Notes and Comment Blog

While he’s stroking his fragile ego

Sep 29th, 2017 11:18 am | By

The mayor of San Juan doesn’t share the Trump administration’s cheerful view of its work in Puerto Rico.

[T]he idea that there was anything good about the news didn’t sit well with Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan. (Ms. Cruz is a member of the Popular Democratic Party, which advocates maintaining the island’s commonwealth status.)

After CNN played Ms. Duke’s comments for the mayor, Ms. Cruz called them “an irresponsible statement.”

Well, maybe from where she’s standing it’s a good news story. When you’re drinking from a creek, it’s not a good news story. When you don’t have food for a baby, it’s not a good news story. When you have to pull people down from their buildings, because — I’m sorry, but that really upsets me and frustrates me.

I would ask her to come down here and visit the towns and then make a statement like that, which frankly, it is an irresponsible statement. And it contrasts with the statements of support that I have been getting since yesterday when I got that call from the White House.

This is, dammit, this is not a good news story. This is a ‘people are dying’ story. This is a ‘life or death’ story. This is ‘there’s a truckload of stuff that cannot be taken to people’ story. This is a story of a devastation that continues to worsen.

It’s more than a little bit narcissistic to shower praise on one’s own process while ignoring the actual outcome. “It’s good news! We got all our engines started!”

Paul Krugman has a column today on this self-centered quality of the Trump admin.

For the trouble with Trump isn’t just what he’s doing, but what he isn’t. In his mind, it’s all about him — and while he’s stroking his fragile ego, basic functions of government are being neglected or worse.

Let’s talk about two stories that might seem separate: the deadly neglect of Puerto Rico, and the ongoing sabotage of American health care. What these stories have in common is that millions of Americans are going to suffer, and hundreds if not thousands die, because Trump and his officials are too self-centered to do their jobs.

He starts with Puerto Rico.

There’s a reason we expect visible focus by the president on major national disasters, including a visit to the affected area as soon as possible (Trump doesn’t plan to visit Puerto Rico until next week). It’s not just theater; it’s a signal about urgent priorities to the rest of the government, and to some extent to the nation at large.

But Trump spent days after Maria’s strike tweeting about football players. When he finally got around to saying something about Puerto Rico, it was to blame the territory for its own problems.

The impression one gets is of a massively self-centered individual who can’t bring himself to focus on other people’s needs, even when that’s the core of his job.

I would call that not so much the impression one gets as the impression Trump creates. We’re not imagining all this. He really did publicly rant and rave about football players while saying nothing about Puerto Rico. He’s said repeatedly that Twitter is his direct line to The People, so that is the message he chose to send us.

A good news story

Sep 29th, 2017 10:55 am | By

Oh good, another heckuva job, Brownie.

“I am very satisfied,” acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke told reporters outside the White House. “I know it’s a hard storm to recover from but the amount of progress that’s been made, and I really would appreciate any support that we get. I know it is really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths that have taken place in such a devastating hurricane.”

Well, that’s because it takes a few days to die of dehydration and a few more to die of starvation. The deaths are expected to rise sharply as those few days tick by.

Tom Bossert, the White House homeland security adviser, expressed full confidence that the response effort is appropriately led and resourced and unfolding at a good pace.

“What I will tell you is that we are mobilizing and marshaling the resources of the United States of America in a way that is absolutely professional, fast, and adequate to meet the needs,” Bossert said alongside Duke.

“This is textbook and it’s been done well,” Bossert added later from the White House podium.

It’s only those silly people actually in Puerto Rico who don’t see it that way, and what do they know?

Duke’s suggestion that the federal response was a “good news story” struck some as tone deaf and reflected the perils of the Trump administration’s attempts to reassure Americans that the federal government is responding appropriately to the unfolding crisis.

Asked to clarify her comment that the government’s response to the storm is a “good news story,” Duke pointed to effective coordination between federal and local authorities and said there is “unification of command.”

Oh. Well that’s nice, I guess, but it loses sight of the actual goal, which is to keep people in Puerto Rico from dying in the horrible aftermath of the hurricane. It’s nice if everyone wears a clean uniform and all but it’s not really the core issue here.

President Donald Trump did not publicly address the situation in Puerto Rico on Thursday, but acknowledged a day earlier the difficulties of bringing quick relief to the island, calling it “a very difficult situation.”

“That place was just destroyed. That’s not a question of, gee, let’s dry up the water, let’s do this or that. I mean, that place was flattened. That is a really tough situation,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House.

One that he didn’t so much as mention in his official Twitter dispatches for several days because he was so laser-focused on the dire emergency of football players kneeling instead of standing for Our Patriotic Song.

Lesbianism explained at last

Sep 28th, 2017 5:20 pm | By

Oh yes, oh yes – a male researcher has worked out (to his own satisfaction at least) that lesbianism is something to do with pleasing men.

A new study that attempted to reveal the origins of lesbianism, is claiming that same-sex relationships in women only exist because it turns men on.

Published on Science Direct, the report by Menelaos Apostolou, a male professor at the University of Nicosia in Cyprus comes to the conclusion that lesbian and bisexual attraction all stems from male desire.

Well that does make sense if you think about it, because only men are actually human. Women are just simulacra, remotely operated from the planet Androcentro.

“My argument in the paper is this: A considerable proportion of men desire same-sex attractions in women, and this is one possible reason why many women have such attractions,” Apostolou told Pink News.

The study also suggests another possible reason for men being attracted to lesbian or bisexual women, is that if their partner cheats on them, they’re still in with a chance of having children.

Deffo. Say you’re a man. You don’t want Your Woman getting pregnant by another man, because kids are expensive, dude. What to do, what to do. Solution! You make it so that she has sex with women instead of men.

Ok but how? How do you make it that she does that?

With the magic of your mind, of course.

“A woman, driven by her sexual desires, may seek sexual contact outside of her long-term intimate relationship,” it writes.

“When this woman has sex with another woman she does not have sex with another man which translates into same-sex contact reducing the risk of cuckoldry.”

Totally. If there are any kids, they’ll be your kids, and thus the expense won’t be so irritating.

More of that civil rights icon stuff

Sep 28th, 2017 4:32 pm | By

Another charming Playboy cartoon:

Image may contain: 1 person

Oh ok, here’s 12.5 cents on the dollar

Sep 28th, 2017 4:18 pm | By

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, surprised and a little hurt at the reaction to his habit of chartering planes every time he wants to go anywhere, even if it’s to Philly and the train would get there faster, says he’ll pay us back for the cost of his seat. Not for the cost of the flights, mind you, just for his seat. That would be a fair arrangement if a seat had been all it took to get him there, but the point is that he chartered whole entire planes, so that’s what he owes us for, minus the cost of a normal ticket.

He says he would also like to keep his job, please.

In a statement released on Thursday, he said, “Today, I will write a personal check to the US Treasury for the expenses of my travel on private charter planes. The taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes.”

The expense for his seat on those planes comes out to $51,887.31, according to an HHS spokesperson.

Politico has reported that the total cost of the private jets Price flew on was more than $400,000 and included trips to places where he has friends and family. Price is not covering the cost for support staff and others who flew with him on those charter planes, staff who otherwise would have flown commercial.

But hey, he’s paying 1/8 of the cost, so can’t we just accept that and be grateful? Why are we so grudging?

“What the Secretary has done is say that while all of this travel was approved by legal and HHS officials, the Secretary has heard the taxpayers’ concerns and wants to be responsive to them,” the HHS spokesperson said. “That’s why he’s taking the unprecedented step of reimbursing the government for his share of the travel.”

Ooh, special! Only, the trouble is, all the chartering of planes to go visit family is also unprecedented, and it came first, and he’s not paying it all back. So.

In his statement, Price made it clear he hopes to keep his job. “I have spent forty years both as a doctor and in public service putting people first,” Price said. “It has been my personal honor to serve the American people, and I look forward to continuing that service.”

But he’s working for Trump, so it’s not possible to believe that thing about putting people first. Sorry.

Le pimp célèbre

Sep 28th, 2017 3:21 pm | By

Hefner threatened to sue Suzanne Moore once.

Journalists live in dread of such calls. I had called Hefner a pimp. To me this was not even controversial; it was self-evident. And he was just one of the many “libertines” who had threatened me with court action over the years.

It is strange that these outlaws have recourse in this way, but they do. But at the time, part of me wanted my allegation to be tested in a court of law. What a case it could have made. What a hoot it would have been to argue whether a man who procured, solicited and made profits from women selling sex could be called a pimp. Of course, central to Playboy’s ideology is the idea that women do this kind of thing willingly; that at 23 they want nothing more than to jump octogenarians.

Now that he’s dead, the disgusting old sleaze in the smoking jacket is being spoken of as some kind of liberator of women. Kim Kardashian is honoured to have been involved. Righty ho.

Ah well if Kim Kardashian is cool with it what more is there to say? She has gotten rich by selling herself like so much Wagyu beef, so she’s exactly the right person to decide.

The accounts of the “privileged few” who made it into the inner sanctum of the 29-room Playboy mansion as wives/girlfriends/bunny rabbits are quite something. In Hefner’s petting zoo/harem/brothel, these interchangeable blondes were put on a curfew. They were not allowed to have friends to visit. And certainly not boyfriends. They were given an “allowance”. The big metal gates on the mansion that everyone claimed were to keep people out of this “nirvana” were described by one-time Hefner “girlfriend no 1” Holly Madison in her autobiography thus: “I grew to feel it was meant to lock me in.”

They were given an allowance? Something tells me it wasn’t exactly a fair wage.

The fantasy that Hefner sold was not a fantasy of freedom for women, but for men.

It was never, ever, ever about the women. The women were just the stiffeners for the liberated men. The men were the subjects; the women were the means, the implements, the dolls, the apertures, the lagomorphs.

But this man is still being celebrated by people who should know better. You can dress it up with talk of glamour and bunny ears and fishnets, you can talk about his contribution to gonzo journalism, you can contextualise his drive to free up sex as part of the sexual revolution. But strip it all back and he was a man who bought and sold women to other men. Isn’t that the definition of a pimp? I couldn’t possibly say.

The headlines should all have read Famous Pimp Dies.

The man was a saint

Sep 28th, 2017 12:31 pm | By

The Washington Post just cannot rave about Hefner enough.

The actress Kat Denning remembered meeting Hugh Hefner at his famed mansion, where he was “very nice to my mom.”

Kim Kardashian said she was “honored to be part of the Playboy team.”

Larry King called him a “GIANT in publishing, journalism, free speech & civil rights.”

Pamela Anderson says he taught her everything important about freedom and respect.

visionary editor who for decades threw lavish parties at his home, the Playboy Mansion, Hefner lived a glamorous Hollywood life, sharing time and photo ops with a diverse cast of celebrities, civil rights leaders and journalists.

So glamorous! So much fucking of so many compliant young rabbits!

As The Washington Post’s Matt Schudel wrote: “From the first issue of Playboy in 1953, which featured a photograph of a nude Marilyn Monroe lounging on a red sheet, Mr. Hefner sought to overturn what he considered the puritanical moral code of Middle America.

“His magazine was shocking at the time, but it quickly found a large and receptive audience and was a principal force behind the sexual revolution of the 1960s.”

Yeah, because it’s puritanical to think women shouldn’t be viewed as fuck toys for the consumption of men.

While the magazine helped launch some women’s entertainment careers, it also outraged feminists who found his magazine’s depictions of women degrading.

Crazy feminists, right? So damn crazy. What’s degrading about it? What’s degrading about framing men as the viewers and women as the objects viewed? What’s degrading about this lovely snapshot?

View image on Twitter

Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson noted that the magazine editor was a “strong supporter of the civil rights movement,” a part of Hefner’s legacy that others also wanted to highlight.

Because women are just meat.

Selling subordinate female sexuality

Sep 28th, 2017 12:16 pm | By

Samantha Berg wrote about the free pass Playboy got in 2004.

I attended Playboy’s 50th Anniversary Club Tour when it stopped by McMenamin’s Crystal Ballroom because as a feminist writer I knew I wanted to do some sort of story around the event. What I encountered there was nothing unexpected; almost wholly white and young male attendees taking many pictures of the far outnumbered “bunnies” and female attendees.

Coverage of the event by Portland’s alternormal media was similarly predictable with lots of nudge nudge wink wink praise of the fifty year history selling subordinate female sexuality to male consumers and talk about how tasteful Playboy’s porn is compared to other types. Neither conservative nor liberal media had a bad word to say about Playboy Magazine and its influence on the not-so-tasteful porny saturation of American culture in 2004.

Smoking jacket. Brandy. Jazz in the background. Move along, nothing to see here.

For decades Playboy Magazine has published child pornography and incest materials which could cause “copy-cat” crimes, wherein consumers criminally act out sadosexual and child abuse scenarios. This is not my declaration, but the ruling of an Amsterdam court in 1994 which defended these statements made on a Dutch television station. When the station reported on a study by the U.S Department of Justice and said Playboy was facilitating child sexual abuse and incest en masse, Playboy Inc. sued for libel and defamation. Presented with the evidence of photographs, illustrations, cartoons, letters, and stories depicting positive portrayals of sex between adults and children as well as incest, the court ruled against Playboy in a case widely reported in the Netherlands but conspicuously unreported in the United States.

National pride.

The September 1988 issue of Playboy Magazine featured the article “The Child-Pornography Myth” by American lawyer Lawrence Stanley in which the harms of child sexual exploitation are downplayed as baseless hysteria. Playboy editors neglected to inform readers the article originally appeared in Paidika,The Journal of Paedophilia, and that Stanley specialized in defending people accused of child pornography. He was also affiliated with Uncommon Desires, a pedophile newsletter calling itself “the voice of a politically conscious girl-love underground.”

One year after his article appeared in Playboy, Stanley was accused of conspiring with photographer Don Marcus to import child pornography into Canada. Marcus is still a wanted fugitive and Stanley was acquitted on his lawyer’s claim that he did not know the suitcase he picked up from Marcus contained child pornography. Two years after his Playboy Magazine article Stanley was charged with “sexual aggression” against a girl in Quebec but Canadian officials never sought extradition.

Ah don’t worry about it, little girls love acting in porn movies.

There are numerous examples to draw from when making the argument that Playboy Magazine has often spread false information to advance its “sexual liberation” agenda. My intent is to open up the question among liberals as to why there is an almost complete lack of media criticism aimed at one of the most widely circulated magazines in the world despite evidence of misinformation and biased “expert” writers.

The complete record on Playboy Magazine’s unethical journalistic standards and role in facilitating child sexual assaults remains to be written as the will to investigate Playboy Magazine and other widely circulated porn publications remains curiously absent from the largest progressive media watchdog groups. Surely it is not at cross purposes with the First Amendment to honestly review and critique the content of pornographic magazines, and such self-imposed censorship by liberals does a disservice to the basic tenets of free speech.

There are also many rape cartoons.

“Civil Rights leaders”

Sep 28th, 2017 11:59 am | By

So I type his name into Google news and the top stories are:

Hugh Hefner, the Pajama Man

‘Godspeed, Hugh Hefner’: Playmates, celebrities, civil rights leaders remember the Playboy founder

Washington Post 7h ago

He sold women as if they were potato chips. He was not a beacon of civil rights unless you simply don’t think women are human beings.

You cannot be serious

Sep 28th, 2017 11:41 am | By

Really, CNN? Really?

Image may contain: 8 people, people smiling, people standing

Hefner hated women

Sep 28th, 2017 9:48 am | By

Julie Bindel on Hefner:

“The notion that Playboy turns women into sex objects is ridiculous,” said the sadistic pimp in 2010. “Women are sex objects… It’s the attraction between the sexes that makes the world go ‘round. That’s why women wear lipstick and short skirts.”

Hefner was responsible for turning porn into an industry. As Gail Dines writes in her searing expose of the porn industry, he took it from the back street to Wall Street and, thanks in large part to him, it is now a multibillion dollar a year industry. Hefner operated in a country I live in, a country where if you film any act of humiliation or torture – and if the victim is a woman – the film is both entertainment and it is protected speech.

He caused immeasurable damage by turning porn – and therefore the buying and selling of women’s bodies – into a legitimate business. Hefner hated women and referred to them as “dogs”.

But he was sex positive.

“These chicks [feminists] are our natural enemy. It is time to do battle with them,” wrote Hefner in a secret memo leaked to feminists by secretaries at Playboy. “It is time we do battle with them… What I want is a devastating piece that takes the militant feminists apart.”

Because how dare women claim to be human beings just as men are?

As I was writing this, a flagship news programme asked if I would take part this evening in an item in Hefner’s legacy. “We’re looking to discuss whether he was a force for good or bad. Did Hefner revolutionise feminine sexuality, or encourage the degradation of women by constructing them merely as objects of desire?”

Well that’s an incredibly easy question to answer.

Everything is broken

Sep 28th, 2017 8:50 am | By

Containers are piling up on the docks in San Juan because there’s no way to drive them to where they’re needed.

Distributors for big-box companies and smaller retailers are unloading 4,000 20-foot containers full of necessities like food, water and soap this week at a dock in Puerto Rico’s capital operated by Crowley Maritime Corp. In the past few days, Tote Maritime’s terminal has taken the equivalent of almost 3,000. Even with moves to ease shipping to the island, like the Trump administration’s waiver of the Jones Act on Thursday, the facilities have become choke points in the effort to aid survivors of Hurricane Maria.

“There are plenty of ships and plenty of cargo to come into the island,” said Mark Miller, a spokesman for Crowley, based in Jacksonville, Florida. “From there, that’s where the supply chain breaks down — getting the goods from the port to the people on the island who need them.”

The roads are flooded and damaged. Truck drivers are busy recovering from the storm.

The buildings that would receive supplies are destroyed and without electricity, Miller said. The transport companies that have staff available and diesel on hand encounter downed poles and power lines while navigating 80,000-pound tractor-trailers on delicate washed-out roads.

“It’s one thing to move a little car through there,” Miller said. “It’s another to move a semi truck.”

So in short it’s still an emergency situation.

Our most influential pimp

Sep 28th, 2017 8:06 am | By

Gail Dines on Hefner:

Article I wrote with colleague and friend Robert Jensen to “celebrate” Hefner’s 80th birthday 11 years ago. What we said then holds true today. But now he is dead! Hopefully this is an antidote to the all the fawning over Hefner you are likely to be subject to by mainstream press.

Hugh Hefner is 80 today. America, say happy birthday to our most influential pimp. Houston Chronicle, April 9, 2006
By Gail Dines and Robert Jensen

Hefner, the legendary founder of Playboy magazine, a pimp? Yes, if we told the truth about Hefner’s “contribution” to society, we would refer to him as a pimp, as someone who sells women to men for sex. While pornography has never been treated as prostitution by the law, it’s fundamentally the same exchange. The fact that the sex is mediated through a magazine or movie doesn’t change that, nor does the fact that women sometimes use pornography. The fundamentals remain: Men pay to use women for sexual pleasure.

These days Hefner is more likely to be called an entrepreneur, publisher or philanthropist. He’s the subject of endless feature stories focused on his personal life and typically is treated as an elder statesman of the so-called sexual revolution. As a CNN anchor put it last year, “He lives almost every man’s fantasy — surrounded by sex, celebrities, and a lifestyle many envy.” He stars in an E! reality show called The Girls Next Door, featuring Hefner and three girlfriends young enough to be his granddaughters.

Hefner certainly is all those things. He made his name as the risk-taking publisher of the first sex magazine to win wide distribution in the United States and Europe. Behind his public playboy image, Hefner was a tough businessman whose strategic gambles paid off. Some of those profits created the Playboy Foundation, which describes its mission at “protecting and enhancing the American principles of personal freedom and social justice.” And many men dream of “Hef’s” life of sexual freedom — defined as the freedom to access women’s sexuality based on men’s needs and rules.

All that’s true, but it doesn’t change the fact that Hefner is every bit as much a pimp as the men who hustle prostituted women on the street. But Hefner is the most influential pimp in postwar U.S. history, the person who launched the mainstreaming of pornography that has led to easy availability of hardcore sexually explicit material that is overtly cruel and degrading to women.
When the first issue of Playboy hit the newsstands in 1953, it is unlikely that even in his wildest dreams Hefner had any idea that his fusion of a sex and lifestyle magazine would lay the economic, cultural and legal groundwork for a global pornography market estimated at $57 billion a year.

The risks Hefner took have led to the pornographic culture we live with today; in 2005, 13,000 new hardcore videos were released in the United States, and any genre of pornography imaginable is easily available on any media platform. Playboy Enterprises, which has evolved into a multimedia entertainment company run by daughter Christie Hefner, has a healthy share of the market. Although it posted a slight net loss in 2005 and the publishing end of the business is sinking, the company’s revenue from licensing fees is strong. Technology changes, but selling women to men remains good business.

In that market, the fastest growing segment is what the industry calls gonzo pornography — sex on tape with no pretense of plot, characters or dialogue. This low-cost/high-profit genre is where pornographers push the limits, legally and culturally. Hefner’s original images of the girl-next-door with a coy smile have been replaced by the body-punishing penetration of a woman by any number of men. Gone is any pretense — and it always was pretense — of pornography being a celebration of women’s beauty, and in its place is an industry that promotes itself as overtly cruel and sadistic to women.

This is the world that Hefner helped create. Along with other pornographers, he would have us believe it’s a new expansion of freedom. But it’s an old story about men’s domination and use of women.

As he nears the end of his life, it’s tempting to see Hefner as self-parody, a pathetic character struggling to hold onto adolescent fantasies long past the time he should have grown up. But in the pornographic world he helped create, Hefner is not alone — men of all ages hold onto those fantasies about sex and domination. And all too often those fantasies become a grim reality for the women, children, and vulnerable men who end up as targets of men’s violence.

Dines, an American Studies professor at Wheelock College in Boston, and Jensen, a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin, are co-authors of “Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality.” They can be reached at and

It is very bad down there right now

Sep 27th, 2017 4:24 pm | By

Inside Climate News on the depth of the disaster in Puerto Rico:

“It is very bad down there right now,” said Sven Rodenbeck, chief science officer for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2017 hurricane response. “For the vast majority of the island, there is no power. They have had flooding, and the health care system—many of the clinics and hospitals are closed. A lot of the drinking water systems are not operational, along with the waste water systems.”

Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, gave a blunt assessment of the situation.

“People are dying,” Cruz told CBS news on Tuesday. “This is the reality that we live in, the crude aftermath of a storm, a hurricane that has left us practically paralyzed.”

The disaster facing the U.S. territory—and mirrored to an extent in the nearby Virgin Islands—is exacerbated by long standing environmental justice issues facing a poor, underrepresented minority population on an island where climate experts have long warned of the increasing risks of such a catastrophe.

Witness Trump, not even noticing the problem for days because he was too busy ranting about football players and flags.

A request by several members of Congress to waive shipping restrictions known as the Jones Act to help get fuel and supplies to Puerto Rico was denied by the administration on Tuesday with the argument that it wasn’t necessary, Reuters reported. The administration did waive the Jones Act after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit Texas and Florida to help move fuel.

So…it’s not necessary why? Because we care about Texas and Florida but we don’t care about Puerto Rico?

“These storms are big, islands are small; if they get a direct hit it can overcome the entire place,” said John Mutter, a professor of earth and environmental sciences and of international and public affairs at Columbia University. “If all the first responders are unable to respond because the whole place is trashed, it creates a whole new level of disaster.”

Poor communities are always hit the hardest in events like this, Mutter said.

In the case of Puerto Rico, where nearly half the population is below the poverty level, the territory has no vote in Congress, and Texas and Florida are vying with the territory for limited federal disaster resources, inequity in recovery could be exacerbated.

Also a xenophobic racist is running the country.

They can’t even make sure the water is clean enough.

Even when EPA officials are able to inspect the island’s superfund sites, they may not be able to test surrounding floodwaters for toxins, Judith Enck, former EPA administrator for Region 2, which includes Puerto Rico, said.

“Typically they would either use a local lab which won’t be functioning because there’s no electricity, or they would ship the results back to the region 2 lab in Edison New Jersey, but there is no real shipping options,” Enck said.  “They can do inspections, see if there are cracks in oil tanks or thing like that, but I don’t see how they will actually be able to do any sampling.”

Now back to football.


Socially approved

Sep 27th, 2017 11:42 am | By

Sunday we read a piece by Gaby Hinsliff about the disproportionate rage directed at BBC reporter Laura Kuenssberg.

Yesterday I read this in the Guardian from last July: Yvette Cooper ‘sick to death of vitriol’ directed at Laura Kuenssberg.

The Labour MP Yvette Cooper has launched a staunch defence of the BBC political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, as she called on Labour to be a “broad-based party” and its supporters to stop engaging in “vitriolic abuse” online.

Cooper defended Kuenssberg, regularly under fire for perceived political bias, as she set out a potential strategy to put Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street and attacked the US president, Donald Trump.

She said Trump’s approach to politics and social media was “normalising hatred” and the problem was not confined to the right wing.

Today I read Helen Lewis on the subject:

During the bit of Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to Labour conference where journalists were just beginning to drift off, Buzzfeed Political Editor Jim Waterson posted about a story on The Canary. The pro-Corbyn “alternative” site had posted an article by Steve Topple headlined: “We need to talk about Laura Kuenssberg. She’s listed as a speaker at the Tory Party conference.”

As Waterson put it, “It took me two mins to call the event organiser and find out this is bollocks. She’s not speaking at Tory conference. Already going viral regardless.”

She’d been invited to speak – as had a lot of people, because that’s what happens.

There are two problems here. The first is the way that The Canary – an independent, reader-funded “alternative” news site – uses Kuenssberg as a traffic-driver for hate-clicks. This is a flimsy story – leftwing journalists speak at Tory conference, and vice versa – even if it were correct. Which it isn’t, as the BBC press office soon made clear.

The BBC is a target, BBC reporters are targets, but Kuenssberg is especially a target. Now why might that be do you suppose?

BBC editors receive constant complaints from politicians and their teams about their reporting. Why? Because they reach so many people. What is reported on the BBC matters.

However, it’s not hard to spot that some BBC staff get more flak than others. Those in front of camera are instantly recognisable, and so make better targets. So – let’s be honest – are women. There is a strain of misogyny which delights in being told that there are some women it’s OK to hate.

A huge strain. That joy in Socially Approved hatred of women seems to take up most of the oxygen in trans activism these days, which means it’s also taking over the left as a whole, especially when combined with the right-on hatred of Hillary Clinton.

The media should not give license to that impulse, and neither should anyone who calls themselves progressive. Internet arguments over the exact calibration of condemnation given to vitriol against Diane Abbott vs Laura Kuenssberg miss the fact that both left and right are united in finding some women acceptable targets for sexist abuse. Do as you would be done to.

The demonisation of Kuenssberg, which the Canary has taken such delight in, has had real world effects. The BBC political editor was given a bodyguard for Labour party conference, presumably as a result of threats. When the story was reported, a sizeable section of the online left, instead of believing that the BBC would make a sensible decision based on duty of care to an employee, decided to question whether it was an anti-Corbyn plot. Where were these threats? Why won’t you tell us what they are? The tone was conspiracist, which is frankly boggling to anyone who has ever clicked on the replies to a Kuenssberg tweet. The hate for her is real, it is often wildly divorced from anything she’s actually done, and it often takes overtly misogynist forms.

In fact, look at one of the first responses to the Canary’s own tweet of the story.

Same old same old.

Lost in the supply closet

Sep 27th, 2017 10:33 am | By

Trump loves him some private plane status symbol.

“The plane is very much an extension of the Trump brand,” Donald Trump toldThe New York Times of the Boeing 757 he took to calling “Trump Force One” during the 2016 presidential campaign. It was an outdated model, and, as the Times drily noted, “an odd choice for a man who put his net worth at $11 billion.” But the plane was huge, and lined with gold on the inside, communicating to his supporters both might and prestige.

Well besides, it’s a giant flying penis-shaped thing – what’s not to love?

He sets the tone.

[A]n astonishing number of his cabinet members are ensnared in scandals involving air travel, whether on private or civilian planes: Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is in the mix, too, though for slightly different reasons.

Too many of Trump’s cabinet members have taken to behaving like middle managers let loose in the supply closet for the first time, stuffing their pockets with notepads and pens, hoping the stern secretary doesn’t notice. Oh, but she has. Inspectors general for federal agencies seem to be especially busy these days. Ethics lawyers, too.

Trump’s gang of imitation moguls seems to have forgotten that it was supposed to be working for the “forgotten Americans.

Now that’s just silly. Of course they haven’t forgotten; it was never true in the first place. It was a campaign slogan and nothing else.

Price has used a private flying phallic symbol 24 times so far, including a drop in to that favorite hangout spot of forgotten Americans, the Aspen Ideas Festival.

Then there’s Mnuchin, a financier known as “the foreclosure king.” He’s worth an estimated $300 million. You’d think the guy could afford a Mint upgrade on JetBlue, if not a Learjet of his own. And he probably can, but why pay when you can get something for free? We recently learned that Mnuchin wanted to use a government airplane to shuttle him and his wife Louise Linton around Europe during their honeymoon. This would cost taxpayers $25,000 per hour. Some sane person denied the request, but months later, Mnuchin and Linton managed to finagle a government jet to view the solar eclipse in Lexington, Kentucky.

But they explained that: he had to check on Fort Knox.

Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, is a zealous foe of the environment, but at least he isn’t all that committed to his job. Observers see Pruitt making moves for a gubernatorial run in his native Oklahoma. It’s hard to otherwise justify his apparent longing for the Sooner State. As of August, he had spent more than 40 days in Oklahoma, which cost you and me $12,000.

People do not like Pruitt, at least judging by the number of threats he has received. That’s wrong, no matter how much people may hate his policies. But it’s also wrong to turn high-ranking EPA investigators who are supposed to be delving into environmental crimes into your own security detail. Pruitt has done just that, managing to weaken the agency he runs while abusing its resources.

“This never happened with prior administrators,” a former official of the agency’s Criminal Investigations Division told The Washington Postwhich first reported the news. “These guys signed on to work on complex environmental cases, not to be an executive protection detail.” The Post report suggested that the EPA would spend $800,000 for “the security detail’s travel expenses” this fiscal year.

Yes but on the upside think of all the complex environmental cases that won’t be investigated.

You can’t just drive your trucks there

Sep 27th, 2017 9:27 am | By

Don explains why he’s been talking so much more about football players not standing up because Flag than about the disaster in Puerto Rico: it’s because of the little-known fact that Puerto Rico is an island. An island, people! Water all around. If you try to drive to it your truck gets too wet.

“It’s the most difficult job because it’s on the island, it’s on an island in the middle of the ocean,” Trump said at a joint press conference with Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy. “It’s out in the ocean — you can’t just drive your trucks there from other states.”

Seriously. It’s thousands of miles from anywhere, out there in the middle of the ocean, like the Azores but even farther.

Puerto Rico was ravaged this month by a recent pair of massive hurricanes, which knocked out power on the island and caused widespread destruction. Trump has received substantial criticism for appearing to focus more on issues such as NFL players protesting during the national anthem at games than on the response to the Puerto Rican crisis.

Trump touted the US’s response, repeatedly saying Puerto Rico’s governor had assured him the government was doing well in its efforts.

“This isn’t like Florida where we can go up the spine. This isn’t like Texas where we go right down the middle and we distribute,” Trump said. “This is a thing called the Atlantic Ocean. This is tough stuff.”

Nobody knows that. Trump knows that, but everybody else just thinks Puerto Rico is down the road from Miami a coupla miles.

Nice guys

Sep 26th, 2017 3:51 pm | By

Of course.

Louise Brealey tweets a Guardian article about the misogyny aimed at women who say or do things.

Then she makes an observation about misogyny in history.

So of course a man dives in to say you’re calling us evil. Brealey says no she’s not, she’s saying men have silenced women throughout history.

He told her “go & slit your throat bitch” in a tweet that either he or Twitter deleted.

Silencing? What silencing?

Also, he thinks telling a woman “go & slit your throat bitch” is arguing facts with her, and that it’s reprehensible for her to block someone who tells her that.


Cover up

Sep 26th, 2017 10:38 am | By

The NSS points out that several schools in the UK are requiring girls to wear religious dress as part of their school uniform.

Girls in dozens of schools in England are forced to wear hijabs, according to National Secular Society research published in the Sunday Times today.

The NSS examined uniform policies on the websites of registered Islamic schools in England and found that girls potentially as young as four are instructed to wear the hijab as part of the official uniform policy.

Out of 142 Islamic schools that accept girls, 59 have uniform policies on their website that suggest a headscarf or another form of hijab is compulsory. This includes eight state-funded schools and 27 primary schools ­– three of which are state-funded.

In some cases the requirement is very explicit. At Feversham College in Bradford the policy states: “It is very important that the uniform is loose fitting and modest and that the hijaab is fitted closely to the head. The College uniform is COMPULSORY” (sic). Tayyibah Girls’ School in Hackney states: “The school is not willing to compromise on any issues regarding uniform.”

Girls at Al-Ihsaan Community College in Leicester are told they must wear either a “jilbaab or niqab.” The jilbaab is a long loose-fitting garment which covers the body except the hands, face and feet. Redstone Educational Academy in Birmingham includes the jilbaab as part of the compulsory uniform. Olive Secondary in Bradford says that girls’ faces “must be covered” outside.

Boys are people, and have freedom. Girls are objects, and have no freedom.

The NSS sent a letter.

Text of letter send to Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Education, Minister for Women and Equalities

We write with concerns that British school children are being forced to wear the hijab and other items of religious clothing whilst at school.

Our research indicates that girls as young as four are being made to wear the hijab as part of an official school uniform policy. The wearing of the hijab appears to be compulsory in eight of the 23 publicly funded Islamic schools that accept girls – including in three primary schools.

The majority of independent Muslim schools also require the hijab to be worn, including one school that further requires children’s faces to be covered outside of the school.

All schools have a duty to ‘actively promote’ individual liberty, to ensure young people leave school prepared for life in modern Britain.

In our view, the forcing of a child to wear the hijab, or any other item of religious clothing, is entirely at odds with this fundamental British value and with wider human rights norms on children’s rights. This conflict needs to be addressed.

We are further concerned that a number of non-Islamic schools appear to be acceding to fundamentalist pressure to incorporate the hijab into their uniform. Whilst we fully support efforts to allow children from Muslim backgrounds to better integrate, a desire to be ‘inclusive’ should not automatically lead to the accommodation of illiberal and repressive cultural norms.

Given the ‘justifications’ that lie behind so called ‘modesty’ codes, and its implicit sexualisation of children, we regard it as a matter of deep regret that so many schools are facilitating young girls being dressed in the hijab.

Whilst policies permitted the wearing of the hijab are so often framed in terms of choice and freedom, we urge you to recognise that this ‘freedom’ is often dictated by social pressure.

Education policy should empower girls and help them to make their own decisions once they are ready to do so. We therefore call on you to work alongside Ofsted to ensure that girls from Muslim backgrounds are supported to have free choices, rather than having so called ‘modesty’ codes imposed on them. No child should be obliged to wear the hijab, or any other article of religious clothing, whilst at school.

With regard to accommodations made by other schools, we urge you to issue guidance that makes it clear that a decision not to incorporate the hijab into a school uniform will be supported by the Government. The guidance should also make clear that the freedom to make accommodations to allow the wearing of the hijab does not extend to primary schools.

Stephen Evans, Campaigns Director, National Secular Society

Sara Khan, Director and Co-founder, Inspire

Amina Lone, Co-Director of the Social Action & Research Foundation

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Journalist

Pragna Patel, director of Southall Black Sisters.

Gina Khan, Spokesperson, One Law for All

Yasmin Rehman, Women and Human Rights Activist

Iram Ramzan, Journalist

Zehra Zaidi, Director of Stand up, social activist and former Conservative PPC

I hope the minister takes it seriously.

Trump’s mattering map

Sep 26th, 2017 9:54 am | By

Philip Bump at the Post also notices Donald’s slightly out of proportion obsession with The Flag while Puerto Rico runs out of oxygen and everything else.

Since last Friday, he’s tweeted about anti-police violence protests at NFL games some two dozen times — far more than he’s tweeted about North Korea or about health-care revision or about the special election in Alabama. It has consumed him. Four tweets on Saturday. Seven on Sunday. Eight on Monday. Four before 9 a.m. on Tuesday.

It’s astonishing to behold – that someone in his position can be that petty and childish, and proud of it.

After the contrast between his eager tweets about the NFL and apathy about Puerto Rico was raised by journalists on Monday, Trump tweeted several times about the island.

“Texas and Florida are doing great,” he wrote, “but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure and massive debt, is in deep trouble. Its old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with. Food, water and medical are top priorities — and doing well.”

Wall Street and the banks – that’s the important thing here.

The message Trump is trying to convey with those tweets (which we cleaned up a bit for legibility) is pretty clear: If Puerto Rico is going badly, it’s not my fault. Why the territory’s debt was worth mentioning is hard to understand outside of the context of Trump portraying it as a place that is responsible for its own problems.


Long-haul recovery efforts that bear no immediate signs of reward are not the sort of struggle Trump enjoys. It’s hard not to draw an obvious conclusion: Trump tweets more about the NFL than Puerto Rico because he is more interested in talking about the NFL than talking about Puerto Rico. I mean, they haven’t even paid their debts to Wall Street!

Plus…don’t forget…they speak Spanish there.