Notes and Comment Blog


Sep 18th, 2016 9:54 am | By

Mischa Haider tells us how difficult it is being a trans woman with children. People look at her funny in the playground.

In these moments I am reminded how easily our worth as individuals, along with the bonds we form with our loved ones, can wither before the relentless gaze of society. That is the prison not only for transgender women and mothers but, I increasingly realize, for all women and mothers.

It’s interesting that she’s only now realizing that women are subject to social scrutiny and devaluation.

We inhabit a world in which we are seen as passive receptacles, defined by an oppressive normative gaze sharpened through millennia of misogynistic formulations long accepted as inarguable facts of nature. In this gaze, personhood is the realm of men, while the value of women resides in their physical bodies.

Yes, we do, but we already know that. Quite frankly we don’t need trans women explaining it to us. We already know it, and we know it better than trans women do. We haven’t been sitting around waiting for trans women to tell us about it all this time.

Transgender women occupy the fault line of this gender gulag. Our womanhood resides solely in who we are as persons, not in the set of physical attributes conventionally expected of our gender. Therefore, granting transgender women their womanhood is tantamount to granting women personhood.

No. No it is not. Our personhood does not depend on trans women.

I do not have the parts in flesh that are required of me in the patriarchal constructs to be accepted as mother. The uterus is prized more in this regime than the countless years of attentive engagement with babies that motherhood entails. Breast milk is hailed as liquid gold, while the hours of rocking and settling a newborn is mere detail.

Wow. What does that sound like? It sounds like MRAs raging at the mothers of their children. It sounds like misogynists trying to erase women from everything, even childbearing.

The post-birth care of infants is – obviously –  not mere detail, but that doesn’t mean the extremely hard work of gestating and bearing a baby should be belittled, let alone erased. Breast milk is not “liquid gold” but then it wouldn’t be any use to infants if it were, would it. Nursing a baby isn’t something to sneer at.

Though there is no womb of flesh in my loins, there was a womb in my heart that carried all three of my children; my soul was pregnant with them though my body could not be. It is of little relevance to those who deem me unfit or incapable of motherhood that my young children know nothing of eggs and sperm, uteruses and labor; they know about cuddles and stories, diapers and creams, and my bottomless love.

But that’s true of fathers and of adoptive parents, too. Of course cuddles and stories and love matter; of course infants and children need them to thrive; of course they create bonds between parents and children. Haider is her children’s adoptive mother, which means she’s their mother. That’s how adoption works. There’s a strong social consensus that adoption is parenthood, and that mother and father are the right words to use. That does not, however, mean there never was any biological mother or father. Haider wants it to mean that.

I am a mother, and those with presuppositions to the contrary must lose them. I am the real, entire, and, in my case, only mother of my children.

No. Real, sure, entire, sure, but only, no. A woman or two or three carried those children and gave birth to them. She or they should not be erased.

Get a job in the exciting field of prostitution

Sep 17th, 2016 4:11 pm | By

Sarah Dean at iNews:

School careers officers could suggest prostitution as a line of work for pupils, the Lib Dem conference has heard.

Dennis Parsons, the chairman of Cheltenham Liberal Democrats, floated the idea at a special session on sex work.

The Lib Dem said careers officers are not allowed to suggest prostitution, but added: “Why shouldn’t they?”

Good question. Why also shouldn’t they be allowed to suggest pupils could sell themselves into slavery? Careers officers could be urging pupils to sample the joys of working in garment factories in Bangladesh, or the leather industry in India, or cleaning sewers in Mogadishu, or sweeping the streets in North Korea. There are horrible dangerous jobs everywhere, so why shouldn’t school careers officers be suggesting them to pupils?

During a discussion on how to combat the stigma attached to sex work, Mr Parsons compared prostitution with accountancy.

He said: “The fact that we are asking ‘should we seek to prevent people entering sex work?’ is part of the problem. You wouldn’t ask the question ‘should we prevent people becoming accountants?’ You’d just take it for granted.”

Accountancy, yes. A chicken processing plant, not so much. Some jobs are worse than others, including some that are so bad that no schools officers should be suggesting them to pupils.

Who benefits from encouraging pupils to go into prostitution? Men who want more prostitutes to choose from, mostly.

“We have had a chap suggest that one of the areas we need to be concerned about was families coercing people to go into the sex trade. Well, again, you wouldn’t protest at families urging and coercing people into becoming accountants.”

Yes I would, if the people in question wanted to do something else and had a good chance of doing it.

But more to the point, accountancy and prostitution aren’t comparable. Accountants aren’t forced to do double-anal by men who get their ideas of good sex from porn.

“And even in this room full of liberals we have got a huge cultural problem that we do see sex work as different, and we see it as something a little bit tacky, and not quite nice, and not the sort of thing that we would want our sons and daughters to get involved in.”

Yeah that’s the problem – liberals thinking prostitution is not the best career choice for their daughters.

Peel’s Principles of Law Enforcement

Sep 17th, 2016 3:32 pm | By

Something all Americans should be aware of, and aren’t. I wasn’t. Helen Dale pointed it out on Facebook, and we Americans had to confess ignorance. “Christ on a skateboard,” said Helen.

Sir Robert Peel ‘s Principles of Law Enforcement 1829

  1. The basic mission for which police exist is to prevent crime and disorder as an alternative to the repression of crime and disorder by military force and severity of legal punishment.2. The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police existence, actions, behaviour and the ability of the police to secure and maintain public respect.3. The police must secure the willing cooperation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain public respect.

    4. The degree of cooperation of the public that can be secured diminishes, proportionately, to the necessity for the use of physical force and compulsion in achieving police objectives.

    5. The police seek and preserve public favour, not by catering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to the law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws; by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of society without regard to their race or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour; and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.

    6. The police should use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to achieve police objectives; and police should use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.

    7. The police at all times should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police are the only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the intent of the community welfare.

    8. The police should always direct their actions toward their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary by avenging individuals or the state, or authoritatively judging guilt or punishing the guilty.

    9. The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

Elizabeth Colson

Sep 17th, 2016 11:51 am | By

Via Neil Shubin, an obituary of anthropologist Elizabeth Colson from UC Berkeley:

Elizabeth Colson, a trailblazing professor emerita in anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, died Aug. 3 at the age of 99 at her home in Zambia, Africa. Since the 1940s, she studied social change related to forced displacement, migration, development, kinship and political anthropology that carried implications far beyond the African continent.

She was watching birds from her verandah when she had a fatal stroke. That’s a good last thing to be doing, if you ask me.

“Truckloads of Zambians attended, tribal chiefs, university people, government people, Zambian(s) singing,” colleague Laura Nader, also a senior professor in anthropology at UC Berkeley, wrote in a remembrance of Colson. “They drummed and danced, drumming and singing to the grave. One hundred kilograms of maize meal was cooked, two cows were slaughtered, and 100 cabbages cut. Elizabeth Colson would have loved this last ritual.”

A native of Hewitt, Minn., Colson earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in anthropology from the University of Minnesota in 1938 and 1940 respectively. She received her Ph.D. in 1945 in social anthropology from Radcliffe College, Harvard University.

As she launched her career, Colson conducted field research on women’s lives and social change among Pomo Indians in Ukiah, assimilation and resistance on the Northwest Coast Makah Reservation in Neah Bay, Wash., and the impacts of Japanese-American relocation at the World War II Poston Relocation Camp in Poston, Ariz.

Later she joined the Rhodes-Livingston Institute in Central Africa, first studying, in 1946, the marriage, family and political practices among the Plateau Tonga living near the railroad line in what was then Northern Rhodesia.  From 1947 to 1951, Colson served as the RLI’s director, overseeing the research and publication activity of the Institute. From there, she launched what became a classic study of an estimated 57,000 Gwembe Tongan people living in the Gwembe Valley in Zambia and Zimbabwe. She examined their lives both before and after they were forced to relocate as their traditional farmlands were flooded to make way for a dam on the Zambezi River and what was to be the then-world’s man-made largest lake.

An important subject.

In conversation with interviewer Suzanna B. Reiss in 2000-2001 for a digital library biography, Colson discussed her life’s work and the difference between refugees and people resettled.

“People as refugees may flee as individuals and arrive where they will and then have to sort themselves out,” she said. “War moves in, and you move out fast, and you may go through very, very traumatic situations and suffer injury, physical violence and all that.

“People who are resettled for development…usually don’t go through that, but they are equally uprooted. Very often schemes are set up in which they’re supposed to be absorbed, where they don’t necessarily move where they want to move. They move where it’s decided that they should resettle.”

Colson noted that while she studied the forced resettlement of people in Africa’s Gwembe Valley, their storylines were not dissimilar from residents impacted by massive utility development by the Tennessee Valley Authority in the United States.

Climate change is going to force massive refugee crises and resettlements. It’s good to have research on how resettlement affects people.

Colson arrived at UC Berkeley in 1964 and stayed for 20 years.  She became the first woman to head the campus’s budget committee, and the first to deliver the Faculty Research Lecture, in 1983. Colson delivered the Bernard Moses Lecture in the Social Sciences in 1981.  The campus awarded her its highest honor, the Berkeley Citation, in 1985.

Colson also was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, received the outstanding achievement award from the Society of Women Geographers, being awarded the Rivers Memorial Medal by the Royal Anthropological Institute, delivered the Malinowski Distinguished Lecture for the Society for Applied Anthropology, and received the Distinguished Africanist Award from the American Association for African Studies.

An extraordinary person and scholar, in short.

Every time he speaks

Sep 17th, 2016 11:10 am | By

A Trump classic from two years ago:

The lying cheating thieving bullying fraud calls other people losers and born fucked up.

The occupiers

Sep 17th, 2016 10:22 am | By

Maxine Bernstein reports on scenes from the Bundy trial:

FBI agents on Friday took the witness stand to reveal some of the hundreds of thousands of Facebook posts and private messages that defendants in the Oregon standoff trial made in late December and throughout the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Testimony focused on many of Ammon Bundy’s Facebook posts in late December and January, including his “Call for Action” in Burns on behalf of a pair of local ranchers poised to return to federal prison, and how his comments were interpreted.

Some people innocently thought that Bundy didn’t mean violent action, and urged him to make that clearer.

Some followers said they were confused about the type of event Bundy was planning on Jan. 2 and urged him to be clearer. Among them was Gavin Seim, who on Dec. 30 wrote to Bundy asking him to clarify whether the Jan. 2 event was a rally or a call to action.

“I would never show up to a rally without my arms,” Bundy responded.

The next day, Brandon Thomas wrote to Bundy that he was “seeing a contradiction from the patriot railroad” about the Burns event.

“I think you ought to make it more clear that people should not take this as a green light to stand against the FEDS,” Thomas wrote.

“It is much more than a protest,” Bundy responded.

It’s a bit like Trump. A lot of people assume he’s “just” exaggerating, just saying threatening things for drama, just having a bit of fun. Don’t do that. Don’t assume he doesn’t mean it. Don’t assume he’ll turn out to be reasonable once in office.

Bundy and six co-defendants have pleaded not guilty to conspiring to impede federal employees from doing their work at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Friday marked the end of the first week of trial. Eleven others have pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge; seven more are set for trial in February.

In several of Bundy’s posts, he criticized Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward, claiming the sheriff was “collaborating with the violators,” while he vowed to “do whatever it takes” to protect Harney County ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steve Hammond from having to return to federal prison on arson convictions.

“We as people desire to live in peace and tranquility, but we will defend our friends if necessary, Respectfully Ammon Bundy,” one post read. During the occupation, Bundy uploaded a video of himself seated in a refuge office, saying, “We basically came out here not to protest, stomp our feet…We came out here to make a difference.”

But he just meant by talking. The guns were…they were just a prop.

During the refuge takeover, video surveillance cameras from the Bureau of Land Management district office captured defendants Kenneth Medenbach and Ryan Bundy using a drill or driver to screw in two “Closed Permanently” signs onto the front sign outside its office in Hines, and onto a side door of the adjacent wildlife fire dispatch and communications center.

Jurors watched the silent video, which showed Medenbach pull up in his white van to the federal district office at 2:18 p.m. on Jan. 9. He, Ryan Bundy and an unidentified man worked for about seven minutes to screw the signs in.

Medenbach retrieved a camera from his van, stepped back and took photos of their work, before driving off. Later that day, Medenbach posted the photo of the sign on his Facebook page, under the words, “BLM Closed Permanently in Harney County, Oregon,” according to a screenshot of the posting shown for jurors.

But that’s nothing at all to do with conspiring to impede federal employees from doing their work. No no, it’s quite different.

Trump again hints Clinton should be shot

Sep 16th, 2016 5:34 pm | By

From the Guardian’s live coverage of the campaign:

Mere hours after he appeared to put one of the oldest criticisms of his presidential campaign to rest with the acknowledgment that President Barack Obama was born in the United States, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump told supporters that his opponent’s Secret Service detail should disarm itself due to what he characterized as her opposition to the Second Amendment.

“Take their guns away,” Trump said of Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent. “Let’s see what happens to her.”

Speaking at a campaign rally in Miami, Florida, Trump criticized Clinton’s stance on gun-control issues, characterizing her stance as wanting to “abolish” the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, which protects the right to keep and bear arms. (This claim has been debunked.)

If Clinton were truly as anti-gun as she claims to be, Trump told the audience, her Secret Service detail should disarm itself.

“I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons – they should disarm. I think they should disarm immediately, what do you think?” Trump asked the raucous crowd.

“Let’s see what happens to her.”

Trump was deeply criticized in August after suggesting at a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina, that gunowners could take the Second Amendment into their own hands if Clinton were elected and began nominating Supreme Court justices.

“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment,” Trump said at the time.

“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the second amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know. But I’ll tell you what, that will be a horrible day.”

The remarks were seen by many – including the Democratic nominee herself – as hinting at calling for Clinton’s assassination, or that of her judicial nominees.

The man is scum.


Is the “female brain” really so predictable?

Sep 16th, 2016 5:19 pm | By

Jemima Lewis is also not impressed by the Science Museum’s girl/boy brains exhibit.

According to the Science Museum’s interactive test of “brain sex”, I am – in common with others of the female persuasion – possessed of a “good visual memory”, but not so skilled at “seeing things in three dimensions” or “being able to imagine how things rotate”.

This verdict annoys me. What are they trying to say? That just because I happen to have a womb I must be terrible at parking? (I am terrible at parking.) Is the “female brain” really so predictable, so set in its ways, that it can be identified by an algorithm on the basis of just six questions?

Of course it is, silly. Now stop bothering the men with all those questions.

In fact, the idea of the gendered brain fits neatly with modern transgender politics. It is often wheeled out as a scientific-sounding explanation for gender dysphoria: each of us has a “brain sex”, which may or may not match our “body sex”. The now-familiar refrain “I felt like a woman trapped in a man’s body”, or vice versa, thus becomes not just a vivid simile, but a statement of biological fact. Gender is still innate, but now it resides in your grey matter rather than your genitals.

It would be considered a major transgression, at least in the “safe spaces” of the snowflake generation, to dismiss this argument as “junk science”. But it probably is. Granted, scientists have identified a few – very general – differences between male and female brains. Women seem to be somewhat better at empathising, for example, and men at systemising. But the difference is modest, and no one can be sure how much of it is due to physical structure, hormones or social conditioning.

The brain is very plastic: it can change shape depending on how it is used. MRI scans have shown that when black cab drivers do The Knowledge – the famously difficult process of learning London’s landmarks and short-cuts – they grow extra brain cells in the posterior hippocampus. Given the myriad ways in which boys and girls are treated differently from birth, it would hardly be surprising if our brains developed differently.

This doesn’t mean that gender dysphoria isn’t real, any more than it means my inability to park is merely a social construct. It means only that the human brain remains a mystery which in the end is just as likely to skewer our half-baked political theories as to prove them.

The part about cab drivers confused me for a minute, until I realized “black” modifies “cab” as opposed to “drivers” – drivers of black cabs, in other words. I wonder if I grow extra brain cells in the posterior hippocampus when I mess around with Google Earth.

A video scoreboard for the football stadium

Sep 16th, 2016 4:53 pm | By

A guy works at the University of New Hampshire library for 50 years, saves all his money, and leaves the University $4 million in his will. Great story, no? Yes, except for what the university elected to do with it.

The university dedicated $2.5 million to an expanded, centrally located career center, it said when it announced the gift two weeks ago. It put $100,000 toward the Dimond Library, where Morin worked, fulfilling the only specific spending request he attached to his donation. And with much of the remaining gift, the university wrote a controversial check.

It put $1 million toward a video scoreboard for its new $25 million football stadium.


Ok the university points out that only 100k was earmarked. Yes, I get that, but I think they should have spent his money in a less revolting way anyway. Like, for instance, to honor his generosity and the discipline that made it possible, they could have put it toward scholarships for poor students. All of it, apart from the library’s 100k. Or they could have given it all to the library, to spend as they chose.

One particularly blistering blog post by New Hampshire graduate Claire Cortese — illustrated by dollars being tossed into a toilet — says the scoreboard spending shows the university needs to check its priorities. Cortese details what she sees as high student debt among alumni and questionable university spending in recent years on amenities such as a light-up table for a dining hall and a new logo. She goes on to argue that the $1 million for the scoreboard could have been spent on research grants, student meal plans or scholarships for students — she points out the sum is enough to pay for four-year full-ride scholarships for 14 in-state students at New Hampshire’s quoted tuition and fee level of more than $17,000 per year.

“Ultimately, the school’s administrative decision to spend a quarter of Morin’s generous donation on a inconsequential trinket for the athletic department is a complete disgrace to the spirit and memory of Robert Morin,” Cortese wrote. “As a Wildcat, I feel deeply saddened and honestly completely ashamed of my alma mater for this.”

Claire Cortese has more sense than the University of New Hampshire does.

Pull the other one

Sep 16th, 2016 4:34 pm | By

Don’t do that. Don’t ever do that.

The Sun:

GUARDSMAN Chloe Allen has become the British Army’s first female frontline soldier — after being born a boy called Ben.

The 24-year-old joined up four years ago as a man, but changed her name officially last month.

Then that doesn’t count as the British Army’s first female frontline soldier. Just stop.

She will be the first woman allowed to engage the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.

Chloe, from Cumbria, has now started hormone therapy.

Stop stop stop that.

Chloe Allen

The caption reads:

Chloe makes history as the first female in­fantry soldier since the Army began in 1660

No Chloe does not. Stop doing that.

He stepped on a lot of people

Sep 16th, 2016 4:16 pm | By

CNN on some of the small companies Donald Trump cheated.

“It was like we won the lottery,” Beth Rosser remembers. Her dad, Forest Jenkins, had just secured a $200,000 contract to work at the biggest prize in Atlantic City: Donald Trump’s Taj Mahal.

His company installed toilet partitions — not exactly glamorous, but important nonetheless. It was 1988, and a six-figure contract was huge.

They were all excited…but the check never arrived.

“We weren’t this big company,” remembers Rosser, who now runs the company with her brother, Steven. “We didn’t have tons of money in an account somewhere to cover things.”

Jenkins says his dad, who built the company from nothing, nearly lost everything.

The Taj Mahal, the most expensive casino ever built in Atlantic City filed for bankruptcy in 1991, just two years after its glitzy grand opening. The bankruptcy meant companies like Triad Building Specialties didn’t get paid.

After years of fighting through bankruptcy court, the Jenkins ended up with just 30 cents on the dollar. Their company was owed $231,000, according to the bankruptcy claim filed in the case. The Jenkins family received $70,000.

Dozens of contractors who worked on the project got stiffed.

“It’s 27 years later. I grit my teeth every time I see him on television blustering about what a wonderful businessman he is,” Rosser says. “He stepped on a lot of people.”

CNN reached out to the Trump campaign about each of the business deals mentioned in this story. Those calls went unanswered.

And that’s what we’re on the brink of electing president – a lying cheating thief and bully. A crook. The guy who ties the heroine to the railroad tracks.

The Edward J. Friel Company built cabinets for Trump’s first Atlantic City casino in the early 1980s. The company was awarded a $400,000 contract to build cabinets for the slot machines at Trump Plaza.

After the work was completed and approved by the general contractor, Friel expected a payment of $84,000, which would have covered the final expenses and all of the profit. But Friel says Trump bought out the construction contract from the general contractor, Perini Corporation, and then refused to make the payment.

His father tried to collect, but eventually gave up.

After struggling to stay afloat, the Edward J. Friel Company filed for bankruptcy several years later.

“He was devastated. The fact that we had seen such a huge future in Atlantic City for his business that all of a sudden because of one deal … his business in Atlantic City was done,” Friel says.

Done because of Trump. People want to make that scum president.

Trump is not a normal candidate

Sep 16th, 2016 3:39 pm | By

Dan Rather on Facebook:

Donald Trump’s disdain, mockery, and antagonism of the press, whose freedoms are enshrined in the Bill of Rights and whose presence has provided ballast to our democracy since its inception, raises very serious questions about his fitness for the presidency of the United States.

For a long while, these thoughts have been coursing through my veins with concern and disbelief, and yet my abiding loyalty to the notion of fair, accurate and unbiased journalism held me in check from saying it out loud – much as I suspect it has muzzled the true feelings of many of my colleagues. But we must remember that Donald Trump knows this and cynically plays the press corps’ deep desire for fairness to his undeserved benefit. The latest, barring the traveling press from covering an event and using them as ridicule in a speech, are but the most recent chapters in a novel full of outrageous acts. And this sentiment apparently extends to members of his own family as witnessed by his daughter Ivanka’s actions in an interview with Cosmo.

I am well aware that I will be met with bile and venom for saying this, called a communist, a liberal in bed with Hillary Clinton, a washed-up joke. To quote Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind, “frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Let others attack my motives. My conscience is clean. This is not about partisan politics, about who is right on immigration or gun control. This is about the very machinery that has allowed our American experiment to persist and thrive, a machinery which is far more fragile than we would like to believe.

Trump’s relationship with the press is at the heart of so much that is troubling about his candidacy – the secrecy, the lack of transparency on something as normal as tax returns, the flaunting of the very rules by which we elect our leaders, the appeasement of hate groups. And his embrace of Roger Ailes and Breitbart, institutions who have polluted press freedoms, is a further dangerous sign of decay.

Flouting! Not flaunting, flouting.

Also the embrace of Ailes and Breitbart is disgusting for more reasons than the press freedoms one. They’re both hate-mongers and lie-peddlers, and Ailes at least is a relentless sexual harasser and misogynist. Trump has profound, gross, blatant contempt for women, of a kind that just is not normal in politics at this level. That by itself should be reason enough for his complete failure, yet he’s closing the gap between him and Clinton. I’m trying to prepare myself to live in his United States, and I just can’t see a way to do it.

And yet when presented with this challenge, too much of the press has been cowed into inaction. This is a man who can be fact-checked into obscurity by any second grader with an Internet connection. And yet when he issues a mealy-mouth non-apology about President Obama’s obvious pedigree as an American, here we are with too many in the press not acknowledging his years of lies (check your Twitter feeds about how the New York Times initially covered this event). All of this of course sets the stage for Trump to lie again about somehow birtherism being Clinton’s fault.

I fear that this mindset will infect the debates. Trump is already setting the stage for that. If you are moderating and are not going to fact check him, you might as well just roll campaign speeches live – far too many of which have been shown on television without being subjected to journalistic context. If these debates will be debates in name only, another opportunity for Trump to flaunt flout fairness by spewing his venom and bullshine, I say cancel them.

Enough is enough. It is a reality that every reporter must come to grips with. Trump is not a normal candidate. This is not a normal election. He will set a precedent that other demagogues will study and follow. Fear, combined with the lure of ratings, views, clicks and profits, have hypnotized too much of the press into inaction and false equivalency for far too long. I am optimistic the trance is being broken. Fear not the Internet trolls. Fear instead the judgement of history.

I wish I were optimistic. I’m not. If it hasn’t been broken already, why would it be broken now? Why would anyone wait this long? I’m not optimistic; I’m terrified.

The fraternity

Sep 16th, 2016 11:44 am | By

The largest police union has endorsed the fascist misogynist lying thieving cheating bully Trump.

The Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Donald Trump for president on Friday, praising the Republican nominee’s “real commitment to law enforcement.”

Trump met with the 33,000-member police union in early August and its endorsement bolsters his claim that he is the “law and order candidate.”

Oh really? What about all the stealing and lying and cheating? What about the fraud?

Clinton has made reforming the criminal justice system a centerpiece of her campaign, highlighting it during a particularly violent July week in which a pair of unarmed black men were killed by police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana, leading to nationwide protests. At one such protest in Dallas, a gunman opened fire on law enforcement officers, killing five of them.

The former secretary of state’s calls for reformed policing tactics have been met with criticism by some in the law enforcement community who see her stance as opposition to law enforcement. Trump, by comparison, has more strongly taken the side of police officers in speeches and at campaign events.

Yeah god forbid we should say cops may not kill people over a few cigarettes or a failure to signal a lane change or a toy gun. God forbid we should say some cops get things wrong sometimes, or that some police departments need thorough reform.

A final insult

Sep 16th, 2016 11:29 am | By

A woman in Italy killed herself after a terrible year of revenge porn and social media shaming.

Tiziana Cantone, 31, was found dead at her aunt’s home in Mugnano, close to Naples in the country’s south, on Tuesday. Her funeral procession was televised as commentators grappled with the tragic outcome of her torment.

Cantone’s death came a year after she sent a sex video of herself to some friends including an ex-boyfriend .

The video was subsequently posted on the web and viewed almost a million times. The phrase “You’re filming? Bravo”, spoken to her lover in the video, became a derisive joke online and was printed on T-shirts, smartphone cases and other items.

She quit her job, she moved, she tried to change her name.

After a long court battle she won a “right to be forgotten” ruling ordering the video to be removed from various sites and search engines including Facebook.

But she was also ordered to pay €20,000 in legal costs, in what several Italian media outlets dubbed a final insult .

And now she’s dead.

The rights of abusive men

Sep 16th, 2016 11:11 am | By

Sandra Laville at the Guardian reports:

The government must carry out a full review of family courts to stop them being used by violent men to perpetuate abuse against their partners and children, MPs have said.

They called on the justice secretary, Liz Truss, to act swiftly to tackle deep-seated cultural attitudes among family court judges which put the rights of abusive men over the safety of women and children.

MPs were debating research by Women’s Aid which revealed that between 2005 and 2015, 19 children in 12 families were killed by violent fathers who had been allowed to see them through formal and informal child contact arrangements.

Women who leave their husbands to escape violence and coercive control find they have to face them again in family court.

MPs said the family court system was allowing violent men to re-victimise women. Increasing numbers of men were representing themselves and re-traumatising their victims when they made repeated and often spurious applications for access, they said.

Peter Kyle, the Labour MP for Hove, said: “The family courts are being used to perpetrate abuse against extremely vulnerable women … One of my constituents has been cross-examined by her former partner on three separate occasions, the man who beat her, broke her bones and battered her unconscious.”

O J Simpson would say that’s a sign he really really loved her.

What comes next is upsetting.

Angela Smith, the Labour MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, raised the case of her constituent Claire Throssell and her children, Jack, 12, and Paul, nine, as Throssell watched from the public gallery.

Throssell’s estranged partner, Darren Sykes, a perpetrator of domestic violence who had threatened her and his children, murdered both boys during a contact visit to his home in 2014 by enticing them to the loft with a new train set. He then set 16 fires in the house and barricaded the home.

He had been given contact by the family court despite the authorities’ knowledge of his violence and the children’s expressed fear of their father.

Smith read Throssell’s own words to MPs: “It took just 15 minutes on 22 October 2014 for my life and heart to be broken completely beyond repair. My happy, funny boys were killed by their own father … The police later told me that Jack was still conscious when he was carried out and he told them: ‘My dad did this and he did it on purpose.’ This was taken as his dying testimony.”

Paul died in his mother’s arms in hospital, while Jack lived for another five days, MPs were told. Sykes died in the fire.

I wonder if any of this is a product of the Men’s Rights Movement. Child custody is one of their core grievances.

Keir Starmer, the former director of public prosecutions and Labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras, said it was important to look at the changes made to the criminal justice system to better protect victims of domestic violence – including special measures for victims and witnesses, and the presence of independent abuse advocates – and ask why the family courts were not making similar changes.

He said there was growing evidence that perpetrators of domestic abuse were using the family courts to continue to harass and control their victims.

There’s a whole throbbing culture now in which harassment and control of women is a full-time fun occupation for way too many men. Perpetrators of domestic abuse are right at home in that culture.

H/t Lady Mondegreen

Statement by Sri Lanka’s Muslim Personal Law Reforms Action Group

Sep 16th, 2016 10:37 am | By

A statement released by the Muslim Personal Law (MPL) Reforms Action Group in Sri Lanka consisting of individual human rights advocates, lawyers, and women, as well as community and women’s rights groups:


In 2014, a 14-year old Muslim girl in Eastern province was given in marriage and her schooling was stopped as a result. After a few months of marriage she applied for fasah divorce (initiated by wife) due to severe sexual torture by her husband. The Quazi instead of dealing with the case in a sensitive and appropriate manner chose to interrogate her for over two hours asking her specific details about the sexual violence. This in turn caused the girl serious psychological trauma that she attempted suicide and faced severe depression thereafter.

This case is one of many in which Muslim women and girls are not only affected directly by discriminatory provisions within the 1951 Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA), but also as a result of the sub-par Quazi court system with untrained and unqualified Quazi judges.

There are major concerns that the MMDA violates the rights of Muslim women and limits access to justice, due process and redress. These concerns are with regard to provisions within the Act itself as well as practical problems with procedures and implementation via the Quazi court. For instance:

  • The Act legally allows child marriage by not stipulating the minimum age of marriage for Muslims as 18 years (under the Act a Quazi can even permit the marriage of a child under the age of 12)
  • There is no requirement of mandatory (and written) consent from the bride therefore forced marriages are technically legal
  • There are different conditions of divorce for men and women
    • Only husbands are granted the right to unilateral divorce without reason
    • Process of divorce for wives lengthy, requiring reasons and evidence, witnesses and case hearings
  • The provision for wife and child maintenance is decided arbitrarily by Quazis
  • Under the Act qualified women not allowed to be marriage registrars, Quazis, jurors or Board of Quazi members. These are state-salaried and tax-funded position that legally discriminate against women simply on the basis of sex
  • There is no mandatory requirement of qualifications or mandatory training for Quazis on MMDA
  • The Act allows the practice of polygamy without requirement of consent from the wife/s or wife to be (and often without their knowledge) or without conditions of financial stability

Muslim women’s groups have been advocating for reforms of the MMDA for many decades and there have been at least four official committees set up since 1970’s with no progress on reforms. The current 16-member Muslim Personal Law (MPL) Reforms Committee headed by Justice Saleem Marsoof was set up in 2009, by the then Minister of Justice Milinda Moragoda in view that “certain reforms to the Muslim personal law was urgently needed”. Seven years later, the report is still pending.

Urgency in light of constitutional reforms

During the consultations conducted by the Public Representations Committee (PRC) on Constitutional Reforms, many women’s groups and women affected by discriminatory provisions under the MMDA and practices of the Quazi courts brought up concerns regarding the Act. Their submissions were with regard to the fact that the current Constitution grants an exemption for personal laws to violate fundamental rights though the existence of Article 16(1).

On August 24th 2016, a group of fifteen Muslim women made an appeal to Honorable Mahinda Samarasinghe and the rest of the sub-committee drafting the Fundamental Rights Chapter of the new constitution. The appeal was simple – that Article 16(1) is repealed to ensure that the new Constitution is the supreme law of the land and that fundamental rights and gender equality are ensured for all citizens regardless of religion or ethnicity. They avered to the State’s responsibility to protect the fundamental rights of all its people irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity, religion or any other identity markers.

However certain conservatives groups among the Muslim community – while acknowledging that there were major problems with the MMDA and its implementation – claimed that repeal of Article 16(1) is not necessary because the Muslim community will reform its own personal law “from within”, in order to address concerns of women and girls. They referred to the MMDA reform exercise as an example of how the community could address these grave and fundamental concerns.

Appeal to the MPL Reforms Committee and Sri Lankan leaders

At this crucial juncture, therefore it is important for the community in general and Muslim women in particular to know the outcome of the committee’s deliberations and as to how it compares with the protection and equality that Muslim women and children can avail of by calling for repeal of Article 16(1) in the new Constitution.

Therefore, we appeal to the members of the MPL Reforms Committee, Minister of Justice and Judicial Service Commission to inform the Sri Lankan Muslim community as to when the report is expected to be finalized. Also given its relevance to the constitutional reform discussion outlined above, we kindly request that they immediately share the salient outcomes of the reform discussions to date pending the release of the final report.

As the group that had been most intimately involved in this issue over the past seven years their informed intervention at this juncture will be invaluable. Of particular interest will be to see how the recommendations addresses discriminatory provisions currently in place that violate fundamental rights of Muslim citizens.

We appeal to the leaders of this country, and those formulating the new Constitution to continue to uphold a clear vision of equality for all citizens. The Muslim women and men appealing also firmly believe in the freedom to practice religion with respect and dignity for all, including women and not just men. Do not exclude Sri Lanka Muslim women and girls from fully enjoying their fundamental rights as full citizens of this country. Ensure that the new Constitution is in fact the heart and soul of a progressive nation that refuses to exclude any citizen.

Men were on the main floor

Sep 15th, 2016 5:32 pm | By

I envy Canada Trudeau, but I also think he shouldn’t be endorsing gender-segregated mosques by paying them visits.

Trudeau was at the mosque Monday to mark Eid al-Adha, considered the holiest of feast days for the world’s Muslims. Three female MPs accompanied Trudeau during his brief remarks, though they had to arrive by a side door and stand with their heads covered. They did not address the mosque.

Worshippers at the mosque are separated by gender. Men were on the main floor where Trudeau spoke. Women and girls were in a balcony or in other parts of the mosque. [Asra] Nomani said that recent surveys indicate about two of every three mosques separate men from women, but that is up from a decade ago when only about half did.

He wouldn’t turn a blind eye if it were racial segregation; he wouldn’t turn a blind eye if Muslims were told to sit upstairs; so why does he turn a blind eye when it’s women?

“I will meet with Canadians regardless of where they are in Canada,” Trudeau told reporters Monday afternoon. “I will speak to inclusive growth, help for the middle class. I will talk about gender equality. I will talk about the rights of the LGBT community. We will continue to promote the values which bring us together.”

While Trudeau, in his remarks at the mosque did indeed speak about growth and the middle class, he made no mention of LGBT rights nor did he make any mention of gender equality.

Which is not surprising, since the mosque is opposed to gender equality. If it weren’t, it wouldn’t push women out of the main space.

He did acknowledge the gender separation, though, in his remarks at the mosque, saying, “Diversity is a source of strength, not just a source of weakness, and as I look at this beautiful room — sisters upstairs — everyone here, (I see) the diversity we have just within this mosque, within the Islamic community, within the Muslim community in Canada.”

Patty Hajdu, Trudeau’s minister for the status of women, was not at Monday’s mosque event but said it was important to be respectful of traditions for different places of worship.

“So whether you’re in an indigenous community or in a community of faith or in a military community … there are a number of traditions and cultures and standards that the community upholds and I think the respectful thing is to understand that it might not be your practice but it is theirs.”

No. It’s not “their” practice; it’s the practice of the conservative males, who impose it on everyone. No, the respectful thing is not to turn a blind eye – that’s not respectful to the women and girls banished from the main space.

Nomani said Trudeau and other politicians who support gender equality should refuse invitations from gender-segregated places of worship including mosques.

“They would be following the precedent of other Muslim men who are bold leaders in our community who are now refusing to go and stand at the pulpits of the mosques that segregate like that.”

There are liberal Muslims and conservative-to-reactionary Muslims, and it’s not necessarily “respectful” to side with the conservative-to-reactionaries.


Sep 15th, 2016 4:04 pm | By

Afghan Atheists posted a very pointed, and poignant, photo, with the caption “When the present meets its past.”

Getting around

Sep 15th, 2016 12:54 pm | By

Frivolous interlude:

Silver heart charm and glittery sock

Sep 15th, 2016 12:30 pm | By

It’s everywhere. It’s in shoes – kids’ shoes. (“Ice cream, Mandrake? Children’s ice cream?”) Francesca Cambridge Mallen, chief campaigner for Let Clothes Be Clothes, went shopping for school shoes with her daughter age 8.

Three shoes are available in her size: two pairs are slip-ons which with a knowing look from Grandma we dismiss immediately. After all, these are what Clarks describe as “sophisticated style” which makes me wonder how they could have missed the fact they are selling to kids, not office staff. When my daughter plunges over in a tangle of shoes and playground, I’ll be sure to console her with how classy she looked doing it.

The third pair are the most common style in the girls range, with a bar across the middle. My daughter tries them on, but is not persuaded by the “you’ll wear them in” pitch and points to how the back of the shoe is jabbing her in the heel. “That’s all we have” we’re told with raised hands, but what about the shoes over there I ask, pointing to a huge display of school shoes. Its Clark’s boys section, but aren’t these just shoes too? I get the “oh how quirky” look from a neighbouring parent, but the first pair our of the mysterious backroom are perfect. BINGO.

The back of the shoe is visibly wider with actual padding, despite the sizing being the same. The shoes are enclosed meaning the whole of my daughter’s foot is covered from the elements – a style not offered to girls at all. They are a trainer style, which any podiatrist would swoon at, and as she races past mountains of shoe boxes and meandering children, my daughter is clearly very happy.

Clarks has made it easy for me to go to their website and see what the respective shoes look like.

These girls’ school shoes from our Gloforms collection, complete with toy and torch, use a classic Mary Jane profile with bow detailing, silver heart charm and glittery sock. Black leather with a glossy trim is teamed with a durable rubber outsole with cleats for added grip, while the padded collar, riptape fastening and Agion linings are practical additions.

These boys’ school shoes from our new Gloforms collection, complete with toy and torch, are perfect for being in the playground. Robust black leather, high abrasion band and cleated rubber outsole ensure durability and grip. The double riptape fastening and Agion linings are practical additions, while the Gloforms character on the heel and sole add fun.

 It could hardly be any more obvious, could it.

Mallen concludes:

At some point in the last 30 years Clark’s have changed their focus from comfortable and practical children’s shoes, to shoes marred by gender stereotypes. Check out the latest Gloforms campaign, the strong and assertive boy characters, ready for action, opposite the dreamy eyed female ones with heart, floral bow or crown. The latest tagline “lasting comfort so kids can be kids” doesn’t seem to apply to girls. Have they tried to kick a football in slip-on flats? Or walked to school in open bar shoes through mud and rain? Have they seen how girls climb, jump, swing and run too? As my daughter says when we leave, maybe its time Clarks went back to school and looked for themselves.

A friend wrote recently about shopping for an infant and finding that nearly all the “girls'” clothes (there were none for just infants or babies) were pink, while “boys'” clothes were in a range of colors.

Why did we even bother?