Notes and Comment Blog

When Mike called Sean

Nov 5th, 2019 5:44 am | By

Charles Pierce at Esquire has been reading the transcript of Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony, and has learned that Sean Hannity was helping Trump tell lies about her.

Schiff: And did you ever find out when, you know, the allegations were being made or the attacks were being made by Donald Trump, Jr., or Rudy Giuliani, did you ever find out what the Secretary of State’s position, whether the Secretary of State was going to defend you or not, apart from the refusal by the Secretary to issue a statement in your defense?

Yovanovitch: What I was told by Phil Reeker was that the Secretary or perhaps somebody around him was going to place a call to Mr. Hannity on Fox News to say, you know, what is going on? I mean, do you have proof of these kinds of allegations or not? And if you have proof, you know, telI me, and if not, stop.

And I understand that that call was made. I don’t know whether it was the Secretary or somebody else in his inner circle. And for a time, you know, things kind of simmered down.

Schiff: I mean, does that seem extraordinary to you that the Secretary of State or some other high-ranking official would call a talk show host to figure out whether you should be retained as ambassador?

Yovanovitch: Well…I’m not sure that’s exactly what was being asked.

Schiff: Well , they were asking if what basis they…was Hannity one of the people criticizing you?

Yovanovitch: Yes.

Schiff: So some top administration official was going to him to find out what the basis of this Fox host was attacking you for?

Yovanovitch: Uh-huh.

Sean Hannity running US diplomacy.

The image of a man who understands “regular people”

Nov 4th, 2019 3:46 pm | By

More on Trump N Twitter:

Aides said they often compiled positive feedback for Mr. Trump. He revels in the stream of praise from his most loyal followers, on paper or as he scrolls through his phone early in the morning and late at night.

That’s so pathetic. No, I don’t feel sorry for him, I just find it pathetic. Contemptible, and pathetic. Random fools on Twitter think he’s awwwwwwsome, and that gives him the cuddly feelz.

The Times presents a graph showing that tweets that get lots of love on Twitter are repellent to the sane adult public. It’s kind of as if Trump spent all his time courting gamers or zombie fans.

The president is keenly aware of his number of followers and reluctant to acknowledge that any of them are not real. Mr. Trump has accused Twitter of political bias for its periodic purges of bot accounts across the platform, which have cost him — and other prominent users — hundreds of thousands of followers. When he met with the company’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, in April, Mr. Trump reportedly pressed him at length about the lost followers.

It’s so cruel to take his loyal bots away.

According to data from YouGov, which polls about most of the president’s tweets, some of the topics on which Mr. Trump got the most likes and retweets — jabs at the N.F.L., posts about the special counsel’s investigation, unfounded allegations of widespread voter fraud — poll poorly with the general public.

But people close to Mr. Trump said there was no dissuading him that the “likes” a tweet got were evidence that a decision or policy proposal was well received.

Last December, after Mr. Trump announced plans to withdraw some troops from Syria, lawmakers came to the White House to argue against it. According to Politico, Mr. Trump responded by calling in Mr. Scavino.

“Tell them how popular my policy is,” Mr. Trump asked Mr. Scavino, who described for the lawmakers social media postings that had praised Mr. Trump’s decision. Aides said that for Mr. Trump, his Twitter “likes” were proof that he had made the right call.

Ok, I take back the “nothing we didn’t know” claim. I didn’t know that. Dear god – he makes his policy on Syria according to what’s popular on Twitter.

He and his flunkies are hoping Twitter will win him a second term.

While some campaign aides say Mr. Trump’s tweets can be a distraction, they also view Twitter as an essential tool to present him as someone strong, willing to stand up to so-called political elites and what the president recently called the “unholy alliance of corrupt Democrat politicians, deep-state bureaucrats and the fake-news media.”

The aides seek to cultivate the image of a man who understands “regular people.” Mr. Trump’s team believes that his unvarnished writing, poor punctuation and increasing profanity on Twitter signal authenticity — a contrast to the polished, vetted, often anodyne social media style of most candidates.

Absolutely. Who needs health insurance and affordable housing and decent wages when there’s an ignorant sexist racist loudmouth being “authentic” on Twitter?

Trump’s Twitter habit is most intense in the morning

Nov 4th, 2019 3:26 pm | By

The Times has a huge multi-author piece on Trump N Twitter. It’s nothing we don’t already know, I think, but it does provide some details that are interesting.

Mr. Trump’s Twitter habit is most intense in the morning, when he is in the White House residence, watching Fox News, scrolling through his Twitter mentions and turning the social media platform into what one aide called the “ultimate weapon of mass dissemination.”

Of the attack tweets identified in the Times analysis, nearly half were sent between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., hours that Mr. Trump spends mostly without advisers present.

After waking early, Mr. Trump typically watches news shows recorded the previous night on his “Super TiVo,” several DVRs connected to a single remote. (The devices are set to record “Lou Dobbs Tonight” on Fox Business Network; “Hannity,” “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and “The Story With Martha MacCallum” on Fox News; and “Anderson Cooper 360” on CNN.)

He takes in those shows, and the “Fox & Friends” morning program, then flings out comments on his iPhone. Then he watches as his tweets reverberate on cable channels and news sites.

We mostly knew that, but it’s still astounding – that he can find four hours to watch tv and gossip about it on Twitter. In practical terms, the less work he does the better, but it’s still insulting and infuriating that he’s mostly just hanging out and watching teeeeeeveeeeeee.

The symbiotic relationship between Mr. Trump and Fox News is apparent through the president’s tweets. In fact, he praised the network in his first tweet on the first morning he woke up in the White House.

He has since praised and promoted the network, individual shows and conservative news media personalities more than 750 times.

Over all, at least 15 percent of the content in Mr. Trump’s tweets seemed to come directly from Fox News and other conservative media outlets.

I’m surprised it’s not more.

Once Mr. Trump arrives in the West Wing — usually after 10 a.m. — Dan Scavino, the White House social media director, takes control of the Twitter account, tweeting as @realDonaldTrump from his own phone or computer. Mr. Trump rarely tweets in front of others, those close to him say, because he does not like to wear the reading glasses he needs to see the screen.

Oh brilliant – a president who won’t read in front of other people because he’s too vain to wear glasses. (They would actually improve his looks. They would make him look less stupid.)

Instead, the president dictates tweets to Mr. Scavino, who sits in a closet-size room just off the Oval Office until Mr. Trump calls out “Scavino!” Often, he prints out suggested tweets in extra-large fonts for the president to sign off on. (A single-page article that Mr. Scavino recently printed out for him ran to six pages after the fonts were enlarged, according to one person who saw it.)

That’s some large font.

Along with Michael Dubke, who served as White House communications director for several months in 2017 and is from Buffalo, home of the famous chicken wings, Mr. Scavino presented some tweets to Mr. Trump in degrees of outrageousness: “hot,” “medium” or “mild.” Mr. Trump, said one former official who saw the proposed messages, always picked the most incendiary ones and often wanted to make them even more provocative.

Yes but they’re not just “outrageous” or “incendiary” or “provocative.” A president talking in public this way isn’t a game, isn’t cute, isn’t a personal quirk, isn’t funny, isn’t a good story. A president talking in public this way is a road to horrors. Work people up enough and they will get violent.

He plotted for days to tweet about Mika Brzezinski, the liberal co-host of the popular MSNBC morning program, according to former White House officials, before finally posting one morning in June 2017. He called her “low I.Q. Crazy Mika” and wrote that she had been “bleeding badly from a face-lift” during a New Year’s Eve party.

And that day maybe more men punched the nearest woman than would have otherwise, because Trump’s tweet made them feel contempt and disgust for women.

In October of last year, the president started telling his aides that he planned to denounce Stormy Daniels, a pornographic-film actress who claimed to have had an affair with him more than a decade earlier. He said he wanted to call her a “horse face.”

Several current and former aides recalled telling Mr. Trump that it was a terrible idea and would renew accusations of misogyny against him.

But more to the point, it would also inflame misogyny in others, and we already have more than enough misogyny to deal with.

Of course he went ahead and did it.

Tweet the flattery

Nov 4th, 2019 11:11 am | By

Two transcripts from the impeachment inquiry have been made public, I guess with more to follow. One stomach-turning item:

Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, told House impeachment investigators last month that U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told her she should tweet out support or praise for President Donald Trump if she wanted to save her job, according to a transcript of her testimony made public Monday.

On one level, the higher level, that’s serious bad governance, bad policy, bad dealing with civil servants, all that. On the lower level, it’s the usual absolutely sickening contemptible infantile egotism of this ravenously greedy-for-praise monster. The higher level is vastly more consequential but it’s the lower one that always throws me into rages of disgust. I cannot stand the way he’s always hanging his conceit and need for slavish flattery out there for all to see. I can’t stand his total lack of seriousness.

Yovanovitch departed Ukraine in May, months ahead of her scheduled departure, after coming under attack from right-wing media, which alleged she was hostile to the president. Her departure set off alarm bells among Democrats in Congress but the State Department said at the time her exit was planned.

Yovanovitch testified to House investigators Oct. 11 that Trump had personally pressured the State Department to remove her, even though a top department official assured her that she had “done nothing wrong.”

If only she had tweeted what an awesome perfect great stable genius and sex god he is.

What a season she’s had!

Nov 4th, 2019 10:42 am | By

Back in August I did a couple of posts about cricket player Maxine Blythin. I missed the news a month later:

🏆 | What a season she’s had!

Your 2019 Kent Women Player of the Year is…. Maxine Blythin!

What a season indeed! Taking a woman’s place on the team and then taking an award from a woman.

One poignant reply a few minutes ago:

I teach at a girls’ school in Kent. We’ve had speakers in from Kent cricket to encourage the girls to view cricket as a sport for them. I guess that was all just a lie.

Oh not at all, girls can still play, they just have to be prepared for boys to be on the team too. I suppose if enough boys decide to cheat that way then girls can’t still play, but…I don’t know, maybe they can stand on the sidelines and cheer the boys on?

After this night in the forest

Nov 3rd, 2019 4:51 pm | By

Garrett Epps points out:

Trump has, one way or another, changed our national life irrevocably. When one side of a political struggle has shown itself willing to commit crimes, collaborate with foreign powers, destroy institutions, and lie brazenly about facts readily ascertainable to anyone, should the other side—can the other side—then pretend these things did not happen?

Some Democratic leaders are proclaiming that we can go back to the world before Trump—and before Brett Kavanaugh and Mitch McConnell, before Bill Barr and Rudy Giuliani, before an invasion of a secure facility at the Capitol, before babies were torn from their mothers and caged, before racist rhetoric from the White House and massacres at a synagogue and an El Paso Walmart—to a world of political cooperation, respect for norms, and nonpolitical courts.


Assume new national leadership in 2021. What leader worth voting for would negotiate with Mitch McConnell or Kevin McCarthy and believe either will keep his word; what sane president would turn over sensitive documents to Republican-led committees; what Democratic president would simply accept that the federal courts are now the property of the opposition, and submit issues of national policy to them, in the confidence of receiving a fair shake? After this night in the forest, can I, or any sane person, ever believe in these people and institutions again?

No. I think he’s right that we’ve gone down a road we can’t go back up.

Don’t cross the equality and diversity guidelines

Nov 3rd, 2019 4:05 pm | By

Sorry to cite the Daily Mail, but you know how it is – sometimes the quality papers are looking fixedly in the other direction.

A birth coach has been ‘ostracised’ by her professional organisation after transgender activists branded as offensive a Facebook post in which she said that only women can have babies.

Lynsey McCarthy-Calvert, 45, was forced to stand down as spokesperson for Doula UK and has since resigned altogether from the national organisation for birth coaches. Her exit comes after transgender rights activists triggered an investigation in which Doula UK concluded her message breached its equality and diversity guidelines.

What equality and diversity guidelines are those then? Ones that say men can have babies? Is there a big market for birth coaches who think men can have babies? Wouldn’t prospective clients be worried the doula might get confused on the big day and start coaching Daddy?

‘I am angry and sad,’ she said last night. ‘I was effectively ostracised for saying I am a woman and so are my clients.

‘I have been very disappointed by Doula UK’s response. The leadership are paralysed by not wanting to upset transgender rights activists. They have fallen over themselves to acquiesce to their demands.’

Their demands to treat women as oppressive privileged class enemies, and to remove all mention of them from public life.

The Doula UK row started after Cancer Research UK dropped the word ‘women’ from its smear test campaign, instead saying screening was ‘relevant for everyone aged 25-64 with a cervix’.

In response, Mrs McCarthy-Calvert posted a photograph on Facebook of a negligee-clad woman somersaulting underwater, with the wording: ‘I am not a “cervix owner” I am not a “menstruator” I am not a “feeling”. I am not defined by wearing a dress and lipstick. I am a woman: an adult human female.’

Beneath it she wrote: ‘Women birth all the people, make up half the population, but less than a third of the seats in the House of Commons are occupied by us.’

She claimed women were accused of transphobia more than men, arguing men were not ‘subjected to cries of bigotry and transphobia when they say they don’t want to have sex with a woman with a penis’. Most trans-women have not had their male genitalia removed.

Days later, around 20 trans activists wrote a letter of complaint claiming Mrs McCarthy-Calvert had ‘clearly’ breeched Doula UK policies stating that members ‘shouldn’t post anything that our colleagues, clients and affiliates would find offensive’.

They alleged that the post contained several ‘trans exclusionary comments’ including the description of a woman as an ‘adult human female’.

Doula UK immediately withdrew Mrs McCarthy-Calvert as spokesperson and, after a four-month investigation, its board of directors concluded in March the post ‘does breach Doula UK’s guidelines’.

Last night, Doula UK denied it had ‘acquiesced’ to activists or that Mrs McCarthy-Calvert had been ‘in some way driven out of the organisation’.

A spokesperson added: ‘We are proud to say that we seek to listen to the lived experience of marginalised groups and make changes – including changes to the language we use – if we believe it is necessary to make the Doula UK community more welcoming and supportive.’

So it’s welcoming and supportive to tell male people they can gestate babies? And to punish a woman for saying it’s women who gestate babies?

It’s upside-down world.

As the fire’s rage

Nov 3rd, 2019 2:47 pm | By

Speaking of Only in Trump’s White House…what other president, even the shittiest of them, ever decided the best thing to do when a state was suffering a disaster would be to shout abuse at its governor, in public? I don’t know of any. But for Trump it’s just another Sunday.

The Governor of California, @GavinNewsom, has done a terrible job of forest management. I told him from the first day we met that he must “clean” his forest floors regardless of what his bosses, the environmentalists, DEMAND of him. Must also do burns and cut fire stoppers…….Every year, as the fire’s rage & California burns, it is the same thing-and then he comes to the Federal Government for $$$ help. No more. Get your act together Governor. You don’t see close to the level of burn in other states…But our teams are working well together in………putting these massive, and many, fires out. Great firefighters! Also, open up the ridiculously closed water lanes coming down from the North. Don’t pour it out into the Pacific Ocean. Should be done immediately. California desperately needs water, and you can have it now!

Image result for trump boy mowing lawn meme california

Only in Trump’s White House

Nov 3rd, 2019 2:29 pm | By

So the Trump people threw a Halloween party for staff and their kids.

A Halloween party on Oct. 25 at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building featured candy, paper airplanes and — concerning for some attendees — a station where children were encouraged to help “Build the Wall” with their own personalized bricks.

Photos of the children’s mural with the paper wall were provided to Yahoo News.

The party, which took place inside the office building used by White House staff, included the families of executive-branch employees and VIP guests inside and outside government.

The “Build the Wall” mural was on the first floor, outside the speechwriter’s office and next to the office of digital strategy and featured red paper bricks, each bearing the name of a child.

Aww, cute.

via Yahoo News

Build the wall to keep out the filthy foreigners, plus also, America First. Isn’t that a healthy message for children? “Always be selfish, kids! You first! Push to the head of the line, grab all the chocolates, punch anyone who objects, knock down anyone who gets in your way. MAGA!”

Earlier in the week offices inside the EEOB had been instructed to put together kid-friendly displays for trick-or-treaters. The displays were supposed to be interactive and inspiring, and all were supposed to address the party’s theme: “When I grow up I want to be…”

You know, they could have done that. Even Trump people can imagine inspiring futures for kids, I would think. Astronauts, doctors, rocket scientists, dancers, teachers, chefs, musicians – lots of things other than adding bricks to a wall built to keep brown people out.

Those who worked in and around the EEOB said the border wall display is far different from what was done in prior years. “We never did anything like this in the Obama administration,” said Nate Snyder, who previously served in the Department of Homeland Security as a counterterrorism official. “We hung up skeletons and ghosts.”

However, a person who works with the Trump administration said people were making too much out of a children’s display. “Everyone loses their minds over everything, and nothing can be funny anymore,” the person said.

One, the wall is not funny. Two, any conceivable Wall Jokes would be nauseatingly inappropriate for children.

Erika Andiola, the chief advocacy officer for the immigration rights organization RAICES, said the wall, which has become a symbol for Trump’s immigration agenda, including the child separation policy, was inappropriate for a kids’ party.

“I don’t think they understand the amount of pain that people are going through at the border for them to make a joke out of it,” Andiola said of the Trump administration. “We still are dealing with children in cages even if people are not calling it that, so it’s not a joke.”

Oh, it’s not that they don’t understand. It’s that they like it.

Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an immigrant advocacy organization, also described the wall as “an offensive metaphor” to feature at a children’s party. “It screams to white grievance voters that ‘real Americans’ should fear, exclude and dehumanize brown people,” Sharry said. “Only in Trump’s White House would a holiday event centered on kids, costumes and candy become a propaganda opportunity for his racism and xenophobia.”

Snyder, the former Obama counterterrorism official, said that by politicizing the walls of the EEOB, Trump’s staff showed a “lack of respect for where they are and what they represent.”

“This building is historical beacon of freedom that once housed the military, and now you have a fake construction-paper wall with ‘America First’ signs on it,” Snyder lamented.

“For me as a person who worked in and outside of the White House and walked these halls countless numbers of times,” he said, “it seems like a desecration of the building.”

It’s what we stand for now.

To define someone else’s identity

Nov 3rd, 2019 11:12 am | By

Do we believe in magic? Jolyon Maugham QC again:

To construct an argument around that because a man raped a women in a women’s prison it follows that trans women as a class pose a risk to women in prison is plain and simple bigotry of a type applied to eg black men, gay men, rape victims, jews etc etc

A reply:

No it’s not – TW are male – we want to exclude males from female only spaces like prisons. Unless it’s bigoted to have any female only spaces, any female only anything.

Jolyon QC:

That’s what, sadly, so many of these replies come to. That you have the right to define someone else’s identity and treat them accordingly. I find it really sad that so many whose self-conception is of protecting minorities and disadvantage find themselves arguing as you do.

When and why and how did clever people like QCs become so convinced that “identity” is such a magical category that everyone is required to take everyone’s word for her/his “identity” no matter what the identity, what the circumstances, what the details?

There is no such magic. You’d think lawyers of all people would know that, since they must have to deal with lying and liars and lies all the time. There is no magic that requires us to treat other people’s claimed “identities” as sacrosanct and forbidden to question.

Women are not “defining” a man’s identity by recognizing him as a man. They’re just heeding the evidence of their senses and their years of experience. There is no moral rule that says women have to take a man’s word for it that he’s a woman. People are working hard to invent such a rule and make it binding on everyone, but we still have room to resist.

Step right up

Nov 3rd, 2019 10:15 am | By

Amy Hamm tweets:

So @MorganeOgerBC wants women to drown in the ocean and this trans activist outside #GIDYVR wants to behead women.


Retroactive policy trap

Nov 3rd, 2019 9:57 am | By

You may recall that Jonathan Best is being punished by the University of Huddersfield for violating orthodoxy on trans issues. He tweets today:

News on the Uni of Huddersfield disciplinary case against me: my appeal against the warning given to me by the Dean has been allowed and I now proceed to a full, disciplinary hearing on November 15th. These are the allegations the university brings against me, and which I refute:


That third item made me sit up and take (extra) notice. Breach of the Trans Equality Policy? What is the Trans Equality Policy? What special kind of equality is there that applies to trans people and not others? So I went looking for it, and found it. The odd thing is, though, it’s dated this past September and October…so they’re accusing Best of breaching something that didn’t exist when he is supposed to have breached it. They appear to have written a new policy for the very purpose of accusing Best of breaching it before it was written.

Trans Equality Policy Statement [pdf]:

1. The University of Huddersfield is committed to removing any form of unlawful
discrimination against people on the grounds of their gender identity or gender
expression. Where this policy refers to ‘trans people’, it has in mind a broad range of
people whose gender identity may not be expressed in ways that are typically
associated with their assigned sex at birth. This includes those who have non-binary,
agender or gender-fluid identities.

But unlawful discrimination against people on other grounds is ok? No. So what’s the point of specifying the grounds? Besides attempting to justify punishing Jonathan Best with a retroactive rule? Unlawful discrimination is unlawful.

2 and 3 are about valuing diversity and respect and no harassment. Then it gets more specific.

The University undertakes the following:
• Students will not be denied access to courses, progression to other courses, or fair
and equal treatment while on courses because of their gender identity or because
they propose to or have transitioned.
• Employees will not be excluded from employment or promotion or redeployment
opportunities because of their gender identity.
• Requests to change name and gender on records will be handled promptly and
employees and students will be made aware of any implications of the changes.
• The University will respect the confidentiality of all trans employees and students’
identities and will not reveal information relating to their trans status without the
prior agreement of the individual.

So apparently they’re saying that as far as they’re concerned students and employees can change sex instantly and on request, with no questions asked, and that students will be made aware of any implications of the changes while at the same time the whole thing is kept confidential. So that’s confusing.

Then we get to the bit they apparently wrote specifically to justify their bullying of Jonathan Best:

Transphobic abuse, harassment or bullying (name-calling/derogatory jokes,
unacceptable or unwanted behaviour, intrusive questions etc.) will not be tolerated
and will be dealt with under the appropriate procedure,

Nice “etc.” there – what do you bet it will turn out to cover whatever they need it to cover in order to justify their bullying of Jonathan Best. What do you bet it will turn out to cover any kind of skepticism about “gender identity” at all. I guess it doesn’t matter what you bet because nobody will take the bet – the reality is too obvious.

Page 3 has all the dates. September and October.

Updating to add: Best replies to my questions:

Versions of these policies were in existence prior to the complaint against me. The clauses I’m accused of breaking have been made clear to me.

Ok. I remain very suspicious of this late re-write, and especially of that “etc.”


Nov 3rd, 2019 9:10 am | By

Adding another from Jolyon Maugham, a more trivial one but it itches my mind.

Your argument contends that trans men and women are somehow pretending to be men and women. And don’t also deserve protection. I don’t accept those contentions.

It’s that “somehow” that’s so annoying. Come on. The “somehow” is that trans people claim to be the opposite sex. That’s what “trans” means in this context. (There are other contexts. Transcontinental, transnational, translate, transfer.) Trans people explain themselves as “identifying as” the other sex. It has become socially mandatory to treat those claims and explanations as true and self-evident and rude-to-dispute, but that doesn’t translate to “we no longer even understand what is meant by ‘trans’ or how anyone could possibly think trans women are in any sense men.”

And how are we defining “pretending,” anyway? I don’t think all trans people are consciously deliberately perpetrating a hoax while laughing up their sleeves, but I also don’t think “identifying as” is identical to being in all uses of the word.

The current ideology is that trans people are both trans and the sex they transed into. That doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense, but then that’s the beauty of ideology: it doesn’t necessarily have to make sense.

There can be a mix of pretending and sincerity, but whatever it is, the reality stays the same: people can’t literally change sex, so there’s nothing puzzling or opaque about saying that trans dogma is a gift to men who have reasons to pretend to be women…such as men in prison for example. Maugham’s pretending to be confused by the idea that some trans people could be pretending to be the other sex is flippant and annoying.

Not his problem

Nov 3rd, 2019 8:33 am | By

Jolyon Maugham QC, who will never find himself in the situation of a woman locked up with a predatory man who claims to be a woman, weighs in with his QC opinion on the subject.

There’s a need for great care when arguing for the need to protect ‘safe spaces’. To contend ‘X, member of group, is a criminal and so you should fear all in that group’ is to adopt a trope favoured by bigots down the ages. 1/3

He was commenting on a tweet by Jean Hatchet:

Yes. This has happened and the rapist was called *Karen* White. Now returned to male prison. If we raise this we are called transphobic. But we will raise it. Stand with feminist women against these attacks on your rights. Go to a @Womans_Place_UK meeting. Find out. Push back.

Maugham continues:

The Equality Act (and the very provision Jean cites) talks of “proportionate” measures to achieve “legitimate” aims. This languages recognises the need carefully to balance conflicting rights and dignities. Trans men and women, like cis men and women are entitled to respect. 2/3

How real is the risk? What is necessary to safeguard against it? How might these safeguards be operated to protect the rights and dignities of all? These questions are more likely to generate policy responses that achieve that balance than broad assertion. 3/3

It’s not a risk he will ever face, and that could be why he finds it so easy to dismiss, minimize, shrug off.

Her assailant had also moved there and would be sharing accommodation

Nov 3rd, 2019 8:12 am | By

The Sunday Times reports:

A female prisoner who was allegedly sexually assaulted in jail by a male-bodied transgender inmate has launched a High Court action for a judicial review of government policy.

She says the transgender woman, who is serving a sentence for rape of a female, groped her breasts in the prison toilets. Shortly after the assault, the victim was moved to a different prison only to find her assailant had also moved there and would be sharing accommodation.

She is challenging the lawfulness of the government decision to place trans-women prisoners convicted of sexual and violent offences against women in women’s prisons without, it is claimed, adequately protecting female prisoners.

The claim says the government’s national policy, implemented from October 31, states that “transgender women prisoners with gender recognition certificates must be treated in the same way as biological women for all purposes”. It rules they must be placed in the women’s estate unless there are exceptional circumstances.

So, again, when rights claims compete, men win – which, ironically, underlines the fact that trans women are men. The “right” of men to have their fantasies of being women taken seriously even by the state, even in its role as enforcer of the laws, trumps women’s right to be safe from men especially in captivity. Women in prison can’t just quit, leave, move, transfer if they don’t want to live in close quarters with men; they’re in prison. Men win, women lose, again.

Dr Nicola Williams, director of Fair Play for Women, a group that has campaigned to highlight the risks to women, said: “We very much welcome this application to the court to grant a judicial review.”

Well done Nic.

At the Pan Pacific Vancouver

Nov 2nd, 2019 5:56 pm | By

From The Postmillenial late yesterday:

Word spread quickly on social media this evening that Simon Fraser University has backed out of its decision to host the event entitled “#GIDYVR: How Media Bias Shapes the Gender Identity Debate” on November 2nd.

In addition to Vancouver feminist Meghan Murphy, the event was slated to feature Quillette Canadian editor Jonathan Kay and The Post Millennial contributor Anna Slatz, and was co-organized by Mark Collard, an SFU professor of anthropology, Amy Eileen Hamm, Holly Stamer, and GIDYVR. Free speech activist Lindsay Shepherd was set to moderate.

Amy tweeted four hours ago:

We are not cancelled. New venue will be announced in an hour.


An hour later, as promised:

#GIDYVR #NOTcancelled


If all went as planned they started 22 minutes ago.

Collard, who had originally sponsored the event and assisted in booking the venue at SFU’s Harbour Centre campus, decided to withdraw his support for the event after speaking to senior director of campus public safety, Tim Marron. Marron explained that there was a high risk of violence as a result of the event.

“The senior admin had been very firm about respecting my academic freedom in terms of supporting the event,” Collard told The Post Millennial. “Tim explained what happened yesterday in a meeting between the SFU LGBT student group called Out On Campus and an outside group called Coalition Against Trans Antagonism (CATA). CATA was attempting to persuade Out On Campus to use direct action, discussing tactics such as pulling fire alarms and engaging in property damage. The ball was left in my court, and because of the safety concerns, I could not in good conscience allow this to proceed.”

There is apparently a report on the potential risks drafted by SFU security but Collard has not seen it yet—it remains with senior administration.

Threats of violence don’t do much to polish the reputation of trans activists.

Updating to add: Amy just tweeted:

Here we go! #GIDYVR #NOTcancelled


Not canceled! Baby included!

Being canceled

Nov 2nd, 2019 5:20 pm | By

Katie Herzog writes for the Seattle weekly The Stranger. One day she wrote an article about trans people who halt or reverse transitions. You’ll never guess what happened next.

Two days later she started getting hate mail.

“It is, by far, the most-read thing I’ve ever written,” Ms. Herzog said. It also made her “wildly reviled.” Seattle residents burned stacks of The Stranger and posted stickers calling Ms. Herzog a transphobe.

Ms. Herzog lost “dozens” of friends over the article, she said. She soon felt unwelcome at lesbian bars. She began to hesitate to give strangers her name. She felt like a “pariah” in her hometown, she said, and eventually moved out of Seattle to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.

Her main social contacts now are her live-in girlfriend and a small group of older female friends. “I’m not invited to brunch anymore,” Ms. Herzog said.

Been there, got the T shirt. (Except the brunch thing. I do not know this “brunch” of which you speak.)

The term for people who have been thrust out of social or professional circles in this way — either online or in the real world or sometimes both — is “canceled.”

This week, even Barack Obama spoke about online denunciation, personal purity and being “politically woke,” saying, “If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far.”

Purity is not enough, and it’s not always even desirable. Purity can be racial or sexual or ethnic or national or religious, and none of those brands of purity-policing lead to good places.

Alice Dreger, a former Northwestern University professor, estimated she has counseled “about 100” people through their experiences being canceled. In doing so, she has become part of an “informal peer network” that includes two pugnacious writer-personalities: Christina Hoff Sommers, who rose to prominence defending Gamergate and coining “victim feminism,” and Meghan Murphy, who opposed adding gender identity to Canada’s human rights act.

Ms. Herzog had interviewed Ms. Dreger for her piece on trans people. “I told her, ‘You’re going to get slaughtered for this.’ She just laughed,” Ms. Dreger said. “Six months later, she gave me a call.”

“Katie thought what we all thought: The truth will save me. That’s what Galileo thought, too, and he died under house arrest. The same thing has happened to us.”

Did I think that? No, I don’t think so. I apparently did think I would be allowed to express some careful, reasoned reservations though. Ha! Nope.

Ms. Dreger’s chief concern is ensuring that the canceled person has access to mental health care, she said. The experience of public scorn is psychologically damaging.

“There’s an effect to being constantly told, in public, that you’re wrong and evil,” said Kathleen Stock, a professor of philosophy at the University of Sussex in England.

Ms. Stock has also received strong criticism for her writings on trans people. (She describes herself as “gender critical.”) She said she is “anathema” in certain philosophy factions.
She has also corresponded with Ms. Herzog and Jesse Singal, another journalist who has been scorned for his writing on trans people, and has developed genuine friendships with like-minded academics. “Some of us have even been on holiday together,” Ms. Stock said.

Brunch, holiday – these people speak a dialect I’m not familiar with.

Mr. Singal and Ms. Murphy may be case studies for people who don’t believe “cancel culture” is real, or effective. Twitter-based outrage hasn’t had a lasting, adverse effect on their careers or social lives. It has become a central part of their online personas.

For Ms. Murphy, getting canceled has brought her into contact with people she once considered her “political enemies.”

She was banned from Twitter for “targeted misgendering” and then sued Twitter over the decision. (She lost the suit but said she is currently in the appeal process.) While she thought it would hurt her writing career, she said the opposite occurred. “People tried to cancel me, and I was un-cancelable,” Ms. Murphy said. “It backfired, and I gained a bigger profile.”

And lots of invitations to brunch, I bet.

Guest post: Everything has completely shifted

Nov 2nd, 2019 4:57 pm | By

Originally a comment by Artymorty on The very definition of adult public discourse.

It’s quite true that we should avoid relying on “us vs. them” mentality too much, and I suppose it’s healthy to reach across the left/right divide every now and then. I’m probably giving myself way too much credit here, but I believe I’ve always been the type to at least try to give the right’s ideas the benefit of the doubt — I wouldn’t dismiss them out of hand simply because they come from the bad guys. I’m trying to find an old Jon Stewart joke from the early 2000s I used to be fond of, that went something along the lines that you could make the left turn against any idea by simply getting Joe Lieberman to endorse it. I’ve always been aware that there’s a lot of that kind of tribal in-group thinking on the left, and I’ve always tried to put myself above it and ground my political stances on reason rather than tribal identity. (Or at least, that’s what I’ve flattered myself into believing.)

But in practice it rarely mattered whether one’s leftist beliefs came from merely identifying as a leftist or from reasoning one’s way into them, because the two were almost always in alignment, at least as I saw it. There were enough reason-minded people at the helm of leftist thought to keep the herd on course. No matter how hard I looked, I almost never found instances where the right’s position seemed more reasonable than the left’s. There were some examples where the left was wrong, though, and I kept them in mind as important lessons the left should learn from: their betrayal of Salman Rushdie; their knee-jerk attitudes about religious rights; Noam Chomsky’s genocide denialism in Bosnia and Cambodia; etc.

But things feel different now. Everything has completely shifted. The leftist herd is now led by emotional soundbites spread through social media, and it’s drifted far from the course towards reason. The right recognizes this and are seizing on the opportunity to position themselves as the shepherds of reason, and some young people are getting behind them. And it makes me sick to my stomach with fear, because mingling in among the right-wing herd are a lot of dangerous, harmful ideas that could quite literally destroy the planet.

The very definition of adult public discourse

Nov 2nd, 2019 11:49 am | By

Rex Murphy is scathing on the campaign to silence Meghan Murphy:

[T]he Toronto Public Library (the well-known free-speech-mongering fascist hive) was the scene of great turbulence when Meghan Murphy (feminist scholar, writer) rented a room in one of its divisions to give a talk on gender identity and its various legal and other implications.

Now people living in less enlightened cities than Toronto might think that a civilized, qualified woman — feminist, too — speaking on the subject of women, in the quiet dignity of a public library, to people (many of them women) who wished to hear her, was the very definition of adult public discourse, an illustration of a healthy civic climate, and a very fine addition to the intellectual state of democracy.

Further, and this is a key point, the very consideration that the public library system of a city was obligingly renting a room for discussion and debate was proof, if any were needed, that TPL was living up to the great traditions of libraries since they came into the world, of providing a haven for intellect, exchange and debate.

A haven for TERFs you mean.

Immediately, the cry went up from always alert trans-activists that the library system was hosting “hate speech,” that it was a place where “bigotry” had found a home, that as a publicly funded institution it had no “right” to supply a “space” for “transphobia.” To judge from the volume and intensity of the outcry, one would believe that should this Megan Murphy give her 40-minute talk to a hundred people who wanted to hear it, Toronto was on a slide to become the Rome of Mussolini, liberal culture would expire, and it would scarcely be safe to go out at night.

As for the embattled Meghan Murphy, the most tireless label plastered on her — in news reports, sour columns and in the howling street — was that she was a “self-described,” “self-designated” feminist. That she couldn’t therefore be a “real” feminist. The careless mouths making that charge were standing in a thunderstorm of irony and not noticing they were getting drowned in the downpour.

What is the axle on which trans-identity turns? … Give me a minute here … I’ve got to check … Oh, yes. It’s self-identification. Self-description. Per exemplum, Ms. Yaniv, late of the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, and now bearing its fines, “self-identified” as a woman. That same self-identification gave Yaniv the “standing” to harass more than a dozen immigrant women.

Surely Meghan Murphy has a little more ground than self-identified Jessica Yaniv to assert the less troublous category of “feminist.” Feminist is — hold on — not even a biological state. Feminism doesn’t ask other people to wax its particles. It is an intellectual orientation.

In other words it’s a category it does make sense to “identify” as or with or into. It can still be debatable, we can still say it makes no sense to call yourself socialist or conservative if your views don’t align with your chosen designation, but it’s not pure childish make-believe.

But our brave trans-activists want to claim their “right” to nullify Murphy’s actual work, education and experience as a feminist because — by their angry tally — she just says she’s a feminist. I suggest that using “self-described” or “self-identified” as a term of scorn and rebuke is not the ideal tactic for a movement built on self-identification and self-description.

A world where Rachel McKinnon is a woman because he says so but Meghan Murphy is not a feminist even though she says she is and countless feminists agree with her is confusing at best.

A little harder to violate a particular norm of behavior

Nov 2nd, 2019 10:56 am | By

I’m not sure I understand Benjamin Wittes’s argument in this post on the collapse of Trump’s defenses last week.

Hamilton’s point was that guilt or innocence might be not be dispositive in impeachment trials. It was not that guilt or innocence doesn’t matter in the face of political power. There’s a temptation to conflate these two points. If the president’s defense has crumbled but that fact will not trigger his removal, does it even matter? In fact, the crumbling of the president’s defense matters a great deal—even if the wall ultimately holds, even if a large segment of the public refuses to engage that reality and even if a large cadre of elected officials chooses to keep escalating the noise instead of either accepting Trump’s guilt or mounting a substantive defense of his actions.

The collapse matters—even if it does not prove dispositive politically—because persuasion matters and thus persuasiveness matters. The last line of defense against a lawless, oathless president is the electoral process, and clarifying Trump’s conduct before the electorate is thus crucial to voters’ ability to make informed decisions. The process of evaluation itself also plays an important role here. The definition in the minds of members of Congress of what is unacceptable helps to articulate and reinforce norms of behavior. In a period in which we are fighting to defend norms, that articulation and reinforcement is a critical exercise.

I follow so far. (I’m not sure how true it is in the age of Fox News and social media flooded with lies, but I follow.)

It’s a little harder to violate a particular norm of behavior once you have publicly voted to impeach someone for it—not impossible, to be sure, but harder. Conversely, argue that conduct is acceptable or tolerable in a president, and it becomes a little easier to do it yourself. It is a notable fact that Democrats have not, by and large, argued for Trump’s impeachment based on his conduct—very likely criminal—in the Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal matters. Having argued during Bill Clinton’s tenure that crimes undertaken to cover up mere sexual misconduct are not impeachable, Democrats are staying away from that one.

We can hope that something of the opposite effect is happening here: If the only consequence of going through this process is to make it a little harder for some Democratic president in the future to emulate Trump’s ongoing abuses of foreign policy and law enforcement in the service of political ends—because essentially all Democrats will have labeled the conduct as impeachment-worthy—that alone will be worth the process the country is going through now.

Eh? But Democrats don’t have a record of doing this kind of thing. I have a very hard time seeing Trump’s successful evasion of impeachment as worth it because it will discourage a future Democrat from doing what Trump did. That seems like saying it’s ok if Harvey Weinstein gets away with it because at least the process will discourage women from raping men.