Notes and Comment Blog

When counter-factuals go bad

Apr 8th, 2018 10:22 am | By

Matt Yglesias decided to stir things up yesterday.

My guess is that if Hitch were alive today he’d be the leading pro-Trump columnist in America, following the siren song of faux contrarianism to its ultimate end.

That’s an incredibly stupid “guess,” as a number of people pointed out. Hitchens wasn’t right about everything, but he would never have been a toady of Trump’s. The idea is ludicrous.

He’d be a regular guest on Tucker Carlson’s show doing segments about the Deep State’s plot against Trump and how the left lost its way, calling Elizabeth Warren a shrill harpy, and denouncing the excesses of political correctness.

He seems to have him confused with Bannon. Other way around, dude – Bannon wishes he were another Hitchens.

An investigation≠a perjury trap

Apr 8th, 2018 9:57 am | By

Benjamin Wittes on “the perjury trap”:

Ok, here’s a little primer on the perjury trap: What it is, what it isn’t, and whether Bob Mueller’s seeking an interview with Trump in which Trump might lie is one or not.

First off, the perjury trap is a real thing. It’s not simply a concoction of the right-wing fever swamp. When it happens—and it is successfully argued only rarely—it is a form of entrapment that can constitute an affirmative defense against a charge of perjury.

Bennett Gershman, in a law review article on the subject, described the perjury trap as “the deliberate use of the grand jury to secure perjured testimony” and suggested that the hallmarks include the intentional solicitation of false testimony by a high-value target who cannot be prosecuted for underlying activity for one reason or another.

He included a link to the article but it’s broken.

Second, it is emphatically NOT a perjury trap to put someone in front of a grand jury believing that he might not be entirely truthful and with a willingness to hold him criminally accountable for any lies he might tell. The perjury trap, like all entrapments, requires more.

At that point I paused to wonder how an interrogation by a prosecutor could ever be entrapment, seeing as how prosecutors don’t go undercover to interrogate people. I came up with maybe trick questions and the like. But the basic difficulty is no doubt why it’s not a very popular defense.

Second, it is emphatically NOT a perjury trap to put someone in front of a grand jury believing that he might not be entirely truthful and with a willingness to hold him criminally accountable for any lies he might tell. The perjury trap, like all entrapments, requires more.

Apologies if the image is unreadable.

Note two things here: First, as with any claim of entrapment, the claim of a perjury trap is an affirmative defense that thus has to be proven by a defendant. Second, the perjury trap requires a showing that the perjurious testimony was procured improperly by the government.

In other words, if Bob Mueller seeks an interview with Donald Trump for good faith reasons related to establishing his state of mind in an investigation of certain of his actions knowing—as we all know—that Trump lies constantly, that is not even CLOSE to a perjury trap.

And yet that is the basis for most or perhaps all of the squawking – “It’s SO unfair, he CAN’T tell the truth, he doesn’t know HOW, he lies every time he opens his MOUTH, talking to him at ALL is entrapment, this is an OUTRAGE.”

That is called conducting an investigation of a subject with a propensity—one shared by many criminals, by the way—to lie to investigators. The reason we have perjury and false statements statutes is to give such people a strong incentive to tell the truth.

Someone will have to explain to Trump what “incentive” means.

As the US Attorneys manual puts it, “when the grand jury is attempting to obtain useful information in furtherance of its investigation, the perjury trap doctrine does not apply.”

Put simply, for the perjury trap argument to be more than simple rhetoric, one would have to show that Mueller was acting in bad faith—was somehow not really seeking evidence for an underlying investigation but was merely setting up Trump to lie.

He added one more thought an hour later.

One other thing about the perjury trap: Given that obstructions are specific intent offenses, it is unimaginable that Mueller would conduct an obstruction investigation without trying to hear from Trump. That’s not evidence of a perjury trap. It’s evidence of an investigation.

Sums up a lot of life, doesn’t it.

The silver lining with Pruitt is that he’s incompetent

Apr 7th, 2018 6:28 pm | By

Susan Walsh at Politico says it’s a myth that Scott Pruitt has already trashed a lot of environmental laws and regulations. It’s true that he’s tried, but (hooray) it’s not that easy.

The truth is that Scott Pruitt has done a lot less to dismantle the EPA than he—or his critics—would have you believe.

It’s not for lack of trying. Pruitt has taken aim at just about every major Obama-era EPA rule, which has made him a pariah on the left, a hero on the right and the bureaucratic face of Trump’s vocal advocacy for fossil-fuel interests and other industrial polluters. But so far he’s only managed to delay a few rules that hadn’t yet taken effect. His supporters, critics and boss have all promoted the perception that he’s repealed Obama’s environmental legacy and shredded America’s environmental rulebook—and no one has promoted that perception more energetically than Pruitt, who frequently sued Obama’s EPA when he was Oklahoma’s attorney general. Nevertheless, that perception is wrong.

Pruitt’s problem is that major federal regulations are extremely difficult and time-consuming to enact, and just as difficult and time-consuming to reverse. The rulemaking process can take years of technical and administrative work that Pruitt and his team have not yet had time to do. And even if Pruitt manages to keep his job long enough to complete that process for any of his efforts to weaken clean-air and clean-water rules, the EPA will inevitably face years of litigation over each one.

Oh good. Let us know if we can help with any of that.

[T]he EPA rules that were in effect in 2016 are still the rules in 2018, despite Pruitt’s efforts to overturn them. He tried to impose a unilateral stay on an Obama rule regulating climate-warming methane emissions from oil and gas operations; a federal appeals court deemed the stay “unauthorized” and “unreasonable,” so the methane rule is now in force again. He tried a similar maneuver to suspend Obama’s restrictions on smog; after a group of state attorney generals sued, Pruitt reversed course, so those restrictions also remain in effect. Obama’s EPA had worked on both rules for years, engaging with stakeholders and the scientific community, creating a lengthy administrative record. Pruitt still hopes to rewrite them, but success would require the same kind of meticulous process.

Also, he’s widely reviled.

“The silver lining with Pruitt is that his incompetence has helped mobilize a backlash against his agenda,” says Jeremy Symons, the Environmental Defense Fund’s vice president for political affairs. “We’re very optimistic that most of what he’s started won’t get finished.”



Apr 7th, 2018 4:09 pm | By

The Post has another story about Kelly’s slide to oblivion etc etc – but one paragraph jumped out at me.

More recently, Trump has told friends he is eager to stage more energetic, frenzied rallies — yet another realm where he can theoretically slip Kelly’s shackles.

Oh, goody, what could possibly go wrong.

Image result for nazi rallies


She had a dirty face

Apr 7th, 2018 3:49 pm | By

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the NFL versus the witches:

Witches, man. Just when you thought we were safe from their malignant influence on America’s virtue, the NFL has proven we are still in real danger from their dark powers.

In danger how? Witchy witchy seduction.

Bailey Davis, the 22-year-old former New Orleans Saints cheerleader, was recently fired for violating team social media rules by posting an Instagram photo of herself in one-piece lingerie that shows as much skin as a one-piece swimsuit in a Nordstrom’s ad, and a lot less than their cheerleading outfits. She has since filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for gender discrimination. When she spoke to a representative from the Saints’ human resources department, he complained that in her photo she had a “dirty face” (clear proof she was casting her spell compelling virtuous men to “filthy carnal acts”) and that he’d never allow his granddaughters to post something like that.

Interesting, but I don’t think “what dude X would never let his granddaughters do” is a legit criterion for firing someone.

Grandpa’s pompous Lord Tywin Lannister response encapsulates exactly what’s wrong with NFL management: They insist on being the self-appointed guardians of America’s mythological vision of itself. Malt shops on every corner, Pat Boone crooning on the jukebox, and modestly dressed virgins sitting around with knees clamped together waiting to be asked to prom. This 1950s, Father Knows Best soundstage fantasy doesn’t stop with paternalistic and puritanical gender stereotypes, but also promotes simplistic notions about race and patriotism. The NFL’s anachronistic fancies aren’t just a misguided attempt to pander to what they think their traditionalist fans want, but also projects the hard-core conservative values of the mostly rich, white one-percenters who own the teams. We must live in their Disneyland – or else.

Mind you, in the 50s the NFL wasn’t raking in huge bucks from television, but that’s ok – just let them have the technology and $$$ of now combined with the white male dominance of the 50s and they won’t say another word.

The country would be outraged if a team’s rules stated that if a black player was eating at a restaurant and a white player walked in, the black player would have to leave the restaurant. Yet, those are the rules for Saints’ cheerleaders, who must leave a restaurant they are eating at if a Saints player arrives. We would be equally outraged if a company demanded that office personnel address top executives only with “hello” and “you’re wonderful”. Yet the Saints’ cheerleaders are restricted to saying only “hello” and “great game” to players. Other restrictions about weight, makeup, body hair, tampon use and forbidding sweatpants in public make it seem as if the Saints watched The Handmaid’s Tale and thought, “They just don’t go far enough.” In other words, shut up and jiggle.

These highly trained and skilled women are being told that the NFL just wants to protect them from sexual predators, particularly NFL players. Like the grumpy grandpa in human resources who wouldn’t “allow” his granddaughters to post photos he doesn’t approve of, the NFL wants to be their (creepy? pimpy?) daddy. These are adult women who should be permitted to make their own decisions about who they contact and who they don’t, especially since the players have no such restrictions. A cheerleader poses in modest lingerie and she’s fired; a player knocks out his wife on video and is suspended for two games. Boys will be boys, but girls must be what the NFL tells them to be.

Sod that for a game of soldiers.

He’d slap you happily

Apr 7th, 2018 11:57 am | By

It turns out Jordan Peterson isn’t just a man of facile deepities, he’s also a man of noisy threats.

Jordan Peterson joins the club of macho writers who have thrown a fit over a bad review.

The New York Review of Books, which is famous for drubbing high-profile authors, was particularly harsh on Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson in a review published online on Monday. Surveying 12 Rules For Life, Peterson’s new book, critic Pankaj Mishra warned that the self-help guru “may seem the latest in a long line of eggheads pretentiously but harmlessly romancing the noble savage,” but that he draws on a tradition of writers like Carl Jung who were prone to—as the headline put it—“fascist mysticism.”

Peterson’s elegant but forceful response:

Apart from everything else wrong with that response, there’s the oddity of (apparently) treating “noble savage” literally rather than as a reference to a very familiar literary/philosophical trope originating with Rousseau. Mishra doesn’t mention Charles Joseph, so “That’s how you refer to my friend Charles Joseph?” is mystifying.

Then he expands on the point.

Who wouldn’t want to learn timeless wisdom from that guy?

Nesrine Malik pointed out the mismatch:

The dissonance is comical in a Judd Apatow movie kind of way, where a human oxymoron is the punchline. Jordan is The Angry Guru, The Pissed-Off Yogi, The Totally Untogether Psychiatrist. A fragile authority who spends his time dishing it out but just can’t take it. A brittle ego who exhorts his fans to find peace by accepting that life is tough – while losing it completely every time he steps barefoot on a metaphorical piece of Lego. A tragic physician who cannot heal himself. It’s so jarring. Reading Jordan is, according to the writer Hari Kunzru, “like being shouted at by a rugby coach in a sarong”.

How about if Judd Apatow makes him the next Seth Rogen, and then we could all forget about him.

Jordan reminds me of the youngish Muslim preachers who became all the fashion in the Arabic-speaking world after the proliferation of satellite TV in the 90s. They just wanted youth to live a better life by following the simple rules of submission to the natural order of things – the pain was in fighting it. These preachers, always men, and always appealing to other men to shoulder their responsibilities, had the preternatural calm of the faithful but when challenged, the temperament of the hysterical. They derived their status from the hierarchy, and so once it was questioned, they were all fire and brimstone. They had little intrinsic value to offer, and even less original thinking.

I think we’ve found a match!

H/t Maureen

If attitudes toward female subjugation are systemic

Apr 7th, 2018 11:18 am | By

In the New Yorker, Molly Ringwald looks at the three John Hughes movies she starred in in the 80s, when she was a teenager. She starts with watching The Breakfast Club with her 10-year-old daughter.

It’s a strange experience, watching a younger, more innocent version of yourself onscreen. It’s stranger still—surreal, even—watching it with your child when she is much closer in age to that version of yourself than you are. My friend was right: my daughter didn’t really seem to register most of the sex stuff, though she did audibly gasp when she thought I had showed my underwear. At one point in the film, the bad-boy character, John Bender, ducks under the table where my character, Claire, is sitting, to hide from a teacher. While there, he takes the opportunity to peek under Claire’s skirt and, though the audience doesn’t see, it is implied that he touches her inappropriately.

The audience does sort of see – it sees him lunging between her knees before the movie cuts to her reaction. Her reaction is apparently to slam her knees closed on his head, but that we don’t see, we only hear him squawk.

I kept thinking about that scene. I thought about it again this past fall, after a number of women came forward with sexual-assault accusations against the producer Harvey Weinstein, and the #MeToo movement gathered steam. If attitudes toward female subjugation are systemic, and I believe that they are, it stands to reason that the art we consume and sanction plays some part in reinforcing those same attitudes. I made three movies with John Hughes; when they were released, they made enough of a cultural impact to land me on the cover of Time magazine and to get Hughes hailed as a genius. His critical reputation has only grown since he died, in 2009, at the age of fifty-nine. Hughes’s films play constantly on television and are even taught in schools. There is still so much that I love in them, but lately I have felt the need to examine the role that these movies have played in our cultural life: where they came from, and what they might mean now.

As one does, even if one didn’t act in them. Doctor Strangelove for instance – the only woman is General Buck Turgidson’s [geddit?] secretary/piece of tail, fielding a phone call from another general in the middle of the night dressed in a bikini.

The successful teen comedies of the period, such as “Animal House” and “Porky’s,” were written by men for boys; the few women in them were either nymphomaniacs or battleaxes. (The stout female coach in “Porky’s” is named Balbricker.)

The industry hasn’t really changed all that much.

I filmed “Sixteen Candles” in the suburbs of Chicago the summer after I completed the ninth grade. Once we were done shooting, and before we began filming “The Breakfast Club,” John wrote another movie specifically for me, “Pretty in Pink,” about a working-class girl navigating the social prejudices of her affluent high school. The film’s dramatic arc involves getting invited and then uninvited to the prom. In synopsis, the movies can seem flimsy—a girl loses her date to a dance, a family forgets a girl’s birthday—but that’s part of what made them unique. No one in Hollywood was writing about the minutiae of high school, and certainly not from a female point of view. According to one study, since the late nineteen-forties, in the top-grossing family movies, girl characters have been outnumbered by boys three to one—and that ratio has not improved. That two of Hughes’s films had female protagonists in the lead roles and examined these young women’s feelings about the fairly ordinary things that were happening to them, while also managing to have instant cred that translated into success at the box office, was an anomaly that has never really been replicated.

Truth. So much truth is it that I’ve seen most of Pretty in Pink, in slices at various times. The girl-centeredness of it makes it magnetic to me. But there are things like that crotch-dive scene.

It’s hard for me to understand how John was able to write with so much sensitivity, and also have such a glaring blind spot. Looking for insight into that darkness, I decided to read some of his early writing for National Lampoon. I bought an old issue of the magazine on eBay, and found the other stories, all from the late seventies and early eighties, online. They contain many of the same themes he explored in his films, but with none of the humanity. Yes, it was a different time, as people say. Still, I was taken aback by the scope of the ugliness.

“A Dog’s Tale” has a boy watching his mother turn into a dog. “Against His Will” features an “ugly fat” woman who tries to rape a man at gunpoint in front of the man’s wife and parents because she can’t have sex any other way. “My Penis” and “My Vagina” are quasi-magical-realist stories written from the points of view of teen-agers who wake up in the morning with different genitalia than they were assigned at birth; the protagonist of “My Penis” literally forces her boyfriend’s mouth open to penetrate him, and the male in “My Vagina” is gang-raped by his friends once they discover he has one. (The latter story ends with him having to use the money he saved for new skis on getting an abortion.) The “Hughes Engagement Guide” is an illustrated manual on how to protect yourself against women. It gives examples of women “bullshitting to not put out,” and teaches readers how to do a “quickie pelvic exam,” how to detect “signs of future fat,” and how to determine if a woman has any ancestors of different races, based on what her relatives look like—there is an accompanying drawing of an Asian person and an African-American—and on and on.

The October, 1980, issue included a piece, co-authored by Ted Mann, titled “Sexual Harassment and How to Do It!” The guide explains, “If you hire a woman from another field or with a background that is not suited to the duties she is to assume, you’ve got the glans in the crevice, or, if you prefer, the foot in the door.” It continues, “Not only will her humility prepare her for your sexual advances, it will also help steel her for her inevitable dismissal.” There are sections describing different kinds of secretaries based on their ages, and how best to reward and punish them. (The older ones are “easier,” the younger ones “preferable.”) There’s even a section on arrest: “Sometimes even guys with cool sideburns and a smooth line of patter get arrested for sexual harassment and are issued summonses.” It goes on to suggest different methods for cozying up to the police officer.

It’s all satire, of course, but it’s pretty clear that it’s not the chauvinists who are being lampooned but the “women’s liberation movement.” Women had begun to speak out, in the mid-seventies, against harassment in the workplace.

Therefore naturally there had to be a backlash.

How are we meant to feel about art that we both love and oppose? What if we are in the unusual position of having helped create it? Erasing history is a dangerous road when it comes to art—change is essential, but so, too, is remembering the past, in all of its transgression and barbarism, so that we may properly gauge how far we have come, and also how far we still need to go.

I guess the only way we can feel about such things is ambivalent. We both love and oppose; we think and discuss; we try to do better.

Magic spectacles

Apr 7th, 2018 9:51 am | By

How They see Trump.


Apr 6th, 2018 5:17 pm | By

It was windy at Andrews yesterday.

The weather on the Air Force Base called for 9 mph winds with gusts to 25 mph.

Very windy.

It looks like Trump got caught in a gust.

Windy every whichaway.

Trump joked about his hair at a speech in February.

A very good deal

Apr 6th, 2018 5:00 pm | By

Classic. Trump’s own people tell him that Scott Pruitt’s many corrupt and/or brainless acts have made him toxic and Trump reeeeeeeally ought to replace him with someone not quite so extravagant and cozy with lobbyists, but Trump is so happy with the way Pruitt is making the water dirty again that he just can’t bear to lose him. Dirty water and filthy air for the people! Wave the tiny fist!

John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, told President Trump last week that Scott Pruitt, the embattled administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, needed to go in the wake of damaging allegations about ethical infractions and spending irregularities, according to two officials briefed about the conversation.

But Mr. Trump, who is personally fond of Mr. Pruitt and sees him as a crucial ally in his effort to roll back environmental rules, has resisted firing him, disregarding warnings that the drumbeat of negative headlines about the administrator has grown unsustainable and that more embarrassing revelations could surface.

Yes yes yes yes but he’s rolling back environmental rules. What does the drumbeat of “negative” headlines amount to next to that? They get to trash the environment!! It’s worth all the bad headlines anyone could come up with to be able to ruin everything.

White House officials said on Friday that Mr. Trump continues to believe that Mr. Pruitt has been effective in his role, and stressed that it was up to the president alone to decide his fate.

“No one other than the president has the authority to hire and fire,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, told reporters. “The president feels that the administrator has done a good job at E.P.A.”

Okay, Sarah, but he’s still the stupidest meanest laziest adult any of us have ever seen.

Earlier, in a brief interview, Ms. Sanders said that Mr. Pruitt’s success in achieving items on the president’s agenda — including rolling back a large number of environmental regulations — may weigh heavily as a counterbalance to allegations that he misused taxpayer dollars.

“He likes the work product,” she said of Mr. Trump.

Of course he does. He can buy clean air and water, and people who can’t afford to do that should go live in what’s its name, the one up there – Canada.

On Friday, Mr. Trump pushed back against news reports that he had considered replacing Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, with Mr. Pruitt, saying in a tweet that his E.P.A. chief “is doing a great job but is TOTALLY under siege.”

That came hours before yet another embarrassing revelation Friday afternoon, when Politico reported that the lobbyists who owned the condominium Mr. Pruitt paid $50 a night to rent had leased the space to him for only six weeks, and became frustrated when he declined for months to leave, eventually pushing him out and changing the locks.

Hahahahahahahaha he’s the Bad Roommate. He’s the asshole who won’t leave. He’s out in the street with all his underpants in a pile.

He still has his job though.

Trans-medical advice

Apr 6th, 2018 4:29 pm | By

When the ideology becomes life-threatening.

Peter Tatchell tweets:

A young #trans man broke his arm playing football & is rushed to hospital. Before being treated he is asked to discuss his trans status & hormones at length. Why? So wrong!

It’s called taking a medical history, and it has to be done. They have to know what meds patients are on in order to avoid killing them. That’s why.

Coffee breaks would be so awkward

Apr 6th, 2018 11:57 am | By

Jessica Valenti points out what one would think was obvious: something said on Twitter isn’t magically not what the tweeter actually thinks, simply by virtue of being on Twitter.

On Thursday, the recently hired columnist Kevin Williamson was fired from the Atlantic after an uproar over his views on abortion – namely his belief, first mentioned in a 2014 tweet, that women who have the procedure should be executed by hanging.

Initially, the editor-in-chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, defended Williamson, writing in a memo to staff that he did not believe “taking a person’s worst tweets … in isolation is the best journalistic practice”. But after the release of a podcast in which Williamson talked at length about hanging women, the writer was fired, and Goldberg admitted “that the original tweet did, in fact, represent [Williamson’s] carefully considered views”.

But sometimes a person’s worst tweets, like a person’s worst blurts or jokes or exclamations, tell you something.

Expressing a belief in a tweet – or on Facebook or Instagram – does not make that belief any less yours. That’s why I found it so odd when New York Times columnist Bret Stephens wrote an open letter to Williamson this weekend, apologizing to him over having his character “assassinated”.

“I jumped at your abortion comment, but for heaven’s sake, it was a tweet. When you write a whole book on the need to execute the tens of millions of American women who’ve had abortions, then I’ll worry,” Stephens wrote.

Easy for him; he’s not among the people Williamson would like to see hanged.

The truth, of course, is that Williamson never should have been hired in the first place; the Atlantic and Goldberg knew about Williamson’s belief about executing women who had abortions and brought him on anyway. They knew they would be forcing the women at the magazine – some of whom we can assume have had abortions – to sit in an office with a man who wanted them dead.

Or not so much wanted them dead as thought they ought to be dead, because executed by hanging for ending their own pregnancies. In a way that’s worse. Just wanting them dead…well lots of men seem to feel that way about women. But thinking they ought to be dead? At official hands, for making decisions about their own bodies? That’s cold.

Not a stratospheric bar

Apr 6th, 2018 10:18 am | By

So this is what they think of us.

Heterodox, bold, indomitable – that’s how we describe a columnist who advocates hanging for women who end their pregnancies?

It’s “philistine progressive” to say a columnist who advocates hanging for women who end their pregnancies shouldn’t be on the staff of a mainstream magazine? On the grounds that advocating  hanging for millions of women should not be normalized in that way? If only we were less “philistine” we would understand the profundity and subtlety and artistry of advocating hanging for millions of women? It’s “heterodox” to advocate hanging for millions of women? Heterodox and bold and indomitable? It’s not murderous and genocidal and misogynist?

Malign activity

Apr 6th, 2018 9:48 am | By

Here’s a surprise: the Trump administration has thrown down some sanctions on Friends of Putin.

The US has imposed sanctions on seven Russian oligarchs and 17 senior government officials, accusing them of “malign activity around the globe”.

Twelve companies owned by the oligarchs, the state arms exporter and a bank are also sanctioned.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the penalties targeted those profiting from Russia’s “corrupt system”.

The move was a response to Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, he said.

The sanctions are also being imposed because of the actions taken by the Kremlin in Crimea, eastern Ukraine and Syria, Mr Mnuchin said in a statement on Friday.

He accused the Russian government of “malicious” cyber-activities and said the sanctions would target “those who benefit from the Putin regime”.

Well. I can’t help thinking that will sour Trump’s friendship with Volodya.

Alexander Torshin, a senior Russian official with reported ties to the National Rifle Association of America (NRA), has been blacklisted.

Mr Putin’s bodyguard, his son-in-law, the head of Russia’s national security council, and former prime minister Viktor Zubkov are also sanctioned.

Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, one of the companies targeted, said the sanctions were designed to force Russia out of the global arms market.

Any assets they have under US jurisdiction have been frozen and US nationals are forbidden from doing to do business with them.

No that really doesn’t seem like something Putin will cheerfully embrace.

The attitudes do not stay inside people’s heads

Apr 6th, 2018 8:49 am | By

Women in STEM fields have a laundry list of stories about men telling them they aren’t clever enough to be there.

A new study published Wednesday adds to a growing body of hard evidence to back up those stories.

It finds that men in STEM subject areas overestimate their own intelligence and credentials, [and] underestimate the abilities of female colleagues, and that as a result, women themselves doubt their abilities — even when hard evidence such as grades say otherwise.

It’s a wonderful loop, isn’t it – men think they’re better than they are so they forge confidently ahead regardless and they feel entitled to tell women they’re not good enough so women are kneecapped, so men think they’re even more better than they are and so on forever.

The students worked in groups and as partners and when asked to rate themselves compared to their closest workmate, the men thought they’d be smarter than 61 percent of their colleagues. Women put the number closer to 33 percent.

“This echoes what has been previously shown in the literature; a review of nearly 20 published papers on self-estimated intelligence concluded that men rate themselves higher than women on self-estimated intelligence,” Cooper and Brownell wrote in their report, published in Advances in Physiology Education.

“More and more of these studies are painting similar pictures,” Brownell said.

Yes, I’ve seen them before, and I bet we all have.

So what’s the result? STEM fields are full of Damore-type men telling women they’re not smart enough, or, more euphemistically aka deniably they’re more into relationships than mathematics. Also, in a thrilling new bonus, they have platoons of thinky men telling us all that this is Free Speech and must be not only protected but encouraged and widely disseminated and greeted with rapture. How dare Google fire Damore just for fitting this pattern of Mediocre Men Telling Women They Are Too Stupid Empathetic to Work at Google?

Ilana Seidel Horn, a professor of mathematics education at Vanderbilt University, says it’s been shown that girls and women doubt their own mastery of a subject more than boys and men do.

“Really bright girls often don’t feel like they know something unless they very much understand it, whereas boys are more comfortable saying they understand something without having an actual deeper understanding,” Horn said.

It’s more of a guy thing.

The attitudes do not stay inside people’s heads. Pearson said she felt the disdain of her male classmates regularly.

“I can’t even tell you how many of my early successes (awards and grants) were attributed to my being the only girl, and ‘they had to’ give the award to a woman,” Pearson said.

“I am reasonably successful by a variety of measures, but I still doubt everything I do. And it’s because a lifetime of being told I don’t belong and I’m not good enough that got into my head.”

Even the most confident girl or woman might begin to doubt herself when confronted with such attitudes from fellow students, teachers and colleagues, Brownell said.

Drip drip drip.

As recently as today

Apr 5th, 2018 5:48 pm | By


It is not easy to admit our mistakes, particularly now, given the current media climate and general culture of intolerance on college campuses. Still, we feel that we owe our readers an apology.

We should not have hired Cannibal Witch, an elegant writer and thinker who, we have come to believe, after serious consideration, does indeed eat children.

They thought she might change. They thought she deserved a second chance.

However, it was Cannibal Witch’s recent appearance on Lou Dobbs’s podcast, Dobb Knobbin’ with Lou Dobbs—during which she discussed having eaten children as recently as today—that we have decided to part ways. The language she used to describe eating children made it clear to us that her original tweets about eating children did, in fact, represent her carefully considered diet of children.

They meant well. They meant so well.

H/t Pieter Breitner

Guest post: Jordan Peterson and the very idea of pay equality

Apr 5th, 2018 5:33 pm | By

Guest post by Maureen Brian.

Midnight on April 4th was the deadline for companies to submit their data on their gender pay gap, if any, to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Then some editor at the BBC had the notion of inviting wannabee-famous Jordan Peterson to comment on the whole exercise for BBC Radio4 Today.

In the course of a very scrappy interview it became quite clear that he didn’t like it. Not one bit. Certain things, it would seem, are ordained by God – that people who work long hours are all men and thus should be paid a lot more just for being, that the bulk of child or elderly relative care must fall upon women, that a woman who takes a career break should expect to return in a more junior role, etc. He also implied that people who work fewer hours should expect to be paid a lower hourly rate even with the same qualifications and doing the same work – the example given was a physician in general practice. Also, the figures are crude but we’ll come back to that.

Let us begin at the beginning. Employment law changes in 1970, when Barbara Castle was the Secretary of State, made clear that we were en route to equal pay. The law making that mandatory came in 1975. A small fortune was then spent on lawyers, expensive lawyers, to find or create loopholes so that bosses didn’t have to worry about abiding by the law. Far too important to worry about that, old boy! Finally a ruling by the ECHR in 1984 made it very clear that equal pay was for work of equal value. No more, no less. Trivial differences and different job titles did not count.

There has been progress since all this, led by the brighter employers ably assisted or firmly kicked by unions as required. Things got better but, again, slowly.

Come 2010 and we get the Equality Act which gathers together all the various bits of equality and anti-discrimination law. In the course of that, government took the power to demand that individual companies report how they were getting on with all this.

Years later and companies were given a year’s notice to report their current situation and answer just 4 questions – is there a difference between the pay of men and of women using median pay? And using average pay? And if you divide your workforce into four quartiles, how many men and how many women are in each? And bonuses, how much in total goes to men and how much to women?

They have all this data already for tax and national insurance purposes, as well as for the accountants. This must count as one of the simplest mathematical exercises that anyone over 15 has ever been asked to do. It just has to be input online and signed off by the CEO or senior partner. Also it applies this time around only to companies with 250 or more employees so no worries about small start-ups or niche forensic labs where the one person with a biochemistry PhD could give an outcome which looked odd. Imagine the cost of this done by civil servants.

So Peterson thinks it is crude? Yes, of course it is crude and quite deliberately so. These are very simple figures which you can generate in-house from data already on your computer. No statistician, not even an accountant required and virtually cost-free.

The thing is that each set of figures is owned by the company. They generated them and they own them. It doesn’t attempt to explain how you got there, what you need to do next. It simply says this is where you are. No philosophical arguments required, either, no-one else to blame. Hell, I thought Peterson was a psychologist and in that dimension it is very clever indeed.

Update: somewhere about 1500 firms did not report by the deadline. They will be getting a very sharp letter on Monday then it is a month’s grace or you end up in court. And overall the gender pay gap seems to be under 10% with the exercise to be repeated next year.

A willful and intensely dangerous lie

Apr 5th, 2018 4:40 pm | By

Trump told another giant, walloping lie today while out campaigning.

“In many places, like California, the same person votes many times,” Trump said. “You probably heard about that. They always like to say ‘oh that’s a conspiracy theory.’ Not a conspiracy theory, folks. Millions and millions of people.”

Lie. It’s a lie. It’s a bad, wicked, dangerous lie, and he keeps telling it. He’s been told it’s a lie by many people, but he goes on telling it.

The president stopped talking about voter fraud in public after taking criticism from Republican elected officials for making unsubstantiated charges about misconduct, not only in California but in other states that he lost, such as New Hampshire. But he never completely stopped raising the issue in private, according to people who have spoken with him.

Because he’s both bad and stupid. He doesn’t care that it’s a lie, and he’s too thick to pay attention to how they know it’s a lie.

Allegations of voter fraud have been investigated in California. Although some limited cases have been found, no evidence of large-scale fraud has ever surfaced.

“Millions and millions of people.”<— Big Lie

The new ghetto

Apr 5th, 2018 4:29 pm | By

Some right-wingers are, of course, saying it’s not fair, it’s censorship, it’s plickal krecknis.

Williamson’s hiring in March outraged some liberals, who pointed to 2014 tweets (since deleted) in which he opined “the law should treat abortion like any other homicide” and added, when considering an appropriate punishment for women who undergo abortions, “I have hanging … in mind.”

Williamson’s firing on Thursday prompted equally-angry responses from some of his fellow conservatives in the media, who contended the move shows they are an oppressed minority — “ghettoized,” in the words of the Resurgent’s Erick Erickson.

Ghettoized by the Nazis of plickal krecknis. It will be the gas chambers next, just you wait and see.

Yes, “a different world view” that women should be killed for deciding to stop being pregnant. Opposing abortion rights is one thing, and advocating mass murder is another.

Atlantic editor Jeff Goldberg initially defended Williamson against critics, arguing that isolated remarks on social media should not preclude Williamson from working at the magazine. The liberal watchdog Media Matters on Wednesday resurfaced a 2014 podcast that revealed Williamson’s tweets were not isolated remarks.

“I would totally go with treating it like any other crime, up to and including hanging,” Williamson said of abortion.

“I’m kind of squishy about capital punishment in general, but I’ve got a soft spot for hanging, as a form of capital punishment,” he added. “I tend to think that things like lethal injection are a little too antiseptic. … If the state is going to do violence, let’s make it violence.”

That kind of thing should just be beneath the Atlantic. There are plenty of frankly trashy outlets that are suitable for Williamson’s fantasy about killing lots of women, but the Atlantic should be better than that.

In the Atlantic’s reversal, we find one standard of civil discourse: It is okay — or, at least, forgivable — to tweet that women who undergo abortions should be hanged, so long as the tweet is hyperbolic rhetoric. It is not okay to actually think women who undergo abortions should be hanged.

No that’s not it. It is not okay to say that women who undergo abortions should be hanged and mean it. We can’t know what people actually think, we can merely know what they say and possibly whether or not they were joking or hyperbolizing when they said it.

Anyway, chalk up another win for plickal krecknis.

His carefully considered views

Apr 5th, 2018 12:22 pm | By

This just in – The Atlantic has fired Kevin Williamson, the “women who get abortions should be hanged” guy.

That’s good, but why was he hired (or signed up) in the first place? It was already known that he thought and wrote that women should be executed for ending their own pregnancies. Would the Atlantic sign up a writer who had written that Jews should be murdered? Bosnians? Muslims? Atheists? Tutsis? I doubt it. It’s weird that women are apparently an exception.

The Daily Beast has more:

Goldberg initially defended Williamson’s hiring, dismissing the fringe view as simply “extreme tweeting” for which he deserved a “second chance.” New York Times conservative columnist Bret Stephens echoed that defense, writing, “[F]or heaven’s sake, it was a tweet.”

However, on Wednesday, Media Matters for America revealed that Williamson’s deadly solution for women who’ve had abortions wasn’t just an aberrant tweet. In a 2014 podcast, the liberal watchdog found, Williamson repeatedly and forcefully defended his view that those women should be executed.

He described current methods of execution—like lethal injection—to be “too antiseptic” and suggested that the state administer more “violent” forms of capital punishment befitting the “violence” of an abortion.

Goldberg decided that might make things awkward with female colleagues. Good call.