Notes and Comment Blog

Wrong but so cuddly

Sep 8th, 2017 5:56 pm | By

The Guardian hosted an email discussion of Freud and psychoanalysis between Frederick Crews and a psychoanalyst, Susie Orbach. The Guardian intro isn’t very cogent:

For a century or more, Sigmund Freud has cast a long shadow not just over the field of psychoanalysis but over the entire way we think of ourselves as human beings. His theory of the unconscious and his work on dreams, in particular, retain a firm grip on the western imagination, shaping the realms of literature and art, politics and everyday conversation, as well as the way patients are analysed in the consulting room. Since Freud’s death in 1939, however, a growing number of dissenting voices have questioned his legacy and distanced themselves from his ideas. Now Freud is viewed less as a great medical scientist than as a powerful storyteller of the human mind whose texts, though lacking in empirical evidence, should be celebrated for their literary value.

No, not that either. His stories were gripping, but they’re not stories “of the human mind.” They’re stories of Fearless Mind Detective Siggy “Sherlock” Freud, making all us Watsons gasp as he draws the strained but dogmatic interpretation out of his ass.

Orbach speaks first, and pours out a stream of tribute to Freud of the “yes maybe his science was all worthless BUT we can’t think about the mind or anything else human without drawing on him” variety. It’s fatuous.

His work has had an impact of such magnitude that it’s not possible for us to think about what it means to be human, what motivates us, what we yearn for, without those very questions being Freudian.

Freud’s conceptions of the human mind and its complexity, whether exactly accurate, are not at issue here. What is worth talking about is the way in which late-20th-century and early-21st-century culture have taken up what they have understood of his ideas.

It is very easy to dismantle the specific interpretations of Freud. Every generation does and I have done so myself. That is not to do away with Freud. Rather, it shows the strength of the edifice he created.

Honestly – what can you do with that kind of thing? It’s unfalsifiable! “Yes he was wrong about everything, but that just shows how strong he was.” It’s typical of Freud-huggers.

Many aspects of public policy, from understandings of social and interpersonal violence and racism to the construction of masculinity, sexuality, gender, war, use psychoanalytic ideas not as the explanation but as an explanatory tool aiding economic and statistical understandings of why we do the things we do.

No, they really don’t. They’d be laughed out of the room if they did.

Fred replies:

If, as you say, psychoanalytic theory has functioned as a powerfully shaping “explanatory tool”, surely it matters whether Freud’s explanations ever made empirical sense. If they didn’t, the likelihood is considerable that he raised false hopes, unfairly distributed shame and blame, retarded fruitful research and education, and caused patients’ time and money to be needlessly squandered. Indeed, all of those effects have been amply documented.

In your writings, you assert that Freud’s emphasis on the Oedipus complex was androcentric and wrong; that he misrepresented female sexual satisfaction and appears to have disapproved of it; that envy of the penis, if it exists at all, is not a key determinant of low self-esteem among women; and that his standard of normality was dictated by patriarchal bias, thus fostering “the control and subjugation of women”.

This list, which could be readily expanded, constitutes an indictment not only of harmful conclusions but also of the arbitrary, cavalier method by which they were reached. Yet elsewhere in your texts, you refer to Freud’s “discovery of the unconscious” and to his “discovery of an infantile and childhood sexuality”. Were those alleged breakthroughs achieved in a more objective manner than the “discovery” of penis envy? What are the grounds on which any of Freud’s claims deserve to be credited?

Her response is to say they’re on different planets, her job is to sit and listen, not ask all these pesky questions.

Ok so basically psychoanalysis is a brand of mysticism. Fine then, but don’t tell us it shapes how we think about everything.

To be continued, perhaps.


Sep 8th, 2017 10:52 am | By

Josh Jackman at Pink News is outraged by the Daily Mail’s reporting on a prison rape.

The Mail is under fire after coverage of a transgender rapist.

(Note that very typical passive locution – “under fire” – without saying by whom. Could just mean by the author, but leaves the impression that the fire is general. Very sleazy.)

What happened was that a convicted rapist made unwanted sexual advances on fellow prisoners.

What the Mail Online did was mention her deadname, call her “a father,” and implied that her actions were down to the fact she has a penis.

Or to put it much less evasively than Josh Jackman does – a convicted rapist was housed with women prisoners and – unsurprisingly – he tried to rape them.

And Josh Jackman is outraged because the Mail used his “deadname” and…implied that rape is connected to having a penis. Yeah that’s the problem here.

The Mail states: “Transgender rapist who was moved to women-only jail despite still having a penis is segregated”.

Trans activists raised issues with the piece, suggesting it was attempting to link the convicted prisoner’s crimes to their gender identity – leaning on the irrational belief that transgender people are actually lying to gain some sort of benefit.

What trans activists? Where? Was this in Josh Jackman’s kitchen, or what?

But more to the point – yes, rape is “linked” to being male. The victims were women, and the rapist has a penis. Those three facts are indeed connected. Saying that does not in the least depend on any “irrational belief that transgender people are actually lying to gain some sort of benefit.”

Because of the security nature of things

Sep 8th, 2017 10:14 am | By

Rush Limbaugh is leaving Palm Beach for Parts Unknown.

With his comments mocking Hurricane Irma as a liberal conspiracy theory still fresh, radio host Rush Limbaugh on Thursday appeared to surrender to reality, informing listeners that his program would no longer be able to air from his studio’s Palm Beach location, which is currently in Irma’s direct path.

“I’m not going to get into details because of the security nature of things, but it turns out that we will not be able to do the program here tomorrow,” Limbaugh said in a segment recorded by ThinkProgress. “That will be in the hands of Mark Stein tomorrow. We’ll be on the air next week, folks, from parts unknown.”

“It’s just that tomorrow is going to be…problematic. Legally impossible.”

Limbaugh never directly mentioned the hurricane or Irma by name, instead telling listeners he was forced to cancel a slew of planned activities this weekend. “Now that’s all blown to smithereens,” he said.

So to speak, wink wink, nudge nudge.

But so maybe it wasn’t a conspiracy by Big Battery after all? Maybe there really is a massive hurricane approaching?

Limbaugh couldn’t possibly comment.

Graduates of Arpaio University

Sep 8th, 2017 9:52 am | By

Well, this takes a lot of gall.

On Thursday, a day after Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett claimed that he was the victim of excessive force and racial profiling by the Las Vegas Police Department late last month, the police department asked NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league to investigate the incident for “obviously false allegations” from Bennett.

Sadly for the Las Vegas PD, video of the excessive force exists, yet they still have the gall to demand that Bennett’s employers “investigate” him for saying it happened.

Why would that even be anything to do with the NFL if it were true? Employers aren’t responsible for what their employees do outside work.

So the demand is nonsensical as well as outrageous…so they’re just grandstanding then?

“Gall” doesn’t even cover it.

Goodell, who supported Bennett in a statement on Wednesday evening, has no plans to open an investigation.

“There is no allegation of a violation of the league’s personal conduct policy and therefore there is no basis for an NFL investigation,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy wrote in response to the LVPD’s request, via

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith also issued a statement: “There are no grounds for the NFL to investigate our union rep, and I look forward to Roger confirming the same.”

The police disputed Bennett’s claims of racial profiling, but video footage of the incident left his brother, Packers tight end Martellus Bennettshaken. Then, on Thursday, Steve Grammas, president of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, wrote the letter to Goodell, which included this passage:

“While the NFL may condone Bennett’s disrespect for our American Flag, and everything it symbolizes, we hope the League will not ignore Bennett’s false accusations against our police officers.”

Oh yes that’s the important thing here – respect for the flag. Police brutality is just part of the job, but dissing the flag – now that’s worth making a fuss about.

This is Trump’s America.

The Billy Bush thing is locker room talk

Sep 8th, 2017 9:28 am | By

Bros before hos.

In his first extensive interview since leaving the Trump administration, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon tells “60 Minutes” about the fallout after the leaked “Access Hollywood” tape.

Steve Bannon: And – and Trump went around the room and asked people the percentages he thought of – of still winning and what the recommendation. And Reince started off and Reince said, “You have – you have two choices. You either drop out right now, or you lose by the biggest landslide in American political history.” And Trump, with his humor goes, “That’s a great way – that’s a great way to start our – start our conversation.” We went around the room. And you could tell – I could tell from the incoming of politicians and I could tell from some of the politicians that were there, is that the natural inclination of politicians are – are – are to be so overwhelmingly stunned and shocked by how the media comes on you. But Trump wasn’t that. And I told him as he went around, I was the last guy to speak, and I said, “It’s 100 percent. You have 100 percent probability of winning.” And that’s the first time –

Rose: But you seem to have done that at every point in the campaign. When he was in trouble, asking him to double down on his rhetoric, double down in terms of appealing to his base.

Bannon: Appealing to the American people and to the working class people in this country, absolutely. You know why? ‘Cause – it was a winner. That’s why I told him “double down” every time. And on that day, that’s the first time and only time he ever got upset with me. He goes, “Come on, it’s not 100 percent.” I go, “It’s absolutely 100 percent.” And I told him why. “They don’t care.”

Rose: But they… they do care about respect for women. They do –

Bannon: They do, they do, but they –

Rose: I do know that.

Bannon: But they – but –

Rose: And it’s not just locker room talk. I mean –

Bannon: That’s locker room talk. The Billy Bush thing is locker room talk.

Fine, it’s “locker room talk.” Meaning what? That that’s just what men do when they’re alone together? All men, without exception, no matter what? They all drop the mask and talk about women as if women were objects, like rocks or apples or chairs, except that in the case of women they’re objects that are useful for providing men with sex? Is that the claim?

If so, one consequence is that all women should mistrust all men, without exception, because objects can be discarded and destroyed without compunction, since objects have no feelings.

Another consequence is that men should mistrust all men too, because the reality is that women are not objects and they do have feelings, so people who think otherwise are fucked in the head.

It’s psychopathic to claim that males in general see women as just objects with pussies that men are entitled to grab and brag about grabbing. It’s psychopathic to claim that Trump’s brutal vulgar contempt for women is just normal, just “locker room talk.”

Charlie Rose apparently dropped the whole thing and changed the subject at that point. So much for his “respect.”

No kangaroos

Sep 8th, 2017 8:48 am | By

Robert Reich on Betsy DeVos’s plan to get rid of Obama’s Title IX guidelines.

Today Education Secretary Betsy DeVos vowed to roll back Obama era guidelines for how colleges and universities should handle sexual harassment and sexual violence cases under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. She said students accused of perpetrating sexual assault have been deprived of due process in “kangaroo courts,” and that the Obama standard of “preponderance of the evidence” isn’t high enough.

Rubbish. I’ve been a professor on campuses for decades and I know this:

1. Only a small fraction of instances of sexual assault are reported, and, when they are, a very small fraction rape reports are found to be false.

2. Before the Obama education department raised the standards, university officials around the country often ignored allegations of rape and sexual assault to avoid bad publicity for the institution, or getting mired in complicated, difficult-to-prove cases.

3. The Obama administration pushed colleges to respond more quickly and protect students who reported sexual assaults, threatening to withhold federal funding to schools that did not comply. As a result, these cases were treated as priorities, as they should be.

4. The “preponderance of the evidence” is a sensible standard because college officials aren’t determining whether someone should be sent to jail, just whether they violated school policy. A “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard is only appropriate for criminal law, and intentionally skewed to protect those who are accused.

DeVos is utterly ignorant. Once again, the Trump administration sides against those who have been wronged.

Now why would Trump favor weak protections against sexual assault and strong protections against accusations of sexual assault, I wonder.

An escalating pattern of threats and harassment

Sep 8th, 2017 8:40 am | By

It turns out that Martin Shkreli isn’t just the kind of asshole who buys the rights to patented meds in order to inflate the price by 5000%, he’s also the kind of asshole who harasses and threatens women in public.

Martin Shkreli, the former hedge fund manager awaiting sentencing for defrauding his investors, should have his bail revoked after offering his Facebook followers $5,000 to grab a strand of Hillary Clinton’s hair during her book tour, federal prosecutors say.

I saw that yesterday, via Twitter. I wanted to post about it but decided it might look too trivial or random. But the Secret Service doesn’t think so and the Post doesn’t think so, so ok then.

Shkreli’s conduct since his conviction in early August has escalated and he poses a threat to the community, the prosecutors said in a letter to the judge late Thursday. In addition to his Facebook post concerning Hillary Clinton, which drew the attention of the Secret Service, he has made harassing comments to other women online, they said.

“Shkreli has engaged in an escalating pattern of threats and harassment that warrant his detention pending sentencing,” prosecutors said in their letter to the judge in the case. “The Court should further find that there is no condition or combination of conditions to which the defendant will abide that will ensure that he does not pose a danger to the community.”

Interesting, isn’t it. We’re always being told that online harassment of women is just joking, just bants, just trolls, just free speech…but when it’s a convicted criminal doing it, finally people can grasp that it actually does pose a danger.

As a result of Shkreli’s Facebook post on Clinton, the Secret Service has “expended significant resources additional resources to ensure Secretary Clinton’s protection,” the letter said. “There is a significant risk that one of his many social media followers or others who learn of his offers through the media will take his statements seriously — as has happened previously — and act on them.”

Shkreli later amended his post on Clinton to say that the offer was “satire.” But prosecutors note that Shkreli’s apparent animus toward Clinton includes standing outside her daughter Chelsea’s home when Clinton was reportedly there recuperating after falling sick. Shkreli “spent approximately two hours live-streaming while providing commentary and heckling Secretary Clinton,” they said.

Is that “satire”? No it is not.

“However inappropriate some of Mr Shkreli’s postings may have been, we do not believe that he intended harm and do not believe that he poses a danger to the community,” Shkreli’s attorney, Benjamin Brafman, said in a statement.

But that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what Shkreli’s attorney “believes.” What matters is the reality: that he put the offer out there, that there are millions of people who have been trained for decades to feel frothing hatred for Hillary Clinton, that there are people who act on their feelings of frothing hatred for public figures, especially political ones, and that violent hatred of women is in fashion.

Shkreli, 34, is best known for raising the price of an AIDS drug by 5,000 percent but was convicted by a Brooklyn jury of defrauding the investors’ in his hedge funds. Shkreli lied to obtain investors’ money then didn’t tell them when he made a bad stock bet that led to massive losses, prosecutors argued…

Since his conviction the loquacious executive has kept an active — and combative — online presence. In addition to asking for someone to grab a strand of Clinton’s hair, he has bought the domain names of reporters’ covering his case and promised to “smack” comic Trevor Noah if he ever saw him on the street.

He was busily doing all this and more on Facebook yesterday. Doesn’t violate Facebook’s famous “community standards,” I guess.

Guest post: Then and now

Sep 7th, 2017 4:46 pm | By

Originally a comment by Screechy Monkey on He seemed super upbeat.


Many Republicans were furious with President Donald Trump’s budget deal Wednesday

On just his first day in office, President Trump blatantly lied to the American people about the size of his inaugural crowd.

Republican leaders shrugged off criticism of the President, saying that nobody really expects Trump to literally mean what he says.

President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, and admitted in a subsequent interview that the reasons given in the termination letter were pretextual, and the real reason was Trump’s frustration with the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russian intelligence.

Republican leaders described themselves as “concerned.”

After neo-Nazi violence claimed the life of a peaceful protester in Charlottesville, President Trump declined to disavow white nationalism, and insisted that there were good people marching with the neo-Nazis.

Republican leaders expressed disappointment with the president’s language.

Trump used his pardon power to excuse a racist thug sheriff who abused his authority and flaunted court orders.

Republican leaders expressed polite disagreement with the decision.

Trump cut a budget deal with Democrats.

Now, Republicans are “furious.”

A different relationship

Sep 7th, 2017 12:44 pm | By

In fact Trump is so manic that he’s turned himself inside out.

Mr. Trump told reporters after the calls that the deal may signal a new era of bipartisanship. “I think we will have a different relationship than we’ve been watching over the last number of years. I hope so,” he said. “I think that’s a great thing for our country. And I think that’s what the people of the United States want to see. They want to see some dialogue. They want to see coming together to an extent.”

Oh. Really? That’s what the people of the United States want to see? I thought they wanted to see lots and lots of name-calling and wild accusations. I thought they wanted to see non-stop “Pocahontas” and “Crooked Hillary” and “Cryin’ Chuck” and “Crazy Bernie” and “Lyin’ Ted” and “Little Marco.”

Still, I’m not complaining. Mocking, yes, but not complaining.

He seemed super upbeat

Sep 7th, 2017 12:08 pm | By

Trump is jumping up and down with glee at how he stuck it to the…er…Republicans yesterday. He gloated about it in North Dakota last night and then this morning he called up Pelosi and Schumer to gloat with them. Which is hilarious, in a nauseating kind of way.

Many Republicans were furious with President Donald Trump’s budget deal Wednesday, stunned that the president quickly gave in to Democratic demands to pair hurricane relief with a three-month debt limit hike — though getting nothing in return.

But in calls with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Thursday morning, Trump raved about the positive news coverage it had received, according to people familiar with the calls, and he seemed very pleased with his decision.

No cries of Fake News? No “failing New York Times”? No “Crying Chuck Schumer”?

Trump specifically mentioned TV segments praising the deal and indicated he’d been watching in a call with Schumer, two people said. And he was jovial in a call with Pelosi and agreed to send a tweet she asked for about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, these people said, while also mentioning the attention the deal had gotten. He indicated to both leaders he would be willing to work together again.

“He seemed super upbeat,” one person familiar with the calls said.

In other words, he’s a buffoon, a lunatic two-scoops buffoon. He’s manic because THE PEOPLE ON THE TV SAID HE’S AWESOME.

Guess what? You have them.

Sep 7th, 2017 11:00 am | By

Trump was unaware that North Dakota is subject to drought. Now that he knows, though, he moved to console the people of North Dakota by telling them they’re better off than the people of coastal Texas.

Prior to leaving the White House, I had a great bipartisan meeting with Democrat and Republican leaders in Congress, and I’m committed to working with both parties to deliver for our wonderful, wonderful citizens. It’s about time. We had a great meeting with Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and the whole Republican leadership group. And I’ll tell you what, we walked out of there — Mitch and Paul, and everybody, Kevin — and we walked out and everybody was happy. Not too happy — because you can never be too happy — but they were happy enough. And it was nice to see that happen for a change because that hasn’t happened for a long time in this country — for a very long time.

I want to take a moment to send our thoughts and prayers to the people of Texas and Louisiana who have truly suffered through a catastrophic hurricane. (Applause.) One of the worst hurricanes in our country’s history. And guess what? We have another one coming. You see that.

But our hearts are heavy with sadness for those who have lost everything. They have also filled us with hope because you watched and you witnessed the unyielding strength and resilience of the American spirit. You looked at that in Texas. You looked at Louisiana. You saw the spirit; you saw the spirit of so many other people coming from all over. It was a great thing. I was there twice, and I will tell you the people were absolutely incredible. What they’ve gone through — you would not believe this could have happened.

And I know you have a little bit of a drought. They had the opposite. Believe me, you’re better off. You are better off. They had the absolute opposite.

It’s the same with all these forest fires in Oregon and British Columbia. Fires are way better than floods. Believe me, they’re better.

I also want to tell the people of North Dakota and the Western states who are feeling the pain of the devastating drought that we are with you 100 percent — 100 percent. (Applause.) And I’ve been in close touch, numerous times, with our Secretary of Agriculture, who is doing a fantastic job, Sonny Perdue, who has been working with your governor and your delegation to help provide relief. And we’re doing everything we can, but you have a pretty serious drought.

I just said to the governor, I didn’t know you had droughts this far north. Guess what? You have them. But we’re working hard on it and it’ll disappear. It will all go away.

That’s right. They’re working hard on it so poof, it will disappear. That’s what “working hard on it” means.

Daddy, can I go with you?

Sep 7th, 2017 10:48 am | By


Donald Trump has revealed that his daughter Ivanka asked to join him on his North Dakota trip, telling crowds she said: “Daddy, can I go with you?”

Beckoning her up to the stage, he said: “Come up, honey”. Then he shared an anecdote about how Ms Trump asked her father if she could join him.

“She said, ‘Dad, can I come with you. Actually she said ‘Daddy, can I go with you?’ I like that,” he said. “I said, ‘Yes, you can.'”

Aww. Cute story. Is she five? Six?

Oh that’s right, she’s 35. She has children of her own. She’s a grown-ass adult.

Also, presidents don’t in fact make it a habit to bring their small children with them on working trips and then call them up onto the stage. On the contrary: they do their best to shield their small children from the glare of publicity. Their grown children, on the other hand, are treated like grown children: they have their own lives and their own work.

Also, can you imagine all this happening with Don 2 or Eric? Of course not. It’s infantilizing, and we don’t infantilize men; we reserve that for women.

Also, this is the guy who agreed with Howard Stern on live radio that his daughter is a piece of ass. He both infantilizes her and sexualizes her. It just doesn’t get much more awesome than that.

And how revolting is it that she plays along?

He added: “Look at Ivanka, come on up honey, she’s so good. She wanted to make the trip.”

Mr Trump heaped praise on the 35-year-old who often accompanies him unannounced to important political meetings.

“Everybody loves Ivanka,” he told cheering crowds. “Come up, honey. Should I bring Ivanka up? Come up.”

Ms Trump smiled widely at her father’s words and later shook his hand as she arrived on stage.

No, everybody does not love Ivanka. Many do not love Ivanka.

Resistance is confirmation

Sep 6th, 2017 4:53 pm | By

I’m reading Frederick Crews’s Freud, and plan to share observations from it over the coming weeks. Laura Miller reviews it in Slate.

Crews goes gunning for two distinct Freuds: the doctor/scientist and the man. The former, as Crews acknowledges, has suffered a steep fall in reputation over the past 45 years. The biological model on which psychoanalysis was based has been superseded by newer discoveries, particularly in neurochemistry. Freud published the works that would establish his reputation as a savant of humanity’s unacknowledged inner life in the early 1900s; over the subsequent century, it has become ever harder to ignore the lack of empirical evidence for the effectiveness of psychoanalysis as a therapy. Our growing understanding of the complexity of consciousness and the dizzying variety of human experience makes Freud’s rigidly universal model of the unconscious and its drives—from the Oedipus complex to penis envy—seem laughable, blinkered by his background as a patriarchal, bourgeois 19th-century Viennese.

With emphasis on the 19th century part, because there’s so much psychology and brain science for the non-specialist reader available now that it makes Freud’s stories seem like a parlor game.

But to Crews’ annoyance, these erosions haven’t done enough to wear down Freud’s reputation as a bold, original thinker who revolutionized our understanding of the human mind. He knows that nearly all his readers, “believing that Freud, whatever his failings, initiated our tradition of empathetic psychotherapy,” will “judge this book to have unjustly withheld credit for his most benign and enduring achievement.” But Crews will have none of that. Instead, he aims to prove that Freud not only had “predecessors and rivals in one-on-one mental treatment” but that he also “failed to match their standard of responsiveness to each patient’s unique situation.”

He was an egomaniac. That’s what jumps off the pages for me: Freud’s relentless, Trump-level self-obsession.

Without a doubt, Freud was a terrible doctor. Anyone who reads his case histories or has more than a passing familiarity with the real events on which they were based can only pity those individuals unfortunate enough to come under his “care.” As Crews painstakingly documents, using Freud’s own letters and clinical notes (many of which were, until recently, published only in bowdlerized form by his acolytes), Freud disliked medicine, was revolted by sick people, and held his patients in contempt. “I could throttle every one of them,” he once told a shocked colleague. Although he often claimed to have cured people of hysteria, neuroses, or other ailments, those claims were almost entirely false. He helped very few—quite possibly none—of his patients, and spectacularly harmed several.

Apart from that, he was awesome.

Crews’ Freud is first and foremost dishonest, misrepresenting his past, his data (when he bothered to collect it), his results, his patient’s life stories, the contributions to his theories by friends and colleagues. Animated by “a temperament and self-conception” that “demanded that he achieve fame at any cost,” Freud concocted theories about the human psyche based on his own idiosyncratic past and personality and attempted to force his patients to corroborate them. He pressed them to confirm the often preposterous suppressed “memories” he claimed to have deduced from their symptoms and, when they stood firm, interpreted their very resistance as confirmation.

Notice anything about that? That’s right: it’s unfalsifiable! If patients accept his theories, good, and if they reject them, even better. Freud is either right, or righter. It saves trouble all around.

Republican leaders were visibly annoyed by Ivanka’s presence

Sep 6th, 2017 4:26 pm | By

This is a small thing, and yet…it’s so infuriating.

There was an important White House meeting today with Congressional leaders to discuss raising the debt ceiling. (Trump, probably confused, did what Pelosi and Schumer wanted instead of what Ryan and McConnell wanted. The latter two are not best pleased. Trump was probably composing a tweet at the time and lost track of which party was which.) It was serious grownup government business.

Another aide briefed on the meeting said that toward its conclusion, Ivanka Trump entered the room to say hello to the leaders and the discussion veered off-track. “Republican leaders were visibly annoyed by Ivanka’s presence,” the aide said. (A Ryan spokeswoman replied: “That’s not true.”)

To say hello for god’s sake.

You know, Amy Carter and Chelsea Clinton were young girls when their fathers were president. I don’t recall ever hearing that they bounced into meetings with Congressional leaders “to say hello to the leaders.” Malia and Sasha Obama were even younger: ten and six at the start. Again, as far as I know, they understood that they weren’t supposed to drop in to say hello to Daddy’s friends the senators and representatives. Yet here is Princess Ivanka age 35 and she feels entitled to sit in for Daddy at a meeting of global heads of state and to interrupt government business to fucking say hello?

This isn’t cute.

Automated propaganda

Sep 6th, 2017 3:33 pm | By

Facebook. Russia. Ad buys. Bot accounts. Business Insider:

Facebook on Wednesday said it has found evidence that fake accounts “likely operated out of Russia” bought thousands of ads during the US presidential election that were designed to amplify divisive political messages.

Facebook said the ads were part of elaborate “information operations” in which “organized actors,” including governments, use social media to deceive the public and distort political sentiment.

The social network discovered roughly $100,000 in ad buys between June 2015 and May 2017 “associated with roughly 3,000 ads” and connected to nearly 500 affiliated fake accounts.

“Our analysis suggests these accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia,” Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos wrote in a post published on Facebook’s company blog, which also noted that the company has shared its findings with US authorities investigating Russia’s interference in the election.

The “vast majority” of ads related to the fake Russian accounts didn’t target a political candidate and instead focused on “amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum,” according to Stamos.

Meaning…what, Breitbart types on the one hand and Black bloc types on the other? Probably something like that.

Wednesday’s announcement by Facebook, titled “An update on Information Operations on Facebook,” represents a sharp turnaround from the company’s previous remarks on its role in the spread of fake news during the election.

For example, Facebook said in July that it had found “no evidence that Russian actors bought ads on Facebook in connection with the election.”

The social network was widely criticized in the wake of the election for its role in the proliferation of so-called fake news, which many believe helped Donald Trump win the election. CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially called that notion “pretty crazy,” but Facebook has since made significant strides to eradicate fake news stories from its platform.

In a research published earlier this year, Facebook detailed its attempts to thwart organized “information operations” that are increasingly used to sway political leanings through the spread of fake news and propaganda on its platform.

You know, when you think about it, Trump is kind of a bot. He doesn’t really give a shit about anything except himself; all his blathering is just for effect, just in aid of winning. He doesn’t care what or how he wins as long as he wins. Very bot.

Checking IDs

Sep 6th, 2017 12:13 pm | By

Grady Judd, Florida’s Joe Arpaio.

Florida sheriff is telling certain members of the population in Polk County that they won’t be welcome at shelters in the area, and his statement has spurred controversy as Hurricane Irma barrels towards the state.

The Polk County Sheriff Twitter account tweeted Wednesday that law enforcement officers would be checking IDs at every shelter in the county. The purpose, the account said, was to turn away sexual predators.

The sheriff of Polk County, whose photo is on the Twitter account, is Grady Judd.

Of course sexual predators aren’t the only people who will be scared off by that announcement.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida spoke out against his language, saying Judd was “exploiting a natural disaster and endangering lives.”

Be safe, Floridians.

To fill up with water and to fill up with batteries

Sep 6th, 2017 9:53 am | By

Rush Limbaugh is telling his listeners that Irma is fake news, faked in a plot to get people to go out and stock up on batteries.

“These storms, once they actually hit, are never as strong as they’re reported,” Limbaugh claimed on his syndicated radio show. He added that “the graphics have been created to make it look like the ocean’s having an exorcism, just getting rid of the devil here in the form of this hurricane, this bright red stuff.”

Why would the media exaggerate the threat of a hurricane? Here’s Limbaugh’s theory:

There is symbiotic relationship between retailers and local media, and it’s related to money. It revolves around money. You have major, major industries and businesses which prosper during times of crisis and panic, such as a hurricane, which could destroy or greatly damage people’s homes, and it could interrupt the flow of water and electricity. So what happens?

Well, the TV stations begin reporting this and the panic begins to increase. And then people end up going to various stores to stock up on water and whatever they might need for home repairs and batteries and all this that they’re advised to get, and a vicious circle is created. You have these various retail outlets who spend a lot of advertising dollars with the local media.

The local media, in turn, reports in such a way as to create the panic way far out, which sends people into these stores to fill up with water and to fill up with batteries, and it becomes a never-ending repeated cycle. And the two coexist. So the media benefits with the panic with increased eyeballs, and the retailers benefit from the panic with increased sales, and the TV companies benefit because they’re getting advertising dollars from the businesses that are seeing all this attention from customers.

Water and batteries. Who knew the water people and the batteries people had enough influence to get the news media to fake up reporting on hurricanes?

To state the obvious, these are potentially dangerous comments from Limbaugh, who is based in Palm Beach, Fla. He is encouraging listeners who might be in Irma’s path not to take seriously the official guidance disseminated through the media.

“I wish that not everything that involved news had become corrupted and politicized, but it just has,” he said.

More broadly, Limbaugh’s bad advice reveals the metastasizing nature of “fake news” attacks on the press, which have been led by President Trump. How did we get from Trump’s claim that he has “never seen more dishonest media than, frankly, the political media” to the idea that weather reports are phony, too?

Alex Jones might have something to do with it. The Infowars founder — who has an “amazing” reputation, according to Trump — has for years promoted the notion that the U.S. government possesses the power to conjure and control weather events. Just last week, as Hurricane Harvey battered Texas, Jones devoted part of his show to questioning why the government didn’t “use the technologies to kill [the storm] out in the gulf.”

But surely he knew why: it’s because of the overweening power of the water people and the batteries people.

Limbaugh, a fellow Trump booster, didn’t say the deep state causes storms, but he did say “you have people in all of these government areas who believe man is causing climate change, and they’re hellbent on proving it, they’re hellbent on demonstrating it, they’re hellbent on persuading people of it.”

So we create hurricanes, and then we guide them to places like Houston, and then we make them sit there for days. We’re just that powerful. Hellbent and powerful.

Thus we have two of the president’s biggest promoters in the media telling people that news about a storm — or perhaps even the storm itself — is fake. There could be serious consequences to Trump’s ceaseless effort to lower trust in institutions such as the government and the press — consequences that the president and his team might not have fully considered.

Well that’s just silly – Trump doesn’t fully consider anything.

On the morning before Harvey hit Texas, CNN’s Jim Acosta tweeted that a moment when “millions will be relying on national and local news outlets to stay safe during hurricane” is “not a good time to take shots at ‘fake news.’”

Brad Parscale, the digital media director of Trump’s campaign, scoffed at Acosta’s warning, tweeting that “nobody said the weather is fake.”

And yet…somebody did, and does.

How to know a thing

Sep 6th, 2017 8:37 am | By

Lindy West on the feminist awesomeness of Ivanka Trump:

Ivanka Trump, first daughter, strode into Washington back in January with big promises: She was passionate about helping “working women,” she said, and she was going to close the gender wage gap even if it killed her.

Well, not if it killed her, not literally, but even if it mildly inconvenienced her, she was on it 110 percent, for the women. Well, not if it mildly inconvenienced her, she’s very busy, but definitely if there was a wage transparency policy already in place, she would not openly and glowingly support overturning it.

Well, unless her dad wanted to overturn it because doing so satisfied two of his top 10 vindictive fixations (constraining women’s independence and destroying the legacy of America’s first black president), but Ms. Trump would absolutely offer a better replacement solution, such as saying the words “child care credit” and “female entrepreneurs” repeatedly near a camera while wearing a blush-pink toggle coat. That, ladies, is the Ivanka Guarantee. Enjoy your money!

Or, at least, enjoy watching Ivanka Trump enjoy her money.

Ms. Trump’s self-professed commitment to corporate gender parity (about as milquetoast as feminism gets, but in Trump’s America, radicalism is relative) was trotted out incessantly during the campaign, especially as an antidote to her father’s self-professed commitment to nonconsensually sticking his hands on women’s genitals.

Yet, in a statement last week, Ms. Trump endorsed the decision to abandon an Obama-era initiative, set to go into effect next spring, requiring federal contractors and companies above a certain size to report salary data. “Ultimately,” Ms. Trump explained, “while I believe the intention was good and agree that pay transparency is important, the proposed policy would not yield the intended results.”

And she knows this because something something something bureaucrats something data something something something.

We’re done here

Sep 5th, 2017 4:06 pm | By

You’ve probably seen the video of the Salt Lake City cop losing his temper when a burn unit nurse explained why she couldn’t give him a blood sample from an unconscious patient. You’ve probably seen how he arrested her with considerable violence because she was doing her job.

Salt Lake City cops now have to stay out of patient contact areas and away from nurses at that hospital.

Gordon Crabtree, interim chief executive of the hospital, said at a Monday news conference that he was “deeply troubled” by the arrest and manhandling of burn unit nurse Alex Wubbels on July 26. In accord with hospital policy and the law, she had refused to allow a Salt Lake City police officer to take a blood sample from an unconscious patient. Wubbels obtained a copy of the body cam video of the confrontation and, after consulting her lawyer, the hospital and police officials, released it last week.

“This will not happen again,” Crabtree said, praising Wubbels for “putting her own safety at risk” to “protect the rights of patients.”

Margaret Pearce, chief nursing officer for the University of Utah hospital system, said she was “appalled” by the officer’s actions and has already implemented changes in hospital protocol to avoid any repetition.

The “officer”‘s actions were pretty amazing. There was no arrest, there was no calm “if you don’t comply I will be forced to arrest you”; there was only a shouty “We’re done here!” and an assault.

The incident, which has attracted nationwide attention in part because of the dramatic video, involved Detective Jeff Payne, who persisted in demanding a blood sample from an unconscious truck driver at the hospital who had earlier been involved in an accident stemming from police pursuit of a suspect.

The hospital and the law in Utah and nationwide require police to have a warrant or permission from the patient to draw a blood sample in such circumstances. Payne had neither.

After Wubbels politely and repeatedly read hospital policy to him and had a supervisor back her up on a speakerphone connection, Payne snapped. He seized hold of the nurse, shoved her out of the building and cuffed her hands behind her back. A bewildered Wubbels screamed “help me” and “you’re assaulting me” as the detective forced her into an unmarked car and accused her of interfering with an investigation.

It has occurred to me to wonder if Payne would have done that if Hubbels had been male and a doctor. I can’t know, of course, but I bet he wouldn’t. I bet he saw her as doubly an underling and someone who should do what she’s told when a cop does the telling, no matter what the law says. I bet he’s that kind of bully.

He also, of course, saw her as someone he could overpower easily. We can see and hear that he’s that kind of bully.

A fierce critic of Hindu nationalist organisations

Sep 5th, 2017 2:58 pm | By

The Guardian has more on the murder of Gauri Lankesh.

Gauri Lankesh was the editor of a Kannada-language tabloid that has frequently been critical of Hindu extremists.

Police said Lankesh, who was in her 50s, was shot by three assailants as she was entering the property on Tuesday evening and died shortly after. Officers said it was too early to speculate on the motive.

A small group of protesters formed outside her home as news of the killing spread.

Lankesh was known as a fierce critic of Hindu nationalist organisations in her state and was convicted of defamation last year for a piece accusing members of the Bharatiya Janata party of theft. She was appealing against the decision.

She told the Indian website Newslaundry last year that the “rabid hate” directed at her online had made her fear for the state of free expression in India.

“Unfortunately, today anybody talking in support of human rights and against fake encounters [extrajudicial killings] is branded a Maoist supporter,” she said.

“Along with that, my criticism of Hindutva politics and the caste system … makes my critics brand me as a Hindu hater. But I consider it my constitutional duty to continue – in my own little way – the struggle of Basavanna and [social reformer] Dr [Bhimrao Ramji] Ambedkar towards establishing an egalitarian society,” she said.

Always a reason to kill people.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said in a report last year that 27 journalists had been killed “with complete impunity” in India since 1992. It listed another 25 murders it was investigating to ascertain a connection to the journalist’s work.

Two years ago in the same state, Karnataka, an outspoken scholar and critic of religious groups, MM Kalburgi, was also shot dead by unidentified assailants.

Without journalists, we don’t know what they’re doing to us. We need to know.