Notes and Comment Blog

Would you like that in a 12 or 14?

Nov 29th, 2017 10:41 am | By

Glorious glorious nepotism.

She markets clothes. That’s all. She’s just one of those people who make a living from “branding” and promotion and hype, exploiting her last name to make her tat seem more exciting than it is. If she were on Project Runway she’d be Out in the first round. She has no business at all “meeting with” India’s head of state.

No ideas, please, we’re a university

Nov 28th, 2017 5:22 pm | By

Andrew Robinson, associate professor of Human Rights and Human Diversity at Wilfrid Laurier University, thinks their policy on [what they call] gendered violence needs urgent repair.

The public’s reaction to the treatment of a Wilfrid Laurier University grad student at the hands of two professors and a rep from the university’s Diversity and Equity Office (DEO) has been one of horror and outrage. The resounding opinion was that student, Lindsay Shepherd, was completely in the right when she offered both sides of a debate involving the use of non-gender pronouns.

And while the public has agreed Shepherd was right, she wasn’t. At least not according to a disturbing regulatory policy enforced by my university. In fact, in the meeting where Lindsay was subject to a verbal inquisition, Adria Joel, the DEO rep, cites the policy, known as Laurier’s gendered and sexual violence policy (GSVP) as justification for her claim that Lindsay was guilty of “spreading transphobia.”

Yes, I noticed that when I transcribed some of the inquisition. I wondered how they were defining their terms.

While Laurier’s president is avoiding talking about the Gendered and Sexual Violence Policy, I won’t.

The policy has its roots in government legislation. Ontario’s Bill 132, passed in 2016, required universities to have a policy on sexual violence. That law defined “sexual violence” in terms of assault and harassment “targeting a person’s sexuality, gender identity or gender expression.” This is laudable; harassment and assault are wrong (and I condemn in advance anyone who would use this letter as justification for harassing or threatening anyone).

Apparently not satisfied with a definition of sexual violence that was good enough for the Wynne Liberal government, Laurier’s board of governors approved a policy that innovated by creating the following definition of gendered violence:

“An act or actions that reinforce gender inequalities resulting in physical, sexual, emotional, economic or mental harm. This violence includes sexism, gender discrimination, gender harassment, biphobia, transphobia, homophobia and heterosexism, intimate partner violence, and forms of Sexual Violence.

UH oh. You can see the problem without any wrinkling of the brow, I’m sure. It’s in the fact that we know from repeated experience that any dissent from a long list of Revealed Truths will be called “transphobia.” Well there you go: you have performed sexual violence and you must be punished and ostracized. You can’t ask what it means to “identify as” a woman; you can’t ask what it “feels like” to be a woman or how anyone knows; you can’t even ask why people are demanding to know what you believe in the first place. You can’t do anything at all, in fact, if you don’t imitate the jargon exactly and fervently enough for beady-eyed observers.

So, yeah. It’s either march with the Virtuous, or be accused of gendered violence – yes you, a woman, a feminist woman, you are the most likely of all to be accused of gendered violence, because you’re supposed to be centering trans women (who are women), not talking about those hateful privileged cis women.

Unlike the Wynne Liberals’ definition, Laurier’s “gendered violence” doesn’t just prohibit harassment and assault, it prohibits ideas.

Quite. Been there, saw the T shirts.

No one should comfort themselves by thinking that these concerns are limited to Lindsay Shepherd. Every student who registers at Laurier in any of its programs, tacitly agrees to have their personal conduct regulated by the GSVP: in tutorial, in lecture, online, “when on University property or when off campus,” and regardless of the “time of the incident (e.g., evenings, weekends, and holidays).” The sanctions approved by Laurier’s board include disciplinary warning, behavioural contract, suspension, and expulsion.

As for respecting diversity, under the GSVP all views are welcome, so long as they are not all expressed, no matter how reasonably. Inclusion? Violate this orthodoxy, anywhere, anytime, and a fellow student may see that you are included in an investigation under the GSVP.

When Laurier announced the details of its task force on academic freedom last Thursday there was still no mention of the GSVP. The task force is only directed to recommend “a statement on freedom of expression.”

If Laurier really wants to make a statement about its commitment to freedom of expression it will remove its ideological definition of gendered violence from the GSVP, now.

Maybe Laurier merely identifies as making a statement about its commitment to freedom of expression.


Nov 28th, 2017 4:11 pm | By

It’s taken some effort to ignore the wall-to-wall freakout about the Windsor wedding, but Newsweek has a kernel of pleasing information.

When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were married, in 2011, the Obamas were left off the guest list because of the added security costs of protecting the president. The day of the wedding, thousands of Britons took the day off, and about 1,900 guests attended the ceremony in Westminster Abbey in central London. The Obamas traveled to the U.K. less than a month later for an official state visit. Since Obama is no longer president, he doesn’t require as extensive a security detail as he once did.

A reason not to invite Trump, along with a reason Obama might be welcome.

That wouldn’t be of interest were it not for the fact that it will infuriate Trump if it happens.

If Trump were to appear at Prince Harry’s wedding in spring 2018, it would likely spark protests. When Prime Minister Theresa May offered Trump a state visit early this year, polls showed that 2 million people intended to take part in a protest against him. The risk of embarrassment, were such a protest to occur at a royal wedding, might put the couple off inviting such a controversial figure.

Instead of a state visit, Trump’s trip to the U.K., scheduled for early 2018, has been cast as a “working trip” where he will not meet the queen. In January, sources said Trump wanted to go “one better” than Obama’s state visit and play golf with Queen Elizabeth II at Balmoral Castle.

Now he doesn’t even get to say “how do” from a distance at Buck House. Soz, Don, you’re just too awful.

The Obamas, on the other hand, have become buddies with Harry. U jellus Don?

As for President Trump, Harry’s wife-to-be revealed that she was not a fan. In an interview on The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore during the 2016 election, Markle said she might decide to stay in Toronto—where her show, Suits, is filmed—if Trump were to win.

“We film Suits in Toronto, and I might just stay in Canada. I mean, come on, if that’s reality we are talking about, come on, that is a game changer in terms of how we move in the world here,” she said.

Markle supported Democrat Hillary Clinton during the election, calling Trump “misogynistic.”

Well, Donnie can always watch re-runs of The Apprentice.


Nov 28th, 2017 3:55 pm | By

Ah the conveniences of modern life.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing and indoor

A few dollars a day for long hours

Nov 28th, 2017 11:44 am | By

Princess Ivanka is in Hyderabad pretending to be an important person who Advocates for stuff, but the veneer is too thin to be convincing.

Ivanka Trump called Tuesday for greater efforts to help women start businesses and contribute to the global economy, but there was no mention of her company’s use of low-wage garment workers.

Empower women! Boop boop!! But pay no attention to those peasant women working for pennies an hour in my factories.

To some, her appeals for women empowerment contrasted sharply with her own business practices.

Ivanka Trump’s apparel company, which she still controls, exclusively relies on foreign factories in places such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, China and India, where mostly female workers are paid a few dollars a day for long hours, industry experts have said. Earlier this year, The Washington Post found that Trump’s apparel company lags behind many others in the industry in the way it monitors treatment of its workers, most of them women.

Never mind that! Empower women! Ivanka is right-on!

She headlined an event focused on uplifting and supporting women entrepreneurs, but there was no mention of her apparel company’s use of low-wage workers in India and other countries to stitch her clothes.

Entrepreneurs and business leaders praised Ivanka Trump, describing her as an elegant and professional working mother who built her own business and has been a strong advocate for women.

“She is a very fierce and independent woman. That’s what I admire about her,” said Renuka Diwan, co-founder of an agriculture start-up in Pune. “She’s successful in her own right. Nobody has to introduce her as Donald Trump’s daughter. She has made a name for herself.”

Uh, no. She’s not, they did, she didn’t. If she weren’t Donald Trump’s daughter no one would pay the slightest attention to her. She markets dull, mediocre clothes, end of story. Without Daddy she might be a buyer for Bloomingdale’s, or maybe Target.

She touted the administration’s work reducing “job-crushing regulations” that hurt small business owners, its proposal for paid family leave and her efforts to lobby to pass tax cuts.

“We must ensure that women entrepreneurs have access to capital, access to networks and mentors and access to equitable laws,” she said. She noted that if India closed its labor force gender gap by half, the economy could grow by $150 billion in three years.

But don’t expect her to pay higher wages. She’s far too busy lobbying for tax cuts that will make her that bit richer.

Women make up less than 25 percent of the enrollment in higher education, notes Vijayaraghavan M. Chariar, a professor of rural development and technology at the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi.

“There are a few success stories but there are very serious issues of patriarchy and gender stereotyping that are preventing a lot more creative women from joining the ranks of entrepreneurs,” Chariar said.

Ivanka Trump, he went on “is a nice Barbie doll. Everybody wants to have a picture taken with her. But there are much more substantial women who are entrepreneurs we ought to be celebrating.”

Well, she’s a Barbie doll. I doubt she’s nice, given her associations.

Welcome to the Oval Office Comedy Hour

Nov 28th, 2017 9:56 am | By

A few more details on Trump’s disgusting derailment yesterday.

Native American groups have long objected to President Trump’s use of the nickname “Pocahontas” to deride one of his political foes, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Well of course they have. A lot of goons are pretending to be unable to see anything racist about it, but that’s just the usual fraud. It’s racist first of all to use any name like that as a generic for All People In This Group I’m Insulting. People used to do that casually without giving it any thought, but those days are over.

It’s racist in that it reveals that Trump thinks one Native American can stand for all of them.

It’s racist in that it reveals that Trump doesn’t know of any other Native Americans.

It’s exponentially more racist now because Trump has been using it as a calculated racist insult for two years.

It’s racist the same way it’s racist to call Native American women “squaws” – which is another thing non-Native people used to do casually without thinking.

It’s racist in that Trump would never think a single name could stand for all Americans or all white Americans.

“I just want to thank you because you’re very, very special people,” Trump said Monday afternoon, speaking to a small group of code talkers. “You were here long before any of us were here. Although we have a representative in Congress who, they say, was here a long time ago. They call her ‘Pocahontas.’ ”

Another thing about that – notice the opposition of “you” and “any of us.” He framed the Navajo vets as the others and “us” as “us” – not you, not the others, not the weird little minority we can’t even be polite to for ten seconds.

Trump’s reference — unrelated to the ceremony and widely considered an offensive racial slur — seemed to catch the code talkers off-guard, prompting polite smiles and silence. The scene played out in front of a portrait of President Andrew Jackson, who signed into law the Indian Removal Act.

In front of it and very close to it. Do Oval Office ceremonies normally play out there? Are they normally shoved up against a bit of wall rather than in front of the desk? I don’t think so. I’m not certain, but I don’t think so. If that’s not normal…did they really do that on purpose? If they did…that’s not just Trump and his out of control monsterness, it’s calculated sadism.

Mihio Manus, a spokesman for the president and vice president of the Navajo Nation, said that while “we’re very appreciative of President Trump honoring the code talkers first and foremost,” he thought Trump’s comments about Warren were inappropriate.

“It’s unfortunate that President Trump would refer to Sen. Elizabeth Warren as Pocahontas in a joking way,” Manus said. “Pocahontas, although she wasn’t Navajo, definitely was a historical figure in the foundation of this nation who is misrepresented in history. And so we as the Navajo Nation don’t feel any member of any tribal nation should be used as the punchline of a joke.”

And all the less so when the ceremony taking place is nothing to do with Pocahontas or Elizabeth Warren, and Trump brought them up only because he can’t see a Native American now without instantly being reminded of his long-running racist campaign. “Oh, look, Injuns, here to pick up a medal…I get to give it to them…nice Injuns…POCAHONTAS.”

And at the end of his eruption, after “They call her ‘Pocahontas,’ ” he dropped his paw heavily on the shoulder of the guy nearest him and said, “But I like you.”

When asked about the Jackson portrait, Manus said, “It’s unfortunate.”

On Tuesday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a Vietnam War veteran and frequent critic of the president, similarly expressed dismay at Trump’s comments.

“Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to the Navajo Code Talkers, whose bravery, skill & tenacity helped secure our decisive victory over tyranny & oppression during WWII,” he wrote on Twitter. “Politicizing these genuine American heroes is an insult to their sacrifice.”

Especially coming from lazy greedy selfish President Bone Spurs.

Laura Tohe, the daughter of a Navajo code talker and a professor at Arizona State University who has written a book about the heroes, said it is “huge” that the code talkers were honored at the White House. But, she said she was dismayed by Trump’s remarks during the ceremony.

“The whole idea of using this platform to make a disparaging remark about Senator Warren was inappropriate and disrespectful,” Tohe said.

It’s that one job thing. He had one job to do, and he refused to do it. His job was to make those three men feel respected, and he totally blew that one simple job.

Tohe’s father, who died in 1985, and other young Navajo men were recruited by the Marine Corps to send messages in the Pacific. Japanese cryptographers were unable to decipher the code, which helped the United States.

Stephanie Fryberg, a professor of psychology and American Indian studies at the University of Washington, said she was aghast to see the ceremony in front of a portrait of Jackson and to hear Trump say “Pocahontas” again.

“Rather than really honoring those veterans he took advantage of their presence to make yet another demeaning remark about Senator Warren,” she said. “Why invite those honorable men to the White House if you can’t treat them with respect?”

Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, said only three of the 13 surviving code talkers could make it to the White House. They are in their 90s and “were so excited about being able to participate in this event and to be there,” she said.

And that hateful bone spur of a man ruined it for them.

Pata said her organization has “tried to educate those within the White House” about using the name “Pocahontas” in a derogatory way. The event, she said, was held to honor both Native American History Month and Veterans Day.

Pata said she is concerned that the president’s remarks will overshadow the enormous contribution the code talkers made to American history.

“They turned the tide in the war,” she said. “It’s well-documented that they made the difference, and I don’t want us to forget that.”

Yes yes yes but POCAHONTAS

Post reporters saw her walking into the offices of Project Veritas

Nov 27th, 2017 5:22 pm | By

The Post reports:

A woman who falsely claimed to The Washington Post that Roy Moore, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama, impregnated her as a teenager appears to work with an organization that uses deceptive tactics to secretly record conversations in an effort to embarrass its targets.

In a series of interviews over two weeks, the woman shared a dramatic story about an alleged sexual relationship with Moore in 1992 that led to an abortion when she was 15. During the interviews, she repeatedly pressed Post reporters to give their opinions on the effects that her claims could have on Moore’s candidacy if she went public.

The Post did not publish an article based on her unsubstantiated account. When Post reporters confronted her with inconsistencies in her story and an Internet posting that raised doubts about her motivations, she insisted that she was not working with any organization that targets journalists.

I’m being reminded of Chris Mooney and “Tom Johnson.” Remember that? It was such a long time ago. I’ve just been reading a couple of old posts on the third (fourth?) and final exposure of “Tom Johnson” – Wally Smith, and remembering that Chris Mooney never did really acknowledge what a credulous enabler he’d been. So unlike the Washington Post reporters.

But on Monday morning, Post reporters saw her walking into the New York offices of Project Veritas, an organization that targets the mainstream news media and left-leaning groups. The organization sets up undercover “stings” that involve using false cover stories and covert video recordings meant to expose what the group says is media bias.

James O’Keefe, the founder of Project Veritas who was convicted of a misdemeanor in 2010 for using a fake identity to enter a federal building during a previous sting, declined to answer questions about the woman outside the Project Veritas office, a storefront in Mamaroneck, N.Y., on Monday morning shortly after the woman walked inside.

Sleazy enough?

The group’s efforts illustrate the lengths to which activists have gone to try to discredit media outlets for reporting on allegations from multiple women that Moore pursued them when they were teenagers and he was in his early 30s. Moore has denied that he did anything improper.

Also to discredit the women themselves.

Ugh. This has been a day of disgust. The country is in the hands of evil stinking criminal people. And it goes on.

The tipster’s email came amid counterattacks by Moore supporters aimed at The Post and its reporters.

That same day, Gateway Pundit, a conservative site, spread a false story from a Twitter account, @umpire43, that said, “A family friend in Alabama just told my wife that a WAPO reporter named Beth offer her 1000$ to accuse Roy Moore.” The Twitter account, which has a history of spreading misinformation, has since been deleted.

They make the Watergate crew look like choir boys.

Not amused

Nov 27th, 2017 2:54 pm | By

Fire him. Fire him. Fire him.


President Racist

Nov 27th, 2017 2:24 pm | By


President Trump used a White House event honoring Navajo veterans of World War II on Monday to utter a favorite Native American-related insult of a political opponent, deriding Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas.”

Standing in the Oval Office alongside three World War II Navajo code talkers, Mr. Trump made the unscripted comment after other officials praised the veterans’ history and contributions.

“You were here long before any of us were here,” Mr. Trump said as he turned to look at the code talkers. “Although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.”

I wish someone would throw him, fully clothed, into a sewage tank.

Mr. Trump’s use of “Pocahontas” has drawn objections in the past from a number of Native Americans, many of whom regard his mention of the historical figure as offensive and divisive.

But on Monday, the White House defended the remark. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said the name was not a racial slur.

“What most people find offensive is Senator Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career,” Ms. Sanders said.

I wish someone would throw her into that tank right beside Trump, and then throw rotting cabbages at their heads.

Editing to add:

It’s no longer just winks and nods

Nov 27th, 2017 11:05 am | By

Adam Hochschild reviews two books on the Ku Klux Klan.

Most of us who grow up in the United States learn a reassuring narrative of ever-expanding tolerance. Yes, the country’s birth was tainted with the original sin of slavery, but Lincoln freed the slaves, the Supreme Court desegregated schools, and we finally elected a black president. The Founding Fathers may have all been men, but in their wisdom they created a constitution that would later allow women to gain the vote. And now the legal definition of marriage has broadened to include gays and lesbians. We are, it appears, an increasingly inclusive nation.

Some of us are, and others of us prefer Trumpworld.

But a parallel, much darker river runs through American history. The Know Nothing Party of the 1850s viciously attacked Catholics and immigrants. Eugenics enthusiasts of the early twentieth century warned about the nation’s gene pool being polluted by ex-slaves, the feeble minded, and newcomers of inferior races. In the 1930s, 16 million Americans regularly listened to the anti-Semitic radio rants of Father Charles E. Coughlin.

And then there’s the Klan, introduced so lovingly in Gone With the Wind, and Birth of a Nation before it.

All along, of course, even while sticking to rhetoric of tolerance and inclusion, politicians have made winks and nods toward that dark river of which the Klan is a part. Richard Nixon had his Southern Strategy. Running for president in 1980, Ronald Reagan sent an unmistakable message by giving a speech about states’ rights near Philadelphia, Mississippi. George H.W. Bush used the notorious Willie Horton campaign commercial. And now suddenly, it’s no longer just winks and nods. Only when pressed by a reporter did Donald Trump in early 2016 reluctantly disavow the support of Klan leader David Duke. “David Duke endorsed me? O.K., all right. I disavow, O.K.?”

Ya satisfied? Goddam libbruls.

In all three of its historical incarnations, the KKK had many allies, not all of whom wanted to dress up in pointed hoods and hold ceremonies at night. But such public actions always have an echo. “The Klan did not invent bigotry,” Linda Gordon writes, “…[but] making its open expression acceptable has significant additional impact.” Those burning crosses legitimated the expression of hatred, and exactly the same can be said of presidential tweets today.

She ends her book by writing, “The Klannish spirit—fearful, angry, gullible to sensationalist falsehoods, in thrall to demagogic leaders and abusive language, hostile to science and intellectuals, committed to the dream that everyone can be a success in business if they only try—lives on.” One intriguing episode links the Klan of ninety years ago to us now. On Memorial Day 1927, a march of some one thousand Klansmen through the Jamaica neighborhood of Queens, New York, turned into a brawl with the police. Several people wearing Klan hoods, either marching in the parade or sympathizers cheering from the sidelines, were charged with disorderly conduct, and one with “refusing to disperse.” Although the charge against the latter was later dropped, his name was mentioned in several newspaper accounts of the fracas. Beneath the hood was Fred Trump, the father of Donald.

Image result for trump kkk new yorker

Past present and future

Nov 27th, 2017 10:39 am | By

The New York Review of Books is running a series on living in Trumpworld. Katha Pollitt wrote a blisterer.

I sometimes feel like I’m a different person now. I’m fidgety and irritable and have trouble concentrating. For months after the election, I could hardly read, except for books about Roman history, which turns out to be full of Trumps: fantastically rich sociopaths obsessed with crushing their enemies.

Snap. I was thinking Nero-Caligula all day after the Man of the Year tweet.

My work seems trivial: Given what we are facing, what difference does one more Nation column make? I might as well be an ancient Egyptian scribe logging production figures for cat mummies. In the old days, the days before Trump, it bothered me that so many people loved things I thought were stupid. Now I just think, Go ahead, enjoy yourself. Maybe your Batman DVDs will comfort you when we’re wandering around in the ashen hellscape of whatever apocalypse Trump will bring down upon us.

Just about everything seems trivial, or futile and hopeless. Trump is laying waste to everything so what’s the use? What can we even?

It works retroactively, too, because Trump is undoing every single thing Obama did.

It also projects into the future, because we have a pattern here: the Republicans keep putting worse and worse malevolent idiots into the White House. Reagan, Bush Junior, Trump – what future can there even be?

Guest post: Efficiency isn’t just doing things faster

Nov 27th, 2017 9:02 am | By

Originally a comment by Bruce Gorton on Efficiency drive.

It kind of reminds me of something I read on Cracked once, they were interviewing someone from the military who had to brief GW Bush on something.

What the guy found was that he had basically one sentence to give the information the president wanted, which he chalked up to the president having so much to do that he couldn’t afford to waste any time. The president was surprisingly sharp you see!

This in turn reminded of another report in which somebody was supposed to brief the president on tax and the president cut him down a peg or two – and this showed how smart Bush was. Nevermind that the person he was cutting down a peg or two was an actual expert who may just have been nervous briefing the president, and thus the drive to cut him down was actually getting in the way of getting some valuable information.

GW Bush’s presidency was likely the second worst presidency in American history. You’re looking at the worst one now.

And a lot of it had to do with that machismo approach to leadership, wherein the whole shebang comes down to putting people in their places, and being decisive and thus failing to create an open management environment. Instead of encouraging discussion, you encourage rushed decisions tainted with groupthink.

How much information can you pack into one short sentence?

Efficiency isn’t just doing things faster, it isn’t cutting out every delay, it is doing something properly once so you don’t have to do it again. That can mean taking the time required to do it properly.

And that is the real root problem with the Republicans in management – not the corruption, not the inhumanity, not even the dogmatism, it is this inability to take a breath and slow things down so that good decision making can happen.

So they fire the most competent, experienced voices because those are the ones who are most likely to raise objections and slow things down so that there is time to actually make them work, rather than just having the illusion of swift, decisive action.

The result is that quality drops. Exxon has a history of disasters based upon failures to gather information, the Deepwater Horizon disaster for example. Rex Tillerson’s experience isn’t irrelevant, the corporate culture he came from is relevant – as a warning.

But this is what Republicans see as being smart, because it is quick and decisive and very, very macho. Intimidation is not good leadership, good leadership is having the ability to make the best of your team, getting them to open up about potential problems, or even solutions, is part of that.

Unfortunately that is not what you’ve got right now.

Efficiency drive

Nov 26th, 2017 5:38 pm | By

Tillerson’s demolition job on the State Department is even worse than I’d thought. Even the security branch.

Republicans pilloried Hillary Clinton for what they claimed was her inadequate attention to security as secretary of state in the months before the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Congress even passed legislation mandating that the department’s top security official have unrestricted access to the secretary of state.

But in his first nine months in office, Mr. Tillerson turned down repeated and sometimes urgent requests from the department’s security staff to brief him, according to several former top officials in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Finally, Mr. Miller, the acting assistant secretary for diplomatic security, was forced to cite the law’s requirement that he be allowed to speak to Mr. Tillerson.

Mr. Miller got just five minutes with the secretary of state, the former officials said.

Five minutes!?!

What on earth?

Afterward, Mr. Miller, a career Foreign Service officer, was pushed out, joining a parade of dismissals and early retirements that has decimated the State Department’s senior ranks. Mr. Miller declined to comment.

The departures mark a new stage in the broken and increasingly contentious relationship between Mr. Tillerson and much of his department’s work force. By last spring, interviews at the time suggested, the guarded optimism that greeted his arrival had given way to concern among diplomats about his aloofness and lack of communication. By the summer, the secretary’s focus on efficiency and reorganization over policy provoked off-the-record anger.

Efficiency ffs. The State department doesn’t make shoes or cars or keyboards. Efficiency isn’t a relevant virtue in diplomacy.

In a letter to Mr. Tillerson last week, Democratic members of the House Foreign Relations Committee, citing what they said was “the exodus of more than 100 senior Foreign Service officers from the State Department since January,” expressed concern about “what appears to be the intentional hollowing-out of our senior diplomatic ranks.”

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, sent a similar letter, telling Mr. Tillerson that “America’s diplomatic power is being weakened internally as complex global crises are growing externally.”

Mr. Tillerson, a former chief executive of Exxon Mobil, has made no secret of his belief that the State Department is a bloated bureaucracy and that he regards much of the day-to-day diplomacy that lower-level officials conduct as unproductive.

What does he even know about it? What relevant knowledge or experience does he have? Besides negotiating for a for-profit corporation, which is not very relevant?

Even before Mr. Tillerson was confirmed, his staff fired six of the State Department’s top career diplomats, including Patrick Kennedy, who had been appointed to his position by President George W. Bush. Kristie Kenney, the department’s counselor and one of just five career ambassadors, was summarily fired a few weeks later.

It’s the Revenge of the Stupid, I swear. All we need is maximum firepower and maximum cash and we can beat everyone at everything – that’s their Political Science.

In the following months, Mr. Tillerson launched a reorganization that he has said will be the most important thing he will do, and he has hired two consulting companies to lead the effort. Since he decided before even arriving at the State Department to slash its budget by 31 percent, many in the department have always seen the reorganization as a smoke screen for drastic cuts.

Mr. Tillerson has frozen most hiring and recently offered a $25,000 buyout in hopes of pushing nearly 2,000 career diplomats and civil servants to leave by October 2018.

His small cadre of aides have fired some diplomats and gotten others to resign by refusing them the assignments they wanted or taking away their duties altogether. Among those fired or sidelined were most of the top African-American and Latino diplomats, as well as many women, difficult losses in a department that has long struggled with diversity.

God, it’s just nauseating.

For those who have not been dismissed, retirement has become a preferred alternative when, like Mr. Miller, they find no demand for their expertise. A retirement class that concludes this month has 26 senior employees, including two acting assistant secretaries in their early 50s who would normally wait years before leaving.

The number of those with the department’s top two ranks of career ambassador and career minister — equivalent to four- and three-star generals — will have been cut in half by Dec. 1, from 39 to 19.

I feel sick. Sick. It’s all-out war on everything – intelligence, experience, diplomacy, knowledge, discussion, negotiation, all in favor of stupid people barking rude malginant orders at gunpoint. It’s school bullies taking over the entire world. It’s putting the Mafia in charge of the universe.

Even more departures are expected as a result of an intense campaign that Mr. Tillerson has ordered to reduce the department’s longtime backlog of Freedom of Information Act requests. CNN reported that the task had resulted from Mr. Trump’s desire to accelerate the release of Mrs. Clinton’s remaining emails.

Every bureau in the department has been asked to contribute to the effort. That has left midlevel employees and diplomats — including some just returning from high-level or difficult overseas assignments — to spend months performing mind-numbing clerical functions beside unpaid interns.

Oh my god. They’ll have them cleaning the toilets next…while painting anti-Clinton slogans on the walls.

“The United States is at the center of every crisis around the world, and you simply cannot be effective if you don’t have assistant secretaries and ambassadors in place,” said R. Nicholas Burns, a retired career diplomat who was an under secretary of state for President George W. Bush. “It shows a disdain for diplomacy.”

It takes such deep, barbarian stupidity to have disdain for diplomacy of all things.

Although the North Korean nuclear crisis is the Trump administration’s top priority, the administration has yet to nominate an assistant secretary for East Asia or an ambassador to South Korea, crucial positions to deal with the issue.

In the midst of the war in Syria and growing worries over a possible conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, there is no confirmed assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs or ambassadors to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt or Qatar. And as Zimbabwe confronts the future after the departure of Robert Mugabe, the department is lacking a confirmed assistant secretary for African affairs or an ambassador to neighboring South Africa.

We’re doomed.

Beware the certain bloodlines

Nov 26th, 2017 11:55 am | By

Trump yesterday:

Oh dear. It turns out that link was

  1. broken
  2. wack

Newsweek has the details.

President Donald Trump Saturday re-tweeted and thanked a website showcasing his achievements —that has also promoted conspiracy theories and anti-Semitism.

The website has in the past published articles promoting the conspiracy theory that DNC staffer Seth Rich was murdered on the orders of Hillary Clinton, and that banking is corrupted by “certain bloodlines.”


The site has tweeted claims that Luciferians, financier George Soros, and the Vatican control the world.

The same bizarre “flow chart” claims Jews secretly control finance.

“Banking families, Certain bloodline families have dominated global financial institutions, including: BIS, FED, IMF, World Bank, Wall Street,” according to the site.

But now, miraculously, we have Trump to put a stop to all that! Praise Jesus!

It is not the first time Trump has touted information from sites trafficking in right-wing conspiracies.

In July, 2016, Trump re-tweeted a graphic showing a picture of his presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, superimposed over a star reminiscent of the Star of David, with a pile of cash and the words “most corrupt candidate ever.”

The Anti-Defamation League accused the Trump campaign of using an image with “obvious anti-Semitic overtones” which had been lifted from a white supremacist website.

Months earlier he re-tweeted a comment form the Twitter account @WhiteGenocideTM, which had promoted neo-Nazi content.

Well we already know he has a soft spot for neo-Nazis.

Recruitment drive

Nov 26th, 2017 11:08 am | By

The BBC on Islamists attacking mosques.

The intensity of this Friday’s attack in Sinai is unprecedented in modern Egyptian history – never before have so many people been killed in such a short time by any terrorist group.

Regrettably though, this is not the first time that a mosque has been targeted by radical extremists. Iraqis know this; Syrians know this; as do many other populations around the world.

The scourge of radical Islamist extremism has been felt far more by Muslims than any other population. Muslims, by far, are its most numerous victims. And Muslims, most of all, are the ones fighting it.

Donald Trump please note.

Until now, radical groups have been trying to recruit in Egypt, from among local Egyptians. It is difficult to see that being remotely possible following this attack – irrespective of local grievances with the Egyptian state.

If anything, this will only intensify local opposition to any group that claims the slightest bit of sympathy for attacks of this nature. Indeed, that may be why no group has claimed responsibility for it because even for supporters of the Islamic State (IS) group, this attack was grotesque.

Islamists blowing up a mosque and shooting people who flee does seem like an odd way to promote Islamism, let alone recruit new members. Unless of course the whole point is the violence, and the religious cover is just that: a disguise, a pretext, a fig leaf.


Nov 26th, 2017 10:18 am | By

Pete Souza: “Someone has a lot of catching up to do.”

Not challenging but bullying

Nov 26th, 2017 9:34 am | By

I saw this

So I read the letter. It does indeed show a mind gone astray.

Under the guise of protecting free speech, you published content that bullied Prof. Rambukkana, as well as the university at large, into apologizing for an act of intervention that was neither unfair nor unwarranted. Instead of taking a stand against hate speech, you have given dangerous credence to the views of (University of Toronto Prof.) Jordan Peterson and his supporters, flying in the face of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Professor Rambukkana’s intervention was neither unfair nor unwarranted? Really? Haling Shepherd before a panel of three stern interrogators simply for giving an example of a point of view in a classroom? And there’s a clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that says Jordan Peterson=hate speech and must never be mentioned, even (say) as an example of hate speech?

I don’t believe any of that. It’s hyperbole at best.

As the leaked recording of their meeting shows, Prof. Rambukkana did not attack or endanger Shepherd’s right to hold an opinion. Rather, he challenged her decision to represent that opinion in class without a critical acknowledgment of its social impact.

Along with two other people, accusing her of all sorts of evils, refusing to tell her even the number of complaints. That goes well beyond “challenging” her decision, even if you think his challenge had merit, which I don’t.

As recognized by federal law and nearly all progressive social institutions, gender pronouns are a basic site of self-representation.

God almighty.

Just for one thing – in English gender pronouns can’t be “a basic site of self-representation” for the very simple reason that first-person pronouns are not gendered. What other people call us is not our self-representation. It can be all kinds of things, including threatening (cunt, nigger, faggot, kike, etc), but it is not self-representation.

And then there’s the triviality and absurdity, which is too obvious to belabor.

Peterson’s brazen disdain for these protections is a violation of the human rights of students with non-normative identities.

No, it really isn’t. It may be rude or unkind or both, but it’s not a violation of anyone’s human rights. All this hyperbole and overreaching is just going to turn people off rather than convincing them of anything.

When Shepherd was reported for showing the video, Prof. Rambukkana acted as he should have: by challenging her pedagogy and working to make his classroom safer.

Spoken like a true authoritarian. She wasn’t “reported” because there was nothing to report. Someone emailed a complaint, which is a different thing. And again, Rambukkana didn’t just challenge her pedagogy, he hauled her before a tribunal to chastise her.

These people have lost their minds.


Nov 25th, 2017 7:25 pm | By

American law would never be the same

Nov 25th, 2017 4:41 pm | By

Meanwhile Trump and the Evil Republicans are going to be able to pack the courts because the ERs got away with cheating.

If conservatives get their way, President Trump will add twice as many lifetime members to the federal judiciary in the next 12 months (650) as Barack Obama named in eight years (325). American law will never be the same.

…In the final two years of Obama’s presidency, Senate Republicans engaged in tenacious obstruction to leave as many judicial vacancies unfilled as possible. The Garland-to-Gorsuch Supreme Court switch is the most visible example of this tactic but far from the only one: Due to GOP obstruction, “the number of [judicial] vacancies . . . on the table when [Trump] was sworn in was unprecedented,” White House Counsel Donald McGahn recently boasted to the conservative Federalist Society.

Because they cheated.

Trump is wasting no time in filling the  103 judicial vacancies he inherited. In the first nine months of Obama’s tenure, he nominated 20 judges to the federal trial and appellate courts; in Trump’s first nine months, he named 58. Senate Republicans are racing these nominees through confirmation; last week, breaking a 100-year-old tradition, they eliminated the “blue slip” rule that allowed home-state senators to object to particularly problematic nominees. The rush to Trumpify the judiciary includes nominees rated unqualified by the American Bar Association, nominees with outrageously conservative views and nominees significantly younger (and, therefore, likely to serve longer) than those of previous presidents. As a result, by sometime next year, 1 in 8 cases filed in federal court will be heard by a judge picked by Trump. Many of these judges will likely still be serving in 2050.

But that’s not enough for them. Their next cunning plan? Create new  judicial positions! Lots of them! A minimum of 260 and maybe as many as 447, a 30 to 50 percent increase.

Almost overnight, the judicial branch would come to consist of almost equal parts judges picked by nine presidents combined — Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43 and Obama — and judges picked by one: Donald J. Trump. The effect on our civil rights and liberties would be astounding. And a continuation of the pattern of Trump’s nominees to date — more white and more male than any president’s in nearly 30 years — would roll back decades of progress in judicial diversity.

Not so much astounding as nightmarish.

Happy holidays.

Those whose voices are met with few barriers

Nov 25th, 2017 12:52 pm | By

So this is where we are.

This week’s controversy about Lindsay Shepherd, the Wilfrid Laurier TA who got in trouble for airing a Jordan Peterson clip in class, has opened up the same old tired debate around “freedom of speech.” This isn’t to say that such debates are of no importance, but they often tend to focus on the voices of white, cis-gender persons who already have a platform to speak from.

Ah. White, cis-gender persons who can grab a platform any time they feel like it. So much for all those efforts to get corporations and universities and politics and basically everything to stop excluding women – that was all a mistake, because [white] women are not being excluded at all. They’re cis, therefore they are dominant and powerful and safe from being excluded or ignored or showered with contempt ever at any time by anyone.

Kidding. They’re not. We’re not.

This is evidenced in the overwhelming support and amplification that people such as Lindsay Shepherd—the TA in question who gained 12,000 Twitter followers in a week—and Jordan Peterson receive when these controversies emerge.

Oh bollocks. How many incidents of the kind are there that didn’t make it to the press and so didn’t get support and amplification? We don’t know. It would be stupid to assume there aren’t any, especially when Shepherd was pounced on for such a footling reason.

For many of us, debates centred around gender pronouns aren’t just intellectual exercises. I’m a trans woman and a PhD student at Carleton University, and little has been heard from the transgender perspective throughout this entire ordeal, despite the fact that we are at the center of this debate.

For freedom of speech to work in practice, the argument goes, we must accommodate even the arguments we don’t like. At its most absolute, this argument advocates giving voice to those who would target the basic human rights of vulnerable populations.

I would like to humbly suggest that free speech is threatened in university campuses across the nation. However, the ways in which I think it’s threatened have been obscured by the entitlement of those whose voices are met with few barriers.

There it is again. Our trans PhD student is saying women’s voices meet with few barriers. Oh really. Wouldn’t it be nice if that were true.