All the poles are reversed

Jan 14th, 2020 12:02 pm | By

Let’s look at this one again.

3. Two cis women debating trans equality is like two men debating women’s equality – paternalistic and inappropriate. We are not the voices that should be centred.

You see what she’s doing there. It’s what the “activists” do…including, so often, so bafflingly, women. They pretend the magic of “trans” makes men the subordinated party as opposed to the subordinating. They pretend the magic of “trans” makes women Privileged in relation to men. They pretend the magic of “trans” flips the terms and makes women the people who oppress and dominate men.

I will never understand it. Never. I can see thinking that men who are acutely uncomfortable being men have an unhappy lot, and deserve support and sympathy and so on. I cannot see thinking they are actually the underlings while women are the sneering prosperous overlords.

Helen Joyce nails it.

Things that affect real people

Jan 14th, 2020 11:20 am | By

Earlier today –

Fellow academic Alison Phipps responds:

I am particularly struck by “These issues are not abstract thought experiments but things that affect real people.” This is a working academic talking, remember – a working academic claiming there is a gulf between things that affect real people and discussion of such things among academics. If that’s what she thinks why is she even an academic?

Sex, gender, justice, equality, identity, material reality, truth, fantasy, lies, social contagion, intersectionality, rights, law, justice, fairness, body, mind – all are “things that affect real people” and that’s why we discuss them and try hard to get them right. What an admission it is for an academic to say she thinks that discussion is just idle chat between unreal people.

The item about “Two cis women debating trans equality” is also absurd, of course. It would be two women discussing whether men who call themselves women are literally women in all senses and also more marginalized than not-trans women and thus entitled to demand that feminism “center” them.

I guess we should conclude that Phipps isn’t confident she can defend that claim and so is making silly excuses.

Cancel all previous excuses

Jan 14th, 2020 10:45 am | By

Take a moment to feel compassion for a guy who wants to be a criminal genius but is constantly hampered in his quest by a stupidity so profound it can’t be measured. Poor schmuck can’t keep his story straight from one day to the next.

President Donald Trump authorized the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani seven months ago if Iran’s increased aggression resulted in the death of an American, according to five current and former senior administration officials.

The presidential directive in June came with the condition that Trump would have final signoff on any specific operation to kill Soleimani, officials said.

Which isn’t much of a condition, because how likely is it that Trump would ever say no?

That decision explains why assassinating Soleimani was on the menu of options that the military presented to Trump two weeks ago for responding to an attack by Iranian proxies in Iraq, in which a U.S. contractor was killed and four U.S. service members were wounded, the officials said.

The timing, however, could undermine the Trump administration’s stated justification for ordering the U.S. drone strike that killed Soleimani in Baghdad on Jan. 3. Officials have said Soleimani, the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, was planning imminent attacks on Americans and had to be stopped.

After Iran shot down a U.S. drone in June, John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser at the time, urged Trump to retaliate by signing off on an operation to kill Soleimani, officials said. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also wanted Trump to authorize the assassination, officials said.

They destroy a piece of our hardware, we assassinate one of their top guys. It’s the American way. It’s interesting that in this case Trump was slightly less murder-happy than Bolton and Pompeo: he said no, only if they kill one of ours.

But he’s more casual about it now.

“We get to assassinate him because of his horrible past!”

Charles Pierce at Esquire points out that this makes Trump’s previous claims a pack of lies.

So the “imminent attacks” story was bullshit. The “imminent attacks on four embassies” were bullshit. According to his own Secretary of Defense, the intelligence didn’t support either of those conclusions—which means either that the SecDef is oblivious, or his boss is. In any event, the line now is that Qasem Soleimani was a bad guy who deserved to die in a tower of flame and only El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago had the giant presidential cojones to rain down death from above. You can’t have somebody running war powers like this. Also, you can’t have someone making up attacks, imminent or eminent, because he can’t think of anything else to say to Laura Ingraham.

We can’t but we do.

He wouldn’t harm a fly

Jan 13th, 2020 6:02 pm | By

Oh, look, it’s “Jessica” Yaniv getting handsy again.

Caution in case you’re at work: there’s a lot of “fuck” and “fucking.”

Funny, gorgeous, n sexy

Jan 13th, 2020 5:38 pm | By

Gwyneth Paltrow is mocking us.

So Gwyneth has made a candle called This Smells Like My Vagina because, well, of course she has. It is priced at a comparatively bargain £58…

Hadley Freeman isn’t making it up, they do sell it.

$75 US. That’s quite pricey for a candle, even a scented one. Maybe harvesting the scent has high overheads.

Whole religions have been founded trying to answer the big questions: what is the meaning of life? What is reality? How can we cope with the concept of mortality? Goop is a quasi-religion in itself, from its messianic head figure, its deluded self-belief, its ludicrous claims and its overflowing bank account accrued from the desperate and vulnerable, estimated to exceed $250m. It has answered perhaps the greatest question of all: what does Gwyneth’s vagina smell like? According to the candle, it is a “funny, gorgeous, sexy and beautifully unexpected scent”, a mix of “geranium, citrusy bergamot, and cedar absolutes juxtaposed with damask rose and ambrette seed”.

What are cedar absolutes? What is a “funny” scent? How do they know what Gwyneth’s smells like? Is it her vagina they mean, or is it the happy purchaser’s? After all once the purchaser purchases, the “my” in “my vagina” becomes hers, because there it is on her dining table. Is it a universal vagina? If so, how many have they explored to confirm the scent is universal? Can we expect a my scrotum scented candle from, I don’t know, Doctor Phil?

But we must tread carefully here because Gwyneth does not like people questioning her vagina. In 2017, pre-legal case, in response to Dr Gunter’s repeated criticisms, Goop posted a gorgeously huffy reply, which Gwyneth tweeted, with the comment: “When they go low, we go high.” Who knew flogging vaginal eggs was taking the high road? Goop’s “contributing doctors” described Dr Gunter as “strangely confident” (to which Dr Gunter replied: “I am appropriately confident”) and insisted they are “empowering women” by “questioning the status quo”. The status quo being, I guess, vaginas without egg-shaped rocks stuck up inside them. Thank God that status has been quo-ed.

The status quo was not having vagina-scented candles at $75 a pop. Thank god those days are over.

The formulas

Jan 13th, 2020 11:44 am | By

Deborah Cameron has a post on how the news media talk about rape, with Harvey Weinstein and the Cyprus case as examples.

The BBC captioned a program on the latter in a…”problematic” way.

In a clip from the interview which was tweeted out from the programme’s account, you can see a ribbon at the bottom of the screen reporting on a rally which had been organised to support the woman and protest her treatment by the authorities. The caption reads: ‘Rally in support of woman in Cyprus “rape” case’.

I almost did a post on that caption last week, but then decided you could see the scare quotes in more than one way and I didn’t feel like getting into it.

What is going on with those scare quotes around the word ‘rape’?

My guess is that the formulation ‘Cyprus “rape” case’ was meant to convey a neutral or non-committal stance on the question of whether the woman had been raped. Since her allegation remains unproven, because the suspects were released without trial—but at the same time, the finding that she lied can no longer be considered definitive because of evidence that casts doubt on the authenticity of her retraction statement—the caption writer may been looking for a form of words that would not commit the BBC to either of the two competing narratives (that the woman was raped and then forced to retract her complaint, or that the original allegation was false).

That’s exactly what I was thinking, but explained better than I would have. Linguists are great.

But if that was the objective, putting ‘rape’ in scare quotes did not achieve it. Scare quotes are a distancing device, a signal that whatever the quote marks enclose should not be taken at face value. But the stance their use conveys is not agnosticism or lack of certainty, it is scepticism or disbelief. (Scare quotes can also signal irony or mockery, but in relation to rape that’s a less likely interpretation.) So, while it may not have been intentional, the caption’s reference to the ‘Cyprus “rape” case’ is likely to have been taken as supporting the false allegation narrative.

That’s what I didn’t summon the energy to explain: the “” looked like mockery but probably weren’t intended to but they still did so…

Perhaps the caption could have referred to the ‘Cyprus rape controversy’: that’s compatible with the understanding that the facts are disputed, but it doesn’t suggest the BBC itself is taking sides. However, in this context I don’t think it would have been unreasonable to use the phrase ‘rape case’ without scare-quotes. ‘Rape case’ does not just have the meaning ‘court case in which someone has been found guilty of rape’, and we really need to push back against the idea that the word can only be used in that very narrow sense. Those who think its use should be restricted in this way may be sincerely concerned about protecting defendants’ right to a fair trial, but they seem to have difficulty grasping the point that reports which systematically avoid the word ‘rape’, put it in scare quotes or replace it with euphemisms, are not just neutral and inconsequential.

So much difficulty. One can think of possible reasons for that, and then get furious all over again.

As the Glasgow Media Group long ago pointed out in an analysis of the reporting of industrial disputes (where it was always the management who made ‘offers’ while the unions made ‘demands’ or ‘threats’), the repetition of certain formulas over time tends to normalise their underlying assumptions.

Yes. This is why I’m always harping on those formulas. The language is full of them, and they do their work on a level below our awareness. They matter.

Blame the nearest woman

Jan 13th, 2020 11:02 am | By

Mary Beard takes a look at the whole “blame the woman” phenomenon in connection with the bizarre way the UK gutter press has “reported” on Meghan Markle. (Buzzfeed has a piece that places stories on The Other One next to stories on MM and the contrast is quite startling. I don’t know for sure of course whether the examples are representative, but it seems likely that they are since otherwise Buzzfeed would get swiftly eviscerated. The creepiest one I saw before I stopped reading was “aw how sweet the way Kate cradles her bump” compared to ” ew look at Meghan virtue-signaling with all this touching her bump.”)

I wrongly thought that the Harry and Meghan story would be a flash in the pan, quickly overshadowed by all the really important things in the world. But as it has turned into a full-grown bonfire and has become important for the issues that it raises, I think it is worth having a more serious look at what the Roman world might tell us here…

More than a couple of decades ago, I ran a final year course in Cambridge on the “Roman Emperor: construction and deconstruction of an image”. It was partly an attempt not to look beyond all those unreliable stories of Roman emperors (Domitian killing flies, Caligula getting his soldiers to collect pebbles on the beach), but to ask head-on what those stories told us about the way emperors in Rome were perceived, how they related to imperial power (or lack of it). It was also an attempt to look at the structures of how “palace cultures” are perceived and explained by contemporaries outside them…

One of the most obvious things to come out was the way women were repeatedly used as explanatory tools for otherwise unexplained events. Now in the case of Meghan Markle, you would have to be blind not to see a strong vein of “popular” racism in some of the treatment of her. But there is also what I call the “Livia Phenomenon” at work here.

If you’ve ever seen the BBC I, Claudius you’ll know where this is going.

It is not just Robert Graves and Sian Phillips who have given us the image of the emperor Augustus’ wife as a schemer and poisoner, stopping at nothing to get her own way behind the throne. That goes right back to the ancient world itself, and to the writing of Tacitus and Suetonius among others. The basic principle is this. Things happen behind palace walls that we don’t understand. People die, some appear to fall from favour, others come unexpectedly into prominence … or even onto the throne. In the early Roman empire, Livia was the economical explanation for all of that. If someone died, it wasn’t a mysterious or unlucky bug, it was Livia’s poison concoctions. If an unlikely princeling got lucky, it was thanks to her, etc etc. Now, we have no idea whether any, all or none of this is correct. But there is just as good a chance that Livia spent the forty-plus years of Augustus’ reign minding her own business, as that she spent it in the pharmaceutical cupboard.

It is, of course, predictable low-level misogyny, bolstered then as now by unreliable leaks from “palace sources”. It was used against Nancy Reagan, who became a convenient solution to the question of why Ron did odd things, and against Cherie Blair too. And now Meghan Markle is in the firing line.

It’s interesting that this doesn’t apply to Melania Trump. She got heat for that “I really don’t care” jacket, but that was a blip. There’s no need for a Melania in this case because Trump is so very open and public and ostentatious with his crimes and lies and abuse. Mystery is not the issue with him.

Anyway it’s interesting, how persistent and shameless misogyny still is, along with racism and snobbery and the rest of the poisonous brew. Who needs poison in the soup when it’s all over the media?

Irrefutable and inexorable

Jan 13th, 2020 10:10 am | By

Oops we seem to be boiling the oceans.

The heat in the world’s oceans reached a new record level in 2019, showing “irrefutable and accelerating” heating of the planet.

The world’s oceans are the clearest measure of the climate emergency because they absorb more than 90% of the heat trapped by the greenhouse gases emitted by fossil fuel burning, forest destruction and other human activities.

Boiling the oceans seems like something we don’t want to do, as well as a sign that we’re doing other things we don’t want to do (like frying the lands).

Hotter oceans lead to more severe storms and disrupt the water cycle, meaning more floods, droughts and wildfires, as well as an inexorable rise in sea level. Higher temperatures are also harming life in the seas, with the number of marine heatwaves increasing sharply.

Note that word “inexorable.” It’s too late to exor the warming, and we’re stuck with it, aka doomed.

“The oceans are really what tells you how fast the Earth is warming,” said Prof John Abraham at the University of St Thomas, in Minnesota, US, and one of the team behind the new analysis. “Using the oceans, we see a continued, uninterrupted and accelerating warming rate of planet Earth. This is dire news.”

“We found that 2019 was not only the warmest year on record, it displayed the largest single-year increase of the entire decade, a sobering reminder that human-caused heating of our planet continues unabated,” said Prof Michael Mann, at Penn State University, US, and another team member.

It’s as if we’re sledding down a steep hill toward a cliff and refusing to steer the sled sideways to safety. Too bad we’re taking most of the other life on the planet with us.

The analysis, published in the journal Advances In Atmospheric Sciences, uses ocean data from every available source. Most data is from the 3,800 free-drifting Argo floats dispersed across the oceans, but also from torpedo-like bathythermographs dropped from ships in the past.

The results show heat increasing at an accelerating rate as greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere. The rate from 1987 to 2019 is four and a half times faster than that from 1955 to 1986. The vast majority of oceans regions are showing an increase in thermal energy.


She was literally just a vessel

Jan 12th, 2020 3:40 pm | By

It’s just right below the surface. Sometimes a mere scratch will reveal it.

It takes my breath away.

A woman gestated twin babies for a gay couple, and Pink News calls the babies “their” (meaning the two men’s) daughters. A woman goes through all the exhaustion and discomfort of pregnancy and the pain of childbirth, and Pink News refers to her daughters as belonging to two men who have done no work so far apart from one ejaculation.

And then some bystander guy says “they aren’t her kids” and “she was literally just a vessel.”

A vessel is something like a pot or vase or urn, an inanimate object that can contain liquids. A vessel has no mind, no body, no feelings, no pain, no fatigue, no longing to be able to sleep comfortably. A pregnant woman? Not so much.

I never can get used to it, the contempt men have for women – the failure even to grasp that we have minds.

There is no “reproductive system” common to females

Jan 12th, 2020 12:25 pm | By

Good to know.

Each one is a mystery. Some are like coconuts, some are like locomotives, some are like Kansas City, some are like law school, some are like November…it’s all totally various and random and ??????

What are rights?

Jan 12th, 2020 11:46 am | By

Human Rights Watch tells us the Trumpers are messing with human rights.

The United States State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights risks calling for a dangerous downgrading of international human rights protections. On January 10, 2020, the Human Rights Watch executive director, Kenneth Rothtestified at the commission’s fourth open session.

While the fundamental rights set out in the human rights treaties are clear, the Trump administration has taken issue with the rights they uphold, such as reproductive freedom or the rights of LGBT people not to face discrimination. Human Rights Watch expressed concern that the commission’s exercise in identifying “unalienable” rights is the administration’s unilateral attempt to rewrite international law based on its own beliefs.

That certainly seems plausible.

“The US government’s voice is needed on human rights, but it should be a voice that upholds the principled defense of all rights, not a pick-and-choose approach,” Roth said. “Repressive governments frequently justify their human rights violations by claiming that some rights are more important than others. If the Trump administration adopts its own selective approach to human rights, it will only facilitate this classic excuse to evade the requirements of international human rights law.”

Well…I certainly don’t want Trumpers deciding what rights we can have, but on the other hand, it’s not wrong to say either that some rights are more important than others, or that some claimed “rights” aren’t rights at all. Trump, for instance, thinks he (and he alone) has all kinds of rights that in reality aren’t rights. Trump thinks he has a right to punish reporters who criticize him or even just tell the truth about what he’s doing.

Rights are in fact a human artifact, and they are contestable. You know the UDHR, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Fun fact: there’s a competing Islamic version, in which all the rights depend on consistency with the Koran.

ARTICLE 1:(a) All human beings form one family whose members are united by their subordination to Allah and descent from Adam.

So much for universality then.


(a) Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shari’ah.

1.. Everyone shall have the right to advocate what is right, and propagate what is good, and warn against what is wrong and evil according to the norms of Islamic Shari’ah.

(c) Information is a vital necessity to society. It may not be exploited or misused in such a way as may violate sanctities and the dignity of Prophets, undermine moral and ethical Values or disintegrate, corrupt or harm society or weaken its faith.


Truth, lies, beliefs

Jan 12th, 2020 10:59 am | By

Why truth matters. People in charge of the guns and bombs and soldiers aren’t supposed to get inventive with the intel.

Esper said well no he didn’t actually see any evidence but…but…but…well he had a hunch.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said he “didn’t see” specific evidence that top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani was planning attacks on four U.S. embassies, but said he believed such attacks would have occurred.

Well that’s good enough for us!

“The president didn’t cite a specific piece of evidence. What he said was he believed,” Esper said Sunday on “Face the Nation.” “I didn’t see one, with regard to four embassies. What I’m saying is that I shared the president’s view that probably — my expectation was they were going to go after our embassies. The embassies are the most prominent display of American presence in a country.”

Plus you can find their addresses by Googling, so it all adds up.

The president and his top officials have said the strike that killed Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force, was justified because there was an “imminent” threat to American service members and diplomats. Members of Congress, however, have raised questions as to the nature of the threat following briefings on the strike that the administration conducted with all members of the House and Senate.

This is what Trump does – he commits some criminally reckless or destructive act and then when people notice he makes up “reasons” for it retroactively.

Mr. Trump told Fox News in an interview Friday that “it would’ve been four embassies” that were attacked, seemingly revealing more information about the nature of the threat.

Esper said he agreed that the embassies probably would have been targeted by Soleimani.

But that’s not agreeing, it’s changing. Trump stated a fact (which was a lie) and Esper changed it to a speculation. Esper lied to protect Trump’s lie. Whole lotta lying going on.

3k for a glint in the eye

Jan 11th, 2020 5:51 pm | By

Cis privilege strikes again.

Samira Ahmed has won her equal pay claim against the BBC in a landmark case that lawyers say could leave the broadcaster facing a bill running into the millions for similar claims by other female staff.

Ahmed, the presenter of viewer feedback programme Newswatch, claimed she was owed almost £700,000 in back pay because of the difference between her £440-an-episode rate and the £3,000 an episode Jeremy Vine received for hosting the similar Points of View programme.

Ooof, that’s quite a gap.

An employment tribunal unanimously concluded that the BBC had failed to provide convincing evidence that the pay gap was for reasons other than gender discrimination, although the BBC continues to dispute this.

No, see, it wasn’t gender discrimination, it was just that he is 7 times more thrilling and charismatic and attractive to viewers than she is.

But then…why did they have her presenting at all? If she’s that much less of a draw, why not just not have her and have someone else instead?

The National Union of Journalists’ general secretary, Michelle Stanistreet, who backed Ahmed’s case, said there were about 20 other cases involving claims of unequal pay at the BBC heading to tribunal, while another 70 cases remained unresolved.

The 40-page tribunal judgment was damning of the broadcaster’s argument that Ahmed’s job as presenter of Newswatch was significantly different to Vine’s as a presenter of Points of View.

They dismissed the BBC’s argument that Points of View required a “cheeky” presenter such as Vine with a “glint in the eye”, concluding that there were only “minor differences” in the work the two presenters did presenting the two comparable programmes.

Not to mention the claim or implication that a glint in the eye is worth 7 times more than a glintless presenter.

In a withering assessment, they wrote: “Jeremy Vine read the script from the autocue. He read it in the tone in which it was written. If it told him to roll his eyes, he did. It did not require any particular skill or experience to do that.”

Let alone 7 times as much skill.

During the tribunal the BBC defended paying Vine substantially more than Ahmed, saying that while Newswatch required a news journalist, he was a light entertainment presenter who “would often dress up for small visual gags”. Ahmed’s legal team argued this was incorrect, as he was only known to have worn “one wig and one hat” and the jobs were in effect the same.

Again – one wig and one hat, not worth 7 times what Ahmed was paid.

High-profile presenters and campaigners hailed the decision and praised Ahmed, with the BBC host Carrie Gracie – who resigned over equal pay in 2018 – expressing her pride in Ahmed. “As for BBC bosses, time to stop digging,” she said.

The BBC Radio 4 presenter Jane Garvey also praised Ahmed, tweeting: “Just brilliant … it took real courage and she has it.”

Nah, it’s just cis courage, and that doesn’t count.

Your message seems to include a dogmatic refusal

Jan 11th, 2020 10:49 am | By

About those lavish and unusual apologies…

McLaughlin is the founder of MeTooSTEM.

More apologies. It’s a retort as opposed to a serious statement, but still. More apologies? After that stream of abject prostrate lachrymose apologies they’d already issued?

Flippant dismissal of the concerns of women, from the woman who founded MeTooSTEM. What did they do to her?

They get “folks” asking if a group that opposes sexual harassment of women in STEM can change the subject and be about trans people instead – and the founder of the group thinks this is a good thing.

People have lost their damn minds, I swear.

Just one

Jan 11th, 2020 9:54 am | By

The @MeTooSTEM grovel got even more grovelly.

When has anyone ever talked to actual women like that? When has anyone ever apologized to women for sexist insults or misogynist epithets like that? When has anyone ever repudiated something a volunteer retweeted in such abject and sympathy-oozing terms?

Never that I know of. I haven’t seen all the content that exists, of course, but I have paid a lot of attention to how people talk to and about women on social media and this kind of belly-crawling and sobbing with pity on behalf of women is starkly unfamiliar to me. “We are so sorry for the hurtful content” – nope, that’s not how that goes when it’s mere women at the receiving end. In fact, if you Google that phrase with the “” the only matches are this tweet. Nobody is “so sorry” when we’re the ones getting it in the neck (and by the way trans people weren’t getting it in the neck via the content in question). It’s only trans people – trans women especially – who are treated as so fragile and so righteous that no expiation is enough for saying something skeptical about transism.

And that’s just the tweet. The statement itself is the same but more of it. We are sorry, they yelp, cowering. “Our trans family” – what about “their female family”? Pff, who cares about them. “We unreservedly apologize to those that have hurt too long over too much hate.” Again – has anyone ever said anything like that to women? Does that sound like a normal part of the discourse around women and feminism and misogyny? Not to me it doesn’t.

“No transphobia will be tolerated.” “We affirm that trans women are women.” “We denounce transphobia that masquerades as feminism.” “We promise to learn from this experience and do better going forward.”

Who decides which feminism is “transphobia that masquerades as feminism”? Is there any appeal? Can just one tweet from one random troll brand a feminist discussion as transphobia in a mask?

It apparently took just one in this case.

Who’s he? Who’s Troy Roepke? Why does he get to decide which feminism is “transphobia” in a mask? Why does he get to make an entire organization ostensibly for sexually abused women fall prostrate and apologize as if they’d committed a slew of murders?

It was just one tweet. That’s all it took.

Surrender was swift and complete.

We’re sorry we’re sorry we’re sorry we’re sorry!

Are they ever.

Bring back the briefings

Jan 10th, 2020 4:29 pm | By

13 former White House press secretaries and foreign service/military officials call for the return of regular White House and other press briefings

All of us have experienced the challenges of a regular press briefing whether at the White House, the State Department or the Pentagon. We all had days where the last place we wanted to be was behind one of those podiums. But day after day, we persisted.

We believed that regular briefings were good for the American people, important for the administrations we served, and critical for the governing of our great country.

It’s not that great. It’s really not. It’s behind all other developed democracies on a whole list of items, like maternal mortality for instance. It has high inequality and rampant violence, and oh by the way it elected Donald Trump president. It’s not that great. I think we should stop automatically calling it that.

We’d like to share what we mean by that. In any great democracy, an informed public strengthens the nation. The public has a right to know what its government is doing, and the government has a duty to explain what it is doing.

For the president and the administration this is a matter of both self-interest and national interest. The presidents we served believed a better-informed public would be more supportive of the president’s policy and political objectives.

In times of military conflict and international crisis, these briefings take on even more importance. Americans want to know the latest developments and seek the truth. On social media, wild rumors can fly, and our adversaries can manipulate disinformation to their advantage. This is now well documented.

Credible men and women, standing in front of those iconic backgrounds at the White House, State Department and Pentagon, are essential to the work the United States must do in the world.

We respectfully urge the resumption of regular press briefings across our government, especially in the places where Americans want the truth, our allies in the world want information, and where all of us, hopefully, want to see American values reflected.

I’d rather see decent values than specifically American ones, but at any rate just despotically refusing to answer any questions is not good.

Can I ask you to genuflect more?

Jan 10th, 2020 12:46 pm | By

There’s a Twitter account called MeTooSTEM. I think of MeToo as a feminist movement, a movement for women who face sexual abuse on the job. I guess I turn out to be wrong about that.

Open and safe for all? So, including men who sexually abuse women on the job?

I have no idea what the RTs were, because of course they’re gone.

A later tweet is…not so welcoming.

How can they know that no trans woman is a threat to women? How can they know that there are no trans women who fake it in order to intrude on women?

They don’t say, of course. At any rate, any women who don’t believe the trans dogma and thought MeTooSTEM was for them now know otherwise. MeTooSTEM considers them “TERFs” and thus enemies.

Whoops there’s a volunteer disappearing under the wheels.

But even that wasn’t enough – there is now yet more groveling and apologizing. Please don’t hit us! Please! We’re sorry!

It’s never enough though. Grovel harder!

Updating to add: I found the Offending retweets after all.

Thank god we have vigilant women combing Twitter for evil women who think women get to have some spaces that are just for women.

Guest post: If you heard a two-year-old meow like a cat

Jan 10th, 2020 12:16 pm | By

Originally a comment by tigger_the_wing on Would she be able to think critically?

If you heard a two-year-old meow like a cat (they do that, and make other animal noises; it’s fun) and told her or him that the reason s/he liked particular toys, games and clothes was because s/he was really a cat, and that there are lovely doctors who can give her/him fur and a tail when s/he’s old enough, by the time s/he were four they’d be desperate to be turned into a cat. That is what ‘affirmation’ does.

The correct response to a small girl saying “I’m really a boy” is “Wow, really? Well, I’m really an elephant! Shall we go shopping for bananas?”

Of course, if you don’t keep telling little girls that only boys get to like, do, wear, and play with certain things, then you won’t get little girls thinking that you must be mistaken about their sex. If you don’t tell little boys that they aren’t allowed to play with dolls, or experiment with makeup, or get to prance around in their mum’s high heels with one of her skirts over their shoulders as a cape because only girls do that, you won’t have little boys thinking that they must really be girls.

There was no epidemic of ‘trans kids’ in the eighties. Have you seen adverts aimed at eighties’ kids? All the children, boys and girls, wore T-shirts, dungarees and trainers. All the children played with all the toys. My sons as well as my daughter had My Little Ponies (which actually looked like ponies back then, and not weird big-eyed, muzzle-less anime characters, and came in both sexes); my daughter, as well as my sons, had action figures, toy vehicles, train set elements (they each owned enough train set stuff that, when they combined their pieces, they could fill the ground floor. It was fun), bicycles, footballs, skipping ropes, jigsaw puzzles, books, etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum.

I never told any of them that they couldn’t do something because they weren’t members of the opposite sex, and no-one else was telling them that, either. And they’re raising their kids the same way.

This is also why I don’t believe in the labelling of generations. My parents (born early thirties) were comparatively progressive, so my generation was (born mid to late fifties) and so are my eighties children; but the ‘in-between’ generations? The parents who were about ten years older than mine (born in the early 1920s) were often very strict about gender roles, and so, in their turn, were their forties’ children (the ones about ten years older than me). Their children, about ten years older than mine, are the ones transing their teens for being gender non-conforming, and the parents in their twenties are the ones transing their toddlers.

Of course, there isn’t anything definitive about the above. But I sometimes think that the resentment against Baby Boomers is fed by the behaviour of those in the first half of my generation who spent their early childhood in austerity in the form of rationing (which ended in 1954) and surrounded by bomb sites (which had mostly been cleared and re-built with shiny new housing, shopping centres and offices by the time I was old enough to take notice), and with fathers who were either dead from the war, or traumatised (my grandparents were too old to be sent to fight). These early Baby Boomers often responded to the comparative misery of their childhoods by becoming greedy and selfish, in case it was all taken away again. My parents, who were old enough to live through the horrors of WWII but not old enough to fight, were relieved by the end of the war so the fact of continued rationing and the existence of devastated cities was nothing compared to hiding in bomb shelters and listening to the bombardment. They grew up with a sense of hope that things could always be better (because they had been so much worse) and that the best way to accomplish that was to fight for equality for all.

Ugly scenes

Jan 10th, 2020 9:02 am | By

Samples of Trump’s horrors:

Huh? What was that? What’s he talking about? What country did he “save”?

The BBC explains:

“I’m going to tell you about the Nobel Peace Prize, I’ll tell you about that. I made a deal, I saved a country, and I just heard that the head of that country is now getting the Nobel Peace Prize for saving the country. I said: ‘What, did I have something do with it?’ Yeah, but you know, that’s the way it is. As long as we know, that’s all that matters… I saved a big war, I’ve saved a couple of them.”

Although he did not name the Nobel Peace Prize winner or the country, it is clear that Mr Trump was referring to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said Mr Abiy was honoured for his “decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea”.

The two countries fought a bitter border war from 1998-2000, which killed tens of thousands of people. Although a ceasefire was signed in 2000, the neighbours technically remained at war until July 2018, when Mr Abiy and Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki signed a peace deal. So for two decades, the long border was closed, dividing families and making trade impossible.

Did Trump have anything to do with that? Anything at all?


He shames us all.

The crowd roared

Jan 10th, 2020 8:38 am | By

Greg Sargent at The Post underlines the obvious: Trump is an abusive monstrosity bent on destruction.

At a rally in Ohio on Thursday night, President Trump drew deafening cheers by boasting about his order to assassinate Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, deriding Democrats with petty schoolyard taunts and mocking the very idea that Congress should act to constrain his warmaking powers.

At his rally, Trump belittled House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as “not operating with a full deck.” He derided House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff as “you little pencil neck.” The crowd roared, demonstrating how heavily Trump’s petty abusiveness figures as a factor in his appeal.

But what Trump really displayed here is that his deranged attacks on the opposition aren’t mere insults. Taken along with Trump’s mockery of congressional demands for input into decisions of war, they demonstrate a profound contempt for the very notion that his most consequential decisions should be subject to oversight and accountability at all.

Did we need any more demonstration of that? He’s made it very clear all along.

Mockery of the opposition is, of course, a constant in politics. But this is different. Trump regularly crosses over into a form of harsh belittling and abuse that is designed to delegitimize the opposition, that is, to tell his voters that the opposition has no legitimate institutional role in our politics at all.

Well…I think that attributes too much thought and deliberation to the abuser. Sure, the abuse delegitimizes, but he would do it even if it didn’t. He does it because that’s who he is, and because he thinks it’s funny, and because he thinks he’s a brilliant and successful insult comic, like Don Rickles but sexy and gorgeous. He does it because he likes doing it. That’s who and what he is: a person who loves insulting people, who can’t get enough of insulting people, who lives to insult people. He’s that guy. He’s a howling wilderness of ego and contempt, and the insults are an inevitable output of that recipe.