Notes and Comment Blog

How did it all go so wrong

Apr 12th, 2019 12:16 pm | By

Ratzinger is back, telling us the rapey priests problem is all the fault of liberalism.

“Why did paedophilia reach such proportions? Ultimately, the reason is the absence of God,” Benedict wrote in the 6,000-word essay published on Thursday in the German monthly Klerusblatt, the Catholic News Agency and other conservative media.

No. What was absent was recognition that other people are not Things for one’s own sexual gratification. What was missing was the minimal decency to refrain from traumatizing children for personal pleasure.

Benedict also faulted church laws that gave undue protection to accused priests. During the 1980s and 1990s, he wrote, “the right to a defence [for priests] was so broad as to make a conviction nearly impossible”.

As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict spearheaded reforms of those laws in 2001 to make it easier to remove priests who abused children. Benedict took a hard line against clerical sex abuse as the Vatican’s conservative doctrinal chief and later as pope, defrocking hundreds of priests accused of raping and molesting children.

Francis has blamed the scandal on a clerical culture in the church that raises priests above the laity.

At his retirement in 2013, Benedict had said he would devote his remaining life to penance and prayer, leaving Francis to guide the church. He said in the introduction to the essay that Francis and the Vatican secretary of state had given him permission to publish. The Vatican confirmed it was written by Benedict.

Church historian Christopher Bellitto questioned if Benedict, who turns 92 next week, was being manipulated by others. He said the essay omitted the critical conclusions that arose from the pope’s February sexual abuse summit in Rome, including that “abusers were priests along the ideological spectrum, that the abuse predated the 1960s, that it is a global and not simply western problem, that homosexuality is not the issue in pedophilia”.

Emphasis mine. The abuse long predates the 60s, which suggests to me that it probably goes all the way back, because why wouldn’t it? We’re surely well familiar with the fact that some men feel perfectly entitled to use other people for their personal sexual jollies, with no compunction or concern about what those other people might prefer. We’re also well familiar with the fact that being a Catholic priest seems to do nothing to prevent that entitled feeling…and probably only encourages it because priests have such power over believers, as I gather Francis is arguing.

So, no. It ain’t the 60s and it ain’t the absence of god.

We are indeed

Apr 12th, 2019 11:08 am | By


Only trouble is, his people were trying to deny it yesterday.

The focus narrowed

Apr 12th, 2019 5:50 am | By

Foreign Policy pointed out in August 2017 that Wikileaks declined to publish material damaging to Russia.

In the summer of 2016, as WikiLeaks was publishing documents from Democratic operatives allegedly obtained by Kremlin-directed hackers, Julian Assange turned down a large cache of documents related to the Russian government, according to chat messages and a source who provided the records.

WikiLeaks declined to publish a wide-ranging trove of documents — at least 68 gigabytes of data — that came from inside the Russian Interior Ministry, according to partial chat logs reviewed by Foreign Policy.

In the months leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of potentially damaging emails about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and her campaign, information the U.S. intelligence community believes was hacked as part of a Kremlin-directed campaign. Assange’s role in publishing the leaks sparked allegations that he was advancing a Russian-backed agenda.

WikiLeaks in its early years published a broad scope of information, including emails belonging to Sarah Palin and Scientologists, phone records of Peruvian politicians, and inside information from surveillance companies. “We don’t have targets,” Assange said at the time.

But by 2016, WikiLeaks had switched course, focusing almost exclusively on Clinton and her campaign.

Just some possibly useful background.


Apr 11th, 2019 5:52 pm | By

Ugh, god.

From the Post:

White House officials have tried to pressure U.S. immigration authorities to release detainees onto the streets of “sanctuary cities” to retaliate against President Trump’s political adversaries, according to Department of Homeland Security officials and email messages reviewed by The Washington Post.

Trump administration officials have proposed transporting detained immigrants to sanctuary cities at least twice in the past six months — once in November, as a migrant caravan approached the U.S. southern border, and again in February, amid a standoff with Democrats over funding for Trump’s border wall.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s district in San Francisco was among those the White House wanted to target, according to DHS officials. The administration also considered releasing detainees in other Democratic strongholds.

Anything else? Plans to start wildfires near Democratic strongholds? Poisoning the water supply in Democratic strongholds?

The White House told U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that the plan was intended to alleviate a shortage of jail space but also served to send a message to Democrats. The attempt at political retribution raised alarm within ICE, with a top official responding that it was rife with budgetary and liability concerns, and noting that “there are PR risks as well.”

After the White House pressed again in February, ICE’s legal department rejected the idea as inappropriate and rebuffed the administration.

“No, Mr President, you can’t single out cities you consider enemies for punishment. That’s not how any of this works.”

Pelosi’s office blasted the plan.

“The extent of this administration’s cynicism and cruelty cannot be overstated,” said Pelosi spokeswoman Ashley Etienne. “Using human beings — including little children — as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants is despicable.”

You’ll never guess who was pushing it.

Image result for stephen miller

Updating to add:

Is it because the targets of ridicule are women?

Apr 11th, 2019 5:18 pm | By

The Wagga Feminist asks a question:

So can someone explain (in a way that is logical and makes sense) why men wearing woman face in drag (exaggerated stereotypes cos I have never seen a woman look like a drag queen) is ok but white people in black face (exaggerated stereotypes of black people) is not ok. And just to be clear, focus on the first part, I know why black face is not ok, I just don’t see how drag is any different yet it is acceptable. Is it because the target of ridicule are women?

I’ve wondered the same thing.

I suppose one answer is that misogyny is even more pervasive than racism, but really that’s just the same question. Why is misogyny even more pervasive than racism? Why is it more socially acceptable than racism?

It’s not a trick question; I don’t know the answer.

Death for women

Apr 11th, 2019 4:53 pm | By

Jim Wright on the Texas Congressman who wants to mandate death for women who have abortions, all of them:

Texas state Congressman Tony Tinderholt — a Republican, but of course — has reintroduced a bill before the state legislature that would outlaw abortion WITHOUT EXCEPTION and mandate the death penalty for any woman who has the procedure — even if they traveled out of state to get it.

This isn’t the first time.

Tinderholt previously introduced this bill in 2017. He had to be put under state police protection, because Texas women threatened to kill him, and they meant it.

But see, Tinderhold feels this draconian measure is necessary because WOMEN don’t take personal responsibility for sex.

Yes, you read that correctly.

“Right now, it’s real easy. Right now, they [women] don’t make it important to be personally responsible because they know that they have a backup of ‘oh, I can just go get an abortion.’ Now, we both know that consenting adults don’t always think smartly sometimes. But consenting adults need to also consider the repercussions of the sexual relationship that they’re gonna have, which is a child.”

Women don’t take personal responsibility for sex. And thus, Tinderholt says, his bill would would completely remove access to abortions and “force” women to be “more personally responsible” with sex.

Note “consenting adults” means the mother gets put to death and the father is … something something gazpacho not actually responsible for anything — certainly not to any degree of responsibility approaching DEATH.

Read on.

She pointed to vague notions of “knowing” and “feeling”

Apr 11th, 2019 1:33 pm | By

A psychologist at Feminist Current on how she bought into trans dogma until she didn’t any more:

Until mid-January, I was a stalwart advocate of what is commonly referred to as “transgender rights.” I didn’t waver in my belief that transwomen are women and transmen are men, that transgender individuals should be granted access to single-sex spaces based on their chosen “gender” (including female change rooms, homeless shelters, prisons, sexual assault centres, transition houses, etc.), and that those who question such beliefs were misguided at best, and transphobic bigots at worst.

Certain aspects of trans activism would occasionally unsettle me, such as self-identification being the primary requirement needed for transwomen to compete against female athletes and on women’s sports teams, but I pushed those concerns aside. This wasn’t worth my attention, when transgender individuals were supposedly being discriminated against in so many areas of society. Further, I had repeatedly read that transgender youth had a high risk for suicidal ideation and attempts, so when it came to advocating for transgender people, it was clear to me that time was of the essence.

It’s always been one of the biggest puzzles to me in this whole thing, how thoroughly some otherwise reasonable people buy into the official doctrines. I don’t expect that puzzle ever to be resolved; it just is puzzling. The core claims are so wack, so magic-adjacent, that all this furious impassioned belief is inherently surprising and baffling. I can understand buying into the idea that one must pretend to believe it all more easily than I can understand actually believing it all. (That’s still not very easily though. We don’t normally think we have to pretend to think other people’s flaky beliefs are true [with the massive exception of religious beliefs], so why has this one so suddenly and furiously been made socially mandatory?) The suicide explanation is some answer, I guess, but then that claim itself is not particularly credible on its face and falls apart if you do any research on it. So…it’s puzzling. Mystifying, in fact.

I discounted those who didn’t agree with my belief system — or rather, shouted online at them, in 280 characters or less. I used my PhD in clinical psychology as a sword, despite the fact my knowledge of the science and psychology of sex and gender was minimal. Most people who disagreed with me were women, who repeatedly stated that males could not become female, and that while the rights of every individual in society must be respected and protected, the rights of one group (trans-identified people) cannot be realized at the expense of another (women).

When asked why I believed transwomen were, in fact, women, I asserted that some boys and girls are “born in the wrong body,” and that our brains are gendered (thus, transwomen had a male body, but a “woman’s brain”). When asked to elaborate, I pointed to vague notions of “knowing” and “feeling,” rather than terms that were rooted in science and could be operationalized. When asked to explain further, I resorted to circular reasoning: some men feel like women, and only women can feel like women, therefore some men are women. When pushed on the question of how it is possible to “feel like a woman,” I’d argue that because I “felt” like a woman, it must be true.

Ah but do you “feel like a woman”? How do you know? How do you know you don’t just feel like yourself, while knowing that you are in fact a woman? I think that better describes what most of us think. We’ve always been told we’re female, so being ourselves is being female, just as it’s various other things we’ve always been told about ourselves; it’s not some special essence or core that is feelinglikeawoman. We can’t generalize from our own claim to “feel like a woman” to the existence of some essential “feeling like a woman” that exists independently of female people who grow up being treated like female people.

But at the time the formula worked for Alicia Hendley until it didn’t any more.

But early this year, everything changed. In January, information about the alleged misbehaviour of a self-declared transwoman (“JY”) was revealed. Initially known for filing human rights complaints against 16 Canadian women who declined to wax male genitals, JY was now alleged to have made predatory comments about young girls online. One comment JY allegedly left said, “Every single time I take that ferry there’s field trips with 10-12 year old girls on it… If a girl asks me for a pad or tampon and help on how to use it, if it’s her first time, what do I do?” A selfie of JY in the women’s washroom, which included girls standing in the background, also began to circulate.

People tried to talk about it, and found themselves kicked off social media for doing so. This made Hendley uneasy, so she consulted…Morgane Oger.

We spoke for almost an hour, and Oger listened to my concerns, telling me that other women had reached out regarding JY’s behaviour as well. Oger stated that it would be fruitless to bring such concerns to law enforcement unless there was concrete, verifiable evidence to present them with. I was encouraged to find possible sources and to get in touch if I found any. Based on our conversation, I felt Oger was troubled by the accusations that were being made against JY and was taking them seriously.

During our call, Oger mentioned an event that had occurred a few days earlier at the Vancouver Public Library, discussing gender identity ideology and women’s rights. While I was not at the presentation and could not comment on what occurred, I was struck by Oger’s description: “It was like 1933 Berlin.”

Hendley’s husband and children are Jewish, and that comparison was a large step too far. The slide began.

More conflicting thoughts followed. Was there any evidence that transgender people were at risk of imminent extermination, similar to vulnerable groups during the Holocaust? No.

Were transgender people, as a group, more vulnerable than women? I had no evidence to support this claim.

Was silencing women who say that transwomen are not women (and transmen are not men) a punishment that fits the “crime”? Should referring to a self-identified transwoman as “he,” even inadvertently, mean that women deserve to have online methods of communication (a vital tool for women, enabling them to participate in both public and private conversations) cut off? No.

She used her academic training and did a lot of research.

Like so many other women before me, I reached my “peak.” And finally, even though it may have taken a long time, I tipped, falling away from the beliefs ascribed by gender identity ideology, and onto firmer ground. I was no longer willing to “affirm” transgender individuals at any cost, especially if it cost us women’s rights. I was no longer willing to agree that the end (transitioning a teen) necessarily justifies the means (using scare tactics about suicide on parents). I was no longer willing to perceive every transgender person as made of finely spun glass, too fragile to be questioned, and capable of being broken by mere words. I was no longer willing to sacrifice truth and ethics for political correctness.

Now, when I reflect on my “switch” from being an unrelenting trans activist/“ally” to being critical of gender identity ideology and legislation, I’m chilled at how easy it was for me — a psychologist (now retired), ostensibly trained to understand the human mind — to become so caught up in the momentum of “trans rights” that I avoided critical thought, much like a new member of a cult.

Quite. The culty aspects are very obvious and very disturbing. It’s obviously not a coincidence that trans activism has a lot of both: 1) magic-adjacent claims and 2) ferocious bullying of dissenting women. If the claims were less magic-adjacent they wouldn’t be so god damn hard to believe, and thus wouldn’t require all this bullying and ostracism and silencing to enforce belief and repetition.

And, while I’m reluctant to call trans activism a “cult,” I’m aware of many disconcerting similarities: the absolute refusal to allow anyone to criticize issues; silencing, smearing, and ostracizing those who do ask questions (in this case, labeling them “transphobic”) about the ideology of transgenderism; and pressuring individuals (from parents to health professionals) to blindly adhere to the view that some people are “born in the wrong body,” and that the only way to “fix” this error is through medical intervention, such as puberty-suppressing drugs, cross-sex hormones, and various surgeries, rather than with psychological intervention. And, much like in a cult, those who push gender identity ideology discourage independent thought, and instead respond to requests for evidence and facts to support their beliefs with platitudes, mantras, and scare tactics, repeated over and over, until they become reality.

All of that, with knobs on.

H/t Lady Mondegreen

He knows nothing

Apr 11th, 2019 11:56 am | By

The dog ate his assange

Apr 11th, 2019 11:43 am | By

Wicky Who? What Leeks?

He doesn’t know. Never heard of him. Not his deal. No opinion. Not on his radar. Nothing to do with him. K?

Security clearances, how do they work?

Apr 11th, 2019 11:24 am | By

Maybe the House Oversight Committee will be able to get some clarity on why all those denials of security clearances got thrown out.

A former White House official accused of overturning recommended denials for security clearances during the Trump administration will appear before the House Oversight Committee on April 23, his lawyer told the panel in a letter Wednesday, despite his counsel’s pleas to postpone his testimony.

Carl Kline, who served as the White House personnel security director during the first two years of the Trump administration, will appear for the deposition as part of the panel’s long-standing investigation into security clearances under President Trump. The committee subpoenaed Kline in early April after a whistleblower in his office, Tricia Newbold, alleged that the White House was acting recklessly with the nation’s secrets by granting security clearances to individuals whom employees like her found unworthy.

Not “unworthy,” as I understand it, so much as risky.

Newbold, a nearly two-decade veteran of the security-clearance process who still works in the White House, told the committee in late March that Kline overruled multiple clearance-denial recommendations and then retaliated against her when she objected. One of those was the clearance application for Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a top White House adviser, The Washington Post has reported.

A “top White House adviser” with zero relevant education or experience, who was given the job on a silver platter solely because he is married to the princess. Now he is unworthy, but the issue with a security clearance has more to do with security than with qualifications. Kushner is compromised six ways from Sunday, and “compromised” is a big red flag in security matters.

Wickee leeks

Apr 11th, 2019 10:28 am | By

Assange is busted at last.

Police have forcibly removed the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, from the Ecuadorian embassy in London and arrested him, after the Ecuadorian government withdrew asylum.

Appearing before Westminster magistrates, Assange was found guilty of breaching bail and was told he would face a jail sentence of up to 12 months when he is sentenced at crown court.

The 47-year-old had been taken into police custody for failing to surrender to bail and on a US extradition warrant, after Metropolitan police officers were invited into the Knightsbridge embassy. He had taken refuge there for almost seven years to avoid extradition to Sweden, where authorities wanted to question him as part of a sexual assault investigation.

President Sociopath laments

Apr 10th, 2019 5:40 pm | By

Worse all the time, worse every day, worse worse worse.

Family values

Apr 10th, 2019 4:28 pm | By

How very squalid. Trump’s sister the judge retired so as to escape the consequences of a judicial complaint about the Trump siblings’ gigantic tax fraud. She keeps her pension, she keeps all the millions, nothing happens to her.

President Trump’s older sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, has retired as a federal appellate judge, ending an investigation into whether she violated judicial conduct rules by participating in fraudulent tax schemes with her siblings.

The court inquiry stemmed from complaints filed last October, after an investigation by The New York Times found that the Trumps had engaged in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the inherited wealth of Mr. Trump and his siblings. Judge Barry not only benefited financially from most of those tax schemes, The Times found; she was also in a position to influence the actions taken by her family.

Retired judges aren’t subject to the conduct rules, see, so the investigation was dropped.

In retirement, Judge Barry is entitled to receive annually the salary she earned when she last met certain workload requirements. Though the exact figure was not immediately available, it appears to be between $184,500 and $217,600.

And she gets to keep all the millions they scooped in via the tax fraud.

Judge Barry had been a co-owner of a shell company — All County Building Supply & Maintenance — created by the family to siphon cash from their father’s empire by marking up purchases already made by his employees, The Times investigation found. Judge Barry, her siblings and a cousin split the markup, free of gift and estate taxes, which at the time were levied at a much higher rate than income taxes.

Sweet of them to share it with a cousin. What generous people they are.

The family also used the padded invoices to justify higher rent increases in rent-regulated buildings, artificially inflating the rents of thousands of tenants. Former prosecutors told The Times that if the authorities had discovered at the time how the Trumps were using All County, their actions would have warranted a criminal investigation for defrauding tenants, tax fraud and filing false documents.

Well they’re not generous or even law-abiding to tenants, but they’re peachy to that one cousin.

Similarly, Judge Barry benefited from the gross undervaluation of her father’s properties when she and her siblings took ownership of them through a trust, sparing them from paying tens of millions of dollars in taxes, The Times found. For years, she attended regular briefings at her brother’s offices in Trump Tower to hear updates on the real estate portfolio and to collect her share of the profits. When the siblings sold off their father’s empire, between 2004 and 2006, her share of the windfall was $182.5 million, The Times found.

Squalid. Rich, but squalid.

The wider conditions of vulnerability

Apr 10th, 2019 12:56 pm | By

Brian Leiter reports:

Anti-lesbian discrimination at LGBT Facebook group for philosophers

Two lesbian philosophers–Holly Lawford-Smith and Louise Moody–are removed from the group by Rebecca Kukla (Georgetown) after merely mentioning philosopher Kathleen Stock (Sussex).

The group is both closed and secret, so I haven’t seen any posts from it firsthand, only summaries of what’s going on. Someone asked how to learn more about…gender critical feminism? One of the pejorative labels for same? I don’t remember, but one of those or something like it. Holly and Louise suggested reading Kathleen Stock. Kukla kicked them out without further ado.

But wait, there’s more. Of course there is; there always is; there is the festering hatred of various men who have to share their festering hatred with the world. Trans ideology has been such a gift to those men.

UPDATE:  Two different readers sent along the unhinged reaction of Keyvan Shefiei, another charming PhD student self-destructing on social media:

Keyvan defaming Lawford-Smith

A “bigoted piece of shit” and a “vile fucking human.” Why? Because she doesn’t subscribe to the doctrine that men can magically become women simply by saying the words “I identify as.”

ADDENDUM:  An amazing response to being called out for their unhinged behavior.  Among the philosophers sympathizing with Shalfiei, who apparently think it’s fine to call another philosopher a “piece of shit” and a “vile fucking human,” are Daniel Silvermint (Connecticut), Fiona Schick (CUNY), Amy Marvin (Oregon), Audrey Yap (Victoria), Joshua Habgood-Coote (Bristol), and Nathaneal Smith (Rochester), among others.

I don’t know anything about the last five, but I saw Daniel Silvermint’s sympathizing before Brian’s update, and it’s a gem of its kind – its kind being a combination of ostentatiously professorial wording with intensely stupid content.

The “on the record” is laughable for a start, because what record? What godly recorder is seeking David Silvermint’s official opinion?

But the rest of it is infuriating, because what “attack”? There was no “attack.” Not agreeing to bizarre metaphysical claims is not an “attack.” And because what “wider conditions of vulnerability”? Are we supposed to assume that trans women are in a condition of vulnerability while women are not? If so, why? I asked him that, then after some hours I asked him again; all I got was a block. He pretends to be making a reasoned argument but he declines to argue.

“A swear.” Calling someone a “bigoted piece of shit” and a “vile fucking human” is not a mere swear. A man calling a woman those things is doubly not a mere swear. Daniel Silvermint is helping another dude bully a woman on Twitter, and pretending he’s doing serious philosophy in the process.

Guess what he teaches. Go on, guess.

I joined the University of Connecticut in 2013 as an Assistant Professor, jointly appointed in Philosophy & Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

Yeah. Women’s Studies, that guy.

A number of offences of dishonesty

Apr 10th, 2019 11:56 am | By

Following up on a question of Screechy Monkey’s, I learn more about belligerent trans activist Stephanie Hayden, who likes suing people.

Do trans women have more to fear from loss of anonymity on social media than gender critical feminists do?

Hayden is Stephanie Hayden, the one who sued to get the personal details of a woman on Mumsnet.

Jamie Hamilton did some digging last November and found a not very dainty past:

The transgender lawyer who has accused Father Ted scribe Graham Linehan of transphobia and is suing him for harassment was once convicted of affray for threatening a man with a golf club, as well as for a number of other offences.

Stephanie Hayden, who is also suing Mumsnet and recently sued a transsexual solicitor, now identifies as a lawyer. But in 1999, when Hayden was a 28-year-old man known as Anthony Halliday, Halliday was charged with assault and affray. In court documents seen by RollOnFriday, the prosecutor in the Preston Crown Court case described how Halliday became embroiled in an argument after he refused to move his car from outside a man’s house in Burnley. When the man said he would use a fork lift truck to remove the car, Halliday “became abusive”, said the prosecution, and threw a punch after calling the victim a “big fat bastard”.

The victim told police that the pair scuffled, and as he walked back to his house he felt a blow to the back of his head. He said he turned around to see Halliday wielding a golf club. After another scuffle in the street, the victim returned to his house, “bleeding from the head”. His wife grabbed a video camera and recorded Halliday as he “picked up his golf club and brandished it, tapping on the glass of the victim’s house”.

The charge of assault was left on Halliday’s file after he pled guilty to the lessor offence of affray. He was sentenced to 150 hours community service, which he subsequently appealed on the basis of another case which he said was similar. It was dismissed as having “no merit” by the Court of Appeal in 2002. The judge noted that Halliday had appeared in court and been convicted in respect of several other crimes, which included disorderly behaviour and “a number of offences of dishonesty”.

A fine upstanding lawyer.

Not just a pointless semantic argument

Apr 10th, 2019 11:29 am | By

Barr is doing what Trump hired him to do.

At a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday morning, Barr confirmed that he is looking into what he called “spying” on the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.

“I am going to be reviewing both the genesis and the conduct of intelligence activities directed at the Trump campaign during 2016,” Barr said. “I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal.”

When pressed by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) on whether he indeed viewed it as “spying” on Trump’s campaign, Barr said, “I think spying did occur.”

“The question is whether it was adequately predicated,” he said. “I’m not suggesting it was not adequately predicated, but I need to explore that.”

Aaron Blake points out that “spying” is a highly contested word for what the FBI did relative to Trump’s campaign.

When Trump alleged that the FBI had spied on his campaign, former FBI director James B. Comey said this was simply an information-gathering effort — emphasizing that the “actual” term is “the use of Confidential Human Sources.”

Former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. was asked around the same time, “Was the FBI spying on Trump’s campaign?” and he responded directly. “No, they were not.”

At another point in the same interview, Clapper seemed to momentarily borrow the term Trump was using. “They were spying on — a term I don’t particularly like — but on what the Russians were doing,” Clapper said. Trump has misleadingly used that quote to argue that Clapper was confirming that spying did exist.

The word “spying” implies things that are not the case.

As I wrote after that Clapper interview, this is more than just a pointless semantic argument. Trump’s use of this term implies a much more nefarious-sounding effort, and the idea that it was targeted at his campaign is a big piece of that:

The definition of spy … generally includes an adversarial relationship between the government and the organization that is being “spied” upon. Merriam-Webster defines spying as “to watch secretly usually for hostile purposes.” Oxford defines a spy as “a person employed by a government or other organization to secretly obtain information on an enemy or competitor.”

This is what Trump wants. It feeds his “witch hunt” narrative. For special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s findings to be rendered invalid with Trump’s supporters (which would guard Trump from impeachment), this needs to have been a targeted effort to bring Trump down. “Informant” doesn’t exactly drive that home; “spy” certainly does.

And here we have the Attorney General using that word.

On Wednesday, Barr emphasized that the “spying” might have been warranted and A-okay. But he also essentially subscribed to both of those highly disputed Trump talking points. And that lends legitimacy to what, at this point, is essentially a Trump conspiracy theory.

It’s like Watergate with Nixon winning every round.

Updating to add:

You’ve got to put your name on stuff

Apr 10th, 2019 10:58 am | By

So little Donald went to Mount Vernon one day with his friend Manny. Little Donald was bored, and he thought George Washington was stupid.

During a guided tour of Mount Vernon last April with French president Emmanuel Macron, Trump learned that Washington was one of the major real-estate speculators of his era. So, he couldn’t understand why America’s first president didn’t name his historic Virginia compound or any of the other property he acquired after himself.

“If he was smart, he would’ve put his name on it,” Trump said, according to three sources briefed on the exchange. “You’ve got to put your name on stuff or no one remembers you.”

Yeah. Just put your name on stuff, one way or another, and that way people will remember you. It could be on books you wrote or music you composed, or it could just be pasted on something to memorialize your vanity and presumption.

The VIPs’ tour guide for the evening, Mount Vernon president and CEO Doug Bradburn, told the president that Washington did, after all, succeed in getting the nation’s capital named after him. Good point, Trump said with a laugh.

America’s 45th president is open about the fact that he doesn’t read much history.

Much? Make that any. He doesn’t read anything at all; not newspapers, not daily intelligence briefings, nothing. He sure as hell doesn’t read any history.

The president’s disinterest in Washington made it tough for tour guide Bradburn to sustain Trump’s interest during a deluxe 45-minute tour of the property which he later described to associates as “truly bizarre.” The Macrons, Bradburn has told several people, were far more knowledgeable about the history of the property than the president.

A former history professor with a PhD, Bradburn “was desperately trying to get [Trump] interested in” Washington’s house, said a source familiar with the visit, so he spoke in terms Trump understands best — telling the president that Washington was an 18th century real-estate titan who had acquired property throughout Virginia and what would come to be known as Washington, D.C.

Fined £90 for wasting police time

Apr 10th, 2019 10:06 am | By

A woman reported her stalker to the police five times in six months.

And then he murdered her.

Officers are facing disciplinary action after Shana Grice was fined for wasting police time before she was murdered by her stalker.

Two police officers, one of whom has retired, will face gross misconduct proceedings in front of an independent chairman at public hearings on 7 and 10 May, Sussex Police confirmed. Another police officer will face internal misconduct proceedings, which are carried out in private.

Several others will get retraining, while others still get no further action.

The 14 were investigated by the police watchdog after 19-year-old Miss Grice was murdered in Portslade, near Brighton, East Sussex, in 2016. Michael Lane slit her throat in her bedroom then tried to burn her body.

She had previously reported her ex-boyfriend to officers five times in six months, but was fined £90 for wasting police time.

Lane’s trial prompted widespread calls for action to ensure victims are taken seriously by police. He pursued Miss Grice by fitting a tracker to her car, stole a house key to sneak into her room while she slept and loitered outside her home. It later emerged 13 other women had reported him to police for stalking.

At Lane’s sentencing, Mr Justice Nicholas Green said officers “jumped to conclusions” and “stereotyped” Ms Grice.

It’s almost as if the cultural messages about women have real world effects.

The news comes on the same day the IOPC announced a police call handler from the force was given “management advice” after failing to record a woman’s reports of escalating violence by her ex-husband who shot her dead eight days later.

Michelle Savage spoke to Sussex Police three times before she was murdered alongside her 53-year-old mother Heather Whitbread in an execution-style killing at almost point-blank range in St Leonards on March last year.

She had told officers former soldier Craig Savage was dangerous and she feared for her life.

Sarah Green, co-director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said of both cases: “The police watchdog findings that Sussex Police failed and that there will be misconduct hearings are welcome, but much more is needed.

“Numerous inquests and inquiries have found that multiple police forces have failed to protect women who were murdered. There is a massive failing in police leadership on domestic and sexual violence which is not simply about cuts. The Home Secretary should call time on the promises to do better and require improvement or removal of leaders in forces where women are not being protected.”

Oh well, it’s only women.

The real winners in Trump’s tax cuts

Apr 9th, 2019 4:29 pm | By

Speaking of Republicans and pharmaceutical corporations and filthy practices…

Opens Axios article:

Four pharmaceutical companies — Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Merck and Abbott Laboratories — collectively kept $7 billion in tax savings in 2018 due to Republicans’ 2017 corporate tax overhaul, according to a new Oxfam report.

The bottom line: Oxfam’s results mirror our reporting, which shows pharmaceutical companies in particular have benefited from bringing back billions of dollars in overseas profits that have sat untaxed. However, this report says the tax savings have not led to other social goods, like more research investment in new drugs or lower drug prices.

Of course not. That’s not what money is for. Money is for buying bigger and bigger houses, cars, yachts, private jets.

Leaders of the corruption caucus

Apr 9th, 2019 3:54 pm | By

Profits first! Profits first, Republicans second, people last. Take prescription drugs for instance…

In an unusual move, House Republicans are warning drug companies against complying with a House investigation into drug prices.

Republicans on the House Oversight Committee sent letters to a dozen CEOs of major drug companies warning that information they provide to the committee could be leaked to the public by Democratic chair Elijah Cummings in an effort to tank their stock prices.

Or perhaps in an effort to inform the public on a subject they badly need to be informed about: why prescription drugs are so eye-wateringly expensive.

Cummings requested information from 12 drug companies such as Pfizer Inc., Johnson & Johnson, and Novartis AG in January as part of a broad investigation into how the industry sets prescription drug prices.

In their letters, Reps. Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows — leaders of the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus — imply that Cummings may be attempting to collect the information in order to bring down the industry’s stock prices.

Yeah, or maybe he’s doing it to help the lizard people team up with the illuminati to take over our precious bodily fluids. You just never know.

Democrats expressed bafflement at the letters. While politicians routinely spar over committee work, warning companies not to comply with an investigation is unconventional — perhaps even unprecedented, Democrats say.

Heh heh heh, “unconventional” – they’re such kidders. They mean contemptibly filthy and low.