Notes and Comment Blog

The US is the turd in the punch bowl

Apr 25th, 2019 4:58 pm | By

On Tuesday

The UN has backed a resolution on combatting rape in conflict but excluded references in the text to sexual and reproductive health, after vehement opposition from the US.

The UK backed the resolution, but expressed regret about the omission on reproductive healthcare. Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, the UK prime minister’s special representative on preventing sexual violence in conflict, said: “We emphasise the need for a survivor-centred approach. Survivor services should cater to all survivors – with no exception.”

But he added: “We deeply regret the language on services for survivors of sexual violence, recognising the acute need for those services to include comprehensive reproductive and separate sexual healthcare.”

The UK, he said, would continue to “support access to sexual and reproductive healthcare for survivors of sexual violence around the world. This is a priority. If we are to have a survivor-centred approach, we cannot ignore this important priority.”

The US has placed its fanatical opposition to abortion above the needs of women who survive rape during wars. The US wants such women to be forced to continue pregnancies forced on them through combat violence.

France and Belgium also expressed disappointment at the watered down text. French permanent representative to the UN Francois Delattre said: “We are dismayed by the fact that one state has demanded the removal of the reference to sexual and reproductive health … going against 25 years of gains for women’s rights in situations of armed conflict.”

In a statement published last month, 10 organisations, including the Gunder Werner Institut, UN Women and the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy and the NGO Care, said: “Given the further hardening of antidemocratic and decidedly misogynistic stances in the UN security council, we believe there is a danger of a weak resolution text ultimately being negotiated and adopted.

“Some powerful members of the security council, such as Russia, China and the USA, are undermining women’s rights and once again questioning, for example, women’s and girls’ right to self-determination. Through such actions, the achievements that have already been made could be shattered and the ‘women, peace and security’ agenda overall decisively weakened.”

Nice company we keep.

His mouth slipped

Apr 25th, 2019 4:18 pm | By

Oh, gee, how very thoughtful.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. called Anita Hill earlier this month to express his regret over “what she endured” testifying against Justice Clarence Thomas at the 1991 Supreme Court hearings that put a spotlight on sexual harassment of women, according to a spokeswoman for Mr. Biden.

Earlier this month…i.e. just before he announced he’s running for president. Notice anything about that? 1991 was twenty eight years ago. He’s had 28 years to talk to Anita Hill and he does it now, a few minutes before he announces he’s running for president.

Ms. Hill, in an interview Wednesday, said she left the conversation feeling deeply unsatisfied and declined to characterize his words to her as an apology. She said she is not convinced that Mr. Biden truly accepts the harm he caused her and other women who suffered sexual harassment and gender violence.

“I cannot be satisfied by simply saying I’m sorry for what happened to you. I will be satisfied when I know there is real change and real accountability and real purpose,” she said.

Especially when it took him twenty eight years to say even that…and especially when he helped land us with Clarence Thomas on the court…and especially when it was such a rat-bastard thing to do.

“The focus on apology to me is one thing,” she said. “But he needs to give an apology to the other women and to the American public because we know now how deeply disappointed Americans around the country were about what they saw. And not just women. There are women and men now who have just really lost confidence in our government to respond to the problem of gender violence.”

The Biden campaign said it would have no comment beyond its initial statement.

The Biden campaign can go soak its head.

“They had a private discussion where he shared with her directly his regret for what she endured and his admiration for everything she has done to change the culture around sexual harassment in this country,” said Kate Bedingfield, the deputy campaign manager for Mr. Biden, who declared his presidential candidacy on Thursday.

Why? Why did he do that? Anything to do with his decision to run for president? Anything at all?

Where was he before that? Where was he during the past two years? And during the Obama administration? And during the Bush 2 administration? And during the Clinton administration? And during the last couple of years of the Bush 1 administration? That’s a lot of time when he could have shared with her directly his regret for what she endured and his admiration for everything she has done to change the culture around sexual harassment in this country. But he didn’t. He didn’t do that until now, when it’s in his interest to pretend he’s not just another oblivious white dude who forgets that white dudes aren’t the only people who count.

I wonder how the conversation went. “Gee, Professor Hill, I’ve been meaning to have this chat for the past 28 years and I just never did manage to find your phone number.”

Mr. Biden has long cast the hearings in passive terms, as something that happened to Ms. Hill, not something he and others did to her. Ms. Hill has said in the past that Mr. Biden has never directly apologized for his actions.

Men are good at that. Men are really really good at that. It’s always something that happened, something that was said, something that was done, but it was never anything they said or did.

Last month, at an event in New York honoring students who fight sexual violence, Mr. Biden acknowledged his role in a moment that remains seared in the minds of many women.

“She faced a committee that didn’t fully understand what the hell this was all about,” he said. “To this day, I regret I couldn’t give her the kind of hearing she deserved. I wish I could have done something.”

He could have; he chose not to.

Encouraged by faculty at Georgetown

Apr 25th, 2019 1:03 pm | By

Brian Leiter is keeping track of the specialized but all too lively subtopic of Philosophy Grad Students And Even Faculty Hurling Abuse At Colleagues In Public over trans issues.

April 19 for instance:

A propos this earlier abusive outburst directed at feminist philosopher Holly Lawford-Smith (Melbourne), we now have this from Keyvan Shafiei:

Keyvan no apology

As Leiter points out, the issue of course was not mere “profane language” – it was sweary name-calling, to be specific, piece of shit and fucking vile. People do this all the time: talk about mild generalities like “profanity” when the issue is misogynist or harshly sweary insults directed at specific people. Telling a particular person she’s “fucking vile” is not mere “profane language.” Keyvan Shafiei and others who do that are not just aggressive bullies but specifically chickenshit aggressive bullies. (There I am addressing a harshly sweary insult at Keyvan Shafiei. At least I own it.)

But it gets worse.

It probably doesn’t help that this graduate student is being encouraged by faculty at Georgetown, including Rebecca “suck my giant queer cock” Kukla:

Kukla laughing at idea that Keyvan would apologize

Leiter continues:

The e-mail in question, from the “alleged” philosopher of law, was this one:

Dear Keyvan Shafiei,

I am very concerned to read, on Leiter Reports and elsewhere, that you have published comments referring to Professor Holly Lawford-Smith as ‘a bigoted piece of shit’ and a ‘vile fucking human being’.

This is a disgraceful way to refer to another person, never mind a member of a profession you hope to enter.  It shames you.

I think it would be in your interest to apologize to Professor Lawford-Smith, fully and in public.

Yours truly

Leslie Green

Professor of the Philosophy of Law
Balliol College, Oxford OX1 3BJ

Keyvan Shafiei must be doing his job prospects no end of good.

Crime as in crime?

Apr 25th, 2019 11:59 am | By

It turns out that retaliating against witnesses is a crime.

Trump fired McGahn’s firm. If it can be established that he did it to retaliate, that could be ten years in the slammer.

More power than a traditional White House staffer

Apr 25th, 2019 11:38 am | By

More childish “No no no I won’t and you can’t make me!!” from the Trump House.

The White House will refuse to allow senior adviser Stephen Miller to testify before the House Oversight Committee, according to a letter obtained by The Washington Post.

Oversight panel Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) received a letter from the White House counsel Wednesday denying his request that Miller come before the committee to testify on the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

Few expected Miller to comply, given precedent that White House staff traditionally do not testify.

But Miller, Democrats worry, has had more power than a traditional White House staffer, particularly over immigration.

Miller was behind a controversial proposal to bus undocumented migrants to the jurisdictions of political foes of the president, Department of Homeland Security officials told The Post. He also pushed the policy that led to migrant children being separated from their parents after they crossed the southern border illegally, even if they were seeking asylum.

And Miller was reportedly the driving force behind the shake-up of the Department of Homeland Security at its highest levels, making room for the White House to install officials who will do Trump’s bidding despite concerns about legality.

But hey, he’s staff, not a Senate-confirmed official, so they can’t make him talk.

Meh, climate change, what’s all the fuss?

Apr 25th, 2019 10:09 am | By

Greta Thunberg is getting some attention.

So now it’s time for the right-wing adults to unload on her – Brendan O’Neill out in front as usual.

Anyone who doubts that the green movement is morphing into a millenarian cult should take a close look at Greta Thunberg. This poor young woman increasingly looks and sounds like a cult member. The monotone voice. The look of apocalyptic dread in her eyes. The explicit talk of the coming great ‘fire’ that will punish us for our eco-sins. There is something chilling and positively pre-modern about Ms Thunberg. One can imagine her in a sparse wooden church in the Plymouth Colony in the 1600s warning parishioners of the hellfire that will rain upon them if they fail to give up their witches.

Well, by the same token one can imagine Brendan O’Neill in a crowd laughing and jeering while a “witch” is drowned.

The article as a whole is quite remarkably stupid, because it’s all about the style with not a word to say about the substance. The campaign to do something about climate change is anti-progress, ignore it!

O’Neill’s conclusion:

Young people, Ms Thunberg isn’t your leader. She’s a patsy for scared and elitist adults. Don’t do as she says. Instead, refuse to panic, mock the blather about hellfire, and appreciate that mankind’s transformation of the planet has been a glorious thing that has expanded life expectancy, allowed billions to live in cities, and made it possible for even the less well-off to travel the globe. Sin against St Greta.

Yes, industrialization and technology have been glorious things (with plenty of glitches along the way – Bhopal can stand for the kind of thing I mean) for those of us who were in time to enjoy them before things got too bad…but that’s a bit like setting a house on fire to keep warm. Yes for awhile the result is what you wanted, you’re cozy and warm, but then the fire gets closer to the room you’re in. Some of the fire getting too close is already happening: Paradise, California can stand for the rest the way Bhopal did.

So O’Neill’s “forget about climate change because we have a pleasant life right now” is utterly stupid, but his sneers at Thunberg are cruel. The reporting is that she’s on the autism spectrum, so an adult writing in public about her “monotone voice” is just being a goddam bully, which is nothing new for Brendan O’Neill.

And then there’s Helen Dale, who’s always reminding us that she’s a “classical liberal.”

Why? Because she’s campaigning for the idea that we should do something about climate change? Therefore she should be bullied into a meltdown on national television? I’m not seeing the chain of reasoning there.

Words, how do they work?

Apr 25th, 2019 9:38 am | By

Trump admits he told McGahn to fire Mueller.

It’s not clear if he meant to admit it, but admit it he did. He says the Fake New incorrectly reported that never told McGahn to fire Muller, so he’s saying he did tell McGahn to fire Mueller.

Not that we ever doubted it.

Guest post: And Chris Matthews will get all weepy

Apr 24th, 2019 5:13 pm | By

Originally a comment by Screechy Monkey on In Congress where it’s very partisan — obviously very partisan.

On a broader note: I’m getting really really tired of this constant use of “partisan” as a dismissive sneer. Not by people here, I mean in the discourse generally. Centrist political pundits are the worst for this.

In practically every other country on earth, it’s understood, accepted, and even appreciated that (1) voters have differing ideologies and policy preferences; and (2) political parties are a logical, sensible, and inevitable way to organize along ideological and policy lines and get things done. Of course, it’s generally acknowledged that there are times to set aside partisanship and come together in a crisis, or to call out corruption and wrongdoing within your own party, but the general idea of political parties isn’t treated as some filthy shameful practice.

Only in America (as far as I can tell), is that the case, thanks to the Founding Fathers having a bug up their asses about political parties, and relatedly hoping that America would somehow be “spared” that vulgar practice. As a result, American political institutions are designed to produce gridlock under fairly mild conditions. The only reason shit ever got done, aside from brief intervals of one-party dominance, is that for huge stretches of history, American parties were these weird coalitions of ideologically incoherent groups, where northern lefties and racist southern reactionaries would belong to the same party. And so you could peel off some liberal Republicans to support liberal policies, or some Southern Democrats to support conservative policies. And yet those were the supposed “good old days” — when parties really were more like the Red Team and the Blue Team rather than any principled differences in policy.

But of course we’re going to have to play this game again, where the eventual 2020 Dem nominee has to pay lip service to how he or she will magically find a way to get Republican Congresspeople to support his or her policies. Joe Biden is particularly going to make me nauseous with tales of the good old days when he would hang out and drink with GOP senators, because you can’t let a little thing like opposition to civil rights get in the way of enjoying the old boys’ club! And Chris Matthews will get all weepy at the thought of Reagan and Tip O’Neill coming together over a glass of whiskey, and oh, how Irish eyes were smiling, and can’t we go back to those halcyon days….

How Jesus loved the racists

Apr 24th, 2019 4:40 pm | By

Self-pity reaches an apotheosis.

Rep. Steve King said Tuesday that his recent ostracism by House colleagues for defending white supremacy has made him identify with the tribulations a more famous leader experienced some 2,000 years ago: Jesus Christ.

Right? Remember Fred 11:13, where the disciples all tell Jesus he’s a racist and Jesus cries? It’s like that.

The exchange took place at a town hall event in Iowa during which an attendee stood up to tell the nine-term Republican that in her view, “Christianity is really being persecuted, and it’s starting right here in the United States.”

“Persecuted”=not being allowed to execute atheists and mouthy women and homoseckshuals.

In his response, King told her that after being formally rebuked by the House and stripped of his committee assignments, he had gleaned insight into what Jesus went through before the crucifixion, referring to his House colleagues as “accusers.”

“It’s been, for all that I’ve been through, it seems even strange for me to say it, but I’m at a certain peace, and it’s because of a lot of prayers for me,” he said. “And when I had to step down to the floor of the House of Representatives and look up at those 400-and-some accusers — you know, we’ve just passed through Easter and Christ’s Passion — and I have a better insight into what he went through for us, partly because of that experience.”

Was it about the fig tree? Did 400-some accusers yell at Jesus because of the fig tree?

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again”. And his disciples heard him say it.

In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!” “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered.

And his disciples said, “Shit, man, you could have just kicked a little dirt around and yelled, you didn’t have to ruin the whole tree. It’s not the tree’s fault that figs don’t ripen in November.” And Jesus was furious, and he wouldn’t talk to them for at least an hour.

“I’m grateful that we are the people we are and we not only — we have a strong Christian ethic here and a high percentage of people that are true believers, we have all of that going for us — but it’s also in our culture,” he said. “And we don’t think about it very often, how much the Christian faith echoes through who we are as a people.”

Which is white supremacists? They’re going with that?

King was roundly rebuked in January when he asked, in an interview with The New York Times, how terms like “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” became “offensive.” The House overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning his comments, with King voting in favor of the measure as well.

The congressman has a history of using racist and denigrating rhetoric about minority groups and immigrants, and has amplified the voices of personalities on the right-wing fringe which much of that rhetoric can be traced to.

They’re going with that.

This reeks of a typical practice in authoritarian regimes

Apr 24th, 2019 3:55 pm | By

Trump tried to get Sessions to Lock Her Up.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions had a tenuous hold on his job when President Trump called him at home in the middle of 2017. The president had already blamed him for recusing himself from investigations related to the 2016 election, sought his resignation and belittled him in private and on Twitter.

Now, Mr. Trump had another demand: He wanted Mr. Sessions to reverse his recusal and order the prosecution of Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Mueller’s report released last week brimmed with examples of Mr. Trump seeking to protect himself from the investigation. But his request of Mr. Sessions — and two similar ones detailed in the report — stands apart because it shows Mr. Trump trying to wield the power of law enforcement to target a political rival, a step that no president since Richard M. Nixon is known to have taken.

Remember when he threatened that in one of the debates? And how much shock-horror there was?

Mr. Trump wanted Mrs. Clinton investigated for her use of a private email server to conduct government business while secretary of state, the report said, even though investigators had examined her conduct and declined to bring charges in a case closed in 2016.

And even though Trump’s own Princess Ivanka was using a private server to conduct government business while daughter of president with job as senior adviser.

By trying to have Mrs. Clinton prosecuted, Mr. Trump was following through on a campaign promise. At rallies, he often stood on stage denouncing her as crowds chanted, “Lock her up!”

“This reeks of a typical practice in authoritarian regimes where whoever attains power, they don’t just take over power peacefully, but they punish and jail their opponents,” said Matthew Dallek, a political historian and professor at George Washington University.

Beyond Mr. Mueller’s report, there is evidence that Mr. Trump has continued to try to push the Justice Department to bend to his wishes. He told the White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II in April 2018 that he wanted the Justice Department to prosecute Mrs. Clinton and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, two people familiar with the conversation have said.

It was unclear from the report whether Mr. Trump appreciated the difference between using his power to target Mrs. Clinton and trying to insulate himself from law enforcement scrutiny, Mr. Buell noted. It is more likely, he said, that Mr. Trump simply viewed the Justice Department and the F.B.I. as institutions that worked for him.

“All of his demands fit into a picture that he believes the apparatus is mine,” Mr. Buell said.

Mr. Trump has kept up the public lashings of law enforcement officials and Mrs. Clinton. “There are no Crimes by me at all,” he wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “All of the Crimes were committed by Crooked Hillary, the Dems, the DNC and Dirty Cops — and we caught them in the act!”

“I’m not the mob boss, they’re the mob boss!!”

“You must trust me to know my own identity”

Apr 24th, 2019 3:10 pm | By

Josephine Livingstone at the New Republic apparently thinks that people are simply not allowed to discuss or write about what is meant by “trans” and how we know any of it is true and subjects of that nefarious kind.

Jesse Singal, who has gained notoriety on the left for his frequent tweeting and writing on trans issues, says he just wants to talk. When readers get angry with him, which happens often, he sees them as curtailing a productive conversation that he has prompted in the spirit of a free and vigorous exchange of ideas.

How dare he. No, what we’re supposed to do is find the Correct trans people on Twitter, find out what they say, memorize it, and point to it if the subject ever comes up. How do we know they have it right? Never you mind; we’re not permitted to ask questions of that type.

But if there were a neutral space online for this imagined debate about, say, trans children, its location would certainly not be Jesse Singal’s Twitter feed. There’s a reason that we have a saying about not dignifying an idea with a response.

But anyway we’re not supposed to have a debate. We’re just supposed to find out what the revealed truth is, and then shut up. If we wonder how anyone knows all this, we must keep it to ourselves.

Singal’s lamentations elicit a very particular weariness among trans readers. His logic is circular, and obsessive. In returning to the subject repeatedly, Singal seems intent on cracking some truth about the trans experience that is not accessible to him, as if provoked by that very inaccessibility. And this is the epistemological challenge that trans culture lays at cis culture’s doorstep: You must trust me to know my own identity. To extend full humanity to trans citizens means marking the limits of cis knowledge.

Ok, dropping the sarcasm now. That’s not an “epistemological challenge”; it’s a command to accept narcissistic bullshit without question. There is no such imperative. No, we are not required to trust anyone to know her or his “own identity” if her or his claims about said “identity” are implausible. We don’t have to extend people in general that kind of sweeping trust, because people can lie and people can be mistaken, yes even about their own identities. Of course they can; self-knowledge is subject to warping by self-interest, self-protection, self-love, to name just three obvious distorters. So no. That’s one reason the claims about trans identity are so contested and so contestable: they really entirely on subjective understanding of a magical self, and that’s not a strong basis for genuine knowledge.

That fact is clearly politically anathema to a lot of people right now, but that doesn’t make it any less true. The fact that the New Republic employs someone (Livingstone is a staff writer) who can’t see that is kind of embarrassing.

(There is also, to repeat, the simple fact that people can lie – yes, even about their “own identity.”)

One of the reasons that trans skeptics get so riled by this demand is that it implies that their empathy and their intellect have borders. It also denies the universality of human experience, and undermines the notion of a pure discourse where only reason prevails. Ironically, nothing makes those borders starker than the Singals of this world patrolling the edges of a culture war, demanding that their opponents meet them at the fence for a healthy conversation.

Can you figure out what that’s supposed to mean? Because I can’t.

Maybe we should just trust it.

In Congress where it’s very partisan — obviously very partisan

Apr 24th, 2019 10:22 am | By

Trump is justifying his defiance of Congress by saying it’s “partisan.”

In an interview with The Washington Post, Trump said that complying with congressional requests was unnecessary after the White House cooperated with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of Russian interference and the president’s own conduct in office.

“There is no reason to go any further, and especially in Congress where it’s very partisan — obviously very partisan,” Trump said.

Trump’s comments came as the White House made it clear that it plans to broadly defy requests for information from Capitol Hill, moving the two branches of government closer to a constitutional collision.

In his interview with The Post, Trump maintained that the White House Counsel’s Office has not “made a final, final decision” about whether it will formally assert executive privilege and try to block congressional testimony. But he said he opposes cooperation with House Democrats, who he claimed are trying to score political points against him.

“I don’t want people testifying to a party, because that is what they’re doing if they do this,” Trump said.

It’s almost funny, to see Trump complaining about “partisanship” and testifying to a party. If it weren’t for partisanship and party-first, Trump would have been dead meat within days of taking office. For that matter he would never have been elected, because most of the Republicans would have campaigned hard against him. It’s only because they’re complete party hacks that they keep defending this execrable shell of a man no matter what he does.

How Trump spends his time

Apr 24th, 2019 9:58 am | By

Trump teetering on the ledge.

Threatening military action against Mexico. No biggie, just another Wednesday.

We know it generally takes him about an hour to compose a single tweet. He’s hopped up today.

I didn’t call him, he called me! He loves me!! He’s desperate!!! I’m not the needy one, you’re the needy one!!!

A bill that is deliberately intended to suppress black turnout

Apr 24th, 2019 8:54 am | By

Tennessee is going all out on the open, shameless voter-suppression thing.

After enormous black turnout in the 2018 midterms, Republicans are advancing a bill that would penalize voter registration drives.

Gotta suppress that black turnout so that we can elect more proudly racist white people who will support Trump in all his crimes.

The Tennessee Legislature will soon vote on a bill that is deliberately intended to suppress black turnout, even though Tennessee is among the five states with the lowest voter participation.

The bill in the senate would create some of the most aggressive regulations on large-scale voter registration in the nation — like civil penalties for groups that unintentionally file incomplete voter registration forms. It would impose criminal sanctions on organizers who don’t attend training sessions run by local officials and on groups that fail to mail in voter registration forms in a short 10-day window.

Until the Shelby ruling, federal law – the Voting Rights Act – would have blocked all that. The Shelby ruling kneecapped the VRA, and this shit is the result.

This is a clear attack on the successful efforts to mobilize black voters during the 2018 midterm elections. Close to 90,000 black voters were registered by the Tennessee Black Voter Project, led by the activist Tequila Johnson and the Equity Alliance, which partner with my organization, the Black Voters Matter Fund.

[B]lack-led, community-based organizations throughout Tennessee have been registering more voters, turning them out to vote and winning more elections for progressive issues and candidates. The fact that racial progress here has resulted in a white backlash is consistent with Tennessee history. Tennessee’s attack on black-led voter registration is also an escalation of similar strategies seen in Georgia. While he was secretary of state, Brian Kemp aggressively pursued criminal investigations against voter registration groups like the New Georgia Project, founded by Stacey Abrams.

The bill isn’t law yet. Fingers crossed it never will be.

Saudi Arabia loves to make people dead

Apr 23rd, 2019 3:28 pm | By

Amnesty International reports Saudi Arabia executed 37 people today.

The execution of 37 people convicted on “terrorism” charges marks an alarming escalation in Saudi Arabia’s use of the death penalty, said Amnesty International today. Among those put to death was a young man who was convicted of a crime that took place while he was under the age of 18.

“Today’s mass execution is a chilling demonstration of the Saudi Arabian authorities callous disregard for human life. It is also yet another gruesome indication of how the death penalty is being used as a political tool to crush dissent from within the country’s Shi’a minority,” said Lynn Maalouf Middle East Research Director at Amnesty International.

The majority of those executed were Shi’a men who were convicted after sham trials that violated international fair trial standards which relied on confessions extracted through torture.

They include 11 men who were convicted of spying for Iran and sentenced to death after a grossly unfair trial. At least 14 others executed were convicted of violent offences related to their participation in anti-government demonstrations in Saudi Arabia’s Shi’a majority Eastern Province between 2011 and 2012. The 14 men were subjected to prolonged pre-trial detention and told the court that they were tortured or otherwise ill-treated during their interrogation in order to have ‘confessions’ extracted from them.

Also among those executed is Abdulkareem al-Hawaj – a young Shi’a man who was arrested at the age of 16 and convicted of offences related to his involvement in anti-government protests. Under international law, the use of the death penalty against people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime is strictly prohibited.

Saudi Arabia, like Trump, has nothing but contempt for international law.

Time for another vivid portrait

Apr 23rd, 2019 3:18 pm | By

The Trumpies Just Say No.

The White House plans to fight a subpoena issued by the House Judiciary Committee for former White House counsel Donald McGahn to testify, according to people familiar with the matter, setting up another showdown in the aftermath of the special counsel report.

The Trump administration also plans to oppose other requests from House committees for the testimony of current and former aides about actions in the White House described in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report, according to two people familiar with internal thinking.

Planning, or plotting. It can’t be called thinking.

McGahn was mentioned more than 150 times in Mueller’s report and provided damaging accounts to investigators about how the president pressured him to oust the special counsel and then pushed him to publicly deny the episode.

But Congress can’t investigate that, because PreZiDent Trump is ABOVE THE LAW.

Public testimony from McGahn could create a spectacle that would parallel the June 1973 testimony of President Richard Nixon’s former White House Counsel John Dean, whose live televised appearance before a Senate committee painted a vivid portrait for the country of the White House coverup of the Watergate burglary.

Wait a second. McGahn is a private citizen now. He doesn’t work for Trump any more. He can just testify voluntarily, can’t he?

Ah well, they answer that in the next paragraphs.

People close to McGahn, who were not authorized to speak publicly, said McGahn is “following the process” and working with the White House on his next steps, despite Trump’s public and private anger about his former White House counsel’s prominence in the Mueller report.

“He’s not eager to testify. He’s not reluctant. He got a subpoena. It compels him to testify. But there are some countervailing legal reasons that might prevent that,” said one person close to McGahn, who requested anonymity to describe private discussions. “He doesn’t want to be in contempt of Congress nor does he want to be in contempt of his ethical obligations and legal obligations as a former White House official.”

How about his moral obligations to the country and the world? Trump is a reckless criminal running amok. I think that outweighs putative “ethical obligations as a former White House official.”

Open defiance of a duly authorized congressional subpoena

Apr 23rd, 2019 11:58 am | By


The House Oversight Committee moved Tuesday to hold a former White House personnel security director in contempt of Congress for failing to appear at a hearing investigating alleged lapses in White House security clearance procedures.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said he would consult with the House counsel and members of the panel about scheduling a vote on contempt for former White House personnel security director Carl Kline. At the instruction of the White House, Kline failed to show up for scheduled testimony on security clearances.

The move marks a dramatic escalation of tensions between Congress and the Trump White House, which is increasingly resisting requests for information from Capitol Hill.

“The White House and Mr. Kline now stand in open defiance of a duly authorized congressional subpoena with no assertion of any privilege of any kind by President Trump,” Cummings said in a statement. “Based on these actions, it appears that the President believes that the Constitution does not apply to his White House, that he may order officials at will to violate their legal obligations, and that he may obstruct attempts by Congress to conduct oversight.”

This is not a monarchy. Let’s hope it’s not a dictatorship.

The audacity to defend a view they think is right

Apr 23rd, 2019 11:46 am | By

Even in The Baffler

Certainly not all academic philosophers are politely liberal defenders of tolerance. Recently, a small but vocal minority of philosophers have taken it upon themselves to defend a view that, it seems, they strongly feel is right—and to hell with anyone who sees things differently.

What? Some people have “taken it upon themselves to defend a view that, it seems, they strongly feel is right”? Well what else are they supposed to do? Is there some social rule against defending views we think are right? Should we be defending views we think are wrong, instead? Or should be be keeping quiet? Or should we be asking for permission first? (But from whom?) I suspect it’s not an accident that most of the people doing this “taking it upon themselves” to defend views are women while the author, Tom Whyman, is not. (The aptness of the surname is no fault of mine.)

Anyway, clearly he has carefully cued us to find these views reprehensible before we even know what they are.

Faced with an alleged PC consensus that proclaims the right of trans women to identify as women, and trans men to identify as men, these scholars have adopted a position they call “gender critical feminism.”

No, that’s not accurate. Getting it wrong in the very first sentence; that’s not auspicious. The issue isn’t people’s right to “identify as” anything they like; the issue is forcing other people to treat the “identifying as” as dispositive. You can identify as the Pillsbury dough boy if you like, but that doesn’t mean you can force anyone else to believe in your identity.

They’ve become known to their detractors as “trans-exclusionary radical feminists” (TERFs). In short: they think that sex is a matter of biology, not a “social construction”; they also believe that the interests of cis and trans women can radically diverge—so much so, indeed, that they contend that giving trans women access to women’s spaces often, if not always, constitutes a physical threat. (Trans men, by contrast, are usually just “misguided” lesbians forced to transition by the woke mainstream.) For obvious reasons, people with gender critical views are often accused of being transphobic.

Note the complete failure to explain how and why giving trans women access to women’s spaces can not possibly ever constitute a physical threat, and even to admit that he’s not explaining – note the breezy, careless, confident skipping right past that point, without pausing to consider for instance how women can know who is a trans woman and who is faking in order to spy on or assault women. Note that and then marvel at the “for obvious reasons” that precedes the “transphobic” smear.

Meanwhile, a guest post on Daily Nous (the other big philosophy blog, alongside Leiter Reports) took umbrage at a piece written by trans woman philosopher Rachel McKinnon in which (during, as it happens, a symposium on Jason Stanley’s How Propaganda Works) she used the TERF acronym—a coinage that gender critical feminists often insist is a “slur.” This is largely because it has been employed—and forcefully so at times—by trans opponents of their views: people who, to be clear, comprise a marginalized group who might understandably feel threatened by the implications of gender critical arguments.

Unlike mere stupid commonplace women, who have no right at all to feel threatened by being called “TERFs” or bullied for saying anything about women’s rights.

Hot opportunities

Apr 23rd, 2019 9:25 am | By

Saw this

So followed the link; the article is from last October. It shows the Trumps as being basically the kind of people who hype condo shares and red hot developments that turn out to be next to an oil refinery and thus not worth what the buyers were conned into paying for them. They’re the Duke and the Dauphin but more successful at it.

A pattern of deception ran through the Trumps’ real estate deals since the mid-2000s. Not only were the Trumps more than the mere licensors they claimed to be, extracting millions in fees from nearly every facet of these projects, but they often misled buyers and investors on key information — such as the level of sales and the Trumps’ role and investment in the deals.

What does lying about the level of sales do? Why, it persuades the dupes that the items for sale are much more valuable than they are.

ProPublica lists a bunch of examples.


Claim: Trump announced the hotel/condo was “pretty much sold out” in April 2006, according to a broker who attended the presentation.

Reality: 62 percent of units were sold as of July 2006, according to bank records that emerged in a court case.

Result: Entered foreclosure. Trump’s name removed before construction completed.


Claim: Condos “sold out,” Trump told The Associated Press in 2005

Reality: About 25 percent of units were sold by 2011, according to press accounts.

Result: Built.


Claim: In 2008, Ivanka told reporters that 60 percent of units had sold.

Reality:A Trump partner’s affidavit revealed that 15 percent had been sold at the time.

Result: Built, but went bankrupt; Trump name removed.

Princess Ivanka lied? That lovely, well-groomed, polite young lady? We’re shocked.


Claim: In a 2009 interview, Ivanka referred to the property as “virtually sold out.”

Reality: 24.8 percent of units had sold, according to a 2016 bankruptcy filing by the developers.

Result: Built, but went bankrupt; Trump name removed.

Huh. It’s almost as if she habitually lies about how valuable her family’s properties are, in hopes of conning more people to buy them at inflated prices.

A self-styled free speech activist

Apr 22nd, 2019 5:27 pm | By

One more Guardian piece on Carl “Sargon of Akkad” Benjamin, this one from a month ago:

Ukip is expected to choose a controversial YouTube activist, who has been accused of triggering rape threats against a Labour MP, as a candidate if Britain takes part in the European elections, it has emerged.

A party selection process this weekend is likely to confirm the candidacy of Carl Benjamin, a self-styled free speech activist who has been banned from Twitter and some other platforms because of his views, Ukip sources said.

Carl Benjamin is not a “free speech activist.” That’s just a screen. It’s not “free speech activism” to spew misogynist venom at women and xenophobic venom at pesky foreigners. It’s just spewing venom.

Benjamin, who calls himself Sargon of Akkad after the ruler of a Mesopotamian empire, first became known for his anti-feminist commentary, and has also expressed controversial opinions on immigration, race and other issues.

In 2016 he tweeted “I wouldn’t even rape you” to the Labour MP Jess Phillips, in a message featuring the tag #feminismiscancer. Phillips said she subsequently received 600 rape threats.

Benjamin, who is among a trio of social media-based activists who joined Ukip last year, has previously used racially charged language, accusing alt-right critics during one live web interview of “acting like a bunch of niggers”. He added: “You think white people act like this? White people are meant to be polite and respectful to one another.”

Not free speech activism. Just common or garden shit-talking, bullying, race-baiting, bullying. Not free speech activism and not classical liberalism, either.