Notes and Comment Blog

Russia may try

Aug 30th, 2016 10:57 am | By

Robert Reich:

Not only is Trump raising the specter of electoral fraud by Democrats, but today Senate minority leader Harry Reid said Russia may try to manipulate voting results in favor of Trump. In calling for an FBI investigation, Reid noted (1) the threat of Russian interference “is more extensive than is widely known and may include the intent to falsify official election results;” (2) Vladimir Putin’s “goal is tampering with this election;” and (3) Trump’s former and current advisers are closely connected to the Russian leadership.

“Trump and his people keep saying the election is rigged,” said Reid. “Why is he saying that? Because people are telling him the election can be messed with.” If Russia concentrates on “less than six” swing states, it could alter results and undermine confidence in the electoral system.

That’s just fucking terrifying.

There are no short cuts

Aug 29th, 2016 5:27 pm | By

Jim Wright had a lot of people asking him, as a veteran, what he thinks of Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem at a football game. So he told them. As a veteran.

Respect has to be earned.

Respect cannot be demanded at the muzzle of a gun or by beating it into somebody or by shaming them into it. Can not. You might get what you think is respect, but it’s not. It’s only the appearance of respect. It’s fear, it’s groveling, it’s not respect. Far, far too many people both in and out of the military, people who should emphatically know better, do not understand this simple fact: there is an enormous difference between fear and respect.

Respect has to be earned.

Respect. Has. To. Be. Earned.

Respect has to be earned every day, by every word, by every action.

It takes a lifetime of words and deeds to earn respect.

It takes only one careless word, one thoughtless action, to lose it.

You have to be worthy of respect. You have to live up to, or at least do your best to live up to, those high ideals — the ones America supposedly embodies, that shining city on the hill, that exceptional nation we talk about, yes, that one. To earn respect you have to be fair. You have to have courage. You must embrace reason. You have to know when to hold the line and when to compromise. You have to take responsibility and hold yourself accountable. You have to keep your word. You have to give respect, true respect, to get it back.

There are no short cuts. None.

Now, any veteran worth the label should know that. If they don’t, then likely they weren’t much of a soldier to begin with and you can tell them I said so.

IF Kaepernick doesn’t feel his country respects him enough for him to respect it in return, well, then you can’t MAKE him respect it.

You can perhaps make him put on a show of it, but that’s not the same thing.

t’s only the illusion of respect.

You might force this man into the illusion of respect. You might. Would you be satisfied then? Would that make you happy? Would that make you respect your nation, the one which forced a man into the illusion of respect, a nation of little clockwork patriots all pretending satisfaction and respect? Is that what you want? If THAT’s what matters to you, the illusion of respect, then you’re not talking about freedom or liberty. You’re not talking about the United States of America. Instead you’re talking about every dictatorship from the Nazis to North Korea where people are lined up and MADE to salute with the muzzle of a gun pressed to the back of their necks.

And why would we respect that?

Real men battling snakes

Aug 29th, 2016 3:57 pm | By

Jim Hightower was on the Dr Pepper FOR MEN story in 2011.

It seems that the honchos over at the Dr Pepper Snapple Group have done intensive market analysis and found that men think of diet drinks as…well, girly. So they flinch at buying them.

So of course the geniuses in charge of the vats of flavor figured out a way to make a new Dr Pepper with only 10 calories but still the same amount of manliness. It’s a miracle how they did it, but we will never know more, because it’s a secret secret secret.

The pepped-up Dr Pepper is being launched with a massive, testosterone-infused ad campaign that bluntly proclaims: “It’s not for women.”

TV ads will run on all networks during college football games, and the promos will reek of machismo, showing men — real men — in a jungle battling snakes. Also, instead of the gentle bubbles on Dr Pepper’s regular diet can, the cans of Ten are gunmetal grey — with silver bullets. Pow!

In case ladies still don’t get the point that this is a manly man’s drink, they might go to Dr Pepper Ten’s Facebook page. There, they’ll find a virtual shooting gallery that invites members of the male species to fire virtual bullets at such feminine symbols as lipstick and high heels.

Because it’s never a bad idea to encourage men to get violent toward women and their symbols. Aw hell no!

So, I take it back about the irony. They did mean it.

Just 10 manly calories

Aug 29th, 2016 3:33 pm | By

A friend told me it’s not just Yorkies – it’s Dr Pepper too.

Image result

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Clearly this is not meant literally; clearly it’s ironic in some sense…and yet. Again: would they do the same thing “for white people” instead of “for men”? Would they do an ad saying Dr Pepper is not for black people?

I don’t think so, and if I’m right, what does that say? Why is it amusing to “pretend” to insult women if it’s not amusing to “pretend” to insult other not-seen-as-equal kinds of people?

Cut the chains

Aug 29th, 2016 2:59 pm | By

Via #TogetherToEndMaleGuardianship on Twitter –

The slaveowners’ anthem

Aug 29th, 2016 12:54 pm | By

So that national anthem thing – first Gabrielle Douglas, now Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers (US football). Jon Schwarz at The Intercept explains something about the anthem.

“The Star-Spangled Banner,” Americans hazily remember, was written by Francis Scott Key about the Battle of Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812. But we don’t ever talk about how the War of 1812 was a war of aggression that began with an attempt by the U.S. to grab Canada from the British Empire.

However, we’d wildly overestimated the strength of the U.S. military. By the time of the Battle of Fort McHenry in 1814, the British had counterattacked and overrun Washington, D.C., setting fire to the White House.

And one of the key tactics behind the British military’s success was its active recruitment of American slaves. As a detailed 2014 article in Harper’s explains, the orders given to the Royal Navy’s Admiral Sir George Cockburn read:

Let the landings you make be more for the protection of the desertion of the Black Population than with a view to any other advantage. … The great point to be attained is the cordial Support of the Black population. With them properly armed & backed with 20,000 British Troops, Mr. Madison will be hurled from his throne.

Whole families found their way to the ships of the British, who accepted everyone and pledged no one would be given back to their “owners.”

Men were trained to fight along with the British.

Then on the night of September 13, 1814, the British bombarded Fort McHenry. Key, seeing the fort’s flag the next morning, was inspired to write the lyrics for “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

So when Key penned “No refuge could save the hireling and slave / From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,” he was taking great satisfaction in the death of slaves who’d freed themselves. His perspective may have been affected by the fact he owned several slaves himself.

Oooooooooooookay then – that’s not something I want to stand up for either, or stick my hand on my chest for, or sing.

In fact we need a new national anthem, yesterday.

(No, I didn’t know this. I’ve never really sung it much. It wasn’t a thing at school, and I don’t go to football games. I knew some of the first stanza, and that’s it.)

A shame that he decided to be a bad one

Aug 29th, 2016 12:28 pm | By

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

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

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

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

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

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

All the same platitudinous nothing.

The kitchen debate

Aug 29th, 2016 11:46 am | By

This is so good it should be in the Louvre.

Updating to add: Artist: tiggerthewing.

Creeping modesty

Aug 29th, 2016 11:05 am | By

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haredi influence?

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

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

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

Not for girls

Aug 29th, 2016 10:34 am | By

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

yorkie not for girls


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For her

Aug 29th, 2016 10:22 am | By

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

David Brooks demands more feminine niceness from Clinton

Aug 28th, 2016 3:38 pm | By

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking back she can see she was being groomed

Aug 28th, 2016 12:40 pm | By

The empowerment of sex work:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

H/t Rob

Guest post: A full generation behind

Aug 28th, 2016 11:15 am | By

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gender expectations be damned

Aug 28th, 2016 7:56 am | By

Then some solidarity:

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

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

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

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

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


And he likes to wear sparkly tutus

Aug 28th, 2016 7:45 am | By

A Facebook post by Jen Anderson Shattuck:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will shout my love from street corners.

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

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

Our family has a motto. The motto is this:

We are loving.

We are kind.

We are determined and persistent.

We are beautiful and brave.

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

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

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

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

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

Aug 27th, 2016 5:42 pm | By

Guest post by James Garnett

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

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

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

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

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

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

You shoot at the enemy

Aug 27th, 2016 5:16 pm | By

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

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

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

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

Not very gubernatorial, I think you’ll agree.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

It’s the Era of the Bully.


Aug 27th, 2016 3:44 pm | By

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

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

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

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

Looking empowered

Aug 27th, 2016 11:05 am | By

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And not really all that feminist, either.