The Rush Limbaugh Problem

Being sick and tired of the Outrage Industry in politics, I was going to avoid saying anything at all about Rush Limbaugh’s recent disgusting verbal attack on a Georgetown law student. If you haven’t heard about it, my advice would be to not even go looking because it’s beneath contempt.

But the Washington Post–still the liberal paper I find most honorable and trustworthy–has an editorial which I agree with word for word, and which I cannot think of a single thing to add to: The GOP Can No Longer Avoid Its Rush Limbaugh Problem.

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  • Dishman

    I don’t care how much sex people have, as long as they don’t try to force me to be involved in ways I don’t want to be involved.

    Nancy Pelosi and Sandra Fluke crossed that line.
    At Pelosi’s hearing, Fluke said her fellow students at Georgetown, a Jesuit university, pay as much as $1,000 a year for birth control because campus health plans do not include coverage of contraceptives for women.

    I don’t regard the word ‘slut’ as an insult. Some people do, though, and I probably wouldn’t have used it.

    To my mind, Fluke (and by proxy her friends) are insisting that others pay them to have sex.

    Rush also used the word ‘Prostitute’. That would be appropriate if Fluke and her friends were actually willing to give those paying a piece of the action. That wasn’t on the table, though.

    So if the two words Rush used are somehow inappropriate, how else would you describe Fluke’s testimony?

    The only other word I can pull relates to her description of the overall expense, which might well be ‘perjury’.

  • Dean Esmay

    Perhaps your aspie traits are getting in the way here. This is something most humans would view as name-calling, and name-calling, if it is ever appropriate, isn’t appropriate in this context. The words “slut” and “prostitute” are freighted with shades of meaning that are unnecessarily hurtful.

    I find a lot of things about everyday human interaction a little difficult to fathom (I grasp most of it intellectually but not intuitively) but I understand this one intuitively: these are terms that tend to emotionally wound. Furthermore, Limbaugh does not have the excuse that he is socially awkward and has trouble fathoming what hurts and offends everyday people.

    I would also point out that if a person contracted a sexually transmitted disease, few would deny that medical insurance should cover that; if it doesn’t, where do you draw the line? What non-sexual activities should also be not-covered? The whole idea of medical insurance is that you pool risk across a group, without demanding things like, “first tell us HOW you broke your leg before we’ll treat it.”

    While the thousand dollar per year figure is almost certainly specious in most cases (it may be accurate in a few) most people view health care as something beyond a simple market transaction and many feel that sexual activity, being normal human behavior, should be covered as part of routine medical care. There is room to disagree with that. Those running the Church do, and the Washington Post (to its credit in my eyes) supports the view that religious groups should not be forced to pay for something like this. There is plenty of room for discussion on the matter. Calling someone a “slut” or a “prostitute” because they disagree is, I believe, beyond the pale.

    From an entirely pragmatic point of view, by using such terminology, Limbaugh has significantly weakened his own side’s case, and Limbaugh does not have the excuse that he does not always understand the niceties of civil discourse. It’s fairly clear he understands them perfectly well, and his goal was to be maliciously hurtful. Being maliciously hurtful isn’t a good habit, nor is hanging around with such people. Most people give in to a sadistic impulse now and then, but it’s really not a good habit.

  • Dishman

    So Andrew Breitbart is dead. Here’s what I have to say to that, and I’m sure Breitbart himself would have respected this reaction: Good! Fuck him. I couldn’t be happier that he’s dead.


    I don’t see WaPo calling him out on it. Instead, the message I get is that this lack of civility is only a problem with someone like Limbaugh does it.

    Apparently Limbaugh has apologized. Taibbi sees no problem with calling Breitbart a douche.

  • Dishman

    Sandra Fluke’s testimony deeply offends and infuriates me.

    If she was working for me, she would have me be lawfully compelled to pay for her birth control. At the same time, if I expressed or even admitted an interest in using said birth control with her, she would take me to court and likely win.

    Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

    That does not seem ‘fair’ to me. Not in the least bit.

    … most people view health care as something beyond a simple market transaction and many feel that sexual activity, being normal human behavior, should be covered as part of routine medical care.

    … and if I tried to incorporate sexual activity into part of my routine medical care, many of those same people would call me a criminal and try to have me thrown in jail. Either it is, or it isn’t. Cutting against me both ways doesn’t work for me.

  • Dean Esmay

    I have been tempted to write about Breitbart but have thus far refrained. Breitbart, in my view, went to his grave owing Shirley Sherrod an apology and should have stayed in disgrace in conservative and journalistic circles until he did so. Not that Sherrod didn’t subsequently make comments that cast herself in a negative light–she did–but what he did to her was disgraceful regardless.

    But this is I think different because, as the piece on Breitbart you link notes (and I would encourage you to go back and read it, it’s full of copious links), Breitbart himself spent much of his political career using verbally abusive language on others, up to and including all sorts of personal attacks on Ted Kennedy within hours of Kennedy dying.

    Breitbart was also a public figure as a career choice, which puts him in a different league. He relished spewing venom and having venom spewed at him.

    Furthermore, Rolling Stone is not the Washington Post, and I suspect most of the people at the Washington Post do not know who Nicholas Kamm is; I certainly have no more idea who Kamm is than he does me, except I know now that he writes for Rolling Stone. Everybody knows who Limbaugh is; therefore, the comparison here is to a private citizen who took a risk in taking a public stand being bullied by a shock jock with an audience of tens of millions, vs., a wealthy powerful media mogul who spent most of his career acting nasty toward anyone who got in his sites getting kicked around by a lesser media light.

    The comparison to me therefore simply does not work.

    I have very little nice to say about Breitbart, and I am quite disappointed in those conservative personages such as Jonah Goldberg (whom I usually respect) and Bill Whittle and others saying praiseful things about him; their basic excuse is “lefties are vicious and mean, so we need people to be vicious and mean back.” Yeah, except for those of us who are sick of “vicious and mean” to begin with.

    In Breitbart’s defense I can think of only one thing, and it amusingly enough comes from the wonderful little documentary “Michael Moore Hates America,” which Breitbart himself was in. Another commenter on that film–I forget his name–made the argument that if you view politics like a game, then, as in football where you have fans who are enthusiastic and love a good hit, but then you have the oddball fans who show up with body paint and fright wigs and whatnot, and maybe–just maybe–the likes of Michael Moore (or Andrew Breitbart) are just part of the color of the game that makes it that much more fun. Maybe. They don’t make it more fun for me.

    Ultimately, Breitbart liked to play politics as a full-contact sport and enjoyed being hit as much as he liked hitting. Well OK then–I don’t have to like it that way but I can live with it. But it’s not OK to jump into the stands and start hitting spectators. Which is what Limbaugh did.

    It may be pointless to complain about coarseness and nastiness in political dialog. But I’ll keep tilting at that windmill anyway.

  • Dishman

    Bah. This is even more blatantly sexist than I thought. From those right-wingers at MSNBC

    1. Are male-based contraceptive methods, such as vasectomies or condoms, covered by the rule?

    An HHS official said last week that women’s preventive services guidelines apply to women only.

  • Dishman

    But it’s not OK to jump into the stands and start hitting spectators. Which is what Limbaugh did.

    That point is in question.

    There is some indication that Fluke may have chosen Georgetown for the purpose of challenging the policy. Here is a story including:
    In one of her first interviews she is quoted as talking about how she reviewed Georgetown’s insurance policy prior to committing to attend, and seeing that it didn’t cover contraceptive services, she decided to attend with the express purpose of battling this policy.

    That’s not a spectator. That’s a provocatuer.

  • sabinal17

    I’m with Dishman on this one. First, Sherrod is a phony who exploited her own people and is smug about being a racisit; so much so that she boasted about her own racism at a NAACP. She helped herself to govt funds at the expense of black farmers. Breitbart called her out on it and the libs ducked and covered.

    Also, I see no one demanding apologies to Sarah Palin for calling her the C-word and hanging her in effigy, nor Laura Ingraham for being called the S-word herself. This is a selected outrage meant to deflect from Obama’s broken promises and high debt — rising gas costs (which he is not helping by not allowing drilling here while China will) and high unemployment. He is too busy pleasing the elite of his party at the expense of everyday Americans.

    And it’s amazing Obama will take the time to call Fluke but he won’t call the families whose loved ones were killed in Afghanistan

  • The Rich Wasp

    Dean, in my opinion, even the clip of Shirley Sherrod released by Breitbart shows that Ms. Sherrod did something she later regretted. The entire video does make that more obvious. The thing I most see in that video is Ms. Sherrod telling that she initially refused to help a poor white farmer and the audience approval of that refusal. I understood from the initial video that she realized her actions were wrong and did something to help the white farmer.

  • Dean Esmay


    1) A person who makes their living being a media figure is not the same thing as an everyday citizen acting as a political activist. If you do not see the difference I do not know how to explain it to you.

    2) I see I made a mistake by allowing the subject to be changed to Andrew Breitbart. But any wrongdoing, real or perceived, by Shirley Sherrod does not change that what Breitbart et. al. did to her when they first put her in the spotlight was wrong. They grossly quoted her out of context. There is no disputing or debating that they did this to her. Whatever their intent, their refusal to apologize for that was not acceptable. I don’t care if later on down the road it turned out she was a bank robber, child molester, murderer, or philatelist–none of that changes the journalistic misdeed of the initial attack on Sherrod, which should have destroyed Breitbart’s credibility until he at least issued an apology along with his explanation. That she subsequently made an ass of herself (which she arguably did) or may have later been found out to have done questionable things does not change this. This is akin to me coming up to you out of the blue, kicking you in the nuts, and a few weeks later trying to defend myself by saying I subsequently found out that you robbed a bank 20 years ago. I’m sorry, what? Running around kicking people in the nuts and then retroactively looking for excuses isn’t acceptable. Neither is willfully and maliciously quoting someone out of context, then claiming later “well they were jerks anyway so they had it coming.” Shirley Sherrod was quoted out of context–period. This was classic bullying behavior. We wouldn’t even know who she was if that hadn’t been done to her.

    3) Changing the subject to other figures does not change anything. I don’t know if anyone called for apologies to Laura Ingraham or Sarah Palin–I suspect they did, but I’m not about to run out and start looking for them right now because this is a change of subject. At issue is a media mogul with tens of millions of listeners picking out a lone, non-professional citizen activist in an unacceptably bullying way.

    It is not OK for powerful media moguls to pick on ordinary people in the way Limbaugh did, period. Changing the subject to other people and situations will not change that what Limbaugh did should be seen as unacceptable bullying.

    4) Finally, as to the charge of “selective outrage”: What the hell? Seriously? I go after left-wingers for nasty behavior all the time. I spent 8 years on this blog defending George W. Bush from lefty smears. I have many times made it clear that I consider people like Bill Maher to be odious, and that I find the likes of Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart no better than Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity. I have repeatedly gone after the likes of Daily Kos for poisoning our political discourse.

    The Washington Post gets every word of this right so far as I’m concerned.

  • Dean Esmay

    Rich Wasp: [sigh] Subject unalterably changed I guess. I think any fair review of the original Michael Moore-style selectively-edited video of Sherrrod at that NAACP meeting, and a subsequent viewing of the entire piece, give radically different interpretations.

    I would like to coin the term “Moore’d” to describe selectively editing video to intentionally mislead an audience and smear a target. Michael Moore has made an incredible art form out of this sort of thing, making himself a multimillionaire to a gullible audience of enthusiastically hate-filled lefties. Andrew Breitbart showed that he’d learned the art of Moore-ing very well in the Sherrod case. He Moore’d the crap out of Sherrod, and should have been called out for it by any conservative with integrity–just as Michal Moore SHOULD be shunned and denounced by everyone on the left (but which many of them lack the integrity or intelligence to do, to their everlasting shame).

    There’s no excusing what Breitbart did to Sherrod, and no amount of retroactive “aha, but we later found out X Y and Z about Sherrod!!” that will justify the fact that that initial video was a perfect exercise in deceptive and malicious, Michael Moore style selective editing. It was disgraceful, and since that disgraceful episode I have refused to give anything issued from Breitbart enterprises the time of day.

    I am sorry for his family’s loss. Whatever of Sherrod’s other alleged shortcomings, she’s showing more class now than he ever did to her. And that’s really all I can think of to say about this.

    Except to point out once again that none of this, at all, justifies a media mogul with tens of millions of listeners going after an everyday nonprofessional citizen activist as a “prostitute” and a “slut.”

    I hear that Limbaugh has apologized. I hope that is true.

  • Dean Esmay


    Sexist double-standards toward men? Here in America? No way! Never happens!

    This entire subject leaves me in a quandary, since I fully support the right of any private religious group to refuse to pay for things that go against their beliefs. The administration’s current stance on this infuriates me. I am not on Sandra Fluke’s side on the medical coverage issue. I think her stance is not compatible with religious liberty. I think the language she and others uses is deceptive when they use this “up to $100/month” figure without forthrightly acknowledging that in reality it’s more like $20/month for the vast majority and can often be far less than that if you just go to your local Planned Parenthood office. Prescription drug companies could also be easily tapped to include the more expensive birth control options as part of their ongoing program to help low-income people afford their more expensive offerings. Asking for an exception for medical necessity for various conditions probably wouldn’t bother anyone either. There are many ways to address this without requiring Georgetown or other religious institutions to go against their consciences.

    All of that said, the medical insurance industry needs–indeed, asks for, demands–government-set rules on what is expected in insurance. There is a long set of reasons for this, not all of them greed- or market-capture based. Because “medical insurance” is such a very broad term (there are literally millions of things that may require medical treatment), a way for scam artists to undercut legitimate players is to fool consumers with long, byzantine rules of coverage that make it look like they’ll pay for things they won’t, and the consumers don’t find out until it’s too late that they’ve been scammed. Meantime, legitimate players in the market who offered decent and honest coverage at a higher rate lost business to the cheap scammers, and even potentially get driven out of business by the scammers.

    I have met small business people who have been so-fooled by scam “medical insurance” coverage that in fact doesn’t cover squat from a practical perspective.

    This puts us square back to the problems as I see it with the “the market fixes everything” mentality, versus the “the market requires government to function at all” beliefs that I have come to embrace. I believe that the medical insurance market -cannot- function in anything other than a chaotic fashion without government to set the basic rules, and that will include what everyone is required to set as a floor for basic coverage that you are required to offer before you can even call your product “medical insurance.” If you don’t do this, legitimate and honorable competitors can be hurt or even driven out of business by dishonorable competitors–and medical insurance is not the only place where this is true.

    Thus it becomes a legitimate point of contention whether medical insurance should automatically include birth control services. I think decent and honorable people can disagree on that point. I am appalled at Democrats using this as an excuse to create a fictional “war on women” to help them in the upcoming election, which is sexist and demeaning tripe based on no small amount of religious bigotry so far as I’m concerned.

    None of that changes the fact that Limbaugh was out of line. The proper response to Limbaugh’s remarks was to throw a flag, whistle, and declare Face mask! 15 yard penalty and reset to first down!”

  • Dean Esmay

    Although all analogy is suspect, another sports analogy comes to mind.

    In one of the most famous incidents in baseball history, the legendary Ty Cobb charged into the stands and beat the crap out of a fan who’d been heckling him.

    An argument can be made that the fan “made himself part of the game” by merciless heckling. I do not think an argument can be made that Ty Cobb’s action was justified.

    Comparing Ty Cobb’s entire career to Limbaugh’s (and a few other people, left and right) strikes me as appropriate on multiple levels. Trivia question, can you name the movie this line came from?

    “Ty Cobb wanted to play, but none of us could stand the son-of-a-bitch when we were alive, so we told him to stick it!”

  • jaymaster

    I couldn’t care less about the Limbaugh/slut stuff. Politics as usual. And if you want to play moral equivalency, I would put forth “Joe the Plumber” as an equivalent figure on the other side of them spectrum. He did nothing more than speak his mind when Obama happened to show up in his neighborhood, and he somehow immediately became a villain and a target of lefty venom.

    But Breitbart was definitely smeared on the Sherrod story by the big media spin miesters. They selectively played his admittedly edited version, and their version has become accepted as “fact”.

    Brietbart got one thing wrong in the story, and he immediately corrected it. It is all still out there. It takes some effort to learn the facts, but very few people bother to do that.

  • Dean Esmay

    Um. Damn it. Now we’re arguing about Breitbart.

    But I saw Breitbart’s original video when it came out. I then saw the complete video. The two left vastly different impressions.

    I would agree that a case for “legal defamation” in court would not be warranted. The lawsuit should have been dismissed, most especially because any claim for damages would be completely destroyed by the fact that she got her job offered back to her, at a higher grade of pay.

    But I don’t find the original edited recording defensible on journalistic or moral grounds.

    I think had Breitbart merely straightforwardly apologized and said it was never his intention to give the wrong impression, it would have served him better.

    I wouldn’t defend the mainstream media from something like this. They use dirty tricks like that all the time. I am having a hard time seeing why I should defend Breitbart from it. When you’re fracking with a person’s personal life like that, you bend over backwards to make sure you don’t even come close mischaracterizing them and if they complain you did you bend over even further backwards to make it clear that wasn’t your intent. I don’t think he did enough in that regard.

  • sabinal17

    my opinion still stands.

  • Dean Esmay

    Well, you have a right to it.

    FWIW, there clearly is something of a double standard, except the “double standard” charge still fails to pass the smell test to me because a citizen activist is not the same as an active professional public figure, and direct allegations about a person’s private personal behavior still go too far.

    All that said, I have waited in vain for years for lefties to call out the likes of Bill Maher for his hateful tripe. They just won’t. He’s their darling. It does sicken me. But I don’t think it rises to this level either. This was too personal and against the wrong target. When you enter the field as a paid professional, it isn’t the same thing.

  • jaymaster

    Yeah, sorry Dean, for drifting. Some stuff trips the trigger, some stuff doesn’t. And it’s different for us all.

    So back to the original topic (kinda), I’ll elaborate on what I meant by politics as usual.

    What started this whole kerfluffal? How many people remember?

    Well, about a month ago, someone in the Obama administration (probably*) decided that birth control should be covered by all insurers, free of charge, by all employers and insurers, end of discussion. And that includes the controversial “morning after” (and week after) pills.

    And no matter if that goes against any particular religious beliefs. So, quite literally, the administration is telling folks with such religious beliefs to go to hell.

    And this is where the subtle bias of some of the media comes into play. In the last few weeks, the focus of the story quickly turned away from the state potentially trampling on religious freedom into “anyone who is against this is against women’s reproductive rights”. With the sub text “Rick Santorum, (and all Republicans, probably) want to control your reproductive decisions.”

    So that old reliable wedge issue of reproductive rights has very effectively been brought back into play. And with the “slut gate” stuff, the religion versus state issue has been effectively moved off the stage. So yes, in that way, bad on Rush. He misplayed it, big time.

    *Now, whether this decision was actually made by the administration above and beyond the wishes of congress, or was a clearly written part of the health care reform bill as ratified by congress, is still unclear. At least to me.

    But the administration taking credit for it does some good things for the Dems. It allows the mostly D Catholic members to claim that they didn’t support the decision (except for “They can read it after we pass it” Nancy Pelosi). It also allows the decision to be back pedaled at a moment’s notice if the polls start trending against it.

  • Pingback: Note to Rush Limbaugh On What A Real Apology Looks Like()

  • NiteWatchman

    Here is the difference between Ed Schultz and Rush Limbaugh.

    On May 24, 2011, Schultz called Laura Ingraham both a “right-wing slut” and a “talk slut”. Feminist organizations including the Women’s Media Center called for his suspension. The following day he stated on his show, “I just want to make sure that if there are any ladies out there who were offended that I used that term, I do apologize. I didn’t mean to offend you.” He also said, “I am deeply sorry, and I apologize, it was wrong, uncalled for, and I recognize the severity of what I said. I apologize to you, Laura, and ask for your forgiveness.” Even though Schultz’s comments were made on his radio show and NOT on MSNBC, they reprimanded Schultz by suspending him for a week without pay for the incident, a punishment that Schultz, himself, offered.

    Rush Limbaugh recently called Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” on his radio show. At one point, he even suggested Fluke and other recipients of subsidized contraception provide videos of their sexual encounters as a kind of payback. Limbaugh did apologize, but it reads more like a justification rather than an apology.

    “For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week. In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.

    I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit? In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone’s bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a Presidential level.

    My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.”

  • Dishman

    I’ll repeat what I said in the Santorum thread:

    I offer the curious case of Stormans Inc. v. Selecky:

    At trial, Mr. Saxe admitted that the rule targeted conscientious objectors:
    Q. And it was your understanding that the intent of the proposed rule was to allow professional judgment and as you’ve indicated business reasons that are consistent with the time honored practices of pharmacy but not moral or religious reasons,
    A. I believe so, yes.

    Add in this link.

    Forget for a minute the religious question and look at who wins big here: Big Pharma. This mandate is not really about condoms or generic versions of “the pill,” which are available free or cheap in lots of places. This is about brand-name birth control drugs and other devices that some consumers swear off because they are too expensive. The Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate requires health-insurance companies provide contraceptive coverage for all “FDA approved contraceptive methods.” It does not insist on generics. And it does not offer any cost containment.

    I think Rush got played. If I have an objection to him, it’s that he’s entirely too predictable, which makes him an easy target.

  • Elizabeth Reid

    If wanting one’s birth control pills to be covered by your insurance plan at little or no out-of-pocket cost is equivalent to being a prostitute, does that mean that everyone who is actually covered by such a plan is also a prostitute? Wow, my life in sex work was a lot less exciting than the literature would have had me believe.

  • Elizabeth Reid

    Also, while I personally think that any policy like this should apply to both men and women, because I’m 100% in favor of preventing through contraception any pregnancies that the potential parents don’t want, I think there’s a somewhat plausible rationale for extending the provision of contraception through medical insurance solely to women. Pregnancies and babies are a big deal for men, but they aren’t a big *medical* deal. Women are the ones who experience the physical/medical aspects of pregnancy so preventing in a woman covered by a specific insurance carrier is a medical concern, preventing a pregnancy sired by a covered man is not. It’s kind of silly because any pregnancy prevented is going to be in a woman anyway, but still, I can see an argument that each person’s insurance should only cover that person’s own medical conditions, so a man’s insurance carrier should not be required to cover medication or devices to prevent a medical condition in that man’s partner.

  • Dean Esmay

    Limbaugh could have very easily said everything you said Dishman. He would have gotten further if he did.

    Even if you throw all emotional baggage of his terminology out the window, from a logical perspective this was wrong on Limbaugh’s part in multiple areas:

    1) No one was asking for taxpayer money.

    2) The woman at no time asked for or suggested that she needed birth control or that she could not afford it.

    3) The woman never discussed her sex life at all. Based on her entire testimony it is entirely impossible to do more than blindly guess anything about her sex life.

    It remains in terms of pure logic that she could indeed be a sex worker. Or a fairly average sexually active or semi-active woman of her age. Or completely chaste. She could still be a virgin. She might be a lesbian. She could even be a very good transvestite. All of this is possible because she never once discussed anything she personally wanted or that she personally claimed to need for herself.

    She argued her belief that women, plural, needed this. That is all.

    Thus the allegations of sluttiness and prostitution, outside any intent to wound with words, have no rational basis. Unless the assumption is that anyone who believes in birth control being covered by insurance is a slut and a prostitute.

    What’s most annoying to me is that I’m on his side. No religious-based institution should be forced to provide this coverage. I do not believe that is consistent with the bedrock principle of religious liberty. Limbaugh just made that a harder argument just because of the distracting nuisance he’s made of himself. He changed the subject. It’s infuriating. He should apologize for real, put himself in the penalty box for a week or two, and move on.

  • Dishman

    It may be pointless to complain about coarseness and nastiness in political dialog. But I’ll keep tilting at that windmill anyway.

    I’ve been considering this at length.

    I think it may actually be counter-productive, in the same manner as squeezing a balloon doesn’t make it much smaller. The being of human still finds a way to squirt out inconveniently.