Notes and Comment Blog


May 26th, 2018 9:53 am | By

RTÉ reports:

The results in the referendum on the Eighth Amendment show the Yes side is ahead by a margin of around 2-to-1.

Most of the 40 constituencies have now finished counting ballot papers and have declared official results.

In what is expected to be the highest Yes vote, 78.4% of voters in Dublin Bay South opted to repeal the Eighth.

On a day described by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as the “culmination of a quiet revolution”, Galway East was the first constituency to declare a result delivering a decisive Yes vote at 60%.

In the capital all declared constituencies have come in with over 70% for the Yes side.

Donegal looks to be the one constituency that will vote No.

Two Fianna Fáil TDs who advocated a No vote, said they would now support proposed legislation to provide for abortion services.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the Oireachtas should move efficiently to enact the will of the people.

The LoveBoth campaign has said exit polls paint a bleak picture for retention of the Eighth Amendment “and represent an abortion regime that has nothing to do with healthcare and everything to do with abortion on demand.”

Nonsense; it has everything to do with healthcare. If it’s a pregnancy you don’t want, it’s nine months of increasing illness and discomfort and disability, ending in X hours of terrible pain and a permanently altered body. If you don’t want it that’s absolutely a healthcare issue. Women who want the baby heroically put up with all of it, but that doesn’t make it a walk in the park.

In Dublin, a nice touch:

After Eights are a brand of mint chocolates. Brilliant.

No racist and misogynistic culture to see here

May 26th, 2018 9:13 am | By

Fun and games at the office.

A woman who complained of a racist and misogynistic culture in a Scottish government department claims she was taped to a chair and gagged by two male colleagues as a warning to keep quiet.

DeeAnn Fitzpatrick said the restraint took place amid years of bullying and harassment at Marine Scotland’s Scrabster office.

The fisheries officer has taken her case to an employment tribunal.

BBC Scotland has obtained a photo of the restraint incident.

It was taken by one of the men allegedly responsible.

Image result for woman taped to chair scotland office

Ms Fitzpatrick, a Canadian national, said it happened in 2010 as a result of her blowing the whistle on a threatening and misogynistic culture at Marine Scotland’s office in Scrabster, on the far north Caithness coast.

Well it certainly is a fine way to demonstrate a non-threatening and non-misogynistic office culture, to tape the accuser to a chair and tape her mouth shut and take a photo.

Rhoda Grant, a Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands, has been supporting 49-year-old Ms Fitzpatrick since 2010, when a concerned colleague of the fisheries officer alerted the politician to the alleged treatment.

Seeing the photo for the first time, Ms Grant told the BBC: “It’s horrific. I’m kind of speechless.”

The MSP said she had been told it had happened but seeing the photo seemed to make it “10 times worse”.

Oh well, it’s only a woman.

Ms Fitzpatrick’s sister-in-law Sherry Fitzpatrick told the BBC that the photograph of the restraint incident needs to be shown.

She said: “We were horrified. We were sickened. We worry about what this has done to her.”

But it’s only a woman. Move on.


A man with a mission

May 25th, 2018 4:08 pm | By

A long and very interesting piece on Jordan Kermit Peterson by a longtime colleague and friend who successfully pushed for the University of Toronto to hire him twenty years ago. He now thinks that was a mistake.

The takeaway: Peterson was always eccentric and intense, but he’s gotten worse, especially since he became a famous guru.

I thought long and hard before writing about Jordan, and I do not do this lightly. He has one of the most agile and creative minds I’ve ever known. He is a powerful orator. He is smart, passionate, engaging and compelling and can be thoughtful and kind.

I was once his strongest supporter.

That all changed with his rise to celebrity. I am alarmed by his now-questionable relationship to truth, intellectual integrity and common decency, which I had not seen before. His output is voluminous and filled with oversimplifications which obscure or misrepresent complex matters in the service of a message which is difficult to pin down. He can be very persuasive, and toys with facts and with people’s emotions. I believe he is a man with a mission. It is less clear what that mission is.

In the end, I am writing this because of his extraordinary rise in visibility, the nature of his growing following and a concern that his ambitions might venture from stardom back to his long-standing interest in politics. I am writing this from a place of sadness and from a sense of responsibility to the public good to tell what I know about who Jordan is, having seen him up close, as a colleague and friend, and having examined up close his political actions at the University of Toronto, allegedly in defence of free speech.

The politics thing is alarming.

I met Jordan Peterson when he came to the University of Toronto to be interviewed for an assistant professorship in the department of psychology. His CV was impeccable, with terrific references and a pedigree that included a PhD from McGill and a five-year stint at Harvard as an assistant professor.

We did not share research interests but it was clear that his work was solid. My colleagues on the search committee were skeptical — they felt he was too eccentric — but somehow I prevailed. (Several committee members now remind me that they agreed to hire him because they were “tired of hearing me shout over them.”) I pushed for him because he was a divergent thinker, self-educated in the humanities, intellectually flamboyant, bold, energetic and confident, bordering on arrogant. I thought he would bring a new excitement, along with new ideas, to our department.

I get that. People of that type can be fantastic teachers…but they can also tip over into arrogant gurudom.

On campus, he was as interesting as I had expected him to be. His research on alcoholism, and then personality, was solid, but his consuming intellectual interests lay elsewhere. He had been an undergraduate in political science in Edmonton, where he had become obsessed with the Cold War. He switched to psychology in order to understand why some people would, as he once told me, destroy everything — their past, their present and their future — because of strong beliefs. That was the subject of his first book, Maps of Meaning, published in 1999, and the topic of his most popular undergraduate course.

He was, however, more eccentric than I had expected. He was a maverick. Even though there was nothing contentious about his research, he objected in principle to having it reviewed by the university research ethics committee, whose purpose is to protect the safety and well-being of experiment subjects.

He requested a meeting with the committee. I was not present but was told that he had questioned the authority and expertise of the committee members, had insisted that he alone was in a position to judge whether his research was ethical and that, in any case, he was fully capable of making such decisions himself. He was impervious to the fact that subjects in psychological research had been, on occasion, subjected to bad experiences, and also to the fact that both the Canadian and United States governments had made these reviews mandatory. What was he doing! I managed to make light of this to myself by attributing it to his unbridled energy and fierce independence, which were, in many other ways, virtues. That was a mistake.

That is truly creepy. Of course subjects in psychological research had been, on occasion, subjected to bad experiences; everyone in the field knows that, and knows that that’s why there are reviews. It’s Trump-level arrogance to say “I can judge for myself”…and it’s also psychologically naïve.

And then there was his teaching…or preaching.

As the undergraduate chair, I read all teaching reviews. His were, for the most part, excellent and included eyebrow-raising comments such as “This course has changed my life.” One student, however, hated the course because he did not like “delivered truths.” Curious, I attended many of Jordan’s lectures to see for myself.

Remarkably, the 50 students always showed up at 9 a.m. and were held in rapt attention for an hour. Jordan was a captivating lecturer — electric and eclectic — cherry-picking from neuroscience, mythology, psychology, philosophy, the Bible and popular culture. The class loved him. But, as reported by that one astute student, Jordan presented conjecture as statement of fact. I expressed my concern to him about this a number of times, and each time Jordan agreed. He acknowledged the danger of such practices, but then continued to do it again and again, as if he could not control himself.

He was a preacher more than a teacher.

I know the type. It’s an occupational hazard for ego-tripping wannabe preacher dudes: their flocks are much younger than they are and they are there to listen; the situation is ripe for cranks like Peterson. A decent person would blush fiery red at all the adulation and take steps to make it stop; Peterson does what he can to amplify it.

More recently, when questioned about the merits of 12 Rules for Life, Jordan answered that he must be doing something right because of the huge response the book has received. How odd given what he said in that same interview about demagogues and cheering crowds. In an article published in January in the Spectator, Douglas Murray described the atmosphere at one of Jordan’s talks as “ecstatic.”

I have no way of knowing whether Jordan is aware that he is playing out of the same authoritarian demagogue handbook that he himself has described. If he is unaware, then his ironic failure, unwillingness, or inability to see in himself what he attributes to them is very disconcerting.

Exactly. A sensible, reasonable, non-grandiose person would be very wary of the mania; Peterson encourages it.

Following his opposition to Bill C-16, Jordan again sought to establish himself as a “warrior” and attacked identity politics and political correctness as threats to free speech. He characterized them as left-wing conspiracies rooted in a “murderous” ideology — Marxism. Calling Marxism, a respectable political and philosophical tradition, “murderous” conflates it with the perversion of those ideas in Stalinist Russia and elsewhere where they were. That is like calling Christianity a murderous ideology because of the blood that was shed in its name during the Inquisition, the Crusades and the great wars of Europe. That is ridiculous.

In Jordan’s hands, a claim which is merely ridiculous became dangerous. Jordan, our “free speech warrior,” decided to launch a website that listed “postmodern neo-Marxist” professors and “corrupt” academic disciplines, warning students and their parents to avoid them. Those disciplines, postmodern or not, included women’s, ethnic and racial studies. Those “left-wing” professors were trying to “indoctrinate their students into a cult” and, worse, create “anarchical social revolutionaries.”

De-platforming, in short. Making a little list.

His strategy is eerily familiar. In the 1950s a vicious attack on freedom of speech and thought occurred in the United States at the hands of Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee. People suspected of having left-wing, “Communist” leanings were blacklisted and silenced. It was a frightening period of lost jobs, broken lives and betrayal. Ironically, around this time the Stasi were doing the same to people in East Berlin who were disloyal to that very same “murderous” ideology.

Jordan has a complex relationship to freedom of speech. He wants to effectively silence those left-wing professors by keeping students away from their courses because the students may one day become “anarchical social revolutionaries” who may bring upon us disruption and violence. At the same time he was advocating cutting funds to universities that did not protect free speech on their campuses. He defended the rights of “alt right” voices to speak at universities even though their presence has given rise to disruption and violence. For Jordan, it appears, not all speech is equal, and not all disruption and violence are equal, either.

His fans, for instance, can be very belligerent.

I was warned by a number of writers, editors and friends that this article would invite backlash, primarily from his young male acolytes, and I was asked to consider whether publishing it was worth it. More than anything, that convinced me it should be published.

I discovered while writing this essay a shocking climate of fear among women writers and academics who would not attach their names to opinions or data which were critical of Jordan. All of Jordan’s critics receive nasty feedback from some of his followers, but women writers have felt personally threatened.

And if he decides to go into politics…?

Jordan is a powerful orator. He is smart, compelling and convincing. His messages can be strong and clear, oversimplified as they often are, to be very accessible. He has played havoc with the truth. He has studied demagogues and authoritarians and understands the power of their methods. Fear and danger were their fertile soil. He frightens by invoking murderous bogeymen on the left and warning they are out to destroy the social order, which will bring chaos and destruction.

Jordan’s view of the social order is now well known.

He is a biological and Darwinian determinist. Gender, gender roles, dominance hierarchies, parenthood, all firmly entrenched in our biological heritage and not to be toyed with. Years ago when he was living in my house, he said children are little monkeys trying to clamber up the dominance hierarchy and need to be kept in their place. I thought he was being ironic. Apparently, not.

He is also very much like the classic Social Darwinists who believe that “attempts to reform society through state intervention or other means would … interfere with natural processes; unrestricted competition and defence of the status quo were in accord with biological selection.” (Encylopedia Britannica, 2018.) From the same source: “Social Darwinism declined during the 20th century as an expanded knowledge of biological, social and cultural phenomena undermined, rather than supported, its basic tenets.” Jordan remains stuck in and enthralled by The Call of the Wild.

We should be concerned about his interest in politics. It is clear what kind of country he would want to have or, if he could, lead.

That would be bad.

Goodbye 8th

May 25th, 2018 2:41 pm | By

Ireland has voted massively to repeal the 8th amendment.

Ireland has voted by a landslide margin to change the constitution so that abortion can be legalised, according to an exit poll conducted for The Irish Times by Ipsos/MRBI.

The poll suggests that the margin of victory for the Yes side in the referendum will be 68 per cent to 32 per cent – a stunning victory for the Yes side after a long and often divisive campaign. See here for liveblog coverage of events across Friday in the referendum vote.

The Irish Times reported on an issue with the abortion ban in April:

The Eighth Amendment has caused pregnant women with cancer to die and will continue to put them at risk if it is not repealed, an obstetrician has said.

Louise Kenny, a professor of obstetrics and a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, said she had witnessed care being denied to a pregnant woman with cancer because of the State’s abortion laws.

“It is an outrageous lie to say that the Eighth has never changed medical management or adversely affected the outcome of a woman with cancer,” said Prof Kenny, who specialises in the management of high risk pregnancies.

“It is a fact that the Eighth Amendment casts a shadow over the care of every woman of reproductive age with complex medical needs in this State.”

Like this:

I live here. My sister is being treated for incurable metastatic breast cancer. If she misses a period her chemo is stopped until a [pregnancy] test. Were she to fall [pregnant] she would be taken off the clinical trial that is keeping her alive. That is the reality of the 8th we live with.

No more.

Flanked by several sex crimes detectives

May 25th, 2018 11:01 am | By

Harvey Weinstein turned himself in this morning.

Harvey Weinstein turned himself in to New York City detectives and appeared in court on Friday on charges that he raped one woman and forced another to perform oral sex, a watershed in a monthslong sex crimes investigation and in the #MeToo movement.

Around 7:30 a.m., Mr. Weinstein walked into a police station house in Lower Manhattan, flanked by several sex crimes detectives. Toting three large books under his right arm, he looked up without saying a word as a crush of reporters and onlookers yelled, “Harvey!”

He was fingerprinted and formally booked. Then about an hour later, he was led from the First Police Precinct in TriBeCa and taken to court on Centre Street to face rape charges, his arms pinned behind him in three sets of handcuffs to accommodate his girth, a law enforcement official said.

Jodi Kantor – one of the reporters, along with Megan Tuohy, who broke the story in the Times – underlined a moment.

Back to the Times:

Around 9:25 a.m., Mr. Weinstein was escorted into a courtroom in Manhattan Criminal Court by two police investigators, one holding each of his elbows. They were Sergeant Keri Thompson and Detective Nicholas DiGuadio from the department’s Special Victims Division, both of whom have long been involved in tracking down Mr. Weinstein’s accusers and corroborating their accounts.

Ah, so they’re not just leading him around today, they’ve been on his case. They’re his Benson and Stabler.

[Weinstein’s lawyer Benjamin] Brafman said he would “move quickly” to dismiss the charges, calling them “constitutionally flawed and factually unsubstantiated.”

“I anticipate that the women who have made these allegations, when subjected to cross-examination — in the event we get that far — will not be believed by 12 people,” Mr. Brafman said. He continued, “Assuming we get 12 fair people who are not consumed by the movement that seems to have overtaken this case.”

Indeed. Women are always not believed…except when there’s a wicked “movement” to report on and talk about all the many many many not-believed women who have been assaulted or raped over the years.

Mr. Weinstein reigned as one of Hollywood’s top producers, known as much for his bullying and aggression as for his cinematic success. Over the years, journalists and investigators, chasing leads from a whisper network of women and a handful of complainants, tried to expose the accusations and hold him accountable, but came up empty. Mr. Weinstein’s power was enormous, his and his lawyers’ connections were extensive, and he was often able to buy or coerce the silence of any accusers.

It helps to have lots of money to make sure women are not believed.

Miller and Kushner laughed

May 25th, 2018 9:58 am | By

Trump is reeeeeeeally mad at Kirsten Nielsen – not of course because she’s too racist and xenophobic but because she’s not racist and xenophobic enough.

As illegal crossings are once more on the rise and Trump hears a cascade of criticism from conservative allies, Nielsen finds herself on the receiving end of the president’s visceral anger about immigration, seeing the issue as the reason he won in 2016 and a key to his politicking ahead of the midterm elections.

The president has chastised her on several occasions this spring, including a much publicized meeting earlier this month when he attacked her in front of the entire Cabinet. He has grown furious because his administration has made little progress building the border wall, and his most ardent supporters have blamed Nielsen for not doing more to halt the caravan of Central American migrants whose advance Trump saw as a personal challenge.

It remains unclear, according to several people familiar with the situation, how much longer the relationship can last, but the strains illustrate the difficulty faced by Trump subordinates who are tasked with delivering policy solutions to match his most soaring promises.

“The president has a very rudimentary understanding of what the border is all about and how you secure it,” said a former DHS staffer who worked closely with Nielsen.

Trump has a very rudimentary understanding of pretty much everything to do with his job (and pretty much everything else as well). He’s a very rudimentary understanding kind of guy.

Nielsen brings a lawyerly, technocratic approach to an issue that animates the president like no other, with a passion dyed into the blood-red MAGA caps of his supporters.

The night before Trump delivered his first speech to Congress in February 2017, he huddled with senior adviser Jared Kushner and Miller in the Oval Office to talk immigration. The president reluctantly agreed with suggestions he strike a gentler tone on immigration in the speech.

Trump reminded them the crowds loved his rhetoric on immigrants along the campaign trail. Acting as if he [were] at a rally, he then read aloud a few made up Hispanic names and described potential crimes they could have committed, like rape or murder. Then, he said, the crowds would roar when the criminals were thrown out of the country — as they did when he highlighted crimes by illegal immigrants at his rallies, according to a person present for the exchange and another briefed on it later. Miller and Kushner laughed.

They laughed. The prez puts on a racist comedy skit and his people laugh.

Now, five months into her tenure as homeland security secretary, the measures Nielsen has implemented — separating families, boosting arrests, increasing prosecutions — have made her a villain to many Democrats and immigrant rights’ groups.

But they have not delivered the immediate results the president demands. In April, the number of illegal border crossers arrested by U.S. agents topped 50,000 for the second consecutive month. The increase has stripped the president of one of his proudest accomplishments — the sharp drop in illegal migration in the months immediately following his 2016 win.

If only he were even more racist and loathsome, so that no one would want to come here.

Trump has been in no mood to hear that migration patterns have returned to historic, seasonal norms this spring, a trend occurring in part because the American economy is buzzing and U.S. farms, factories and businesses are desperate for workers.

Instead Trump has fumed at Nielsen, telling her to “close the border” and growing impatient at her explanations of why that’s not possible. He has also blamed her, at times, for not securing enough money to finish the border wall — even though she was not part of the spending deal struck by senior White House aides and that the president signed, current and former administration officials said.

Which just illustrates yet again how hopelessly and destructively stupid he is, getting enraged when people explain realities to him and wanting to just bull through them as if he had supernatural powers.

What possible legitimate purpose?

May 24th, 2018 5:56 pm | By

Yes, thank you for asking, it is quite strange that subjects of an investigation were allowed to plant their lawyers and friends in a meeting to discuss the investigation while it is in progress. As a matter of fact, to put it more technically, it’s a fucking circus.

The president’s chief of staff and the White House counsel attended a classified briefing Thursday with top Justice Department officials and lawmakers about an investigation into the president and his associates — and the events have floored national-security experts and former intelligence officials.

When the White House announced the first of the two briefings earlier this week, it said chief of staff John Kelly would not be attending.

One former FBI official said they were “gobsmacked” when they learned the chief of staff would be present after all.

Why? Because normally investigators don’t like to share details of their investigations with people they’re investigating until it’s time to go to trial. They prefer to keep all that to themselves in the hopes that the people they’re investigating won’t be helped to defeat the purpose of the investigation.

“This is an investigation centering squarely around the president and his cohorts,” said this person, who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “And we’ve got the president’s chief of staff attending a classified briefing — and getting sensitive intelligence — about said investigation. It’s a f—ing circus.”

When it emerged later that Emmet Flood, the new White House counsel, also attended the briefing, the person added: “This is truly mind-boggling.”

It’s a fucking circus, is what it is.

Renato Mariotti, a longtime former federal prosecutor in Chicago, expressed a similar view.

“It is completely inappropriate for a lawyer representing a subject of the investigation to attend the congressional oversight meeting in which nonpublic information about the investigation was revealed,” he tweeted following the first briefing. “What possible legitimate purpose could his attendance have served?”

None, but that’s not why he was there.

Accuracy patrol

May 24th, 2018 12:29 pm | By

Honestly, they’re still getting this wrong.

The story: senior academic, a male, when a voice on a crowded elevator at a conference invites people to call out their floors, calls out “Ladies’ Lingerie!” Haw haw. Another academic, a woman, makes a complaint, and since this is in the Daily Mail you know the rest.

But then the senior male academic, Richard New Lewbow, telling this sad tale, gets to Tim Hunt.

I know many in my profession are more vulnerable to threats and bullying than I am — at 76 I am near the end of my career. But students and young dons will feel an even greater need to censor their thoughts in a world where people who take offence can muzzle others.

And it is not only young people at risk. You might remember the case of Professor Tim Hunt, a Nobel prize-winning biochemist who made an ill-judged joke to a conference in 2015 about his problems when working with ‘girls’ in the lab — either he fell in love with them, they fell in love with him, or he made them cry.

I certainly wouldn’t endorse this clunky attempt at humour, but the way the academic world turned on him was frightening.

He was forced to resign as a professor at University College London — a Nobel winner’s reputation in tatters over one ill-advised joke.

NO. That is wrong. He wasn’t a professor at UCL; he was an honorary professor, which is an honor as opposed to a job, and an honor that can be withdrawn at any time for any reason, as UCL says very clearly on its website. It wasn’t his job or his career, it was an honorary professorship; he was very sorry to lose it but it wasn’t comparable to being fired. At all.

You’d think a senior academic of all people could manage to get that right.

Guest post: A very obvious funnel

May 24th, 2018 11:49 am | By

Originally a comment on Toby tell us again.

During my first degree in computer science (not at Oxford, at Teesside of all places) in the early 90s there were four women out of about 300 students. There were eight people who were not white. During later degrees at Newcastle and Leeds and having worked in those universities for decades, I didn’t see as much improvement as I’d hoped.

There were women and people of colour in top faculty positions, for sure. But there was also a very obvious funnel: women and people of colour didn’t seem to rise through the ranks as easily as white dudes did. Women of colour in particular seemed to find it difficult to find employment in their department once they’d completed their PhDs regardless of the quality of their work.

I served on hiring committees for at least 50 people at Newcastle and Leeds, supervised a dozen PhDs and acted as a consultant in hiring at some other universities. White men were hired overwhelmingly, even over and above outstanding candidates we had already worked with for several years.

I spoke about this a *lot* within those faculties but nobody really believed there was a problem. They figured that since they were academics they were immune to prejudice.

I worked with so many amazing people who didn’t really stand much chance of getting jobs even though they had done great work, written several journal papers while they were students and knew how to get the business of science done better and more efficiently than fossils like me.

It is the main reason I left academia. In my experience it doesn’t realise it has a problem. I rose through the ranks more easily than people who worked harder than me, were smarter than me and who wrote more and better papers than I did. White dude coming through.

Kelly and Flood sit in

May 24th, 2018 11:27 am | By

The Times reports on Trump’s shockingly open obstruction of justice:

Top law enforcement and intelligence officials briefed congressional leaders from both parties on Thursday about the F.B.I.’s use of an informant in the Russia investigation, a highly unusual concession to Congress all but ordered by President Trump.

House Republicans close to the president, led by Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the Intelligence Committee chairman, had been pressing unsuccessfully for weeks for access to material related to the informant, issuing a subpoena and threatening to hold top Justice Department officials in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn it over.

So that they could covertly hand it over to Trump and his lawyers so that they could improve their defense.

White House officials had at first arranged for only Mr. Nunes to be briefed. But Republican Senate leaders, including Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the Intelligence Committee chairman, pressed the White House to change the audience to the so-called Gang of Eight, the select bipartisan group with whom the government’s most sensitive intelligence is shared.

Mr. Nunes is the guy who has a track record of handing stuff over to Trump.

The senators, who have quietly objected to Mr. Nunes’s tactics in the past, were successful, at least in part. Administration officials held two separate briefings on Thursday: one for Mr. Nunes at the Justice Department, which has ended, and another on Capitol Hill Thursday afternoon for the Gang of Eight.

The details continued to be fluid Thursday. At the last minute, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, was also included in the first meeting. He was there in place of Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, who received a last-minute invitation.

All this is basically an attempted coup.

John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, whom Mr. Trump asked to help organize the meetings, was invited to attend both sessions. His presence was highly unusual in a sensitive congressional oversight briefing and it raised the specter that the top aide to the president could gain access to closely held information about an investigation of the president and his associates.

Emmet T. Flood, a lawyer representing Mr. Trump in the Russia investigation, was also briefly in the first meeting. Mr. Flood accompanied Mr. Kelly and left the room after initial remarks, according to two officials familiar with the meeting.

That is completely outrageous. Neither Kelly nor Flood should be allowed anywhere near those meetings.

It’s a c0up. It’s slow, and sometimes impeded by resistance, but it’s getting there.

Stand up straight with the lobsters

May 24th, 2018 10:33 am | By

Helen Lewis has some characteristically amusing observations on Kermit Peterson:

This is the Peterson brand: interweaving a story of dragons and witches, and masculine order and feminine chaos, around some crushingly banal life advice about trying to be a good person, wash behind your ears, and maybe a slick of deodorant once in a while wouldn’t go amiss, eh? If he was a woman, writing for women, we would see him for what he is: a mash-up of Cosmo tips and My First Book of Myths. But because he’s writing for sad young white men – and their problems are, you know, real problems, not like anorexia or rape or sexual harassment at work – he’s a public intellectual. Plus, as plenty of onlookers have noticed, it’s the ultimate triumph of capitalism: when it comes from your mum, it’s nagging. When it comes from a renegade professor with a Patreon, it’s worth $80,000 a month.

A male renegade professor with a Patreon. The male part is crucial. If a woman says it it’s just your mum again. Helen knows that of course, she just forgot to say it.

But isn’t he just giving harmless to good advice to fretful young men? Is that such a bad thing?

Unfortunately, this was an argument that could have been plausibly made about the Jordan Peterson of a few months ago. It’s not one that can be made of the Jordan Peterson of today. As a friend – a geneticist – said to me recently: “It’s ironic. He’s evolved into a bellend in front of our eyes: the selection pressure being attention.”

His fans are that kind of guy, so they’re pulling him in their direction. Short version: assholery / bellendery sells.

Peterson is one of a group of thinkers nicknamed the “intellectual dark web”, who claim they are challenging the suffocating liberal orthodoxy of college campuses and the media. While I have some sympathy – students can be tedious know-alls, but that’s sort of the point of them – they are extremely sloppy at differentiating between genuine threats to free speech and people merely disagreeing with dumb things that they say. This allows them to dress up a great deal of banality and flat-out wrongness as brave taboo-breaking. They think they are latter-day Galileos, when they’re closer to present-day phone-in hosts with PhDs. (Give Nigel Farage an evening course in Ovid or evolutionary psychology, he’d be right in there, is what I’m saying.)

Quite. The most baffling thing about Peterson is why the dudes are so smitten with him.

Just as we like our superstar tenors to be huge and Italian, there’s an appetite for public intellectuals who look like our cultural template for cleverness and authority: well-spoken, preferably white, preferably male. They should be eloquent but undemanding: their audiences want to feel clever without actually having to slog through a textbook. They should offer certainty and answers where real science often only offers doubt and scepticism.

Oh, and one more thing: they should take themselves extremely seriously – something, of course, which truly intelligent people rarely do.

I suspect Peterson is not clever enough to be funny.

The only prize he wants

May 24th, 2018 9:53 am | By

I saw this.

I thought “Really?? He said that?!” I looked it up. He said that.

Trump was asked by a reporter at the White House if he’s deserving of the prize after news broke Wednesday that three American men who had been imprisoned by North Korea were on their way home to the United States.

“Everyone thinks so, but I would never say it,” said Trump, who is preparing to meet face-to-face with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in coming weeks, as part of a bid to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

“You know what I want to do?” Trump said to reporters. “I want to get it finished. The prize I want is victory for the world — not for even here — I want victory for the world. Because that’s what we’re talking about, so that’s the only prize I want.”

Well, apart from all the millions and millions of dollars, of course.

Toby tell us again

May 24th, 2018 9:28 am | By

David Lammy MP:

Toby Young said no no, it’s not like that.

H/t Maureen Brian

Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country

May 24th, 2018 9:15 am | By

Elsewhere in Trump:

President Trump praised the NFL’s decision to mandate that players either stand for the national anthem or stay in the locker room in a TV interview that aired Thursday.

And he questioned whether players who choose not to stand “proudly” should be in the country at all.

Oh did he. Did he really. This lying stealing bullying garbage fire of a man who defecates on this country every day has the gall to question whether African American athletes who protest racism by kneeling instead of standing while a song is sung should be in the country at all.

“Well, I think that’s good,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News. “I don’t think people should be staying in locker rooms, but still I think it’s good. You have to stand, proudly, for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there, maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”

No you don’t “have to.” Opinion should not be coerced, and public expression of opinion should not be coerced. Employers can make workplace rules, but morally speaking (at least) there are some rules they should not make. It’s not Trump’s decision to make either way, but he does love to find opportunities to bully brown people.

But ours are so massive and powerful

May 24th, 2018 8:52 am | By

Trump canceled the meeting with Kim, and sent him a ridiculous letter saying so…and tweeted the ridiculous letter so that we can all see how ridiculous it is. He seems to have actually written much of it (that is, spoken it aloud) himself.

I was very much looking forward to being there with you. Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting.

Says the childish stupid man who called Kim “Little Rocket Man” repeatedly on Twitter.

Trump withdrew from the summit after a North Korean vice minister of foreign affairs slammed Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday as a “political dummy,” the latest harshly worded statement from Pyongyang.

Trump and his aides were infuriated by the statement and wanted to respond forcefully, multiple people familiar with the situation told CNN. The specific and personal targeting of Pence is what irked US officials, three people familiar with the matter said.

Infuriated on what grounds? Given the way Trump talked about and to Kim repeatedly in full public view?

Trump and his aides had insisted over the past week that planning for the summit was still ongoing amid the increased bluster from Pyongyang. A logistics team was dispatched to Singapore to finalize details with North Korea officials. And a commemorative coin was stamped by military aides labeling Kim the “Supreme Leader.”

Oops. Those coins are supposed to appear after a successful summit meeting, not before. Guess why.

The whole letter in all its clownish absurdity:

Dear Mr. Chairman:

We greatly appreciate your time, patience, and effort with respect to our recent negotiations and discussions relative to a summit long sought by both parties, which was scheduled to take place on June 12 in Singapore. We were informed that the meeting was requested by North Korea, but that to us is totally irrelevant. I was very much looking forward to being there with you. Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting. Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place. You talk about nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.

I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me, and ultimately, it is only that dialogue that matters. Some day, I look very much forward to meeting you. In the meantime, I want to thank you for the release of the hostages who are now home with their families. That was a beautiful gesture and was very much appreciated.

If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write. The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth. This missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history.



“I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me”

But then you broke my heart.


May 23rd, 2018 5:49 pm | By

Trump can lie cheat and steal but at least he can’t block his critics on Twitter.

U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald cited First Amendment principles in holding that the social media platform offered a forum in which people could not only consume information and opinion from public figures but offer feedback to elected officials — just as they have the right to do in newsprint or in person in public spaces.

Buchwald boiled down the case to two simple questions: Can a public official block someone from seeing her or his Twitter feed given First Amendment protections of free speech? And does it matter if that public official is the president?

“The answer to both questions is no,” Buchwald wrote at the top of her opinion.

The case was technically filed against Trump, his former communications director Hope Hicks, his chief press secretary Sarah Sanders, and his social media director, Daniel Scavino. The White House did not give any indication to NPR or others whether the administration will appeal the decision.

Buchwald did not order any compensation for damages but instead offered a declarative judgment — one that involved declarative statements from the judge. “[N]o government official — including the President — is above the law,” she wrote, “and all government officials are presumed to follow the law as has been declared.” The judge wrote she expects Scavino to unblock critics and to not block others in the future.

He uses it (a lot) to make presidential assertions and blurts and insults, so it’s only reasonable that that means he can’t wall it off.

Guest post: So that the worst person in the world can skate by

May 23rd, 2018 4:10 pm | By

Originally a comment by Seth on The ultimate disrupter.

The worst thing about this whole mess is that, if the Republic does somehow limp through and Trump manages to get re-elected without going full-on fascist and sunsets without too much fuss when it’s over, the presidency will forever then be seen as an insulating force to one’s criminality and indeed one’s reputation. Just listen to the milquetoast way the author says ‘…a president who might not always be known for accuracy’.

Such an obvious Bowdlerisation of what everyone knows to be true is disgusting. Everyone who matters is pretending that the prestige of the office is paramount, and in so doing they are shitting on all of the work done by all of Trump’s predecessors in building that prestige and earning that respect so that the worst person in the world can skate by on his venal criminality. And when he’s gone, without having had to answer for any of his crimes, with a party eager to ‘put it behind them’ and a country too weary to right itself, nobody will ever be able to trust or respect the President of the United States ever again.

Bush did immeasurable harm to the office, and to the country. Obama was such a stark contrast that his very presence allowed the world to forget, to write Bush off as a temporary madness, and to more-or-less pretend the whole sordid administration simply had not happened. Now that the office has been opened to naked hucksters and ravening criminals (as long as they are Republicans, anyway), the US will never be able to recoup that reputation. It’s gone, and it simply is not coming back.

Good luck. You’ll need it.

The ultimate disrupter

May 23rd, 2018 3:17 pm | By

Mark Leibovich at the Times talked to some press secretaries for the Golden Hitler.

“What’s true on Monday in terms of a process decision may change by Friday,” Sanders said. “And I can’t always know that things will be different.” It often does not take that long for a “process” to evolve, I said. Sometimes a 5 a.m. tweet generated from the White House residence amounts to a “process” in Trump’s presidency. Or an old friend of Trump’s who just joined his legal team might go to dinner and jump on Fox News for a few minutes, and then the “process” jumps again. Like many of her White House colleagues, Sanders is quick to suggest that some of the criticism the Trump White House has received is a product of a biased press.

Except that that’s less true of Trump than it is of other Republican presidents. There are many Republicans who detest his lies and bullying (the two are closely linked – lying is a kind of bullying, especially in someone as powerful as he is).

“It certainly bothers me,” she said of the “liar” rap. “Because one of the few things you have are your integrity and reputation.” She added that “there’s a difference between misspeaking or not knowing something than [and] maliciously lying.”

Integrity and reputation can’t survive working for Trump. It’s not humanly possible.

No one would argue that a person’s integrity isn’t of paramount importance, I said. But I asked Sanders if there is a danger in linking your integrity to a president who might not always be known for accuracy. There have been many instances where the president has not told the truth, I said.

“But you’re asking about me,” Sanders said, not challenging the premise.

True, I said, but she has to speak for him. I asked the question another way: “Is it possible to be factual if you’re speaking for someone who is trying to make a point that is not factual?”

“Uh, I don’t know,” Sanders said. “I’m not following totally.” But it was important for me to remember this: Donald Trump is president. “And I think one of the biggest reasons Donald Trump is president is because he is not scripted, not following your conventional playbook.” He is “the ultimate disrupter,” and people find his plain-spoken style “refreshing.” They like that he is unfiltered, she said, like that he “tells it like it is.”

Whoooosh, there goes her integrity and reputation, never to be seen again.

Yes, Trump is not “scripted,” not “following your conventional playbook” – that has rules about things like telling the truth and not using high office to enrich yourself. One could say that about anyone – murderers, rapists, Mafia bosses, genociders. Ultimate disruption is not always desirable, and a “refreshing” plain-spoken style that calls people animals and brags about grabbing women by the pussy is not a good thing, especially in a president.

By the way, Trump’s phones are insecure

May 23rd, 2018 11:47 am | By

But her emails.

President Donald Trump uses a White House cellphone that isn’t equipped with sophisticated security features designed to shield his communications, according to two senior administration officials — a departure from the practice of his predecessors that potentially exposes him to hacking or surveillance.

The president, who relies on cellphones to reach his friends and millions of Twitter followers, has rebuffed staff efforts to strengthen security around his phone use, according to the administration officials.

He doesn’t have time for that, he’s too busy tweeting. On his phone. The one without sophisticated security features designed to shield his communications.

The president uses at least two iPhones, according to one of the officials. The phones — one capable only of making calls, the other equipped only with the Twitter app and preloaded with a handful of news sites — are issued by White House Information Technology and the White House Communications Agency, an office staffed by military personnel that oversees White House telecommunications.

While aides have urged the president to swap out the Twitter phone on a monthly basis, Trump has resisted their entreaties, telling them it was “too inconvenient,” the same administration official said.

Because there could be a tweet-demanding emergency at any moment.

The president has gone as long as five months without having the phone checked by security experts. It is unclear how often Trump’s call-capable phones, which are essentially used as burner phones, are swapped out.

President Barack Obama handed over his White House phones every 30 days to be examined by telecommunications staffers for hacking and other suspicious activity, according to an Obama administration official.

Well there you go. He was born in Kenya, so obviously Trump is going to do the opposite of whatever he did.

Former national security officials are virtually unanimous in their agreement about the dangers posed by cellphones, which are vulnerable to hacking by domestic and foreign actors who would want to listen in on the president’s conversations or monitor his movements.

“Foreign adversaries seeking intelligence about the U.S. are relentless in their pursuit of vulnerabilities in our government’s communications networks, and there is no more sought-after intelligence target than the president of the United States,” said Nate Jones, former director of counterterrorism on the National Security Council in the Obama administration and the founder of Culper Partners, a consulting firm.

While the president has the authority to override or ignore the advice provided by aides and advisers for reasons of comfort or convenience, Jones said, “doing so could pose significant risks to the country.”

But what does that matter compared to Trump’s convenience?

[C]ybersecurity experts pointed to sophisticated adversaries like Russia and China as the biggest threats, and expressed shock over the president’s refusal to take measures to protect himself from them, particularly when engaged in delicate negotiations.

“It’s baffling that Trump isn’t taking baseline cybersecurity measures at a time when he is trying to negotiate his way out of a trade war with China, a country that is known for using cyber tactics to gain the upper hand in business negotiations,” said Samm Sacks, a China and technology expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

It’s not really baffling if you keep in mind how self-centered and stupid Trump is.

Hurry up with those boots

May 23rd, 2018 11:00 am | By

Lie often enough and shamelessly enough and you win the game.

James R. Clapper said something Tuesday that he maybe shouldn’t have. In the course of rebutting President Trump’s conspiracy theories about the FBI “spying” on his campaign, the former director of national intelligence momentarily conceded Trump’s premise.

“They were spying on — a term I don’t particularly like — but on what the Russians were doing,” Clapper said. Asked whether Trump should be happy the FBI was doing this, Clapper said, “He should be.”

“He should be” if he cared about US interests, or about how authoritarian and criminal Putin is, or both.

Trump’s response? Take that badly out of context.

And to be clear, this is a really important semantic point. Trump and his allies have launched a concerted effort to insert the word “spy” in this debate, despite there being no evidence that there was anything untoward about the FBI’s use of an informant, Stefan Halper, to look into contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. Trump included the word in ALL CAPS infourseparatetweets Wednesday morning — including christening the supposed scandal as “SPYGATE.” The word also appeared almost incessantly on his favorite morning show, “Fox & Friends.”

So they’ll win, by being willing and eager to repeat lies often enough and shamelessly enough.