Notes and Comment Blog

Pompeo grinning with Mohammed Bin Salman

Oct 16th, 2018 5:10 pm | By

Carol Morello at the Post:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo came to Saudi Arabia to highlight U.S. concern over the fate of Jamal Khashoggi, the missing journalist whose name Pompeo did not utter in public after arriving in the kingdom.

Pompeo’s talks with three officials, including the king and crown prince, were “direct and frank” about the need to investigate what happened to Khashoggi, said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

But the cameras that recorded the officials’ small talk ahead of the private meetings captured smiles and pleasantries, giving no hint that relations between the two countries are in crisis over Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Well you wouldn’t want Pompeo to make the nice prince mad would you.

During Pompeo’s first trip as secretary of state in April, the crown prince kept him waiting several hours for an appointment because he was presiding over the groundbreaking of an entertainment center. On Tuesday, Pompeo returned to his hotel for an hour as his aides awaited a call that Mohammed was ready to see him.

Pompeo smiled as he sat down in a chair next to Mohammed, who asked: “How was your trip? I hope you don’t have jet lag.”

Pompeo predicted he would feel the time-zone difference in a little while and expressed his gratitude for the meeting. “Thank you for hosting me,” he said.

Wow! So direct, so frank. I bet MBS was all of a tremble.

Keynote indeed

Oct 16th, 2018 4:38 pm | By

Greedy foul-mouthed pussy-grabbing racist misogynist pig Donald Trump is giving the keynote at the “Values Voter Summit” on Friday. Yes that’s right, Mr Worst on Almost Every Category One Can Think Of is going to lecture people on “values.” Of course they don’t mean values as normally understood, they mean values as in “hate gay people” and “bully immigrants.”

The anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council, labeled as a hate group by the SPLC, has hosted its annual summit since its inception in 2006.

“Values voters have waited eight years for a leader who puts America’s mission first and respects the values that made America into a great nation,” the council’s president Tony Perkins said in a statement reported by The Hill.

Well there was the genocide and the slavery and the slavery-replaced-by-vagrancy-laws, true, but those aren’t really the values that made the US a great nation. Rich, maybe, but not great.

Guest post: Law & Order: Trump Investigations Unit

Oct 16th, 2018 11:58 am | By

Originally a comment by Screechy Monkey on Mistakes were made.

Tune in this fall for the premier of “Law & Order: Trump Investigations Unit”

Detective: “Captain, the suspect was found at the crime scene, holding the murder weapon. He had the victim’s blood running down his arms. His DNA was found under the victim’s fingernails, showing signs of a struggle. Two weeks ago, he took out a life insurance policy on the victim naming himself as beneficiary. Multiple witnesses report that he had a screaming argument with the victim earlier in the day. A search of his personal computer revealed multiple Google queries for things like ‘how to get away with murder.’”

Captain Trump: “Well, let’s just see about this.”

(walks into interrogation room)

Captain: “Did you kill your wife?”

Suspect: “No.”

C: “Ok, then, you’re free to go.”

Detective (aghast): “Captain! We have all this evidence against him!”

C (shrugs): “Man says he didn’t do it. Whaddayagonnado?”

Voiceover: “Next week, on Law & Order: Trump Investigations Unit”

Detective: “Well, we thought we had the right suspect, but it turns out that DNA evidence conclusively proves him innocent.”

(camera pans to the suspect, a young black man)

Trump: “Hang him. And then get me a Big Mac.”

Oh look, buckets and mops and cleaning solution

Oct 16th, 2018 11:38 am | By

Pompeo is in Riyadh with his buddies.

President Trump dispatched Pompeo to the Saudi capital for talks with King Salman, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto leader.

“Secretary Pompeo conveyed the importance of a conducting a thorough, transparent and timely investigation,” said Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the State Department.

In public, however, Pompeo never mentioned Khashoggi, a U.S. resident.

The secretary of state was all smiles, his hand outstretched, as he approached the crown prince.

“We are strong and old allies,” Mohammed told Pompeo before reporters were ushered out. “We face our challenges together — the past, the day of, tomorrow.”

Pompeo replied with enthusiasm: “Absolutely.”

Isn’t that sweet. We wouldn’t want anything to come between them.

In Istanbul, it was unclear what possible clues or leads the Turkish forensic team found.

Hours before the team arrived, journalists photographed a cleaning crew entering the consulate with buckets, mops and what appeared to be cleaning solution. When investigators entered the building, they said they smelled chemicals, according to two officials in contact with the investigators.

Excuse me? Hours before the forensic team got there, a cleaning crew went in and blitzed all the evidence?

Very transparent, I’m sure.

Always a home for trolls

Oct 16th, 2018 10:39 am | By

The “It’s ok to be white” vote:

The Australian Senate almost passed a motion affirming that “it’s OK to be white”. This probably sounds innocuous enough to the casual or incurious observer — and that’s exactly what the white supremacists who devised the slogan intended.

Well you’d have to be awfully casual or incurious to think statements that it’s ok to be [insert dominant group here] are innocuous. This one is a product of – you’ll never guess – 4chan.

The idea of using “it’s OK to be white” as part of a far right political project emerged around a year ago on the message board 4chan.

Always a home for trolls, over time certain boards on 4chan and its cousin 8chan have become nerve centres for far right activism.

The notion cooked up by one of the site’s anonymous users was that a postering campaign featuring the ostensibly inoffensive slogan would “trigger” leftists and journalists, who would immediately understand its racist intent.

Circular, isn’t it. Racist provocateurs come up with racist slogan saying that people who oppose racism would find it distasteful. Well duh. So what’s the point of spattering the world with stuff that people who oppose racism or sexism or xenophobia would find distasteful? Why, to demonstrate how foolish and wrong people who oppose racism or sexism or xenophobia are. I guess? Or just because it’s funny? But what’s funny about it?

No, see, it’s to draw everyone else, all the sensible people who don’t care about racism or sexism or xenophobia, into right-wing rage-addiction.

But it turned out to be too obvious.

[A]s the ADL points out, the slogan has been used by white supremacists for decades, and it was immediately identifiable as a racist meme.

White power bands were using it for song titles as far back as 2001, and it was appearing on white supremacist fliers as long ago as 2005.

That’s no surprise – “it’s OK to be white” perfectly expresses the sense of white victimhood that pervades white supremacist movements that see any demand for racial justice as an attack on white identity.

The slogan neatly encapsulates the imaginary universe of “reverse racism”, wherein critiques of white supremacy and structural racism are turned inside out, and used as evidence of anti-white racism. It captures the mindset that accuses those opposed to racism of being, themselves, racist.

Also, it was too popular with the upfront literal racists as opposed to trolls and Milo-types.

“It’s OK to be white” followed a path that many awful ideas have taken in the Trump era — from the cesspits of the alt right internet, through an increasingly confident far right street movement, and on through the self-aggrandising provocateurs who occupy increasingly prominent positions in conservative media.

Finally it got to Pauline Hanson. Then, unbelievably, it came to a vote in the Australian Senate.

Notwithstanding the white supremacist origins of the slogan, and the sentiment of white victimhood that underpins it, that body almost passed a motion supporting it.

The fact that this happened with the support of government ministers — including the Indigenous affairs minister — is beyond disheartening.

Sounds all too familiar.

H/t learie

Mistakes were made

Oct 16th, 2018 10:15 am | By

It all went so terribly wrong.

Saudi Arabia is preparing a report that will acknowledge that Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death was the result of an interrogation that went wrong, one that was intended to lead to his abduction from Turkey, according to two sources.

Oh I see, it went wrong – they didn’t meant to kill him, they meant only to torture and kidnap him so that they could kill him on their own territory.

This isn’t a case of “went wrong,” because none of it was right in the first place. The Saudi dictatorship shouldn’t be “interrogating” people for writing opinion pieces for The Washington Post at all, and all the more so in other countries. It sure as hell should not be torturing the opinion writers it “interrogates.” How would an interrogation “go wrong” to such an extent that the subject dies? By being not an “interrogation” at all but a torture session.

And there’s Trump, in breaks from calling women “Horseface” and “Pocahontas,” flapping his hands and talking about Saudi money and saying the king was very insistent about not having murdered anyone.

This is the new normal.

Beneath contempt

Oct 16th, 2018 9:34 am | By

The insult president.

Standing tall above her competitors

Oct 16th, 2018 7:21 am | By

Rachel McKinnon’s world championship Saturday is raising more eyebrows.

Cycling’s first transgender world champion has fired back at heated criticism surrounding her breakthrough victory at the 2018 UCI Masters track championships.

Canadian philosophy professor at South Carolina’s College of Charleston Dr Rachel McKinnon endured a torrent of online trolling after taking to social media to celebrate her world championship win in the women’s 35-44 sprint final at the Velo Sports Center in Los Angeles earlier this week.

An image of McKinnon standing tall above her competitors during the medal presentation ceremony has spread globally in the wake of her controversial victory — just as she predicted.

So McKinnon’s good at predicting as well as cycling.

But was it predictable because people are such nasty transphobic bigots? Or was it predictable because McKinnon has the body of a large man? Was it predictable because people are irrational and hostile to Difference, or because McKinnon has an unfair advantage over the women in the competition? McKinnon of course would say it’s for the first reasons, but then McKinnon has an interest.

An elated McKinnon claimed, to her knowledge, she is the first openly transgender athlete to win a world championship in any sport, after nudging past Van Herrikhuyzen on the final straight in a time of 12.903 seconds.

But it doesn’t make sense to put “transgender athlete” in one giant box, given the fact that sport is divided into men’s and women’s because women and men are sexually dimorphic and men have huge physical advantages on most criteria. It’s just not a genuine “first” for a male-bodied cyclist to win a race against female-bodied cyclists, even if it is in the literal sense “the first openly transgender athlete to win a world championship in any sport.” It’s not a genuine first because it’s not a genuine win; it is, to put it bluntly, cheating.

I would think this would be obvious even to the most ardently dogmatic trans activists. I would think that if only on pragmatic grounds – it doesn’t look good. But then I would also expect McKinnon to be able to see it, and that’s apparently a lost cause.

McKinnon hit out at the criticism immediately following her victory both on social media and in interviews.

She told she enjoyed no physical advantage over her competitors despite being born a male.

What utter bullshit. McKinnon’s legs are like trees.

She said there is no research to suggest that testosterone and body development would in anyway enhance the physical performance of transgender athletes.

She recently told USA Today that policing the testosterone levels of transgender athletes violates their human rights — declaring that should override all debates surrounding potential unfair playing fields for transgender athletes.

“We cannot have a woman legally recognised as a trans woman in society, and not be recognized that way in sports,” McKinnon said recently.

Yes we can. We can make an exception for sports. That’s a thing we can do.

“Focusing on performance advantage is largely irrelevant because this is a rights issue. We shouldn’t be worried about trans people taking over the Olympics. We should be worried about their fairness and human rights instead.”

Oh no it is not. There is no “right” for people with male bodies to compete against women in sport. That pretend “right” is at least as absurd as the claimed “right” to have one’s chosen “identity” validated.

Oops, interrogated a little too hard

Oct 15th, 2018 5:12 pm | By

Ok he’s dead, ok we killed him, but it wasn’t murder, it was an interrogation gone wrong, all right? Are you happy now?

The Saudi government is preparing to say that the death of prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi was the result of an interrogation by Saudi operatives that went wrong, two sources close to the Saudi kingdom tell CBS News. Khashoggi vanished after entering a Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, igniting a global firestorm over the circumstances of his disappearance.

Saudi officials are expected to claim that the mission was initiated to interrogate Khashoggi, a frequent critic of the government, not to kill him.

Of course, they didn’t have any business “interrogating” him either, if you think human rights are a thing.

The admission would mark a departure from the kingdom’s repeated insistence that it had no knowledge of what happened to Khashoggi, who was picking up paperwork needed to marry his fiancée. CNN first reported that the Saudis were planning to admit Khashoggi died in the consulate.

As recently as Monday morning, Saudi leaders were still not admitting any wrongdoing.

That was then. Can’t a guy change his mind?

What he always does to women

Oct 15th, 2018 4:38 pm | By

Even more disgusting.

Dayum that’s ugly

Oct 15th, 2018 11:57 am | By

My eyes my eyes.

There’s a painting. In the Trump White House. The artist is one Andy Thomas, who usually paints cowboys.

Andy Thomas’s painting of Donald Trump and former Republican presidents.

 Photograph: Andy Thomas

Hard to say if it’s more ugly or absurd.

A few questions occur to me. Where is Taft? Where is Harding? Where is Coolidge? Where is Hoover?

Why is Lincoln the one selected to have his back to us?

What is Lincoln drinking?

Why is Nixon drinking wine? He was big on the hard stuff, from what I remember.

What the hell are they all laughing at?

Why is Eisenhower the only one in a casual shirt?

What is Nixon looking so cheerful about?

Is it a solecism to include Ford when he was never actually elected?

Is it a solecism to include Nixon when he resigned in disgrace?

Who’s the creepy dude behind Roosevelt’s shoulder?

Who’s the ghostly woman approaching?

What is this painting doing in the White House?

H/t Acolyte of Sagan and latsot

Updating to add:

His Station and Four Aces by C. M. Coolidge, 1903

Updating to add 2 via Screechy Monkey:

Detained solely for her peaceful human rights work

Oct 15th, 2018 11:43 am | By

Amnesty International on the arrest of Gulalai Ismail:

Pakistan’s authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Gulalai Ismail, a Pashtun human rights defender, who was detained on her arrival at Islamabad airport today, Amnesty International said.

Gulalai Ismail is a supporter of the nonviolent Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), which has been campaigning across Pakistan against enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and discrimination against the country’s Pashtun ethnic minority.

“Gulalai Ismail must be immediately and unconditionally released. There is no justification whatsoever for her detention or for imposing a travel ban on her. She is being detained solely for her peaceful human rights work,” said Rabia Mehmood, South Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.

Gulalai Ismail, who is the founder of the Seeds of Peace network and the 2017 winner of the Anna Politkovskaya award, was detained at Islamabad airport on her return from London.

Upon her arrival in Islamabad, she was informed that her name had been placed on the “Exit Control List”, which imposes a ban on her from traveling outside the country.

Over the past year, the authorities have banned peaceful rallies organized by the PTM and some of its leading members have been arbitrarily detained and prevented from traveling within the country. Some members have also faced a series of charges for alleged sedition and cybercrimes.

Hayat Preghal, a social media activist and supporter of the PTM, was released on bail on 3 October, after enduring more than two months in jail simply accused for social media posts that were deemed critical of the Pakistani authorities.

Gulalai Ismail issued a WhatsApp audio message to friends and supporters from the offices of Pakistan’s Federal Investigative Agency (FIA), where she said she was about to be arrested. “I was taken into custody at the airport,” she said in the audio message. “I was brought to the main branch of the FIA, where the police is coming to arrest me for speaking for making speech for PTM in the Swabi [rally].”

Gulalai was one of 19 people named in a police complaint report for organizing and speaking at a PTM rally in the northwest town of Swabi on 12 August. The charges against PTM activists include “unlawful assembly”, “punishment for rioting” and “punishment for wrongful restraint”.

In her message, Gulalai Ismail said that her arrest was the latest sign of how much the civic space is shrinking in Pakistan. “This is not an attack on Gulalai Ismail, or PTM,” she added. “This is an attack on civic freedoms. This is an attack on our liberty to speak out. This is an attack on our freedom of speech.”

“This is an extremely worrying move. The new government of Prime Minister Imran Khan had said it would protect human rights and engage with members of the PTM to address issues such as enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions,” said Rabia Mehmood.

“Gulalai Ismail’s arrest severely tests those commitments. Instead of trying to silence human rights defenders, the new government must work to create a safe and enabling environment for those who raise their voices for justice.”

She’s free only provisionally. All charges should be dropped.

Who cares?

Oct 15th, 2018 10:32 am | By

So Elizabeth Warren has called Trump’s bluff.

In a rather unusual campaign move, Sen. Elizabeth Warren has released the results of a DNA test that she says provides “strong evidence” of Native American ancestry dating back six to 10 generations, addressing a controversy that has followed her for years.

At a rally in Montana this past July, Trump taunted Warren for her claims of Native American ancestry, calling her “Pocahontas.” He suggested that if he were to debate her in 2020, he would give her one of those take-home DNA kits “they sell on television for $2.”

“Trump taunted Warren” is putting it very mildly. The obnoxious, childish, bullying grossness of his performance is nausea-inducing. NPR helpfully included the clip.

“I will give you a million dollars to your favorite charity paid for by Trump if you take the test and it shows you’re an Indian,” Trump added, as the crowd cheered. But on Monday morning, the president was asked about the challenge and falsely told reporters, “I didn’t say that.”

That is to say, he lied to reporters.

Trump spectacularly outdid himself

Oct 15th, 2018 10:06 am | By

Gregg Sargent at the Post argues that Trump has to dial up the asshole to get the vote out when he’s not on the ballot.

In an interview broadcast Sunday night on CBS, President Trump spectacularly outdid himself in revealing all of his very worst qualities in a compressed time period: the relentless lying; the unabashed sympathy with autocrats and dictators; the gloating, misogynist contempt for Christine Blasey Ford and the millions who saw her as an icon; the rabid xenophobia; and the lack of even minimal regret over the cruelest policies birthed by that xenophobia, such as the family separations resulting in thousands of children locked in cages.

In so doing, Trump perfectly showcased the Republicans’ predicament as they seek to hold the House: They need Trump to go full Trumpist to get out his voters, because his policies aren’t getting the job done — yet these displays are simultaneously strengthening the anti-Trump backlash among the constituencies most likely to deliver the House to Democrats.

As The New York Times recently reported, the White House has adopted a strategy of unleashing what counselor Kellyanne Conway describes as “Donald Trump in full.” This entails letting Trump do as many rallies and as much talking as possible, enabling him to unleash as many lies and depravities as the media space will absorb.

It’s like a four-year-long Vegas act or YouTube performance, as opposed to being like responsible administration of a large and too-powerful country.

It’ll change back again

Oct 14th, 2018 5:36 pm | By

Trump did his first president-ish interview with 60 Minutes, and CBS provided the transcript. We don’t have to wait for the stupidity, he leads with it. Lesley Stahl asks him if he still thinks climate change is “a hoax.”

I think something’s happening. Something’s changing and it’ll change back again. I don’t think it’s a hoax, I think there’s probably a difference. But I don’t know that it’s manmade. I will say this. I don’t wanna give trillions and trillions of dollars. I don’t wanna lose millions and millions of jobs. I don’t wanna be put at a disadvantage.

Dear god. It’s changing and it’ll change back again. What’s that supposed to mean, and how does he think he knows that? And what is “something”? And then the abrupt lurch back to what he can manage to understand: munneee.

He says the idiotic thing again. “I’m not denying climate change. But it could very well go back.” Sure, it’s like a rubber band, it could just snap back.

Stahl does needle him about his sloppy attributions.

President Donald Trump: –of years. They say that we had hurricanes that were far worse than what we just had with Michael.

Lesley Stahl: Who says that? “They say”?

President Donald Trump: People say. People say that in the–

Lesley Stahl: Yeah, but what about the scientists who say it’s worse than ever?

“They say”; “people say”; he’s an idiot.

He gets mushy about Kim.

President Donald Trump: No I’m not doing it. This isn’t the Obama administration. I haven’t eased the sanctions. I haven’t done anything. I haven’t done anything. We’re meeting. I believe he likes me. I like him. We have a good relationship. It’s very important.

President Trump at rally: “And then we fell in love, okay. No really. He wrote me beautiful letters. And they’re great letters. We fell in love.”

Lesley Stahl: I wanna read you his resume, okay? He presides over a cruel kingdom of repression, gulags, starvation– reports that he had his half-brother assassinated, slave labor, public executions. This is a guy you love?

President Donald Trump: Sure. I know all these things. I mean– I’m not a baby. I know these things.

Lesley Stahl: I know, but why do you love that guy?

President Donald Trump: Look, look. I– I– I like– I get along with him, okay?

Lesley Stahl: But you love him.

President Donald Trump: Okay. That’s just a figure of speech.

Lesley Stahl: No, it’s like an embrace.

President Donald Trump: It well, let it be an embrace. Let it be whatever it is to get the job done.

Lesley Stahl: He’s a bad guy.

President Donald Trump: Look. Let it be whatever it is. I get along with him really well. I have a good energy with him. I have a good chemistry with him. Look at the horrible threats that were made. No more threats. No more threats.

A good energy. A good chemistry. That’s what it’s all about. Trump’s infinite charm will save the world.

Also, he knows more than anyone else. About everything.

President Donald Trump: Now, I like NATO, NATO’s fine. But you know what? We shouldn’t be paying almost the entire cost of NATO to protect Europe. And then on top of that, they take advantage of us on trade. They’re not going to do it anymore. They understand that.

Lesley Stahl: Okay, but are, it does seem this, are you willing to disrupt the Western Alliance? It’s been going for 70 years. It’s kept the peace for 70 years.

President Donald Trump: You don’t know that. You don’t know that.

Lesley Stahl: I don’t know what?

President Donald Trump: You don’t know that.

Lesley Stahl: Is it true General Mattis said to you, “The reason for NATO and the reason for all these alliances is to prevent World War III?”

President Donald Trump: No, it’s not true.

Lesley Stahl: What’s not true?

President Donald Trump: Frankly, I like General Mattis. I think I know more about it than he does. And I know more about it from the standpoint of fairness, that I can tell you.

He thinks he knows more about it than Mattis does. He knows less about it than Mattis’s dog does.

Many international human rights organizations raised their voices

Oct 14th, 2018 4:06 pm | By

Gulalai at last:

On 12th October, I was detained by FIA and my passport was confiscated because my name had been put on Exit Control List. Apparently, defending human rights has become a crime and security threat in our country. I was released after 9 hours of detention. I am overwhelmed with the support I received after I was detained by FIA. I am very thankful to the political groups, movements, international and national organizations, media, social media activists and individuals who raised their voice for me. I received tremendous organized support from leaders and workers of political groups including Women Democratic FrontPashtun Tahafuz Movement PTM – پښتون تحفظ موومنټ Awami Workers Party, and Awami National Party. Thank you for standing like a rock by my side. Many international human rights organizations raised their voices for me including Amnesty International, Humanist International, Humanists UK, World Movement for Democracy and Pakistan Human Rights Defenders Network. Thank you for reminding the world that human rights are universal and abuse of human rights in any part of the world is a global concern. I am thankful to media especially BBC, Deewa-VOA, Reuters and 24 News for standing by me. I am particularly thankful to the people who showed in person presence in FIA office during my detention and in Swabi Courts during my Bail Before Arrest Application Submission. Ismat Raza Shahjahan immediately reached to airport after I was detained to protect me from mishandling. She spent these 9 hours in detention with me negotiating my bail, strategizing, informing everyone, mobilizing support and taking care of each and everything. Without Ismat Bibi it would have been a very hard and dark day. Thank you Ismat Bibi, Abdullah Nangyal, Shah Baaz StouryaniMeena GabeenaTooba Syed, Alia Bakhshal, Rahim Advocate, Asadullah Advocate, Khudai Noor Nasar, Sanna Ejaz, Nargis Afsheen Khattak, Shahab Khattak, Gohar NangyalShereenyãr Yousafzai, Usman, Jamil Khan Manager and other PTM activists for accompanying me in these 2 very hard days. Your presence gave me courage in the face of despair. I am specially thankful to my lawyers and their team Saleem Khan and Ashfaq Khan, I am overwhelmed with the support I received in my home town Swabi. Thank you to all those who couldn’t reach but kept on calling to check on me. I also want to thanks wholeheartedly all social media activists and every individual whose name I might not know or skipped because I haven’t yet got time to scroll through social media, without your voices it would have been impossible to respond to the state oppression. My family and friends have always paid a huge cost for my rebellion in the form visiting courts, facing persecution, attacks and propaganda- this is not new for them. They have always got my back. Once again thank you for standing up with me, for standing up for our constitutional right to freedom of speech, right to association and right to life. Asking for peace and human rights is not a crime, together we will make this world a better place.

Image may contain: 8 people, people smiling, people standing

The need to know

Oct 14th, 2018 4:03 pm | By



The kingdom says how dare you

Oct 14th, 2018 11:15 am | By

Saudi Arabia is issuing threats.

Saudi Arabia has said it will retaliate against any sanctions imposed over the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, as the Riyadh stock market had its biggest fall in years.

The French, German and UK foreign secretaries ratcheted up the pressure by releasing a joint statement calling on the Saudi government to give a complete and detailed account of Khashoggi’s disappearance, adding that those found to be responsible must be held to account.

Riyadh vowed to hit back against any action. “The kingdom affirms its total rejection of any threats and attempts to undermine it, whether through economic sanctions, political pressure or repeating false accusations,” it said.

The kingdom affirms its right to murder anyone it wants to.

Saudi Arabia’s vast oil reserves, said to be about 260bn barrels, give it enormous clout in the global economy. It has significant power to drive up prices, which would hurt every major developed economy.

It has that, and that’s all it has. If it weren’t for the oil it would be a pariah state.

In the firmest joint language to appear from Europe since the crisis broke, the European foreign ministers said “light must be shed on Khashoggi’s disappearance”.

They said they shared the “grave concerns” expressed by the UN secretary general, António Guterres, and “are treating this incident with the utmost seriousness. There needs to be a credible investigation to establish the truth about what happened, and – if relevant – to identify those bearing responsibility for the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi and ensure that they are held to account.”

The statement added: “We encourage joint Saudi-Turkish efforts in that regard, and expect the Saudi government to provide a complete and detailed response. We have conveyed this message directly to the Saudi authorities.”

It would be nice if the US were part of that statement, but of course it’s not. Donnie Two-scoops likes the Saudi dictators; they’re his kind of guys.

Say it authentically

Oct 14th, 2018 10:31 am | By

Rachel Anne Williams wrote a post on this question of believing what people say about themselves, in addition to that tweet.

Williams’s Twitter/Medium bio:

Author & writer, ex-academic philosopher, Science Nerd. Read more at Forthcoming book Transgressive with @JKPBooks

I can’t find where Williams was an academic philosopher, and given the quality of argument in this post I have to say I don’t believe it.

What does it mean to say trans people are who we say we are? It means that if a trans woman says she is a woman, then you should believe she is a woman (and likewise for trans-masculine and non-binary identities).

Trans exclusionary radical feminists (henceforth radfems) respond by saying “Why should I believe what you say you are? Ok, then! I am seven feet tall and 400 lbs. Clearly, that doesn’t actually make me seven feet tall. Just because you say you’re something, doesn’t mean you are that thing.”

We need to therefore modify the definition.

It means that if a trans woman authentically says she is a woman, then you should believe she is a woman.

Ohhhhhh; that explains everything.

Kidding. It’s absolutely ludicrous. It’s like thinking if you say “really” five times then what you say is true. It’s like thinking emphasis=verification.

The radfem is not being authentic, see, she doesn’t mean it. Well no shit, Sherlock, because the radfem is using a reductio ad absurdum to demonstrate how idiotic your claim is. The inauthenticity is the whole point. (See also: sarcasm.)

Ex-academic philosopher who doesn’t know a reductio when she sees one? I think not.

She doesn’t live that truth. It’s not part of her core identity. She hasn’t spent years struggling with her desire to be seven feet tall.

But what if she has spent seven years struggling with her desire to be a genius poet? Does that mean she is a genius poet? No, it means she really really (plus 3) wants to be one. Most people have unfulfilled desires. They’re authentic all right, but that doesn’t mean we are or do or have the thing we desire to be or do or have. Desire doesn’t become the desired goal over time alone.

But we must ask about other identities we might take on, such as different animal species. It seems possible to me that someone could authentically identify as a non-human species. But clearly that wouldn’t actually make them non-human. That’s immutable.

The question then is whether gender/sex is immutable in the same way.

No, it isn’t, because sex and gender are not the same.

In regards to the person who identifies as a non-human species, we have to consider why we find it implausible that if you say you’re a dragon you actually are a dragon.

The answer is that specieshood is simply not the type of metaphysical category that is subjective in that way. I contend that gender is different.

But the issue is sex. Is sex subjective? Or is it a brute physical fact like being a dragon (or not)? If it’s not a brute physical fact, how do animals keep up all this reproducing all over the place?

But gender is also very much objective insofar as you can’t just will yourself into being trans. You either are trans or you’re not. (I’ve actually written an essay that talks about choosing to be trans but it’s a complex topic and not relevant here so we can bracket it).

But gender is objective in the same way. If you’re a cis male, you can’t just will yourself to be a woman.

“Ahh!”, says the TERF, “That’s what we’ve been saying — men cannot be women!”

But that’s not what I said. I said “cis male”. Trans women are by definition not cis males. They are trans women. And furthermore, they are women. Trans women. Or trans women. Or transwomen. We all have different individual emphasis in our identities. We don’t all identify as women in the same way or experience femininity the same way.

Ah yes, that’s the magic. Add “cis” and it all works. A cis male cannot just decide to be a woman, but a trans man can. No wait, that’s not right. A trans woman can, and furthermore she is a woman. But if a cis male can’t decide to, why doesn’t it work to say a trans man can? Because a trans man started out as a woman. No, that’s not right, because a trans man is a woman. Can we say “a cis male cannot just decide to be a woman, but a not-cis man can”? But not-cis is trans, we’re always told – cis is not-trans and trans is not-cis. Are we confused enough yet?

This is also something that differs from culture to culture. There are also many non-binary femmes and in reality the trans-feminine spectrum is just that: a multidimensional spectrum.

It’s a multidimensional spectrum plus a trans woman is a woman.

So what does it mean to be authentic? Because that’s what distinguishes the transphobic identities like “attack helicopter” from trans identities.

I would say that authenticity is about being true to your deepest vision for how you want your life to go. Your ultimate desire for how you want to live your life. It’s about not letting society dictate the terms of your life or your identity. It’s about being true to yourself. Of being actually fucking honest with yourself and not being afraid of accepting yourself for who you are.

Great. So if your ultimate desire for how you want to live your life is as a neurosurgeon at a top hospital, society cannot dictate the terms of your life or your identity.

People’s authentic stories

Oct 14th, 2018 9:11 am | By

Another Rachel steps up to defend Rachel MacKinnon.

But the issue isn’t working hard and dedication and hitting the gym and practicing and working with coaches. The issue is doing all that with a huge physical advantage over all your competitors – the issue is doing it while competing against women while having a male body, and quite a large-framed male body at that. MacKinnon doesn’t “deserve” a world record in women’s cycling because MacKinnon has a male body. Also: the fact that MacKinnon hit the gym does not mean that the women competing did not, so it’s pretty much beside the point. MacKinnon trained; yes; presumably they all trained, but only MacKinnon had the large male body.

Anyway, I read a few other tweets by transphilosophr (not for the first time) and found other peculiar “philosophy.” In particular:

I keep coming back to this. It’s probably tedious that I keep coming back to it, but it still amazes me that so many people treat that claim as not just reasonable but downright binding, if you want to avoid being labeled a “TERF.” It’s doubly or triply amazing in someone who Identifies As a philosopher. No, there is no broad rule that we should trust people about who they say they are. On the contrary. If it were that simple there would be no such thing as civil service exams or medical degrees or exams in engineering or security clearances or CVs or passports…you get the idea.

In practice, we mostly do trust people in the sense of believing what they tell us about themselves as long as there’s nothing in particular at stake. But when there is something at stake? Then we may want more than simple belief or trust.

Also, we mostly do trust people in the sense of believing what they tell us about themselves as long as there’s nothing in particular at stake and what they tell us about themselves isn’t magical or supernatural. If people tell us they’re aliens from another galaxy, we don’t necessarily believe what they tell us about themselves, and if we do we’re credulous chumps. The things trans people tell us about themselves vary wildly, which is another reason we can’t undertake to believe all of it no matter what, but is also why we can’t even know what it is we’re agreeing to believe. Rachel Anne Williams might tell us one thing about herself while Rachel MacKinnon might tell us something quite different (and in tension with what Rachel Anne Williams told us). Calling both “authentic stories” is not a magic way to make them cohere.

This is simply childish. Of course we can’t just believe whatever people tell us about themselves sight unseen just like that. There is no such rule, so Williams’s implication that there is is kind of extreme, especially coming from someone who tells us she’s a philosopher.