Making Them Cry

Georgie Porgie, puddin’ and pie
Kissed the girls and made them cry.

nursery rhyme

This week’s featured post is “A Teaching Moment on Sexual Assault“.

In other Sift news, the post “Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party” has passed the 500,000 page-view mark. It’s the most popular Sift post ever.

This week everybody was talking about Donald Trump and sexual assault

Since this story has dominated the news all week, I’m going to assume that anybody who wants to follow the details has been able to. So rather than rehash it all, I’ll just hit the low points:

  • A week ago Friday, a video from 2005 came out in which Trump boasted about how easy it is to get away with sexual assault (unwanted kissing, grabbing women “by the pussy”) when you’re a star like him.
  • Two days later, in his second debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump said that what he said on the tape was just “locker room talk” (which didn’t happen in a locker room, but seems to mean: false bragging that men do to impress each other when no women are around). He said that had never actually committed such assaults.
  • Beginning this Wednesday, women started coming forward to say that Trump assaulted them in precisely the ways he described.

Huffington Post has been keeping a list of the women and their charges, updated as new charges arise. To me, the accounts vary in their persuasiveness. Kristin Anderson’s story would probably not be newsworthy if not for its similarity to the others: She recalls a 30-second encounter in a New York nightclub in which Trump put his hand up her skirt, but she can’t recall a date any more exact than “the early 1990s”, or who she was with who might corroborate her account, or even be certain which club it was. Not that it didn’t happen, but it’s hard to imagine an account so vague getting published in a different news environment.

At the other extreme, I found Natasha Stoynoff’s account compelling: She had regularly covered Trump for People magazine, and was well known to both Trump and his wife Melania. While she was at Mar-a-Lago to interview the couple for a first-anniversary feature, Trump lured her into a side room “and within seconds he was pushing me against the wall and forcing his tongue down my throat.” She didn’t tell her editor, finished the feature (which was published without mention of the incident), and made sure she was never assigned to cover Trump again.

Trump denies everything, and has counterattacked.

These people are horrible people. They’re horrible, horrible liars.

One counterattack is particularly vile: He has been suggesting to his rallies that the women aren’t attractive enough to make their stories credible.

These events never, ever happened, and the people that said them, meekly, fully understand. You take a look at these people, you study these people, and you’ll understand also.

About Stoynoff in particular he said:

Take a look. You take a look. Look at her, look at her words, you tell me what you think. I don’t think so.

Of another accuser, he told a crowd in North Carolina:

Believe me, she would not be my first choice.


While he was at it, he also body-shamed Hillary Clinton. Answering the criticism that he stalked Clinton during the second debate, he blamed her for walking in front of him, and then said:

She walks in front of me, you know. And when she walked in front of me, believe me, I wasn’t impressed.

To me, that just sums it all up. She’s a grandmother who will turn 69 in two weeks. She’s been First Lady, Senator, Secretary of State, and Democratic nominee for President. And we’re supposed to judge her by her butt.


Trump has also attacked People and The New York Times, which started the deluge by publishing the first two accounts Wednesday. When Trump’s lawyer sent a letter threatening a lawsuit, The Times lawyer fired back what can only be described as a bring-it-on challenge:

We did what the law allows: We published newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern. If Mr. Trump disagrees, if he believes that American citizens had no right to hear what these women had to say and that the law of this country forces us and those who would dare to criticize him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.

The next step here is easy to predict: Trump may file a lawsuit to grab a one-day headline and get his side on the record, but he cannot afford to pursue it. In a previous unsuccessful lawsuit against a reporter, giving a deposition under oath forced him to make a number of embarrassing admissions.


Trump’s other response to his problems has been to go further down the rabbit-hole of conspiracy theories and fascist tropes. In the West Palm Beach speech — which you can watch in its entirety via PBS — he painted himself as a savior. Typical American political rhetoric warns of future problems unless we change our ways, or unless the speaker’s movement or philosophy gains power. But Trump made it about himself: The political establishment

has taken our jobs away, out of this country, never to return unless I am elected president.

He repeated a claim he has made before: “I am the only one who can fix it.”

This is a struggle for the survival of our nation. Believe me. And this will be our last chance to save it, on November 8.

Trump blamed the sexual-assault allegations on a conspiracy that includes “the Clinton machine”, “the corporate media” as a unified entity “with a total political agenda”, and “international banks” plotting “the destruction of U.S. sovereignty”.

As Yochi Dreazen points out, only one word is missing from what is otherwise an ancient libel:

it’s true that Trump’s allegation Thursday that a global financial cabal is secretly working hand in hand with the media to destroy the United States doesn’t include the word “Jew.”

But here’s the thing: It doesn’t need to. Trump is using barely coded words that directly echo one of the most ancient of all anti-Semitic libels. Jews have long been accused of controlling the global financial system. Jews have long been accused of controlling the media. And Jews have long been accused of being disloyal citizens secretly working to maneuver governments to pursue disastrous policies solely for their own benefit. Trump has now chosen to combine all of those charges into a single paranoid and hate-filled rant.

If you need someone to supply that word, Trump’s alt-right allies are happy to oblige. The neo-Nazi Daily Stormer, ex-KKK grand wizard David Duke, and numerous other far-right sources are promoting the theory that the Access Hollywood tape that started this whole furor was leaked by a Jewish aide to Paul Ryan. A Daily Stormer editor posted:

The 35% or so of the country that is hardcore pro-Trump is going to know that it wasn’t “liberals” that defeated Trump, but traitors within the party who abandoned him. And they are going to want to know why that happened.

And there is only one answer:

The Jews did it.

[For the difference between standard conservative Republicans and the alt-right, see this conversation between Hugh Hewitt and Jonah Goldberg. At the time, Hewitt was supporting Trump, but more recently he has called for Trump to withdraw from the presidential race.]


Best response to the whole sordid mess: Michelle Obama.

and sexual assault in general

I cover this in the featured post “A Teaching Moment about Sexual Assault“.

It didn’t fit into the frame of that post, but subsequent to Jessica Leeds’ story, Slate did a story about airlines and sexual assault.

and more Clinton campaign email leaks from Russia by way of WikiLeaks

In particular, we now have transcripts of Clinton’s three speeches to Goldman Sachs in 2013. Personally, I’m glad they’re out. As long as they remained secret, Clinton-haters could imagine they contain some secret plot to do whatever. Now that they’re out, it’s clear that they don’t.

It turns out they aren’t even speeches, they’re Q&A sessions that mostly cover foreign policy. I found them educational, particularly the notion that the Chinese military is a power not completely under control of the central government, and that it is the force most supportive of North Korea.

I’m not sure what the point of keeping the transcripts secret was, or why Clinton refuses to verify their authenticity now. But I wonder if it has more to do with foreign governments than with the American public. For example, it might be convenient to maintain deniability of that China/Korea statement the next time she has to deal with either government.


As far as the other emails that have been released, there’s a lesson we all should have learned after the ClimateGate email dump in 2009: Whether you’ve done anything wrong or not, you never look good when your enemies get to comb through emails you thought were private and publish the excerpts they find most damaging. Countless investigations in both the US and the UK found no wrong-doing in the ClimateGate emails, but to this day climate deniers believe they revealed some nefarious conspiracy.

In emails to known associates, people say the same kinds of things they might say face-to-face: At times they are flip, snide, and short-tempered. They blow off steam to people they think will be sympathetic, and make statements they couldn’t support well enough to say them on the record. They float outrageous ideas, sometimes seriously, sometimes in jest.

I occasionally read articles in the right-wing press about some particular batch of WikiLeaks Clinton-campaign emails. Like this one where the main thing that strikes me is how tame it all is.

The emails, published by WikiLeaks after a hack of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s private account, also show Clinton campaign officials and Democratic leaders disparaging supporters of Sen. Bernard Sanders as “self-righteous” whiners, calling Hispanic party leaders such as Bill Richardson “needy Latinos,” labeling CNN anchor Jake Tapper “a d—k” and even lambasting longtime Clinton ally Sidney Blumenthal.

Horrors! In the middle of high-pressure situations, Clinton campaign staffers privately said unkind things about people who were making their lives difficult. I fear for the future of the free world if such monsters get their hands on the levers of power. But wait, there’s worse:

The Clinton campaign’s biggest problem may be its assault on Catholics.

Podesta didn’t participate in this exchange himself, but he was copied on emails that Clinton campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri  received from someone outside the campaign: John Halpin of the Center for American Progress.

In the exchange, Mr. Halpin mocks media mogul Rupert Murdoch for raising his children in the Catholic faith and said the most “powerful elements” in the conservative movement are all Catholic.

“It’s an amazing bastardization of the faith. They must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely backwards gender relations and must be totally unaware of Christian democracy,” Mr. Halpin said.

It’s actually a good point: Catholic economic doctrine is not even remotely conservative, and hasn’t been for over a century. So there actually is a mystery here. Palmieri had a fairly boring response:

I imagine they think it is the most socially acceptable politically conservative religion. Their rich friends wouldn’t understand if they become evangelicals.

This is the “assault on Catholics” that The Washington Times thinks Palmieri should be fired for. And Paul Ryan believes Palmieri’s single line about the social status of Catholics compared to evangelicals “reveal[s] the Clinton campaign’s hostile attitude toward people of faith in general.”

I wonder how many emails they had to read before they found such a bombshell.


The other issue raised by the series of WikiLeaks releases of Clinton documents is the role of Russia.

There is mounting evidence that the Russian government is supplying WikiLeaks with hacked emails pertaining to the US presidential election, US officials familiar with the investigation have told CNN.

NBC News claims to know that U.S. intelligence officials had briefed Trump on this before the second debate, in which Trump asserted that Clinton “doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking.”

Yesterday on Fox News, VP candidate Mike Pence appeared to break with Trump on this:

I think there’s no question that the evidence continues to point in that direction [of Russian responsibility]. There should be severe consequences to Russia or any sovereign nation that is compromising the privacy or the security of the United States of America.

This is a problem we haven’t had to deal with before, and it’s hard to know how to think about it. On the one hand, the WikiLeaks dumps are what they are, and it seems silly to avoid knowing what’s in them. On the other hand, how do we assess the fact that one of our chief rivals wants Donald Trump to win?

and you might also be interested in

No, Canadians are not flocking to the U.S. to get health care.


Good news for the climate: 197 nations just agreed to cut way down on their use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are used in air conditioners. Originally, they were supposed to replace the CFCs that were killing the ozone layer. (And they succeeded, the ozone hole seems to be filling in.) But HFCs are powerful greenhouse gases 10,000 times as effective as carbon dioxide. Estimates say that the agreement will shave anywhere from .2 to .44 of a Celsius degree off the average global temperature by the end of the century.


A fascinating story in The Washington Post about the conversion of Derek Black, son of the founder of the white-nationalist Stormfront web site, who as a teen-ager had his own radio show where he helped popularize the notion of white genocide. He has now left the white-nationalist movement, which has created a family crisis.

His story reminds me of a New Yorker article from last November about Megan Phelps-Roper, granddaughter of Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church, the people who picket funerals with “God Hates Fags” signs.

In both stories, conversion away from a hateful ideology happens not through logical argument, but by getting to know and admire people that the ideology condemns. The personal relationship opens up a channel for new ideas to come in.


Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature. A popular songwriter had never won before, but I guess the times, they are a-changing. I’d have voted for Thomas Pynchon myself, but what do I know?


A plot by anti-Muslim “Crusaders” was broken up before the group could blow up an apartment building in Garden City, Kansas. They were hoping to kill a lot of Somali immigrants and “ignite a religious war”.


A Republican Party office was firebombed in North Carolina Saturday night. Donald Trump immediately attributed it to “Animals representing Hillary Clinton and Dems”. Clinton denounced the bombing, and other Democrats raised $13K to help the Republicans rebuild.

So far, nobody knows who did this. If the perps think this helps the Democrats, they’re wrong and they need to stop before the “help” any more. Others have suggested a false-flag operation to gain sympathy for Republicans, but that’s a big claim to make without any evidence. Let’s hope the authorities solve the case soon so we can all stop speculating.


Washington Post editor Fred Hiatt got philosophical on MSNBC’s Hardball Friday:

I’ve covered a lot of countries — dictatorships, democracies, everything in between — and the key thing to a democracy … I mean, there are really two things that are key. You have an election, and the loser acknowledges that they lost, and the winner lets the loser survive for another day. Trump is challenging both of those things. He’s saying “If I lose, it’s not legitimate” and “If I win, I’m going to lock her up.” This is the Putin model. It’s not democracy.

Political science professor Shaun Bowler makes a related point: After every election, people who voted for the loser are tempted to doubt the result. One key to whether a democracy succeeds or fails is whether losing candidates try to soothe or enflame those responses.

and believe it or not, you should listen to Rush Limbaugh

Wednesday, Limbaugh unleashed the most amazing rant about how hypocritical it is for liberals to invoke moral standards against Donald Trump. The point, which he borrows from therapist Michael Hurd, is that liberals have no standards when it comes to sex, so how can we invent a standard to apply to Trump? Limbaugh explains this mystery, but does so in a tone of outrage and anger.

You know what the magic word, the only thing that matters in American sexual mores today is? One thing. You can do anything, the left will promote and understand and tolerate anything, as long as there is one element. Do you know what it is? Consent. If there is consent on both or all three or all four, however many are involved in the sex act, it’s perfectly fine. Whatever it is. But if the left ever senses and smells that there’s no consent in part of the equation then here come the rape police. But consent is the magic key to the left.

I and every liberal I’ve mentioned this to have had a well-duh reaction: What consenting adults do is their own business, but as soon as somebody stops consenting and another party keeps going, then you’ve got rape.

and let’s close with something amazing and hopeful

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have given a paralyzed man a robot arm that feels. Not only can his brain control the arm, but tiny electrodes in his brain allow him to know when a finger is being touched or pressed.

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Comments

  • Jeff Rosenberg  On October 17, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    Tom Nichols, a professor at the Naval War College, has a powerful “tweet storm” about this election, the highlight of which is: “Instead, the election is now between two groups: those supporting a direct attack on our system of government, and everyone else.” Here’s the entire set of tweets with a bit of commentary.

    http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2016/10/16/1583225/-Another-Conservative-another-anti-Trump-tweet-storm

  • coastcontact  On October 17, 2016 at 1:43 pm

    I am Jewish and am sensitive to anti-Semitism. However, I did not take Trump’s remarks about that way. His daughter is married to a Jew so I do not believe his intention was to start an anti-Semitic rant. He. in my opinion, is simply trying to find someone to blame for his lagging poll numbers. Yochi Dreazen may be even more sensitive than me.

    The real concern is that despite those poll numbers he does win. The question you should be asking is “Will any minorities in the United States be safe with Trump as president?” Personally I am thinking about a long visit to Canada.

  • Anonymous Poster  On October 17, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    In re: Rush Limbaugh, this is something you might want to keep in mind when he talks about “consent” like it’s a bad thing – http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2012/08/a-tale-of-two-boxes-contrastin-sexual-ethics.html

  • krissy  On October 17, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    Why do you characterize Russia as a “rival”? Its a very old fashioned idea. The cold war ended 25 years ago. I have no interest in going back to it.

    • pauljbradford  On October 18, 2016 at 10:05 am

      At least calling Russia a “rival” is a bit less confrontational than calling them an opponent or a foe. But whatever you call them, they are a major problem for the US and Europe. They’ve invaded two neighboring countries – Georgia and the Ukraine. Putin seems intent on bringing the countries of the former Soviet Union back under Russian influence. Cold War II: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_War_II

    • weeklysift  On October 19, 2016 at 8:05 am

      I went through the thought process Paul Bradford describes, choosing “rival” rather than “enemy”. But look at what Rachel Maddow reported last night: Russia is setting up anti-aircraft defenses in Syria. Against who? ISIS and the other opponents of the Assad regime don’t have any planes. Putin definitely sees himself in competition with the United States in a number of ways, including interfering in our elections and threatening our NATO allies in the Baltics.

  • eganvarley  On October 17, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    Thank you for the New Yorker link about Megan Phelps-Roper. It’s a fascinating story. Very moving.

  • Anonymous  On October 17, 2016 at 6:56 pm

    As a Jew, I am loathe to give credence to the statement here that “the Jews did it.” Trump’s daughter Ivanka — you know, the one he might have dated when she was older — is married to a Jew, and she converted. Despite her revealing attire, she claims to be Orthodox. As much as I despise and resent the orange slob, it is hard for me to believe he personally has it in for ALL the Jews. Maybe a Jew or two who crossed him, torpedoed a deal. But not the entire tribe.

    • Anonymous Poster  On October 17, 2016 at 10:19 pm

      Trump, maybe not, but a good chunk of his alt-right fanbase certainly does.

    • weeklysift  On October 19, 2016 at 7:58 am

      What Trump himself believes is a tough question. (David Roberts claims it has no answer.) But he panders to the most vile impulses in American society, and I think it’s intentional.

  • Abby Hafer  On October 17, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    I wish he would melt down entirely and put himself out of my misery.

  • Daniel.  On October 18, 2016 at 4:01 am

    “here come the rape police”

    Wouldn’t those just be the actual police? (Not that they necessarily do such a great job with rape)

    I was reminded forcefully of this comic: http://smbc-comics.com/index.php?id=4074

  • Lance A. Brown  On October 18, 2016 at 10:30 am

    Hi Doug, I ran across this article late last night, but the only source I have for it is Raw Story. https://www.rawstory.com/2016/10/nc-democratic-headquarters-attacked-on-same-night-nearby-gop-office-was-firebombed/

    • weeklysift  On October 19, 2016 at 8:12 am

      I had also seen that, but I’m not sure what to make of it. As I said, let’s hope police figure this out quickly so we can stop speculating.

  • DMoses  On October 18, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    When you said “Whether you’ve done anything wrong or not, you never look good when your enemies get to comb through emails you thought were private and publish the excerpts they find most damaging. Countless investigations in both the US and the UK found no wrong-doing in the ClimateGate emails, but to this day climate deniers believe they revealed some nefarious conspiracy.” I am missing the point.

    Is the “lesson to be learned”. As i see it the reason that Clinton (and others) do not release this information is precisely that their enemies get to comb through the mails and then publish things out of context and lie about them. While its true that a full release is better than selective leaks its still the case that the media will take the most outlandish and damaging position that they can.

    Short of everyone reading the actual emails, or getting news from someone who was willing to read all of them then provide context and evaluation people there isn’t a good reason to release this type of information if you don’t have to.

    • weeklysift  On October 19, 2016 at 8:10 am

      I was referring to the whole WikiLeaks situation, as well as the emails that have been made public in other ways. There’s a certain level of looking-bad we should expect out of such situations. I don’t think I’ve done anything criminal, but I’ll bet if my email files got released, something in there would make me look bad.

      • Alex  On October 19, 2016 at 9:06 pm

        Anyone who is trying to find fault with you will find it. No matter who you are.

  • Corey Fisher  On October 22, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    Article reacting to the Trump refuse-to-accept thing – it partially reminds me of the Sift’s ability to step back and provide context.

    http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a49829/trump-wont-respect-election-result/

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