Notes and Comment Blog


May 1st, 2018 12:24 pm | By

The reaction to Michelle Wolf is even weirder than I thought.

FULL disclosure: I have never been to a White House Correspondents’ Dinner; I will never go to a White House Correspondents’ Dinner. The American political press already has a bias toward reverence and access preservation; journalists yukking it up with powerful people whom they are supposed to cover impartially is unseemly. Partly for this reason, The Economist has for several years not sent anyone along.

Neither has the Times, since 2008. It’s true: journalists yukking it up with powerful people whom they are supposed to cover impartially is unseemly…and quite likely to be corrupt as well, at least unconsciously.

Over the past two days Washington has worked itself into a tizzy over Michelle Wolf’s unusually scathing monologue…

Matt Schlapp, a conservative lobbyist and the husband of Mercedes Schlapp, a White House communications director, tweeted that he and his wife “walked out early from the wh correspondents dinner. Enough of elites mocking all of us”—though precisely what definition of “elite” includes a stand-up comic but excludes high-ranking White House officials remains unclear.

Understated. In reality it’s grotesque for a conservative lobbyist (with ties to the Koch brothers by the way) and a White House communications director to complain about being mocked by “elites” in the form of a woman standup comic. The Schlapps are the elite in this equation.

Mrs Schlapp told a reporter that “journalists should not be the ones to say that the president or his spokesman is lying.”

Say…what? Journalists are exactly the ones to say that the president or his spokesperson is lying. It’s their job to do that and it’s also their social role to do that – they’re the fifth estate. If they don’t say it how can anyone else say it? We have to know it before we can say it, and how can we know it if journalists don’t do the work to find it out and then report it?

Ms Talev invited Mrs Sanders to sit at the head table because she “thought it sent an important decision about…government and the press being able to work together.”

Ohhhhhhh ffs – that’s not what the press is supposed to be doing.

But of course, that is precisely what should never happen, particularly with an administration as ambivalent about the First Amendment—among other norms and laws—as this one. (The Justice Department recently removed a section entitled “Need for Free Press and Public Trial” from its internal manual for federal prosecutors.)

Free press shmee press, knowwhatimean?

Needing time and considered thought

May 1st, 2018 11:35 am | By

Reading a Spectator blog post about a Labour MP who equates analysis of trans ideology to “hate material” I pause over a passage about the advocacy group Mermaids:

Despite its influence, it is worth noting what Mermaids is not. It is not a research body. Its activities are support (for families) and advocacy: based on its contacts with those families, it argues for what it sees are better policies and practices by the NHS and others. It does not carry out or commission clinical or academic research. Its most recent annual report lists among its charitable activities “campaigning and advocacy” and says: “Mermaids has also become more active in lobbying”.

There is regular dialogue between Mermaids and the GIDS, but the two sides do not always agree. An example is on the time the GIDS team take to give referred children the hormone-blocking drugs that stop their bodies developing the physical characteristics associated with their birth sex.

In evidence to another Commons inquiry in 2015, Mermaids argued that GIDS should make such drugs available much more quickly. The GIDS team has generally resisted that call, more than once saying that “any decision around hormone treatment needs time and considered thought.”

And in evidence to that earlier committee, Dr Bernadette Wren of the GIDS said this:

“I know that Susie and Mermaids would like a fast track so that young people who are already well into puberty and feel that they know that they want to move forward into physical intervention would bypass our assessment process and move straight into physical intervention. We feel that is not an ethical way to practise.”

I’m just impressed all over again by how bonkers it is to think it’s clear and obvious and progressive to mandate a rush into physical intervention on the basis of…the feelings about gender of young people who are already well into puberty. Young people who are already well into puberty are probably the last people on earth anyone should consult on the subject of sex and gender, because they’re in the midst of the transition and they don’t know yet. They don’t know. They don’t know how they’re going to feel in a couple of years and five and ten. They know that less than they ever will again, because puberty is confusing and because their brains aren’t fully developed yet. Those two things together make a Niagara Falls of reasons not to take their current feelings as reliable about their future feelings. Making drastic permanent physical changes on that basis is, indeed, not an ethical way to practice.

Even more evidence that we haven’t seen

May 1st, 2018 10:44 am | By

Garrett Graff at Wired has some thoughts on the Special Counsel’s questions.

Donald Trump himself tweeted about the questions early Tuesday, saying it was a “disgrace” that they leaked, but the Times story sources the leak to people on Trump’s side; Mueller’s team continues to operate almost entirely leak-free. It’s also hard to read the leaks as anything other than an attempt to bring public pressure on Trump to refuse an interview with Mueller’s team.

Hm. Trump’s people leak the questions, and Trump uses the questions to rage at his enemies some more. And Trump’s people are trying to fix things so that he will refuse to talk to the Special Counsel’s team, so that he can continue to destroy the country having cheated and lied to get elected.

Taken as a whole, the leaked questions help shape and underscore some key takeaways:

1. Mueller always knows more than we think. Every single indictment has been deeper, broader, and more detailed than anyone anticipated. This “misunderestimating” of what Mueller knows has been both true of the public and media reports, and of his witnesses and targets: Both Rick Gates and Alex van der Zwaan were caught in lies by Mueller’s team, who have known far more specific information than their targets first realized. Presumably, Mueller’s questions to Trump are informed by even more evidence that we haven’t seen.

That is, people lie about stuff they think Mueller’s team doesn’t know, but Mueller’s team does know, so there’s your lying to the special counsel charge.

3. There are more loose threads than ever. Perhaps the most troubling conclusion after reading Mueller’s proposed questions is just how many questions exist about the behavior and motivations of the President of the United States during his first year in office. The 49 questions lay out just how much remains unanswered and unknown, publicly at least, nearly a year into Mueller’s special counsel work. It’s hard to tell from the questions alone which ones represent the most possible jeopardy for the president, but when matched against the five core areas of Mueller’s investigation, it’s clear that Mueller wants to talk with President Trump about nearly all of them, from obstruction of justice to the Trump Organization’s business deals in Russia to the 2016 Trump campaign’s involvement with various Russian officials. Add in the full breadth of the investigation, from New York taxi medallions to Virginia rug stores, and the “supporting players”—including Erik Prince, Jeff Sessions, Jared Kushner, Tony Podesta, Carter Page, Sergey Kislyak, Sergey Gorkov, Michael Cohen, Roger Stone, as well as the hackers of Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear—and it’s clear that this is no made-up “witch hunt.” There are likely more indictments yet to come.

But but but, come the cries, he’s a sitting president, he can’t be prosecuted. This is what I don’t get. This stuff is ongoing. It’s not a parking ticket from 20 years ago, it’s contemporary and Trump is benefiting from it right now. Can it really be the case that he can’t be charged for ongoing crimes? If it is, we are more screwed up than most of us have ever realized.

The open-ended queries

May 1st, 2018 9:43 am | By

The late in the day breaking news yesterday was the NY Times publishing a list of questions from Mueller’s team for the liar in chief.

The open-ended queries appear to be an attempt to penetrate the president’s thinking, to get at the motivation behind some of his most combative Twitter posts and to examine his relationships with his family and his closest advisers. They deal chiefly with the president’s high-profile firings of the F.B.I. director and his first national security adviser, his treatment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a 2016 Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.

[Tangent: the Times has an actual policy against the “Oxford” comma, i.e. they don’t allow it, but look at the ambiguity that not using it can create. Is Mueller asking about Trump’s treatment of a 2016 Trump Tower meeting? Of course not, but omitting the needed comma after Sessions makes it look as if he is. No newspaper should have a rigid policy about the “Oxford” comma because it’s not always necessary but sometimes it is.] [Sorry for tangent.]

Mr. Trump said on Twitter on Tuesday that it was “disgraceful” that questions the special counsel would like to ask him were publicly disclosed, and he incorrectly noted that there were no questions about collusion. The president also said collusion was a “phony” crime.

The questions provide the most detailed look yet inside Mr. Mueller’s investigation, which has been shrouded in secrecy since he was appointed nearly a year ago. The majority relate to possible obstruction of justice, demonstrating how an investigation into Russia’s election meddling grew to include an examination of the president’s conduct in office. Among them are queries on any discussions Mr. Trump had about his attempts to fire Mr. Mueller himself and what the president knew about possible pardon offers to Mr. Flynn.

“What efforts were made to reach out to Mr. Flynn about seeking immunity or possible pardon?” Mr. Mueller planned to ask, according to questions read by the special counsel investigators to the president’s lawyers, who compiled them into a list. That document was provided to The Times by a person outside Mr. Trump’s legal team.

On Maddow’s show yesterday Adam Schiff and other legal types explained that the list is of not so much questions as topics: each of them could and would lead to a whole slew of follow-up questions as the subject answered. It’s definitely not a case of ask this one question on the list, get a reply, and move on to the next question on the list.

Mr. Mueller appears to be investigating how Mr. Trump took steps last year to fire Mr. Mueller himself. The president relented after the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, threatened to resign, an episode that the special counsel wants to ask about.

“What consideration and discussions did you have regarding terminating the special counsel in June of 2017?” Mr. Mueller planned to ask, according to the list of questions. “What did you think and do in reaction to Jan. 25, 2018, story about the termination of the special counsel and Don McGahn backing you off the termination?” he planned to ask, referring to the Times article that broke the news of the confrontation.

It’s interesting to notice the difference between the way the Times words it and the way Mueller does. For the Times it’s Mueller, for Mueller it’s the special counsel. For Mueller it’s the office, the role, the job: the investigation. It’s not personal. That’s no doubt legal convention, but then conventions shape how we think, and reflect how we think. The media talks about “Mueller” a lot but actually it’s a whole big team. It’s a bit Trumpy of the media to personalize it so much.

Mr. Mueller has sought for months to question the president, who has in turn expressed a desire, at times, to be interviewed, viewing it as an avenue to end the inquiry more quickly. His lawyers have been negotiating terms of an interview out of concern that their client — whose exaggerations, half-truths and outright falsehoods are well documented — could provide false statements or easily become distracted.

Ya think? One need only listen to that Fox interview last Friday to grasp how very easily he becomes “distracted” i.e. manic and out of control. Remember the bit where he’s raging about CNN and a foxer interrupts to say “but why watch them at all?” and there’s a pause and then Trump yells “I don’t watch them at all!” He’s gold for a prosecutor.

The list of questions grew out of those negotiations. In January, Mr. Trump’s lawyers gave Mr. Mueller several pages of written explanations about the president’s role in the matters the special counsel is investigating. Concerned about putting the president in legal jeopardy, his lead lawyer, John Dowd, was trying to convince Mr. Mueller he did not need to interview Mr. Trump, according to people briefed on the matter.

Mr. Mueller was apparently unsatisfied. He told Mr. Dowd in early March that he needed to question the president directly to determine whether he had criminal intent when he fired Mr. Comey, the people said.

But Mr. Dowd held firm, and investigators for Mr. Mueller agreed days later to share during a meeting with Mr. Dowd the questions they wanted to ask Mr. Trump.

And now we get to read them.

The rest of the world doesn’t care about your aspirations

Apr 30th, 2018 5:43 pm | By

Glosswitch can hit more nails on more heads in one tweet than most of us can in entire essays.

She starts with the way girls and young women like to think they’re different from their mothers, they won’t be complicit the way Mummy is.

Of course, like millions of women before me, upon having children I discovered this thinking is bollocks. It’s not because you stop caring – motherhood doesn’t excise this yearning for individuality– but because the rest of the world doesn’t care about your aspirations.

Physically you’re screwed, socially you’re screwed, because it turns out gender isn’t a performance.

You become “that woman” because guess what? No other bugger’s stepping in to be her for you. What’s more, you start to realise that no one is “just some mum”, not even your own mum. All those years you spent kidding yourself she was lucky enough to identify with servitude!

Motherhood politicises many women. It makes us aware of how utterly facile the idea of transcending the sexed body is (my male partner and I have had three kids. I’ve ended up carrying and birthing all three, with all the risk, pain and long-term cost. Coincidence? I think not).

Mumsnet has been a place where women can rage about the injustice of being a human trapped in a mother’s social position. And no, there was no golden age during which Mumsnet mummies spoke only of dangerous prams and the cheapest make-up remover.

Patriarchy has always mistrusted women speaking without male supervision. The treatment of Mumsnet follows a familiar pattern. In the early days the site was trivialised (“yummy mummies wittering on” etc.), now it’s getting the full witches’ coven treatment.

Anyhow, I get why some women are keen on making dramatic denunciations of all the evil women they encountered at Mumsnet. They’re never going to end up like those crappy mummies. Unlike Rich and me, they shall find a way of doing it all differently.

Read it all. It’s genius.

The lone bulwark against catastrophe

Apr 30th, 2018 4:54 pm | By

Uh oh, now it’s Kelly’s turn to be fired on Twitter.

White House chief of staff John Kelly has eroded morale in the West Wing in recent months with comments to aides that include insulting the president’s intelligence and casting himself as the savior of the country, according to eight current and former White House officials.

Moral would be high without that, would it?

The officials said Kelly portrays himself to Trump administration aides as the lone bulwark against catastrophe, curbing the erratic urges of a president who has a questionable grasp on policy issues and the functions of government. He has referred to Trump as “an idiot” multiple times to underscore his point, according to four officials who say they’ve witnessed the comments.

Kelly says nuh uh he did not.

Current and former White House officials said Kelly has at times made remarks that have rattled female staffers. Kelly has told aides multiple times that women are more emotional than men, including at least once in front of the president, four current and former officials said.

And the unspoken (but very much received) second half of that thought is “…and men are more rational. And intelligent, and capable, and stable.”

And during a firestorm in February over accusations of domestic abuse against then-White House staff secretary Rob Porter, Kelly wondered aloud how much more Porter would have to endure before his honor could be restored, according to three officials who were present for the comments. He also questioned why Porter’s ex-wives wouldn’t just move on based on the information he said he had about his marriages, the officials said.

What a prince. Fuck those bitches for ruining Rob Porter’s honor, right? Just because he beat them up now and then. Why can’t they just move on and leave the poor guy alone?

Eventually they’ll all eat each other.

How you tell a joke that everyone likes

Apr 30th, 2018 11:21 am | By

(Am I obsessed? Yes, kind of. I’m horrified at all this respectability-clutching about a comic who tells acidic jokes about the liars who work for the liar in chief. I’m horrified that much of it is coming from journalists.)

Sanders is a morally bankrupt person

Apr 30th, 2018 10:58 am | By

Arwa Mahdawi on why Michelle Wolf has nothing to apologize to Sarah Sanders for:

Wolf was referencing Sanders’ well-documented history of defending Trump’s brazen lies. Earlier this month for example, Sanders defended Trump’s racist claims that women from Central America are raped at “levels that nobody has ever seen before”. She also justified Trump’s entirely unfounded claims that “millions and millions” of illegal votes are cast in America’s elections by saying that the president “strongly feels” that is the case. Sanders lectures the press about accuracy but spends her days helping Trump fuel racism and hate with shameless lies. Sanders, in brief, is a morally bankrupt person and Wolf was holding her to account.

What I keep saying. She’s not an innocent bystander, and she’s not some oppressed flunky taking the punches Trump ran away from. She’s a conspicuous part of Trump’s evil administration, which can’t be separated from his constant barrage of insult on Twitter. She’s tied to that. She doesn’t get to feign outrage over an insult to her eyeshadow.

If anything, the likes of Haberman, Brzezinski and Mitchell owe America an apology. They’re all incredibly smart women with extremely important jobs. They’re supposed to be holding power to account, not sucking up to it. Rushing to defend Sanders under a veil of faux-feminism is beneath all of them.

What’s more, urging Wolf to apologize for what should have been an uncontroversial joke sends an incredibly dangerous message. It suggests that it’s not OK to criticize the president and his people. And it lends credence to Trump’s repeated claims that the mainstream media is out to get him.

If only they were.

An archaic, queasy and unseemly spectacle

Apr 30th, 2018 10:22 am | By

Jacki Lyden has a nicely blistering post on the hypocritical shunning of Michelle Wolf:

Michelle Wolf did get it just right and the journalists uncomfortable with that maybe should find another line of work. The White House Correspondents dinner is an archaic, queasy and unseemly spectacle that seems to underscore how inbred the relationship between the press and the politicos can be. It’s ID (the comedian) meets EGO (the journalists) meets SUPER EGO (the Administration). Any administration. Journalism shouldn’t be about swanning around the power-makers in public. (I could be wrong, but I think the New York Times no longer attends this thing.) Wolf was as crude as she needed to be in a crude time, and she spoke more truths about the current administration than most do, but I still think the dinner is dumb.

She’s not wrong. The Times has repeatedly mentioned that it stopped attending in 2008.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is a terrible bald-faced liar working for a terrible bald-faced liar, and once again, carried Trump’s water (since he didn’t have the nerve to go) and while comedians are some of the most vulgar people on the planet, they’re paid to be– the president is not. The point is, this administration has put lies on a nuclear rocket launcher and aimed it at Democracy, so if Michelle Wolf wants to go after that, and journalists don’t, who’s doing the heavy lifting here in terms of defending the first amendment?

Not Sarah Sanders, we know that much.

The spirit of that mission

Apr 30th, 2018 10:00 am | By

The White House Scribblers Association issued a pompous “statement” saying don’t do it to us, do it to her.

Everybody, including news outlets, is passing around a screenshot instead of just quoting the statement in full, which is a pain for people who can’t read screenshots. The bit where Wolf is thrown overboard is:

Last night’s program was meant to offer a unifying message about our common commitment to a vigorous and free press while honoring civility, great reporting and sponsorship winners, not to divide people. Unfortunately, the entertainer’s monologue was not in the spirit of that mission.

Do it to her, do it to her, do it to her. We’re the good ones, we’re the nice ones, we would never dream of pointing out that Sarah Sanders is a bad-tempered hack who works for an evil lying bully who is ruining everything.

Skilled employment

Apr 30th, 2018 9:33 am | By

If “sex work” is just another job, then the state should be promoting it as such, right? Julie Bindel says Nah.

Now it would appear that the New Zealand immigration service has added “sex work” (as prostitution is increasingly described) to the list of “employment skills” for those wishing to migrate. According to information on Immigration NZ’s (INZ) website, prostitution appears on the “skilled employment” list, but not the “skill shortage” list. My research on the sex trade has taken me to a number of countries around the world, including New Zealand. Its sex trade was decriminalised in 2003, and has since been hailed by pro-prostitution campaigners as the gold standard model in regulating prostitution.

The promises from the government – that decriminalisation would result in less violence, regular inspections of brothels and no increase of the sex trade – have not materialised. The opposite has happened. Trafficking of women into New Zealand into legal and illegal brothels is a serious problem, and for every licensed brothel there are, on average, four times the number that operate illegally. Violent attacks on women in the brothels are as common as ever. “The men feel even more entitled when the law tells them it is OK to buy us,” says Sabrinna Valisce, who was prostituted in New Zealand brothels both before and after decriminalisation. Under legalisation, women are still murdered by pimps and punters.

Any government that allows the decriminalisation of pimping and sex-buying sends a message to its citizens that women are vessels for male sexual consumption. If prostitution is “work”, will states create training programmes for girls to perform the “best oral sex” for sex buyers? Instead of including prostitution as a so-called option in its immigration policies, New Zealand should investigate the harms, including sexual violence, that women in prostitution endure.

If prostitution is “sex work”, then by its own logic, rape is merely theft. The inside of a woman’s body should never be viewed as a workplace.

Or as a public utility that everyone needs and deserves “access” to.

Prominent Washington journalists took pains to defend Ms. Sanders

Apr 29th, 2018 5:40 pm | By

Honestly, what a spectacle.

Prominent Washington journalists, meanwhile, took pains to defend Ms. Sanders — earning their own opprobrium from some liberals who asked why reporters were sticking up for an administration that routinely impugns their work.

Not just “liberals.” It’s not a purely left-right issue – as we’ve all pointed out a million times. Trump is a terrible human being, who does bad things to people right out in the open where we can see, all day every day. I don’t think so ill of Republicans as a whole that I think they all insult and belittle anyone who disagrees with them, but Trump does do that. Michelle Wolf is a fluffy bunny compared to Trump.

Andrea Mitchell, the NBC News correspondent, tweeted that an “apology is owed” to the press secretary. Her network colleague Mika Brzezinski wrote that “watching a wife and mother be humiliated on national television for her looks is deplorable.”

Several reporters who cover the White House approached Ms. Sanders in the Hilton ballroom to express sympathy in the immediate aftermath of Ms. Wolf’s monologue. Later, at a windswept after party hosted by NBC News, Ms. Sanders appeared in good spirits as reporters swarmed her. (She even took time to chastise one journalist for asking a question at a news conference that she disliked.)

And Maggie Haberman spoke from a very great height.

What a spectacle.

Apology is owed

Apr 29th, 2018 4:22 pm | By

Apology is owed to @PressSec and others grossly insulted by Michelle Wolf at White House Correspondents Assoc dinner which started with uplifting heartfelt speech by @margarettalev – comedian was worst since Imus insulted Clintons

[typos fixed]

Has Andrea Mitchell ever tweeted that Trump owes apologies?

Has she ever said @PressSec owes apologies for lying to reporters day in and day out?

Asking for a few millions friends.

A display of dissident-silencing weaponry

Apr 29th, 2018 11:18 am | By

Catherine Bennett at the Guardian notes that fantasies of violence against women are not confined to “incels.” Reddit didn’t bother having a policy “to prohibit content that ‘encourages, glorifies, incites or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or group of people'” until last year.

Prior to that, content glorifying Rodger, alongside more stereotypical exhortations to violence, was presumably regarded as just the routine, woman-hating banter some men go in for, in private, and quite unlike the terrorist hate speech designed, in less respectable online communities, to conclude in murder.

At any rate, the relevant participants shortly reconvened in less censorious forums. “I want to murder a femoid,” a contributor shares on a notionally moderated site, whose signatories enjoy debating how they’d murder a woman, after drugging and raping her. One fancies this: “Take a surgical knife, cut open her abdominal area and remove the organs while she’s alive.”

That’s nothing new either; we’ve been seeing it for years.

To many social media users, neither the language nor the sentiments expressed in posts such as the one above, however far along the woman-hating continuum, are likely to look radically out of the ordinary.

Apart from anything, Jack the Ripper, who would now be the toast of angry celibates, had the disembowelling idea 130 years ago. And further demonstrating that misogynistic tropes are by no means the monopoly of resentful male virgins, curators at San Francisco library are currently staging an exhibition featuring a display of dissident-silencing weaponry (axes and bats) and other hate-advertising artefacts.

Photographs of one vitrine, featuring a red bespattered T-shirt reading: “I punch terfs!” (trans-exclusionary radical feminists/women who disagree with me), may have struck a chord with anyone following the current UK debate about the government’s self-ID proposals. To date, threats, from one side, which echo, inescapably, some of those in the pro-Rodger playbook (“die in a fire terf scum”) have yet to generate comparably widespread concern, even after a woman was punched. Her assailant had earlier expressed the wish to “fuck up some terfs”.

Pointing out that threats from the more belligerent trans activists “have yet to generate comparably widespread concern” is the understatement of the decade. The reality is that they get a complete pass, while the woke foke go right on chastising women they call “TERFs” and transphobes.

To agree to use the lads’ pet terminology, is, moreover, to suggest that something distinguishes them from legions of other threatening men expressing a similar wish to control, punish or just silence women and, critically, in similar language. Such as, to non-compliant sexual targets, “choke on my dick”. A glance at Twitter confirms how generously such abuse has been accommodated, even as the repetitive insults and threats indicate gendered hostility to women in general.

If sexism does not explain how rapidly the language employed against dissenting women (including some trans women) in the UK self-ID debate, degenerated, in some quarters, into generic-sounding obscenities (eg, to unco-operative lesbians, “choke on my ladydick”), perhaps it’s because social media has for so long facilitated the delusion that hate speech, as applied to women, is simply part of the landscape.

But why is hate speech aimed at women seen as simply part of the landscape while hate speech aimed at other despised groups is seen as an emergency? Why are there so many weird exceptions of that kind carved out for women? Is it just because women are not a literal minority, because everyone knows lots of women, everyone was born of a woman, everyone had women in authority over them as children? I don’t know. I don’t know, but I’m deeply weary of it.

That’s a terrible way of “celebrating the First Amendment,” guys

Apr 29th, 2018 10:36 am | By

In other words, this thread:

The nearly constant attacks on the press from the president

Apr 29th, 2018 9:44 am | By

Good grief. The comedian at the White House reporters’ dinner last night said some words about Sarah Huckabee Sanders – who lies to those reporters every day for her dishonest bullying fraud of a boss – and people are shocked.

It is an American press tradition that goes back decades: the US president endures a friendly ribbing in front of an audience of journalists, all in the name of charity.

It’s a “tradition” I wasn’t even aware of until a day back in the 90s when I went to a bookstore reading by Christopher Hitchens of No One Left to Lie To. It was the day after that year’s dinner, which he had attended before taking the red eye to Seattle. He was indeed red of eye, and told us frankly he was feeling “pretty seedy” – and he was scathing about the “tradition” of that dinner. The reasons are (or should be) obvious: it’s way too cozy and cuddly for the relationship between power and the press. He was not wrong.

But with Donald Trump skipping the White House Correspondents’ Dinner for the second year running, the honour of attending this year went to his press secretary, Sarah Sanders.

Sanders said the president had encouraged his staff to attend, and that she thought it was “important for us to be here”.

After enduring biting mockery from comedian Michelle Wolf, she looked as though she might be regretting the choice.

Oh, gee, really? That’s so sad. Of course, she works for a guy who dishes out biting mockery from a position of more power than any of his victims have, so maybe that makes it kind of fair to make “biting” jokes about her job performance? Especially given that it really wasn’t all that “biting”? At all?

In a ‘roast’ that drew both laughs and gasps, Wolf started by saying: “We are graced with Sarah’s presence tonight. I have to say I’m a little star struck.”

“I love you as Aunt Lydia in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’,” Wolf told Sanders.

Mean, perhaps, but also fair. I think Sanders’s perpetual scowl is a wretchedly bad look for a press secretary – amateurish, hostile, belligerent – of a piece with Trump’s constant authoritarian attacks on the legitimate news media. That stuff isn’t trivial and it isn’t amusing and it isn’t about Sanders’s appearance; it’s a branch of a relentless attack on the free press. Yes, we do get to push back against it.

Maggie Haberman, White House correspondent for the New York Times (which stopped attending the event in 2008), questioned Wolf’s attack on the press secretary’s appearance.

I didn’t know the Times had stopped attending. Seems wise; see Hitchens above. But Haberman’s tweet…

That @PressSec sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television, was impressive.

Oh come on. PressSec works for the guy who calls Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas,” Chuck Todd “sleepy eyes,” Charles Schumer “Cryin’ Chuck,” and on and on. She works for a “president” who insults people on Twitter every day…not to mention the fact that there was no “intense criticism of her physical appearance”: there was a joke about “the perfect smokey eye.” That’s it. Haberman confirmed that’s what she meant:

The jokes I watched/heard about her eye makeup weren’t making fun of her appearance? What were they?

One, not jokes plural, but one joke; two – a joke about perfect makeup is not making fun of her [immutable] appearance. It’s partly a joke about her presentation, but it’s not an insulting one. I do dislike attacks on people’s looks, and that can include presentation, but I don’t think a reference to perfect eye makeup counts as that.

But either way, being impressed that Sanders didn’t walk out is simply pathetic coming from a journalist. Jim Acosta has it right.

My problem with last night’s dinner is not that we had a comedian who told some nasty jokes. It’s that we did not really address the nearly constant attacks on the press from the president. The dinner should change with the times so we send a strong message to the world. #WHCD

Talk about the elephant in the room…

A lot of women have become detached from reality

Apr 28th, 2018 6:05 pm | By

And then there’s this guy, via David Futrelle at We Hunted the Mammoth:

People make is sound as if the “Incel Rebellion” is a laughing matter and that people don’t understand problem.

The incels are not the problem, but rather they are a symptom that something is very wrong in our society — and unless their legitimate grievances are addressed this could very soon spiral out of control just like what happened in Iraq, Libya and Syria when their respective governments refused to address and deal with the legitimate grievances a portion of their popolation had.

Calling the Incels a bunch of virgins and “frustrated losers with communication skills equal to that of an autistic potato” is oversimplifying the problem yes they are all that but why are they frustrated virgins?

The real issue is that with the advancement of makeup, healthy at any size bullshit, feminism and through social engineering a lot of women have become detached from reality. The reason these Incels arn’t getting laid is because women with a sexual market value equal to theirs use makeup to go from a 3/10 – 7/10 (false marketing in my opinion and should be a punishable offense) to fuck with men above their league.

Ohhhhhhhh of course, that’s it. How could we have been so blind.

But wait a second – if that’s the problem, why don’t men just do the same thing? Slather on the makeup and be an incel no more. Really gob it on; women love that.

So I propose that rather than making Incels look bad we look at the reasons they’ve become this way and what steps we can take to deconflict and reverse things because, let’s be real calling them names, labeling them a terrorist organization etc isn’t going to make the problem go away.

There are several ways I propose we do this:

1) Women are no longer allowed to wear makeup, ie falsely advertise their beauty and hence stop them from banging guys above their league.

2) Women are only allowed to date men with equal sexual market value to them. State-mandated tests should be made and everyone get a sexual-market value card ranging from 1/10 to 10/10, like an ID card.

And the tests would be designed by…drum roll please…

Jordan Peterson? James Damore? Robin Hanson?

Policy options

Apr 28th, 2018 11:54 am | By

Many people are disputing Robin Hanson. He repeats the same weird nonsense.

Questioner: Barring disability, how do incels have less access to sex than anyone else?

Hanson: The same way poor people have less access to yachts and private jets.

Er, no. Sex with others is not the same kind of thing as yachts and private jets. Sex with others is with others; it requires a willing (or willing-if-paid) human being. “Access” to it isn’t like access to the local gym or access to banking services or access to the third floor. Talking of “access” to sex is a deliberately crude way to characterize an interaction between people. It’s like a bad joke from The Big Bang Theory – some friend of Sheldon’s on a first date requesting “access to sex” in exchange for dinner.

“Redistribution” means “change the distribution”. A great many who have commented can’t imagine any policy options to change the distribution of sex access other than rape and slavery, and so accuse me of advocating such things. But a great many other policy options exist.

Well, no doubt it’s possible to generate a great many words that look like policy options, but the reality is that unless we’re talking about extreme authoritarianism, it’s not possible to have “policy options” to change the “distribution” of sex. It’s not possible because it’s so undesirable.

A comprehensive effort to restrict access to the safety net

Apr 28th, 2018 10:59 am | By

This again. Reward the rich and punish the poor.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson proposed far-reaching changes to federal housing subsidies Wednesday, tripling rent for the poorest households and making it easier for housing authorities to impose work requirements.

Carson’s proposals, and other initiatives aimed at low-income Americans receiving federal assistance, amount to a comprehensive effort by the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress to restrict access to the safety net and reduce the levels of assistance for those who do qualify.

In other words, to punish the poor.

The initiative unveiled by Carson Wednesday would raise the rent for tenants in subsidized housing to 35 percent of gross income (or 35 percent of their earnings working 15 hours a week at the federal minimum wage), up from the current standard of 30 percent of adjusted income. About half of the 4.7 million families receiving housing benefits would be affected, HUD officials said.

The cap on rent for the poorest families would rise to about $150 a month — three times higher than the existing $50 ceiling. About 712,000 households would see their monthly rents rise to $150, the officials said.

“There is one inescapable imperative driving this reform effort,” Carson said in a call with reporters. “The current system isn’t working very well. Doing nothing is not an option.”

It’s not working very well because there is nowhere near enough of it, and most poor people are at the mercy of the “free market,” which means high rents or bad housing or both.

After failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act through Congress in 2017, the Trump administration has started allowing states to impose work requirements on residents enrolled in Medicaid — a first in the history of the 53-year health care program.

Three states — Kentucky, Indiana, and Arkansas — have enacted Medicaid work requirements. Seven additional states have applied to do the same.

Kentucky says the changes will lead 95,000 people to lose Medicaid coverage over the next five years.

And I guess Kentucky sees that as a win?

The Trump administration also gave states permission to impose much higher premium payments and kick people off Medicaid for failing to pay. The Obama administration had permitted more limited versions of these policies for states during the expansion of Medicaid, but Trump officials approved changes aimed solely at reducing enrollment.

I hear they’re creating a new agency, the Screw the Poor Department. Rumor has it that Joe Arpaio will be the STP secretary.

Last dandelion

Apr 28th, 2018 10:02 am | By