Notes and Comment Blog

Have we hit bottom yet?

Mar 5th, 2019 11:37 am | By

Sarah Sanders issues a statement on the investigation of her boss’s racketeering.

“Killing babies.”

This is an official executive branch statement.

A terrible example for Donnie Junior

Mar 5th, 2019 11:06 am | By

These days Trump is all about the “No YOU are!”

This week, however, the current president seems to have taken his fondness for projection to a new level.

Friday, March 1: Facing allegations that he’s committed a variety of crimes, Trump insisted “real crimes were committed” by Democrats. He echoed the argument two days later.

Sunday, March 3: After House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) raised the prospect of Trump running afoul of the law, Trump tweeted that Schiff may have run afoul of the law.

Tuesday, March 5: Accused of obstructing justice, Trump said via Twitter that Democrats “are obstructing justice.”

You know how it is – he hears an exciting new phrase so he has to try it out a lot, and the Twitter is just lying there so why not use it?

It’s unsettling just how often this comes up.

Take the Russia scandal, for example. Confronted with allegations that his political operation colluded with Russian attackers, Trump said Democrats colluded with Russia. Told that the Kremlin supported his candidacy, Trump responded by saying Russia supported Democrats. Accused of being a manipulated pawn for Vladimir Putin, Trump accused Barack Obama of being Putin’s “patsy.”

As we discussed last summer, like an intemperate child, his I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I instincts are finely tuned after extensive practice.

Well in all fairness it doesn’t take a whole lot of practice to know how to swap “Democrats” for “Trump” in every sentence. Even Trump can figure out how that works without too much brow-furrowing.

Look no further than the 2016 campaign: whenever Hillary Clinton would criticize Trump, it was a near certainty that Trump would then made the identical accusation against Clinton. After a while, as regular readers may recall, this got a little creepy.

Clinton accused Trump of being unstable and reckless, so Trump said Clinton is “unstable” and “reckless.” Clinton said Trump mistreated women, so Trump saidClinton mistreated women. Clinton accused Trump of bigotry, so Trump said Clinton’s a “bigot.” Clinton questioned Trump’s temperament, so Trump said Clinton had a bad “temperament.” Clinton said Trump makes a poor role model for children, so Trump said Clinton sets “a terrible example for my son and the children in this country.”

Hahahahahahahahahahaha that’s genuinely funny.

Move over, women

Mar 5th, 2019 10:08 am | By

About as “nifty” as interviewing Rachel Dolezal for Black History Month.

A thing we can’t know

Mar 5th, 2019 9:58 am | By

The incoherence of it all.

Victoria Derbyshire asks “What about the suggestion that trans athletes should have a separate category of competition?”

So that muddies the waters right off the bat. The issue is trans women competing against women. Trans men aren’t being unfair to men or women by competing against men, so the issue isn’t “trans athletes” in general but trans women who compete against women. The bad question allows Clark to brush it off with “Come on, it’s 2 thousand 19 now” and similar generalities, ending up at “It’s totally unfair – we are human beings – nobody chooses to be transgender.” Wait, now – nobody? Do we know that? Does anybody know that? How could anybody know that?

Especially now that the standard has become “identifies as.” The Ideological Command is that if someone “identifies as” trans / a woman / a man / trans-non-binary / genderqueer and so on to infinity, then that is what she/he/they is. It is mandatory that we all take the identifying-as to equal being the category identified as; it’s a very serious crime to do anything short of that.

Given that fact, and the heated abusive rhetoric that backs up the mandate, how can we possibly know that no one chooses to be trans?

There’s also quite a lot of ideology around the idea that lots of people are potentially trans who haven’t quite realized it yet, or who are afraid to embrace it fully, or who are trans half the week and not the other half of the week. There’s quite a lot of moving between categories. There’s a lot of expansion of the categories, which means there’s a lot of variation in the descriptions of the categories. How, then, can we possibly know that no one chooses to be trans?

Also: there are a lot of psychopaths and narcissists and other kinds of shit-stirrers out there. There are a lot of trans women for whom the whole point of being a trans woman seems to be aggression against that inferior category of women who just are women, without the trans part. How, then, can we possibly know that no one chooses to be trans?

And even if none of that were true, still how could we know that no one chooses to be trans? It’s a mental state, and certainty about the mental state of all other people is not a thing we get to have.

Actually, it’s the other way around. Nobody chooses to be born whatever sex it is. We don’t choose it, it’s just a fact. We also don’t choose how well it suits us to be that sex rather than the other one, and that too is universal. There’s a range of intensity to how unheimlich our sex feels, and for some it’s so intense that they prefer to move to the other one – but that again is something no one can be certain about, including the person who feels it, because she or he doesn’t know how it compares to what everyone else feels. We all know only what it feels like to be ourselves, each one one at a time.

Lucy Clark is just wrong to make such a confident claim. Nobody can possibly know that no one chooses to be trans.


Mar 4th, 2019 4:41 pm | By

In another “you have got to be kidding” moment, Trump announces on Twitter that he’s giving special treatment to Alabama.

Many observers are asking, with some heat, why he is “telling FEMA directly” to give Alabama “the A plus treatment” when he didn’t do so in the case of Puerto Rico or of California. Shouldn’t “the A plus treatment” be standard after a major disaster? Isn’t that what FEMA is for? Surely the president of the US isn’t directing better emergency relief to states that vote Republican than he directs to states that vote Democratic or have too many brown people…is he? (I wonder if he realizes African-Americans make up about 25% of Alabama’s population. Legacy of cotton-belt slavery, my dude.)

A special threat

Mar 4th, 2019 4:15 pm | By

Prince Jared’s buddies the Saudi dictators:

A dual citizen of Saudi Arabia and the United States had been imprisoned in the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh for about a week when he heard a knock on his door.

Guards dragged Walid Fitaihi, a Harvard-trained physician, to another room, according to a friend who took down the prisoner’s detailed account of his treatment. Dr. Fitaihi told the friend he was slapped, blindfolded, stripped to his underwear and bound to a chair. He was shocked with electricity in what appears to have been a single session of torture that lasted about an hour.

His tormentors whipped his back so severely that he could not sleep on it for days, his friend said, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid reprisals. The doctor had described the physical abuse, in general terms, to his relatives as well, a person close to them said.

The Saudis grabbed him in November 2017, in what they claim is a crackdown on corruption (yeah right). He’s still locked up. He’s a US citizen.

Lots of people were tortured in that “crackdown” and are still locked up.

But Dr. Fitaihi’s American citizenship means that his mistreatment, which has not been previously reported, may now pose a special threat to Saudi relations with Washington. The Trump administration is already struggling to quell a bipartisan backlash against the kingdom over the killing last fall of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, a Virginia resident and Washington Post columnist who was executed and dismembered by a team of Saudi agents in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

Prince Jared met with Prince Mohammed bin Salman last week, their first meeting since Khashoggi was tortured to death. They met so that Jared could play diplomat settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict some more.

The Trump administration, meanwhile, has defied a congressional deadline to report about who was responsible for the killing. Instead, President Trump has equivocated about whether Prince Mohammed might have authorized it, even as he has extolled the value of Saudi Arabian oil sales and defense contracts.

The guy has his priorities.

Saudi officials have denied any mistreatment of detainees. A spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington said the kingdom has signed the convention against torture and prohibits its use.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia takes any and all allegations of ill treatment of defendants awaiting trial or prisoners serving their sentences very seriously,” the spokesman said.


Junk in neat stacks

Mar 4th, 2019 11:39 am | By

He’s doing it again.

Never mind that these college kids might prefer to have something more elegant and memorable to match the surroundings, just give them the crap they can get for a few bucks on any busy downtown corner.

A flurry of document demands

Mar 4th, 2019 11:13 am | By

Meanwhile…the House is swinging into action.

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee delivered a flurry of document demands to the executive branch and the broader Trump world on Monday that detailed the breadth of the Democrats’ investigation into possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power by President Trump and his administration.

Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the Judiciary Committee chairman, made clear on Monday that the new majority intends to train its attention on actions at the heart of Mr. Trump’s norm-bending presidency — actions that could conceivably form the basis of a future impeachment proceeding.

It will be interesting if the hearings clearly establish that Trump has committed multiple crimes, and he gets re-elected anyway. “Interesting” isn’t quite the right word, but…

The letters from Mr. Nadler, dated March 4, went to 81 agencies, individuals and other entities tied to the president, including the Trump Organization, the Trump campaign, the Trump Foundation, the presidential inaugural committee, the White House, the Justice Department, the F.B.I. and dozens of the president’s closest aides who counseled him as he launched attacks against federal investigations into him and his associates, the press, and the federal judiciary. The committee will also investigate accusations of corruption, including possible violations of campaign finance law, the Constitution’s ban on foreign emoluments and the use of office for personal gain.

Republicans assert that Democrats have already decided to target Mr. Trump for impeachment, saying repeatedly in recent weeks that despite public statements to the contrary, the new majority is determined to kick Mr. Trump out of office. (Even if the House were to impeach Mr. Trump, the Republican-controlled Senate would have to hold a trial and is unlikely to remove the president without an overwhelming case of wrongdoing.)

Like, how overwhelming? What do they need? He’s done much of his wrongdoing right out in the open where we can all see it, including Republican senators. Firing Comey to protect himself? Saying so in public? Telling the Russian ambassador and foreign minister so? Bullying Sessions for recusing himself? Forcing Sessions out? Selecting an apparently more compliant AG? Threatening witnesses on Twitter day in and day out? Getting McCabe fired? Getting FBI agents fired? Meeting alone with Putin? Advertising his golf course on Twitter? Lying about the payout to Stormy Daniels?

Dangerous times.

As the witness broke omertà

Mar 4th, 2019 10:53 am | By

There were historical echoes in that hearing room last week.

Any onetime Mafia investigator who listened to the Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen testify Wednesday would have immediately recognized the congressional hearing’s historical analogue — what America witnessed on Capitol Hill wasn’t so much John Dean turning on President Richard Nixon, circa 1973; it was the mobster Joseph Valachi turning on the Cosa Nostra, circa 1963.

Also perhaps any consumer of popular movies and tv shows would recognize the broad plot outline, even if Joseph Valachi didn’t come to mind.

And it’s had that overtone all along – the story is packed to the rafters with prosecutors, serving and former; packed with feds, packed with rats and stool pigeons, packed with a mob boss and his filthy hangers-on.

The Valachi hearings, led by Senator John McClellan of Arkansas, opened the country’s eyes for the first time to the Mafia, as the witness broke “omertà” — the code of silence — to speak in public about “this thing of ours,” Cosa Nostra. He explained just how “organized” organized crime actually was — with soldiers, capos, godfathers and even the “Commission,” the governing body of the various Mafia families.

Fighting the Mafia posed a uniquely hard challenge for investigators. Mafia families were involved in numerous distinct crimes and schemes, over yearslong periods, all for the clear benefit of its leadership, but those very leaders were tough to prosecute because they were rarely involved in the day-to-day crime. They spoke in their own code, rarely directly ordering a lieutenant to do something illegal, but instead offering oblique instructions or expressing general wishes that their lieutenants simply knew how to translate into action.

Those explosive — and arresting — hearings led to the 1970 passage of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as RICO, a law designed to allow prosecutors to go after enterprises that engaged in extended, organized criminality. RICO laid out certain “predicate” crimes — those that prosecutors could use to stitch together evidence of a corrupt organization and then go after everyone involved in the organization as part of an organized conspiracy. While the headline-grabbing RICO “predicates” were violent crimes like murder, kidnapping, arson and robbery, the statute also focused on crimes like fraud, obstruction of justice, money laundering and even aiding or abetting illegal immigration.

Andrew McCabe was talking about “predicates” the other week; it was a new term to me. The Trump takeover has been an unwanted education in organized crime for me.

Prosecutors weren’t sure how to use RICO at first but then they got the hang of it.

[B]y the mid-1980s, federal investigators in the Southern District of New York were hitting their stride under none other than the crusading United States attorney Rudy Giuliani, who as the head of the Southern District brought charges in 1985 against the heads of the city’s five dominant Mafia families.

And now he’s working for an upstart mob family that has stolen the entire federal government. How did we get here?

What lawmakers heard Wednesday sounded a lot like a racketeering enterprise: an organization with a few key players and numerous overlapping crimes — not just one conspiracy, but many. Even leaving aside any questions about the Mueller investigation and the 2016 campaign, Mr. Cohen leveled allegations that sounded like bank fraud, charity fraud and tax fraud, as well as hints of insurance fraud, obstruction of justice and suborning perjury.

RICO was designed to include the people at the top who don’t issue criminal instructions, but who also don’t have to because they use a code that everyone understands.

Exactly, it appears, as Mr. Trump did at the top of his family business: “Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That’s not how he operates,” Mr. Cohen said. Mr. Trump, Mr. Cohen said, “doesn’t give orders. He speaks in code. And I understand that code.”

What’s notable about Mr. Cohen’s comments is how they paint a consistent (and credible) pattern of Mr. Trump’s behavior: The former F.B.I. director James Comey, in testimony nearly two years ago in the wake of his firing, made almost exactly the same point and used almost exactly the same language. Mr. Trump never directly ordered him to drop the Flynn investigation, Mr. Comey said, but he made it all too clear what he wanted — the president isolated Mr. Comey, with no other ears around, and then said he hoped Mr. Comey “can let this go.” As Mr. Comey said, “I took it as, this is what he wants me to do.”

Only…you’re not supposed to use the code when you’re talking to a fed. Not unless you know for sure he’s dirty. Trump seems to have been kind of confused about that part.

He also does it to all of us, of course, on Twitter every day – but again, that could end up biting him. I certainly hope so.

Trust but verify

Mar 3rd, 2019 5:32 pm | By

Tick tick tick tick

Rep. Adam Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said that as far as he’s concerned there’s “direct evidence” of collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia. Specifically, Schiff says that the 2016 offer from a Russian lawyer for information on Hillary Clinton to members of Trump’s campaign is the smoking gun. “I think there is direct evidence in the emails from the Russians through their intermediary offering dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of what is described in writing as the Russian government effort to help elect Donald Trump,” Schiff said on CBS’ Face the Nation, when he was asked if he had “direct evidence of collusion with Russia.”

“They offer that dirt,” Schiff went on. “There is an acceptance of that offer in writing from the President’s son Don Junior and there is overt acts in furtherance of that.” Beyond that though “there’s also abundant circumstantial evidence,” Schiff added. “There is, for example, evidence of Manafort sharing internal polling data with someone linked to the Russian intelligence services.”

Direct, and circumstantial. Both. Ticktickticktick

Schiff wasn’t alone in talking about evidence that incriminates Trump in terms of Russia contacts. Sen. Mark Warner, who is the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said there is “enormous evidence” of possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia during the election. “I’m going to reserve judgment until I’m finished, but there’s no one who can factually say there isn’t plenty of evidence of collaboration or communication between the Trump Organization and Russians,” Warner told NBC’s Meet the Press. “I have never in my lifetime seen a presidential campaign, from a person of either party, have this much outreach to a foreign country and a foreign country that the intelligence community [says], and our committee has validated, intervened massively in our election and intervened with an attempt to help one candidate, Donald Trump, and hurt another, Hillary Clinton.”

But he says there was no collusion. Can’t we just take him at his word?

How insufferable does a spiritual leader have to be?

Mar 3rd, 2019 1:06 pm | By

Catherine Bennett points out that media-friendly clerics have one persona for Thought for the Day and another for, say, newspaper columns.

And welcome to the amoral maze, where our dilemma of the week is: just how insufferable does a spiritual leader have to be before he or she becomes unqualified to preach at the general public? Or to put it another way, why should the church have a monopoly on excommunication?

The question is not, emphatically, restricted to the case of the ubiquitous prelate, blogger and speaker, Giles Fraser, although with his recent blog – chastising women who fail to stay near home for the future convenience of incontinent fathers – he has done more than most to focus attention on the sort of qualities that should, ideally, distinguish a Thought for the Day contributor from, say, Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Partly because they are subject to editorial control, and no doubt because they would like to be invited back, TFTD contributors generally refrain, in this slot, from the overtly prescriptive, preferring to agree with their own recycled platitudes: sometimes bad things happen; money can’t buy happiness; it’s good to talk. Alternatively: I saw a nice film/sky/pair of shoes recently; it put me in mind of Jesus/the Prophet/Guru Nanak.

I find this helpful, because I’ve somehow always thought Giles Fraser was that kind of vicar, and so I’ve regularly been surprised when he says something reactionary.

Fraser’s latest expressions of enthusiasm for patriarchal arrangements, whether it’s his support for censorship in a girls’ faith school or tweeted nostalgia for pre-feminist times (“Don’t say stuck in the past. The past was better. Much better”), suggest that the principal problem with TFTD may be less, today, that it tests listeners’ endurance, more that its Thinkers insult their values. There was probably a time when much of his UK audience would have agreed, quite happily, with Fraser, that career women neglect their families, or with TFTD colleague, the bishop of Norwich, that marriage is for men and women only. But these, along with other cherished religious prejudices, have become ever more irreconcilable – when they are not transparently discriminatory – with evolving secular thinking, in a country where more than half have no faith.

Secular groups have campaigned to be included in TFTD, but Reverend Beeb always says no.

Catholics, when lecturing the masses on niceness, now do so between headlines about their own church’s staggering moral failures. Notwithstanding the advance of virtuous journalists and spiritual randomers from the life-coach end of the TFTD talent pool, promotion within an established faith hierarchy remains the most reliable route to freelance preaching work, whether it’s in the House of Lords, on an independent commission or in defiance of the melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, on late-night news programmes.

No sooner had his nappy meditation been eviscerated by women who both work and care for their elderly parents than our tireless Pampers Savonarola, Giles Fraser, was addressing us again, from Newsnight, albeit in the more humble, ecumenical style that once seemed to fit so well with Guardianvalues. Was this why we never guessed that our own “Loose Canon”, who once excoriated his own church for promoting a cleric opposed to the ordination of women, would one day write: “It is the daughter of the elderly gentleman that should be wiping his bottom”? Also: “The attraction of socially conservative and traditional values are that they constitute a highly successful form of mutual care.”

So I’m not the only one who has been confused about Giles Fraser. Good to know.

But it would be wrong to single out Fraser merely because, with the support of entranced progressives, he so often does so himself. His moral exhortations of a morning, evening or late evening – now that he reveals his patriarchal hankerings – are not necessarily more loathsome than those of more cautious colleagues. You can’t tell, from a brief, TFTD introduction, which of its Anglican bishops failed adequately to respond to allegations of sexual abuse, nor which of its regulars oppose same sex marriage, or deny women jobs or prosper by rarely mentioning that they consider homosexuality to be a sin.

Moreover, faith professionals enjoy an exemption, under the Equality Act, allowing them to discriminate for spiritual purposes. But what is the BBC’s excuse?

That it sees itself as a kind of church?

Bad writing award

Mar 3rd, 2019 12:38 pm | By

I think the first step toward being a journalist ought to be a reasonably solid grip on the language you plan to use. There shouldn’t be a mistake or incoherence or clumsiness in every paragraph, as there is in this piece on A Nopen Letter saying…no, I’ll let the reporter explain what it says.

Dozens of female celebrities, politicians and women’s rights campaigners have condemned the “narrow and archaic” opinions they say are are squashing transgender rights in Scotland.

Squashing? Squashing rights? That’s a peculiar word to use. Crushing, yes, quashing, yes, but squashing? It sounds silly, and off.

More than 70 women from across the UK have penned an open letter hitting out at commentators they claim are trying to “roll back the rights” of transgender women.

“Hitting out at” – that’s a more familiar idiom but it’s ridiculous and poisonous. Stating a position, even one that opposes another position, is not “hitting out.”

Since the Scottish Government pledged to reform the Gender Recognition Act to be more inclusive of transgender people, critics have argued doing so will impact on the rights of non-transgender women and girls.

Vague, clumsy, uninformative. “Inclusive” meaning what? “[Have an] impact on” how? Be specific.

Various commentators, news outlets and politicians have argued that by being able to self-declare your gender or non-binary status, services and safe places for women would no longer be safe.

Fail. Subject-verb agreement, also two halves of sentence agreement.

Some argue that by allowing transgender women who may not completed their gender reassignment access to services designated for women it would be impacting on women’s rights.

Jesus. More subject-verb chaos plus there’s even a word missing.

Today, scores of women have joined together for the first time in hitting out at the claims, with signatories of the open letter including Dame Emma Thompson, MPs Mhairi Black and Hannah Bardell, members of women’s aid organisations, charities, lawyers and academics.

Scores? How many scores? Two? Three? Why not just say the number? (I think I saw somewhere that it’s 70. 3.5 score, so not all that many scores, but it sounds big.) And another “hitting out” already.

This person may identify as a journalist, but…

Only one perspective ever matters

Mar 3rd, 2019 10:55 am | By

The Beeb might as well hire McKinnon at this rate.

Tennis icon Martina Navratilova has apologised for using the term “cheating” when discussing whether transgender athletes should be allowed to compete in women’s sport.

Navratilova – one of the most successful tennis players of all time – has been criticised as “transphobic” for writing that transgender women had “unfair” physical advantages over female opponents.

There it is again – the “somebody called her transphobic” well-poisoning right at the beginning, so that readers will be fully primed to despise Navratilova before they even know what she said.

On Saturday, former British swimmer Sharron Davies told BBC Sport that many current athletes “feel the same way” and that trans athletes should not compete in female events to “protect women’s sport”.

However, transgender cyclist Rachel McKinnon, who won a UCI Masters Track World Championship title in October, said Davies was “sharing hate speech”.

Athlete Ally – a US-based organisation that campaigns for LGBT sportspeople – cut its links with Navratilova in the wake of the 62-year-old’s original comments, saying they “perpetuate dangerous myths”.

And there that is again – giving Navratilova’s age but not giving McKinnon’s age.

They’ve chosen a side and they’re sticking to it.

Simp simp simple

Mar 3rd, 2019 10:30 am | By

Listen up, people, words are magic, and that’s all you need to know. Simple.

Self-identification=reality. Simple. In other words, what people say about themselves is true, period, end of story. Simple.

So if someone tells you she’s a beluga whale, she is a beluga whale. Simple.

If someone tells you he’s Denali, he is Denali. Simple.

Words are magic. Simple. Anyone who says otherwise is An Enemy of the People. (What if she says she isn’t An Enemy of the People? That question is against the law.)

Now that we know words are magic, life is going to become a whole lot simpler. I can’t wait to get started.

One campaign group said

Mar 3rd, 2019 9:56 am | By

The Beeb loads the dice yet again:

Transgender athletes should not compete in female competitions in order to “protect women’s sport”, says former British swimmer Sharron Davies.

Her comments come after 18-time tennis Grand Slam singles champion Martina Navratilova said it was “cheating” to allow transgender women to compete in women’s sport because they had unfair physical advantages.

One campaign group said Navratilova’s comments were “transphobic”.

The BBC did not have to report it that way. It did not have to include that sly childish tattletale one campaign group said Navratilova’s comments were “transphobic”. It didn’t have to and it shouldn’t have, because in fact her comments were not “transphobic.” It’s not “phobic” to say that male bodies have physical advantages over female bodies for many sports. The BBC doesn’t have to rush to say “somebody said that was transphobic!!” every single time a woman states some facts about female and male bodies. Many of us say all this bullshit is misogynistic, but I don’t see the Beeb reporting that ever.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Davies, 56, said she had spoken to many other female athletes who “feel the same way”.

“It is not a transphobic thing – I really want to say we have no issue with people who are transgender,” she said.

But it’s too late. The BBC places that after its “somebody said!!” bullshit, so that readers will be primed to think it is and that the disavowal is fake.

Next up, the obligatory summoning of Rachel McKinnon, the Beeb’s new besty.

In December, transgender cyclist Rachel McKinnon told BBC Sport she estimated she has received more than 100,000 hate messages on Twitter since she won her UCI Masters Track World Championship title in October.

Fellow cyclist Jen Wagner-Assali, who finished third, called it “unfair” and called on cycling’s international governing body to change its rules.

On Saturday, McKinnon said Davies was a “transphobe” and was “sharing hate speech”.

“There is no debate to be had over whether trans women athletes have an unfair advantage: it’s clear that they don’t,” she said on Twitter.

Rachel has spoken.

Athlete Ally – a US-based organisation that campaigns for LGBT sportspeople – cut its links with Navratilova in the wake of the 62-year-old’s comments, saying they “perpetuate dangerous myths”.

Interesting that they never mention McKinnon’s age. Interesting that they make a point of telling us how old Davies is and how old Navratilova is but not how old McKinnon is. I’m guessing they want us to think that Davies and Navratilova are getting soft in the head because so ancient?

H/t Acolyte of Sagan

Anatomy of a flop

Mar 2nd, 2019 6:14 pm | By

Trump had big hopes for the summit with his dear friend Kim. He thought his charisma would win all the cards.

In a dinner at the Metropole Hotel the evening before, mere feet from the bomb shelter where guests took cover during the Vietnam War, Mr. Kim had resisted what Mr. Trump presented as a grand bargain: North Korea would trade all its nuclear weapons, material and facilities for an end to the American-led sanctions squeezing its economy.

An American official later described this as “a proposal to go big,” a bet by Mr. Trump that his force of personality, and view of himself as a consummate dealmaker, would succeed where three previous presidents had failed.

More reasonable people knew that wouldn’t fly, but that’s beside the point.

Several of Mr. Trump’s own aides, led by national security adviser John R. Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, thought the chances of a grand bargain for total nuclear disarmament were virtually zero. Some questioned whether the summit meeting should go forward.

Mr. Trump disagreed. He had taken to showing what he called Mr. Kim’s “beautiful letters” to visitors to the Oval Office, as evidence he had built a rapport with one of the world’s most brutal dictators. While some in the White House worried Mr. Trump was being played, the president seemed entranced — even declaring “we fell in love.”

He’s so dumb. It never ceases to amaze, how dumb he is.

In interviews with a half-dozen participants, it is clear Mr. Trump’s failed gambit was the culmination of two years of threats, hubris and misjudgment on both sides. Mr. Trump entered office convinced he could intimidate the man he liked to call “Little Rocket Man” with tough talk and sanctions, then abruptly took the opposite tack, overruling his aides and personalizing the diplomacy.

Dumb with the Twitter insults, and dumb with the goo-goo eyes.

Come at me, bro

Mar 2nd, 2019 12:12 pm | By

This photo is just weird.

That’s Natalie van Gogh again in the middle. All the other members of the team are turned to the side, angled toward the middle person, while the middle person – van Gogh – stands and faces the viewer dead-on. The heights rise from each side to culminate in van Gogh, the tallest and widest. The others’ legs are only slightly parted, while van Gogh’s are in an emphatic upside-down V, aka a straddle. The photo is of a large domineering muscular man with a group of much younger women as his handmaidens on either side.

Is that…a publicity shot? A wtf shot? What is it? Why did van Gogh agree to the pose? Has the world gone mad?

Basking in adulation

Mar 2nd, 2019 11:16 am | By

Trump has been talking at the right-wing shindig CPAC for nearly two hours now.

That ^ was 15 minutes ago and new tweets are still coming in.

The Guardian is watching.

Basking in adulation at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the president said: “You know I’m totally off script right now and this is how I got elected, by being off script. And if we don’t go off script, our country’s in big trouble, folks, because we have to get it back.”

“Off script” aka corrupt, malevolent, destructive, reckless. Let’s go back on script now.

The president described the justice department’s Russia investigation as “a phoney witch-hunt” and claimed that since no collusion has yet come to light, Democrats in the House now want to look into his personal finances. He dismissed such oversight efforts with an unpresidential word: “Bullshit.”

Yes, why would anyone possibly want to look into Trump’s personal finances? It’s such a puzzle.

Trump went on to rail against James Comey, whom he fired as FBI director, and Jeff Sessions, his former attorney general, even mocking the latter’s southern accent.

Ooh, ooh, can we mock his Queens accent? Can we mock his Queens-Trump accent? Can we mock his robot gestures, Pinch & Point?

He then went on to make remarks that some interpreted as an inflammatory attack on foreign-born members of Congress.

“Right now we have people in Congress that hate our country and you know that,” he said. “And we can name every one of ’em if they want. They hate our country. Sad. It’s very sad. When I see some of the things being made, the statements being made, it’s very, very sad.

“And find out, how did they do in their country? Just ask ’em, how did they do? Did they do well, were they succeeding? Just ask that question. Somebody would say, ‘Oh, that’s terrible that he brings that up.’ But that’s OK, I don’t mind, I’ll bring it up. How did they do in their country? Not so good, not so good.”

Oh, some interpreted that as an inflammatory attack on foreign-born members of Congress? Some? What else would you call it? He makes it clear he’s talking about foreign-born members of Congress, and his words are hostile, so what else would you call it?

We have met the swamp and it is trumps.

Guest post: It’s not always easy for them

Mar 2nd, 2019 10:27 am | By

Originally a comment by guest on America’s exceptionally low social mobility.

One of the most striking differences I noticed when I moved from the US to the UK was how many people I met in professional/work circles who had literally ‘worked their way up’–the country/sector director of the large company I worked for in my first job here had started as an apprentice in the ’70s. I don’t think I ever knew anyone in the US who’d done this (I thought I had, but when I mentioned this years ago a catty friend revealed the advantages this person, whose persona was that of someone from an underprivileged background who’d ‘made good’, had actually started with).

I’ve met dozens of people here (almost all women–but that might just be because I spend more time talking with women) in my generation and younger who were the first in their families to get university degrees and professional jobs. It’s not always easy for them–I was actually talking with one the other night, a woman from a ‘deprived’ background who has a PhD from Oxford, who (like plenty of others) pointed out that while it’s certainly a positive thing for Oxbridge to work to get ‘diverse’ students into their programs they’re not so good at acknowledging and making explicit the tacit assumptions and behaviour norms that can make the experience a minefield for an outsider, which can lead to retention problems, and potentially psychological/emotional damage.

On kind of a tangent, I’m realising that my father was actually the first in his family to get a degree and professional job (my mother finished high school, and was a SAHM)–I’ve thought before (and perhaps have even commented to this effect on this blog) that while it meant that although he earned enough to provide us with a ‘nice’ house in the suburbs and plenty of money, and we never went without, physically, my parents had no idea how to support their children into professional careers themselves, or that they even should or had to, and may not have been able to do anything about it (re informal networking, positioning, etc) even if they had.

Beholden again

Mar 1st, 2019 5:21 pm | By

Oh good.

Donald Trump’s Aberdeenshire golf resort must pay the Scottish government’s legal costs following a court battle over a major North Sea wind power development.

Mr Trump battled unsuccessfully in the courts to halt the project before he became US president.


Mr Trump had argued the development would spoil the view from his golf course at Menie.

Goodness, that takes a lot of nerve. You buy a golf course in a foreign country and then you expect to be able to veto anything that country wants to build within sight of your golf course? Like, you own everything as far as the eye can see?

Good that it didn’t work. Even better that he has to pay costs.

Also, hello emoluments clause.