Notes and Comment Blog

Not exactly what Woody Guthrie meant

Jan 11th, 2016 11:53 am | By

The New York Times takes a squint at the “give all the land to us” movement behind the Bundy putsch.

Ken Ivory, a Republican state representative from Utah, has been roaming the West with an alluring pitch to cattle ranchers, farmers and conservatives upset with how Washington controls the wide-open public spaces out here: This land is your land, he says, and not the federal government’s.

Is it indeed? How? According to whom or what? On what terms? With what mechanism for dealing with conflicts? If it’s “their” land it’s presumably “my” land too so what if I want to protect it from development and “they” want to develop it?

How did it get to be anyone’s property in the first place? It was seized, that’s all. It doesn’t belong to cattle ranchers more than everyone else.

Mr. Ivory, a business lawyer from suburban Salt Lake City, does not fit the profile of a sun-scoured sagebrush rebel. But he is part of a growing Republican-led movement pushing the federal government to hand over to the states millions of acres of Western public lands — as well as their rich stores of coal, timber and grazing grass.

In other words a movement pushing the feds to hand over public lands for exploitation so that a few people can get very rich, as opposed to regulating and conserving according to criteria other than making a lot of money in a hurry by stripping everything.

This Ivory dude founded a group that’s funded by the Koch brothers.

In the past few years, lawmakers across the West have offered up dozens of bills and resolutions seeking to take over the federal lands inside their borders or to study how to do so. Some of the legislation has been aimed at Congress, to urge it to radically revise the laws that have shaped 550,000 square miles of national forests and terrain run by the federal Bureau of Land Management, stretching from the Great Plains to the Pacific.

The whole thing is just “fuck the common good, give it to us so that we can use it to death for big bucks.”

In practice, local land disputes — fueled by deepening antagonism toward federal land agencies — now unfold like social-media passion plays. Last summer, armed groups intervened by providing security and standing guard at mines in Oregon and Montana that had received stop-work orders from the Bureau of Land Management. And in December, Phil Lyman, a commissioner in San Juan County, Utah, received a 10-day jail sentence after he led a protest ride on all-terrain vehicles through a federal area that had been closed to motorized use.

“All I did was drive down a canyon road,” Mr. Lyman said. “It seems to be getting worse, and the federal agencies, they are expanding. Their restraints are being overstepped. It’s not the way this country was set up. It’s not the founders’ design.”

Well the founders weren’t familiar with motorized vehicles, were they. They also weren’t familiar with a population of 321 million people, were they. There are a lot of things they weren’t familiar with. They don’t have the last word on everything.

“The land policies now are, basically, lock it up and throw away the key,” said Leland Pollock, a commissioner in Garfield County, Utah, a county roughly the size of Connecticut with pine forests and stunning red-rock spires. “It’s land with no use. The local economy’s really suffered as a result. Grazing has been reduced. We used to have a thriving timber industry — that’s all but gone.”

Whereas if the feds gave the forests to the timber industry, they would be gone in a few years.

Ready for her jabs

Jan 11th, 2016 10:48 am | By

Mark Zuckerberg took the baby to the doctor.

Doctor’s visit — time for vaccines!

See what he did there?

The Washington Post reports on the reactions:

The nearly 70,000 comments on Zuckerberg’s post run the gamut of pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine arguments. On the one hand, users have pointed out, scientists credit vaccines with eliminating formerly widespread diseases such as smallpox, and severe allergic reactions to vaccinations are rare.

Yet, many Americans, including Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, doubt the medical efficacy of vaccines and have pointed to their potential dangers. During a September 2015 GOP debate, Trump recounted that the 2-year-old child of one of his employees “got a tremendous fever” and “now is autistic” after getting vaccinated.

People just have no clue. It’s like feminism – most people now have no clue how bad it was before the renaissance of feminism in the late 60s. Most people now have no clue how bad it was before vaccinations, so they freak out about statistically tiny risks while ignoring the massive risks of skipping vaccinations. No clue.

Everywhere, around the world

Jan 11th, 2016 10:06 am | By

New York to LA

Guest post: How do we now take care of the tyranny of misogyny?

Jan 11th, 2016 9:52 am | By

Guest post by Tasneem Khalil, originally on Facebook and re-posted here with Tasneem’s permission.

“[White] Swedish women are whores.” – group of South Asian men (speaking Urdu), watching a blonde woman get off the bus (in Malmö).

“If you are not a whore, why do you need to cover your head!” – group of white men (speaking Swedish), watching a hijabi woman playing with her child in a park (in Örebro).

“… this little whore.” – Swedish politician, referring to a woman (in Stockholm).

“There is a difference between [dressing like a whore] and dressing like a respectable woman… Islam will guide you in protecting yourself from sexual violence [by dressing up properly].” – a psychologist, talking to a survivor of sexual molestation (in her childhood).

“This whore will not wear saree to uphold Bengali culture…” – Bengali man (living in Sweden), referring to his Bengali wife.

he he ho ho… this whore is a good-for-nothing…” – Bulgarian man (living in Sweden), referring to his Japanese wife.

In a men’s world, there are so many doors to whorehood for women: taking the bus; wearing hijab; surviving sexual molestation; not wearing saree; becoming the butt of husband’s joke etc. etc. Now that the events in Germany are making headlines, we will hear a lot about men’s violence against women. Now, people who suggest all white men are veritable feminists, should google and find out more about Julien Blanc; or, maybe find out more about the rape apologies and misogyny propagated by such luminaries as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Long story short: misogyny knows no culture, no class, no ideology, no geography. However, there is no denying that there are cultures in which violence against women is an everyday ritual. There are cultures, societies, institutions, families… where men are still treated as gods and masters, in whose service women remain engaged and enslaved. In some parts of our world, we took care of the tyranny of religion by building secular societies. How do we now take care of the tyranny of misogyny and topple the violent man-gods who occupy our streets and homes? By building feminist societies – right?

They checked

Jan 10th, 2016 5:54 pm | By

Erik Wemple at the Washington Post again.

As a member of the NBC News family, MSNBC last year elected not to show its viewers the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that circulated in the Paris satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo — even after those cartoons became newsworthy for motivating a murderous terrorist attack on the magazine’s offices. “Our NBC News Group Standards team has sent guidance to NBC News, MSNBC, and CNBC not to show headlines or cartoons that could be viewed as insensitive or offensive,” an NBC News spokesperson said.

So are they sticking to that this year? Still censoring cartoons at the behest of religious fanatics who like killing people?

Erik Wemple
After finding out that Charlie Hebdo cover satirizes God, MSNBC censors it
Resize Text Print Article Comments 35

By Erik Wemple January 7

A copy of the latest edition of French weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo. (Benoit Tessier/Reuters)
As a member of the NBC News family, MSNBC last year elected not to show its viewers the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that circulated in the Paris satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo — even after those cartoons became newsworthy for motivating a murderous terrorist attack on the magazine’s offices. “Our NBC News Group Standards team has sent guidance to NBC News, MSNBC, and CNBC not to show headlines or cartoons that could be viewed as insensitive or offensive,” an NBC News spokesperson said.

So how to handle the edition commemorating the anniversary of that attack? This one carries a depiction of God-as-terrorist, complete with a rifle strapped to his back and a line that reads, “One year on: the killer is still at large.”

An MSNBC rep told the Erik Wemple Blog today that the network, consistent with last year’s approach, isn’t showing images of the cover. Then we pointed out that Mediaite’s Alex Griswold had snared a screengrab of MSNBC indeed showing the cover.

In a reply that merits no further commentary from this blog, the MSNBC rep says that the network showed the current Charlie Hebdo cover up until it confirmed that the image was of God. “Once we found that out, we stopped showing it,” notes the rep.

Oh well that’s different – they confirmed that the image actually is of the actual authenticated “God.” I have to respect that.

Clarification as obfuscation

Jan 10th, 2016 5:19 pm | By

Nope nope nope nope.


A Conceited Empress ‏@TheAngryFangirl Jan 7
Let’s clarify a few things about reproductive health and abortion specifically.

Abortion IS NOT a cis woman only issue. Cis women ARE NOT the only people on hearth who get, want, or need abortions.

When you center cis women in your speech and activism around abortion, you’re excluding the other people who need access to it.

Who are these other people? Trans men, non binary people, agender individuals, etc. In short, a whole lot of folks.

Changing your language to say “pregnant people” or “people with uterti” is easy and super inclusive.

NO ONE is saying “women” is a dirty word. NO ONE is saying you should erase the word women from your vocabulary.

We’re asking you to EXPAND your vocabulary to INCLUDE all of these people so they’re not erased and forgotten.

Now, if you wanna talk about what cis women go through because you’re a cis woman and that’s what you know? That’s cool.

Speak about what you know and amplify the voices of others to educate not only yourself but your followers.

You do not, however, get to sit around and pretend like cis women are the only people on earth who need/get abortions.

Women are in fact the people who need abortions. Men don’t need abortions; women do.

When you remove the word “women” from your speech and activism around abortion, you’re obscuring the fact that abortion rights are contested because women are subordinated.

Trans men, non binary people, and agender individuals who get pregnant have the bodies of women and they share in the subordination of women for that reason. It doesn’t do them any good to pretend the war on abortion rights has nothing to do with women and the way women are treated as public property.

Changing your language to say “pregnant people” is politically imbecilic.

You do not get to pretend (whether you do it sitting or standing) that the war on abortion rights doesn’t target women.

He has a point to make

Jan 10th, 2016 4:28 pm | By

Sky News hosts a discussion of cricketer Chris Gayle’s sexist “flirting” during a tv interview. Despite being between two blowhard men who constantly interrupt her, Kate Smurthwaite wins the debate.

Comedian and feminist activist Kate Smurthwaite and former lad mag editor Piers Hernu discuss cricketer Chris Gayle’s inappropriate behaviour during a TV interview. During the discussion Hernu decides it would be appropriate to try to stop Smurthwaite from talking by touching her arm. It does not end well for him.


Whether women’s experiences are being hijacked for political purposes

Jan 10th, 2016 1:12 pm | By

NPR ruminates on the Cologne New Year’s Eve issue.

Cologne police are currently investigating 379 criminal complaints, about 40 percent involving allegations of sexual abuse, the Associated Press reports. The wire service earlier noted two allegations of rape.

The Cologne police chief described the assailants as “Arab or North African” in appearance. As a result, the outcry over the attacks has not only centered on victims and perpetrators: it’s extended to a broader national debate over migrants, multiculturalism and Germany’s open-door policy to asylum seekers.

Rhetoric is running hot. The story currently dominates the German press, with headlines referencing the “New Year’s Horror” or “Night Of Shame.

Because there are reports that some or many or most of the attackers appeared “Arab or North African” and that some were asylum seekers.

But the fact that the majority of current suspects are asylum-seekers has been taken by many as confirmation of their fears, even though it seems very few of the total alleged assailants have been identified.

There’s an issue about whether or not the attacks were planned and coordinated, and an issue about why the police were so not there.

And why did it take days for the police to admit the scale of the crime and chaos? The police chief says victims were slow to file complaints, Soraya reported: but some victims, like Michelle, have accused the police of ignoring claims they filed.

And then there’s the issue of under-reporting.

In addition to the police being slow to disclose the events, one prominent German media outlet, public broadcaster ZDF, was slow to cover them.

That’s fueled both criticism and conspiracy theories, Der Spiegel reports: “In Germany, there is a stable minority that is convinced that the country’s broadcasters, newspapers and magazines are controlled by dark powers and have agreed to suppress bad news about foreigners so as not to endanger the political project of welcoming refugees.”

ZDF has apologized for the delay in reporting on the attacks.

I’ve seen a lot of ill-natured sniping about this on social media today, mostly (as usual) aimed at “The Feminists.” Why aren’t The Feminists talking about this?!!1 Well, one, some of us are, and two, it’s not evil to be worried about possible increased hostility to asylum seekers and immigrants as a result of this.

And then there’s also the question of popular response, and whether women’s experiences are being hijacked for political purposes.

[Anne] Wizorek started a campaign in 2013 to use the hashtag “#aufschrei,” or outcry, for women to share their experiences with stalking, harassment, assault and rape.

“Back then when #Aufschrei was big in the media and people talked about it … a lot of people also tried to downplay the problems. They were saying, ‘Well, but we’ve gotten so far and we have gender equity in Germany right now, we have a female chancellor, so what do you want?’ All that kind of argument was going on,” she told Michel.

“And those people are the ones who are now talking a lot about what has happened in Cologne. So they are using these stories and these experiences of the people who have been attacked in Cologne to only push forward with their racist agenda against migrants and refugees in Germany. And I think that’s a huge problem.”

In short this mess is a gift to racists and Nazis.

A protest Saturday by the far-right group PEGIDA, or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, attracted 1,700 people in Cologne, and was broken up by riot police, Reuters says:

“Demonstrators, some of whom bore tattoos with far-right symbols such as a skull in a German soldier’s helmet, had chanted “Merkel must go” and “this is the march of the national resistance.” “Rapefugees not welcome,” one banner read.

Thanks but no thanks.

The rising tide of anti-immigrant feeling has some observers concerned. But others say that looking at groups like PEGIDA with fear is looking in the wrong direction.

Those 1,700 protesters were met by an equal number of police officers — a far stronger showing by police than was found on the streets of Cologne on New Year’s Eve.

A counter-protest, with about 1,300 people, protested both racism and violence against women.

Can we have that? No to racism and no to violence against women? Both? At once? That’s my request, at any rate.

“She’s part of what’s destroying America”

Jan 9th, 2016 5:53 pm | By

The Oregonian:

In taking control of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters, militants occupying the site have also taken over the desks of the people who work at the site – their cubicles, their computers and, evidently, their personnel files.

Oregon Public Broadcasting visited the compound Friday and reported that militants appeared to be using federal computers inside the compound, machines that can be accessed only with employees’ ID badges. Lists of names and Social Security numbers were visible, alongside government ID cards.

They say no no, they haven’t done that, they haven’t touched anybody’s stuff. Right, because they’re so scrupulous that way.

Seventeen people work at the refuge headquarters, administering the 190,000-acre site. Their responsibilities include overseeing the refuge’s firefighting administration, removing invasive carp from Malheur Lake and working with volunteers to build paths and make other improvements to the site.

Reporters from Reuters spent a night inside the headquarters with the occupiers earlier this week. They reported a vivid scene, with armed militants vigilant against a federal raid, working in the office of a federal biologist. Working how? Ryan Bundy referred to her as the “Carp Lady,” according to the report.

“She’s not here working for the people,” he told Reuters. “She’s not benefiting America. She’s part of what’s destroying America.”

And he’s got access to her computer and her personnel file.

Just as offensive

Jan 9th, 2016 5:45 pm | By

Erik Wemple at the Washington Post:

One year ago, the Associated Press was among the outlets that censored certain cartoons of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo after the murderous attacks on its Paris offices. “None of the images distributed by AP showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. It’s been our policy for years that we refrain from moving deliberately provocative images,” said AP spokesman Paul Colford at the time, in a rationale that reflected the (less than courageous) thinking of many prominent U.S. news outlets.

So much for journalism – the AP doesn’t show images at the heart of important news stories, because it pretends to consider them “provocative.” So much for not letting violent bullies tell us all what we can read and see.

Now Charlie Hebdo has come out with an anniversary product that depicts God as a gun-carrying terrorist. “One year on: the killer is still at large,” says a line on the cover as a bearded, God-like figure scurries. The Vatican doesn’t like it, asserting that it doesn’t “acknowledge or … respect believers’ faith in God, regardless of the religion.”

It’s not supposed to. We don’t have to acknowledge or respect believers’ faith in God any time we want to say or draw something. We’re allowed to reject religion. We’re allowed to hate Bastard God. The Vatican is not the boss of us, and neither is the AP.

The Associated Press doesn’t much care for it, either: “We made a determination that showing a caricature of God in this context was just as offensive as showing a caricature of a prophet and hence decided to not to use the cover image,” said Santiago Lyon, AP’s vice president and director of photography, in a statement to the Erik Wemple Blog.

70 years ago they would have been rounding up the Jews because that nice Mr Hitler told them to.

Guest post: Let them call me whorephobic

Jan 9th, 2016 4:45 pm | By

Guest post by Magdalen Berns

I was first accused of being a “TERF” by a self-identifying gay M2T student at the University of Edinburgh (UoE) after I disagreed with Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA) LGBT Liberation group’s statement of support for infamous drag ‘ban’ of Glasgow LGBT Pride 2015. He was offended by the suggestion that T ought to have sought a mandate from the rest of LGB before publishing under the LGBT banner. He also felt that “cis” women were irrelevant to a conversation about misogyny in drag. After being branded a TERF” due to my non-compliance, I was compelled to look up the Anti-Feminist Trans Activist (AFTA) war on feminist gender theory and the growing trend for no-platforming feminists.

A few weeks on, I learned of Amnesty’s decision to legitimise sexual exploitation of underprivileged women and girls by privileged first-world men, when they backed the full decriminalisation of “sex workers” and “third parties” including pimps, traffickers and men who pay for unwanted sex. Horrified at such a blatant assault on women’s human rights, I shared the relevant open letter from SPACE International in the EUSA Women’s Liberation Facebook group (and some related articles and video content), expecting other feminist students may share my position. At that time, I was unaware that EUSA had collaborated with full decriminalisation lobby group Scot-PEP, in proposing a motion banning “whorephobia” which silences criticism of the sex industry in EUSA “safe space”. So I was stunned by the level of hostility which my advocacy of the Nordic Model received when I was branded a SWERF with “whorephobic” views. Some members identified themselves as affiliates of Scot-PEP, others claimed to be “sex workers”; some of the mob went so far as to assert that sex trade survivor Rachel Moran is fabricating the child abuse and rape which she endured over 7 years as a prostituted victim of the sex trade in Dublin. According to the Women’s Liberation convenor at that time, I had to be banned to keep harmony in the group.

When I heard that the Women’s Liberation convenor who had excluded me was standing down, I took the opportunity to raise awareness of the issues by standing for the role in the October by-elections. After being publicly denounced as an “unsafe” candidate by several of my student peers from LGBT Society and Women’s Liberation I responded to an interview by the Feminist Society (FemSoc) to clarify students concerns about the content of my manifesto. FemSoc saw fit to apply trigger warnings for “cissexism” and “whorephobia” to my interview response and ultimately the compliant candidate won for her “strong stance against whorephobia” by majority of 75 votes to my total, 73. EUSA’s commitment to self-definition, which allows men to vote for their favourite candidate, combined with the low voter turnout (there are approximately 15,000 female students at UoE) were likely to have contributed to the result. Very few students are engaged by student politics and perhaps it is easy to see why that is.

Image credit: Edinburgh University Feminist Society “I’m a feminist because…” Campaign

Having avoided a no-confidence campaign (which would have inevitably ensued if I had actually won), the infamy I gained from the campaign gave me the opportunity to interact with students from across the UK who shared their own stories of being vilified for speaking out about feminism. I also received solidarity from sisters all around the world, many reporting similar experiences of being disinvited, silenced, harassed and defamed for vocal feminism too. Emboldened, I established a Fourth Wave Edinburgh Feminist Activists (EFA) group with other feminists so that we could campaign on local issues which are now taboo – like woman-centred feminism! EFA formed a Sexual Exploitation working group and submitted a response to the Prostitution Law Reform (Scotland) Bill which proposes repealing protections against coercion and implementing the failed New Zealand model in Scotland.

Although my experience of standing up to the patriarchy at EUSA was immensely stressful and threatening at times, it was an incredibly worthwhile exercise. I gained far more friends than enemies and above all, I learned to fully appreciate the true potential in female solidarity. If only a few splintered female voices are powerful enough to shake the foundations of male supremacist order, such that it aggressively seeks to silence us, think what more women can achieve, united.

The radar has not yet been invented that can detect

Jan 9th, 2016 11:37 am | By

Real? Or Poe?

I can’t tell. It seems very Poe-like, but then so do a lot of things that are all too sincere.

Trans male privilege

Every time you talk about trans men in social justice activism or discussions, you’re taking up time that could be spent talking about trans women. Activism that helps trans womyn by centering them will also help trans men, probably even faster and better than it helps trans womyn. Don’t allow blood on your hands by centering men.

There is virtually no need to talk about trans mens issues. Their issues are mix of AFAB issues and trans women issues, which are addressed by movements already. Talking about trans men is a redundant waste of time because there’s no special issues they face unlike trans women, cis women, and non-binary people.

@Trans Men

Stay. The. Fuck. Out. Of. Womyn’s. Shelters.

Womyn go there to ESCAPE from men. The last thing they need is a creepy dude lying about being a chick amongst them. Go to a co-ed shelter or find another way to work out your problem, but stay. away. from. womyn’s. shelters.

Every time one of you enters a womyn’s shelter you’re taking up a space that could go to a trans womyn in need who CAN’T because you’re reinforcing the very much wrong idea that female = presence of a natal front hole. It sucks men don’t have shelters, but that isn’t my problem. You T bros make more money than trans womyn ever will. Figure something out. If you can stick together to oppress trans women then you can stick together to keep each other housed.

TERFS need to stay out of womyn’s shelters too IMO. Most of them are “dysphoric lesbians” (AKA straight men) now a days it seems, but even if they aren’t they’re a danger to womyn, especially the rare trans womyn who might be let in because they blend as cis well enough. All trans women deserve to be in womyn’s shelters. That includes pretransition trans women as well. Doesn’t matter if she’s 6 feet tall with linebacker shoulders and a beard. She’s a womyn, and cis womyn have no reason to be uncomfortable with another womyn’s presence except for violent transmisogyny.

Poe? Serious? I really don’t know.

Its rulings can be enforced by the courts

Jan 9th, 2016 11:20 am | By

Andrew Gilligan at the Telegraph:

A crown court judge has been allowed to rule on sharia cases, in the first case of its kind.

District Judge Shamim Qureshi, who sits at Bristol Crown Court, received permission from the Judicial Office to double as “presiding judge” at the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal (MAT).

The MAT was established in 2007 by a hardline cleric, Sheikh Faiz-ul-Aqtab Siddiqi, who led an anti-Charlie Hebdo demonstration after 11 of the magazine’s staff were murdered by terrorists.

So the real law is getting mixed up with the unofficial, religious law?

Judge Qureshi has overseen MAT, which is based in Nuneaton, Warks, and has four other branches.

It states that it serves Muslims “seeking to resolve disputes in accordance with Islamic sacred law”.

Unlike most sharia councils and tribunals, MAT has legal status under the 1996 Arbitration Act and its rulings can be enforced by the courts.

So that’s a very bad thing then.

About four-fifths of its work is family and matrimonial disputes, where it has on occasions issued rulings that discriminate against women. In an inheritance dispute between three sisters and two brothers, the tribunal gave the men double their sisters’ inheritance.

MAT has handled cases of domestic violence in which female victimswere persuaded to withdraw complaints to the police and pursue “reconciliation” with their husbands instead. The men were only told to take anger management courses. It also offers Islamic divorces, but they are more difficult for women to obtain than for men.

And now a real judge is going to be a “presiding judge” there.

Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, said: “I would be careful if I was a judge not to mix the two jobs. I don’t think an Islamic legal system is compatible with British law.”

A spokesman for the Judicial Office said Judge Qureshi had received permission for his sharia work, which was done on a voluntary basis. MAT could not be contacted for comment.

I think Khalid Mahmood has it right. A real judge shouldn’t be doing that, on a voluntary basis or not.

An atmosphere of intimidation

Jan 9th, 2016 10:51 am | By

Life in the AnomalUSA.

Licensed gun owners can now bring their firearms into Texas’ 10 state psychiatric hospitals.

Until this year, guns were banned at the state-run facilities, which house people with serious mental illnesses. No one — visitors, delivery people and the like — could bring firearms anywhere on the hospitals’ campuses. Even local law enforcement officers, who were allowed to bring their weapons into the facilities, regularly lock up their guns before entering Austin State Hospital out of an abundance of caution. That isn’t expected to change.

But. You can hear the “but” coming.

But state officials say two new laws made it clear to them that they can’t keep guns off the hospitals’ campuses. The open carry law allows gun license holders to openly carry their firearms. A second law fines state agencies for wrongly hanging “no guns” signs.

Hospitals are asking people not to, but asking is all they’re allowed to do. There’s only so much asking one wants to do with someone sporting a gun in a holster.

Terry Holcomb, founder and executive director of Texas Carry, joined other gun rights activists in saying that the state is wrong to blame the open carry law for allowing guns on the hospital campuses. The activists say even before that law, license holders were free to take their guns on those campuses and that the state’s ban at the psychiatric hospitals was an illegal infringement on gun owners’ rights.

The psychiatric hospital gun issue comes at a time when Texans are just beginning to use a new law allowing those with a gun license to carry firearms in a belt or a holster without concealing them. Supporters say it will enhance public safety, though studies they have cited fall short of proving that to be fact. Opponents maintain that it will create an atmosphere of intimidation.

But we know that nobody ever pulls a gun in a fit of rage, we know there are no impulsive murders committed when people are drunk or high or in a temper or power-crazed, we know we can trust absolutely everybody to be reasonable and ethical with the guns on their hips.

Hahahaha just kidding. No we don’t. We know the opposite. We know that people do flip out, and we know it’s not a good idea to make murder so easy that it can be committed before the flipped out person can stop to reflect.

But this is Amurrika, so we do the wrong thing anyway and call it “rights.”

Not as some act of solidarity or anything

Jan 8th, 2016 5:01 pm | By

This is infuriating to read – a smug, detached, sniffy review in the Globe and Mail of Charb’s book Open Letter: On Blasphemy, Islamophobia, and the True Enemies of Free Expression. The reviewer is John Semley, who wants us to know how little he cares.

The night of the Charlie Hebdo shooting, just over a year ago, I went to a comedy show. Not as some act of solidarity or anything. Just because some friends were putting together a comedy show.

That’s a shit beginning. Don’t go thinking he felt any solidarity with other writers, folks, because he didn’t.

Like, I think, most people on Jan. 7, 2015, I was shocked and saddened by the attacks. Yes, it was a shock and sadness that has become, these days, so rote as to feel almost banal. But nevertheless.

Excuse me? It’s not rote at all. I can’t begin to express how not rote it is. I have friends who could be targets of Islamist murderers. I know people who have been targets of Islamist murderers. I could be one myself for all I know. There’s nothing rote about it.

I learned about Charlie Hebdo in the days (and even hours) after the attacks. I soon found myself at odds with sentimental liberal acquaintances on the Internet, who hastily championed the Hebdo jokers as martyrs in some imagined war against freedom of expression.

Imagined? How dare he? The 11 dead at Charlie Hebdo weren’t imagined; Avijit Roy wasn’t imagined; Raif Badawi is not imagined; Taslima Nasreen is not imagined; Salman Rushdie is not imagined.

And there’s nothing “sentimental” about objecting to what happened at Charlie Hebdo. What a loathsome thing to say.

It became increasingly difficult to square the image of the slain Hebdo staffers as secular saints with their crude drawings depicting the Prophet Mohammed prostrated on his stomach, splayed anus pointed at the reader, or Jesus Christ having anal sex with God, drawings that began to strike me as inciting, offensive, sometimes racist and, more than anything, just stupid.

That suggests he knew nothing whatever about Charlie Hebdo, and didn’t bother to find out – but feels quite entitled to shit on them anyway.

This is not meant to diminish their deaths, or the tragedy of it. But making an overstated case for the political, social and satirical relevance of the kind of infantile scribblings that you might find on a White Power message board online strikes me as oversimplifying. That Charlie Hebdo was racist and idiotic doesn’t justify the murder of its staff. But it doesn’t justify their work, either.

He’s that ignorant, yet he felt comfortable reviewing this book without remedying his ignorance at all. It’s shocking.

Then he calls Charb’s book facile and opportunistic.

What might otherwise have been distributed as a tatty, Xeroxed pamphlet plunked on Parisian newsstands is packaged by Little, Brown in a slim, hardcover volume, and tacked with a forward by The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik (who apparently studied the history of cartooning and caricature in grad school). Even in presentation, it’s a garish artifact targeted at the same schmaltzy liberal simpletons who hailed the Hebdo shooting victims as sacrificial offerings in the West’s war against both Islam and free expression.

How stupid of us; we should have said they were terrible and deserved to be slaughtered.

Then he says Charb asks “moronically reductive questions” and then stops messing around and gets really abusive.

Charb drapes his racism and intellectual feebleness inside basic counterintuitive inversions of logic, as if he’s playing the role of Baby Žižek. The basic thrust of Open Letter is, “Well, are not the real Islamophobes the ones who automatically assume that all Muslims would be offended by our silly doodles?” Again: no.

The late Charb would likely brand me as one of the “terrorized intellectuals, moralizing old clowns and half-witted journalists” who rail against Charlie Hebdo. That’s fine. Freedom of speech and all that. But a dashed-off leaflet such as Open Letter proves to me that the real clowns, and the real Islamophobes, are the ones who stir sentiments of racism, xenophobia and religious persecution while hiding behind their constitutional protections and civil guarantees of freedom of expression like giggling cowards.

This is the most disgusting thing I’ve read in a long time – and I read a lot of disgusting writing, as you know, because I share it all. Cowards! They knew they were threatened, and they refused to be silenced by that.

I notice that John Semley runs no risk at all by writing this sneering dishonest piece of crap.

There is a very real danger that the women assaulted will disappear from view

Jan 8th, 2016 1:05 pm | By

At the New Statesman, Musa Okwonga has thoughts on how to deal with the New Year’s Eve assaults on women in Köln and Hamburg.

The volume of sexual violence against women worldwide is extraordinary: it is horrifying, heartbreaking, and finally it is enraging. Whether women are in public or in the supposed safety of their own homes, the offences committed against them are off the scale.

To quote the United NationsIt is estimated that 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives. However, some national studies show that up to 70 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime“. (My italics.)

The Cologne assaults, then, did not occur in isolation, but as a particularly severe eruption of a situation which, in global terms, has always been volcanic.

He quotes from one account:

“When we came out of the station, we were very surprised by the group we met, which was made up only of foreign men…We walked through the group of men, there was a tunnel through them, we walked through…I was groped everywhere. It was a nightmare. Although we shouted and hit them, they men didn’t stop. I was horrified and I think I was touched around 100 times over the 200 metres.”

One investigator told the Kölner Express: “The female victims were so badly pushed about, they had heavy bruises on their breasts and behinds.”

Imagine how horrible that would be – being trapped, surrounded, pressed, and then groped and shoved by the people trapping you – as if you were a football, a load of laundry, a parcel of meat.

But then – the perps are not privileged people. What about that?

In the ensuing conversation, there is a very real danger that the women assaulted will disappear from view, quickly buried beneath a tug-of-words between the Right and the Left. In fact, it has already happening. So let us reiterate the facts. Scores of women were set upon by up to a thousand men in a public place. Ninety of them made complaints to police. There were also sexual assaults of a similar fashion in Hamburg on the same night. The level of entitlement that these men felt towards the bodies of their victims is appalling.

Germany, he goes on, is not particularly welcoming to people of Other races, nor does it have particularly high expectations of them.

So, what to do with all of this analysis? Well, it is actually simple. Let’s just keep sticking up for the women. As far as being a black man of African descent goes, the racists in Germany and elsewhere hate us anyway. They thought we were rapists and perverts and other assorted forms of sex attacker the second they set eyes on us. They don’t care about the women who were attacked in Cologne and Hamburg, except to prove the point that we are the animals that they always thought – or hoped – we were.

In return, I don’t care about them. Nor am I too bothered by the people who don’t want to sit next to me on the train. Fear of the unknown is a hard thing to unlearn. I am most concerned, by far, with the safety of the women who may now be more frightened than ever to enter public spaces. I don’t think that women have ever felt particularly comfortable walking through crowds of drunk and aggressive men at night, regardless of the race of those men. But groups of young men of North African and Arab origin, whatever their intentions, will most likely endure more trepidation from women than before.

So here’s what I propose we do. Why don’t we just start with the premise that it is a woman’s fundamental right, wherever she is in the world, to walk the streets and not be groped? And why don’t we see this as a perfect moment for men, regardless of our ethnic backgrounds, to get genuinely angry about the treatment of women in public spaces: to reject with fury the suggestion that we are somehow conditioned by society forever to treat women as objects, condemned by our uncontrollable sexual desires to lunge at them as they walk past?

Let’s do our best to challenge the rampant misogyny that has gone on worldwide for far too long, and reject whatever lessons of sexist repression we may have been taught. Because women are tired of telling us about this, and exhausted of fighting a battle that for too long has gone overlooked.

Thank you.

This article was originally published on the author’s blog, You can find his poetry on his website too. He tweets at @Okwonga​.

Filial love

Jan 8th, 2016 12:28 pm | By

More news from ISIS: one of their soldiers has publicly murdered his own mother for “apostasy.”

The activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RIBSS) said 20-year-old jihadi Ali Saqr al-Qasem shot his mother Lena, 45, in the head with an assault rifle in front of a large crowd.

Lena al-Qasem is understood to have been accused of apostasy – a crime that usually means leaving one’s religion but in practise is used by Isis as a justification for murdering anybody who doesn’t support or speaks out against the terror group.

Naturally. There is The One True Group in Purity and Righteousness, and everyone else is an apostate. Such a view is efficient and, in the short term, good fun (assuming you love cruelty and death, as of course ISIS does).

The exact charge against Ms al-Qasem was “inciting her son to leave the Islamic State and escaping together to the outside of Raqqa”, according to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights.

The UK-based conflict monitor said Ali Saqr al-Qasem had reported his mother to his Isis superiors, who then sentenced her to death and ordered him be the one to kill her.

Allahu akbar.

In other news, the pope is still a Catholic

Jan 8th, 2016 12:08 pm | By

Important news from the Independent:

Eddie Redmayne has criticised the prominent feminist Germaine Greer for claiming Caitlyn Jenner changed her gender in order to steal the limelight from her co-stars.

Ok. Who the fuck is Eddie Redmayne? Why should we care?

Redmayne, who plays transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl, said he disagreed with her provocative comments.

Oh, that’s who he is – the one who isn’t trans.

The 34-year-old London-born actor told British GQ: “I completely disagree with what she has to say about Caitlyn in relation to why she is making her show.

“It’s a shame to see an instance of feminism and trans issues diminishing each other. But also, it’s quite important that this is a singular instance, and most feminists ally with the transgender. But specifically, I just disagree with her.”

Well it’s always great to have a man explaining about feminism and what it needs to do to come up to his standards.

After the flood

Jan 8th, 2016 11:16 am | By

The Book Case in Hebden Bridge has news.

As most people reading this will know, The Book Case in Hebden Bridge was destroyed by the major flooding in the Calder Valley on Boxing Day. Despite flood resilience measures taken after the last flood in 2012 we were completely wiped out as the water came through at over 5ft, nearly 2ft over the highest we had planned for. Like nearly all businesses in the town we were uninsurable against flooding.

We have just had the fantastic news that we will be receiving a £5000 grant from the James Patterson fund. Our enormous thanks to Meryl Halls at the Booksellers Association for organising this for us, and to the grant fund who are arranging this to be paid speedily and with minimal paperwork. And of course to the great man, James Patterson himself!

We have been overwhelmed by the support we have received since Boxing Day from all sections of the book trade. In the first few days after the flood much of Hebden Bridge was left without phone signal, power or internet. While we felt cut off from the outside world, Kevin Duffy from independent publisher Bluemoose Books together with Calder Valley based writers, Stephen May, Ben Myers and Melvin Burgess (who also spent hours shovelling wet books for us on the first day) began to rally the book trade to our support.

Meanwhile Sarah Corbett (another wet book shoveller) who organised our Poetry Nights, contacted poets who head read at the shop for donations.

When Sam Missingham from Harper Collins and crime writing duo R C Bridgestock (Carol and Bob to their friends) heard about what had happened it made a huge difference. Despite not ever having had direct contact with them they turned their awe inspiring organisational talents to our rescue and used their contacts and position in the industry to get big name authors involved in a signed book auction to raise money for us.

And we have had so many wonderful personal messages of support from readers, writers, booksellers, publishers, in fact book lovers of all kinds! Here’s one lovely example – yesterday we received an anonymous package from Amazon containing 6 rolls of commercial absorbent paper towel, just addressed to ‘the people saving books at The Book Case’.

The fact that so many people, from all areas of the book trade, have rallied round to help us means so much. I admit that in the past, reading some of the articles in the Bookseller for example, I’ve not really felt connected to the more corporate world of publishing. In fact as a small northern bookseller I’ve sometimes felt invisible in the industry.

The last week it has felt genuinely felt that we are part of a real community, that publishers do care about independent bookshops and understand their value. We are important; to the book trade, to authors, readers and to the wider communities we exist in. The amazing support we have had is a huge reminder of this and made us even more determined to survive this.

Finally a list of publishers who have come to our support, apologies to anyone we have left off this list, there are still boxes to open and messages that may not have got through. Just remind me so I can add you x

Literary Gift Company
Harper Collins
Thames and Hudson
Rough Trade
Tangerine Press
Galley Beggar
David Fickling Books
Country Publications
Dean Street Press
Chicken House
Anderson Press
Longbarrow Press
Independent Alliance
River Ocean
Head of Zeus
Wrecking Ball Press
4th Estate

With our most heartfelt thanks
Kate Claughan and all at The Book Case

H/t Maureen Brian.

Snowy Owl in snowy landscape

Jan 7th, 2016 5:52 pm | By

Have a Snowy Owl, courtesy of the Quebec Minister of Transportation Robert Poëti. The photographer was a traffic camera.