Notes and Comment Blog

Punch until dead :D

Aug 13th, 2018 10:12 am | By

This is nice.

Tiny soot now healthy

Aug 13th, 2018 9:40 am | By

The Trump administration has a fabulous new plan for making the air more healthy to breathe: it’s done by redefining what is unhealthy.

A story published Monday in environmental policy outlet E&E News details the evidence. “After decades of increasingly strong assertions that there is no known safe level of fine particle exposure for the American public, [the] EPA under the Trump administration is now considering taking a new position,” reporter Niina Heikkinen wrote. “The agency is floating the idea of changing its rulemaking process and setting a threshold level of fine particles that it would consider safe.” (She’s referring to particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter, small enough to penetrate deep into the circulatory system and potentially infiltrate the central nervous system. PM2.5 is the main component of soot.)

Under these changes, which are being considered by EPA acting administrator Andrew Wheeler, PM 2.5 would no longer be considered a“non-threshold pollutant”—one that causes harm at any level of exposure. Instead, it would become a “threshold pollutant,” or one that causes harm only above a certain exposure level. Wheeler is considering this change most likely because it would help him to legally justify repealing the Clean Power Plan, a set of Obama-era climate regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants.

It’s easy to see the advantages. Just changing the words is way cheaper, easier, and quicker than reducing greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants.

Wheeler must prove that Obama’s policy would do more harm than good. Obama’s EPA had argued that the Clean Power Plan would reduce PM2.5 pollution, thus creating from $13 billion to $30.3 billion in public health benefits. This figure made up about half of the Clean Power Plan’s stated benefits. If Wheeler changes the official designation of PM2.5, the EPA’s position would be that breathing in small amounts of soot has the same impact as breathing in none. Thus, many of Obama’s predicted benefits would be erased.

But the to-do list would be thrown in the trash.

The scientific community is pushing back against the agency’s so-called secret science policy. On Tuesday, the entirety of Harvard University—its law school, medical school, school of public health, and all its teaching hospitals—wrote in an extensive letter that the “rule will wreak havoc on public health, medical, and scientific research and undermine the protection of public health and safety.” The school warned that the EPA’s rule could disqualify high-quality science that supports some of the EPA’s strongest regulations on lead, arsenic, hormone-disrupting chemicals, and—of course—air pollution.

Wheeler hasn’t yet decided whether the EPA will change its position on PM2.5. If he does, air pollution denial will become U.S. policy for the first time.

It will be good for the cough drop industry.

Bad nephew

Aug 13th, 2018 7:31 am | By

Stephen Miller has an uncle who is not proud of his nephew. Brendan Smialowski tells a story of a Jewish family that left a shtetl in Belarus to escape pogroms and conscription in the Czar’s army, and went to you guessed it the USofA in 1903. One branch settled in the Pennsylvania coal country.

The Glosser family quickly progressed from selling goods from a horse and wagon to owning a haberdashery in Johnstown run by Nathan and Wolf-Leib to a chain of supermarkets and discount department stores run by my grandfather, Sam, and the next generation of Glossers, including my dad, Izzy. It was big enough to be listed on the AMEX stock exchange and employed thousands of people over time. In the span of some 80 years and five decades [??], this family emerged from poverty in a hostile country to become a prosperous, educated clan of merchants, scholars, professionals, and, most important, American citizens.

You know what’s coming because I told you already.

What does this classically American tale have to do with Stephen Miller? Well, Izzy Glosser is his maternal grandfather, and Stephen’s mother, Miriam, is my sister.

Of course. It’s the pulling the ladder up after you’ve climbed it routine.

I have watched with dismay and increasing horror as my nephew, who is an educated man and well aware of his heritage, has become the architect of immigration policies that repudiate the very foundation of our family’s life in this country.

I shudder at the thought of what would have become of the Glossers had the same policies Stephen so coolly espouses— the travel ban, the radical decrease in refugees, the separation of children from their parents, and even talk of limiting citizenship for legal immigrants— been in effect when Wolf-Leib made his desperate bid for freedom. The Glossers came to the U.S. just a few years before the fear and prejudice of the “America First” nativists of the day closed U.S. borders to Jewish refugees. Had Wolf-Leib waited, his family would likely have been murdered by the Nazis along with all but seven of the 2,000 Jews who remained in Antopol. I would encourage Stephen to ask himself if the chanting, torch-bearing Nazis of Charlottesville, whose support his boss seems to court so cavalierly, do not envision a similar fate for him.

My guess is that he knows that and just doesn’t care. “Lucky for me that they came here and prospered but that was then and this is now; the rules have changed; too bad if you don’t like it.”

President Trump wants to make us believe that these desperate migrants are an existential threat to the United States; the most powerful nation in world history and a nation made strong by immigrants. Trump and my nephew both know their immigrant and refugee roots. Yet, they repeat the insults and false accusations of earlier generations against these refugees to make them seem less than human. Trump publicly parades the grieving families of people hurt or killed by migrants, just as the early Nazis dredged up Jewish criminals to frighten and enrage their political base to justify persecution of all Jews. Almost every American family has an immigration story of its own based on flight from war, poverty, famine, persecution, fear or hopelessness. These immigrants became the workers, entrepreneurs, scientists and soldiers of America.

Our ancestors didn’t all get here via a first-class passage on a luxurious steam ship; most got here the hard way. It’s not becoming in us to demonize and persecute immigrants.

Chatting with white supremacists isn’t the way to “inform the American public”

Aug 12th, 2018 4:58 pm | By

Karen Attiah on why it’s not a brilliant plan for NPR to invite professional racists on to make their pitch.

Ahead of the one-year anniversary of Charlottesville, NPR decided to give an on-air lesson on the proper care and feeding of white nationalists and neo-Nazi ideology.

On Friday’s Morning Edition, NPR’s Noel King interviewed Jason Kessler, the organizer of Sunday’s Unite the Right 2 rally in Washington. There were a lot of troubling spots in the soft-focus mess of interview, but perhaps the most stunning was when King asked Kessler what he believes about the differences between races. Kessler proceeded to literally rank various races on the basis of debunked bell-curve myths about intelligence differences between groups on national public media. Spoiler alert: Black people ranked last on the odious list. I almost wondered if Kessler would bring out a craniometer and do a phrenology demonstration in the interview.

Because people are people, some of those who listened will have taken that nonsense seriously – like for instance people who turned on the interview after the intro and so didn’t know who Kessler was. Does NPR think people scrupulously listen only if they’ve heard the full intro? Of course not, they know better, they know it’s the nature of radio that people can tune in in the middle of things, so how stupid of them to do that interview anyway.

In a statement, NPR defended the interview: “Interviewing the people in the news is part of NPR’s mission to inform the American public,” Isabel Lara, NPR’s senior director of media relations, said. “Our job is to present the facts and the voices that provide context on the day’s events, not to protect our audience from views that might offend them,” she continued.

Yeah but the issue isn’t “views that might offend them”; it’s views that might get them killed. Honestly, what a rude and condescending thing to say. Avowed racists telling us how stupid black people are on NPR are not just something that “offends” us. It’s a little bit more bloody than that.

NPR didn’t do its job on Friday. When it comes to handling racist and white-supremacist subjects, the job of a responsible media outlet does not end at simply letting figures like Kessler speak unchallenged, in the name of neutrality and balance. It’s not that such people and views should absolutely, under no circumstances, ever be interrogated. Rather, what audiences deserve and have the right to demand is for national platforms to use their space responsibly, which means aggressively countering racist lies and propaganda with facts and truth.

Kessler started out the interview by stating that he believes he is a “civil and human rights advocate” for the “underrepresented Caucasian demographic” (ironic, considering that he is a white man being interviewed on national media, which has an overwhelmingly white workforce). Instead of refuting this lie by presenting facts about the domination of white people in almost all realms of American power and influence, King simply asks, “In what ways are white people in America underrepresented?”

There are hardly any of them in chicken processing plants, or in prison for life on drug charges.

Uncritical mainstreaming is exactly what the alt-right and white nationalists are looking for. In an Atlantic essay aptly titled “The White Nationalists are Winning,” Adam Serwer notes that a year after Charlottesville, “the white nationalists’ ideological goals remain a core part of the Trump agenda. As long as that agenda finds a home in one of the two major American political parties, a significant portion of the country will fervently support it. And as an ideological vanguard, the alt-right fulfilled its own purpose in pulling the Republican Party in its direction.” Indeed, we have seen this administration successfully push through a ban on travel from several majority-Muslim countries and the labeling of black activists as “black identity extremists,” with a president who blasts people from “shithole countries” while longing for Norwegian immigrants.

History has shown that white supremacy and white-nationalist ideologies, when carried out to their logical conclusions and adopted by state institutions, represent violence, marginalization and death for many people of color and minorities. Mainstream media must treat them like the societal threats that they are, instead of odd little curiosities.

Do better, NPR.

As many as two dozen racists

Aug 12th, 2018 4:29 pm | By

Aw yeah – white nationalists threw a rally and nobody showed up.

Almost nobody. It was a pathetic dud.

A year after the race-fueled violence in Charlottesville, Va., a small group of white nationalists marched through downtown Washington on Sunday on their way to a rally in front of the White House.

It was over almost as soon as it began.

The white supremacists were met along their march route and at the rally site by thousands of counterdemonstrators denouncing racism and white supremacy. The white nationalists, who numbered about two dozen, stayed in Lafayette Square, a park just north of the White House, for a short time and left before 6 p.m.

They had been scheduled to hold a two-hour rally in the square beginning at 5:30. A spokesman for the National Park Service confirmed that the white nationalists had ended their event by that time.

Let me guess – out of sheer scorching sweat-inducing embarrassment. It’s pretty damn hard to hold a two hour rally in Lafayette Square with 24 people. You look stupid. You can hang out with your 23 friends for two hours, sure, but you can’t hold a rally, because then you look like a damn fool. They looked like damn fools! Best possible outcome.

Before they made their exit, the white nationalists were separated from the counterprotesters by metal fences and dozens of law enforcement officers guarding against any outbreaks of violence.

But it turned out there was no danger of that because the racists were so damn pathetic.

After marching from a neighborhood just west of the White House, the handful of supremacists settled in a pocket of Lafayette Square, tucked underneath trees. Many of them carried American flags, and several wore President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign hats.

The group’s organizer, Jason Kessler, stood on a platform with a microphone, addressing attendees who arrived before the event was scheduled to begin. He blamed a harsh law enforcement response after last year’s Charlottesville rally for his group’s meager showing.

What, are the big bad tough guys scared of a few cops? Aren’t the cops their friends?

Could it be that his group just turns out to be tragically teeny-tiny itty-bitty small small SMALL?

On Saturday, President Trump issued a general call for unity, denouncing “all types of racism,” but not specifically condemning white supremacism.

On both sides, on both sides.

White supremacists marched toward Lafayette Square on Sunday in Washington.

CreditAl Drago for The New York Times

350 centuries ago

Aug 12th, 2018 1:09 pm | By


Archaeologist Ticia Verveer on Facebook:

This beautiful tiny woolly mammoth figure, measuring just 3.7 cm long and weighing a mere 7.5 grams, was skilfully carved with a flint tool ca. 35,000 years ago. It was found at the site of the Vogelherd Cave in southwestern Germany.

Image may contain: night

Thirty five THOUSAND years ago.

Difficulty naming

Aug 12th, 2018 1:03 pm | By

Oh now look, this is just unfair to poor Mr Trump.

Kellyanne Conway, the chief counselor to President Donald Trump, had difficulty on Sunday naming the top black aide working in the White House following the firing of former “Apprentice” contestant Omarosa Manigault Newman late last year.

Conway, asked on ABC’s “This Week” who would now rank as the highest-level black among personnel stationed in the West Wing, initially faulted host John Karl for not focusing on Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson. “The president works with the secretary every day,” she said.

The former renowned neurosurgeon, however, does not physically work or advise the president from an office in the White House.

Working in the West Wing isn’t the same thing as working in the administration. The question was about the West Wing.

Conway then went on to give the first name of a staffer who focuses on criminal justice issues and works at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is adjacent to the White House. Conway never provided his full name.

“Uhh…Joe…Ben…Sambo…whatever his name is.”

But the EEOB is still not the West Wing.

Karl pressed the matter, asking her, “What does that say to have not a single senior adviser in the West Wing who’s African-American.”

“I didn’t say that there wasn’t,” Conway replied.

But she offered no specifics and urged Karl to “look at the fact that we have a number of different minorities. And the fact is that this president is doing well for all Americans.”

Ok but look, as I say, this is just unfair. Trump doesn’t like black people. You can’t expect him to work up close and personal with them when he doesn’t like them, can you? Of course you can’t. That would be just mean.

Try ploughing the fields in a niqab

Aug 12th, 2018 11:52 am | By

Iram Ramzan has a piece in the Sunday Times reminding us that criticizing the niqab is something a great many Muslims do, so we’re not automatically being More Virtuous by defending it as A Woman’s Choice.

I was surprised at the furore last week when Boris Johnson wrote that Muslim women who wear the face veil “look like letter boxes” and compared them to bank robbers. Quite rightly, he doesn’t think we should ban the niqab in all public places, as Denmark has done, but described them as “absolutely ridiculous”.

There are many Muslims — including many of my relatives — who hate the niqab and what it stands for, and will use much worse language than “letter box” about them: words like “ninja” and “bin bags” come to mind.

Of course, context matters, and context includes who is saying it as well as when and where. Outsiders do need to be careful not to come across as Trumpian assholes, but that doesn’t mean we have to stay silent, much less that we should endorse the erasure of women as a Choice.

In Kashmir, where my grandparents came from in the 1950s, the veiling of the face is an alien concept. Instead, women drape a loose scarf on their head, which forms a part of their colourful garments. Try ploughing the fields and milking the buffaloes while wearing heavy black robes.

When I went trekking with a group last year in northern Pakistan, we saw a woman dressed in a black niqab. One of our porters, native to the region, asked us: “What is this monstrosity? Why do they dress like that?”

The rise of this garment is partly down to Saudi Arabia spreading the austere Wahhabi interpretation of Islam through donations to schools and mosques. You will rarely see the niqab in rural areas in the subcontinent but more often in the cities where Islamist satellite channels hold sway.

Saudi Arabia, where domestic servants imported from the Philippines and Sri Lanka are treated like dirt and women are treated like infants. We don’t want to be getting our customs and way of thinking from them, thank you, and by “we” I mean everyone.

Feminists, politicians and lobbyists will talk about the discrimination women face in the workplace, the gender pay gap and the need to break the glass ceiling. Yet many are shamefully silent when it comes to the presence of a piece of clothing that really is a threat to women’s freedom.

The face veil is not a mere item of clothing, but a symbol of subjugation. It is based on the idea that women are such dangerously alluring creatures they must be fully covered in the presence of adult males, an argument that is as offensive to men, who are portrayed as ravenous beasts, as it is to the women it affects.

It’s as offensive to men, but it’s physically hobbling and uncomfortable to women only.

It is even more important that we challenge the preaching of modesty codes for women. But how do we do that if the debate is constantly shut down? Too often, valid concerns about the veil have been written off as “racist” or “dog-whistle politics”.

It’s not easy, but it must be done.

Reasons for becoming “non-binary”

Aug 12th, 2018 10:47 am | By

Oh look at that now. Remember Gregor Murray? The Dundee councillor who “identifies as gender non-binary”? And had to apologize last month for calling some women “utter cunts”?

Not the first time he’s had to apologize. Pink News back in May 2014:

The former chair of the Scottish National Party’s LGBT group has attacked First Minister Alex Salmond’s plan for a 40% female quota in boardrooms.

SNP Councillor Gregor Murray, the deputy convener of education on Dundee City Council, was previously convener of the SNP’s LGBT group, Out for Independence, when it was still an unofficial organisation within the SNP.

The Herald reports Cllr Murray wrote on Facebook that the quota was “the biggest load of piss I have ever seen in my life”.

He went on to call it “fucking stupid.”

Although females make up 52% of the population, only 36% of public board members and just 21% of board chairs in Scotland are held by women.

Scottish Labour equalities spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “When even senior nationalists are admitting that Alex Salmond’s recent conversion to gender equality in his cabinet is tokenism, you know that he is fooling no-one and most women will see the SNP’s clumsy attempts to woo them for what they are.”

An SNP spokesman said: “Women now make up 40% of the Scottish Government Cabinet, and ensuring that women make up at least 40% of the boards of our public bodies will help to drive that change forward – something that the SNP takes extremely ­seriously, even if Labour clearly does not.”

Cllr Murray has since sought to apologise for his use of language.

He really dislikes women – but now that he’s “non-binary” that’s okay.

Do we really want a white-breaded Brexited flatland?

Aug 11th, 2018 5:12 pm | By

Suspiciously…erm…foreign people are being denied visas for the Edinburgh book festival, because you can’t be too careful with…erm…foreign people. Certain kinds of foreign people that is. Foreign people from Norway are fine, but people who are not quite so…erm…northern are not entirely welcome.

A dozen authors who were planning to attend this year’s Edinburgh international book festival have had their visas refused, according to the director, Nick Barley, who warned that the “humiliating” application process would deter artists from visiting the UK.

The festival, which starts on Saturday and includes appearances from 900 authors and illustrators from 55 countries, routinely provides assistance for visa applications. It has reported a jump in refusals over the last few years.

This year, about a dozen individuals had gone through an extremely difficult process to obtain a visa, Barley said. They were from Middle East and African countries, with one author from Belarus, and had had their applications refused at least once.

Well you know how it is. Middle East. African countries. Belarus. Foreign.

“We’ve had to draw on the help of MPs, MSPs, ambassadors and senior people in the British Council and Home Office to overturn visa decisions that looked set to be rejected,” Barley said. “We’ve had so many problems with visas, we’ve realised it is systematic. This is so serious. We want to talk about it and resolve it, not just for [this festival], but for cultural organisations UK-wide. The amount of energy, money and time that has gone into this is problematic. There needs to be a fix.”

Barley’s comments echo that of Peter Gabriel, the Womad festival founder, who last week criticised UK foreign policy when at least three musical acts found they could not perform due to visa complications. “Do we really want a white-breaded Brexited flatland?” Gabriel said. “A country that is losing the will to welcome the world?”

Or do we want a shiny gilded brassy Trumpland?

Looking good

Aug 11th, 2018 4:10 pm | By

A day in the life.

President on vacation at one of his golf clubs. President invites bikers over for a photo op. President incites bikers to scream about the press. President says vulgar stupid things. Event ends.

Excuse me, sir?

Aug 11th, 2018 4:06 pm | By

Life in Murika. A white guy followed a black guy to the latter’s house to call him a nigger.

Jeff Whitman drove two miles out of his way to follow a black man to his house and call him a “n***er” in a now-viral racist tirade caught on video. The consequences for his racism were immediate.

Last week, Whitman — owner and operator of Uriah’s Heating, Cooling, and Refrigeration — made the news for taking his road rage way too far. Charles Lovett, who lives in Columbus, recorded Whitman on his phone when the latter arrived outside of Lovett’s house in his company truck, angry that Lovett didn’t allow him to go straight in a right-turn-only lane.

“Is there a reason why you just followed me to my house?” Lovett said as he exited his vehicle in his driveway.

“I wanted to let you know how much of a n***er you are,” Whitman said in the video, with his company name, phone number, and state contractor’s license prominently displayed on his driver’s side door.

If you want to see the video that Lovett recorded, Shaun King has it:

Maybe he thinks in Trump’s Murka he can just do that and no one will care.

Now, Whitman is apparently apologetic after the internet ruined his business. Searching for Whitman’s business on Yelp shows hundreds of one-star reviews from commenters saying Whitman “gives hardworking tradesmen a bad name,” and that Uriah’s is “owned and operated by your not so friendly neighborhood racist.” Uriah’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) accreditation has been suspended due to Whitman violating the BBB’s integrity standards.

When Columbus NBC affiliate WCMH confronted Whitman in the immediate aftermath of the video spreading on social media, Whitman was unapologetic about his actions.

“I don’t know if it makes it right or wrong all I can say is I grew up with it and not a big deal for me,” Whitman said.

However, in a phone message to Columbus Dispatch writer Theodore Decker, Whitman is now saying his decision to follow Lovett to his house and hurl racial slurs at him was “an awful mistake.

“I’m out of business, I’m completely out, I’m done, I’ll never work in Columbus again,” Whitman said. “This has completely and thoroughly ruined my life.”

“I just don’t understand the intensity of the hate,” said the man who drove two miles out of his way to verbally abuse a complete stranger based on the color of his skin.

Well, you see, it’s not a big deal for him – he grew up with it.

Activating white panic

Aug 11th, 2018 12:13 pm | By

Adam Serwer points out that the white nationalists are winning.

Despite the controversy over the rally and its bloody aftermath, the white nationalists’ ideological goals remain a core part of the Trump agenda. As long as that agenda finds a home in one of the two major American political parties, a significant portion of the country will fervently support it. And as an ideological vanguard, the alt-right fulfilled its own purpose in pulling the Republican Party in its direction.

A year after white nationalists in Charlottesville chanted, “You will not replace us!” their message has been taken up and amplified by Fox News personalities. Tucker Carlson tells his audience that “Latin American countries are changing election outcomes here by forcing demographic change on this country.” Laura Ingraham says that “the America that we know and love doesn’t exist anymore” because of “massive demographic changes” as a result of “both illegal and sometimes legal immigration that progressives love.” They echo the white-nationalist claim that America is at risk because the nation is growing more diverse, an argument that treats the mere presence of nonwhite people, citizen or noncitizen, as an existential threat to the country. White nationalists like Cantwell are cheered to hear their beliefs championed on Fox. Cantwell wrote last year that Carlson “is basically telling white America to prepare for war as directly as he can get away with while remaining on Fox News.”

White nationalists win by activating white panic, by frightening a sufficient number of white people into believing that their safety and livelihoods can only be protected by defining American citizenship in racial terms, and by convincing them that American politics is a zero-sum game in which white people only win when people of color lose. While this dynamic has always been present in American politics, it has been decades since the White House has been occupied by a president who so visibly delights in exploiting it, aided by a right-wing media infrastructure that has come to see it as a ratings strategy.

On the other hand, the rest of the media infrastructure is not nearly as monolithically white male as it was in Nixon’s day. I think that’s one ratchet blocking a total victory for the white supremacists.

While liberals may have seen the backlash to Trump’s defense of the rally in Charlottesville as heartening, the incident itself seems to have convinced Trump and his allies that they could survive any controversy over the president’s views on race. Former Trump aides told Politico’s Annie Karni that “the takeaway from Charlottesville is the nihilistic notion that nothing matters except for how things play.” That helps explain why, about a month later, Trump began attacking black athletes for protesting police brutality. After an initial show of defiance, the NFL ultimately forced players to cease their protests or pay fines, allowing the head of state to dictate when Americans are allowed to protest violations of their rights by agents of that state—violations Trump himself has vocally encouraged. As long as the president believes racist demagoguery plays to his advantage, he will not retreat from it, and neither will his most loyal acolytes.

Indeed. We’re hanging by a thread here.

Promoting the white supremacists

Aug 11th, 2018 9:23 am | By

NPR is doing its bonehead “both sides” thing again.

In a “Morning Edition” segment, the radio host Noel King interviewed Jason Kessler, a white nationalist who is planning a rally in Washington this weekend on the anniversary of last year’s rally, which was the scene of racist chants and deadly violence.

Ms. King preceded the discussion, which was part of a weeklong series about the anniversary of the Charlottesville rally, with a warning: “Some of what you’re about to hear is racist and offensive.”

Why talk to a white nationalist at all? Why give a white nationalist a huge respectable platform? Why promote white nationalism on NPR?

In the interview on Friday, which lasted about five minutes, Mr. Kessler relayed junk science and ranked the intelligence of various races.

Ms. King at times pushed back and interrupted Mr. Kessler. Before he made his remarks on race-ranking, which he has supported by citing a political scientist, she said the scholar’s work had been “debunked by scientists and sociologists, and is deemed racist by many.”

“and is deemed racist by many”; typical NPR “some people think X while other people think Y.” Yes we know that, but sometimes what people think is just wrong.

She asked Mr. Kessler: “You said that you’re not a white supremacist, but you do think there are differences between races. What are the differences?”

After he answered with his intelligence rankings, claiming black people were the least smart, she said: “You don’t sound like someone who wants to unite people when you say something like that. You sound like someone who wants to tick people off.”

What you say is deemed racist by many; you don’t sound like someone who wants to unite people; you sound like someone who wants to tick people off – it’s all reception with them, all appearances, all reaction, all some think boo and some think bah. It’s as if NPR puts their brains in a blender and then redistributes them evenly among the entire staff.

NPR stood by the report on Friday. Terence Samuel, the deputy managing editor of NPR News, said in an interview that he was “proud of the job Noel did this morning.”

Oh ffs – there again, it’s not about how the on-air personality performed, it’s about the substance, and giving the substance a huge megaphone.

“I think it’s important for us to cover race and racism, and quite frankly, if you’re going to do that, you have to talk to racists,” he said. “It’s uncomfortable, but we do that all the time.”

Not on the air you don’t.

The goddy veto on health care

Aug 11th, 2018 8:10 am | By

The Times reports on the recurring issue of the Catholic takeover of hospitals in the US and the fact that Catholic hospitals both refuse to perform procedures they have a goddy objection to and conceal this fact up front. This by the way is yet another reason to prefer a national health service: the fact that it’s national as opposed to Catholic.

The opening personal story:

After experiencing life-threatening pre-eclampsia during her first two pregnancies, Jennafer Norris decided she could not risk getting pregnant again. But several years later, suffering debilitating headaches and soaring blood pressure, she realized her I.U.D. had failed. She was pregnant, and the condition had returned.

At 30 weeks, with her health deteriorating, she was admitted to her local hospital in Rogers, Ark., for an emergency cesarean section. To ensure that she would never again be at risk, she asked her obstetrician to tie her tubes immediately following the delivery.

The doctor’s response stunned her. “She said she’d love to but couldn’t because it was a Catholic hospital,” Ms. Norris, 38, recalled in an interview.

So they – the bishops – forbid an operation that would protect her against another life-threatening pregnancy. They endanger her life for the sake of their fucking church.

Experiences like hers are becoming more common, as a wave of mergers widens the reach of Catholic medical facilities across the United States, and the Trump administration finalizes regulations to further expand the ability of health care workers and institutions to decline to provide specific medical procedures for moral or religious reasons.

Even, apparently, ones that are medically necessary.

The Catholic takeover eats up more hospitals all the time.

Most facilities provide little or no information up front about procedures they won’t perform. The New York Times analyzed 652 websites of Catholic hospitals in the United States, using a list maintained by the Catholic Health Association. On nearly two-thirds of them, it took more than three clicks from the home page to determine that the hospital was Catholic.

And why is that? Because they don’t want you to know. They want to hide the fact that they’re Catholic and that they will refuse to perform some procedures, yes, even if you’re bleeding to death in front of them.

Only 17 individual Catholic hospital websites, fewer than 3 percent, contained an easily found list of services not offered for religious reasons, and all of them were in Washington State, which requires that such information be published on a hospital’s site. In the rest of the country, such lists, if available, were posted only on the corporate parent’s site, and they were often difficult to find.

Devils. Fiends. Murderers.

“I think that any business is not going to lead off with what they don’t do,” Charles Bouchard, senior director of theology and ethics at The Catholic Health Association, said in response to the Times analysis. “They are always going to talk about what they do do. And that goes for contractors and car salesmen. They are not going to start off by saying, ‘We don’t sell this model,’ or ‘We don’t do this kind of work.’”

That’s Catholic “ethics” for you. “We’re just a business, so we don’t feel like telling you what we refuse to do based on our perverted male-centric ideas of what our fictional god wants, so hahaha sucks to be you.”

Responding to a growing number of mergers and affiliations with secular institutions, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops updated its instructions to Catholic hospitals in June, ordering them to continue to provide care consistent with church teaching when entering into such business arrangements, including prohibiting procedures that are “intrinsically immoral, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and direct sterilization.”

…and direct sterilization even when a pregnancy could kill the woman and the woman requests the sterilization. Doesn’t matter; not her decision; church’s decision; bishops’ decision; she’s just some slag.

Patients interviewed for this article said that even when they knew they were at a Catholic hospital, they were only aware that Catholic health facilities did not perform abortions, and were taken aback to learn of other services that were off limits.

“People have told me I was incredibly naïve for never having considered it, but I was completely surprised that there was any difference in the level of care that would be provided to someone in a Catholic hospital,” said Angela Valavanis, 45, who was denied a tubal ligation following an emergency cesarean section at a Catholic hospital in Evanston, Ill.

Even some procedures that might appear to be necessary safeguards against medical complications are prohibited by the E.R.D.s. For instance, if a fetus is no longer viable after a woman’s water breaks early in her pregnancy, most Catholic hospitals will not perform an abortion until after a fetal heartbeat is no longer detected, or the pregnant woman’s life is in imminent danger.

In other words they will risk killing the pregnant woman the way University Hospital Galway killed Savita Halappanavar.

Devils. Fiends. Murderers.

Keep all the beds occupied

Aug 10th, 2018 5:18 pm | By

But also in the Atlantic is Franklin Foer’s cover story on how Trump radicalized ICE. He starts with people fleeing murderous violence in Mauritania:

The country is ruled by Arabs, but these refugees were members of a black subpopulation that speaks its own languages. In 1989, in a fit of nationalism, the Mauritanian government came to consider these differences capital offenses. It arrested, tortured, and violently expelled many black citizens. The country forcibly displaced more than 70,000 of them and rescinded their citizenship. Those who remained behind fared no better. Approximately 43,000 black Mauritanians are now enslaved—by percentage, one of the largest enslaved populations in the world.

I didn’t know about that. I’m horrified that I didn’t know about it.

Some were able to escape to the US; some of those settled in Columbus, Ohio, but their asylum applications were flawed and some judges ordered them deported.

But those deportation orders never amounted to more than paper pronouncements. Where would Immigration and Customs Enforcement even send them? The Mauritanian government had erased the refugees from its databases and refused to issue them travel documents. It had no interest in taking back the villagers it had so violently removed. So ice let their cases slide. They were required to regularly report to the agency’s local office and to maintain a record of letter-perfect compliance with the law. But as the years passed, the threat of deportation seemed ever less ominous.

Then came the election of Donald Trump. Suddenly, in the warehouses where many of the Mauritanians worked, white colleagues took them aside and warned them that their lives were likely to get worse. The early days of the administration gave substance to these cautions. The first thing to change was the frequency of their summonses to ice. During the Obama administration, many of the Mauritanians had been required to “check in” about once a year. Abruptly, iceinstructed them to appear more often, some of them every month. ice officers began visiting their homes on occasion. Like the cable company, they would provide a six-hour window during which to expect a visit—a requirement that meant days off from work and disrupted life routines. The Mauritanians say that when they met with ice, they were told the U.S. had finally persuaded their government to readmit them—a small part of a global push by the State Department to remove any diplomatic obstacles to deportation.

Oh well great; so they get to go home to be enslaved or killed. Fabulous. So they’re leaving Columbus and hiding out in New York or going to Canada to apply for asylum.

[O]ne segment of the deep state stepped forward early and openly to profess its enthusiasm for Trump. Through their union, employees of iceendorsed Trump’s candidacy in September 2016, the first time the organization had ever lent its support to a presidential contender. When Trump prevailed in the election, the soon-to-be-named head of ice triumphantly declared that it would finally have the backing of a president who would let the agency do its job. He’s “taking the handcuffs off,” said Thomas Homan, who served as ice’s acting director under Trump until his retirement in June, using a phrase that has become a common trope within the agency. “When Trump won, [some officers] thumped their chest as if they had just won the Super Bowl,” a former ice official told me.

ICE is a child of 9/11.

following the shock of 9/11, ice was created as part of the Department of Homeland Security, into which Congress awkwardly stuffed a slew of previously unrelated executive-branch agencies: the Secret Service, the Transportation Security Administration, the Coast Guard. Upon its creation, DHS became the third-largest of all Cabinet departments, and its assembly could be generously described as higgledy-piggledy. ice is perhaps the clearest example of where such muddied, heavily politicized policy making can lead.

It’s Homeland-thinking – this is Our Home and outsiders don’t get to just move in. It’s not a generous or compassionate way to think.

It’s a money-spinner though.

ICE quickly built a sprawling, logistically intricate infrastructure comprising detention facilities, an international-transit arm, and monitoring technology. This apparatus relies heavily on private contractors. Created at the height of the federal government’s outsourcing mania, DHS employs more outside contractors than actual federal employees. Last year, these companies—which include the Geo Group and CoreCivic—spent at least $3 million on lobbying and influence peddling. To take one small example: Owners of ice’s private detention facilities were generous donors to Trump’s inauguration, contributing $500,000 for the occasion.

Basically the point of ICE is to get people out.

ICE, however, is assigned the task of removing undocumented immigrants from the country’s interior, and it has approached this mission with cold, bureaucratic efficiency. Until recently, the agency had a congressional mandate to maintain up to 34,000 beds in detention centers on any given day with which to detain undocumented immigrants. Once an immigrant enters the system, she is known by her case number. Her ill intentions are frequently presumed, and she will find it exceedingly difficult to plead her case, or even to know what rights she has….

Under the current administration, many of the formal restraints on ice have been removed. In the first eight months of the Trump presidency, ice increased arrests by 42 percent. Immigration enforcement has been handed over to a small clique of militant anti-immigration wonks. This group has carefully studied the apparatus it now controls. It knows that the best strategy for accomplishing its goal of driving out undocumented immigrants is quite simply the cultivation of fear. And it knows that the latent power of ice, amassed with the tacit assent of both parties, has yet to be fully realized.

The thing about cultivating fear is that you can get people to leave on their own, with no expensive pursuit or argument in court needed.It’s a long article; this is only a fraction. The tl;dr is that for political and financial reasons ICE treats people badly while contractors make a profit.

ICE has numeric goals, and it goes to great lengths to achieve them. Among the most important of these goals is the drive to constantly run its detention facilities at maximum capacity. In 2004, Congress directed ice to add 8,000 new beds a year. (In 1994, the government maintained a daily average of 6,785 detainees; this year, the expected average is 40,520.) This required a massive investment in detention, which Congress wanted to ensure didn’t go to waste. In 2009, Robert Byrd, the late Democratic senator from West Virginia, quietly added a provision to an appropriations bill mandating that ice “maintain a level of not less than 33,400 detention beds.” The provision was never debated and left room for competing interpretations. But for large stretches of the Obama years, Byrd’s amendment was regarded as an obligatory quota. (Last year Congress finally removed the Byrd quota, but Trump’s goals for detention far outstrip anything Congress has ever mandated.)

And so on. It’s a gruesome, depressing story, tragic for the people caught in ICE’s clutches.

More intellectual dark webbery

Aug 10th, 2018 3:47 pm | By

I saw this awful glib vacuous article about Jordan Peterson by Caitlin Flanagan in the Atlantic yesterday but it was so crappy I couldn’t face posting about it, so how helpful that Eric Levitz at New York Magazine took it on.

He starts, wittily, by complaining about the way identity politics is crippling the argumentative skills of center-right hacks like Flanagan, which is a good joke because her whole shtick in her piece is omigod identity politics.

Now, they’re content to merely assert their identity as tellers of uncomfortable truths (and don’t you dare ask them to validate that identity, empirically; if a center-right contrarian identifies as unfailingly rational and free of racial, gender, or class biases, then one must accept this as her personal truth). In fact, these “intellectual dark web” browsers have become so defensive of their identitarian ideology, they’ve grown blind to any and all realities that might complicate their worldview.

If this dire assessment of the center-right sounds overwrought, just take a gander at Caitlin Flanagan’s new essay on Jordan Peterson in The Atlantic.

The thesis of the column is simple: For years, a silenced majority had been suffering under the tyrannical hegemony of left-wing identity politics — until Jordan Peterson set their minds free with his devastating rebuttal of that creed’s bogus premises. Flanagan writes that what Peterson “and the other members of the so-called ‘intellectual dark web’ are offering is kryptonite to identity politics”; that Peterson provided her son and his friends with “the only sustained argument against identity politics they had heard in their lives”; and that the left is afraid of Peterson’s ideas because they are “are completely inconsistent with identity politics of any kind.”

It’s simple, and it’s empty and worthless.

Not once in her (nearly 2,000-word) column does Flanagan define the “identity politics” she’s inveighing against, or so much as summarize Peterson’s argument against them. She does offer some examples of what she considers to be representative of the former: The Nation’s decision to apologize for publishing a poem written in African-American vernacular by a non-black poet; the alt-right’s pursuit of a white ethno-state; and former president Barack Obama — whom she dubs “the poet laureate of identity politics.”

She’s right about the Nation and the poem, he says, but then lots of lefties have been objecting to that move too. The claim about Obama is moronic.

Flanagan would rather attack an imaginary, monolithic left than contend with the actual one. And by positing Barack Obama as an exemplary practitioner of identity politics, she renders her conception of that phrase incomprehensible. Obama literally launched his political career by proclaiming that African-Americans must “eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white” — and that there was “not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.” The man’s commitment to a politics of universalism was so emphatic and unyielding, he spent his last year in office lecturing college students about the evils of “political correctness.”

Exactly, and he’s always been about that, to the point that he annoyed everyone when he edited the Harvard Law Review by commissioning so many pieces by conservatives.

If there is a reason that Flanagan associates Barack Obama with identity politics — beyond the fact that he is an African-American who participated in politics — she feels no need to spell it out. For an identitarian contrarian like Flanagan, assertion is sufficient; argument, unnecessary. People from her intellectual tribe recognize that Jordan Peterson is good, and identity politics (a phrase that ostensibly covers the political worldview of most everyone to her left or right) is bad. The fact that a person like her is making this claim is all the substantiation required; because people like her, her son, and Jordan Peterson are capable of perceiving objective reality, unmediated by ideology.

Flanagan actually implies this: She writes that once her son and his friends had digested Peterson’s thought, they found that it was suddenly “possible to talk about all kinds of things—religion, philosophy, history, myth—in a different way. They could have a direct experience with ideas, not one mediated by ideology.”

It’s an irregular verb, you see – I see things as they really are, you have an ideology, they have a fanatical ideology.

Here is how Petersen, who never allows identity to color his thought — and perceives ideas from myth, history, and philosophy, directly, unmediated by ideology —assessesThe Feminine Mystique:

I read Betty Friedan’s book because I was very curious about it, and it’s so whiny, it’s just enough to drive a modern person mad to listen to these suburban housewives from the late ’50s ensconced in their comfortable secure lives complaining about the fact that they’re bored because they don’t have enough opportunity. It’s like, Jesus get a hobby.

And here is how such a man perceives the feminine, in general:

You know you can say, “Well isn’t it unfortunate that chaos is represented by the feminine” — well, it might be unfortunate, but it doesn’t matter because that is how it’s represented. It’s been represented like that forever. And there are reasons for it. You can’t change it. It’s not possible.

No ideology there, no sir!

Flanagan accuses “the left” of having an “obliterating and irrational hatred of Jordan Peterson” and says there’s no coherent reason for that hatred.

By definition, there can be no coherent reason for anyone’s irrational hatred of anything. But if we take Flanagan’s argument to be that the left has no rational basis for seeing Peterson as contemptible and dangerous, then her argument is absurd.

Peterson argues that human beings do not yet know whether it is possible for men and women to work together without the former sexually harassing the latter, to such an extent that segregated workplaces are preferable. He has stated, point blank, that women who do not want to be sexually harassed at work — but nevertheless wear makeup to the office — are hypocrites. In her essay, Flanagan accuses the left of mendaciously attaching “reputation-destroying ideas” to Peterson. But rest assured, Peterson has attached these ideas to himself:

Perhaps, Flanagan agrees with all of this. Perhaps, she thinks that, “Can men and women work together in the workplace?” is an open question, and that the only reason why women put on lipstick is to trigger thoughts of sex in men’s minds — and thus, if women who wear lipstick to the office get sexually harassed, they bear some responsibility for their own plight. But does Flanagan really believe that it would be incoherent for feminists to detest Peterson on the basis of these views?

Or did she simply ensconce herself in an ideological safe space that shielded these remarks from her awareness?

In other words is she just as smug as she has always been? Yes she is.

Read the rest of Levitz’s response.

He sneaked a tanning bed into the White House

Aug 10th, 2018 2:58 pm | By

Surprise surprise: Trump calls people “niggers” when he thinks he can get away with it.

President Trump frequently used the word “nigger” while he was the host of the reality television show “Celebrity Apprentice,” and there are tapes that can confirm it, according to a new memoir by one of Mr. Trump’s former White House advisers, Omarosa Manigault Newman.

The claims, based on hearsay, are among the more explosive and unverified ones that Ms. Manigault Newman makes in the book, “Unhinged.” It was first reported by the British newspaper The Guardian, which had an early copy.

Ms. Manigault Newman also claims that Mr. Trump’s daughter-in-law tried to buy her silence by offering a $15,000-a-month contract; that the president secreted a tanning bed into the White House residence; that Mr. Trump described his education secretary, Betsy DeVos, as “ditsy”; that he once chewed up a piece of paper to avoid having it collected by presidential record-keepers; and that he routinely comments on women’s looks.

That last one is so obvious it’s not even worth saying. Of course he does; he does it right in front of us.

The White House initially declined to respond to the accusations in her book, which is scheduled to be released next week, although several advisers have privately questioned her credibility and have pointed out that she was very upset at being dismissed.

By midday Friday, Mr. Trump ordered the White House to respond.

“Instead of telling the truth about all the good President Trump and his administration are doing to make America safe and prosperous, this book is riddled with lies and false accusations,” the press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement. “It’s sad that a disgruntled former White House employee is trying to profit off these false attacks, and even worse that the media would now give her a platform, after not taking her seriously when she had only positive things to say about the president during her time in the administration.”

It is sad – in fact it’s “Sad!”

A world that tells children that girls and boys are good at different things

Aug 10th, 2018 11:32 am | By

Where does this bias come from?

Two scientists have launched a campaign to get a copy of a book that debunks accepted scientific “facts” about women into every state school in the UK.

The physicist Jess Wade, best known as “chief troublemaker at Imperial College London”, and Claire Murray, a chemist and beamline scientist at a UKsynchrotron, are raising funds to buy copies of Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong and the New Science That’s Rewriting the Story by Angela Saini. The actor Daniel Radcliffe has described it as one of his favourite books.

The pair are hoping to raise £15,000 via a crowdfunding campaign in an effort to encourage more girls and young women to educate themselves about the structural barriers they face and how to overcome them.

“Reading Inferior changed our lives, and completely changed the way we thought about diversity,” Wade said. “There are a huge number of campaigns to get girls into science, but while a lot of money is being spent, there is no evidence that they work.

“But Inferior is a breath of fresh air; instead of saying we are so hard done by because we are women, it is written by an engineer who is examining where this bias comes from, and how it’s invaded our social consciousness.”

I think I know one place this bias comes from: everywhere. It’s ubiquitous.

The pair point out that young women make up only a fifth of physics A-level students, a quarter of undergraduate students and a tenth of physics professors. “This isn’t because of ability – girls outperform boys at GCSE and A-level – or enthusiasm, but because we exist in a world that tells children that girls and boys are good at different things. We meet too many girls who, despite being brilliant, are not confident, and are unsure of their own potential to become scientists,” they write on the crowdfunding page.

in a world that tells children that girls and boys are good at different things – in other words the Damore memo, the one he circulated at work to explain why women didn’t belong there. I say this because I know of otherwise-intelligent people who still insist he had every right to circulate his opinion that women didn’t belong in the place where he worked, and that it’s a terrible violation of free speech that he was fired.

“The chief distinction in the intellectual powers of the two sexes is [shown] by man attaining to a higher eminence, in whatever he takes up, than woman can attain – whether requiring deep thought, reason or imagination, or merely the use of the senses and hands,” Darwin wrote in The Descent of Man, published in 1871. “Thus man has ultimately become superior to woman.”

Saini also tells the less well-known story of Caroline Kennard, a member of the women’s movement in Boston, who replied in 1881: “Let the ‘environment’ of women be similar to that of men and with his opportunities, before she be fairly judged, intellectually his inferior, please.”

The author has promised to sign every book the campaign purchases, and the publisher, 4th Estate, has agreed to match the amount raised and organise distribution.

Image result for women power

No conspiracy theory too ludicrous

Aug 10th, 2018 10:58 am | By

Conspiracy theories meet arson and a friendship is born.

Southern California’s Holy Fire, sparked on Monday, has already scorched more than 18,000 acres as of Friday morning and forced over 20,000 residents to flee.

Now, authorities have identified the man suspected of igniting the massive blaze.

On Wednesday, local officials arrested 51-year-old Forrest Gordon Clark, charging him with two counts of felony arson, as well as another felony charge of threatening to terrorize.

A glimpse through his social media presence also offers a clue into the world of conspiracy in which Clark, who claimed he could read minds, lived.

JJ MacNab, who covers anti-government extremism for Forbes, first identified Clark’s Facebook profile. A quick skim reveals just how many conspiracy theories Clark promulgated — and why he may have allegedly started the fire in the first place. Indeed, it appears there was no conspiracy theory too ludicrous for Clark to buy into.

For instance, Clark recently started pushing messaging around “QAnon,” a bizarre theory that a global Deep State network is trying to bring down President Donald Trump in order to further their nefarious aims. While there’s no indication Clark was among the QAnon supporters who have become increasingly prominent at Trump rallies, he nonetheless pushed pro-QAnon videos on his page.

Kind of Trump himself in miniature – a head full of wind and noise, and the ability to set fire to stuff.

Likewise, Clark appeared to be a fan of Alex Jones and InfoWars, which were recently banned by platforms like Apple and Facebook. Among the most popular theories Clark promoted on social media: notions that tragic events like the 9/11 attacks and the Sandy Hook shooting were “false flags.”

For good measure, Clark also pushed other Deep State-style conspiracy theories, including Agenda 21 — which claims the United Nations will effectively eliminate Americans’ sovereign rights — and Jade Helm, which posited that a 2015 military exercise would provide cover for the Obama administration to impose martial law.

It doesn’t require either intelligence or sanity to do great harm.