Notes and Comment Blog

Compliant women in history and society

Nov 8th, 2018 9:39 am | By

So, that Oxford SU LGBTQ statement complaining about Jenni Murray did its work: she has cancelled her appearance at the Oxford event. Well done, students: another woman silenced.

BBC Radio 4 host Dame Jenni Murray has pulled out of an Oxford University talk amid a backlash over comments she made about transgender people.

The Woman’s Hour presenter was invited to speak at an event called Powerful British Women in History and Society.

But the student union’s LGBTQ Campaign said she had made “transphobic comments” in a 2017 newspaper article.

The Oxford University History Society subsequently said she had cancelled her appearance “for personal reasons”.

Probably the personal reason of not wanting to deal with entitled little shits telling her to shut up.

Most upsetting

Nov 8th, 2018 8:51 am | By

So many replies come to mind…

She behaves in a way not characteristic of White House aides

Nov 8th, 2018 8:27 am | By

Was Jim Acosta set up?

If you look at the video the whole thing seems very odd – she jumps up and charges at Acosta, which surely can’t be normal procedure at a press conference. It’s hard to say, because Trump holds so few of them, but it certainly comes across as weird. And why have a woman do that? Ahhh – to make the male reporter look as if he’s bullying the slender young female intern.

One little digit

Nov 8th, 2018 8:20 am | By

Dutch guy wants to be trans 49.

Emile Ratelband, 69, wants to shift his birthday from 11 March 1949 to 11 March 1969, comparing the change to identifying as being transgender.

“We live in a time when you can change your name and change your gender. Why can’t I decide my own age?” he said.

Is it satire or does he really mean it?

Mr Ratelband argues he feels discriminated against because of his age, and that it was affecting his employment chances and his success rate on the dating app, Tinder.

“When I’m 69, I am limited. If I’m 49, then I can buy a new house, drive a different car. I can take up more work,” he said.

So why not make it 29?

The heated exchange

Nov 7th, 2018 5:45 pm | By

The Post story seems so quaint and archaic now, written before the White House banned Jim Acosta.

President Trump lashed out at journalists during an afternoon press briefing, calling some of them “hostile,” instructing them to sit down and telling a CNN reporter, “You are a rude, terrible person.”

The heated exchange occurred Wednesday when CNN reporter Jim Acosta continued to question Trump after the president dismissed him during a news conference about the 2018 midterm elections. Acosta had brought up the Central American migrant caravan, asking the president why he characterized it as “an invasion.”

“I think you should let me run the country, you run CNN and if you did it well, your ratings would be much better,” Trump told Acosta.

Then when Acosta tried to question Trump about the Russia investigation, the president shouted: “That’s enough. That’s enough. That’s enough. That’s enough,” telling him to “put down the mic.”

Trump then told the reporter: “CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN. … You’re a very rude person. The way you treat Sarah Huckabee is horrible. And the way you treat other people are horrible. You shouldn’t treat people that way.”

He didn’t actually say horrible, he said, as he always does, harrible. It’s one of his (50 or 60) go-to words but he doesn’t know how to pronounce it.

Trump has repeatedly clashed with the media, especially CNN, lashing out at reporters and calling their stories “fake news.” As The Washington Post’s Elise Viebeck reported, Trump snapped at yet another reporter later in the press conference after she noted that the president had once called himself a “nationalist” and asked him whether his embrace of “nationalism” is supporting white nationalists.

“I don’t know why you’d say that — that’s such a racist question,” Trump told PBS Newshour’s White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, who is black.

“Why do I have my highest poll numbers ever with African Americans?” he said. “Why do I have among the highest poll numbers with African Americans? I mean, why do I have my highest poll numbers?”

“That’s such a racist question,” he added. “Honestly, I know you have it written down and you’re going to tell me. Let me tell you, that’s a racist question.”

Afterwards CNN spoke up.

Following the confrontations, CNN said in a statement on Twitter that Trump’s “ongoing attacks on the press have gone too far.”

“They are not only dangerous, they are disturbingly un-American,” according to the statement. “While President Trump has made it clear he does not respect a free press, he has a sworn obligation to protect it. A free press is vital to democracy, and we stand behind Jim Acosta and his fellow journalists everywhere.”

So what does Trump do? Shut down the reporter. Tell him not to put his hand in the fire, he’ll put his hand in the fire just to show you you can’t tell him what to do.

CNN president Jeff Zucker reportedly said in a memo to employees Wednesday that “this organization believes fiercely in the protections granted to us by the First Amendment, and we will defend them, and you, vigorously, every time.”

“I want you to know that we have your backs,” Zucker wrote, according to Hollywood Reporter.

Welp, it will be interesting to see what he says now.

Now they’re shutting down the news media

Nov 7th, 2018 5:19 pm | By

Ugh. Now Trump’s people have banned Jim Acosta from the White House.

A criminal subject president appointing his own prosecutor

Nov 7th, 2018 4:43 pm | By

Fred Wertheimer and Norm Eisen on Trump’s latest move:

After requesting and receiving Mr. Sessions’s resignation on Wednesday, President Trump wasted no time in naming Matthew Whitaker, Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff, as acting attorney general, and shifted the oversight role from Mr. Rosenstein back to the attorney general’s office and its new acting head.

As ethics experts, we believe Mr. Whitaker should recuse himself from the investigation. If we have ever seen an appearance of impropriety in our decades of experience, this is it: a criminal subject president appointing his own prosecutor — one who has evidently prejudged aspects of the investigation and mused about how it can be hampered.

No prosecutor — or indeed governmental official of any kind — should work on a matter under these circumstances. Mr. Whitaker must step aside. His conflicts are just as worrisome in their own way as Mr. Sessions’s conflict was, maybe more so.

Whether or not Mr. Whitaker steps aside, Mr. Trump’s audacity now demands additional safeguards. Congress must quickly put in place a plan to protect the Russia investigation before President Trump makes any further efforts to control the special counsel’s office.

It must, but will it?

This is extremely dangerous territory

Nov 7th, 2018 4:28 pm | By

My congressional representative has issued a statement on Trump’s move to obstruct the Mueller investigation:

SEATTLE, WA – Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, member of the House Judiciary Committee, released the following statement regarding the firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions:

“This was no simple resignation: President Donald Trump fired Jeff Sessions the day after an election in which his party lost control of the House. This is extremely dangerous territory, placing our nation in the throes of a potential constitutional crisis. We must do everything we can to protect the Special Counsel’s investigation, and to ensure that this president does not obstruct justice.

“The president has made it clear for months now that he considered Attorney General Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein impediments to ending the Special Counsel’s probe into interference in our elections, the Trump’s campaign’s role in that and any potential obstruction of justice from the president himself. President Trump also criticized Attorney General Sessions numerous times merely for doing the right thing and recusing himself from supervising Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. Installing a new Acting Attorney General, Matthew Whitaker, who has clearly and vocally been critical of the Special Counsel’s investigation and has called for limitations on Robert Mueller and his team, could—in and of itself—be another example of potential obstruction of justice by the president. Reports that Mr. Whitaker is seeking to take over the supervision of the Special Counsel’s investigation must be stopped immediately—we believe it is not only wildly inappropriate for Mr. Whitaker to supervise the Special Counsel, but actually illegal based on the existing regulations. The president may act as though he can simply hire and fire whomever he wants, but this is not the case if his actions are shown to subvert the rule of law and obstruct justice.

“The House Judiciary Committee Democrats have already begun issuing letters to key officials demanding that they preserve all relevant documents to ensure evidence remains safe from improper interference or destruction. There is bipartisan support for these protections. Now is the time for Congress to pass the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act and protect the Special Counsel’s investigation from any attempt to interfere and obstruct.”

It’s a bit of an emergency, really.

Is the coup approaching?

Nov 7th, 2018 4:06 pm | By

Also scary.


Nov 7th, 2018 3:48 pm | By

CNBC reports:

President Donald Trump’s new acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, will oversee special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

“The Acting Attorney General is in charge of all matters under the purview of the Department of Justice,” a spokeswoman for the department said Wednesday when asked if Whitaker would oversee Mueller’s investigation.

Which is kind of…how shall I say…shady, because Whitaker hasn’t been confirmed by the Senate.

Whitaker argued in an August 2017 op-ed for CNN that Mueller’s investigation is “dangerously close to crossing” the so-called red line not to look into the Trump family’s finances.

“It does not take a lawyer or even a former federal prosecutor like myself to conclude that investigating Donald Trump’s finances or his family’s finances falls completely outside of the realm of his 2016 campaign and allegations that the campaign coordinated with the Russian government or anyone else,” Whitaker wrote in the piece.

“That goes beyond the scope of the appointment of the special counsel.”

Less than a month earlier, Whitaker had defended Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., for accepting a meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 with Russian officials who had promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign.

“You would always take that meeting,” Whitaker said on CNN.

He sounds…how shall I say…shady.

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called on Whitaker to recuse himself, citing “his record of threats to undermine & weaken the Russia investigation.”

But if he’s shady he’s not going to recuse himself, is he, and he sounds shady.

The BBC has more:

CBS News is reporting that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is no longer leading the Mueller inquiry, and that Matthew Whitaker will now assume control.

The president cannot directly fire the special counsel, whose investigation Mr Trump has repeatedly decried as a witch hunt. But Mr Sessions’ replacement will have the power to fire Mr Mueller or end the inquiry.

Mr Rosenstein was summoned to the White House on Wednesday for what was described as a previously scheduled meeting.

This is not looking good.

Democrats were outraged by the attorney general’s removal, with the Democratic National Committee noting that the appointee has not been confirmed for the role by the US Senate as required.

The party’s Senate leader Chuck Schumer tweeted: “Clearly, the President has something to hide.”

“Given his previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the Mueller investigation, Mr Whitaker should recuse himself from its oversight for the duration of his time as acting attorney general.”

House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said: “It is impossible to read Attorney General Sessions’ firing as anything other than another blatant attempt by President Trump to undermine & end Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation.”

Not looking good at all.

Thanks and so long

Nov 7th, 2018 12:16 pm | By

Bam, Sessions is out.

Can the coup be far behind?

Scary times.

Guest post: In the middle of red America

Nov 7th, 2018 11:49 am | By

Originally a comment by iknklast on Don’t worry, be happy.

In my state, the voters voted for Medicaid expansion – yay! But…these same voters voted to retain all of the Republican incumbents who loathe Medicaid expansion with a visceral hatred that springs partially out of their hatred of taxes and partially out of their hatred for the poor. So will we actually gain the expansion voted for? Not if our governor (who just got reelected in spite of the fact that he is vile) has anything to say about it.

Don’t try to tell me Republican voters are voting how they are because they want a better life and believe the Democrats won’t bring that to them because the Democrats are only interested in “identity politics”. Don’t even try to tell me that. I know better. I live in the middle of red America, and I hear what my neighbors say. And it isn’t “I need a job”. They believe no one listens to them because there are other people that are demanding equal rights with them, and that sometimes (not often, but sometimes) get listened to and have gained a great deal from the days when said people (i.e. women and all non-white people) were unable to vote, work for pay, or even leave the grounds without permission. They are angry not that their kids can’t pray in school, since they can and all the parents actually know that, but that other people’s kids can’t be forced to pray, and pray to the “right” god. They are angry because the Democrats put up a black candidate for president, and got him elected, and then put up a woman for president who seemed to think she was entitled to run. They are angry because they are not recognized as the warrior kings they are, and are instead considered the equal of those they consider lesser, rather than being masters of those they consider lesser.

So they vote not for jobs, not for enfranchisement, not for anything that pundits claim they vote for, but instead they vote for hate.

That’s a racist question

Nov 7th, 2018 11:25 am | By

Another highlight from the Trump Meltdown press conference.

Bad hair day.

Yew shud be aschamed

Nov 7th, 2018 10:39 am | By

Aren’t we cranky today.

There’s nothing quite like the irony of watching Donald Trump shaking his finger at Jim Acosta while saying “You are a rude, terrible person” while Acosta is in fact being perfectly polite.

Call for action to publicly condemn her views

Nov 7th, 2018 10:13 am | By

More raging hatred of women dressed up as progressive activism:

Oxford SU LGBTQ Campaign

Statement concerning Oxford University History Society’s decision to invite Jenni Murray, and Oriel College, Oxford‘s decision to host the event.

tw: transphobia, terfs, transmisogyny

edit: The original statement said the event was taking place on Saturday 17th November. It is in fact taking place on Saturday 10th November.

We, the undersigned, are deeply disappointed by the Oxford University History Society’s decision to interview Dame Jenni Murray on the topic of “Powerful British Women in History and Society” on Saturday 10th of November, and call for action to publicly condemn her views and, if possible, cancel the event. Oxford SU LGBTQ+ campaign believe that inviting publically transphobic speakers to the university, without challenge, further marginalises and unnecessarily compromises the welfare of trans students and staff.

Murray has made explicitly transphobic comments in an article for the Sunday Times, dated March 5th 2017. She has told trans women “don’t call yourself a ‘real women’”, that “it takes more than a sex change and makeup”, and repeatedly insinuated that transgender women and girls are not women and can only pretend to be women. Although Murray claims to believe trans people “should be treated with respect”, she has silenced her critics by alleging that trans women are “misogynistic” for pointing out transphobia in feminist discourse, and uncritically encouraged her readers to question whether trans women and girls should be allowed to use single-sex spaces such as changing rooms and bathrooms, whether trans girls should be allowed to join Girlguiding, and so on. She repeatedly fails to approach trans issues with the same respect that she calls for, in fact achieving the exact opposite: admonishing trans women and questioning their womanhood – the same beliefs which motivate much of the violence against trans women – cannot be reconciled with her supposed support for those she calls “transsexuals” and “transvestites”.

Her views, which clearly reflect a lack of engagement with the vast majority of actual trans people, and are in sum deeply harmful to trans women and trans feminine people, contributing to and exacerbating the harassment, marginalisation, discrimination, and violence that they already face.

This event is not framed as an opportunity to respond to Murray’s views but as an uncritical discussion led by Murray as a paragon of feminist opinion, emphasised by the title of the talk, “Powerful British Women”. Inviting Murray to talk in this capacity leaves her transphobic rhetoric essentially unchallenged. While there may be “ample time for questions”, the decision to offer Murray a platform is not apolitical or neutral, especially when her views cause tangible harm to vulnerable members of our society. Obsessive and sustained media focus on trans people has recently put the valuable progress made on trans rights under threat, and the consistent prioritising of voices like Murray’s over those of trans people has intensified this. In this environment, the decision to invite Murray to Oxford in this capacity, to promise her a microphone and the undivided and uncritical attention of a room, is a decision to propagate, validate, and normalise institutionalised transphobia.

Etc etc etc, blah blah blah. In other words: how dare you invite this feminist woman to speak. Meet the new boss, exactly like the old boss.

Don’t worry, be happy

Nov 7th, 2018 9:55 am | By

Well, I wanted Gillum and Abrams to win, and that Georgia election was filthy and I hope the NAACP sues the state. And of course I wanted the Republicans to lose the Senate but I knew it wasn’t at all likely. States like Wyoming with fewer people than Seattle (and 30 other US cities) have as many senators as California with its 30 million; we have no business calling ourselves a democracy.

But don’t worry! There’s always chocolate!

But good luck enjoying them if you have a chronic or life-threatening illness and can’t get health care, or if you’re accidentally pregnant and don’t want and can’t afford a baby but can’t get an abortion, or if you’re a recent immigrant and terrified Trump will change the rules such that you’ll be kicked out any moment, or if you were never even able to vote yesterday because the wait was 4.5 hours and your boss would fire you if you were away from work that long, or if the nature in your area burned to the ground last summer…and so on.

Yes, there are lots of good things in life that are not directly politics, but the freedom and health and flourishing needed to benefit from them are all rooted in political decisions. It’s wildly fatuous to think all those things just flow from the sky while we happily embrace them, while politics happens somewhere else with no connection to you and your kids and your friends. The point of politics isn’t how “good” it is, as in a tasting menu – the point isn’t aesthetic enjoyment. The point is that it sets the terms for how we live. It can set them such that a happy few get to revel in luxury in some Downton Abbey in the sky while everyone else slaves to support them, or it can set them more equitably. Claire Lehmann can eat all the brioche she wants but it won’t change that fact.

An unfortunate distraction

Nov 6th, 2018 12:28 pm | By

Fox News is shocked, shocked, at the way some of its “reporters” are out campaigning for Trump while posing as “reporters.”

On Tuesday, Fox News publicly rebuked Hannity and Pirro for appearing with Trump. “FOX News does not condone any talent participating in campaign events,” the network said in a statement to CNBC. “We have an extraordinary team of journalists helming our coverage tonight and we are extremely proud of their work. This was an unfortunate distraction and has been addressed.” Fox did not say, however, what actions it had taken to address the issue with two of its biggest prime time stars.

Let me guess. A mid-level executive told them, “Now Sean and Jeanine, don’t ever do that again” – and then all three had a damn good laugh.

In addition to the statement from Fox, Hannity said Tuesday that when he pointed at the pool of reporters and called them “fake news” at the rally, he did not mean the Fox News reporters who were among them.

We know. That is not, in fact, the issue.

With a cub that small and vulnerable

Nov 6th, 2018 12:01 pm | By

Sure enough. Several of you mentioned a drone in the Shermer’s ursine childrearing advice post, which was news to me, but y’all were right. Ed Yong at the Atlantic:

The video was uploaded to the ViralHog YouTube channel on Friday, and after being shared on Twitter, it rapidly went viral. At the time of this writing, it has been watched 17 million times. The cub’s exploits were equal parts gif, nature documentary, and motivational poster. It had all the elements of an incredible story: the most adorable of protagonists, rising and falling action (literally), and a happy ending. It was a tale of tenacity in the face of adversity, triumph against the odds.

And a morality tale on the benefits of a sink or swim approach to childrearing as opposed to the horrors of not letting toddlers fall down steep mountainsides.

But when biologists started watching the video, they saw a very different story.

The video, they say, was clearly captured by a drone. And in it, they saw the work of an irresponsible drone operator who, in trying to film the bears, drove them into a dangerous situation that almost cost the cub its life. “I found it really hard to watch,” says Sophie Gilbert, an ecologist at the University of Idaho who studies, among other things, how drones affect wildlife. “It showed a pretty stark lack of understanding from the drone operator of the effects that his actions were having on the bears.” (It wasn’t just scientists, either; several drone pilots were also dismayed by the footage.)

The only information accompanying the video says that it was captured on June 19, 2018, in the Magadan region of Russia. No one knows who shot it, which drone was used, or how close it flew. But “it doesn’t matter how far away it was, because I can tell from the bears’ behavior that it was too close,” says Clayton Lamb of the University of Alberta, who studies grizzly bears in the Canadian Rockies and uses drones to map the area where they live.

The setting of the video is already suspicious, Lamb says. With a cub that small and vulnerable, it’s very unlikely that a mother bear would opt to traverse such a steep and slippery slope. “There’s no reason a female would normally accept that risk, unless they were forced into it,” Lamb says. Throughout the video, he notes, the mother is constantly looking up at the drone and clearly bothered by its presence. At some point, the footage zooms in, probably because the drone itself was swooping closer. That, Lamb says, explains why the mother unexpectedly swats at the cub, causing it to fall. She probably read the drone’s approach as a kind of attack and was trying to push her cub away.

But it’s ok, the drone pilot was doing the bears a favor, giving the cub a chance to toughen up and not look for handouts.

It’s all ON YOU

Nov 6th, 2018 11:27 am | By

Wait just a damn minute here.

ON US? Why? How? Says who? Why is it more on us than it is on American White Men?

Oh well I know why, really. It’s because so many people just cannot give up the fun of hating on women, no matter how thin the pretext.

Mind you there was a follow-up to deal with potential objections.

But benefiting from systemic racism is not the same thing as voting for Trump. Yes of course I benefit from systemic racism, but I don’t benefit from systemic sexism. Why is Munroe Bergdorf yelling at white women instead of white men? I can’t help thinking it’s for the reason above: Munroe Bergdorf hates women and likes to seize chances to yell at us.

“Covering” the rally

Nov 6th, 2018 10:50 am | By

Fox News is out campaigning with Donald “President” Trump.

Monday morning Sean Hannity, Fox News’ most-popular personality, tweeted that, despite what you may have heard, he was not going to campaign with President Donald Trump.

“In spite of reports, I will be doing a live show from Cape Girardeau and interviewing President Trump before the rally. To be clear, I will not be on stage campaigning with the President. I am covering final rally for my show. Something I have done in every election in the past.”

Fast-forward to Monday night. And there, standing onstage with Trump in Cape Girardeau, was Hannity, campaigning with the president. Trump called him up during the rally (the interview took place beforehand), and of course, Hannity obeyed.

Of course he did – to disobey would be treason.

Guess what he said when he got there.

“By the way,” he said, pointing to the back of the hall where reporters were gathered, “all those people in the back are fake news.”

Ahh that’s nice. Star of right-wing Fox News calls other reporters “fake news” just like the sack of wind next to him. Maybe once the election is over Trump can start arresting them all?

Jeanine Pirro, host of “Justice with Judge Jeanine” on Fox News, also appeared onstage, exhorting the crowd to vote Republican.

Meanwhile Anderson Cooper and Rachel Maddow were campaigning for Beto O’Rourke, right? No? They weren’t? Well that’s weird.