So who are these doctors?

Dec 23rd, 2020 10:01 am | By

James Kirkup at the Spectator dissects that reckless BBC article, starting by quoting the Samaritans’ advice on how to report on suicide:

Steer clear of presenting suicidal behaviour as an understandable response to a crisis or adversity. This can contribute to unhelpful and risky normalising of suicide as an appropriate response to distress.’

And:

‘Speculation about the ‘trigger’ or cause of a suicide can oversimplify the issue and should be avoided. Suicide is extremely complex and most of the time there is no single event or factor that leads someone to take their own life.’

Yet the BBC quoted people doing exactly those things.

Then he points out that the Tavistock itself says suicidality in its clients is the same as that of other “young people referred to child and adolescent mental health services.” Then he points out that the Tavistock itself has found no improvement “in mood or psychological wellbeing using standardised psychological measures.”

Yet the BBC article treated the ruling as a dire emergency for the Tavistock’s clients. That doesn’t add up.

In summary, the country’s leading suicide prevention charity tells journalists not to ‘normalise’ suicide, especially among young people, by presenting it as an understandable or inevitable response to crisis. The country’s leading medical authority on transgender young people says they are not at unusual risk of suicide, and called suggestions to the contrary unhelpful. The same clinic’s evidence shows that the use of puberty blocking medication does not improve the mental health of trans children.

So about that BBC article –

The third paragraph of the story says this:

‘Doctors and parents have told the BBC the ruling could cause distressed trans teens to self-harm or even take their own lives.’

Doctors, eh? That’s quite a thing to report. If ‘doctors’ are indeed saying that a court ruling could ’cause’ children to commit suicide, that’s surely something that should be reported, in the public interest. So who are these doctors?

The first is the anonymous clinician. The second is Adrian Harrop, who is quoted saying

‘It makes me terribly worried that there is now nothing there for those children, and nothing that can be done to help them. Parents are being left at a point where they’re having to struggle to cope with these children who are in a real state of distress and anxiety. Sadly, there is a very real risk of seeing more suicides.’

Dr Harrop is a GP in Liverpool. He has a record of expressing strong opinions on transgender issues via social media. What he does not have is a history of publishing peer-reviewed medical research on mental health and self-harm among trans children. Nor has he worked as a clinician at a clinic such as GIDS. Yet the BBC deems his speculation about child suicide more worthy of reporting than the views of experts such as Polly Carmichael, head of the GIDS and a world-recognised authority in the care of trans children.

And that’s putting it mildly. Harrop has more than a record of expressing strong opinions on transgender issues via social media, he also has a record of shouting at and bullying and “reporting” feminist women who dispute his claims. He has a record of doing that energetically and repeatedly and downright obsessively; he’s a very nasty piece of work. But the BBC (in the person of Ben Hunte) saw fit to quote him rather than people with professional understanding of the subject.

Then the BBC cites a letter from “GenderGP” which complains about the ruling and does the obligatory warning of “self-harm and suicide.”

What the BBC does not report about GenderGP is that it is based outside the UK, since the two doctors who founded it were both suspended by the General Medical Council for breaking UK medical rules.

Here, I offer another summary: the BBC reported that ‘doctors’ say a court ruling halting the use of puberty blockers could ’cause’ children to commit suicide, on the basis of unevidenced assertions from a non-specialist medic and disgraced doctors who make money selling such drugs. It did so without reporting the views of actual experts that such narratives about suicide are misleading and potentially harmful.

And this isn’t random people burbling on Twitter or Redditt, it’s the BBC. The call is coming from inside the house.

He too then notes the failure of the BBC to mention the suicide claims it removed from the article.

In other words, the BBC reported yesterday that a court ruling could cause young people to commit suicide. Today it no longer says that. Such a correction is welcome, of course, but I can’t help thinking that such a fundamental change in the premise of the article warrants at least a clear public acknowledgment, if not outright deletion.

Especially since the current version of the article still has Harrop and “Gender GP” making the suicide threat.



Some changes

Dec 23rd, 2020 9:06 am | By

Times journalist Janice Turner points out obfuscation by the BBC:

Oh really. How sly.

Let’s compare a passage from the first version to the new one.

Amended version:

The NHS gender identity service is seeking leave to appeal against a High Court ruling that restricts children under 16 from accessing “puberty-blocking” drugs.

The NHS service says the move harms young people with gender dysphoria.

Doctors and parents have told the BBC the ruling could put already vulnerable trans teens at risk.

Original version:

The NHS gender identity service is appealing against a High Court ruling that restricts children under 16 from accessing “puberty-blocking” drugs.

The NHS service says the move harms young people with gender dysphoria.

Doctors and parents have told the BBC the ruling could cause distressed trans teens to self-harm or even take their own lives.

The change: “the ruling could cause distressed trans teens to self-harm or even take their own lives” is now “the ruling could put already vulnerable trans teens at risk.” That’s a large and substantive change, which the BBC is carefully not admitting it made.

On the other hand they still let an anonymous clinician and Adrian Harrop rant about suicide.



Law and order

Dec 23rd, 2020 8:17 am | By

David Smith at the Guardian on Trump’s latest dive into squalor:

Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heards worked as security guards for Blackwater, owned by Erik Prince, a prominent supporter of Trump and brother of his education secretary, Betsy DeVos. All were serving long prison terms for a 2007 massacre of 14 unarmed civilians in Baghdad.

After their trial in 2014, Ronald Machen Jr, the US attorney for the District of Columbia, said: “These Blackwater contractors unleashed powerful sniper fire, machine guns, and grenade launchers on innocent men, women, and children. Today they were held accountable for that outrageous attack and its devastating consequences for so many Iraqi families.”

The pardoning of the four led political opponents and legal commentators, even those who thought they had grown immune to Trump outrage, to reach for words like “disgusting” and “grotesque”. With just 29 days left in office his burn-it-all-down brazenness knows no bounds.

He also pardoned Chris Collins, imprisoned for making false statements to the FBI and conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and Duncan Hunter, who admitted misusing campaign finance funds. Collins and Hunter were the first two congressmen to endorse Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

Meanwhile there are I don’t know how many thousands of people – mostly black of course – serving life sentences for selling drugs.

So much for “drain the swamp” and “law and order”. Research by Jack Goldsmith, a law professor at Harvard University, found that 88% of the 45 pardons or commutations that Trump had granted before Tuesday helped someone personally associated with him or benefited him politically.

The pardon power is something of a quirk, more redolent of a medieval monarchy than a constitutional republic. Perhaps that is why Trump finds it so attractive as he enters full King George III meltdown with America slipping from his grasp.

But Trump doesn’t have porphyria.



14 dead among the four of them

Dec 22nd, 2020 6:01 pm | By

Of course he did.

President Donald Trump pardoned four former Blackwater mercenaries on Tuesday who had been convicted for their role in the Nisour Square massacre that left 14 people dead in Baghdad in 2007.

The killing of innocent civilians, including two young boys, sparked international outrage and public scrutiny into the use of private military companies, like Blackwater, providing armed fighters for US wars and conflicts.

Nicholas Slatten, Paul Alvin Slough, Evan Shawn Liberty, and Dustin Laurent Heard were convicted in the deadly shooting.

During the trial for Slough, Liberty, and Heard, federal prosecutors argued in 2015 that the men should have received harsh sentences for their roles, stating that they had “shown no remorse for their actions.”

“Indeed, the defendants have not accepted responsibility for their criminal actions whatsoever and, to this day, have denied any wrongdoing,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.

But Trump knows better.

“The pardon of these four veterans is broadly supported by the public,” the statement from the White House read. “Mr. Slatten, Mr. Slough, Mr. Liberty, and Mr. Heard have a long history of service to the Nation.”

The White House statement released by the White House announcing the full pardons made no mention of the number of civilians killed — 14 — or the number of innocent people injured — 17 — in the shooting, or that it was found that the contractors started firing without provocation.

“The situation turned violent, which resulted in the unfortunate deaths and injuries of Iraqi civilians,” the statement read.

That is, the mercenaries opened fire on Iraqi civilians. Also they’re not “veterans,” they’re mercenaries. I don’t think real veterans like to see amateurs called by that name.

The four men had all been working under the private contracting company Blackwater, founded by Erik Prince, a wealthy American defense contractor and supporter of Trump’s. His sister, Betsy DeVos, is the Trump administration’s education secretary.

The four men were serving as security escorts for the State Department in Iraq in 2007. When the four-car convoy approached Nisour Square, the contractors began firing into the crowd for about 20 minutes.

In court, the contractors argued they had come under fire in the square; however, evidence suggested that the men didn’t face any fire in the shooting but had instead been firing automatic weapons and sending grenades into the crowd of civilians.

But Trump knows better.



How not to report on puberty blockers

Dec 22nd, 2020 5:27 pm | By

The BBC has a shockingly bad and reckless article by LGBT correspondent Ben Hunte on the Tavistock ruling.

The NHS gender identity service is appealing against a High Court ruling that restricts children under 16 from accessing “puberty-blocking” drugs.

The NHS service says the move harms young people with gender dysphoria.

Doctors and parents have told the BBC the ruling could cause distressed trans teens to self-harm or even take their own lives.

And trans young people have been giving their reaction, with one calling the ruling “honestly terrifying”.

That’s the reckless bit. It’s widely agreed that it’s a very bad idea to report “X will cause Ys to commit suicide” this way, because it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

We get eleven paragraphs on a 14-year-old who attempted suicide, full of despair and preference for death, which is just the way journalists are told not to report on the subject. All this is to underline the claim that the ruling is a threat to children and that puberty blockers are not.

A clinician who currently works within the NHS GIDS, told the BBC her patients are now being left alone to deal with distress.

“The young trans people I’m talking to now are experiencing deeply distressing mental health problems,” she says.

“To be a young trans person nowadays requires a bigger fight than ever, but most of the trans people I see do not have any fight left in them.”

The clinician wanted to remain anonymous, because of the backlash that could come as a result of her speaking out.

She says: “I know of several young people who have tried to take their lives, some successfully, and that was before these legal challenges which will only slow down and block our services even more.”

There it is again. The clinician is not so much “speaking out” as making wild and reckless suicide threats on behalf of her patients.

Dr Adrian Harrop, a GP from Liverpool who has defended the right of children to begin transitioning, says trans young people have now had “the rug pulled from underneath them”.

“It makes me terribly worried that there is now nothing there for those children, and nothing that can be done to help them.

“Parents are being left at a point where they’re having to struggle to cope with these children who are in a real state of distress and anxiety. Sadly, there is a very real risk of seeing more suicides,” he adds.

Harrop is a GP but he doesn’t know better than to promote suicide this way. The whole article is one long suicide-promotion. The BBC seems to have lost its mind.

In a letter seen exclusively by the BBC, GenderGP – one of the only private healthcare providers for transgender people in the UK – calls on NHS England’s Medical Director for Specialist Services, James Palmer, to take urgent action.

The letter asks him to provide “interim solutions to prevent harm”. It adds: “The mental health implications of this cannot be underestimated, and the risk of self-harm and suicide must be acknowledged.”

That’s the last para; suicide is almost the last word.

Responses are rolling in.



More comfortable

Dec 22nd, 2020 1:09 pm | By

Pence said things at a conservative student event called Turning Point USA today, COVID be damned.

One of the things he said is that Democrats want to make poor people more comfortable.

He says it beginning at 1:29.

It’s pretty staggering that he feels happy saying that the enemy party wants to make poor people more comfortable. What does Pence want? What does his party want? Poor people homeless, eating out of garbage cans, sick, dying young?

I consulted Google, and it appears that he’s said variations on it before, including saying that Dems want to make poverty more comfortable. That provides a hint toward how Republicans make this a cheerful doctrine: if you make poverty as uncomfortable and lethal as possible then poor people will stop being so stupid about it and be rich instead.

Here’s one reason that’s horseshit: rich people get rich via the labor of poor people. The lower the wages the more money for The Rich People. Poor people are not poor because poverty is so damn comfortable, it’s because rich people suppress wages every way they can.

What Pence of course means by “Democrats want to make rich people poorer and poor people more comfortable” is that the left, and some Democrats, want to reduce the massive equality gap in the US. Yes, oddly enough, we do want people to get decent pay for their work, and support when they need it, and if that means The Moneybags Family don’t get to buy their fifth Vacation Home in Aspen, so be it.



Advocacy groups use this leverage

Dec 22nd, 2020 11:43 am | By

Female athletes stab female athletes in the back.

So in the future there won’t be any Billy Jean Kings and Megan Rapinoes. All the stars of women’s sports will be men who say they are women.



Tilting

Dec 22nd, 2020 11:10 am | By

It’s all in the angle of the head. Glinner on that Magic Moment:

It’s one of the most magical moments in a young transwoman’s life, when she tilts her head to the side and instantly becomes a woman. Who would have thought that rotating your head ever so slightly gave instant access to women’s changing rooms, sports and women-of-the-year lists.

The same people who knew that duck-face can work the same magic.

Lower right needs more head tilt though.



Reports of a president unhinged

Dec 22nd, 2020 10:21 am | By

Reports are that Trump gets crazier every day. That’s 28 more days of upping the crazy while he still has access to the nukes.

[A]mid reports of a president unhinged – one report said: “We cannot stress enough how unnerved Trump officials are” – and while Trump continued to stoke a Republican civil war by attacking Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, a group of GOP representatives visited the White House to plan one final push to reverse the will of the American people.

There were about 12 of them.

Trump continues to make baseless accusations of mass electoral fraud and reportedly to rage against aides he deems insufficiently zealous in his defence. According to the news site Axios, White House counsel Pat Cipollone and chief of staff Mark Meadows are prominent among such hapless targets.

So is McConnell, whom Trump claims to have saved in his re-election fight this year, the president sending a slide to Republicans in Congress which purported to show the restorative effect of a presidential tweet and robocall.

“Sadly, Mitch forgot,” the slide said. “He was the first one off the ship!”

But Trump and his stalwart band of 12 Republicans will prevail! You’ll see!

Trump remains actively engaged in the fundamentally anti-democratic campaign. He is said to have spent an hour poring over the details of the 6 January session with the group from Congress.

Ah so he does know how to pay attention to details!

But only when they concern him personally as opposed to presidentially. When they concern him in his role in the job he is supposed to be doing, he has urgent tv to watch.

The closer the president gets to removal from office, the more volatile he becomes, and the more wild his invective grows. According to Olivia Nuzzi of New York magazine, since election day White House aides have been “outright avoiding the president out of concern he might end up using any nearby staffer as a human stress ball”.

But he’ll always have The Twelve.



Fuss

Dec 22nd, 2020 9:53 am | By

Oh the bravery, oh the courage, oh the heroism.

Headline: Eddie Izzard to use the pronouns ‘she’ and ‘her’

Wot? Everyone uses those pronouns. Dialogue: “Alice forgot her coat, can you take it to her? She’s down the hall.”

Subhead: Stonewall praises comedian for her bravery after announcement on Sky Arts show

“Bravery” for using words we all use?

Eddie Izzard has adopted the pronouns “she” and “her”, saying she wants “to be based in girl mode from now on”.

You can’t “adopt” pronouns. They never had parents, so you can’t adopt them.

Journalists and “activists” have to use this stupid baby-talk for this subject because of the fundamental absurdity of it. What they mean is that Izzard is now ordering the rest of the world to use bespoke pronouns to talk about him, which is a good wheeze because it will force everyone to pay more attention to him if they talk or write about him at all. Like right there – I didn’t deliberately decide to say “him” the first time, it was just automatic, because I know he’s a man. Then I noticed I’d done it and the second two were not automatic. To avoid calling him (there it is again) “him” I would have to devote extra thought to him (deliberate that time). It’s not easy to contradict your own ingrained knowledge that way – Izzard is ordering everyone to make a huge effort if they decide to mention him (deliberate that time).

That’s not courage, it’s just greedy ego.

The actor and comedian made the announcement during an appearance on the Sky Arts series Portrait Artist Of The Year last week in which she described herself as gender-fluid, prompting the LGBT charity Stonewall to praise her for her bravery.

The announcement? How pompous. “Listen up everyone, I have orders for you all about how you are to refer to me from now on.”

But more annoying, what I started out to say before I got distracted by the extra effort issue, is this burbling about “bravery” and “courage” when what we’re talking about is a man demanding attention for Special Order Pronouns. He’s a man! A rich man! A rich white man who is not an immigrant or the wrong religion! I don’t think it should be headline news that he’s telling us to refer to him as “her” and I don’t think his doing that should be called “courage.”



Tiny exaggeration

Dec 21st, 2020 5:17 pm | By

How about a sense of proportion? Hmm?

Let’s see. 1-7 dictators and semi-elected heads of state who caused the deaths of millions. 8 & 9 assassins, 10 a cynical and ruthless senator who helped 6 get away with his many crimes.

Dawn Ennis is suggesting these ten are all comparable to a popular author who wrote an essay about why women’s rights matter and how they depend on grasping that women are not men and men are not women.

Not really a very good comparison, I think.



Explaining your attitude towards women

Dec 21st, 2020 4:43 pm | By

Guy rapes one woman, rapes and murders another. Judge finds a woman to blame.

“Your mother rejected you; that may go some way towards explaining your attitude towards women,” said Justice Geoffrey Venning in a New Zealand high court court in November this year as he sentenced Kempson to three-and-a-half years in jail for the rape.

Yes, because hatred of women is so rare and unusual that it must have a particular cause, to be specific, a woman.

On learning he had been found guilty of the 2018 rape, Kempson screamed at the judge: “You have no reason to convict me. You’re full of shit mate.” At his sentencing last month, Justice Venning said it was clear Kempson did not accept his offending and told him: “You have no remorse or insight into it.”

In another trial earlier this year, also suppressed until now, Kempson was convicted of terrorising his live-in girlfriend for months in 2017. He subjected her to violent assaults, threatened her with a butcher’s knife and forced her into sex acts after telling her he had been sent by the CIA to kill her. He was sentenced in November this year to seven-and-a-half years in jail.

What a good thing we can blame his mother.



But the iniquity of oblivion blindly scattereth her poppy

Dec 21st, 2020 4:32 pm | By

Speaking of the fatuous claim that Good Writing is Simple Writing, I was tempted to quote a bit of Sir Thomas Browne on that post but didn’t, but now that Tim Harris has cited him as a counter-example I have to.

I give you: Hydrotaphia, or Urn Burial, published in 1658:

But the iniquity of oblivion blindly scattereth her poppy, and deals with the memory of men without distinction to merit of perpetuity. Who can but pity the founder of the pyramids? Herostratus lives that burnt the temple of Diana, he is almost lost that built it. Time hath spared the epitaph of Adrian’s horse, confounded that of himself. In vain we compute our felicities by the advantage of our good names, since bad have equal durations, and Thersites is like to live as long as Agamemnon without the favour of the everlasting register. Who knows whether the best of men be known, or whether there be not more remarkable persons forgot, than any that stand remembered in the known account of time? The first man had been as unknown as the last, and Methuselah’s long life had been his only chronicle.

Oblivion is not to be hired. The greater part must be content to be as though they had not been, to be found in the register of God, not in the record of man. Twenty-seven names make up the first story and the recorded names ever since contain not one living century. The number of the dead long exceedeth all that shall live. The night of time far surpasseth the day, and who knows when was the equinox? Every hour adds unto that current arithmetick, which scarce stands one moment. And since death must be the Lucina of life, and even Pagans could doubt, whether thus to live were to die; since our longest sun sets at right descensions, and makes but winter arches, and therefore it cannot be long before we lie down in darkness, and have our light in ashes; since the brother of death daily haunts us with dying mementoes, and time that grows old in itself, bids us hope no long duration;–diuturnity is a dream and folly of expectation.

Go ahead, tell me that would be better if it were all short words.



Truth is beauty, beauty is truth

Dec 21st, 2020 1:34 pm | By

Trump has given an order that federal buildings from now on have to be beautiful.

But then…beautiful according to whom? Trump? But…

Donald Trump Has Been Lying About The Size Of His Penthouse

Donald Trump decreed on Monday that all new US federal buildings should be “beautiful”, in a long-expected executive order which excoriated architectural modernism but stopped short of demanding that all such projects should be in the classical style.

So he’ll allow for some in the modern vulgarian goldy goldy goldy style?

When a draft of the order first surfaced, in February, critics reacted with horror to its promise to “make federal buildings beautiful again” by mandating a return to “the classical architectural style”.

So there’s no beauty in this?

Chrysler Building - Designing Buildings Wiki

Ten months later, and with the end of Trump’s time in office looming, the finished order arrived.

Its text extols examples of classical US public architecture including “the Second Bank of the United States in Philadelphia, the Pioneer Courthouse in Portland, Oregon, and the Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse in New York City”.

“In Washington DC,” it adds, “classical buildings such as the White House, the Capitol building, the supreme court, the Department of the Treasury and the Lincoln Memorial have become iconic symbols of our system of government.”

Therefore, be it hereby decreed, all new buildings have to look like a blend of those five structures. (The Lincoln Memorial is not a building. It’s big like a building but it’s open to the elements. It’s a structure.)

Given his career in real estate developments marked by a love for gold, gilt, black marble and baroque excess, not to mention the brutal treatment of beloved old buildings, Trump’s professed love for classicism has attracted critical comment.

Dude wants to control everything, in perpetuity. He can’t.



Orwell did not write Dick and Jane books

Dec 21st, 2020 12:14 pm | By

BBC media editor Amol Rajan has made a prize for best writing and he announced the winners today.

And so we come again to that glorious moment, just ahead of what I hope is a restful festive season for you and your family, when I wheel out my favourite prose of the year, under the auspices of an implicit endorsement from my long dead hero.

You know, to give you a bit of holiday reading when you’ve eaten too many pies.

Welcome to the Russell Prize 2020.

Why Russell?

Before we get to them, I should remind you that the Russell Prize is named for my hero, Bertrand Russell, who together with George Orwell wrote the best non-fiction prose in English of anyone alive in the 20th Century. (Ernest Hemingway wrote the best fictional prose, and if you haven’t read Joan Didion’s 1998 essay on his “mysterious, thrilling” style, you haven’t lived; but we’ll leave that for another day).

No he didn’t. I mean there is no one such person in the first place, but if there were, it wouldn’t be Russell. As for Hemingway…

Russell’s prose united the unholy trinity of virtues that make the best essayists: plain language, pertinent erudition, and moral force. Orwell achieved it in Shooting an Elephant and several other essays; Russell achieved it through most of his work.

Here we see the problem. “Plain” language is not a universal good and un-plain language is not invariably bad. That’s a dumb, wrong, philistine view, and it needs to die. Sometimes simplicity and hyper-clarity are what one wants, but not always.

Other truly great, even canonical, essayists often have two out of three. For instance, Christopher Hitchens’ best essays combined pertinent erudition with moral force, but lacked plain English, (the moral, intellectual and artistic case for which Orwell himself made peerlessly).

This is where that silly view takes you: thinking Hitchens didn’t write as well as he could have because his English wasn’t plain enough. Puhleez. What he had to say wasn’t always sayable in short words, and what he said in long words is not necessarily the worse for them. Also Orwell did not write 100% “plain” English – far from it.

But the reason I saw this is another story. His #3 winner is JK Rowling for That blog post.

JK Rowling is almost certainly the greatest writer of English children’s fiction of her generation, and a remarkable humanitarian. It turns out she writes exhilaratingly powerful prose too.

(Sometimes. Her adult fiction is not all that well-written, at least the examples I’ve read aren’t, which is why I haven’t read more of it.) (I don’t like anything about Harry Potter.)

In a blog about the transgender debate, she offended many people. Offence is the price of free speech. Those offended felt she was questioning their identity and even attacking their human rights, which they argue is a form of discrimination or hate speech.

I take absolutely no view whatsoever on the issues that she raises.

I do take an issue on abuse and trolling, and Rowling has achieved the inglorious honour of topping many a league table for those. The deluge of hatred that she faced before writing this blog made it brave, and it was nothing compared to what came after. Talking about bravery, so too, by the way, was Suzanne Moore’s engrossing, long, personal essay for Unherd on why she left the Guardian.

Which, also by the way, was not written in particularly plain English. A random paragraph to illustrate:

Maybe they were steering me away from certain subjects because they thought they were dealing with some mad old bint, or maybe they were scared and had been indoctrinated into the cult of righteousness that the Guardian embodies. At its best, the paper deserves to see itself as a beacon of the Left, but lately it has been hard to define what the Left consists of beyond smug affirmation. During the Corbyn years the paper had a difficult job to do: support Labour but to be honest about Corbyn and his cronies’ monstrous failings.

It’s a mixture, as good writing generally is – “mad old bint” followed by “indoctrinated into the cult of righteousness.”

We should all applaud bravery in writers – even those with whom we disagree. And Rowling’s essay contained moments of both real beauty and piercing honesty, as when she revealed that she is a survivor of domestic abuse and sexual assault.

What the judges – that is, the voices in my head – most admired about the writing was the plain English. It is an interesting fact about rhetoric that if you want people to understand something, plain, mono-syllabic words are usually your best bet: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country”.

Yes the words are short, but what of this “ask not” business? That’s not how we usually say that – we usually say “don’t ask.” The plain English is not as plain as the short words might suggest. It just is not true that the most effective language is the most like a grocery list or dentist’s reminder.

Or think of the final line from Enoch Powell’s most notorious speech: “All I know is that to see, and not to speak, would be the great betrayal.”

I’m not endorsing the argument; but the rhetorical power of that line comes from the fact that there are 16 words, the first 15 of which have one syllable, and the last of which has three.

But that’s not where the rhetorical power of that line comes from – if indeed it has any great rhetorical power, which I’m not convinced it does. The power comes also from the words themselves, as opposed to their number of syllables. This simple-minded “always write short words” doctrine gets on my nerves.

Anyway – that aside, good about the award.



On his way out the door

Dec 21st, 2020 11:26 am | By

So a few hours before he leaves Barr sets fire to his enslavement to Trump. Way too late, dude, you won’t get any credit for it now.

Still, the rest of us can take a little pleasure from how much it will enrage the rotting pumpkin.

Attorney General William Barr used his final public appearance to undercut President Donald Trump on multiple fronts Monday, saying he saw no reason to appoint a special counsel to look into the president’s claims about the 2020 election or to name one for the tax investigation of President-elect Joe Biden’s son.

In the course of breaking with Trump on matters that have been consuming the president, Barr also reinforced the belief of federal officials that Russia was behind a massive hack of U.S. government agencies, not China as Trump had suggested.

Ok that’s all very nice but could he also go up to Trump and deliver a painful flick to his nose? And then mess up his hair? And then push him over?

Trump was interested both in a counsel to investigate the younger Biden’s tax dealings and a second to look into election fraud. He even floated the idea of naming attorney Sidney Powell as the counsel — though Powell was booted from Trump’s legal team after she made a series of increasingly wild conspiratorial claims about the election.

That’s sort of hilarious (only sort of because of course as always it’s more sinister than hilarious) – they fire her because she made claims too loony even for them, then Trump talks about wanting to make her a special counsel, because you definitely want your special counsel to be a loony.



Dreams of glory

Dec 21st, 2020 10:32 am | By

Trump’s mind is on………..

…………getting someone to get the necessary process going to get an Important airport named after him.

(What do Donald Trump and Eddie Izzard have in common? Laser-like focus on The Self to the exclusion of all others.)

In the dying days of his presidency, Donald Trump has taken to asking some aides and advisers about the process of naming airports after former U.S. presidents, according to two people who’ve heard him recently inquiring on this.

He asked one of the two what kind of paperwork is necessary to get an airport named after a former president. Sir, you need to request Form 4728B from the Department of Egotism sir.

Another individual close to Trump told The Daily Beast that they could recall the president mentioning at least a couple times since early 2018 his desire for having a national or international airport in the United States named after “Donald J. Trump,” and that he hoped there would be an aggressive organized effort to do so akin to the push to name the Washington, D.C.-area national airport after President Ronald Reagan.

Well I hope he’s keeping a proper list. It needs to include hospitals, post offices, train stations, bus terminals, licensing offices, weather bureaus, schools, universities, garden centers, ice cream plants.

Trump, very likely, will have a number of allied state and national politicians eager to demonstrate their devotion to him with an airport-naming push. But the process isn’t supposed to come until after he leaves office. The fact that it’s on his mind now, amid an exploding coronavirus crisis and accompanying economic problems, demonstrates how far his attention can drift even during weighty and difficult moments.

More precisely, it demonstrates how intensely focused his attention is on himself rather than on some irritating pandemic or hackers meddling with the nukes or the climate we accidentally broke.



There is no justice

Dec 20th, 2020 5:24 pm | By

Rupert Murdoch got the vaccine.

Media baron Rupert Murdoch received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine this week, a day before prominent opinion host Fox News’s Tucker Carlson raised suspicion over the marketing strategy for the vaccine.

The 89-year-old executive chairman of Wall Street Journal owner News Corp and chairman of Fox News’s Fox Corp received the vaccine at his local doctor’s office in Britain on Wednesday after being told he was eligible, a spokeswoman confirmed on Friday.

There are frontline workers and healthcare workers who haven’t had it yet, but he was eligible.

On Thursday evening, Carlson, host of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” one of the highest rated shows on U.S. cable news, opened his show highlighting the case of a health worker in Alaska who suffered an adverse reaction to the vaccine and warned viewers to be skeptical of the “glitzy” public campaign.

In other words Murdoch’s poisonous network is making ever effort to make the pandemic worse, while Murdoch gets one of the first scarce jabs.



The fear of being stared at

Dec 20th, 2020 4:37 pm | By

Via Glinner’s post, Eddie Izzard’s heart-rending story of being persecuted by three teenage girls when he joined them in the women’s toilet on his first day going out dressed in “women’s clothes.”

Most of what I remember about my first day walking around outside in makeup and a dress was fear. The fear of being stared at, which I knew I would be. This was partly because I wasn’t that good at applying makeup.

Ah the fear of being stared at. A little different from the fear of being assaulted.

I had a little bag I’d brought with me with my other clothing to change back into. So at the end of the afternoon, I came back on the Underground to Highbury Corner in Islington and went to the ladies’ loos as planned. I’d expected to go in, quickly change my clothes, wipe off my makeup, then slip back out in boy mode so I could go home with no one the wiser.

What I wasn’t expecting in the ladies’ loos at about three o’clock in the afternoon were three teenage girls smoking cigarettes. They were probably just skipping school. So there they were, smoking cigarettes, while I was just trying to find a stall, change clothes, and get out of there.

Or to put it another way, while he was just trying to invade their loo to take his clothes off and golly gee there they were having the audacity to be in the women’s loo when he wanted to use it. The entitlement is breathtaking.

I could hear the whispering going on. In the third cubicle there was a lock. So I locked the door and quickly managed to change my clothes and wipe the makeup off my face, not using the handy makeup wipes that you can buy today, but probably with liquid makeup remover or something else incredibly inconvenient.

Finally, the dress was off, the heels were off, the makeup was off, and jeans and flat shoes were back on. Now I had to make it out quickly before the girls could react.

But that was impossible.

The girls were ready to act. They were just waiting for me. And when I finally came out of the cubicle, they shouted, “Hey, mate! Hey, mister! Why are you wearing makeup? Why are you dressed as a woman?”

Why are you in the wrong loo?

So I was heading away from home, walking and walking and walking, around Highbury Corner, down Canonbury Road, while they continued to shout at me. Finally, I thought: Screw this. They’re just going to shout at me forever. Let’s confront this. So I stopped and I turned around to face my teenage inquisitors.

I shouted back, “You want to know why I’m wearing a dress? I’ll tell you why.”

But before I could say anything else, the girls just screamed and ran off in the other direction. I was stunned. Wow. That wasn’t as hard as I thought.

No shit, Sherlock: that’s because you’re a man.

I think that was the first time I was overtly intimidated because of my sexuality.

You assume older people intimidate younger people, but those three thirteen-year-old girls had power over a twenty-three-year-old man.

He, an adult man, goes into their toilet and takes his clothes off, and then he shouts at them and then he claims that they are the ones who have power over him. You couldn’t make it up.

I learned something that day when those girls ran off: If you confront aggression—Sometimes just standing your ground or even with cheeriness and politeness—sometimes you can shut it down. It’s not a perfect science, but it feels better than being scared. I also learned that you could feel empowered by facing people down. They were only thirteen or fourteen, but the turning around and saying, “All right, I’ll tell you,” felt almost like a second coming out because I had to say, “Okay, you want to put me in a corner? I’ll face this down as opposed to screaming and running.” Which I always thought I might do. But I didn’t scream and run—in the end, they did.

Yes, an adult man scared off three 13-year-old girls after he perved on them in the women’s toilets. He didn’t molest them, assuming his story is true, but he did do a thing that girls and women know to be afraid of. If it had been just one girl in there she would have been fucking terrified.

And all this callous behavior and interpretation is because he likes to dress up in clothes coded female. His kink is brave and stunning, while their self-preservation is “aggression.” It takes my breath away.



How are women supposed to know the difference?

Dec 20th, 2020 4:06 pm | By

It’s no skin of James Harris’s nose, is it. Men ignoring women’s boundaries is no threat to him, so by all means Eddie Izzard should do whatever he wants.

Graham Linehan is not impressed with what his colleague is doing.

I know a woman who met Eddie and he thought it would be a laugh to go into the women’s toilets with her. She was embarrassed and uncomfortable but felt she couldn’t say anything. This discomfort and embarrassment is now Eddie’s gift for every woman who has the bad luck to encounter him in the wild.

Eddie, how are women supposed to know the difference between men like you, and men like Mark Brown? How are they to know that Mark is not one of the ‘nice ones’ like you? .

And how are they to know you are not one of the nasty ones like Mark Brown? We can’t know either way, which is why we’re not brought up being told to trust all strangers no matter what.

Mark Brown by the way is the student who put on a long silver wig and a dress to chase a woman through the streets and then assault her.

It is the height of male privilege to intrude into women’s spaces and expect women to just love it. In fact, when a group of teenage girls DIDN’T love it, Eddie painted them as nasty bullies, instead of young women protecting their privacy and dignity.

So, Eddie, don’t be so fucking stupid. You’re not a woman, you’re just a man with oddly low levels of empathy for the sex you’re appropriating.

Oddly but all too familiarly.