Notes and Comment Blog


Feb 6th, 2019 4:11 pm | By

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Smiles wavered

Feb 6th, 2019 12:04 pm | By

There’s a new art installation in town, a performance art piece by Jennifer Rubell in which Princess Ivanka runs a vacuum cleaner over a carpet.

It seems likely a few smiles wavered inside the White House when the Trump family learned about Rubell’s work. On Tuesday morning, Ivanka tweeted a link to an article about the performance piece and said: “Women can choose to knock each other down or build each other up. I choose the latter.”

Oh please. She works for the pig who brags about grabbing women by the pussy, and energetically and publicly insults any woman who crosses him. She works for him, defends him against critics, pockets the corrupt and illegal profits. She’s not “building up” any women.

While Ivanka may have tried to take the high ground in relation to the artwork, the fact she chose to respond publicly suggests it hit a nerve. Ivanka is far more restrained than her father and brothers when it comes to social media, and does not normally react to every provocation. She could have let the artwork fade from the news cycle; instead she chose to amplify it. Why?

While the inner workings of Ivanka’s mind are an eternal mystery, one imagines Rubell’s performance piece may have touched upon a particular sore spot with Ivanka: her carefully cultivated relationship with the art world. Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, are avid art collectors. Admittedly they sometimes forget this: Kushner failed to mention their multimillion dollar collection in required financial disclosures, despite Ivanka regularly posting pictures of their haul on Instagram. Lawyers defended this omission by stating that the couple’s art collection is purely “for decorative purposes”, rather than an investment.

Is that how that works? So if you have a $20 million house that you think is really pretty you don’t have to include that $20 million on your financial disclosures?

With Donald Trump in the White House, and Ivanka standing staunchly beside him as he enacts regressive policies and spouts inflammatory rhetoric, however, many artists have made it clear they have no interest in being associated with the first daughter. Back in 2016, when progressives still had hope that Ivanka might be a good influence in the White House, the Halt Action Group, founded by Powers, the artist Jonathan Horowitz and other art world figures, started a campaign called Dear Ivanka. The group contacted artists who had featured in Ivanka’s Instagram posts and asked them to challenge the White House adviser on her hypocrisy.

Don’t bother. She’s every bit as sleazy and worthless as the rest of the clan.

Told by West Yorkshire police

Feb 6th, 2019 10:35 am | By

I’ve mentioned a couple of times en passant that a couple of trans activists had managed to get The Police to go visit Graham Linehan to “caution” him about saying unapproved things on Twitter, but now in following the story of a woman who was actually arrested and held for seven hours, apparently also for saying unapproved things on Twitter, I’ve done a little more digging.

The Guardian, October 7 last year:

Graham Linehan, the co-writer of the sitcom Father Ted, has been given a verbal harassment warning by police after a complaint by a transgender activist.

Linehan was told by West Yorkshire police not to contact the activist Stephanie Hayden, after a row on Twitter.

Hayden reported him for transphobia after he referred to her as “he” and for “deadnaming” her by referring to her by names used before she transitioned.

Why the West Yorkshire police? When Linehan is in Norfolk? Nobody knows, apart from the fact that West Yorks seems to have nominated itself superintendent of all trans-related crimespeak.

But the real question is, why is it a police matter if one person calls another person “he” instead of “she” on Twitter? Even if you think it’s insulting and cruel, why is it a police matter? How and when did it become a police matter? What are the rules? What are the relevant laws? How does anyone know? How can people in the UK tell what they have to do to avoid a visit from the police that goes on their record?

And what happens when Stephanie Hayden phones the West Yorkshire police to “report” misgendering and deadnaming? How does the conversation go? Do misgendering and deadnaming have designated numbers in the big book of crimes by number?

The pair had been involved in a dispute on Twitter about gender identity, resulting in the writer retweeting a post to his 672,000 followers that gave Hayden’s previous names with pictures.

Linehan alleges that Hayden posted several addresses linked to his family in an attempt to “shut me up”.

Hayden, who is pursuing civil proceedings accusing Linehan of harassment, defamation and misuse of private information, said she spent five hours providing a statement and evidence to police after the exchange.

Five hours. That seems like a long time to report “misgendering.”

Posting on Twitter, Hayden said she had urged police to take “swift and proportionate action to make clear that transgender harassment was unacceptable”.

When the police have never, ever, ever, ever taken swift and proportionate action to make clear that misogynist harassment is unacceptable. The police have never taken any action of any kind to do that.

Hayden has previously accused Sussex University of being a “temple of transgender hate” and supported the campaign to oust female academics if they challenged transgender orthodoxy.

She was also among the activists who pressurised a billboard company to remove a poster in Liverpool, which said the dictionary definition of “woman” was an “adult human female” because it was offensive.

Hayden gloated at the time.

Even if you agree that “transphobia in any form is unacceptable”, and that not believing men can become or be women counts as transphobia, it still doesn’t follow that putative transphobia is a police matter.

Having said that…if you live in the UK it’s probably wise to steer clear of Stephanie Hayden, lest you too hear that loud knock on the door.

Stop whatever you’re doing and watch this

Feb 6th, 2019 9:40 am | By

A disagreeable lunch

Feb 5th, 2019 5:56 pm | By

Apparently the thing on the teleprompter for Donnie’s talk this evening will have words about being nice and bipartisan and yadda yadda, but Donnie had some people over for lunch today and was his usual malevolent mouthy self.

Mr. Trump dismissed former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. as “dumb,” called Senator Chuck Schumer of New York a “nasty son of a bitch” and mocked Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia for “choking like a dog” at a news conference where he tried to explain a racist yearbook photo, according to multiple people in the room.

He doesn’t half project, does he. He’s a hell of a lot more dumb than Biden, and vastly more of a nasty sonofabitch than Schumer and in fact 99.99% of people on the planet. What “choking like a dog” is supposed to mean, apart from its kinship with “I moved on her like a bitch,” I don’t know, but it’s obviously not a compliment.

The White House declined to comment on the president’s remarks.

Energized and blunt, Mr. Trump held little back during the lunch at the White House to preview the State of the Union address. As he has in past years, he offered an unvarnished, unscripted view of the political world that went well beyond the heavily vetted speech he is to deliver to a joint session of Congress and a national television audience.

In other words he put on a vulgar, crude, trashy, mean, disgusting display of egomania and greed.

He said he hoped he would get to run against Mr. Biden. “I hope it’s Biden,” Mr. Trump said. “Biden was never very smart. He was a terrible student. His gaffes are unbelievable. When I say something that you might think is a gaffe, it’s on purpose; it’s not a gaffe. When Biden says something dumb, it’s because he’s dumb.”


Not every target was a Democrat. He recounted again the story of what he considered Senator John McCain’s betrayal in voting against advancing a measure to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care program. Although Mr. McCain has since died, Mr. Trump remains upset.

“By the way,” Mr. Trump said, “he wrote a book and the book bombed.”

What a repulsive imitation of a human being he is.

He’ll be doing his talk in a few minutes. I wouldn’t listen to it if you paid me.

The catholic church is a pimp

Feb 5th, 2019 5:32 pm | By

The pope says oh yes it’s true that priests have been abusing nuns since always, we know all about it, we make sure to keep the nuns powerless so that they won’t kill us, would you like a biscuit?

Nuns have suffered and are still suffering sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests and bishops, and have even been held as sexual slaves, Pope Francis confirmed on Tuesday. The abuse was so severe in one case that an entire congregation of nuns was dissolved by former Pope Benedict.

The scope of the abuse of nuns by clergy members first came to light with the publication at the beginning of February of the monthly Vatican magazine “Women Church World.” The edition included Francis’ own take on the scandal — long known about by the Vatican but virtually never discussed — in which he blamed the unchecked power wielded by priests and higher clergy across the Catholic Church for such crimes.

Why yes, duh: the fact that the priesthood adamantly excludes women of course makes the priests feel both entitled and free to abuse nuns in any old way they feel like, so how about doing something about it, you galactic shit? Open the priesthood to women or get out of the church, either one, but don’t stay in it with the grotesque inequality intact and shrug your shoulders at the abuse. The two are inextricably entwined.

A journalist asked the pope if he was doing anything about it and he said blah blah blah process blah blah action needed blah.

“It’s a path that we’ve been on. Pope Benedict had the courage to dissolve a female congregation which was at a certain level, because this slavery of women had entered it — slavery, even to the point of sexual slavery — on the part of clerics or the founder,” the pope conceded.

No, you corrupt sack of shit, that’s not what you do; you dissolve the male congregations that are doing the abusing. “We’ve tried really hard, we’ve punished the powerless victims.”

Francis told reporters on his flight that the Catholic Church,” shouldn’t be scandalized by this,” adding that “there are steps in a process,” and “we are working on it.”

No, they’re not, they’re working on getting away with it. The only solution, making the church a non-patriarchal institution, is beyond them, because they think god is a boy just as they are boys, and that boys have to be on top, ad maiorem dei gloriam.

The Vatican’s new openness in discussing the abuse of nuns comes after years of revelations about clergy abusing children, mostly boys, in their congregations across the globe, and senior clergy members covering up those crimes.

They’ll talk about it, they just won’t do anything about it.

The billionaires’ lament

Feb 5th, 2019 2:29 pm | By

Speaking of people wanting to be “recognized” not as what they are but as some other, more interesting thing – poor billionaire Howard Schultz doesn’t like being called a billionaire.

Billionaire Howard Schultz isn’t a fan of being called a billionaire.

On Monday, the former Starbucks CEO and chairman sat down with the New York Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin to talk about his book “From the Ground Up: A Journey to Reimagine the Promise of America.”

Sorkin asked Schultz to respond to a question from the “Winner Takes All” author Anand Giridharadas — who’s been critical of Schultz’s political ambitions — about whether or not billionaires wield too much political power in the US.

The horror! You mean like the Koch brothers? The fossil fuel plutocrats who want us to keep on making the planet hotter? The Facebook twerp who let Russia get Trump elected?

Schultz appeared to take issue with the question’s phrasing, saying, “The moniker ‘billionaire’ now has become the catchphrase.”

A single word can’t be a catchphrase, now can it. But never mind that; the point is – it’s relevant that billionaires like Schultz and Perot and pseudo-billionaires like Trump feel entitled to run for president despite having zero relevant experience or knowledge or qualities of character. It’s relevant that they can buy their way in. It’s relevant that no one would give a flying fuck about Howard Schultz if he weren’t a billionaire. Yes we get to talk about it, using the correct word.

Schultz’s concern about the word “billionaire” also echoes that of another famous billionaire: Elon Musk.

On July 10, 2018, Musk tweeted that the media uses the term “billionaire” to “devalue” and “denigrate” people. Musk’s net worth is $21.3 billion, according to Forbes.

Just the scale has changed – well yes, that’s the point.


Feb 5th, 2019 2:05 pm | By

What’s wrong with this picture.

I don’t think I’m being virtuous. I just think that people should be recognized as how they are. Pretty low bar for virtue. For example: trans women are women. Calling trans women “Male” because you are transphobic is a you problem. Don’t make it their problem.

Spot the flaw. BZZZZZZZT! Correct! The flaw is the non sequitur between sentence two and sentence four:

People should be recognized as how they are. For example: trans women are women.

But that’s not an example of recognizing people as how they are; it’s the opposite. Trans women are in fact men who identify as / think they are / call themselves / claim to be women. How do we go about “recognizing” people as how they are [inside their heads but not on the outside] unless they come with large legible labels attached? In ordinary everyday life we “recognize” people as how they are via our senses and the information our senses give us based on cues we have learned over however many years we’ve lived.

He means something more like “endorse” or “agree with” but didn’t say that…probably because putting it that way makes it more obvious that it isn’t about “how they are” but “how they imagine themselves.” The demand is that we treat fantasies as reality, but the advocates of doing so don’t put it that way because it’s such an obviously unreasonable demand.

The $107 million party

Feb 5th, 2019 10:31 am | By

The New York feds are looking into Trump’s inauguration scams.

Federal prosecutors in New York on Monday delivered a sweeping request for documents related to donations and spending by President Trump’s inaugural committee, a sign of a deepening criminal investigation into activities related to the nonprofit organization.

A wide-ranging subpoena served on the inaugural committee Monday seeks an array of documents, including all information related to inaugural donors, vendors, contractors, bank accounts of the inaugural committee and any information related to foreign contributors to the committee, according to a copy reviewed by The Washington Post.

Trump’s inaugural committee raised a record $107 million to fund events and parties surrounding his assumption of office in January 2017, more than twice the amount raised to fund President Barack Obama’s 2009 inaugural.

Contributions were made by a wide array of corporate interests and wealthy Trump supporters, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

But it couldn’t possibly be anything to do with people buying favor, could it?

The request for documents, first reported by ABC News, is a sign of another widening legal headache for Trump, whose business, personal charitable foundation and campaign are all under investigation by state and federal authorities.

Almost as if he’s a massive crook and always has been.

Be best

Feb 5th, 2019 10:22 am | By

Trump is reading his speech later today, and he’s invited a kid to come along to the show.

An 11-year-old boy who says he’s been bullied because of his last name — Trump — will be one of President Trump and first lady Melania Trump’s guests at the State of the Union on Tuesday, the White House announced.

Joshua Trump, a sixth-grade student from Wilmington, Del., who is not related to the president, drew headlines last year after his parents went public to share stories of the abuse they said he had suffered because of his last name.

Melania Trump has made combating bullying one of her main priorities in the White House — the thrust of her “Be Best” initiative.

Yes well that’s all very sweet but Trump is the worst and by far the most visible bully in US public life today. He’s the guy who brags about grabbing women by the pussy, he’s the guy who as president calls people insulting names on Twitter day in and day out, he’s the guy who punched his kid to the floor in front of his friends, he’s the guy who oversaw a deliberate policy to traumatize children on the southern border. The fact that he’s a bully is perhaps the most salient and disgusting fact about him.

And notice the reason for inviting this particular kid – not that he was bullied but that he was bullied because his last name is Trump. It’s just more ego. It’s not about the bullying, it’s about the ego.

So could I please stop writing things like that?

Feb 5th, 2019 9:11 am | By

Good; it’s in the Spectator. James Kirkup as usual.

Margaret Nelson is a 74-year-old woman who lives in a village in Suffolk. On Monday morning she was woken by a telephone call. It was an officer from Suffolk police. The officer wanted to speak to Mrs Nelson about her Twitter account and her blog.

Mrs Nelson, a former humanist celebrant and one-time local newspaper journalist, enjoys tweeting and writing about a number of issues, including the legal and social distinctions between sex and gender.

Among the statements she made on Twitter last month and which apparently concerned that police officer: ‘Gender is BS. Pass it on’.


‘Gender’s fashionable nonsense. Sex is real. I’ve no reason to feel ashamed of stating the truth. The bloody annoying ones are those who use words like ‘cis’ or ‘terf’ and other BS, and relegate biological women to a ‘subset’. Sorry you believe the mythology.’

Welp, I agree with all of that, so I’ll probably never be allowed into the UK again.

What’s next? Passage of actual laws mandating agreement with claims that men who say they “identify as” women literally are women? How much is 2 + 2, Winston?

Then there was the shock-horror blog post about sexing corpses.

Mrs Nelson told me this about the call from the police:

‘The officer said she wanted to talk to me about some of the things I’d written on Twitter and my blog. She said that some of the things that I’d written could have upset or offended transgender people. So could I please stop writing things like that and perhaps I could remove those posts and tweets?’

‘I asked the officer if she agreed that free speech was important. She said it was. I said that in that case, she’d understand that I wouldn’t be removing the posts or stopping saying the things I think. She accepted that and that was the end of the conversation.’

I can’t even imagine how enraged I would be if I got a phone call like that from the police. I imagine spontaneous combustion. Maybe this is a provocateur operation? The cop is a double agent?

Mrs Nelson, of course, is not the only person to have been treated in such a way. Last month, Harry Miller, a businessman in Lincolnshire received a call from Humberside Police about what the force considered a potential ‘hate incident’. Mr Miller had tweeted about transgender issues and, like Mrs Nelson, had questioned the assertion that someone born with a male body can become a woman on the basis of their proclaimed gender identity. There are other similar cases too, where the police have interviewed people for saying things that are alleged to have caused upset and distress to transgender people.

Maybe it’s all Adrian Harrop’s doing. He spends hours every day tagging various law enforcement bodies in on his complaints about non-compliant tweets about gender. He longs to see terfs locked up for resisting.

There are many practical and factual questions that arise from cases like these.

Why are the police acting in this way? What training have officers received in relation to transgender issues, and from whom? Are some people or organisations deliberately and vexatiously exploiting some police forces’ stance on this issue to instigate police action against people who say things they do not like? Could such police actions exert a chilling effect on the expression of opinion on transgender issues? Isn’t it possible that some people will now think ‘I’d best not say what I think about sex and gender, or the police might get involved?’

There are also some questions of principle.

Is it the job of police officers to act in such a way? To police private, lawful expressions of opinion, simply because some people complain that they find those expressions of opinion upsetting or unkind? What are the police for?

There are also some “why” questions about why this, why now, why so fast, why so bonkers, why so overkill?


Shortly after this piece was published, Suffolk Police sent me a statement effectively admitting that they made a mistake by calling Mrs Nelson. A Suffolk Constabulary spokesman said:

“We accept we made a misjudgement in following up a complaint regarding the blog. As a result of this we will be reviewing our procedures for dealing with such matters. We are sorry for any distress we may have caused in the way this issue was dealt with, and have been in contact with the woman who wrote the blog to apologise.”

Which is, I suppose, a good thing and the force should be commended for admitting its mistake and apologising. But there are still questions that remain unanswered. One of them: why on earth did anyone ever think that this was the right thing to do in the first place? 

Very much so. Yes, they made a “misjudgement,” but why? It’s a bit like saying we made a misjudgement when we sliced that random person in pieces with a machete and we will be reviewing our procedures. It’s good as far as it goes but that’s not very far.

From GamerGate to Learn to Code

Feb 4th, 2019 3:05 pm | By

Talia Lavin explains the profound meaning of “Learn to Code.”

Last Thursday, I received the news that the HuffPost Opinion section—where I’d been opining on a weekly basis for a few months—had been axed in its entirety. The same opinion column had had a home at The Village Voice for some 21 weeks before that entire publication shuttered as well. “This business sucks,” I tweeted, chagrined at the simple fact that I kept losing my column because of the cruel, ongoing shrinkage of independent journalism in the United States. Dozens of jobs were slashed at HuffPost that day, following a round of layoffs at Gannett Media; further jobs were about to be disappeared at BuzzFeed. It was a grim day for the media, and I just wanted to channel my tiny part of the prevailing gloom.

I follow a lot of journalists and columnists so I saw a lot of tweets about that grim day for the media.

Then the responses started rolling in—some sympathy from fellow journalists and readers, then an irritating gush of near-identical responses: “Learn to code.” “Maybe learn to code?” “BETTER LEARN TO CODE THEN.” “Learn to code you useless bitch.” Alongside these tweets were others: “Stop writing fake news and crap.” “MAGA.” “Your opinions suck and no one wants to read them.” “Lmao journalists are evil wicked cretins. I wish you were all jail [sic] and afraid.”

She looked at the mentions of a lot of other journalists and columnists and saw the same swarming. She suspected a coordinated attack.

My suspicions were confirmed when conservative figures like Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump Jr. joined the pile-on, revealing the ways in which right-wing hordes have harnessed social media to discredit and harass their opponents.

Been there, seen that, got no T shirt.

Often hatched in the internet’s right-wing cesspools, these campaigns unleash a mass of harassment on unsuspecting targets. 4chan’s /pol/ board—a gathering-place for people who want to say the n-word freely, vilify feminists, and opine on nefarious Jewish influence—has an oversize role in organizing brigade attacks, in part due to the fact that all its users are anonymous.

While it’s difficult to trace the origins of brigading—like most of internet history, its beginnings are ephemeral—the term, and its tactics, came to new prominence during the loosely organized and militantly misogynist harassment campaign known now as GamerGate, which unfolded over the course of 2014 and 2015.

I remember it well. First GamerGate, then Trump. It’s almost as if there’s a pattern.

Let’s make it bigger news then

Feb 4th, 2019 11:15 am | By

And another thing about this business of the police calling people on the phone to “raise awareness” of complaints about a blog post that says cadavers reveal sex…

Another thing about that…What the hell makes them think anyone needs awareness raised when social media already exist? Not to mention phones, and Margaret Nelson said she’s easy to find. The people who have complaints can express them to Nelson; what makes the police think they need to help out? Since when is it part of the police’s job to amplify tweets and blog comments?

Also…they are the police. They don’t just “raise awareness” by phoning people early in the morning to say there’s bin complaints about u. They scare the bejeezus out of people by doing that. And guess what, they’re perfectly well aware of it. A phone call from the police to report complaints about your activities is not just a friendly sharing of information, and they fucking know it.

So don’t give us this “for no other reason” shit. They are the police. They’re not in the business of “raising awareness” of random gripes, they’re in the business of putting the frighteners on people, as well as of forcibly arresting people when need arises. They are the police. They’re not an arm of Twitter, they’re not social media outreach assistants, they are the police.

Anyway what do they mean “for no other reason”? Why do they think awareness needs raising at all? They don’t call us to raise our awareness of the sale on at Tesco, so why would they call us to raise our awareness of “comments made online”? Other than to give us a very broad hint that we should stop doing whatever it is we’re doing?

The answer: they fucking wouldn’t. Calling us to “raise our awareness” of complaints is telling us to shut up. It’s the police, telling us to shut up, because men who want us to pretend they are women have been whining to the police about us. That’s what it is.

Good morning, this is the police

Feb 4th, 2019 10:33 am | By

You have got to be kidding.

The police. PHONING. Phoning to tell you your “online activity” has “caused offense.”

What blog post?

Let’s read it, to see if we can find what “caused offense” and of what type the caused “offense” was.

It starts with a tweet.

It goes on to point out that cadavers are easy to sex.

If a transgender person’s body was dissected, either for medical education or a post-mortem examination, his or her sex would also be obvious to a student or pathologist. Not the sex that he or she chose to present as, but his or her natal sex; the sex that he or she was born with. Even when a body has been buried for a very long time, so that there is no soft tissue left, only bone, it is still possible to identify the sex. DNA and characteristics such as the shape of the pelvis will be clear proof of the sex of the corpse. Any surgery that had been intended to make someone appear different from his or her biological sex, the sex they were born with, will make no difference. It will still be obvious. There is a very small number of people who are described as intersex, because their anatomy isn’t typical of a male or female, but their existence doesn’t validate the claim that a man can be a woman or vice versa. They are very different from transgender people. So no, in life or in death, trans women are not women, no matter how many times you say it’s so. It’s simply impossible to change your sex.

It’s a factual question, not a political one, yet we keep being told it is factual (see the tweet from Sammy68). And the police call Margaret Nelson on the phone to tell her that her factual statements have “caused offense.” It’s both ludicrous and terrifying.

Mind you the police did later tell her it was just to “raise awareness.” But to what end? The police don’t normally call us up to tell us somebody disliked one of our tweets or blog posts, so why this time? Why? Why? Why? What red flag is up in what bureaucracy that warns police departments all over the UK that they have to be hypervigilant about perceived “offense” in blog posts and tweets about whether or not men can become women?

Funny how the police never phone up the angry men who target feminist women for days and weeks and months on end.

The Trumpers carefully planned to traumatize children

Feb 4th, 2019 9:38 am | By

I’ve seen headlines saying the Trump administration started grabbing children away from their parents at the southern border a lot earlier than it had admitted, but I didn’t follow them up. I should have. The law library blog at Stanford collected some blood-chilling details.

Via Truthdig:

Following reports on Thursday that federal officials forcibly separated thousands more migrant children from their families than previously reported, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D.-Ore.) released a document to NBC News revealing the Trump administration intended to “traumatize children and intentionally create a humanitarian crisis at the border.”

The December 2017 draft memo—which Merkley shared with NBC News after receiving it from a government whistleblower—shows that Trump administration officials wanted to deport children more quickly by denying them asylum hearings after taking them away from their parents.

Daily Kos:

Toss a few more on the vast pile of lies we know the Trump administration has told about its cruel family separation policy. Sen. Jeff Merkley released a draft memo, leaked by a whistleblower, showing that the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security thoroughly gamed out different ways they could tear children from their parents and use it as a deterrent to keep migrants from seeking asylum at the border.

The memo dates to December 2017, when border crossings were dramatically lower than in December 2016, yet is titled “Policy Options to Respond to Border Surge of Illegal Immigration.” In the memo and in comments on it, Trump administration officials floated the possibility of taking children from their parents but then denying them a hearing before an immigration judge and deporting the whole family—without necessarily reunifying them first. “It appears that they wanted to have it both ways,” ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt said. “To separate children from their parents but deny them the full protections generally awarded to unaccompanied children.”

The draft memo also considered restricting green cards available to abused, abandoned, or neglected children, as well as previewing the policy of intensive background checks of people who agreed to sponsor unaccompanied migrant children. Publicly, the Trump administration claims that this is for the safety of the children—children they held in detention camps—but the memo acknowledged that the policy would lead to kids being held longer.

A lot of Trump administration policies are based on whim-tweets by Donald Trump and then implemented by his loyal flunkies. This was not. This was carefully gamed-out cruelty to children.

And to parents through their children, which is excruciating, and monstrous.

Birth of a slogan

Feb 4th, 2019 9:14 am | By

It seems the Washington Post ran a rather compelling ad during the “Super Bowl” yesterday, expanding on its post-Trump inauguration masthead slogan “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” Paul Farhi explained in February 2017:

The Washington Post added a new phrase beneath its online masthead this week — “Democracy Dies in Darkness” — and the commentary flowed immediately. The slogan quickly trended on Twitter, drawing tweets even from the People’s Daily newspaper in China. It was fodder for a few late-night cracks from Stephen Colbert, who suggested some of the rejected phrases included “No, You Shut Up,” “Come at Me, Bro” and “We Took Down Nixon — Who Wants Next?”

Why that particular quartet of words? It goes back to Woodward, who says he got it from a judicial opinion, which Farhi traces back to

Judge Damon J. Keith, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, who ruled in a pre-Watergate era case that the government couldn’t wiretap individuals without a warrant. In his decision, Keith apparently coined a variation on The Post’s motto, writing that “Democracy dies in the dark.”

Flatter, isn’t it. “The dark” just sounds like what you find in the back of the closet; “darkness” is more spooky, more abstract and general, more of a metaphor.

So anyway. Keep lighting candles and passing them around.

Your views are not welcome in the Liberal Democrats

Feb 3rd, 2019 3:31 pm | By

Lynne Featherstone celebrates LGBT history month with the Liberal Democrats:

We have a long way to go.

It is our duty and responsibility to fight for equal rights everywhere we can. For LGBT+ people to express who they are, without fear. For trans people to be seen as people and welcomed into all spaces. For people of any sexuality and gender to come and live here without persecution.

Wait a second.

First – who doesn’t see trans people as people? That’s a red herring. The issue isn’t whether they’re people or not, the issue is whether they can change material reality just by declaration.

And second – welcomed into all spaces? Like, for instance, into all our living rooms, even if we’re busy? That’s a ludicrous demand. Nobody is welcomed into all spaces, and that’s ok. We get to have some personal space, and we also get to have some social spaces where we can choose whom to welcome. Yes, that does include spaces for women, and that can mean literal / physical / natal women only if that’s what the women in question want.

But it turns out that Lynne Featherstone is downright hostile to women who decline to pretend that trans women are women exactly as women are.

I also have a message to those people who believe they can restrict trans women’s rights, deny their human rights, or exclude them from women-only spaces in the name of feminism: You are not feminists. Your views are not welcome in the Liberal Democrats.

I don’t know of any feminists who want to restrict trans women’s rights or deny their human rights; that’s another red herring. But the third item? Feminist women are not allowed to exclude men who say they “identify as” women from women-only spaces? That’s another matter, and I don’t think it’s one that Lynne Feathersone gets to adjudicate quite that abruptly. I also don’t think she gets to try to exclude feminist women from the Liberal Democrats quite that abruptly or to re-define feminism so that it excludes women who think that men are not women so abruptly.

Guest post: The same wellspring of desire for order and for answers

Feb 3rd, 2019 12:40 pm | By

Originally a comment by Seth on 13 bible verses.

I just watched an interview wherein Neil deGrasse Tyson sat in Stephen Colbert’s chair and interviewed Stephen as a guest on his own show (I suspect, since they’ve been such good friends over the last fourteen years, they thought it was a welcome change of pace to have the conversation go somewhat the other way). The slice of conversation relevant to my point here begins at the 6:15 mark, though there is more context and banter that can also work to frame it from the preceding minute or two.

In summary, Tyson, who is publicly agnostic in the most milquetoast way but obviously an atheist in every way that matters, asks Colbert, who is perhaps the most famous progressive Catholic in the world, how he resolved his desire to know and his respect for the evidence with the tensions of his faith; Colbert rejected this as a false dichotomy, in a friendly but nevertheless tension-inducing way, and he went on to describe his faith as the answer to ‘why is there something rather than nothing’. It was founded upon his deep and utter gratitude at existing, his inability to explain why, and his personal tradition of channeling that majestic awe through the framework of Catholicism and, more specifically, his ‘…gratitude for Christ, through Him all things were made’.

Which, naturally, got uproarious applause from the progressive audience, who doubtless felt their heartstrings pulled by such piety; and it got an indulgent non-response from Tyson, who doubtless judged his comradeship the better part of valour. And, arguably to his credit but I think ultimately to his shame, Colbert defused the tension by saying he was ‘…taught by intellectual Catholics who believed you could be a Catholic and still question your Church’, and followed up with a joke about how the proper term for such a belief was being a Protestant.

And, of course, Stephen Colbert is not personally responsible for this sort of tragedy. The members of his church are likewise blameless. But the high-minded personal faith he espouses in that banter, the guiding light and reassuring answer to the mystery of his existence, is inextricably bound up in the same base urges and failed pattern-seeking that led this little band of psychopaths to feel righteous for torturing a child to death. They come from the same taproot, the same wellspring of desire for order and for answers.

This sort of thing is what inevitably happens when one group of apes holds itself as beyond any critique or inquiry, and the very same faith that Colbert espouses is the most reliable source of such constructions. And the Colberts of the world are somehow never held to account for this.

They are, disgustingly, applauded.

Slacker time

Feb 3rd, 2019 12:12 pm | By

Trump spends most of his time watching tv.

A White House source has leaked President Trump’s private schedules for nearly every working day since the midterms, showing that Trump has spent around 60% of the last three months in “Executive Time.”

They share a doc that shows the details. The first day that shows is all “executive time” apart from one meeting at 11.

They compare this leisure-filled “schedule” to those of his predecessors.

Trump has the least in common with George W. Bush.

  • Bush’s calendar was tightly scheduled and booked out months ahead.
  • Bush would wake around 5:15 a.m.; have coffee with his wife, Laura; read the newspapers; and get to the Oval Office by 6:45 a.m., per a former top aide who spoke anonymously to avoid offending Trump.
  • Bush 43 was assiduously punctual. His schedulers broke his days into 10-minute increments, with the first meeting around 8:15 a.m., according to the former aide.
  • A 20-minute meeting would run over two increments; meetings started early and finished on time. If Bush wanted to continue a conversation with an outsider, his staff would schedule a follow-up meeting.
  • He sometimes watched sports in the residence, but rarely watched TV in the West Wing.
  • After Bush finished his workday, around 5:30 or 6 p.m., he’d do a workout on his stationary bike, finish dinner by 7:30 p.m., read his briefing materials in the Treaty Room, and be in bed reading a book by about 9 p.m., according to the former aide.

Barack Obama was similarly disciplined. But unlike Bush, he would sometimes stay up until 2 a.m. reading.

  • His daily private schedule would typically have 6 meetings, as well as intelligence and economic briefings, according to Alyssa Mastromonaco, his deputy chief of staff for operations.
  • Obama would usually get to the Oval Office around 9 a.m. and leave around 6 or 6:30 p.m. for dinner with the first lady and his daughters. He would have evening events around 3 nights a week and would travel domestically about 3 times a month, Mastromonaco said.
  • “There were unscheduled blocks of time, but they were a rare occurrence, and usually leading into bigger moments — foreign trips, State of the Union, etc.,” she emailed.

In a way, of course, we want a Trump who gives himself a lot of time off (as long as we’re forced to have a Trump at all), rather than one who gets busy breaking more things. But that doesn’t make his lazy ass any less disgusting and contemptible.

Uncanny narratives

Feb 3rd, 2019 11:15 am | By

David Wallace-Wells used to shrug off climate change as just the price of economic growth, and then he didn’t any more.

A few years ago, I began collecting stories of climate change, many of them terrifying, gripping, uncanny narratives, with even the most small-scale sagas playing like fables: a group of Arctic scientists trapped when melting ice isolated their research centre on an island also populated by a group of polar bears; a Russian boy killed by anthrax released from a thawing reindeer carcass that had been trapped in permafrost for many decades. At first, it seemed the news was inventing a new genre of allegory. But of course climate change is not an allegory. Beginning in 2011, about a million Syrian refugees were unleashed on Europe by a civil war inflamed by climate change and drought; in a very real sense, much of the “populist moment” the west is passing through now is the result of panic produced by the shock of those migrants.

And that’s very alarming, because it’s not as if the trend is going to reverse itself. If we get racism and Trumps now what will it be like as the mass migrations get ever more mass?

The likely flooding of Bangladesh threatens to create 10 times as many, or more, received by a world that will be even further destabilised by climate chaos – and, one suspects, less receptive the browner those in need. And then there will be the refugees from sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the rest of south Asia – 140 million by 2050, the World Bank estimates, more than 10 times the Syrian crisis.

It wouldn’t go smoothly even if every single refugee were rich and lily-white.

Because these numbers are so small, we tend to trivialise the differences between them – one, two, four, five. But, as with world wars or recurrences of cancer, you don’t want to see even one. At 2C, the ice sheets will begin their collapse, bringing, over centuries, 50 metres of sea-level rise. An additional 400 million people will suffer from water scarcity, major cities in the equatorial band of the planet will become unlivable, and even in the northern latitudes heatwaves will kill thousands each summer. There would be 32 times as many extreme heatwaves in India, and each would last five times as long, exposing 93 times more people. This is our best-case scenario. At 3C, southern Europe would be in permanent drought, and the average drought in Central America would last 19 months longer. In northern Africa, the figure is 60 months longer: five years. At 4C, there would be 8m more cases of dengue fever each year in Latin America alone and close to annual global food crises. Damages from river flooding would grow thirtyfold in Bangladesh, twentyfold in India, and as much as sixtyfold in the UK. Globally, damages from climate-driven natural disasters could pass $600tn – more than twice the wealth that exists in the world today. Conflict and warfare could double.

But it’s all in the future…except when it’s not.

The California fires of 2017 burned the state’s wine crop, blowtorched million-dollar vacation properties, and threatened both the Getty Museum and Rupert Murdoch’s Bel-Air estate. There may not be two better symbols of the imperiousness of American money than those two structures. Nearby Disneyland was quickly canopied by an eerily apocalyptic orange sky. On local golf courses, the west coast’s wealthy swung their clubs just yards from blazing fires in photographs that could not have been more perfectly staged to skewer the country’s indifferent plutocracy. Last year, Americans watched the Kardashians evacuate via Instagram stories, then read about the private firefighting forces they employed, the rest of the state reliant on a public force full of conscripted convicts earning as little as a dollar a day.

And the fires are not only the effects of warming, they also add to it.

When trees die – by natural processes, by fire, at the hands of humans – they release into the atmosphere the carbon stored within them, sometimes for as long as centuries. In this way, they are like coal. This is why the effect of wildfires on emissions is among the most feared climate feedback loops – that the world’s forests, which have typically been carbon sinks, would become carbon sources, unleashing all that stored gas. The impact can be especially dramatic when the fires ravage forests arising out of peat. Peatland fires in Indonesia in 1997, for instance, released up to 2.6 gigatons (Gt) of carbon – 40% of the average annual global emissions level. And more burning only means more warming only means more burning. Wildfires make a mockery of the technocratic approach to emissions reduction.

In the Amazon, 100,000 fires were found to be burning in 2017. At present, its trees take in a quarter of all the carbon absorbed by the planet’s forests each year. But in 2018, Jair Bolsonaro was elected president of Brazil, promising to open the rainforest to development – which is to say, deforestation. How much damage can one person do to the planet? A group of Brazilian scientists has estimated that between 2021 and 2030, Bolsonaro’s deforestation would release the equivalent of 13.12 Gt of carbon. In 2017, the US, with all of its aeroplanes and automobiles and coal plants, emitted about 5 Gt.

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