Notes and Comment Blog

The threats are coming from INSIDE the legislature

Jun 23rd, 2019 11:21 am | By

Oregon’s one of those funny states with a reputation for granola hats and peace-loving recycle bins, but the reality is that it has a big share of right-wing god-n-guns types. Apparently they have seized the state legislature.

Oregon’s statehouse shut down for safety concerns on Saturday. But the threats weren’t coming from anonymous trolls or foreign fighters—they were coming from the state’s Republican senators, who have teamed up with right-wing militias to threaten violence over a climate change bill.

Eleven of Oregon’s Senate Republicans fled the state this week to avoid a vote on a bill that would cap greenhouse emissions. The group, believed to be hiding in Idaho, left the state senate with too few lawmakers to hold a vote. But the move is more than a legislative maneuver. The missing senators have partnered with right-wing paramilitary groups to threaten violence, should they be brought back to Oregon.

I’ve thought of a better plan. How about they make peace with the legislature, and instead team up with paramilitary groups to fight the environment? Right? Wouldn’t that be a great idea? It would keep them busy and harness all that rage, and there’s at least a chance that they would win and the environment would surrender and stop being all climate changey.

The state senate had scheduled sessions on Saturday, but cancelled them after reports of several militias’ two-day “Rally to Take the Capitol” this weekend.

“Oregon State Police has recommended that the Capitol be closed tomorrow due to a possible militia threat,” a spokesperson for the senate president told the Associated Press on Friday night.

A rally to take the Capitol. So we’re in the actual junta stage now? Dave Andress has a tweet about how all this rage and violence is at bottom about the doom of climate change. I’ll go find it…

Found it.

There have been walkouts in Oregon before, from both parties, but they didn’t include threats.

Multiple senators are believed to have fled to Idaho, with right-wing militias flocking to their aid. While leaving the statehouse before the walkout, Republican Sen. Brian Boquist implied that police officers who pursued them should be ready to die. “Send bachelors and come heavily armed,” Boquist warned police in a televised interview shortly before his walkout. “I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It’s just that simple.”

State police said they were aware of Boquist’s remarks, but were not commenting on them. Boquist and his colleagues are supported by several right-wing militias that made more explicit threats.

After Oregon Gov. Kate Brown called on state troopers to return the lawmakers to the capital, the paramilitary group the Oath Keepers suggested violence against her.

“Gov. Brown, you want a civil war, because this is how you get a civil war,” the Oath Keepers wrote on their public Facebook page. Beneath the post, Oath Keeper fans suggesting hanging, arresting, or taking up arms against Brown.

Bumpy night.

Warnings are forbidden

Jun 23rd, 2019 10:31 am | By

The shunning is well under way.

Sarah Honeychurch, a fellow in the Adam Smith Business School at Glasgow University, was among more than 30 academics who signed the letter in last week’s Sunday Times. It registered “disquiet” over a programme run by the charity Stonewall in which “anti-scientific claims are presented . . . as objective fact”.

The guidance includes instructing academics on using gender neutral pronouns such as “zie” and “ey”, as well as insisting that “one in 100 are born with an intersex trait” and that trans women should be allowed to use female changing rooms.

Last week Honeychurch, an editor of the journal Hybrid Pedagogy, received a formal email from Chris Friend, the managing editor, stating: “Unless I have misunderstood the intentions of the letter or the convictions of your signature, I must ask that you resign your position as editor for HPJ.”

No must about it, of course. It’s like that “we are compelled” from the other day.

To be fair, it’s an idiom of sorts. It expresses moral urgency as opposed to literal compulsion. I’ve probably used it myself, and I’ve almost certainly seen it without objecting to it when it’s in aid of a moral view I agree with. But when one doesn’t agree, the idiom becomes obtrusive.

Another signatory of the Sunday Times letter, Michele Moore, honorary professor at Essex University, who has edited the journal Disability & Society for many years, is also facing calls to resign after warning that autistic and other children might be harmed if they are wrongly encouraged to question their gender, which could lead to taking hormones and later surgery.

A petition from 750 colleagues calls on her to step down. She said her career hung in the balance because of the campaign, but the journal’s publishers and people from around the world were being supportive.

I feel compelled to say “What a load of nonsense.”

Lift that face, chop those tits

Jun 23rd, 2019 10:10 am | By
Lift that face, chop those tits

Maybe it’s all a plot by Big Plastic Surgery.

Not really, but it’s certainly a gold mine for Big Plastic Surgery, also for Mid-size and Tiny Plastic Surgery. In the latter category is Dr. Beverly Fischer MD for instance. (Isn’t Dr./MD redundant? A bit trumpian?) Doc Beverly has a most alluring Twitter header.


Her profile is more advertisement than profile:

All your #PlasticSurgery needs! Lips, Face, Body. #Halo, #SculpSure, #BioTe & More. Get the best beauty tips, advice & special offers 👉

She urges us to get a facelift.

But don’t go thinking she’s about nothing but the appearance – she’s a Pride supporter too!

It’s Pride month! Cut your tits off! Low low price with our $750 discount!

Trump endorses common sense

Jun 22nd, 2019 4:00 pm | By

Trump blithers about Iran.

President Donald Trump said Saturday that military action against Iran was still an option for its downing of an unmanned U.S. military aircraft, but amid heightened tensions he dangled the prospect of eventually becoming an unlikely “best friend” of America’s longtime Middle Eastern adversary.

Trump also said “we very much appreciate” that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard chose not to target a U.S. spy plane carrying more than 30 people.

Yes, that’s how it’s done. Just sound like an awkward child thanking an adult for a birthday present, and everything will be fine.

“The fact is we’re not going to have Iran have a nuclear weapon,” he said as he left the White House for a weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat. “And when they agree to that, they are going to have a wealthy country, they’re going to be so happy and I’m going to be their best friend.”

For the next few months until he’s either impeached or voted out. Not much of a payoff.

“Everybody was saying I’m a war monger. And now they say I’m a dove. And I think I’m neither, if you want to know the truth,” Trump told reporters. “I’m a man with common sense. And that’s what we need in this country, is common sense. But I didn’t like the idea of them knowingly shooting down an unmanned drone and then we kill 150 people.”

He added: “I don’t want to kill 150 Iranians. I don’t want to kill 150 of anything or anybody unless it’s absolutely necessary.’”

What if it’s burgers? He’s perfectly happy to kill 150 burgers any day of the week.

Flower flower fuck terfs flower flower

Jun 22nd, 2019 3:11 pm | By

I saw this on Twitter.

Apparently it’s from Edinburgh Pride. I’d love to know what the rest of the “BRICKS NOT” sign says, but the “NO MORE TERFS” sign with the picture of a woman’s mouth talking and the “fuck TERFs” are informative on their own. Pride is about hating feminist women now. Whoopdydoo.

What Gordon Ramsay has to do with it I don’t know.

Updating to add: MP Joanna Cherry also saw it.

You always have a choice

Jun 22nd, 2019 11:42 am | By

If you knew…

If you knew of a child who was being forced by a parent or guardian to sleep on a cold concrete floor, in overcrowded surroundings, with screaming lights always on overhead that made it hard to sleep, with limited access to a bathroom, no way to brush their teeth, no soap and no towel — would you do something?

Of course you would. You would dial 911 (in the US) and report the circumstances and location.

But if the child is a migrant, it’s government policy to do that to them.

In 2014 — during the Obama administration, it should be noted — several young immigrants caught along the border said they had been given dirty water to drink and kept in crowded, frigid cells.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee of Los Angeles ruled that children taken into federal immigration custody must be kept in “safe and sanitary” facilities.

The judges of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, upheld Judge Gee’s ruling two years ago. But this week, Sarah Fabian, senior litigation counsel for the Department of Justice, told the three-judge panel she thought the phrase was vague.

It’s not all that vague. “Safe” includes not unhealthy, so it rules out sleeping on a concrete floor, sleeping with lights on all night, sleeping in the cold…and so on.

Judge Marsha Berzon asked Fabian: “You’re really going to stand up and tell us that being able to sleep isn’t a question of ‘safe and sanitary’ conditions?”

Judge William Fletcher said, “Cold all night long, lights on all night long, sleeping on concrete and you’ve got an aluminum foil blanket? I find it inconceivable that the government would say that that is safe and sanitary.”

“It may be they don’t get super-thread-count Egyptian linen, I get that,” he added, and said the soap provided didn’t have to be perfumed. But plain soap, he said, “sounds like it’s part of ‘safe and sanitary.’ “

Judge A. Wallace Tashima said, “If you don’t have a toothbrush, if you don’t have soap, if you don’t have a blanket, it’s not safe and sanitary. Wouldn’t everybody agree to that?”

Everybody except people who take orders from Trump.

Matthew Miller points out that they aren’t forced to.

Like Bastille Day but with Trump

Jun 22nd, 2019 10:53 am | By

Trump is finally getting his big Parade of Sojers along with a Nürnberg-style rally starring himself.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt gave details Wednesday on a makeover of the traditional Fourth of July celebration on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to accommodate a speech by President Donald Trump at the Lincoln Memorial.

A day after Trump officially began his re-election campaign in Florida, Bernhardt said the July 4 events will include the military parade Trump has wanted since being impressed by the July 14 Bastille Day festivities in Paris he attended in 2017.

They call him “sir,” you know. Did you know that? They do. The generals call him sir. If you ask him he’ll do a re-enactment for you.

In a release, Bernhardt, whose department includes the National Park Service, said the National Independence Day Parade along Constitution Avenue NW from 7th Street to 17th Street NW will feature marching bands, a fife and drum corps, floats, military units, giant balloons, equestrian and drill teams and more” in a “red, white and blue celebration of America’s birthday!”

As opposed to previous July 4 events on the Mall, this year’s will also include a flyover by military jets, Bernhardt said.

In other words it will be militaristic and fascist-leaning in a way that is new and abnormal and highly undesirable.

Some previous presidential observations:

In 2008, President George W. Bush hosted a naturalization ceremony at the White House for 72 new U.S. citizens from 30 countries, the Park Service said.

In 2010, President Barack Obama hosted a barbecue on the south lawn of the White House for 1,200 members of the military and their families.

I prefer those.

Bush 1’s legacy

Jun 22nd, 2019 9:53 am | By

Jeffrey Toobin tells us what Clarence Thomas has been up to lately, starting with a grotesque case out of Mississippi:

A Mississippi prosecutor went on a racist crusade to have a black man executed. Clarence Thomas thinks that was just fine.

That’s the message of an astonishing decision today from the Supreme Court. The facts of the case, known as Flowers v. Mississippi, are straightforward. As Justice Brett Kavanaugh put it, in his admirably blunt opinion for the Court, “In 1996, Curtis Flowers allegedly murdered four people in Winona, Mississippi. Flowers is black. He has been tried six separate times before a jury for murder. The same lead prosecutor represented the State in all six trials.” Flowers was convicted in the first three trials, and sentenced to death. On each occasion, his conviction was overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court, on the grounds of misconduct by the prosecutor, Doug Evans, mostly in the form of keeping African-Americans off the juries. Trials four and five ended in hung juries. In the sixth trial, the one that was before the Supreme Court, Flowers was convicted, but the Justices found that Evans had again discriminated against black people, and thus Flowers, in jury selection, and they overturned his conviction.

I’m confused by this, because it sounds like double jeopardy over and over again. It also sounds odd that the same prosecutor was on all the cases even though the convictions kept getting overturned.

As Kavanaugh recounted in his opinion, Evans’s actions were almost cartoonishly racist. To wit: in the six trials, the State employed its peremptory challenges (that is, challenges for which no reason need be given) to strike forty-one out of forty-two African-American prospective jurors. In the most recent trial, the State exercised peremptory strikes against five of six black prospective jurors. In addition, Evans questioned black prospective jurors a great deal more closely than he questioned whites. As Kavanaugh observed, with considerable understatement, “A court confronting that kind of pattern cannot ignore it.“

However much it would like to.

Yet Thomas, the one black person on the court, says yes this is awesome, let’s have more of this.

But Thomas can, and he did. Indeed, he filed a dissenting opinion that was genuinely outraged—not by the prosecutor but by his fellow-Justices, who dared to grant relief to Flowers, who has spent more than two decades in solitary confinement at Mississippi’s notorious Parchman prison. Thomas said that the prosecutor’s behavior was blameless, and he practically sneered at his colleagues, asserting that the majority had decided the Flowers case to “boost its self-esteem.”

Aka “virtue-signalling.” I guess it’s better to have evil-signalling? Evil racism-signalling?

Despite Thomas’s usual silence on the bench (he did ask a question during the Flowers argument), he is clearly feeling ideologically aggressive these days. In his Flowers dissent, Thomas all but called for the overturning of the Court’s landmark decision in Batson v. Kentucky, from 1986, which prohibits prosecutors from using their peremptory challenges in racially discriminatory ways.

Gotta let those prosecutors do their racist thing, because…let’s see…because anything else is just political correctness? Do I have that right?

Yes we will no we won’t yes we will wait what time is it again?

Jun 21st, 2019 7:09 pm | By

The Post reports on the childish chaos of Trump Playing War all day and then telling the world that he’s a Big Boy and he can Change His Mind.

The plans had been drawn, the targets set, and a single word from the commander in chief would have activated the U.S. military to strike a foreign adversary. But President Trump was having second thoughts.

After giving his top Pentagon officials permission to prepare for U.S. military strikes against Iran, Trump convened his top advisers in the Oval Office on Thursday evening and began asking crucial questions just minutes before the operation was set to commence, according to officials familiar with the episode.

Cool that he asks crucial questions, but the trouble is, the questions had already been asked and answered. This isn’t somebody marshaling all the reasons on both sides and then making a judgement, this is somebody playing dress-up.

What are the potential risks, he asked. How many people could be killed? What could go wrong?

Trump had already been briefed in detail on such questions earlier in the day, including a Pentagon estimate of up to 150 Iranian casualties.

But hey, why not ask them all over again at the last minute, so that you can tell dramatic stories about yourself the next day? I mean why not?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not wishing he’d gone ahead. I’m wishing he weren’t a childish idiot with no clue what he’s doing.

“We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die,” Trump wrote Friday on Twitter, embellishing several of the events in question. “150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it.”

The whole thing is so that he could get that “sir” in there. He’s so excited that he gets to tell us that generals call him sir. (I bet they swallow quite a lot of vomit as they do it, too.)

Trump’s reversal was the culmination of 24 frenzied and frenetic hours marked by public inconsistencies, congressional bewilderment and palpable concern among national security experts that the administration might inadvertently stumble into the kind of bloody Middle East conflict that the president had campaigned so vigorously against.

Simply because the president’s brain might as well be cream of wheat for all the use it is.

The administration’s debate over how to respond to the drone attack played out over the course of four meetings at the White House on Thursday beginning at 7 a.m. Trump was supportive of military action throughout the day as Pentagon officials, lawmakers and national security officials made their cases for or against escalation, making his sudden change of mind all the more striking to those inside the administration.

He just loves surprises!

He didn’t bother to tell Congress that strikes were planned.

Later in the afternoon, the Pentagon was gearing up to announce a strike. Around 6 p.m., defense officials including Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist huddled with Shanahan in his office overlooking the Potomac River.

That’s when Trump started to ask key questions, as he huddled in the Oval Office with top advisers, including White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

The president was especially interested in the number of potential casualties, noting that Iran’s downing of a drone hadn’t killed any Americans. He was told again that as many as 150 Iranians could be killed.

“I thought about it for a second, and I said, ‘You know what? They shot down an unmanned drone, plane, whatever you want to call it. And here we are sitting with 150 dead people that would have taken place probably within a half an hour after I said go ahead.’ ” Trump said in an interview on NBC News’s “Meet the Press” on Friday. “And I didn’t like it . . . I didn’t think it was proportionate.”

Light goes on in trumpian brain. “Ohhhhhh, people will be killed. Well why didn’t somebody say so?!”

Trump’s decision to call off the strikes, citing the potential casualties, came as a surprise to Pentagon officials who had spent the late afternoon gearing up for the operation. Some Defense Department officials had privately expressed concerns because they saw it as a major escalation, officials said.

Trump’s cancellation at about 7 p.m. came about two hours before the strikes were supposed to occur.

Whatever. Two hours, two seconds, who cares – hey is there any ice cream left?

Trump told advisers Friday morning that he was glad he didn’t go forward with the strikes.

He also claimed on Twitter that new sanctions had been imposed on Iran on Thursday night. But officials said later Friday that no new measures had been imposed.

The whipsaw approach left some in Congress concerned that the president didn’t have a clear strategy for managing relations with Iran.

Ya think?


Vulgar thug claims it’s all lies to sell books; world laughs

Jun 21st, 2019 4:58 pm | By

Trump has (of course) put out a disgusting “statement” (that reads as if written in crayon on a cereal box) saying nuh-uh he never did.

CNBC has the text:

Regarding the “story” by E. Jean Carroll, claiming she once encountered me at Bergdorf Goodman 23 years ago. I’ve never met this person in my life. She is trying to sell a new book—that should indicate her motivation. It should be sold in the fiction section.

So presidential.

Shame on those who make up false stories of assault to try to get publicity for themselves, or sell a book, or carry out a political agenda—like Julie Swetnick who falsely accused Justice Brett Kavanaugh. It’s just as bad for people to believe it, particularly when there is zero evidence. Worse still for a dying publication to try to prop itself up by peddling fake news—it’s an epidemic.

Ms. Carroll & New York Magazine: No pictures? No surveillance? No video? No reports? No sales attendants around?? I would like to thank Bergdorf Goodman for confirming they have no video footage of any such incident, because it never happened.

Bergdorf Goodman didn’t “confirm” anything, nor did they do it as a favor to Trump. They said they no longer have any tape from that period, which is not surprising – stores don’t keep surveillance tapes for decades just for the hell of it.

False accusations diminish the severity of real assault. All should condemn false accusations and any actual assault in the strongest possible terms.

If anyone has information that the Democratic Party is working with Ms. Carroll or New York Magazine, please notify us as soon as possible. The world should know what’s really going on. It is a disgrace and people should pay dearly for such false accusations.

He wrote that pile of dung himself, with a little cleanup from the professionals. It’s all Donald, lying and DARVOing and threatening and flattering.

This is the guy who brags about grabbing women by the pussy, so yes, I’m going to believe her story before I believe his bullying bluster.

No more than three minutes

Jun 21st, 2019 3:26 pm | By

Another woman reports another sexual assault by the current president of the US – this one a full-on rape as opposed to a mere grab her by the pussy.

The woman is E. Jean Carroll, advice columnist for Elle magazine.

25 years ago she ran into Trump at Bergdorf’s, and he enlisted her to help him shop for “a girl.” She suggested a hat, a purse, he said underwear. He finds a filmy item and tells her to try it on, she says you try it on, they go back and forth with her thinking he’s bantering.

“But it’s your size,” I say, laughing and trying to slap him back with one of the boxes on the counter.

“Come on,” he says, taking my arm. “Let’s put this on.”

This is gonna be hilarious, I’m saying to myself — and as I write this, I am staggered by my stupidity. As we head to the dressing rooms, I’m laughing aloud and saying in my mind: I’m gonna make him put this thing on over his pants!

At that point she asks and answers some questions – were there no salespeople around, did she tell anyone, did she go to the police, why hasn’t she said anything until now.

So now I will tell you what happened:

The moment the dressing-room door is closed, he lunges at me, pushes me against the wall, hitting my head quite badly, and puts his mouth against my lips. I am so shocked I shove him back and start laughing again. He seizes both my arms and pushes me up against the wall a second time, and, as I become aware of how large he is, he holds me against the wall with his shoulder and jams his hand under my coat dress and pulls down my tights.

I am astonished by what I’m about to write: I keep laughing. The next moment, still wearing correct business attire, shirt, tie, suit jacket, overcoat, he opens the overcoat, unzips his pants, and, forcing his fingers around my private area, thrusts his penis halfway — or completely, I’m not certain — inside me. It turns into a colossal struggle. I am wearing a pair of sturdy black patent-leather four-inch Barneys high heels, which puts my height around six-one, and I try to stomp his foot. I try to push him off with my one free hand — for some reason, I keep holding my purse with the other — and I finally get a knee up high enough to push him out and off and I turn, open the door, and run out of the dressing room.

The whole episode lasts no more than three minutes. I do not believe he ejaculates. I don’t remember if any person or attendant is now in the lingerie department. I don’t remember if I run for the elevator or if I take the slow ride down on the escalator. As soon as I land on the main floor, I run through the store and out the door — I don’t recall which door — and find myself outside on Fifth Avenue.

It doesn’t sound like the best sex ever, even from his point of view, so one has to wonder what his point was. Just vulgar dominance display? I guess. Just…entitlement, aggression, misogyny, engorged ego, “when you’re a celebrity they let you.” Whatever.

So now it’s her turn to be pilloried by every MAGA clown on the planet.

We are toast anyway

Jun 21st, 2019 11:48 am | By

What was that about melting again? From the tundra to the Himalayas:

Over the last several years, on Mt. Everest, veteran alpine guides have reported seeing an increasing number of human skeletons and frozen corpses. One guide named Gelje Sherpa told the Times that when he first summited, in 2008, he found three bodies, and during a recent season he found six.

Seems to be a sign that the glaciers are melting.

A new study, published on Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, added a significant layer of proof, finding that, over the past forty years, the average rate that the Himalayas have lost ice has doubled. While the paper’s findings have dire consequences for the millions of people who live just below Himalayan glaciers, they are also vitally important in aiding officials and engineers tasked with planning for the region’s entire population of 1.6 billion people, all of whom rely on the rivers that these glaciers feed.

You know, little rivers like the Ganges and the Brahmaputra and the Yellow and the Indus…

Scientists were hoping that it would be more complicated than warmer temperatures—>melting glaciers, but the evidence is indicating that it’s not.

Based on many other studies, the suspicion already had been that temperature is the main climate driver melting glaciers. “Of course, if it gets warmer, ice melts, we knew that,” Schaefer said. But he would have been happy if the study showed that melting is much more variable, and more strongly impacted by other factors. “We were obviously hoping that for the environment, and the livelihood of society, that it would be a more local pattern,” he said. “Instead, this means that just everywhere these glaciers will follow the temperature curve.” Schaefer added, “Of all the possibilities, that’s the worst result.”

So good-bye glaciers hello mass famines.

Schaefer told me that people often ask him when the Himalayas are going to be ice-free. “It’s a little bit like asking, When are the Antarctic or Greenland ice sheets gonna be gone?” he said. (Greenland’s summer heat is already weeks ahead of average, breaking the record for such extensive melting of its ice sheet at an early date.) “They are interesting questions, but they are not that relevant for us. If the ice sheets are gone, we are toast anyway. We will be gone way before.”

And it appears that there is no way the ice sheets won’t be gone.

Which is the wrong side of the round table?

Jun 21st, 2019 10:58 am | By

Oliver Burkeman points out that we can’t actually know what “the right side of history” is going to be.

Earlier this month, as the bundle of disordered impulses currently serving as president of the US prepared to fly to London, the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, argued in this newspaper that the visit would put Britain on “the wrong side of history”. I tend to agree the trip shouldn’t have happened, if only to guard against the risk of a national cheeseburger shortage, but it’s time we dropped that “wrong side of history” argument. Like the crevice down the back of a sofa, full of coins and old bits of Play-Doh, the Wrong Side of History has become a crowded place in recent years. Among those consigned to it have been Brexiteers, anti-vaxxers, vaccine proponents, feminists who don’t accept the idea of gender as an innate essence, the leftwing Somali-American politician Ilhan Omar, and Benjamin Netanyahu.

Owen Jones is one who is fond of locating feminists on the wrong side of history. If it turns out to be OJ who is on the wrong side in say 30 years (assuming there’s any history left on a baking planet), I hope he’s fully aware of it…but doubt he will be.

Appealing to the judgment of history involves consulting a bunch of imaginary people from the future, so it’s hardly a surprise when they turn out to agree with whoever is doing the consulting.

In other words it’s a laughably easy claim to make, because who can demonstrate that you’re wrong?

The real hazard, though, comes when the idea is used by contemporary pontificators to avoid confronting the possibility that they, themselves, might be wrong. Once you’re confident of history’s position, you needn’t ask whether your critics might have a point; you can dismiss them as anachronistic fuddy-duddies who haven’t caught up with the latest advance toward moral truth. The irony is that it is a good idea to reflect on the judgment of history – not to reinforce your opinions, but rather to unsettle them, and infuse them with a dose of humility. The past is full of periods when people endorsed ridiculous or horrifying views, but they evidently didn’t think so at the time. Why should any of us be immune, just because our time happens to be now?

The not thinking so at the time is permanently interesting to me. Slavery, in particular, is always a nagging open question – how was it possible, how was it possible for so long in a nation that bragged about its own love of liberty and rights. Samuel Johnson pointed out that discrepancy crisply:  “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?” He wasn’t keen on yelps for liberty himself, but all the same he wasn’t wrong about the mismatch.

A tiny handbag full of leaflets

Jun 21st, 2019 9:57 am | By

News from London:

Mark Field has been suspended as a Foreign Office minister after a video showed him pushing a female Greenpeace activist against a pillar and grabbing her neck while she protested at the chancellor’s Mansion House speech.

Police are investigating third-party reports of assault made against Field, who has since apologised to the protester. The MP for the Cities of London and Westminster said he had felt threatened when the protester walked past him and was worried she might have been armed.

I watched the video several times yesterday afternoon. It’s pretty shocking.

The activist, Janet Barker, said on Friday that she was incredulous at his reaction and welcomed the suspension but would not press criminal charges. “I think it is something best dealt with in the court of opinion,” she said.

Barker said Field had pushed her so hard as they reached the door that she had almost fallen. She said he should take anger management classes. “I want him to think about what he did, why he did it and address his behaviour.”

She said she had made no sudden movements or behaved in any way that could have been construed as physically threatening. “I had a phone and a tiny handbag, which was open and full of leaflets,” she said. “The only thing I was armed with was peer-reviewed science.”

Philip Hammond was preparing to deliver his set-piece address in the City of London when dozens of Greenpeace activists interrupted him to give an alternative speech about the climate crisis, video footage shows.

In a statement released in the early hours of Friday before his suspension, Field said he had reacted “instinctively”. He said he “grasped the intruder firmly in order to remove her from the room as swiftly as possible.

“I deeply regret this episode and unreservedly apologise to the lady concerned for grabbing her but in the current climate I felt I needed to act decisively to close down the threat to the safety of those present.”

Yeah. She could have had a missile in that tiny purse.

Where everybody can be authentic to be who they are

Jun 21st, 2019 9:23 am | By

Yet another petition saying ignore those uppity women. This one is strikingly crude and badly written for purported academics. It’s also of course a crock of shit.

As academics, researchers, teachers, professional staff, and practitioners in the Higher Education sector, we are compelled to write to rebut the arguments put forward in the article published in the Sunday Times on 16th June.

Compelled? Really? Who is compelling them? What are the sanctions?

They don’t mean are compelled, of course, they mean feel compelled – which is where this whole disagreement started. Feeling isn’t necessarily being. Adults really are supposed to know the difference.

The article cited a letter signed by a group of about thirty academics who claim that Stonewall is stifling academic freedom. We entirely reject the position taken in the letter that promoting an educational environment free from harassment and bullying via the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme contradicts the principles of academic freedom.

Ahhhhh but that’s not the position taken in the letter, now is it. Naughty. Of course the letter doesn’t advocate an educational environment full of harassment and bullying.

The letter muddles the distinction between the concept of academic freedom, and the statutory public sector equality duties of higher education institutions. For the former, the right to conduct academic debates, research, and publish activities without fear of retribution by those in power, is the cornerstone of the academy. Whilst the latter relates to the institutional duties towards legally protected groups to eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation, promote equality of opportunity and foster good relations through the practices of higher education institutions. Debating gender pronouns within an academic context is part of academic freedom whereas the refusal to respect the gender pronouns of an individual to be used in class is not.

But the right to force people to refer to an individual as the sex that individual is not is an absolute right? Why is it? Who says it is? Why don’t we get to resist this move to compel us – literally compel this time – to counteract our own perceptions every time we mention This One Special Person?

Calling it “the refusal to respect the gender pronouns of an individual” reverses the agency at issue here. Respecting the gender pronouns of an individual isn’t a real thing; it’s a political invention and a way to force unwilling people to pay extra attention to narcissists. In ordinary life we don’t “respect” people’s pronouns, we just use them as a convenience to avoid having to repeat people’s names every time we mention them. That’s it. It’s just a convention of grammar. “Respect” has nothing to do with it. A politics that is all about trying to ruin the lives of academic women over pronouns is a politics that needs to be shot into the sun.

Stonewall provides a holistic and systematic approach for Diversity Champions to assess their policies and practice against each other through the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index (WEI). Participation in the WEI is voluntary but enables public, private and third sector organisations to evaluate and share good practice. This benefits not just members of the LGBT+ communities but all staff and students by fostering a more inclusive organisational culture. We are deeply concerned that a false claim of victimhood, under the guise of academic freedom, risks being legitimised to discredit universities and Stonewall when recent news and data about the experiences of LGBT+ communities show increasing levels of reported homophobic, biphobic and transphobic hate crime, harassment and discrimination.

And the solution is pronouns? Get a grip.

We unapologetically advocate for an academy where debates are intellectual and ethical, where everybody can be authentic to be who they are, and where everyone treats each other with respect and dignity.

What does “where everybody can be authentic to be who they are” mean? Can white people who feel a strong affinity for black culture demand to be treated as black because that’s the only way they can be authentic to be who they are? No. They’d be slapped down hard if they tried. Can white people who have one Sioux or Cherokee ancestor five generations back demand to be treated as Native American because that’s the only way they can be authentic to be who they are? Nope. In both cases, the rest of the world would say no, that’s not authentic, that’s the very opposite of authentic, so cut it out. But a man who says he’s a woman? Oh that’s completely different, because [insert something here]. “Authentic” my ass.

We also encourage our colleagues in the sector to challenge prejudice and aggression towards trans and all other minoritised groups. We stand in solidarity with trans staff and students and will continue to challenge views that run counter to our goal of an inclusive academy.

Not inclusive of people who disagree with us though. Of course not.

The suspect has been identified

Jun 20th, 2019 5:39 pm | By

Daniel Kaufman at the Electric Agora tries to figure out this “feeling like a ___” puzzle. He too starts from Alice Roberts’s Twitter claim yesterday –

If someone who looks like a man and has XY chromosomes tells me he feels female – I cannot tell her she is ‘wrong’. Would you?

What if someone who looks like a man and has XY chromosomes tells me he feels like a manatee, or a potato peeler, or a street lamp, or Lake Louise? Would I tell him he is ‘wrong’? I don’t know, it depends on the nature of the conversation, in what context it takes place, how free I am to escape, and similar contingent facts. But all things being equal, escape being readily available, and he asked my opinion? I probably wouldn’t tell him he’s wrong right off the bat, I’d ask him what he meant. If he meant it literally and never giggled even once, I’d just say he might think he felt like one of those items (or any other) but that doesn’t mean he is one.

Anyway, feeling like is one thing, and identifying as is another.

The use of ‘identify’ in the context of sex and gender is odd.  A judge can order that a plaintiff not be identified, meaning that the person’s identity should be kept a secret. One can identify oneself with a political movement, by which one means that one should be associated with it.  One can identify with the plight of a people, meaning that one has sympathy for – or even empathizes with – them.  A doctor can identify the cause of a cough, meaning that he has found the bacterial or viral or other thing that is responsible for it.  A suspect can be identified by the police, meaning that they have determined who he is.

But what could it mean to “identify as a man/woman”?  From what I can discern from gender self-ID theorists and activists, it could mean one of two things, both of which strike me as untenable.

The first is reflected in the Alice Roberts quote, above: for me to identify as a man/woman is to feel like I am one.

But, he explains, there is no such thing.

…one is male or female, but one doesn’t feel male or female, just as one is a mammal, but one doesn’t “feel like a mammal.”

I can sort of get a grip on the idea of feeling like a mammal if I get to add “as opposed to a bird/reptile/fish.” I’m squishy like a mammal, earthbound like a mammal, unable to breathe under water like a mammal. I even have mammaries! But that’s a very attenuated sense of feeling like a mammal, and it’s certainly not the kind of thing one would bellow at people during Twitter arguments. It’s not political. It’s not what the dogmatists mean when they talk about feeling like/identifying as a woman.

The second pursues the line of gender: to feel like a man/woman is to feel masculine or feminine; manly or womanly.

And guess what that is. No prizes; it’s stereotype city, and no we don’t want to go there.

It would be regressive, then, to take this tack in trying to make sense of “identifying as” a man/woman and even worse to suggest that meeting these sexist expectations makes a person one or the other. For decades, feminists and other forward-thinking people have been fighting against precisely these sorts of expectations and rejecting the idea that such notions of manliness or womanliness should determine what one is or what one should do.

Or even how one should dress. No, putting on a dear little skirt and some red silk shoes won’t make you a woman if you’re not in fact a woman. Clothes are just clothes. You could put them on a horse, or a manatee, or a street lamp (not so much a potato peeler or Lake Louise); they don’t make you into anything (other than someone who is wearing those clothes for the moment).

The notion of “identifying as” a man/woman, then, is either incoherent or retrograde. It is the farthest thing from being liberatory or progressive, and I find it hard to understand why anyone interested in advancing the cause of trans people would want to have anything to do with it, let alone plant their flag in it. As I have argued many times, everything required to make a complete and compelling case for trans civil rights is already contained within the liberal tradition. And beyond the advantage of being grounded in a stronger, more rigorous, more universal set of principles, to pursue such a course would avoid the sexist logic and tropes that have done so much to put trans activism in conflict with its feminist and gay/lesbian counterparts.

Wouldn’t it be nice if people listened.

Looming ominously over the landscape

Jun 20th, 2019 1:41 pm | By

CFI on the Supreme Court ruling on the Bladensburg cross:

Today’s ruling on the constitutionality of the Bladensburg cross makes plain the Supreme Court’s allegiance to the religious right and its contempt for the separation of church from state, said the Center for Inquiry.

The Bladensburg Peace Cross is a 40-foot concrete Latin Cross located on state land in Maryland and maintained at taxpayer expense.

“Rather than uphold the Establishment Clause, the bedrock principle of liberal democracy that bars the state from endorsing religion, this Supreme Court is clearly determined to see it ripped from the Constitution and thrown in the trash,” said Nick Little, CFI’s Vice President and General Counsel. “The very suggestion that a gigantic cross, maintained by taxpayers, and looming ominously over the landscape does not imply an endorsement of Christianity is utter madness. That this Orwellian redefinition of facts and language has been sanctified by the highest court in the land is simply frightening.”

The Bladensburg Cross was dedicated in 1925, and initially stood on private land. However, in 1961 the land was turned over to the state, and the cross has been maintained at tax payer expense since then. It stands on a traffic circle in the middle of a busy public road, illuminated at night.

“No symbol represents Christianity more fully and obviously than the Latin cross,” continued Little. “To those driving in Maryland’s D.C. suburbs, this cross stands stark and alone as a public declaration of the Christian nature of government. It dismisses the equal citizenship not only of those Marylanders who hold a different faith or none at all, but also callously ignores the sacrifice of countless military personnel who were atheist or non-Christian. The wall of separation now has a 40-foot cross-shaped hole in it.”

In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg correctly addressed the sectarian nature of this ruling and its disrespect for both non-believers and followers of non- Christian religions, writing, “Today the Court erodes that neutrality commitment, diminishing precedent designed to preserve individual liberty and civic harmony in favor of a ‘presumption of constitutionality for longstanding monuments, symbols, and practices.’” The display of the Latin cross, “the ‘defining symbol’ of Christianity,” conveys “a message of exclusion” to non-believers. Justice Ginsburg is correct in observing that the “principal symbol of Christianity around the world should not loom over public thoroughfares, suggesting official recognition of that religion’s paramountcy.”

Now this is interesting. I was just wibbling on about what we mean by “exclusion” a few hours ago, pointing out that some kinds of exclusion are desirable and necessary. Some are, and some are not. I think government sponsorship of religion in general, and especially of one religion in particular, is neither desirable nor necessary.

Kaindly respekt mai perrsonal beleefs

Jun 20th, 2019 1:16 pm | By

The Telegraph reports:

A pharmacist working for LloydsPharmacy refused to give a woman the morning after pill, because it went against her “personal beliefs”.

The customer, named only as Siani, 41, had paid £30 for the emergency contraception online before going to collect it from the Brighton branch of Lloyds, located inside a Sainsbury’s.

She reportedly called the pharmacy from her car to check that it was ready, and was told by the on-duty female pharmacist that she would not dispense the pill as it went against her “personal beliefs.”

Siani was told to come back the next day, or travel to the next nearest branch – 10 miles away. As it was a Sunday, most other local chemists were closed.

Come back next day for a morning after pill. Let’s see if we can spot the problem here.

“I’m old and stroppy enough to make a fuss, but what if I was a teenager?” Siani, who has a son, told Metro.

“I don’t think it’s remotely acceptable that Lloyds Pharmacy created a situation where they discriminate against women by having the only branch in the city that is open on a Sunday staffed by a lone pharmacist who will not dispense women’s services. And I don’t think it’s acceptable that they will sell a service that their staff refuse to deliver after accepting payment.”

It’s not. If the pharmacist doesn’t want to dispense a particular medication, that pharmacist should go into a different line of work.

“I’m a mum in my 40s, I have very little shame left, but there will be girls having the same experience who have nothing like the resources I do. You expect that sort of nonsense in America, but not here,” Siani added.

It’s no better here! We don’t accept it! We know it happens, but we don’t accept it!

The very validity of their standing within society

Jun 20th, 2019 10:47 am | By

Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber has a more reasonable, less vituperative dissenting response to the letter to the Times.

Last Sunday at letter appeared in the Sunday Times attacking the LGBT charity Stonewall for its work with British universities as a threat to academic freedom.

That’s why I had to say “less vituperative” as opposed to “non-vituperative.” The letter doesn’t attack Stonewall.

The letter was signed by some reasonably prominent figures, such as Kathleen Stock (Sussex) and Leslie Green (Oxford) as well as motley others (including a Brexit Party candidate). It is no accident that the letter appeared in the Sunday Times, which together with its companion paper the Times has, for at least a year, maintained an almost daily campaign against transgender people and the organizations and individuals who support them and which has also been to the fore in attacking universities around largely spurious concerns about “free speech”.

That’s why I had to say “more reasonable” as opposed to “very reasonable.” It’s not true or reasonable to say that the Times has “maintained an almost daily campaign against transgender people,” because the campaign (or series of related articles, which I think are pretty far from daily) is not against transgender people, it’s in disagreement with some of the claims made by the transgender movement.

The letter to the Sunday Times was framed in terms of supposed threats to academic freedom posed by Stonewall guidance and training to universities. Of course, freedom of speech, inquiry and opinion within the academic community is of great importance. Stonewall too recognize that in their documents. But it is also vital that universities as places of education and as workplaces function as environments where everyone is able to participate and work together with dignity, rather than places where some are excluded or humiliated because of their race, sex, sexuality or gender identity.

Well, sure, depending on what we mean by certain words within that statement. Universities should be places where no one is humiliated; it’s pretty easy to assent to that. It’s not quite as easy to agree to the “excluded” part because (as I keep saying to the point of tedium) it depends what you mean. Universities do exclude lots of people – most people in fact. Universities have entrance requirements, and they charge tuition. Exclusion is key to their functioning in many ways. That’s not what Chris is talking about, but that’s just it – the words “inclusion” and “exclusion” are used more as slogans than as usefully accurate labels. I don’t know of anyone who wants to exclude transgender people from universities or disciplines or classes, and I don’t think simply declining to agree that transgender people are literally and in every sense the sex (gender) they identify as counts as unjust “exclusion.” I think Chris is saying, somewhat too indirectly, that trans people are excluded and humiliated unless everyone agrees that they are literally and in every sense the sex (gender) they identify as. I think that’s saying more than can be demonstrated.

The authors of the letter to the Times are, at best, cavalier in their attitude to the effects that this “debate” is having on trans people, who experience the very validity of their standing within society as put in question by the discourse around transgender.

I don’t really know what that means.

I wonder if it’s Chris who is being somewhat cavalier? I wonder if he’s considered the possibility that the validity of trans people’s standing within society depends much less on the compliance of the authors of the letter to the Times than it does on the population at large – people on the bus, people on the street, people at the pub, people at Waitrose, people at parties, and on and on.

Maybe the idea is that if academics “validate” trans people and their “standing within society” then the rest of the population will follow? But I don’t think that’s true. I don’t think it’s that easy.

 The letter alleges that Stonewall seeks to ban from universities any outside speaker who questions “that trans people are the gender they say they are” but I see a factual claim — and a true one — about the effect of outside speakers who hold a range of views (including advocating conversion therapy) namely that such speakers “cause LGBT people to feel deeply unsafe”.

So it’s a true factual claim that outside speakers who hold a range of views (including advocating conversion therapy) “cause LGBT people to feel deeply unsafe”. So all the views of these outside speakers, no matter which views they are, cause LGBT people to feel deeply unsafe. That’s quite a large claim, and not a very fair one.

Just as the effect of speakers preaching hate against other groups may reasonably be take into account by universities in deciding to invite them onto campus, so trans people are entitled to similar protections.

But first you have to agree that the Outside Speakers are preaching hate, and they and we their friends or allies or both don’t agree to that. Kathleen Stock doesn’t preach hate. None of the gender critical philosophers I know preaches hate.

Comments are turned off on the post, which is a pity. I’d be interested to see what other philosophers think.

What does “safe and sanitary” mean?

Jun 20th, 2019 8:45 am | By

Helen Christophi at Courthouse News:

The Trump administration argued in front of a Ninth Circuit panel Tuesday that the government is not required to give soap or toothbrushes to children apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border and can have them sleep on concrete floors in frigid, overcrowded cells, despite a settlement agreement that requires detainees be kept in “safe and sanitary” facilities.

All three judges appeared incredulous during the hearing in San Francisco, in which the Trump administration challenged previous legal findings that it is violating a landmark class action settlement by mistreating undocumented immigrant children at U.S. detention facilities.

Tell us again that these are not concentration camps, that they’re nothing like concentration camps, that they have nothing to do with concentration camps.

“You’re really going to stand up and tell us that being able to sleep isn’t a question of safe and sanitary conditions?’” U.S. Circuit Judge Marsha Berzon asked the Justice Department’s Sarah Fabian Tuesday.

U.S. Circuit Judge William Fletcher also questioned the government’s interpretation of the settlement agreement.

“Are you arguing seriously that you do not read the agreement as requiring you to do anything other than what I just described: cold all night long, lights on all night long, sleeping on concrete and you’ve got an aluminum foil blanket?” Fletcher asked Fabian. “I find that inconceivable that the government would say that that is safe and sanitary.”

We get a useful explainer of the Flores settlement, which governs this:

The settlement at issue came out of Jenny Lisette Flores v. Edwin Meese, filed in 1985 on behalf of a class of unaccompanied minors fleeing torture and abuse in Central America.

Finally agreed upon in 1997, the settlement established guidelines for the humane detention, treatment and release of minors taken into federal immigration custody. The guidelines include the right to a bond hearing and requirements that immigration authorities timely release children to parents or guardians and place those not released in facilities that meet certain standards. The facilities are supposed to be “safe and sanitary.”

In an interesting plot twist, the Obama administration tried to tweak it:

The settlement landed back in court in 2015, when class members moved to enforce it following the Obama administration’s announcement that it would scrap bond hearings because they conflicted with newer immigration laws. In legal filings, the class contended the elimination of bond hearings and dirty and dangerous conditions at short-term holding facilities operated by the Border Patrol violated the agreement.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles granted the class’ motion and ordered the appointment of an independent monitor to ensure government compliance with Flores.

Gee said the administration had breached Flores by failing to provide detainees with adequate food and clean drinking water, or with hygiene items like soap, toothbrushes and towels. She also concluded that the children were being deprived of sleep and access to bathrooms, and were subjected to near-freezing temperatures.

So that wasn’t on Trump’s watch, it was on Obama’s watch.

Trump’s people argued that soap wasn’t included in Flores, the judges retorted that it was too obvious to be spelled out.