Notes and Comment Blog

A shame that he decided to be a bad one

Aug 29th, 2016 12:28 pm | By

Dayna Evans responded to David Brooks’s terrible, talentless, lazy “opinion piece” the day it appeared (last Friday).

Some writers are bad at writing, while others are good. But being good at writing is often not enough: One must also be gracious when writing about female presidential candidates. The best writers in the world are able to turn good writing into great by calling upon graciousness and intelligence in the face of an anti-intellectual world.

David Brooks — who today published “The Art of Gracious Leadership,” a musing on why Hillary Clinton is not, unlike “Lincoln, Gandhi, Mandela and Dorothy Day,” a gracious leader — is not one of those writers.

Good writers, just like the subject of David Brooks’s latest spaghetti-at-a-wall op-ed, are “humble enough to observe that the best things in life are usually undeserved”…

As David Brooks’s entire career is undeserved. He’s a bad, lazy writer who simply states the obvious or conventional in the least interesting words available. He’s not good at writing and he’s not good at thinking either. There is no there there.

David Brooks writes for a living, but he does not seem to be transformed by the act of it. When writing about a female presidential candidate, he seems to make the same mistakes he’s been making as a writer for nearly two decades. His posture is “still brittle, stonewalling and dissembling.” David Brooks’s columns are all the same.

All the same platitudinous nothing.

The kitchen debate

Aug 29th, 2016 11:46 am | By

This is so good it should be in the Louvre.

Updating to add: Artist: tiggerthewing.

Creeping modesty

Aug 29th, 2016 11:05 am | By

Gee, a sexism hat trick. The Israeli government is imposing “modesty” rules at government-sponsored events.

Israel’s Culture Ministry is to introduce new rules about how modestly performers should dress at government-sponsored events.

“Festivals and events funded by public money will respect the general public, which includes different communities,” a Culture Ministry spokesperson said.

And by “communities” they of course mean not communities at all, but religious sects. Calling them “communities” makes them sound cuddly rather than coercive.

The spokesperson spoke after a singer at a government-backed beach concert near Tel Aviv was kicked off the stage for wearing a bikini top. At a beach.

Hanna Goor, who came to public attention in Israel after appearing on a TV talent show, said a production representative told her to “get dressed” during her performance.

When she refused, he kicked her off stage before her set had finished, she claimed.

“Immediately after they took me down, I asked for an explanation. The bottom line, he explained to me, is that the request was imposed on him,” Ms Goor told the Haaretz newspaper.

Haredi influence?

Israel’s Culture Ministry disputed Ms Goor’s claim that her set was cut short, but said removing her from the stage was “necessary” because her performance did not “respect the general public who attended the show”.

“This is exactly the difference between freedom of expression and freedom of funding,” the spokesperson said, according to Jewish daily Forward.

Or maybe it’s exactly the difference between living in a secular country and living in a theocracy.

Not for girls

Aug 29th, 2016 10:34 am | By

And speaking of sex-segregated branding, a friend on Facebook alerted me to the story of the Yorkie chocolate bar.

yorkie not for girls


In case we don’t understand the words or don’t know how to read, there’s also a stick figure with a skirt and a purse, with a line through her forbidden self. NO GIRLS.

Brilliant marketing, isn’t it, telling half your market NOT FOR YOU.

The Yorkie bar is famous in the UK for its former tag line: “It’s not for girls.” Nestlé first launched the slogans “Don’t feed the birds,” “Not available in pink,” and “King size not queen size” in 2002, but the bar has always been targeted at men ever since its inception.

Ahahaha – don’t you love the quirky British sense of humor? So sophisticated, so ironic, so hilarious.

It’s odd, though, that they didn’t think to say it’s only for WHITES. Wouldn’t that have been even more sophisticated and ironic?

No, I’m just pretending to think that. Of course they didn’t think to say that, because it would have been outrageous. But to say it about women? That’s just quirky laddish humor.

Then in 2002, Nestlé owned Yorkie launched the aggressively macho campaign: "It's not for girls."

For her

Aug 29th, 2016 10:22 am | By

Oh thank god – at last women can eat cashews and walnuts. They’re more expensive than the men’s, of course, but at least we can have them.

David Brooks demands more feminine niceness from Clinton

Aug 28th, 2016 3:38 pm | By

I’ve never been able to figure out how David Brooks ever got to be David Brooks. He’s so staggeringly conventional and mediocre and empty – what does anyone see in him?

Upholding his record of conventionality and mediocrity, he did an opinion piece for the Times on Friday musing on why Hillary Clinton isn’t “gracious” enough for his taste, and how important it is to be “gracious,” and how might Hillary Clinton become “gracious” enough for him.

Hillary Clinton is nothing if not experienced. Her ship is running smoothly, and yet as her reaction to the email scandal shows once again, there’s often a whiff of inhumanity about her campaign that inspires distrust.

So I’ve been thinking that it’s not enough to be experienced. The people in public life we really admire turn experience into graciousness.

Those people, I think, see their years as humbling agents. They see that, more often than not, the events in our lives are perfectly designed to lay bare our chronic weaknesses and expose some great whopping new ones.

Sooner or later life teaches you that you’re not the center of the universe, nor quite as talented or good as you thought.

Or at least…it does if you’re a woman. Because let’s face it, women are not the center of the universe – men are – and they are of course never as talented or as good as they think, because after all, they’re women. Women aren’t talented or good. It’s just so irritating when they swan around thinking they’re qualified to do a big job, when obviously only men are qualified to do that. It’s a good thing we have talented good genius men like David Brooks to take those women down a peg or two or six or a squillion.

People who are gracious also understand the accuracy of John Keats’s observation that “Nothing ever becomes real ’til it is experienced.” You can learn some truth out of a book or from the mouth of a friend, but somehow wisdom is not lodged inside until its truth has been engraved by some moment of humiliation, delight, disappointment, joy or some other firsthand emotion.

Especially humiliation, right? Bring on the humiliation! Let’s see Hillary Clinton humiliated a lot, starting right now. She can’t be gracious or dainty or sweet enough until she’s been humiliated a few thousand times. I can sense David Brooks’s excitement at the prospect from here.

Gracious people are humble enough to observe that the best things in life are usually undeserved — the way the pennies of love you invest in children get returned in dollars later on; the kindness of strangers; the rebirth that comes after a friend’s unexpected and overawing act of forgiveness.

Yup yup yup – Hillary Clinton needs to realize that she doesn’t deserve any of this – the bitch – she thinks she’s so great but really she’s just another useless woman.

It’s tough to surrender control, but like the rest of us, Hillary Clinton gets to decide what sort of leader she wants to be. America is desperate for a little uplift, for a leader who shows that she trusts her fellow citizens. It’s never too late to learn from experience.

If only everyone were as wise and generous with advice and sympathetic and just downright helpful as David Brooks.

Looking back she can see she was being groomed

Aug 28th, 2016 12:40 pm | By

The empowerment of sex work:

Lauren Darlington looked every bit the sweet 16-year-old with a mouth full of braces when her mum forged her birth certificate so she could work as a prostitute. Seven years later she is real, raw about her demons, blogging to touch others.

Her mother got half her earnings – in other words her mother was her pimp. That’s nice.

Lauren agreed to having sex for money – she wanted to get her mum out of financial trouble. But now, aged 23, she realises she was a vulnerable child and she is still paying the price and trying to make sense of the memories.

Looking back she can see she was being groomed, heavily influenced by adults she trusted. And the world of prostitution was glorified.

You mean the world of prostitution isn’t glorious? How can that be?

At the time Lauren and her mum were on welfare. Money was tight.

“They did a lot of drugs around me and one day on the way to her drug dealer’s place it came up that she was a prostitute. Mum blurted out she had been one before so could never again and the talk of the money and how ‘easy’ it was. I offered to do it for us. And that’s something I have always said and held guilt around. It was my choice.”

With a history of self harm and a fragile mindset, being plunged into the seedy adult world was damaging.

“I was hit, degraded, the mind games … I was 16 and looked it and covered in fresh scars. But I turned off. The Valium mum would give me and lack of sleep helped.”

The scars mark her razor blade slashes. Cutting her forearms and thighs was a way she tried to tell the world she was in serious trouble.

What trouble? Let’s not be sex negative here.

Eventually she told her father what was going on, and her mother was tried and convicted. They’ve reconciled. But women pimping out their daughters? Not cool. Not empowered.

H/t Rob

Guest post: A full generation behind

Aug 28th, 2016 11:15 am | By

Guest post by James Garnett, a followup to his post yesterday.

We all know this, but it’s worth stating again: being able to build equity over time is a very important way that most of us are able to get ahead in the world. Working hard matters, too, but it’s not enough.

My father worked hard. On his return from naval service in the Korean War, he used the GI Bill to earn a degree in engineering. That got him a good job, with which he and my mother were able to buy a small home on the outskirts of Dallas, Texas. Over the years, they saved money and built home equity, and by the time the 1980’s rolled around they were able to put me and my two sisters through university using a combination of savings and equity loans.

As a result, I started out in life with no debt, and a university degree. I was able to get a good job, and save some money, and then return to graduate school and get a better degree, and subsequently a better job, with which I was able to buy my home.

Now think about the prospects for a black family in 1957, when my father was just starting his university education. It was not until 1962 that the first black man was admitted to the University of Mississippi, not far away from the University of Texas. So in 1957, a good education was probably not foremost on the minds of returning black servicemen. For them, it was blue-collar work, at best.

But they couldn’t buy homes like my father did. They were stuck renting, and renting on a smaller paycheck.

Fast forward to 1980, and my father is a senior research and development engineer at Hewlett Packard, with 23 years of home equity built up. There is exactly one black engineer in his group of ~100. His remaining black peers have been living on lower wages, perhaps even paycheck to paycheck for those 23 years, and have no equity. Are they going to be able to send their children to university? Of course not. Their children are stuck in the same path as their parents.

Now the year is 2016, and I took a route that was smoothed for me every step of the way. The sons of my father’s black peers? They might own homes, if they’re lucky. They still aren’t engineers with good paying jobs, at least not in any of the engineering firms that I’ve worked in.

So you can see how building equity, and having opportunities for advancement, echo through the generations.

Things are a little bit better. It’s possible that the grandsons and granddaughters of those black families in 1957 might be able to start to have the same kind of chances that I enjoyed. But that’s a full generation behind me. And in the meantime, the inner cities have developed a mood of depression, and hopelessness. A mood in which more violence, crime, and suffering thrives.

Donald Trump doesn’t have any solutions to this, because he cannot even recognize it. I’m not certain that I do. The problems have become more complex, and simply making opportunities and striking down unfair laws is no longer enough. All I know is that Trump is not going to help.

Gender expectations be damned

Aug 28th, 2016 7:56 am | By

Then some solidarity:

I was incredibly moved by my buddy Jen Anderson Shattuck‘s story about how her son was bullied by a grown man for wearing a tutu and called it child abuse. I wanted to show her three-year old kiddo, nicknamed Roo, that it was just fine for him to wear a sparkly tutu if that’s what he wanted to wear. So, I ordered up my own TuTu and thought up the idea of #TuTusForRoo

We need to let kids be kids, and if kids want to dress in a way that doesn’t match societal expectations, we need to support that choice. Anyone can wear whatever clothing best suits them and their personality – gender expectations be damned.

I am proud to serve as a Director of Religious Education in a Unitarian Universalist faith community that joins me in honoring the idea that gender is a spectrum, not a binary, and that we need to support how our kids are expressing themselves. So count me in with #TuTusForRoo and if any kids in my program, or any kids out there in the greater universe, are worried that they just might want to wear a tutu but are too afraid? I’ve got your back. And now, a bright pink and purple TuTu to wear with you in solidarity.

If you haven’t read Jen’s story – read it. It’s an incredible expression of the kind of parenting we need to see more of in the world. I’ve gotten to know Jen through years of UU blogging, and she is an amazing person (as you can tell by reading her story.) It’s just a perfect representation of UU parenting and it motivates me to do the best I can to help other parents parent according to their own values. Her story has been shared over 13,000 times and I, for one, am not surprised her story has struck so many of us.

Today he says a lot of UU congregants told him they’re a little disappointed in him…that he wasn’t wearing a tutu today.


And he likes to wear sparkly tutus

Aug 28th, 2016 7:45 am | By

A Facebook post by Jen Anderson Shattuck:

My three-and-a-half-year-old son likes to play trucks. He likes to do jigsaw puzzles. He likes to eat plums. And he likes to wear sparkly tutus. If asked, he will say the tutus make him feel beautiful and brave. If asked, he will say there are no rules about what boys can wear or what girls can wear.

My son has worn tutus to church. He has worn tutus to the grocery store. He has worn tutus on the train and in the sandbox. It has been, in our part of the world, a non-issue. We have been asked some well-intentioned questions; we’ve answered them; it has been fine. It WAS fine, until yesterday.

Yesterday, on our walk to the park, my son and I were accosted by someone who demanded to know why my son was wearing a skirt. We didn’t know him, but he appeared to have been watching us for some time.

“I’m just curious,” the man said. “Why do you keep doing this to your son?”

He wasn’t curious. He didn’t want answers. He wanted to make sure we both knew that what my son was doing—what I was ALLOWING him to do—was wrong.

“She shouldn’t keep doing this to you,” he said. He spoke directly to my son. “You’re a boy. She’s a bad mommy. It’s child abuse.”

He took pictures of us, although I asked him not to; he threatened me. “Now everyone will know,” he said. “You’ll see.”

I called the police. They came, they took their report, they complimented the skirt. Still, my son does not feel safe today. He wants to know: “Is the man coming back? The bad man? Is he going to shout more unkind things about my skirt? Is he going to take more pictures?”

I can’t say for sure. But I can say this: I will not be intimidated. I will not be made to feel vulnerable or afraid. I will not let angry strangers tell my son what he can or cannot wear.

The world may not love my son for who he is, but I do. I was put on this earth to make sure he knows it.

I will shout my love from street corners.

I will defend, shouting, his right to walk down the street in peace, wearing whatever items of clothing he wants to wear.

I will show him, in whatever way I can, that I value the person he is, trust in his vision for himself, and support his choices—no matter what anybody else says, no matter who tries to stop him or how often.

Our family has a motto. The motto is this:

We are loving.

We are kind.

We are determined and persistent.

We are beautiful and brave.

We know who we are. Angry strangers will not change who we are. The world will not change who we are—we will change the world.

EDITED TO ADD: This post is public and able to be shared. We are so grateful for your love and support!

As of two hours ago, she said it had been shared more than 30 thousand times.

Editing to add: Actually the number under the post at this moment is 31,839 shares.

Guest post: Guess who some of those other racist developers were

Aug 27th, 2016 5:42 pm | By

Guest post by James Garnett

Today on I see that Donald Trump gave a speech in which he says that he will “fix the inner cities”. He complained about violence and shootings, declaring “we, as a society, cannot tolerate this level of violence and suffering”. It seems like he thinks that the problem of “the inner cities” is violence, and moreover that his solution is probably stricter sentencing, prison terms, etc.

But what really is the “problem” of the inner cities in America’s larger metropolitan areas? Surely there are many causes, but one that seems to be consistent is poverty. Violence always naturally follows where poverty takes root. It didn’t used to be like that, though—poverty was not always endemic in urban areas. So what happened?

Bill O’Reilly’s hometown of Levittown can shed some light on that. Levittown was a development for returning veterans after WWII, promising affordable homes away from the city center, but with one catch: only white people were allowed to purchase the homes. This was laid out, explicitly, in the purchase contracts. Remember, these were affordable homes that people could own, rather than continuing to rent in the cities. So of course, there was urban flight of the white population from the population center, towards Levittown. If you were black, then even if you had the ability to obtain a mortgage to buy a home in Levittown, they wouldn’t sell to you. So you stayed downtown, renting, and not just any rents, either—high rents, with sometimes onerous conditions upon them.

Over time, those homes in Levittown (which is approaching 40 years old, I believe) grew in value. Equity accumulated. They are apparently quite pricey now, and those families that were lucky enough to buy in when they were affordable are now fundamentally wealthy. Meanwhile, the people left behind in the cities remain just as poor, or poorer, than they were before. They were denied the opportunity to accumulate 40 years of equity, simply because of racist policies by developers.

And guess who some of those other racist developers were, who denied housing to minorities? People like Donald Trump’s father, who built a real estate empire in the same way that Levittown was built.

That’s right, Trump: YOU and yours broke the inner cities. And now you claim that you, and only you, can fix the problem? By imposing stricter laws? How is that going to address the problem of poverty and denial of access to ways to develop real wealth—the problem that YOU caused?

You shoot at the enemy

Aug 27th, 2016 5:16 pm | By

And here we have Maine governor Paul LePage being “colorful.”

Paul R. LePage, the ever-combative Republican governor of Maine, refused on Friday to apologize to a Democratic state lawmaker for leaving a threatening and expletive-studded voicemail message that was criticized by some state Republicans and left top Democrats suggesting that Mr. LePage should resign.

You’ll be wanting to know what the expletives were. The Times doesn’t want to tell you, but I listened to a recording at Salon. The epithets were:

  • You cocksucher.
  • You little socialist son of a bitch cocksucker.

Not very gubernatorial, I think you’ll agree.

Mr. LePage did apologize in a statement Friday to the state for his choice of words in the voicemail message, but in a 35-minute news conference he said he was not apologizing directly to the Democratic state representative who was the target of his wrath, Drew Gattine. The governor said he was offended because he believed Mr. Gattine had called him a racist.

“I am enormously angry,” Mr. LePage said at his news conference, suggesting — perhaps not seriously — that he would step down if Mr. Gattine did as well. “I’m not shying away from what I called him.”

Precisely what Mr. LePage called Mr. Gattine is unprintable here, but, suffice to say, the profanity-laced voicemail message, which Mr. LePage left on Thursday and Mr. Gattine provided to The Portland Press Herald, was incendiary even by Mr. LePage’s uninhibited standards.

“Prove that I’m a racist. I’ve spent my life helping black people,” Mr. LePage said in the message. “I’m after you. Thank you.”

It’s fine that Mr Gattine gave the recording to The Portland Press Herald, because the Gov told him to make it public.

After leaving the message Thursday, Mr. LePage told reporters from The Press Herald and the television station WMTW that he would like to have a duel with Mr. Gattine, saying he would point a gun directly between Mr. Gattine’s eyes.

That’s charming. I feel so proud of the United States these days.

The episode grew out of a town-hall-style meeting on Wednesday, where, according to The Portland Press Herald, Mr. LePage told an audience member that he kept a three-ring binder of photographs of arrested drug dealers in the state, which is in the grips of a heroin crisis, and that 90 percent of them were black or Hispanic.

Mr. Gattine said he believed Mr. LePage’s comments were racially charged, but he denied calling the governor a racist.

The Guardian has more on what the Gov said on Wednesday.

At a town hall event in North Berwick on Wednesday, LePage said the majority of drug dealers arrested in Maine were black or Hispanic in origin.

“I don’t ask them to come to Maine and sell their poison,” he said, “but they come. And I will tell you that 90-plus percent of those pictures in my book, and it’s a three-ring binder, are black and Hispanic people from Waterbury, Connecticut, the Bronx and Brooklyn. I didn’t make the rules – I’m just telling you what’s happening.”

At a subsequent press conference, video of which was released by the Press Herald, he said: “Look, the bad guy is the bad guy. I don’t care what colour he is. When you go to war, if you know the enemy and the enemy dresses in red and you dress in blue, then you shoot at red.”

Addressing the state’s Republican house minority leader, Ken Fredette, a military lawyer, he said: “Don’t you? Ken, you’ve been in uniform. You shoot at the enemy. You try to identify the enemy and the enemy right now, the overwhelming majority of people coming in, are people of colour or people of Hispanic origin.”


The BBC has details of what the Gov said after leaving that phone message.

He later invited reporters from the Press Herald and WMTW TV channel to an interview to explain the voice message, and told them he wished he could shoot Mr Gattine in a duel.

“I’d like him to come up here because, tell you right now, I wish it were 1825,” Mr LePage said.

“And we would have a duel, that’s how angry I am, and I would not put my gun in the air, I guarantee you… I would point it right between his eyes, because he is a snot-nosed little runt and he has not done a damn thing since he’s been in this legislature to help move the state forward.”

It’s the Era of the Bully.


Aug 27th, 2016 3:44 pm | By

There are a lot of ways to enforce orthodoxy. A very popular one right now is to accuse heretics of “denying my/our lived experience,” at which point the heretic had damn well better apologize and swear to do better, or else prepare to be shunned.

But lived experience isn’t a conversation-ender. People can claim to have experienced anything, including absurdities, so why should it be treated as ungainsayable? People have claimed to be victims of  Satanic rituals, alien abductions, the Freemasons, reverse racism, hauntings, The Jews, misandry – you name it. They’re not always right, and they’re not always telling the truth. We’re not required to believe everyone’s stories about “lived experience,” so the accusation of failing to do so shouldn’t be a conversation-ender, much less grounds for shunning.

Furthermore, experience is one thing, and what we call it is another. There’s an enormous gap between experience and language, and it’s a necessary part of critical thinking to poke and prod the way we name things. People can claim their lived experience tells them they are and always have been women despite having male bodies, but that doesn’t mean they’re right, even though it’s their experience they’re talking about. We can be wrong even about ourselves – but who doesn’t know that? What’s that “even” even doing there, as if it’s surprising that we can be wrong about ourselves? We lie to ourselves, but much more we just plain get things wrong. The subjective isn’t infallible – to put it mildly.

The politics of trying to ignore this is not a healthy robust politics. It’s the opposite of that. It’s a politics of temper tantrums and lying, and that won’t work out.

Looking empowered

Aug 27th, 2016 11:05 am | By

So there was a book launch today in Townsville, Queensland in Australia of Prostitution Narratives, a compilation of sex trade survivor testimonies. The launch was disrupted by pro sex trade advocates.

Members of the public were invited to the book launch at a Townsville domestic violence service over three weeks ago, through advertising on social media.

The domestic violence service that offered the use of their conference room, as they do for many groups,  was contacted by a representative of local sex industry group RESPECT, a couple of weeks ago. They said they disagreed with the event and asked to leave their flyers at the venue.  The host service agreed to accept the flyers.

On Friday last week sex trade advocates visited the domestic violence service saying they had information to offer and asked to put up posters of partly naked women in the sex trade “looking empowered”.  While the host in no way discouraged their attendance at the event it was made clear that the posters would not be allowed because they would cause offence to survivors, and no offensive conduct would be tolerated.

They could have given a better “because” than that, I think. They could have simply said no, this is our event, and we’re not obliged to display your posters that take a view fundamentally opposed to our view.

That’s clear enough, isn’t it? An anti-racism event isn’t obliged to display racist posters just because someone asks. A feminist event isn’t obliged to display misogynist posters just because someone asks. That’s a perfectly legitimate reason, and there’s no need to get into the weeds of “offence” and “offensive.”

The book launch was subsequently held at another venue because the domestic violence service provider was not able to ensure attendees’ safety. 

The response from the sex trade advocates was extremely threatening. They said they would not be responsible for the behaviour of their group members at the event. At the launch itself, former president of the Scarlet Alliance, Elena Jeffreys ( HERE ), stood on a chair and interjected while survivors were speaking. She attempted to harass and, in my view, intimidate both survivors and other speakers at the event.

This type of harassment, and what I see as threats against survivors who give voice to their experiences is becoming increasingly common, in my view.  Sex trade advocates are perhaps alarmed at the rising tide of people who are coming to understand the reality of the sex trade, and the harms it causes, especially to women and children.

The sex trade lobby’s continuing aggressive attacks on survivors’ freedom of speech exposes it for the violent, abusive, manipulative and coercive trade it is, in my view as a survivor of this trade.  I also find the intimation of threat to a domestic violence service absolutely unconscionable.

And not really all that feminist, either.

Only the fanatic can ever win in this Not Muslim Enough game

Aug 26th, 2016 6:03 pm | By

Maajid Nawaz had an excellent piece on the “burkini” issue at the Daily Beast yesterday. He says the ban is absurd and petty, and also playing into the hands of the Islamists, who want to see a religious war cleaving the world into two factions. But he also says that the whole “modesty” thing is terrible.

There is no better way to kickstart dividing people along exclusively religious lines than by committing atrocities in the name of Islam. Their hope is that everyone else also begins to identify Sunni Muslims primarily by their religious identities, in reaction to the atrocities. In this way, religious identity has won and citizenship becomes redundant.

But the backward trajectory of contemporary liberalism is matched by a backward trajectory within Islam today.

In modern Muslim-majority contexts and up until the 1970s, the female body was not shamed out of public view. As one Egyptian feminist asserts, this was mainly due to the social dominance of the relatively liberal, middle-class elite in urban centers.

But throughout the ’80s, theocratic Islamism began replacing Arab socialism as the ideology of resistance against “the West.” As is always the case with misogynist dogma, the war against the “other” necessitated defining what is “ours” and what is “theirs”—and our women, of course, were deemed “ours.”

Suddenly, women’s bodies became the red line in a cultural war against the West started by theocratic Islamism. A Not Muslim Enough charade was used to identify “true” Muslims against “Western” stooges. Religious dress codes became a crucial marker in these cultural purity stakes. Only the fanatic can ever win in this Not Muslim Enough game. Any uncovered woman was now deemed loose, decadent, and attention seeking.

Too on the wrong side of that cleaving of the world in two.

In the worst of cases, misogyny disguised as modesty has led to mass sexual harassment on the streets, most recently by gangs of Muslim migrants in Cologne. In Egypt, it has even given rise to a mass public rape phenomenon. As Muslim feminists note, violating Muslim cultural “honor codes” (irdh) and modesty theology (hayaa’) can lead to heinous legal and societal reprimand and the gross fetishization of a woman’s body.

Just like any other practice rooted in religiously inspired misogyny, the burkini cannot be detached from the body-shaming tied to its origins. Aheda Zanetti continued to insist that her product is “about not being judged” as a Muslim woman, yet she is wedded to a practice that inextricably judges the female form as being “immodest,” as she, too, did in her own piece.

“I don’t think any man should worry about how women are dressing,” she argued.

OK. But it has only ever been conservative-religious Muslim men telling Muslim women how to dress.

Over the course of my years immersed in Islamic theology and Arabic, I remain unaware of any medieval female Muslim exegete used as authority by Muslim women for the “duty” of wearing a hijab. It is only ever male exegetes of the Quran who are cited preaching for the duty of female “modesty.”

And it is simply an undeniable fact that most Muslim women judged and attacked around the world for how they dress are attacked by other Islamist and fundamentalist Muslims, not by non-Muslims. These are religious fanatics playing the Not Muslim Enough game.

It’s a choice, he says. Let people make their own choices. But, as a reforming secular liberal Muslim, he’s not going to stop criticizing it.

As a liberal, I reserve the right to question religious-conservative dogma generally, just as most Western progressives already do with Christianity. Yet with Muslims, Western liberals seem perennially confused between possessing a right to do something, and being right when doing it.

Of course American Christian fundamentalists of the Bible Belt have a right to speak, but liberals routinely—and rightly—challenge their views on abortion, sexuality, and marriage. To do so is not to question their right to speak, but to challenge their belief that they are right when they speak. I ask only that secular liberal Muslims are also supported in challenging our very own “Quran Belt” emerging in Europe.

This is the real struggle. It is intellectual and it is cultural, more than it is legal.

I support the secular liberal Muslims and ex-Muslims and non-Muslims. Challenge away.

An opportunity to dip her toe in the water

Aug 26th, 2016 11:35 am | By

Mahnaz Nadeem has an excellent piece on the burkini ban at Sedaa.

She looks back to a time when Muslims weren’t under relentless pressure to demonstrate their religiosity.

Before then Islam was cultural and spiritual and no-one was publicly over-preoccupied with proving how puritanical they were; they were more concerned about the day-to-day and making the most of their arrival to this land of opportunity. Iranian Fatwas, Bosnia, Chechnya, Palestine issue, 9/11 and Wahhabi funding changed our psyche so that we came to adopt religious positions by default on absolutely everything under the sun.

Which is a bad trend, because the religious position isn’t always the best one, to put it mildly.

Muslim women who wear the costume are paradoxically rejecting the confines of their home and are wanting to participate in the liberating activity of enjoying the outdoors. They have not decided to envelope themselves in an all-concealing burqa to ensure they go undetected and unrecognised.

Rather the wet-suit provides a Muslim woman an opportunity to dip her toe in the water literally and metaphorically which ordinarily she may not entertain were she required to expose more of her body. It is the first step toward the Muslim community appreciating that the Muslim woman can be part of the outdoors as much as the indoors.

There may be a multitude of other reasons a Muslim woman or any woman for that reason wishes to wear it: she may not want to be sun burned; she may have a skin-complaint, she may want to keep warm; she might be body conscious for non-religious reasons; it just might be more comfortable.

Here’s a surprising thing: bikinis actually aren’t comfortable at all for most women. You have to be truly flawless to feel ok wearing those things where people can see you. Beach anxiety is a running joke and has been for decades.

‘Creeping Sharia’ has had its day and if we want to survive in Europe we need to have a far more intelligent strategy, where we can keep hold of our Islamic faith yet not offend the dominant population’s sensibilities. It is going to be a very tricky task indeed, and will need some intelligent thinking rather than a defensive victim approach. Our conduct and a secular attitude is going to speak much louder than any attempts at religious PR.

In short the “burkini” ban is the cumulative result of years of tolerance towards Islamism encroaching into the public sphere, but this recent attempt to deal with it has resulted in unfairly targeting Muslim women. Instead, the pulpits and criminal elements need to be taken more seriously by French authorities and Europe at large, even perhaps reflecting on our relationships with countries that espouse extremist ideology.

Encroaching on the civil liberties of Muslim women’s rights to enjoy the sun and water is not the solution. Equally Muslims need to appreciate the honeymoon period of encroaching Sharia is over.

Muslim men could wear burkinis in solidarity. That would make the whole thing seem less targeted at women, and less calculated to put them in the wrong no matter what they do.

Welcome to the university

Aug 26th, 2016 10:56 am | By

The whole point of women is to be machines for sucking the penis.

A giant banner sign posted at a home near the University of Cincinnati campus asking “Your daughter got a gag reflex?” has area residents, returning students, and alumni upset, saying it represents rape culture. They’re demanding the university take swift action against those responsible.

“Rape culture” isn’t even adequate to name that. It reduces female humans to literally nothing but holes for men to use as penis-pumping devices. I’m naïve enough to think that’s not the sum total of what girls go to universities for.

As a mother she wants to make sure no one is falling through the cracks

Aug 26th, 2016 10:17 am | By

The EpiPen price gougers are busy explaining that it’s all the fault of the insurance industry. I expect that if you asked the insurance industry, it would be quick to offer the explanation that it’s actually all the fault of the pharmaceutical industry. Meanwhile little Susie just accidentally ingested some peanut, and will she get the injection in time? Tune in tomorrow to find out.

Mylan CEO Heather Bresch struggled Thursday to justify the repeated big price hikes of the company’s lifesaving EpiPen devices as criticism continued that Mylan is gouging consumers with a retail cost of more than $600.

“No one’s more frustrated than me,” Bresch told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Thursday when she was pressed on the question of why Mylan needed to have such a high price for EpiPens, and why she just didn’t cut their price.

Ah that’s hilarious, but no – the parents of children with allergies who can’t afford $600 for an EpiPen two-pack are more frustrated than the highly paid CEO of Mylan. (She raised her own salary after she got the job. Raised it right up, she did.)

Bresch argued that the problem of drug prices isn’t with Mylan or even the pharmaceutical industry, but instead with a health-care system that often requires consumers to pay not just insurance premiums also out-of-pocket for prescription medications, sometimes to the full retail price.

So Mylan’s repeated steep price hikes have had nothing to do with it. How would that work, exactly?

The leading health insurance lobbying group America’s Health Insurance Plans, scoffed at Mylan’s move.

“We’ve seen this time and time again. Rather than actually taking steps to address the real problem of soaring drug prices, pharma companies try and cover their price hikes through patient assistance programs and co-pay support,” said Clare Krusing, spokeswoman for AHIP.

“None of which will make a drug more affordable for the people who need it most. Exorbitant price increases on prescription drugs are leading to higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs for patients, and pharma companies continue to deny that reality,” Krusing said.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, blasted Mylan on Thursday.

“Offering a meager discount only after widespread bipartisan criticism is exactly the same tactic used by drug companies across the industry to distract from their exorbitant price increases, as our investigation has shown repeatedly,” Cummings said. “Nobody is buying this PR move anymore. Mylan should not offer after-the-fact discounts only for a select few — it should reverse its massive price increases across the board immediately.”

On “Squawk Box,” Bresch said that as a mother she wants to make sure no one is falling through the cracks.

The cracks her company opened up by repeatedly hiking the price. Don’t give us that “as a mother” shit.

The EpiPen sold for $100 in 2008. In the eight years since, the price has more than quintupled. About 43 million people are at risk from anaphylaxis, or the severe, life-threatening allergic reaction that EpiPen’s injection of epinephrine is designed to counteract.

“This outrageous increase in the price of EpiPens is occurring at the same time that Mylan … is exploiting a monopoly market advantage that has fallen into its lap,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said last weekend.

They do it because they can.

The burkini ban

Aug 26th, 2016 8:33 am | By

Breaking news: France’s highest administrative court has ruled the burkini ban illegal.

The State Council upheld a challenge by human rights groups which argued that the ban in the Riviera resort of Villeneuve-sur-Loubet infringed personal freedoms in a ruling that is likely to set a legal precedent for 29 other towns that have banned the garment.

The ban “constituted a serious and manifestly illegal infringement of fundamental liberties, ” the State Council said in its judgement.

Patrice Spinosi, a lawyer for the Human Rights League, said the decision to “suspend” the ban would also apply to the other 29 French towns.

I’m sure you’re all well familiar with this incident in Nice:

Nice banned the burkini last week.

There’s no denying it’s beyond bizarre to see four armed cops standing over a woman and forcing her to take some clothes off.



Secret hearings with no transcripts

Aug 25th, 2016 6:14 pm | By

In more news from the Moral Squalor Files – the ACLU is suing an Arkansas county for setting up a debtors’ prison.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the City of Sherwood, its district court judge, and Pulaski County. The suit claims they’re violating a person’s due process rights, and preying on the poor, by creating a never-ending spiral in hot check cases.

This lawsuit claims that the Sherwood courts are trapping people into a never-ending spiral of repetitive court proceedings and ever-increasing debt, adding it’s been happening for the past 25 years or so.

Squalid though we are, we don’t allow debtors’ prisons.

“In this country, you cannot be jailed if you cannot pay your debts. That’s called debtors’ prison and that’s something we did away with some 200 years ago,” said Rita Sklar, ACLU of Arkansas Executive Director.

The suit is on behalf of four people who were convicted of “hot check crimes.”

“A single bounced check written 10 years ago for $15 can be leveraged into a debt of thousands and thousands of dollars in fines and fees for inability to pay the original check and then inability to pay the payments that were set up,” added Sklar.

It goes on to say the hot check court hearings held every Thursday are held in secret, with no transcripts available and closed off to the public. It also adds that hot check defendants are unknowingly signing a waiver of counsel because they’re told they must fill the form out to enter the courtroom.

Well that doesn’t sound at all suspect.

You can read the lawsuit on the article.