Notes and Comment Blog

He’s got more important things on his mind

Aug 18th, 2018 5:57 pm | By

You might think Republicans would want to distance themselves from Trump’s racist outbursts, but no, they’re cool with all that.

The president of the United States had just lobbed another racially charged insult — this time calling his former top African American adviser a “dog” — but Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) had no interest in talking about it.

“I’ve got more important things on my mind, so I really don’t have a comment on that,” said the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, chuckling at the question.

Oh, more important things – so the president spewing racist insults on Twitter isn’t important. Well it’s not important to this one white guy at least.

Has President Trump ever said anything on race that made Cornyn uncomfortable? “I think the most important thing is to pay attention to what the president does, which I think has been good for the country,” the senator demurred.

What he says is included in what he does.

What about his constituents back home — are they concerned? “I know you have to ask these questions but I’m not going to talk about that,” Cornyn said, politely ending the brief interview in the basement of the U.S. Capitol. “I just think that’s an endless little wild goose chase and I’m not going there.”

Ah yes, silly reporters, thinking racist abuse matters.

Jesus and the motherfuckers

Aug 18th, 2018 4:34 pm | By

So here’s this very nice man in baggy T shirt and shorts and a baseball cap (not a MAGA cap, that I can see) talking to hotel workers in Uganda. He appears to be distraught because the electronic key to his room didn’t work. He’s apparently a missionary? Or maybe just a pretend missionary, aka a crank who uses “jesus” as a veil for abusing people. His favorite thing to call the hotel workers (who are all men, which is probably fortunate) is “bitch” – or more like “biiiitch.”

He got busted.

Uganda police arrested an older American man after reviewing a video that showed him striking out at hotel workers and using racial slurs.

The police identified the man as Jimmy L. Taylor, a U.S. citizen who claims to be a missionary. The alleged assault took place in the Grand Imperial Hotel in Kampala, the capital, according to police. Video of the incident surfaced on the internet on Friday, but it is unclear when it was filmed.

In the video, Taylor can be seen punching and slapping at the workers. He also calls them “n****rs,” tells them they have to obey him and threatens to kill them.

There’s video; it’s seriously disgusting to watch.

Come on, bitch. Come on, whore…You fuckers, why have you hated Jesus, why have you hated your own soul…You refuse to repent and be saved. Motherfuckers…

He has a Facebook page. Recent posts have rather sharp comments on them. On August 16 he posted this inspirational message:

Is separating the chaff
From the Wheat
I have many wealthy ( past friends ) who won’t even support Christ in me for the true needy.
I say , Fuck U unworthy bitches, Jesus will command trees to provide me.
In the last days , many will say, Lord lord , did we not heal the sick, and cast oit demonds in thy name, Jesus will say, I never knew u Motherfucker, depart from me U workers of inequity.
Its not ur Goddam money.
Money is useless in ur pocket

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Spiderman in a thong

Aug 18th, 2018 3:50 pm | By

Ripe for satire:

An artist in India is challenging sexist drawings of women in comic books by parodying them using male heroes in poses typically associated with women.

She-Hulk has superhuman strength and speed and is one of the most formidable hand-to-hand combatants in the Marvel world.

Like Hulk, not only does she have physical power, she’s also completely green.

Yet, on a 1991 comic book cover, she is shown in a seductive pose, wearing a G-string bikini, with her curves sharply accentuated.

Because power shmower, getcher tits out.

Comic cover by Shreya Arora showing an issue of The Sensational She-Hulk (left), with Shreya Arora's reimagination (right)


The Indian artist Shreya Arora finds this annoying.

Her artwork draws inspiration from comic book covers but parodies the male superheroes using body language typically associated with women.

The result – covers with familiar characters, such as Superman and Batman, in strikingly unusual poses and outfits.

A scantily-clad Spiderman is pictured in only a thong, a coy Hulk covers himself with a newspaper, while an Iron Man with prominent buttocks crawls on a ledge.

I like her.

Menstruators, folks with uteruses, etc

Aug 18th, 2018 1:02 pm | By

We live in strange times.

A woman, bragging about writing a book on menstruation that rarely mentions women, as if that’s something to be proud of.


Aug 18th, 2018 12:47 pm | By

I knew about this but PBS gives a very entertaining explanation and illustration of it.

Trump has accused Brennan of lèse majesté

Aug 18th, 2018 12:04 pm | By

Tim Weiner, a former NY Times reporter and author of a history of the CIA and one of the FBI, reminds us (and Trump) that Trump is not a king.

(It’s true that literally speaking he’s not, but we’re learning every day that he has royal and more than royal powers. He’s doing shit that constitutional monarchs in Europe wouldn’t dare do, and we can’t stop him.)

In times of crisis, the leaders of the military and intelligence communities try to put aside their differences, often many and sundry, and work together for the good of the country. That’s what’s happening today with a remarkable group of retired generals, admirals and spymasters who have signed up for the resistance, telling the president of the United States, in so many words, that he is not a king.

The open letter from the thirteen intelligence boffins did that.

They rebuked Mr. Trump for revoking the security clearance of John Brennan, the C.I.A. director under President Obama, in retaliation for his scalding condemnations and, ominously, for his role in “the rigged witch hunt” — the investigation into Russia’s attempt to fix the 2016 election, now in the hands of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel. The president’s latest attempt to punish or silence everyone connected with the case, along with his fiercest critics in political life, will not be his last.

First he went after his F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, and the acting attorney general, Sally Yates. Then he came for Mr. Brennan. Now it’s Bruce Ohr, a previously obscure Justice Department official targeted by right-wing conspiracy theories, a man who will lose his job if he loses his clearances. Tomorrow it may be James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, a cable-news Trump critic and a co-signer of the letter. It’s clear there will be more.

It’s clear because Trump has explicitly said so, because news reports say he is working on it, and because of course he is.

The text was equally striking: “You don’t have to agree with what John Brennan says (and, again, not all of us do) to agree with his right to say it, subject to his obligation to protect classified information,” they wrote. “We have never before seen the approval or removal of security clearances used as a political tool, as was done in this case.” The president sent “a signal to other former and current officials” to refrain from criticizing him, the letter continued, and “that signal is inappropriate and deeply regrettable.”

Notice their confidence that Brennan wasn’t violating his obligation to protect classified information. That’s significant because the right is accusing him of doing just that.

It’s clear that Mr. Brennan’s fierce political and personal attacks rattled the china in the Oval Office. The president essentially has accused Mr. Brennan of lèse majesté — the crime of criticizing the monarch, tantamount to treason. Remarkably, this relic of the days when kings were deemed divine remains on the books in some European monarchies as well as nations like Saudi Arabia, where a critique of the crown is considered terrorism.

It’s not a crime in the United States. That’s why we fought a revolution against a mad king.

It’s not a crime, and it’s a protected right under the First Amendment. As people keep having to point out, the First Amendment doesn’t prohibit private entities from interfering with speech, but it damn well does prohibit the government from doing so, and Trump has parked his syphilitic bum on top of that government. He can’t come after us for mentioning his syphilitic bum…but he can do things like take security clearances away.

You don’t need a secret decoder ring to see what’s happening here. John Brennan, who knows whereof he speaks, believes that the president is a threat to the security of the United States — a counterintelligence threat, no less, in thrall to President Vladimir Putin of Russia. The president attacks him, severing Mr. Brennan’s access to classified information. The deans of national security rise up to defend him — and, by implication, intelligence officers and federal investigators who are closing in on the White House.

They are sending a message to active-duty generals and admirals, soldiers and spies. Remember your oath to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Think twice before following this man’s orders in a crisis. You might first consider throwing down your stars.

Trump is, in short, a domestic enemy of the Constitution.

Grass should be growing in the streets of Copenhagen

Aug 18th, 2018 11:34 am | By

Paul Krugman takes a look at the Horrors of Socialism in Denmark.

Last weekend, Trish Regan, a Fox Business host, created a bit of an international incident by describing Denmark as an example of the horrors of socialism, right along with Venezuela. Denmark’s finance minister suggested that she visit his country and learn some facts.

That’s silly; she can’t visit Denmark, lest she be thrown in the gulag.

Denmark has indeed taken a very different path from the United States over the past few decades, veering (modestly) to the left where we’ve veered right. And it has done just fine.

American politics has been dominated by a crusade against big government; Denmark has embraced an expansive government role, with public spending more than half of G.D.P. American politicians fear talk about redistribution of income from the rich to the less well-off; Denmark engages in such redistribution on a scale unimaginable here. American policy has been increasingly hostile to organized labor, and unions have virtually disappeared from the private sector; two-thirds of Danish workers are unionized.

Ok but so then Innovation is Stifled because who wants to innovate only to see the $$$ go to the workers? And with Innovation Stifled, nobody is inventing ever-larger cars with ever worse gas mileage and ever more power to crush everything in their paths.

Conservative ideology says that Denmark’s policy choices should be disastrous, that grass should be growing in the streets of Copenhagen. Regan was, in effect, describing what her employers think must be happening there. But if Denmark is a hellhole, it’s doing a very good job of hiding that fact: I was just there, and it looks awfully prosperous.

That cannot be, because of the Stifled Innovation! Everyone knows this.

Danes are more likely to have jobs than Americans, and in many cases they earn substantially more. Overall G.D.P. per capita in Denmark is a bit lower than in America, but that’s basically because the Danes take more vacations. Income inequality is much lower, and life expectancy is higher.

Yes but that’s not the goal. The goal is to have a tiny number of people at the very top who have more $$$ than everyone else combined. That way the tiny number of people who own all the cash get to enjoy everyone else’s poverty. Contrast is all.

Denmark doesn’t at all fit the classic definition of socialism, which involves government ownership of the means of production. It is, instead, social-democratic: a market economy where the downsides of capitalism are mitigated by government action, including a very strong social safety net.

That’s the unclassic definition of socialism, and ain’t no pointy-headed New York Times columnist gonna tell us different.

U.S. conservatives — like Fox’s Regan — continually and systematically blur the distinction between social democracy and socialism. In 2008, John McCain accused Barack Obama of wanting socialism, basically because Obama called for an expansion of health coverage. In 2012, Mitt Romney declared that Obama got his ideas from “socialist democrats in Europe.”

In other words, in American political discourse, anyone who wants to make life in a market economy less nasty, brutish and short gets denounced as a socialist.

And then Joe McCarthy comes back to life and drags everyone off to hell.

The simple fact is that there is far more misery in America than there needs to be. Every other advanced country has universal health care and a much stronger social safety net than we do. And it doesn’t have to be that way.

But it does have to be that way if your goals are more house-sized cars and peppermint-lobster coffee drinks and universal envy.

14 to Zero

Aug 17th, 2018 5:02 pm | By

Screechy Monkey alerted us to a story that began with an origins of life conference featuring 14 men and 0 that’s zero women.

She emailed the organizer to object, so he…announced a panel to discuss “biases and disparities in origins research” including her name without ever asking her.

What strikes me about this, that I haven’t seen mentioned in the Twitter discussion, is that this is Templeton. Templeton has an agenda, and a tendency to disguise or play down that agenda. I don’t know if that’s relevant to what happened here or not, but it’s interesting.

She responded:

Jaw-dropping, isn’t it? They stick her name on without asking, and then refuse to remove it when she tells them to, saying there will be an empty chair, as if she were being a naughty absentee.

They’ve got a lot of people mad at them now, which seems fitting for Templeton.

60 more

Aug 17th, 2018 4:26 pm | By

There’s another letter, this one from 6o former CIA officers saying Sir this is bullshit Sir.

In a nutshell, it says they believe former government officials have the right to express their unclassified views on what they see as critical national security issues without fear of being punished for doing so.

Sad that a president needs that explained to him. Even sadder that he’ll pay no attention whatever.

Miscellany Room

Aug 17th, 2018 4:15 pm | By

We need a place for alerts about news items and whatever else needs sharing, so this can be that place.

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Marsupials for a day

Aug 17th, 2018 3:47 pm | By

Ever wonder how the youngest lambs get down the hill? Wonder no more.

Donkey & mule nannies are used in Italy when grazing animals are moved from high pastures down to the plains. Newborn lambs are unable to make the journey on their own.
They ride in pouches of a specially made saddle on the back of a nanny.
At rest stops lambs are returned to their mothers for a meal & some nuzzling.

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A simple, sad tale of bigotry

Aug 17th, 2018 3:27 pm | By

James Kirkup is not impressed by the BBC’s reporting on trans issues.

For one example, it sought to correct a claim by Fair Play for Women that “41 per cent of trans women in jail are sex offenders.”

The BBC seeks to test the FPFW figure of 41 per cent mainly by way of official Ministry of Justice figures, released following a BBC request under the Freedom of Information Act. Those figures show that 60 of 125 transgender inmates were serving sentences for sexual offences. That’s 48 per cent.

So what does the BBC do? It comes up with strained reasons to ignore the figures.

And then there’s its reporting on our friend Councillor Gregor Murray.

Cllr Murray of Dundee identifies as non-binary and prefers “they” as a pronoun. Cllr Murray recently quit as convenor of children and family services, and as SNP equal opportunities spokesman.

“Trans councillor leaves roles after ‘threats to life’” was the BBC headline on the story about this last week.

A casual reader might have taken the impression that this was a simple, sad tale of bigotry in modern Britain, a transgender person hounded out of a prominent public role by the nasty prejudice that too many trans people do indeed suffer. What that reader would not have learned is that Cllr Murray’s resignation came about after a series of incidents in which Cllr Murray published obscene and offensive comments about women who disagreed with him. Among those comments, he described a group of lesbians who took part in a public protest as “utter c***s”.

Journalism should always distinguish facts and assertions, and prioritise facts over assertions. That’s especially true when covering politicians, who routinely try to use assertions to obscure facts they find inconvenient.

It is a fact that Cllr Murray called some women “c***s” and faced significant public criticism for doing so. (A fellow SNP councillor described Cllr Murray’s conduct as disgraceful, for instance.) It is a fact that this criticism preceded Cllr Murray’s resignation. It is an assertion that Cllr Murray is resigning because of threats to Cllr Murray’s safety: the councillor’s letter of resignation, quoted in extravagant detail by the BBC, provides no evidence of such threats.

Also, somewhat off topic but not really, notice the way Kirkup is talking about calling women “cunts.” Notice the discrepancy between that and the way we are always told that “cunt” is not a misogynist or sexist or extraordinarily insulting epithet in the UK.

The BBC report, however, repeats the politician’s assertions at length and without any attempt at critical analysis, while scarcely mentioning the established fact of the politician’s conduct and reactions to it. The reader has to reach the 10th paragraph of a 13 paragraph story before finding this mealy-mouthed sentence:

“The councillor had been criticised for language they used in online rows with women’s groups.”

And that’s all. No mention of quite what that “language” was. It’s impossible to avoid wondering if the BBC would have been so circumspect on the issue if, for instance, a non-trans councillor holding an equalities post had described a group of women as “absolute c***s”. Having spent most of the last two decades writing about politics, I’d have expected Cllr Murray’s comments to be central to any story about their resignation, especially from a post that involves representing the interests of minorities, including the lesbians the councillor described as “absolute c***s. Something in the spirit of “Councillor who called women ‘c***s’ quits” would be the headline I’d have expected to see.

And that is the way the Dundee Courier covered the resignation: “Children’s convener resigns following row over expletive-laden social media outbursts”, it reported. In so doing, the paper did its job, reporting facts in the public interest and in proper context. The BBC failed to do that job. Why did the BBC fail in these instances? I don’t know or pretend to know. I can offer some informed speculation though. There is a live and sometimes heated debate within the BBC about coverage of transgender issues. Echoing wider political and public debate, there are some people in the BBC who worry that this issue is not being fully discussed or examined. These people, who include some very senior journalists, feel the BBC is sometimes too cautious, too timid, too afraid of controversy and possible offence over a complicated and contentious issue. They, like me, worry that the voices of women (and men) who have doubts and questions about custom, practice and policy on transgender issues (and the possible impact on women and their rights) are not being properly heard.


Trump mansplains to the vets

Aug 17th, 2018 11:48 am | By

A clusterfuck we didn’t hear about at the time:

Early on in the Donald Trump administration, the president vested many of his nearest and dearest with tasks they were woefully unprepared for—and Apprentice superstar Omarosa Manigault-Newman was no exception.

Long before she was his chief antagonist, Manigault-Newman was tapped by President Trump to handle veterans’ issues for the White House—causing immediate backlash from vets organizations who read this as a slap in the face and a betrayal of his campaign rhetoric about “taking care of our veterans.”

What, just because she had no relevant experience or expertise and was appointed as an act of grotesque frivolity by her reality TV buddy? Picky picky picky.

So they all had a meeting in March 2017.

The event nearly degenerated into a uniquely Trumpian trainwreck.

During this White House meeting, certain details of which have not been previously reported, the president managed to again annoy and confuse U.S. war veterans, this time by getting into a bizarre, protracted argument with Vietnam War vets present about the movie Apocalypse Now and the herbicide Agent Orange.

“It was really fucking weird,” one attendee bluntly assessed to The Daily Beast.

Well, he’s a fucking weird guy.

So they were all at the big table, right? And Trump goes around the table calling on people.

Soon, he got to Rick Weidman, co-founder of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), who was one of Vietnam vets in the room that day, having served a tour of duty in 1969 as a medic. (Trump famously avoided military service in that disastrous war, ostensibly due to “bone spurs,” and had once said that his prolific sex life was his own “personal Vietnam.”)

During the course of the meeting, Weidman brought up the issue of Agent Orange, an extremely notorious component of the U.S. herbicidal warfare on Vietnam. Weidman was imploring the president and his team to permit access to benefits for a broader number of vets who have said they were poisoned by Agent Orange.

Trump responded by saying, “That’s taken care of,” according to people in the room.

His reply puzzled the group.

Attendees began explaining to the president that the VA had not made enough progress on the issue at all, to which Trump responded by abruptly derailing the meeting and asking the attendees if Agent Orange was “that stuff from that movie.”

He did not initially name the film he was referencing, but it quickly became clear as Trump kept rambling that he was referring to the classic 1979 Francis Ford Coppola epic Apocalypse Now, and specifically the famous helicopter attack scene set to the “Ride of the Valkyries.

Source present at the time tell The Daily Beast that multiple people—including Vietnam War veterans—chimed in to inform the president that the Apocalypse Now set piece he was talking about showcased the U.S. military using napalm, not Agent Orange.

Trump refused to accept that he was mistaken and proceeded to say things like, “no, I think it’s that stuff from that movie.”

Yes, that’s a good look, a guy who never went to Vietnam correcting a bunch of vets who did go to Vietnam on the content of a famous movie about the war in Vietnam. Who is more likely to have paid close attention and remembered it in detail, a vet who was in the war or a real estate speculator who was not? Next Trump should summon some astronauts and explain Apollo 13 to them.

He then went around the room polling attendees about if it was, in fact, napalm or Agent Orange in the famous scene from “that movie,” as the gathering—organized to focus on important, sometimes life-or-death issues for veterans—descended into a pointless debate over Apocalypse Now that the president simply would not concede, despite all the available evidence.

And the fact that he was the least likely to know person in the room.

Finally, Trump made eye contact again with Weidman and asked him if it was napalm or Agent Orange. The VVA co-founder assured Trump, as did several before him, that it was in fact napalm, and said that he didn’t like the Coppola film and believed it to be a disservice to Vietnam War veterans.

According to two people in attendance, Trump then flippantly replied to the Vietnam vet, “Well, I think you just didn’t like the movie,” before finally moving on.

The debate over Apocalypse Now in the Roosevelt Room lasted at least two minutes, according to estimates from those who endured it. The president was not able to call on everyone at the roundtable by the end of the event, in part due to these types of tangents.

Today he’s back at his golf club. Before leaving he told reporters it was going to be work, all work.

Former senior intelligence officials issue a statement

Aug 17th, 2018 11:04 am | By

Via Slate, the statement:

August 16, 2018


As former senior intelligence officials, we feel compelled to respond in the wake of the ill-considered and unprecedented remarks and actions by the White House regarding the removal of John Brennan’s security clearances. We know John to be an enormously talented, capable, and patriotic individual who devoted his adult life to the service of this nation. Insinuations and allegations of wrongdoing on the part of Brennan while in office are baseless. Since leaving government service John has chosen to speak out sharply regarding what he sees as threats to our national security. Some of the undersigned have done so as well. Others among us have elected to take a different course and be more circumspect in our public pronouncements. Regardless, we all agree that the president’s action regarding John Brennan and the threats of similar action against other former officials has nothing to do with who should and should not hold security clearances – and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech. You don’t have to agree with what John Brennan says (and, again, not all of us do) to agree with his right to say it, subject to his obligation to protect classified information. We have never before seen the approval or removal of security clearances used as a political tool, as was done in this case. Beyond that, this action is quite clearly a signal to other former and current officials. As individuals who have cherished and helped preserve the right of Americans to free speech – even when that right has been used to criticize us – that signal is inappropriate and deeply regrettable. Decisions on security clearances should be based on national security concerns and not political views.

William H. Webster, former Director of Central Intelligence (1987-1991)

George J. Tenet, former Director of Central Intelligence (1997-2004)

Porter J. Goss, former Director of Central Intelligence, (2005-2006)

General Michael V. Hayden, USAF, Ret., former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2006-2009)

Leon E. Panetta, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2009-2011)

General David H. Petraeus, USA, Ret., former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2011-2012)

James R. Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence (2010-2017)

John E. McLaughlin, former Deputy Director of Central Intelligence (2000-2004)

Stephen R. Kappes, former Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2006-2010)

Michael J. Morell, former Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2010-2013)

Avril Haines, former Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2013-2015)

David S. Cohen, former Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2015-2017)

A major rupture in civil-military relations

Aug 17th, 2018 11:02 am | By

Fred Kaplan at Slate says yesterday’s op-ed by retired admiral William McRaven is a big deal.

One former senior intelligence official who read the op-ed sent me an email: “Takes my breath away. This is BIG!!!” Another wrote, again on background, that fellow officers—retired and active-duty—will take this as a sign of a major rupture in civil-military relations, brought on by Trump’s blatant disrespect for national security officials and the entire security system.

Which has to be alarming for people in the military. The guy at the top who can unilaterally make things happen is a flaming lunatic and egomaniac – yes that’s pretty scary.

Then, late on Thursday night, 12 former CIA directors and deputy directors released a similar statement. By coincidence, the statement was written a few hours before McRaven’s op-ed appeared, according to two of the organizers.

The intelligence officials stopped short of asking Trump to revoke their clearances—that idea hadn’t come up in conversation. But like McRaven, they defended Brennan’s integrity and denounced Trump’s action as having “nothing to do with who should and should not hold security clearances—and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech.”

The statement went on: “We have never before seen the approval or removal of security clearances used as a political tool, as was done in this case,” adding that “this action is quite clearly a signal to other former and current officials” to stay silent. It noted that some of the signatories agree with Brennan’s long string of critical statements about Trump, while others do not. However, they all agree that decisions on security clearances “should be based on national security concerns and not political views.”

Plus, again, the views aren’t political so much as moral. Trump is a bad man and that wouldn’t change if he switched parties.

The ex-officials include William Webster, Porter Goss, Gen. Michael Hayden, and John McLaughlin (those who served Republicans); Leon Panetta, Gen. David Petraeus, Gen. James Clapper, Michael Morell, Avril Haines and David Cohen (those who served Democrats); and George Tenet, and Stephen Kappes (who served presidents of both parties).

More significant, seven of the 12—Webster, Goss, Hayden, McLaughlin, Clapper, Morell, and Kappes—were career intelligence officials. One, Petraeus, was a career combat commander. [Update, Aug. 17, 2018, 12:10 a.m.: Just before midnight, a 13th ex-director, Robert Gates—another career CIA official who has served under several presidents of both parties—added his name to the statement. He had been inaccessible, until then.]

One of the signers told me that some who signed the statement did so reluctantly, given the long-standing principle that intelligence and military officers should remain apolitical. However, the consensus was that Trump’s behavior has gone beyond the pale.

Again – it’s not political. Firing people because they criticize you isn’t a matter of party allegiance, it’s a matter of crazed reckless narcissism. Trump holds a political office but what’s wrong with him is moral rather than political.

I’m going to give the statement its own post. It needs room to breathe.

So many women have now spoken up

Aug 17th, 2018 10:15 am | By

Jonathan Best wrote a piece the other day.

In 2005 I became the artistic director of Manchester’s Queer Up North Festival. QUN took place annually in Manchester between 1992 and 2011 and had a tradition of disruptive, provocative performance work centred around sexuality and gender, alongside literature, film, music and debate. Artists and performers such as Lea DeLaria, Ursula Martinez, Mojisola Adebayo, Mx Justin Vivian Bond, Taylor Mac and Sandra Bernhard appeared. Scores of writers spoke, including Edmund White, Patrick Gale, Armistead Maupin, Sarah Waters and Val MacDiarmid. We invited a wide range of speakers, including Linda Bellos, Julie Bindel, B Ruby Rich and Billy Bragg. It was an irreverent and stimulating mix of events. Most importantly, it was a place where artists, writers, performers and audience were free to be themselves.

It also had an activist side, including an anti-bullying theater for schools project.

In 2007 QUN began a drive to programme a greater variety of events aimed at our lesbian audience. Like many LGBT or queer organisations, we’d been a bit gay men-centric. One of the artists I researched was a hugely talented singer songwriter — Bitch — yet to perform in the UK. She is top-notch musician who’d appeared in John Cameron Mitchell’s gorgeous film ‘Shortbus’ — I felt confident she would find an appreciative audience in Manchester.

So I invited her. She accepted and the event quickly sold out.

Then, a few weeks before the festival, I got an email.

It informed me that Bitch had performed at Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, which had a policy of admitting only natal women. Apparently not only had Bitch appeared at the festival, she’d defended its women-born-women admission policy as well. Therefore, the email argued, Bitch was transphobic and the event must be cancelled.

The therefore, of course, is not a therefore. Not inviting or including Xs in a thing is not necessarily based in hatred of Xs. It can be, but it isn’t necessarily. Women organize women-only events and spaces for several reasons, none of which boil down to “because we hate men.” Feminists hate patriarchy, but that’s not the same as hating men.

But of course that’s not the issue; the issue is that seeing trans women as men is labeled “transphobic.” It’s not transphobic. Not agreeing with people’s fantasies about themselves is not hatred and should not be labeled as such.

Jonathan Best felt the need to think more about the subject.

As I continued to think about all of this, I did what I imagine many people do when they’re thinking about LGBT issues and considering their view — I consulted the Stonewall website. I found a page (no longer live) which listed examples of transphobic views and ideas. Included there were words to the effect of ‘if you don’t think trans women are real women, that’s transphobic’.

This troubled me in two ways. Firstly, Stonewall’s version of transphobia didn’t seem to require any negative view of trans people, let alone hate or unfair discrimination. All that was necessary to be designated a bigot by the UK’s leading LGBT charity was to question whether trans women and natal women might, in some ways, be different.

Secondly, Stonewall’s edict unquestioningly prioritised the wishes of trans women over those of natal women. This seemed both arbitrary and unfair to me. This question had been turning around in my head since I discussed it with Julie a year earlier and I’ve still not heard a satisfactory answer to it: why should feminists, engaged in their own civil rights struggle, be forced to redraw their definition of a woman to include trans women? Of course, some feminists have been happy to do so. Some have not. Labelling those who have not as bigots seemed intolerant and disproportionate to me then — and it still does today.

To me too; see above. To many of us, many of whom are now speaking up.

Best goes on to analyze the disagreement between trans activism and gender critical feminism, and the terrible state of the relations between them.

I have been thinking about writing this for several years but — to be frank — I have been nervous of coming out as gender critical. So many women have now spoken up — often at considerable risk to themselves —whereas, since I left QUN, I have not. That has started to make me look somewhat cowardly. So here we are.

It’s undeniable that trans issues were marginalised in LGBT politics for a long time. Many in the trans community are angry and I don’t blame them. I do not argue for meek, timid activism — positive change only comes to those who are willing to make a stink.

For what it’s worth, I think this is the challenge facing us all: to advance trans rights and liberation without compromising natal women’s sex-based rights and protections. This must be done in an atmosphere of mutual respect in which anyone is free to critically discuss anything they wish, using whatever (respectful) terminology they choose. The underlying issues of sex and gender must be seen for what they are: nobody’s exclusive property.

We are a long, long way from this ideal state of affairs.

On Twitter a gender critical feminist praised his article and hoped he wasn’t getting too much grief for it.

It is stark, isn’t it. It never ceases to amaze me how blind people are to that contrast and what it means – how blind people are to the raging misogyny of social media trans activism.

Donnie likes to collect all his toys in one place

Aug 17th, 2018 9:23 am | By

Trump has canceled his fascist parade and blamed the DC government for making it too expensive.

President Trump on Friday canceled plans for a military parade this fall in Washington, blaming local officials for inflating the costs and saying they “know a windfall when they see it.”

Washington’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, pushed back on Twitter, saying that she had “finally got thru” to the president to convey the “realities” of what it costs to stage events like military parades in the city.

She put the number at $21.6 million, though the city’s costs are just a fraction of the total, with federal agencies also kicking in millions of dollars. A day earlier, the Pentagon said Mr. Trump’s parade to celebrate the military could be postponed to 2019, as officials acknowledged that the event could cost more than $90 million.

And what would all that money be for? Nothing. A treat for Trump, and a threat to the rest of us – which is not nothing but it’s also not something we should have to pay for. It would be for nothing in the sense of a reasonable goal or purpose.

Mr. Trump, who enjoys military history, called last year for a parade of troops, tanks, jets and other equipment to pass through the streets of the nation’s capital. Early cost estimates for the fanfare ranged from $10 million to $30 million; CNBC first reported the new $90 million figure.

Nicely sly wording. Trump doesn’t study or pursue or research military history, he doesn’t even read it, he “enjoys” it – meaning, he likes to watch displays of military hardware. That’s not actually military history, of course, it’s just shopping.

Mr. Trump was impressed by a Bastille Day parade that he attended in Paris in July 2017. The city is scheduled to hold its annual Armistice Day parade in November. It was not immediately clear which parade the president plans to attend at Andrews.

The president had hoped to have military tanks and jets at his own inauguration parade, but he was told he could not.

The last time a similar parade was held in Washington was in 1991, celebrating the end of the Persian Gulf War. It cost about $12 million, or about $22 million in today’s dollars.

Mr. Trump’s dream of a military parade with tanks barreling down the streets and fighter jets flying above him has faced resistance. Critics have said these parades typically mark a victory in a war. Others have said it may not be the best use of the Defense Department’s money.

I wish this stupid infant would just go away.

Giuliani threatens Mueller

Aug 16th, 2018 5:37 pm | By

More like mobsters every day.

Trump’s legal team said Wednesday it may fight all the way to the Supreme Court to quash a possible subpoena from Robert Mueller for an interview with the president. Trump has so far refused to be questioned by Mueller; his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is saying Mueller should submit his report before September 7, threatening, “If he doesn’t get it done in the next two or three weeks we will just unload on him like a ton of bricks.”

Mimi Rocah made the mobster connection.


Close down the polling locations, that’ll fix ’em

Aug 16th, 2018 5:13 pm | By

Filthy pigs.

Civil rights advocates are objecting to a proposal to close about 75 percent of polling locations in a predominantly black south Georgia county.

The Randolph County elections board is scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss a proposal that would eliminate seven of nine polling locations in the county, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. Included in the proposed closures is Cuthbert Middle School where nearly 97 percent of voters are black.

What does that do? It makes polling places farther away for a lot of people, and it makes the lines longer. Much longer. In short, it suppresses the vote. It does what the Voting Rights Act was meant to prevent, and did prevent, until the Shelby ruling.

According to the latest census figures, Randolph County’s population is more than 61 percent of black, double the statewide percentage.

The median household income for the county was $30,358 in 2016, compared to $51,037 in the rest of the state. Nearly one-third of the county’s residents live below the poverty line, compared to about 16 percent statewide, according to U.S. Census figures.

Just the kind of people who can least afford to take extra time and travel extra long distances to vote.

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court rolled back Voting Rights Act requirements that required many jurisdictions to receive permission before changing ways people are allowed to vote. They used to have to prove the voting changes weren’t discriminatory, but that’s no longer the case.

“This is an example of what localities are doing without the pre-clearance requirement,” Andrea Young said.

In addition to statewide offices, Randolph County voters will also vote for state legislative seats in November. All nine polling locations were used during this year’s primary and Republican run-off, so it is unclear why the locations would be closed down, Andrea Young said.

Oh it’s clear all right.

Let it ring

Aug 16th, 2018 4:15 pm | By

A better day in a better time: