Notes and Comment Blog

The ambassador’s residence was being painted

Sep 3rd, 2019 4:32 pm | By

Corrupt at every opportunity, that’s Trump’s motto. He’s so corrupt he has Mike Pence staying at his Irish golf hotel on the far side of Ireland from where Pence needs to be to do the job he’s supposed to be doing. All to put more $$$$$ in Donnie Two-Scoops’s pocket.


Pence spent both Monday and Tuesday nights at Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in Doonbeg, in a small town on Ireland’s southwest coast, returning to the village after meetings with Ireland’s top elected officials.

Southwest coast. Dublin is on the east coast. Yes Ireland is a small country but it’s not so small that that’s a sensible way to do things.

Pence defended that decision — which required him to fly to Dublin and back on Air Force Two — by saying that he wanted to visit Doonbeg so that he could have dinner with his family at Morrissey’s, a pub here owned by a distant cousin.

At our expense. No, that’s not how that’s supposed to work, even if it were true, which it isn’t.

For Pence, the choice to stay in Doonbeg meant about four hours in transit. On Tuesday, he spent one hour in a motorcade from the golf resort to Shannon Airport, then another hour or so on the 140-mile flight to Dublin, then took another motorcade to his meetings. Then he did it all over again, in reverse, that evening.

When he could have stayed at a hotel in Dublin, as a normal person would have.

For Trump, however, that itinerary meant more revenue, as U.S. taxpayers paid for rooms for Pence and his traveling party.

Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, said that Trump himself had suggested that Pence stay at the Trump hotel, after hearing about Pence’s trip.

“It’s like when we went through the trip, it’s like, ‘Well, he’s going to Doonbeg because that’s where the Pence family is from,’ ” Short said Tuesday. “It’s like, ‘Well, you should stay at my place.’ ”

“It wasn’t like a, ‘You must.’ It wasn’t like, ‘You have to,’ ” Short said. He added that the government had negotiated room rates with Trump’s hotel.

It’s still grotesquely corrupt and not how they are supposed to do things. It’s indefensible! “It’s like, ‘Well, you should stay at my place’ ” and spend lots and lots of money at my shitty golf resort hours away from where you’ll be conducting government business. Or, actually, not.

Trump himself visited the Doonbeg golf course earlier this year, during a trip to Europe to commemorate the anniversary of the D-Day landings. Trump skipped Dublin altogether and instead met with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar at an airport close to Doonbeg.

That means twice in one year, American leaders have now visited a quiet village in County Clare and stayed at a once-obscure golf resort that Irish business filings show has not turned a profit in years.

Because Trump is that greedy and that indifferent to the rules.

Representative Ted Lieu:

Hey @VP @mike_pence: You took an oath to the Constitution, not to
@realDonaldTrump. Funneling taxpayer money to @POTUS by staying at this Trump resort is sooooooo corrupt.

Also, I hope you don’t encounter bedbugs. Many people say there are lots of bedbugs at Trump properties.

This isn’t even one of those tacit norms, it’s written down.

The Constitution bars presidents from taking “any other Emolument from the United States” beyond the presidential salary. Trump’s critics have charged that he is violating that provision when his hotels take payments from the federal government.

The last vice president to visit Dublin was Joe Biden, in 2016: He stayed at the U.S. ambassador’s residence, according to news coverage.

Considerably cheaper, and didn’t enrich his boss.

The Commons voted to take control of the agenda

Sep 3rd, 2019 3:27 pm | By


Brexit: Boris Johnson defeated as MPs take control

Tory rebels and opposition MPs have defeated the government in the first stage of their attempt to pass a law designed to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

The Commons voted 328 to 301 to take control of the agenda, meaning they can bring forward a bill seeking to delay the UK’s exit date.

In response, Boris Johnson said he would bring forward a motion for an early general election.

Jeremy Corbyn said the bill should be passed before an election was held.

In total, 21 Tory MPs, including a number of ex-cabinet ministers, joined opposition parties to defeat the government.

After the vote, Downing Street said those Tory MPs who rebelled would have the whip removed, effectively expelling them from the parliamentary party.

Race ya off the cliff!

Cheating is not a human right

Sep 3rd, 2019 11:42 am | By


R. McKinnon says:

Show your support for trans and intersex athletes: #SportIsAHumanRight shirts, tanks, hoodies, leggings, and more!

The trouble is, what McKinnon means by “support for trans and intersex athletes” here is support for men who want to compete against women. He means men like him, who couldn’t win anything racing with other men, but has won medals by racing with women. So, no. Not going to show any support for that shit.

Guest post: Solutions that are fair to everyone?

Sep 3rd, 2019 11:22 am | By

The New Zealand feminist magazine Broadsheet posted Jill Abigail’s article on Facebook so we all get to read it after all.

Jill Abigail’s post on NZ Green Party politics on trans rights versus women’s rights has in fact been removed from the Te Awa website where it was first posted. So here please find the full text of that original piece.

Solutions that are fair to everyone? JILL ABIGAIL

I am writing a personal response to Jan Logie’s words in the last Te Awa, where she says: “We continue to push for progress on LGBTQI+ freedoms, and resist the backlash that’s trying to undermine our trans and gender diverse whanau and roll back their hard-won rights”.

Who is the “we” in this statement? Is it the Rainbow Greens? I am a lesbian, supposedly under their umbrella, but I am part of the backlash. Is it the whole Green Party? I am a long-time Greens member, but I am part of the backlash. If the Greens caucus is acting on policy that feelings of gender identity over-ride biological sex, then some of us older feminists in the party have strong concerns about its implications.

Transpeople are a vulnerable group that until recently has been excluded from general consideration and now justly claim their right to be treated with equal respect. However, the hard-won rights Jan alludes to include those of male-bodied trans-women to be treated just like natal women and allowed to enter any space or role designated as females-only. Trans rights activists argue that if a man says he feels like a woman, he is one. Women must accept him as one of them, even when he retains his male bodily features.

Many feminists are concerned to protect the sex-based rights of women and girls, whose disadvantaged position under patriarchy is based exactly on our biology and whose primary problem is male violence. Hence sex-based rights include the right to female-only spaces and activities. But feminist analysis of patriarchy seems to be completely lacking in gender ideology. Indeed, feminists who have worked for decades to achieve the rights now enjoyed by younger women are being vilified.

I am horrified by what is happening overseas: the shutting down of free speech; the silencing and abuse of academic experts; young children being taught they can be in the ’wrong’ body, thus reinforcing stereotypes; women’s refuges and rape crisis centres no longer safe sanctuaries; lesbians being accused of transphobia if they insist on same-sex relationships; male-bodied athletes entering women’s sports and taking the prizes; the very language changing to erase females/women, in the name of ‘inclusiveness’.

In New Zealand, meeting venues and publicity have been denied to gender-critical feminists, who are accused – sometimes very violently – of hate speech. The Abortion Law Reform Association now speaks of “pregnant people”, not “pregnant women”. Wellington Lesbian Radio has changed its name because ‘lesbian’ is not “inclusive”. Most serious of all is the medicalisation of children. I recently met a woman who had taken her 11-year-old daughter to a doctor because of a sore throat. The daughter is a tomboy, with short hair. The doctor asked the mother if she wanted the girl to go on puberty blockers. An 11-year-old goes to the doctor with a sore throat and is given a suggestion of puberty blockers?

Gender-critical feminists have allies among some transpeople themselves, who see this ideology as a misogynist, homophobic, men’s rights push. No previous extensions of human rights for new groups have involved taking away the rights of others needing protection. It would be progressive of the Greens to be working for solutions that are fair to everyone, rather than reinforcing the current divide.

The Green Party has caused outrage by letting a woman speak

Sep 3rd, 2019 11:12 am | By

From New Zealand:

The Green Party has caused outrage among its members by publishing an article criticising the party’s push for trans rights in its official magazine.

The article, written by long-time Green Party member Jill Abigail, appeared in the latest edition of party publication Te Awa and said some “older feminists” within the party were concerned the party was putting gender identity over the rights of biological women.

Abigail was particularly critical of MP Jan Logie’s comments in a previous issue that: “We continue to push for progress on LGBTQI+ freedoms, and resist the backlash that’s trying to undermine our trans and gender diverse whanau and roll back their hard-won rights”.

“I am a lesbian, supposedly under their umbrella, but I am part of the backlash,” Abigail wrote.

She said while trans people were vulnerable and “justly” claiming their right to equal treatment, the free speech of those who opposed “male-bodied trans women” entering “female-only spaces” was being shut down with accusations of hate speech.

There were protests, and the article was taken down after about a week. Women must not say they have a right to women-only toilets.

In a statement, a spokesman for the party said the board had apologised.

“We regret that the article was published without a response or right of reply from the affected community, and that our party policy wasn’t made clear,” he said.

“The Green Party upholds the value of diversity and inclusion and we want to reassure members of this.”

Diversity of what, inclusion of what? Magic words don’t answer all questions. There isn’t an actual need for “diversity” of women in the sense that men get to count as women on the grounds of “diversity.” It’s ok for women to mean just women, women only, literal women, real women, women with women’s bodies. We get to have that. There’s no more need for “diversity” and “inclusion” in the sense of adding men to the category “women” than there is for “diversity” and “inclusion” in the sense of adding white people to the category “black people.”

A long-time member and former candidate for the Green Party, speaking on condition of anonymity, called for the board to resign to allow for fresh elections.

“They were … not sorry, didn’t see a problem, that it would stay up, and felt we were overreacting.”

The member said the inference trans women were not real women was offensive and “tremendously unfair”.

It’s true though. Men are not women. “Trans women” are men who identify as / say they are / live as women, and that’s not the same thing as being women. You can say that’s “offensive” until cows grow testicles, but that won’t make it untrue.

“Trans people already struggle enough with not being able to have gender reassignment surgery without women being scared they’re going to be sexually assaulted by them because they still have a penis. It can’t get more bigoted than that.”

Actually, it can’t get much more dismissive of women and their concerns than to brush off fear of sexual assault by people with penises.

MP Logie took to Facebook, outlining the party’s position amid the criticism.

“We have an urgent human rights challenge to realise the rights of trans and non-binary people,” she said.

“I don’t think it’s in anyway acceptable to suggest those rights threaten anyone else.”

Even though they do? Everyone just has to bury that, because the putative “rights of trans and non-binary people,” meaning the right to say they are what they are not and force everyone else to agree, are infinitely more important than the rights of women?

Why? Why are they? Why do trans women matter more than women?

Because they’re better at bullying, seems to be the only real reason.

The dignity & worth of every person

Sep 3rd, 2019 10:06 am | By

How dare he say that.

Mike Pence, in Ireland:

America & Ireland are prospering because our nations are bound together by the connections of family & history but also a deep commitment to individual liberty & freedom. I’m proud to be part of an administration that respects the dignity & worth of every person, born & unborn.

How dare he.

The administration he’s part of is busy doing everything it can to torment and degrade asylum seekers and would-be immigrants on the southern border. The administration he’s part of locks them up in small spaces, takes children away from parents, lets children die in its crowded holding pens, flouts the Flores ruling that limits how much it’s supposed to torture migrant children.

The administration he’s part of insults anyone who disagrees with it, in racist or misogynist terms whenever applicable. Just today Trump insulted the mayor of London in racist terms:

The incompetent Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was bothered that I played a very fast round of golf yesterday. Many Pols exercise for hours, or travel for weeks. Me, I run through one of my courses (very inexpensive). President Obama would fly to Hawaii. Kahn should focus on……..”knife crime,” which is totally out of control in London. People are afraid to even walk the streets. He is a terrible mayor who should stay out of our business!

“Knife crime” is code, and not subtle code at that.

The administration he’s part of throws poor people off food stamps, it destroys the health insurance system intended to cover everyone including poor people, it paints whole cities as hells of crime if they have large black populations (see: Baltimore, Chicago), it picks fights with black and brown Members of Congress and Senators, it picks fights with judges who have Hispanic surnames, it calls African countries “shitholes,” it calls black football players “sons of bitches,” it attacks women in every way it can think of. Like hell it “respects the dignity & worth of every person.”

Non-reptile reporting for non-play non-Madam

Sep 3rd, 2019 9:23 am | By

The Green Party. They…what?

It’s about their regional council – not a particularly interesting subject in general, but somewhat interesting in specific:

You can learn more about GPRC from the GPRC Handbook.

Information about the GPRC meetings, including past minutes and agendas, can be found in the Resources tab above.

Regional Council Members:

GPRC Co-Chairs:

  • Self identifying Non-Male Co-Chair: Liz Carlton (Eastern Region)
  • Self identifying Non-Female Co-Chair: Rob Grant (West Midlands Region)

Excuse me?

There are a bunch of regional members listed below that, all without the “Self identifying Non-Female/Non-Male”weirdness…maybe they’re introducing it gradually.

But: what? What do they mean by it?

Also Boris Johnson lost his majority when one Tory moved over to join the Lib-Dems.

All work and no play

Sep 2nd, 2019 3:06 pm | By

Trump AND Pence are violating all the norms and laws against using the presidency for $$$ today.

Jim Acosta:

Both Trump and Pence are at Trump properties at this moment on Labor Day. Trump is at his golf course in [Virginia] while Pence is staying at a Trump golf course in Ireland, per pool. (CNN photo below)



President Donald Trump spent Monday visiting his Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia, and tweeting political grievances as a massive hurricane prepares to barrel up the East Coast of the United States.

Trump’s visit to Trump National marked the 289th day he has spent at a Trump property and the 227th day he has spent at one of his golf clubs as President.


Yesterday he was letting people think he would be at Camp David today.

Citizens for Ethics @CREWcrew

President Trump visited one of his golf courses for several hours Saturday as Hurricane Dorian bore down on the coastline.

Trump gave the impression that he’d spend Saturday at Camp David with experts monitoring what has developed into a Category 4 storm.

If he went to Camp David that would do nothing to enrich his golf club.

Barns for the ladies

Sep 2nd, 2019 11:47 am | By

Awwwww nice, Nate Berg at the Guardian tells us how awesome it is for cities to provide barns for sex workers so that man can have drive-through sex:

The city [Köln] reasoned that if sex work was going to happen, it should be in a safe and clean space. It was decided that sex work would be allowed only in certain parts of the city – and in order to encourage both sex workers and their customers to abide by this rule, in one of the permitted areas the city built a facility specifically for sex.

Located on the edge of town, the result is a kind of sex drive-through. Customers drive down a one-way street, into a roughly two-acre open air-space where sex workers can offer their services. Once hired, the sex worker accompanies the customer into a semi-private parking stall. For safety, each stall allows sex workers to easily flee if necessary – the stall is designed so that the driver’s door can’t be opened, but the passenger one can – and there’s an emergency button to call for help. Social workers are present on site and offer a space to rest, stay warm and access services.

[Updating to add the alluring photo]

The covered stalls of Cologne’s ‘sex drive-through’.

Henning Kaiser/AFP/Getty Images

So…the work is dangerous, the women who do it might need to flee at any moment, and if they can’t there’s an emergency button to push, plus there are social workers on site…but hooray all the same?

The attitude that if sex work is inevitable it should be safe has spread across the city.

Right. And if slavery is inevitable it should be safe. If child marriage is inevitable it should be safe. If female genital mutilation is inevitable it should be safe. If torture is inevitable it should be safe. If war is inevitable it should be safe.

That tone of vehement moral indignation and passionate excitement

Sep 2nd, 2019 11:18 am | By

I’m ruminating on the dissenting comments about the rhetoric of reason post, and the puzzle of how the slave society justified itself to itself, and the related puzzle of how abolitionists – whose cause seems so self-evident to us now – were seen as raving maniacs and extremists, and from there I arrived at James Fitzjames Stephens’s review of John Stuart Mill’s The Subjection of Women, which I consider a classic of the genre.

Stephens begins with the opposition of vehement passion and chilly reason:

Mr. Mill’s small volume or long pamphlet on “The Subjection of Women” is intended to prove “that the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes– the legal subordination of one to the other– is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other.” The whole volume is written in that tone of vehement moral indignation and passionate excitement, finding vent in sustained eagerness of style and thought, which so much attract some readers to Mr. Mill’s writings, and so much repel from them men of his own way of thinking in many respects, but disposed to take a colder view of human nature, its prospects, and its capacities.

Stephens’s colder view of human nature produces this:

One fundamental and unalterable inequality between men and women is that, whereas the orderly and reasonable satisfaction of passions which in the case of both men and women more or less distinctly and consciously affect every part of human life, is in normal cases essential to the happiness of each, its satisfaction in the case of men is a strong spur to exertion in active professions, whilst in the case of women it physically incapacitates them from everything of the kind. Active life, therefore, must be as abnormal in the case of women as it is normal in the case of men; and to refuse to recognize this fact in social and professional legislation appears to us to be precisely the same absurdity as to refuse to extend the suffrage to the working classes when they have virtually become a great political power, or to ignore the superiority which a conquering race has proved over those whom it has conquered by legislating as if no conquest had taken place.

I think that’s the kind of thing Fairbanks is talking about.

The powerful media compulsion to normalize him as president

Sep 2nd, 2019 10:29 am | By

Rick Wilson (anti-Trump Republican pundit) asks:

Why’s it so hard for us to say out loud that Trump has lost his mind?

Reporter Joy Reid has an answer that I don’t really get.

Chalk it up to the powerful media compulsion to normalize him as president. He is president, so the things he says and does are done in the name of the office, and so media writ large strains to import even the crazy stuff into the normal formula for covering a president.

I don’t get why it’s not the other way around. I don’t get why the media compulsion is to normalize him as president as opposed to normalizing the office by refusing to normalize him. Why him at the expense of the office rather than the office at the expense of him?

Why, in other words, don’t they see the office as more important than and less temporary than this one aberrant guy?

Especially since a great many of the things he says and does really are not done in the name of the office. They’re done while he is president, but not in the name of the office. His ridiculous blurts about Debra Messing and Kanye West and similar irrelevancies aren’t done in the name of the office, they’re just explosions from his id, which (I would think) is exactly why the guy ought to be reported separately from the office much of the time.

She might just mean they do it so that they can go on being White House reporters after Trump is back in Manhattan, which would be not so much compulsion as self-interested ass-protecting.


Sep 1st, 2019 5:41 pm | By

Kathleen Stock, at Brian Leiter’s blog, on the latest blacklistings:

I see that the blog of the Institute of Art and Ideas has taken down a piece ( Download The current transgender debate polarizes Western societies like no other) to which Holly Lawford-Smith and I contributed, alongside Julie Bindel, Robin Dembroff, Susan Stryker and Rebecca Kukla. I assume the reason to be the fuss the latter three have been making on social media and letters to the editor since the piece was published.

One complaint I’ve seen from them is that I have no relevant expertise in this area. Yet my contribution links to my forthcoming piece on sexual orientation, sex, and gender, in the Aristotelian Society proceedings. (Moreover this isn’t a criteria I’ve ever seen employed when the contributor agrees with self-ID in law and policy, as we obviously do not. As usual it’s a highly selective use of a norm).

This was the invitation, which went out verbatim to Holly Lawford-Smith and Julie Bindel and I assume to the others. Holly wrote to the editor who commissioned us a few days ago and hasn’t heard back.

“I’m writing on behalf of the Institute of Art and Ideas – we organise the world’s largest music and philosophy festival, HowTheLightGetsIn, and also run an online magazine, IAI News, which receives around 100,000 views per month. Contributors so far have included Rebecca Goldstein, Martha Nussbaum, Anthony Appiah, Elizabeth Anderson, Homi Bhabha and others.

We are currently compiling an article where we ask leading thinkers ‘How can philosophy change the way we understand the transgender experience and identity?’ Given your influential work on the subject, I was wondering whether you would be interested in contributing a 200 word response?

I look forward to hearing from you”

They contributed, and the thanks they get is that the Institute of Art and Ideas takes the collection down.

But wait, there’s more.

A separate incident I’m told of recently involves Professor Sally Haslanger writing to the entire board of the NDPR to complain about my being asked to review Serene Khader’s latest book, and to ask them to review their policies moving forward so that a similar mistake isn’t made again.

And still more!

n the meantime I’m told that a graduate student is compiling a spreadsheet of my past tweets; publicly encouraged by Professor Jonathan Ichikawa, whose only regret is that others aren’t helping

Sure enough: here’s what Ichikawa said:

Hi Christa, I just wanted to say again, thanks for all the work you are doing staying on top of these conversations. It’s incredibly valuable labour, although I do wish it didn’t fall so heavily in you specifically

He just wanted to say again, thanks for all the creepy stalking and harassment you are doing of feminist philosophers who fail to obey the strict orders to pretend that men are women if they say they are. It’s incredibly valuable labour, this nonstop spying and persecuting.

Back to Kathleen:

These philosophers are happy to use intimidation of editors,  and attempted intimidation of gender-critical philosophers, under the guise of moral outrage, to shut us up, rather than intellectual engagement. Perhaps they even believe that we are such harmful individuals that any such tactics are appropriate. Either way, I’m embarrassed for them. Is there any other area of philosophy in which gate-keeping is so intense? Why is that, I wonder?

I wonder too. I’ve been wondering for a long time.

The rhetoric of the “reasonable right”

Sep 1st, 2019 1:04 pm | By

Eve Fairbanks argues at the Washington Post that there is some overlap between the rhetoric of the dark web types and that of the “respectable” antebellum defenders of slavery.

My childhood home is just a half-hour drive from the Manassas battlefield in Virginia, and I grew up intensely fascinated by the Civil War. I loved perusing soldiers’ diaries. During my senior year in college, I studied almost nothing but Abraham Lincoln’s speeches. As I wrote my thesis on a key Lincoln address, Civil War rhetoric was almost all I read: not just that of the 16th president but also that of his adversaries.

Thinking back on those debates, I finally figured it out. The reasonable right’s rhetoric is exactly the same as the antebellum rhetoric I’d read so much of. The same exact words. The same exact arguments. Rhetoric, to be precise, in support of the slave-owning South.

If that sounds absurd — Shapiro and his compatriots aren’t defending slavery, after all — it may be because many Americans are unfamiliar with the South’s actual rhetoric. When I was a kid in public school, I learned the arguments of Sen. John C. Calhoun (D-S.C.), who called slavery a “positive good,” and Alexander Stephens, the Confederacy’s vice president, who declared that the South’s ideological “cornerstone” rested “upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man.”

But such clear statements were not the norm. Proslavery rhetoricians talked little of slavery itself. Instead, they anointed themselves the defenders of “reason,” free speech and “civility.” The prevalent line of argument in the antebellum South rested on the supposition that Southerners were simultaneously the keepers of an ancient faith and renegades — made martyrs by their dedication to facts, reason and civil discourse.

They had to, didn’t they. They couldn’t just say: “We can’t get rich by growing cotton any other way because the work is too horrible and the climate is even worse.” They had to make it sound convincing, and dignified.

It might sound strange that America’s proslavery faction styled itself the guardian of freedom and minority rights. And yet it did. In a deep study of antebellum Southern rhetoric, Patricia Roberts-Miller, a professor of rhetoric at the University of Texas at Austin, characterizes the story that proslavery writers “wanted to tell” between the 1830s and 1860s as not one of “demanding more power, but of David resisting Goliath.”

And they did it after the war, too. Mainstream America bought the story and helped promote it – Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind for instance. “The chivalry,” as slaveowners liked to call themselves. At the same time they talked a lot about “facts” and “science”…kind of like the people who keep saying we need to hear the kind of stale bullshit James Damore was so eager to force on his Google colleagues. “It’s not that men forget (at best) or refuse (at worst) to hire women, it’s that women would rather be teachers or nurses or mommies” – that’s such a new and original line of thought that males in the workplace must be allowed to share their manifestos on the subject in that mostly-male workplace.

The most important thing to know about them, they held, was that they were not the oppressors. They were the oppressed. They were driven to feelings of isolation and shame purely on the basis of freely held ideas, the right of every thinking man. Rep. Alexander Sims (D-S.C.) claimed that America’s real problem was the way Southerners were made to suffer under “the sneers and fanatic ebullitions of ignorant and wicked pretenders to philanthropy.” Booth’s complaint, before he shot Lincoln, wasn’t that he could no longer practice slavery, something he’d never done anyway. Instead, he lamented that he no longer felt comfortable expressing “my thoughts or sentiments” on slavery freely in good company.

The tyranny of opinion, in short. White men must be free to inform everyone of their superiority, or we will be trapped in 1984 forever.

All of this is there in the reasonable right: The claim that they are the little people struggling against prevailing winds. The argument that they’re the ones championing reason and common sense. The allegation that their interlocutors aren’t so much wrong as excessive; they’re just trying to think freely and are being tormented. The reliance on hyperbole and slippery slopes to warn about their adversaries’ intentions and power. The depiction of their opponents as an “orthodoxy,” an epithet the antebellum South loved.

Many reasonable-right figures find themselves defending the liberties of people to the right of them. Not because they agree with these people, they say, but on principle. Sam Harris, a popular podcast host, has released three lengthy shows about Charles Murray, a political scientist who is often booed at campus speeches and whose 2017 talk at Middlebury College ended when students injured his host. Murray argues that white people test higher than black people on “every known test of cognitive ability” and that these “differences in capacity” predict white people’s predominance. Harris repeatedly insists he has no vested interest in Murray’s ideas. His only interest in Murray, he claims, rests in his dedication to discussing science and airing controversial views.

But Harris’s claim is implausible. Hundreds of scientists produce controversial work in the fields of race, demographics and inequality. Only one, though, is the social scientist nationally notorious for suggesting that white people are innately smarter than people of color. That Harris chooses to invite this one on his show suggests that he is not merely motivated by freedom of speech. It suggests that he is interested in what Murray has to say.

If you hear somebody lament, as Bret Stephens does, that political “opinions that were considered reasonable and normal” not too long ago now must be “delivered in whispers,” it might be antebellum reasoning. If somebody says — as Harris has — that our politics are at risk of ignoring common sense, logic or the realities of human biology, it might be antebellum reasoning. If somebody such as Nicholas Kristof says they don’t like noxious thinkers but urges us to give them platforms for the sake of “protecting dissonant and unwelcome voices,” it might be antebellum reasoning. The truth is that we have more avenues now for free expression in America than we’ve ever had.

If somebody says liberals have become illiberal, you should consider whether it’s true. But you should also know that this assertion has a long history and that George Wallace and Barry Goldwater used it in their eras to powerful effect. People who make this claim aren’t “renegades.” They’re heirs to an extremely specific tradition in American political rhetoric, one that has become a dangerous inheritance.

Jonathan Haidt misrepresents the argument:

Here’s a bad kind of argument: If you favor X and some very bad people favored X, then you are wrong and, by association, bad. Here is @evefairbanks in WaPo likening me & others who favor “facts, reason, and civil discourse” to defenders of slavery:

But that isn’t what she says. She likens the rhetoric Haidt and others use to the rhetoric defenders of slavery used.

Jason Stanley (whom I don’t always agree with) replied:

Not how I read this piece at all. The point is rather tha[t] defenses of reasonableness, civility, and free speech often function to normalize greed and self-interest, sometimes intentionally sometimes unintentionally. It’s a vital lesson of history; relevant eg for climate change

Haidt refused to get the point.

Sir, Category 5, sir

Sep 1st, 2019 12:26 pm | By

Trump goes to FEMA for a briefing on the hurricane that is now hammering the Bahamas, and at that briefing he marvels at the idea of a Category 5 hurricane, says he’s never heard of a Cat 5, says he has heard of a Cat 5 but only as a concept, not as an event.

None of that is accurate. None of it. It’s the babbling of someone whose brain is emptying out at an accelerating rate.

Daniel Dale provides the citations:

President Donald Trump on the existence of Category 5 hurricanes, 2017-2019.


Fall of 2017, Category 5 a new thing on earth. This past May, Category 5 whaaaaaat who ever heard of that, big stuff. Today Category 5 whaaaaaat I knew it existed but I never knew it existed other than I knew it existed.

Well never mind, he can remember exactly how he felt when a tv star called him “Sir” this one time.

Oh no, not annoyance

Sep 1st, 2019 11:48 am | By

So a woman is actually being prosecuted for telling a man he’s a man. Sorry to link to the Mail, but naturally the better sources are looking fixedly in the other direction.

[Kate] Scottow, 38, will face magistrates on charges of making malicious communications over social media comments about trans campaigner Stephanie Hayden.

The Crown Prosecution Service said she had been charged over ‘persistent’ messages designed to cause ‘annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety’ to another person between September 2018 and May 2019.

There’s something of an infinite regression here, it seems. Is she being prosecuted for “misgendering” or is it for persistent tweeting at someone? The CPS quote looks as if it’s the latter, but if it is, then why aren’t there more prosecutions for persistent tweeting at someone? Because of the subject matter? No, because of the persistence. But then why…etc.

Last night, a CPS spokesman said the charge against Mrs Scottow had been authorised on August 21 ‘after reviewing a file of evidence from Hertfordshire Police relating to social media posts’.

She is due to appear at Stevenage Magistrates’ Court on September 18.

Her case comes six months after Britain’s first transgender hate crime prosecution was halted by a judge who declared: ‘There is no case and never was a case.’

Miranda Yardley, 51, said she was put through ten months of hell after being accused of harassing a transgender activist on Twitter.

But District Judge John Woollard dismissed the case after a one-day hearing at Basildon Magistrates’ Court in Essex, saying there was no evidence of a crime.

It’s interesting that women (for instance) get persistently harassed on Twitter all the time yet we don’t see prosecutions…do we? Carl Benjamin got bounced off Patreon and he lost an election, but he was never prosecuted as far as I know. Is there possibly a different standard for men persistently harassing women versus women persistently harassing men who say they are women? Or am I just imagining things.

Very very potent

Sep 1st, 2019 11:21 am | By

Philosophers chat:

Jason Stanley:

I have been surprised that this point has not been more salient. It is shocking.

@Valar_Festivus TFW you realize that AOC was widely condemned across the political spectrum for suggesting that jails for migrants were like concentration camps but Bret Stephens can compare being mocked on Twitter to the Holocaust and everyone is fine with it.

Rachel McKinnon:

White male privilege is very very potent and should never be underestimated.

Yes, McKinnon actually said that, apparently without irony.

Or maybe it’s more bragging? “Potent” is an interesting word to use.

Trump notices that times have changed

Sep 1st, 2019 10:15 am | By

Trump and priorities is a hot topic today, because on the one hand a mass shooting in Odessa, Texas plus a hurricane getting stronger as it approaches, and on the other hand a woman who said something critical about him. The underlying thought is that a normal person in Trump’s job would focus on the first hand rather than the second.

Kyle Griffin:

It seems noteworthy that the president was tweeting about Debra Messing and The Apprentice this morning, hours after a mass shooting in West Texas and while a hurricane that’s threatening parts of the south was continuing to strengthen.

Donald Trump:

I have not forgotten that when it was announced that I was going to do The Apprentice, and when it then became a big hit, helping NBC’s failed lineup greatly, @DebraMessing came up to me at an Upfront & profusely thanked me, even calling me “Sir.” How times have changed!

Well no shit times have changed, “sir.” Then you were just a loudmouth on tv; now you’re the president of the US.

There’s an interesting thing about this change in the times that Trump doesn’t seem to have noticed: the expectations are different. Very different, and in more than one area. Not much is expected of blowhards on tv except that they blow hard in a way that many millions of people want to watch. I’m not a fan of blowhards, myself, even if I share their politics, and I don’t really get the taste, but lots of people love them. But being president is a different kind of job and position, and it requires a different set of skills. Trump has none of the skills required for that job; not one. He can’t even look the part for the cameras, let alone actually perform it.

So, yeah, no shit people who tolerated him when he was just a corrupt racist vulgar tv shouter are not willing to tolerate him now that he’s in a position to destroy everything. What an idiotic Gotcha it is to rage that someone who flattered him when he was a mere joke is critical of him now that he’s Godzilla.

Plus the whole priorities issue. Mass shootings, growing hurricanes, and all Donny Two-Scoops cares about is his own precious bloated self.

What a spectacle.

He thinks all lives matter and he’s just asking questions

Aug 31st, 2019 5:33 pm | By

So now I’m curious about Bret Stephens and especially about his excitingly original take on climate change, so I’ve hit the googles to learn more. David Roberts at Vox reported in May 2017 that Stephens had been hired away from the Wall Street Journal. Oh that kind of “diversity.”

Though the paper defends the hire in the name of opinion diversity, Stephens is a very familiar sort of establishment conservative — a cosmopolitan, well-educated, reflexively pro-Israel war hawk (who once wrote a column on “the disease of the Arab mind”) who thinks anti-racists are the real racists but moderates on select issues to demonstrate his independence.

Guys like that are a dime a dozen, I promise you.

Stephens is the kind of conservative writer who has feasted on easy shots at liberals for so long that he has let himself get lazy. Read his interview with Vox’s Jeff Stein, who actually pushed him a little. He says things like this:

I think Black Lives Matter has some really thuggish elements in it. Look — at the risk of being incredibly politically incorrect, but I guess that’s my job — I think that all lives matter. Not least black lives.

Oh, wow, nobody had ever said that before.  Mega diversity!

And when he discusses climate change, Stephens uses incorrect facts and terrible arguments. At a time when we desperately need a conversation about climate change more sophisticated than “is it a problem?” he makes the debate dumber.

Since the outcry that met his hiring, Stephens has tried to soften his take on climate. He told Huffington Post that he is a “climate agnostic.”

“Is the earth warming?” he asked. “That’s what the weight of scientific evidence indicates. Is it at least partially, and probably largely, a result of man-made carbon emissions? Again, that seems to be the case. Am I ‘anti-science’? Hell, no.”

As Joe Romm of Climate Progress has demonstrated, this is utterly disingenuous. Stephens called climate change a “mass hysteria phenomenon” for which “much of the science has … been discredited.” He said that people who accept climate change science are motivated in part by the “totalitarian impulse” and they worship “a religion without God.” He said “global warming is dead, nailed into its coffin one devastating disclosure, defection and re-evaluation at a time.”

What the hell kind of religion is accepting climate change science? Does he think we like what’s happening?

In a column calling climate change one of liberalism’s “imaginary enemies,” he said this:

Here’s a climate prediction for the year 2115: Liberals will still be organizing campaigns against yet another mooted social or environmental crisis. Temperatures will be about the same.

As Romm notes, the idea that temperature will be the same in 100 years is utterly ludicrous, the scientific equivalent of claiming the earth is flat.

Roberts goes through a list of annoying, familiar ploys Stephens uses.

6) Just asking questions. Why so rude?

Stephens is playing a bit part in a very, very old strategy. It goes like this:

  • Q: “We’re just asking questions.”
  • A: [questions answered]
  • Q: “We’re just asking questions.”
  • A: “Yeah, we answered those. Here’s a link.”
  • Q: “We’re just asking questions.”
  • A: “We answered the questions. A bunch of times. Please acknowledge our answers.”
  • Q: “We’re just asking questions.”
  • A: “Okay, we went back over our answers, double-checked and peer-reviewed them, compiled them in a series of reports with easy-to-read summaries, all of which we have broken down into digestible bits via various blog posts and visual aids.”
  • Q: “We’re just asking questions.”
  • A: “It’s beginning to seem like you don’t really care about this issue and are just jerking us around.”
  • Q: “Hey, we’re just asking questions! Galileo asked questions, didn’t he? Why are you being so intolerant and rude?”

Let’s start at the beginning over and over again, every single day, ignoring what everyone has been doing and just taking step one, then step one, then step one, until suddenly the glacier breaks loose and sweeps us all away.

In all these examples, a similar theme emerges: Stephens just doesn’t seem to have thought much about climate change. He’s enacting the rote conservative ritual of groping around for some reason, any reason, to a) justify inaction and b) blame liberals, in the process saying false things and making terrible arguments.

He sounds kind of…bedbuggy, doesn’t he.

The media requests were thinning

Aug 31st, 2019 4:58 pm | By

David Karpf points out how much worse it would all have been if he were not a white guy.

The controversy began earlier this week after reports of a bedbug infestation at the Times. Karpf, an activist and former Sierra Club board member who says he has been particularly disappointed with Stephens’s takes on climate change, made a joke about the conservative writer, whose columns have prompted some dismayed readers to cancel subscriptions.

“The bedbugs are a metaphor,” Karpf tweeted Monday. “The bedbugs are Bret Stephens.”

“He tends to write pretty lightweight, poorly researched columns about things that I know something about,” Karpf explained later. “So I’ve always seen him as this person that everyone complains about but we just can’t get rid of. He’s a bedbug.

The tweet seemed destined for obscurity. (Karpf did not tag Stephens’s now-defunct Twitter handle.) But then Stephens emailed Karpf and copied George Washington University’s provost. He invited the professor to come to his home, meet his family and call him a bedbug in person in an act that “would take some genuine courage and intellectual integrity on your [Karpf’s] part.”

“I’m often amazed about the things supposedly decent people are prepared to say about other people — people they’ve never met — on Twitter,” Stephens wrote. “I think you’ve set a new standard.”

Stephens’s response went viral as critics called it an overreaction. Karpf and others pointed to far more demeaning insults frequently aimed at other writers, especially women and people of color.

But he’s Bret Stephens, so that’s completely different…isn’t it?

Former Trump White House spokesman Sean Spicer, no stranger to online ridicule, laughed at Stephens’s indignation with conservative talk show host Sean Hannity, saying, “I think if that’s the worst thing that he’s been called, my goodness, take a look at my Twitter feed any day.”

“These guys can’t take a punch,” he said.

Some have defended Stephens. Letters published Saturday in the Los Angeles Times were critical of “name-calling” by Karpf, who detailed his takeaways from the spat with Stephens in the Times earlier this week.

Karpf wrote in that piece that he thinks he has received “remarkably little online abuse” stemming from the exchange with Stephens because he is a white man.

“If Stephens had directed his message to one of my female colleagues,” he wrote, “they would have faced much more online vitriol. … Many women with a public platform receive a death threat with their daily morning coffee.”

That reality, Karpf told The Post, has made Stephens’s decision to amplify his bedbug tweet all the more baffling. By the end of this week, the professor’s Twitter feed was returning to normal. The media requests were thinning. The smart thing for Stephens to do, he said, would have been to let the dust-up die — a lesson he discussed earlier this week with students of his class on political communications.

“It should have ended there,” Karpf said. “And then he decided he wanted to dunk on himself again.”

I expect what he thought he was doing was explaining to the waiting world how he was right and Karpf was wrong and everybody who thought he overreacted was wrong and look out it’s the left-wing Nazis. The problem is that that’s all bullshit, so it didn’t work out for him.

The Times ought to hire a factchecker to shadow Brett Stephens

Aug 31st, 2019 3:55 pm | By

Vivian Ho at The Guardian on Bret Stephens’s Revenge Column:

On Friday, Stephens used his weekly column to issue a warning about the modern dangers of hateful comments disseminated through mass communications, drawing a line from Hitler’s radio addresses to the power of social media today.

In the ultimate subtweet move, Stephens didn’t even reference what had happened on Twitter – rather, the column casually dropped a quote about bedbugs in relation to the burning of Warsaw’s Jewish ghetto.

Nothing to do with David Karpf at all! Pure coincidence!

David Klion doesn’t buy the coincidence theory:

My jaw is on the floor


David Karpf, the author of the tweet that started the saga, told the Guardian he was “surprised and disappointed” that Stephens escalated what should have been “a silly argument”. “Bret Stephens does not appear to have the humility to admit that he was having a bad night, overreacted and was wrong,” Karpf said.

“Stephens states in his op-ed that eliminationist rhetoric is particularly prominent from the left. That isn’t the least bit true, and the Times ought to hire a factchecker to challenge him on these assertions,” Karpf continued. “He also says that the most reviled people in American politics are the moderate Republicans … again, this is embarrassingly self-centered and obviously untrue.”

Other than that it’s great stuff.

Meanwhile, internet sleuths were quick to tactfully decompose Stephens’ argument.

Following the link that Stephens left in his column suggests that he searched “Jews as bedbugs” on Google books to find the quote in question – “The bedbugs are on fire. The Germans are doing a great job”.

Despite Stephens’ obvious arduous researching endeavor, the quote may not actually be in reference to Jews. “Professor Jerzy Tomaszewski” – a historian who taught at the University of Warsaw – “believes that ‘the bedbugs are burning’ should be taken literally: there was an infestation of bedbugs in Warsaw at the time which was generally believed to have originated in the ghetto,” the book reads.

And all this, let’s remember, is a columnist in The New York Times – not the Tulsa World or the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. The NYT has a pretty large and respectable reach. This is a columnist in the NYT going after an academic who made a mildly insulting joke about him on Twitter. This is a columnist in the NYT pretending a Jewish academic making a mild joke is comparable to Göbbels ranting about the Jews.

It’s a bit Gatling gun—>gnat.

Am I allowed to say “gnat”?