Notes and Comment Blog

Wisdom from on high

Feb 25th, 2018 10:53 am | By

Sam issues a warning about The Frenzied Women.

Shade of pale

Feb 24th, 2018 5:49 pm | By

Uh oh uh oh, was Carl an SJW?

Loud boos for the demons of the left

Feb 24th, 2018 10:54 am | By

A Guardian reporter goes to CPAC.

“Do you remember I started running and people would say, ‘Are you sure he’s a conservative?’” an exultant US president asked the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Friday.

“I think now we’ve proved that I’m a conservative, right?”

Or perhaps more accurately, the conservatives gathered in the cavernous ballroom proved they are all Trumpians now. There were “Make America Great Again” caps, raucous chants of “Lock her up!” and “Build that wall!” and loud boos for the demons of the left. Old-school Republicans were thin on the ground, usurped by a crowd that included young and sometimes rowdy students.

Old-school Republicans are nothing to write home about either, but Trump is a fantastic tool for making them look better. Maybe that’s the secret, and not Russia at all – it’s a plot to make “screw the poor” look respectable.

The spotlight was dominated a succession of administration members answering toothless questions. Speakers included Eric Trump (“The media of this country does not understand the tone of this country”); rightwing populists Marion Maréchal-Le Pen (“I want America first for the American people, I want Britain first for the British people and I want France first for the French people”); and Nigel Farage (“I thought Trump’d be good but I’ve got to tell you, he’s exceeded all expectations”).

There was also the former White House adviser and conspiracy theorist Sebastian Gorka, who roamed the corridors basking in attention when not shoving a reporter.

On Thursday, Wayne LaPierre, the head of the National Rifle Association, sought to reject post-Parkland demands for gun control with a speech couched in Trumpian language that savaged elites, the media, anti-fascist protesters, Hollywood, George Soros and the FBI.

Nothing about The Jews? The Protocols of the Elders of Zion? The Illuminati? The Masons?


Feb 24th, 2018 10:41 am | By

The Times notes some of Trump’s lies at CPAC yesterday.

“We have passed massive, biggest in history, tax cuts and reforms … for 45 years nothing has been passed.”


The $1.5 trillion in tax cuts that Mr. Trump signed into law in December are not the largest in history. According a previous analysis in The New York Times, they amount to the 12th largest, as a share of the economy.

Also, Mr. Trump is not the first president in 45 years to enact tax cuts. Tax legislation was signed into law by Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Further, the cuts passed under Mr. Reagan and Mr. Obama were larger, as a share of the economy, than those recently signed by Mr. Trump.

The “for 45 years” is laughably Trumpesque – it translates to “as far back as I can remember off the top of my head.”

“We have massive energy reserves, we have coal, we have so much. And basically they say you can’t use it.”

This needs context.

Mr. Trump is referring to the Paris climate accord that his administration announced the United States was withdrawing from in June 2017.

Emissions reductions under the agreement are voluntary. So, contrary to Mr. Trump’s claim, coal consumption in the United States would not have necessarily been affected.

Ok ok ok but Paris is that place where nobody goes any more, except Trump, who saw this awesome parade there that he wants one just like it, but he don’t want no stinkin’ Paris ACCORD and don’t you forget it.

“Companies are pouring back into this country, pouring back. Not like — when did you hear about car companies coming back into Michigan and coming to Ohio and expanding? You never heard that.”


The Reshoring Initiative is an advocacy group that works with manufacturing companies to return jobs to the United States from overseas. Its website lists dozens of instances when car companies returned manufacturing jobs to the United States over the past decade. For example, Ford announced it would move production of pickup trucks from Mexico to Ohio in 2015, and General Motors said it would build a type of Cadillac in Tennessee instead of Mexico in 2014.

Again, so Trump, with the Zero Theory of Mind. If he doesn’t know a thing, the thing doesn’t exist. He’s not aware of the Reshoring Initative, therefore it doesn’t exist. It never seems to cross his mind that he might not know something. Phrases like “as far as I know” and “to the best of my knowledge” and “I haven’t seen any reporting on” might as well be in Urdu as far as he’s concerned.

“Wages are rising for the first time in many, many years.”


Wages have been rising for several years. In fact, wage growth in January 2018 was slower than what it was during the last few months of Mr. Obama’s term, according to data from the Federal Reserve.

Yes but he didn’t know that so it doesn’t exist.

Just a sample of their sample. He makes no apparent effort to get things right.

This new socialist wave

Feb 23rd, 2018 6:55 pm | By

Apparently Wayne LaPierre is Even More Bonkers now:

To see the National Rifle Association boss speak this week at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference was to see a man in urgent need of mental-health intervention. He turned a conventional speech about guns (specifically, the need for more of them in schools) into a paranoid fantasy about a socialist takeover of the United States.

He saw a “tidal wave” of “European-style socialists bearing down upon us,” creating a “captive society,” eliminating “resistance,” making a “list” in a cloud database of those who spank their children, expunging the “fundamental concept of moral behavior,” controlling speech through “safe zones.”

Yeah, boy, there’s no better index of moral behavior than a country packed with guns. Good people shoot first and ask questions later; bad people say let’s have less shooting ok?

With this “new socialist wave in America,” he said, “it’s just a short hop to the systematic destruction of our most basic freedoms.”

Had LaPierre fallen on his head and awakened in 1964? All that was missing was for him to quote General Jack D. Ripper in “Dr. Strangelove” on “the international communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.”

Sterling Hayden ruined that kind of crazy for all time.

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LaPierre singled out three billionaire capitalists to blame for the socialist revolution: George Soros, Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer. But he saw conspirators everywhere in the government — Trump’s government: the FBI (with its “corruption” and “rogue leadership”) the Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the intelligence agencies. He also blamed the Democrats, media, Hollywood, universities, classrooms, Black Lives Matter, elites and Keith Ellison.

Even the CPAC audience seemed to be stunned by this unhinged time-traveler from the Cold War. “You know, I hear a lot of quiet in this room, and I sense your anxiety,” he said. “And you should be anxious, and you should be frightened.”

Right? You never know when the furious white guy with the AR-15 is going to lurch into view.

Everything is for sale

Feb 23rd, 2018 5:17 pm | By

The waters are rising fast around Manafort. Mueller filed new charges late today.

Prosecutors allege that Manafort, with the assistance of longtime business partner Rick Gates, “secretly retained a group of former senior European politicians to take positions favorable to Ukraine, including by lobbying in the United States.”

The new indictment came less than two hours after Gates pleaded guilty to two criminal charges in federal court and pledged to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia and the 2016 presidential election.

Prosecutors say Manafort orchestrated a group of former European politicians, called the “Hapsburg group,” to pose as independent voices. Yet they covertly pushed positions favorable to Ukraine as paid lobbyists. Manafort used offshore accounts to pay the former politicians 2 million euros.

It doesn’t get much sleazier than that.

Talking to his homies

Feb 23rd, 2018 3:55 pm | By

Trump was apparently breathtakingly awful at CPAC today. (Conservative Political Action Conference. By “conservative” they mean whatever jumble of racist malevolence and boastful rapey contempt for women and shameless greed comes close enough to describing Trump.)

Addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference, the president read “The Snake,” a parable about a tenderhearted woman who takes in an ailing snake and gives it milk, honey and a silk blanket, only to be killed by the revived creature’s poisonous bite.

Trump explained the metaphor: “You have to think of this in terms of immigration.”

On the campaign trail in 2016, Trump frequently told the tale of the snake. The crowds at his rallies loved it. Other Americans were appalled and found it racist.

Nooooooooooo, it’s not a bit racist to compare immigrants to snakes who kill their kind generous hosts.

Trump mocked Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a war hero and Republican elder statesman with a terminal form of brain cancer, for his health-care vote. He vowed to “fight” a current Democratic foe, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. And he revived his row with a previous one, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, by encouraging chants of “lock her up” and sounding off about her alleged “atrocities.”

“They’re crazed anyway, these people,” Trump said of Democrats. “They are really crazed.”

Truth in advertising

Feb 23rd, 2018 3:36 pm | By

Fun guy.

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It wasn’t malicious, it was aggressive

Feb 23rd, 2018 12:48 pm | By

The Post has an interesting piece on how Trump and Mueller have a lot in common and a lot not in common at all. Like…

Mueller was, from early on, a role model. As a group of boys gathered one day at The Tuck, a snack shop at St. Paul’s, a student made a derogatory comment about someone who wasn’t there. “Bob said he didn’t want to hear that,” King said. “I mean, we all said disparaging things about each other face to face. But saying something about someone who wasn’t there was something that Bob was uncomfortable with and he let it be known and just walked out.”


Donald Trump grew up in a 23-room manse in Queens, a faux Southern plantation house with a Cadillac limousine in the driveway. He attended private school from kindergarten on; his focus in school, Trump told The Washington Post in 2016, was “creating mischief, because, for some reason, I liked to stir things up and I liked to test people. . . . It wasn’t malicious so much as it was aggressive.”

In second grade, he said, he punched his music teacher in the face.


Those who wish to have their tickets refunded

Feb 23rd, 2018 12:32 pm | By
Those who wish to have their tickets refunded

There will be only two men to celebrate science and reason in Phoenix tonight instead of three. (Still zero women, of course. Women know nothing of reason and science.)


The Celebration of Science & Reason event in Phoenix tonight will move forward with Sam Harris & Matt Dillahunty in conversation. Those who wish to have their ticket refunded due to the absence of Lawrence M. Krauss, please call the the following numbers:
Venue sales: 1-800-745-3000
Presales: 604-785-3690

I suppose this is a built-in hazard of having these all-male Celebrations of All the Brain Things That Women Can’t Do Because They’re Stupid – one or more of the men will turn out to have a long string of sexual harassment and downright assault in his or their past or pasts.

Do they go together to some extent? This peacocking vanity of pretending to be movie stars Thought Leaders and this unfortunate tendency to trip and fall onto women?

Yes, I think so. If they get a little fame they get a lot of immunity and looking the other way along with it. “Oh Doctor Professor Man sells tickets, we can’t possibly not invite him when he’s so kindly willing to perform, we’re sorry about the gropes or the insults or both but THE MAN SELLS TICKETS thank you for understanding.”

This was a GOVERNOR?

Feb 23rd, 2018 11:52 am | By

This isn’t a country, it’s an insane asylum.

Watch that clip. Your jaw will dislocate, but watch it.

Performative hatred of a woman

Feb 23rd, 2018 11:26 am | By

They didn’t.

Did they?

They did.

No transparent public debate allowed

Feb 23rd, 2018 10:01 am | By

From Left Foot Forward:

The Women’s Equality Party have dismissed a feminist academic at the centre of a transgender row, after she challenged whether children should be labelled trans.

Dr Heather Brunskell-Evans – a research fellow at King’s College London – was until this morning a spokeswoman for the Women’s Equality Party. Now she has resigned her membership after being sacked from that role.

It follows her appearance on Radio 4’s Moral Maze in November last year, where she argued that while adults could define themselves ‘in whichever way they want’, society and parents should avoid encouraging children to see themselves as being ‘in the wrong body’ – particularly if it led to surgery or treatment which would could have long-term implications.

So a party that – laughably – calls itself the Women’s Equality Party kicked her out of her role as spokeswoman. What sense does that make? How is it a good idea to make it taboo to discuss what kind of drastic measures should be taken with children who “see themselves as being ‘in the wrong body’”? Surgery and drugs are drastic things, so reasons for prescribing them should be open to reasoned discussion and research.

She added that some trans advocates were ‘abusive’ and ‘reactionary’.

Some are, staggeringly so – so much so that since reading Mueller’s indictment I’ve started to think many of them could be Russian trolls. They advocate sadistic violence, especially sadistic sexual violence, against women they label “TERFs,” which seems more like something Russian trolls would do than like something genuine lefty activists would do. Some trans activists are indeed highly abusive and reactionary, so saying that is no reason to kick anyone out of a role in a women’s equality party.

At the time, Dr Brunskell-Evans responded to the claims by denying any prejudice:

“I refute that I have promoted prejudice against the trans community either on the programme or through my writing and social media.

“I have called for transparent public debate, without fear of reprisal, of the social, psychological and physical consequences of the narrative that children can be born in ‘the wrong body’.”

However, the WEP have now completed their investigation into Dr Brunskell-Evans – and have sacked her as a spokesperson after determining the academic ‘breached articles of the constitution and our volunteer agreement’.

This is not a healthy situation. It’s the kind of thing Putin likes, but it’s not the kind of thing reasonable people should like.

The empathy deficit

Feb 23rd, 2018 9:13 am | By

What does Trump’s List of Things to Say to Kids Whose School Was Just Shot Up tell us about Trump?

Mr. Trump’s use of notes, captured by news photographers who covered the extraordinary listening session with parents, students and teachers who lost loved ones in the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., was not unusual.

But the nature of Mr. Trump’s written prompts was atypical. Composed beneath a heading that read “The White House,” they seemed to suggest that the president needed to be reminded to show compassion and understanding to traumatized survivors, an impression that Mr. Trump has sometimes fed with public reactions to national tragedies that were criticized as callous.

The Times, being (according to the Times) the Paper of Record, hedges everything. “Seemed to suggest,” “an impression,” “sometimes,” “were criticized as.” The written prompts were both horrifying and laughable because they underlined what a callous brutal narcissist he is.

[C]onsoler in chief has been a role that the president has been slow and somewhat reluctant to embrace — especially in contrast to his predecessor. Images of Mr. Trump hurling rolls of paper towels at hurricane victims in Puerto Rico last year and grinning broadly for photographs with emergency medical workers from Parkland have illustrated the challenge.

To put it mildly.

Samantha Fuentes, who was shot in both legs during the Parkland assault, said she had felt no reassurance during a phone call from the president to her hospital room last week.

“He said he heard that I was a big fan of his, and then he said, ‘I’m a big fan of yours too.’ I’m pretty sure he made that up,” she said in an interview after being discharged from the hospital. “Talking to the president, I’ve never been so unimpressed by a person in my life. He didn’t make me feel better in the slightest.”

Ms. Fuentes, who was left with a piece of shrapnel lodged behind her right eye, said Mr. Trump had called the gunman a “sick puppy” and said “‘oh boy, oh boy, oh boy,’ like, seven times.”

The account of the call was reminiscent of the last time Mr. Trump drew public scrutiny for his reaction to a tragedy, with his private condolence call to Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, one of four American soldiers killed in an attack in Niger.

In that case, in October, Ms. Johnson said she had been deeply offended by Mr. Trump’s words and tone, saying that he had not referred to her husband by name, calling him only “your guy,” and had upset her by saying that Mr. Johnson “knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyway.”

Mr. Trump quickly lashed out on Twitter, saying he had spoken respectfully to the widow.

I wonder if he’ll lash out at Samantha Fuentes today.

On the other hand the father of Meadow Pollack says he was great.

Mr. Pollack, who brought his wife, two sons and Meadow’s longtime boyfriend, said Mr. Trump signed his son’s white and gold “Make America Great Again” trucker hat and spoke at length with the family. The president insisted that he and his family, who had not planned to attend the listening session, accompany him through the iconic White House colonnade and into the event.

Fair’s fair. He doesn’t treat everyone like a representative of the peasantry.

But another participant in the White House session, Samuel Zeif, an 18-year-old student at Stoneman Douglas High School who survived the shooting and spoke tearfully at the White House on Wednesday of the experience, said Mr. Trump had done little to comfort or console him.

He said he had been particularly stung to see pictures of the notecard after it was over.

“Everything I said was directly from the heart, and he had to write down ‘I hear you,’” Mr. Zeif said in an interview. “Half the time during that meeting, his arms were crossed — I kept wanting to say, ‘Mr. President, uncross your arms.’ To me, that is the international sign for closemindedness; it’s really just a big ‘no.’”

At least when Trump does it it is. He does it in combination with that scowl, and it does indeed look like the international sign for “fuck off.”

Gods walk among us

Feb 22nd, 2018 6:10 pm | By

Bow down, mortals.

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Too bad you missed it.

But don’t worry – there’s more!

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In god we do not trust, neither do we believe

Feb 22nd, 2018 5:36 pm | By

Separation of church and state? What’s that?

Florida House votes to force schools to display ‘In God We Trust’ a day after refusing to consider gun control

Next they’ll be forcing us to do so.

By the way? I don’t trust their “god” – not for a second. Their god is a hateful shit and a bully.

If the Florida House of Representatives has its way, all public schools in the Sunshine State will soon be required to post the words “In God We Trust” — the state’s motto — on all campuses where students and staff can see them.

The House voted on the legislation Wednesday — 97 to 10, with members standing and applauding the results —  after finding time to debate and approve a bill declaring pornography a “public health risk.”

Yet the House refused, 71 to 37,  to take up a bill this week to ban assault weapons, which had been supported by student survivors of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where a gunman killed 17 people. The students had gone to the state capital to push for gun control and were in the gallery when the gun legislation was raised. Some were dismayed by the legislators’ inaction.

It’s so profoundly insulting to all of us, even to themselves. No, we can’t do the thing that would actually make school shootings stop, but we can force you to bend the knee to a made-up magic spook in the sky. Say no no no to the real world fix, and then force a fantasy on everyone.

Rep. Kim Daniels (R), who runs a ministry, said it would help provide needed “light” in the state’s schools, according to the Tampa Bay Times. It quoted her as saying: “He is not a Republican or a Democrat. He is not black or white. He is the light, and our schools need light in them like never before.”

But “he” is, apparently, a he. Funny how he’s not these other polarities but oh yes indeedy he most certainly is a boy person.

Humans have been a mistake.

No separation of church and state for you

Feb 22nd, 2018 5:18 pm | By

This is disgusting:

Evangelist Billy Graham, who died Wednesday, will lie in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda from Wednesday, Feb. 28, to Thursday, March 1, according to an announcement from House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky). Members of the public are invited to pay their respects. Ryan and McConnell will take part in a service upon the arrival of Graham’s casket.

What the hell? Billy Graham wasn’t a government official, he was a conservative religious huckster. What business does he have lying in the Capitol Rotunda as a stiff? What business do McConnell and Ryan have putting him there?

Graham was a personal friend to several presidents, and preached to tens of millions of people in person and myriad others through radio, television and the Internet.

So what? How does that mean he gets a state ceremony as a corpse?

Over nearly a century, he became an icon, an entrepreneur, a pastor and a key architect of American evangelicalism — the largest religious body in America today that makes up a quarter of the American electorate. Graham’s influence on key religious leaders, institutions, political activism and cultural engagement helped shape a large chunk of America.

For the worse, but anyway, so what? People don’t get to lie around dead in the Capitol Rotunda simply because they have “influence.”


Tix still available

Feb 22nd, 2018 1:22 pm | By

A bit more on the BuzzFeed story (read the whole thing to get the grim details).

In December, after BuzzFeed News contacted him about allegations of sexual harassment, Krauss tweeted a link to an article that argued the #MeToo movement was morphing into a “Warlock Hunt.” A month after that, he tweeted a story about French women denouncing #MeToo, writing, “I find their statement brave and thought-provoking, representing free-thought and skepticism at its best.”


The rise of online movements such as #MeToo has increasingly divided the skeptics into two camps: those who campaign for social justice and those who rail against identity politics.

Not really; it was already divided that way.

Several women — and men — interviewed by BuzzFeed News said they have stopped attending skeptic events because of this hostility.

“I’ve just become so disappointed and disillusioned with a group of people who I thought at one point were exemplars of clear thinking, of openness to new evidence, and maybe most importantly, being curious,” philosopher Phil Torres told BuzzFeed News. “This movement has tragically failed to live up to its own very high moral and epistemic standards.”

What’s particularly infuriating, said Lydia Allan, the former cohost of the Dogma Debate podcast, is when male skeptics ask how they could draw more women into their circles. “I don’t know, maybe not put your hands all over us? That might work,” she said sarcastically. “How about you believe us when we tell you that shit happens to us?”

Or not telling us that atheism and skepticism are more of a guy thing? Or not pitching huge public fits when we object to being told that? Just a thought.

Tomorrow evening Krauss meets up with Mister “Estrogen Vive” for a public event in Phoenix. If only Shermer and Dawkins could join them.

Editing to add: Sean Carroll is not making excuses for him.

Want to actually wrestle?

Feb 22nd, 2018 12:42 pm | By

Oops. This could be awkward.


On a hotel bed? No thank you.

Ohhhh – no wonder his method is pinning women to beds.

God these bros are repulsive.

Give everyone a gun

Feb 22nd, 2018 12:24 pm | By

The stupid is breathtaking.