Notes and Comment Blog


Dashing off in all directions

Mar 31st, 2017 11:29 am | By

Ok my excuse is that yesterday was rushed because I had to do things out in the world, so I didn’t grasp what the news about the identity of the people who gave Nunes the sekrit info meant. Julie Hirschfeld Davis at the Times caused the penny to drop in a piece on Trump’s dopy tweet about Flynn and immunity and “Dems” this morning.

The credibility of the inquiry was thrown into question on Thursday after it emerged that a pair of White House officials helped provide Representative Devin Nunes of California, a Republican and chairman of the Intelligence Committee, with intelligence reports that showed Mr. Trump and his associates were incidentally swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies.

Armed with the information, Mr. Nunes held a news conference and made a public show of going to the White House to hand-deliver information to Mr. Trump, an apparent effort to help the White House explain why the president had taken to Twitter early this month to accuse President Barack Obama of wiretapping his telephone. The chiefs of the F.B.I. and the National Security Agency have both testified that such surveillance never took place.

Ohh – right. The fact that they are White House people means that Nunes’s exciting dash to the White House to brief Donnie was a big fucking charade. White House people gave him the info, therefore Trump already knew about it, therefore Nunes’s “briefing” was a piece of theater.

It was not clear from Mr. Trump’s post on Friday whether he fully appreciated the potential impact on his administration if Mr. Flynn received immunity to participate fully in the investigation. But he has said previously that seeking protection from prosecution is a telltale sign of wrongdoing.

“If you’re not guilty of a crime, what do you need immunity for, right?” he said at a campaign rally in Orlando, Fla., in September. Mr. Trump was referring to Hillary Clinton aides who received immunity during an F.B.I. inquiry into her private email server.

And Flynn led the crowd in chanting “Lock her up!”

The point about Nunes’s charade is in yesterday’s Times article but I was reading too fast (or skimming) and missed it.

The revelation on Thursday that White House officials disclosed the reports, which Mr. Nunes then discussed with Mr. Trump, is likely to fuel criticism that the intelligence chairman has been too eager to do the bidding of the Trump administration while his committee is supposed to be conducting an independent investigation of Russia’s meddling in the presidential election.

It is the latest twist of a bizarre Washington drama that began after dark on March 21, when Mr. Nunes got a call from a person he has described only as a source. The call came as he was riding across town in an Uber car, and he quickly diverted to the White House. The next day, Mr. Nunes gave a hastily arranged news conference before going to brief Mr. Trump on what he had learned the night before from — as it turns out — White House officials.

It has a cartoonish feel, doesn’t it. Ooh, a late night call while riding in an Uber car – oooh a quick diversion to the White House – ooh an emergency press conference followed by an emergency briefing to tell Trump what he already knew.

Image result for road runner



Or we could just let Putin run the board

Mar 31st, 2017 10:18 am | By

The government ethics duo Richard Painter and Norman Eisen on Flynn and immunity:

Instead of categorically rejecting Mr. Flynn’s offer, as the Senate Intelligence Committee appears to have done today, both houses of Congress and federal prosecutors should carefully review Flynn’s proffered testimony and the details of the immunity deal and then make a decision.

This is the latest development in a scandal more frightening than Watergate because it involves a foreign adversary attacking the American political system. We need to get to the bottom of it as soon as possible.

In this case need to know might outweigh need to punish.

This time, the stakes are too high to wait. Immunity should be granted as soon as Congress and prosecutors are persuaded that Mr. Flynn has information that will lead to a criminal case against one or more people at least as important to the alleged wrongdoing as Mr. Flynn may be. The overriding objective must be learning who if anyone in the United States collaborated with the Russians as well as who knew about it, what they knew and when they knew it.

This case is different from ordinary criminal investigations. Finding the truth is even more important than punishing the guilty, because it is critical to our national security and the future of our democracy.

It is also vitally important that decisions about whether to grant Mr. Flynn immunity, and all other decisions about the Trump-Russia investigation, be made only by people who are completely independent of anyone who could possibly be a subject or target of that investigation.

Like Trump, for instance. Like Trump especially.

Congress — particularly the House of Representatives — has also compromised its independence by treating the Trump-Russia investigation as a partisan issue. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, has turned it into a farce by running over to the White House to give and receive information in the dark of night, and even to possibly publicly divulge classified information. He must also recuse himself for purposes of the immunity grant and the investigation as a whole.

Because this scandal involves the hostile acts of a foreign adversary, it is a national security issue. We now have a witness who may help us get to the bottom of it. A prompt and proper grant of immunity can maximize our chances of finding out what happened — and making sure that those who may have betrayed the United States are never in a position to do so again.

Trump continues to act like a child.



No, look over there

Mar 30th, 2017 6:21 pm | By

There’s yet more confirmation that Devin Nunes is the White House’s fluffy fluffy poodle.

A pair of White House officials helped provide Representative Devin Nunes of California, a Republican and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, with the intelligence reports that showed that President Trump and his associates were incidentally swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies.

The revelation on Thursday that White House officials disclosed the reports, which Mr. Nunes then discussed with Mr. Trump, is likely to fuel criticism that the intelligence chairman has been too eager to do the bidding of the Trump administration while his committee is supposed to be conducting an independent investigation of Russia’s meddling in the presidential election.

Why, just because he did the White House’s bidding when it was the White House his committee was investigating? And because he did it all in secret?

Several current American officials identified the White House officials as Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, and Michael Ellis, a lawyer who works on national security issues at the White House Counsel’s Office and was previously counsel to Mr. Nunes’s committee. Though neither has been accused of breaking any laws, they do appear to have sought to use intelligence to advance the political goals of the Trump administration.

Emails! Abortion! Bad hombres! A squirrel!

[E]ven before Thursday, the view among Democrats and even some Republicans was that Mr. Nunes was given access to the intelligence reports to divert attention from the investigations into Russian meddling, and to bolster Mr. Trump’s debunked claims of having been wiretapped.

On both counts, Mr. Nunes appears to have succeeded: The House inquiry into Russian meddling that he is leading has descended into a sideshow since he disclosed the information, and the administration has portrayed his information as vindicating the president’s wiretapping claims.

The failing New York Times! Fake news! Enemy of the people! Big truck!



Because I read it in the Daily Mail

Mar 30th, 2017 6:07 pm | By

Courtesy of latsot:



In return for immunity from prosecution

Mar 30th, 2017 5:33 pm | By

Mike Flynn has a story to tell. He wants to tell it.

Former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn has told the Senate Intelligence Committee he is willing to be interviewed about the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia in return for immunity from prosecution, a Congressional official told NBC News.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Flynn had told the FBI and Congress he was willing to be interviewed in exchange for a grant of immunity.

In a statement tweeted Thursday, Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner, confirmed that discussions had taken place with the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, and said “General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it.”

Never a dull moment.

 



Boys only for Pence

Mar 30th, 2017 5:19 pm | By

Speaking of Mike Pence, and scum, and hatred of women – he has a personal Rule against being alone with women.

The Indianapolis Star reported in 2016:

During his 12 years in Congress, Pence had rules to avoid any infidelity temptations, or even rumors of impropriety. Those included requiring that any aide who had to work late to assist him be male, never dining alone with a woman other than his wife, and not attending an event where alcohol is served unless Karen was there.

So he excludes women from some aspects of working for him; he excludes them as women, because they are women. I believe there are laws against that kind of discrimination. It doesn’t suddenly become cute because he’s a “Christian” and full of christiany scruples.

It’s interesting that Aaron Blake wrote a whole article on the subject without noticing how discriminatory and handicapping to women Pence’s adorable little Rules are. No skin off his nose, so he apparently doesn’t even notice.



More grabbing

Mar 30th, 2017 5:03 pm | By

Those fuckers.

The Senate voted Thursday to let states block federal family planning money from going to Planned Parenthood affiliates and other abortion providers.

Senators approved the Republican legislation 51-50. Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote after two GOP senators, Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, voted with Democrats against the measure.

The Senate measure would roll back a regulation Obama issued shortly before leaving office. It bars state and local governments from denying federal family planning funds to organizations unless they are unable to provide those services. Some states have passed laws preventing abortion providers from receiving the funds.

There is already a ban on using federal funds for abortion except for rare instances.

Democrats assailed the legislation as an attack on women, two months after Trump’s inauguration prompted a women’s march on Washington that mushroomed into anti-Trump demonstrations around the nation.

They’re scum. Scum.



Who is going to be advising him?

Mar 30th, 2017 11:58 am | By

Meanwhile, Trump is leaving executive branch science jobs unfilled, which means he has no science advisers on staff.

Mr. Trump’s first budget proposes slashing $5.8 billion, or 18 percent, from the National Institutes of Health and $900 million, or about 20 percent, from the Energy Department’s Office of Science, which runs basic research at the national laboratories. The Environmental Protection Agency would be cut by 31 percent.

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump issued executive orders that roll back Mr. Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which would have closed hundreds of coal-fired power plants in an effort to curb planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions.

Those actions have been taken without advice or guidance from scientists and engineers inside the White House. The few remaining policy advisers have ceased distributing daily memos on policy issues like climate change, machine-learning regulation, or the ethics of big data collection.

“They are flying blind when it comes to science and tech issues,” said Kumar Garg, who left the Office of Science and Technology Policy as a senior adviser after the election.

And they’re hardly a scientifically literate crowd.

Obama expanded the office from 50 people to 130.

Mr. Obama turned to the science office during crises like the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Africa; the 2011 nuclear spill in Fukushima, Japan; and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

The staff of the science office developed the White House’s recommendations for regulation of commercial drones and driverless cars at the Transportation Department. Last year, the staff produced an attention-grabbing report that raised concerns about the threat that robots posed to employment and that advocated retraining Americans for higher-skilled jobs. The staff also put on the annual White House science fair.

Trump doesn’t understand enough about science to understand how it can be useful to him. He doesn’t even understand enough about it to understand that he doesn’t understand.

Under Mr. Obama, the science and technology office included 19 policy advisers in the environment and energy division, 14 in the national security and international affairs division, nine in the science division and 20 in the technology and innovation division.

“We are all sitting on the edge of our seats hoping nothing catastrophic happens in the world,” said Phil Larson, a former senior science and technology adviser to Mr. Obama. “But if it does, who is going to be advising him?”

Oh I’m sure Steve Bannon will step up.



A tough tone with the rebels

Mar 30th, 2017 11:47 am | By

Today in Trump.

Fight them, and the Dems, and the 65% of the population who think Trump is a trainwreck. That should go well.

The Times attempts to pick its way through the debris field, starting with that tweet.

The post from Mr. Trump did not seem to have been impulsive: Mr. Bannon, who has counseled a tough tone with the rebels, has instructed his staff to more closely monitor the president’s Twitter messages to use them as leverage in negotiations.

Dan Scavino, an aide who controls Mr. Trump’s official White House Twitter account, recently moved into Mr. Bannon’s West Wing office, where he closely monitors social media activity by and about the president, according to two officials.

Minutes after Mr. Trump’s post, his Republican critics took to Twitter to respond, in Trump-ese: “It’s a swamp not a hot tub. We both came here to drain it. #SwampCare polls 17%. Sad!” wrote Representative Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican who often sides with the caucus on votes.

“It didn’t take long for the swamp to drain @realDonaldTrump,” said Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, a member of the Freedom Caucus who has emerged as one of Mr. Trump’s most caustic Republican critics. “No shame, Mr. President. Almost everyone succumbs to the D.C. Establishment.”

Michael Flynn Jr., a conservative activist — and son of Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser — went even further. “Why is @realDonaldTrump siding w/ estab Repubs (which we know r closet Dems) and looney Dems like Pelosi and Schumer? NOT WHAT WE VOTED FOR,” he said on Twitter.

I wonder if Steve Bannon is now worrying that he’s not reactionary enough.

Trump, at any rate, quickly returned to more comfortable territory.

About an hour after he stepped up his criticism of his own party, Mr. Trump trained his fury on a more familiar target, The New York Times, posting on Twitter a link to a New York Post editorial critical of the paper.

“The failing @nytimes has disgraced the media world. Gotten me wrong for two solid years. Change libel laws?” Mr. Trump wrote.

Sure, Donnie. Let’s change the libel laws so that they carve out an exception for a thin-skinned asshole from Queens who can dish it out all day long but can’t take it for one second.



Guest post: He wasn’t quite high enough on the list

Mar 30th, 2017 11:25 am | By

Originally a comment by iknklast on She said people should be embraced for who they are authentically.

In an office where I used to work (as an intern), there was one man who couldn’t quite get hired because he wasn’t quite high enough on the list (it was a state job – he had to reach a standard of merit). The office couldn’t hire him because there were several women who had tested higher than he had, and even without the one point they got for being women, he couldn’t get near their scores. So, they worked and worked until they found some trace somewhere of a Native American ancestor, way back in his background, got him the 10 affirmative action points a Native American could get, and jumped him over enough women on the list to get him the job. So this white male, who had experienced nothing in the way of the crap that Native Americans experience, and nothing in the way of the crap women experience, managed to utilize a law written to maximize the ability of white males to benefit from something intended to assist a different group, and jumped over the bodies of the fallen to seize the job. Smugly, I might add. And the office was totally proud of what they had done.

He had not lived the experience, but he reaped benefits as though he had. And could claim oppression, because now he was “Native American”, having never lived that way, having never lived anything but white male privilege.

Meanwhile, my internship was never converted to full time; in fact, the convolutions they went through to avoid hiring a woman full time (me) were even more impressive than the maneuvers they used to hire a white male and claim him as a minority hire.



Legs

Mar 30th, 2017 10:59 am | By

Sigh.

A Daily Mail front page picturing Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon and asking “who won Legs-it” has been condemned as “moronic” sexism.

The tabloid was scorned for focusing on the prime minister’s and first minister’s legs during talks on Brexit and on a second Scottish referendum.

Former equalities minister Nicky Morgan said it was “deliberately demeaning”.

The Daily Mail responded to the criticism in a statement which said: “For goodness sake, get a life!”

Image result for daily mail legs it

Of course it did. The Daily Mail lives in Trumpworld, where “jokes” that reduce even heads of state, if they have the bad taste to be female, to tits and bums and legs are normal and appropriate. Yeah sure she’s the PM but LOOK SHE HAS LEGS. The Daily Mail lives in Trumpworld, where “jokes” of that kind are hilarious and also a good way to make sure women don’t run away with the idea that they’re fully human and conscious and capable of thought. The Daily Mail lives in Trumpworld, where “jokes” of that kind keep women from getting too confident and above themselves. The Daily Mail lives in Trumpworld, where “jokes” of that kind take women down a peg many times every day.

Under the headline, “Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it!” (sic) and alongside a photo of the two leaders sitting down for talks at a Glasgow hotel, the paper wrote: “It wasn’t quite stilettos at dawn…”

In her sketch, [Sarah] Vine wrote: “What stands out here are the legs – and the vast expanse on show.

“There is no doubt that both these women consider their pins to be the finest weapon in their physical arsenal.”

May’s are “demurely arranged in her customary finishing-school stance”, she observes.

Sturgeon’s “shorter, but undeniably more shapely shanks are altogether more flirty, tantalisingly crossed, with the dominant leg pointing towards her audience”.

She says the Scottish leader’s pose – at a meeting to discuss topics of state including the triggering of Article 50 on Wednesday – is “a direct attempt at seduction”.

Haw haw haw that’s a good one. Sturgeon is trying to seduce…erm…Theresa May? England and Wales? Nigel Farage? I’m a bit lost.

Spoof Daily Mail front page

 

 



She said people should be embraced for who they are authentically

Mar 29th, 2017 6:07 pm | By

The New York Times talked to Rachel Dolezal earlier this month.

In a New York Times report chronicling reactions to the discovery of Ms. Dolezal’s deception, blacks and liberals accused her of an offensive impersonation, part of a long history in which whites appropriated black heritage when it suited them.

Almost 1,500 Times readers responded in comments on that article:

So, if a white person claims to be black to get into Harvard (just like the 1980s movie Soul Man), h/she should be left alone and allowed to continue enjoying the fruits of the deception? — Lanier Y. Chapman, New York

Portraying oneself as black when they’re not is not a crime. However, if one isn’t truthful about one’s ethnicity, what other things may they not be truthful about? — Kurt Pickard, Murfreesboro, Tenn.

In an opinion column, Charles M. Blow of The Times wrote that Ms. Dolezal’s deception was “a spectacular exercise in hubris, narcissism and deflection.”

In an essay on the Op-Ed page, Tamara Winfrey Harris wrote: “Racial identity cannot be fluid as long as the definition of whiteness is fixed. And historically, the path to whiteness has been extremely narrow.”

So race-fluid isn’t and can’t be a thing, it seems.

The Seattle Times reports on a Facebook live she did yesterday:

“Nothing about whiteness describes me,” she said during the half-hour interview.

As she answered questions posed by viewers, her message remained focused and unapologetic.

Race, as understood in Western cultures, is a largely social construct, she said. Yet from the time she was a child, she felt more aligned with black people.

She said people should be embraced for “who they are authentically, and ultimately the quest for self-definition and self-determination is really part of the pursuit of happiness and freedom for us all.”

Nevertheless, the reaction from readers in the newspaper’s online-comments section was fierce and unforgiving.

Because race-fluid is not a thing.

“If black men start identifying as white then they will stop getting shot by police right? No, so transracial is something only white people can do…” with 1,502 likes.

That seems like a fair point.



Boys are the norm, girls the variation

Mar 29th, 2017 3:55 pm | By

Barry Duke at the Freethinker tells us that Haredi Jews in Bnei Brak in Israel have been spared the horror of seeing a female cartoon character on billboards.

Here’s the safe, innocent, not-smutty billboard:

Ultra-Orthodox Jews are spared the sight of a female Smurf

Here’s the filthy lascivious lewd one:

Aaaaaaaaaaaaah! Yellow hair, eyelashes, googly eyes, a small nose! A female! FILTH!!!

According to this report, the original poster for Smurfs: The Lost Village, shows four of the tiny blue humanoids – but one one, a blonde Smurfette, was cropped from the ads in the district by the PR company Mirka’im – Hutzot Zahav.

The company distributing the movie, Forum Film, said that the PR company decided not to hang the original posters in Bnei Brak in order not to harm residents’ sensibilities, adding that it is not accepted practice for images of women to appear on the city’s billboards.

Well…if you say so, but…*cough*…that’s not an image of a woman.

Katha Pollitt in 1991:

Take a look at the kids’ section of your local video store. You’ll find that features starring boys, and usually aimed at them, account for 9 out of 10 offerings. Clicking the television dial one recent week — admittedly not an encyclopedic study — I came across not a single network cartoon or puppet show starring a female. (Nickelodeon, the children’s cable channel, has one of each.) Except for the crudity of the animation and the general air of witlessness and hype, I might as well have been back in my own 1950’s childhood, nibbling Frosted Flakes in front of Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig and the rest of the all-male Warner Brothers lineup.

Contemporary shows are either essentially all-male, like “Garfield,” or are organized on what I call the Smurfette principle: a group of male buddies will be accented by a lone female, stereotypically defined. In the worst cartoons — the ones that blend seamlessly into the animated cereal commercials — the female is usually a little-sister type, a bunny in a pink dress and hair ribbons who tags along with the adventurous bears and badgers. But the Smurfette principle rules the more carefully made shows, too. Thus, Kanga, the only female in “Winnie-the-Pooh,” is a mother. Piggy, of “Muppet Babies,” is a pint-size version of Miss Piggy, the camp glamour queen of the Muppet movies. April, of the wildly popular “Teen-Age Mutant Ninja Turtles,” functions as a girl Friday to a quartet of male superheroes. The message is clear. Boys are the norm, girls the variation; boys are central, girls peripheral; boys are individuals, girls types. Boys define the group, its story and its code of values. Girls exist only in relation to boys.

1991. Very little has changed.



Thanks for typing

Mar 29th, 2017 12:03 pm | By

Ah the typing wife. I remember those.

Bruce Holsinger is a novelist and English professor at the University of Virginia.

Holsinger and some colleagues were recently discussing how often the wives of male academics do significant work for which they are rarely given proper credit.

This reminded Holsinger of all the times he has read male authors thanking their wives for typing up manuscripts in the acknowledgments of their books. Curious to see how widespread the practice was, Holsinger did a quick search on Google Books and found dozens of “eye-opening” examples that he started sharing on Twitter with the hashtag #ThanksForTyping.

“The response was immediate and overwhelming,” Holsinger said. “It’s turned into a lively and mind-bending exchange.”

The article includes many examples.

Holsinger said many people have engaged in the hashtag to discuss “the politics of academic labor, the crucial role of women as collaborators and unacknowledged co-authors of academic work.”

Holsinger noted that many people have studied and written about this phenomenon already, but the hashtag kicked off a big public conversation.

I remember the jolt of fury I felt on reading one example of this years ago, in a collection of essays on I’m not sure what – the decline of reading, the invasion of technology, some such thing. The essay, “Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer,” was by Wendell Berry. It gets right to the point.

Like almost everybody else, I am hooked to the energy corporations, which I do not admire. I hope to become less hooked to them. In my work, I try to be as little hooked to them as possible. As a farmer, I do almost all of my work with horses. As a writer, I work with a pencil or a pen and a piece of paper.

My wife types my work on a Royal standard typewriter bought new in 1956 and as good now as it was then. As she types, she sees things that are wrong and marks them with small checks in the margins. She is my best critic because she is the one most familiar with my habitual errors and weaknesses. She also understands, sometimes better than I do, what ought to be said. We have, I think, a literary cottage industry that works well and pleasantly. I do not see anything wrong with it.

I still remember my feeling of disbelief. It was long before blogging was a thing, let alone Facebook, so I had no way to tell an eager world about my disbelief. But now I do! With apparently total lack of self-consciousness, the guy congratulates himself on writing with a pen, and then says his wife soils herself with the beast technology in order to put his writing into a medium acceptable to editors.

What would a computer cost me? More money, for one thing, than I can afford, and more than I wish to pay to people whom I do not admire. But the cost would not be just monetary. It is well understood that technological innovation always requires the discarding of the “old model”—the “old model” in this case being not just our old Royal standard. but my wife, my critic, closest reader, my fellow worker. Thus (and I think this is typical of present-day technological innovation). what would be superseded would be not only something, but somebody. In order to be technologically up-to-date as a writer, I would have to sacrifice an association that I am dependent upon and that I treasure.

Did his wife get credit as his co-author? Of course not. Does he even bother to name her? Of course not. Did he really treat her as his “fellow worker” as opposed to his secretary? Of course not.

Fortunately this happened:

After the foregoing essay, first published in the New England Review and Bread Loaf Quarterly, was reprinted in Harper’s, the Harper’s editors published the following letters in response and permitted me a reply. W.B.

I wasn’t the only one who saw it.

Wendell Berry provides writers enslaved by the computer with a handy alternative: Wife—a low-tech energy-saving device. Drop a pile of handwritten notes on Wife and you get back a finished manuscript, edited while it was typed. What computer can do that? Wife meets all of Berry’s uncompromising standards for technological innovation: she’s cheap, repairable near home, and good for the family structure.
Best of all, Wife is politically correct because she breaks a writer’s “direct dependence on strip-mined coal.”
History teaches us that Wife can also be used to beat rugs and wash clothes by hand, thus eliminating the need for the vacuum cleaner and washing machine, two more nasty machines that threaten the act of writing.

Gordon Inkeles Miranda, Calif.

The value of a computer to a writer is that it is a tool not for generating ideas but for typing and editing words. It is cheaper than a secretary (or a wife!) and arguably more fuel-efficient. And it enables spouses who are not inclined to provide free labor more time to concentrate on their own work.
We should support alternatives both to coal-generated electricity and to IBM-style technocracy. But I am reluctant to entertain alternatives that presuppose the traditional subservience of one class to another. Let the PCs come and the wives and servants go seek more meaningful work.

Toby Koosman Knoxville, Tenn.

Berry was indignant.

I am also surprised by the meanness with which two of these writers refer to my wife. In order to imply that I am a tyrant, they suggest by both direct statement and innuendo that she is subservient, characterless, and stupid—a mere “device” easily forced to provide meaningless “free labor.” I understand that it is impossible to make an adequate public defense of one’s private life, and so l will only point out that there are a number of kinder possibilities that my critics have disdained to imagine: that my wife may do this work because she wants to and likes to; that she may find some use and some meaning in it; that she may not work for nothing. These gentlemen obviously think themselves feminists of the most correct and principled sort, and yet they do not hesitate to stereotype and insult, on the basis of one fact, a woman they do not know. They are audacious and irresponsible gossips .

Zoooom – the point goes rocketing by. They weren’t saying any of that about his wife, they were saying it about the way Berry wrote about her – the clueless, entitled, smug way he wrote about her.



Guest post: People like being angry at things

Mar 29th, 2017 11:39 am | By

Originally a comment by Claire on They’ve done it.

As an expat Brit, I was in two minds whether to vote in the referendum. After all, it seemed a bit cheeky to insist on a voice on it when I’d no intention of returning to the UK. But the rhetoric changed my mind. I quickly became very concerned that the Brexit campaign were willing to lie brazenly and hand-wave any demands for details on how any number of important structural changes would be managed. So I got registered and voted, for my nephews and nieces too young to vote, for my other family members who’s lives and job prospects depended on us remaining in the EU. It was not enough, but I was glad in the end that I had voted, because I would have felt so much worse if I had not.

As it is, I’m angry and scared about what’s happening to my home country. A portion of the population has always been given to Little Englandism and rosy-colored visions of a Britain that was not nearly as good as they make out (unless you were a well-off white man) and a nostalgia for a bygone Empire that is as grotesque as it is anachronistic. But I’d never before realized how widespread the attitude was.

I’m not starry-eyed about the EU, in fact I’ve been sharply critical of how they’ve dealt with problems such as the financial difficulties in Greece or the generally poor transparency of many of its institutions. But fixing those problems was achievable if Britain had only been willing to try and effect change. We weren’t the only country to want to see reform and could have sought partners to modernize the EU in a way that reflected the 21st century world.

The EU was built in part in the feverish hangover of WWII. We’d been through two unimaginably large and utterly preventable human catastrophes before we’d even made it halfway through the century. The EU came out of that desire not to descend into the madness a third time. But it brought all kinds of benefits none of us could have anticipated. The Remain campaign did not communicate these very effectively, and I think people like being angry at things more than they like respecting dull plodding things like diplomacy and technocratic progress. But working conditions for workers, especially at the low end of the income scale, were much improved by European laws and directives. All those people who voted for Brexit overwhelmingly came from those most likely to be hurt by the disappearance of those regulations.

The EU will survive our exit, I’m sure. We will be the poorer for it, and I don’t think it’s egotistical to say I think that we did make important contributions to the European project that will be missed in the future. But ultimately, leaving will hurt us way more.



Donnie is watching

Mar 29th, 2017 10:31 am | By

Spicey is shocked, shocked, that people think there was anything wrong with the way he talked to April Ryan yesterday. Or, more likely, he’s pretending to be shocked. They want to normalize asshole behavior so that Trump won’t look so glaringly abnormal and psychopathic.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer responded to accusations of sexism and racism after he repeatedly told senior journalist April Ryan to stop shaking her head during Tuesday’s press briefing.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized Spicer’s actions Tuesday, labeling the incident an example of the kind of sexism that women encounter every day. But Spicer said that Ryan was a tough reporter and he was “astonished” at the accusation. He insisted that he treats the White House correspondent no different than male colleagues in the briefing room.

But of course the way he talks to reporters is, again, not normal. He does it because Trump tells him to, and Trump watches the press briefings. That itself is not normal. Andrew Marantz in the March 20 New Yorker:

In past Administrations, the President has usually been too busy with matters of state to hang on his press secretary’s every word. This is one of the main reasons that press briefings exist. In the nineteenth century, most Presidents briefed reporters themselves, on an infrequent, ad-hoc basis. By the nineteen-twenties, doling out information had become a full-time job, and Herbert Hoover became the first President to hire a secretary whose responsibilities were solely press-related.

President Trump, by most accounts, is rarely too busy to watch TV, especially when he is the topic. “Look at his daily schedule, and you’ll notice how few events are held between 1 and 2 p.m.,” the radio correspondent told me. This is the hour during which Spicer almost always conducts his briefings. The correspondent continued, “I sometimes feel like I’m too busy to go to the briefings, and going to them is my job. The thought that the President of the United States might take the time to sit through an entire briefing, much less all of them, is, frankly, mind-boggling.” Another correspondent pointed out how often press aides deliver notes to Spicer while he’s at the lectern, and how obediently Spicer seems to respond to the notes’ directives, cutting a response short or abruptly ending a briefing. The reigning theory is that the notes are transcribed messages from the President, watching live from elsewhere in the building.

None of this is normal.



They’ve done it

Mar 29th, 2017 7:01 am | By

They’ve delivered the letter.

Theresa May has signed the letter that will formally begin the UK’s departure from the European Union.

Giving official notice under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, it will be delivered to European Council president Donald Tusk later.

In a statement in the Commons, the prime minister will then tell MPs this marks “the moment for the country to come together”.

And pretend it wasn’t a huge mistake.



Stop shaking your head

Mar 28th, 2017 11:43 am | By

Trump administration PR:

White House press secretary Sean Spicer got into a heated exchange with American Urban Radio Networks White House correspondent April Ryan during Tuesday’s press briefing, telling the reporter to “stop shaking your head” and to “report the facts.”

Well hey! At least he didn’t ask her to set up a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus for him.

She asked him what the admin was doing to repair its image, and he had a meltdown.

“If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that’s a Russian connection,” he continued.

“I appreciate your agenda here,” he added. “Hold on. At some point, report the facts!”

Spicer said Republicans and Democrats alike have claimed there is not evidence that points to the Trump team’s collusion with Russia in election meddling.

“I’m sorry that that disgusts you,” Spicer said to Ryan. “You’re shaking your head.”

“Understand this, at some point, the facts are what they are,” he said. “And every single person who’s been briefed on this situation have all come to the same conclusion. At some point, April, you’re going to have to take ‘no’ for an answer with respect to whether or not there was collusion.”

Ryan went back to her original question, which was how does the administration hope to change the perception of the White House. Spicer said it would keep “doing everything we are doing” with regards to carrying out the Trump agenda.

The reporter then followed up with a question about the president meeting with former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, whom she pointed out Trump called a “b[itch]” in 2006 and did not support Trump in the run up to the general election.

Spicer, dismayed, went back to lambasting Ryan.

“April, hold on, it seems like you’re hell bent on trying to make sure that whatever image you want to tell about this White House stays,” he said, later adding, “Stop shaking your head.”

Well hey! At least he didn’t call her a bitch.



Something that just happens

Mar 28th, 2017 11:23 am | By

Apparently groping schoolgirls is a big thing on Tokyo subway trains.

Tamaka Ogawa was about 10 years old when she was sexually assaulted for the first time. It was a public holiday and she was on the subway. A man standing behind her pulled down the band of her culottes and underwear, touched her bare bottom, then pressed himself against her. She recalls feeling shocked and physically sickened. When she reached home, she repeatedly washed the spot where he had pressed himself against her, although she was conscious of not spending too long in the toilet, in case her family noticed that something was wrong.

Apparently she didn’t feel able to tell her family it had happened, which is sad.

A few years later it became a regular thing.

the groping and sexual assaults – men would often stick their hands inside her underwear – became a regular occurrence as she made her way to or from school in her uniform. Each time, she would run away, unsure of what to do.

“I thought of myself as a child,” she reflects. “I could not understand that adults were excited by touching me.”

It would be improper to express anger towards an adult, she thought, and she worried about attracting attention. Besides, her parents had never spoken to her about such things and how she ought to handle them.

She recalls one incident particularly clearly. She was about 15 and on her way to school. A man began to touch her, putting his hand inside her underwear. He was aggressive and it hurt, she remembers. When the train stopped, she got off. But he grabbed her hand and told her: “Follow me.” Ogawa ran away. She believes that people saw what was going on, but nobody helped.

How do people – men – manage to give themselves permission to do things like that? Shoving your hand into the underwear of a child on the subway? The very thought of it makes me flinch.

[E]xperts say Japanese society remains willfully oblivious or unaware of how widespread this problem is and how often girls are assaulted.

Hiroko Goto, a feminist, professor of criminal law at Chiba University and vice president of Japan-headquartered NGO Human Rights Now, believes many people do not consider groping to be a crime. “[For] society at large, it’s not a big problem; that’s the kind of double standard [between] the victims’ viewpoint and the social viewpoint.”

In Ogawa’s opinion, society normalises groping as something that just happens.

That’s interesting, given the strong emphasis on politeness and formality in Japanese culture. There are elaborate rules on how to address people, but grown men assaulting girls on the subway is just ho hum, everybody does it.

According to Ogawa, groping-related violations are too often downplayed by society as a “nuisance”. It was only when she started writing about these crimes, she says, that she discovered that what she had experienced was sexual assault. “What was shocking me the most is that I didn’t realise that I was experiencing indecent assault,” Ogawa says.

Japanese society focuses on telling women to be careful, how to dress and to travel in women-only carriages – which are mainly available during peak hours on weekday mornings – Ogawa says. “They are telling women to protect themselves, to be careful, but no one tells the men not to do it,” she says.

Even the rail authorities’ anti-groping posters are too cute and miss the point, Ogawa argues.

Yeah cuteness isn’t the right response.



Client confidences

Mar 28th, 2017 9:40 am | By

The Trump gang tried to stop Sally Yates testifying.

According to letters The Post reviewed, the Justice Department notified Yates earlier this month that the administration considers a great deal of her possible testimony to be barred from discussion in a congressional hearing because the topics are covered by the presidential communication privilege.

Yates and other former intelligence officials had been asked to testify before the House Intelligence Committee this week, a hearing that was abruptly canceled by the panel’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).

Who worked on Trump’s transition team. That Devin Nunes.

Yates and another witness at the planned hearing, former CIA director John Brennan, had made clear to government officials by Thursday that their testimony to the committee probably would contradict some statements that White House officials had made, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The following day, when Yates’s lawyer sent a letter to the White House indicating that she still wanted to testify, the hearing was canceled.

Sleazy enough yet?

In a March 23 letter to Acting Assistant Attorney General Samuel Ramer, Yates’s attorney David O’Neil described the government’s position. O’Neil, who declined to comment, noted in the letter that Yates is willing to testify, and that she will avoid discussing classified information and details that could compromise investigations. The correspondence was later shared with the Intelligence Committee.

“The Department of Justice has advised that it believes there are further constraints on the testimony Ms. Yates may provide at the [Intelligence Committee] hearing. Generally, we understand that the department takes the position that all information Ms. Yates received or actions she took in her capacity as Deputy Attorney General and acting Attorney General are client confidences that she may not disclose absent written consent of the department,’’ the lawyer wrote.

Client confidences. So they’re arguing that the Deputy Attorney General was Trump’s personal lawyer and Trump and his administration were her clients? Is that normal? Is that an accepted principle, that US AGs are presidents’ lawyers and presidents are the clients of AGs? It sounds bizarre as hell to me.

“We believe that the department’s position in this regard is overbroad, incorrect, and inconsistent with the department’s historical approach to the congressional testimony of current and former officials,’’ the letter continues. “In particular, we believe that Ms. Yates should not be obligated to refuse to provide non-classified facts about the department’s notification to the White House of concerns about the conduct of a senior official. Requiring Ms. Yates to refuse to provide such information is particularly untenable given that multiple senior administration officials have publicly described the same events.’’

So is the Secretary of Defense Trump’s personal bodyguard?