Notes and Comment Blog

He was forced to go into hiding

Sep 30th, 2016 5:48 pm | By

Here’s another atheist in Pakistan who could use help.

Aatif is an atheist living in Pakistan, where blasphemy laws carry the death penalty. It is common for street mobs to assault anyone suspected of being insufficiently Islamic. In the face of this reality, Aatif runs an atheist Facebook page. That is how I met him.

His conservative Muslim family has rejected him. He was forced to move away and then to go into hiding. His abusive father and older male relatives have tried to force him into an Islamic reprogramming institute, beating him when he resists.

Though he has a master’s degree in Computer Science, where he now lives he earns barely enough to rent a room and feed himself; he often cannot even afford over-the-counter medicine to treat his health problems.

The GoFundMe.


60 victims

Sep 30th, 2016 12:43 pm | By

Not cool.

The headline: Female molester facing strict release conditions

The story:

A woman convicted of sexually assaulting children will have to reside in a halfway house after completing her sentence due to concerns she is a risk to reoffend.

Jeez, you think, women don’t usually sexually assault children.

According to documents from the Parole Board of Canada dated Sept. 1, Madilyn Harks, who was formerly known as Matthew Ralf Harks, will face a residency condition upon her statutory release.

Oh. So…Madilyn used to be “known as” Matthew.

She will also be required to follow a treatment plan, respect a curfew and follow psychological counselling.

She will be prohibited from having any contact with children under the age of 18 unless supervised by an adult who is aware of her criminal history, and must avoid locations where children may be expected to congregate.

Harks began serving a three-year sentence for sexual assault against a seven-year-old female in April 2007.

She was released in 2010 and began a 10-year long-term supervision order.

At the time of Harks’ offence in 2007, she was on probation following two convictions of sexual assault against two children aged four and five years old.

“You have also admitted to having approximately 60 victims and you estimate having committed 200 offences, with some of those offences being multiple offences against some of your victims,” the parole board stated.

The board noted that in April 2006, Harks was identified in a dangerous offender psychiatric assessment as having an “all encompassing preoccupation with interest in sexually abusing young girls.”

60 victims. 60.

The documents indicate Harks could also be facing charges for three alleged offences that took place recently while she was in custody: assault, unlawful confinement and sexual assault.

Harks is also subject to conditions imposed by the court in March 2014 that prohibit her from attending facilities including daycare centres, school grounds or playgrounds.

She is also banned from using a computer system for the purpose of communicating with a person under the age of 14.

Harks has undergone gender reassignment, and legally changed her name sometime between April 2010 and August 2012.

After that sentence for assaulting a seven-year-old girl.

Fuck this shit.

Roy Moore gets the boot

Sep 30th, 2016 12:20 pm | By

Oops. Roy Moore has been suspended without pay and ordered to pay costs.

Saying that Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore violated judicial ethics when he ordered judges not to respect the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on same-sex marriage, Alabama’s Court of the Judiciary suspended Moore for the rest of his term in office.

The order also requires the head of Alabama’s highest court to pay the costs of the proceedings against him and stipulates that he will not be paid for the remainder of his six-year term.

Once his term is up his age will disqualify him from running again.

The judgment against Moore was unanimous. But the nine-member court also noted that the decision is based on a review of Moore’s behavior and decisions, not on the justices’ views of the Supreme Court’s June 2015 ruling that same-sex couples have the right to marry — contrary to Alabama’s law, adopted in 2016, that had reserved marriage for heterosexual couples only.

Saying that “some members of this court did not personally agree with” the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling, the judges wrote, “This court simply does not have the authority to reexamine those issues.”

Because that’s what the “Supreme” in “Supreme Court” means – it’s at the top of the hierarchy, and lower courts don’t get to overturn its rulings.

For Moore, this is the second high-profile dispute that has cut short his term leading the Alabama Supreme Court. In 2003, he was removed from office after refusing a federal court’s order to remove a prominent display of the Ten Commandments from the state judicial building. Alabama voters elected him to the office again in 2012.

Too bad, Alabama voters.


Sep 30th, 2016 11:41 am | By

Remember that Ari Berman article in the Nation that I blogged about yesterday? About Wisconsin’s obstructionism in voter registration? Well no biggy, it merely prompted a judge to order an investigation, that’s all.

The state of Wisconsin must investigate a report that Division of Motor Vehicles employees gave false information to people who applied for IDs to vote, a federal judge ordered Friday.

Judge James Peterson’s order followed a report this week by The Nation that cast doubt on whether Gov. Scott Walker’s administration is following a judge’s instructions in a court challenge to the state’s voter ID law.

The Nation report featured recordings of exchanges with DMV employees that appear to thwart efforts by a homeless man to obtain an ID to vote in the November election.

Peterson, who is presiding over one of two pending legal challenges to Wisconsin’s voter ID law, ruled in July that the state must promptly provide voter ID credentials, valid in the November election, to people who request them — even if they lack some of the underlying documents needed to obtain an ID.

In his order Friday, Peterson said recent reports by The Nation and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel raise the question of whether the DMV is following his instructions.

“These reports, if true, demonstrate that the state is not in compliance with this court’s injunction order” from July, Peterson wrote.

A reporter/writer makes something happen.

As I’ve mentioned, his book Give Us the Ballot is outstanding.

Guilty of “wounding religious feelings”

Sep 30th, 2016 11:15 am | By

“Respect cultural differences!” – Like the ones that throw people in jail for “insulting” the local religion or head of state? Let’s not respect those, shall we?

A teenage blogger has been handed a prison sentence after he was found guilty by a Singapore court of “wounding religious feelings”.

Amos Yee, 17, will spend six weeks in jail for deliberately posting videos and comments critical of Christianity and Islam.

Judge Ong Hian Sun told the court that Yee’s actions could “generate social unrest”.

Any actions could generate social unrest. It’s neither possible nor desirable to write the laws in such a way that they rule out all possibility of social unrest. Christianity and Islam themselves could cause social unrest, and they often do.

Also, it seems very far-fetched that one teenager’s videos and comments could cause social unrest. On the one hand the principle is wrong and on the other hand the factual claim seems extremely weak.

Singapore has thrown Yee into jail before for the same footling reason.

Yee was jailed for four weeks in 2015 for criticising Christians, and was accused of insulting Lee Kuan Yew after he posted a video online in which he likened the late Singaporean leader to Jesus Christ.

Such actions are considered a serious crime in a country which takes a zero-tolerance approach towards insults of race and religion.

In other words a country with no respect for freedom of thought and expression.

This oligarchical usurpation of influence

Sep 30th, 2016 10:51 am | By

You know who’s bad for the economy? Billionaires.

Perhaps no group bears more responsibility for the plight of the middle class than billionaires. An IMF study confirms that increasing inequality, especially at the very top of the wealth and income scale, is weakening economic growth.

I wish everybody would stop saying “middle class” when they mean at least middle-and-working, and often just working. I wish “working class” weren’t such a taboo category in mainstream US political discourse. It’s not as if the middle class is in a plight while the working class is just doing fabulously.


“In contrast,” the report found, “an increase in the income share of the bottom 20 percent (the poor) is associated with higher … growth.” And higher growth means more jobs.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, a world-leading expert on inequality, writes, “Our middle class is too weak to support the consumer spending that has historically driven our economic growth.” But instead of ensuring that lower-income and middle-class people share in economic growth, the opposite has been happening: Even after last week’s improved economic news, most of the economy’s gains are still going to the wealthiest Americans.

There we go – lower-income along with middle. That’s better.

It’s the old Henry Ford eureka moment – if you pay the workers a decent wage, they can buy your product! Awesome! But of course billionaires want everyone else to pay decent wages to support consumer spending, while they pay shit wages to support their houses and yachts and Mercedes SUVs.

The 0.01 percent — the 16,000 wealthiest Americans — have as much wealth as 80 percent of the nation’s population, some 256,000,000 people. Their shared wealth comes to $9 trillion. And at the end of 2015, a mere 536 people in the United States had a collective net worth of $2.6 trillion.


We now know what we have long suspected, thanks to political science research published at Princeton University: Political decision-making in this country is driven by corporate and ultra-wealthy elites, not by the democratic majority. This oligarchical usurpation of influence has led office holders at all levels to implement policies that kill jobs, depress wages and increase inequality.

These policies include government spending cuts, tax giveaways to the wealthy and corporations, bad trade deals (which Trump says he opposes; the team suggests otherwise) and economically destructive deregulation.

But it’s all cool because a tiny number of people make out like bandits.

Know what also reduces inequality, helps create jobs and raises working people’s wages?Unions. It isn’t immigrants who are weakening the collective bargaining power of the American worker. Billionaires like the Koch Brothers are financing anti-union court cases and flooding our political system with cash to eliminate one of the 99 percent’s most effective tools for economic self-improvement.

Right-wing corporations and billionaires are conducting class warfare on the 99 percent and environmental warfare on the planet. That’s why we need to enact a new, broad agenda: higher taxes on the wealthy, an increased minimum wage, strengthened workers’ rights, sweeping environmental measures and greater government spending for critical needs like infrastructure health and education.

That would be good. I don’t see it happening any time soon, but it would be good.

Calling on participants to respect “cultural differences”

Sep 30th, 2016 10:09 am | By

The Independent reports:

The world’s top female chess players have reportedly been told they must wear hijabs if they wish to compete in next year’s world championships.

The next Women’s World Championships are due to be held in Tehran, Iran in March 2017 but several Grandmasters have threatened to boycott the tournament if female players are forced to conform to the country’s strict clothing laws.

Here’s an idea – don’t hold international championships and other contests in countries that do that. Saudi Arabia and Iran should be off that particular list.

Chess’ governing body, FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs), has come under criticism for its decision to host the tournament in Iran and was accused of failing to stand up for women’s rights.

The body’s Commission for Women’s Chess defended the move, calling on participants to respect “cultural differences”.

No. No no no no. Never “respect” the kinds of “cultural differences” that entail unequal treatment of some people.

Also what about the “cultural differences” within Iran? It’s not as if the imposition of hijab is universally loved in Iran; it’s not as if there are no women who hate it and rebel against it as much as they can. What “cultural differences” exactly does the body’s Commission for Women’s Chess have in mind? Those of the theocrats as opposed to the population? That’s just saying “bow before power” – and it makes no sense in this context, which is the choice of venue.

US Women’s Champion Nazi Paikidze also expressed her frustration that she would “have to miss her first Women’s World Championship for many reasons” and tweeted a link to the US State Department’s warning about American citizens still being at heightened risk of arrest.

“I understand and respect cultural differences. But, failing to comply can lead to imprisonment and women’s rights are being severely restricted in general.”

Cultural differences are one thing and human rights are another. Human rights take precedence over cultural differences. If a cultural practice violates human rights, no one should “respect” it.

Publish and be damned

Sep 30th, 2016 9:39 am | By

Tom Flynn writes: This Cartoon Cost a Jordanian Blogger His Life.

On September 25, a gunman shot dead Nahed Hattar, fifty-six, a prominent Christian blogger, as he was about to enter a courthouse in Amman, Jordan, to face charges that a cartoon he had shared online was offensive to Islam. Hattar had been arrested on August 13 after he shared the cartoon on Facebook. The cartoon—ostensibly the work of an anonymous cartoonist known only as “M80”—showed a man in a tent lying in bed between two women while smoking a cigarette, asking Allah to get him some refreshments. Jordanian authorities deemed the cartoon offensive to Islam. Though Hattar apologized and removed the cartoon, by the time of his court date he had received some two hundred death threats.

Western media gave modest coverage to Hattar’s death and funeral. But they followed a familiar pattern in refusing to republish the cartoon at the center of the story. Users of social media could locate the image with varying degrees of difficulty, but consumers of mainstream print and broadcast media were, once again, limited in their ability to form a full understanding of the story because the image at its heart had been suppressed.

That’s why I posted it here, of course. But here is here, it’s not the mainstream print and broadcast media.

For that reason, Free Inquiry has done what it did twice before when cartoons with Islamic themes led to violence and death: publish the offending image(s) so that readers and website visitors can see for themselves. This commentary will also appear in Free Inquiry’s December 2016/January 2017 issue, published on or about November 7, 2016.

I have a column in that issue. I’m very happy it’s in that issue, along with the Offending Image. I’m very glad to keep it company.

This is how things start to get out of control

Sep 29th, 2016 1:24 pm | By

Also in terrifying news, not related to Trump for a change – India and Pakistan are playing chicken. That’s bad because of the nukes.

Elite troops have launched “surgical strikes” on Pakistan-based terrorists in the contested territory of Kashmir, India said on Thursday, in a major escalation of a deepening crisis between the nuclear-armed rivals.

The Indian army said troops conducted multiple nighttime raids across the line of control (LOC), the ceasefire line agreed in 1972 that divides the Himalayan region, to attack militants preparing to cross into Indian-controlled territory.

That’s bad.

Zahid Hussain, a Pakistani security analyst, described Thursday’s attacks as a “very serious escalation”. “We have seen firing on the line of control before, but this is much more dangerous in the context of the rising tension between the two sides,” he said. “I am not saying that this could lead to a full state confrontation, but this is how things start to get out of control.”

India last announced it had conducted cross-border strikes in June 2015, when it targeted rebel camps in Myanmar in response to an ambush that killed at least 18 Indian soldiers in the north-eastern state of Manipur. Delhi described the raid as unprecedented at the time and signalled similar tactics could be used along its western border with Pakistan.

On Wednesday, in a sign of deepening Pakistani isolation in the region, India and three other countries announced they would boycot the forthcoming South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit, which was scheduled to be held in Islamabad in November.

The Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, has also raised the possibility of Delhi altering or walking away from a major river-sharing agreement that permits Pakistan to draw water from three rivers that flow downstream from India, providing water to 65% of the country’s landmass.

It doesn’t help that religious zealots are in power in both countries.

Gingrich says there are rumors

Sep 29th, 2016 1:13 pm | By

Newt Gingrich spat some poison on a Fox poison-show yesterday:

I believe, and I’ve said this in my newsletter as you know, and I’ve said it actually with you when we talked around midnight after the debate Monday night. This was the Holt-Clinton vs Trump debate, and you have to see it as tag-team. Holt was on Clinton’s team. This moderator stuff is nonsense, and I predict to you that Anderson Cooper will be ten times worse than Holt because he’s so deeply prejudiced against Trump. I think what you’re going to see is a — and Trump’s just got to prepare for this. Every single debate is going to be a double-team. He’s going to have the moderator who’s a liberal, and he’s going to have Hillary, and they’re both going to be on the same team.

And there are rumors that Hillary was actually given the questions in advance. I don’t know if it’s true but it would not shock me because they all operate in the same circle.

They both knew “the questions” in advance. The topics were announced in advance. It wasn’t an algebra test, it was a debate on broad policy issues. Clinton didn’t “cheat” or steal her neighbor’s answers, she prepared. Trump didn’t prepare because he’s too dim and restless and light-minded.

Also there’s that “there are rumors” bullshit which is just an excuse to plant a lie.

Guest post: Creative Gender-Reveal

Sep 29th, 2016 12:45 pm | By

Guest post by Josh Spokes.

Look at this.

Are you under 40? Let me blow your mind. This never happened in the 70s and 80s. Until recently I had never heard of a “gender reveal party” for baby. This is only possible because of the backwards regression into rigid sex roles that has taken over our discourse since my childhood in the late 70s and early 80s.

This is connected to the complete pink/blue divide enforced in toy stores. It’s connected to the fact that almost all children’s clothing is now soaking in disgusting misogyny and stultifying sex-role stereotypes.

There really was a world, very recently, in which we did these things better. Where we recognized the damage that “gendering” every consumer item, especially children’s wares, did to them and to society.

Does this surprise you? Well, OK. Now you know it’s possible to do the world differently. Now you know that what you think is “normal” is really quite specific to the tiny slice of time that you have been a conscious person in the world.

Now you know you can change it.

Wisconsin to would-be voters: drop dead

Sep 29th, 2016 10:06 am | By

Ari Berman went to Wisconsin to see how badly that state is doing at fulfilling its duty to enable eligible voters to vote.

Zack Moore, a 34-year-old African-American man, moved from Chicago to Madison last year. He worked at a car wash and then a landscaping job before breaking his leg and becoming unemployed. After staying with his brother, he’s now homeless and sleeping on the streets of Madison.

On September 22, he went to the DMV to get a photo ID for voting, as required by Wisconsin’s strict voter-ID law. He brought his Illinois photo ID, Social Security card, and a pay stub for proof of residence. But he didn’t have a copy of his birth certificate, which had been misplaced by his sister in Illinois, so the DMV wouldn’t give him an ID for voting. “I’m trying to get a Wisconsin ID so I can vote,” Moore told the DMV. “I don’t have my birth certificate, but I got everything else.”

He shouldn’t need his god damn birth certificate. The DMV told him to drive to Illinois to get it – as if everyone just automatically can drive long distances to get a piece of paper, as if poor people have no difficulties owning a car or paying for gas. It’s like the evacuation order before Katrina, that simply told everyone to get out of New Orleans, as if people who don’t own cars didn’t exist.

Or, to put it another way, as if they want to exclude poor people especially non-white poor people…which of course they do.

Nine percent of registered voters in Wisconsin don’t have a valid voter-ID and many are still struggling to get the documents they need to vote in November. It appears that Wisconsin is violating multiple court orders by not promptly giving eligible citizens free IDs or certificates for voting. This is particularly concerning since early voting began this week in cities like Madison and Milwaukee and thousands of Wisconsinites are casting ballots.

In an August ruling, federal district court Judge James Peterson said the [ID Petition Process] was “unconstitutional” and “pretty much a disaster. It disenfranchised about 100 qualified electors—the vast majority of whom were African American or Latino—who should have been given IDs to vote in the April 2016 primary. But the problem is deeper than that: even voters who succeed in the IDPP manage to get an ID only after surmounting severe burdens.”

He ordered, “Wisconsin may adopt a strict voter ID system only if that system has a well-functioning safety net.” He said the state must “promptly issue a credential valid as a voting ID to any person who enters the IDPP or who has a petition pending.”

But when people go to the DMV they are still told no.

Legal experts say they’re extremely troubled by the state’s continued failure to fairly enforce the voter-ID law. “Wisconsin has promised the court that voters would be able to get an ID with whatever documents they have,” says Sean Young of the ACLU. “They’ve completely failed to live up to that promise.”

The state keeps frantically changing its procedures to mollify the courts, leading to even more confusion among voters. Last week the Walker Administration proposed issuing “voting purposes only” IDs that could not be used for anything else, like opening a bank account. “The Division of Motor Vehicles also wants the free IDs – born of voter fraud fears – to be cheapened in quality, with some fraud protections removed,” theMilwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

“The more they change the procedures, the clearer it becomes that this has nothing to do with voter impersonation,” Young says. “The whole process has no meaning anymore. It’s just a pointless obstacle to the right to vote.”

And the result is that people – poor people of color mostly – are being disenfranchised.

Graffiti and bullet holes riddle the petroglyphs

Sep 29th, 2016 9:21 am | By

From High Country News a story about Gold Butte, Nevada, two years after Cliven Bundy and his pals pulled guns on the feds.

In June 2015, for the first time since federal officers confronted Cliven Bundy and militia members over Bundy’s illegal grazing in 2014, the Bureau of Land Management sent a survey crew to the Gold Butte area near Bunkerville, Nevada. The three surveyors from the Great Basin Institute were there to inventory springs, cattle troughs and seeps. According to contemporary news reports, they encountered Cliven Bundy and his son, Ryan Bundy, who spoke with them briefly and asked what they were doing. Later that night, as the surveyors were getting into their tents, a vehicle lit up the camp with its headlights as it drove by, and shortly afterward, three gunshots rang out nearby. An hour later, they heard three more shots. The surveyors packed up in the dark, left and did not come back. Cliven Bundy told reporters he had not fired the shots, and the BLM kept out of Gold Butte.

Terrorist thieves stealing and occupying our federal land.

Bundy’s cattle are still there, and he still hasn’t paid the more than $1 million he owes in grazing fees and fines. On the other hand he is in jail, so that’s something.

This past June the feds returned to Gold Butte.

The absence of federal workers did not go unnoticed. Friends of Gold Butte published a report in August detailing the damage inflicted on the area in the last two years, as well as documenting some historic bullet-hole damage. Graffiti and bullet holes riddle the petroglyphs and red sandstone, signs have been removed, and the area is marred by off-road tire tracks and trash. Twenty-two miles of illegal irrigation have been trenched through the desert, and a chopped-down Joshua tree was left to rot. The BLM is continuing to assess the situation, and so far staffers can’t say how much the illegal irrigation trenching and vehicle incursions have affected local wildlife populations. “Once this happens, it persists through time,” Moan says of the graffiti and general disregard for the area by visitors.

They vandalize the petroglyphs. Who else delights in damaging other people’s ancient artworks? Oh yes, Islamic State. Nice company you keep, Bundys et al.

H/t Peter Walker

Known for a bottomless mendacity

Sep 29th, 2016 8:47 am | By

Michiko Kakutani reviews a book about Hitler’s ascent. The review never mentions Trump, but Trump is present in nearly every word. (“Germany” is the main exception.)

How did Adolf Hitler — described by one eminent magazine editor in 1930 as a “half-insane rascal,” a “pathetic dunderhead,” a “nowhere fool,” a “big mouth” — rise to power in the land of Goethe and Beethoven? What persuaded millions of ordinary Germans to embrace him and his doctrine of hatred? How did this “most unlikely pretender to high state office” achieve absolute power in a once democratic country and set it on a course of monstrous horror?

Yes how? And how did Donald Trump rise to the Republican nomination in the land of Lincoln and Sondheim? What persuaded millions of ordinary Americans to embrace him and his doctrine of hatred?

Mr. Ullrich, like other biographers, provides vivid insight into some factors that helped turn a “Munich rabble-rouser” — regarded by many as a self-obsessed “clown” with a strangely “scattershot, impulsive style” — into “the lord and master of the German Reich.”

See what I mean? It’s Hitler but it’s Trump.

• Hitler was often described as an egomaniac who “only loved himself” — a narcissist with a taste for self-dramatization and what Mr. Ullrich calls a “characteristic fondness for superlatives.” His manic speeches and penchant for taking all-or-nothing risks raised questions about his capacity for self-control, even his sanity. But Mr. Ullrich underscores Hitler’s shrewdness as a politician — with a “keen eye for the strengths and weaknesses of other people” and an ability to “instantaneously analyze and exploit situations.”

• Hitler was known, among colleagues, for a “bottomless mendacity” that would later be magnified by a slick propaganda machine that used the latest technology (radio, gramophone records, film) to spread his message. A former finance minister wrote that Hitler “was so thoroughly untruthful that he could no longer recognize the difference between lies and truth” and editors of one edition of “Mein Kampf” described it as a “swamp of lies, distortions, innuendoes, half-truths and real facts.”

Check, check, check, check.

• Hitler increasingly presented himself in messianic terms, promising “to lead Germany to a new era of national greatness,” though he was typically vague about his actual plans. He often harked back to a golden age for the country, Mr. Ullrich says, the better “to paint the present day in hues that were all the darker. Everywhere you looked now, there was only decline and decay.”

Remember Trump in the debate? Talking about Chicago? “You walk down the street you get shot.”

• Hitler’s repertoire of topics, Mr. Ullrich notes, was limited, and reading his speeches in retrospect, “it seems amazing that he attracted larger and larger audiences” with “repeated mantralike phrases” consisting largely of “accusations, vows of revenge and promises for the future.” But Hitler virtually wrote the modern playbook on demagoguery, arguing in “Mein Kampf” that propaganda must appeal to the emotions — not the reasoning powers — of the crowd. Its “purely intellectual level,” Hitler said, “will have to be that of the lowest mental common denominator among the public it is desired to reach.” Because the understanding of the masses “is feeble,” he went on, effective propaganda needed to be boiled down to a few slogans that should be “persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”

At the moment it’s looking less likely that he’ll be elected, but even if he’s not, it’s terrifying that he’s gotten this far. This is a massive blot on our record, and it’s not going away any time soon.

Bye world

Sep 28th, 2016 5:49 pm | By

Hey guess what, we’ve passed the carbon tipping point. Permanently.

It’s a banner week for the end of the world, because we’ve officially pushed atmospheric carbon levels past their dreaded 400 parts per million. Permanently.

According to a blog post last Friday from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, “it already seems safe to conclude that we won’t be seeing a monthly value below 400 ppm this year—or ever again for the indefinite future.” Their findings are based on weekly observations of carbon dioxide at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory, where climate scientists have been measuring CO2 levels since 1958.

What’s so terrifying about this number? For several years now, scientists have been warning us that if atmospheric carbon were allowed to surpass 400 parts per million, it would mark a serious “tipping point” into some unstoppable climate ramifications. In 2012, the Arctic was the first region on Earth to cross this red line. Three years later, for the first time since scientists had begun to record them, carbon levels remained above 400 parts per million for an entire month.

The unstoppable ramifications aren’t very pleasant.

Extinctions, food chain disruption, rising sea levels…

Ocean acidification

Considered a crucial barometer of environmental health, ocean acidity is already wiping out entire marine ecosystems. The planet’s oceans are constantly absorbing excess CO2, causing their pH to decrease, literally acidifying the water. As a result, vast expanses of life-sustaining coral, such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, are bleaching and dying. While coral polyps could still take hold and regrow into reefs, scientists anticipate that bleaching events will leave long-lasting marks on the face of ocean ecosystems.


A BAD person

Sep 28th, 2016 4:50 pm | By

More on the bad person Donald Trump, by Conor Friedersdorf at the Atlantic. The title is “Donald Trump’s Cruel Streak.” Not a streak but the whole of him, I would say. It’s not as if he’s nice some of the time. The subtitle is “For decades, the candidate has willfully inflicted pain and humiliation.”

Not someone you want to elect as head of state. This bad man must not win the election.

Donald J. Trump has a cruel streak. He willfully causes pain and distress to others. And he repeats this public behavior so frequently that it’s fair to call it a character trait. Any single example would be off-putting but forgivable. Being shown many examples across many years should make any decent person recoil in disgust.

I think most people probably know that. We can see it in him. He performs it constantly.

Friedersdorf gives examples.

But even in a realm where the harshest critiques are part of the civic process, Trump crossed a line this week when he declared his intention to invite Gennifer Flowers to today’s presidential debate. What kind of man invites a husband’s former mistress to an event to taunt his wife? Trump managed to launch an attack that couldn’t be less relevant to his opponent’s qualifications or more personally cruel. His campaign and his running-mate later said that it was all a big joke. No matter. Whether in earnest or in jest, Trump showed his tendency to humiliate others.

I’d call it his eagerness rather than his tendency. The guy loves humiliating others. Miss Universe, made to go through a workout while being filmed by male cameramen, on Trump’s orders? Yeah.

Trump sent a tweet.

Geddit? That’s the woman Trump owns on the right (for now – he’ll drop her too when she’s a little older).

This is vile behavior.
What kind of person attacks a rival by mocking the appearance of his wife? For the whole of his presidential campaign, Trump has gleefully launched gutter attacks like this. And while a cruel streak directed solely at rivals would hardly be excusable, Trump doesn’t even have that excuse. After Chris Christie endorsed him, Trump attended a fundraiser with the New Jersey governor, and said this to the crowd: “I’m not eating Oreos anymore, you know that—but neither is Chris. You’re not eating Oreos anymore. No more Oreos. For either of us, Chris. Don’t feel bad.”

That’s who Trump is: If he’s in front of a crowd with an ally who has a weight problem, he’ll find an excuse to bring it up, to humiliate the ally, for no apparent reason.

No apparent reason except for the fact that he likes it.

The people closest to Trump have painful experience with this same quality. In September 1990, Marie Brenner wrote at length in Vanity Fair about how the billionaire humiliated Ivana Trump.

Conservative writer Mona Charen reflected on the same era in National Review:

I first became aware of Donald Trump when he chose to make cheating on his first wife front-page news. Donald and Ivana Trump broke up over the course of months. Not that divorce is shocking, mind you. Among the glitterati marriage seems more unusual. Nor is infidelity exactly novel.

But it requires a particular breed of lowlife to advertise the sexual superiority of one’s mistress over the mother of one’s children. That was Trump’s style. He leaked stories to the New York tabloids about Ivana’s breast implants—they didn’t feel right. Marla Maples, by contrast, suited him better. She, proving her suitability for the man she was eager to steal from his family, told the papers that her encounters with the mogul were “the best sex I’ve ever had.” It wasn’t just Donald Trump’s betrayal that caught my eye, nor just the tawdriness—it was the cruelty.

What kind of person treats the mother of his children that way?

The one who wants to be next president of the US.

And then there’s his brother’s son and his child, Trump’s great-nephew. He developed cerebral palsy at birth, and Trump said he would take care of the medical bills. Trump’s brother was an alcoholic and failed to make the big bucks.

Then came the unveiling of Fred Sr.’s will, which Donald had helped draft. It divided the bulk of the inheritance, at least $20 million, among his children and their descendants, “other than my son Fred C. Trump Jr.” Freddy’s children sued, claiming that an earlier version of the will had entitled them to their father’s share of the estate, but that Donald and his siblings had used “undue influence” over their grandfather, who had dementia, to cut them out. A week later, Mr. Trump retaliated by withdrawing the medical benefits critical to his nephew’s infant child.

“I was angry because they sued,” he explained during last week’s interview.

A heart of dung.

There are lots more stories to tell about Trump’s cruel streak. In the present campaign, he mocked John McCain for being captured and tortured while fighting for the United States in Vietnam and attacked the Gold Star Family that spoke at the Democratic National Convention after losing a son in Iraq. Many people know that years before Trump was a politician he feuded with a talk show host. “Well, Rosie O’Donnell is disgusting both inside and out,” he declared. “You look at her, she’s a slob. She talks like a truck driver… If I were running The View I’d look right in that fat ugly face of hers and say, ‘Rosie, you’re fired.’” What few people know is that later, when O’Donnell got engaged, Trump went on Twitter to write this:

What kind of person rekindles a feud with insults on hearing that someone got engaged?

The Donald Trump kind.

Can you imagine four years of watching him carry on that way as head of state?

People disagree about the ideal traits to have in a leader. But almost no one wants a president who has proven himself an addict to being cruel, mean-spirited, and spiteful. For decades, Trump has been deliberately cruel to others, often in the most public ways. He behaves this way flagrantly, showing no sign of shame or reflection.

What kind of person still acts that way at 70? A bad person.

It is that simple.

Giving a cruel man power and expecting that he won’t use it to inflict cruelty is madness. To vote for Trump, knowing all of this, is to knowingly empower cruelty.

So don’t.

Still ruling out that possibility

Sep 28th, 2016 12:00 pm | By

Russia. Trump’s good friend Russia; Russia Russia Russia, as he so eloquently put it in the debate. Russia shot down that plane, just as everyone (except Russia) said.

International prosecutors say Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was downed over eastern Ukraine in 2014 by a Buk missile that had come from Russia.

They also narrowed down the area it was fired from to a field in territory controlled by Russian-backed rebels.

All 298 people on board the Boeing 777 died when it broke apart in mid-air flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Russia says it cannot accept the findings as the final truth, saying no Russian weapons were taken to Ukraine.

Yes and where is Obama’s birth certificate and Clinton’s been fighting ISIS her whole adult life.

In an interview with the BBC, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there was “nothing to accept or deny”, as he understood these were preliminary findings.

“We cannot accept as final truth of what they say. I bet you haven’t seen any proof of what they say,” he told the Hardtalk programme, adding: “We know the devil is in the detail, and we are still missing lot of the detail.”

But he appeared to rule out that the missile came from Russia: “We’ve been ruling out the fact that any Russian weapons were shipped to Ukraine, any Russian army members, any Russian troops were inside Ukraine. And we’re still ruling out that possibility.”

That’s how you deal with unpleasant facts. You just “rule them out.”

How to crush a woman

Sep 28th, 2016 11:12 am | By

Via the brilliant Glosswitch on Twitter – buzzfeed and Elle are giving advice on how to rock that binder. Yay, let’s go back to squashing women’s bodies again! And this time let’s pretend there’s something social justicey about it!


For many people, wearing a chest binder is simply part of the daily routine in this thing called life. But it can be a real strain, both mentally and physically.

So can foot binding, or wearing a corset. Here’s a thought: don’t do it.

There are tons of reasons to bind. Many people find that wearing a binder helps ease the discomfort that comes along with gender dysphoria.

Are we sure about that? Are we sure none of those claimed “many” just don’t entirely like parts of their bodies, without having anything severe enough to be called dysphoria? And what about the rest? Are they doing it because being “queer” is trendy and being a horrible titty woman isn’t?

So what are you doing to ease the misery caused by this business of squashing your breasts?

Maybe you make sure you are binding safely — wearing the proper size and taking care not to wear it longer than you need

Maybe the fact that binding can be unsafe, and that there’s an improper size, and that it’s possible to wear it too long – maybe all those facts should hint that wearing a binder is not all that healthy and maybe you just shouldn’t do it.


A few months ago, Kim Kardashian posted an Instagram of herself in the gym wearing a corset by shapewear brand Ann Chery. After I got past the white leggings, I had to know more: What was that corset for? A quick Google search and deep dive into the #waisttraining hashtag gave me my answer: Kim was using this device to attempt to cut down the midsection of her already infamous body-oddy-oddy.

That device is also known as a faja, or a girdle, popular in South America. Ann Chery is known for them. A few years ago, The New York Times reported on the trend of women wearing fajas as a “shortcut to an hourglass figure,” and Jessica Alba credits wearing corsets with helping her shed baby weight.

So of course the Elle reporter Danielle Prescod had to do the same thing, so she did.

About 10 days in of waist training, I start to notice something: Waist training gives me a bad attitude. It makes me irrationally mean. I am irritable, cranky, and short-tempered. I am sending rude e-mails. I am blank-staring at jokes, when I could just give a polite giggle. I am walking away in the middle of conversations when I’ve just had enough. It’s the corset—I realize that it’s controlling me. The other thing is, I’m hungry. Actually, I’m HANGRY. The corset is so tight and constricting that I find myself skipping meals. The bladder issues are out of control. I have to pee every 10 seconds. Still, I persevere. Why? Because I am obsessive and crazy and I want a waist like Kim’s. So I accept it. I ignore it.

My rage prevents me from saying anything coherent about this.

The problem is with the beliefs

Sep 28th, 2016 10:25 am | By

Adam Gopnik at the New Yorker has outstanding commentary on Trump.

For one thing, I appreciate his calling Trump “one of the hyper-nationalist demagogues and autocrats who have emerged throughout Europe and Americas in the last decade” and a sneering loudmouth.

It’s obviously comforting that he lost, Gopnik says, but it’s disturbing to see him normalized. Yes, yes it is – that’s why I keep calling him the very blunt names that fit, like liar thief cheat fraud, and misogynist racist xenophobe. He’s so off the charts terrible on so many criteria, yet there he is, being normalized.

…what was really outside any norm of decency was what he thought even after you had dutifully distilled away the incoherence and the manic improvisations. Talking, again, about President Obama’s birth certificate, he displayed not only the usual pathological inability to admit to an error—any error, ever—but an underlying racism so pervasive that it can’t help express itself even when trying to pass as something else.

The same applies to his misogyny. Trump talks shit about women as easily as breathing.

Yet Trump continued last night his self-congratulations for compelling the President to do this, along with the grotesquely racist notion that it was “good for him” (i.e., for the President). It slowly dawned on the listener that this was all of a piece with the rest of Trump’s racial attitudes: he believes that, as a rich white man, he had a right to stop and frisk the President of the United States and demand that the uppity black man show him his papers. Stop-and-frisk isn’t just a form of policing for Trump; it’s a whole way of life. The idea that he had a right to force a black man to go through what Obama rightly saw as the demeaning business of producing his birth certificate showed his fundamental contempt for any normal idea of racial equality.

Emphasis added.

Pass over quickly, for the moment, Trump’s notion that contracts are to be respected depending only on the wayward autocratic impulse of the richest party to the contract. Think, instead, again, of one of the last subjects of the debate—his misogyny. By sexism, we mean something specific, not the business of appreciating beauty—if Trump wants to host beauty contests, let him—but the habit of conceiving of a woman as being a lesser species, one defined exclusively by appearance. His cruelty to Alicia Machado was unleavened by any apparent respect for her as a human being in any role other than as an envelope of flesh—an attitude he only doubled down on the following morning by complaining that she presented what he saw as an obvious problem as a reigning Miss Universe: she had gained “a massive amount of weight” (by Trump standards, that is). Again, this wasn’t a problem of how he chose to present his beliefs; the problem is with the beliefs. This wasn’t a question of preparation. It was that the things he actually believes are themselves repellent even when coherently presented. This was not a bad performance. This is a bad man.

That’s another thing I’ve been saying. He’s a bad man. He’s bad all the way down; there’s nothing good about him.

When all else fails, just say she’s too good at it

Sep 27th, 2016 4:57 pm | By

From the You just can’t win files, or is it the Balance at all costs files, or the Let’s not get too smartyboots around here files, or the Women who know stuff aren’t feminine files, or the We have to say something bad about her files.

Meet the Press on Twitter:

#debatenight exposed Trump’s lack of preparation, but Clinton seemed over-prepared at times.

Over-prepared. She’s running for a huge complicated job with a lot of moving parts, and she seemed “over-prepared.” What would that even be?