Notes and Comment Blog


Punks in the rose garden

Jul 12th, 2019 11:42 am | By

The Guardian too noticed the herky-jerky quality of Trump’s address to the social media edgelords yesterday:

In an hour-long rambling speech Trump ping-ponged through a series of lies and bizarre rants about social media companies’ “disgraceful” and “terrible bias”, made outlandish false claims about the census, Democrats’ positions on the border wall, Antifa, Chinese tariffs, the Golan Heights, the authenticity of his hair and other reliable Trump standards.

Ping-ponged is a good word for it. We need another good word for the way he doesn’t just bounce from one subject to another but interrupts his own sentences to do so. It’s deeply weird, and probably diagnostic. He’s so distractable he’s distracted from his own blather.

Also of note: there was a near brawl in the rose garden.

Sebastian Gorka, a former adviser to the president with white nationalist sympathies, got into a shouting match with the Playboy reporter Brian Karem. After exchanging words, Gorka stormed over to Karem as if a fight was about to break out. “You’re not a journalist, you’re a punk!” he shouted. The Secret Service intervened.

Very dignified, much classy.



On the larger side

Jul 12th, 2019 11:30 am | By

It turns out there’s a cost to internalized misogyny. Who could have predicted that?

The author is anonymous, fortunately.

I am 24, and have always been self-conscious of how I looked “down there”. Not enough to put me off having sex and I never had complaints, but it was always in the back of my mind that my labia were on the larger side. I’d previously had cosmetic surgery on my ears, which went well, and figured that labiaplasty could also boost my confidence.

“On the larger side” compared to what? The women in porn? Who makes these rules? Who decided that chopping off bits of the genitalia should be medicalized into the official-sounding “labiaplasty”? What is wrong with people?

So she skipped out and had it done.

Straight away, I knew something wasn’t right. Instead of a reduction, it was clear that my labia had been completely removed. That first week was the worst of my life. I cried several times a day, and even considered suicide. The enormity of my decision sunk in – I could hardly walk and even sitting down was a struggle.

Now she’s terrified of ever having sex again.

Yep, internalized misogyny definitely extracts a price.



Another “resigned following criticism”

Jul 12th, 2019 11:22 am | By

Acosta’s out.

Donald Trump’s labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, has resigned following criticism of his handling of a 2008 plea deal with the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, who is awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking underage girls.

Trump announced the news on Friday with Acosta by his side at the White House. “Alex Acosta is a great secretary of labor,” Trump said. “I hate to see this happen.” He said he did not ask Acosta to leave the cabinet.

Acosta becomes the latest in a long line of high-profile officials to resign their post. The Trump administration holds the record for the highest turnover of cabinet and White House staff.

Why? Several reasons. Because Trump is a nightmare; because Trump chooses terrible people; because Trump is impossible so when underlings try to temper or get around his horribility he fires them; because Trump wants all the focus on him at all times; because of general incompetence.

Trump has since tried to distance himself from Epstein.

Announcing Acosta’s resignation, he said: “Yes, I did have a falling out a long time ago. The reason doesn’t make any difference … I haven’t spoken to him in 15 years or more. I wasn’t a big fan of Jeffrey Epstein, that I can tell you.”

Sure, he can tell us, but it’s a lie.



When gender found its place deep inside the self

Jul 12th, 2019 10:25 am | By

Susan Matthews at the Times Higher on Sally Hines’s Is Gender Fluid?: A Primer for the 21st Century:

Hines is interested in two different questions. Can an individual change their gender identity? And is the categorisation of biological sex really fluid?

Her key idea (drawn from Thomas Laqueur) is that binary sex difference is a cultural construction, cemented in the Enlightenment to underpin gender differences. From Anne Fausto-Sterling, Hines takes the claim that the existence of intersex people undermines the concept of binary sex differences. Cordelia Fine’s work allows her to argue that most claims for binary sex differences in the brain derive from cultural bias. What’s new is not the idea of gender fluidity but the claim that biological sex is a spectrum.

Most 20th-century feminists thought of gender as a social construction that lay outside the self, a kind of false consciousness that the individual could reject. Everything changed when gender found its place deep inside the self as, in Hines’ words, the “core part of who people know themselves to be”.

So is the anti-feminism plain enough yet? If gender finds its place deep inside the self then why bother with feminism at all? Why not just let everyone choose to be either dominant or subordinate and let it go at that?

In the new model, gender paradoxically becomes less fluid. Transgender is “an umbrella term describing people whose innate gender identity or gender expression is different to the sex they were assigned at birth”. Borrowing the language of intersex, sex is “assigned” whereas gender is “innate”.

Sex is mere superstructure, mere dross, while gender is the soul.



Guest post: The Lobster Special

Jul 12th, 2019 9:10 am | By

Originally a comment by Your Name’s not Bruce? on Yes but if you switch the labels that changes everything.

The scene, an upscale RESTAURANT. ALAINA HYPE LEVITATE is shown to her seat. A WAITER fills her water glass and offers AHL a menu.

AHL: That’s okay, I know what I’m ordering. I’ll have the lobster special and a glass of the house white, please.

W: An excellent choice! Coming right up.

A few moments later, the WAITER returns with a glass of milk, and what looks very much like a plate of mashed potatoes.

W. Here you go, the special with house white.

AHL. Where’s the lobster?

W. It’s right there on the plate.

AHL. That looks very much like a plate of mashed potatoes.

W. This is what you ordered, the “Lobster Special.”

AHL. But that isn’t a lobster. I’ve had lobster before, and unless it’s buried under the potatoes, there is no lobster on this plate. (Digging with fork). Nope, nada, zilch. This is NOT lobster.

W. I assure you it is. It’s our speciality; nobody else prepares them quite the way we do.

AHL. Well I’m sure that everyone else is using actual lobster.

W. Well, I don’t know about the recipes used in other establishments, but ours is renowned for its bold, transgressive presentation. Cruelty free, too.

AHL. Only if you ignore the disappointment of those expecting, you know, LOBSTER!

W. (In full flight now) Our chef has gone beyond the mere shape and appearance of “lobster.”.Some people are so hung up on extraneous, picayune details-

AHL. The complete absence of lobster is not a DETAIL when you’ve ordered “lobster.”

W. -which channels their expectations and narrows the realm of possibility-

AHL. I EXPECTED LOBSTER!

W. Some people figure that lobster can only be one way. They’re stereoyping. Others are put off by the “big bug on a plate ” look . They’re lobster-phobic. Our Chef goes beyond both those who have particular expectations and those who are fearful of that expectation.

AHL. Your so-called “lobster ” was dug out of the ground and probably hasn’t even seen so much as a photograph of an ocean.

W. Oh, so you’re a biological determinist!

AHL. I”M A LOBSTER SHY OF A MEAL!

Out from the kitchen comes the CHEF.

C. Is there a problem?

AHL. (Pointing to the plate) THIS? THIS IS NOT LOBSTER!

C Oh, but it is. It came out of a bin. The label on the bin says “Lobster.” So, this is lobster.

AHL. Lobsters don’t come in bins.

W. Ours do.

AHL. SHUT UP! (WAITER withdraws to kitchen, muttering).

C. Great big bin. Big Label. Big red letters. L-O-B-S-T-E-R.

AHL. (Trying to speak calmly, but it’s clearly a struggle) I don’t care how big the bin is. I don’t care how big the label, or the size and colour of its lettering. I don’t care what the label says, the label on the bin doesn’t change what’s in the bin!

C. Nothing’s changed, it’s always been lobster. It’s on the bin. Big label.

Everyone likes our lobster. It’s won awards!

AHL. (Pointing at plate) This is potato. P-O-T-A-T-O. Mashed potato. Not lobster, L-O-B-S-T-E-R. It doesn’t matter if you carve them into the shape of a lobster, or put them into a great big bin with a great big label, or call them by another name. They will ALWAYS be POTATOS. They will NEVER be LOBSTERS.

C. Okay, for the sake of argument, let’s call it “mock lobster.” Better than lobster really, because it’s vegan.

AHL. You can call it bloody “mock alligator,” or “mock bicycle” or “mock otter” or bloody “mock POLAND,” but it’s still mashed POTATO!

C. You’d be surprised at how many genes are common between potatos, lobsters, and otters. To a visitor from another planet, they’d all be close cousins.

AHL. I’M not from another planet and I can distinctly tell the differences between all those things, and I’m not seeing a lot of lobster in the general vicinity. There’s a lot less lobster than I was led to believe I was going to be encountering. I see no crustaceans of any kind whatsoever on this plate or on this table.

C. You didn’t read the menu, did you.

AHL. I knew I wanted lobster. It’s on the sign outside.

W. (coming back from the kitchen with LOBSTER bin, brandishing a scoop of what looks very much like mashed potatos). On the bin, too.

AHL. SHUT UP! (turning to CHEF) Lobster is lobster!

C. Well, obviously your concept of “lobster” is really restricting and narrow, when it’s really a broad spectrum. Quite fluid, really. Delicious, too. Go ahead, have a bite!

AHL. You can’t just redefine “lobster.” A lobster is a particular creature. How the HELL can it be a “fluid spectrum?”

C. How do you know it isn’t? You’d never seen a vegan mock lobster until today, had you? Our lobster is not confined to your confining label. It yearns to be FREE, to be what it’s always wanted and felt itself to be!

AHL. Well it’s all mock and no lobster.

C Don’t forget the vegan part.

AHL. A lobster is an animal and can’t be VEGAN!

C. But there’s some right in front of you on your plate! You’re just too attached to your narrow dictionary definition “lobsterism” to admit it!

AHL. AAAARRRGH! I’ve HAD ENOUGH. I’m LEAVING. (AHL stomps out, muttering.)

W. (indicating plate of mock vegan lobster) Did you want a doggy bag?

W. (Turning to CHEF) You know at this rate, we’re never going to use up those potatoes.

C. Yeah, but isn’t this fun?

W. Sure! It’s a blast! It doesn’t help generate repeat customers, though. (Drinking from the glass of milk, then holding it up to the light, admiringly) Pity. She didn’t even get to the “house white.”

C Ha! Well at least it is actually white. (motions to the kitchen) C’mon It’s almost close. We’d better clean up.

WAITER and CHEF go back into the kitchen. The LOBSTER bin, which had been set down on the now vacated table, shudders and shakes as a huge LOBSTER starts to climb out of it…

Image result for potato lobster



Because of logistics, not because of some stinking law

Jul 11th, 2019 6:06 pm | By

Finally the usurper gave up his effort to insert the citizenship question into the census.

President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he is backing off his effort to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census and is instead issuing an executive order directing departments and agencies to better share data related to the number of citizens and noncitizens in the country.

The news conference came as two federal judges refused to let the Department of Justice withdraw lawyers from a lawsuit over the Trump administration’s plans to put the citizenship question on the 2020 census form.

The administration is currently printing census forms without the question after the Supreme Court ruled late last month that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who stood alongside Trump during his announcement Thursday, did not provide an adequate reason for why the question was necessary.

Attorney General William Barr, who also appeared with Trump at the new conference, said the Supreme Court’s decision effectively closed off the possibility of successfully litigating the issue without jeopardizing the ability to carry out the census on time.

The situation presented “a logistical impediment, not a legal one,” Barr said.

Lickspittle. He wants us to conclude that Trump wasn’t trying to pull an authoritarian move. He was though, Barr.

Meanwhile, the press conference came at the conclusion of another event that’s drawn considerable attention in recent days, the president’s planned social media summit. Trump hosted several right-wing internet personalities to “share how they have been affected by bias online” as Republicans for months have blasted social media companies for what they see as unfair censorship of their views online.

I watched the live video of Trump addressing the meeting for a few minutes, and was gobsmacked all over again at how frantic his way of talking is. He talks at a rapid clip, so rapid that there is no way for anyone else to get a word in, but what he says is completely incoherent, because he keeps interrupting himself to start a new subject – and when I say “keeps” I mean it’s every few seconds. A few words on this obsession, which suggest this other one so interrupt with a few words on that, which suggest this other one so interrupt with a few words on that, repeat forever. It’s so crazy and disordered and wrong it’s hard to believe. He doesn’t have a mind, he has a bundle of chopped-up clips from Fox News that have been whisked together just long enough to disorganize them but not long enough to make any one coherent talking point. Fox Salad dressed with bullshitpesto.



Where else would they exist?

Jul 11th, 2019 1:51 pm | By

Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch takes a look at Pompeo’s conference on human rights.

[A]s Pompeo suggested, the purpose of the commission is not to uphold all rights but to pick and choose among them: “What does it mean to say or claim that something is, in fact, a human right? How do we know or how do we determine whether that claim that this or that is a human right, is it true, and therefore, ought it to be honored?”

But human rights do not exist in the eye of the beholder. International treaties that have been widely ratified (though many not by the United States) codify what they term “inalienable” human rights.

The fact that treaties codify agreed human rights doesn’t mean human rights don’t exist in the eye of the beholder. They have to exist in the eye of some beholders to get codified. I certainly don’t want Pompeo or anyone else in Trump’s catastrophe of an administration to be messing with them, but that doesn’t make human rights anything other than a human endeavor.

Pompeo justified the need for “fresh thinking” by citing an alleged conflict among rights: “As human rights claims have proliferated, some claims have come into tension with one another, provoking questions and clashes about which rights are entitled to gain respect.” He didn’t explain further, but it’s likely he is referring to the Trump administration’s view, asserted domestically in the courts, that reproductive and LGBT rights conflict with religious freedom such that one’s religious views should take precedence over, for instance, the duty not to discriminate.

These comments about a “clash” of rights might also be used to reaffirm the long-standing U.S. position that only civil and political rights, not economic and social rights, are real human rights. Both are detailed in widely ratified treaties — the two “covenants” that list the rights originally set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But while China, for example, has never ratified the civil and political rights treaty — the sorts of rights detailed in the U.S. Constitution — the United States has never ratified the one on economic, social and cultural rights, which lists such rights as to food, health care and housing.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have both kinds? But that’s not what Pompeo has in mind, obviously.

The US non-ratification of the economic and social ones should tell Roth that yes rights are in the eye of the beholder, because if they weren’t everybody would ratify or refuse to ratify the same ones. If they weren’t they wouldn’t even need to be ratified.



Yes but if you switch the labels that changes everything

Jul 11th, 2019 1:05 pm | By

Once in awhile Twitter will show me completely random tweets, from people I don’t follow and don’t want to follow, so occasionally I see a wack tweet I didn’t even go looking for. Like:

Oh yeah, it’s only conservatives who dispute the claim that men can get pregnant. Definitely.

So I followed the link.

The subhead:

Pregnancy is still believed to be something only a woman will experience, but trans men and non-binary people can and do get pregnant too

Language games. Stupid language games. Pregnancy isn’t believed to be a woman-only thing, it simply is a woman-only thing. The gotcha has no got. Yes of course trans men i.e. women who call themselves men can get pregnant too, because they are women. Yes of course “non-binary people” can get pregnant if they are women. “Trans men” and “non-binary people” are just labels, and they don’t change the underlying reality. The fact that people have come up with new labels such as “trans men” and “non-binary people” does not change mammalian biology.

The article is not an improvement on the subhead.



And we have a new song title

Jul 11th, 2019 12:42 pm | By

Washington’s army seized the airports, and the kidney is in the heart.

Donald Trump surprised the medical community on Wednesday afternoon, when he claimed “the kidney has a very special place in the heart”.

Speaking as he announced a government plan to tackle kidney disease, Trump went on an extended riff about the efforts of specialists.

“You’ve worked so hard on the kidney. Very special. The kidney has a very special place in the heart. It’s an incredible thing,” Trump gushed.

See this is what happens when you get someone whose brain is disintegrating rapidly and who loves to hear himself talk. He generates words, just words, whatever words he can clutch as they float past, and since most of his words have disappeared as his brain melts, you get these repetitions. Speshul. The kidney is speshul. Speshul is the kidney.

So then you get it accidentally bounced into the heart.

Garbage in, garbage out.



Brazen

Jul 11th, 2019 9:44 am | By

Speaking of McKinnon…

“says the cis white man”…says the white man. Says the white man who loves nothing better than to talk over, chastise, shout at, and bully women. “Rachel” McKinnon who steals medals from female athletes does not get to use his trans status to pretend to be many categories below white men on the Ladder of Privilege.



They might be giants

Jul 11th, 2019 9:30 am | By

This is a must-watch from the WPUK Fair Play event yesterday.

She’s the one on McKinnon’s left.

Image result for rachel mckinnon podium



Send him a letter

Jul 11th, 2019 9:00 am | By

One law for the rich, and another for everyone else.

Convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein never once checked in with city cops in the eight-plus years since a Manhattan judge ordered him to do so every 90 days — and the NYPD says it’s fine with that.

After being labeled a worst-of-the-worst, Level 3 sex offender in 2011, Epstein should have reported in person to verify his address 34 times before he was arrested Saturday on federal child sex-trafficking charges.

But hey. He’s rich. He’s white. He’s a man. Capeesh?

Violating requirements of the state’s 1996 Sex Offender Registration Act — including checking in with law enforcement — is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison for a first offense.

Subsequent violations carry a sentence of up to seven years each.

The police and the prosecutors are both saying “No it’s their fault.”

The NYPD cop assigned to monitor Epstein has repeatedly complained to Vance’s Sex Crimes Unit that Epstein wasn’t in compliance, according to a source familiar with the matter.

But prosecutors told the cop to merely send Epstein a letter reminding him of his reporting requirement.

A Vance spokesman denied that allegation, saying “the NYPD — which is the agency responsible for monitoring SORA compliance — has repeatedly told us that Mr. Epstein was in full compliance with the law.”

Has anybody checked in with Law and Order SVU?



So attenuated and abstract

Jul 11th, 2019 8:28 am | By

Emoluments? What emoluments?? I don’t see any emoluments; do you see any emoluments???

A constitutional challenge to President Trump’s continued ownership of his businesses has been ordered dismissed by a federal appeals court.

The case was brought by the attorneys general of Washington, D.C., and Maryland, arguing that Trump had violated the domestic and foreign emoluments clauses of the U.S. Constitution by accepting money from state and foreign governments via his Washington hotel and business empire.

A three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled unanimously that the attorneys general did not have the standing to bring the lawsuit and instructed a lower court to dismiss the lawsuit.

Judge Paul Niemeyer wrote in the opinion: “The District and Maryland’s interest in enforcing the Emoluments Clauses is so attenuated and abstract that their prosecution of this case readily provokes the question of whether this action against the President is an appropriate use of the courts, which were created to resolve real cases and controversies between the parties.”

And the emoluments case is not real because…erm…

All three of the judges were appointed by Republican presidents.

This case is not the only emoluments challenge against President Trump. Another federal court is still considering a lawsuit brought by Democratic members of Congress.

Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh issued a joint statement that said the panel of judges “got it wrong,” and that they will continue to pursue their legal options.

They said the court “failed to acknowledge the most extraordinary circumstance of all: President Trump is brazenly profiting from the Office of the President in ways that no other President in history ever imagined and that the founders expressly sought — in the Constitution — to prohibit,” Frosh and Racine wrote.

The pair said they would continue their legal efforts to “hold President Trump accountable” for what they viewed as his violation of the emoluments clauses.

Checks and balances: do we even have any?



No more than one’s own fantasy about oneself

Jul 10th, 2019 4:15 pm | By

Fired for refusing to call a man “madam”? Sounds very Monty Python, doesn’t it.

Dr David Mackereth, 56, claims he was sacked as a disability benefits assessor by the Department of Work and Pensions over his religious beliefs.

The father-of-four alleges he was asked in a conversation with a line manager: “If you have a man six foot tall with a beard who says he wants to be addressed as ‘she’ and ‘Mrs’, would you do that?”

Well you can’t address people as “she,” can you. That’s a minor point, I know, but it gets so annoying seeing this confusion so often.

A hearing in Birmingham was told how Dr Mackereth believes transgenderism is a “delusional belief” and an ideology “which I disbelieve and detest”.

In a statement admitted into evidence, he told the court: “If you believe in gender fluidity, gender is no more than one’s own fantasy about oneself.”

And the thing about that is that one’s own fantasy about oneself is of interest only to oneself and should never, ever be forced on other people. We know some people just can’t get enough of talking about themselves, but there’s a limit to what they can force on the rest of us.

The DWP argues that Dr Mackereth’s views are in breach of the 2010 Equality Act. APM, the recruitment company who hired the medic, is also being sued for religious discrimination.

The company claims that the doctor’s beliefs “are not compatible with human dignity”.

Really? What if people started claiming to be horses or bicycles or daffodils or Poland? What does treating people’s lies about themselves as truth have to do with human dignity? What about the human dignity of people forced to lie about others?

The Telegraph mixes a whole bunch of nonsense about Christian beliefs into it, but that seems entirely beside the point to me.



Fair play to them

Jul 10th, 2019 3:04 pm | By

Women’s Party UK held a public meeting this evening on keeping women’s sport women-only. (I assume it’s over now, at nearly 11 their time.) It was at a large venue and the place was packed.

Yes why didn’t they? Obviously one could have testosterone levels lower than those of men but still higher than those of women.



Guest post: Strength has been something to aim for

Jul 10th, 2019 2:37 pm | By

Originally a comment by Steamshovelmama on Go, and sin no more.

Labels… *sigh*. This is a conversation I have had many times with my 22 year old daughter, who is rather more woke than me. Labels are important, especially to young people who feel lost and excluded because there is no one else like them in their culture and/or peer group. To that young person, finding that there is an actual name for what they are is a huge validation – and young, unhappy, confused, isolated people do need that validation.

The problem is, as always, reification. The label is usually an artificial term, placing boundaries round something that is really a point on a continuum. Unfortunately, people are strongly prone to believing that those boundaries represent something real and objective. When that happens, the label becomes a trap. No longer just “This describes what I feel, and I share this feeling with these people,” but more “This is what I am, and because of that, I know I cannot be that other thing as well, because that lies outside the boundaries of the thing that describes me.”

Of course, this applies to identities that are rooted outside the physical – ace (arguably), aro, demi etc.

re: the adoption of fragility

I don’t get this either. I’m 50, and for most of my life strength has been something to aim for. I grew up as a member of he English working class, which in itself is a strong non-physical identity (USAians may not experience this, but take it from me, in England class is a major part of your identity).

I grew up in a female culture where women considered themselves superior to men in all senses but the physical. The joke was: Q. What do you call a woman who wants to be equal to a man? A. Unambitious. Men were frequently regarded as immature boys (which, of course, meant that many of them were happy to play that role).

Women were the ones who held the family together, who took on all the responsibilities of feeding and clothing everyone, of stretching the “housekeeping” to do it, despite many of them working part or full time themselves. The very idea that you might need some sort of validation for who you were would have been considered ridiculous. You looked after your own, and if you wanted something you damned well got off your arse and worked out how to get it.

You developed a thick skin, especially towards male attitudes because, growing up, you were cat called and/or harassed on an almost daily basis from about 11 years onward. Now, that is certainly not how it should be (and it does seem to be a little better now, looking at my daughter’s experience), but the idea that you might be deeply hurt by a name (or pronoun) that somebody called you? Your Mother, Grandmothers, Aunts and friends would tell you to bloody well get up and stop making a fuss.

One of the most insulting things you could say about a woman was that she was “precious” – dainty, ladylike, feeble. Proper women were tough. They’d have had no time whatsoever for some man (and they would certainly see a trans woman as a man) poncing about in women’s clothes and talking about feminine essence. Feminine was not a large part of their lives or self image.



How do we argue for human rights?

Jul 10th, 2019 11:36 am | By

Ron Lindsay on Pompeo’s “natural law” commission:

“That some persons are free and others slaves by nature … and that for these slavery is both advantageous and just, is evident.” So said Aristotle, one of the first advocates of the “natural law” approach to ethics. (See his Politics, Book I, ch. 5.)

Thus we see one of the problems. Different people have different ideas of what “natural law” is, and the ideas may have more to to with the convenience of the haver than the well-being of everyone else. Trump thinks it’s natural law that everyone should flatter him without cease.

Natural law theory has had a number of different proponents throughout history, and the exact contours of the theory vary from proponent to proponent, but the core of the theory is comprised of these three elements: there are some things that are intrinsically good and intrinsically evil because of their relationship to human nature; the human intellect, through reason correctly applied, can discern these fundamental goods and evils; actions are right or wrong depending on whether they further or oppose these fundamental goods and evils. From this summary, one can see that the cornerstone of this theory is its understanding of human nature.

And if one thinks about it for a few seconds one can see how easy it is to understand human nature in a way that flatters or benefits the self or the self’s tribe.

How do we argue for human rights? Roughly, through an approach something like this: Think of the purposes of morality (fostering trust, facilitating cooperation in achieving shared and complementary goals, providing security, ameliorating harmful conditions, etc.) and ask what rules and rights most everyone in the moral community would accept if such rules and rights applied to everyone. (For more detail, one can consult John Rawls, Tim Scanlon and a host of other philosophers and thinkers.) Does such an approach ensure unanimity, an end to any disagreement? Of course not. Does it imply that humans are the source of morality? Sure, because we are.

Throughout much of our history, many have tried to impose on others their view of right and wrong by claiming their view is backed by God or natural law. It’s time to rid ourselves of this pernicious fantasy. With respect to morality, there is no special authority. We’re all in this together.

Imagine if we could ask tuna and salmon, chickens and lambs, shrimp and lobsters what morality is.



Acosta wants MORE child sex trafficking

Jul 10th, 2019 10:41 am | By

Oh is he indeed.

Alexander Acosta, the US labor secretary under fire for having granted Jeffrey Epstein immunity from federal prosecution in 2008, after the billionaire was investigated for having run a child sex trafficking ring, is proposing 80% funding cuts for the government agency that combats child sex trafficking.

That’s definitely a good look.

The bureau’s budget would fall from $68m last year to just $18.5m. The proposed reduction is so drastic that experts say it would effectively kill off many federal efforts to curb sex trafficking and put the lives of large numbers of children at risk.

ILAB has the task of countering human trafficking, child labor and forced labor across the US and around the world. Its mission is “to promote a fair global playing field for workers” and it is seen as a crucial leader in efforts to crack down on the sex trafficking of minors.

Yes, well, when you elect criminal exploitative plutocrats president, this is what you get. They don’t want a fair global playing field for workers, they want a global playing field that makes it easy for them to exploit workers.

Katherine Clark, a congresswoman from Massachusetts, said Acosta’s proposed cut was “reckless” and “amoral”. When seen alongside the sweetheart plea deal he granted Epstein in 2008, when Acosta was the US attorney in Miami, she said, it indicated that the labor secretary did not see protecting vulnerable children as a priority.

“This is now a pattern,” Clark told the Guardian. “Like so many in this administration Mr Acosta chooses the powerful and wealthy over the vulnerable and victims of sexual assault and it is time that he finds another line of work.”

What I’m saying. That’s what this administration is.

Clark grilled Acosta about the proposed cuts in April, when he presented his departmental budget to the House appropriations subcommittee. On that occasion, she said, she found him “rude, dismissive, challenging”.

Imagine our surprise.



On the orders of the president

Jul 10th, 2019 10:00 am | By

It’s as if all of life has become a war between The Narcissists and everyone else. The Narcissists have definitely won this round, but it might not serve their purposes in the larger war.

(Is that a built-in shield against Narcissists? The more they win the more they disgust everyone else, so their power is always fragile and temporary? It’s a pretty thought, at least.)

The resignation of Sir Kim Darroch followed the failure of the likely next prime minister, Boris Johnson, to say he would support him staying in post – despite being given repeated chances to do so during his TV debate with Jeremy Hunt. As the current Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan put it, by six times refusing to back the ambassador, Johnson had thrown him under a bus.

And thrown Trump a whole truckload of ice cream.

There will now be white hot anger across the Foreign Office and in parliament – not just at the leaker and Trump, but also at Johnson. Whatever sanctimonious expressions of regret he mouths, and however much he blames the leaker, King Charles Street knows the Conservative leadership candidate effectively sacked Darroch on the orders of the president.

And on the orders of the president not for any weighty reasons of state but because the president’s throbbing engorged vanity is wounded. How pathetic is that? What kind of pitiful needy childish loser – to use Trump’s favorite epithet – admits to taking it personally when an ambassador reports to his government? What kind of pitiful needy childish loser takes it personally in public and calls the truth-telling ambassador silly schoolyard names? What kind of chickenshit lickspittle toady backs him up when he does so? Donnie and BoJo, that’s what kind.



This humiliating, servile, sycophantic indulgence of the American president’s ego

Jul 10th, 2019 9:24 am | By

Still on the Darroch issue: Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, has issued a statement:

The fact that Sir Kim has been bullied out of his job, because of Donald Trump’s tantrums and Boris Johnson’s pathetic lick-spittle response, is something that shames our country. It makes a laughing-stock out of our government, and tells every one of Britain’s brilliant representatives abroad that the next Tory prime minister will not stand up for them, even when they are simply telling the truth and doing their job.

Sir Kim Darroch should hold his head high for the wonderful job he has done representing our country, while Boris Johnson should go and hang his head in shame. He claims to regard Winston Churchill as his hero. But just imagine Churchill allowing this humiliating, servile, sycophantic indulgence of the American president’s ego to go unchallenged.

Johnson likes to accuse opponents of being ‘supine invertebrate jellies’. How does he think he looks today? If this is what represents the future of leadership in our country, then it is all the more reason why we must force Johnson to call an election, and let the British people decide if such an obsequious weakling should be our prime minister.

Note to the world at large: Donald Trump’s ego needs to be starved, not fed.

Do not feed the dragon.