Notes and Comment Blog


Clown Giuliani

Sep 3rd, 2018 12:33 pm | By

A few highlights from Jeffrey Toobin’s long piece on Giuliani at the New Yorker:

He reflected on the tumultuous six months he has spent thus far representing Trump in the investigation led by Robert Mueller, the special counsel. Giuliani’s work has involved countless television appearances—often featuring false or misleading claims—as well as frequent phone calls with the President and months of negotiations with Mueller about the possibility of Trump testifying.

Good to know where we are at the outset.

Like Trump, he characterizes the Mueller probe as a “witch hunt” and the prosecutors as “thugs.” He has, in effect, become the legal auxiliary to Trump’s Twitter feed, peddling the same chaotic mixture of non sequiturs, exaggerations, half-truths, and falsehoods. Giuliani, like the President, is not seeking converts but comforting the converted.

And he cheerfully lies.

Giuliani’s behavior has provoked disgust among some of his former fellow-prosecutors. “He has totally sold out to Trump,” John S. Martin, a predecessor to Giuliani as U.S. Attorney who later became a federal judge, said. “He’s making arguments that don’t hold up. I always thought of Rudy as a good lawyer, and he’s not looking anything like a good lawyer today.” Preet Bharara, who served as U.S. Attorney from 2009 until 2017, when he was fired by Trump, told me, “His blatant misrepresentations on television make me sad. It’s sad because I looked up to him at one point, and this bespeaks a sort of cravenness to a particularly hyperbolic client and an unnecessary suspension of honor and truth that’s beneath him. I would not send Rudy at this point in his career into court.”

If it were really beneath him he wouldn’t be doing it.

This spring, Giuliani met with Mueller and his staff, and Giuliani pressed the special counsel about whether he believed that a sitting President could be criminally indicted. According to a 1973 opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel, a President should not be subject to indictment while in office because it “would interfere with the President’s unique official duties, most of which cannot be performed by anyone else.” (A 2000 legal opinion from the Justice Department reached a similar conclusion.) Giuliani recalled Mueller saying, “Well, we’re going to reserve our thinking on that.” Giuliani told me that after “two days, with a lot of going back and forth,” Mueller’s team affirmed that it wouldn’t indict, regardless of the result of the investigation. (Mueller’s spokesman declined to comment.)

This apparent concession has shaped Giuliani’s defense of Trump ever since. He now knew that there would never be a courtroom test of the President’s actions; the only risk to Trump was that Mueller’s report could lead Congress to impeach the President, a process that is political as much as it is legal. With impeachment, Giuliani explained to me, “the thing that will decide that the most is public opinion,” and the perception of Mueller is as important as that of Trump. “If Mueller remains the white knight, it becomes more likely that Congress might at some point turn on Trump,” he told me. As a result, Giuliani has set out to destroy Mueller’s reputation.

Which remains striking and repulsive no matter how familiar with it we already are. To save the evil and criminal Donald Trump from richly deserved justice, former prosecutor and mayor Giuliani sets out to destroy Robert Mueller’s reputation. It makes me want to puke.



With genocidal intent

Sep 3rd, 2018 11:27 am | By

Reuters has a detailed story on the framing of the two Reuters reporters in Burma.

Time and again, Myanmar’s government appeared at risk of blowing its prosecution of two young journalists who had exposed a massacre of 10 Muslim men and implicated security forces in the killings.

On April 20, a prosecution witness revealed in pre-trial hearings that police planted military documents on Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in order to frame them for violating the country’s Official Secrets Act. That admission drew gasps from the courtroom.

A police officer told the court that he burned notes he made at the time of the reporters’ arrest, but didn’t explain why. Several prosecution witnesses contradicted the police account of where the arrests took place. A police major conceded the “secret” information allegedly found on the reporters wasn’t actually a secret.

And outside the courtroom, military officials even admitted that the killings had indeed taken place.

But never mind all that –

On Monday, after 39 court appearances and 265 days of imprisonment, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were found guilty of breaching the Official Secrets Act and sentenced to seven years in prison.

Yangon northern district judge Ye Lwin ruled that the two reporters had breached the secrets act when they collected and obtained confidential documents. Delivering his verdict in the small courtroom, he said it had been found that “confidential documents” discovered on the two would have been useful “to enemies of the state and terrorist organizations.”

If that’s the criterion it probably covers all journalists.

A week before the ruling, United Nations investigators said in a report that Myanmar’s military had carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Muslim Rohingya with “genocidal intent,” and that the commander-in-chief and five generals should be punished. The report also accused the government of Aung San Suu Kyi of contributing to “the commission of atrocity crimes” by failing to shield minorities from crimes against humanity and war crimes. Myanmar has rejected the findings.

Suu Kyi, the country’s de facto leader who spent some 15 years under house arrest during the junta era, has made few public statements about the case. In a rare comment in June, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate told Japanese broadcaster NHK that the reporters weren’t arrested for covering the violence in western Myanmar. “They were arrested because they broke the Official Secrets Act,” she said.

Some Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

At the time of their arrest in December, Wa Lone, now 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, now 28, were working on a Reuters investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim villagers during an army crackdown in Rakhine State in the west of the country. The violence has sent more than 700,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh, where they now live in vast refugee camps.

Reuters published its investigation into the massacre on Feb. 8. An account of the killing of eight men and two high school students in September in the village of Inn Din, the report prompted international demands for a credible probe into the wider bloodshed in Rakhine.

The story and its accompanying photographs provided the first independent confirmation of what took place at Inn Din. Two of the photos obtained by the reporters show the men kneeling, in one with their hands behind their necks and in a second with their hands tied behind their backs. A third picture shows their bodies, some apparently with bullet wounds, others with gashes, in a blood-stained, shallow grave.

Reuters includes the first photo in the story.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested on the evening of Dec. 12. During hours of testimony in July, they described that night and the interrogations that followed. They told the court that their heads were covered with black hoods when they were transported to a police interrogation site. They testified they were deprived of sleep for three days during their grillings. At one point, Kyaw Soe Oo said, he was punished and made to kneel on the floor for at least three hours. A police witness denied that the reporters were deprived of sleep and that Kyaw Soe Oo was forced to kneel.

Describing the night of their arrest, Wa Lone said he and Kyaw Soe Oo were detained almost immediately after being handed some documents at a restaurant by a police lance corporal he had been trying to interview for the massacre story. The policeman had invited Wa Lone to meet and Kyaw Soe Oo accompanied him, Wa Lone testified.

When the two reporters exited the restaurant, they were grabbed by men in plain clothes, handcuffed and shoved into separate vehicles, they both testified. As they were driven to a police station, Wa Lone recalled in court, a man who appeared to be in charge called a senior officer and told him: “We’ve got them, sir.”

Wa Lone told the court that their interrogation was about their reporting, not the documents.

At one point, Wa Lone testified, the police chastised him for reporting on the Rohingya. “You are both Buddhists. Why are you writing about ‘kalars’ at a time like this? They aren’t citizens,” Wa Lone recalled being told. ‘Kalar’ is a slur widely used in Myanmar to describe Muslims, especially Rohingya and people of South Asian origin.

Of course. Can’t kill them if there isn’t a derogatory word for them.



Investigate a massacre, go to prison

Sep 3rd, 2018 11:08 am | By

This time it’s in Burma:

Two Reuters journalists arrested in Myanmar while investigating a massacre of Rohingya Muslims have been found guilty of breaching the country’s Official Secrets Act and sentenced to seven years in prison.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, are being held in prison in Yangon after being arrested in December, in a landmark case that has prompted international outrage and been seen as a test of progress towards democracy in the south-east Asian country.

(“Myanmar” was the choice of the generals, so I see using it as kind of like calling Senator Warren “Pocahontas.”)

Press freedom advocates, the United Nations, the European Union and countries including the US, Canada and Australia had called for the men to be acquitted.

The journalists were looking into the deaths of 10 Rohingyaat the hands of soldiers and Buddhist villagers in Inn Din, a village in the north of Rakhine state. After being invited to a dinner by officers, they were detained.

Prosecutors accused the men of obtaining secret state documents, in breach of the Official Secrets Act. The journalists said they were framed by police who gave them the documents during the dinner, and that they were targeted for their reporting. Kyaw Soe Oo said that while being investigated he was deprived of sleep, forced to kneel for hours and had a black hood placed over his head.

Concerned by what was widely seen as a draconian attack by Myanmar authorities on the free press, dozens of journalists and activists marched in Yangon on Sunday in support of the men.

The verdict was condemned by human rights activists, the UN, the US and Britain.

The verdict comes during a time of intense international scrutiny on Myanmar authorities following a damning UN report about the military’s treatment of the Rohingya, which it said amounted to ethnic cleansing. More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar to bordering Bangladesh over the past year after a campaign of violence by the military.

Last week, the UN said Myanmar army generals should be investigated and prosecuted for “gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law”. In the report, which was rejected by the Myanmar government, de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi was criticised for failing to support the Rohingya.

She’s not supporting the journalists, either.



What’s all this “tackling corruption” nonsense?

Sep 2nd, 2018 6:29 pm | By

Good ol’ Rudy:

Donald Trump’s attorney Rudolph Giuliani caused a diplomatic stir on Tuesday by complaining to the president of Romania about the country’s efforts to tackle corruption and calling for an amnesty for some convicted criminals.

In a letter to Romanian president Klaus Iohannis, which was published by Mediafax, Giuliani sharply criticised what he called “excesses made in the name of ‘law enforcement’” by Romania’s national anti-corruption directorate. The agency, he said, had used unfair tactics against suspects and intimidated judges and lawyers.

And you know what else? He did it because people paid him to.

Giuliani’s remarks aligned him with political forces in Romania who last month succeeded in ousting the country’s top corruption prosecutor, who had pursued senior politicians, prompting tumultuous public protests.

Gee, does that ring any bells? Any dingdingmuellerdingding?

His letter was written under the letterhead of Giuliani Partners, his private consultancy firm, and did not mention his role as personal lawyer to the US president. Giuliani said in a text message he was acting as a contractor for the Freeh Group, a consultancy run by his friend Louis Freeh, the former FBI director. Freeh is currently “advising a Romanian defendant contesting his conviction” by the anticorruption agency, according to an interview he gave Forbes last week.

He’s collecting a (doubtless large) paycheck for his efforts to impede Rumania’s efforts to get rid of corruption. Nice guy.

The State Department said “Giuliani Who?”

By then the former New York City mayor’s letter had been criticised by Romania’s ambassador to the US, George Maior, who said Giuliani appeared to be speaking on behalf of Romanians “who have problems with the justice system”.

Oh, coincidence, he’s doing the same thing in the US! Only, for “Romanians” swap “a president.”

Romania scores 48 out of 100 on a perceived government corruption scale measured by Transparency International, where 0 is the most corrupt and 100 least. Romania ranks joint 59th out of 180 countries, alongside Greece and Jordan.

Well so there’s plenty of room for Romania to become more corrupt. Shoulder to the wheel, Rudy.



Debt bubbles eventually burst

Sep 2nd, 2018 11:31 am | By

Robert Reich points out the well known fact that most people are not doing well in this economy and that there’s a huge gap between the rich and everyone else. Then he points out the not quite so well known consequence.

Last year, about 40 percent of American families struggled to meet at least one basic need – food, health care, housing or utilities, according to an Urban Institute survey. 

All of which suggests we’re careening toward the same sort of crash we had in 2008, and possibly as bad as 1929.

Clear away the financial rubble from those two former crashes and you’d see they both followed upon widening imbalances between the capacity of most people to buy, and what they as workers could produce. Each of these imbalances finally tipped the economy over.

If you insist on paying your workers a tiny wage then they’re not going to be able to buy your product, so then what, smart boss?

The same imbalance has been growing again. The richest 1 percent of Americans now takes home about 20 percent of total income, and owns over 40 percent of the nation’s wealth.

These are close to the peaks of 1928 and 2007.

The U.S. economy crashes when it becomes too top heavy because the economy depends on consumer spending to keep it going, yet the rich don’t spend nearly as much of their income as the middle class and the poor.

For a time, the middle class and poor can keep the economy going nonetheless by borrowing. But, as in 1929 and 2008, debt bubbles eventually burst.

I replied to Reich’s tweet sharing this post, before reading the post, “you mean we can’t just keep piling up debt forever??”

After the 1929 crash, the government invented new ways to boost wages – Social Security, unemployment insurance, overtime pay, a minimum wage, the requirement that employers bargain with labor unions, and, finally, a full-employment program called World War II.

After the 2008 crash, the government bailed out the banks and pumped enough money into the economy to contain the slide. But apart from the Affordable Care Act, nothing was done to address the underlying problem of stagnant wages.

That’s for sure. The Democratic party turned its back on that idea long ago.

Trump and his Republican enablers are now reversing regulations put in place to stop Wall Street’s excessively risky lending.

But Trump’s real contributions to the next crash are his sabotage of the Affordable Care Act, rollback of overtime pay, burdens on labor organizing, tax reductions for corporations and the wealthy but not for most workers, cuts in programs for the poor, and proposed cuts in Medicare and Medicaid – all of which put more stress on the paychecks of most Americans.

Yup. I’ve been saying it all along – it’s all about shoving more more more money to the rich, and grabbing everything away from everyone else.

Brace yourselves for the crash.



Heartless and despicable

Sep 2nd, 2018 10:44 am | By

The Des Moines Register has a guest column by Rob Tibbetts, father of Molly Tibbetts, the University of Iowa student who was murdered and hidden in a corn field last month.

Ten days ago, we learned that Mollie would not be coming home. Shattered, my family set out tocelebrate Mollie’s extraordinary life and chose to share our sorrow in private. At the outset, politicians and pundits used Mollie’s death to promote various political agendas. We appealed to them and they graciously stopped. For that, we are grateful.

Sadly, others have ignored our request. They have instead chosen to callously distort and corrupt Mollie’s tragic death to advance a cause she vehemently opposed. I encourage the debate on immigration; there is great merit in its reasonable outcome. But do not appropriate Mollie’s soul in advancing views she believed were profoundly racist. The act grievously extends the crime that stole Mollie from our family and is, to quote Donald Trump Jr., “heartless” and “despicable.”

The person who is accused of taking Mollie’s life is no more a reflection of the Hispanic community [than] white supremacists are of all white people. To suggest otherwise is a lie. Justice in my America is blind. This person will receive a fair trial, as it should be. If convicted, he will face the consequences society has set. Beyond that, he deserves no more attention.

To the Hispanic community, my family stands with you and offers its heartfelt apology. That you’ve been beset by the circumstances of Mollie’s death is wrong. We treasure the contribution you bring to the American tapestry in all its color and melody. And yes, we love your food.

My stepdaughter, whom Mollie loved so dearly, is Latina. Her sons — Mollie’s cherished nephews and my grandchildren — are Latino. That means I am Hispanic. I am African. I am Asian. I am European. My blood runs from every corner of the Earth because I am American. As an American, I have one tenet: to respect every citizen of the world and actively engage in the ongoing pursuit to form a more perfect union.

Which is better, really? Which is more conducive to being a decent person with a humane outlook – programmatic hatred of specified Other groups of people, or respect for every citizen of the world? The answer is obvious.



“Everyone has a gender identity”

Sep 2nd, 2018 10:25 am | By

This helpfully isolates one point of contention.

No. Really not. Everyone has a sex, a complicated one in the case of trans-sexual people. “Gender identity” is a neologism and what it names is just an idea about the self. It’s a particular, local, time-specific, constructed, contentious, culture-bound idea about the self, and one which not everyone signs up to, to put it mildly.

You might as well say everyone has a height identity or a species identity or an age identity. You might as well but you wouldn’t, because “activists” have not yet declared that that is 1. a thing and 2. mandatory for all. But they have declared that about “gender identity,” and that’s a pity, because it’s not true.



Ring ring

Sep 2nd, 2018 5:11 am | By

About those racist robo-calls in Florida

If nothing else, the minute-long audio clip is a clear sign of how quickly racism — subtle in some cases, overt in others — has entered the contest to determine who will lead Florida.

“Well hello there,” the call begins as the sounds of drums and monkeys can be heard in the background, according to the New York Times. “I is Andrew Gillum.”

“We Negroes . . . done made mud huts while white folk waste a bunch of time making their home out of wood an stone.”

A disclaimer at the end of the robo-call says it was produced by the Road to Power, a white supremacist and anti-Semitic group based in Idaho. The Southern Poverty Law Center has noted a recent rise in robo-calls across the country, describing them as a “new, high-tech, computer-delivered brand of hate,” according to the Times.

The Road to Power is also the group behind the most unsubtle attempt to turn the killing of Mollie Tibbetts in Iowa into anti-immigration policy and a 2018 campaign talking point.

The suspect, Cristhian Rivera, is an undocumented immigrant who worked on a dairy farm, and conservatives said Tibbetts’s death highlights the need for stronger immigration laws and even a wall on the southern border. Tibbetts’s family has pushed back against that argument, with her father speaking favorably of the local Hispanic community.

“If after her life has now been brutally stolen from her, she could be brought back to life for just one moment and asked what do you think now, Mollie Tibbetts would say, ‘Kill them all.’ ” an Iowa robo-call says. “Well, we don’t have to kill them all, but we do have to deport them all. The Aztec hybrids known as mestizos are low IQ, bottom feeding savages and is why the country they infest are crime-ridden failures.”

According to the Des Moines Register, the man producing the robo-calls is named Scott Rhodes, of Sandpoint, Idaho. He has been linked to similar campaigns in California, Alexandria, Va., and Charlottesville.

I don’t know what Idaho ever did to become the headquarters for white supremacists.



That bishop’s hand

Sep 2nd, 2018 4:38 am | By

Look, her tit was right there, what was he supposed to do, not grab it? But he said he was sorry anyway, just in case.

The bishop who led Aretha Franklin’s funeral has apologised to Ariana Grande after being accused of groping her on stage.

Or, in fact, after groping her on stage.

The preacher said he hugged all artists, male or female, during the ceremony commemorating the Queen of Soul.

But viewers began posting images from the service when Ariana got up to sing Aretha’s song (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.

I’m not sure I think his apology was entirely sincere.



Parched fields

Sep 1st, 2018 5:07 pm | By

Bloomberg on the drought:

The sweltering summer turned lush fields brown and led to shortages of fodder for the country’s millions of cows. Months of drought and heat have also caused problems across the European Union, the top milk exporter. Farmers from Ireland to Germany have had to cull herds or stop milking months early.

For the EU’s $12 billion dairy industry, parched fields have raised animal-feed costs, squeezing farmers’ profits. Ireland’s Agriculture and Food Development Authority expects dairy farms to earn half as much as last year. The feed situation could become critical and milk production may drop in the coming months, according to Arla Foods, the Nordic region’s biggest dairy company.

“In July, we brought in grass that should have been for winter feeding,” said Pat McCormack, who has 100 dairy cows in Ireland’s County Tipperary, where he’s worked for 21 years. “For a farmer with no grass, no silage, no money and kids going to college, it’s a big mental challenge.”

In Ireland, snow at the start of the year soaked fields so much that farmers began dipping into fodder reserves before the drought then hurt grass growth, causing them to use up next winter’s supplies this summer. Some have had to buy feed at extra cost with no crops of their own left to feed cattle.

Those who couldn’t afford to do that have culled herds. Since June, about 16 percent more cows than last year have been slaughtered weekly, according to Ireland’s agriculture department. In Germany, culling is up as much as 50 percent from a year earlier, farmer’s group DBV estimates.

It’s grim.



Hot and dry

Sep 1st, 2018 4:52 pm | By

Tiggerthewing has been telling us about the drought in Ireland, so let’s read more:

Ireland has been listed as one of the countries “most significantly” impacted by drought conditions over the summer months, according to a newly-published European Drought Observatory (EDO) report.

Comparing results for August to a previous assessment at the end of June, the report – carried out by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) – found that the overall situation “worsened” over Scandinavia, and substantially over Ireland and the UK.

Concerning agriculture, the report highlights that in the drought-affected zones, some national governments are discussing aid to farmers amid damage claims.

In addition, the livestock sector in many member states is also affected due to a lack of fodder.

The report states that yield for winter and spring cereals were confirmed as “seriously reduced” by the dry and hot weather that followed up in July.

Last month, a bulletin from the JRC on winter crop yield forecasts for Europe reported that water stress, associated with exceptionally dry and warmer-than-usual conditions, affected the flowering and/or grain filling of winter crops and spring cereals in large regions of northern central and northern Europe.

Winter and spring cereal yield forecasts were revised downwards in practically all northern and central European countries – including major producers Germany and Poland.

Not cheerful.



More forbidding and outraging and whying

Sep 1st, 2018 1:57 pm | By

Oh not this again.

Thousands of Islamists have set off on a protest march in Pakistan to demand Imran Khan’s new government sever diplomatic ties with the Netherlands over a “blasphemous” cartoon competition.

The march, organised by Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP), a political party dedicated to the punishment of blasphemy, presents the first major test of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) administration. Last year, a similar protest by the TLP shut down the capital, Islamabad, for almost a month.

In June, Geert Wilders, the anti-Islam MP who leads the Netherlands’ second largest party and has been found guilty of inciting hatred, invited submissions of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, which Islam forbids. The $10,000 (£7,700) competition is due to open in November, with 200 entries so far.

That phrase “which Islam forbids” is meaningless. Islam isn’t the boss of us, so it can forbid until it’s blue in the face but we don’t have to obey. In reality even Muslims don’t have to obey, it’s just that some of them choose to be under its domination, and others don’t exactly choose to be but aren’t really free not to be. The Netherlands, at any rate, in no way has to pay any attention to what Islam forbids, and even if it did, it couldn’t extend that to Geert Wilders, unless it passed some very repressive laws.

People in Pakistan can march up and march down, but they can’t stop people in the Netherlands drawing cartoons, nor should they be able to.

Khadim Rizvi, the firebrand cleric who founded the TLP, said that condemnation of the contest by the Pakistani government was not enough and “only jihad” was the solution.

Before Pakistan’s general election last month, Rizvi said if he had the power he would order a nuclear strike against the Netherlands if its government allowed the competition to go ahead.

The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, has termed the event “disrespectful” but defended the right to hold it on the grounds of freedom of expression.

On Monday, Pakistan’s senate passed a resolution condemning the competition and Khan vowed to take up the issue at the UN general assembly in September. He said Islamic countries should cooperate to create laws against blasphemy similar to those against Holocaust denial in European countries.

“If they [western countries] feel pained discussing the Holocaust, why haven’t we been able to convey to the west how much we feel pained when they do blasphemous things against Islam and our beloved Holy Prophet, peace be upon him?” said Khan.

Because it’s not the same thing, obviously. The genocide of millions of people is not the same thing, or category of thing, as a Special Feeling about a religious figure. That’s why.



What polar ice cover?

Sep 1st, 2018 1:20 pm | By

Oh and about that warming Arctic Ocean?

The Arctic is in hot water, literally, following the discovery that heat has been accumulating rapidly in a salty layer of the Arctic Ocean 50 metres down. Currently, it’s being held at that depth by a less dense layer of freshwater overhead, but if the two layers start to mix it could melt all seasonal sea ice, accelerating the already-rapid loss of polar ice cover.

Researchers discovered the heat time-bomb after analysing publicly available data on ice cover, and at different depths on sea temperature, heat content and saltiness over the past three decades. The data was gathered around the Canadian Basin, a major basin of the Arctic Ocean fed by waters from the North Chukchi Sea, just north of the Bering Strait between Alaska and Siberia.

Over this timespan, the heat content of the salty layer doubled, from 200 to 400 million joules per square metre, enough to reduce overall Arctic ice thickness by 80 centimetres.

The root cause is global warming, which has seen temperatures in the Arctic rise by 2 degrees from pre-industrial levels–twice the global average—leading to record-low sea ice coverage. The researchers found that with sea ice retreating, heat absorption by exposed surface waters has increased fivefold in 30 years, mainly from direct sunlight, which no longer gets reflected by ice.

5 x in 30 years…that seems like a lot in a little.

Winds are pushing the waters around now that there’s no ice in the way, and winds could cause the two layers to mix.

Not good.



Beer and french fries shortage

Sep 1st, 2018 12:42 pm | By

What’s one of the bad effects of global warming? Crop failures. Who is having crop failures right now?

Germany for one.

In Germany, record temperatures and no rainfall since early April have led to a drought and thousands of farms are facing bankruptcy because of crop failure.

This week, the government pledged $390 million in federal and state aid, but for many farmers, it’s not enough. Many of the country’s farmers are starting to question whether they can cope with climate change.

According to the German Farmers Association, 10,000 farms are facing financial ruin, dairy farmers are slaughtering cows because there’s not enough feed for them and while the national average grain shortfall this year is 26 percent, in some areas arable farmers have lost up to 70 percent of their grain crops, officials announced during a recent press conference.

Crop failures end up as famines. The world doesn’t have a plan for this.

Germany’s Agriculture Minister, Julia Klöckner has promised farmers up to 340 million euros in financial aid. It’s a far cry from the billion euros demanded by the farmers’ lobby, but the minister says she has to justify it to tax payers, who could end up paying extra for food.

In an attempt to calm consumers, Klöckner told reporters last week “there’s no need for panic. Supermarket shelves are still full.”

Just so a firefighter might attempt to calm residents by telling them the fire hasn’t reached their house yet, it’s still six whole inches away.

NPR basically does the same thing by ending on a facetious note.

It’s not only French fries that are set to go up in price. Breweries are worried about a poor barley yield and have warned that the shortfall will be reflected in the price of that other German staple, beer.

Haha yes prospective famines are hilarious.



The study raised questions

Sep 1st, 2018 11:43 am | By

Colleen Flaherty at IHE on the campaign to delegitimize Lisa Littman’s study in PLOS ONE.

Brown University and PLOS ONE have distanced themselves from a controversial, peer-reviewed published study on “rapid-onset gender dysphoria,” or gender identity issues that present not early and over a lifetime but quickly, in teenagers and young adults. The study, which has been criticized by transgender activists and allies as promoting the idea that being trans is a fad, and as relying on an unsound methodology, was based on anonymous survey responses from about 250 parents of (primarily female) teens and young adults who’d abruptly expressed gender dysphoria.

It’s almost funny that there’s outrage at the idea that being trans is a fad. Really? At the very same time as you’re engaged in trying to enforce the fad by shouting down anyone who asks questions? How, in this climate, could being trans not be a fad? It could certainly be other things too; it could be both a fad and a real experience or syndrome or whatever you want to call it; but at this point it can hardly escape being a fad too. It’s hyped like mad, it’s treated as sacred, it’s taboo, it’s sanctified, it’s retroactively diagnosed (Elizabeth Tudor? didn’t know that, didja!), it’s celebrated and defended and promoted all over social media. An adolescent would have to be superhuman not to be at least curious.

[T]he study also raised questions about whether social factors, rather than biological ones, influenced the young adults’ trans identities. It found that many young adults had requested and been offered medical interventions at the time of coming out, with possible lasting implications for their fertility and health, and that most doctors who evaluated these young adults didn’t ask questions about mental health, trauma or other possible reasons for sudden gender dysphoria.

The doctors are subject to social contagion too, though not as powerfully as adolescents. But the dogma is that if X says “I am trans” then that’s the end of the matter – it’s “transphobic” to wait and see.

A Brown news release about the study posted last week quoted its author, Lisa Littman, an assistant professor of the practice of behavioral and social sciences at the university, as saying, “This kind of descriptive study is important because it defines a group and raises questions for more research. One of the main conclusions is that more research needs to be done.” But Brown removed the story from its website this week, replacing it with an open letter from Bess H. Marcus, dean of public health, saying, “In light of questions raised about research design and data collection related to the study on ‘rapid onset gender dysphoria,’ the university determined that removing the article from news distribution is the most responsible course of action.”

Questions raised by whom?

By @SadistHailey.

Really. The person (or persons) managing the PLOS ONE Twitter account responded in all seriousness to that tweet from that “activist,” and then PLOS ONE removed the article. [My mistake.]

Marcus of course is the one who wrote that “The School of Public Health has heard from Brown community members expressing concerns that the conclusions of the study could be used to discredit efforts to support transgender youth and invalidate the perspectives of members of the transgender community,” as I pointed out a couple of days ago. You know, Gwyneth Paltrow has perspectives too – shouldn’t Brown’s School of Public Health be protecting her perspectives also, by letting her write an article promoting jade eggs up the vagina? If it’s one set of perspectives it should be all of them, no? How about anti-vax perspectives? How about homeopathic asthma treatment perspectives? Won’t somebody please think of the perspectives?

While the “spirit of free inquiry and scholarly debate is central to academic excellence, Marcus said, “we believe firmly that it is also incumbent on public health researchers to listen to multiple perspectives and to recognize and articulate the limitations of their work. This process includes acknowledging and considering the perspectives of those who criticize our research methods and conclusions and working to improve future research to address these limitations and better serve public health.”

So then I guess that is what she means – all perspectives welcome, including on public health research. Never mind evidence and statistics, just collect all the perspectives, put them in a box, shake it hard, and then use the soup that results.

An additional university statement on the page cites PLOS ONE’s social media statement about the study.  The journal has said it’s “aware of the reader concerns raised on the study’s content and methodology. We take all concerns raised about publications in the journal very seriously, and are following up on these per our policy” and other international publication ethics guidelines.

They’re aware of the concerns because random people on Twitter @ed them. Much science, very seriously.

Littman, the study’s author, declined comment on Brown’s or PLOS ONE’s actions. But she said she stood by her methodology. “My study is a descriptive study,” she said via email. “And like all descriptive studies there are limitations which are acknowledged. And although descriptive studies may be one of the less robust study designs they play an important role in the scientific literature primarily because they are a first description of a new condition or population and they make it possible to conduct additional, more rigorous research.”

She added, “When analyzing the methodology of my paper, it should be done in the context of other descriptive studies, not compared to studies employing other research designs. The methodology in my study is consistent with methodologies that have been used in other descriptive research and it has similar strengths and weaknesses, which I acknowledge in the paper.”

Well yes, but some activists made a stink on Twitter, so that settles it.



He’s happy to announce

Sep 1st, 2018 8:50 am | By

New editor of student philosophy journal announces no tolerance policy for questioning of pet ideology.

Since the label “TERFs” is used to bully and ostracize women who dispute parts of the rapidly evolving but nevertheless mandatory dogma of trans activism, the new editor of the student philosophy journal is congratulating himself on a policy of not tolerating analysis of a new and ever-changing political dogma that is noisily and explicitly hostile to feminism and, in practice, to women in general.



“Jungle noises”

Aug 31st, 2018 4:45 pm | By

Oh god can we just stop with this?! Axios reports:

An Idaho-based neo-Nazi group is sponsoring racist robocalls made to Democratic voters in Florida mocking Andrew Gillum, the first African American to win a major party nomination for Florida governor, with jungle noises playing in the background, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

Why it matters: These automated calls come days after GOP nominee Ron DeSantis called Gillum an “articulate” spokesman for socialism and warned Florida’s voters not to “monkey up” their finances. DeSantis’ campaign denounced the calls and continues to push back against accusations of racism regarding his comments.

“Monkey up” is not a thing. People don’t say that. It’s not an expression, a meme, an idiom, a bit of slang. It’s not anything. It’s no more a thing than “zebra up” or “reticulated python up” is. Ok there is a rather antiquated usage to “monkey with” as in “don’t monkey with that socket wrench or I’ll tan your hide,” but that’s a different phrase and it means a different thing. “Monkeying up” finances is gibberish. So yes, it’s a racist dog whistle, even if an accidental one. (“Got monkeys on your mind, Mr DeSantis? Why’s that exactly?”)

And goddam racist robocalls from an Idaho group; just fucking perfect.



He loves surprises

Aug 31st, 2018 4:06 pm | By

Louis CK made a “surprise return” to standup comedy the other day.

A standing ovation could make sense if he’d been away because of a broken leg or drug rehab or writing a book, but since in fact he was away because it became public that he likes to abuse women sexually, the standing ovation is pretty much a hard punch in the face to women. Again.



No fault

Aug 31st, 2018 3:08 pm | By

The Green Party is perhaps beginning to grasp that there’s a problem.

The Green party has announced an inquiry into how the father of a candidate for the party’s deputy leadership was allowed to remain her election agent 18 months after he was charged with raping and torturing a child, offences that led to him being jailed last week.

The party said Aimee Challenor, who has insisted she did not know the full details of the allegations against her father, David, had been suspended pending the results of the independent investigation.

It’s a no-fault suspension, they say.

Several Green members have expressed alarm after it emerged that officials took no action to suspend David Challenor or restrict his activities in the party until he was jailed for 22 years for torturing and raping a 10-year-old girl in the attic of the family home in Coventry.

David Challenor’s first court appearance over the allegations took place in November 2016. But ahead of his trial, which began this month, he acted twice as his daughter’s election agent, at the 2017 general election, and in May’s local polls.

It’s not a parking ticket, or embezzlement, or failure to pay the license fee. It’s the torture and rape of a ten-year-old girl. It’s not very “green.”

One party figure said they were “agonised, horrified and furious” at the apparent safeguarding failure, and hoped the Greens, a party that remains heavily localised and largely dependent on volunteers, would learn lessons from this.

It’s a bit late for that.


Trump whispers his secret to reporters

Aug 31st, 2018 2:58 pm | By

Daniel Dale at the Toronto Star reports Trump’s latest Brilliant Move:

High-stakes trade negotiations between Canada and the U.S. were dramatically upended on Friday morning after inflammatory secret remarks by President Donald Trump were obtained by the Toronto Star.

In comments Trump wanted to be “off the record,” the U.S. president told Bloomberg News reporters on Thursday that he is not making any compromises at all in the talks with Canada — but that he cannot say this publicly because “it’s going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal.”

He cannot say it publicly but he can say it to reporters. Very sensible.

“Here’s the problem. If I say no — the answer’s no. If I say no, then you’re going to put that, and it’s going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal … I can’t kill these people,” Trump said of the Canadian government.

In another remark he did not want published, Trump said that the possible deal with Canada would be “totally on our terms.” He suggested he was scaring the Canadians into submission by repeatedly threatening to impose tariffs.

“Off the record, Canada’s working their ass off. And every time we have a problem with a point, I just put up a picture of a Chevrolet Impala,” Trump said. The Impala is produced at the General Motors plant in Oshawa, Ontario.

Such a sober, wise, careful administrator.

Today he helpfully confirmed that he said it.