Notes and Comment Blog


Whatever right-thinking zealots in our little corner of the universe agree on

Mar 20th, 2019 9:53 am | By

More of the same:

Leiter Reports:

3AM Magazine’s radical chic motto–“whatever it is, we’re against it”–turns out to be bollocks

Their real motto is “whatever right-thinking zealots in our little corner of the universe agree on, we’re for it.” The magazine has withdrawn Richard Marshall’s interview with philosopher Holly Lawford-Smith (Melbourne) because in the course of the interview she denied that trans women are women, and expressed the gender critical view of these issues familiar to readers of the blog from the work of philosopher Kathleen Stock (Sussex).

Richard Marshall has resigned from 3AM Magazine, given this insulting treatment of his work.  He is right to do so, even though this is a huge loss for philosophy.  As he told me, it means the “end of the series” of interviews he has done over many years now, which now numbers nearly 400 interviews with philosophers about their work in accessible terms and freely available on the Internet.

If you value Mr. Marshall’s work and freedom of expression and thought, then e-mail the owner and co-editor of 3AM to make that known.  He is Andrew Gallix, reachable here:   andrew@3ammagazine.com

Women must be silenced so that trans women can do Being a Woman correctly.



The reality distortion field

Mar 19th, 2019 5:33 pm | By

Michelle Goldberg asks a very good question: why don’t Princess Ivanka and Prince Jared have impostor syndrome when they are in fact impostors? Why indeed?

According to “Kushner, Inc.,” Gary Cohn, former director of the National Economic Council, has told people that Ivanka Trump thinks she could someday be president. “Her father’s reign in Washington, D.C., is, she believes, the beginning of a great American dynasty,” writes Ward. Kushner, whose pre-White House experience included owning a boutique newspaper and helming a catastrophically ill-timed real estate deal, has arrogated to himself substantial parts of American foreign policy. According to Ward, shortly after Rex Tillerson was confirmed as secretary of state, Kushner told him “to leave Mexico to him because he’d have Nafta wrapped up by October.”

How can they sleep at night? How can they show up every day not dripping wet from flop sweat?

Partly, the Jared and Ivanka story is about the “reality distortion field” — a term one of Ward’s sources uses about Kushner — created by great family wealth. She quotes a member of Trump’s legal team saying that the two “have no idea how normal people perceive, understand, intuit.” Privilege, in them, has been raised to the level of near sociopathy.

Ward, the author of two previous books about the worlds of high finance and real estate, has known Kushner slightly for a long time; she told me that when he bought The New York Observer newspaper in 2006, he tried to hire her. She knocks down the idea that either he or his wife is a stabilizing force or moral compass in the Trump administration. Multiple White House sources told her they think it was Kushner who ordered the closing of White House visitor logs in April 2017, because he “didn’t want his frenetic networking exposed.” Ward reports that Cohn was stunned by their blasé reaction to Trump’s defense of the white-nationalist marchers in Charlottesville, Va.: “He was upset that they were not sufficiently upset.”

I don’t know how the restraining influence thing ever got off the ground, unless it’s sheer “well she cleans up real nice so she must be an okay person” magical thinking.



De gustibus

Mar 19th, 2019 4:31 pm | By

Aww Trump has a new twin.

President Trump hosted Jair Bolsonaro, the Brazilian president, at the White House on Tuesday, and it was something like looking in the mirror.

Like other authoritarian leaders that Mr. Trump has embraced since taking office, Mr. Bolsonaro is an echo of the American president: a brash nationalist whose populist appeal comes partly from his use of Twitter and his history of making crude statements about women, gay people and indigenous groups.

Isn’t that sweet? They’re simpatico.

Since taking office, Mr. Trump has repeatedly confronted and challenged the United States’ closest democratic allies, including the leaders of Canada, Germany and France, while speaking with glowing admiration of America’s adversaries.

At the top of Mr. Trump’s friendly authoritarians have been some of the globe’s most brutal dictators: Kim Jong-un of North Korea; Vladimir V. Putin of Russia; Xi Jinping of China; Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt; Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey; and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines.

Trump has a taste for brutes.



That well is empty

Mar 19th, 2019 11:55 am | By

Oh, gawd, here’s a book no one needs: The Four Horsemen: The Conversation That Sparked an Atheist Revolution.

Noooooooooo no no no please no.

But it’s too late, it already exists.

This meandering, unmoderated discussion among Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Dennett, a group dubbed the New Atheists, presents their unique positions in provocative but underdeveloped arguments. Composed mainly of transcriptions of a conversation among the four that was posted to YouTube in 2007, the book opens with introductory essays highlighting key points from the three surviving thinkers (Hitchens died in 2011).

I saw it via a tweet from CFI.

Oh hell yes, step right up and buy this book of a conversation that happened 12 years ago among four men, two of whom have gone on to become droning narrow seers of Angry Dude Twitter.

No thank you.



Something no human being should ever have to bear and suffer in their whole life

Mar 19th, 2019 10:05 am | By

Devin Nunes is suing, suing I tell you!

Stung by obscene and pointed criticism, Representative Devin Nunes, a Republican from California, has sued Twitter and three users for defamation, claiming the users smeared him and the platform allowed it to happen because of a political agenda.

Poor man. Has no one ever told him that politicians have to expect a lot of harsh criticism?

Though absorbing criticism comes with the territory for politicians, the complaint described the objectionable tweets from the three users as something “that no human being should ever have to bear and suffer in their whole life.”

Welllll, Dev, you kind of signed up for it.

To make his case, he cited a wide variety of tweets that included accusations of criminal misconduct, crude jokes at his expense and relatively banal criticism. The complaint says the tweets “falsely stated” that Mr. Nunes had brought “shame” to his family and that he was voted “Most Likely to Commit Treason” in high school, and that one of them included a cartoon image of a sexual act with Mr. Trump and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. The complaint lists dozens of other tweets he found insulting.

He’s certainly going the right way about encouraging us all to ignore them.

Mr. Nunes singled out Liz Mair, a Republican strategist who said on Twitter that she would not comment on the lawsuit, and two parody accounts: @DevinNunesMom, which was suspended last year, and @DevinCow, which is still active. The complaint says that Ms. Mair coordinated with the anonymous accounts on “a vicious defamation campaign” but did not offer evidence she was behind them or communicated with them, except for one tweet encouraging people to follow @DevinCow.

Yes but that one tweet totally counts!

“As part of its agenda to squelch Nunes’ voice, cause him extreme pain and suffering, influence the 2018 Congressional election, and distract, intimidate and interfere with Nunes’ investigation into corruption and Russian involvement in the 2016 Presidential Election, Twitter did absolutely nothing,” the complaint said.

Naughty Twitter, sitting there in its Twitteroffice giggling into its Twittersleeve about Nunes’s extreme pain and suffering.

The lawsuit by Mr. Nunes had the perhaps unintended effect of sharply increasing the reach of @DevinCow, the parody account that had around 1,200 followers before the lawsuit was filed. The account was up to 46,000 followers as of Tuesday morning and rapidly growing.

Oops.



Morgane gloats

Mar 19th, 2019 9:24 am | By

Morgane Oger continues to peak trans anyone who is paying attention.

The replies are universally hostile.

Wait, not quite, one trans woman is on Team Oger.

Are there any refuges for raped/battered women that are more incloooosive of the people who rape/batter them?

Oger continues with the “But I am a woman” bullshit.

Haw haw, see? We have no basis for disagreeing with him because he’s a woman just as we are, why do we keep hitting ourselves?

Quite a few replies point out how very male his sense of entitlement is.



A ravenous appetite for risk

Mar 19th, 2019 8:18 am | By

The NY Times dropped a big article on Deutsche Bank and Trump late yesterday, which Everyone Is Talking About.

Before Trump stole the presidency he and DB had a mutually beneficial relationship. It’s obvious how he benefited; how they did, not so much.

Mr. Trump used loans from Deutsche Bank to finance skyscrapers and other high-end properties, and repeatedly cited his relationship with the bank to deflect political attacks on his business acumen. Deutsche Bank used Mr. Trump’s projects to build its investment-banking business, reaped fees from the assets he put in its custody[,] and leveraged his celebrity to lure clients.

I’m not sure what it means to “build” an investment-banking business via bad loans to a cheat, but maybe the fees and celebrity were enough to offset that.

When Trump succeeded in stealing the election, DB got nervous. Employees were told not to utter the word “Trump.”

More than two years later, Mr. Trump’s financial ties with Deutsche Bank are the subject of investigations by two congressional committees and the New York attorney general. Investigators hope to use Deutsche Bank as a window into Mr. Trump’s personal and business finances.

Deutsche Bank officials have quietly argued to regulators, lawmakers and journalists that Mr. Trump was not a priority for the bank or its senior leaders and that the lending was the work of a single, obscure division. But interviews with more than 20 current and former Deutsche Bank executives and board members, most of them with direct knowledge of the Trump relationship, contradict the bank’s narrative.

In other words, the bank is lying.

The bank always knew he was dangerous.

But Deutsche Bank had a ravenous appetite for risk and limited concern about its clients’ reputations. Time after time, with the support of two different chief executives, the bank handed money — a total of well over $2 billion — to a man whom nearly all other banks had deemed untouchable.

What kind of lunatic has a ravenous appetite for risk? What were they doing?

It’s like this:

In the late 1990s, Deutsche Bank, which is based in Germany, was trying to make a name for itself on Wall Street. Its investment-banking division went on a hiring binge.

The bank recruited a handful of Goldman Sachs traders to lead a push into commercial real estate. One was Justin Kennedy, the son of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Another was Mike Offit, whose father was the writer Sidney Offit.

The Kennedy connection, as we saw, cast a big shadow on Justice Kennedy when he retired at a moment convenient for Trump. As far as I know nothing has happened to disperse that shadow.

At Deutsche Bank, Mr. Offit’s mandate was to lend money to big real estate developers, package the loans into securities and sell the resulting bonds to investors. He said in an interview that one way to stand out in a crowded market was to make loans that his rivals considered too risky.

Jesus tapdancing christ. Oh yes those loans that other bankers considered too risky – the ones that sank the global economy and erased the savings of millions of people. Those loans. Whatever’s good for Mr Offitt, and screw everyone else; that’s capitalism.

So of course Trump was one such risky. Offitt approved loan after loan for Donnie Two-scoops.

Not long after, Edson Mitchell, a top bank executive, discovered that the signature of the credit officer who had approved the Trump Marina deal had been forged, Mr. Offit said. (Mr. Offit was never accused of forgery; the loan never went through.)

Not long after that Offitt was fired for being reckless. He says he wasn’t reckless.

Over the next few years, the commercial real estate group, with Mr. Kennedy now in a senior role, kept lending to Mr. Trump, including to buy the General Motors building in Manhattan. Occasionally, Justice Kennedy stopped by Deutsche Bank’s offices to say hello to the team, executives recalled.

Ick.

Starting in 2003 DB had a team selling bonds on behalf of Trump. They were a tough sell because people didn’t trust Donnie Two-scoops. Donnie promised the team a freebie at Mar-a-Lago if they sold the bonds; they sold lots of bonds; Donnie pretended he’d forgotten about the freebie but the executive in charge made him cough up. Then…

A year later, in 2004, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts defaulted on the bonds. Deutsche Bank’s clients suffered steep losses. This arm of the investment-banking division stopped doing business with Mr. Trump.

But the other arms went right on hugging him.

Trump wanted another loan to build a 92-story skyscraper in Chicago.

As Deutsche Bank considered making the loan, Mr. Trump wooed bankers with flights on his private plane, according to a person familiar with the pitch. In a Trump Tower meeting, he told Mr. Kennedy that his daughter Ivanka would be in charge of the Chicago project, a sign of the family’s commitment to its success.

Or, rather, a sign of the family’s weird confidence in itself.

But there were warning signs.

Mr. Trump told Deutsche Bank his net worth was about $3 billion, but when bank employees reviewed his finances, they concluded he was worth about $788 million, according to documents produced during a lawsuit Mr. Trump brought against the former New York Times journalist Timothy O’Brien. And a senior investment-banking executive said in an interview that he and others cautioned that Mr. Trump should be avoided because he had worked with people in the construction industry connected to organized crime.

You’d think those would be enough in the way of warning signs, wouldn’t you? A massive lie about his net worth and mafia connections? Wouldn’t you?

Nonetheless, Deutsche Bank agreed in 2005 to lend Mr. Trump more than $500 million for the project. He personally guaranteed $40 million of it, meaning the bank could come after his personal assets if he defaulted.

By 2008, the riverside skyscraper, one of the tallest in America, was mostly built. But with the economy sagging, Mr. Trump struggled to sell hundreds of condominium units. The bulk of the loan was due that November.

Then the financial crisis hit, and Mr. Trump’s lawyers sensed an opportunity.

A provision in the loan let Mr. Trump partially off the hook in the event of a “force majeure,” essentially an act of God, like a natural disaster. The former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan had called the financial crisis a tsunami. And what was a tsunami if not a natural disaster?

They’re kidding, right? No. Trump thought it was a brilliant idea.

Days before the loan was due, Mr. Trump sued Deutsche Bank, citing the force majeure language and seeking $3 billion in damages. Deutsche Bank countersued and demanded payment of the $40 million that Mr. Trump had personally guaranteed.

Was it all over between them then? Nah.

In 2010, Deutsche Bank and Mr. Trump settled their litigation over the Chicago loan. Mr. Trump agreed to repay most of what he owed by 2012, Mr. Schlesinger said.

Then Trump wanted another loan.

Deutsche Bank dispatched a team to Trump Tower to inspect Mr. Trump’s personal and corporate financial records. The bankers determined he was overvaluing some of his real estate assets by as much as 70 percent, according to two former executives.

By then, though, Mr. Trump had become a reality-TV star, and he was swimming in cash from “The Apprentice.” Deutsche Bank officials also were impressed that Mr. Trump did not have much debt, according to people who reviewed his finances. Aside from his history of defaults, he was an attractive borrower.

I beg your pardon? “Aside from his history of defaults, he was an attractive borrower”? How is that a fact claim rather than a punchline?

Mr. Trump also expressed interest in another loan from the private-banking division: $48 million for the same Chicago property that had provoked the two-year court fight.

Mr. Trump told the bank he would use that loan to repay what he still owed the investment-banking division, the two former executives said. Even by Wall Street standards, borrowing money from one part of a bank to pay off a loan from another was an extraordinary act of financial chutzpah.

“I want to borrow money from you to pay back the money I owe you.” I can’t see any problem with that, can you?

There were people at DB who said let’s not, but others said yes let’s.

And then the campaign and the election happened.

After Mr. Trump won the election, Deutsche Bank’s board of directors rushed to understand how the bank had become the biggest lender to the president-elect.

A report prepared by the board’s integrity committee concluded that executives in the private-banking division were so determined to win business from big-name clients that they had ignored Mr. Trump’s reputation for demagogy and defaults, according to a person who read the report.

Hey that would make a nice name for a Trump bar and grill – Demagogy and Defaults.

Two years after Mr. Trump was sworn in, Democrats took control of the House of Representatives. The chamber’s financial services and intelligence committees opened investigations into Deutsche Bank’s relationship with Mr. Trump. Those inquiries, as well as the New York attorney general’s investigation, come at a perilous time for Deutsche Bank, which is negotiating to merge with another large German lender.

Next month, Deutsche Bank is likely to start handing over extensive internal documents and communications about Mr. Trump to the congressional committees, according to people briefed on the process.

We look forward to it.



So Ridiculous

Mar 18th, 2019 5:06 pm | By

This one in particular…

What a filthy human being he is. He couldn’t possibly care less, could he. All he cares about is what people say about him.

It’s not ridiculous. Race hatred is race hatred; xenophobia is xenophobia. Trump holds frequent rallies at which he spews both at a screaming audience, and that stuff is not inert. Trump absolutely is encouraging and fostering racist xenophobic rage, and that has effects. That doesn’t make the Christchurch slaughter all his fault, of course, but it sure as hell does make him blameworthy.

But he’s such a callous selfish narcissistic toad that he can’t pause to think about that for a second.



Respect

Mar 18th, 2019 4:32 pm | By

Oh my I bet Trump is really jealous of Volodya now.

This week, Russian lawmakers advanced a package of new legislation aimed at curtailing internet freedom. Among the laws awaiting the president’s eventual signature is a measure that would allow authorities to jail individuals for insulting government officials online.

Yeah. That’s what Trump would like to see.

Russia is not China, and the country still has a relatively boisterous online culture. But the proposed laws would widen the definition of restricted speech, calling for penalties of up to 15 days in administrative detention for those found guilty of posting information that shows “disrespect for society, the state, (and) state symbols of the Russian Federation,” — including, presumably, Putin himself.

Well that’s fine. There’s plenty to talk about besides society, the state, and state symbols. There’s cooking, and knitting, and…cooking, and…



Empower women but don’t let them have rights

Mar 18th, 2019 4:06 pm | By

The UN Women’s Conference is on.

The Trump administration is lining up with less liberal nations such as Saudi Arabia and Malaysia at a major United Nations conference on women this month to roll back international consensus on climate change and migration, while seeking to prevent the expansion of rights for girls, women, and LGBT people.

The U.N. women’s conference, focused on empowering women and girls through social protection programs and promoting access to public services, runs from March 11 to March 22. Negotiations on the final outcome document are expected to resume on Thursday.

The U.S. delegation, which includes anti-abortion conservatives in line with the Trump administration’s broad policy stances, is seeking to weaken international support for the Beijing Declaration, a landmark 1995 agreement that stands as an internationally recognized progressive blueprint for women’s rights.

“Their efforts to undermine global commitments to gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights should lay to rest any notion that the Trump Administration cares about women or their human rights,” said Shannon Kowalski, the director of advocacy and policy for the International Women’s Health Coalition. “Instead they are trying to use the Commission to strip women and girls of their ability to exercise control over their lives.”

Does it matter? Yes.

For civil society advocates and smaller U.N. member countries, these changes to U.N. documents are more than just words on paper. “A lot of other countries look to these agreements as a framework. They are using these agreements and outcomes to advance national laws and policies,” said one source familiar with internal CSW negotiations, who declined to speak on record.

The U.S. delegation is also seeking to chip away efforts by other states to elevate international issues anathema to the Trump administration, including language on climate change and collective bargaining as well as sexual and reproductive health, in the final outcome documents.

For instance, the United States proposed that references to “sexual reproductive health and rights” be removed from a section addressing human rights. Social conservative advocates who follow these international negotiations have long viewed such language as implicitly condoning abortion.

If women don’t have the right to stop being pregnant, they don’t have reproductive rights.



It grew

Mar 18th, 2019 3:49 pm | By

Mostly Science on Facebook:

32,000 yrs ago an Arctic ground squirrel cached some fruit in its burrow, which was later sealed by sediment & frozen.

In the 2000s scientists unearthed the fruit & cultivated its tissue. It grew into this: a Pleistocene ancestor of the narrow-leafed campion (Silene stenophylla)

Image may contain: plant, flower and nature

Wow. Thirty two thousand years ago. Pretty damn amazing.

Some of the excavated squirrel burrows contained hundreds of thousands of ancient fruit & seeds. All that genetic information the ungerminated generations, the apparitions of Ice Age Earth frozen in time & place, preserving the possibility of resurrection.

H/t Vanina



8 trillion bullets

Mar 18th, 2019 11:41 am | By

Representative Steve King is such a jokester.

Rep. Steve King of Iowa posted a meme on Saturday to an official Facebook account that seemed to revel in the idea of people in more conservative states killing those in more liberal states in an armed conflict.

“Folks keep talking about another civil war,” the meme said. “One side has about 8 trillion bullets, while the other side doesn’t know which bathroom to use.”

King captioned the image with a smirking emoji. “Wonder who would win….” he wrote.

Hurr hurr. So funny. The last civil war was hilarious too – killed 620,000 people.

He deleted it but of course there are screenshots.

King, a notably racist member of Congress, has in the past openly voiced support for white supremacist ideas. An incomplete list of things he has said and done includes calling white people the “subgroup of people” who have contributed the most to the world; tweeting that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies;” blaming immigrants for ISIS and Ebola; displaying the Confederate flag, despite his state, Iowa, not having been a part of the Confederacy; blaming abortion for killing “millions” of white babies; and complaining that for every child of undocumented immigrants “who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

How we live now.



Diagnostic criteria

Mar 18th, 2019 10:37 am | By

George Conway makes a point.

I always do. Not that I can brag about it; he’s nothing if not obvious. The Twitter blurts are so nuts they can’t possibly be part of a rational strategy.

Ah, okay, we’re going there.

1, check, 2, check, 3, check, 4, check, 5, check, 6, check.

1 through 7, check.

He ticks every single box, and not with a light tick in pencil but with a loud heavy one in his beloved sharpie. He doesn’t just show all the behaviors, he flaunts them, he performs them in tights and a spangled leotard, he hires planes to pull a banner advertising them. He’s the most florid narcissist most of us will ever see in action.



Getting worse

Mar 18th, 2019 10:12 am | By

Chris Cillizza at CNN is also amazed at Trump’s prolific crazy on Twitter yesterday.

He summarizes:

1. The Federal Communications Commission or Federal Election Commission should investigate whether “Saturday Night Live” and late-night talk shows are in collusion with Democrats and/or Russia because they attack him so consistently.

3. Urged Fox News Channel to reinstate host Jeanine Pirro after she was suspended for questioning the patriotism of Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who is Muslim.

4. Urged FNC to stand up for host Tucker Carlson, who has seen some advertisers pull out of his show following the release of a series of caustic and offensive remarks he made on a radio show between 2006 and 2011.

6. Attacked FNC anchor Shep Smith and two other weekend anchors at Fox, alleging they had “been trained by CNN prior to their ratings collapse.”

7. Alleged that Democrats tried to “steal a presidential election,” calling it “the biggest scandal in the history of our country.”

8. Retweeted Jack Posobiec, who among other things, is a leading promoter of the Pizzagate and Seth Rich conspiracy theories.

All of this — and lots, lots more — in the space of a single day.

He’s always tweeted crazy shit, but (Cillizza says) not this much this crazy in one day.

[W]hat we witnessed on Sunday is somewhere between concerning and absolutely terrifying. The most powerful man in the county — and maybe the world — spent his day touting unproven conspiracy theories about stolen elections, suggesting collusion between Democrats and comedians, attacking a military hero and Republican senator, and trying to program his favorite cable network’s broadcasts. And he did all of this while failing to send even a single tweet about the tragic mass shooting in New Zealand.

George Conway, the husband of White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway,tweeted an image to the diagnosis for “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” and said bluntly of Trump: “His condition is getting worse.” Brian Klass, a political scientist at UCLwas slightly more expansive: “We have a seriously dangerous normalcy bias, where we move on because we desperately want to pretend it’s okay. Trump’s Twitter meltdown today—which shows a deranged and unhinged person—will just be forgotten by Monday afternoon. But the deranged man will still control the nukes.”

I don’t move on and I don’t forget and I don’t want to pretend it’s okay. I want it to be okay, but that has nothing to do with pretending it’s okay.



So lovely

Mar 18th, 2019 8:57 am | By

On and on it goes.

https://twitter.com/SurvivorsnetBtn/status/1106539921060319234

Survivors’ Network Brighton used to be a feminist organization, for women – until they woke. Their what we stand for page hasn’t bothered to acknowledge the contradiction:

Feminism

We live in a patriarchal society and believe that sexual violence should be challenged from a feminist perspective. Because sexual violence is a gendered crime, we are a women-led organisation committed to offering women-only spaces and services. However, we recognise that sexual violence impacts on people of all genders in unique ways and work to build our services accordingly. We consider a trans inclusive feminism to be key to our values and central to our service. We consider the lack of services and funding for people of all genders to also be a feminist issue and look to build partnerships to address this.

So, women-only, but not women-only. Clear?

I for one would like to know how a feminism that “includes everyone” can be feminism.

I Googled for the phrase “my BLM includes everyone” but Google doesn’t recognize it.

Of course not; it’s only women who are expected to include everyone even in their own movements to challenge patriarchy, and only women who are forced to do so whether they agree or not.



Iran v Iranian journalists

Mar 17th, 2019 5:19 pm | By

Roy Greenslade reports on Iran’s persecution of journalists who work for the BBC:

Too little attention has been paid to an insidious long-run campaign of persecution by the Iranian authorities against the staff of the BBC Persian service. It is marked by cowardice and a lack of humanity.

Concerned at the lack of publicity about the situation, the BBC recently staged a special press conference chaired by its world affairs editor, John Simpson. It highlighted what its lawyers regard as “an unprecedented collective targeting and punishment of journalists”. Result? Few, if any, headlines in mainstream media.

Doubtless that failure to heed what Simpson called Iran’s “contemptible behaviour” did not go unnoticed by the tyrants in Tehran. So, they will take heart from that and their under-reported attempts to silence BBC Persian will continue and, possibly, escalate.

So, spread the word.

As they stand, the facts are shocking. Unable to get their hands on BBC Persian’s London-based staff, Iran’s police intimidate their relatives inside Iran. They freeze their assets, which has the effect of preventing them buying and selling property. They confiscate passports, which denies them a chance to travel. They arrest them arbitrarily, interrogating them for hours at a time and often detaining them for days in prison.

According to an internal survey completed by 96 BBC Persian staff, 45 reported that their parents had been questioned by the authorities and 40 said the same had happened to their brothers or sisters.

Government-affiliated media in Iran have published photographs of London staff, calling them “a mafia gang” and portraying BBC Persian as an arm of the British state. In addition, journalistic sources within Iran have been targeted.

The authorities also deny the staff the right to travel from Britain into Iran to attend family funerals or to visit ailing relatives and friends. “We are living through a daily nightmare,” says Rana Rahimpour, BBC Persian’s senior presenter. “When a parent dies we cannot go out there to mourn. They arrested my loved ones to force me to leave my job. A judge told my parents you have to stop her [from broadcasting for the BBC].”

And they don’t stop there.

Two months ago, Iran was accused by the Dutch government of directing two political assassinations in the Netherlands. The victims were Dutch nationals of Iranian origin. For Gallagher, these allegations suggest that there is “a very grave risk here to individual journalists”.

A year ago, the BBC appealed to the United Nations over the BBC Persian harassment. It led to a statement two months later by UN secretary-general António Guterres in which he acknowledged that Iran had been guilty of persecuting staff.

Last week, the European parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution criticising Iran’s treatment of journalists, and all human rights defenders. It criticised the targeting of BBC Persian staff and demanded Iran “stop the surveillance, arrest, harassment and prosecution of journalists, online activists and their families.”

It is to be hoped that this development helps to push the subject higher up the mainstream media’s agenda. More, much more, should be done ensure that Iran’s assault on press freedom gains greater public attention. To ignore it is to condone it. And allowing it to fester may well encourage other tyrannies to follow suit.

Let’s make a noise.



The White House counselor chided reporters

Mar 17th, 2019 4:30 pm | By

Kellyanne Conway says journalists should shut up and pray.

Kellyanne Conway has a message for media covering last week’s New Zealand mosque shootings: dial back the scope of coverage.

During a Fox News appearance on Saturday, the White House counselor chided reporters for what she said she viewed as a politicization of the Christchurch massacre in which at least 50 people were killed by an alleged attacker who appears to have shared a manifesto online about his hatred for Muslim immigrants.

“They insert themselves ― ‘I must speak! I must say something!’” she said of journalists. “No, you don’t. You can actually shut up and pray for people and wait for the authorities to make their judgments.”

She says, while the guy she works for flings shit at “the authorities” 50 times a day.

But more to the point, journalists aren’t supposed to shut up, or to pray for people (though they’re free to do that on their own time, of course). They’re supposed to “say something” – that’s their job, and it’s a necessary and indeed valuable job.

The claim that the massacre in Christchurch wasn’t political is jaw-droppingly callous. What else wasn’t political? The massacre in Charleston, the one in Pittsburgh – the ones in Rwanda, in Srebrenica, in Cambodia, in My Lai, in Warsaw, in Nanking, in Armenia, in Amritsar, at Wounded Knee?

Massacres are always political; of course they are. What the hell else would they be? Just random happenings?

But she has to pretend, doesn’t she, because of the pile of infected matter she works for.



A deep irony

Mar 17th, 2019 11:39 am | By

Of course she did.



The deniability really isn’t all that plausible

Mar 17th, 2019 9:59 am | By

Aaron Blake on Trump’s semi-veiled threats:

Trump’s public comments are often more strategic than his critics give him credit for. He will routinely suggest something without technically saying, “This is what I want.” And he will generally lather himself in plausible deniability. “It would be very bad” and “I hope they stay that way” allow him to say he doesn’t actually want this thing he’s hinting at to happen.

Not really. It’s so obvious that he’s lying that it’s probably worse for him to say it than not to say it. Nobody is dumb enough to think he means it when he says “I hope they stay that way.” He means it only in the sense that he hopes the threats will be sufficient.

But it’s clear from these comments, and the repetition of this formula, that he’s suggesting his supporters from the military, law enforcement and even bikers could be tempted to rise up if things don’t go Trump’s way. He’s at the very least toying with the idea that things could become violent.

In other words he’s threatening us with violence. Can we please not talk about it as if it were maybe slightly alarming but still normal? Even if he’s not likely to go through with it, even if he can’t go through with it however much he wants to, it’s still not normal. It’s not normal and it’s not ok. The fact that he muses aloud about the police and the military and biker gangs going to war against all of us who want him gone is not normal. Beware of what we get used to.

[E]ven if a coup seems patently ridiculous, that doesn’t mean there couldn’t be unrest, and it doesn’t mean that Trump isn’t proactively wielding that possibility for leverage against his opponents. Hinting that efforts to remove him from office — either via the 2020 election or impeachment — could be met with this kind of violence serves notice to his foes that they better play nice . . . and maybe investigators should back off.

The idea that anything like the scenes Trump is describing would ever happen is difficult to believe. But that’s not really the point. Musing about this kind of thing is a great way to plant a seed in certain people’s minds, and the fact that Trump keeps fertilizing that seed shouldn’t escape notice.

The fact that the president likes the idea of soldiers and bikers rioting against the populace is a grotesque horror.



Never mind inclusion, it’s about validation

Mar 17th, 2019 9:00 am | By

Vancouver Rape Relief has a statement on the city council’s defunding:

1. On March 14, 2019, at the end of a flawed and unfair process, Vancouver City Council voted to terminate the yearly grant given to us in support of our public education work.

2. Vancouver City Council’s decision is intended to coerce us to change our position and practice of offering some of our core services only to women who are born female. Our organization’s status as an equality-seeking group and our entitlement to serve women who are born female was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court of British Columbia in 2003, by the British Columbia Court of Appeal in 2005 and by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2007.

3. Vancouver City Council’s attempt to undermine our autonomy as a women’s group — to decide who we serve, who our membership is and who we organize with — also undermines the protections the law has granted us. Such conduct has no place in a democratic society.

4. Vancouver City Council’s decision to cut funding from Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter is discriminatory. Many Vancouver City grants are given to organizations that deliver programs and support to specific groups of people such as Aboriginal youth, Chinese seniors, deaf persons and migrant workers. Rightfully, none of these groups have been challenged with the demand that they demonstrate “accommodation, welcomeness and openness to people of all ages, abilities… and ethnicities.” Such a demand of these organizations would be incomprehensible, as it would contradict the essence and purpose of their work. Yet, this is what is being asked of us under the guise of inclusivity.

And it very much is a guise, too. It’s a mask, a trick, a ploy. It’s not about “inclusivity” at all, it’s about validation. It’s about forcing people to agree or pretend to agree (and if it’s forced it’s bound to be pretend to, isn’t it) that trans women are literally women. The problem is that trans women aren’t literally women, but the more vocal of them (like Morgan Oger for instance) want to force everyone to say they are. The problem with VRR isn’t that they don’t include everyone, it’s that they don’t pretend to think trans women are literally women in every sense. Validation is everything.

Men who “feel like” women on the inside working to force women to agree that they are women even in contexts such as counseling rape victims are doing a massively narcissistic thing: one guy’s feefees are more important than the safety and peace of mind of a whole bunch of raped women. That’s not politics, it’s self-love.