Notes and Comment Blog

The eroticization of powerlessness

Oct 19th, 2017 10:53 am | By

A bit from Mill’s Subjection of Women, because I was reminded of it by a quotation from Sheila Jeffreys:

Girls learn to love and have sexual feelings in a position of low status, and the eroticization of powerlessness is a normal part of the construction of femininity.

That’s Jeffreys; now Mill.

All causes, social and natural, combine to make it unlikely that women should be collectively rebellious to the power of men. They are so far in a position different from all other subject classes, that their masters require something more from them than actual service. Men do not want solely the obedience of women, they want their sentiments. All men, except the most brutish, desire to have, in the woman most nearly connected with them, not a forced slave but a willing one, not a slave merely, but a favourite. They have therefore put everything in practice to enslave their minds. The masters of all other slaves rely, for maintaining obedience, on fear; either fear of themselves, or religious fears. The masters of women wanted more than simple obedience, and they turned the whole force of education to effect their purpose. All women are brought up from the very earliest years in the belief that their ideal of character is the very opposite to that of men; not self-will, and government by self-control, but submission, and yielding to the control of others. All the moralities tell them that it is the duty of women, and all the current sentimentalities that it is their nature, to live for others; to make complete abnegation of themselves, and to have no life but in their affections. And by their affections are meant the only ones they are allowed to have—those to the men with whom they are connected, or to the children who constitute an additional and indefeasible tie between them and a man. When we put together three things—first, the natural attraction between opposite sexes; secondly, the wife’s entire dependence on the husband, every privilege or pleasure she has being either his gift, or depending entirely on his will; and lastly, that the principal object of human pursuit, consideration, and all objects of social ambition, can in general be sought or obtained by her only through him, it would be a miracle if the object of being attractive to men had not become the polar star of feminine education and formation of character. And, this great means of influence over the minds of women having been acquired, an instinct of selfishness made men avail themselves of it to the utmost as a means of holding women in subjection, by representing to them meekness, submissiveness, and resignation of all individual will into the hands of a man, as an essential part of sexual attractiveness. Can it be doubted that any of the other yokes which mankind have succeeded in breaking, would have subsisted till now if the same means had existed, and had been as sedulously used, to bow down their minds to it? If it had been made the object of the life of every young plebeian to find personal favour in the eyes of some patrician, of every young serf with some seigneur; if domestication with him, and a share of his personal affections, had been held out as the prize which they all should look out for, the most gifted and aspiring being able to reckon on the most desirable prizes; and if, when this prize had been obtained, they had been shut out by a wall of brass from all interests not centering in him, all feelings and desires but those which he shared or inculcated; would not serfs and seigneurs, plebeians and patricians, have been as broadly distinguished at this day as men and women are? and would not all but a thinker here and there, have believed the distinction to be a fundamental and unalterable fact in human nature?

Pages 27-9 in this Project Gutenberg edition.

Officials said the man was proud of what he had done

Oct 19th, 2017 10:07 am | By

There was a protest march against al Shabaab in Mogadishu yesterday.

Thousands of Somalis have demonstrated against those behind the bombing that killed more than 300 people at the weekend, defying police who opened fire to keep them away from the site of the attack.

Wearing red headbands, the crowd of mostly young men and women marched through Mogadishu amid tight security. They answered a call to unity by the mayor, Thabit Abdi, who said: “We must liberate this city, which is awash with graves.”

You know what most of the victims of Islamist violence are? Muslim.

The attack in the heart of Mogadishu on Saturday has been blamed on al-Shabaab, the local violent Islamist group, and was one of the most lethal terrorist operations anywhere in the world in recent years.

The Somali capital has suffered scores of bombings over recent years but not on this scale.

“We are demonstrating against the terrorists that massacred our people. We entered the road by force,” said Halima Abdullahi, who lost six of her relatives in the attacks.

There were two trucks involved in the attack. The other one, a minivan, was detained by security before the explosion and the driver has been talking to the police.

Officials described the driver as a veteran militant who had been involved in previous attacks in Mogadishu, including one on the Jazeera hotel in 2012 in which eight people died.

He has been cooperating with the investigation. Officials said the man was proud of what he had done. “He says it is for jihad,” one said.

Killing more than 300 people, most of them adherents of the same religion, is “for jihad.” The ways of god are mysterious.

Base in his motives and cruel in his targets

Oct 19th, 2017 9:53 am | By

Richard Cohen at the Post explains Trump.

Trump does not possess an ounce of compassion. He is reptilian, knowing only to show his fangs, hiss and attack. This is why he mocked a physically disabled reporter for the New York Times, why he derided the heroism of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and why he dismissed the authenticity of the Khans, who had lost their son in Iraq.

This inability to feel the pain of others — even to acknowledge it — is not a minor tick in an otherwise good man. It is the salient characteristic of a sadist, of someone so wrapped up in himself that he has contempt for victims. Trump’s name for them is “losers.” They are the poor and the unlucky. They deserve what they get.

This is the heart of it. If it weren’t for this, the rest of it – the incompetence and stupidity and ignorance, the corruption and greed, the vulgar trashy crassitude – would still be horrendous, but not agonizing in the same way. It’s his hideous brutal meanness and cruelty and contempt for all other human beings that make us feel so degraded.

Trump is not a conservative nor a nationalist nor some reality show creation. He is a mean S.O.B., base in his motives and cruel in his targets and, until he won in November, unthinkable in American history — a brat in the Oval Office. He’s not man enough to throw an arm around a grieving widow. He disgraces his office and will be remembered by history as a lout. It is now a fate he cannot escape. Sorry, but he knew what he was signing up for.

But so did we. So did we.

He lied

Oct 18th, 2017 5:24 pm | By

John Nichols at The Nation hints that Jeff Sessions may be less than fully honest.

Jeff Sessions is a liar.

Strongly hints.

As President Trump’s nominee to serve as attorney general of the United States, the veteran senator from Alabama and early supporter of Trump’s presidential bid was asked by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee if he had met with Russian officials during the course of the 2016 campaign. He claimed that he had not—in response to a written question from the senior Democrat on the Committee, Vermont’s Patrick Leahy, and then under questioning from Minnesota Senator Al Franken.

Those were lies.

Well maybe so, but he gets very cross when Al Franken asks him about them.

And the Republicans of course shrugged and confirmed him anyway. A perjured Attorney General; what could go wrong?

After Sessions took charge of the Department of Justice, it was revealed that he had met with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the course of the campaign; that he had, in fact, met more than once with the ambassador.

Sessions was outed as a liar. Because he had lied to senators during the course of the confirmation process, he was accused of perjuring himself. There were calls for his resignation.

Instead he recused himself from the Russia investigation. Oh that’s fine then – having a perjured AG is no problem at all.

He should have been thrown out after Trump fired Comey, but he wasn’t. Committed racists like him are worth gold.

Only on Wednesday did the attorney general finally face an accountability moment with the Judiciary Committee. Leahy asked about the questionnaire, which specifically inquired about whether Sessions had contact with anyone connected to the Russian government. “You answered emphatically, no,” said Leahy. “You answered no, you concealed your own contact with Russian officials at a time when such contacts were of great interest to the committee.”

Sessions is pissed off.

Showing no sign of remorse, let alone respect for the Senate, Sessions concluded that the questions he was asked on Wednesday were “totally unfair to me.”

That was another lie. As a former member of the Judiciary Committee, Sessions well understands that there is nothing unfair about asking an official to explain his wrongdoing. What is unfair is that Sessions is being allowed to remain in a position that he obtained after lying to the United States Senate.

Jeff Sessions has proven himself to be unfit for office. He has, with deceptive responses to questions from senators, and with his involvement in the Comey firing, committed what the founders understood as “high crimes and misdemeanors.” He should now be held to account, using the tool that the Constitution affords members of Congress to impose accountability on officials who lie in official settings: impeachment.

But they’re Republicans, so they won’t.

Sing “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” instead

Oct 18th, 2017 4:49 pm | By

Trump again demonstrates that he has no idea how to value anything.

He thinks singing a patriotic song is what “real pride in our country” is all about. That’s a ridiculous thing to think.

I’m sure it’s an expression of pride for many people – but it has to be freely chosen to be genuinely that, surely. Trump’s bullying about it just turns it into a meaningless exercise at best and a punishment at worst. Anyway it’s not an expression of pride for all of us – for many it’s just an empty ritual, and for some it’s an insult. We’re allowed to think both of those thoughts and we’re allowed to refuse to sing the damn thing, at least as far as the government is concerned.

Real pride in one’s country has to be thicker and more meaningful than singing a song at a sports game. It has more to do with holding that country to high standards than with observing empty rituals. Flags and songs are symbols, and right now all the patriotic ones symbolize is the sullen brooding presence of the worst man in the world.

No dystopian novels please, we’re woke af

Oct 18th, 2017 11:23 am | By

I didn’t realize the policing of Young Adult fiction was a thing until I read about the Kirkus fubar. It’s a thing.

The Black Witch, a debut young-adult fantasy novel by Laurie Forest, was still seven weeks from its May 1 publication date, but positive buzz was already building, with early reviews calling it “an intoxicating tale of rebellion and star-crossed romance,” “a massive page-turner that leaves readers longing for more,” and “an uncompromising condemnation of prejudice and injustice.”

The hype train was derailed in mid-March, however, by Shauna Sinyard, a bookstore employee and blogger who writes primarily about YA and had a different take: “The Black Witch is the most dangerous, offensive book I have ever read,” she wrote in a nearly 9,000-word review that blasted the novel as an end-to-end mess of unadulterated bigotry. “It was ultimately written for white people. It was written for the type of white person who considers themselves to be not-racist and thinks that they deserve recognition and praise for treating POC like they are actually human.”

The Black Witch centers on a girl named Elloren who has been raised in a stratified society where other races (including selkies, fae, wolfmen, etc.) are considered inferior at best and enemies at worst. But when she goes off to college, she begins to question her beliefs, an ideological transformation she’s still working on when she joins with the rebellion in the last of the novel’s 600 pages. (It’s the first of a series; one hopes that Elloren will be more woke in book two.)

It was this premise that led Sinyard to slam The Black Witch as “racist, ableist, homophobic, and … written with no marginalized people in mind,” in a review that consisted largely of pull quotes featuring the book’s racist characters saying or doing racist things. Here’s a representative excerpt, an offending sentence juxtaposed with Sinyard’s commentary:

“pg. 163. The Kelts are not a pure race like us. They’re more accepting of intermarriage, and because of this, they’re hopelessly mixed.”


Yes, you just read that with your own two eyes. This is one of the times my jaw dropped in horror and I had to walk away from this book.

Erm…I guess Sinyard is unfamiliar with how fiction works, which includes the convention that some characters may say things that the writer of the fiction doesn’t agree with, as for instance when there are Villains or Flawed People or Caricatures…like, say, Iago, or the Murdstones, or Mr Collins, or the Duke and the Dauphin. If you’re writing a fiction about a stratified society then you’re likely to have some characters saying the kind of thing one learns to say in a stratified society.

In a tweet that would be retweeted nearly 500 times, Sinyard asked people to spread the word about The Black Witch by sharing her review — a clarion call for YA Twitter, which regularly identifies and denounces books for being problematic (an all-purpose umbrella term for describing texts that engage improperly with race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and other marginalizations). Led by a group of influential authors who pull no punches when it comes to calling out their colleagues’ work, and amplified by tens of thousands of teen and young-adult followers for whom online activism is second nature, the campaigns to keep offensive books off shelves are a regular feature in a community that’s as passionate about social justice as it is about reading. And while not every callout escalates into a full-scale dragging, in the case of The Black Witch — a book by a newcomer with a minimal presence online — the backlash was immediate and intense.

Based almost solely on Sinyard’s opinion, the novel became the object of sustained, aggressive opposition in the weeks leading up its release. Its publisher, Harlequin Teen, was bombarded with angry emails demanding they pull the book. The Black Witch’s Goodreads rating dropped to an abysmal 1.71 thanks to a mass coordinated campaign of one-star reviews, mostly from people who admitted to not having read it. Twitter threadsdamningthe novelmadethe rounds, while a Tumblr post instructing users to “be an ally” and signal boost the outrage racked up nearly 6,000 notes. Sinyard kept a running tally of her review’s circulation; “11,714 views on my review of THE BLACK WITCH and .@HarlequinTEEN and .@laurieannforest have not commented,” she tweeted. (That number eventually swelled to 20,000.)

Oh, man. That’s disgusting.

Positive buzz all but died off, as community members began confrontingThe Black Witch’s supporters, demanding to know why they insisted on reading a racist book. When Kirkus gave the novel a glowing starred review, dozens of commenters demanded a retraction; the uproar was so intense that Kirkus ran a follow-up essay by editor Vicky Smith on the difference between representation and endorsement: “The simple fact that a book contains repugnant ideas is not in itself, in my opinion, a reason to condemn it,” Smith wrote. “Literature has a long history as a place to confront our ugliness, and its role in provoking both thought and change in thought is a critical one.”

Ya think?

But a growing number of critics say the draggings, well-intended though they may be, are evidence of a growing dysfunction in the world of YA publishing. One author and former diversity advocate described why she no longer takes part: “I have never seen social interaction this fucked up,” she wrote in an email. “And I’ve been in prison.”

Many members of YA Book Twitter have become culture cops, monitoring their peers across multiple platforms for violations. The result is a jumble of dogpiling and dragging, subtweeting and screenshotting, vote-brigading and flagging wars, with accusations of white supremacy on one side and charges of thought-policing moral authoritarianism on the other.

Representatives of both factions say they’ve received threats or had to shut down their accounts owing to harassment, and all expressed fear of being targeted by influential community members — even when they were ostensibly on the same side.

I’m sure the result will be fewer but better books.

[I]t’s worth noting that my attempts to report this piece were met with intense pushback. Sinyard politely declined my request for an interview in what seemed like a routine exchange, but then announced on Twitter that our interaction had “scared” her, leading to backlash from community members who insisted that the as-yet-unwritten story would endanger her life. Rumors quickly spread that I had threatened or harassed Sinyard; several influential authors instructed their followers not to speak to me; and one librarian and member of the Newbery Award committee tweeted at Vulture nearly a dozen times accusing them of enabling “a washed-up YA author” engaged in “a personalized crusade” against the entire publishing community (disclosure: while freelance culture writing makes up the bulk of my work, I published a pair of young adult novels in 2012 and 2014.) With one exception, all my sources insisted on anonymity, citing fear of professional damage and abuse.

None of this comes as a surprise to the folks concerned by the current state of the discourse, who describe being harassed for dissenting from or even questioning the community’s dynamics. One prominent children’s-book agent told me, “None of us are willing to comment publicly for fear of being targeted and labeled racist or bigoted. But if children’s-book publishing is no longer allowed to feature an unlikable character, who grows as a person over the course of the story, then we’re going to have a pretty boring business.”

Boring and thought-killing.

Sorrow and value

Oct 18th, 2017 9:57 am | By

At CNN. Chris Cillizza – who did his bit to swing the election by keeping “Her Emails” constantly in the headlines – offers a best-case interpretation of how Trump messed up that phone call.

Don’t get me wrong: he starts with reasons to believe he messed it up badly and is lying about it now.

For those who are taking Trump’s side in all of this — alleging that Wilson is simply trying to score political points against a president the Democratic base hates — it’s important to remember a few things we know about Trump.

1. In the summer of 2016, he engaged in an extended back and forth with Khizr Khan, the father of an American soldier killed in Iraq, following Khan’s speech at the Democratic National Convention. Responding to Khan, who suggested Trump didn’t know the meaning of real sacrifice, Trump said: “Who wrote that? Did Hillary’s script writers write it? I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard.”2. Trump has not told the truth about lots of things. LOTS of things. The count maintained by the Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog was more than 1,300 lies or mistruths from Trump in his first 263 days as president. In a press conference with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday, Trump said at least 9 things that were either debatable or simply false.

3. Trump has claimed he has “proof” many times. He has shown that “proof” almost never. As documented by Politico’s Edward-Isaac Dovere, here are other things Trump has said he had “proof” about: President Obama wiretapping Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign, that the women accusing him of sexually inappropriate behavior were lying, Obama being born in a foreign country, Obama’s college transcript, alleged crimes by UN Ambassador Susan Rice and that former FBI Director James Comey was lying about their personal conversations. [Narrator voice: He didn’t have proof of any of this.]

But that still leaves room for interpretation of the phone call.

Short of Wilson totally lying about the nature of the conversation, the best possible explanation for Trump is that what he said was misinterpreted. Calling a recently widowed woman of a soldier killed in action is an incredibly difficult thing to do. That’s especially true for Trump who, as a businessman prior to running for office in 2016, never had to do anything remotely like this.

Given that inexperience, it’s absolutely plausible that Trump expressed a real sorrow somewhat inarticulately, leaving Johnson’s widow and Wilson upset. And that Trump did so entirely unintentionally.

Well, no, it’s not absolutely plausible that Trump expressed a real sorrow, because he’s not capable of feeling sorrow on behalf of other people. We’ve seen that over and over and over again – with the Khans, as Cillizza said, with the people in Houston after the hurricane, with the people in Puerto Rico after that hurricane, with people he talks to on camera, with all of us, with anyone and everyone. He doesn’t feel it. At all. He never has. He doesn’t know what it’s like.

No, all that’s plausible is that he dimly understood that he was supposed to convey sorrow and sympathy. Once you grasp that it is of course not surprising that he failed so badly. He has no idea how to do that kind of thing. He can do anger and contempt and hatred all over the shop, but sorrow or compassion or empathy he can’t get near.

I suppose we should feel sorry for him, in a way. If you can’t feel sorrow or compassion no matter what – you have a terribly weakened grip on life. The sorrow and compassion are the other side of knowing what’s at stake – of valuing anything. If you don’t know how to properly value anything, what does life even mean to you?

“I guess it hurts anyway”

Oct 18th, 2017 9:17 am | By

Oh goddddd reading this has made me feel sick. It may seem small in the scheme of things, but just the cold narcissistic callousness behind it is nauseating. Trump’s way of condoling the families of soldiers killed in action: he tells them they signed up for it but he guesses it hurts anyway.

In his call with Sgt. La David T. Johnson’s widow, Myeshia Johnson, Trump told her, “He knew what he was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway,” according to the account of Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.), who was riding in a limousine with Johnson when the president called and heard the conversation on speakerphone.

Wilson recalled in an interview with The Washington Post that Johnson broke down in tears. “He made her cry,” Wilson said. The congresswoman said she wanted to take the phone and “curse him out,” but that the Army sergeant holding the phone would not let her speak to the president.

On the one hand it’s unbelievable, but on the other hand it sounds exactly like Trump. Exactly like him. We’ve all seen what deranged things he says when speaking off the cuff – he tells black journalists to make appointments with black Congressional Representatives for him, he tells the Russian ambassador that the FBI director is a showboat, he says he and Mitch McConnell are closer than ever. I can hear him saying that disgusting thing.

Peter Wehner, an adviser and speechwriter in President George W. Bush’s White House, said communicating empathy and compassion has been for Trump like speaking “a foreign language.”

“Part of being a president is at moments being pastor in chief, dispensing grace and understanding and giving voice to sorrow, tragedy and loss,” Wehner said. “But he’s a person who’s missing an empathy gene.”

Exactly. That’s what makes it so easy to hear him saying that.

Steve Schmidt, a Republican strategist and former adviser to Bush and McCain, said he was surprised by Trump’s 12-day silence on the Niger attack.

“There is no issue too small for him to comment on,” Schmidt said. “He tweets at all hours of the morning and night on every conceivable subject. He has time to insult, to degrade, to demean always. But once again, you see this moral obtusity in the performance of his duties as commander in chief.”

“Ok ok ok ok I’ll call them, jeezus. ‘Well he knew what he was getting into, but it still hurts I guess. Bye.'”

He’s denying it today.

President Trump in a tweet Wednesday denied that he had told the widow of a soldier killed in an ambush in Africa this month that her husband “must have known what he signed up for.”

But the mother of the fallen soldier stood behind the account, saying that Trump “did disrespect” the family with his comments during a phone call.

Wilson told MSNBC on Wednesday that Johnson’s widow, Myeshia, was shaken by the exchange.

“She was crying the whole time, and when she hung up the phone, she looked at me and said, ‘He didn’t even remember his name.’ That’s the hurting part.”

Wilson went on to say Trump “was almost like joking. He said, ‘Well, I guess you knew’ — something to the effect that ‘he knew what he was getting into when he signed up, but I guess it hurts anyway.’ You know, just matter-of-factly, that this is what happens, anyone who is signing up for military duty is signing up to die. That’s the way we interpreted it. It was horrible. It was insensitive. It was absolutely crazy, unnecessary. I was livid.”

That’s who he is. That’s why we’re living in a nightmare.

That other resistance

Oct 17th, 2017 5:50 pm | By

Yes, North Korea, yes, Iran, yes, Yellowstone and global warming and the toxic gas emanating from the White House – but also antibiotic resistance.

England’s chief medical officer has warned of a “post-antibiotic apocalypse” as she issued a call to action urging global leaders to address the growing threat of antibiotic resistance.

Professor Dame Sally Davies said that if antibiotics lose their effectiveness it will spell “the end of modern medicine”.

Without the drugs used to fight infections, common medical interventions such as caesarean sectionscancer treatments and hip replacements would become incredibly “risky”, she said.

And transplant medicine would be a “thing of the past”, she added.

It will be the way it was before penicillin, when an ordinary bacterial disease could kill you at any time.

Health experts have previously warned that resistance to antimicrobial drugs could cause a bigger threat to mankind than cancer.

In recent years, the UK has led a drive to raise global awareness of the threat posed to modern medicine by antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Around 700,000 people around the world die annually due to drug-resistant infections including tuberculosis (TB), HIV and malaria.

If no action is taken, it has been estimated that drug-resistant infections will kill 10 million people a year by 2050.

Dress warmly, get enough sleep, cook chicken thoroughly.

Do they have standing?

Oct 17th, 2017 5:30 pm | By

The emoluments case starts tomorrow.

On Wednesday morning, a federal judge in Manhattan will hear preliminary arguments in a case that claims President Trump is violating the Constitution’s ban on accepting foreign payments, or emoluments.

Here is what is at stake: The Founding Fathers wrote a clause into the Constitution saying U.S. officials cannot accept “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title” from foreign governments without the consent of Congress. Trump’s critics say that by refusing to sell off his global businesses, the president is failing to uphold the Constitution.

But before that issue can be debated, the court first has to decide whether the plaintiffs even have standing to bring their Emoluments Clause case. And that first step is what is happening in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

This is yet another example of why the phrase “checks and balances” is such an empty bit of verbiage. The Constitution says, but on the other hand, nobody has “standing” to get it enforced. If the other branches are all standing around with their thumbs up their asses, then it doesn’t matter what the Constitution says and these crooked weasels get to go right on filling their bank accounts while destroying the country.

CREW’s co-plaintiffs include the owner of several hotels and restaurants in New York City, an association of restaurants and restaurant workers and an events booker in D.C.

They say they’ve lost business to Trump establishments — not because of fair competition, but because many foreign officials take their business to Trump properties to curry favor with the president. That is a claim that Trump’s Justice Department argues against.

Even in its preliminary stages, the case could have impact. If the plaintiffs win on the standing question, Bookbinder said, “the next phase of the case would be discovery.”

And if they lose, then Trump and his Trumplets go right on feathering their own nests at our civic and moral expense.

Vermont Law School professor Jennifer Taub said that if the case fails, it would set a “terrible precedent.”

Taub, who helped to organize a campaign last winter for disclosure of Trump’s tax returns, said, “We cannot have a representative democracy if the president takes office with the purpose of personal gain and essentially influence-peddling.”

I expect it to fail. We seem to be doomed to be destroyed by this monstrosity.

Loud and clear

Oct 17th, 2017 10:48 am | By

Trump, naturally, goes even uglier in trying to argue away his lie about Obama yesterday.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday invoked the death of the son of his chief of staff, John Kelly, as he defended his claim from a day before that Barack Obama and other past presidents didn’t always call the families of slain service members.

“For the most part, to the best of my knowledge, I think I’ve called every family of somebody that’s died, and it’s the hardest call to make, and I said it very loud and clear yesterday. The hardest thing for me to do is do that,” Trump said Tuesday morning during an interview with Fox News radio host Brian Kilmeade.

I guess he thinks if he says it “loud and clear” that makes it not a lie? I guess he’s that stupid?

“Now, as far as other representatives, I don’t know,” he continued. “I mean, you could ask General Kelly did he get a call from Obama. You could ask other people. I don’t know what Obama’s policy was. I write letters, and I also call.”

He doesn’t know, but yesterday he said Obama didn’t call the families of soldiers killed in action. So to distract attention from his lie, he evokes the death of Kelly’s son. That’s ugly.

Trump has faced an onslaught of criticism — most notably from former Obama aides — since making the accusation against Obama on Monday afternoon in a Rose Garden news conference when asked about his silence regarding the death of four Green Berets related to an Oct. 4 ambush in Niger.

Trump, however, said Tuesday that he doesn’t feel a need to clarify his remarks.

“There’s nothing to clarify,” he said, blaming CNN for first broaching the subject at his news conference. “This was, again, fake news CNN. I mean, they’re just a bunch of fakers.”

Fake news? But there’s video of him saying it. He said it at a news conference. How can it be fake?

I leave it to your wisdom to determine.

There are no slogans claiming “We Are Mogadishu”

Oct 17th, 2017 9:37 am | By

Mogadishu isn’t getting as much attention as it should.

What usually happens on social media after a terrorist attack? A hashtag circulates beginning with “Pray for…” or “I am…”. Users share images of the carnage, and people express an equal measure of sadness and defiance.

But after deadly attacks on Saturday in Mogadishu, which claimed at least 281 lives, some social media users have been asking where the solidarity for Somalia is, and why there are no trending hashtags like those which have emerged after attacks in the US and Europe.

The usual reason, no doubt – fewer of us have been there, fewer of us know people there or from there, fewer of us have associations with Somalia of any kind.

Saturday’s truck bomb was the deadliest terror attack in Somalia since the Islamist al-Shabab group launched its insurgency in 2007. Some bodies were burnt beyond recognition.

Of those who were identified, one of the victims was Maryam Abdullahi, a medical student who was due to graduate the next day.

Her father had flown to Mogadishu to attend her graduation but instead witnessed her burial.

Maryam Abdullahi

Anfa’a Abdullahi

That’s one doctor who won’t be providing care to Somalis.

Khaled Beydoun a professor of Law in Detroit, criticised the depth of media coverage in a social media post which has been shared hundreds of times on Facebook and more than 6,000 times on Twitter.

“I hate comparing human tragedies, but the mainstream media makes you do it,” he posted on Facebook. “There are no slogans claiming ‘we are Mogadishu’ and no catchy images floating around social media demonstrating solidarity.”

He’s not wrong. More from his post:

Listen, the number of people killed in Somalia yesterday was more than 10x more (230+) than the number killed in the terror attack in Manchester in May (22). 230 to 22.

Yet, there are no slogans claiming “We Are Mogadishu” and no catchy images floating around social media demonstrating solidarity. Most shamefully, there is little mainstream media attention documenting the ungodly death and devastation in Somalia’s capital, and certainly no television specials or emergency fundraisers providing aid. None and none and none.

We get it – white and Western, European and American victims ‘merit’ the media attention and the public alarm it spurs, and Black and foreign, African and Muslims do not. This is institutionalized within mainstream media, social media and elsewhere. And the implicit message rendered by this lack of coverage is that that this brand of terror is “indigenous and common” to places like Somalia, African and Muslim-majority countries at large.

This is an expected effect of structural Islamophobia and anti-Black racism that deserves critique, and both middle fingers.

That, yes, but also distance of all kinds – religious and racial yes but also physical location, material conditions, class, money.

But so do our own who swiftly rush to express solidarity with European and American cities but stay silent when terror, of an even greater scale, strikes cities that are predominantly Muslim, Black, Brown and poor.

And very far away. The massacre in Charleston got a lot of attention here.

I don’t mean to let us off the hook by saying that though.

Crooks everywhere you look now

Oct 17th, 2017 8:42 am | By

Being a journalist who investigates corruption is one of the more dangerous professions. Daphne Caruana Galizia is one who has been silenced.

The car bombing that killed investigative reporter Daphne Caruana Galizia has left Malta in shock, alarmed that organised crime and political vendettas may have spiralled out of control.

“There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate,” she wrote in her last blog post, published shortly before her car exploded.

Caruana Galizia, 53, died near her home in Bidnija, a village in northern Malta.

She had relentlessly accused various Maltese politicians and other officials of corruption in her popular Running Commentary blog, and had been sued several times.

Now she won’t be doing that any more.

She was seen as one of Malta’s most influential writers, commented Herman Grech, Times of Malta online editor.

About 3,000 people honoured her in a candle-lit vigil in Sliema, near the capital Valletta, the night after she died.

The night after she was killed.

In his condemnation of the murder a German Green MEP, Sven Giegold, said“such incidents bring to mind Putin’s Russia, not the European Union”.

Her son Matthew, himself an investigative reporter, castigated the police on Facebook, accusing the authorities of negligence for failing to prevent the “assassination”.

He called Malta “a mafia state” where “a culture of impunity has been allowed to flourish by the government”.

He described rushing to the scene and finding “my mother’s body parts all around me”.

Yet he’s not silent.

None of this was enough

Oct 16th, 2017 6:07 pm | By

The culture police strike again.

When Laura Moriarty decided she wanted to write a dystopian novel about a future America in which Muslims are forcefully corralled into detention centers, she was aware that she should tread carefully. Her protagonist is a white teenager, but one of her main characters, Sadaf, is a Muslim American immigrant from Iran, so Moriarty began by diving into Iranian books and films. Moriarty explained via email that she asked two Iranian immigrant friends to read an early draft and see if Sadaf seemed authentic to them, and whether the language and accent fit with their memories and experiences. A friend of Pakistani and American descent who is a practicing Muslim gave additional feedback. Moriarty asked a senior colleague at the University of Kansas, Giselle Anatol, who writes about Young Adult fiction and has been critical of racist narratives in literature, to read the book with a particular eye toward avoiding another narrative about a “white savior.” And after American Heart was purchased by Harper, the publisher provided several formal “sensitivity reads,” in which a member of a minority group is charged with spotting potentially problematic depictions in a manuscript.

We can tell what’s coming. There’s a But.

None of this, as it turns out, was enough to protect American Heart from becoming the subject of the latest skirmish in the increasingly contentious battle over representation and diversity in the world of YA literature. American Heart won’t be published until January, but it has already attracted the ire of the fierce group of online YA readers that journalist Kat Rosenfield has referred to as “culture cops.”

And that was before the starred review.

The backlash escalated last week, when Kirkus Reviews gave American Heart a coveted “starred review,” which influences purchases by bookstores and libraries. Kirkus’ anonymous reviewer called the book “by turns terrifying, suspenseful, thought-provoking, and touching,” and praised its “frighteningly believable setting of fear and violent nativism gone awry.” The book’s critics were not pleased with the commendation. “Kirkus Reviews of books reinforce white supremacy,” author and activist Justina Ireland, who had posted a critical review of the book on Medium, wrote on Twitter. “I’m sick to my stomach over this, and I’m so sorry Muslim folks have to contend with one more reminder that their humanity is negotiable.”

Their humanity is negotiable? Because a non-Muslim wrote a story with a non-Muslim protagonist and a Muslim major character? That’s making humanity negotiable?

Kirkus, apparently, was listening. Over the weekend, the publication took down the brief review and replaced it with a remarkable three-paragraph statement from editor in chief Claiborne Smith. He pointed out that the original reviewer was a woman, a Muslim, and an expert in children’s and YA literature—the kind of profile that would privilege her opinion of the book in many circles. Nonetheless, “while we believe our reviewer’s opinion is worthy and valid, some of the wording fell short of meeting our standards for clarity and sensitivity, and we failed to make the thoughtful edits our readers deserve,” Smith wrote.

The whipping will be very gently administered.

That little they have shall be taken away

Oct 16th, 2017 5:35 pm | By

Trump, sniffing the air for more people to harm, has found them: welfare recipients.

President Donald Trump said Monday his administration will start to consider reforming the welfare system in the United States, saying that some people are “taking advantage of the system.”

The comment comes as the Trump administration struggles to get any sweeping legislation through Congress, despite Republicans controlling both the House and Senate. Trump failed to pass health care reform earlier this year and is currently working — without much success so far — to pass tax reform.

Trump was never trying to pass health care reform – he was trying to destroy the ACA’s attempt at providing health insurance for everyone. That’s not reform; it’s nihilism. Trump wants poor people and middling people (not poor but far from rich) to be unable to get health insurance, because it’s too expensive.

“People are taking advantage of the system and then other people aren’t receiving what they really need to live and we think it is very unfair to them,” said Trump, flanked by Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a Cabinet meeting. “Because some people are really taking advantage of our system from that standpoint.”

Nah. He doesn’t care about those other people who “aren’t receiving what they really need to live” – he just wants to take it away.

“We are going to be looking very, very strongly, therefore, at welfare reform,” Trump added.

How do you look at something “strongly”? Let alone “very, very strongly”? His vocabulary is so exiguous that he has to fall back on that idiot repetition.

Welfare reform was not something Trump emphasized on the campaign trail, but his first budget proposal — unveiled earlier this year — proposed sweeping cuts to food stamps and welfare programs by restricting those who are eligible for such programs.

See? He just wants more people to go without. It makes him happy. I bet he thinks about it while he’s eating his two scoops of ice cream (and his guests are eating their one).

He’s a deranged animal

Oct 16th, 2017 4:53 pm | By

Trump tells more vicious disgusting lies about Obama.

President Trump falsely asserted on Monday that his predecessor, Barack Obama, and other presidents did not contact the families of American troops killed in duty, drawing a swift, angry rebuke from several of Mr. Obama’s former aides.

That’s a foul thing to say, especially for that puffed-up bladder of a man who insulted the parents of a Muslim soldier killed in action in Iraq during the campaign.

I’m so sick of malicious lies. People have been telling malicious lies about me today so I’m in a filthy mood, but I’m sick of them anyway. Malicious lies ruin everything.

Trump was asked why he hadn’t said anything in public about four soldiers killed in an ambush in Niger last week.

Mr. Trump said he had written personal letters to their families and planned to call them in the coming week.

“If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls,” Mr. Trump said during a news conference in the Rose Garden with the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell. “A lot of them didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate.”

Mr. Trump’s assertion belied a long record of meetings Mr. Obama held with the families of killed service people, as well as calls and letters. Mr. Obama regularly traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to greet the caskets of troops, a ritual that began early in his presidency before he decided to deploy 30,000 troops to Afghanistan.

“This is an outrageous and disrespectful lie even by Trump standards,” Benjamin J. Rhodes, a former deputy national security adviser to Mr. Obama, posted on Twitter. “Also,” Mr. Rhodes added, “Obama never attacked a Gold Star family.”


Another former aide put it even more forcefully.

When Mr. Trump was pressed a few minutes later about his claim about Mr. Obama, he waffled.

“I don’t know if he did,” the president said. “I was told he didn’t often, and a lot of presidents don’t. They write letters.”

“President Obama, I think, probably did sometimes and maybe sometimes he didn’t,” Mr. Trump continued. “That’s what I was told. All I can do is ask my generals.”

The lying rat.

Aides running around with red faces

Oct 16th, 2017 11:56 am | By

How the employees of the Pennsylvania Avenue adult day care center spend their days:

When Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) described the White House as “an adult day-care center” on Twitter last week, he gave voice to a certain Trumpian truth: The president is often impulsive, mercurial and difficult to manage, leading those around him to find creative ways to channel his energies.

Some Trump aides spend a significant part of their time devising ways to rein in and control the impetuous president, angling to avoid outbursts that might work against him, according to interviews with 18 aides, confidants and outside advisers, most of whom insisted on anonymity to speak candidly.

Toys? Shiny things? Great big trucks? Trips to tropical islands?

“If you visit the White House today, you see aides running around with red faces, shuffling paper and trying to keep up with this president,” said one Republican in frequent contact with the administration. “That’s what the scene is.”

One defining feature of managing Trump is frequent praise, which can leave his team in what seems to be a state of perpetual compliments. The White House pushes out news releases overflowing with top officials heaping flattery on Trump; in one particularly memorable Cabinet meeting this year, each member went around the room lavishing the president with accolades.

That’s got to be massively demoralizing. It’s not possible to be compelled to do that kind of thing without feeling revulsion. They must feel like puking every time they do it.

Especially in the early days of his presidency, aides delivered the president daily packages of news stories filled with positive coverage and Trump began meetings by boasting about his performance, either as president or in winning the White House, according to one person who attended several Oval Office gatherings with him.

Thus helping to make sure that he has no idea of the truth of the matter, which is that more people hate him harder with every minute that passes.

“I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” Corker said, adding later that most GOP lawmakers “understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.”

Trump seems to hold many Republican lawmakers, and some members of his own Cabinet, in similarly low regard. Several people who have met with Trump in recent weeks said he has a habit of mocking other officials in Washington, especially fellow Republicans.

In a meeting at the White House last month with House and Senate leaders from both parties, for instance, Trump upset Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) by cutting a deal with Democrats. In subsequent days behind closed doors, the president mocked the reactions of McConnell and Ryan from the meeting with an exaggerated crossing of his arms and theatrical frowns.

His constant scowl, on the other hand, is dignified and Pwesidenshul.

Don 2 is outraged

Oct 16th, 2017 11:01 am | By

The Washington Post points out that Trumps seem to be peculiarly talented at bashing others for faults they excel at. Trump’s label “Crooked Hillary” is the classic of the genre but there are many.

Two of the president’s children complained about the “viciousness” of politics, defending a father who redefined viciousness as a candidate. Trump himself accused San Juan’s mayor of politicizing tragedy, despite his own tendency to do the same — repeatedly. The White House said ESPN’s Jemele Hill should be fired for calling Trump a “white supremacist,” even as Trump had called President Barack Obama a racist. It has also said attacking Trump is “unpatriotic,” despite Trump’s questioning Obama’s very legitimacy as president. And on and on.

It’s very grating, that kind of thing. We get tired of exclaiming “do you have any moral self-awareness at all?!”

But even by its standards, going there on Democrats and Harvey Weinstein is pretty brazen.

Donald Trump Jr. has been tweeting about Weinstein for the better part of the past week:

Trump Jr.’s arguments seem to boil down to two things: 1) Weinstein is clearly guilty, given the volume of accusers, and 2) Hollywood and Democrats are too willing to stand up for — or at least too reluctant to criticize — Weinstein.

Does that sound like anyone in Don Junior’s family? Why yes, it sounds like Daddy!

Eleven women came forward before the 2016 election to accuse Trump of touching them without consent, and although many Republicans initially rebuked Trump, upon his election, the party has stood by him in almost total lock-step. There are plenty of other similarities, too, including Trump and Weinstein both allegedly abusing their public stature, as well as recordings of Trump and Weinstein talking about sexually harassing women.

Maybe he thinks it’s like setting a fire to stop a fire. Or, more likely, he doesn’t think at all.

Guest post: That stuff we consider being a “real man”

Oct 16th, 2017 9:41 am | By

Originally a comment by Bruce Gorton on Through male eyes.

The problem I think isn’t a craving for sex. Nor is it necessarily misogyny, or at least not exactly what we think of as misogyny.

A lot of it is more about what we think about being male, than what we think about the role of women. We think of being male as being the fighter, being forceful, being willing to take charge.

So with the Catholics, they can try and eliminate any hint of sexual characteristics from women, and they end up… with a massive child rape scandal that spans the entire globe. Islam tries to do the same thing, as I’m sure you’re well aware, and the net result is… more of the same stuff.

The problem isn’t the sexual desire, it isn’t about women’s bodies, it is about what we as men have going on in our heads. It is that stuff we consider being a “real man”.

Sometimes you need those traits of being a fighter, being forceful, being willing to take charge, they aren’t inherently bad things, except what we’re taught to think of as winning is somebody else losing, and that means those traits are prized in a way where consent is not only devalued, it is seen as a negative.

If everyone wins, is it victory or is it a participation award?

President Jacob Zuma, a while back, argued in Parliament that because the ANC won the most votes, the ANC has more rights than everyone else. His view of democracy was as a means of winning those rights.

Is it any surprise that Jacob Zuma, the ANC and the country as a whole, have less than great histories regarding respecting consent? When your concept of political victory is you have more rights than everyone else, that, not anything really to do with women per se, is a problem.

What is our language around sex? Conquest. Conquest is a form of taking power that is not achieved through mutual consent. Leadership becomes dominance, and dominance is desirable because you don’t have to think about what other people want. “When you’re a star, they let you get away with it.”

When you’re a successful movie producer, when you’re a TV icon, when you’re a president, when you’re in charge and you’re a winner, you get more rights. It isn’t simply about how men view women, it is what happens when the way we’re taught to see everything gets applied to women.

But of course all of this is IMO, and maybe I’m crazy. I hope so, because actually solving the problem I’ve set forward is much harder than identifying it.

So many blind eyes

Oct 15th, 2017 6:10 pm | By

Emma Thompson talked to the BBC about Harvey Weinstein.

“One of the big problems in the system we have is that there are so many blind eyes and we can’t keep making the women to whom this happens responsible. They are the ones we have got to speak. Why?” she told Emily Maitlis.

She railed against the “conspiracy of silence” and described Weinstein as “the top of a very particular iceberg” in “a system of harassment and belittling and bullying and interference” and warned that there were many more like him in Hollywood.

Asked if she was a friend of Weinstein, who was credited with transforming the British film industry in the 1990s, she replied emphatically: “No, and that is the understatement of the century.”

She didn’t “rail.” That’s an obnoxiously loaded word – it makes her sound irrational.

Thompson said she was unaware of the specific incidents but was not surprised. She said she only had business dealings with Weinstein and clashed with him over Nanny McPhee when Miramax owned the film.

“I think there are probably about a million missed opportunities to call this man out on his disgusting behaviour,” Thompson said.

“I don’t think you can describe him as a sex addict, he’s a predator. That’s different. He’s at the top of, as it were the ladder of, a system of harassment and belittlement and bullying and interference. This has been part of our world, women’s world, since time immemorial.

“So what we need to start talking about is the crisis in masculinity, the crisis of extreme masculinity which is this sort of behaviour.”

I suppose it’s feminism. If women refuse to be underlings any more, then men will pay them back.