Notes and Comment Blog

This very interesting world

May 4th, 2019 10:23 am | By

Nothing to see here folks, move on.

Trump is with Kim Jong-un. Trump is not with the EU, or NATO, or Merkel, or the UN, or Schumer, or Mueller, or Obama, but he is with Kim Jong-un. Interesting.

South Korea isn’t quite so with Kim.

South Korea initially reported Saturday that a single missile was fired, but later issued a statement that said “several projectiles” had been launched and that they flew up to 200km (125 miles) before splashing into the sea toward the north-east.

If it’s confirmed that the North fired banned ballistic missiles, it would be the first such launch since the North’s November 2017 test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. That year saw a string of increasingly powerful weapons tests from the North and a belligerent response from Trump that had many in the region fearing war.

Experts say the North may increase these sorts of low-level provocations to apply pressure on the US to agree to reduce crushing international sanctions.

Well, Trump is with Kim, so no doubt he’ll be obliging.

Aim low

May 4th, 2019 9:53 am | By

Conservative Democrats always think they know that only the most conservative possible platform can get Democrats elected. Pelosi is warning us away from any wild and crazy ideas like universal health insurance, you know like what every other developed country has had for decades.

Sitting in her office with its panoramic view of the National Mall, Ms. Pelosi — the de facto head of the Democratic Party until a presidential nominee is selected in 2020 — offered Democrats her “coldblooded” plan for decisively ridding themselves of Mr. Trump: Do not get dragged into a protracted impeachment bid that will ultimately get crushed in the Republican-controlled Senate, and do not risk alienating the moderate voters who flocked to the party in 2018 by drifting too far to the left.

“Own the center left, own the mainstream,” Ms. Pelosi, 79, said.

“Our passions were for health care, bigger paychecks, cleaner government — a simple message,” Ms. Pelosi said of the 40-seat Democratic pickup last year that resulted in her second ascent to the speakership. “We did not engage in some of the other exuberances that exist in our party” — a reference to some of the most ambitious plans advocated by the left wing of her party and some 2020 candidates, including “Medicare for all” and the Green New Deal, which she has declined to support.

Well what is “health care” supposed to mean? Everybody thinks health care is a good thing, apart from the religious maniacs who decline it on principle and watch their children die in agony. The issue isn’t health care, it’s the ability to pay for it if you’re not rich. The issue is whether or not to treat it as a public good like schools and libraries, or a profit generator like cars and shoes. It’s not “exuberance” to think health insurance should work the way Medicare does; other prosperous countries do it that way and we could too.

There’s also nothing “exuberant” about thinking we have a responsibility to take climate change seriously as opposed to just shrugging it off because we won’t be alive to see the worst of it.

Getting the L out

May 4th, 2019 8:23 am | By

Dispatch from Swansea Pride:

#GetTheLOut Swansea Pride. Lesbians forcibly removed by police for stating lesbians don’t have penises.

Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, shoes, child and outdoor

Image may contain: 1 person

Little to no risk in sharing your pronouns

May 3rd, 2019 3:30 pm | By

From last summer: Why I Put Pronouns on my Email Signature (and LinkedIn profile) and You Should Too.

Pronouns…on your signature?

looks around confusedly as if having just landed on an alien planet

What does that even mean? Signatures don’t have pronouns.

Never mind what it is; the point is it doesn’t cost you anything.

For a cisgender person (a person whose gender is in alignment with the sex they were assigned at birth- more on that another time!) there is little to no risk in sharing your pronouns. When you’ve never questioned what pronouns people use for you, or even thought about the idea of pronouns after you learned about them in 2nd grade, sharing your pronouns on digital profiles is easy and costs you nothing.

Emphasis in the original.

I beg to differ. It would cost me my self-respect, my unconscious feeling of having some clue about how to do basic things like walk through doors, buy food at the supermarket, wear clothes, not fall over. I would feel like a damn fool if I started signing things with My Name + me me me me. That’s a cost.

For a person who is transgender or nonbinary, sharing pronouns can be a bit riskier. If someone is transitioning at work and only a few people know about it, sharing pronouns may out them before they’re ready. For a nonbinary person, sharing they/them pronouns often only sparks a lengthier conversation (*coughthisarticlecough*) rather than simply inform people.

That’s why we ask cisgender people to lead the change by sharing pronouns.It normalizes the process, has little risk, and actually makes for a safer environment for everyone.

What process? Signatures don’t include pronouns, for anyone, not even trans people, so what process?

Finally he explains. (Or maybe it’s not “he”? Despite the name Max Masure and the photo of a man? Am I committing a social crime by assuming he’s a he?)

At Argo Collective, we always have our workshop attendees make a commitment before the close of each session. One of our clients committed to adding his pronouns on his LinkedIn profile. Two days after he added “He/Him” after his last name, a University reached out to him and said they noticed he and some of his colleagues added pronouns on LinkedIn. The University told him they had a transgender student who was looking for an internship placement and this company seemed like a safe environment for the student to begin their career.

Oh, that’s what it means: adding it in parentheses after your name, as some people do on Twitter.

No. It’s stupid and otiose and I’m not doing it.

Now at this point in my reading, I start to have a familiar thought: the intention here is to be kind, and it’s making me feel sick, and isn’t there something dubious about feeling sick at intentions to be kind?

So I pause to think about it.

There could be. Certainly a lot of the struggle against “political correctness” smacks of that. Carl Benjamin smirking at the camera and saying he guesses he would rape Jess Phillips if pressed enough but really there isn’t enough beer – that’s definitely about being pointedly hateful for the sake of being pointedly hateful.

But scorn for people who obsess over pronouns? I don’t think so. There’s such a thing as cruelty, there’s bullying, but there’s also misdirected kindness. I think pronoun follies are infantilizing rather than kind, however kind the intention may be. You can want to be kind to a toddler and give her chocolate until she throws up; a mistaken form of kindness.

One way the mistaken kindness of a lot of “allies” of trans people goes wrong is that it fosters narcissism. Trans ideology seems to attract narcissists as it is, and the ever-ratcheting-upward campaign to “center” them just makes it more attractive to narcissists. It’s inherently narcissistic to believe that one’s own inner feelings can contradict physical reality, and the more people coo over that belief and offer to do it favors even when signing emails, the more narcissistic the believer becomes. I think that’s probably the core reason this “movement” is so fucked up and so filled with idiotic claims and rules.

So, no. I think saying “Don’t be ridiculous about pronouns” is not cruel or bullying the way saying “I guess I’d rape her if pushed” is.

Without approval from Congress

May 3rd, 2019 11:53 am | By

Oh and by the way seven foreign governments have been renting space in Trump World Tower since 2017, without so much as a whisper of Congressional approval. Note that this is not Trump Tower but a different building, next to the UN.

The U.S. State Department allowed seven foreign governments to rent luxury condominiums in New York’s Trump World Tower in 2017 without approval from Congress, according to documents and people familiar with the leases, in what some experts say could be a potential violation of the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause.

Could be a potential, or just plain is a snap of the fingers at the emoluments clause.

Congressional staffers confirmed to Reuters that the Trump World Tower lease requests were never submitted to Congress. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said his committee has been “stonewalled” in its efforts to obtain detailed information about foreign government payments to Trump’s businesses.

“This new information raises serious questions about the President and his businesses’ potential receipt of payments from foreign governments,” Cummings said in a statement to Reuters. “The American public deserves full transparency.”

A State Department spokesperson referred Reuters to the Justice Department because the subject involved “matters related to ongoing litigation.” The Justice Department declined to comment. The White House referred a request for comment to the State Department and the Trump Organization, which declined to comment before publication.

In other words they all stonewalled, just as Cummings said.

Never mind that, just call him Jessica

May 3rd, 2019 11:27 am | By


Fiona Robertson is the SNP’s National Women’s and Equalities Convener, and she thinks “respecting” Jonathan Yaniv’s “identity” is important, and not just important but so important that she needs to express sorrow over a putative insult to it despite the abundant reporting on what an aggressive punitive woman-hating shit Yaniv is.

It’s nuts.

Getting along

May 3rd, 2019 10:58 am | By

At least Donnie and Volodya are still buddies. That’s a comfort.

President Trump spoke with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin by phone for more than an hour Friday about topics including the outcome of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference, the White House said.

How sweet.

Image result for besties

The two touched “very, very briefly” on Mueller’s findings, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters.

“It was discussed, essentially in the context that it’s over, and there was no collusion, which I’m pretty sure both leaders were very well aware of long before this call took place,” Sanders told reporters at the White House.

But was there Russian interference? Oooooooh let’s not talk about that.

Trump later tweeted about the call, referring to the Muller investigation as the “Russian Hoax.”

“As I have always said, long before the Witch Hunt started, getting along with Russia, China, and everyone is a good thing, not a bad thing,” he wrote. “We discussed Trade, Venezuela, Ukraine, North Korea, Nuclear Arms Control and even the ‘Russian Hoax.’ Very productive talk!”

What about getting along with Venezuela? Cuba? Iran? Is that a good thing, not a bad thing? Do they count as “and everyone”?

Facts about the campaign and the President personally

May 3rd, 2019 10:03 am | By

Next up is David Frum.

“But the evidence does indicate that a thorough FBI investigation would uncover” – not might uncover, please note, but would uncover – “facts about the campaign and the President personally that the President could have understood to be crimes…”

They were crimes outside the scope of his inquiry, but a thorough FBI probe would find them.


What do women have to do to end this shit

May 3rd, 2019 9:39 am | By

I see this tweet from Jess Phillips.

So I open the BuzzFeed article.

Labour MP Jess Phillips has questioned whether UKIP’s star candidate Carl Benjamin — known on YouTube as Sargon of Akkad — should be allowed to run in this month’s European elections after new footage emerged in which he talks again about raping her.

UKIP leader Gerard Batten has faced repeated questions about Benjamin’s candidacy for the anti-immigration party in the South West region over a tweet to Phillips in 2016.

“I wouldn’t even rape you, @jessphillips,” the YouTuber and Gamergate leader posted in response to Phillips’ tweets about rape and death threats sent to women on the internet.

Benjamin has since been banned from Twitter.

You remember all that, no doubt. You probably remember the self-consciously mavericky Milwaukee skeptics group that imported Carl Benjamin to speak at its 2017 conference in defiance of all the many people who said “But rape jokes.”

Sargon of Akkad and Thomas Smith spoke in a session titled “A discussion of socio-politics.” The session was marketed as an interview but played out as an acrimonious debate without the benefit of a moderator. Smith appeared agitated as soon as he stepped on stage and proceeded to immediately drill Sargon on a controversial tweet he sent to a British Labour MP.

“I wouldn’t even rape you, Jess Phillips,” Sargon tweeted in 2016. Phillips has previously spoken publicly about how she was the victim of sexual assault as a young woman.

“You have signaled to the women in the movement you don’t give a shit about using rape to bully somebody,” Smith said to Sargon on stage. Sargon maintained that his tweet was not a threat and critics have misunderstood or mischaracterized his words. “The whole point was to demonstrate that I won’t do something and you say that’s a threat,” Sargon retorted. Smith called Sargon “awful.”

“I’m not touching her, Mom!” Yes, on the literal level, “I wouldn’t even rape you” is saying “I wouldn’t rape you,” but the literal level is not the only level in play in remarks like that. Another level is saying “You’re far too disgusting for me to rape you,” and another level is saying “Rape rape rape rape hahaha rape rape I understand you don’t like rape threats rape rape rape rape hahaha rape rape.” Nobody “misunderstood”; nobody “mischaracterized”; Carl Benjamin was taunting, insulting, threatening, and bullying Jess Phillips all in one. (How threatening? Because another level is just “Haha kidding I totally would rape you, bitch.”)

Now he’s made it explicit.

But in new footage that Benjamin posted to YouTube on April 26 — just three days before Batten’s interview — he says he might rape Phillips “with enough pressure”.

“There’s been an awful lot of talk about whether I would or wouldn’t rape Jess Phillips,” Benjamin says to camera. “I’ve been in a lot of trouble for my hardline stance of not even raping her.

“I suppose with enough pressure I might cave.

“But let’s be honest nobody’s got that much beer.”

Gedditt? She’s still too disgusting to rape…but he totally might to it anyway. Either way, the important thing is – rape rape rape rape rape rape rape rape rape rape rape rape.

Nether garments engulfed in flames

May 2nd, 2019 5:35 pm | By

Oh but surely there’s no law against an Attorney General of the US lying to Congress under oath.

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said on Thursday that the US attorney general, William Barr, committed a “crime” when he told lawmakers during a congressional hearing last month that he was unaware that special counsel Robert Mueller was unhappy with his portrayal of the findings from his investigation into Russian meddling.

“What’s deadly serious about it is the attorney general of the United States of America was not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States,” Pelosi said on Thursday morning during her weekly press conference with reporters. “And that’s a crime.”

Mimi Rocah agrees, sort of:

…Barr has over and over during this process deceived the American public. Mueller reportedly told Barr he should release his executive summaries to the public, which makes sense given that these summaries contain almost no redactions — clearly they were written so they could be widely distributed and read. After Mueller said this, however, Barr testified before Congress. He could have used this opportunity to be honest about the differences in opinion between himself and the special counsel. Instead he said nothing. In fact, he went one step further and misled Congress and the American people.

When asked by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., if Mueller supported his conclusion, Barr replied, “I don’t know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion.”

But he did know. He knew that Mueller felt his report was not being properly contextualized and wanted more information to be released so that voters and lawmakers could make their own determinations on several questions not definitively answered by the report — especially whether or not the president had obstructed justice. Prosecutors can debate if this fits within the exacting requirements of the statute used to prosecute false statements made under oath to Congress, 18 USC Section 1001 — or whether Barr, a savvy lawyer, walked the line just enough to avoid breaking the law.

But that cannot be the standard for an attorney general of the United States. We should expect and demand objectively, neutrality, honesty and integrity from our top law enforcement official.

It’s debatable whether he committed a crime or not, but why should we grin obediently and accept an Attorney General who just barely didn’t quite break the law but is lying to us in service to a crooked filthy sadist masquerading as a president? Why should we?

How bad is it?

May 2nd, 2019 1:54 pm | By

Benjamin Wittes urged us to give Barr the benefit of the doubt until he’d had time to act; he now feels burned.

Where Barr has utterly failed, by contrast*, is in providing “honest leadership that insulates [the department] from the predations of the president.” I confess I am surprised by this. I have never known Barr well, but I thought better of him than that.

*By contrast with what he did with the report, which Wittes thinks was not too bad.

The core of the problem is not that Barr moved, as many people worried he would, to suppress the report; it is what he has said about it. I have spent a great deal of time with the Mueller report, about which Barr’s public statements are simply indefensible. The mischaracterizations began in his first letter. They got worse during his press conference the morning he released the document. And they grew worse still yesterday in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Barr did not lie in any of these statements. He did not, as some people insist, commit perjury. I haven’t found a sentence he has written or said that cannot be defended as truthful on its own terms, if only in some literal sense. But it is possible to mislead without lying. One can be dishonest before Congress without perjury. And one can convey sweeping untruths without substantial factual misstatement. This is what Barr has been doing since that first letter. And it is utterly beneath the United States Department of Justice.

What he’s been doing, Wittes says, is systematically translating Mueller’s “we didn’t find enough evidence to charge/convict” to “they found that nothing happened.”

In other words, Barr is not merely translating the absence of sufficient evidence for charges into a crime’s not taking place; he is translating the crime’s not taking place into an absence of misconduct in a more colloquial sense. He is also using the president’s specific talking point in doing so. This pair of mischaracterizations has the effect of transforming Trump into an innocent man falsely accused.

Barr amplifies this transformation with his third layer of misrepresentation: his adoption of Trump’s “spying” narrative, which states that there was something improper about the FBI’s scrutiny of campaign figures who had bizarre contacts with Russian-government officials or intermediaries. Barr has not specified precisely what he believes here, but yesterday’s Senate hearing was the second congressional hearing at which he implied darkly that the FBI leadership under James Comey had engaged in some kind of improper surveillance of the Trump campaign.

There’s a lot more, all of it valuable. Wittes doesn’t know if Barr knows he’s bullshitting us or if he actually believes that Trump is a great president maligned by sinister opponents.

Don’t say pregnant woman!!

May 2nd, 2019 1:28 pm | By

Say what now?

Where is this??


Ok so I’m reading the Ledge Bit Kyooeea Inclooosiv Pregnancy n Birth Care post.

Pregnancy and birth care professionals fulfill a wide range of roles and functions in the lives of the people and families we serve. However, as a whole, our goal is to provide compassionate, respectful, culturally appropriate care to all of our clients.

I hope they spare a little attention for the medical aspect of the whole thing.

Most of the resources available to birthworkers are not centered on the lived experience, identity, and needs of people whose gender identity and sexual orientation fall outside of heteronormative mainstream definitions of sex and gender.

What are these “needs” though? Lesbians probably don’t want to be asked questions about their husbands, but surely that’s not all that difficult to manage with notes on the chart or similar, unless the setting is some churchy hospital in the boondocks. It doesn’t seem to require a vast amount of “centering”; just a little would do. Other than that…what? The fact that some pregnant women say they are men? Put another note on the chart and move on.

Just because someone “looks like” a particular gender doesn’t mean they identify that way. Ask them what name and pronoun they use, note their name and pronouns on intake and medical history forms—and use them consistently.

But…how? How do you use third person pronouns in two person interactions? You don’t. Also…if it annoys or upsets a trans person not to be asked what pronouns They use, might it upset a person who is not trans to be asked? Might it upset or annoy almost everyone who is asked? Is that something to take into account at all? Are there some contexts in which it actually is better to assume than to ask? Think, for instance, of people who are asked “Where are you from?” when they’re not immigrants but are, say, browner than the majority. Asking what the pregnant woman’s pronouns are could feel like that.

Many (but not all!) LGBTQIA people have complicated relationships with their body. Asking them what terms they use for their body and/or body parts, and then using those terms, can help them feel empowered and affirmed.

Hmmmm. So one person calls her Birth Entryway “Muffy” and another calls it “Love Canal” and another calls it “James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree” – won’t it get a little tricky for the birth care professionals to remember them all?

I see a future in which all the birth professionals are in a huddle trying to remember which name they’re supposed to apply to this particular Birth Entryway while the baby just makes its own way out.

What could Mueller have done differently?

May 2nd, 2019 11:52 am | By

CNN says it’s all over, Barr has done what he was hired to do and protected President Mob Boss for the next year and a half. David Leonhardt at the Times says Mueller blew it.

It’s now clear that he mishandled the end of the Russia investigation.

Mueller naively trusted that William Barr, the attorney general, would act honorably and patriotically, as well, and let Barr decide how to handle the initial release of Mueller’s report. Barr, of course, wrote a letter that misled the public about what was in the report, creating a perception that the investigation cleared President Trump.

“For 27 days, the debate over Mueller’s findings was twisted by Barr’s poisonous distortions that implied a full exoneration of President Trump,” as The Washington Post’s E. J. Dionne wrote yesterday. Mueller himself has since complained to Barr about the letter.

And Barr doesn’t give a shit, because he got what he wanted to get.

What could Mueller have done differently? He could have recognized that Barr wasn’t trustworthy, given that Trump had nominated him for the attorney general job largely because Barr had expressed hostility to Mueller’s investigation. Mueller could then have acted accordingly.

He could have insisted that Barr release a summary written by Mueller and his team. Mueller may not have had the statutory power to insist on such a release, but he did have the actual power. If Barr had refused, Mueller could have made clear that his own summary would leak to the press, in short order.

But he didn’t.

Barr and the Trump administration have staked out the legal position that anything that rankles the president — congressional oversight, press coverage, the Mueller investigation itself — is illegitimate, writes Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick. “It’s Nixonian in scope to imply that anything Trump wants to do in order to push back against the media and protect his reputation is legal and justified,” she writes.

Neal Katyal, who wrote the special counsel regulations, offers a more optimistic take in The Times. He argues that Barr’s failure to defend his spin under congressional questioning is evidence that the system is working. “Barr’s deeply evasive testimony on Wednesday necessitates and tees up a full investigation in Congress,” Katyal writes.

I hope the reality is more Katyal than Barr.

The conversation

May 2nd, 2019 10:42 am | By

This happened yesterday:

It got boring fast.

James Kirkup wrote about it at the Spectator today. Twitter is not real life, he notes, but it does shape the discourse, so it does matter.

So when Twitter starts denying a voice and a platform to certain people and certain ideas, that matters. It also matters when Twitter makes it possible for certain people with certain ideas to be violently abused for expressing those ideas.

Twitter matters in the debate about sex and gender because, at a time when some media outlets and some political representatives are a bit reluctant to engage in a full, rounded debate, Twitter is for some people the only place to talk. So it really matters when Twitter allows the nasty intimidation of women who express views that some people don’t like. And it really matters when Twitter bans from its platform women who express such views – or just state facts that some people find inconvenient.

Both of those things are happening, and happening routinely. Nasty abuse of women who question the mantra that ‘trans women are women’ – or simply ask questions about the implications for law and policy of that stance – is commonplace, with grim consequences.

He cites Helen Lewis, and the fact that she doesn’t join the Twitter conversation as much as she might because of

the abuse and threats she receives there from pathetic, cowardly men claiming to promote the interests of transgender people. Abuse and threats that Twitter appears content to tolerate.

Like for instance yesterday:

Yes, certainly, telling a woman – a woman who talks and writes as a profession, a woman who is good enough for The New Statesman and the Atlantic and Saturday Review – to shut the fuck up, from behind a pointed gun, is all part of the “conversation.”

Kirkup goes on:

Yet elsewhere, Twitter takes a very different approach to what it permits to be said on its platform. Among women who question transgender ideology, an experience almost as common as being abused online is being banned from Twitter for saying things some men don’t like. I could write a very, very long article listing all the women who have been barred from a media platform (that turns a blind eye to threats of violence) simply for stating facts. Facts like ‘men are more likely to commit crimes of violence than women’ and ‘in English law, a rapist must be male because rape is defined as inserting your penis into another person’s body without consent’.

He says to check out #TwitterHatesWomen for more examples than anyone could possibly want.

And because Twitter, sadly, matters, this stuff needs to be debated and scrutinised. Which is why this article isn’t really about Twitter and its awfulness, but about a politician who has done something rather wonderful.

That politician is Joanna Cherry QC, an SNP MP and member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. It was at that committee that Cherry recently said ‘fuck’ and ‘cunt’ a lot, and in so doing did her job as a parliamentarian in an arena where many others have failed.

The context was a hearing where a Twitter representative was giving evidence about the site’s role in the intimidation of politicians.

You can watch the whole thing here, and I recommend that you do.

I plan to.See

The Twitter representative still does not get it though…or pretends not to. Watch the clip:

Joanna Cherry: “Do you accept that the word TERF is a gendered term, forgive me, in the same way as bitch and cunt are gendered terms?”

Twitter’s Katy Minshall: “Yes.”

Cherry: “And are bitch and cunt acceptable on Twitter?”

Minshall: “We don’t have a prohibition on swearing…”

BZZZZZZZZZZZT. Wrong. The issue is not swearing, the issue is gendered epithets.

I do wish people could manage to hang on to that thought for longer than five seconds.

Planning to move

May 2nd, 2019 9:13 am | By

A city of ten million people is rapidly sinking, which is a little worrying since it’s a coastal city.

THIS WEEK, AMID devastating flooding, Indonesia announced it’s planning to move its capital out of Jakarta, which really is nothing new—the country’s first president was talking about it way back in 1957. Part of the problem is extreme congestion, but today the city of more than 10 million is facing nothing short of obliteration by rising seas and sinking land, two opposing yet complementary forces of doom. Models predict that by 2050, 95 percent of North Jakarta could be submerged. And Jakarta is far from alone—cities the world over are drowning and sinking, and there’s very little we can do about it short of stopping climate change entirely.

Bombay? New York? Tokyo? Shanghai? Miami?

Jakarta’s situation may be particularly dire, but it isn’t the only coastal metropolis that’s sinking. “Almost every coastal city around the world builds on loose sediment, and all of them are subsiding, regardless of pumping groundwater,” says Arizona State University geophysicist Manoochehr Shirzaei, who studies land subsidence. “In fact, vertical land motion is as important as sea level rise, but unfortunately it gets very little attention, because the process is slow.”

That’s an inevitable consequence of building on landfill, but Jakarta has the power to cut back on the groundwater pumping that’s the root of the crisis. Except, even that won’t save the day. “This has been happening for so long, that when you remove water from the ground the porous structure collapses,” says University of Oregon earth scientist Estelle Chaussard, who’s studied land subsidence in Jakarta. “The problem is that a large amount of this subsidence, and this decrease in porous storage of the aquifer, is irreversible.” Not only that, layers of the porous earth will keep deforming even if you stop pumping groundwater, potentially causing further subsidence, though at least a smaller amount of it.

Even if Jakarta could stop land subsidence, it’s still sitting on the edge of the sea, and seas are rising. The city has already deployed a network of canals and seawalls to stave off the threat, but with climate change the threat will only grow worse.

The rich will escape and the poor will drown. Oh and by the way Jakarta is running out of drinking water, with no good solution available.


May 1st, 2019 4:25 pm | By

Barr says he has a headache.

Attorney General William Barr is no longer expected to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, the committee’s chairman Jerry Nadler announced, following a dispute between House Democrats and the nation’s top law enforcement officer over whether Barr would publicly face questions from committee staff.

In comments to reporters on Capitol Hill, Nadler also said the Justice Department told the committee it would not comply with its subpoena for the full, unredacted report from special counsel Robert Mueller, a subpoena which had a deadline of Wednesday to comply.

So much for an independent Department of Justice.

Just say “the accusation is false”

May 1st, 2019 3:56 pm | By

Gee…that certainly sounds like a president who is above the law.

The compromises necessary to survive Trump

May 1st, 2019 12:29 pm | By

Comey has thoughts on William Barr.

People have been asking me hard questions. What happened to the leaders in the Trump administration, especially the attorney general, Bill Barr, who I have said was due the benefit of the doubt?

How could Mr. Barr, a bright and accomplished lawyer, start channeling the president in using words like “no collusion” and F.B.I. “spying”? And downplaying acts of obstruction of justice as products of the president’s being “frustrated and angry,” something he would never say to justify the thousands of crimes prosecuted every day that are the product of frustration and anger?

How could he write and say things about the report by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, that were apparently so misleading that they prompted written protest from the special counsel himself?

How could Mr. Barr go before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and downplay President Trump’s attempt to fire Mr. Mueller before he completed his work?

I wonder all those things too. I wonder why these people don’t feel too encrusted with filth to keep going.

And how could Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, after the release of Mr. Mueller’s report that detailed Mr. Trump’s determined efforts to obstruct justice, give a speech quoting the president on the importance of the rule of law? Or on resigning, thank a president who relentlessly attacked both him and the Department of Justice he led for “the courtesy and humor you often display in our personal conversations”?

Comey says he doesn’t know for sure, but his months of watching Trump, especially Trump manipulating others, gave him some clues.

Amoral leaders bring out the good stuff in people who have it and the other thing in people who don’t.

Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump and that adds up to something they will never recover from. It takes character like Mr. Mattis’s to avoid the damage, because Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites.

It starts with your sitting silent while he lies, both in public and private, making you complicit by your silence. In meetings with him, his assertions about what “everyone thinks” and what is “obviously true” wash over you, unchallenged, as they did at our private dinner on Jan. 27, 2017, because he’s the president and he rarely stops talking.


I know the type; I’m allergic to the type; and Trump is the type x a thousand. He rarely stops talking and he never has anything of value to say, so it’s a ceaseless flow of garbage. I don’t claim to have Inner Strength, but I have a pretty good working substitute in the shape of a violent aversion to ceaseless flows of garbage. I’d be out of there in seconds not because I have a steely core of virtue but because I know what I don’t like and I run away from it. No status or riches or fame would be worth having to be around That Man.

(Trump did the “everyone knows” thing just the other day when he was lying about Robert E. Lee. I hate that thing he does.)

Speaking rapid-fire with no spot for others to jump into the conversation, Mr. Trump makes everyone a co-conspirator to his preferred set of facts, or delusions. I have felt it — this president building with his words a web of alternative reality and busily wrapping it around all of us in the room.

That “no spot for others to jump into the conversation” part – you can see him doing that, in interviews or when reporters ask questions. He does things like inserting an “aaaaaaand” or “soooooooo” to give himself time to form the next sentence while closing the spot for others to jump into the conversation. It’s like a body block but done with the flapping mouth.

Comey says the ones who yield do it thinking they can be the bulwark that saves the country.

Of course, to stay, you must be seen as on his team, so you make further compromises. You use his language, praise his leadership, tout his commitment to values.

And then you are lost. He has eaten your soul.

I don’t think that’s why Barr is doing it though. He came in way too late to think he could be any kind of bulwark.

Not his department

May 1st, 2019 12:11 pm | By

Barr is continuing to reveal what a wholly owned subsidiary he is.

Attorney General William Barr told senators today that he is not in the business of determining when lies are told to the American people.

The remark came after Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, cited evidence in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report about President Trump’s interactions with White House Counsel Don McGahn and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Here’s that exchange:

Blumenthal: “The Mueller report establishes that quote substantial evidence supports the conclusion that the President, in fact, directed McGahn to call Rosenstein to have the special counsel removed. That’s in volume 2, page 88. In your view, did President Trump on those occasions and others recited in the report lie to the American people?”

Barr: “I’m not in the business of determining when lies are told to the American people. I’m in the business of determining whether a crime has been committed.”

Then he pretended he’d forgotten.

Attorney General William Barr told lawmakers he does not recall discussing any investigations that stemmed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe with the White House.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, pressed Barr about his discussions with the White House.

Barr: “By the way I’m not sure, you know, the laundry list of investigations, but I certainly haven’t talked the substance or been directed to do anything on any of the cases.”

Blumenthal: “Well let me give you an opportunity to clarify. Have you had any conversations with anyone in the White House about those ongoing investigations that were spawned or spun off by–“

Barr: “I don’t recall having any substantive discussion on the investigations– “

Then Kamala Harris asked him some questions.

Sen. Kamala Harris, a Democratic presidential candidate, accused Attorney General William Barr of failing to look at evidence before making a decision on obstruction of justice.

Harris grilled Barr on statements he made in his March 24 summary, saying he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had looked at the evidence in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report before reaching their decision on obstruction of justice. In his letter, Barr said he found the evidence was not sufficient to establish that the President committed obstruction of justice.

But Harris questioned whether Barr had personally reviewed the special counsel’s “great deal of evidence.”

She then asked, “My question is in reaching your conclusion, did you personally review all of the underlying evidence?”

Barr responded, “No,” adding that he “accepted the statements in the report as the factual record.”

Here’s a portion of Harris’ questioning:

Harris: “As the attorney general of the United States, you run the United States Department of Justice. If in any US attorney’s office around the country, the head of that office, when being asked to make a critical decision about, in this case, the person who holds the highest office in the land, and whether or not that person committed a crime, would you accept them recommending a charging decision to you if they had not reviewed the evidence?”

Barr: “Well, that’s a question for Bob Mueller. He’s the US attorney. He’s the one who presents the report.”

Harris: “But it was you who made the charging decision, sir.”

He dodged some more and she pressed some more.

Harris: “I think you’ve made it clear that you have not looked at the evidence. We can move on. I think you’ve made it clear sir that you’ve not looked at the evidence, and we can move on.”

He’s made it clear that the fix is in.

Guest post: Another tactic to deter women from reporting rape

May 1st, 2019 9:25 am | By

Originally a comment by latsot in the Miscellany Room.

UK police forces are increasingly demanding that victims of rape and sexual assault hand over their phones and account details under the threat of their cases being dropped if they don’t.

Let’s be entirely clear about this. Someone making an accusation of rape (or any other crime) has a certain burden of evidence. For example, she might have to produce evidence that she was in the same place as the alleged rapist at the same time. In this case, she might choose to allow police to access the location data from her phone service or the police might obtain a warrant to perform a time/location limited search regardless of permission. Even I – a known privacy tinhat – wouldn’t object to that if I were seeking to prosecute and I doubt I’d consider it a violation if it were a known and routine part of any investigation of that sort.

But there might be other sources of the same evidence such as CCTV or witness accounts. Surely the intent is to establish opportunity. If phone location is needed for that, then it ought to be provided at the victim’s discretion, not demanded in advance alongside everything else that’s on her phone before an investigation can even begin.

An accused rapist might claim texts or social media exchanges as exonerating or mitigating circumstances. In that case, it would surely be his responsibility to produce the relevant material and not the victim’s responsibility to hand over her phone. Confronted with these claims, she might or might not agree to disclose some data knowing that it might hurt her case if she doesn’t. But in that case, the police could specify exactly what data was required. For example, social media posts within a timeframe or involving a particular third party. There would be no need for her to hand over her phone for this purpose.

There have been many, many cases of police the world over stealing intimate photographs from people’s phones and sharing them with colleagues, friends and the internet at large. There have also been many cases of police unearthing something dodgy about a victim unrelated to the case at hand and that case disappearing because of it. There are also many, many, many, many cases of women being judged because of the things they say, the things they wear, the photographs they have on their phone and – let’s face it – literally everything else. There’s an equal if not greater number of cases where women have been humiliated in court because of the judgements prosecutors believe (presumably rightly in enough cases to make it worthwhile) that juries will make about them.

This is, of course, another tactic to deter women from reporting rape. It’s also a tactic by police to collect as much information about everyone on the planet as possible without any guarantees that the data will be safeguarded, deleted when no longer required and not shared at large on the internet.

As Privacy International has reported, the UK police don’t even have the proper guidelines to deal with the contents of anyone’s phone, let alone actual rules or procedures or any departments equipped to enforce them.

This could not be more obviously calculated to persuade women to drop charges of rape and sexual assault.

And the wider implication is that in time anyone who makes any kind of complaint against anybody at all must have led a blameless life or be afraid to seek justice of any kind.

We British are so easily whipped up into fascist sentiment. What in screaming fuck is wrong with us? That is not a rhetorical question.