Notes and Comment Blog


Beer and french fries shortage

Sep 1st, 2018 12:42 pm | By

What’s one of the bad effects of global warming? Crop failures. Who is having crop failures right now?

Germany for one.

In Germany, record temperatures and no rainfall since early April have led to a drought and thousands of farms are facing bankruptcy because of crop failure.

This week, the government pledged $390 million in federal and state aid, but for many farmers, it’s not enough. Many of the country’s farmers are starting to question whether they can cope with climate change.

According to the German Farmers Association, 10,000 farms are facing financial ruin, dairy farmers are slaughtering cows because there’s not enough feed for them and while the national average grain shortfall this year is 26 percent, in some areas arable farmers have lost up to 70 percent of their grain crops, officials announced during a recent press conference.

Crop failures end up as famines. The world doesn’t have a plan for this.

Germany’s Agriculture Minister, Julia Klöckner has promised farmers up to 340 million euros in financial aid. It’s a far cry from the billion euros demanded by the farmers’ lobby, but the minister says she has to justify it to tax payers, who could end up paying extra for food.

In an attempt to calm consumers, Klöckner told reporters last week “there’s no need for panic. Supermarket shelves are still full.”

Just so a firefighter might attempt to calm residents by telling them the fire hasn’t reached their house yet, it’s still six whole inches away.

NPR basically does the same thing by ending on a facetious note.

It’s not only French fries that are set to go up in price. Breweries are worried about a poor barley yield and have warned that the shortfall will be reflected in the price of that other German staple, beer.

Haha yes prospective famines are hilarious.



The study raised questions

Sep 1st, 2018 11:43 am | By

Colleen Flaherty at IHE on the campaign to delegitimize Lisa Littman’s study in PLOS ONE.

Brown University and PLOS ONE have distanced themselves from a controversial, peer-reviewed published study on “rapid-onset gender dysphoria,” or gender identity issues that present not early and over a lifetime but quickly, in teenagers and young adults. The study, which has been criticized by transgender activists and allies as promoting the idea that being trans is a fad, and as relying on an unsound methodology, was based on anonymous survey responses from about 250 parents of (primarily female) teens and young adults who’d abruptly expressed gender dysphoria.

It’s almost funny that there’s outrage at the idea that being trans is a fad. Really? At the very same time as you’re engaged in trying to enforce the fad by shouting down anyone who asks questions? How, in this climate, could being trans not be a fad? It could certainly be other things too; it could be both a fad and a real experience or syndrome or whatever you want to call it; but at this point it can hardly escape being a fad too. It’s hyped like mad, it’s treated as sacred, it’s taboo, it’s sanctified, it’s retroactively diagnosed (Elizabeth Tudor? didn’t know that, didja!), it’s celebrated and defended and promoted all over social media. An adolescent would have to be superhuman not to be at least curious.

[T]he study also raised questions about whether social factors, rather than biological ones, influenced the young adults’ trans identities. It found that many young adults had requested and been offered medical interventions at the time of coming out, with possible lasting implications for their fertility and health, and that most doctors who evaluated these young adults didn’t ask questions about mental health, trauma or other possible reasons for sudden gender dysphoria.

The doctors are subject to social contagion too, though not as powerfully as adolescents. But the dogma is that if X says “I am trans” then that’s the end of the matter – it’s “transphobic” to wait and see.

A Brown news release about the study posted last week quoted its author, Lisa Littman, an assistant professor of the practice of behavioral and social sciences at the university, as saying, “This kind of descriptive study is important because it defines a group and raises questions for more research. One of the main conclusions is that more research needs to be done.” But Brown removed the story from its website this week, replacing it with an open letter from Bess H. Marcus, dean of public health, saying, “In light of questions raised about research design and data collection related to the study on ‘rapid onset gender dysphoria,’ the university determined that removing the article from news distribution is the most responsible course of action.”

Questions raised by whom?

By @SadistHailey.

Really. The person (or persons) managing the PLOS ONE Twitter account responded in all seriousness to that tweet from that “activist,” and then PLOS ONE removed the article. [My mistake.]

Marcus of course is the one who wrote that “The School of Public Health has heard from Brown community members expressing concerns that the conclusions of the study could be used to discredit efforts to support transgender youth and invalidate the perspectives of members of the transgender community,” as I pointed out a couple of days ago. You know, Gwyneth Paltrow has perspectives too – shouldn’t Brown’s School of Public Health be protecting her perspectives also, by letting her write an article promoting jade eggs up the vagina? If it’s one set of perspectives it should be all of them, no? How about anti-vax perspectives? How about homeopathic asthma treatment perspectives? Won’t somebody please think of the perspectives?

While the “spirit of free inquiry and scholarly debate is central to academic excellence, Marcus said, “we believe firmly that it is also incumbent on public health researchers to listen to multiple perspectives and to recognize and articulate the limitations of their work. This process includes acknowledging and considering the perspectives of those who criticize our research methods and conclusions and working to improve future research to address these limitations and better serve public health.”

So then I guess that is what she means – all perspectives welcome, including on public health research. Never mind evidence and statistics, just collect all the perspectives, put them in a box, shake it hard, and then use the soup that results.

An additional university statement on the page cites PLOS ONE’s social media statement about the study.  The journal has said it’s “aware of the reader concerns raised on the study’s content and methodology. We take all concerns raised about publications in the journal very seriously, and are following up on these per our policy” and other international publication ethics guidelines.

They’re aware of the concerns because random people on Twitter @ed them. Much science, very seriously.

Littman, the study’s author, declined comment on Brown’s or PLOS ONE’s actions. But she said she stood by her methodology. “My study is a descriptive study,” she said via email. “And like all descriptive studies there are limitations which are acknowledged. And although descriptive studies may be one of the less robust study designs they play an important role in the scientific literature primarily because they are a first description of a new condition or population and they make it possible to conduct additional, more rigorous research.”

She added, “When analyzing the methodology of my paper, it should be done in the context of other descriptive studies, not compared to studies employing other research designs. The methodology in my study is consistent with methodologies that have been used in other descriptive research and it has similar strengths and weaknesses, which I acknowledge in the paper.”

Well yes, but some activists made a stink on Twitter, so that settles it.



He’s happy to announce

Sep 1st, 2018 8:50 am | By

New editor of student philosophy journal announces no tolerance policy for questioning of pet ideology.

Since the label “TERFs” is used to bully and ostracize women who dispute parts of the rapidly evolving but nevertheless mandatory dogma of trans activism, the new editor of the student philosophy journal is congratulating himself on a policy of not tolerating analysis of a new and ever-changing political dogma that is noisily and explicitly hostile to feminism and, in practice, to women in general.



“Jungle noises”

Aug 31st, 2018 4:45 pm | By

Oh god can we just stop with this?! Axios reports:

An Idaho-based neo-Nazi group is sponsoring racist robocalls made to Democratic voters in Florida mocking Andrew Gillum, the first African American to win a major party nomination for Florida governor, with jungle noises playing in the background, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

Why it matters: These automated calls come days after GOP nominee Ron DeSantis called Gillum an “articulate” spokesman for socialism and warned Florida’s voters not to “monkey up” their finances. DeSantis’ campaign denounced the calls and continues to push back against accusations of racism regarding his comments.

“Monkey up” is not a thing. People don’t say that. It’s not an expression, a meme, an idiom, a bit of slang. It’s not anything. It’s no more a thing than “zebra up” or “reticulated python up” is. Ok there is a rather antiquated usage to “monkey with” as in “don’t monkey with that socket wrench or I’ll tan your hide,” but that’s a different phrase and it means a different thing. “Monkeying up” finances is gibberish. So yes, it’s a racist dog whistle, even if an accidental one. (“Got monkeys on your mind, Mr DeSantis? Why’s that exactly?”)

And goddam racist robocalls from an Idaho group; just fucking perfect.



He loves surprises

Aug 31st, 2018 4:06 pm | By

Louis CK made a “surprise return” to standup comedy the other day.

A standing ovation could make sense if he’d been away because of a broken leg or drug rehab or writing a book, but since in fact he was away because it became public that he likes to abuse women sexually, the standing ovation is pretty much a hard punch in the face to women. Again.



No fault

Aug 31st, 2018 3:08 pm | By

The Green Party is perhaps beginning to grasp that there’s a problem.

The Green party has announced an inquiry into how the father of a candidate for the party’s deputy leadership was allowed to remain her election agent 18 months after he was charged with raping and torturing a child, offences that led to him being jailed last week.

The party said Aimee Challenor, who has insisted she did not know the full details of the allegations against her father, David, had been suspended pending the results of the independent investigation.

It’s a no-fault suspension, they say.

Several Green members have expressed alarm after it emerged that officials took no action to suspend David Challenor or restrict his activities in the party until he was jailed for 22 years for torturing and raping a 10-year-old girl in the attic of the family home in Coventry.

David Challenor’s first court appearance over the allegations took place in November 2016. But ahead of his trial, which began this month, he acted twice as his daughter’s election agent, at the 2017 general election, and in May’s local polls.

It’s not a parking ticket, or embezzlement, or failure to pay the license fee. It’s the torture and rape of a ten-year-old girl. It’s not very “green.”

One party figure said they were “agonised, horrified and furious” at the apparent safeguarding failure, and hoped the Greens, a party that remains heavily localised and largely dependent on volunteers, would learn lessons from this.

It’s a bit late for that.


Trump whispers his secret to reporters

Aug 31st, 2018 2:58 pm | By

Daniel Dale at the Toronto Star reports Trump’s latest Brilliant Move:

High-stakes trade negotiations between Canada and the U.S. were dramatically upended on Friday morning after inflammatory secret remarks by President Donald Trump were obtained by the Toronto Star.

In comments Trump wanted to be “off the record,” the U.S. president told Bloomberg News reporters on Thursday that he is not making any compromises at all in the talks with Canada — but that he cannot say this publicly because “it’s going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal.”

He cannot say it publicly but he can say it to reporters. Very sensible.

“Here’s the problem. If I say no — the answer’s no. If I say no, then you’re going to put that, and it’s going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal … I can’t kill these people,” Trump said of the Canadian government.

In another remark he did not want published, Trump said that the possible deal with Canada would be “totally on our terms.” He suggested he was scaring the Canadians into submission by repeatedly threatening to impose tariffs.

“Off the record, Canada’s working their ass off. And every time we have a problem with a point, I just put up a picture of a Chevrolet Impala,” Trump said. The Impala is produced at the General Motors plant in Oshawa, Ontario.

Such a sober, wise, careful administrator.

Today he helpfully confirmed that he said it.



It was less edgy than it imagined

Aug 31st, 2018 11:53 am | By

Andrea Long Chu worked with Avital Ronell as a graduate student, and believes her accuser. Chu was a teaching assistant for Ronell last year.

The course was called “Outrageous Texts.” Like most purportedly edgy things, it was less edgy than it imagined. In practice, outrageous mostly meant some dead white dudes with weird sexual hang-ups. Sometimes we mixed it up; the dudes were still alive. When we did read women (four of the 15 writers assigned), Avital still mostly talked about men. Her lecture on Valerie Solanas’s SCUM Manifesto, like the introduction she wrote for Verso’s edition of that book, focused on Nietzsche and Derrida.

It is not illegal to read men. Avital is a Germanist and a deconstructionist who has made no serious contribution to feminist scholarship. That’s fine. But when news media report that she is a feminist — “What Happens to #MeToo When a Feminist Is the Accused?” read the Times headline — they are factually mistaken. This is a professional distinction, not a political one. Personally, Avital may be a feminist, in the Taylor Swift sense of a woman who doesn’t like being oppressed, but professionally, she is not a feminist scholar, any more than every person who believes that humans descended from apes is an evolutionary anthropologist.

Hm. I understand the distinction but I think its validity is pretty limited. Feminism is not primarily an academic discipline, to put it mildly. I find it bizarre and annoying when I see academic types on Twitter announcing that people who lack PhDs in sociology should shut up about feminism. Nah, we shouldn’t.

In class, Avital was waited on by her aide-de-camp, a graduate student who followed her around the Village like Tony Hale on HBO’s Veep. If the energy in the room was not to her liking, she became frustrated. During one session, she abruptly stopped the lecture midthought, blaming her students for making her feel drained. It took a beat for anyone to realize she was serious.

This is the risk with calling people “superstars,” isn’t it. They believe their own publicity and they take it seriously. That’s no good.

It is simply no secret to anyone within a mile of the German or comp-lit departments at NYU that Avital is abusive. This is boring and socially agreed upon, like the weather.

Stories about Avital’s “process” are passed, like notes in class, from one student to the next: how she reprimanded her teaching assistants when they did not congratulate her for being invited to speak at a conference; how she requires that her students be available 24/7; how her preferred term for any graduate student who has fallen out of favor is “the skunk.”

Anyone else starting to get a narcissist vibe?

A culture of critics in name only, where genuine criticism is undertaken at the risk of ostracism, marginalization, retribution — this is where abuses like Avital’s grow like moss, or mold. Graduate students know this intuitively; it is written on their bones. They’ve watched as their professors play favorites, as their colleagues get punished for citing an adviser’s rival, as funding, jobs, and prestige are doled out to the most obedient and obsequious.

A world of pretend-superstars and real peasants.



I WON’T

Aug 31st, 2018 11:15 am | By



Gender identity: woman

Aug 31st, 2018 10:26 am | By

This is making the rounds:

Whether trans or cisgender, intersex or not, many people identify as
women. However, what this means varies a great deal depending on their other intersecting attributes. It is important not to assume, for example, that being a woman necessarily involves being able to bear children, or having XX sex chromosomes, or breasts. Being a woman in a British cultural context often means adhering to social norms of femininity, such as being nurturing, caring, social, emotional, vulnerable, and concerned with appearance.

However, of course, not all women adhere to all these things. For example some neurodiverse women (on the autistic/aspergic/ADHD spectrums) may struggle to express emotions, or with social situations. In some northern working-class contexts femininity is associated with strength and aggression. As always an intersectional understanding is vital and we need to be mindful that what is culturally regarded as the epitome of femininity is white, middle class, youthful, non-disabled, heterosexual, cisgender, and thin. This strongly shapes all women’s experiences of womanhood.

It’s from the Good Practice Guide of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. You may notice a certain incoherence, along with a certain wildness of assertion. For instance, in the wild assertion category, there is “many people identify as women.” Wut? One, really? Two, never mind “identify as”, what happened to “are”? Many people, in fact a little over half of all people, are women. “Identify as” is, frankly, irrelevant. One “identifies as” something that is chosen; one doesn’t “identify as” a given.

Then the “what this means” bit is incoherent (as well as laced with wild assertions). Then all the rest of it is both too. And people are doing counselling and psychotherapy on the basis of this confused heap of shite? That’s tragic if so. According to Wikipedia, “BACP is now the largest and broadest professional association for members of the counselling professions in the UK with over 44,000 members.”

The full guide, written by Meg-John Barker (is that an enby name?), is here. You’ll be relieved to learn that the explanation of “man” is the mirror-image of the one of “woman”: only the choice of stereotypes is altered.

Pause to Google M-J B.

Yes.

MegJohn Barker (born 23 June 1974) is an author, speaker, consultant, and activist-academic. They have written a number of anti self-help books on the topics …

They is on Twitter, but I find I am blocked from following they. Of course I is.



One of the angry

Aug 31st, 2018 9:29 am | By

What “President” Trump is inciting:

The F.B.I. said on Thursday that it charged a California man who threatened to kill employees of The Boston Globe after calling them the “enemy of the people” in a series of menacing phone calls.

Robert D. Chain, 68, was arrested on Thursday at his home in Encino, Calif. The F.B.I. said Mr. Chain owned several firearms and had recently purchased a small-caliber rifle.

According to federal documents, Mr. Chain began calling The Boston Globe immediately after the newspaper announced on Aug. 10 that it would publish a coordinated editorial response to political attacks on the media. Prosecutors said the threats were in retaliation for The Globe’s leadership in the editorial campaign.

In one call to the paper’s newsroom, Mr. Chain threatened to shoot the newspaper’s employees in the head, the F.B.I. said. Three days later, in another call, Mr. Chain said: “You’re the enemy of the people.” Using profane language, he threatened to kill “every” Globe employee.

I wonder where he got the idea that a newspaper is “the enemy of the people.” Kidding; we all know exactly where he got it. He got it from the corrupt cornered reckless murderous criminal who got himself elected president of the US a couple of years ago.

Are we embarrassed and ashamed enough yet?

As the Times points out, Trump used the dangerous phrase yet again just yesterday.



“People are angry”

Aug 31st, 2018 9:16 am | By

Trump is now openly inciting violence against news outlets, law enforcement, and Democrats.

At his rally on Thursday night in Indiana, President Trump unleashed his usual attacks on the news media, but he also added a refrain that should set off loud, clanging alarm bells. Trump didn’t simply castigate “fake news.” He also suggested the media is allied with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe — an alliance, he claimed, that is conspiring not just against Trump but also against his supporters.

“Today’s Democrat Party is held hostage by left-wing haters, angry mobs, deep-state radicals, establishment cronies and their fake-news allies,” Trump railed. “Our biggest obstacle and their greatest ally actually is the media.”

In case there is any doubt about what Trump meant by the “deep state” that is supposedly allied with the news media, Trump also lashed out at the FBI and the Justice Department, claiming that “people are angry” and threatening to personally “get involved.”

It’s who will rid me of this turbulent priest territory.

Robert D. Chain, who was arrested this week for allegedly threatening to murder journalists at the Boston Globe while mimicking Trump’s language, also connected Mueller’s investigation to the media. “You’re the enemy of the people, and we’re going to kill every f–––ing one of you,” Chain snarled into one employee’s voicemail, according to FBI documents. “Why don’t you call Mueller, maybe he can help you out.”

It’s weird, watching all this. It’s like watching Hitler in March 1933 except it’s different because there are more and stronger constraints on Trump than there were on Hitler. More and stronger, but not infinitely more and stronger. That’s what makes it weird to watch: I don’t feel the stark terror appropriate to watching Hitler in 1933, but at the same time I’m aware that there’s plenty of reason to feel that stark terror.

I’ll tell you one reason to feel calm there isn’t: any idea that Trump is fundamentally different and more innocuous. No, not at all; Trump is every bit the howling moral desert that Hitler was.



A fiscally sustainable course

Aug 30th, 2018 5:42 pm | By

That piece of shit.

After being rebuffed in an attempt to peel back the union protections of federal workers, President Trump took aim elsewhere on Thursday: at their paychecks.

Invoking authority that he and other presidents have used previously, Mr. Trump told Congress he was canceling government pay increases scheduled for next year.

Of course he did. Huge tax cut for the already rich, wage freeze for the people who earn a paycheck.

In a letter to congressional leaders, Mr. Trump said the government would forgo an automatic 2.1 percent pay increase for federal workers scheduled for Jan. 1 and specified that there would be no across-the-board increase for 2019. The letter did not estimate the overall savings from canceling the raises, though it said a related move canceling raises that are based on the workers’ location would save $25 billion.

And it would save even more to pay them nothing at all. Trump keeps wages down at Mar-a-lago by hiring temporary workers from poor countries at the very same time as he rants and raves about keeping foreign workers out of the country.

“We must maintain efforts to put our nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases,” the president wrote.

But they can afford huge tax cuts. They can afford the expense of flying Trump to a golf course every third day or so, and secret service protection for his goons sons when they travel for his company. They can afford whatever luxury Trump demands, but they can’t afford to raise wages slightly at a time when the cost of housing, education, and health care is shooting up.

Mr. Trump’s letter came days after a federal judge struck down key provisions of three executive orders the president had signed in May that had made it easier to fire federal workers and limited the power of their unions. The administration appeared to be dragging its feet this week on complying with the judge’s orders, with some agencies telling managers and union officials that the new policies remained in effect until further notice.

Many legal experts were puzzled because the orders were supposed to apply immediately.

Well I don’t suppose they were really “puzzled.” Trump is a lawless monster who hates anything that benefits anyone other than brass-haired loud-mouthed millionaires from Queens.

But while saying it was still considering further action in the case, the administration acknowledged at least a temporary setback on Wednesday, when the Office of Personnel Management put out updated guidance that rescinded the portions of the instructions that the judge had struck down.

Union officials in at least one agency, the Social Security Administration, exulted as they were told that they would be allowed back into offices that managers had evicted them from when the executive orders took effect this summer.

That’s good. The eviction move had made it impossible to do their jobs.

Via Rob at Miscellany Room



He views them as suckers

Aug 30th, 2018 1:53 pm | By

Jonathan Chait picks up on the Politico mention of Trump’s disdain for Sessions’s accent and lack of an Ivy League degree, and points out that Trump is one of them there coastal elite types himself.

Conservatives have spent decades depicting liberals as coastal snobs. Entire campaigns were built from this theme, from Michael Dukakis’s “Harvard Yard boutique” to various Democrats failing to display the requisite enthusiasm for Nascar. Every image of Barack Obama in the right-wing media cast him gazing downward imperiously, a pose that conservatives seemed to think captured his contempt for the good people of the heartland.

Given the attention they have lavished on such picayune details as John Kerry’s failure to order cheesesteak properly, it’s not even possible to imagine what they would do with direct evidence of a president disdaining his attorney general’s University of Alabama law degree and regional accent.

In other words it’s a reverse victim and offender scenario again.

But as is so often the case, the accusation that was made falsely against Democrats turns out to be true of Trump. For all his vaunted populism, he is filled with contempt for average people in general and his own supporters in particular.

Well duh. He is filled with contempt for people who don’t have gilded bathroom faucets.

Trump is the ultimate snob. He has no sense that working-class people may have equal latent talent that they have been denied the chance to develop. He considers wealthy and successful people a genetic aristocracy, frequently attributing his own success to good genes.

Attempting to explain his penchant for appointing plutocrats to his Cabinet, Trump has said, “I love all people, rich or poor, but in those particular positions I just don’t want a poor person. Does that make sense?” It makes sense if you assume a person’s wealth perfectly reflects their innate intelligence. Trump has repeatedly boasted about his Ivy League pedigree and that of his relatives, which he believes reflects well on his own genetic stock. He has fixated on the Ivy League pedigree of his Supreme Court appointments, even rejecting the credentials of the lower Ivys as too proletarian.

Trump has built a brand on attracting working-class strivers. But the relationship he cultivates is unidirectional admiration. Trump gives his supporters a lifestyle they can enjoy vicariously. He views them as suckers. The Trump University scam was premised directly on exploiting the misplaced trust of his fan base. The internal guidance for salespeople trying to drain the savings accounts of their targets explained, “Don’t ask people what they think about something you’ve said. Instead, always ask them how they feel about it. People buy emotionally and justify it logically.”

Never mind though. He’s make it ok to be racist again, and that makes it all worthwhile.



Seized by paroxysms of anger

Aug 30th, 2018 1:38 pm | By

Politico reports that Trump is getting closer to firing Sessions; the resistance of Republican senators is weakening.

The willingness of Republican senators to turn on Attorney General Jeff Sessions is the result of a furious lobbying campaign from President Donald Trump, who for the past 10 days has been venting his anger at Sessions to “any senator who will listen,” as one GOP Senate aide put it.

And not just senators.

He’s worn down his lawyers, too, according to two Republicans close to the White House. Though they once cautioned him that dismissing Sessions would feed special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Trump’s potential obstruction of justice, these people say, Trump’s legal team has become increasingly convinced Mueller will make that case regardless of whether the president fires Sessions or leaves him in place.

So might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb? Ok.

“There’s the belief that if the president taking action with respect to Sessions is going to be an important part of the Mueller obstruction case, most of that case has already been made. Things that the president has already done privately that have been reported, but also things that the president has done publicly that could be characterized as bullying or intimidating, all of that case is already there ready to be made, such that firing him is almost like an afterthought,” said one person familiar with the conversations among members of the president’s legal team.

He’s already screwed himself so it won’t matter if he adds another turn.

Seized by paroxysms of anger, Trump has intermittently pushed to fire his attorney general since March 2017, when Sessions announced his recusal from the Russia investigation. If Sessions’ recusal was his original sin, Trump has come to resent him for other reasons, griping to aides and lawmakers that the attorney general doesn’t have the Ivy League pedigree the president prefers, that he can’t stand his Southern accent, and that Sessions isn’t a capable defender of the president on television — in part because he “talks like he has marbles in his mouth,” the president has told aides.

Oh gawd – has Trump ever looked at his own performance? He’s not what you’d call a skilled speaker.

The drumbeat of presidential tweets denigrating Sessions as “weak” and calling on him to “stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now” have also shaped the view among the president’s legal team. They have come to believe that if Mueller wants to build a case that the president has intimidated his attorney general, he can do so given the voluminous public record created by the president — and that firing Sessions won’t change much.

It would be funny if it weren’t so disgusting – Trump has already made it so obvious that he’s doing everything he can to obstruct justice that there’s really no point in trying to prevent him from doing more. That ship has sailed.



And here is your pronoun badge

Aug 30th, 2018 12:56 pm | By

Oh good grief.

Edinburgh University student union officials will hand out pronoun badges to freshers so they know whether to refer to each other as “he”, “she” or “they”.

The move is intended to avoid any potential “misgendering” of non-binary or transgender students who may display the physical attributes of one gender, while associating more closely with another or none at all.

Or, rather, the move is intended to put the new students on notice that they must keep “gender” on their minds at all times from here on out.

The students’ union also published a guide to pronouns, which explains why it is important to “normalise” the practice of sharing gender pronouns.

“Many people assume that the pronouns they should use for an individual are obvious: people who look like men should be referred to using he/him, and people who look like women should be referred to as she/her,” it says.

The guide explains that making these assumptions can be “frustrating and harmful” for transgender on non-binary students, who may in fact prefer to use gender-neutral pronouns.

Or, rather, making these assumptions can be “frustrating and harmful” for transgender or non-binary students because it means people aren’t paying enough attention to them and their Gender Identity.

“If we choose to make assumptions about which pronouns are correct, we risk misgendering people and/or singling out trans people who want to clarify their pronouns,” it says.

The guide advises that saying you “don’t care” which pronoun is used is offensive, as it “suggests that trans folks are silly for requesting that their pronouns be respected”.

Asking people about their “preferred” pronoun should also be avoided, as it can imply that pronouns are a mere preference rather than a necessity. Using the term “preferred” can also “isolate and alienate” transgender people, it says.

And, to sum up, it would probably be a good idea to turn smartly around and go back where you came from, to seek out a university with a less deranged student union. Good luck with that!



A big bowl of word salad

Aug 30th, 2018 11:49 am | By

Katha Pollitt asks what are we to make of the Avital Ronell controversy:

Ronell denies everything. To me, her hundreds of histrionic e-mails read like a humorless novel of obsessive passion. Not so, she claims; they were lighthearted fun “between two adults, a gay man and a queer woman, who share an Israeli heritage, as well as a penchant for florid and campy communications arising from our common academic backgrounds and sensibilities.” Well, all you queer Israeli academics out there, do you address your grad students as your “sweet cuddly baby” or warn them that “‘I love you too’ does not cut it darling,” if they fail to respond with sufficient enthusiasm?

Not being an academic, I was puzzled that a gay man turning 30 would—or even could—spend three years returning the extravagances of a woman he derided to friends as “psychotic,” a “witch,” a “monster,” and a “bitter old lady.” (Ouch! Ronell was in her early 60s at the time.) But numerous people in academia have told me that an adviser whose ego isn’t properly fed can destroy your career. When I asked Reitman over e-mail why he stayed under her wing, he wrote back, “Ronell often told me about her capacity to “make or break” the careers of young academics, as well as her network of personal and professional connections.… Throughout my time at NYU, I was advised by various other faculty and students in the department to power through and lay low if I wanted to have a career. In fear of retaliation and retribution, I decided to stay in my chosen program.”

A broader window into the corner of academia that is “theory” is provided by the defenders of Ronell. In May, some 50 prominent academics signed a pro-Ronell letter that was sent privately to NYU’s president and its provost. Co-written by the renowned philosopher Judith Butler, the letter asserted that some of its signers found Reitman “malicious” and stressed Ronell’s achievements and fame. It even invoked Jacques Derrida, the founder of deconstruction, who once tried to stop the sexual-harassment investigation of a colleague. That these smarties thought they could e-mail hundreds of academics about signing the letter without having it leaked tells you the kind of bubble they live in. (Butler has since expressed regret for portions of the letter.) As others have pointed out, Ronell’s defenders sound a bit like the friends of Harvey Weinstein: He’s made so many great movies. That’s just Harvey being Harvey. Those actresses were no angels.

One of the features of the corner of academia that is “theory,” it has always seemed to me (looking on from the outside) is a marked tendency toward peacocking – toward vanity and self-regard and a wildly exaggerated sense of fame and glamour and celebrity. “Theory” is full of putative “stars” known only to the tiny corner of academia that is Theory. Ronell seems to be given to peacocking in a big way.

Ronell’s supporters have done their best to change the subject. It’s not about sexual harassment; it’s about neoliberalism (Lisa Duggan), or stamping out “all but the most technocratic pedagogy” (Kraus), or singling out queers (Jack Halberstam), or attacking a rare and original person (Slavoj Žižek). It’s a violation of due process (Joan Scott), and an attack on feminism, the humanities, and the left (many, many).

It’s a totally unfair attack on peacocks.

Some of those who initially defended Ronell have faded away. I wish I felt those who still support her were surprised and troubled by her behavior. Instead, they seem to find it delightfully provocative. As Abby Kluchin, who teaches at Ursinus College, asked in a much-circulated Facebook post, “What is at stake in the bizarre doubling down on the idea that the rules of professional behavior exist to be playfully transgressed? Why is there no recognition that one person’s playful transgression is another’s traumatic nightmare?”

Ronell’s work strikes me as a big bowl of word salad. But I understand that the general project of deconstruction is the analysis and dismantling of conscious and unconscious structures of power. How odd, then, that these professors could see domination operating everywhere except the one place they could actually do something about it: in their own relations with students.

It’s less odd if you keep the peacocking in mind. Students are the captive peahens, crouching in dumb admiration at the feet (or claws if you insist) of the Stars who tower above them. Without the students it’s just a bunch of rival peacocks driving each other nuts.



What’s that screeching sound?

Aug 30th, 2018 11:27 am | By

Don more disgusting than ever chapter 2758.

Projection much? Donald Trump calling Carl Bernstein a degenerate fool?

Again with the reversing victim and offender. Donald Trump accusing other people of not caring about the truth…oy…

He says, in the midst of his tenth screaming tantrum since breakfast.

Smoothly running machine right there.



Another firing

Aug 30th, 2018 11:00 am | By

Last week I wrote about Angelos Sofocleous’s resignation as President-Elect of the Durham University Humanists. Now he’s been fired as assistant editor of Critique, the journal of the Durham University Philosophy Society. He sent me the email they wrote to him explaining their reasons.

“Durham University Philosophy Society has considered your actions and reached a democratic decision”…to throw you unceremoniously out.

“You have argued,” the email goes on to say, “that risking offence should be tolerated and that feelings should not guide the nature of debates. Durham University Philosophy Society welcomes all views and endorses philosophical discussions that are fair and responsible.” You can hear the “but” coming a mile away. “However, the nature of the statement, ‘RT if women don’t have penises…’ (especially [if?] it is published on the social media platform, Twitter) escapes such responsibility and leaves no room for or [sic] to promote any fair discussions.”

Wait. Durham University Philosophy Society welcomes all views and endorses philosophical discussions that are fair and responsible, fine, great, awesome, but surely Durham University Philosophy Society doesn’t take itself to have veto power over everything all its members say in any and every medium or venue…does it? Does it monitor the twitter accounts of all its members to check for Correct Thought?

If it does it shouldn’t. Twitter is not a meeting of the Durham University Philosophy Society, nor is it a journal, nor is it even a newspaper op ed page. It’s Twitter. That doesn’t mean “bullying and dogpiling are ok on Twitter because it’s just Twitter,” but it does mean that Twitter is a far more relaxed medium than a Philosophy Society meeting or journal. And then, saying women don’t have penises is just a statement of obvious fact. So, the Durham University Philosophy Society’s decision to fire Angelos from his assistant editor job because of a tweet stating an obvious fact is…how shall I put this…not entirely reasonable or fair.

Furthermore, the public nature of your actions affects the reputation of our society and journal, because it conflicts [with] the value that this society upholds.

And that, the writer sums up, is why they made the democratic decision to give Angelos the boot.

It’s not enough to agree that people should be free to present any way they want to* without fear of harassment let alone violence; no, we’re now required, on pain of summary firing, to agree that men who like to wear dresses are women and that women themselves have “cis privilege” over men who like to wear dresses.

You couldn’t make it up.

*Although questions about Nazi uniforms or KKK regalia arise



Guest post: The correct scientific response is to improve the method

Aug 29th, 2018 4:13 pm | By

Originally a comment by Rob on Et tu Brown?

I mean, putting aside the potential issues of contagion and methodology for a minute; there are people who are morbidly obese, or smokers, or alcohol drinkers, or drug users, who feel aggrieved at health and medical advice becoming part of public policy and discussion. They feel their lifestyle choices are negatively highlighted (not necessarily saying that being trans is a lifestyle choice). Tough shit. There is sound evidence that it’s so and sound reasons for said medical advice and public policy. You might be happy as fat person, a drinker or a smoker. That doesn’t mean that there are not negative social outcomes or that certain facts are not in play.

Why should an emerging social issue go unresearched, just because some people dislike the results of research. If there is a problem with the methodology of the research, the correct scientific response is to critique and improve the method, then repeat the research. not to suppress the original research. Plenty of the original research in many fields is initially shallow and not best practice. Often this is because there is poor funding or support. Sometimes it is through lack of knowledge in an emerging field. Poor methodology alone does not also mean that the conclusion reached is wrong or has not raised useful questions for further study.