather than letting it spill out into the world anywhere and everywhere, so calling these feces-spewing goons “worthless assholes” is descriptively accurate as well as richly deserved.)
Q.E.D. ;-)


Erdoğan eliminating

Jul 20th, 2016 4:24 pm | By

Erdoğan’s purges continue.

[T]he Turkish government crackdown widened on Tuesday to include the education sector and government departments.

Turkish media announced that:

  • 15,200 teachers and other education staff had been sacked
  • 1,577 university deans were ordered to resign
  • 8,777 interior ministry workers were dismissed
  • 1,500 staff in the finance ministry had been fired
  • 257 people working in the prime minister’s office were sacked

Turkey’s media regulation body on Tuesday also revoked the licences of 24 radio and TV channels accused of links to Mr Gulen.

The news came on top of the arrests of more than 6,000 military personal and the sackings of nearly 9,000 police officers. About 3,000 judges have also been suspended.

The removal of thousands of officials has alarmed international observers, with the UN urging Turkey to uphold the rule of law and defend human rights.

Reichstag fire.


Jul 20th, 2016 4:06 pm | By

This is scary. When I say Trump is scary I’m not being hyperbolic or metaphorical, I mean scary. Getting people killed scary. Stirring up the fascist beast scary.

One of his advisers has said Clinton should be shot for treason.

A New Hampshire state representative who advises Donald Trump on veterans’ issues called Tuesday for Hillary Clinton to be “put in the firing line and shot for treason” for her handling of the Benghazi terror attack.

Appearing on WRKO radio from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, state Representative Al Baldasaro, a Londonderry Republican, called the presumptive Democratic nominee “a piece of garbage.”

“She is a disgrace . . . for the lies that she told those mothers about their children that got killed over there in Benghazi,” Baldasaro said of Clinton. “She dropped the ball on over 400 e-mails requesting backup security. Something’s wrong there.”

“This whole thing disgusts me,” Baldasaro said. “Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason.”

This is Trump world. It’s a bad world.

A Clinton campaign spokeswoman pointed to Trump in response to Baldasaro’s remarks, saying in a statement that the nominee’s “overtaking of the Republican Party — and his constant escalation of outrageous rhetoric — is in danger of mainstreaming the kind of hatred that has long been relegated to the fringes of American politics where it belongs.”

“This week at the Republican convention, we’ve seen the clearest embodiment yet of this dangerous phenomenon,” she said.

I don’t want to live in a fascist America. I don’t want anyone to have to live there.

Bad things are bad

Jul 20th, 2016 10:55 am | By

The moral bankruptcy de nos joursa comment right here on my post about Milo Yiannopoulos’s permanent banishment from Twitter –

I’m indifferent. I know little about the tweets aimed at Jones, but I do know that no one has a ‘right’ not to be insulted or offended.

Emphasis added.

It could be the anthem of the Sadistic Callous Asshole brigade – no one has a ‘right’ not to be insulted or offended, therefore I can and will devote all my leisure time to insulting people on Twitter.

The lack of thought of it – the crudity – the emptiness. Yes, no kidding, there aren’t laws against being mean and rude. We know that. We know that treating people decently in everyday life isn’t a matter for legislators or the police. We know that. It’s entirely beside the point. Yes you have the legal right to say horrible wounding things to your best friend or spouse or child or sibling or parent – but that doesn’t matter. You have the legal right to be mean and insulting to wait staff, sales clerks, bus drivers, janitors – but that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that you have the legal right. It’s a bad thing to do and you shouldn’t do it. Cruelty and sadism are bad and you shouldn’t engage in them. Deliberately hurting people is bad and you shouldn’t do it. Dani Mathers did an appalling thing by taking that picture and posting it online with a jeer, and it would be every bit as appalling even if there were no law against taking photos of naked people in locker rooms without permission. The law doesn’t cover everything that’s bad and wrong to do, so pointing out that you can insult people if you want to just lets the world know that you have the moral sense of a brick.

The existence of Twitter has taught us that the world is stuffed with people who are just ecstatic to be able to be sadistic to strangers in public with no consequences. Saying no one has a ‘right’ not to be insulted or offended just reiterates the problem. I’m sick to death of smug people telling the world that they’re not legally obliged to refrain from tormenting people.

Milo joins the Brighton Grammar Two

Jul 20th, 2016 7:15 am | By

Famous Twitter harasser Milo Yiannopoulos has finally been banned altogether from the social platform that made him internet-famous. It’s about time. The guy has built a career (however shoddy) on sadistically torturing people via Twitter.

Twitter has permanently banned a rightwing writer and notorious troll for his role in the online abuse of Leslie Jones over her role in the Ghostbusters reboot.

Milo Yiannopoulos, the technology editor for, tweeted as @Nero. Before he was banned, he had more than 338,000 followers and called himself “the most fabulous supervillain on the internet” for his provocations online.

A known contrarian who likened rape culture to Harry Potter (“both fantasy”) and affectionately referred to Donald Trump as “daddy”, he emerged as a spokesman for the “alt-right” in the wake of the Gamergate movement.

“Contrarian” is a stupid word for what he does. Contrary to what? It’s not as if misogyny is an obscure or minority outlook. I suppose he’s “contrarian” in the sense that the “orthodox” view is that we shouldn’t bully strangers on social media for giggles.

Yiannopolous told his suspension was “cowardly”, and evidence that Twitter was a “no-go zone for conservatives”.

“Like all acts of the totalitarian regressive left, this will blow up in their faces, netting me more adoring fans. We’re winning the culture war, and Twitter just shot themselves in the foot.

“This is the end for Twitter. Anyone who cares about free speech has been sent a clear message: you’re not welcome on Twitter.”

Blah blah blah blah. Mommy interfered with his free speech when she told him not to be rude to his classmates, people on the street, people in shops, people on the bus, dinner guests.

Here’s the thing, Milo: free speech is about public discourse and substantive disagreement and minority opinion. It is not an ironclad rule that everyone should be as rude as possible at all times in all situations and all media. It’s not a law that protects your right to harass people. Free speech doesn’t extend to harassment.

On Monday, Jones had started publicising some of the abuse she had received on the platform, much of it singling her out for being black and a woman.

After she made public pleas for Twitter to intervene, its chief executive, Jack Dorsey, asked her to make contact late on Monday night.

But she later appeared to quit the platform “with tears and a very sad heart”.

So Milo jeered at her for being a victim.

A spokesman for Twitter said in a statement that “permanent suspension” was one of a number of steps that had been taken to address the uptick in offending accounts since Jones began rallying against her abusers.

“People should be able to express diverse opinions and beliefs on Twitter. But no one deserves to be subjected to targeted abuse online, and our rules prohibit inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others.”

In theory they do, but in practice Twitter almost never enforces those rules. Milo is the exception, not the rule.

The statement also addressed criticisms that the platform does not go far enough to protect its users, particularly women and people of colour.

“We know many people believe we have not done enough to curb this type of behavior on Twitter. We agree. We are continuing to invest heavily in improving our tools and enforcement systems to better allow us to identify and take faster action on abuse as it’s happening and prevent repeat offenders.”

Nowhere near enough. They get reports on people who harass nonstop for hours every day, and they reply saying “No problem here, sorry not sorry.”

A review of Twitter’s “hateful conduct policy” was under way and would prohibit more types of abusive behaviour as well as allow more forms of reporting, “with the goal of reducing the burden on the person being targeted”.

More details on those changes were due in the coming weeks, said the spokesman.

They’ve said that before. It didn’t happen.

They’re out

Jul 20th, 2016 6:31 am | By

Brighton Grammar expelled the two boys who set up the Instagram account to post pictures of much younger girls and label them “sluts.”

Police are investigating the social media account, which was created on Friday and featured photos of girls as young as 11 without their knowledge.

The school is reeling from the scandal, and reassuring parents and students that it will not tolerate “disrespectful behaviour on any social media”.

“Disrespectful” is not the right word. It’s much, much too mild. What those boys did is misogynist, and cruel, and damaging. We really need to not trivialize or minimize this kind of shit. We need to name it accurately.

The case was brought to the public’s attention after a concerned Melbourne mother wrote on Facebook that photos of her young daughter had been uploaded onto the vile Instagram account.

The mother told the ABC her daughter was walking with Grade 6 friends after school to meet her at an arranged pick up point when she was unwittingly snapped. They did not know about the post until seeing it online that night.

She said her family had been involved with Brighton Grammar for generations and she did not blame the school.

Instead, she blamed the boys’ parents, adding that misogyny was at the root of Australia’s domestic violence crisis.

There. She recognizes it for what it is; the school should be able to do the same.

“Shame on you for raising boys who have violated young girls … If this was isolated, perhaps I wouldn’t be as enraged as I am right now, but I hold those parents as responsible, as I do those boys.”

She said it was not a once-off event and she had screen shots of numerous offensive messages the same boys had sent to other girls in the past.

“Disrespectful” just doesn’t begin to cover it.

Because she loves the female body

Jul 19th, 2016 3:32 pm | By

She “apologized.”

At 19 seconds:

That photo was taken to be part of a personal conversation with a girlfriend

Stop right there. You don’t get to take naked photos of people without permission. PERIOD.

Also by saying that she yanked the rug out from under her claim that she’s “not that kind of person.” Please. That “personal conversation” with a “girlfriend” (she means friend) would not have been about how nice the other women at the gym are and what a good time she was having, it would have been about the horror of seeing women who don’t look like Danni Mathers. That’s the kind of person she is.