Notes and Comment Blog


Living in opposition to the zeitgeist is hard

Dec 28th, 2016 11:58 am | By

Michelle Goldberg is wondering if maybe men will always rule. Yeah same here.

For the last couple of years, feminism has been both ubiquitous and improbably glamorous, its pop culture currency symbolized by Beyoncé silhouetted before a giant glowing FEMINIST sign at the 2014 Video Music Awards. On television, women went from ornaments to protagonists, starring in a slew of raunchy comedies in which men were often afterthoughts.

Erm no. That’s overstating it. The fact (if it is a fact) that there are a number of such comedies doesn’t demonstrate that women have become protagonists across the board. They haven’t.

But that’s a detail. Her larger point is that it’s not looking good. She’s right about that.

Before Nov. 8, it looked as if the arc of history was bending toward women.

Trump’s victory has obliterated this narrative. In many ways it was a fluke; had a few thousand votes in a few Rust Belt states gone another way, we’d be talking about Clinton’s popular vote landslide and the decisive defeat of Trumpian reaction. However freakishly contingent his triumph, it forecloses the future feminists imagined at least for a long while. We’re going be blown backward so far that this irredeemably shitty year may someday look like a lost feminist golden age. The very idea that women are equal citizens, that barriers to their full human flourishing should be identified and removed, is now up for grabs. A pastor warming up the crowd at a post-election Trump rally in Louisiana promised that with Trump in office, the White House would be a place “where men know who men are, women know who women are.” The massive power of the American state is about to be marshaled to put women in their place.

And maybe that will result in a feminism that is more focused and ferocious than ever before. That would be good.

Or, abortion rights could be lost.

There is a particular insult at the thought of a sybarite like Trump, who still won’t say whether he’s ever paid for an abortion himself, imposing a regime of forced birth on American women. When and if Trump strips us of bodily autonomy, there won’t be any illusions that he’s doing it to protect life or the family or sexual morality. It will be because he has power, and women’s hopes and plans for their own lives don’t matter to him at all.

And more than that: it will be because he likes using his power to harm and damage and injure other people.

If a new backlash comes, some women will embrace it. The uphill struggle for freedom and equality can be enervating. Many women find comfort and consolation in being provided for by a man—or in the dream of being provided for by a man—and are sick of feminists making them feel guilty. Others know how to negotiate the male power structure without challenging it, like Ivanka Trump. In a time of backlash, women will redouble their efforts to accommodate men, and the culture will celebrate their choice in making that accommodation. The backlash, wrote Faludi, “manipulates a system of rewards and punishments, elevating women who follow its rules, isolating those who don’t.”

People who are committed to gender equality will try to salvage what they can of the last 40 years of progress. They’ll try to maintain their morale, but living in total opposition to the zeitgeist is hard. In the defining drama of our time, a woman who was the most qualified person ever to run for president lost to a man who was the least. That can’t help but reverberate through the culture, changing our sense of what is possible for women. My abiding fear is that the idea of women running the world will start to seem like an innocent, dated dream, akin to communes, lesbian separatism, and spelling “women” as “womyn.” Someday I’ll tell my daughter about the time we all thought the future was female. I hope she doesn’t laugh at our naïveté.

Well, maybe global warming will get there first.



Guest post: No respectable charity would ever make that ludicrous claim

Dec 28th, 2016 11:13 am | By

Originally a comment by Josh Spokes on More lies.

I realize this is probably obvious to many, but I want to point out another way in which he’s not only lying but doesn’t even know how to lie convincingly about this.

I’m the executive at a nonprofit charity. The kind with the IRS tax designation 501(c)(3). This is this the kind of charity where a donor can deduct the contribution from her taxes. Think the Red Cross, your local food pantry, animal shelter, educational nonprofit. Also the same designation as charities like those run by Trump or Hillary Clinton. It’s all the same beast for tax purposes:

1. No charity in the world sends 100 percent of its money to other charities, nor does it spend 100 percent of its money “on the mission.” That is not objectively possible.

2. Why? Because humans have to be paid to carry out the mission. This is why charities have staff. Only the tiniest charitable groups of maybe a few hundred or thousand active donors run entirely on volunteer support.

3. Even those few charities that are all volunteer have costs. The minute a volunteer puts a first class stamp on an envelope to send a donor a thank you letter, that’s a percentage of the charity’s money that it spent on something other than the core mission. It’s an administrative expense.

Again, it’s not possible for any charity under any circumstances to have no overhead costs.

4. No respectable charity would ever make that ludicrous claim. First because it’s not true, and second because it’s not believable. We in the nonprofit sector work hard to spend as much as we can directly on the mission and as little as possible on “administration.” But that itself is a game anyway, since the mission happens through the administrative expense of paying professionals to carry it out.



Helping girls combat the shame

Dec 28th, 2016 8:49 am | By

One thing people can do to promote freedom and equal rights for girls and women is destigmatize menstruation. Behold one such effort:

This comic book is helping girls combat the shame around periods in India.

Menstruation is still a taboo topic in the country, with millions of girls having no knowledge of the process until it happens to them.

It’s seen as a creepy disgusting contaminant. In reality it’s discarded nutrients for a future human, which you would think would be sacred rather than disgusting.



More lies

Dec 28th, 2016 8:13 am | By

Trump’s been telling porkies again, or still – these about his charitable donations. It’s the familiar pattern: he brags about how great he is, reporters ask questions, it turns out he was telling lies.

Even the most unsparing critic of the news media cannot deny the tremendous effort put forth by Washington Post reporter David A. Fahrenthold as he spent months doggedly trying to document all of Donald Trump’s donations to charity. The task wasn’t easy—the candidate refused to release his tax returns—so Fahrenthold probed records going back decades, repeatedly questioned the Trump campaign, and contacted more than 400 nonprofit organizations while showing his work.

They show us a page from his notes – a list of nonprofits with a big NEVER beside nearly all of them. There are some no comments and some blanks. The big dollar amounts must be…on some other page.

This transparently conducted reporting yielded much information. The public learned that the Donald J. Trump Foundation once spent $20,000 on a portrait of Donald Trump; that $258,000 from his charitable foundation was used to settle legal problems; that he misled the audience of The Celebrity Apprentice about his giving.

He’s given away some money, but far less than he claims. He’s used some “donations” to his own advantage, like the one to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. He hides everything.

Records show Trump has given nothing to his foundation since 2008. Trump and his staff are adamant that he has given away millions privately, off the foundation’s books. Trump won’t release his tax returns, which would confirm such gifts, and his staff won’t supply details.

“There’s no way for you to know or understand,” Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks told BuzzFeed recently.

And yet, Conor Friedersdorf points out, he goes on bragging anyway.

I gave millions of dollars to DJT Foundation, raised or recieved millions more, ALL of which is given to charity, and media won’t report!

The DJT Foundation, unlike most foundations, never paid fees, rent, salaries or any expenses. 100% of money goes to wonderful charities!

He’s such a shameless liar.



A creeping authoritarianism

Dec 27th, 2016 8:08 am | By

Uri Friedman at the Atlantic talks to Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, about the Russian hack and the abject failure to do anything about it.

Well before the White House or U.S. intelligence agencies publicly blamed the Russian government for interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, two members of Congress did. Back in September, Adam Schiff, the leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, and Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, released a statement accusing Russian intelligence agencies of hacking Democratic Party institutions. “Americans will not stand for any foreign government trying to influence our election,” they declared.

Ha. If only that had been true. Many Americans were and are delighted.

Over 40 percent of Americans now say they’re not especially bothered by reports of hackers working with the Russian government to influence the U.S. election; most Democrats say they’re bothered by the interference, while most Republicans say they aren’t. President Obama waited until after the election to personally detail Russia’s involvement in the hacks and leaks; President-elect Trump hasn’t even acknowledged that involvement.

Well he wouldn’t, would he. He’s THE KING; he doesn’t need any help from Russia.

Schiff is refusing to move on. The future of liberal democracy in the United States and around the world is at stake, he told me, and the U.S. government is rapidly running out of time to respond to the threat (Schiff says he has no confidence that Trump will punish Russia over its role in the election). In Trump’s denial of Russian meddling, Schiff sees a “president-elect who cannot accept any facts that diminish any of his achievements, no matter how well-established the facts are.” But Schiff is also critical of Obama, whose “excess of caution” ended up “inviting too much Russian interference.” And he’s critical of his own party. “Democrats failed to persuade the American people why they should care” about Russia’s intervention, he said.

Friedman interviewed Schiff.

Adam Schiff: I do agree with the assessment that the combination of cyber hacking, dumping of information, dumping of potentially forged information in the future, the propagation of fake-news stories—all of these “active measures” by Russia to interfere in our elections, to interfere in European elections—is a game-changer. It is of phenomenal importance and it’s a grave danger to the country. It’s a grave danger to liberal democracy, period. We’ve seen a creeping authoritarianism around the world, and this has been enabled by the cyber revolution. What we saw the Russians do in our presidential election was just utterly unprecedented in its scope and in its impact.

Putin helped another authoritarian win power. I think we still haven’t taken in just how terrible this is.

What made it so powerful was that we had the unusual specter of a major party and its nominee giving the Russians deniability. In any other election in modern U.S. history, had Russia been interfering in the political process in a way that benefitted one candidate, you would have had both candidates repudiating it. Neither would want to be associated with Russia, neither would want to be the beneficiary of stolen information. But here you had, in Donald Trump, someone who was willing, on the one hand, to egg on the Russians to hack more, but on the other to give them deniability—a feat of both mental and rhetorical gymnastics that few could pull off. But he did.

The reason he could pull it off when few others could is not because of his supreme skill, but because of his supreme lack of a conscience. He can lie and cheat like a psychopath, because there’s nothing inside him that resists.

They talk about why Obama didn’t go public with what they knew about the hacking until after the election, and what a bad decision that was. Then they talk about the fact that Trump dismisses the whole thing, saying it’s just Democrats trying to thwart him.

It’s not unlike the issue that Donald Trump has with losing the popular vote. The two most disturbing things I’ve seen since the election by the president-elect were, first, his claim that millions of illegal immigrants voted; otherwise he would have won the popular vote. That’s pure fiction. For someone who is about to be our president to publish that falsity is alarming. What followed close on the heels of that was the unwillingness to accept that the Russians had meddled in a way that helped him. And so he has to deny the underlying facts.

Both of those things tell me this is a president-elect who cannot accept any facts that diminish any of his achievements, no matter how well-established the facts are. That worries me a great deal for when he becomes president. Does that mean that he is going to ignore intelligence that contradicts his personal views because [it’s] less beneficial to him? That is a very dangerous trait to have in a commander in chief.

Yes, it is, but that’s Trump. He’s a liar and a narcissist. That’s not what you want in a commander in chief.



Many attributed the oversight to gender bias

Dec 27th, 2016 7:03 am | By

The Washington Post on Vera Rubin:

Dr. Rubin’s groundbreaking discoveries, made primarily with physicist W. Kent Ford, have revolutionized the way scientists observe, measure and understand the universe.

The concept of “dark matter,” an unknown substance among stars in distant galaxies, had existed since the 1930s, but it was not proved until Dr. Rubin’s studies with Ford in the 1970s. It is considered one of the most significant and fundamental advances in astronomy during the 20th century.

“The existence of dark matter has utterly revolutionized our concept of the universe and our entire field,” University of Washington astronomer Emily Levesque told Astronomy magazine this year. “The ongoing effort to understand the role of dark matter has basically spawned entire subfields within astrophysics and particle physics.”

Dr. Rubin, who spent most of her career at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, continued to make new discoveries — including of previously unknown galaxies — into the 21st century. For years she was considered a leading contender for the Nobel Prize, but the award never came. Many attributed the oversight to gender bias among male scientists and prize committees.

The last woman to win a Nobel Prize in physics was Maria Goeppert Mayer, who shared the 1963 prize for her work on atomic structure. The only other woman to win a Nobel in physics was Marie Curie in 1903.

“Alfred Nobel’s will describes the physics prize as recognizing ‘the most important discovery’ within the field of physics,” Levesque told Astronomy magazine. “If dark matter doesn’t fit that description, I don’t know what does.”

Sometimes I get very fed up with this filter that prevents people from recognizing women’s achievements.

Dr. Rubin peered into the cosmos and examined the rotation of more than 200 galaxies. Among other findings, she determined that stars orbiting on the outer edges of galaxies moved at the same speed as those near the interior.

The discovery defied the accepted norms of astronomy, which held that the far-flung stars should move more slowly. To account for the uniform speeds, Dr. Rubin concluded that the distant regions of galaxies contained considerable amounts of a dense, unseen mass, or dark matter, which affected everything from gravitational pull to the shape of galaxies to how stars move in relation to one another.

Dark matter has not been directly observed, and its precise composition remains unknown, but scientists think it constitutes about 84 percent of the cosmos.

“So important is this dark matter to our understanding of the size, shape, and ultimate fate of the universe,” Dr. Rubin wrote in Scientific American in 1998, “that the search for it will very likely dominate astronomy for the next few decades.”

I hope women will be allowed to participate.



Where did all the women go?

Dec 26th, 2016 5:24 pm | By

Susan Cox argues that lesbian spaces are still needed.

We’re told we live in an era of greater acceptance of homosexuality, yet the loss of hard-won lesbian spaces and events is a growing trend. San Francisco, known as one of the most prominent LGBT communities in the world, doesn’t have a single lesbian bar, and New York City’s lesbian spaces have dwindled severely. There are no explicitly lesbian bars in Vancouver (Lick — once the city’s only lesbian bar — closed in 2011), though there are a number of bars for gay men and “queer nights” that take place within various venues.

Well you see gay men need to have bars but lesbians don’t. Lesbians are women, and women are no fun. Women would rather be at home scrubbing the sink than out partying, so lesbian bars just aren’t necessary. Right?

This “progress” explanation not only falls flat because stigma around lesbianism remains, but because it fails to account for the fact that spaces for gay males have remained largely intact. In my hometown of Philadelphia, for example, a peek at any “gayborhood” calendar offers a plethora of events catering to gay men, including: gay bingo, gaybill (musical theater night), gay burlesque roulette, free country line dancing, gay antiques show, and a best gay mac and cheese contest.

By contrast, the latest Phillesbian Fall Guide lists events such as: a beer festival… No, not a lesbian beer festival — just a regular one. In fact, there’s not a single explicitly lesbian event in the guide (unless a Tegan and Sara concert counts).

The last lesbian bar in Philadelphia, Sisters, closed in 2013, turning the country’s first gayborhood into a mostly male affair. So although rainbows proudly decorate street signs and crosswalks, there’s little real diversity to be found.

Well it’s natural. It’s how god intended it. Men are for the world and women are for the home, you know. Men get to go out, and women get to stay home. Besides, women are exclusionary.

It seems the burden of “queering” “identity” always falls on women in particular. For example, why is it usually women’s bathrooms that are turned into “all-gender”/“inclusive” bathrooms, while men’s rooms remain unchanged? Why are lesbian events accused of bigotry and bullied out of existence, while those for gay males continue on their merry way?

Feminist writer Sarah Ditum points out that it is primarily women’s spaces and organizations, “not services intended for men,” that are attacked for being “non-inclusive.” She names “rape crisis centres (Vancouver Rape Relief), abortion rights campaigns (A Night of a Thousand Vaginas), and women-only music festivals (Michfest)” as just a few examples. “Gentleman’s clubs — those all-male bastions of the Establishment — have not been targeted for protests,” Ditum writes.

It appears that even though the project of “queering” is, we’re told, about going beyond gender, the movement disproportionately affects females in negative ways.

That’s because everybody hates women.



Observations

Dec 26th, 2016 5:01 pm | By

Jennifer Ouellette remembers Vera Rubin:

Astronomy lost a great scientist today.

Image may contain: 1 person, text



Twitter nuclear war

Dec 26th, 2016 4:24 pm | By

Is Trump’s use of Twitter to air his thoughts about nuclear weapons at all dangerous? Yes it is. Greg Sargent at the Washington Post talked to some experts on the subject and they said yes: dangerous is what it is.

As we prepare for President Trump to take near-unchecked control of our nuclear machinery, his nuclear Tweet is best seen as a window into his temperament. Trump still does not appreciate that every word he utters carries tremendous weight and could have dramatic, untold, far-reaching, unpredictable consequences — something that is especially true in the nuclear arena. Or, perhaps worse, Trump may be entirely indifferent to this fact.

It’s probably both. He doesn’t fully grasp it, because he doesn’t think and because he’s stupid, and he doesn’t care in any case, because he’s a sadistic bully drunk on his own conceit.

Arms control experts I spoke with suggested that Trump’s willingness to Tweet about nuclear weapons raises the possibility of Trump doing the same as president — and more to the point, the possibility of him doing so amid some species of international crisis or escalation.

Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear non-proliferation expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, points out that in peacetime, any belligerent Trump Tweet about nuclear weapons might not appear as alarming, simply because “confirmation bias” might lead key actors not to interpret it in its most frightening light at that moment. Amid rising international tensions, though, that confirmation bias might work in the other direction, he says.

The North Koreans, for instance.

Trump’s Tweet suggests an inability to appreciate that Twitter is far too blunt instrument to handle dangerously sensitive, complex international challenges, and indeed could lead to misunderstandings — and potential catastrophe.

As a potential example, Lewis points out that earlier this year, Trump said he would handle the North Korean nuclear threat by getting China to make North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “disappear.” Lewis notes that imprecise language in an errant, bellicose Trump Tweet — particularly amid rising tensions — could conceivably amount to an “accidental assassination threat.”

“Imagine if the North Koreans are looking for any signs that we’re about to attack as their signal that they have to go,” says Lewis, adding that if Trump “says the wrong thing” and “gives the impression that we’re about to act,” the North Koreans might “decide not to wait around to find out if that’s true or not,” and might hit “targets throughout South Korea and Japan where U.S. military forces are stationed.”

Would that be bad? Yes.

Twitter “is a tool of provocation and belligerence in the hands of Donald Trump,” Bruce Blair, a nuclear policy specialist at Princeton University, tells me, adding that it’s easy to envision Trump Tweeting a warning to another world leader that “if you do this or that, you’ll be sorry.”

Blair says the worry isn’t necessarily that a single Trump Tweet might alone unleash nuclear catastrophe, but rather that one could very well exacerbate an already-existing situation in far worse ways than otherwise might have happened.

Also? That there wouldn’t be only one Trump tweet in that situation.

“Almost any threat could be perceived as warranting some sort of response that’s not only rhetorical, but operational,” Blair tells me.

Operational. With nukes. You don’t want to put those two words together.

And so, whatever Trump’s actual intentions for our nuclear arsenal and the future of international disarmament efforts, his willingness to use Twitter to posture and chest-thump around nuclear matters should itself stir urgent concern. This will be particularly true if it holds over into situations involving escalating tensions.

In fact, one thing that Trump and his advisers should be pressed to answer right now is whether Trump will put his Twitter feed on ice in such situations. Given what we’ve seen from Trump thus far, there’s simply no reason to assume that he will be so inclined.

It’s mind-boggling that we’re in this situation. Should we get up a Change.org petition begging Jack Dorsey to close Trump’s Twitter account?



Don’t forget to marvel

Dec 26th, 2016 3:26 pm | By

Vera Rubin wasn’t very active on Twitter, in fact she sent only six tweets, all on February 6 this year. But they’re good ones.

That’s what she did. Result: discovery of dark matter.

Best of all the last one:



Vera Rubin

Dec 26th, 2016 3:09 pm | By

The BBC:

Astronomer Vera Rubin, whose pioneering work on galaxy rotation rates led to the theory of dark matter, has died at the age of 88, her son says.

Allan Rubin said she died on Sunday of natural causes, AP reported. She was living in Princeton, New Jersey.

Her studies earned her numerous honours, including being the second female astronomer to be elected to the US National Academy of Sciences.

But many questioned why she was never awarded a Nobel Prize.

I bet I know. I bet you do too.

In 1974, Rubin discovered that the stars at the edges of galaxies moved faster than expected.

Gravity calculations using only visible matter in galaxies showed that the outer stars should have been moving more slowly.

To reconcile her observations with the law of gravity, scientists proposed there was matter we cannot see and called it dark matter.

Dark matter is an unidentified type of matter comprising approximately 27% of the mass and energy in the observable universe.

So basically she discovered dark matter. No biggy.

Vera Rubin’s interest in astronomy began as a young girl and grew with the involvement of her father, who helped her build a telescope and took her to meetings of amateur astronomers, according to a profile of the American Museum of Natural History.

She was the only astronomy major to graduate from the prestigious women’s college Vassar in 1948. When she sought to enrol as a graduate student at Princeton, she was told that women were not allowed in the university’s graduate astronomy programme, a policy that was not abandoned until 1975.

So she went to Cornell and then Georgetown. She won the US National Medal of Science in 1993.



How are ya

Dec 26th, 2016 11:43 am | By

I wrote this column for the Freethinker. Barry found a couple of great cartoons to illustrate. I chose the tweet at the end, because it’s so very Hitler.

Playing the part



Beyond narcissism

Dec 26th, 2016 11:05 am | By

Trump the narcissist.

I recently spoke with former FBI agent Joe Navarro about Donald Trump. Navarro was one of the FBI’s top profilers, a founding member of their elite Behavioral Analysis Unit, and author of several books on human behavior, including Dangerous Personalities: An FBI Profiler Shows You How to Identify and Protect Yourself from Harmful People.

To be clear, at no time did Navarro diagnose Trump as having a narcissistic or predator personality. He says we should leave formal diagnoses to professionals …

Formal diagnoses, sure, but “narcissist” is also an ordinary vernacular descriptive word. Of course Trump is a narcissist in that sense.

Navarro’s book warns that if a “person has a preponderance of the major features of a narcissistic personality,” then he “is an emotional, psychological, financial, or physical danger to you or others.”

And if he’s the president of your country you’re in deep shit.

It’s even more important for journalists to decide if Trump behaves like a narcissist—as James Fallows explains in his must-read post at The Atlantic, “How to Deal With the Lies of Donald Trump: Guidelines for the Media.” Fallows cites a reader’s note to him “on how journalism should prepare for Trump, especially in thinking about his nonstop string of lies.”

“Nobody seems to realize that normal rules do not apply when you are interviewing a narcissist,” this behavior expert explains to Fallows. “You can’t go about this in the way you were trained, because he is an expert at manipulating the very rules you learned.” He criticizes the New York Times for believing what Trump said when they interviewed him (which is the same point I’ve made).

Again – it’s obvious that he lies constantly.

 

Interestingly, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote in August that Trump’s behavior “is beyond narcissism.” In mid-October, he listed “a dazzling array” of “reasons for disqualification: habitual mendacity, pathological narcissism, profound ignorance and an astonishing dearth of basic human empathy.” And so despite how much he despises Hillary Clinton, he could not bring himself to vote for Trump.

What I keep saying. It transcends politics – he’s a horrible human being.



Does Erdoğan have any skin?

Dec 26th, 2016 10:36 am | By

Turkey doesn’t allow any lèse-majesté when people mention Erdoğan. People who lèse the majesté of Erdoğan get busted.

The boss of a cafeteria at a Turkish opposition newspaper has been detained after saying he would refuse to serve tea to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Senol Buran, cafeteria head at Cumhuriyet, was remanded accused of insulting the president. He denies the refusal was an insult, his lawyer said.

Trump would do the same thing if he could, but fortunately he can’t. He can’t stop us calling him a short-fingered vulgarian, a fascist, a bully, an ignorant shallow conceited stupid loudmouth, a tiny-fisted Nazi, a Cheeto, the pussygrabber-in-chief, a sexist racist pig, a fraud, a thief, a very bad man.

Mr Buran was on his way to work on 24 December when he found roads were closed as part of security measures for a speech being given by Mr Erdogan.

Mr Buran told police officers: “I would not serve that man a cup of tea.”

A judge at the Istanbul criminal court jailed Mr Buran pending a trial.

Insulting the president can carry a four-year jail term.

Senol Buran is in jail awaiting trial for saying he wouldn’t serve Erdoğan a cup of tea. It’s revolting.



Desperately seeking Trump fans

Dec 26th, 2016 6:38 am | By

The Washington Post a couple of weeks ago noted the wholly unsurprising fact that it’s hard to find good writers to say friendly things about Donald Trump.

As they discovered during the long campaign season, the nation’s newspapers and major digital news sites — the dreaded mainstream media — are facing a shortage of people able, or more likely willing, to write opinion columns supportive of the president-elect.

Major newspapers, from The Washington Post to the New York Times, have struggled to find and publish pro-Trump columns for months. So have regional ones, such as the Des Moines Register and the Arizona Republic, which has a long history of supporting Republican candidates.

Well of course they have. Trump isn’t just “a Republican” or “a conservative.” He’s a horrible human being, who puts his horribleness on display at all times. That’s a stumbling block.

Regular conservative columnists don’t like him and didn’t support him.

“We struggled to find voices that could advocate for Donald Trump’s ideas,” said James Bennet, the Times’ editorial-page editor. “It was really unusual. It didn’t help that the conservative intelligentsia lined up against him.” But Bennet says Trump’s campaign contributed to the imbalance: “He didn’t have the people around him who were prepared to put together his arguments” for publication.

No shit, Sherlock. He doesn’t have arguments. He has blurts. That’s another reason people thoughtful enough to write columns don’t like him: he has nothing but contempt for thoughtful people, and he’s the very opposite of thoughtful himself. He has such profound contempt for thoughtful people and for thought itself that he avoids both as if they were his kryptonite.

The general lack of Trump-supporting columns, however, puts newspaper editorial editors in an uncomfortable position. Most newspapers try to create a rough balance between left and right opinions on their op-ed pages, which feature staff and guest columnists. The idea has been to reflect a range of viewpoints, even if the newspaper’s “official” position, as expressed in unsigned editorials, tends to go in one direction.

But all that is beside the point. Trump doesn’t stand for right opinions as opposed to left opinions, he stands for bullying and meanness and insults, for pussygrabbing and wall-building and worker-cheating. He’s a bad bad man.

Trump’s relationship with the news media, of course, has been unusually rocky. During the campaign, he demonized journalists, calling them “dishonest,” “disgusting” and “the lowest form of life.

That’s my point. He demonizes people all over the place. He works up hatreds. He’s a bad man.

Newspaper editors say they’re on the lookout for more such writers. “What happened this year is that many of the people who we count on for conservative commentary — many of whom have generally supported Republican candidates in the past — simply didn’t support Trump,” said Nicholas Goldberg, editorial page editor of the Los Angeles Times. “I certainly believe our op-ed editor ought to be aggressively seeking smart, articulate people who have positive things to say about Trump, who are sympathetic to his point of view, or who are able to explain, support and justify him to our readers.”

But that just isn’t possible. It’s trying to square the circle. It can’t be done. Smart articulate people aren’t going to have positive things to say about Trump because of how appalling he is. He’s not a “normal” conservative politician, he’s a moral monster playing the part of a conservative politician. Intelligent people aren’t going to write columns supporting a moral monster.



Right in the kisser

Dec 25th, 2016 3:25 pm | By

Also amusing in Trump: his sweet baby Jesus wishes for us:

Isn’t that heartwarming? He brandishes his tiny fist at us as if he wants to punch us in the face. #MerryChristmas, he explains, festively and piously. #SameToYouDude. #HelloToJesusToo. #ForUntoUsYaddaYadda.



A time to celebrate the good news of a new King

Dec 25th, 2016 3:11 pm | By

The Republican National Committee is very very annoyed with all of you who thought it was calling Trump “the new King.” How very dare you. Just because that’s what they said, is no reason to think that’s what they said. Come on now. Have a little common sense, or faith, or paranoia – one of those. Have a little of it.

Look, here’s what message from RNC honcho Reince Priebus says, so that you can see how totally it did not call Trump the new King:

“Over two millennia ago, a new hope was born into the world, a Savior who would offer the promise of salvation to all mankind. Just as the three wise men did on that night, this Christmas heralds a time to celebrate the good news of a new King.”

See? See? See? They could not be any clearer. More than 2k years ago, baby Jesus was born, and now, we get to celebrate the good news of a new King. And that new King is…um…I’ve no idea, but it’s OBVIOUSLY NOT TRUMP. How could anyone think it was Trump? Other than the fact that this is the Republican National Committee, and he’s the new Republican president. And the fact that we don’t have any kings. And the fact that if it’s not Trump then who the fuck is it. Other than that, the statement is so clear and so clearly not about Trump.

That touched off a discussion on social media in which some claimed the “King” reference appeared to be about Trump, while others argued that was absurd and that it was clearly about Jesus Christ.

RNC spokesman and incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the reference had nothing to do with Trump. “Christ is the King in the Christian faith,” he told CNN.

Oh. Still on Jesus. But…it said new King. As opposed to old King. Or if not opposed to old King, still new King. Still new. Jesus isn’t new. Jesus has been around a long time – a good deal too long, if you ask me.

Also that claim that he’s “the King” isn’t a slam-dunk either. Usually that’s Elvis. Or in places that have a king then it’s the king. But Jesus? Jesus is supposed to be a man of the people – not like Trump, but for real. Carpenter, hung out with dudes who fished. Not upper class, much less royalty.

ANyway – they say they didn’t mean Trump so we say ok, but you should work on your writing skills a little.



Then there are consequences

Dec 25th, 2016 8:38 am | By

Preening self-admiring piece of shit Julian Assange graces the world with an interview telling us what to think about Donald Trump as president.

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has offered guarded praise of Donald Trump, arguing the president-elect “is not a DC insider” and could mean an opportunity for positive as well as negative change in the US.

Assange described his feelings about the US election results in an interview as “mixed” before going on to sharply criticize Democratic nominee Hillary Clintonand providing a more ambivalent assessment of Trump’s ascent to the White House.

“Hillary Clinton’s election would have been a consolidation of power in the existing ruling class of the United States,” Assange told the Italian newspaper la Repubblica.

Or just a continuation of it, or whatever, but in any case it’s not up to Julian Assange to determine who the US president should be.

In the week leading up to the election, Assange used his whistleblowing website to publish a cascade of emails connected to the Democratic party and the Clinton campaign.

The releases were highly damaging to Clinton, and US intelligence officials now believe they were hacked by Russia and passed to WikiLeaks to boost Trump’s bid for the White House. Assange has repeatedly declined to be drawn on the source of the hacked emails he published.

Roger Stone, a longtime Republican operative and associate of Trump, said in August that he had been in communication with Assange over an “October surprise” to foil Clinton. WikiLeaks began publishing emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee and the email account of Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, in October.

One guy. One guy with an arrogant messiah complex.

Some of the earliest and most high-profile WikiLeaks revelations, including those based on leaks by Chelsea Manning, occurred when Clinton was secretary of state.

“Hillary Clinton and the network around her imprisoned one of our alleged sources for 35 years, Chelsea Manning, tortured her according to the United Nations, in order to implicate me personally,” Assange claimed in the interview. He went on to accuse Clinton of being the “chief proponent and architect” of the military intervention in Libya, which he claimed had created instability throughout the region and the refugee crisis in Europe.

Appearing to suggest the disclosures in the run-up to the election were a form of payback, he added: “If someone and their network behave like that, then there are consequences. Internal and external opponents are generated. Now there is a separate question on what Donald Trump means.”

Then there are consequences. Spoken like a true bully.

And tragically for the US and the planet, the question of Assange’s revenge on Clinton is not separate from the question of what Donald Trump means. They’re all too inextricable.

Assange, who briefly hosted his own talkshow on the state-owned television network Russia Today, has long had a close relationship with the Putin regime. In his interview with la Repubblica, he said there was no need for WikiLeaks to undertake a whistleblowing role in Russia because of the open and competitive debate he claimed exists there.

“In Russia, there are many vibrant publications, online blogs and Kremlin critics, such as [Alexey] Navalny, are part of that spectrum,” he said. “There are also newspapers like Novaya Gazeta, in which different parts of society in Moscow are permitted to critique each other and it is tolerated, generally, because it isn’t a big TV channel that might have a mass popular effect, its audience is educated people in Moscow. So my interpretation is that in Russia there are competitors to WikiLeaks.”

Tell that to Anna Politkovskaya – oh wait you can’t, she was murdered.

Dozens of journalists have been killed in Russia in the past two decades, and Freedom House considers the Russian press to be “not free” and notes: “The main national news agenda is firmly controlled by the Kremlin. The government sets editorial policy at state-owned television stations, which dominate the media landscape and generate propagandistic content.”

Preening self-admiring narcissistic men ruin everything.



Just throwing a blanket over them won’t work

Dec 24th, 2016 4:58 pm | By

The reporting on conflicts of interest has finally gotten through to Trump and the Trumplings.

Realizing that his presidency could face potentially crippling questions over conflicts of interest, Donald J. Trump and his family are rushing to resolve potential controversies — like shuttering foundations and terminating development deals — even as the president-elect publicly maintains that no legal conflicts exist.

In recent days, the president-elect and his aides have said that he intends to distribute the assets of his personal charity and then close it down, has examined a plan to hire an outside monitor to oversee the Trump Organization and has terminated some international business projects.

He’s not exactly a quick study, is he. How long has it been? Six weeks?

Even with these steps, Mr. Trump will enter the White House with a maze of financial holdings unlike those of any other president in American history. Many ethics experts still say the only way Mr. Trump can eliminate his most serious conflicts is to liquidate his company, and then put the money into a blind trust — a move Mr. Trump has so far rejected as impractical and unreasonable.

But then he shouldn’t have run for president, should he.

“Yes, it would be hard to sell the business — there would be some personal discomfort,” said Robert Weissman, the president of Public Citizen, a liberal nonprofit group that has mocked Mr. Trump’s efforts to “drain the swamp” of Washington special interests. “But he ran for president of the United States and won, so those considerations can’t be weighted very heavily.”

Nobody made him run for president; it was his idea.

The hurried effort to clean up some of the family’s potential conflicts stands in contrast to the public statements by Mr. Trump since his election that as president he would not be subject to conflict of interest laws and could eliminate most questions by turning his business operations over entirely to his children.

But in recent weeks, as public scrutiny of Mr. Trump’s global business operations has intensified, Mr. Trump, his family, their executives in New York and a team of outside lawyers have been working to eliminate many of these potential flash points — a task so complicated that Mr. Trump has delayed announcing the details.

Good. We can get to them. That’s good.

Mr. Trump gave little thought to what to do with his business in the event of a victory on Election Day. But embarrassing reversals by his children highlighted concerns that access to the incoming administration could be for sale, and pressed the family to respond. A charity auction for coffee with Ivanka Trump, his daughter, was canceled, and Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., the president-elect’s sons, pulled out of another charity event that asked donors to give as much as $1 million in return for access to their father and a hunting expedition with his sons.

In interviews late last week, executives at the Trump Organization, advisers on the Trump transition team and members of Mr. Trump’s family said they were determined to move aggressively in the remaining days before the inauguration to clear as many of these potential conflicts as possible.

It remains astonishingly stupid that they didn’t think of that before.

The Times lists some of the things they’ve done so far. Here’s a good one:

A labor dispute with hundreds of workers at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas — which generated calls for a national boycott of Trump properties and protest rallies — was suddenly settled on Wednesday, with the hotel agreeing to provide pensions, health insurance, annual wage increases and other benefits that it previously refused to offer. Another agreement with employees at the just-opened Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington will allow them to organize a union.

Good. On the other hand – how repellent that richy rich Trump was refusing to provide pensions, health insurance, annual wage increases and other benefits to workers in his Las Vegas hotel. Gold armchairs for him, no health insurance for his workers. Nice.

The turnaround on the labor union dispute demonstrates just how sudden the shift has been. In November, four days before Election Day, the Trump hotel filed a lawsuit in the United States Court of Appeals challenging a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board that ordered his hotel in Las Vegas to recognize a labor union that workers voted for in late 2015 and to negotiate a new contract. A month later, company officials invited labor negotiators to Trump Tower for a three-day negotiation.

On Wednesday, the union ratified a deal that gave the 500 workers generous health care coverage, pensions, a guaranteed workweek and other protections, and set up a grievance system if they objected to conditions. The lawsuit was also dropped, as were outstanding matters pending before the labor relations board, which will soon be under Mr. Trump’s control.

His lawyers must have told him he really needed to deal with it.

But – doing a little isn’t going to solve the problem here.

While the family may be removing some of the most obvious problems, critics say Mr. Trump will still know what properties his family owns and which policy decisions will benefit them, no matter how careful he is.

The portfolio of assets might influence his interactions with leaders in nations such as Turkey and the Philippines, where Mr. Trump has prominent marketing deals. In places where he has allowed the use of his family name and even his image, Mr. Trump will soon be confronting foreign policy decisions, such as how to confront human rights violations or fight terrorism.

The family, at least so far, has not announced how it will resolve other issues, such as the lease at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, which was issued by the federal government’s General Services Administration, an agency Mr. Trump will soon oversee.

Trump-owned hotels and golf courses across the globe could benefit from business sent to them by foreign governments or other corporate players seeking to try to influence Mr. Trump. Loans that help finance his companies and permits issued by local government or foreign entities — even on projects that are already built — could be perceived as special favors. Payments by foreign governments to his hotels — for diplomatic soirees or overnight stays — might violate the so-called emoluments clause of the Constitution, which prohibits gifts to federal employees from foreign government entities.

Conflict conflict conflict.



Salsa

Dec 24th, 2016 4:03 pm | By

A festive treat.